Is Amma the Hugging Saint for Real?

  • Posted on: 20 June 2009
  • By: mokshalom

Alas, my friend and I, who went to see Amma last night in Los Angeles, have decided that she is not the real deal. Worse, it appears that Amma is a psychic vampire, siphoning off the energy of her devoted followers.

My friend had contacted me earlier in the week asking if I wanted to go see Amma. She is an Indian woman who travels the world offering "free hugs." Someone in his singing class had gone to see her and had some sort of spiritual experience. He was curious, and so was I.

Coincidentally, I had recently heard of Amma just a month ago when I stumbled across an anti-Amma blog called "Cult of the Hugging Saint." Strangely enough, this blog was online last night when we checked it from the event (via my Blackberry), but when I went to look at it today, the blog is no longer available. Hm.

Through that blog, I had already read some serious charges against Amma's organization, some of which included tales of dead bodies floating in rivers! (You can read more about Amma's "Goongate" over at Guruphiliac.) So I already knew that not all was well in Ammaland, but I decided to go see for myself what the fuss was about. I did not do an energy read of her beforehand, but decided to just go in blank and see what I discovered.

Trying to go see Amma is like trying to get on the hot new ride at Disneyland. You need to get special tickets, called tokens. You are herded through various lines by volunteers wearing all white, with red scarves around their necks. You are plastered with a sticker to let people know that you are a new huggee. You are told that the sticker is your pass to "push your way through" to the front of the line when it comes time to get your hug.

We got there around 7 pm. The event started at 8. After wandering through a confusing maze of people, we finally sat down and got our tokens. Group R3.

The group number meant that when our number was announced, we were to dash upstairs and get in line just to enter the main hall. Once inside, we were supposed to get into another line. (Apparently, this is where the "push and shove your way to Amma ahead of people who've seen her before" instruction would be useful.)

We realized early on, based on the rate the groups were being called, that we might be there all night. (We thought it'd only be a few hours at first.)

It was already 9 pm and they'd only gotten to group B5. We were just sitting on uncomfortable chairs out on a patio, watching Amma, wearing a ridiculously over the top silver crown, hug people on a screen as the numbers slowly rolled by.

A new age guy who sat in front of us, hearing our conversation about whether Amma takes a break or not, turned back to us and with a breathless, starry voice, told us that Amma did not take breaks and in fact would go straight through to 11 am. "It's so amazing that she can do that," he sighed.

We thought this did sound impressive, but worried that we would, indeed, be stuck there until 11 am. So there was much debate over how long we'd stay before giving the Amma experience the heave-ho.

The Amma people did serve some vegetarian food, for which you had to pay and stand in yet another long line to receive. The food was actually quite tasty and probably the highlight of the night. However, this is when things started to get a little strange.

Both my friend and I felt energized after eating the food. Once done, however, we realized we did not have drink tokens, nor did we know where to go where we might get some water.

Amma's volunteers had come around early in the evening handing out small plastic cups with lids that contained "Amma blessed water." We were told we could drink it there, but that it'd be better if we took it home, because by mixing the water with more water, we could make it last longer.

Well, after eating our delicious vegetarian meal, we did not have anything to quench our thirst. We did not drink the water right away, but eventually both decided to drink the blessed water instead of taking it with us. I already know how to bless my own water, so my thinking was I did not need Amma to do it for me at home. I also felt like I wanted to see what a concentrated dose of Amma blessing might do for me.

Not too long later, my friend and I both found ourselves tired, drained, out of sorts, and spacey. I have to tell you it was like walking around on drugs, but that kind of feeling towards the end of the high, when the drug is wearing off and leaving a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.

Things did not seem real, and you felt vaguely confused and not all "there."

We did not initially connect this to the water, but later, figured out that we both started feeling strange after consuming the blessed water. (The food, initially, had made us feel good and energized.)

It was at this point I decided to check my friend's energy to see what was going on. Amma had apparently corded both of us, and was draining our life-force energy through these cords. (Etheric cords are energetic connections that can bind people. When positive, they uplift. When negative, they can be used to drain energy from one person to another, or send negative energy between parties.)

At this point, my friend was feeling so strange that he was starting to experience real anxiety.

I asked for some angelic protection, cleared the cords, and immediately we both felt better.

At this point I felt very guided not to receive Amma's hug. What I got intuitively was that in order for Amma to elevate herself, she drains the energy of her followers. Drinking her "blessed" water is actually a curse, as it binds you energetically to her. Hugging her I'm sure does even more damage.

The reason why people feel Amma has so much spiritual power is precisely because she takes it from all the people worshiping her. She makes you feel good when you hug her, because you are feeling all that stolen life force emanating off of her. When you leave her, and go home, you may feel dejected and down, and need to go back to her to get your energy "fix." It's like she's an energetic drug dealer.

If Amma is able to sit for 12 hours getting hugs from people without a break, it's likely due to her taking the energy of each and every person she hugs! She probably ends her session feeling more energized, not less! And no wonder - who wouldn't after feeding off the life force energy of thousands?

As were talking about Amma being an "energy vampire," a woman handed up her baby to Amma on the screen. Amma literally sucked this child's hand fully into her mouth like a hungry cannibal. My friend was so freaked out he had to turn away. It was as if Amma subconsciously felt compelled to show her true self right then and there.

"Now, now," you may say as you read this, "this sounds totally bizarre and you're just imaging things."

Well, let's throw away the psychic vampire thing for a moment. We just found the energy at the event to be far from positive. People were isolated from one another, despite the large crowds. Even though Amma was selling hugs, no-one else was hugging. The disciples of Amma did not hug you. Strangers were not hugging strangers.

My friend commented that he expected to go there and be enveloped in a friendly, loving environment, and he was stunned that this was not what we found. Instead, as he described it, everyone was caught up in this selfish energy of trying to get to be the first in line to get their hug from Amma.

The energy was not about giving, it was about getting.

We all wanted our quick fix from Amma.

It's also important to note what it is that Amma is selling. Amma does not sell much of anything but Amma. (And she does sell - just because the hugs are free, it does not mean they aren't selling other things, such as food, books, Amma dolls, and even Amma's old car. Let's not forget the copious donations she collects.)

I have also heard some negative things about the now deceased kundalini yoga guru Yogi Bhajan. But despite his critics, I will say one thing about Yogi Bhajan: He was not selling himself. He sold yoga. And he said time and time again he was not there to create followers, but to teach teachers. Which is precisely what he did. So even if his worst critics were right, he left a legacy of empowered teachers who go out and teach other teachers.

Amma, on the other hand, seems to be all about her. That's your first clue she's an energy vampire. Whether you believe in such things literally or figuratively, it's kind of your cue to stay away.

As for us, we ended up leaving before our number was called.

You may also want to read my follow-up blog post about how some Amma "defenders" have chosen to respond to my review by trying to tear me down on a blog devoted to harassing anyone who criticizes Amma.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed.


This is disturbing on so many levels. You and your friend are lucky there wasn't more than her spellwork in that water.


I must disagree with your judgment of Amma.
I am not a devotee of hers , but do go for her darshan when she is around, as I usually go to see yogis and Hindu Saints when they are in town. I have practiced Hindu Dharma since 1987 and am a sannyasin/yogini and pujarini. I only received good positive energy from Amma (and I am very sensitive to energies, through my yogic tapas), however her followers are the ones with bad energy. They do not understand the meaning of having a Guru and that the point to have a Guru is to help you surrender your ego (ego is source of spiritual ignorance, leading us to evil/negative/selfish deeds).
Those followers of Amma actually are feeding their egoes by competing for attention from Amma. They also look down on followers of other sampradyas (traditions) such as myself. I had the Amma Amrit (blessed water) and had no "druggy" effect whatsoever. Don't forget that these "spells" and "drugs" fears people have are very often psychosomatic and just by misunderstanding where the bad energy came from, and projecting it on Amma, you feed your own paranoia about cults etc.
Amma is not the problem, her followers are. They completely miss the boat, as many western "devotees" do, as they do not fully understand SURRENDER of ego to one's Guru. If anyone is a energy vampire, those "devotees" are.
This is my honest opinion and personal experience, and I thought I'd share it here to balance out the testimonies. I have no interest in "protecting" Amma, as I am not a devotee of her, I simply give a more objective angle to this.

Sat Namah - Aum Shanti

Thanks for posting about your experiences, Stephanie. I felt something similar when I visited Amma's ashram in Northern California years ago. The energy was really off, and I came out of there feeling anxious and extremely disturbed, although I couldn't pinpoint why. I think that more caution is needed among spiritual seekers who immediately lionize "gurus" and flock in hordes to see them. I believe the true sign of a spiritual teacher is that they seek to help you find the divinity within yourself rather than hoist themselves up as some kind of divine icon capable of dispensing spiritual medicine. The cultish feeling that I experienced at her ashram ensured that I wouldn't be seeking any hugs from her (her "security" posse is also really creepy).

