11 December 2012 – Tuesday
A letter given to Amma by a resident today, was not really a question to seek her answer but a piece of information that was expected to evoke some response from Amma.
The gist of the letter was:
While we recently undertook cleaning the room of a (family) resident of the Ashram (who was away from the ashram at the time of cleaning), we found dozens of buckets, bugs, plates, glasses, soaps, footwear, soap powder packets, brooms and countless number of vessels. Leaving behind a couple of them for the owner’s use, we took those excess ones and distributed to those who were in need.
When the resident returned to Ashram and came to know about what happened, he/she was very angry on what we had done and took us to task.
We request Amma’s guidance on this matter”
The gist of Amma’s reply was as below:
“Ashram is a place for simple living in search of a higher goal. It is not right to accumulate and hoard things in excess of what is basically needed. People should cultivate the sense of sacrifice while living the ashram life.
“Ashramites should know how much of sacrifice was made at the early beginnings of the Ashram. Amma’s first round of brahmacharis who became sanyasins later were mostly from families of comfortable financial status. They dedicated themselves to sadhana and service those days when everything from food, clothing and shelter were in shortage in the Ashram.
“Those brahmacharis were never used to the habit of washing their own clothes in homes – either their mothers or servants used to do the washing for them. Amma taught them everything – how to apply soap to their clothes, how to wash the clothes in the washing stone and so on. Being carefree youngsters, they were lacking in shraddha in many things – they would waste lots of soap in washing their clothes; they would use one bottle of Tinopal to apply blue and brighten one single dhoti. After washing, they would leave the soap there and somebody would swindle the soaps. They would hang their clothes dry in the open, but forget to take them back in the evening. This way, they lost their dhotis too.
“They would carelessly leave their knickers (underwears) too in the open and Amma would lift them with a stick and go around asking “Whose knicker is this?”
“Amma had to be extremely strict with them and teach them the basics of thrift. Since Amma would scold them if they lost their dhotis, smarter ones would coolly take away another brahmachari’s dhoti and claim it as his own! Sometimes, they did this even for their knickers! To avoid this mischief, Amma started stitching their initials in their respective clothes.
“Amma, in order to force discipline on them, brought ration for everything – soaps, dhotis etc. A new soap would be issued only after a prescribed days of normal usage was over. Thus, brahmacharis learnt not only thrift, but also shraddha, simple living and the capacity to put up with shortages.
“Even now, Amma is living in a small room only and that room too is shared with Lakshmi, Siddharth and the two dogs Thumban and Bhakti. The one annex room that Amma has got now was built by her devotees when she was away and Amma refused to use that room because she considered it a luxury thrust upon her. Only after lots of pleading by devotees, Amma consented to use that room. Even Amma’s room is given to visitors when Amma is on tour.
“Children, remember that this is an ashram existing to serve the world. Without sacrifice, we cannot expect to gain anything spiritually”