Satsang With Ammachi—Part IV, Mommy Smells
File under: Satsang Reports and Amma All-Over-The-Planet
Next up is the meditation program, taught by the swami who “translated” the talk. This is normally the most enjoyable part of a satsang for us, but Amma’s offering is a bit on the lean side. People sit in silence for less than 5 minutes after three Oms and a few words about breath focus.
The swami begins to chant for a bit before he starts praying to Amma, sitting on the stage to his right, as if she were God. And then, finally, we hear the first reference to that other God—the one who created Amma—since we’ve been here.
That pretty much sums up our problem with this satsang. Not enough talk about God, the Self and meditation, but a lot of talk about Amma and her “children.” That pretty much makes her the mommy and drives the whole enterprise. It’s the Mahashakti packaged as a sweet little Indian lady. It’s no wonder people believe that she’s magic, she’s the mother of all creation!
The mystic halogen reignites, signaling the commencement of the hugging. Special needs folks and VIPs go first. We observe the pleasant socializing that has erupted around us. Amma’s “children” might have child-like expectations about enlightenment, but taken as a group, they seem like very decent people. Everyone seemed at ease, with the exception of a few of the helpers.
As some people socialize and others get hugged, commercials for food, chair massages, gifts and books are announced over the PA. We decide to wander around a bit and check it out, but we find ourselves most interested in the Amma dolls and accessories for sale. We’ve seen people carrying these dolls at Kali pujas, taking the concept of being a child of Amma into the realm of the ridiculous. We just happen to have our camera, so we take some pictures. A slightly tense woman wearing an honest-to-God orange roadworker’s safety vest walks up and gently reminds us that only ashram appointees are allowed to take photographs. We thank her and walk back to our seat.
After a few more commercials, a video begins playing on the two large screens that now flank the stage. It’s basically an Amma informercial, complete with network news clips to lend it some more authority. The effect is decidedly Big Motherish as the video drones around the hive of activity that is Amma giving darshan. After an indeterminate amount of time, the video ends and another begins. This one is about Amma’s tsumani relief effort. It begins with quite a bit of tsunami porn shot as it was happening at her ashram in Kerala. Miraculously, nobody was injured. Naturally. The video takes pains to mention that Amma’s org committed 22 million dollars to the effort, which is very impressively beneficent if true.
We’re more than a bit tired and quite hungry as we wait for our number to come up, but the pleasant scenery has a somewhat soothing effect. The room seems to be getting warmer as the wait drags on, and the video is endless. Finally, it's our turn. We immediately get in line, which is a row of chairs leading toward the stage. Every 30-45 seconds we move another seat closer to Amma.
About 10 people away from Amma, the line moves to the floor, where we are asked to wipe our face with a tissue. People kneel or sit and scoot closer as the hugs are dispensed. We are identified as a “single” as we’re not with the person next to us. As we move closer still, the jostling starts, courtesy of the helpers. It’s as if there’s a bit of confusion at the point where people are thrust into Amma’s bosom.
We watch as a red-haired woman directly in front of us gets her hug. As Amma holds her in a semi-headlock, she jabbers away at the four or five Indian people standing around her. Their talk looks casual, and appears to have little or nothing to do with the hugging going on. When the woman is released, she is visibly moved. Amma continues talking to her friends.
Suddenly, we’re thrust into the ground zero of the worldwide Ammachi devotional community. Amma gets us in the same headlock, and still keeps talking to her posse. We’re held there for about 20 seconds. She then shifts our head to the other side of her bosom, and holds us for ten seconds more, all the time still talking. Then she leans toward our right ear and chants a simple mantra, “Ma, ma, ma, ma, ma…” And then we’re literally yanked away by a helper and ejected.
While in mid-hug, we did a self-survey and noted nothing additional in the way of love, shakti or consciousness. It was just being held by the arm of an Indian woman to her bosom while she babbled away about who-knows-what, although we're rather sure it wasn't about us. What we did notice very distinctly was that she was wearing a lot of strong-smelling perfume. It was very sweet, we imagine just like Amma’s love. So even though we didn’t really get to feel Amma's love, we sure did get to smell it.
On the way home, we notice that we continue to smell of Amma’s perfume. Suddenly, we recall another dark goddess encounter with a beautiful and generous shakti who just happened to be working at the Crazy Horse Theatre in San Francisco. As we rode the bus home, we were overwhelmed by the sweet smell of her perfume and the lovely memories it was being associated with in that moment. Now Amma had brought us to the same recollection. The perfect bookend for the evening.
Amma is a rendering of the right-hand Kali. Our Kali is left-handed—all the way. They’re both the same Kali, identical even, but Amma only sells the white sari rendition. Underneath that sari is a leather and latex-clad ultra-vixen, quite ready and capable of chopping off a head or two… or 100,000. If Amma really is Kali, she’s certainly not the whole Kali. But maybe that’s a good thing. We’re pretty sure rubber is not Amma's fabric, anyway.