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Friday, March 07, 2014

When a Goddess Falls Back to Earth: Ammachi and the publication of "Holy Hell" in India.

File under: Amma All-Over-The-Planet and Satscams

The world has a lot self-loathing and revulsion in it. We imagine we all harbor at least a tiny bit, and most of us, probably a bit more than that. This is the shale oil which fuels the engines of self-indulgent new age spirituality, which is itself largely a slightly modified version of traditional Hinduism. Those who frack this oil are called spiritual gurus. The good ones help you to dispose of yours in a safe and controlled combustion. The bad ones burn it in a rocket ride to fame, riches and glory, leaving a wake of psychologically scorched devotees in their exhaust. In the last month, one of the greatest of these has begun to crash and burn. We are currently in the midst of the fall of the beloved "Hugging Saint," Mata Amritanandamayi, "affectionately" known as Ammachi, or Amma, which happens to mean "mother" in India.

It all began over 30 years ago, before Amma was known to the outside world, before she had amassed hundreds of millions of dollars stashed away in foreign (to India) banks, before she became the darling and queen of the Hindu militant right. Just a girl who lived in a village in a swamp in Kerala. What made her different were her performances as the goddess Kali, one of the most fearsome of the Hindu pantheon. As it turns out, Sudhamani (as she was known then) had quite the talent for portraying the equally beloved and feared goddess, leaving some of the more superstitious village inhabitants to believe they had actually been in the presence of Kali Ma herself. And thus, like medieval priests collecting indulgences from their guilty and/or greedy parishioners, Sudhamani's parents soon learned they could profit off that guilt and greed in exactly the same way.

As Ammachi got a bit older, she simply took over her own business, her parents rendered powerless by the fact of her burgeoning popularity as a divine goddess. (But not to worry, Ammachi has made her family very wealthy since.) Soon, folks were hearing about her across India, and more and more came to visit the teenage girl who was by now manifesting "miracles" like turning water into milk, etc. [The et cetera being the standard amplified coincidences and projections of meaning which are common among those who follow so-called "divine" incarnations.]

In the midst of those flocking to see this newly-minted "saint" was a young Aussie gal from the suburbs of Brisbane. She wasn't looking for the "light" before she left for India, but like some Westerners who've travelled there, she caught the spiritual enlightenment bug and landed in an ashram in Tiruvannamalai, which has since become the Disneyland of spiritual gurudom for Westerners in India. Hearing about the new luminary in Kerala, Gail Tredwell made the journey with a few others, all of whom fell into the inner circle of Ammachi, who soon after became known as Mata Amritanandamayi. They eventually helped her build her satsang (spiritual community) into the global multi-million dollar enterprise that it is today.

As you'd might expect by now, it turns out that Ammachi is even darker than the goddess she portrays. While there are millions who believe she is saving the world with her signature marathon public hugging sessions, Gail consistently saw another side, and in a tale that reads like a spy novel at the end, her book "Holy Hell" has obliterated the loving mother image that has been so carefully cultivated over the last 30 years.

And now, they know all about it in India.

It's not like this is unusual by any means. One or two famous gurus pop in scandal there in any given year. However, Ammachi has been the least assailable of these, mostly due to the fact she's been extremely successful in the West. It's likely that among the friends of those who are reading this, there is at least one person who could be considered a follower. They may not live at the ashram or even ever attended an Ammachi event, but if they subscribe to the morass of superstition, mythology and folk theory known as non-traditional spirituality in America, chances are they've heard of, and thus, believe that Ammachi is some kind of magical, divine being. She's even got Oprah's seal-of-approval.

Naturally, those who are followers of Ammachi cannot process the allegations of sex, fraud, cruelty and abuse that has splashed mud all over the pure white raiments of their living mother goddess, and so a storm of cognitive dissonance has developed in her devotees and the Hindu nationalist parties which seek the votes she commands. In India, free speech is utterly trumped by the notion that it's a crime to hurt the "religious sensibilities of others," so while her organization calls in their political favors in an attempt to have the book banned in India, waves of devotees are filing complaints with their local police departments against those Indians tweeting and Facebooking the contents of Tredwell's book.

It seems that the beloved goddess's detractors, now empowered by the collaborating evidence offered by the book, have emerged—somewhat perilously—into the daylight with their opinions, surprising many with their number. Gail Tredwell's Facebook page went from 500 to 15,000 likes almost overnight. Its growth has slowed considerably since, but it's just topped 30,000, almost all of them from within India. Our Facebook Guruphiliac page has also acquired a substantial amount of new likes, although nothing close to what Gail's has seen.

