And, in case you don’t know yet, there’s a new documentary!

 

Location:

International Plaza Hotel – Toronto Airport
655 Dixon Road
Hotel: 416.244.1711

 

Programs:

Monday, July 11 (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.-ish):        Free day program
Monday, July 11 (7 p.m. to 3 a.m.-ish):        Free evening program
Tuesday to Thursday, July 12 to 14:             Retreat (registration fee required)
Thursday, July 14 (7 p.m. to 9 a.m.-ish):      Free Devi Bhava evening program

http://amma.org/meeting-amma/north-america/toronto/canada

If you are meeting Amma for the first time, I recommend you attend the first free day and/or evening programs on Monday, July 11. If it’s all very inspiring, exciting, and delicious, you can decide to attend the retreat (you can always register on the spot) or/and you can attend the Devi Bhava free program on Thursday evening. The first programs are very beautiful, peaceful, and soothing, considering the throngs of thousands. You can rest assured that there are no long lineups. One is free to meditate, roam around, shop, and eat delicious South Indian food! The token system to receive darshan is brilliant. They have it down to a science. Please view the detailed program information below before heading out.

 

Do you know Amma?

Amma, a.k.a. Ammachi, a.k.a. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Sanskrit for “Mother of Immortal Bliss”), is a woman embraced by many as a guru, an enlightened being who has attained God-consciousness. Based at her main ashram in Kerala, India, Amma is renowned for spreading her compassion, acceptance, love, and spiritual energy through a unique yet very human form: hugs. When she tours throughout the world, legions of followers, devotees, and the merely curious arrive and line up, waiting to be hugged by Amma in a ritual known as darshan. One after another, for hours upon hours at a time, Amma embraces thousands of people; she is said to have hugged 34 million to date.

Amma inspires, uplifts, and transforms through her embrace, her spiritual wisdom, and through her global charities, known as Embracing the World.® A recipient of the esteemed Gandhi–King Award for Nonviolence, she has established an extensive network of humanitarian organizations throughout India, including housing- and food-for-the-poor programs, orphanages, and a high-tech hospital providing medical care for the needy. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people, she answers: “Where there is true love, anything is effortless.” While Amma is widely regarded as one of India’s foremost spiritual leaders, Amma says that her religion is love. She has never asked anyone to change their religion but only to contemplate the essential principles of their own faith and to try to live accordingly.

 

A recently released documentary on Amma will give you a taste of her energy and spirit:

SCIENCE OF COMPASSION (2016)

https://youtu.be/YsxZI0PBl_A

Renowned director and artist Shekhar Kapur focuses on Sri Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), investigating the source of human compassion and creativity. The film includes beautiful footage of Amma’s three-day 60th birthday mega-celebration in 2013, devotees meditating with Amma on the beach at her ashram in Kerala, the hubbub and ceremonies that shape the devotees’ daily life at the ashram, a rare lengthy private interview with Amma, as well as interviews with Nobel Prize–winning scientist Dr. Leland Hartwell and many others about Amma’s unique approach to life and how Amma’s love has touched and, in many cases, transformed their lives.

 

And if you haven’t seen it already or recently, Darshan: The Embrace is a haunting, trippy, and informative portrayal of Amma.

DARSHAN: THE EMBRACE (2005)

https://youtu.be/N85ymWS9mRE
(with English subtitles)

 This film is an evocative and moving portrait of the inspiring and multifaceted presence that is Amma. At times more like a music video, a poem, and prayer, its footage and soundtrack are intoxicating, whether we are blessed with a bird’s eye view of a highly charged puja ceremony, the magical landscape of the backwaters in Kerala, the hustle and bustle of the ashram, or markets and street life in nearby towns and cities. Jan Kounen documents the various manifestations of Amma’s wisdom, spiritual power, humanitarianism, and love. He shows her at various rituals and bhajans (chants); he interviews her and records her talking informally to followers; weaves in historical footage that explores her earlier years and showcases evidence of her acceptance by mainstream institutions; and, of course, he films several darshan ceremonies. Throughout the film, Amma is alternately solemn, mischievous, mystical, wise, and never more hauntingly beautiful and enigmatic as when she walks off the stage after offering darshan to 45,000 people in 21 hours on her 50th birthday in 2003!

 

THE LAY OF THE LAND, JULY 11 TO JULY 14

Monday, July 11:
Free Day Program, 8 a.m.

Everyone is welcome! To meet Amma and receive darshan, you will need a token, which is issued on a first-come-first-served basis. Tokens are limited, so I suggest you arrive at 8 a.m. Please note that everyone in your party must be present to receive a token. The morning program begins with a short meditation with Amma and then she welcomes visitors for an embrace. During the darshan, you are free to meditate in Amma’s presence, observe Amma giving darshan, bask in the devotional singing, visit the informational booths, shop in the various kiosks, or book sessions with therapists who travel with Amma. I highly recommend Dr. Paul. Delicious meals and snacks are also available for purchase. Let’s face it, it could be about the food alone … YUM!

8:00 a.m.: The token line opens.
8:30 a.m.: Tokens are handed out and guests are escorted to seats.
10:00 a.m.: Amma enters the hall and conducts a short meditation.
10:30 a.m.: Amma begins to embrace those with tokens.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch is served until 30 minutes after Amma leaves the hall. The cost is usually around $7.00.

