Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Satsang With Ammachi—Part III, Mommy Sings

File under: Satsang Reports and Amma All-Over-The-Planet

The strains of the harmonium are joined by the tabla and other common kirtan instruments. The bhajan has begun. It’s standard call and response kirtan singing with Amma in the lead. Not the prettiest, yet not the lousiest voice to listen to. We imagine it’s nectar to the ears of the Ammabots, but then she could croak like a toad and they’d still think it was the music of celestial spheres.

9 songs are performed, all with cheesy Western synth lines added in addition to their traditional arrangements. This embellishment is more pollution than improvement to our ears, but it does make it sound a lot more like a Bollywood movie soundtrack. It almost seems hip, but the effect is ruined by the bad pop rock ballad-quality of the synth arrangement.

As the Ammabots sing, sway and dance, we’re tired, hungry and somewhat impatient. We watch as the hippie contingent begin to dance on the sidelines. We see two young lesbians holding hands with no apparent fear of judgment. A definite three-star moment for this satsang.

Some people dance with their palms raised and facing Amma. We imagine we see some looks of confusion. The milk infusion isn’t coming. Where’s the love, Amma? We smile inside at our little imaginary victory over the supercell of occluding ideology known as an Ammachi satsang.

Three video cameras capture all the blistering action on stage, which is lit by 19 halogen lamps overhead. We wonder if there’s any significance to the number. Given Amma’s penchant for superstition, we conclude there probably is. Plus, she looks that much more divine under that intense purplish-white light in her reflective all-white garb.


We quickly sneak a photograph of it all, although by the looks we're getting we suspect it's a no-no.

A quickening of the music brings an amplification of the hippies’ devotional displays. This results in a thumping of the floor and the disapproving stares of those seated near where hippies dance. One dreadlocked man is doing the Krishna: hands raised, palms limp, body slowly spinning, head hanging back just a little bit behind the waist.

But the whole thing is starting to look a lot more Vegas than Vrindaban to us. The Bollywood factor has intensified over the last 3 songs, and now Amma is singing a bhajan in Spanish in a nod to the local Hispanic population. Too bad there are only about 5 of them at the satsang. Most of those folk are down with the Pope around here, and he would definitely not approve of this.

By this time we are almost bored, which is a very rare thing in our lives. We decide to meditate a bit. Suddenly, the 19 mystical halogen lights go out. Another arati to Amma is performed, complete with more cheesy Western synth music, upping the Vegas-factor yet another two notches. But it appears the music is finally over. We look around and put the attrition rate at about 20%, but we’ve stuck it out. Having performed our tapas by enduring the bhajan, we are now certainly deserving of the hug soon to come.

Next: the extremely sweet (smelling) bosom of Amma.

11 Comments:

At 7/07/2005 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a sad writer!

 
At 7/19/2005 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is sad that Jody seems to find anything outside his/her own culture "cheesy". Does Jody know whether Indian people would consider the "synth" arrangements at Ammachi's gatherings "bollywood" or "westernized"? How long has Jody spent trying to understand Indian culture or thinking or music? Not being an "Ammabot" as Jody so judgmentally puts it, I don't know how the people around this lovely woman decide what to play for music, or who should dance, etc. But I certainly have enjoyed her satsangs immensely, and have felt many physical and mental pains relieved after attending her programs. I think Ammachi is a breath of fresh air. As for her organization -- I could do without lots of what goes on in it, and all organizations. So what. That's life.

I think Jody is an ex-"Ammabot" as he/she puts it and has an axe to grind. So be it. I'll read on amused with the frustration expressed in each increasingly disrespectful posting, until which time that poor Jody gets a life.

 
At 7/19/2005 11:38 PM, Blogger jody said...

As for her organization -- I could do without lots of what goes on in it, and all organizations. So what. That's life.

A telling refrain I hear over and over again from Amma folk. I wonder why? And I wonder why she doesn't do anything about it? Could it be because that's where the bread and butter is happening?

I think Jody is an ex-"Ammabot" as he/she puts it and has an axe to grind. So be it. I'll read on amused with the frustration expressed in each increasingly disrespectful posting, until which time that poor Jody gets a life.

While there's not much of a chance of me getting a life, I am not an ex-Ammabot. But I do have an axe to grind. The supposedly divine among us present an entirely unrealistic view of what self-realization is. A cloud of occluding expectations about enlightenment hangs around Amma and other big time gurus like smog in L.A.

I'm foolishly trying to clear a bit of that away in the hopes it may help someone to see their own divinity outside the influence of their beliefs about Amma's.

 
At 10/01/2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a pity that people see bad in even good. In this present age, there is no Spiritual saint that can even be compared with Amma. It is our great fortune to be living in these times when such a Great master is so easily available to us. I guess most of you know that Amma hugs millions of thousands of people every single day, forgetiing her food and sleep...many a times her body is in acute pain but still for the welfare of suffering humanity She makes herself accessible.

