Who is Amma?
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi is a globally recognized humanitarian and spiritual leader, known throughout the world as ‘Amma’. She has served the world-community for decades, imparting wisdom, strength and inspiration.
Through her extraordinary acts of love, inner strength and self-sacrifice, Amma has inspired thousands to follow in her path of service to humanity.
Amma has travelled the world for more than 30 years, bringing love, hope and peace through her talks and her darshan – her signature embrace that is a powerful symbol of unconditional love. Accessible to everyone, she has hugged an estimated 37 million people worldwide, and inspired a global volunteer-based humanitarian movement, Embracing the World (ETW).
ETW is a UN-recognized NGO which helps alleviate the burden of those living in poverty by meeting their basic needs – food, shelter, education, healthcare and livelihood. ETW also works in the fields of environmental conservation, innovative research and helps populations in the aftermath of major disasters.
Honouring her contributions to the effort in spreading world peace and harmony, Amma has received many international awards including the Gandhi-King Award for non-violence, at the UN headquarters in Geneva in 2002.
Amma regularly tours the USA, Asia and Europe. It is also possible to see her when she is at her center in Kerala, India.
How She began
For Amma’s early life and the inspiration behind Embracing the World, see this short video:
Mata Amritanandamayi was born in a remote coastal village in Kerala, South India in 1953.
Even as a small girl, she drew attention with the many hours she spent in deep meditation on the seashore. She also composed devotional songs and could often be seen singing to the divine with heartfelt emotion. Despite her tender age, her compositions revealed remarkable depth and wisdom.
When she was nine years old, her mother became ill, and Mata Amritanandamayi was withdrawn from school in order to help with household tasks and the care of her seven siblings. As she went door-to-door gathering food scraps from neighbors for her family’s cows, she was confronted with the intense poverty and suffering that existed in her community, and in the world beyond it.
Where Mata Amritanandamayi encountered people in need, she brought them food and clothing from her own home. She was undeterred by the scolding and punishment she received from her family for doing so. She also began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them in their sorrow. Responding to her affectionate care, they began to call her Amma (Mother).
Amma was deeply affected by the profound suffering she witnessed. According to Hinduism, the suffering of the individual is due to his or her own karma — the results of actions performed in the past. Amma accepted this concept, but she refused to accept it as a justification for inaction. Amma contemplated the principle of karma until she revealed an even more profound truth, asking a question she continues to ask each of us today. “If it is one man’s karma to suffer, isn’t it our dharma (duty) to help ease his suffering and pain?”
With this simple yet profound conviction — that each of us has a responsibility to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate — Amma moved forward with confidence in her life of service and compassionate care for all beings, uniquely expressed by the motherly embrace she offers to all who seek solace in her arms.
In Amma’s community, however, it was not permissible for a 14-year-old girl to touch others, especially men. Amma explains, “In India, women are expected to remain in the background. It is said that ‘Even the walls should not hear them.’ My family could not understand my way of reaching out to people; they had no idea of the spiritual principles.”
But despite adverse reactions, Amma followed her heart, later explaining, “A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
Amma says that love expressed is compassion, and compassion means accepting the needs and sorrows of others as one’s own.
What People Say About Amma
“My father and Amma are kindred spirits.”
—Ms. Yolanda King
Daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Amma is the embodiment of pure love. Her presence heals.”
—Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D.
“In all my life, I have not met a warmer personality than Amma. Even an agnostic like me had great difficulty in holding back my tears.”
—Sri. Khuswant Singh
Author and Journalist
“Amma presents the kind of leadership we need for our planet to survive. This is the most heroic person I’ve probably ever met.”
Pulitzer Prize Winner
“Amma has done more work than many governments have ever done for their people… her contribution is enormous.”
—Prof. Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner & Founder, Grameen Bank
“Amma is truly such an enormous fountain of energy, love and compassion. I think if all of us were to get even a fraction of it within our own beings, there would be only joy in the whole world… Whatever little I can do with her inspiration, I will strive my best to accomplish it.”
—Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri
2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner & Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
“Amma is truly such an enormous fountain of energy, love and compassion. I think if all of us were to get even a fraction of it within our own With great force, she took me in her arms and I was enveloped in a scent of rose. It was a powerful hug, a powerful moment, really. Overcome with a profound sense of comfort, clarity and calm, I staggered off stage and sat down.”