One can only hope there is some recompense for Tredwell in all this. She has been enduring relentless attacks on her character since the book was announced, this from all levels of Indian society as well as the global following of Ammachi, including many people she sincerely believed would remain friends for life. Perhaps there's some small upside in that it's now clear to the world that a little cognitive dissonance will completely cancel out the lip-service paid to the bottom line theme of any Ammachi gathering, that she is a symbol and source of radiating divine love.

Witnessing the fury of the reaction both for and against the publication of "Holy Hell" in India has been as educational as it's been entertaining, and it's only just begun. They say any press is good press, but when your whole business depends on the notion that you are divine purity itself in human form, you can't help but get permanently stained by your splashing in the swamp that is the news and social media. And when you were never really clean to begin with, all who participate become the implements of the divine justice you've always deserved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Busted Again, Amma!

File under: Amma-All-Over-The-Amma, Satscams

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Queen of the Holy Hell

File under: Amma-All-Over-The-Planet and Satscams

We admit we've been remiss [Ed.note: blame Facebook] in our delay to announce and review what's sure to be an instant classic of anti-cult literature, Gail Tredwell's "Holy Hell." It's hard to put into words just how mind-blowing this book is in light of the popular mythology of Ammachi, the "Hugging Saint" who tours the world pouring millions into foreign banks to do who knows what with.

But we tried:
I have an overwhelming desire to begin this review with the words "holy hell," because that's how I felt after I reached that point in the book where the exposed hypocrisy just keeps piling up like a Arunachala-sized mountain of dung. While none of it really surprised me, all of it was surprising to read, as well as funny, heartfelt, and sincere. Gail is a true modern spiritual hero, so much more than the one she served, who in the end has always only been the scheming beneficiary of the popular idea that she is God. As much as the dark side now lies exposed in the blazing light of public opinion, the real lesson of the book is how Gail's sincerity and inner strength carried her through years of abuse. Some may say she was ill-advised, or even stupid to endure it, but I suspect that it was worth every second to her now. Amma's cruelty and spite have hammered Gail into an outstanding example of triumph over one of the world's most pervasive cults of personality. Hopefully she will serve as an example to others that their "goddess" can at times be little more than a stunningly entitled brat with an apparent personality disorder who essentially spreads lies about nondual realization by her completely fabricated persona. This book will undoubtably become one of the great works of anti-cult biography.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Update: 85-Year-Old Swami Up On Rape Charges

File under: Gurus Doin' Time and Hands Where They Don't Belong

Apparently, many are all a'flutter in India over the arrest of Swami Ram Tripathi, aka Kripalu Maharaj, in Trinidad and Tobago, accused by a 22-year-old Guyanese woman of rape at the ashram:
In her complaint to the police, the victim alleged that she was raped on Saturday night when she had gone to seek spiritual assistance and guidance from the swami.
As much as we love to bring news of the humanity of the allegedly divine, we just can't seem to get on board with these charges. The dude is 85-freaking-years-old, for Ma's sake! Why would he suddenly decide to try to tear off a piece of unwilling ass? It just doesn't add up... even to our jaded, mud-dwelling little mind.

This situation is developing, but we're gonna go out on a limb and back the Swami on this one. Hopefully the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago will see past the PR value of bagging a major religious figure and allow justice to prevail here.

Update: A reader with firsthand knowledge of the Swami spills the beans:
You don't know this guy it seems. He was already charged with rape a couple of decades ago in India, where the newspapers were headlined 'Bhakta Bhalaat ke'. I have the old news clipping and I know a bunch of people who he's made sex advances to over the years, which is why I'd like to see him pay for his crimes. One woman... told me he tried to rape her... last year. 85? How does anyone know how old he actually is? Seen his birth certificate? The guy's a fraud through and through, he'll tell any lie to get his ends. He fakes language difficulties, he may be faking his 'aged frailty' too.
Well! Once again, the contents and the cover don't match. We guess there's no age too old for a swami to be tryin' to get some.

Special note: Those Kool-Aid drinkers looking to show their support for the Swami should go elsewhere to express it. We're not going to publish the parade of sycophancy that's been coming through here today.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sex-Crazed Swami Tries Gets To Skate

[Ed.note: The top three posts here were actually published previously. They were temporarily removed by Google in response to a DMCA take down attempt by the Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, the organization behind Kripalu and Prakashanand. When I republished the posts with pictures and videos removed, they lost their place in the post stream.]

File under: Hands Where They Don't Belong and The Siddhi of PR

Sexed-up Swami Ram Tripathi, being held in Trinidad and Tobago on rape charges, pled for the return of his passport today:
Some 50 of his followers prayed and cried for the guru, who, dressed in a traditional saffron-coloured robe, spent several minutes in a courtroom dock with other men charged with robbery, burglary and murder.
Duh! That's where you end up when you're accused of raping a 22-year-old woman.

