Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chinmoy's PR Run Hits Steeler City

File under: The Siddhi of PR

It's been a while since we've been aware of that muscle-head mac daddy Sri Chinmoy's World Harmony Run (and media visibility effort) as it winds its way around the 48, now in Pittsburg, Penn.

Frankly, we're a bit surprised at how little coverage of the 11,000-mile event has surfaced online. It would seem that the U.S. media has little interest in a guru who isn't female and hugs people for completely different reasons than Ammachi.

We applaud the basic message of the effort, let's help instead of hurt, but doubt that a group of faux-olympic torch carriers is going to make much of dent. But Chinmoy's name is getting in at least some of the papers, so harmonious or not, "progress" is being made with each media exposure opportunity to bring a bit of positive change for world transformation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

God Is On The Lam In Malaysia

File under: Wackadoo Gurus and Backroom Gurudom

A self-proclaimed reincarnation of anyone who was anyone in the history of all religion, and the one true God for the whole world, is on the run in Malaysia. Authorities are on the lookout for Ayah Pin, aka Ariffin Mohammed, after he fled his amusement park-like Sky Kingdom cult compound just before it came under attack by a government-looking-the-other-way assisted mob. The police showed up a bit later to put an end to the "rioting," but the damage was already done (and the message had been delivered.)

But not stopping there, the Malaysian government has kicked the anti-Pin propaganda into high gear:
Ariffin Mohamed, a.k.a. Ayah Pin, should be stopped before he becomes a serious threat to the nation, religious adviser to the Prime Minister Tan Sri Dr Abdul Hamid Othman said today.

He said the sanctity of Islam and the security of the nation were at stake.

"We must realise that deviant teachings can be used by outsiders to disturb the peace. He must be stopped. We must look at his movement from a security perspective, not just the corruption of Islam."
Heh. That's a good one, Islam feeling threatened by a seemingly harmless wackadoo's minor cult while U.S. anti-Muslim sentiment, backed by an aggressive anti-terrorist military campaign, remains at an all-time high. Being high would explain it, which makes us think the Malaysian authorities might not be as anti-drug as their draconian drug laws would suggest.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sikh Guru Seeks Religious Sweep

File under: Backroom Gurudom

Sikh leader Gurbax Singh Rajkavi, addressing the 10,000-person-strong congregation of the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan recently, called for the establishment of a single religion for all mankind, to be mediated by those he regards as a "living revelation of all pervading God." Sounds pretty ambitious. And like any big time guru, Rajkavi knows what's best for us:
Rajkavi said realisation of God was the primary aim of one’s life, which could be achieved...only with the grace of a contemporary guru. He explained a person who realises God becomes a citizen of the Universe where there are no barriers of any kind...
And that just about covers it for a big time guru—you've got to listen to him and he gets to do whatever he wants.

There are an infinite number of reasons why Rajkavi's "religion of Man" won't happen, the most obvious being that it's completely unnecessary. Our favorite divine person once said, "As many faiths, so many paths." It's not what you believe, it's how you believe it. If you are sincere in your application of your faith, it will lead to the knowledge you seek. What other people are doing, as long as it's not hurting you or anyone else, is none of your damn business.

We're hoping that Rajkavi was simply eager to please the masses with his rhetoric and doesn't actually think he's going to take over all religion in the world. While we appreciate his vision for peace, the best his "religion of Man" can hope to be is a catchall for what anybody is doing anywhere, anyway. That's the only "one" religion the world can tolerate and avoid the slaughter of millions in its establishment.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Freaky Filmmaker Wants TM™ In Schools

File under: Gurus to the Stars and The Siddhi of PR

David Lynch is known as a creative filmmaker with a penchant for portraying the dark side in works that can sometimes be as incomprehensible as they are disturbing. We're quite sure his colleagues are having trouble comprehending his latest project, raising 7 billion dollars to fund a TM™ meditation program for school kids, first in the U.S. and then eventually, the rest of the world. You know that is going to go over big with the prayer-in-school crowd.

