The below letter from Santoshi, former moderator of Ex Amma Yahoo Group copied here in verbatim, is addressed to all of Amma’s children and spiritual aspirants everywhere.
Some years ago, I made a long list of allegations about Amma and her ashram on the Ex Amma forum. Over time, I have come to realize that these allegations were not based in fact but were really projections of my own inner negativities. At that time, I also misrepresented facts and altered the record to justify my leaving. I have gone through a long process of introspection, and I feel it is important for me to set the record straight. I apologize for writing so much here. Back then, I wrote a lot of untruths and misinterpretations. Now I feel it is important for me to address them individually.
Even though I wrote at the time that I had been with Amma for seven years, the truth is that I was with Amma for less than 6 months a year for those 7 years (approximately 6 weeks on us tour and 3 or 4 months in Amritapuri). The time spent there was full of compassionate grace flowing toward me as I was easily provoked to irritation and found it hard to relax. Amma was very patient with me and even showed me a lot of attention like a doctor cares for her most critical patient. This encouragement helped my devotion to the goal grow but simultaneously strong destructive pride grew and I thought I was special. Not understanding this, I continued to act impetuously and ultimately left, misconstruing all that occurred.
“I tried to give my claims credibility by saying that I was in close with Amma’s inner circle. But that was not true. I definitely wasn’t close, in fact I was only jealous of how distant I was.”
I tried to give my claims credibility by saying that I was in close with Amma’s inner circle. But that was not true. I definitely wasn’t close, in fact I was only jealous of how distant I was. I didn’t see the connection between my behavior and my distance. I couldn’t even do the simplest mental tasks, like stopping criticism and enmity towards others when they arise. Of course, I remained out on the perimeter. One wouldn’t let a wild animal in the house as it would tear the place apart and might hurt someone.
At the same time, I went out of my way to criticize Amma’s inner circle as programmed and spineless. Actually, those closest to Amma are the most inspirational. Each has so many virtues. All the swamis are very kind and equanimous. They are approachable and give solace to many.
I perceived the respect shown to Amma as being spineless, this just shows my egocentricity. Loving respect and regard are essential for loosening the grip the ego has. The ego wants to see Amma as equal but if you have the fortune to see a fraction of Amma’s true being then it is quickly apparent that you are not equal. Despite knowing this my savage ego still tries to assert itself. By cultivating respect and regard this is subdued, I think. It’s hard to let go of something that got me through my impacted childhood. I am really sorry for all the harm it has caused.
I wrote then that Amma’s ashram is a mind-controlling cult. At that time I was referring to what I perceived as sleep deprivation. The truth is, Amma doesn’t force anyone to stay awake, they do so voluntarily in their selfless service. Most find it rewarding to overcome slight physical difficulties in order to try to alleviate the suffering of so many others, whose physical difficulties vastly exceed that of not getting 8 hours sleep.
“The truth is Amma doesn’t use force at all. She lives by example, sacrificing herself physically, constantly working to uplift poor”
As for mind control, that implies force as well. The truth is Amma doesn’t use force at all. She lives by example, sacrificing herself physically, constantly working to uplift poor, and always with awareness and demonstrating the proper attitude of deep respect and reverence to the God that resides in all. People are inspired by these qualities and want to emulate her and She provides a means for anyone to do so. There is no force or requirements so it cannot be called mind-control.
I had also written that it was very difficult to undo the neural connections to Amma after I left. I wrote this because after leaving, I found myself frequently thinking about Amma and being upset at this constant remembrance, as I had decided I was finished. Instead of just leaving quietly and processing calmly my feelings, like someone stable would do, I feel I wrote all these confused posts in an effort to sever the connection completely, the way an arson sets fire to something they no longer wish to see.
