Insider Vs. Outsider Doctrine Of The Hugging Saint
All cults have different levels of truth. “Outsider doctrine” refers to information and “truths” which are told to the general public. Complementary to this “outsider doctrine” is “insider doctrine” which is revealed to members alone and then usually only gradually as they attain status. For example, the outsider doctrine of the Scientologists is that their organization works for mental health and human potential. The insider doctrine includes belief in past lives on other planets and other unusual beliefs. The reason for this separation of doctrine in cults is that it would be impossible to recruit if people knew what the organization really was about. -Ken Ragge
The media image of the “hugging saint” is an entirely different story than the one that begins to reveal itself once an even moderate indoctrination into the cult occurs. Throughout the media and the various propaganda materials of the Mata Amritanandamayi mission, we are presented with the image of a tireless humanitarian, a living saint, and a compassionate woman who spends her days doling out hugs free of charge and establishing charities. Within the cult, Ammachi is worshipped as a living God, an omnipresent guru, and the embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness. Devotees believe she is intervening in their daily affairs and controlling even the smallest details of their lives. Bhajans are sung in praise of Mata Amritanandamayi, a living incarnation of God. She is often referred to as the direct reincarnation of Krishna, the Goddess Kali, and Jesus Christ. Ammachi has also allegedly claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. To view a conversation in which devotees profess their belief in Ammachi as the reincarnation of Christ, read the following thread:
Needless to say, these red flags of cult behavior never make it into the television and newspaper reports. The reason for this is not mere oversight on the part of reporters, but rather a result of the deliberate manipulation of the media by the cult and a lack thus far of investigative reporting into its activities. All media interviews are conducted with pre-selected devotees who are presented with a sheet outlining the details of what types of discussions are forbidden. Devotees are dissuaded from discussing the devotional aspects of the cult, and are encouraged to only discuss the humanitarian activities of the mission. Photography and video of any kind are not permitted during any programs or retreats, and only selected press are granted interviews. When it is known that the media will be present, Devi Bhava items are removed from the Ammachi shop. It seems that the concern over Devi Bhava arises from the protective measures the cult takes against revealing the fact that Ammachi is worshipped as God. Understandably, the public would be much more wary of cult activity if these facts were revealed in the recruitment propaganda. The focus is steadily held on the humanitarian and charitable activities of the group, and it isn’t until one begins to immerse themselves further that the cult aspects come into play.
” Devotees call this ‘Krishna,’ ‘Devi,’ …..according to their faith. Amma is none of these, and at the same time she is everything. But she is also beyond. The entire universe exists as a small bubble within her.” - Amma (Awaken, Children Vol. VII p. 107)
Devi Bhava is an elaborate ceremony in which Ammachi dresses up as a goddess, with robes and a sparkling crown. DevI Bhava translates to “Mood of the goddess”. Devotees believe that during this time, she is literally possessed by God/Goddess. Unassuming members of the public wander in and out of the hall receiving darshan, but they do not understand the full meaning of the ceremony in which they are taking part. Only the interior circle knows that this ceremony is one that worships Ammachi herself. During the Devi Bhava ceremony, devotees believe they are in the presence of a living Goddess.
“The press is only invited during regular hugging sessions. The press is never allowed in on Devi Bhavas, because there is concern that the image of Amma in Devi Bhava garb is in conflict with that of the humanitarian in the white sari. During “regular” days when the press comes, most Devi Bhava photos are removed from the Amma shop. When the press seeks out devotees to interview, they are hand-selected. Usually, they are the same people all of the time. Most of the time, they are actually part of Amma’s press team, yet they are referred to as “devotees” since that is, technically, correct.
People are advised before being interviewed not to talk about their “devotion to Amma”, but to instead focus on talking about her “humanitarian activities.” These are just some of the ways that the media is wrangled to keep up the pristine image of the group.” –Anonymous Ex-Devotee
There are several tactics the cult uses to assure that the focus on humanitarian activities is the only thing the public is initially privy to. As mentioned in the above excerpt, while Devi Bhava is open to the public, it is not something that the group advertises. Reporters and press interviews are never allowed on Devi Bhava days. Photos of Ammachi wearing the Devi Bhava costume are banned from the Internet, and devotees who display them online are promptly contacted by the organizations lawyers and told to remove them.
Devi Bhava photos are banned from the Internet. I know this for a fact because I was contacted by the ashram lawyers last year regarding Amma photos on my personal devotional blog to Amma. I was informed in no uncertain terms that to use photos of my guru on a devotional blog constituted copyright violation. I believe others who kept devotional blogs were advised against it as well.
As for the Devi Bhava photos, several of us were contacted by Jnani, Amma’s photographer. It was explained to us that the reason was because newcomer Westerners may not understand why Amma wears a crown and it may deter them from accepting Amma. It was explained that some may think “Who does this woman think she is in a crown?” and that by restricting Devi Bhava photos, that potential could be avoided. Jnani also informed us that this was a direct order from Amma herself. –Ex-Devotee testimony as posted in the Ex-Amma Yahoo Group.