The 85-year-old swami is apparently quite the horn dog with a long history of sexual escapades with his female devotees, as well one who has a few unresolved rape cases back in India. Many are not surprised these charges have been made.

Nor will we be surprised if the swami never sets foot in Trinidad and Tobago again if he gets his passport back. Such an act would be tantamount to proclaiming him innocent for all the justice that would be left unserved.

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Two More Old Scammijis In the News: Kreepalu and PrakashakaBOOM

File under: Backroom Gurudom and Gurubusting

[Ed.note: We fear this fine effort by our Barsana Dham correspondent about yet another two gurus in trouble with the law, Kripalu Maharaj and Prakashanand Saraswati, might get lost in the haze of exploded guru mist floating over India right now.]

By a former resident of Barsana Dham

Is it karma, or kaliyug, or simply the tipping point of a growing intolerance for the overabundance of fake Hindu gurus?

My bet — and hope — is that it is the tipping point: And that the intelligent people of the world will rise up and kick these fake holy men to the curb — that is if the cowards don’t run into hiding first, as is the case with the dastardly duo: Kripalu Maharaj and Prakashanand Saraswati.

Along with all the other intriguing scammiji scandals making the headlines these days, it’s interesting to find that these two partners in crime hit the news within hours of each other (Kreepalu in a BIG way). We’ll start with Prakasha-boom.

Prakasha-Boom Gets Criminal Trial in Texas Delayed — Again
It was never a question of IF Prakashanand would pull a last-minute health crisis to evade justice for 20 counts of indecency with children in Texas: It was always a question of WHICH “health crisis” he would choose. Now we know. “Back surgery.” As reported by the Austin American-Stateman, a “doctor” in India claims that Prakashanand “shouldn’t sit for more than a half-hour at a time.”

As such, his lawyers asked the Hays criminal court for a delay, which was granted Wed.

Awwwwww. Poor guy. Darn the luck. And all he’s ever wanted was his day in court.

But, seriously, I don’t understand the problem. It’s not like he ever SAT for very long anyway. He does most of his work lying down (if you get my drift). Also, the guy flies first-class. I never have, but I’ve seen photos. Don’t you like get a bed and five-star treatment in first-class? Sounds pretty comfortable to me. Also, I’m sure the Hays County Court would have no problem bringing a bed into the courtroom. I’m just saying, there are ways around this “health problem” if you just think outside the box a little.

Curiously, for 20 years Prakashanand received the vast majority of his medical care in the United States — from dental care to neck surgery. Call me skeptical, but it just seems a tad strange that now, at this time, he would receive such major medical care in India. I mean, his “doctor” didn’t even have the wherewithal to say it was “emergency” surgery. Hmmmmmmm.

The fact is, this guy is never coming back to U.S. soil. I know it. You know it. He knows it. So let’s just end the farce: Let the Hays county court collect its $10 million bond, let Prakashanand be labeled a fugitive from justice, and let the world know he’s a lying coward.

Kripalu Shows the World His True Colors — He’s an Orange-Bellied Coward, Too
Speaking of cowards, they must run in packs: Because Kripalu showed himself to be the jagadguru of pathetic cowards.

This is actually a very sad story. If you haven’t heard, approximately 65 people died and dozens more were injured in Kripalu’s main ashram in Mangarh India this past week. They were all women and children who had gone to receive free food and handouts. The ashram had announced the event to all villagers in the surrounding area. The turnout was huge, as expected. News reports conflict a bit, but the bottomline is that Kripalu and his people did not plan for proper crowd control. Something happened to scare the crowd (either the gate collapsed or an electrical wire fell), creating a stampede. Dozens of people were crushed and some killed.

While the world’s heart was breaking for the innocent victims, Kripalu and his organization, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP), were blaming the victims.

JKP-Barana Dham in Austin Texas released a statement on Friday saying: “unruly crowd causes injuries and death.” One word: Pathetic!

Interestingly, Kripalu went into hiding two hours after the disaster, according to several news reports: “Kripalu Maharaj, whose ashram witnessed a stampede killing 63 people, fled from the complex two hours after the tragedy and is untraceable, a district official said today.”

In a telephone statement from an “undisclosed location” (who is he Vice President Cheney?), Kripalu tried to say that he never invited any of the people to his ashram. Which is, of course, ludicrous.

The ashram has claimed it is going to give some money to the victims: But it’s a pittance compared to how much they spend on cars, homes, food, and other luxuries for their own comfort and desires. It’s a disgrace that they have the nerve to call themselves a charitable organization.

The local police are hoping to lodge an FIR against Kripalu or his organization under Section 304 (A) of the IPC that covers charges of causing death due to negligence.

In a press conference yesterday Kripalu finally appeared, but said nothing: “Claiming he was ill, Maharaj appeared before mediapersons but did not answer questions fielded by them.” This is a man who normally will not shut up.

