Why is truth telling so often considered courageous? Here is a dictionary definition of the word courage: “Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
In recent years, when I shared with friends that I am writing an honest book about my twenty years as personal attendant to Amma, the most frequent comment has been— “You are very courageous.” After letting out a sigh, “I guess I am,” would be my usual response.
I sigh because I know that my truth telling will test my mental and moral strength to withstand difficulty–or worse. Some will call me a liar and won’t believe one word, so as not to upset their applecart. Some will judge and wonder about my reasons for coming forward. I imagine that many will thank me for taking this so-called courageous step.
I believe there are many situations in life where the truth need not, or should not, be shared, especially if it serves no purpose and will only cause undue harm. But when one believes that certain information can benefit people and prevent them from causing harm to themselves, isn’t it your duty to speak up? For example, what if you found out that your dearest friend’s husband was not who she believed him to be, that he was a liar and having multiple affairs. Despite the initial pain your friend might experience, isn’t it in her best interest to know the truth? She may choose to live in denial—which is her right. She may turn on you—a risk you must be willing to take.
On the other hand, through the weight of this knowledge she might be able to re-evaluate her life. She can weigh the pros and cons and determine whether there is benefit from the life she is leading. She can decide whether she is willing to live a life of compromise, or if it is time to move on. Silence might be the easy way out, but would your conscience give you any peace until you spoke up?
One should not confuse honesty with being critical or judgmental. Apart from the importance of factual accuracy, much depends on one’s intention. Judgment occurs when one has an agenda, for example, if your perceptions are jaded by anger, jealousy, revenge or the like. However, if your heart is open, your conscience is clear, and you honestly believe your words will help— then this is not criticism or judgment, but truth telling.
Every child, at some point, needs to hear that Santa doesn’t exist. He is not that big old man with the white beard who places the gifts under your Christmas tree. At some point, they have to “grow up” and face reality. They are not deprived of anything. Instead, they now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the true source of their wonderful gifts. The only thing lost is the illusion.
First of all I express my thanks for your work which will save many from the clutches of God Men. Further I appreciate you for your boldness and courage to reveal the dark side of Holy men. Be this be a beacon for the generations to come.
Spiritual persons should not have any attachment for money, power and positions. If they do, then they are bound to face such troubles as these gurus are facing.
Gail Madam., Are we not confusing spirituality with morality? While i do not condone shady deals., are they not present in human mind only to resurface in this eternal drama of creation., embedded in souls? Morality really helps in having a clear conscience., to introspect., but i am afraid about spirituality connection to it.. namaste.
Dear Gail ,
Though I haven’t had an opportunity to have a word with you when you were there at the organization (wouldn’t like to mention that place as an Ashram), but have seen you several times during my visits and I do feel connected to you mebbe spiritually (in the real spiritual sense) as am a believer of GOD. My heart goes out to you, as it would for my own elder sister. I still have that old Gayatri amma in my mind.
I did go through your writing and believe me I couldn’t take my eyes of it even for a second and could feel the pain and helplessness you would have gone through then.
My love and sincere prayers are with you, and pray that you get justice and the real culprits are punished and many millions of innocent people are saved from this fraud.
Ashamed to say that spirituality is misused very easily by fooling innocent people and by taking advantage of their faith.
Be strong the way you are as Almighty will take care of you and no one can harm you if his blessings are on you.
I have not read your book nor I know much about Amma, but I would like to comment on negative effect of money, power and fame. Therefore many saints shun these. Top of it if one raises huge organization then keeping it blemish less is almost impossible. Often it is said that if one organize the truth it will also be tarnished. As organization has hierarchy, responsibility often who get such opportunity but mind is still not developed for purity of means, thought, action and speech the downfall is certain. In last of Guru Geeta there is verse – there are many gurus who take money/wealth of disciple but there are very few who will take away the miseries of disciple.
