Is Amma the Hugging Saint for Real?
Alas, my friend and I, who went to see Amma last night in Los Angeles, have decided that she is not the real deal. Worse, it appears that Amma is a psychic vampire, siphoning off the energy of her devoted followers.
My friend had contacted me earlier in the week asking if I wanted to go see Amma. She is an Indian woman who travels the world offering "free hugs." Someone in his singing class had gone to see her and had some sort of spiritual experience. He was curious, and so was I.
Coincidentally, I had recently heard of Amma just a month ago when I stumbled across an anti-Amma blog called "Cult of the Hugging Saint." Strangely enough, this blog was online last night when we checked it from the event (via my Blackberry), but when I went to look at it today, the blog is no longer available. Hm.
Through that blog, I had already read some serious charges against Amma's organization, some of which included tales of dead bodies floating in rivers! (You can read more about Amma's "Goongate" over at Guruphiliac.) So I already knew that not all was well in Ammaland, but I decided to go see for myself what the fuss was about. I did not do an energy read of her beforehand, but decided to just go in blank and see what I discovered.
Trying to go see Amma is like trying to get on the hot new ride at Disneyland. You need to get special tickets, called tokens. You are herded through various lines by volunteers wearing all white, with red scarves around their necks. You are plastered with a sticker to let people know that you are a new huggee. You are told that the sticker is your pass to "push your way through" to the front of the line when it comes time to get your hug.
We got there around 7 pm. The event started at 8. After wandering through a confusing maze of people, we finally sat down and got our tokens. Group R3.
The group number meant that when our number was announced, we were to dash upstairs and get in line just to enter the main hall. Once inside, we were supposed to get into another line. (Apparently, this is where the "push and shove your way to Amma ahead of people who've seen her before" instruction would be useful.)
We realized early on, based on the rate the groups were being called, that we might be there all night. (We thought it'd only be a few hours at first.)
It was already 9 pm and they'd only gotten to group B5. We were just sitting on uncomfortable chairs out on a patio, watching Amma, wearing a ridiculously over the top silver crown, hug people on a screen as the numbers slowly rolled by.
A new age guy who sat in front of us, hearing our conversation about whether Amma takes a break or not, turned back to us and with a breathless, starry voice, told us that Amma did not take breaks and in fact would go straight through to 11 am. "It's so amazing that she can do that," he sighed.
We thought this did sound impressive, but worried that we would, indeed, be stuck there until 11 am. So there was much debate over how long we'd stay before giving the Amma experience the heave-ho.
The Amma people did serve some vegetarian food, for which you had to pay and stand in yet another long line to receive. The food was actually quite tasty and probably the highlight of the night. However, this is when things started to get a little strange.
Both my friend and I felt energized after eating the food. Once done, however, we realized we did not have drink tokens, nor did we know where to go where we might get some water.
Amma's volunteers had come around early in the evening handing out small plastic cups with lids that contained "Amma blessed water." We were told we could drink it there, but that it'd be better if we took it home, because by mixing the water with more water, we could make it last longer.
Well, after eating our delicious vegetarian meal, we did not have anything to quench our thirst. We did not drink the water right away, but eventually both decided to drink the blessed water instead of taking it with us. I already know how to bless my own water, so my thinking was I did not need Amma to do it for me at home. I also felt like I wanted to see what a concentrated dose of Amma blessing might do for me.
Not too long later, my friend and I both found ourselves tired, drained, out of sorts, and spacey. I have to tell you it was like walking around on drugs, but that kind of feeling towards the end of the high, when the drug is wearing off and leaving a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.
Things did not seem real, and you felt vaguely confused and not all "there."
We did not initially connect this to the water, but later, figured out that we both started feeling strange after consuming the blessed water. (The food, initially, had made us feel good and energized.)
It was at this point I decided to check my friend's energy to see what was going on. Amma had apparently corded both of us, and was draining our life-force energy through these cords. (Etheric cords are energetic connections that can bind people. When positive, they uplift. When negative, they can be used to drain energy from one person to another, or send negative energy between parties.)
At this point, my friend was feeling so strange that he was starting to experience real anxiety.
I asked for some angelic protection, cleared the cords, and immediately we both felt better.
At this point I felt very guided not to receive Amma's hug. What I got intuitively was that in order for Amma to elevate herself, she drains the energy of her followers. Drinking her "blessed" water is actually a curse, as it binds you energetically to her. Hugging her I'm sure does even more damage.
The reason why people feel Amma has so much spiritual power is precisely because she takes it from all the people worshiping her. She makes you feel good when you hug her, because you are feeling all that stolen life force emanating off of her. When you leave her, and go home, you may feel dejected and down, and need to go back to her to get your energy "fix." It's like she's an energetic drug dealer.
If Amma is able to sit for 12 hours getting hugs from people without a break, it's likely due to her taking the energy of each and every person she hugs! She probably ends her session feeling more energized, not less! And no wonder - who wouldn't after feeding off the life force energy of thousands?
As were talking about Amma being an "energy vampire," a woman handed up her baby to Amma on the screen. Amma literally sucked this child's hand fully into her mouth like a hungry cannibal. My friend was so freaked out he had to turn away. It was as if Amma subconsciously felt compelled to show her true self right then and there.
"Now, now," you may say as you read this, "this sounds totally bizarre and you're just imaging things."
Well, let's throw away the psychic vampire thing for a moment. We just found the energy at the event to be far from positive. People were isolated from one another, despite the large crowds. Even though Amma was selling hugs, no-one else was hugging. The disciples of Amma did not hug you. Strangers were not hugging strangers.
My friend commented that he expected to go there and be enveloped in a friendly, loving environment, and he was stunned that this was not what we found. Instead, as he described it, everyone was caught up in this selfish energy of trying to get to be the first in line to get their hug from Amma.
The energy was not about giving, it was about getting.
We all wanted our quick fix from Amma.
It's also important to note what it is that Amma is selling. Amma does not sell much of anything but Amma. (And she does sell - just because the hugs are free, it does not mean they aren't selling other things, such as food, books, Amma dolls, and even Amma's old car. Let's not forget the copious donations she collects.)
I have also heard some negative things about the now deceased kundalini yoga guru Yogi Bhajan. But despite his critics, I will say one thing about Yogi Bhajan: He was not selling himself. He sold yoga. And he said time and time again he was not there to create followers, but to teach teachers. Which is precisely what he did. So even if his worst critics were right, he left a legacy of empowered teachers who go out and teach other teachers.
Amma, on the other hand, seems to be all about her. That's your first clue she's an energy vampire. Whether you believe in such things literally or figuratively, it's kind of your cue to stay away.
As for us, we ended up leaving before our number was called.
You may also want to read my follow-up blog post about how some Amma "defenders" have chosen to respond to my review by trying to tear me down on a blog devoted to harassing anyone who criticizes Amma.
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