From an American devotee - 16 January 2014
If Amma were concerned about people in an empathetic way, she would make sure there were benevolent funds at each of her centers to help not just current but former renunciates and ashramites.
In practice, there is a cultic insider/outsider mentality, so the ex-people are seen as bad and wrong for leaving the group. A person who actually cares about individuals would bless those that leave--yes, happily they have grown and strengthened enough to leave "the hospital." Instead, there is an uproar about faith and loyalty.
If it were an organization based on love and caring, the emphasis would be on empowering the individual, not in making them dependent and involved in group-think and the shutting down of rational faculties.
The PR about Amma and the organization is all about compassion. And the basis of compassion is empathy. I have seen Amma mirror a lot of emotions--the person cries, so Amma cries; they smile, Amma smiles, and so forth. However, I do not know that I have seen Amma display her affections and concern for a person out of true empathy. Especially in early stages of the relationship with her, Amma showers some people with a lot of affection (whom she draws into her ashrams and institutions), but I wonder how much of that is due to calculation and how much is due to real concern for that individual. I wonder because she is able to turn it on and off at will, and that the appearance of things seems so different than what is practiced on a day to day basis.
There is much talk about helping the poor, but I personally witnessed a lone, starving woman chased out the ashram gate by one of Amma's bramachari's when I was trying to get her a meal token. I still remember the flaccid quality of her forearm muscle as I led her to the kiosk. Her body was literally devouring itself. The bramachari was one of the competent, intelligent ones--not in his typical character to act like a brutal moron--and yet he jumped up from his chair and ran her off. My experience is that the Indian inmates don't think for themselves and that this guy was just following Amma's orders.
This was not an isolated incident. These things happen a million different ways around Amma. One time I was walking on the Amritapuri campus with a European woman who had terminal cancer and had been granted permission by Amma to die at the ashram. An ashram official marched up to us and broke into our conversation. She declared that if this dying woman wanted to move to a ground-floor flat, she would have to pay another $20,000! (She was a donor of a flat a couple floors up and they wanted her to buy a new flat for that priviledge.) We were both shocked. The official stomped off in a self-righteous huff. That sort of thing can only come from Amma, and this person was Amma's loyal messenger. This devotee was dying of cancer, and by all appearances the organization could only think about how to get more money out of her. (However, later my friend said they didn't make her pay it—-maybe because I was a witness?)
True, there are people helped by Amma, myself included. But it is a very complex story, and Amma is a very complex person.
Answer from Manju - 17 January 2014
You are correct. If Amma were concerned about people in an empathetic way, if she were compassionate enough, she would make sure there were enough fund at each of her branches to help the poor and not just current but former renunciates and ashramites. Many of us have been there for many years, worked hard and hard and hard....day and night....many times even without food, sleep, health.... for her ....and when we decide to leave, not even a single penny she gave. Many struggled a lot to survive at the beginning after leaving the org.
The strange thing is ....instead of helping, they deny the deserving....for example.....a girl who was a teacher at Amrita Vidyalayam (Ashram school) resigned the school after 12 years. She was a big devotee and her two sisters were ashramites. Though she was never an inmate, she worked hard like an inmate for these 12 years for the school. But after resigning when she requested for gratuity (which is a legal payment for the employees) they denied it. As she was highly in need of money she approached labour court. The great compassionate people of the ashram are trying to argue that she didn’t work there for 12yrs etc......to reduce or deny the amount. The total amount for 12 yrs will be approximately Rupees one lakh or so. Last 3 or 4 years they are lagging the case. The advocate fee for these 4 yrs would have been enough to pay her.....But still the case is going on....when I heard this I felt ashamed being there as an inmate.....serving her for years......