Out of curiosity, did you feel that her energy-sucking was conscious or unconscious? Is it possible that she truly believes herself to be spreading love and is unaware that she may be causing any harm?

"Out of curiosity, did you feel that her energy-sucking was conscious or unconscious?"

Good question. I have thought about that.

Sociopathic narcissists tend to often fool themselves into believing that what they are doing is good, in my observation. (NOTE: I AM NOT A TRAINED PSYCHOLOGIST!) It could be that her ego has gotten the best of her...and she doesn't fully realize what she's doing.

However, I do believe there is old, esoteric knowledge from the yogic tradition that could teach a person how to manipulate another energetically. I have a vague remembrance of hearing about it in a yoga class, but would have to research more to answer more definitively.

I am amazed at how well you summed things up here. I believe that Amma is a VERY dark force and that she does indeed operate in the way that you described here. It is horrifying if you really start to think about what is going on. Once I realized what was really going on (that she is essentially "feeding"), it made me sick that babies, elderly, and all of these hopeful individuals end up caught in her embrace. She is not a positive force and would be the epitome of the whole "wolf in sheeps clothing" idea. People really need to wake up. There is great evil that comes to this world, and it never shows it's true face otherwise it would never accomplish its mission. How convenient that it has taken form in a harmless looking woman dressed in white and labeled "the hugging saint".

This article sounds like it is describing Amma and those who have been sucked into her world:

Excellent summation of the dark and disturbing, performance known as Devi Bhava, Stephanie. You are indeed, perceptive and aligned in light to see all this truth so clearly. I have a question, rather I would like you opinion on a few topics;
1) Amma's more serious followers all testify that they have had some divine experience and this is why they cannot break away, even when they see that they and everyone else around are becoming darker, unhealthier, and ever more miserable. Do you think that these experiences actually are ammas stolen power, or a sort of hallucination?
2) Amma's devotees like to imagine her a Kali, a dark goddess, who is even self described as terrible and capable and most willing of deluding the masses from their true nature. How can people who worship this concept be persuaded to see that this vampire cannot possibly have their best intentions at heart?
3) How can people who are so tethered to her, break that spell and walk away? How can they rid themselves of the fear that amma is haunting, hunting, cursing them if they leave?
4) It is so dangerous to bring children around such an evil force and many are indoctrinated as we speak. How can a parent deprogram their child who prays to amma and has trained themselves to be constantly fixated on the guru?
5) Amma followers are often consoling their doubts with the fact that amma never vacations, that she is in fact always hugging someone and giving guidance. How do you think she is satisfied? Is the energy she steals constantly and all the adulation, worth the responsibility?
6) On the ex-amma website, in previous posts we talked about how she sucks the energy out of peoples right ear when they lie on her breast. One can even hear her sucking, like a slurpie, as one receives darshan. Do you think there is a reason she always removes the energy from the right ear?
I would appreciate any insight you may have on any of these points.

I'll try to respond as best I can, but I won't claim to be an expert on these things...going through your points...

1) Amma's more serious followers all testify that they have had some divine experience and this is why they cannot break away, even when they see that they and everyone else around are becoming darker, unhealthier, and ever more miserable. Do you think that these experiences actually are ammas stolen power, or a sort of hallucination?

When someone experiences a "divine experience," is it really something divine or a temporary high? Many users of drugs such as LSD or ecstasy report "divine experiences" or feelings of love or oneness. The brain can induce any number of experiences that may not have anything to do with God, spirit or the light.

I have been to spiritual events that induce highs in the people present - Agape International Church in Culver City is one such place. I actually like Agape, I have nothing against it, but I just found for myself that some of the "high" I experienced while there was temporary - it did not, however, translate into greater peace of mind or progress for me when I was not there. Only my regular spiritual practice at home, without all the hoopla, seemed to create real lasting transformation. That said, I have had good experiences at Agape and inspiration like that can be quite helpful. But it's no replacement for the spiritual work you must do on your own.

2) Amma's devotees like to imagine her a Kali, a dark goddess, who is even self described as terrible and capable and most willing of deluding the masses from their true nature. How can people who worship this concept be persuaded to see that this vampire cannot possibly have their best intentions at heart?

You can't do much to dissuade someone who is sucked into the cult. The best you can do is pray for them, in your own way.

3) How can people who are so tethered to her, break that spell and walk away? How can they rid themselves of the fear that amma is haunting, hunting, cursing them if they leave?

If they are truly interested in leaving, then finding a reputable energy healer who is well-versed in clearing dark energies would be advised. At minimum, you can get the book "Practical Psychic Self-Defense for Home and Office" from and try some of the techniques there.

4) It is so dangerous to bring children around such an evil force and many are indoctrinated as we speak. How can a parent deprogram their child who prays to amma and has trained themselves to be constantly fixated on the guru?

Are you speaking of an adult child or a child who is not yet of age? If the child is not yet of age then being firm with them is what you have to do. But I am not a parent...can't speak to specific parenting techniques on this, but I feel that parents have every right and should put their foot down with children. Ground them! They'll resist but sometimes you have to risk your child's disapproval for their better good.

5) Amma followers are often consoling their doubts with the fact that amma never vacations, that she is in fact always hugging someone and giving guidance. How do you think she is satisfied? Is the energy she steals constantly and all the adulation, worth the responsibility?

What would be more satisfying to the extreme pathological narcissist than being WORSHIPPED by people? That IS her paradise, her perpetual vacation!

6) On the ex-amma website, in previous posts we talked about how she sucks the energy out of peoples right ear when they lie on her breast. One can even hear her sucking, like a slurpie, as one receives darshan. Do you think there is a reason she always removes the energy from the right ear?

It could be that she is just favoring one-side in the way that we are right or left-handed. I tend to hug to one side more than another. I don't know of any energetic reason she might do this otherwise. (Which is not to say there is not a reason for it.)

I hope this helps.

Thanks for your post!

since you do not even understand the concept of Mahakali it is better that you stick to your original faith. it is a little different for people with no intellectual capacity .jerry falwell is the forward for you.

If you're attempting to make Amma look better by this comment, you are achieving the reverse result...

Actually, despite her frightening appearance, the goddess Kali is known as a destroyer of demons and lower forces. So, in actuality, Kali would destroy someone like Amma. It could be seen as the Hindu equivalent of claiming to be Christ or another positive figure. Amma herself, if she is indeed stealing energy for nefarious purposes, would be what is known as an "asura", or demon.

Amma draws the physically sick, mentally ill, emotionally weak, hurting, seeking, type of person to her. Once she latches on to them she convinces them to give up their souls to her. The devotees don't just worship Amma, they actually want to NEGATE THEIR OWN EXISTENCE and get lost in Amma. Devotees want to annihilate themselves, they don't even want to have a sense of identity. If they do have a sense of identity, they become frustrated with themselves and work harder and harder to lose themselves to Amma. Ask a devotee to explain this and they will talk about losing the ego to attain enlightenment.

If that doesn't sum up the cumulative effects of giving power away to a dark force, I don't know what does.

If these devotees really were basking in the light of a great Mahatma and moving toward oneness with divinity, then ask yourself this: Why are they so unhappy, malnourished, angry, tortured, and sad? Shouldn't devotees be happy, radiantly healthy, and filled with joy?

The devotees are miserable because they exist and have an identity separate from Ammachi. That is the simple explanation. They want to disappear into Amma because she has made them feel that they are wrong to have an individual identity. This is why they are sometimes called "ammabots". Amma instills self-hatred. This is why I also believe she is a darkness or an evil if you will. Only darkness would convince a free and individual soul that it is flawed and should be "OFFERED UP" to "MERGE" with Amma. This is why so many devotees commit suicide. How many people have jumped from the top floors of the ashram now? And- who finds out when they do die lonely deaths, tortured by the need to rid themselves of themselves? Most of them have abandoned their families and former lives for Amma. How many souls has she eaten? Let's hope that the goodness and the light rescues all of these poor souls who die with the name of Amma on their lips (whether from natural causes or not). Let us pray that their souls are not forever shackled to this demonic force. Lets us pray that they are rescued from her clutches when their souls move from the body and are not doomed to live forever in her darkness. If that were true, then there is no goodness in this world or the next.

There is a particular phenomenon well-known in the East, but not in the West. That is the concept of the "Magician-Saint". It describes a particular type of being, often presented as a guru. These people can be very, very powerful, beyond even the comprehension of westerners. They may possess "siddhis" (occult powers), that can be extraordinary. The late Swami Muktananda is the perfect example of this. They have the ability to induce remarkable spiritual experiences in others, or cast very deep spells. My experience is that they are very difficult to understand, for they are a blend of good - the saint part, and illusion - the magician part. They are NOT either -or, but partake of both. Ultimately, they of course are Magicians of the highest order, and not the real God-Beings they make themselves out to be. It is naive to under-estimate them, Muktananda was described as a "smiling cobra". Because they sometimes open a space for a devotee to have a deep spiritual experience, they can do good for some folks. It is a curious blend. These Magicians can use the projections of others - conscious and unconscious- for their own aggrandizement and energy sources, which includes money, btw.

