Posted: 09/24/2006

 

Darshan the Embrace

(2006)

by Dianne Lawrence




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Darshan the Embrace, directed by French director Jan Kounen, documents the work of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as Amma, the hugging Saint.

The daughter of a poor family from a small fishing village in India, she came into the world in 1953 with a smiling, loving grace and propensity to fall into deep meditations. At six months, she could walk and talk; at three, she was constantly singing; at five, she was composing beautiful hymns to Krishna. At first, this extraordinary child was the delight of her family and neighbors, but as she grew older, these activities did not decline and the delight slowly turned into annoyance. There was a period where she’d lie on the ground in a profound trance, oblivious to rain or sun. In America, she would have been heavily medicated and hospitalized, but the priests advised that she be left alone. Her mother’s illness eventually disrupted her preoccupation with divine states and she began to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for her family. While begging for food from the villagers, she noticed the destitution and suffering of her neighbors. Children and old people neglected with no one to care for them. Her deep empathy overwhelmed her with sadness and concern. This was the beginning of her life work.

Today she oversees a vast humanitarian enterprise that includes the building of schools, homes, social services, cultural activities, healthcare, nature care, disaster relief, teachings and other services. She had received a clear directive during her divine meditations to be of service and she has the boundless energy and intelligence to fulfill this mandate. While building this humanitarian empire she has also found the time to provide simple affectionate hugs to over 23 million people to date. We witness an event where she hugged 45,000 people over a 21 hour period. Documenting the endless sea of humanity yearning to be hugged, the director slowed the motion down and captured the incredible expression of tireless giving that seemed to flow gracefully from Amma. At the end, slightly dazed, she leaves the stadium but her infectious and genuine ever-present smile is undiminished in any way.

The film is not only the directors big hug back to Amma, it also acts as a wonderful travelogue of the cities on her tour, giving us intimate and fascinating images of life in India. Although I appreciated the documentation of this amazing individual, clearly a channel for Divine Action and Love, I wished for more information, more interviews with family members or people close to her, a closer look at her humanitarian work, I would have liked even more voiceovers from her inspired teachings. There are a few too many silent shots of people setting up the areas she is going to appear in, shots of cleaning up afterwards as if the director were trying to extend it to the hour and a half a feature film requires. Although this may be a petty point and one can have nothing but profound admiration for this extraordinarily loving energetic being, I can’t help but wonder why at some point in her events, she doesn’t encourage the thousands sitting in the audience to turn and simply hug each other.

From Amma:

India has given three great teachings to the world:

“If we protect dharma, dharma will protect us. It will protect the whole world. This is the first teaching.”

“Whatever action we undertake, it should be done for the benefit of the whole world. It should be done as an offering to God. That is the second teaching. This mental attitude of selfless offering should be underlying all our actions.”

“Everything is an expression of the one Atman. No one is separate from us. God pervades all of creation. This is the third teaching.”

“If we are able to imbibe these teachings in our lives, it will bring about an end to all wars. Peace and contentment will spread throughout the world. We will be able to experience supreme peace and bliss in our lives. We will become a source of light to all others.”

For more information about this Divine Soul, click here.

Dianne Lawrence is a film critic and artist living in Los Angeles. You can check out her artistic work here.



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