Category Archives: gurus

Allowah’s “Heart ‘n’ Hands” CD is now Available on iTunes, Spotify & Amazon

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“Prescription For Anxiety, Depression and Fear: Listen to Heart ‘n’ Hands daily while sitting peacefully with eyes closed. Repeat until symptoms disappear. These songs have changed my life. The lyrics are important teachings taken from The Course in Miracles (ACIM), brilliantly put to music, making them even more inspiring and etched into my consciousness. They are sung from Allowah’s heart to yours, and you will recognize their truth when you hear them. These powerful songs are replete with Allowah’s passion, strength, transcendence, love, and strong desire to be only Truly Helpful. I love how these songs remind me every day to choose love rather than fear. As the melodies run thru my mind, the authenticity of these enlightened words fill my heart with love, joy and peace. This is more than a CD, it is a heartfelt connection to the love and wisdom of Christ Consciousness. Like The Course itself, it offers the possibility of personal transformation. It’s all about the precious journey of becoming peace, forgiveness and unconditional love. I believe these songs were divinely inspired. Listen to them, and know All is Well.”

~ Jai Segal, Florida Gulf Coast University Professor

DOWNLOAD THE CD

 HERE

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DOWNLOAD THE CD

HERE

You might also be interested in Allowah’s new book,

Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment,

now available on AMAZON,

CLICK HERE

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Far more than a mere history of the practice of yoga and beyond a study of psychedelic-substance use to aid the pursuit of enlightenment, Who Am I? is a broad, expansive journey told through the eyes of a scholar and researcher—a pilgrim in search of the meaning of life.
While the use of psychedelics, yoga, and the interrelatedness of the two practices have been discussed in the past, Who Am I? explores these topics through both a scientific and a personal approach that is altogether new—the author’s own journey as he transitions from spiritual and yoga purist to open-minded examiner in the realization that psychedelics have been employed by yoga practitioners throughout its history. Does their controversial use in modern yoga ease the path to spiritual clarity, or does it hinder it?
Many questions and barriers face contemporary seekers of truth in the areas of psychedelics, yoga, and general spirituality. In Who Am I?, author Allowah Lani provides guidance on how to find the personal answers that must come from within.

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OFFICIALLY RELEASED!!! ALLOWAH LANI’S NEW BOOK, “WHO AM I? YOGA, PSYCHEDELICS & THE QUEST FOR ENLIGHTENMENT”

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“With his excellent book, Allowah Lani gives us a tour de force of several major subjects. I’m not well versed in yoga or psychedelics, but I certainly learned a lot about those things from this book. And I was particularly struck by the author’s ability to move into a discussion of A Course in Miracles from the perspective of his own journey, and do a fine job presenting its message. I highly recommend this book to all seekers of the truth. I believe you’ll be blown away, as I was, by its depth and wisdom.”

—Gary Renard, best-selling author of The Disappearance of the Universe

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

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Book Description

Far more than a mere history of the practice of yoga and beyond a study of psychedelic-substance use to aid the pursuit of enlightenment, Who Am I? is a broad, expansive journey told through the eyes of a scholar and researcher—a pilgrim in search of the meaning of life.

While the use of psychedelics, yoga, and the interrelatedness of the two practices have been discussed in the past, Who Am I? explores these topics through both a scientific and a personal approach that is altogether new—the author’s own journey as he transitions from spiritual and yoga purist to open-minded examiner in the realization that psychedelics have been employed by yoga practitioners throughout its history. Does their controversial use in modern yoga ease the path to spiritual clarity, or does it hinder it?

Many questions and barriers face contemporary seekers of truth in the areas of psychedelics, yoga, and general spirituality. In Who Am I?, author Allowah Lani provides guidance on how to find the personal answers that must come from within.

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About the Author

Allowah Lani has devoted his adult life to spiritual and religious scholarship, earning a BA in philosophy and an MA in liberal arts from the University of Pennsylvania and going on to study the Torah and the Bible in Hebrew in Jerusalem.

Lani began a PhD in Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University comparing Kabbalah and the yoga philosophy prior to becoming a full-time yoga instructor. He is the founder and director of Yoga University, which offers teacher training and is registered with the Yoga Alliance.

Lani currently lives in Naples, Florida. Who Am I? is his first book.