I also wrote that people divorce their real parents for Amma. But this is not true. I think almost all Ashram residents have a normal loving relationship with their parents, who may have been skeptical at first, but upon meeting Amma and learning more, realize the value of leading a life devoted to humanity. To put it simply, I had a very traumatic childhood, so I projected my own life when I said this. I feel sometimes people may be in negative, unhealthy relationships with parents or partners when they come to Amma. When around someone with such clear awareness and total freedom from suffering, it acts like a medicine and we are able to correct these unhealthy bonds or if necessary sever them, in order to free ourselves from the self-inflicted torture of grasping to some other confused, suffering fellow traveller.
“The dolls are made for children but some adults buy them as well. Actually, the number of adults who walk around with them in the US and India can be counted on one hand.”
Another criticism I made at that time was that grown adults walked around clutching Amma dolls like pacifiers. The dolls are made for children but some adults buy them as well. Actually, the number of adults who walk around with them in the US and India can be counted on one hand. The children play games with these dolls like they would with a GI Joe or Barbie, the difference being that instead of war and dress up, the games are re-enactments of what they see Amma doing: embracing. They talk to the dolls like children talk to teddy bears. In my opinion the dolls are used by adults as a holy image, and as such, are just a mental prop. Like a candle flame or a picture, the goal is to pull the mind out of its turmoil and concentrate it, so it can then go on to higher states.
At that time I also made a blanket statement that there is no meaningful dialogue possible with Amma, only authoritarian commands. But I personally never received any authoritarian commands. These are imagined. If I never had a meaningful dialogue with her it is my own fault due to my lack of calm and emotional stability. I was angry that I never had a meaningful talk with Amma and so I made this up. Many westerners have meaningful talks with Amma, as they are mature enough. For me at that time, a wild, rebellious animalistic child, there was not much she could say. It’s like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a two year old, they just don’t have the capacity to understand. Anyway, the teachings are all there. I needed to apply myself. What use is there in asking Amma to repeat these lessons after she tirelessly gives discourses and there are numerous books? It was only my selfishness which always craved for more of Amma’s attention.
“It is well known that Amma came from a fishing village and lowest caste, this may cause some with no understanding to believe that she is just after money. If this were the case she would enjoy more luxury but she has no interest in pleasures of any sort. She only wishes to uplift people from their ignorance.”
After trying to depict myself as part of Amma’s inner circle, I described Amma as nothing but an ignorant, bamboozling village girl. This was said in anger and spite. Looking back, I can’t even believe how personal my attacks got. I reached low for this and other comments. It is well known that Amma came from a fishing village and lowest caste, this may cause some with no understanding to believe that she is just after money. If this were the case she would enjoy more luxury but she has no interest in pleasures of any sort. She only wishes to uplift people from their ignorance. Be they wealthy and saturated in constant over-stimulus and feelings of complacency or be they poor and unable to contemplate the ultimate nature of reality, even if they were so inclined because they are overwhelmed by suffering. Amma is donating money and building homes and schools for them, the proof of that is there. And while its public information that Amma received little in formal education due to her parents decision, and is from a fishing village, we can see that Amma manages the activities of a staggering number of institutions, composes penetrating speeches, is the spiritual guide for tens of thousands (intimately knowing their past and disposition and instructing them accordingly), all while giving darshan for over 9 hours a day and still managing to stop and pick up trash for three hours in front of her ashram in Calcutta. This is just a portion of what she is doing physically. Mentally she is doing so much more. I can’t really describe it without borrowing some terms I read, so I won’t.
At the time I wrongly stated that Amma makes fun of all types of people, i.e. hippies, fat people, and gays. But the fact is that this isn’t true. I believed it at the time but looking back, there is no basis. Amma always encourages us to have compassion for others no matter what their appearance. People are what they are due to causes and conditions and they are struggling like me for release.
At that time, I wrote that people in the ashram are unhealthy. But again, this is not true. Most people are healthy and there is plenty of variety food wise. If people choose to over eat and not keep their spine flexible then they choose suffering and invite disease. Some people come unhealthy and try to cleanse. The ashram has a wide range of activities and is not simply a yoga studio, it is for everyone, all ages and everyone is doing what they want to do and eating what they choose to eat.