—NPR Reporter Allison Bryce
(→ Listen to podcast)
Awards & Honors
New York, September 28th, 2015
Amma awarded the “Medal of Honour” by Ms. Evie Evangelou founder of Fashion 4 Development (F4D) for more than 25 years of humanitarian work in the fields of human rights, health and well-being, including food, access to water and power, housing, medical care, and the right to education and skill-training.
Paris, July 21st, 2015
Amma was invited for the daylong function by the Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet in the Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Paris, organised by the French President Francois Hollande.
New York, July 8th, 2015
Delivers the keynote address at the United Nation’s first Academic Impact conference on technology and sustainable development.
Los Angeles, June 14th, 2015
Honoured with a Golden Goody Award (Oscar for Social Good) for her Worldwide Humanitarian Charities.
Vatican, December 5th, 2014
With Pope Francis, Participates in Interfaith Declaration to End Modern Slavery organized by Global Freedom Network at the Vatican.
Amritapuri Ashram, September 4th, 2014
Balagokulam, an organization promoting Hindu cultural education since the 1970s, bestowed its 18th annual Krishna Janmashtami Award upon Amma on 4th September 2014 at Amritapuri Ashram.
The Huffington Post, New York, March 8th, 2014
Chosen as one among the 50 most powerful women religious leaders by The Huffington Post.
Kochi, April 26th, 2014
Bestowed with the Kavithilakam Pandit Karuppan Award at Kochi, India.
Michigan, September 27th, 2013
Awarded proclamation on behalf of the State of Michigan, U.S.A., to Amma commemorating Amma’s 60th birthday, the official proclamation describes Amma as a true citizen of the world and recognizes Amma’s charitable works worldwide.
Thiruvananthapuram, April 23rd, 2013
Awarded first Vishwaretna Purskar (Gem of the World Award) by Hindu Parliament on April 23rd, 2013 at Thiruvananthapuram, India.
New Delhi, January 11th, 2013
Inaugurated the Swami Vivekananda Sarda Shati Samaroh, the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, India.
Watkins’ London, February 2012
Amma featured in the Watkins’ list of the top 100 most spiritually influential living people in the world.
Shanghai, November 29-30th, 2012
Amma addresses the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in Shanghai on “Coexistence $ Engagement between cultures”. Amma was the only spiritual/religious leader invited to the conference.
New York, May 25th, 2010
Amma receives an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
New Delhi, December 1st, 2009
Amma inaugurates the Vivekananda International Foundation.
Kozhikode, February 14th, 2009
Amma was presented with Junior Chamber International’s highest honor, the ‘Shanti Swaroop’ peace award by Vallabh Das, Chairman of the Junior Chamber International Peace Award Foundation at Kozhikode, India.
London, October 27th, 2008
Amma receives the Mahavir Mahatma Award.
Jaipur, March 7th, 2008
Amma is a keynote speaker at the Summit of the Global Peace Initiative of Women at Jaipur, India.
Paris, October 12th, 2007
Amma is awarded the Prix Cinéma Vérité for her humanitarian activities and work for peace at the Cinema Verite Film Festival.
New York, May 2nd, 2006
Amma receives the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award in New York.
Pune, January 31st, 2006
Amma receives the Philosopher Saint Sri Jnaneswara World Peace Prize at Pune, India.
Los Angeles, USA, June 21st, 2005
Los Angeles County presents award to Amma for her outstanding humanitarian contributions, efforts and compassionate love that she has shared and continues to share with the tsunami victims in India & Sri Lanka.
Kochi, February 23rd, 2005
Amma receives Centenary Legendary Award of the Rotary Club International at Kochi, India.
Barcelona, July 13th, 2004
Amma delivers a keynote address at the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Geneva, October 7th, 2002
The World Movement for Nonviolence confers upon Amma the Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence at the UN in Geneva.
Geneva, October 7th, 2002
Amma is the keynote speaker at the Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious & Spiritual Leaders at the UN, Geneva.
New York, August 29th, 2000
Amma is a keynote speaker at the Millennium World Peace Summit, UN General Assembly.
Amma receives the Care & Share International. Humanitarian of the Year Award.
New York, October 21st, 1995
Amma addresses the Interfaith Celebrations at the 50th anniversary of the UN.
Chicago, September 3rd, 1993
Amma addresses the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ 100th Anniversary, where she is named President of the Hindu Faith.
Chicago, September 3rd, 1993
Amma receives the “Hindu of the year award – Hindu Renaissance Award” from Hinduism Today.