Preparation for Your Hug (Receiving Darshan):
Firstly, of course, you are going to need to know where Amma is going to be, as she travels throughout the world. To see the dates and times, you should visit Amma's North American Schedule so that you can find out where it will be convenient for you to see her. If you are not in North America, there are links from that page to other locations where you may receive Darshan.
When you know her schedule, about a week before she arrives, you should start looking into finding people to carpool with to the Ashram or other location where she will be teaching, as there might be very little parking available at that area. Plus, Amma is environmentally conscious and appreciates it very much when we try to lesson our impact on mother earth. You might try searching on CraigsList or other sites that list carpooling opportunities.
Even if you don't have a formal carpooling opportunity, and you decide that you will be driving over by yourself, then it would be a good idea to clean out your car. You will undoubtedly see MANY people who WILL need a ride back home after receiving Darshan, and if your car is cleaned of excess clutter, you will be better able to help them.
Although not required, many people prefer to wear all white clothing when they go for Darshan, as white is the color of purity (and hence, Amma dresses in all white). If you decide you do want to wear white, but you can't find any clothes to purchase ahead of time, there might be white clothes available for purchase at the location. For instance, the Ashram in San Ramon, California, where we go to see Amma, does have a large selection of clothes available.
Another thing that some people like to do is bring an offering for Amma, such as flowers or fruits. If you do bring an offering of food of some sort, please be sure that it is vegetarian.
The Day You Go To See Amma
If Darshan will be held in a temple, then you will need to take your shoes off before entering the temple, and indeed, even if Darshan is not given in a temple grounds, you will most like want to take your shoes off anyway as a sign of respect, so be sure to wear shoes that are easy for you to take off and put on. Plan on getting there early because they begin giving out tickets one hour before the program starts. If the program starts at 10:00 AM, for example, they will begin giving out tickets at 9:00 AM.
When you arrive at the location, look for the place where they will be giving out tickets. It is often in the back of the Ashram or hall where people will receive Darshan. These tickets will have a letter on them (or if there will be lots of people, then a combination of two letters).
Throughout the day, those letters will be called, and the people who hold those tickets may get in line to receive a paper token. It is these paper tokens (and not the paper tickets with the letters on them that you received earlier) that actually allow you to get in the Darshan line.
Once you receive your token, you will be ushered into the Darshan reception line, and many volunteers will help guide you along. You will have to be prepared to move quickly, as there are SO many people who wish to receive Darshan that they try to be efficient with their time management.
Because you will be hugged very tightly by Amma, if you are wearing glasses, you will be asked to remove them, and if you have any large items hanging from your neck (like a camera bag) then you will be asked to set them aside. This helps to prevent injury. If you have brought an offering for Amma, than an assistant will receive it from you.
When it is your turn, you may choose to (quickly) give a salutation, such as a Namaste, where the hands are raised in an honorific fashion, palms together, in front of the chest or face.
Amma will place her arms around your upper back and pull you firmly toward her so that your forehead rests upon her shoulder, and will say a blessing for you. This lasts about 10 seconds, and when she lets go of you, volunteers will give you a Prasaad (usually a piece of candy and a leaf) and lead you off to an area to the side of Amma, where those who have just received Darshan may sit a little longer to be in her presence. Many people are so overcome by their embrace with Amma that they need a few minutes to reflect upon their encounter.
After you have rested for a little bit, you may want to leave that designated area, so that others who received Darshan may have that area to sit and reflect as well.
Other Things To Consider
Amma's message is that universal compassion can overcome all problems in this world, and in keeping with that philosophy, there are many things you can do to help spread compassion and cooperation.
If after you received your tickets (which will entitle you to tokens for the Darshan line), you find you will have a long wait ahead of you, you might consider performing Seva (service), which is volunteering to help others who have come to see Amma. Depending on the location the needs will vary, but at the San Ramon Ashram, there is a need for everything from parking lot attendants to people selling baked goods to dishwashers to clothing and bookstore helpers. When we were at the Ashram the last time, there was a youth camp set up that needed volunteers to help with the activities.
There might also be different exhibits with multimedia displays of some of the projects that the Amma foundation coordinates, and you should take the time to learn about the various activities around the world with which Amma is involved. For instance, there were exhibits that showed how the Amma Scholarship Program is helping disadvantaged students in India continue their education.
And, as mentioned above, there will be many people who need a ride back to various neighboring towns and cities, so if you drove their and have room in your car, you should definitely consider helping out with the informal carpool that forms at the shuttle stop. We believe that after receiving Darshan from Amma, you will be quite enthusiastic to do so.
My Own Experience Getting Hugged By Amma
What a great time we had seeing Amma!!!
My mother and I were at the Ashram in San Ramon for the whole day on Monday, and it was a blessing to be in her presence. Amma gave blessings and hugs, of course, at the end of the day.
It was also great to see our many friends there at the Ashram too. So many people came up to us to say hi and ask how we were doing.
If you would like to see Amma (and we highly encourage you to do so), you can see her tour schedule in North America by clicking this link:
If you don't get a chance to see her this time around, she should be back in North America in the fall.
Take Care Everyone!!!
I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still "feeling the effects" of seeing Amma last week. I have noticed that I have been a little calmer this week (always a blessing when you have a four-year-old son), and it has been easier to smile and forget the bad things in life.
If you get a chance to see her, we would love to hear how your experience went. Please leave a comment.