It’s not often you get called to come and chant for one of the world’s most revered saints – Amritanandamayi Ma, or ‘Amma’, and we were honoured to accept an invite from our friend, also a beautiful kirtan leader – Devadas Labreque.
The last event of her stay in NYC this year took place in the heart of Manhattan, beginning before the dramatic evening fireworks on the East River, and ending in the wee hours the following day. Amma is most well known for her practice of hugging. Hour after hour, sometimes without any rest, she greets thousands of people, giving each a short hug and sometimes prasad – a fruit or flower. In doing so she offers an act of deep, selfless love that touches countless numbers around the world who follow her events and try and live a life of service, love and humility.
The organisation of the event was impressive. Streams of white clad devotees progressed in an orderly fashion onto the stage at the front of the vast hall. Booths were set up selling all kinds of trinkets, jewellery, and even stuffed Amma dolls! After listening to the sweet bhajans of a group of NYC youth who have grown up knowing Amma, we set up for our kirtan. It was 2.30am but she showed no sign of tiring – smiling and embracing one after another.
After Devadas led us in a powerful Radha Govinda bhajan, Acyuta led one of her trademark knock-out kirtans. That girl doesn’t do mediocre!
The audience exploded with enthusiasm, and soon almost everyone was up on their feet, dancing with their arms raised. We were also extremely honoured to be joined by fellow chanters Wah!, Satya Franche Carlson and William Straus.
We later heard that the security guards got a bit antsy when everyone started to dance – apparently the kirtans are not normally so raucous! Oh well – we had great fun, and everyone seemed to love it – hopefully Amma did too.