More than anger, I feel really sorry for the person who wrote the original post. I can guarantee you that his/her personal life is a flop as well.

Usually in our day today lives, won't one feel good if someone did something that you wanted...well, talk about Amma singing the bhajans in particular melody or music - the fact is that in this age of rock music, it is some of us who want bhajans or devotional singing also to be in the same way, because our musical frequencies are more geared towards that kind of music....and so, Amma sings like the way we can accept it....It is more like giving a bitter medicine to child with a sugar coating on it.

The author also commented on Amma's voice.....poor guy! I don't think he/she has had enough of Motherly Love. A child will never judge the voice of Mother...To Him Mother's voice is everything..It is life.

I could go on and on but my purpose in writing this comment is not to undermine the author, but to tell others who might read the original post, not to get misguided by the author's criticism. And for the author, it is my friendly request...Go get a hug from Amma...It will change your life for Good.

My prayers for all of you(including the author)

 
At 10/01/2006 6:43 PM, Blogger jody said...

It is a pity that people see bad in even good.

It's even more a pity that people can't see the bad in what they think is all good.

In this present age, there is no Spiritual saint that can even be compared with Amma.

According to you. There are millions who would beg to differ. But I agree that of the big-timers, Amma is the best of the bunch.

It is our great fortune to be living in these times when such a Great master is so easily available to us.

Why? So we can be enlightened by her motherly love? It don't work for that. Quite the opposite I think.

I guess most of you know that Amma hugs millions of thousands of people every single day, forgetiing her food and sleep...many a times her body is in acute pain but still for the welfare of suffering humanity She makes herself accessible.

She provides a mobile mommy service, and many people are helped by it. But none of that has anything to do with enlightenment. She's not magic or miraculous, but she does play the devi role quite well, giving people an attractive icon to project upon.

More than anger, I feel really sorry for the person who wrote the original post. I can guarantee you that his/her personal life is a flop as well.

Yes, I'm a loser. ;)

The author also commented on Amma's voice.....poor guy! I don't think he/she has had enough of Motherly Love. A child will never judge the voice of Mother...To Him Mother's voice is everything..It is life.

She's not my mother. I don't have to go anywhere or see anyone to be sitting right next to my Mother.

Go get a hug from Amma...It will change your life for Good.

I got the hug. I've had other hugs. It's faith healing in the same way as Benny Hinn.

My prayers for all of you(including the author)

Thanks. Maybe one day you'll grow up and not need a mommy anymore.

 
At 4/14/2007 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Jody is aware that Amma is the head of one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world? Projects include a gigantic charity hospital in India, thousands of houses for India's homeless, soup kitchens all over America, a million dollars in Katrina relief, and more tsunami relief than any organization in the world, including the US government.

Also more than fifty schools and colleges, including schools to teach computer skills to untouchables, an orphanage, schools to uplift underpriviladged people at every level in India. Pensions for widows and the handicapped in India. Mobile clinics, a fleet of ambulances.

Her organization has been given a special status by the United Nations to help expedite her people's efforts to aid during disasters, such as the Pakistan earthquake (or was it Aphganistan? can't remember)and famine in drought-stricken parts of Africa, besides tsunami relief in countries other than India. She has been repeatedly invited to speak before the united Nations.

The president of India entrusted her organization with rebuilding villages after the Tsunami, since there had been so much graft and corruption when other organizations were doing this. When the Amrita Charitable Trust does this work, all labor is provided free by Ammobots. All donated money goes directlyto help those in need.

I believe taht the real purpose of all that hugging is to inspire compassion in all of us, so we will go out and do this kind of work. About the charitable projects, Amma says, "I didn't do this, my children did all this."

Yes, I agree, some of the music is corny! Amma encourages people to be creative. The organization is frought with amateur art, music, theater and dance.

The world is full of phony gurus! But I doubt that Amma is one of them.

 
At 4/14/2007 4:35 PM, Blogger jody said...

I wonder if Jody is aware that Amma is the head of one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world?

I am. But being the head administrator of a huge charity organization and being a guru who you can rely on for an adequate pointing to nondual truth are two separate roles.

Amma may be awesome as a philanthropist, but she's lousy as a guru, insofar as the message she and and her swamis transmit about nondual truth.

But she is a great space-mommy, which is why people believe she is an adequate guru in the first place. Unfortunately, space-mommies and nondual truth have as much to do with one another as they do with my dog's ass.

 
At 4/16/2007 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jody said...
being the head administrator of a huge charity organization and being a guru who you can rely on for an adequate pointing to nondual truth are two separate roles.


