Review by: Jayaram V
Spiritually India is the blessed land of mystics and
yogis. From time
to time God either reincarnates Himself
there to restore Dharma or sends his manifestations to help
the people to regain their spirituality. In the latter
category are those who come into this world with a divine
mission and live like ordinary people amidst the hustle and
bustle of normal life but charge the earthly consciousness
with their powerful vibrations. Through their words and
deeds they transform the lives of many and help the planet
to regain its balance.
Those who come into contact with them and succeed in
establishing an inner spiritual connection, the way Richard
Schiffman did with Amma, undergo an extraordinary
degree of inner transformation. They experience a greater
calm and an enhanced sense of detachment, a soul stirring
touch with the Reality that cannot be explained in plain
words, nor can be appreciated by the ordinary and the
materialistic, but which becomes for a seeker of Truth the
very reason for the continuation of his spiritual journey.
Now and then we come across a book of the nature of the
Mother of All which provides a rare glimpse of the divine
nature of such eminent souls and helps us reestablish our
wavering faith and reconsider our priorities in life at
least temporarily and mentally.
Richard Schiffman has done an excellent job of portraying
the events in the life of Amma in an objective and truthful
manner and helping the readers to understand her true
The Mother of Jillellamudi lived a very ordinary life,
but in an extraordinary way. In the course of her eventful
life, through her unbound love and miraculous powers, she
transformed the lives of many and provided solace to many.
Richard Schiffman was one of the few westerners who had the
rare privilege of coming into contact with Amma to
experience the joy and peace of living in the presence
of the Universal Mother and see Her unbound love
manifesting itself towards all Her creation.
His book the Mother of All is an irrefutable evidence
that proves beyond doubt that the universe is pervaded by
the unbound love and energy of the Divine Mother who can
manifest herself in various forms and play different roles
in whatever way she chooses to and that she can be the
source of all illusions as well as enlightenment depending
upon Her will.
The life of Jillellamudi Amma proves that to the ordinary
the Reality is duality, the sense of many, the feeling of
you and I, the sense of separation that leads to insecurity,
conflict and sorrow, but to the enlightened it is one,
indeed, not just one, but the undivided everlasting
feeling of "I" ness, the disappearance of all
sense of duality and sense of egoism.
LOST AND FOUND - Excerpt from the book
which is not found even by searching is God" -Amma
AMMA SPENT THE entire night inside the temple engaged in the
heartfelt praises of Mother Earth. As the first tentative
brightness lit the eastern horizon, she left the inner
sanctum and went out into the cool stillness of the morning
to the locked main gate of the temple compound to await her
release. At precisely eight-thirty, the temple priest,
Rangacharyulu, arrived to commence his daily rounds of
worship. No sooner had the massive wooden temple doorway
creaked open than his gaze fell upon the young girl standing
serenely inside the courtyard. The priest was so overwhelmed
that he hardly had a chance to consider who she was and how
she had come to be inside the locked temple grounds. He just
stared mutely at the child, whose calm figure and beatific
visage wreathed in an angelic smile, sent thrills of bliss
coursing through his body.
A warm haze of light seemed to
engulf his heart and simultaneously the realization dawned
that the child was Ammavaru herself, the temple deity of
stone turned flesh and blood to grant him darshan His body
trembled as if from an electric shock. Losing all control of
his limbs, he dropped down limply at Amma's feet. She
touched him once lightly on the head, the trembling stopped,
and his supine form became transfixed in blissful trance.
Slowly, Amma ambled out of the temple compound. By the time
Rangacharyulu had finally regained consciousness of the
external world, she was no longer to be seen.
He had an agonizing moment of doubt. Had his blissful vision
been real or the illusion of an overheated imagination? With
this question bearing heavily on him, he rushed into the
inner sanctum and caught hold of the two feet on the idol of
Ammavaru, as a drowning man clutches a floating plank.