Likewise, though I said that the air and water is bad, the reality is that the air quality is not a fraction as bad as any city but is not as pure as some place hundreds of miles from civilization. People were burning trash, as India has no governmental waste management. I had a problem with that but even then Amma had a waste management system in place in which absolutely nothing was landfill and now it has only improved. The drinking water is filtered and clear.
I wrote that I witnessed a young girl die from malnutrition. But the truth is that I know that girl ate well because I ate dinner with her and her family. She was healthy and my dear friend. We had many sweet experiences together with Amma. I was deeply angered by her death which happened after I left (so I have no idea what even happened). I felt it was unfair and blamed Amma. I am deeply sorry for the comments I made about her as everyone was suffering so much already, especially to her family.
“I also wrote that Amma makes predictions of cataclysms to come and the worldly people not in ashram will perish. But this is not true. Amma never made any such claims.”
I also wrote that Amma makes predictions of cataclysms to come and the worldly people not in ashram will perish. But this is not true. Amma never made any such claims. In fact she has said that the world will not be destroyed one fine day and that we should be more concerned about natural disasters than nuclear bombs. Amma simply never said that ashram residents will be spared from any calamity. I was confused and afraid as I was always obsessed with understanding the plan of the world rulers. I projected this fear onto Amma. I read in an online pdf of the Vedas, which were written so many thousands of years ago, that in this yuga, the kings will all be thrown out and the people will come forward to rule themselves. Then the entire world will be united into one government. Then eventually there would be a great war. But I never heard Amma never speak on any of these subjects.
At that time, I said that people want out but have no life skills, no friends, no contacts, no money to do so. But his is not true at all. The people in the ashram want to be there and many have made tremendous sacrifices in order to do so. Others go for a time and sadly leave, eagerly work to earn money to return. Most people couldn’t be happier there as it is a rare place on earth where you can completely practice all the yamas and niyamas. Your transportation is your feet and you don’t have to rush around all day like mad to get your senses gratified. You can relax and soak in the vibrations in the atmosphere, which are chanting and not desperate, survival-stress vibes of a city. So in short, people are thrilled to be there even if they don’t know why or have numerous other valid reasons. It can get temporarily frustrating being there. For me, I was enslaved by lust and that brought on much suffering. I wasn’t really trying to examine my defects but just allowing them to trample me at their whim. It takes some effort and I was putting forth zero much of the time.
I wrote that devotees are all unhappy people who prefer to turn over control of their lives to someone else than live it themselves. But this was just some statement I made to make myself feel proud for leaving. The fact is many people with Amma have found the futility in leading a selfish life devoted to pleasure and finding nothing but stress and pain. They chose to abandon that life and try to live for others/spiritual discipline. Many of the people were materially successful but found their life was empty and they were unsatisfied. Amma doesn’t take control of one’s life when one goes to stay there. I maintained full control, doing whatever my whimsical mind wanted no matter what the repercussions. I didn’t understand the role that effort plays nor did I understand how important self-control was.
Though not the reason I left, I used the book Guru Papers and the writings of Krishnamoorthy and Guruphiliac to convince myself to leave. These books are all well written and very convincing. Looking at my life after leaving seemed “normal”. I got a second degree, worked a job for 5 years, got new cars and delighted in excitement in my ample free time. I never lifted a finger for anyone but myself and occasionally my partner. This seems quite all right but really it’s not. It is the epitome of selfishness and the emptiness and stress suffered is difficult to describe. We are bound to suffer in this world as we have to grow old and die. We can suffer for our own desires and self-centered activities or we suffer for enlightenment/service to others and thereby come to understand the unity in a practical way. Either way we suffer but if we tire ourselves for the ego, we gain nothing but perpetual ignorance. If we tire ourselves for others/spiritual practices we gain freedom/knowledge. These books may explain the tactics of false leaders and how it works on the psyche but the fact is, it doesn’t to apply to Amma. There are and have been in the past, damaging Gurus which plunder the wealth of and mislead disciples. Amma is quite different from this though. One only needs to read the amritapuri.org website or amma.com to understand more her charitable works, mission and life.