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What Readers Are Saying…

“With his excellent book, Allowah Lani gives us a tour de force of several major subjects. I’m not well versed in yoga or psychedelics, but I certainly learned a lot about those things from this book. And I was particularly struck by the author’s ability to move into a discussion of A Course in Miracles from the perspective of his own journey, and do a fine job presenting its message. I highly recommend this book to all seekers of the truth. I believe you’ll be blown away, as I was, by its depth and wisdom.

Gary Renard, best-selling author of The Disappearance of the Universe

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“We are in a time of resurgence, the next wave of psychedelic and entheogenic exploration and reflection. Allowah Lani tours the reader through many different perspectives and differing conclusions on this crucial subject. He observes, explores and researches with a most important tool of [inquiry] meditation and Yoga— openness and questioning as opposed to certainty. Since ancient Eleusis, and time immemorial, a philosopher stoned has always used potent psychotropic means that open windows into other realities, new perceptions and into life itself. Most serious explorers of living and dying have not denied theses powerful tools and catalysts. This book will get you thinking, and perhaps seeing.”

Ganga White, Director of White Lotus and author of Yoga Beyond Belief

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“Wow!!!!!!! Just need to tell you I can’t put it down… Reading excerpts every night even when I’m thoroughly exhausted… It’s very engaging and written from such a deeply intimate place… Truly exceptional and unique in its honesty and your sharing these parts of your history and experience are a gift to anyone who will be fortunate enough to read it.”

Marie Colandrea, Yoga student and teacher

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“Allowah Lani has written an incredible book combining deep insights from the teachings of yoga, psychedelics, and A Course in Miracles, each of which provides us with doors and windows into what is possible for us including an awakening back into the heart of God. Though I’ve had no experience with psychedelics since the 1970s, I know how incredible that experience can be. Each of these disciplines are “alchemies.” Let them “cook” inside and you will see another world your body’s eyes could never find.”

Jon Mundy, Ph.D. author of Living A Course in Miracles

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“This book MUST be read by people. Period.”

John Allen Gibel, Yoga Teacher & Scholar

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“Your insights of the Yoga tradition are original and unique. I truly hope you can make this happen.”

Estella Arias, Literary Agent, New Chapter Editions

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“The author’s new book dealing with an important topic on the history of yoga is a very engrossing read and a very unique book. In exploring its topic areas with the author, we feel as if we are falling down the rabbit hole hand-in-hand with him. He treats his exploration with the intellectual honesty, respect, and open-mindedness it deserves and the reader is drawn into the narrative by the lucidity of his prose and by his ever-expanding exploration of this fascinating area of study. Drawing upon a wide array of ‘seekers’ who have come before him, the author presents a straightforward and engaging narrative that investigates his topic for anyone and everyone on the road to enlightenment. The fact that there are no other books on the market that engages this specific subject makes this book’s appeal that much greater.”

Anne Dillon, Project Editor, Inner Traditions, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont

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“Incredibly well-written, highly personal and throughly researched, Allowah Lani’s new book Who Am I? explores the links between Shamanism, Rituals, Plant Medicine and Yoga. Shamans and Yogis were the original explorers of evolutionary consciousness, healing and communication with the Spirit Realms. Nature and all its tools have been their guides since the emergence of the human race. Ancient Egypt was one of the first great centers of the mystic and healing arts including early forms of what would later be refined in India as Yoga. The Egyptians developed sophisticated spiritual initiations and practices that are still alive in different forms today throughout the world. Read this book and you will learn of many of the possibilities that have existed throughout time for Humankind’s evolution and how they relate to you.”

Danny Paradise, Ashtanga yoga master

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

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Press Release for “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics & the Quest for Enlightenment”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Company: Yoga University

Address:  4301 Gulfshore Blvd N   Naples, FL  34103

Contact Phone: (239) 592-0898

Contact Email: allowah13@gmail.com

Website: www.allowah.org

 

Pre-orders now available for book on yoga, psychedelics and enlightenment

Yoga teacher seeks support to share vision eight years in the making

Teacher and author Allowah Lani has announced pre-orders are now available for his book, “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment.” The book, which Lani has been working on for more than eight years is the product of research and in-depth interviews, and examines the interplay between psychedelic substances and yoga.

“I’ve been writing my whole life, and I was looking for a subject that I would feel so passionate about that I could not NOT write a book about it,” Lani said. “This subject is just that for me—it was just too juicy to not dive into wholeheartedly.”