Meanwhile, his ashram spokesperson admitted Kripalu was guilty: “The spokesman of the hospital at the ashram, K.P. Singh, said God was responsible for the deaths.” Ummm, hello … Kripalu says that he himself is God!

All I can say is that the real God will bless the poor women and children — who are only the latest, and most visible, victims of this particular fake Hindu holy man. And now, at least, the world is seeing Kripalu’s true colors.

[Ed.note: Our sincere thanks to our correspondent for taking the time to put this hard-edged piece together. It's just the way we like it.]

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Kreepalu's Protegé Busted!

File under: Gurubusting, Gurus Doin' Time and Hands Where They Don't Belong

Remember "Jagadguru" Kripalu Ji Maharaj, aka Kreepalu, the gopi-grabbing Krishna impersonator who skated rape charges in Trinidad/Tobago last year? His main man at his Texas temple, Prakashanand Saraswati, just got busted for the same sort of thing, but this time with underage girls:
A Hays County grand jury indicted Saraswati, also known as Shree Swamiji, on 20 counts of indecency with a child/sexual contact earlier this month. The investigation began last August.

According to the Associated Press, Saraswati is accused of groping two girls were under 17 on several occasions between 1993 and 1996.
Get ready for another barrage by the Kreepalu Kool-Aid Brigade, a sizable force of shallow-minded followers who are sure to flood the net shouting about an imagined anti-Hindu conspiracy, the better to distract you from the possibility that these rather creepy-looking old men may have been raping and molesting in the name of Krishna for years.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seeking The Old TM™ Master Raghvendra

File under: Lost and Found Gurus

Today we received this email:


I'm a fan of your website, and was wondering whether you could assist me with a search as outlined in this article.

I met Paul Saltzman when he was in Rishikesh, and I'm keen to help him if I can. As that journalist notes, there's no trace of Raghvendra here - as he apparently fell out with the Maharishi's people and left town.

Might someone among your network still remember where he went, or is there someone who might know someone who might know something?

I've attached a few lines of context, which refer to a second guy whom Paul is trying to trace - an American called Al Bragg, who'd be roughly 70 by now. Any pointers on either of them would be gratefully received.

Thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,
Daniel Simpson
This passage describes Paul Saltzman's first meeting with the man he and Daniel are seeking, Raghvendra:
As I hung around New Delhi, not knowing what to do, I was desperate for relief. A new American acquaintance, Al Bragg, asked me if I wanted to come along to hear the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi give a talk on transcendental meditation. "I'll try anything." I said, jumping at the chance. That night, the large auditorium at New Delhi University was jam-packed, overflowing with foreigners and Indians as we squeezed in against the wall at the back. On stage, a low dais was festooned with flowers. After ten or fifteen minutes, a short, curious little man draped in white cotton, with long scraggly graying hair and beard, entered at the rear of the hall and walked down the center aisle. Close behind, twenty Westerners followed, each of them wearing colorful Indian clothes and garlands of red, white, and orange flowers around their necks. They were, it turned out, part of a group of meditators on their way to At the entrance stood a faded, yellow, wood picket-fence gate. It was locked and a man in a slightly tattered, dark blue Nehru jacket stood guard. He spoke no English but motioned to someone inside and a short young man in his early thirties, with a lovely light-brown complexion and a short, dark, trim beard came to talk to me. He introduced himself in a quiet, warm voice as Raghvendra, a disciple of the Maharishi, and asked if he could help me. I told him I had seen the Maharishi speak at Delhi University a few days before and that I'd come to learn meditation. Raghvendra was kind, but firm, "I'm very sorry but the ashram is closed because the Beatles and their wives are here, and were doing a meditation teacher's course." I had nothing to lose: "You have to teach me." I said, " I'm in a lot of emotional pain." He considered this for a moment, then said, "I will ask the Maharishi. I will send you a cup of chai, but I may not be back for two or three hours."

I thanked him, dropped my backpack to the ground, and plunked myself down. I had no idea the Beatles would be there and, at that moment, it was not good news. I spent the afternoon resting there by the gate and wrote a letter to my parents and one to my girlfriend, hoping she would reconsider. A few hours later, Raghvendra returned. Again, he was soft-spoken and kind.

"I'm sorry," he said, "the Maharishi says 'Not at the present time'."
Apparently, at some later point, Raghvendra did in fact admit Saltzman and teach him meditation. While y'all know what we think of TM™ (a laughable global domination pyramid scheme that has folks selling sand at the beach to other folks), we'd like to see Saltzman contact his guru, Raghvendra, if he is in fact still alive.

If anybody has any clues, either about Raghvendra or the American, Al Bragg, please leave a comment or contact Daniel Simpson here.