As one is very careful in professional world, he / she has to be much more careful in spiritual world. A true guru does not keep disciple attached as this is also bondage and need to be broken. A true guru makes disciple self dependent in his/her thought.
I can pray to almighty for enlightenment with or without help of teacher.
Kudos ! Gail, I wish you all the best and appreciate your courage. Though I have not read the book, can guess what you would have gone through as I was also associated with this cult for more than twenty years and have a rough insight of the situations there. People will try to bring you down but do not get disheartened.
The reason for India’s extreme backwardness in crystal clear,unless the government gets rid of these charlatans and thieves guised as godmen who have made religion a thriving enterprise i see no bright future for this country.
I guess I am still waiting for all the other people to come forward with similar stories. I smell a rat! Sorry. I want my $9 back girlfriend!
I just finished reading your memoir and I am completely blown away by your story. I met Amma and received her embrace in July 2012 in Marlborough, MA here in the U.S. I gotta say, I was clearly captivated by the pulsating atmosphere filled with harmonious music, images of her that adorned the vendor tables, the hundreds of devoted followers that stood in line to meet her and the yummy cup of Chai Tea that I had. I was deeply moved by the opening sermon or speech that one of her Swami’s shared with the crowd once the program began. When it came time for me to actually meet her six hours later, I felt a bit nervous because I felt like I was going to meet the Pope or kiss the hand of one of the many priests at my Greek Orthodox Church. Her embrace was warm and receiving. I was literally awe struck because of everything that I was told about her up until that moment. Yet, it wasn’t the spiritual awakening that I expected to experience. I liked meeting her, but it wasn’t the “it” moment for me.
A former love of mine was a devotee and a regular at the Ashram in Boylston, MA. I remember him once telling me at the beginning of our courtship that he questioned Amma’s organization. I never asked him why. He also went on her North American tour with her for two months last year. All he really had to say about that experience was that he spent way too much on his plane tickets and hotels. I’m not sure that he even got to receive an embrace from her.
He now resides in southern India and is receiving his Masters in Social Work. It is my understanding that his intention is to stay there indefinitely and live at the original Ashram where you resided for so many years. He often spoke about having to practice celibacy and hours of strict meditation and service to Ammas’ cause. I am worried about him. And now, after having read your book, I wonder what he would say if he knew your story.
He grew up with domestic violence in his family and it seems to me that he is seeking out the “family” that he never had when he was growing up. It is apparent that Amma has a following of impressionable folks that are seeking to fill the spiritual void in their lives. They look for the parent that they never had. I belief that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are born with this dignity and grace that we strive for so often in during our middle adulthood.
I recall several times when I tried to convince him that everything he sought out for was already inside of him. I was surprised with his fervent desire to attain this inner balance and peace through Amma’s teachings and her organization. I am not against the disciple/guru relationship. But what bothers me is when the guru or role model, if you will, abuses their power for his/her own advantage. That’s just messed up and dysfunctional.
I applaud your courage in coming forward and sharing your truth with the world. Hopefully, it will encourage many victims of abuse, not only from Amma’s organization, but other victims of domestic and sexual violence, to come out and not feel the toxic shame of harboring their “dirty secret.” I am also a survivor of a bit of physical abuse and plenty of verbal and emotional abuse in an alcoholic family.
Peace and blessings to you and thank you for sharing your story with us.
Love and Light,
I read your book completely.
I liked it immensely. It is a very well written book. honest to the core. I would love to see you writing many more books and help sincere seekers.
I too was closely associated with Amma and Amma’s Ashram for many years. I have mingled very closely with every one there.
I withdrew myself by observing many unwanted things happening there.
You have told all that you have written, truthfully, honestly. I knew it all to be true. Yes yes yes!
About the poisonous criticism that is being heaped on you, I can suggest this. If I were in your place, I will just watch the book do its job and would never bother to answer my critics. Truth does not require any defense. By criticizing you and the book your critics are giving free publicity to your book!!! They are making more and more people read the book!!
