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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Isaac of Nineveh’

Discovering and Honoring Devotional “Holy Fools” ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
~ 1 Corinthians 3:19
“Love is the highest, the grandest, the most inspiring, the most sublime principle in creation.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda – Journey To Self-Realization
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
~ 1 John 4:7-8
“Full of love for all things in the world;

practicing virtue in order to benefit others,

this man alone is happy.”

~ Buddha
“Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek and find
 all the barriers within yourself

that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi
“Love Is The Law Of Life:

All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. 
Love is therefore the only law of life. 
He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. 
Therefore, love for love’s sake,
 because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.”

~ Swami Vivekananda
“Only if one knows the truth of Love, which is the real nature of Self, will the strong entangled [ego] knot of life be untied. Only if one attains the height of Love will liberation be attained. Such is the heart of all religions. The experience of Self is only Love, which is seeing only Love, hearing only Love, feeling only Love, tasting only Love and smelling only Love, which is bliss.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

 



Introduction

In prior memoir chapters I have recounted my midlife transformation from Secular Hebrew social justice litigation lawyer to “Born-again Hindu”, and then to “Uncertain Undo”, devotional and emotional lover of God. [See e.g. Crying For God and other ‘Kundalini Kriyas’]

In this chapter I will explain how, as a newly transformed ‘lover of God’, I came to appreciate rare ascetic and eccentric lovers of God, who’ve often been regarded as God intoxicated “heretics” or “holy fools”.

To help you understand why I have honored spiritual “heretics” and “holy fools” as lovers of God, I will first summarize my devotional history.

Ron’s Devotional history summary

Until my profound midlife spiritual awakening to Self identity as Awareness, I hadn’t shed tears as an adult. But thereupon, at age forty three I cried for twenty four hours. Then, after the Awakening experience, I initially wondered why I was crying so much. But I soon realized with amazement that I was crying with intense longing for God. (See Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness.) 

Thereafter, I became and remained an extremely devotional, and inwardly unconventional, frequent crier for God – often ecstatically longing and calling for the Divine.

After meeting my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, and receiving his shaktipat initiation into the path of kundalini yoga, as “Rasik: one engrossed in devotion”, I gradually learned that my continual longing and profuse crying for God was an immense transformative blessing – recognized not only in the bhakti Hindu devotional tradition, but also in various other devotional and mystical spiritual traditions, such as the Sufi Supreme LOVE tradition of Rumi and Hafiz, and the Orthodox/Catholic “gift of tears” tradition of St. Isaac of Ninevah, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi.

I came to realize that my profuse crying spells – which Guruji called kriyas – were purifying my body and nervous system, and permitting ‘peek experiences’ advancing spiritual evolution.  For example, in addition to crying, I began experiencing previously unprecedented and protracted laughing spells, and numerous other spontaneous and unpremeditated actions, sensations, and feelings – like indescribable peace, joy and ecstasy.

Thus, when not crying I often had what I called ‘alternative LSD experiences’ of spontaneous (and sometimes ecstatic) Laughing, Singing, and Dancing. And even as an octogenarian “Uncertain Undo” I still often privately experience spontaneous outbursts of laughing, crying, and calling to God, though with advanced age singing and dancing have been curtailed.

Guruji’s explanation was that:

“There are two kinds of kriyas, one is for purification and the other for the manifestation of joy. ..
Whenever one experiences great joy or bliss, this also manifests physically as crying or laughing.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas


St. Isaac of Ninevah, explained that as signs of Grace, “unspeakable joy arises in the soul”, and that:

“The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears. When you reach the place of tears, then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age.” 

~ Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C. Orthodox Saint and Persian Mystic


Learning about devotional spirituality

Not until my 1976 spiritual awakening, did I begin learning about spirituality.

On moving from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, I was ignorant about spiritual subjects, or religions other than Judaism.

