Spiritual teacher Sri Karunamayi, known as “Amma,” is returning to Woodstock for her fifteenth annual visit, bringing her message of unconditional love, peace, and selfless service. After a fire ceremony on Sunday, June 1, at Ananda Ashram in Monroe, she will offer blessings at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Monday, June 2, followed by a day-long meditation retreat on Tuesday, June 3.
Amma, or “Mother” in the Telugu dialect, is revered in India as an embodiment of divine motherly love. She is known for liberally showering love on people, animals, and even plants, and for the spiritual knowledge and guidance that she offers.
Joy Lofstrand, who is coordinating Amma’s visit to Woodstock, recalled her first meeting with the honored teacher, at a small church on Sawkill Road. “The memory of my first blessing is imbued with golden light and the sense of unfathomable depth,” wrote Lofstrand. “Her hand gently caressed my head as she read my entreaties on the ‘blessing card’ we all receive for our questions for Amma. The self-consciousness I felt at first melted into love and a sense of comfort. My whole body began to shake as I heard the soft, whispered words, ‘Love you, child.’”
Amma’s world tour primarily includes stops in cities, so her Woodstock visit provides an unusual opportunity to see her in the more intimate, peaceful setting of a small rural town. “The spirit of Woodstock is steeped in the qualities of peace, love, and service,” observed Lofstrand, “and this may be one reason Amma so loves to visit us here.”
Sri Karunamayi was born in South India in 1958 and showed an early precocious understanding of spiritual concepts, conversing readily with learned scholars, according to the biography on her website. At the age of 21, she went into the forest to meditate by herself. Her retreat lasted ten years. When she emerged, she began offering discourses and ceremonies “to promote world peace and universal well-being.” Since 1995, she has come to the U.S. every year to give teachings and blessings, hold meditation retreats, and perform sacred fire ceremonies.
One of Amma’s activities is fundraising for charitable projects around the world. She has undertaken such projects as free schools, hospitals, medical vans to travel in remote areas, houses for hundreds of impoverished families, clean wells, food and farming supplies in drought-ridden areas, and much more.
Amma’s Woodstock schedule begins Monday, June 2, with a darshan (giving of blessings) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and guests are advised to arrive by 1:30 p.m. to ensure that they will be able to receive a blessing. Each person will be able to spend a few minutes with Amma to request blessings and healing for themselves and other. Lines are expected to be long, so come prepared to wait. People of all faiths are welcome. Payment is by voluntary donation. Live music with Sri Kirtan, Arundhati, and other local musicians will begin at 9 a.m.
On Tuesday July 3, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Amma will lead a silent meditation retreat with instruction in meditation, yoga, and chanting. Students will learn how inner peace and wisdom can be cultivated through the deepening of meditation practice. The cost is $120, and a light vegetarian lunch will be provided.
Both events will take place at the Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street/Route 212, Bearsville. Volunteers are needed to assist before and during the programs. For more information, to volunteer, to make a donation, or to register for the meditation retreat, go to www.karunamayi.org or call 845-384-6787 or 845-679-8305.