I have found that the best way to know the reality of a situation, is to look carefully at the surrounding atmosphere, the devotees especially. Are they joy-filled, happy, compassionate, life-affirming, or sickly, drained, militant, fearful, etc.? This test has never failed me. While it is true that real spiritual work will bring up deep tensions in people, it should be within an atmosphere of compassion and healing.

I did quite a bit of research on Swami Muktananda because I was considering checking out some events at the Siddhe Yoga organization near me. From what I gather, serious allegations were made that he sexually abused quite a few of his disciples.

I don't consider a person like that to be "both" on the side of light and on the side of dark. I consider someone like that to be hijacking the light for their greater dark agenda. They utilize positive tools and emotions to create a power structure by which they can then abuse people. This is ultimately dark and bad.

Do many of these cult organizations provide positive ideas and tools for disciples? Of course they do. They would not be able to suck you in if they advertised "Hey, let us use and abuse you." They give you enough carrot so you don't see the big stick coming down to whack you on the top of the head.

Ultimately, after reading up on Muktanandanda, and his successor, another female guru by the name of Gurumayi, I decided Siddhe Yoga was not for me. Siddhe Yoga may not be a bad organization, but I simply did not want to be a part of one where an active guru was worshiped so much.

Going back to Yogi Bhajan, he had one female disciple file a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. I do not know of others. Are all these allegations true? Maybe Muktananda's allegations weren't true either. I don't know.

But Yogi Bhajan is dead, and there is no active guru in the 3H0 organization anymore. I feel that Bhajan's disciples are for the most part quite sincere good people so whatever legacy he left behind, whether he was sincere or not, it ended up being positive. The people at Kripalu totally took their organization over from a very bad guru who had taken advantage of students sexually, and look at the amazing place they created as a result. They actually kicked their guru out and created an organization that had no guru! Amazing!

So I don't necessarily take all guru allegations as proof that an organization is all bad. It takes a bit of discernment and sometimes simply giving something a shot to see what it's all about. And sometimes the disciples themselves show themselves to be much more highly actualized than the guru who started it all. If they take the lead, good can come out of the bad.

Followers Of Amma "The Hugging Saint" Launch Website To Attack Critics And Ex-Devotees
Those connected to the religious group which follows Amma, also known as "the hugging saint", recently launched a website attacking her critics and ex-devotees.

PRLog (Press Release) – Jun 26, 2009 – The new website compiles information on the businesses, websites, and personal lives of critics and ex-devotees. The information has been painstakingly collected from the Internet and compiled on the website in an attempt to harass and intimidate those who may choose to leave the group or voice a contrary opinion.

The website, ironically called "Cult Of The Hugging Saint Exposed" appears to be run by representatives or devotees of the hugging saint, also known as Amma or Mata Amritanandamayi. The site is made up of character assassinations on those who have been critical of Ammachi as well as those who have left the group. Countless hours have gone into information gathering in order to attack the character of those who have been outspoken critics of Amma or her organization. The website includes poetry written by ex-devotees, articles written by critics, links to their businesses, and annotated lists of irrelevant personal information intended purely to harass critics and ex-devotees of the hugging saint.

“It’s chilling.” said an ex-devotee who is one of the websites targets, “I left the group many years ago and now they are posting photos of me when I was young and defunct websites that I ran over ten years ago as well as poetry I wrote when I was part of the group. I have been a victim of Internet stalking recently, and I feel like I am living it all over again. The amount of time this group has put into compiling information on me is very frightening. This website illustrates why so many are afraid to leave, because this is what will happen to them.”
# # #

While Amma's organization is apparently not behind that blog, it appears some of her devotees haven't heard of the spirit of unconditional love or "turning the other cheek." A far better approach than posting screeching slanderous criticisms of Amma's critics would be to gently respond to the points made and show why they are untrue.

For example (and I'm not encouraging thousands of Amma devotees to come here and spam my blog mind you), it would be a much better response to lovingly disagree with me here than to go on the attack against my person. If someone wants to come on my blog here and show me how Amma has genuinely changed their life for the better, and how they did NOT develop a dependency on her for that, then by all means, do share. So far, no-one has done that. (And no, I have not censored any comments on this thread.)

So what will be the result of the attack blog? At best, an outsider will look on the attack and think "wow, these attackers have a serious screw loose." It will end up HURTING Amma's PR much more than it will the people they are trying to destroy. All they are doing is giving publicity to those they are trying to humiliate.

I couldn't even get through the articles on that attack blog. They were a bunch of ridiculous hateful accusations, and as an outsider you just go, "yeah, whatever, these people posting up these ridiculous individual 'exposes' obviously have an agenda."

What agenda does a disgruntled ex-disciple have other than that they felt an organization or guru was harmful to them? They only want to share to help others. They aren't trying to personally go after each and every Amma disciple and discredit them for loving her. Let's say that the perceptions are wrong. E.g., Let's say that my friend and I just totally misconstrued the energy at the Amma event, and we actually missed out on a great hug? Well, there's no need to go and slander me about it - tell your side of the story and persuade me as to why I might be wrong.

Bottom line: Amma's disciples should not put energy into discrediting critics, as it is actually hurting Amma's PR much more in the long run.

I think that the old advice, 'By their fruits you shall know them' is probably the best.

No amount of bliss can offset exploitation of even one human being. Many persons would show up on discussion venues for Muktananda and Gurumayi and insist 'But I benefitted. I was not harmed I felt blissful, I dont care what else happened. And often the person ended by saying 'God bless this great path"

If all one cares about is their personal bliss and they dont feel at all concerned by reports that their fellow seekers are incurring harm, then this callous indifference to other people's well being means, that the bliss recipient has incurred harm.

Its no different from drug addicts who care only for their bliss and leave grief, chaos and impoverishment on their families and friends, because only the bliss of staying high matters to the active addict.

I cannot personally recommend this website as a resource, as a friend reported some very iffy dynamics when she participated on the message board. But the material here on vampires is of the utmost interest.

Finally here is an article on bondage issues in spirituality

One person has actually suggested that there are dishonest
pseudo gurus who learn covert methods of trance.

In his book, The Sun at Midnight, Andrew Harvey refers to this. He was from an upper class English background, but was psychologically wounded. He had been born to British parents in India, and had, as a small child, been sent away from India and his family to be educated and socialized as an Englishman in the UK. This left Harvey splendidly well educated, socially sophisticated, but psychologically, he was orphaned.

It may be very possible that Indians, who were ruled by the British for centuries, and who were servants in Anglo Indian households, very quickly learned that on the average,
thier Western masters were sophisticated on the outside but were wounded searching children on the inside. The British custom of sending tiny children away from home for education, and for mothers to consign babies and toddlers to the care of strangers, and even striking a child to punish them, would, by Indian standards, be considered barbaric.

India was ruled by brutal tyrants long before the British arrived. There was no justice in the abstract sense. Indians were at the mercy of rulers who plundered them.

All one could do for survival was learn the smile that charms the jailor, and learn the art of intuiting the psychological flaws of your ruler so you can tell the person what he or she wants to hear.

Indians know too that many Westerners as children read books in which India and Indians are presented as the land of magic and healing and wonder.

So a fake guru knows how to tap into fantasies that many of us do not even know that we have.

The big thing is getting enough people sharing the same fantasy into a room and then get them to project all that onto someone who embodies that fantasy.

Once people's boundaries are down, its easy to filch their energy.

Back to Andrew Harvey:

Andrew Harvey, left a promising university career to become a devotee and publicist for Meera.

Andrew Harvey was a publicist for Mother Meera for over 10 years (raved about her in Hidden Journey) and was shattered when Meera (supposedly the manifestation of Uncoditional Love) suddenly ordered Harvey to dump his partner Eryk and then proclaim that Meera had cured him of homosexuality.

Harvey realized Meera was homophobic and caught a lot of hell when he went public and recanted his affiliations with her.

But in his book The Sun at Midnight, Harvey said he was told by a number of people that there were certain very powerful techniques of hypnosis in which a guru gains power by gazing deeply into a person's eyes. And in the book, Harvey alledges that in California, a Tibetan lama casually offered to teach him 'some yogic techniques from the Shaivite tradition that are very effective in helping to acquire disciples' (paraphrase)

Harvey was in the midst of his devotion to Meera and refused the offer, but admits that covertly he felt shaken. Other friends familiar with Asia told him there were techniques of this kind practiced in India and Burma.

Harvey did not want to imagine that Meera might have snared him by using a mere technique; he wanted to believe she was all about love.

After realizing Meera was more interested in PR than in love, Harvey began to wonder whether he had, perhaps been subjected to some form of hypnosis when he had visited Meera and that it activated some deep psychological material he carried within himself.

One of Harvey's friends claimed there were schools of occult training in Gujrat where one could learn this stuff.