Lynch is convinced—as many TM™ers are—that more people meditating means more peace in the world. They've conducted "studies" which seem to support their claim that groups of TM™ meditators can lower crime in the areas where they meditate.

While we can't argue with the logic of meditation increasing the peace, we're damn sure that it's not only TM™ that works. The peace which results by meditating transcends any and all techniques, and its effect isn't by some kind of supernatural "vibration" humming the hate out of people. Meditators become calm simply because their minds become calm. Calm folk usually aren't fighters. Hence, more peace.

But Lynch and the TM™ers are convinced otherwise:
"This is not a pretend thing," said Lynch. He went on the explain that the eventual goal is to sponsor "peace-creating super groups of 8,000 meditators" chanting simultaneously around the planet. 8,000, by the way, is "the size of the square root of one percent of the world's population."
We're not impressed with the math, especially since it's already being used by that moniker-snake Amma and her partner, Bhagavan:
Oneness University... will be Asia’s largest hall without pillars, where 8000 people will be meditating together at one time. An extraordinary experience, unparalleled in human history awaits mankind, when 8000 people are meditating shall generate energy, never before realized on earth.
It's too bad they've all already been made the bitches of the maestro of fame-seeking gurus, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Amma Clone And Her Kalki

File under: Gurus Clockin' Dollars and The Siddhi of PR

There's another Amma on the rise in India, and she comes equipped with a husband who is supposedly the prophesized Kalki avatar. Sri Amma and Sri Bhagavan are the married team of world saviors who have founded Oneness University and are building the awesome Oneness Temple:
The Oneness Temple will influence the morphogenic fields across the globe, elevating man to Enlightenment, an altered state of consciousness, ultimately culminating into "God Realization". Immeasurable Divine Grace of Sri Amma and Sri Bhagavan is naturally an awesome wonder.
Naturally. An awesome wonder of human psychology as it is manipulated by belief and expectation.

Add two more of the blinded-by-their-own-glory to the roll call of grandiose pretenders to the world's most greatest savior throne. Whether or not their intentions are good, proclaiming themselves avatars is no different than being a couple of actors and giving themselves Oscar noms. It's a business decision to expand market reach. The more divine they believe you are, the more divine you will appear to be, and this particular Amma and her Bhagavan are working it just like any other Amma and/or Bhagavan.

As long as there are folks looking to be saved, there will be "avatars" out there to save them, usually from their devotees' own bank accounts.

The Guru Of Cult Awareness

File under: Real True Gurus

While we don't necessarily believe that Rick Ross is enlightened, we were blown away like a hummingbird in a hurricane by this Gothamist interview, linked from his own cultnews.net. That site and rickross.com have been invaluable tools in our effort to ferret out evidence of plain, old, ordinary humanity (including the disgusting and lurid) in the lives of the supposedly divine.

Rickji has got it sussed both sociologically and psychologically. Often derided by the organizations he investigates and catalogs, Ross is apparently the subject of a 196 page profile and 17 page introduction on the Scientology website (which we were unable to find,) all in an attempt to discredit him and his research.

But rather than being as rabidly anti-cult as they are anti-Rick, Ross seems to have a more balanced perspective:
What advice would you give to a friend or family member of someone who appears to be becoming part of a "cult"?

Don't overreact. Don't be confrontational. You may be wrong.

First, carefully and discretely research the group in question and educate yourself. Then make an informed decision about how you can best respond. Before taking any action get a second, even a third opinion from people and/or professionals you trust. Don't jump to any conclusions before a process of due diligence. Keep all communication as open as possible and strengthen continuing goodwill with the person you are concerned.
In a way, Rick Ross is a father of the lineage of guru-busting with which we find ourselves presently involved, so we'll take this moment to virtually take the dust of his feet and acknowledge his fearless work in the service of individual responsibility and clarity, all amidst the ridiculous belief and expectation that comprises most cult ideology today.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Foot Flim-Flam Guru Socked In Jail

File under: Gurus Doin' Time

Looking like someone who's never been anything but a criminal, Japanese guru Hogen Fukunaga has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud. The scam? Look at peoples' feet and then convince them they have aggressive cancer that can only be cured by Fukunaga's religious instruction. Seems like a difficult sell to us, but his Honohana Sampogyo foot-reading cult was able to bilk 31 people out of 150 million yen, or about $1,330,000. At $43,000 or so per person, that makes Fukunaga one hell of a con.