I knew nothing about Christian saints, or core Christian teachings. I didn’t even realize that my new “San Francisco” home city was named for history’s most popular Christian saint. Moreover, apart from Christianity, I was ignorant of Eastern spiritual and religious teachings.

Growing up in Chicago, I had become familiar with Judaism’s core teachings:

“ Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is One”;  and
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5

However, I had no idea of their supremely profound esoteric importance.

But my midlife spiritual awakening experiences triggered an unprecedented interest in spiritual subjects. Initially – sparked by inner experiences and amazing synchronicities – I experienced great curiosity about Saint Francis of Assisi, and about Christian teachings which inspired him.

Later I began reading hagiographic stories about other Eastern and Western saints and sages. Gradually, I learned that – apart from Jesus and a few other world-famous exemplars of Divine LOVE – the Divine devotional path has been followed by countless unknowns, especially in certain societies which for centuries have honored and emphasized devotional Love.

And gradually I became inspired by genuine “lovers of God” as exemplars of an important spiritual tradition, with which I had instinctively joined.

Lovers of God as “Heretics”

On discovering Rumi poetry, I learned that Persian culture has long encompassed all aspects of love, culminating with mystical Divine LOVE as the ultimate goal in life. And, similarly, that Sufi philosophy has so honored eccentric lovers of God that it has specifically identified many of them as “masts”persons so overwhelmed with love for God, that they appear externally disoriented.

Also, during my 1982 pilgrimage to India I learned that for millennia India has honored avadhutas, self-realized bhakti mystics living beyond usual egoic consciousness and worldly concerns, without adhering to accepted social standards. (See e.g. Advadhuta Gita, and Avadhuta – Wikipedia)

I especially remember seeing a peacefully smiling elderly man sitting stark naked on a rock in freezing temperatures midst ice and snow near the Himalayan headwaters of the holy Ganges river.

Like Sufi “masts” and Indian avadhutas, worldwide there have been countless unknown lovers of God – who sometimes were so immersed in Divine Love as to be out of touch with the outside world. Western Christianity, Eastern Christianity, and other Eastern mystical religious and spiritual paths have all recognized God intoxicated ‘holy fools’ with extraordinarily unconventional behaviors inconsistent with social norms.

Famous Devotional “Heretic” Prophets

In Western Christianity Paul the Apostle proclaimed that

“The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
(1 Corinthians 3:19)


So, Christianity has at times rejected as foolishness “the wisdom of this world”. And it has endorsed the ‘Imitation of Jesus Christ’ – who preached “Love your neighbors” and even “your enemies”. And ‘heretically’ repudiated socially condoned hypocrisy, brutality and thirst for worldly power and gains; forgivingly endured crucifixion, mockery and humiliation from ignorant crowds; and even audaciously proclaimed the ultimate non-duality ‘forbidden mystical Truth’ – that “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

In learning about Jesus’ “heretic” teachings – especially his Sermon on the Mount – I instinctively saw him as an outspoken social justice reformer, and Truth telling political and religious nonconformist. And I intuitively honored him as a wise man, like prophets of other great religions, but not as God’s “only Son”.

I always thought of “God” as ONE universally immanent nameless, formless, nonjudgmental Supreme Power. So I rejected any idea of a personal or judgmental God, and considered the Bible a collection of metaphoric legends – not as ‘the word of God’ who spoke only through special messengers.

And just as I always rejected Torah teachings about Jews as “chosen people”, I could never accept Christian dogma that Jesus was God’s “only Son” because he proclaimed “I and the Father are one”. Nor – like Gandhi – could I morally accept non-egalitarian Hindu scriptures justifying socially stratified caste systems, with some people deemed “untouchables”.

But I accepted that perennially, in historically dark and threatening eras of rampant world materialism, decadence, and violence, there propitiously have appeared renowned wise beings – like Jesus – to prophetically guide Humankind to societal and spiritual renaissance. And that as religious nonconformists and social dissidents these famous reformers often were considered and punished as “heretics” by contemporary worldly authorities.