I notice the blog writer is a Reiki healer. Earlier this week I was reading about people who attended Vipassana meditation retreats, the 10 day stays, occassionally had severe psychological reactions. In other words, a significant proportion of the attendees to the event had bad reactions and some became psychologically deranged. Now, the majority of attendees had powerful experiences, some even had spiritual breakthroughs.

In trying to weed out the casualties, the Vipassana group started requiring questionaires and rejecting people with past mental health issues. Interestingly, Reiki practitioners were also banned due to the fact of their sensitivity with energies and having a statistically high percentage of bad experiencers.

"This spring I attended a 10 day Vipassana retreat in Washington. As part of the preliminary things, I had to take a vow of not receiving Reiki and not to give Reiki...Yoga and Vipassana are compatible. Vipassana and Reiki are not compatible. OK, but perhaps there is misunderstanding or judgment. I don't know, but it certainly gave me much to ponder... Many traditions have been held in total secrecy for ions. I think for good reason in that not everyone should have liberty with potentially dangerous techniques."

So simply basing an entire website on the premise that Amma is an "evil being" and not even having the wisdom and maturity to reflect that perhaps some energy systems are incompatible is to me, the stretch. Too often Judeo-Christian people in the west rely on knee-jerk judgments against any other religious system and have incorporated a literal fear of differences. Amma's not for everybody. But jumping to the conclusion that Amma is an evil energy vampire on the basis of some imaginative, yet brief encounters, which didn't even culminate in darshan is perhaps missing the real issue, which is WHY is Reiki incompatible with some energy systems? Without rushing to the opposite judgment that Reiki is negative, I would think it has something to do with the age-old eastern wisdom that warns students not to mix Masters and traditions.

Again, I think the experiences of an individual are valid for that person, but it's terribly bad form to use the least amount of info and the largest amount of judgment and create a critical blog whose sole emphasis is basically bashing one teacher and an entire religion.

The sad thing is, questions about negative energies and negative experiences with powerful teachers are valid ones. It deserves to be explored in a more intelligent and insightful way. The spiritual path is walking the razor's edge. There are thousands of ways to fall, and only a few ways to stand. And that applies to every single spiritual practice when taken to intensity. Psychological casualties exist in ALL traditions. Saints exist in all traditions too. I think you perceived a valid issue but interpreted it in an extremely limited way which makes the issue one of projection rather than clarity of insight for others.

Avoid Amma, if that's your true belief. But the process that was stirred in you is still there, and you will find it following you based on intensity of practice. There are certain practices which will destabilize people, and others which will integrate them. Every person has the freedom to seek for themselves and should not be stopped or limited based on the fearful projections or disbelief of others. In other words, I actually believe Amma can be very good for some people. Everyone is different. The universe isn't black or white but shades of grey.

A good book is "The Wayfarers: Meher Baba with the God-Intoxicated." In his religious tradition, mental destabilization or "God-intoxication" was actually part of the spiritual path people had to journey on their way to liberation.

So who knows. I can't say where anyone is on their personal journey. I'm no guru. I do think authentic wisdom regarding the more intensive practices and the negative effects are poorly understood by the public and often blamed on "outside agencies" when in fact someone like Amma has very minimal interaction with her millions of devotees. I don't think anyone but her closest and oldest devotees can actually claim she had a conversation with them. So it would seem logical that a powerful yoga Master triggers different responses in different people, but these responses are internal to the person. And THAT is where the work of cleaning the psychological issues and integration would best be accomplished. If she's your guru, well then there might be an energy bond formed, but if you didn't even go for darshan, how could there possibly be?

I's my belief that demons and gods are projections from within. Perhaps in reality both are true human potentials. But a spiritual preceptor is not a cause of all your problems. Although that preceptor may clearly not be RIGHT for YOU. Intensive spiritual practice is essentially stirring up a lot of ancient unconscious garbage and not unlike experimenting with psychedelic drugs. Sometimes people become overenthusiastic and bite off too much too soon. Time honored re-balancing methods in monasteries have been to have the unstable person 1. eat meat. 2. do physical work 3. avoid all meditative and spiritual practices.

Please don't forget the wisdom of the Buddha in this. The MIDDLE-WAY, in other words the path which avoids extremes, is the best path for enlightenment. It also avoids demonizing what we don't understand. In truth the blissful samadhi states AND the psychotic states are also projections from within. We are dealing with a poorly explored realm of HUMAN consciousness and human potential. Let's be wise and non-judgmental. If we can tame the demons within: our inner issues and powerful tendancies, we can actually harness the power to achieve much good. It's no use blaming others for the potent chaos lurking in the recesses of the human mind.

Blaming "gurus" or "yoga" or "voodoo religion" is juvenile. The same exact experiences have been chronicled in writings of Christian mystics for centuries. It's a human evolutionary process. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.


So in order for my opinion to be valid, I should not do Reiki? Or are you just conveniently trying to latch on something to make my opinion less worthwhile than yours?

Reiki, by the way, is one of the most gentle forms of energy work you can do. I have yet to hear any reports of people going psychotic doing Reiki...and if Vipassana, which apparently at its own admission encourages psychosis in its practitioners, wants to blame Reiki for the problems with its own methods, that's too bad. But don't blame Reiki, blame Vipassana.

I've never heard Reiki slammed like that otherwise.

Additionally, my friend who also got bad vibes at the Amma event is not a Reiki practitioner, energy healer, or spiritual guru of any kind. He is a regular guy who happens to work as an engineer as his day job.

To blanket dismiss my and other's experiences here as simply our own "issues" coming up, without making Amma take any responsibility for the energy she puts out, is a living example of what I call the "New Age Mind Fuck." It's just another way of blaming the victim. You use your mind and intellect to rationalize and excuse the responsibility of the guru.

Sure, you sound rational, and your words are pretty, but underneath, your intention is quite sinister. You would rather make people doubt their own experiences and put off everything they perceive as some sort of defect on their part. Rather than listening to people's experiences, you are projecting massive judgments and trying to dismiss our concerns.

Anytime someone puts themselves out there as a guru, claiming to be a representation of GOD itself, we do need to look at that person critically and see if they live up to their claims.

As for your statement "Blaming "gurus" or "yoga" or "voodoo religion" is juvenile" - no, excusing gurus is juvenile. So, for those gurus who sexually abuse their disciples, we should just write that off as the women having their personal demons come up? Sorry, no. That is not right.

Amma is responsible for the energy she puts out (or the energy she takes, if that is truly what she does). Judging by the very vociferous responses here from Amma's critics, I am not the only one who finds her to be disingenuous.

If she is truly that enlightened and about love, she would probably not be generating such massive criticism from people who would otherwise be supportive of the kind of work she does. It's not like we're Christian fundamentalists on a witchhunt. If a significant number of new age people are smelling something wrong in Amma's kitchen, it's likely because the cook is up to no good.

There is a most interesting book by Colin Wilson entitled Rogue Messiahs.

Mr Wilson has been able to meet a wide range of spiritual seekers and teachers.

He concentrated mostly on male messiahs, as these are the most common and was interested in how they led themselves and followers to disaster when they raised massive amounts of energy from disciples attracted by the leader's charisma, and then the leader eventualy became addicted to the power he got from disciples and then eventually lost control of that power and died, either in catastrophe, or from overwork.

Wilson notes that many messiah types find they cannot get away from the system they have created, and once they put a mask of power upon their faces, that mask becomes their identity and they cannot live without it and are condemned in the end to pace a treadmill of overwork and PR management until they break down.

Wilson also noted that another secret element to many charismatic leaders is a sense of personal inferiority, combined with bitter resenment toward the neediness of the disciples who become dependent on the power of the leader.

But Wilson tells us much more. He speaks of the sense of purpose we all need in life, and without it we risk despair and stagnation. A sense of purpose is a healthy thing and it is this, a longing for some state better than where one is and who one is, that leads us to look for a guru.

Wilsons suggests that for male gurus, sexual energy may be the trap and yet it also fuels a transformational structure within the group that actually, at least in the very early stages, enables the members to reach heights and touch potentials they could not have reached on their own. But, too often the charismatic leader lacks the character to withstand temptation and he becomes corrupted by all this.

THe one thing Wilson does NOT discuss are female gurus and the possiblity that a guru may have a way to elicit and possibly feed off of disciple energy and create, consciously or unconsciously, the spiritual equivalent of a Ponzi scheme.

This may act as a wildfire does, in which, when a fire reaches a certain size, it generates its own storm and becomes exponentially more powerful than before, creating winds far stronger than prevailing weather patterns that originally caused that fire. A friend witnessed the 1991
fire in the Oakland Hills in California and said he saw actual fire tornados breaking loose and racing down the hills. In that part of the US, one never sees tornadoes as part of the weather pattern, not as one does in the Midwestern states. It was the sheer strength of that fire that created those flaming tornados.

It may be that something like this is going on around Amma.
But it is her responsiblity to use that energy consciously and responsibly.

To me the tip off is that new huggies are reportedly encouraged to behave greedily and anti spiritually by being instructed to push and shove to the head of the line to get the hug that they, as new marks are told they are entitled to push and shove for.

