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An Interview with Judith Cornell
Author of Mandala, Luminous Symbols for Healing and Amma, Healing the Heart of the World
by Connie Hill

Connie: Judith, what books have you written?

Judith:   The newest is called Amma, Healing the Heart of the World  and the other ones are Mandala, Luminous Symbols for Healing  and Drawing The Light From Within, Keys to Awakening Your Creative Power.

C:  How did you get from Mandalas to Amma?

J:  The theme that ran through the whole Mandala book was the shri yantra symbol, the Hindu symbol of enlightenment and healing.  It's also the Hindu symbol for the divine feminine aspect or Om.  The Divine Mother asked me to write Amma.  In 1998 an agent asked me to write a book on "Creativity for Dummies."  I didn't feel right about the word dummies because I always think of people from the soul level.

So I kept writing and praying and saw that even though the titles and covers are the same, through the "Dummies" books spirituality can get out to the average person.  When Ammachi came to San Francisco in June I asked her if I should  go ahead with the "Dummies" book and she said, "No problem."  I took that as a sign that there would be no problem and that she was blessing the project.  So I finished the proposal, submitted it to the agent. 

One day in meditation Amma's face came to me and I knew then, with absolute certainty, I was to write Amma.  The "Dummies" proposal fell through, and doors opened for me to work on Amma for the next three years.

C:  Who is the publisher?

J:  William Morrell/Harper Collins.  William Morrell, which was a really staid and stable publisher in New York, originally bought the book under the imprint of Eagle Brook.  I came back from India in 1999 and I started writing.  After a few months of writing the editor wanted me to change the tense I was writing in, so I went to Amma and she said "Go along with her or it might not get published.  Two days later the publisher went into merger and was taken over by Harper Collins.  Now the book is owned by Harper Collins with an imprint of William Morrell.  In an upheaval time contracts can be canceled without reason.  So, following Amma's advice saved the book.

C:  What is Ammachi's philosophy?

J:  She is here now to bring healing through unconditional love.  She accepts every single human being.  No matter their color, religion or creed.  People, from movie stars to the lowest castes in India, from the most wealthy to the poorest come to her for hugs.  She is here to purify our minds from misconceptions and judgments, and thinking we're separate.  She has schools and hospitals throughout India and many of her charities were started by those who want to give something back to the world after receiving her grace. 

C:  I know about the hospitals.  A past bookshop employee has just gone to India to work at one of Ammachi's hospitals.  So, how did you get drawn to Ammachi in the first place?

J:  I've always had a mystic inclination.  From the time I was little I've loved reading the stories of St. Francis and the Christian mystics.  As I got older I read about the lives of other saints, like Autobiography of a Yogi and other mystics from the Sufi tradition, so I had a great desire to meet living saints.  In 1987 friends told me that this sweet saint from India was visiting the Bay area.  That's how I first went to see her and I didn't have any great experience the first time.  I had just quit smoking and was sitting in a group of 50 people thinking, "I hope this line moves fast so I can get my hug and chocolate and get out of here.  I could just barely get through it.  But I kept coming back year after year and my cynicism about spiritual teachers lessened and my heart began to open.

C:  How did she get started?

J:  She came from a lower caste.  Before she was born her parents had dreams about the Divine Mother Kali and all the gods and goddesses so they thought fortune was coming .  But when Ammachi was born they thought she was misfortune because her skin was blue-black.  Interestingly enough blue was the color of Kali and Krishna.  At birth, her legs were crossed and the thumb and the index were touching; they thought she had a bone disease.  If they had been aware of yoga they would have seen that this was a yoga pose.  But, because her skin color was much darker than the rest of her family's she was placed in servitude. 

C:  How did she get recognized as an enlightened being and out of servitude?

J:  It wasn't until she was 21 that her parents knew that she was an enlightened being.  One day, a family near her home was reading from the sacred texts of Krishna as she and her brother were walking by carrying fuel they had collected.  A neighbor said Ammachi's whole body started vibrating and took on the finger mudras and the stance of Krishna.  They felt she was channeling Krishna. 

Soon the skeptics came and asked for a miracle.  She said "you, yourself are the miracle, but I will do one miracle and you can't ask for more."  Later, she asked one of the skeptics to go out and fill a container with water.  She said some prayers over the water, then told him to put his finger in the water and out came milk.  Then, she asked him to put his finger in again and out came the favorite pudding of Krishna.

Later she had an experience of the formless aspect of the Divine Mother and realized that she was here to manifest and spread compassion.  Her way of healing people was to give them a hug.  This was totally alien to the caste system.  Her brother was furious that she would relate to anyone who came to her this way and he tried to have her killed.  She was really tested in her early life as an enlightened being.

Now, She is one of three representatives for the parliament of Hindu religions.  She's been invited, with a thousand other representatives of world religions to speak at the UN and has been given numerous awards.  At 47 her esteem continues to grow and she draws huge crowds who are hungering for divine grace.  It has been a privilege to be part of this. 

C:  Did you have any problem with the publisher wanting to cut materials that you felt were important?

J:  That is another interesting story, none of the material was cut.   The editor asked some really tough questions. One was, “Who is this black-faced Madonna?” and it led to making that chapter even better.  I had gotten a letter from an associate of Father Bede Griffith who said he'd had an experience of the Divine Feminine.  I called the associate and asked her if he had ever had any experiences with Kali.  Her response was "No, but he had an experience with the Black Madonna!"  She said that experience was more transformative than any other for him.  And his book New Realities reflected that time.

C:  What else would you like to say?

J:  On a practical level writing Amma has been really transforming for me.  Hopefully I'm more loving and compassionate.  I try to be more aware of what I really need after traveling third world countries and seeing how out of proportion we tend to consume.  I believe that there are great masters walking the planet right now and that I've had the privilege to watch one master model living the Truth.

People can find out about her tour by going to her website which is www.ammachi.org and click tours.  And my web site as her official biographer is www.mandala-universe.com

Judith Cornell will be at New Renaissance Bookshop Saturday, September 15 to talk about her new book and Sunday, September 16 she will present her Mandala workshop.  For more information or to register online go to www.newrenbooks.com and click on "Events" or call 503-224-4929.

Connie Hill works at New Renaissance Bookshop and is a local astrologer.  She can be contacted at 503-291-8229, ext. 2 or gmnite@yahoo.com.

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