Amma’s Tamasha

Posted October 26th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Raves and Rants
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amritandamayiThe four-day celebrations for Amritanandamayi’s 50th birthday celebrations are underway in Kochi. Popularly known as Amma, she is also referred to by the media as the “hugging saint” or the “embracing guru”. This name is due to her marathon embracing sessions where she sits, decked up in a fancy dress, complete with peacock feathers, and embraces all the people who throng to have a darshan. All are embraced; a few get some soothing words murmured in their ear and everybody returns home happy. Amritanandamayi is an international figure now. She has her ashrams in several other countries, people of various faiths and nationalities as her disciples. Her native village, Vallikavu has been changed to a huge pilgrim center called Amritapuri . It astonishes me , that millions believe in her as an incarnation of GOD and pray to her. A large number of people in Kerala are her devotees. My maternal relatives are amongst the most ardent of them. Once there was a satsang conducted at my grandmother’s place in honor of Amritanandamayi. These satsangs generally had a disciple of Amma who would come and sing some Amrita bhajans and the rest of the people would echo him in chorus. After, which this “swami” would tell some stories describing several “miracles” that Amma performed and whats funny is that everything he’d say would be believed without a question. And this is in Kerala. The first literate state in the country…where even the beggars read newspapers and the village chai shopowner can knowledgeably discuss about American foreign policy. Anyway that day’s topic was Amritanandamayi’s visit to Bombay. In those days there was a sudden spate of suicides in the BARC in Bombay. The papers had given it adequate coverage stating how the obviously intelligent scientists are ending their lives due to the enormous stress they are under. The Swami went on to say how these people who were intelligent who were scientists still had faith in god and in Amritanandamayi. He claimed that after she visited BARC colony and hugged the poor scientists there , there was peace and calm and the number of suicides have totally stopped. (Which ,as I told my relatives, was utter nonsense…I had several cousins in the BARC colony who had just had told me of two more suicides that occurred the previous week, in fact one of them occurred right in front of my uncle’s office) Obviously Amma miracles were shortlived!

However I do appreciate the fact that she has managed to do a lot of good things. An hospital sponsored by her, called the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, is one of the best hospitals in India today. It has state of the art instrumentation and employs latest techniques and offers patients low cost if not free treatments. She has founded and funded schools, universities, engineering and medical schools and orphanages using the money that millions of devotees have offered her. Despite her social service, I am very irritated by her pretensions to divine form. Isn’t it a pity that people have no hesitations in offering their life savings to a saint but will never do that to a non-religious social organization? And that such obvious godmen and woman who benefit from all this. For nobody knows how much of this money goes to line her coffers or those of her immediate assistants. Despite having a history of obvious fake babas and devis, people still continue to believe in them. Wasn’t it recently that another similar baba, the Puttaparathi Sai baba was embroiled in an alleged sex scandal and smuggling charges. I wonder when the Amritandamayi’s true self will be exposed. Rationalists and a few have already pointed at the sudden wealth of her relatives.

Mother Teresa created the Missionaries of charity to serve the poor in Calcutta. She was a nun and was quite obviously a devout Christian. The reason I respect her and not Amritanadamyi depite both doing social service is that MT did not intimate that she had any kind of divine powers. She personally went about serving the people. She might believe in GOD but nowehere did she say that she was GOD. On the other hand you have Amritanandamayi who dresses up in fancy clothes and sits hugging people and claiming divine power and having “true” knowledge. That is why Mother Teresa is a saint and  Amritanandamayi is a mere imposter.

An aunt who is an ardent devoree paid for an annual subscription of Amritandamayi’s monthly magazine, “Amrita” to be delivered to me each month. Much as I detested Amritanandamayi and the mass hysteria that she has created, I still read them ( that’s because I read anything and everything ). Each book described her monthly schedule, her visits and her messages of love and affection. Not that I have anything against her preachings about universal love. But I refuse to respect any person donning the garb of GOD and displaying “extra powers”. As a rational intelligent person I cannot accept the fact that she can turn water into panchamritam ( sweet dish ) as she claims to have done. Nor can I believe that she cured a leprosy patient by regular hugs. If that’s the case then she need not have sponsored a hospital…just hugged all the patients and voila you have a cure for all problems in the world!! It is this obvious façade that disgusts me. Add to that the tendency of speaking of herself as Amma and I think we have surefire charlatan. One of my cousin brothers left the house in his early twenties to join Amritandamayi’s cult. He had unemployed parents and two elder sisters who were probably depending on him to get a job. I think of him as a shirker of responsibilities. Another aunt took up voluntary retirement and decided to settle at Amritapuri after donating all her life savings to Amma. She surfaces occassionally for certain functions and behaves like a sanyasin, much to my irritation. I have relatives who claim attend every single celebrations at Amritaputi. And now we find the Prime Minister and the President too have nothing more to do rather than pay their obeisance to a fake God? And APJ is the person who propagates scientific thinking in today’s youth…That is certainly not an example to follow.

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