This is an anti spiritual atmosphere. It is also noteworthy that Stephanie and her friend state that despite the size of the crowd,it remained a collection of craving individuals not a community of shared affection.

The difference in crowd energy between the Amma situation vs the one at Agape community is instructive.

Colin Wilsons book on Rogue Messiahs is remarkable because he points out the power of imagination, that we are attracted to gurus not merely because of human dependency needs but because something healhty in us longs for a larger purpose and cannot be satisfied by mere reason or logic.

What happens too often is we have a longing for healing and a larger sense of purpose--and these are healthy and life giving.

In the early stages of a group and of a messiahs career, we are attracted via our healhty longing for purpose and in the early stages, the leader and group can raise and elicit energy that is transformational.

But...too often the leader gets addicted to that energy raised, and feeds off it.

Then, too often the leader who started out by attracting us via our healthy longing for love and purpose keeps us dependent by exploiting our human dependency needs and debilitates us to keep us in the group.

First we are vitalized, eventually we become vampirized. Its the memory of being initially vitalized that keeps us longing for a return of the good old high energy days, and ignoring that we are being vampirized.

And if we urge new friends to join the group, we risk their joining the donor pool and ending up like us.

That may be why such groups are desperate to recruit. The people getting debilitated get a transient flash of vitalization by pulling new donors in---they summon memories of when the group had intially vitalized them.

Pulling in a new donor helps the weakened older donors to ignore their increasingly drained state.

Wilson, by the way,notes how one early follower of Blavatsky was skeptical about healing powers. This man was in Asia and a Buddhist monk begged him to lay on his hands and work some miracles.

In compassion, the visitor agreed to try and was shocked when people healed under his touch.

I had a surprising incident of this myself and have felt afraid to repeat it.

So Wilson is on to something when he tells us we each potentially have access to talents most of us either never suspect, or fear taking initiative to develop.

A group that promises transformation can speak to that part of us.

But the leaders of these groups are too often like babies in charge of nuclear reactors. They dont really know how to manage the powers and the problems that come up.

"But don't blame Reiki, blame Vipassana. I've never heard Reiki slammed like that otherwise."

Since this has come up publically as an issue where Reiki practitioners have issues with chaotic and powerful practices like Vipassana intensives, people should be careful not to mix teachers and traditions. That's not slamming, that's using discernment.

"Additionally, my friend who also got bad vibes at the Amma event is not a Reiki practitioner..."

Amma isn't for everybody.

"your intention is quite sinister."

It's just a bit off the beam to imagine Amma is the devil sucking life force energy out of people's ears. George Bush scared me a heck of a lot more than Ammachi.

"Amma is responsible for the energy she puts out."

What sort of energies are responsible for what exactly?

"no, excusing gurus is juvenile. So, for those gurus who sexually abuse their disciples..."

I think you are confusing gurus as well as issues. But I suppose if you make someone out to be a Satan, you must come up with demonized blame. I'm not aware of any sexual scandals involving Amma. So it is either a fabrication or you are desperate to disprove her. May I ask why? I mean, Trogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a scandalous guru, but he left some very wise teachings behind. I have a lot of respect for Pema Chodron. If Rinpoche is not your cup of tea, well, then don't drink. But I don't understand the extreme discomfiture over this one lady. Same with Osho. Osho was a bit of a crackpot. But you know, he did in fact leave some very wise teachings behind. I just don't see trashing Osho will accomplish anything.

"If she is truly that enlightened and about love, she would probably not be generating such massive criticism.."

Well, Jesus was crucified and Gandhi was shot. I think you're going to just make her more interesting and controversial.

"Judging by the very vociferous responses here from Amma's critics, I am not the only one who finds her to be disingenuous."

Meh. The Dalai Lama is controversial, but he's a heck of a storyteller. There are tons of people who find Benny Hinn controversial, but his stadium appearances are usually all filled to capacity. These are trivial criticisms to be honest. I've heard a lot worse about a lot of other teachers. But the living demon part is a hoot. I haven't heard that one before.

"Anytime someone puts themselves out there as a guru, claiming to be a representation of GOD itself, we do need to look at that person critically and see if they live up to their claims."

LOL. Well, like I said in the beginning, some teachers are not for some students. In fact, a path of Guru Bhakti is not for everyone. What precisely is this "God" of whom you speak? A Guru is a reflection of your own atma, which is in turn a reflection of the Paramatma. So, in the Hindu religious tradition, the true Guru is actually YOU. So, it always comes back to the individual, and what they project. But believe what you want. Who could convince you? I for one choose not to believe in a world inhabited by demonic entities and fear-based paranoia.

Good luck to you. I think you will get farther analyzing your own heart and motives than raking some stranger you don't even know over the proverbial coals.

You wrote: "Since this has come up publically as an issue where Reiki practitioners have issues with chaotic and powerful practices like Vipassana intensives, people should be careful not to mix teachers and traditions. That's not slamming, that's using discernment."

No, your intention was to slam. You immediately started your comment off trying to suggest I had no basis for my point of view due to some obscure criticism of Reiki within Vipassana, which had nothing to do whatsoever with the topic at hand. You then used this alleged "proof" that Reiki makes you crazy to suggest that any of my observations about Amma, including the very unloving atmosphere at her event, were completely inaccurate and based on my own disturbed inner psyche.

You also implied the same of every single person who came here to comment with their own concerns and observations about Amma.

You then end this comment with: "I think you will get farther analyzing your own heart and motives than raking some stranger you don't even know over the proverbial coals."

Um, sorry, no. You came here to MY blog, and tried to rake me and my other visitors over the proverbial coals. YOU did that. I simply stood up and said that I don't accept your intellectualized rationalization or attempt to "New Age Mind Fuck" me and my visitors and say they have no right to their opinions.

PS I never said Amma was a demon. Someone else here has speculated. But if you are going to accept the validity of energy via Reiki (even in your critique of it) then you can't deny the possibility of someone using esoteric techniques to TAKE energy. But apparently your acceptance of anything spiritual is entirely selective.

I have said elsewhere here that people are welcome to politely stick up for Amma, that the best way to show that I'm wrong is to simply share positive stories rather than rip down people who criticize her. NOTHING in your two posts says anything positive about Amma at all. NOTHING! Instead, the best you can do is simply throw out this BS that gurus serve as mirrors and therefore if you don't like a guru, it's your own fault. That's a cop-out.

Many many posts later and still NOT ONE PERSON has come here to articulate kindly how wonderful Amma is, including yourself. I actually find that to be quite telling in and of itself. Your silence on that note is also quite telling.

I just want to say that I have experienced Amma to be what would be called, in Catholic terms anyway, a demonic force. I say this not only because of the energy she puts out, but because of the things she does. I believe you are correct in your assessment of her an an energy vampire, but I think she is even more evil than that. You should also note that many around her are deathly ill and drained of their life force. Many in her ashram suffer from severe malnutrition, as is evidenced by their appearance. If you notice, almost every Westerner in the ashram is balding....that includes even young women with thinning, receding hairlines commonly seen in 60 year old men.

The new book about Amma by Jovan Jones is worth reading. It is called 'Chasing The Avatar'. In her book, she clearly illustrates that Amma is demonic. I read the book recently and it was rather frightening because I briefly lived in the ashram and I know what she writes is true. The author is a Christian now, so if that is not your way, you will have to overlook those aspects of the book. But I will tell you that everything she wrote, myself and many other devotees have experienced. Amma's curses, the way she renders people mentally ill, how she drives many to suicide or complete psychological breakdown. Read the story of "Kartika" in the book. Read the story of a visitor to the ashram who became covered head to toe in boils and who was told by Amma he must follow her in order to erase the karma that caused the boils. I do not believe that she is a mere narcissist or simply a bad person. I believe she is a demon in the flesh, and I know that sounds outrageous but if you have experienced being on the wrong end of her graces, you will believe this to be true.

This is quoted from an article by a former devotee of Muktananda, named Sarah Caldwell. She was fortunate that she was not seduced into bed by this guru. After he died,
she became a scholar of tantric hinduism.

Caldwell was not fully aware that she had come from a background of sexual abuse when she got involved with Muktananda's ashram. Insight into this came later on. But she wrote that concentrating on this brilliant and charismatic man, who ostensibly lived a celibate life, gave her a safe place to direct passion toward a spiritual goal. So her energy levels were raised and given a seemingly safe container of celibate yogic discipline, chastitity and lush, devotional rituals full of perfume, incense, chanting, music and a guru whose touch brought shivers of electric energy.

I found this sentence very disturbing to read:

" guru was Swami Muktananda, that I gave him my whole heartand soul, that he taught me everything of ultimate value that I know,that I can never express the depth of the love and insight I gained in his presence. Since his death everything else is a pale shadow, even now.The intensity of those years with him will never fade; somehow everymoment seems so intensely lived, so fraught with significance."

"Since his death, everything is a pale shadow, even now"???