Hmmm. Have you read any of her books, or books by her swamis? Do you know anything about the history of her ashram?

here's another question: are you opposed to all gurus? Do you think there are or have been actual saints? Do you think there are genuine spiritual leaders whose lives are given to selfless service? (sorry, I haven't read the whole blog)

I happened to find this blog because a friend wrote a book about her (painful) experience joining a cult in the seventies, and I was looking for an organization that might help her promote her book. Then I got side-tracked by this discussion.

 
At 4/16/2007 9:15 PM, Blogger jody said...

Have you read any of her books, or books by her swamis?

I've been to the satsangs, which I consider to be a distillation of her teaching.

Do you know anything about the history of her ashram?

That's not pertinent to a discussion of Amma as example of self-realization.

are you opposed to all gurus?

Of course not.

Do you think there are or have been actual saints?

Sure. But who an actual saint actually was and who a saint is thought to be is almost always two entirely different things. Look up the word hagiography.

Do you think there are genuine spiritual leaders whose lives are given to selfless service?

Sure. But selfless service and our nondual truth have nothing more to do with one another than selfish service to oneself and the nondual truth.

 
At 4/16/2007 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jody said...

who an actual saint actually was and who a saint is thought to be is almost always two entirely different things.

Obviously people are "sainted" who never were saints. What I wonder is whether there are "saints" who are 100% perfect.

Martin Luther King might have been one but he cheated on his wife.

The definition of saint might be enormous stamina, fearlessness and dedication to a selfless cause. People who appear to be saints tend to be unafraid of death, among other things.

jody said...selfless service and our nondual truth have nothing more to do with one another than selfish service to oneself and the nondual truth.

Hindus and Buddhists would disagree with this, Both are all about selfless service and compassion. Amma (and other Hindu teachers) says that when you see God in other people, and serve them, you experience one-ness (non-duality).

jody said...

That's (history of her ashram) not pertinent to a discussion of Amma as example of self-realization.

It's stunningly pertinant.


jody said...
I've been to the satsangs, which I consider to be a distillation of her teaching.

That wasn't my experience. I only got it from the books.

 
At 4/16/2007 10:35 PM, Blogger jody said...

What I wonder is whether there are "saints" who are 100% perfect.

It depends on what you believe "100% perfect" is. What I do know is that they are all 100% human, and being human comes with built-in foibles which may cause them to be seen as less than perfect.

For instance, I'm a devotee of Ramakrishna, yet I'm convinced he was attracted to some of his young male disciples. Does that make him less than perfect? To many it makes him very imperfect. But if you allow for imperfection in your saints – in other words, allowing them to be human – then you can begin to understand that enlightenment doesn't have anything to do with ANY idea of "perfection."

The definition of saint might be enormous stamina, fearlessness and dedication to a selfless cause.

Your definition is noted.

People who appear to be saints tend to be unafraid of death, among other things.

Gangsters are also unafraid of death. Does that make them saints?

Amma (and other Hindu teachers) says that when you see God in other people, and serve them, you experience one-ness (non-duality).

Only if nonduality was actually an experience. It's not according to the Upanishads.

Selfless service is SOP for a Hindu guru. It's a tradition, not an indication of wisdom. The only way to get traction as a successful guru is to start an organization and attempt to improve things. An innovation of Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Math, I believe. Amma and all the other gurus are copying them. An exception to this is Ramana Maharshi. I don't believe he ever got into that game, and many (including myself) consider him to be a saint.

It's stunningly pertinant.

No it's not, regardless of the storied history of Amma's ashram. All it proves is that Amma can run an ashram, or maybe not. I don't actually know.

What I do know is that realization has nothing more to do with ashram management than it does with brothel management, despite what you may choose to believe.

That wasn't my experience. I only got it from the books.

I'm not looking to "get" anything. I seek to evaluate the presentation of gurus against a standard based on Vedanta. Vedanta suggests that there is no more God in some people over that of others, which kinda makes Amma a sham of sorts.

I understand it's a tradition to worship your guru like God, but I'm convinced it's wholly counterproductive, other than as a devotee retention practice.

The reason is simple. Self-realization doesn't make you into God, it reveals you (and everyone else) to have always been God. Nothing is added in the way of magic hugging powers. Believing that self-realization is anything other than the revelation of an eternally-existing internal truth is missing the entire point. This is why Amma sucks as an example of self-realization. Self-realization makes you see how utterly normal you (and everyone else) actually is. All the same, always, absolutely. This guru on a pedestal thing – which Amma and her org have developed into a fine art – maybe results in some warm fuzzies for some folk, but they leave with the same set of "spiritually" reinforced delusions they came with. It indicates a complete lack of regard for Vedanta in favor of putting on a good show and giving the people what they came for.

The truth suffers when it becomes all about the distribution of the fulfillment of infantile needs.

 

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