My heart is crying out like a newborn babe for its mother. With the same fervent intensity, it longs for her contact, to be brought into her all-encompassing embrace, to dissolve completely and feel whole. But that’s as impossible as trying to fit the ocean into a glass, for what I long for is so much vaster than I could ever hope to know. I can’t help it in this moment, the flame is so strong, burning with the ardour of a thousand suns. I don’t know if my meagre frame will be able to contain it.

Well, this was unexpected (but then again, no journey in India would be complete without at least a few occasions where plans are revealed as exercised in futility). I didn’t exactly envision spending the last few days of my 29th year in the midst of an ashram buzzing with devotees of a woman who’s hugged over 31 million people (three time with yours truly!). I didn’t even really want to come here, but Giulia convinced me to give it a shot. It was only supposed to be four days… and then seven…and now eleven.

What is it that changed in me? Why did I come here and spend the first few days a total skeptic, looking and criticizing it from the outside, and now feel my heart as in love with Amma as many who live here? There’s no real rational explanation for it. The only way to describe it is that being with Amma strips away all the veils of self-importance until all that remains is the pure aspiration to love and serve God.

Come to me, oh divine Mother, and wrap me in Your arms (or show me that they are already around me). Sooth my weeping heart with the tenderness of Your maternal touch (or show me that there’s never a time when I’m not cradled in your arms). Reveal to me Your true nature (or let me see that there is no such thing that I could experience).

It’s nice that India has a place for people like her. Hinduism understands and expects that the divine consciousness occasionally takes on a human form (an avatar) to enlighten and guide the rest of us. Amma would never label herself as such, but it certainly feels like she is a direct and pure manifestation of the Ultimate. I wonder if Jesus would have been equally welcomed and celebrated here. It just goes to show the power of cultural ideas if one group of people would kill someone while another group would freely permit that person to hug millions, construct huge buildings to accommodate throngs of visitors, and redistribute 100’s of millions of dollars to the poor. (Amma’s charitable work is indeed incredible: http://www.embracingtheworld.org/). And yet, she is so unassuming and humble, always treating everyone with the same love even after hugging for 20 hours straight without a break. The highest essence of a human being is actually so simple- as Amma shows us, it’s simply to love and serve all. And it goes way over our heads.

I offer You my mind and all its limiting thoughts of You. I offer you my lust for all Your manifestations in exchange for seeing their source. I offer you my sadness, my frustration, my joy, and my triumphs, if only You would come! I want to feel You in each and everything, until all my doubts are scrubbed from my heart, and I become a spotless mirror to radiate Your presence in every moment that You grant me to continue walking this earth.

My resistance to the path of devotion is melting away like winter snow under a spring sun. Devotion leads you straight into the heart, which is what the spiritual path is all about. Discriminating wisdom is still important, for sure. But I’ve now realized the importance of cradling and allowing the insights we derive from silent meditation with the arms of love. I feel like it’s a missing piece in my puzzle, that helps to bring me out of the lofty heights of the transcendental mind and into the purity and simplicity of the heart. The path of devotion (bhakti) and contemplation (jnana) are not incompatible; both practices are actually enriched by their encounter. I suppose my dismissiveness and condescension for bhakti was simply owing to the lack of a good example.

Come, quench my thirst! Irrigate my parched being with the torrent of Your flowing Love until I lie submerged under an ocean of compassion. Let this penetrate my every cell so I may become a wellspring for others who thirst for Your presence, where they can flock to revel in our shared passion for You and only You!

Extend Your mercy out to this soul whose weakness is sometimes stronger than his aspiration and reverence for You. Grant me a tiny slice of Your infinite patience so I may continue to hold out in waiting until I’m finally ready to fully receive You. And bless me with a sliver of Your compassion, that I may extend to myself in this moment of knowing that it is my petty attachment to ephemeral things that is standing in the way of this.

Off to the beach to join Giulia tomorrow (or so I think…) to celebrate my birthday on Friday.