"Mother! Have you granted me darshan he cried out, and
almost immediately became lost again in self-forgetful
bliss. His abundant tears of joy now bathed in earnest the
stone feet of the idol which he had so often washed
mechanically during the daily ritual of abhisheka. 1
At that very moment, the temple trustee Ranga Rao strode
purposefully into the sanctum in a far less exalted, but
equally oblivious haze of his own. He didn't seem to notice
the ecstatic state of his priest, but was struck immediately
by the idol of Ammavaru, bereft of its usual silk coverings
and valuable ornaments.
"What, Rangacharyulu! Is today a special festival for
the Goddess without clothing and without jewelry?" he
cried out sarcastically.
The priest lifted his head from the idol's feet with
difficulty and noticed for the first time that Ammavaru was
indeed missing her usual adornments. His mood of devotion
quickly gave way to panic. Though he could barely rouse
himself to move, due to his temporary trance, he somehow
managed to locate another sari and to dress the idol. But
the ornaments were still nowhere to be seen.
In his anxiety to recover the
jewels, Rangacharyulu prayed fervently within himself:
"Mother, have you left this idol of stone and entered
into my heart with all of your ornaments? Is the idol now
merely a lifeless hunk of stone? Even if I lose my job on
this account, please never leave me. Remain installed
forever in my heart! But, if it be your will, let me have
the ornaments, Mother, in order to wipe out this blot on my
character. What is more, I can't bear to look at you like
this (bereft of ornaments)."
No sooner had he prayed in this way, than it flashed on him
intuitively where he should search for the ornaments. He
found the jewels and brought them eagerly back to replace
upon the idol. But it was already too late to placate the
incensed Ranga Rao. The trustee's outrage only increased,
and he addressed Rangacharyulu in summary fashion.
"What is this? Having stolen the ornaments, you are
returning them again? Look into your account and take
whatever back-pay is due to you."
The temple priest gazed imploringly at the idol of Ammavaru
as to an old and trusted friend and bowed low before the
image that he had worshipped so devotedly and for so long.
"Whether I lose my job or not, please keep your blessed
form always fresh before my sight, Mother," he prayed.
The priest lifted himself up from his prostration and was
about to leave the sanctum, when Ranga Rao called out
harshly, "You're going-let it be for good!"
The dazed Rangacharyulu walked through the main gate into
the town with a sinking heart. Almost immediately, he came
upon Amma standing in the street outside, as if she had been
waiting for him. His present depressed state of mind was
like a heavy veil and it did not occur to him that this was,
in fact, the same "Child-Goddess" he had seen
earlier that morning.
He questioned Amma in an offhanded way. "Whose girl are
"I belong to whatever
person I am with at the moment," she replied.
"In that case, do you
belong to me?" the priest asked.
"Why not? If you regard me
as your own, wouldn't it be so?"
Rangacharyulu became suddenly
abstracted, mindful of his earlier experience. "I have
seen my Mother today," he confided dreamily. "Did
my Mother appear to you too? What an extraordinary Mother
she is." He closed his eyes as if to better visualize
the morning's darshan. But when he opened them again, the
child's form was already vanishing down the road. As he
watched Amma disappear into a side street, it occurred to
him how closely she resembled the young Ammavaru he had seen
earlier in the temple courtyard. He brought to mind Amma's
suggestive words of a few moments back, her mature and
self-assured manner. "Perhaps this child is the same
one who appeared to me earlier," he mused.
Suddenly feeling a keen desire
to test this theory, the priest started running off down the
road. The impulsive chase through the quiet residential
streets ended by the town railroad station, where he found
Amma seated contentedly under a spreading jumbu tree.
Panting and gasping for breath, he went up to her and
blurted out, "Mother, tell me the truth. Are you the
one who granted me darshan yesterday?"
"Tell me the truth, was it
yesterday, or the day before yesterday that you had darshan?"
she teased him.
"My mistake, it was early
this morning," he remembered.