Lani said that as he was growing up, even before he discovered yoga, he was interested in rock n’ roll, especially the music of the 1960s that was heavily influenced by psychedelic substances such as LSD. As he looked into the time period more, he found that there was a shift later in the decade toward mysticism, meditation and yoga, as exemplified both by Ram Das’ book “Be Here Now” and The Beatles’ turn away from LSD and toward Transcendental Meditation, which they learned in India from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“The book opens the door on a debate and discussion that will be with us for a long time yet,” Lani said. “And I do feel that it will bring readers that much closer to an answer to the universal question that lies at the heart of our collective spiritual quest: Who Am I?”

The book has drawn praise from early readers, including Anne Dillon, an author and editor at Rochester, Vermont-based published Inner Traditions • Bear & Company.

“The book deals with an important topic on the history of yoga and is a very engrossing read and a very unique book,” Dillon wrote. “In exploring its topic areas with the author, we feel as if we are falling down the rabbit hole hand-in-hand with him. He treats his exploration with the intellectual honesty, respect, and open-mindedness it deserves and the reader is drawn into the narrative by the lucidity of his prose and by his ever-expanding exploration of this fascinating area of study.”

Lani graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy and religious studies. He started a Ph.D. in comparative mysticism at New York University, but realized that academia was not the path he wanted to follow.

He has spent hundreds of hours learning and practicing various types of yoga, including Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Dharma Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Partner Yoga and AcroYoga.

More information about Lani and “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment.” Is available at:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/753307990/pre-order-my-new-book-who-am-i and www.allowah.org.

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Pre-Order “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment”

 

About this project

Dear Readers!

I am very pleased to offer “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” to the world…

This project has been 8 years in the making and has taken countless hours of research, writing, marketing, editing, and now fundraising. It’s finally time to get it out and that feels good.

I’ve been writing my whole life and always knew that I would be an author, I was just looking for a subject that I would feel so passionate about that I could not NOT write a book about it. Well, the subject that this book deals with is just that for me, it was just too juicy to not dive into wholeheartedly.

And if you know me, you know that when I get into something, I really immerse myself in it; or, switching metaphors, it becomes all-consuming. Which is also one reason I am seeking your help, because all the time committed to this project has not afforded me as much time to devote to more profitable undertakings.

I believe that the subject matter of this book is of the highest import for each and every one of us because it deals head on with 2 of the most important topics of our time: Yoga and Psychedelics. Considering these subjects deeply with me in this book will be in and of itself a spiritual practice, if not enlightening.

(And, even though we all know not to judge a book by its cover, we also know that a “picture says a thousand words” and sometimes it is the cover alone that says it all — or at least all that one may need at that moment. I want to say right now that I LOVE the cover that Alexander Ward created for this project, and trust it will bring more readers to this book. Alexander is a brilliant visionary artist, you can learn more about him here: http://www.alexanderward.co.uk.)

I’m not going to go into all of the “story” and my process here, because after all, that’s what the book’s for, but I will say that I am not alone in this process, and I do know that there are many right now who will benefit from this book, because it is very much of this moment. It opens the door wide on a debate and discussion that will be with us for a long time yet. And I do feel that it will bring YOU that much closer to an answer to the universal question that lies at the heart of our collective spiritual quest: Who Am I?

Thank you for your help with getting this out and in your hands!

Namasté & AHO! : ) Allowah

Ps. And here’s a special message from my editor and award-winning author, Brian Francis Heffron:

Today I am delighted to tell you about a bold and informative new book created & designed for people just like you: people who are seeking spiritual answers to all the most important questions of our lives. Eight years in the making, Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment represents countless hours of research, numerous in-depth interviews, and months of organizing and editing all that material into a final polished, comprehensive, and accessible book.

Spirituality is a clearly a subject Allowah is very passionate about. He totally immersed himself in the mysteries of consciousness and enlightenment; topics that are for him, deeply engaging. Allowah’s book explores the practices of Yoga and Psychedelics, both individually, separately, and in combination. It’s time for his writing to meet his readers, and so he is seeking your help. Simply reading it will gently guide you on your own personal journey towards enlightenment. .

Allowah is not the only person in the world seeking spiritual answers to ultimate questions; there are many, many people who are also asking big questions, and who would benefit from an encounter with this book. “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” opens the door to mysteries we have all pondered. The goal of the book is to bring YOU, the reader, answers to these universal, timeless questions.

