|"Swept up by
"Mother-Love" - Experiences and
disillusionment of a gullibale follower in the uSA and
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.
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
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.
Ashram in India
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.
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
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
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
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
There are many different spiritual paths and you can find
one that will meet your needs. - Rahima"
Courtesy : http://www.malayalavedhi.com/wbboard/thread.php?threadid=1068&boardid=14&sid=29a1edd604d870f6e019908a779efc30&page=31