LAFOX – After drawing thousands last summer, the Hindu spiritual leader known to many as “The Hugging Saint,” or simply as “Mother” to others, will return to the area next week, offering a chance for those interested to receive a blessing from her.
From July 3 to 5, the Hindu guru Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi will visit the M.A. Center Chicago, a religious center that bears her name, on Keslinger Road in LaFox and will offer free public programs each of the three days.
“There is a sense of anticipation among many people locally, who came to see her last year,” said Suresh Babu, a spokesman for the M.A. Center. “Some people came and asked us when she is coming again this year.”
Amritanandamayi has routinely visited the Chicago area for more than two decades around July 4 as part of an annual tour of North America.
This year, that tour will take her to 10 cities in the U.S., including locations near Seattle; San Francisco; Dallas; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Boston.
The public programs, which are run by volunteers, include guided meditation, devotional singing and a live message from Amritanandamayi. But the primary draw for many has been the opportunity to receive an embrace from Amritanandamayi.
Her followers believe an embrace from Amritanandamayi imparts a spiritual blessing of positive energy, akin to a mother’s embrace. For that reason, her followers affectionately refer to her as “Amma,” meaning “mother.”
While many of her visits have taken her elsewhere in the Chicago area, last year Amritanandamayi visited LaFox for the first time, hosting public sessions at the new M.A. Center Chicago on the site of the former Broadview Academy.
Representatives of her organization estimated about 4,000 people visited the local M.A. Center during last year’s visit.
Babu said they are expecting at least 6,000 to turn out this year, thanks to better publicity of the event.