This kick-starter effort is a major milestone in bringing this book into the world. By reaching out into the world’s spiritual community for assistance, Allowah is casting his bread upon the water. How can you get involved? How can you help? How can you get your questions answered? Today you can pre-order a copy of Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment, right here, right now, right on this page!

Thank you in advance for your help in birthing this informative and eye-opening book. Please join us by following the instructions below to pre-order your copy of “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics and the Quest for Enlightenment” today. Read it and be part of the spiritual solution. Thank you again for your time and consideration. ~ BFH

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Some Advance Praise for “Who Am I?”

“This book MUST be read by people. Period.”

~ John Allen Gibel, Yoga Teacher & Scholar

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“The author’s new book dealing with an important topic on the history of yoga is a very engrossing read and a very unique book. In exploring its topic areas with the author, we feel as if we are falling down the rabbit hole hand-in-hand with him. He treats his exploration with the intellectual honesty, respect, and open-mindedness it deserves and the reader is drawn into the narrative by the lucidity of his prose and by his ever-expanding exploration of this fascinating area of study. Drawing upon a wide array of “seekers” who have come before him, the author presents a straightforward and engaging narrative that investigates his topic for anyone and everyone on the road to enlightenment. The fact that there are no other books on the market that engages this specific subject makes this book’s appeal that much greater.”

~ Anne Dillon, Project Editor, Inner Traditions, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont “

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“Just read the manuscript. Really liked it.”

~ Ganga White, Director of White Lotus and author of Yoga Beyond Belief

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“Am reading your book. I think it’s important and well-written.”

~ Alisande Sweeney, Permaculturist

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“Wow brother… just after a couple pages I’m hooked… I really really like it and your writing style. Please understand that I’m not just trying to make you feel good… it’s really really excellent.”

~ Joe Marshalla, Author of Repeatlessness

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“Good read. Well written and held my attention, up after midnight a few nights not wanting to put it down.”

~ Carey Turnbull, veteran TM teacher & yoga scholar

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“Wow!!!!!!! Just need to tell u I can’t put it down…Reading excerpts every night even when I’m thoroughly exhausted…It’s very engaging and written from such a deeply intimate place…Truly exceptional and unique in its honesty and your sharing these parts of your history and experience are a gift to anyone who will be fortunate enough to read it.”

~ Marie Colandrea, Yoga Student & Teacher

Ayahuasca: The LSD of This Era

Ayahuasca: Generation X’s LSD

In the 1960s, recreational and irresponsible use of the psychedelic LSD led to the US government’s classification of it as a Schedule I drug (1966).   Up until that time, LSD has been the subject of much interest and study by scientists, artists, and musicians, who were considering its potential in medicine and the arts.

Drs. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began studying LSD after being forced to resign from Harvard in 1963. While Dr. Leary infamously became “The High Priest of LSD” and was a proponent of LSD for the rest of his life, Dr. Alpert went to India in the late Sixties, found a guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and became Baba Ram Dass.

In 1971 Alpert, now as Ram Dass, published “Be Here Now” in which he told the story of how he gave Neem Karoli Baba a very high dose of LSD and “nothing happened” — it had no visible affect on the guru. The message to the hippie baby boomers was that they no longer needed drugs to get high; yoga could do the same thing or better for them.

Be Here Now was a bestseller and a watershed moment in the Sixties countercultural movement. In reality, it was part of a shift that had already been happening since the banning of LSD, as the Beatles disillusionment with it a few years prior reflected.

Ram Dass’ book was published right around the time when the Nixon administration created the Drug Enforcement Agency and began the “War on Drugs.” As a result, the next generation, the so-called “Generation X,” grew up with many anti-drug messages such as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogan. Many of the Baby Boomers were now seeking and finding ways to get “high” without use of psychedelic substances. Some found it through running, others yoga, meditation, music and chant, biofeedback, breathwork, shamanism, and any number of “alternative” modalities.

Taking their lead, Generation X came of age in a world in which the excesses of the previous generation had been tempered by age and wisdom. In the world of yoga, a world I was introduced to in the mid-Nineties, drug use was very much frowned upon. Why would you use drugs if yoga (or another “alternative” modality) could do the same thing or better for you? This is the question most of the new gurus from the East had been asking their devotees, the largest percentage of whom were the flower children. Yoga, they taught, is about independence from any external substance, whether it take the form of a pill, a dogma, or a government.

