IN MY OPINION
Initiation Through Touch
How a hug from Amma inspired years of research and powerful spiritual transformations
BY DR. ARJUN DASWANI
IN JULY, 1992, I FOUND myself in a church in New York City, getting a hug from Mata Amritanandamayi, more popularly known as Amma, the Hugging Saint. This was my first encounter with this legendary saint, and my life has never been the same.
My spiritual journey has revealed to me that when one is ready, the right guru will appear for each specific stage of spiritual growth. I have had the great privilege of being just a few feet away from the Catholic Pope in the Vatican and of sitting in the same room with the Pontiff of the Sringeri Mutt, one of the four pillars built by the great Adi Shankaracharya. An illuminating honor was sitting with the great honorable swamis of Hinduism Today, Al Gore and hundreds of others at the Kremlin in Moscow, while Aum was intoned by all.
As a student of many teachers, I realized what I felt after that first hug in 1992 was unique. I had a sense of bewilderment as a great change occurred in my body and mind. I felt urged to find the underlying cause of this happening.
I’ve found that many masters, both past and present, do not encourage initiation through touch, rather choosing to initiate devotees through sight or voice. I knew that Amma’s hug contained all three elements: touch, when she hugged me; sound, when she whispered in my ears, “My darling son;” and sight, as she looked into my eyes. Amma is unique and rather unorthodox in her initiations—or so it would seem by today’s usual standards.
What is actually taking place when such an initiation occurs? What is kundalini, and how does all this ascending energy gradually lead us to Self Realization?
At every level, touch sparks growth. It is the seed of development and is our first and primary language. Our bodies are part of our subconscious minds—picking up and transmitting lots of information. When plants or animals physically touch or humans hug each other, it changes the flow and intensity of energy and consciousness within and between them.
There is an inborn evolutionary power that awakens during one’s spiritual development. In this way, consciousness transcends the ordinary limits. Kundalini is the developmental force that unfolds humans to their fullest spiritual maturity. Gopi Krishna described kundalini as a strong current of psychic energy that ascends from the base of the spine to the head. Sri Ramana Maharishi maintained that the kundalini energy is nothing but the natural energy of the Self, where the Self is the universal consciousness or cosmic consciousness present in every being, and that the individual mind of thoughts cloaks this natural energy from unadulterated expression.
The source of enlightenment and Self Realization is within each of us. Gurus and spiritual practices help us to quiet the mind, allowing Self Realization to happen. That process started within me from my very first hug from Amma. The strength and length of the process varies within each person.
The soul, in its joy of incarnating, forgets its true nature when it mistakes itself as being separate from its source. Vedanta provides a powerful road map of the relation of states and levels of consciousness and the level of the soul or spirit. Energetic awakening of consciousness happens through personal practices—through meditation, prayers, service, surrender and the guru’s grace. For each, there is a veil over the face of the Infinite, which is eventually removed.
DR. DASWANI, 68, lives in New Jersey and is actively connected with the Sringeri Vidhya Bharati Foundation and the Mata Amritanandamayi Center