"Did I appear to you in
the early morning? Tell me exactly." But before he
could answer, Amma addressed him again, this time with a
mischievous glint in her eyes. "I think you've come to
steal my jewels like you stole Ammavaru's jewels at the
Rangacharyulu was stunned by
her knowledge of what had transpired between himself and the
temple trustee in the seclusion of the inner sanctum.
Instantly, he fell at the child's feet, crying out:
"Mother, don't cover me up again with your maya. Take
me quickly into yourself."
But Amma, in a playful mood,
feigned surprise. "Why do you fall at my feet and call
me 'Mother'? I'm only a little girl, the daughter of
Chidambara Rao's brother-in-law. I am here because I lost my
own mother. I visit the temple now and again to have the
darshan of the Mother in the temple, that's all. Please call
me ammayee (little girl) and not Ammavaru, as you seem to
imagine me to be.
The priest was once more thrown into confusion. Struck as he
was by the reasonableness of her words and the utter
unreasonableness of his taking her to be a flesh and-blood
deity, he wandered off without saying anything, embarrassed
at his own erratic behavior. As he made his way home sunk
deeply in thought, he heard the same comforting words of
assurance echoing again and again in his mind. "There
is no cause for fear. You will get your job back,"
promised the inner voice.
Meanwhile, Amma had returned to
Chidambara Rao's residence, stopping briefly on the way
under a flowering punnaga tree to collect some delicate
white blossoms. Entering the house unobtrusively, she placed
the flowers on the ground near the family shrine. It seems
that, in the hectic preparation for the Navaratri festival
of the Divine Mother, nobody had taken notice of the fact
that she had been out all of the previous night. When Aunt
Annapurnamma came into the hall and saw the blossoms which
Amma had placed so unorthodoxly on the floor, she flew into
"Why do you put them on
the ground? Get some roses from the backyard!" she
ordered in a huff.
Amma immediately went out to
fulfill her aunt's instructions. Returning with a handful of
fresh blossoms, she asked, "Auntie, where should I put
"Put them on your head!"
Annapurnamma fumed. And Amma, in literal obedience, did just
that. Which further enraged Annapurnamma. "What! Is it
for this that I asked you to fetch the roses?" she
"Since you told me to
collect the flowers, I did so. When you asked me to put them
on MY head, I followed your instructions. It is only because
I did not know what to do with them that I asked you for
directions," Amma explained.
Prakya Subbiah, the priest who
had been called in to perform the special festival worship
of the household deities, was impressed by the child's calm
and mature replies. He tried to placate Annapurnamma.
"What does it matter if she did place them on her head?
Is she not bala?(2) There is no defilement in the
innocent acts of a child. You can go ahead and offer the
The priest scrutinized Amma
thoughtfully for a few moments and then addressed
"I saw this girt at the
temple yesterday. She was talking with some elders there.
How is she related to you?" he asked with ill-concealed
"She doesn't even know how
to ask for food," Annapurnamma snapped. "You must
have seen someone else."
"No, this is the same
girl. I saw her clearly. I have heard people say that there
is something unique about her."
Annapurnamma grew irritated at
this talk, the likes of which she had already heard more
than enough in the household of Chidambara Rao. She ordered
the priest to go ahead with the pooia (ritual worship).
He reluctantly complied, but
all the while he was worshipping the household deity and
reciting the Lalita Sahasranamam (the thousand names of the
Divine Mother), his attention was riveted on Anasuya Devi,
whose liquid eyes and soothing features held a strange
fascination for him. When it came time to break the coconut
and wave the camphor flame before the idol, he unconsciously
performed these facing the child instead of offering them to
the idol of the Goddess as was expected.
As soon as the pooia was
completed, Amma left the hall and wandered over to the
nearby residence of Ranga Rao, sitting down casually on the
doorstep outside his house. When he returned from some
business in town and saw Amma resting by the house, he
called out and asked her who she was.