And this was the reigning sentiment in the yoga world for at least three decades. For the most part, yogis were not drug users; it was considered a contradiction in terms, antithetical to the whole yoga ethic and ethos of declaring one’s independence from external tools and methods. I intuitively felt the truth of this from the very beginning of my encounter with yoga.

Yoga also was supposedly preparing me to be prepared for anything, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come…

Since the early nineties, the Amazonian plant medicine known as ayahuasca (also, yagé; prounced “ya-hey”) has entered the world stage like no other psychoactive substance since LSD, becoming one of the most widely discussed and even celebrated psychedelics (aka “entheogens”) of this era.   In the last decade, ayahuasca seems to be teetering on the edge of mainstream status, if not already exactly a household term, having now been featured by such major media outlets as National Geographic, CNN, NPR, and even showing up in Hollywood films such as Wanderlust and While We’re Young.

In the yoga world, of which I have been a keen observer over the last 20 years, ayahuasca has definitely made its presence known. Based on my observations, there are as many Generation X yogis now who have tried ayahuasca as not, and a good percentage of those who have partaken have done it more than once. Certainly those of the older, Baby Boomer generation that I have approached about this have had mixed views, but more often than not, they have at least been somewhat sympathetic, if not actual participants. Some highly regarded yoga professionals have confided to me that they have used the Amazonian plant medicine in the tens and even hundreds of times, and not because it didn’t work the first time.   Mind you, these are some of the biggest names in the yoga world, with a considerable influence that would be difficult to estimate. (Others, like Grammy-nominated kirtan wallah Jai Uttal, whose wife is Brazilian, told me in an interview that he has turned down the invitation to ceremony many times; it’s not his path.)

To be sure, there is still considerable tension and debate about this in the wide world of yoga, as there is in the broader society where ayahuasca and other psychoactive substances are still illegal in most places. It’s not only the legal status that has created a kind of rift in opinion; again, it’s also the ever-present question as to whether a psychoactive substance could ever be fully embraced in a community that prides itself on self-reliance and to being to large extent anti-drug.

Growing up in the era of the War on Drugs and the son of a father of the Greatest Generation who was adamantly opposed to drugs and alcohol, I steered clear of all substances for the first 35 years of my life. About 10 years ago now, I cautiously began to explore various substances of which ayahuasca was only one, but the most significant for me. What I experienced from it was remarkable and very useful on my life’s journey. It was also somewhat terrifying and left me with a new set of questions and issues with which to confront.

My fascination led me to begin writing a book on the subject of “yoga and psychedelics,” as I continued to attend various ayahuasca ceremonies and speak with people about it, including elders and shamans. Nearly a decade later, I am about to publish my book, with the intention of inspiring greater awareness and a public dialogue on the issues involved, particularly in the yoga community. My sense is that because I equate yoga more broadly with “spirituality,” many people will find the book interesting as it touches on the most universal and fundamental issues that we all deal with, whether we do yoga or psychedelics, or not.

The book, “Who Am I? Yoga, Psychedelics & The Quest for Enlightenment” will be available on Amazon in early 2016.

       Selected Resources

1) National Geographic Article

 2) Ayahuasca on National Public Radio:

        “Window Into the Soul”

           & UDV Controversy

 3) Lisa Ling’s CNN Report on Ayahuasca

4) New York Times Article (2015)

5) LA Weekly Report on Ayahuasca in Hollywood and Contemporary Music

 6) Article in Huffington Post on Ayahuasca as a Potential Treatment for Depression

 7) Five Ayahuasca-related documentaries worth seeing: 1) Vine of the Soul; 2) DMT: The Spirit Molecule; 3) The Sacred Science; 4) Neurons to Nirvana; 5) Metamorphosis .

 8) Ayahuasca in Hollywood movies: Wanderlust & short piece on Ayahuasca in Hollywood

9) One of the best books on ayahuasca: Jeremy Narby’s The Cosmic Serpent.

10) My own most recent piece for Reality Sandwich: Yoga, Ayahuasca, & A Course in Miracles

 Allowah is a yogi philosopher who currently resides primarily in Southwest Florida.   Over the past decade, he has written various pieces on the subject of yoga & plant sacraments (aka “psychedelics), most of which have been featured on the Reality Sandwich website.   He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Liberal Arts, and is a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. He can be contacted at allowah13@gmail.com.