Congratulations Ms. Gail. You have done a great service by writing your memoirs.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
It’s only a matter of time before this fake guru gets caught in the web that she has woven around herself. Her organization has only her as the foundation and it will collapse once she gets arrested for her dealings in money and sex. All the fake gurus have met their fate in prison or untimely death. As for their “bad karma”, it will ultimately destroy them.
Dear Gail, I thank you very much for writing this book. I have watched Amma’s elevation from a simple, ignorant girl to Guru to Spiritual Master and now I see the push to make her a Goddess. It has made me uncomfortable for awhile now. Your book helped me to see what I had been quietly denying. Now, what comes next for me and others like me. Most religions such as Scientology shun people who don’t fully endorse the “dogma”. I have friends who are still devotees and who have family members who are devotees. Is there a place online perhaps where we can create a confidential support group? I would be very much interested in such a thing.
Hi Libby, here is a group you can join. You can use a pseudonym. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ex-amma/info
Yes. There are confidential support groups. I found an “Ex-Amma Group” on yahoo. I’m sure there are others. Here is the link for the one that I mentioned: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ex-amma/info
Good luck and blessings.
Libby, there is just such a support group of ex-devotees, questioning devotees, and friends and family of devotees. Join us at:
Hi Gayle…..First met Amma in 1995 and had a “transformative ecstatic experience” that happened in Ft.Flagler national park. I attributed itto being in Amma’s presence and became a devotee for 8 years until I suddenly knew it was over. Thank you very much for writing this book, painful as it undoubtedly was.
I used to see you up there on the stage and you always looked soooo tired. I wondered about you and what was going on in your mind. Where was the joy i felt? Now I know. I left her because the veils just dropped away and I felt totally unattached….from one minute to the next. She noticed, I could tell….and said Namah Shivaya like a forever good-bye. I am about to order your book realizing it contains painful horror stories. I realize now that all religions are traps for hopeful ones who desperately need to BELIEVE. They are all pyramid shaped human creations of greed and power. The “eye” being the head honchos who lead the sheep for their own benefit. Sad. But until one is ready to wake up from these pipedreams…..others can only wave goodbye.
Take care…..would love to chat one day.
In India religion is one of the biggest business. Throughout India there are thousands of fake Hindu preachers and few hundred other religion preachers. They use it only to get money. She could jump outside the square.
I am glad to see you step forward with this information. You sound sincere and well-intentioned. I am sure though that many will find your tale controversial. I hope others will step forward with their own stories to lend more credibility to yours. I am curious why you chose to not include financial information that casts further doubt on the integrity of Amma’s organization. If my memory serves me, the swami in charge of ashram accounts left around the same time as you, and he revealed some improprieties. The AIMS hospital also attracted some controversy around that time. Lately, I have seen information indicating that only a small portion of funds raised by the ashram go toward humanitarian work, despite their saying otherwise, and much of the contributed money is diverted into foreign deposit bank deposits.
Yes, that is right……it is different to tell the truth than write from the anger, hurt, hate so on. Everyone have the right to experience things themselves and come to any conclusion. Sharing is good and we should openly share our experiences and understand that there is many different experiences. What is not good is to read uterly negative, hatefull comments and figting either against or for about something. When u try to find people with who to share or hear others experiences, you often end up to meet or hear people who are either this or that side of the coin, blocking everything that does not fit to their experience or believes. Negativity and hate just serves no one. If people could just share openly and allow other people to share also, real sharing and communication would be possible. Real enquiry comes ofcourse only within.
When Sai Baba was exposed as a molester of young boys and a murderer of those who tried to speak out about his sins, the exposure did not happen by one person writing an expose. It happened by multiple victims independently sharing their firsthand knowledge. When only one person blows the whistle, it’s easy to call that person a liar. Not so easy when the same accusations are coming from many different sources.
