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This week's Chicagoan: Beth Reiner, Amma devotee

"I believe that she is, yes, an incarnation of the Divine Mother."

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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"Amma is not a religion. She is a spiritual teacher, and she says that her religion is love. She shares her blessing through a hug, which is called darshan. I believe that she is, yes, an incarnation of the Divine Mother.

"She's been coming to the Chicago area for 25 years. She just bought this piece of property in the Elburn area. It's a former boarding school. It's going to be an ashram, and so we are working hard to get it ready for Amma's visit. Her first program here this year is June 30.

"She usually hugs 2,000 to 3,000 people a day. She starts around 10 AM and will go until everyone gets their darshan, which is usually around 3 AM.

"I received my first darshan from Amma about four years ago. I wasn't sure I deserved to get the hug, or to be so close to her. But as soon as it was my turn, she looked up at me, and the expression on her face was, 'Oh, I know you.' It was a very, very deep connection.

"I really don't know what happens during darshan for me. It's definitely something that you want more of, but I don't think I could tell you what it is. The hug itself doesn't last very long. But for me, it's not the actual darshan. It's what happens later. All of a sudden you start noticing how Amma is there for you in your life—not intervening, but just sort of looking out for me. I don't even have to ask for help; I know that she just sends it if I need it.

"Generally, she doesn't perform miracles. What I've read is that she doesn't like to perform miracles because she doesn't want people to come because of that. This is not a circus show.

"But there was one miracle she performed a long time ago in India. People were demanding a miracle from her. So she asked them to get a container and fill it with water, and then she turned it into a pudding. It was served to quite a large crowd, and there was enough for everybody.

"My husband is not a devotee, and he is not interested in any of this. But my children come with me when Amma comes to town and receive darshan, and they have a very, very sweet connection with her. One night, I was putting my kids to bed, and there was a thunderstorm. In the morning, my daughter said, 'Mom, I was praying to Amma to make the thunder stop, and it did.' I was like, 'That's so great, honey.'

"She accepts everybody. If you believe in her, you don't believe in her, it doesn't matter. She just loves you. Whether you follow her teachings or you don't follow her teachings is of no consequence to her whatsoever. She accepts you no matter what. And you don't have to do anything to receive her love. It's the perfect relationship."

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