The Cult of the Hugging Saint Re-examined

The Cult of the Hugging Saint Re-examined:
Towards an Inner Dialogue

“People have different opinions and they have the freedom to express them. Those with sharper intellects can prove or disprove many things. However, their statements may not necessarily be the truth. The more intellectual you are, the more egoistic you are. For such a person, surrendering is not so easy. The experience of God will not become a reality unless the ego is surrendered. …If somebody claims that a Guru’s guidance is not necessary in the path to God, such a person, Amma feels, is afraid to surrender his or her ego. Or maybe they themselves crave to be a guru.”
~ Ammachi

“Do not believe something just because I tell you. Question everything.”
~The Buddha [said something like that]

This essay will attempt to clear up some confusion in regard to one of the most remarkable spiritual teachers of our time, Mata Amritanandamayi, familiarly known as “Ammachi”(aka “The Hugging Saint”). I write this partly for myself, to get my thoughts down on paper, and also for those on both sides of the growing debate/controversy surrounding who is now perhaps India’s most highly regarded living saint.

      In writing this, I do not wish to make anyone wrong, and am in fact coming from a space of some doubt and confusion myself, having now pretty thoroughly explored much of what has been said on both sides and finding there to be room for pause from all that has been written. What I do want to do is to suggest that we deeply listen to what everyone is saying rather than immediately putting the other side down, delete them from the message board, not really confront their points, or completely ignore them. I feel that most everyone, regardless of whether they take to spirituality or not, can agree that truth is best revealed through respectful and open dialogue, rather than deprecating diatribes. I would also suggest that if we are thinking or writing about these things at all, and especially if we strongly take a side, we’re most likely secretly confused and we might do well to question our own answers.

     I also feel it’s appropriate to reveal that I’m writing this at about 3 am during Devi Bhava at Ammachi’s San Ramon ashram, 2014. Earlier this evening I spent a couple of hours going through a number of the pieces written online, including the Rolling Stone exposé (from 2012), as well as Ron Rattner’s essays, Gail Tredwell’s revelations, etc. I also wrote out a lengthy question to ask Ammachi, the gist of which I will touch upon in a moment.

    The next revelation is that I wouldn’t have gotten into yoga as I did were it not for Ammachi. When I first was introduced to yoga in the mid-nineties, I met a number of gurus, swamis and yogis and Ammachi was like the gold standard for me by which I measured all the rest. Why? Well, at that time, it seemed that Ammachi had it all and was pretty much beyond reproach in my book. I couldn’t comprehend who she was and what she was doing, the superhuman energy she displayed day in and day out in selfless service to the world, hugging literally tens of thousands of people each week, with very little food and sleep, never seeming to waver or flag in her seva, her selfless service. To this day, apparently, she has never had to miss a day due to illness. That’s in 30+ years…pretty incredible, no? What’s that all about?

     If Jesus’ oft-quoted maxim “by their fruits ye shall know them” means anything, and it certainly did to me back at the beginning (and still does), Ammachi had demonstrated unequivocally that she was putting all of her life force into the service of humanity, setting up countless charitable organizations, schools, disaster relief initiatives, traveling the world tirelessly, etc.

The first thing I would point out is something I read from a devotee early on, to the effect that she thought she was such a “good person” until she met Ammachi. Meaning that being around Ammachi showed how far she had to go in terms of embodying love in every moment, as Ammachi appears to do to the nth degree. That statement stood out in particular because it was also true of my experience – I really thought I was hot stuff until meeting Ammachi. I realize that a skeptic or “ex-Amma” might jump in at this point and say, well, you are hot stuff! You are also a superstar, no different than Ammachi! You would also have her energy and love if you had all of those people adoring you, and your job was to run a multi-billion dollar business based on love. You’d have to rise to the occasion. Maybe so, yet the fact is, I am not in Ammachi’s position, nowhere close to it, and neither are her detractors.

     So the phenomenon of “sour grapes” and jealousy obviously can come into play here, and it is at this point that I feel we must deeply consider our ulterior motives in attacking Ammachi, or anyone for that matter. Is the attack (even if it is not couched in such extreme terms) really coming from a deep desire to help or save people from a brainwashing cult that abuses its members and what have you; or is it in fact coming from a desire to be seen as the hero, the whistleblower, or even the victim, because Ammachi is revered by millions and you are not? Or maybe it’s because you dropped your yoga practice and are trying to rationalize or justify it to yourself? And so on.

