#6 – Elephant Washing & the Hugging Saint (Gaye)

Have you every made a deep connection with a large wild animal?

I hadn't. A few days ago we traveled to a wild life sanctuary that primarily featured elephants. They are such truly magnificent beasts. When you get close, really close, you can connect with their extravagantly fringed hazel eyes. These Indian elephants are smaller in size than their African cousins but still massive compared to me. I learned so much like . . . Did you know that elephants ejaculate about a litre of semen? Yikes.

We watched Aisha, an 18 year old female be scrubbed by her mahout and a helper. I sat on my haunches connecting with her intelligent eyes and then waded into the river and began scrubbing. The brush that is used is like the old floor scrub brushes. Her skin was wrinkly, thick and warm and covered with stiff scant hair. She delights in her bath and I delighted in her. Such a memory, such a privilege.

Yesterday we journeyed from Ben's Homestay in Cochin. After five days with this family their were tears and kisses and fond good byes. We headed south east to almost the very tip of India. On our way we stopped at Amma's ashram in Amritipuri.

Built up on the very property where Amma was born, Amritapuri is now the headquarters of Amma’s worldwide mission and the spiritual home for Amma’s monastic disciples and hundreds of householder devotees. All the residents have dedicated their lives for realising God and serving the world. Everyday, people from across India and abroad flock here to have Amma’s darshan (kind of a teaching). She sees each and every one, listens to their worries, consoles, encourages, provides new direction to their lives.

I feel like the only person who has not heard of Amma (pictured above). She is considered the hugging Saint. Everyone she meets she gives a body enfolding hug and whispers words of love, worth and compassion in their ears. On her birthday she hugs thousands for about 48 hours straight.

I'm not one to understand this except we had the chance to speak to one of her disciples - a young woman who was born a Christian to a partly Jewish family, converted to Islam and married a Hindu. She is obviously one who had a spiritual yearning and is logical, questioning and articulate. Through her skepticism she has come to be a follower and has lived at this Ashram for two years. What struck me was her question, "I wonder how Jesus would live his life today." She believes that Amma has lived and is living that life - a life of self-giving love.

After an adventurous two and a half hours on the road we made it to a two night stay at an Ayurvedic beach resort at Varkala Beach near Trivandrum. Tomorrow off to Jaipur.

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