 

Monday, July 11:
Free Evening Program, 7:00 p.m.

Everyone is welcome! The evening program consists of a spiritual talk by one of Amma’s senior disciples; a talk by Amma; spiritual singing and bhajans with Amma (she is a most inspirational performer); a short meditation, and Amma’s darshan. Amma often hugs guests until the very early morning hours of the following day. Again, during darshan, you are free to meditate in Amma’s presence, observe Amma giving darshan, bask in the devotional singing, visit the informational booths, shop in the various kiosks, or book sessions with therapists who travel with Amma. As I mentioned, I highly recommend Dr. Paul. Delicious meals and snacks are available for purchase throughout the night and early morning.

 

5:00 p.m.        The token line opens. There is no point in lining up before then.

5:30 p.m.        Tokens are handed out and seating begins.

6:00 p.m.        Dinner service begins.

6:30 p.m.        Talk by senior disciple.

7:30 p.m.        Amma arrives in the hall and dinner service pauses. Amma’s talk and devotional singing (bhajans).

9:45 p.m.        Amma’s darshan begins and dinner service resumes until approx. midnight.

 

Tuesday to Thursday, July 12 to 14:
Retreat

Retreat days with Amma can help to intensify your spiritual practices, allowing you to go deeper within yourself without the distractions of your everyday life. During a retreat, regardless of the size, the atmosphere always feels more intimate and relaxed than the public days, though this is relative. Consider that the program starts at 7:30 a.m. and runs until 3 a.m. easy! Imagine an atmosphere infused with lots of love, music performances, devotional singing, and repeated chanting of the 1,000 names of the Goddess, a one-hour-long Hindu devotional chant. This is not a Buddhist retreat and it is the furthest thing from silent. That said, Amma’s energy can plunge you into the depths of your soul life. In that sense, it truly is a retreat. Since selfless service, or seva, is an integral part of Amma’s teaching, retreats have been structured to include this valuable practice. All participants who are able will be assigned two hours of seva. The Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique® (IAM) is offered at the retreat at no extra charge. A refresher class is also offered for those who have already completed the course.

 

Tuesday, July 12

Retreat check-in begins at 3 p.m. and continues throughout the evening program. The evening program consists of a talk by Amma; spiritual singing and bhajans with Amma; a short meditation, and Amma’s darshan until the wee hours of the morning.

 

Wednesday, July 13

The program begins at 7:30 a.m. with a 30-minute guided meditation led by one of Amma’s senior disciples. Following breakfast, Swami Amritaswarupananda gives a class. Amma enters the hall around 9 a.m., leads a short meditation, and then gives darshan until 2 to 3 p.m. The evening program consists of a short meditation with Amma followed by a Q&A with Amma, a meal personally blessed by Amma, and darshan until the wee hours of the morning. She is indefatigable!

 

Thursday, July 14

The morning and afternoon program is the same as the previous day.

EARLY REGISTRATION RETREAT FEES – BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON JULY 10TH

Double Occupancy (2 nights)

With Accommodations

Without Accommodations

Adults

$395

$295

Teens 13–17

$325

$210

Ages 6–12

$280

$145

5 and under

$195

$50

Single Occupancy Adult (2 nights)

$550

CAD

STANDARD RETREAT FEES – AFTER MIDNIGHT ON JULY 10TH

Double Occupancy (2 nights)

With Accommodations

Without Accommodations

Adults

$435

$335

Teens 13–17

$365

$250

Ages 6–12

$320

$185

5 and under

$195

$50

Single Occupancy Adult (2 nights)

$590

 

July 14:
Free Devi Bhava Program, 7pm

Everyone is welcome! Devi Bhava is a special program that begins with an Atma Puja ceremony for world peace. Amma then receives guests who have tokens for an embrace all through the night and into the next morning. Many stay the entire time to meditate, soak in the uplifting and spiritually charged atmosphere, and enjoy the devotional singing. Devi Bhava is also the time when Amma gives mantras. A mantra is a group of Sanskrit words used for prayer and meditation. If you are interested in receiving a mantra, information will be provided for you to read while you are sitting in line waiting to receive your darshan.

If you wish to receive darshan earlier rather than later and/or wish to be seated for the puja, you should arrive by 4:15 p.m. The Devi Bhava in Toronto usually attracts around 6,000 people. If you come with a group and would like to sit together, everyone in your group must enter the hall together. As with other programs, everyone in your party should be present to receive a token. If you arrive later, you may not get a seat and find that your token number is very late into the next morning. I suggest you travel light. Only bring personal items that you can slide under a chair, like a small meditation pillow or items that can fit on your lap. Bring snacks for the lineup. That’s the only time you may not find what you need. Dinner can be late (it was 10 p.m. last year). Substantial meals and sweet and savoury snacks are available through the night and morning at various food kiosks.

4:45 p.m.:

Token line opens.

5:30 p.m.:

Tokens are handed out and guests are escorted to seats.

7:00 p.m.:

Amma enters the hall and conducts the Atma Puja.

She then speaks and later sings bhajans.

8:30 p.m.:

Amma begins to embrace everyone with a token.

Dinner service begins and continues until approx. midnight.

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