What we need now are victims of Amma’s physical attacks to come forward and tell their stories, and other high-level ex-devotees who know about her sexual escapades, financial wrongdoing, and other misdeeds to come forward. Gail knows these people, and while they admire what she has done, they think they can get by with remaining silent. But silence makes them an accessory to the crime.
It is imperative, in the name of truth, in the name of protecting other vulnerable human beings from Amma’s lies and exploitation, that these silent witnesses come forward and share their stories with the world.
They need to do this using their real names. Any liar can write an expose using fake names and fictional characters. To distinguish ourselves as genuine, we have to do better than that. We have to put our name behind our words.
Anyone with firsthand knowledge of the atrocities Gail’s book describes has a moral obligation to come forward now. Not to do so is morally wrong. It is unconscionable.
Thank YOU, Bronte. I agree 110% on all you said.
let the truth prevail!!
rise up and do a truly good deed by helping yourself and others open their eyes.
I finished Gail’s book a few days ago and handed it on to a friend. It is a lot to digest. First, I’d say Gail is a very brave and hearty soul.
Second, Gail downplays her own strength and resourcefulness. I don’t think it really conveys to the reader, who hasn’t lived in India, the hardship of living in a backwaters, southern fishing village: the oppressive heat and humidity; no personal space or real down time; lack of nutrition; contaminated/unhealthy water; long hours in smoky/hot wood-burning kitchens; little sleep; taxing menial chores (think washing everything by hand in a bucket and/or slapping clothes against a washing stone); and add to this an oppressive and erratic guru who endlessly put Gail into no-win situations which included beatings and scoldings; then also add that she had a full hysterectomy in India with minimal recovery time and whatever that might have done to her health. Then add, an abusive, emotionally unstable swami who allegedly forced sex on her. Also add infection, mold, fungus, intestinal worms and amoebas, and tons of biting ants, poisonous spiders and so forth. Remember, it’s the tropics.
The first 100 or so pages are mostly a travelogue of her first days in Ramanashram and the early years with Amma. It is interesting and well-written. The first 2/3 of the book is basically a chronological account of late 70s to 1989. She runs into trouble with the last 1/3 which is filled with bombshells of revelations/accusations. In this section, she has clearly run out of steam with the chronological approach and writes thematic chapters which jump time frames and quickly becomes confusing and jumbled. A whole decade is squished into a short number of pages. The author clearly wanted to finish the damn book and get it out into the world, but it doesn’t do her story justice. One would hope that if she has the energy and time, she would rewrite this section.
All that said, I think she gives us, with the aid of her actual journal notes from those years, an amazing insight into the mental process of life as a disciple of a powerful guru, and the slow, accumulated spiraling of that guru into a narcissistic cult figure at the helm of a multi-million dollar, unregulated business empire. Gail describes how radiant Amma was in the early days, and how things snowballed bit by bit of giving gold and money to family members for dowries and such, into larger scale deception and possibly high-level financial fraud.
Amma now has over US $300 million parked in foreign bank accounts. See the org’s info submitted to the India gov: http://fcraonline.nic.in/fc3_verify.aspx?RCN=052930183R&by=2011-2012
It is estimated that only 5-10% of the donations make it into charitable activities, while the bulk of it goes to support her vast network of for-profit businesses, foreign bank accounts, and to enrich her family and other VIPS. Amma’s humanitarian claims are greatly exaggerated and have no reliable accounting to back them up. Let them show on a map an exact accounting for all their supposedly thousands of houses for the poor. Have them provide names and case histories for all the poor that have received free care from the AIMS hospital and prove that it actually deserves its charitable status rather than being a hoax to avoid duty on the millions of dollars worth of medical equipment donated by Western hospitals.