Another "world's final savior" falls hard on his ass in a jail cell. While Fukunaga maintained that he was only trying to "rescue the human race with the help of the voice of heaven," the judge in the case had a different impression:
Judge Aoyagi reckoned that Fukunaga himself "realized more than anybody that he never had the power to listen to the 'voice of heaven' or wield what he claimed as 'the cosmic energy.'"
A clever angle on the insanity defense, replacing the insane with divinely inspired. But it doesn't seem to have worked for poor Hogen. God must want him ministering to the administered now. Either that or be taught a hard lesson in the dynamics of karma. Either way, we imagine he's got more than just peoples' feet to be worrying about at the moment.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

TM™ City Tourist Funding Denied

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Maharishi Vedic City, the brand new town founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his devotees near Fairfield, Iowa, has been denied a tourism development grant by the Jefferson County board of supervisors.

Besides being a state endorsement of a religion, we doubt any of the supervisors would want to be perceived as being pro-"TM™er" in a region where you are either that or a "non-meditator," in other words, lily-white Christian.

With at least one local Christian leader speaking out against him, we imagine the Maharishi burrowing even deeper into his swinging 60s love lair. We hear the faux pop stars and groupies have all moved on to new sugar daddies, leaving the Maharishi to "fly" around his empty quarters, alone with the memories of his former pop-star glory as the guru to the Beatles, (until they found out he was putting the moves on a very young Mia Farrow at the time.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Andrew Cohen: Enlightened Asshole?

File under: The Siddhi of PR and Gurus Clockin' Dollars

Beliefnet has posted an interview with controversial guru Andrew Cohen, founder of What Is Enlightenment magazine and bad boy of the advaita satsang scene. Depending on who you are asking, he's either a megalomaniacal fraud or a notably rude yet authentic teacher of enlightenment.

Being notably rude ourselves, we feel some kinship with Cohen, especially when he says stuff like this:
Because what happened in the seventies and the eighties [is that] a lot of gurus came over from the East from different traditions and people would say, "Well, they're enlightened which means they're perfect." So then we found that many of them seemed to have difficulties around some basic human instincts [laughs]; that they didn't seem to be able to handle living in the West. And then everybody said, "Oh well, I guess they're not enlightened." And then, that was the end of enlightenment.
Cohen seems to be intimating that some of those crazy, scandalized gurus were enlightened despite the various abuses they participated in. As tough as that may sound to a hagio-poisoned bliss bunny, we wholeheartedly agree. And Mr. Cohen makes a fine example himself:
Andrew had expressly told students that when a "committed" or "senior" student "blows it," it will cost them $20,000 in karmic retribution. When Stas once offered Andrew a contribution of $3,000 at a time when he was desperate to regain Andrew's good graces, Andrew angrily threw the check on the floor, shouting, "Do you think you can buy me off for a lousy three grand?" As a result, Stas borrowed money so that he could make a $20,000 contribution to Andrew. Later, when he told Andrew the money was given under duress and asked for its return, Andrew coldly refused.
That puts him squarely in the asshole category, and some would say in the unenlightened megalomaniac category as well. It's no wonder his own mother ditched him.

Folks seeking to perfect themselves will not get Cohen, because he is clearly not perfect himself. That's why we're kinda digging on him, despite the fiscal abuse allegations. Besides, anyone willing to give Cohen $20,000 to amend for a faux pas deserves to lose the money, regardless of the fact that Cohen clearly didn't deserve to keep it himself.

Friday, July 08, 2005

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.

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.