Heavy Accusations Against Hugger Amma
By Hugo Stamm, 03/02/2014The Indian guru lady, who regularly visits Winterhur (Switzerland), has bashed colleagues and hoarded a fortune according to the book written by a former colleague.
Amma until now has been an icon of Indian spiritual masters. Her devotees gladly recognise her as a saint, many honour her as goddess. Her trademark: she almost daily hugs devotees in there thousands from all over the world. In the process 33 million believe that in this way they will be guided to divine energy. The Amma scent in Switzerland takes us to Flaach, a centre where the mistress regularly visits the Eulach Hall in Winterhur. Every year thousands of pilgrims arrive and hope to experience a higher level of consciousness.
For decades the holy hugger, who has built social services in the Indian federal state of Kerala, seemed untouchable. But now she has lost her halo. A book scratches the myth of the pure and good Guru lady and leads the reader behind the scenes of the huge spiritual empire of Mata Amritanandamayi, known as Amma, mother. Now the Amma scene is in uproar for the author was one of their own, even a cult figure: the Australian Gail Tredwell alias Gayatri was around for 20 years the right hand of Amma and constantly by her side, as the intimate acquaintance of the spiritual mistress.
The title of the book is “Holy Hell”, as Tredwell calls the Amma Ashram. Over 320 pages the author tells her story and bravely reveals that for years she naively honoured and helped Amma, guarded her secrets and defended her against ennemies.
Aggressive MistressAfter her escape from the Ashram the author brought to light her revelations. It took a few years however, while she recovered from the experiences, to commence writing. Her experiences lie in the past, however her accusations share a basic character. These now cast a high wave into the worldwide spiritual scene.
Tredwell transmits the picture of an authoritarian, opportunistic and aggressive woman, who also sometimes physically mistreated her closest companions. She herself was beaten in a fit of rage because of a trivial matter, scratched to draw blood and bitten. As well as the beatings of Tredwell, who was dubbed by Amma as a spiritual mistress Swamini Amritaprana, experienced the pain of emotional abuse.
Tredwell scratched out the myth that Amma as a divine incarnation led a blemishless life, as she herself emphasises. She has secret sex with several of her closest swamis, although these monks have dedicated themselves to celibacy, the book states. Tredwell, who lived next to Amma’s room, had seen the swamis coming and going in the night. Furthermore she had found clear evidence of Amma’s love life. That she had also taken a lover herself.
Sexual AbuseThe author accuses the highest swami of Amma of sexual abuse. He has several times raped her (Tredwell) “under the eyes of Amma” and even directly next to her bed, while she slept – apparently in her divine and holy state and under her all-knowing protection. But she decided not to tell Amma.
She didn’t think to accuse the rapist, because she would have endangered the image of the holy Ashram. She also considered, “if she brought the rape to light, she herself would be the one to suffer”, she writes. For in Indian culture western women are considered to have few morals. “I was afraid of being thrown out of the Ashram and of no longer being able to serve Amma.” Consequently she suffered not only emotionally, but also physically: one night the Swami beat her.
Gail Tredwell believed that Amma knew about the abuse. As the all-knowing incarnation of the divine mother she would have to have known. Such experiences sowed Tredwell’s doubt about Amma’s divine inspiration. For two decades she faithfully served the holy hugger seven days a week around the clock, even putting her own health at risk. Like so many other devotees, she also brought part of her personal fortune. “I was for many years a mule,” summarises Tredwell.
Gold Hidden in an Esky (coolbox)The author also demolishes the image of Amma as a giving and selfless saint. Amma attracted gold and gold jewellery like a magnet and her treasure chest is constantly overflowing, writes Tredwell. The closest colleagues spent donations overseas on gold jewellery and smuggled it into India under monk’s robes. The valuables were handed over to Amma’s nine family members, who are famously rich. Tredwell describes further, how the gold jewellery and cash were delivered to family members from the Ashram – hidden in an esky.
100 million in the bank accountAmma is also implicated. Rich and generous donors, who delivered $100,000 or more, were given special treatment and had the red carpet rolled out for them, writes the Australian. All believed that the donation would be used for social work, but many donations were delivered directly to Amma’s nine family members.
These allegations raise basic questions about the governance of the stream of donations that in the course of a year grew to a flood of 100 million Swiss Francs. Already during the last visits of Amma to Winterhur in the previous October the “Tages Anzeiger/Daily Advertiser” revealed that Amma had hoarded in a bank account a good 100 million Swiss Francs donated the previous year. While she tirelessly hugged her devotees, the 60-year-old Indian explained to the “Tages Anzeiger” that the money was being kept in reserve because she didn’t know how much longer she would be able to conduct the fundraising hugging tours.
Amma Devotees Defend ThemselvesSince the publication of “Holy Hell” all hell has broken loose in Amma’s Ashram. On Internet forums Amma devotees and swamis mount full frontal attacks on Tredwell and put forth critical information. They doubt the physical health of the author and believe she suffers from false memories and delusions. As a small child they allege Tredwell was traumatised and suffers from “bad memories”. Furthermore she is alleged to be confused and full of hatred. She has written the book to get rich.
As a consequence Amma’s people defend themselves. The Swiss esoteric magazine “Tracks” experienced attacks from Amma devotees when they published an interview with Gail Tredwell. After receiving threats the magazine took the interview off the Internet.
Reaction of Amma“It’s all false”
When the TA contacted the Amma Administration regarding the revelations in the book they were put in touch with an American lawyer.
Amma has also engaged a German lawyer who warned the TA about spreading false accusations. In a letter he wrote:
“We caution you, that according to our client Amma, allegations such as sexual contact with swamis, misuse of donations, and alleged violence by Amma against her assistants categorically never took place. Colleagues of Amma have neither bought gold jewellery with donations, nor smuggled it to India, nor given it to her family, neither has our client Amma, stood over or beaten her colleagues, nor ever entertained sexual contact with several swamis. Should you publish these allegations of Tredwell without attaching this advice in your report and without expressly and clearly distancing yourself from these accusations and stating such comments as untrue facts you could be legally forbidden from further publication.”