Meeting Amma (The Hugging Saint)

You may have heard of Amma also called The Hugging Saint. I just got a hug from her in Penang, Malaysia. Is she a true spiritual master or just another fake Indian guru? In this post I'll share my personal experiences with you.

Amma or Ammaji was born into an underprivileged family in southwestern India. According to her organization Amritanandamayi, Amma was full of compassion already as a child and began to hug strangers, in a loving way.

Asians are known to be really conservative, so the hugging obviously goes against Indian tradition. What is more, being a female guru and from a poor background makes Amma even more unique.

Amma promotes compassion and motherly love. Her organization runs a large number of charity projects in India and other countries. The charity is chiefly funded by donations from her followers.

Reflections On Amma

The first time I heard of Amma was around 2000. Since then, I've read a number of articles and watched videos from her worldwide gatherings. So, is she a true spiritual master?

Some blog posts are critical while others praise her like a divine being. Before meeting Amma, there were three things that particularly drew my attention:

- In the videos Amma struggles to answer questions and teach. Her body language also suggests that she has some difficulty expressing herself. Whilst a spiritual master or enlightened person enjoys a crystal clear understanding of truth and reality, which makes the teachings flow naturally.

- It's common that fake gurus smile a lot, while genuine masters focus on being present or mindful. This is something many novice spiritual seekers are unaware of.

- Finally, when I connected with Amma during meditation I could not sense any divine presence, which triggered an alarm. While connecting with someone like Eckhart Tolle is a beautiful experience.

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Meeting Amma

I arrived at the Penang International Sports Arena just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon. In the end, the venue filled up to about 85% of its capacity. There weren't many spiritual seekers around. More so, the crowd seemed to be mostly families with children or elderly.

My intention was to be mindful throughout the event to see what spiritual energies I could pick up on or sense. As Amma entered at 7 o'clock, it had no affect on the mental energy in the arena.

My seat was about 30 meters from the stage. Between 7-11 o'clock there were a number of formal introductions, speeches, a talk by Amma, live music and a guided meditation. Non of these activities raised the mental energy to refined levels.

For comparison, during meditation retreats you're virtually bathing in spiritual energy. A handful of intermediate meditators can easily build up vibrant group energy without the support of a teacher or an enlightened master. In short, meditation generates a lot of mental energy which in turn fuels spiritual growth.

In 2001, I met a highly respected Buddhist monk named Ajahn Sumedho at his monastery outside of London, UK. His presence was gentle yet divine. For hours afterwards, it felt like a sunrise in my abdomen. A pure mind makes for a divine presence...

Anyhow, the hugging started a few minutes after 11 and about three hours later Amma gave me a warm hug. Even when I was standing just a meter away, I still couldn't sense her energy. Touching Amma didn't change anything.

Amma most definitely offers comfort to her devotees and I'm certain that her charity projects are making a difference in the world. However, in my eyes Amma is not a spiritual master.

Best of luck!

Related:   Spiritual Doubt   Spiritual Practice   Spiritual Seekers

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