Perhaps out of humility, what Gail fails to do is flesh out and paint a vivid image of life at the ashram and her integral role, especially in regard to advocate for the young, Indian women in Amma’s charge. Regardless of Amma’s speech at the UN on the value of women, Amma treats the girls as second-class citizens and disregards their health and dietary needs. Unfortunately, Gail doesn’t say this in the book, but she often had to go behind Amma’s back to provide nutritional supplementation to the girls when she found many were suffering from deficiencies and strange discharges. When Amma found out, she would give Gail a trashing and stop these terrible “luxuries.”
The tragic irony is that while Amma starved, overworked, and neglected her dependents, Amma shifted assets to family members to build mansions and buy all sorts of true luxuries. One can only conclude that once a person becomes dependent on Amma, she becomes heartless and cruel under the smokescreen of loving mother and humanitarian. The “mother-stunted adult” relationship is a carefully cultivated and manipulated stratagem. Welcome to a guru with feet of clay, love of power, and huge ambition. It just goes to show that charisma and “spiritual energy” do not ensure altruistic and ethical action.
Don’t be fooled by Amma’s hugs and smiles, she will gladly take your labor, health, and money, and discard you when you no longer serve her purposes. She advocates detachment when it comes to your own well-being and interests; however, all detachment on her side goes out the window and is replaced by narcissistic obsession when it comes to what people say about her and the ashram. Amma surrounds herself with cow-towing, “yes”-men and women ruled by the doctrine of ego surrender, silencing the doubting mind, and positive thinking (think blind-faith, cultic mind-control). Yes, some people have powerful spiritual experiences around Amma, but at great cost to their own integrity and independence. It’s like the old gypsy trick–while you’re distracted, she’s busy picking your pocket. And once hooked, like an addict, you’ll keep coming back for more.
Recent decades are littered with a trail of corrupt, abusive student-teacher relationships from pedophile priests, born-again and apocalyptic prophets, to money hungry saffron-clad swamis with harems of teen age girls. Clearly, the guru system belongs to a feudal society when life was cheap and the powerless were fair game for the tyrant. If you give the individual: dignity; value; personal conscience and intelligence, the whole system crumbles. Amma’s system, like those of other authoritarian cultic leaders, is a parody of the spirituality that is needed for today’s world.
Dear Gail, Thank you for coming forward with your truth. I remember the shock and disappointment I felt when I learned of Sai Baba’s “alleged” sexual abuse of many of his male devotees, including the college youths. There was a massive ground swell to contain the allegations and their inevitable effect. It is a strange combination to find such powerful spiritual people with so many human frailties. Although I can easily read your truths and believe them to be just that, it will not keep me from recognizing the personal experiences I have had with Amma. Nevertheless, you book may well serve to keep me from harm and to remind me to trust my instincts (as I have so far). Thank you for writing it. I am sorry for the pain you have had to suffer to come to this point but I believe you are finally free to live your life as your spirit and your heart truly direct you. God bless, Michele
I am so thankful that Gail listened to her inner voice and her duty to the mankind to say the truth about this cult.
I urge everyone of you who have any experiences to voice out now on many different ways and media outlets.. the time is now. or hold your peace.
it is our duty to shine a light when it is needed for the sake of so many people who are not able to see it or hear it.
please write to your friends, family, newspaper, radio show, TV, FB pages, network with others from the cult that you have a contact with and lets even show up on cults gathering and give a flier or something. let this be a movement of many and not only Gail.
let our voices be heard. lets unite and help this dark vanish.
let real light shine in every one of us!!
Thank you for bravely speaking the truth. I look forward to reading your book!
You go, girl! I just ordered your book on Amazon and can’t wait to read it.
I admire that you have worked hard to get to a place within yourself where you are balanced and have perspective before sending it out into the world. You’ve waited 14 years before speaking up, which is unfortunate for the people sucked into the machine during that time, but completely understandable in terms of integrity and closure.
If this were just a rant by some unhinged, angry person, it could be easily dismissed. But with so much thought and care going into it, many of us with have to think deeply about our own involvement and how well it has been placed.
Congrats in your book!