If this guru served God and had connected Caldwell with the actual limitless Source, she would regret Muktananda's absence, but not feel as though 'everything else is a pale shadow' compared with when the guru was alive.

To me this suggests that whatever ecstacy Muktananda could foster, it came from some sort of energy theft and he used it to link people to himself, not to the Ultimate and Limitless Source of Life.

Later in Caldwell's article she wrote more about Muktananda and how he kept the actual tantric source of his power a secret and states this has actually been a longstanding strategy amongst other Indian gurus--hide the tantric roots of one's practice from Westerners who would be scandalized and instead present as a safe and benign hatha yoga practice and use the rhetoric of the Hindu reform movement with its emphasis on social service, simplified advaita vedanta etc.

The quoted parts are from Caldwell's paper but may give hints on what the Amma organization may be attempting. Interested persons can read the whole article and decide for themselves.

"If all of Baba’s teachings about celibacy and ashram dharma (duty)were in fact simply covers for a diametrically opposed inner life,suddenly anything seemed possible. It occurred to me that Baba’scarefully constructed persona, teachings, organization, programs,his account of Bhagawan’s life, and even his own autobiography,might be largely fictions—useful fictions at that, dramas that achievedhis purpose: to draw thousands of people into meditation, toencourage them to practice his teachings, to instigate the “meditationrevolution” that was his aim. Perhaps the ends were more impor-tant than the means, and as long as he could keep on meeting thou-sands of people, giving shaktipat (initiation into spontaneouskundalini yoga through direct transmission of energy) week afterweek, he would use any means at his disposal to empower himself and keep going"


"The longing for shaktipat—liberation,mumukshutva, was palpable in the room, and I believe that was what Babawas responding to. I always saw that he wanted to give shaktipat to as many people as possible, to liberate them from their suffering, ..."

Later, Caldwell discusses the secret sources of energy power used by Indian gurus--tantra and that they usually keep quiet about this when advertising to Westerners.

"Quintessentially antinomian, (that is, not bound by conventional morality) Tantric traditions radically eschew ordinary forms of morality for soteriological (salvation) aims.

'However, when such religious traditions aim toi ncorporate and publicize themselves, they are forced to develop a care-fully guarded secret core and a somewhat false, publicly acceptable outeridentity.

'This has been a problem for all Indian spiritual traditionsthat have been transplanted to the West, ever since Swami Vivekananda’s first astute reconfiguration of Ramakrishna’s wild, Tantric brilliance as Advaita Vedanta at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

'When Christopher Isherwood wrote his classic, Ramakrishna and his Disciples, the sexual (and specifically, the homosexual) elements were knowingly, deliberately, and under direction from the Ramakrishna Order,
censored out.

'Isherwood’s scholarship was compromised for public relations purposes, as his book was “an official project of the Ramakrishna Order.”....theology and hagiography were constrainedby a desire to win approval of the intended audience, rather than arising directly out of the religious ground of the tradition in question."

'The Tantric core of so many of the last century’simported Hindu traditions has successfully been painted over with amore acceptable Shaiva or Vedantic veneer.

'The storehouse of power hat is the Devi, the tortured fantasies of Ramakrishna’s dreams, andthe erotic generatrix of the universe that Baba sought in the bodies ofreal women, the coiled Kundalini Shakti herself, is not unleashed, notacknowledged, not known.

"This denial fuels an unhealthy form of hypocrisy. Baba, at least in those final months as he was facing his immi-nent death, was raucously joyous about it, seemed eager to reveal it, to release the secrets to the world, teasing, hinting, playing with the wholething. He enjoyed watching us all squirm. “Tantric dissembling” by groups such as the RamakrishnaOrder and Siddha Yoga is, then, part of a hoary tradition.

"Abhinavagupta himself was the pivotal figure in the shift from medieval Kaula practices,openly celebrated by kings and courtesans, to a disguised, encoded,secret practice hidden within an outer, more socially acceptable form.

"Such “dissembling” to protect a public image is, as it turns out, part and parcel of the Tantric package:“dissimulation has, since the time of Abhinavagupta, lain at the heart ofmuch of Tantric practice, even of Tantric identity.”53

(end of quotes from Caldwell

So the actual sources of Amma's energy may also be a closely guarded secret as it was in Muktananda's case.

Is Amma actually a tantrika, and---does her energy serve God or just feed her and her business concerns?

Her full article can be read here

and footnotes here

Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. A lot of food for thought!

and want to say that I was a devotee/friend of Herakhan Babaji and Muniraji ...the Herakhan Samaj , since 1993...
( , .... )
I have always been a Christian , and told my X-Guru Muniraji so 1993 already ,
his answer was " we are all Christians "
..they even celebrate CHRiSTMAS each year big style , and they say that Babaji and Christ are ONE ....
long story short ... I visited occasionally ... every couple of years ...the first years they treated me warm and with love but " other " aspects were already present ...I even directed and produced a short documentary film about BABAJI...
I am here to say it loud and clear ...that the same symptoms , that are being described here about Amma ,
are at play with my EX-gurus aswell .... I am very happy to have discovered this site here and will stay in touch and tell my friends aboout it ! Hope to meet you in Person one day for a nice symposium ...we could make a talk and film it that more people become aware of these " Guru's " ....with false claims and evil intentions . I love God so much and I know that GOD is LOVE ... and I love JESUS toooooo and everybody and I pray for my Ex-Gurus and for all of the people who have gotten lost in them . with all my love from Nina

Nina Hagen is here. Glad to see she is supportive! :)

I read Chasing the Avatar in 1-2 days, but missed the part on curses. (?) Jovan's book richly portrays that a spiritual battle was taking place for her life & soul. After years of intense devotion to Amma, I had amazing, uncanny experiences that appear to have been powerful spiritual help to return to Jesus Christ.

Do you have experience being on the wrong end of her graces, or of a curse?

I honestly don't see any difference between the validity of your and your friend's perceptions about Ammachi and those of anyone else who claims to feel a certain vibe from her. It's all subjective stuff: all the perceived psychic phenomena and synchronicities. I mean, seeing a bunch of people dressed in white and holding dolls did strike me as rather absurd, and I guess I could have imagined some sort of dark energy vortex sucking on these poor peoples' ajna chakras or whatever, but it's really just a matter of my not liking others' personal "style choices".

To speak meaningfully about Ammachi beyond the subjective, I think it's more interesting to compare her words and deeds (and those of her followers) with universal spiritual and humanistic values like peace, compassion, honesty, respect, etc. I think that in this respect she comes out ok compared to other gurus and sects, although the bar in practice is fairly low. On one hand, she has a lot of positive qualities, e.g. the orientation toward love and humanitarian service. OTOH, she and her group are authoritarian and tend to promote a childish and unquestioning approach to the guru and religious authority in general. The stories in the group's publications frequently contain the moral: "when in doubt, obey the guru". Part of the issue here is the collectivist East vs. the individualistic West, but in general, I don't think authoritarian gurus have the best track record. I suppose the best one can say here is that some people evidently want and need to be led, and if the leader has integrity and skill, they'll be ok. Maybe not well, but ok. (And some people do come and go without inevitably getting ensnared for life, btw.)

Thanks for the post and the opportunity to comment.

Since personal subjectivity seems to be the order of the day I guess I need to say that my experience of her has not been negative, at all. I've seen Amma several times (OK, never in LA - but yes in NM, MI and NY) and I have felt greatly uplifted by her energy each time, with my own faith and feeling in Spirit strengthened.

On a more objective level - her charitable works - homes for the poor, hundreds of thousands of scholarships for kids (there's no public school in India so kids need a way to pay), healthcare, widows pensions, etc. are pretty impressive. The UN seems to think so too. She does more on that front than any other guru I've heard of.

I do get irritated with how some of her devotees talk about her - but honestly, I get irritated with how most westerners talk about most "spiritual" (or for that matter, political) topics. So I'm not going to blamer her for my lack of patience with people's rhetorical limitations.

I do appreciate that model of compassion and service she's putting forward - we need more of that in the world!

We need to find out how well cared for Amma's own workers and ashram residents really are.

One person who attended an Amma event in Australia was concerned when she saw how little sleep the young girls who got who were Amma volunteers on tour. These young ladies stayed at strangers houses. This meant they were vulnerable.

Long time devotees of Gurumayi (SYDA yoga) worked at low cost, gave the best years of their lives, enriched their female guru and then were kicked out in middle age, no pension plans, while their guru went rich and into retirement. This was discussed in detail on Marta Szabo's blog, The Guru Looked Good.

My hairdresser said that serious hairloss can signal malnutrition.

My mother lost a lot of hair from stress and grief, immediately after my father died.

So if there is indeed a high rate of hairloss among the young girls who work for Amma and live at her ashram, this means Amma is not as compassionate as she is advertised as being.

Here is some information posted from one source. We need further investigations on just what the work and living conditions are for the people who so trustfully go on world tour and serve Amma and go to India on her behalf.