Another brief article on the Devi Bhava photo ban can be seen here: http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2007/01/ammachi-gets-greedy.html
The primary bhajan sung by devotees during the DevI Bhava ceremony, translated to English is:
O Mother, Mother, dear Divine Mother, Goddess of the Universe, Giver of food to all creatures, Thou art the Primal Supreme Power.
Everything in the world happens because of Your Divine Play.
Protect me Mother, o Mother, protect me… without conceivung in the womb, You have given birth to millions and millions of beings.
O Sister of Lord Vishnu who rides the bird Garuda, o Beautiful One, from birth itself I am singing Your glories. Thou art the Perfect One, Primordial Cause, the Destroyer…
Thou art my life’s goal, o Mother. Ignore me not, o Goddess of the World. Thou art the Goddess Lalita, Ruler of the World. O Mother, if Thou throwest me into troubles again and again, who else is there to protect me? O Mother with the enchanting eyes, Thou art the Omnipresent Witness of all.
The fact that the truth behind Devi Bhava is kept from the public is only a small indicator of the various tactics the organization uses to maintain a public image of a humble humanitarian instead of a cult leader who allows herself to be worshipped as an incarnation of God. The gap between insider and outsider doctrine runs deep and gradually moves many people from followers of a humanitarian saint to hysterical cult members who believe Amma sees and hears their every move and word. This is accomplished by a myriad of classic brainwashing methods that progress over time as one moves from casual observer, to free program attendee, to someone who attends retreats in every city.
Take for example the following quote by Amma recorded at a recent retreat during the question and answer session:
““AMMA IS AWARE OF YOUR MENTAL STATES ALL THE TIME- REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU ARE PRAYING TO HER OR NOT AT THAT POINT”
These types of messages would never be relayed during a regular public program, and certainly would never be part of an interview with the press. It is assumed that if you are a paying retreat registrant, then you are at a stage where these messages will not be viewed as cultish or strange. This masterfully manipulated game is one where you become privy to more and more brainwashing techniques the closer you get and the more time and money you invest in the group. It is at this point that new devotees will begin to immerse themselves in the various propaganda such as books, cds, mantra books and dolls made in Amma’s image. Again, the books hold different messages than the initial propaganda that is presented to newcomers. In the books you will find countless references to Amma’s god status, as well as quotes and teachings from Amma that would never be shared with the public or press. Were these messages to be shared in the recruiting materials, the group would have been the subject of cult investigators many years ago. The books and magazines are a dangerous blend of seemingly harmless teachings about love and selflessness and parables mixed with classic brainwashing, fear-based, and cult indoctrination techniques.
“Only those who are willing to stay on, in spite of even being beaten and killed, will progress. A bramachari has to carry the whole world on his shoulders, so he should not be weakened by little things. I will really shake my children up. Those who desire only Self-realization will stay, the others will leave.” -Amma (As excerpted from Eternal Wisdom, Vol. I)
“Children, always remember that when Mother says something it should not be taken lightly. It is the supreme that makes Her speak. Whatever She says must come to pass either in the near or distant future because Her words are not Her own but are that of the Lord.” –Amma (As excerpted from Awaken Children Vol. II)
“ A disciple will serve the Guru with the attitude that the Guru should not even know that he is serving him. That is the duty of a true disciple. Seva or service means obedience. Obedience means self-surrender. Self-surrender means giving up one’s own ego, the feeling that “I am doing and I must get the fruit of it.” A true disciple will be ready to sacrifice all of his comforts and even his body to serve the Guru.” -Amma (As exerpted from Awaken Children Vol II)
Of all of the lies that the organization feeds the media and public, one of the most nefarious is the frequently repeated suggestion that “Amma makes no claims.” One wonders how such outright lies can be told, when it is clear to even a casual observer that Amma does nothing but make claims and allow claims to be made for her. Even in the press and propaganda materials, it is often hinted that Amma has performed miracles and healed people of all manner of physical and emotional ailments. She allows dolls to be made and worshipped in her image, allows ritual worship of herself, and directly feeds the brainwashing recruitment of her devotees.
It is imperative that the truth be shared regarding the large discrepancies between insider and outsider doctrine. Because the media and press stories are so tightly manipulated, and alternative views are consistently thwarted by the organization, many people unassumingly find themselves wrapped into the cult before even knowing what hit them. The initiation begins with the presentation of Amma as a humble humanitarian and a compassionate mother figure and saint who doles out hugs. The focus zooms in on the various charitable and humanitarian aspects of the group, in an effort to boost fundraising. As one moves further into the inner circle, Amma is revealed as God in human form, an incarnation of Christ, and an overseer of the lives of all of those who devote themselves to her. Devotees will often abandon their families, careers and very selves in an effort to surrender their souls to Amma and gain spiritual “liberation”. This conversion of the curious public program attendee into brainwashed cult member is at the very heart of this organization. It is a carefully planned and manipulated process, which the media has fed into and perpetuated since the group first began visiting the Unites States in the 1980s. It is time for the truth to be told, for people to have access to alternative views, and for the resources to be made available so that people may make an informed decision.
To witness firsthand the results of the cults indoctrination, it would be worth your time to peruse the postings of diehard devotees at the following message boards:
We Love Ammachi: http://ammachi.tribe.net/
Ammachi Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Ammachi/