‘Discovering’ Saint Francis of Assisi and Sri Ramakrishna as heretic “holy fools”.

Most famous Christian imitator of Jesus was Saint Francis of Assisi who in midlife – as an eccentric apostle of Love – renounced and relinquished all his worldly possessions and privileges as son of a wealthy merchant, to live as a hermit in the Umbrian countryside; and later to establish an exemplary order of Franciscan Friars who gave away all possessions and survived only on alms while preaching in the streets to common people. Francis so completely identified with Jesus that, near the end of his earthly life, he became the first saint in history to miraculously receive crucifixion stigmata.


st-francis-of-assisi

St. Francis of Assisi




Perhaps the best known Indian saint of the nineteenth century was Indian Holy Man Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa – an extraordinarily charismatic and eccentric ascetic, sometimes compared to St. Francis of Assisi.
(See Sri Ramakrishna and St. Francis of Assisi, by Sister Devamata, 1935)


Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa



After my midlife spiritual awakening, I felt increasing egalitarian affinity and harmony with people living unconventionally from inside out, rather than worldly outer directed and conventional people.

And in learning about many famous saints and mystics, somehow I clearly felt most affinity with Saint Francis of Assisi and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa.

Both of them were extraordinarily charismatic ascetics, having relinquished and renounced all worldly pleasures and privileges, to live unconventionally in utter simplicity. Both were remarkably unconventional and seemingly erratic “God intoxicated” exemplars of Divine Love and devotional faith – blessed with the ‘gift of tears’ and of spontaneously praying, singing, conversing and calling to the Divine, which as egalitarians they beheld everywhere and in every being.  Both saints eschewed punditry and were simple, unschooled and unscholarly, yet with vast inner wisdom imparted conversationally and recorded by others.

Both historically helped to religiously reform the world by charismatically living their teachings. And both were so eccentrically unconventional that they were even considered insane by some worldly people, including a few friends and relatives.

Perhaps I found exceptional rapport with both St. Francis and Ramakrishna because my own private devotional tendencies and unconventional behaviors seemed similar to theirs, and especially because of inner and synchronistic experiences, including amazing and unforgettable déjà vu of their still palpable divine energies (shakti) during pilgrimages to India and Assisi.

Later, I learned that that renowned mystical poet-masters Hafiz and Rumi, were Supreme exemplars of the Sufi-Persian path of love. But that even in their Persian societies which honored Love, they were considered by Moslem authorities to be “heretics” or “holy fools” because – like Jesus – they realized and truthfully proclaimed their mystical self-identity as Divine LOVE – a fundamentally forbidden heresy to ruling mullahs. Thus, though Hafiz was not executed, his remains could not be entombed in a Moslem cemetery in his beloved birthplace and cultured home city, Shiraz, Iran.

LOVE as the unseen Source of the world we see

Only after first ‘discovering’ famous God intoxicated “Holy Fools”, did I later learn about the countless unknown others who bless this world as LOVE. And gradually I have realized that the eccentric but loving behaviors of all “holy fools” can help reveal that societal sanity requires radical reform of orthodox worldly rules and beliefs.

Moreover, I have realized that Divine LOVE, which they embody and emanate, inevitably advances human spiritual evolution –

That as we open our hearts, we ultimately remember we are ONE spirit eternally encompassing all life as LOVE;

That we are the unseen Source of the world we see!

Invocation – Love for all, Hatred for none!

So let us love GOD with all our heart and soul and with all our might.

And with firm faith, may our guiding motto ever be

‘Love for all, Hatred for none!’


And so shall it be!

The Emotion Of Devotion – Crying For God

“There is no liquid like a tear from a lover’s eye.”
~ Rumi
“When the tears course down my cheeks,
they are a proof of the beauty and grace of my beloved.”
~ Rumi
“There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of the Power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”
~ Rumi
“Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world?
Then weeping profusely, you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart:
Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!….
When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart….”
~ Anandamayi Ma
Tears are the solution
for dissolution
of other into Mother –
Mother of All,
Mother of Mystery.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings


Sri Anandamayi Ma ~ April 30, 1896 – Aug 27,1982

 

Ron’s Introduction.

