MA Center PNW Inauguration Ceremony Reflections by Vandya Huntting

A friend in the Seattle Satsang called and asked if my husband and I would come help set up for the inauguration of the new MA Center PNW in Seattle. I wasn’t exactly excited; it’s a drive and a ferry and a weekend out of the garden.  But I can’t bring myself to say no to this friend, she carries Amma’s essence so strongly – what could I say but yes!

Soon after we arrived in Woodinville to meet with other volunteers, a satsang member brought food she cooked for those coming early!  A thoughtful and welcome surprise after the journey!  A few of us left for the new Center to wash bricks for the homa (sacred fire ceremony).  The new center is a church with a 5-bedroom home and a big sunny lawn.  No permits needed, no huge grounds to care for or big remodels needed!  The church is lovely with a huge arched wooden ceiling like the hull of a ship which holds over 180 people.  The house is ready for occupants - no fresh paint needed, and the kitchen is newly remodeled.   I was impressed.  Sure, a few things can be improved but this place is ready for action. 

The Seattle Satsang had started to clean and prepare the week before but there was still lots to do before Sunday!  I was daunted – like walking into the empty hotel ballroom and having to be ready for Amma the next morning! 

Why did I worry?  After we arrived at the church the next morning, people from the Seattle area, around Washington, Canada, Oregon, and beyond came to help!  Not only was it wonderful to see everyone but the joyous hustle and bustle that happens anticipating Amma’s arrival was in full swing!  The pile of bricks in the corner transformed into a beautiful homa fire pit with hand drawn yantras.  A string of saris and lights were strung across the front of the hall and a beautiful altar appeared with a huge lamp next to it for the inauguration.  Carpets rolled out and got vacuumed, chairs set up, a welcome table appeared, and tables set up for food.  More people showed up with food, flowers and I don’t know what!  The house was swept, dusted, windows washed, furniture moved in, including a bed for Swami Dayamritananda Puri who would stay the night after the inauguration.  The lawn was mowed, garden beds cleaned and planted with flowers.  And people put up a big sign – The MA Center PNW with a beautiful photo of Amma by the busy street!  A huge potluck lunch was set out and then back to work we went.  There was so much laughter! There was a natural flow and rhythm as we worked together; beads on the same string, passing the bags or bricks along, doing what needed to be done with joy.  Many of us had done seva (selfless service) together for decades and the newer people had no problem jumping in.  And of course, plans changed back and forth and sideways - tables, rugs, beds moved here and there, food lines reversed, things lost and found, as if Amma was in town. We were a bunch of busy buzzing bees directed by our invisible queen.  I had forgotten the sheer joy of working together for Amma.  Few things beat the bliss of seva done together.

The next morning everything looked more beautiful than when we left – as if Amma had walked through in the night and glanced at everything giving it a touch of her radiance. 

At 5:00 am the homa began.  The performance and smoke of the homa can cleanse and rejuvenate the environment.  Fire or agni is associated with the upward motion of divine energy.  The homa conducted by Pujarini Meera seemed to bless and cleanse us, the church, and even the neighborhood.  There was plenty of smoke to go around!  In turn, I felt as if the place itself welcomed our presence.  After the homa, a smaller fire was made for Swamiji to boil milk; a ceremony done when moving into a new place.  The milk is heated until it boils over the pan, a sign of auspiciousness.  We sang while we waited.  The milk boiled up and then receded - several times.  We kept singing.  We added more milk and continued singing.  It took time!  It was like a reenactment of the many years and efforts of so many to create a center for the PNW.  Perhaps the efforts and time were needed to get us ready as well!  Finally, the milk boiled over!  We all walked to the house with Swamiji where he conducted another milk ceremony.

More people arrived - people I hadn’t seen in many, many years, new people I didn’t recognize, kids who were now young men and women!  Someone counted about 185 people!  We again gathered in the church and Swamiji and others including the Head of Chancery of the Consulate General of India, Mr. Suresh Sharma and his wife Seema, lit the giant oil lamp just as Amma does when inaugurating a new hospital or college.  Mr. Sharma is the first Consulate General of India in Seattle and has known Amma for 12 years!  He gave a brief talk honoring Amma and shared his excitement about the Center and the new consulate position.  Swamiji then guided everyone in meditation and talked about the purpose of the Center – to uplift us and to serve the community at large.  He also shared about the increased power of spiritual practices done in a group and the importance of spending time in Amma’s presence.  And of course, doing seva!  He ended with rousing bhajans. 

We then poured into the hallway for a delicious lunch.  Of course, everyone’s shoes had been moved several times to make room for lunch.  I had flashbacks of shoe hunting at many Amma retreats!  The sun came out and many ate their lunch out on the lawn – what a beautiful sight!  I could imagine Amma serving and sitting on the lawn with us! 

Most people I talked to that day shared “This place feels like home,” whether they lived down the street, in Victoria or Shelton.  It’s not too big or small, or too fancy or quaint – it’s “Just right,” as someone said. 

Clean up began and things disappeared quicker than they went up.  Goodbyes were sweet as we will see each other soon to welcome Amma back to the PNW!  What a fantastic warm up for her Seattle program!

Vandya Huntting
Olympic Peninsula Satsang