     Let’s not stop there, though, yet let’s also deeply and just as fairly consider the other side of the coin. What might be considered jealousy or sour grapes might in actuality be emanating from a real desire to save people from someone who has been called a “false guru,” “energy vampire,” “antichrist,” and perhaps worse. Let’s consider that maybe Ammachi is “on top” so to speak because she ruthlessly knocked out most of the competition.

     This is not an entirely hypothetical musing. The summer I met Ammachi, I also met Karunamayi, another South Indian “Amma,” who some of Ammachi’s devotees were going to see to receive darshan until Ammachi put a definite stop to that! Her followers were not going to see another Amma! She apparently even went so far as to sign her name to a document saying that if Karunamayi were allowed to even use the same venue as her, she would find somewhere else to give her programs. Then I heard that she put down Karunamayi as not the highest guru. This all shook me when I first heard about it, and started to put a crack in the picture I had of Ammachi (and ultimately not going back for 14 years). And of course, in the last 14 years or so, much more shocking allegations have come to light about the disturbing underbelly on what on the public surface looks like such an above board organization. We’re talking about physical, psychological, and sexual abuse allegations, some of them pretty much confirmed, as well as misappropriation of funds, and even intimations that Ammachi’s movement has offed people who don’t toe the party line. Pretty horrendous sounding stuff, not all of it proven, and probably much of it not true. Yet it seems that some of it is true and yet is being officially denied by Ammachi’s organization, including we must suppose, by Ammachi herself.

     Again, though, how we see all of this kind of depends on what stake we have in Ammachi being either an avatar or a fraud. If we have some stake in the former, we’ll find a way to see Ammachi as an avatar. If we are invested in the latter, we’ll have no problem showing how Ammachi is a fraud. Where does the truth lie? Perhaps, as usual, somewhere in between.

Her defenders will say things like, “Well, if she’s an avatar, then she can make it look like that to test people to look beyond the surface appearances, as well as to test the faith of her devotees. Perhaps there are really stubborn blockages there that can only be dislodged by certain shock and awe tactics, what has been termed “crazy wisdom” teachings? Perhaps her “tough love” is exactly what is needed to completely blow their mind and bring them into an enlightened state? How/who are we to judge? And every major figure is going to have their enemies and detractors, it’s just a fact of life. As far as the public denial that these things ever happened, well, there is a “greater good” being served by Ammachi’s organization running than not, and the tough karmic lessons were confined to a few close disciples – why should they be allowed to bring the whole blessed enterprise down with them? And again, who is to judge?

       That’s the defense. Now those against Ammachi will come and say that there’s a real slippery slope if we go that route because then the guru can really abuse their power and do anything they like, justifying it by saying “I’m the boss, my word is queen, and you just have to deal with it and learn your lessons,” and if they get away with it, they might abuse their power even more. Towards the end of his life, there were a number of people also trying to take down South India’s other great guru of this era, Satya Sai Baba, mainly for faking his materializations and miracles, but even more damning, for the number of reports that were being posted on the internet accusing him of pedophilia. Again, supporters said that because of who he was, he could do whatever he wanted and it was all never so he could get his jollies but to serve the greater spiritual evolution of his devotees, perhaps especially to test or reveal their level of faith and detachment. Meanwhile, his detractors again used the argument that a true guru would never commit such adharmic (non-lawful and unrighteous) for any reason, even to test their followers.

     Perhaps at this point you, like me, are sensing the limits of rational thinking here, and that if we truly honestly consider both sides of this issue, we will be left in a state of stalemate, not being able to offer a definitive 100% sure conclusion either way. And it is here that we come to what seems to be an essential part of the spiritual path, and that is what we know as “faith,” which is where reason leaves off and a humble sense of “I don’t know” begins. Yet before we leap with loveblind faith, there are certain things we can do first to help decide for ourselves which way to go…

      More than a century ago, Harvard professor William James came up with the philosophy of pragmatism, which essentially says, “What Works?” Does it work for you? Then do it! And if doesn’t work for you, then don’t! And I would add, if you see something is working for someone else, be very careful before you attempt to burst their bubble, because what they believe may be very useful to them at that moment! And that said, they also might be very grateful to you for bursting their bubble, so it can go either way (you might want to propose a “spoiler alert” first 😉 Yet in the end, it’s really our choice to have our bubble burst or not – if it happens, we’ve opened ourselves and allowed it.