I cried for twenty four hours upon my profound mid-life Self identity realization. It was first time in my entire adult life that I remember crying. But ever since that unforgettably transformational event, I have often shed profuse tears.

While wondering why I was crying so much, I soon realized that with intense longing I was crying for God. (See Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness.)

Then after meeting my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, I gradually learned that I had been immensely blessed with a pronounced predisposition for the spiritual path of Divine devotion – the path of Love. And that my continual longing and crying for God was an extraordinary blessing recognized in all enduring devotional paths; known in Hinduism as Bhakti, and in Christianity as the “gift of tears”.



Though never a frequent flyer, for many years I became – and remain – a frequent crier. Tears have helped purify my body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness. And I have regularly experienced numerous other spontaneous and unpremeditated actions, feelings and sensations which have helped advance my spiritual evolution.

For example, when not crying I often had what I now call ‘alternative LSD experiences’ of spontaneous – and sometimes ecstatic – Laughing, Singing, and Dancing. Though with advanced age singing and dancing have been curtailed, I still often privately experience spontaneous outbursts of laughing, crying, and calling to God.

Because crying spells and other spontaneous devotional behaviors have happened so often for over forty years, they are mentioned many times in my Memoirs; for example, in an introductory chapter about crying for god and in chapters about déjà vu experiences during pilgrimages to India and Assisi.

May the following succinct teachings and quotations from spiritual texts and masters help all of us of understand the importance of longing for God with the emotion of devotion and “gift of tears”.

And may these writings also help remind, encourage and inspire us to open our hearts with deep respect, empathy and compassion for all people and all Life everywhere – as Divinity manifest.


Quotations on Crying For God.


“He who loves me is made pure; his heart melts in joy. He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes, his hair stands on end, his heart melts in love. The bliss in that state is so intense that, forgetful of himself and his surroundings, he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs, or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.”
~ Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 (Lord Krishna to His disciple Uddhave)

“The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears. When you reach the place of tears, then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age.”
~ Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C. Orthodox Saint and Persian Mystic

“There comes a holy and transparent time
when every touch of beauty 
opens the heart to tears.
This is the time the Beloved of heaven 
is brought tenderly on earth.
This is the time of the opening of the Rose.”
~ Rumi

“Jesus wept.”
~ John 11:35

“The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.”
~ Native American proverb

What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.
~Jewish Proverb

“There is a palace that opens only to tears.”
~ Zohar (source of Kabbalah)

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
~ Psalms 126:5

“Weeping may endure for the night,
but joy cometh in the morning”
~ Psalms 30:5

“Man is like an onion.
When you peel away the layers,
all that is left is tears.”
~ Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, Hasidic master

Q. “Under what conditions does one see God?”
A. “Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. They swim in tears for money. But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa

“When the child refuses to be comforted by anything except the mother’s presence, she comes. If you want to know God, you must be like the naughty baby who cries till the mother comes.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda

“Crying to God for five minutes is equal to one hour of meditation.”
“The state that we attain by calling and crying to God is equal to the bliss that the yogi experiences in samadhi.”
~ Mata Amritanandamayi  (Ammachi)

“As a [thirsty] stag longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night.
~ Psalm 42.1-3

“You know, if you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna (to Sivananda)

“When, hearing the name of Hari or Rama once,
you shed tears and your hair stands on end,
then you may know for certain that you do not
have to perform such devotions as the sandhya any more.
Then only will you have a right to renounce rituals;
or rather, rituals will drop away of themselves.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna

‘Where does the strength of an aspirant lie? It is in his tears. As a mother gives her consent to fulfill the desire of her importunately weeping child, so God vouchsafes to His weeping son whatever he is crying for”
~ Sri Ramakrishna

“Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna

“The waves belong to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the waves. A man cannot realize God unless he gets rid of all such egotistic ideas as ‘I am such an important man’ or ‘I am so and so’. Level the mound of ‘I’ to the ground by dissolving it with tears of devotion.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna

“Even avatars have to desire to be in God in every moment. And when avatars die, they desire with all their being to be united with God. ….. Look at Ramakrishna. How much he wept and prayed for the Divine Mother.”
~ Mother Meera to Andrew Harvey, “Hidden Journey”, Page 236

 

Other Teachers: Mata Amritanandamayi [Ammachi] ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“Crying to God for five minutes is equal to one hour of meditation.”
“The state that we attain by calling and crying to God is equal to the bliss that the yogi experiences in samadhi.”
~ Mata Amritanandamayi  (Ammachi)
“The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears.
When you reach the place of tears,
then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world
and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age.”
~ Saint Isaac of Nineveh


Mata Amritanandamayi

Mata Amritanandamayi



Introduction.

After receiving shaktipat from my venerable Hindu Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas (Guruji), I entered a new life phase as a devotional “born-again Hindu”, and for many years thereafter I faithfully followed Guruji’s kundalini maha yoga practices. But, especially after Guruji returned to India in 1980, I synchronistically met and spent memorable time with other spiritual teachers, in addition to Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma, while always maintaining my heartfelt inner relationship with Guruji – above all other teachers.

So in writing these memoirs, as requested by Guruji, it is appropriate that I tell you about some of these other teachers.

Elsewhere I have described my 1982 India pilgrimage experiences, including my darshan with Sathya Sai Baba. I told how Sai Baba hit my head three times uttering ”Enough!” ”Enough!” ”Enough!” while I was crying uncontrollably; that I was left in a state of confusion about my pronounced devotional crying tendencies. (see https://sillysutras.com/darshan-of-sathya-sai-baba-rons-memoirs/)

My confusion about crying for God lingered until it was memorably dispelled years later during darshan of another well known spiritual personality – Mata Amritanandamayi or Ammachi – now known for hugging millions of people worldwide.

Here’s what happened.

Crying Darshan With Mata Amritanandamayi [Ammachi].

After returning from the 1982 India pilgrimage I occasionally meditated at the San Francisco Sai Baba Center. Early in 1987 Timothy Conway, a friend and former president of that center, called asking if I would host at my apartment a program about an Indian woman spiritual teacher, Amritanandamayi or Ammachi, who was then largely unknown in the US. He explained that Ammachi would soon be making her first US visit, and that a small group of her devotees from India were seeking a San Francisco venue for an advance promotional program about her; that as a favor to them he was calling me since Sai Baba Center rules precluded holding the program there.

At that time I was living in semi-seclusion and had hosted no large gatherings in the seven year period since Guruji left my apartment. Guruji was eternally enshrined in my heart, but I remained open to learning from other spiritual teachers. So I hosted at my high-rise hermitage the first San Francisco public program about Amritanandamayi, at which some of her earliest devotees shared films and stories about Ammachi’s unusual history and devotional path. One of them, Neal Rosner (Nealu), Ammachi’s first Western male disciple, had just published a memoir which I acquired and read.

Ammachi + earliest-disciples

Ammachi’s Earliest Close Disciples


I learned then that Ammachi had been an abused child of an Indian fisherman’s large family in a remote and primitive village in Kerala; that after constantly calling and crying for the Divine, she had manifested many extraordinary spiritual tendencies and that, ultimately she had become a noteworthy trance channel displaying Krishna and Kali energies or moods (bhavas) to the enthrallment of villagers and visitors, some of whom – with her encouragement – had begun considering her a saint or avatar.

