Is Amma the Hugging Saint a benevolent guru or a cult leader, and if so has my friend joined a cult?
September 28, 2009 2:06 PM Subscribe
Has my friend joined a cult?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
One of my closest friends (let's call her Alice) has spent the last couple of years in India, and is now a follower of a guru called Amma (AKA. Mata Amritanandamayi, "Amma the Hugging Saint" etc). This is a fairly new thing for her, as previous to this she was something of a hedonist and wasn't really what you'd call a spiritual person. That said, she travelled to India with the intention of having a spiritual journey, so I'm sure that she found her own way to the ashram, and as she tells it she definitely had an epiphany in the presence of Amma and hence became a convert. And most importantly, she seems happy, whereas she probably wasn't before.
So no problem so far. I'm an atheist/skeptic sort of person myself, but I can see the value of faith to people so I'm not criticising her choice on that front. A couple of aspects of her beliefs make me uncomfortable, specifically the rejection of anything from her previous life that she now associates with "negativity" (which includes downbeat films, noisy music, and some types of intellectualism or criticism for want of a better way of putting it), and also as an anti-authoritarian, the idea of submitting yourself to a self-proclaimed guru seems wrong to me.
Now, up to this point I thought that that lifestyle wasn't for me, but was probably no bad thing for Alice. I have to say that at this point I've had very little contact with her recently, but such contact as I've had hasn't been worrying at all.
But I've just found out that another close friend of hers (we'll call her Betty) has apparently been researching Amma and is convinced that Alice has joined a cult, and is deeply distressed by this.
So I've done a google myself, and there do seem to accusations and counter-accusations flying about this, and I don't know what to think any more. It seems like a lot has been written on the subject, but then again some of the cult accusations are linked to via the David Icke website, which raises warning signs itself.
So, is Betty right? Is Amma a cult leader? How can I tell if Alice really has joined a cult or is just following a leftfield religion? If she has joined a cult what should I do? And if it really isn't a cult, how can I convince Betty of that?