"I am a relative of
Rangacharyulu," she claimed.
"How is he related to
"He is like a son to me.
That is to say, his mother and I are sisters.113
"Are you coming from his
house?" Ranga Rao asked.
"No, I am just on my way
there now. It seems that someone fired him from his job. He
is a good man with a fine disposition. It is the temple's
loss that he is being asked to leave."
Hearing these innocent words of
truth, Ranga Rao became engrossed in thought.
Rangacharyulu's years of devoted service passed before his
mind's eye and he felt suddenly remorseful for his hasty
action. Taking along some back pay, fruits and ten rupees
extra as a token of his repentance, the temple trustee went
directly to the priest's home. After offering his sincere
apologies to Rangacharyulu, he handed him the money and
fruit asking him to perform a pooja to Ammavaru and offer
her the fruits. Ranga Rao walked off without any further
words, leaving the priest alone to ponder this latest shift
in the words of fortune.
Rangacharyulu was hard pressed
to understand what had caused the trustee's sudden
change of heart. Dazed, he wandered over to the open window
of his upstairs room and peered out reflectively at the busy
town life below. In a flash, he spotted Amma's diminutive
figure weaving its way through the crowd.
"Mother!" he called
out in exaltation, and rushed headlong down the stairs. But
by the time he had reached the road, she was gone, having
vanished tracelessly amid the busy throng of faces that
swirled and eddied about him.
Sadly, he turned back to his
house, praying inwardly with the intensity of his thwarted
devotion: "Mother, why do you play hide-and-seek with
this child of yours? Be kind enough to grant him your
darshan completely and permanently. I can't stand being
tossed about in the ocean of this world any longer. Amma,
draw back this curtain of maya and take me into your blessed
lap, once and for all!"
1. The temple idol is bathed in
a variety of liquids during daily worship, called abhisheka.
2. A word meaning
"child" and also used to refer to the deity.
3. Amma is making a statement
of her spiritual kinship with the Goddess Ammavaru (His
mother and myself are sisters"). There were no actual
Reviews by others
I have read this book before in the original Indian
edition. This new edition by Blue Dove Press is a definite
improvement. The book is a true work of love by the author,
Richard Schiffman, who is a devotee of Jillellamudi Mother
and spent several years with her. I too am her devotee as
well as one of Sathya Sai Baba's. The inspiration for my
looking her way - for which I am eternally grateful - came
principally from Richard's wonderful book. In the past, I
have given and lent copies to others on the spiritual path.
Many of them were extremely devoted to their gurus and
reluctant to read about other holy beings. Nevertheless,
literally everyone who read this book was truly inspired,
and many insisted that their friends read "Mother of
All" as well. Books with this kind of power and ability
to transmit the love of God are rare and should be
I have had several remarkable personal experiences with
Mother including being put into a state of bliss lasting
over three hours resulting from just a half a second glance
at one of her photographs. Jillellamudi Mother, though not
well known even in India, seems to have been an Avatar of
Adi Shakti, the primordial creative power - truly, the
Divine Mother and the mother of us all. To say that such a
being is rare is an understatement, and not to find out more
about her would be unwise. To be able to look her way with
love and an open heart would be a great blessing. Many high
souls have said that the path to God realization always goes
through the Divine Mother. That's why this book is such a
gift to the seeker.
Even though I have never seen Mother in the flesh, when I
think of her or see her picture, I feel tremendous longing
and tears come to my eyes. With her, teachings and practice
don't matter. Of course, it is a good thing to know her life
story, but her very being engenders tremendous love - no
real need for details. I feel she is my true mother and
always has been. Spend a little time thinking of her or
concentrating on her picture and you can't help but feel the
love which she so perfectly embodies. We are all her
There is no better introduction to the Jillellamudi Mother
than Richard Schiffman's book, and few books give such
heartfelt glimpses into how wonderful the Divine Mother
aspect of the Godhead can be. (Reviewer: Dimitri Drivas,