     The other thing I would say is that exploring other religions and paths has, for me, definitely strengthened my faith in Ammachi and what she is offering the world. For one thing, her teachings are very simple, clear, able to encapsulate the most profound and universal spiritual teachings. And they are ultimately in accord with Advaita Vedanta – the philosophy that all is One, and that we are all and have always been one with what many call God (or Spirit, Source, etc). Vedanta has been confirmed and re-affirmed not only by the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, and countless sages past and present (including from other traditions, such as Rumi, Meister Eckhart, et.), but also by other contemporary revealed scriptures such as a new favorite of mine, A Course in Miracles. Furthermore, if I had never done an ayahuasca session, I wouldn’t have been able to fully grok some of Ammachi’s teachings (if they truly are her’s, and not ghost written), such as the following:

“ Spirituality is not a journey forward, it is a journey backward. We return to our original source of existence. In that process, we have to pass through the layers of emotions and vasanas [tendencies] that have accumulated so far. That is where the pain comes from, not from outside. By going through those layers with an open attitude, we are, in fact, crossing over and transcending them, which will ultimately take us to the abode of supreme peace and bliss.”

     Actually, meditation showed me the truth of this statement early on (and I wouldn’t have really gotten as deeply into meditation were it not for teachers like Ammachi), but working with ayahuasca took it that much deeper.

So in other words, I now have for myself outside confirmation of what Ammachi is teaching, and at this moment, sitting in her presence and in this beautiful gathering, I will say that even if there are some things in Ammachi’s movement that are red flags, it yet seems wise to see things in the context of the big picture and the “spiritual fruits” that Ammachi and her followers have offered the world.

      All that said, it ultimately does come down to faith: Is Ammachi truly an Avatar, God in human form who can lead us through those deeper levels of our unconsciousness that are so difficult to access and navigate on our own; or is she actually a false guru who has come to enslave her followers (and the world, too), keeping them as far from enlightenment as possible so that she can win all the glory for herself? All I can say is, the choice is yours. My point here has mainly been to suggest that we all really examine our own motives, our own stake in all of this, and from that place of complete self-honesty and transparency, decide whatever we decide. That requires some real introspection, the hallmark of the spiritual path.

     For myself, what works for me is to remain in a position of open-endedness, and to also be primarily focused on working out my own salvation, without over-reliance on external teachers. Despite the traditional yoga teaching that one has to have a guru in order to reach enlightenment, it seems this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Even Ammachi herself has said the following:

“Amma doesn’t force anything on anyone. For those who have the unshakeable faith to see every single situation, both negative and positive, as a message from God, an external Guru is not necessary.”

Ammachi, however, goes on to ask rhetorically:

“But how many people have that determination and strength?”

Indeed, how many? Do I truly have that ability, or am I fooling myself?

Sources

1) Rolling Stone article, “Cult of the Hugging Saint.” http://www.theyogablog.com/controversial-rolling-stone-article-on-amma/ . This blog entry provides a link to the original RS article, plus the blog author’s commentary.

2) Ron Rattner, Silly Sutra Website, particularly the piece: http://sillysutras.com/other-teachers-mata-amritanandamayi-ammachi-rons-memoirs/. I first learned through a friend of Ron’s break with Ammachi; this was in the late nineties, some 15 years before he went public with his grievances.

3) Gail Tredwell. Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness. http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Hell-Memoir-Devotion-Madness/dp/0989679403

4) Official and Other Responses to the Tredwell book: https://ammascandal.wordpress.com/tag/holy-hell/

5) Amma.org. Official Ammachi website.

6) Bronte Baxter, “Blowing the Whistle”: http://brontebaxter.wordpress.com/blowing-the-whistle-chpt-9-amma-the-mother-saint-hugging-away-your-personhood/

7) Letters to the Mother: http://letterstothemother.com/tag/ex-amma/

8) Jovan Jones website: One of Ammachi’s biggest critics. I met her when she was still a devotee of Ammachi in the mid-90s. She wrote “Chasing the Avatar,” a mainly non-fiction account of her time with Ammachi.

9) Article quotations of Ammachi are from the book “From Amma’s Heart,” written and edited by Swami Amritaswarupananda.