(The following blogs were earlier published in a different blog which has since been removed by me)
The phenomena of godmen has grown enormously recently in India. Eventhough India has alway been a haven for godmen, the modern communication facilities such as Cable Television and Internet have helped them to extend their reach and influence to a much larger circle. Earlier we had a Saibaba or a Mahesh Yogi who made it into the big league. Now we have Sri Sri Sri....Ravi Shankar who held sway over the spirituality mongers for some time recently. It seems his glamour has also taken a beat because of overexposure. The Mata Amritanandamayi of Kerala seems to have got the upperhand amoung these goden especially after her highly publicised 50th birthday hangama, "Amrithavarsham" in which even the "scientist" APJ Abdulkalam,president of India, participated. The presence of such bigwigs gives an additional publicity to these crooks. In addition to this, western followers from Europe and United States give an additional glamour to them. Huge donations from western devotees are being pumped into their ashrams. Incidents of criminal activities have been reported from many of these ashrams.
Dissent is not just allowed in their ashrams, which is understandable. What is not is, the physical threats from their devotees against anybody who speaks against them. An example is that of the eminent writer in Malayalam,Paul Zacharia, who is threatend by the followers of Amrithanadamayi and Hindu Fascism. (Details are available here.) Even the government of Kerala is taking a hostile attitude towards people who speak out against her. The government has recently given permission to prosecute the author of a book titled Amrithanandamayi - Divine stories and realities, which in detail exposed this semi-literate godwomen and her followers.
An article published recently in the Malayalam publication Yukthirekha about the author's encounter with her about a decade back is published here with some slight amendments.
In the year 2003 the devotees of Amruthananda Mayi celebrated her 50th birth anniversary as 'Amrutha Varsham', the literal translation of which is 'the year of Amrutha'. A very large number of people from various walks of life wasted their valuable time and energy to express their devotion to this more or less illiterate woman. Well-known writers and politicians penned pure nonsense and got them published in established journals. Their clout over the media definitely helped them to publish these articles which otherwise would have been summarily rejected by any editor with commonsense.
I had an occasion to see this woman from close quarters and witness how she grants her famed 'darshan' to her devotees. This woman visited the city of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat (now notorious for the anti-Muslim pogrom unleashed by Hindu fanatics in the year 2002) in late 1989 or early 1990 along with her close devotees. She was not as popular then as she is today. Since I have always been highly sceptical about everything called miraculous, I decided to have a close look at this woman who was increasingly gaining popularity.
When I reached the house where she was giving her darshan, I saw a small gathering of people outside the house. Some people were standing in line to get her darshan. The devotees were approaching her one by one whom she would keep her on her lap for a few seconds and pat on their back. She said nothing and did nothing else.
Since I could not focus my attention to this darshan for long, I decided to come out and wait outside until she starts giving her talk, 'prabhashanam'. On the veranda, photographs depicting her in various poses were displayed prominently for sale. I found it laughable to see a photograph in which she was shown wearing a harmless python around her neck and a crown on her head. I just can not figure out even today what her image builders and public relation managers had in their mind.
After giving her trademark darshan, it was announced that she would be giving her talk. I went back and waited to listen to her. To my surprise, she did not utter even a word apart from the chanting of devotional songs during her entire talk. In fact, even the chanting consisted of just a single word, 'Narayana', the name of a Hindu god. Her unquestioning devotees were fooled by a well-rehearsed drama, a pantomime to be precise.
This was the way it was performed, its modus operandi. She would start her prabhashanam with the chanting of 'Narayana..Narayana' for a few minutes after which she would for a second mumble something to her saffron-clad male assistant in his ears. This completely inaudible exercise would be followed by a lengthy talk by this assistant who would inform the assembled devotees that they were the words of the revered Amma imparted to him only a second before! In what compressed format did she deliver her message to her assistant? I still do not know. As I could not stand this drama for long, I left the place soon. Is it not criminal on my part to waste my precious time after this?
It is entirely possible that she did not say anything on that occasion because she was amongst a group of people who spoke a language other than Malayalam, the only language she was familiar with. On such an occasion it would have been gracious on her part to admit that she could not communicate in their language and then kept quiet rather than enacting this drama. Of course, this is too much to expect from anybody who claims fraudulently that he or she has divine powers.
If the crookedness of these self-proclaimed god- men and women are self-evident to me, a person with an average intellect, why is it not so for thousands of others who are thronging to these crooks? These followers are not necessarily ordinary people. Among them one finds individuals with high academic qualifications who have accomplished a lot in their own specialised fields. But when it comes to faith and religion, it seems they lose their balance, become meek followers and go back to whatever they imbibed in their childhood. They expect absolute certainty in their personal life and anything unexpected unsettles them. They become attracted towards anybody who promises solace in such a situation - religious priests, gurus, astrologers, soothsayers, television evangelists, it does not matter to them. If astrology fails, seek a guru. If one guru fails, seek another one. Freeze your rationality forever