“I remember, at one point, at a chai stop she said “Today people call me Devi and tomorrow they will call me Devil” and then she looked directly at me, situated right at her left side.”
About the money I donated to officially become a lifetime resident at Amritapuri and have all my needs taken care of, I even exaggerated that. I feel now that Amma let me join, even knowing that I would one day say all these damaging things. I remember, at one point, at a chai stop she said “Today people call me Devi and tomorrow they will call me Devil” and then she looked directly at me, situated right at her left side. I disbelieved immediately and egotistically exclaimed “No” while looking into her eyes. She just looked back like it was a matter of fact.
Nearly the entire time there, I vied for Amma’s attention by always taking the seat closest to her and following her closely. I always wanted to gaze upon her, unobstructed. I came to Amma really trapped in an early developmental stage, more so than most and was assertive about getting what I wanted. Despite Amma’s patience and guidance, I generally refused to go within and try to cultivate good qualities. I refused to grow up and ultimately became frustrated. Most people got enough parental support around Amma or are just mature enough to see that there is more to spiritual life than just sitting in front of the guru. Amma says the guru is like a mirror and that when we watch the guru part of us must also be watching within. Then we can better see our own negativities and put in efforts to remove them. Watching the guru, we see how spirituality is translated into action. But just sitting there for some experience… no matter how spell-binding or intoxicating it may be, it will pass. Even this may be necessary in the beginning but I just wanted to forever remain in that state. So, I made the comment that everyone is doing that, but really it is very few people, mainly me.
“I pray I did not effect too many people’s faith in Amma and her charities. It would be so sad if it did.”
At that time I said that Amma wants to take money from the West and give it to India. It’s true that a lot of building projects and schools and hospitals have been focused on India, but I now see that this is because it is where Amma can be most effective with volunteers and governmental support. Amma recently opened a school in Kenya. It is difficult to manage things abroad even if she could get permits to build, where would she get qualifies teachers. It would be a disaster, especially because Amma’s curriculum focuses on values and morality. I didn’t understand this at the time and thought all the money goes to institutions in India and so she must be a nationalist. To foreign countries she donates money to charities there as with the disaster in Philippines and hurricane Katrina in US.
I feel that the reason we westerners even have the slightest inclination to spirituality and a thirst for higher knowledge is because we aren’t suffering from physical thirst and we have a basic education to understand there is such higher knowledge. Amma wants everyone in the world to have that much freedom and so her focus is on education, housing and disaster relief.
I wrote that the charities are a front, that Amma is greedy, and that money is going to Amma’s family. Actually, Amma gives everything and sleeps and eats the minimum. The charities are real. I have witnessed Amma’s charities and the evidence is all public information. Amma’s family live in basic housing in the same community they grew up in. People donate the use of their personal vehicles for Ammas transportation and according to Swamini, the camper is always jam packed on tours.
I wrote that AIMS and Amrita University are capitalist ventures to make more money. Again, I lied. I don’t have all the details but I think these institutions are designed to be self-sustaining. It doesn’t make sense to build a hospital that is a huge black hole for money. Financially it should be able to pay for its employees, and utilities. I know the hospital does many charities and the proof, again is there on the website.
Likewise I don’t know why I said that the numbers of houses and pensions are all inflated other than out of spite because I didn’t have any basis for this other than rumors. I said that the Tsunami Project was all about getting fame for Amma. The fact is, Amma has given her personal time to visit disaster survivors in India and Japan. She has given much in charity to them too. I’m certain the fame was a by-product and not the intention. Just as Amma consoled the poor and suffering as a child without expectation of reward, likewise she is continuing to do so.
I got the idea that Amma was pro-Hindu and anti-Christian when we travelled to a Tsunami area where some Christian organization had built some houses for the poor. Amma embraced the new residents to the dismay of some of the builders who said she was stealing their glory and trying to take credit. I also heard a rumor at that time that she didn’t like the way the missionaries were taking advantage of the poor tribals and converting them to Christianity for financial support. I don’t even know if this is true. I don’t think Amma is for any religion as she simply states “Mine is the religion of love”.
