Swamini Amritajyoti Prana, Amma's Representative in France: Serving the World

- through Sophie Solere

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From Ma Anandamayi to Tibetan masters in exile and Arnaud Desjardins, meeting with a woman with an exceptional life course.

You spent several years with the great Indian saint Ma Anandamayi. What impressed you the most during these years of teaching?

Meeting Ma Anandamayi was the big turning point for me. I went to her in 1973, when I was twenty-three. I was for the first time in the presence of the great mystery. When she arrived, I immediately entered another dimension. It was such a revelation that I kept coming back to it when I was a physics and chemistry teacher in France. As soon as I could, I went to see her in India until she left her body in 1982. I felt that it was this unconditional love and this inner freedom that should guide my life. Being with Ma Anandamayi was the great initiation into spirituality.

You have lived with Tibetan lamas in exile. How did you meet them?

It was through Arnaud Desjardins that I discovered the Tibetans. I was able to approach thanks to him the 16e Karmapa while leading a black cap ceremony. I was transported to another world again, touched to the core as the Karmapa put on the headdress and stood still like a statue while the room was completely silent. This moment of extreme power made me enter the world of Tibetan Buddhism. I ended up leaving teaching in 1978/1979 to put myself on leave in order to be able to spend a year in India. I alternated between stays with Ma Anandamayi and meetings with various Tibetan masters in exile. Among them, Tukshé Rinpoché, in Darjeeling, particularly marked me. When I arrived in July, he was returning for his summer retreat in his monastery for over a month. It was the monsoon, a period when it is not advisable to travel. I asked if I could stay with him. He immediately accepted. So I found myself, the only woman, Western moreover, with men of all ages to attend all the rituals, all the ceremonies and to have free access to Tukshe Rinpoche's room. It was a great blessing. I was so fascinated by this world that I decided to learn Tibetan. So I went to Langues O' in Paris, where I met an extraordinary teacher, Mr Jhampa. When he first arrived, I saw him surrounded by light. Then I found out he was Dagpo Rinpoche. One day he invited one of his Mongolian masters and I served as his driver. Dagpo Rinpoche fled Tibet because of Chinese oppression. The most astonishing thing is the joie de vivre that emanated from these Tibetan masters when they had lost everything. Simplicity, availability, openness, devotion and exemplary respect.

What did you learn from Arnaud Desjardins?

For fifteen years, I followed the path of Arnaud Desjardins traced by his master Prajnanpad, who practiced Advaita Vedanta, very close to Buddhism. He transmitted a spiritual teaching that was both of the highest level and very pragmatic. I had a lot of fears and blockages due to a difficult childhood. My reasonings could be wrong, because they were reactive. When we are in emotion, it is difficult to be in a right action. All the masters (Ma Andandamyi, Amma, Swami Prajnanpad) talk about the ego. We identify with the ego, we believe we are that, when in fact we have another dimension within us, much more open where unconditional love resides. What Buddhists call Buddha nature. It is the Self which is not a person, which is not limited. But if we are at the ego level, then our thoughts and emotions are subjective, because they are colored by our own history. I was able to do, with Arnaud Desjardins, this cleaning of the heart thanks to the practice of lyings which are a tool, a crutch, to clean the knots of the heart, not so that the ego works better, but to get rid of it. release. It is an active meditation with the expression of the body, words, tears, cries… It is a question of letting everything come to drive away the black clouds which mask the light of the Self.

What is for you the very essence of Amma's teaching?


And your main practice by his side?

Currently, it is seva. Selfless action, service. Amma encourages us to be useful to society and therefore to serve. For this, she indicates three main keys: knowing yourself, seva and being happy. You have to know the instrument – ​​us – otherwise we risk being wrong, but also knowing our motivations and the needs of the other, a little intuition and know-how to meet their expectations. We must therefore do a work of cleaning and purification since it is a disinterested service, without ego, without seeking recognition or thanks. It is a heart-opening gift, a total gift, without expectation. Only the ego wants to wait. However, in this perspective, it is not I who act, I am an instrument.

Being Amma's representative in France and having responsibility for her center near Chartres at the Plessis farm, is this a way for you to put into practice this sentence of Amma's: " The opportunity to love and serve others should be considered a rare gift, a blessing from God”?

As soon as I met Amma in India, I was flooded with such love that I wanted to stay with her. But after fourteen years in her ashram in Amritapuri, Kerala, where I am currently confined, she asked me to take care of her ashram in France. Devotees had found a place near Chartres, the Plessis farm. She had told me that it was only to launch the ashram, but I gradually understood that my sadhana, my spiritual approach, passed through this work, far from her. Like the mother bird throwing the baby out of the nest.

“Sannyas is a commitment of no return, of renouncing what one is not, of the ego in order to be completely of service. We no longer belong to ourselves, we belong to the world. We are at the service of the world. »

On March 13, 2020, you received Sannyas Deeksha empowerment from Amma, what does this change for you?

Two hundred people have been initiated into the Brahmacharya, this is the second stage, the first being to come and commit themselves to the ashram. There have been fifty Sannyas. Sannyas is the last stage, even if all is not resolved… Nevertheless, it is a commitment of non-return, of renunciation of what one is not, of the ego in order to be completely at service. We no longer belong to ourselves, we belong to the world. We are at the service of the world. There is no more personality. It is therefore the erasure of the ego and of all personal desire. It is ideal of course, we are not there overnight, but we try to limit our needs as much as possible, to put the interest of the other before his own. The more subtle renunciation is the renunciation of all attachment in this world by understanding that the true dimension of life is the spiritual dimension. We even have our own funeral two days before Sannyas initiation. It is a dive into another time. Three months later, I am in the process of digesting all this and integrating this commitment of Sannyas which is very powerful.

What is the message that seems to sum up your entire life path?

Courage. Do not let go of this determination, this thirst as strong as if you needed air while you are underwater and you can no longer breathe. To feed this thirst, you have to let go of everything else. Sannyas is total letting go of everything other than this craving.

What do you recommend to those who do not want to embark on a spiritual path?

Be happy. Amma tells us that happiness is a decision. I therefore want to say to anyone who does not want to embark on a spiritual path: “Ok, but be happy”. Someone truly happy will bring others.

What do you think is the best way to tackle the crisis we are going through?

Courage and letting go of what will let go of us. Let's be available for what needs to be done. Courage and energy to put in place what needs to be changed. And especially love and compassion, it is the beginning and the end of everything.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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