About Me (2)
General Stuff (9)
New York (3)
People I've Met (6)
Preparations and Inspiration (3)
Lurking Around on Travel Sites
In My Own Bed
Pray For It
Seattle and Interesting Uses of Pyrex
Heading to Seattle
Weekend Out of Hippyville
The $330 Trip to the Oregon Country Fair
July 4th, 2004
More Books I've Read
Why Are These People Talking to Me?
There And Back Again
I Wanted To End It All
Summing Up the Gobi
November 08, 2003
We are sooooo going to hell...
Or we're going to be reincarnated as snails. Something like that. Claudia's already talked about our Amma Ashram experience at pretty good length, but this has been one of our most interesting and disturbing experiences so far, so I'll chime in with a bit too.
I want a hug, dammit!
Ever hear of Amma, The Hugging Mother? She's one of the hottest gurus to come out of India in a long, long time if not the hottest. Why? Because of how she's "embracing the world" (a PR slogan we saw all over the place).
Gurus are often known for giving darshan, or transmissions of divine energy, during satsang, essentially the meeting with devotees where guru's circuit gets opened. Often, you can just sit in a room and receive this transmission; Amma's reknown comes from doing things a bit differently: she gives you a hug.
As you can imagine, Americans and people from other Western countries eat this up.
Here are a couple of my observations... and why Claudia and I are going to hell.
As we also found out, there are several things discouraged at the ashram. 2 examples (and the ones we found the most disturbing):
Claudia and I discussed at great length how it seems many people come to ashrams simply so they don't have to make decisions about their own lives. We didn't get comfy enough with anyone at the ashram itself to spring this question on them I wish we had, but that's what other trips are for.
That said, are there people who are truly devoted to Amma and what she believes in, and want to live a life of service and altruism for divine love, their fellow humans, the alleviation of suffering, etc.? I'm sure there are mad props to them. Are people following Amma because they want to find truth and peace, and seek out their own spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment? No doubt, and good on 'em. But are a lot of people there because they just don't want to face up to the outside world? Your guess is as good as gold, er, mine.
No, kitty, that's my samosa!
So why are Claudia and I going to hell? Well, I have to admit... we're irreverent, cynical wee tossers. (I'm sure that comes as a massive surprise.)
After breakfast, we sat at our table, drinking coffee and sharing our observations so far. All around us, people did their seva, or prayed, or attended a lecture given in Hindi (we thought it was a sermon of some sort, but it turns out they were being given lessons on raising hens and would receive a chicken afterwards. We didn't find out if the chickens had been hugged). Now amidst all this, did Claudia and I feel the energy moving throughout the ashram? No.
Did we go help the Massachusetts immate make french fries (which she was doing as prep for lunch at the "western" cafe)? No.
Did we sell our passports and donate the proceeds, along with all our other money save what we needed for a room and the all-white saris and pajamas of renunciation? Hell no!
But did we sit at our table and make up an episode of South Park, based on Amma? You bet your third eye we did. (We're thinking of trying to sell it to Parker and Stone... who knows. It might actually be funny. All I have to say is, imagine Cartman dressed in a white sari and tell me you don't laugh.)
We're evil... pure evil... but you know what? I'll take laughter to silent piety any day. But that's just me. I "found myself" a long time ago. I never was one for believing that you have to cloister yourself off, much less even travel, to do that; no matter where you are, well, that's where you'll find yourself.
I wonder what would happen, though, if people tried a little less navel contemplation, and instead busted their guts with a big belly laugh now and again. I don't know. If I become a guru, perhaps I'll give my darshan with a knee slap, a clap on the back, and a dirty joke The Laughing Daddy. Watch his special guest appearance on the next South Park, as the voice of Amma's pet elephant (yes, she really has one he was on tour too; I don't think he gives trunk hugs though)...
All the best to Amma and the inmates. We're heading to Goa... where I'm sure we'll see more people with glazed eyes, but from a different sort of "spiritual state"...
Posted by Ant on November 8, 2003 06:06 AM