(quote)The Female Indian Guru:

a.k.a. "Amma", "Ammachi" or "Mother"

Thursday 30th May 2002
By Saadya

Amma in Sanskrit means mother and is the affectionate way which she is referred to by her followers.

During a vacation of mine Amma visited Melbourne, Australia. I went to see her while she was there. This was an open event, which consisted mainly of two parts.
(small excerpt removed)

I had never heard of or seen Amma before this time and anything I know about Amma and her organization was learnt strictly through this experience.

I took notes during my visit and expounded on them immediately afterwards. This is some of what I had written up at that time.

Causes for Concern:

Young girls are on world tour with Amma.

They wake up at 8:00am and go to sleep at approximately 3:30am.

I met a 20 year old with her younger sister of just 15 years of age. I met friends of theirs with the ages of 18 and 16. They sleep at assigned houses of people they have never met (strangers) who are a part of the organization. They do laborious work after Amma's appearances, the putting up and taking down of props, setting sales tables up, stripping tape, packing up and loading cars. This takes place mainly in the early hours of the morning, usually between 3-4 in the morning.


Antara wrote earlier

(quote)(Amma As A Demonic Forcee
Submitted by antara (not verified) on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 5:11pm.
...Many in her ashram suffer from severe malnutrition, as is evidenced by their appearance. If you notice, almost every Westerner in the ashram is balding....that includes even young women with thinning, receding hairlines commonly seen in 60 year old men.


and Rahima's Story

Rahima's Story


Swept up by "Mother-Love"

In July1991 my friend took me to see the female Indian guru Ammachi (also known as Amma) in Chicago. The music was going real good and she was giving people hugs. Then I was in her arms and I didn't want to leave her. So I wrote and asked permission to live at her California ashram. I lived there on and off from January1992 to January 1995 when I left for good. In California the ashram is called M.A.Center; in India it is called M.A. Math.

Their motto seems to be "spirituality is big business". The organization is run with the idea of making money and towards this end individuals don't matter. As I look back, the free programs seem to be a way of getting people hooked emotionally so they will buy items from the bookstore, sign up for retreats and make donations. All of which is a prime source of income for Amma.

At the ashram life was tightly controlled. People had to work outside the ashram to pay rent. The morning program started at 5:30A.M (see daily schedule on bottom) attendance was mandatory. Then people would go to work. After dinner cleanup, there was an evening program. On their days off residents would work in the house, on the grounds or in the office. Much of the work involved sending out letters asking for donations. Every Saturday evening the ashram held a public program. Sometimes outside devotees would arrive early to help with the work. On Saturday the big job as I remember was to help prepare dinner which was served after the program for a cost of $5.00. Also it was important to set up the bookstore in an attractive way so people would buy things. These things in themselves are not bad. Many mainstream churches run bookstores and have fundraising dinners. It was only after I became aware of the organization's excessive fundraising focus that these thing began to bother me. When I lived at M.A. Center my main jobs were housework, sending letters out asking for donations and copying cassette tapes to be sold in the bookstore and on Ammachi's tours.

We ashram residents looked forward to Ammachi's U.S. tour. Because everyone wanted to go on the tour people worked for temporary agencies so they could stop working when Ammachi came to town. Therefore they had no job security and no health insurance. People willingly made that sacrifice. Residents had to make their own travel arrangements and accommodations for the cross-country tour. Of course they had to pay their own way. At one point the residents talked about renting a bus and traveling together but that never came about. The residents drove to the different cities, organizing and setting up the programs. They awoke early and went to bed late. It was a mad rush because we drove to the programs while Ammachi and her entourage flew.

Aside from the free programs offered, several cities held paid retreats; they were very popular. Of course room and board was included but basically the retreats were run the same way as the free programs. If the ashram residents wanted to attend a retreat (and if they did, they would spend most of their time there working) they had to pay for it just like everyone else. Although paying in full like everyone else, ashram members would end up working (selling books, incense, pictures of Amma etc) during most of the retreat.

In 1993 I spent some time at the ashram in India. When I was there room and board was $100.00 a month--very cheap by western standards. Later on I found out that most other ashrams charged $40-$50 a month. Food in India is cheap but at M.A. Math you couldn't get a decent meal. I'd only been there 2 months when I cut my foot and the cut wouldn't heal. I saw a doctor and he told me that this was because of a lack of protein in my diet. It was in India that I became aware of how financially exploitive the Ammachi organization is. By then I'd been involved with M.A.Center a year and a half.

Rules, Conduct, Behavior and Relationships

It was expected that everyone at the ashram would wear white--since that's what Ammachi wears. But it was only mandatory on tour and at the Saturday night programs. Women wore ankle length white skirts and white blouses or white saris. The men wore white shirts and white pants. White is the color of renunciation and we ashram residents had given up the world to seek God realization. Men and women were not supposed to mix unless there was ashram business to discuss.

There wasn't much friendship between the women either. One resident explained to me "we get our hugs from Ammachi'.
Everyone was always sad because they couldn't be with Ammachi. Sometimes the women were a little bit friendly but mostly we discussed ashram work or Ammachi. We all lived together yet we were isolated from each other. Ashram residents weren't very helpful toward one another. We weren't supposed to talk much. We were supposed to silently repeat our mantras while working. Mantra is a phrase that the spiritual teacher (guru) gives you upon initiation. Repeating it constantly is supposed to lead you to God realization.

There is a phrase "the guru is God". Ammachi was seen as all powerful; she knew what we were thinking and feeling; she knew our past and future. We worshipped her as an incarnation of the divine mother goddess. For us at the ashram our path to God realization was "karma yoga" (work) also called seva or selfless service to the guru. To work long and hard past the point of exhaustion was considered good. We could achieve God realization that way by overcoming our bodily limitations. I have since married and upon recently mentioning this to my husband he replied, "That's a good way to kill yourself."

Friendships with people outside the ashram were frowned upon. We looked down on the outsiders. We'd tell each other that we never wanted to live in the outside world. We worried over what we would do if Ammachi ever told any of us to marry, for it was unthinkable to go against her wishes; she knew what was best. We obeyed her without question, whether the advice came directly from her or indirectly through her representatives Ron and Nealu who ran the California ashram.

Our job as residents was to attend all worship services, silently repeat our mantras, work for Ammachi and the organization and obey those in charge. No questions were asked. No dissent was allowed. Those were the rules. We residents held weekly meetings to discuss ashram activities. Although I didn't realize it at the time, no treasurer's report was ever given.


After becoming aware of the negative aspects of life at M.A. Center I still had a difficult time leaving and getting on with my life. I don't know why. I was having some health problems so I didn't go on the 1994 tour. I didn't want to go anyway because I didn't want to be around Ammachi. I couldn't reconcile all the hugs and loving with the chaos I'd experienced at her ashrams.

A friend of mine, an outside devotee, was going out of town for a few days. She asked me to housesit for her and care for her pets. I mentioned it to Nealu; I could tell that he didn't really approve but he didn't try talking me out of going. After all most people would be on tour and it would be quiet at the ashram.

Two days before my housesitting engagement Nealu asked me to cancel my plans. When I asked why, he said that more cassette tapes had to be made for the tour. I was shocked. I said, "How can I cancel on such short notice? My friend won't have time to find another house sitter."
He was angry. He said that if I had dedicated my life to the guru then I should put her first. He tried to make me feel guilty. But I didn't break my commitment to my friend. There were boxes of cassette tapes that I copied which were never taken on tour. They just sat in the office. When Nealu returned from tour I asked him why those boxes were never taken. He replied that he couldn't find anyone to bring them to the programs. I returned home shortly after this incident. I still had trouble adjusting to the outside world so I returned in January. I knew 2 weeks after returning that I no longer wanted to be there. I tried telling the residents how I felt but I know they didn't hear me. They just thought I was misguided and that someone had turned my mind against Ammachi.


From this difficult experience, I learned not to worship human beings. People can be teachers. We learn from each other, but people are not perfect; we all make mistakes - even teachers. We are all equal and we all deserve respect and kind treatment.

It's okay to join a group or attend a spiritual program. Take your time and be aware of what you're getting involved in. It's important to ask questions and expect answers in return. If your questions are ignored, go unanswered or the answers are not satisfactory to you, the group or organization you're considering may not be for you.

There are many different spiritual paths and you can find one that will meet your needs.

Make an informed decision.

Don't act impulsively as I did.

"Make an informed decision.

Don't act impulsively as I did."

Excellent advice. A problem I see in Amma's group (not limited to her) is the risk of burnout. Amma isn't generally going to tell her followers to slow down and take a break, and the disciples who rise fastest are the ones who don't slow down. There is no better indicator of that than the departure of Gayatri, one of her closest disciples, several years ago. That suggests she's capable of making mistakes. Her reaction (sorrow, no course change) suggests she's not open to learning from those kinds of errors.

This sort of thing also happens in sports, academia, etc., but at least those are areas where there are objective measures of excellence. The fruits of "sadhana" are much harder to measure, and what may be poor judgement on the guru's part is too often rationalized away as the disciple's fault. That's a classic sign of authoritarian excess, examples of which abound in practically all spheres of life.