I remember writing that anyone can hug like Amma if they were determined enough. This comment only shows how delusional I was. I actually stood one night helping with the line as she gave darshan to over 50,000 people. It sounds impossible but the line was moving fast and it lasted over 20 hours. Each hug was like a second (20h X 60m X 60 sec). I went to sleep at one point and was woken up to help with the line some more and can’t explain how tired I felt. I kept looking at the line which wouldn’t end even at noon. I was grumpy and cranky and Amma was still giving love and connecting with every single person.
I wrote that Amma is actually feeding off the devotees. This is some interpretation of some psychic vampire/ astral entity rumor about Amma I had heard circulating on the internet. I thought it fit well at the time. The truth is, Amma is giving tirelessly, patiently, like a mother tolerates her child. It just doesn’t make sense that she is feeding off of us. She doesn’t need us at all as her mind dwells in a state of consciousness unknown to the masses. As she showed me in meditation, some of the blissful states would be impossible for me to voluntarily come down from in exchange for this misery of a robotic ego charade. So, she isn’t feeding from us but on the contrary is showing us how to reach that unblemished state.
“While I didn’t start the yahoo group, I was made owner and had the opportunity to say the truth or shut it down but instead I just said a bunch of lies and then bailed, leaving it to some bitter woman named Bronte who never met Amma and claims her fiancé was changed negatively by Amma when the fact is, he was a follower of another Guru.”
Financially, I did try to give what I had and Amma clearly told me at one stop that my actions were not coming out of love but out of my ego and that I would be better off giving the money I spend to come to India in charity, that it would benefit me much more. I am filled with regret looking back at my time at the ashram at what a fool I was. My ego and negativities kept me in the dark so completely. I hope that writing this helps others understand why I said all the lies and I sincerely apologize. I feel like writing on the blog was so much more damaging than I can conceive. I pray I did not effect too many people’s faith in Amma and her charities. It would be so sad if it did.
While I didn’t start the yahoo group, I was made owner and had the opportunity to say the truth or shut it down but instead I just said a bunch of lies and then bailed, leaving it to some bitter woman named Bronte Baxter who never met Amma and claims her fiancé was changed negatively by Amma when the fact is, he was a follower of another Guru. I hope that there is a happy ending to this tale but due to my actions, I can see this having a tragic ending instead.
The claims I made were absolutely unforgivable by all standards. Despite this, Amma has allowed me to spend time around her and it has been really rewarding and frightening to see just who I am and who I pretend to be.
I hope that whatever the outcome, I can hold Amma in my mind positively and with gratitude.
(InTruth2012 is the username used by Vian while she functioned as the Moderator on Ex Amma Yahoo Group)
Note: The image (of people receiving darshan) in this post is intended for representative purposes only and not that of the author. Santoshi in her email to us expressed that this letter to Amma’s children is her “letter of atonement”. If you appreciate Santoshi’s honesty and strength of character to express her real self without fear, please comment below to show your support.
Update: Bronte Baxter wrote to us requesting her photo be removed from the post and the title changed from “Ex-Amma” to “ExAmma”. On enquiring with Vian, she informed us that she had unintentionally included a “-” (hyphen) in “Ex Amma”. Our editor copied the same here, as was required for publishing such content. Her group was previously known as “ExAmma” when Vian was still a moderator. According to Vian, Baxter later relaunched it as “Ex-Amma” and is currently the sole Moderator of the Group. We removed Baxter’s photo, which we had sourced from a casual Google image search.
We updated the title to match the subject Vian sent us.
Baxter did not address any of the revelations Vian made seeking to clarify and seek apology through her letter, particularly the statements that despite being the Moderator of Ex-Amma Group, Baxter has never met Amma, and that her fiancé followed another Guru, not Amma.