“Hugging Saint” Amma on a Quest to Embrace the World

Amma, also known as the hugging saint, is one of India’s many examples of tolerance, selfless service, and unconditional love. For those who don’t know her, she travels around the world and hugs people. This may seem like something that just anyone can do. At least this is what I thought when a group of friends first suggested we travel together to see her. But once we arrived at the hall where she sat, a thousand people were lined up waiting quietly for her to hug them for a few seconds. “So what’s the big deal?” my little mind thought. Then I stood along with the others and watched as Amma hugged every person and sometimes whole families together at the same time.

“So what’s the big deal?” The answer is that she embraces everyone. I watched her embrace people of all races, all ethnic backgrounds, all religions. The people who came to her included big, burly men, tiny old women, children, teens, and adults of all kinds of backgrounds. Many of them – like me – probably didn’t even know why they were there. The more I watched, the more I saw an example of divinity. Who else could embrace absolutely everyone and turn no one away? Who else could have the energy to hug literally a thousand people and still look fresh and vibrant, and give a discourse on spiritual practice after that?

Amma says, “A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.” Her watch words are about love and service, and Amma is often found with her devotees working to move bricks or clear garbage. For years she has served India’s poor and asked for nothing in return. When asked how she does it she says the energy to do the work comes from the Divine Source. Though she has been doing her work since childhood, she recently appeared in the New York Times, and I have written about her in my book, Awake in the World as well. As the world searches for extraordinary examples and meaning, people like Amma are being revealed in public for their powerful messages through example. It has been a few years since I was embraced by Amma, but it’s an experience that is not to be missed. Even just witnessing the gathering or hearing her speak is a treat. She’s on her annual North American tour this summer and you can find out more at amma.org.

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Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. She is devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/DebraMoffittAwakeintheWorld