So, you have to have your own boundaries. If your trust your decision to follow the guru, why not trust your decision to back off a little, or a lot? It's you that decides.

Rahima supplies a clue about why so Antara saw that so many
Amma workers were losing their hair--protein deficient diet.

Quoted from Rahima's account, above

'In 1993 I spent some time at the ashram in India.

When I was there room and board was $100.00 a month--very cheap by western standards. Later on I found out that most other ashrams charged $40-$50 a month. Food in India is cheap but at M.A. Math you couldn't get a decent meal.

I'd only been there 2 months when I cut my foot and the cut wouldn't heal. I saw a doctor and he told me that this was because of a lack of protein in my diet. It was in India that I became aware of how financially exploitive the Ammachi organization is. By then I'd been involved with M.A.Center a year and a half."

In the mid 1990s, a few years after Rahima was at Amma's ashram, the rate of exhange between the US dollar and rupee was about 33 to 38 rupees per US dollar.

So it is vile that for all her wealth, Amma failed to feed her volunteer workers enough for them to stay healthy.

Loving mothers do NOT underfeed and overwork their children!!

For rate of exchange betgween US dollars and rupees today
go to this site. The US dollar has become stronger and purchases even more rupees than ten years ago. Amma can well afford to feed her people better than she's been doing.

Amma's clearly not missing out on any meals.

No reason why her workers should be so shamefully underfed and short on rest.

Let her sell her crown and feed her workers.

And provide them with a decent medical plan, too.

A traveller said he learned a proverb when in Asia:

What a fine little cesspool you've got here. Let me add to it: Stephanie Brail - Critic Of Ammachi. You reap what you sow. Have a good day.

In case you missed it, here it is:

Thanks for the Free Publicity, “Cult Of The Hugging Saint” Exposed

I don't care if people read what you wrote about me. Half off it is way off base but it doesn't matter, all you are doing is making Amma look bad. You are also giving me traffic with your ridiculous slander.

You say Amma is about unconditional love? Then why don't you express it by showing kindness to your "enemies"? I read your blog before you guys used it to write a hit piece on me. I knew you'd probably write about me too. Guess what? You only convinced me that I was right, that Amma is bad energy. Look at what she drives people to - sane people don't waste their time trying to slander individual people who simply happen to have a critique of their guru.

You guys look totally loony and seriously need to reconsider your approach.

Stephanie, I agree, those attacks are totally wrong-headed and just make the attackers look bad. If someone disagrees with your criticisms, fine, they can debate that, but the ad hominem is silly, and the implicit assumption that Amma's critics should be judged against some guru-ideal is just weird. "Oh, yeah, you don't like X rockstar, but how come you can't SING as well as they can, and how come you aren't FAMOUS?" It's at that level.

I wouldn't judge every member, or even a majority, of the group by those posts, but they are quite ridiculous and self-undermining.

... and posting those ad hominem attacks is NOT going to sway fence-sitters into sympathizing with Ammachi.

"On a more objective level - her charitable works - homes for the poor, hundreds of thousands of scholarships for kids (there's no public school in India so kids need a way to pay), healthcare, widows pensions, etc. are pretty impressive. The UN seems to think so too. She does more on that front than any other guru I've heard of."

I hear these things but don't see much evidence of it outside Amma's PR. When I was at her event it had a distinctively commercial feel to it. Lots of people selling stuff, not a lot there that seemed to be about charity. We were told about a healing session at 11:30 pm and when we went to it, we were greeted at the door by a very nasty woman who told us we could not get in without a ticket. (We could not hear the full instructions due to the mayhem). She said it was full and was extremely rude when I asked if we could wait and see if there was any extra room (in case other people did not show up).

Turns out people had to PAY to get this wonderful "healing" which totally surprised me.

I was also disturbed to see a big banner advertising the sale of a car (I believe it was a Lexxus? Not sure) that Amma had owned.

Beyond that, it also disturbs me that anyone would feel the need to attend her circus multiple times just to get a "feel good high." I don't need another person to do that for me...that's what my home meditation and yoga practice is for.

I don't think every house or scholarship claimed by the MA Center has been verified by reliable third-party sources, but enough have, like the rebuilding of some villages in Gujarat after the earthquake there, or tsunami and hurricane relief. Those are google-able. Nice photo of Bill Clinton along with some senior swami types.

Sorry you had the bad experience with the healing session. Amma definitely uses her US visits to fundraise. I wouldn't be surprised if the accounting is imperfect and some abuses and bribes go down (it's India, people! Long, rich tradition of "baksheesh"), but I doubt it's over the top as these things go. Compared to some God-ideal (a comparison admittedly invited by any guru!), all people fall short. Again, compare her and her group to others attempting the same thing -- not so bad, although the genre as a whole certainly can be criticized.

I saw at least a dozen different tables dedicated to different projects at the event, as well as lots of video and brochures. But if the group is not to be trusted in reporting on themselves - who would be trusted?

Reporters or media?

I'm assuming you assume they've all been hoodwinked and bought-out.

Then how about the UN or the Clinton Global Initiative?

If that still too suspicious, what do you feel would constitute a reliable source? Would you please give me an example of a charity that meets the criteria you are setting out, so that it would be possible to make a comparison?


The kind of evidence I would like to see is public accountability of monetary donations, which is unavailable. I am curious as to why churches & other non-profits give at least annual reports of how donations are distributed, but the MA Center does not provide this to the ordinary donor, even upon request.

So it could be tracked by something like Charity Navigator.

. . . and just as I've attended a Sufi Zikr more than once, have gone to church more than once, and sat in front of my own altar more than once, I maintain my right to choose to see Amma more than once!

Thanks for respecting my liberty of choice!

The first (and only) time I went to an Amma program I saw that they were selling a service. This service allowed you to be digitally put into a photograph with Amma. In other words, they would take a photo of you and then place it into a digital manipulation so that you could have a photo where it looked like you were getting darshan from Amma, swimming with Amma, walking in a field with Amma. I think it cost $40 or so. It was completely insane and I walked out after seeing that. Are they still doing that?

Still doing it as far as I know. Fundraising. And I can certainly understand how someone might look at the scene around Amma and be turned off by it, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily bad for others. For many who are hurting, she appears to represent a mother figure that provides comfort and strength, and who pretty much does practice what she preaches (no one in her circle sleeps less than she does, etc.).

If you've ever been to an Indian temple, you'll know that the sort of "bazaar" scene around Amma goes on there. Many Westerners know the story of Jesus and the moneylenders and assume that selling stuff at a temple or church is bad, but lots of places (West as well as East) do it to raise money. The talismans that Western devotees buy help fund charitable activities. There are worse sins.

"For many who are hurting, she appears to represent a mother figure that provides comfort and strength...."

Yes, and that is how it starts. So, it IS a bad thing. She preys on the vulnerable, hurting, and ill. Before half of these "hurting" people know what hit them they are losing their hair, worshipping Amma as God, leaving their families, and wanting to commit suicide in order to "merge" with her. Quit trying to play it off as harmless. This is precisely why this group is so dangerous. If she presented as a greedy, demonic looking spectre she would never have any followers.

"Yes, and that is how it starts. So, it IS a bad thing. She preys on the vulnerable, hurting, and ill. ... Quit trying to play it off as harmless. This is precisely why this group is so dangerous. If she presented as a greedy, demonic looking spectre she would never have any followers."

And you should quit trying to play it off as completely evil, because it isn't.

Are you saying all religion is bad and she's especially bad because she actually does some good stuff and thereby fools people into overlooking the bad? Or are you saying she's worse than your average guru, or her group worse than your average neo-Hindu sect? Or something else?

"Before half of these "hurting" people know what hit them they are losing their hair, worshipping Amma as God, leaving their families, and wanting to commit suicide in order to "merge" with her."

Evidence, please? (I think we can all stipulate the "worshipping Amma as God" part; I'm talking about your other claims.)

People who get "too into it" with Amma do risk burnout (including hair loss and family-estrangement), and Amma bears significant (but not total) responsibility for this, but your claims about suicidal ideation are pure hyperbole ("half", you said; even taking that as a colloquialism, the implication is still a significant number). So where's the evidence? Skeptical hyperbole can be just as ridiculous as the religious kind.

Stephanie wrote...
"If Amma is able to sit for 12 hours getting hugs from people without a break, it's likely due to her taking the energy of each and every person she hugs!"

Or maybe it's because Martians beam energy into her from outer space. Or maybe it's because she's one of those anamotromic robots like they've got in Disneyland. Or maybe she's a Divine Being from a Different Dimension. I mean, hell, if we're just making up stories here, there's no end to the fantasies we can spin.

The idea that Amma is a spiritual vampire is just a made-up story, every bit as much as the made-up stories about her being some sort of Holy Mother. All we've got is our own experience, and the little bit of common sense our brains offer us. Why not use what we've got, admit what we don't know, and stop pretending that these fantastical stories are anything more than make-believe.