Thereafter, on Ammachi’s arrival in the Bay area, I attended one of her first public darshans at which I unforgettably learned about her devotional path of crying for God. Unknowingly I had been following that path since my spiritual awakening. (see https://sillysutras.com/kundalini-crying-for-god-and-other-kriyas-rons-memoirs/ )

By that time I’d become a spiritual friend of pundit Pravin Jani, father of Guruji’s successor Shri Anandi Ma. Pravinji had moved with his family from Bombay to Berkeley, and together we attended an Ammachi darshan at a small house in Oakland. On our arrival, the darshan room was filled with others and there was little remaining seating room. So we sat in a far corner of the room behind the elevated throne-like chair where Amma was receiving visitors with hugs and compassionately answering their spiritual questions.

As I sat in that warm spiritual ambience I experienced a heartfelt meditative state, and tears began trickling – not ‘torrentially’ but steadily. On observing Amma hugging each person who approached her, I felt content to sit and savor that devotional environment, with tears constantly seeping from my often closed eyes. But I was not inspired to go up up for a hug.

After so sitting for some time without intending to approach Amma, one of her attending swamis came and aroused me from my meditative state, quietly saying “Mother asks that you come up for darshan.” Respectfully, I complied with that request, anticipating a quick hug and, perhaps, some blessed fruit (“prasad”). But that is not what happened.

Instead, while lovingly embracing me in her arms and then in her lap, with my tears still seeping, Ammachi gave an extended discourse on the evolutionary importance of crying for God. (Her words spoken in Malayalam were translated by a swami.) After perhaps twenty minutes she concluded her talk referring to me still in her embrace, saying: “If you can cry like him, you’ve won the spiritual sweepstakes.”

The Path of Tears.

Dramatically encouraged by Ammachi, I never again doubted the immense blessing of my spontaneous devotional longing and crying for the Divine. And with curiosity sparked by Ammachi’s discourse, I later found similar teachings from other spiritual teachers in various traditions. (see https://sillysutras.com/the-emotion-devotion-crying-for-god/ ) Especially resonant were teachings of nineteenth century Indian holy man Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, with whom I had developed inner rapport after my unforgettable 1982 deja vu experience at his Dakshineswar residence place.

Ramakrisha, who had cried torrential tears for the Divine Mother, taught:

“[I]f you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.” – “Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”

After receiving shaktipat initiation from Guruji and the spiritual name “Rasik” – “One engrossed in devotion”, I had continuously kept yearning and often spontaneously calling and intensely weeping for the Divine. So, encouraged by Ammachi, Ramakrishna and others I was much attracted to Ammachi’s path of heartfelt singing and calling to the Divine, and was strongly motivated to see her again. And I did.

Years of tears with Ammachi.

For the next seven years after that first darshan I saw Ammachi during her bi-annual visits to the US and, in her absence, I often attended meditation programs at her nearby San Ramon ashram. Also, on my retirement, in February 1992 for several weeks I visited Ammachi’s Kerala, India ashram, since my daughter Jessica was then an ashram resident known as “Yogini”.

Though often I cried intensely for the Divine at Ammachi’s darshans, unlike most others there I usually was not motivated to receive her hugs. But in her presence I enjoyed marvelous devotional meditations, with tears, laughter, singing, and occasional spontaneous dancing to Amma’s bhajans. Thus through Ammachi I received bountiful blessings for which I am eternally grateful.

Prelude to a new life era.

At first I experienced an exceptionally powerful devotional ambience around Ammachi. And I was much moved by her soulful singing of bhajans calling to the Divine. However, my experience of devotional blessings around Ammachi and my enthusiasm for her darshans gradually diminished and eventually ended in distressing disillusionment.

After a while there seemed to be less and less pure heartfelt energy coming to me from her music and her presence. Ultimately it seemed that the music degenerated from being powerfully authentic to almost banal.

And as Ammachi attracted more and more followers, I perceived a growing cult of personality and materialistic atmosphere around her which greatly agitated and offended my pronounced egalitarian inclinations and aversions to spiritual organizations emphasizing “adulation of the incarnate” over “adoration of the Infinite”.

Also, though initially I always had felt energized by Ammachi’s darshan environment, after a while subtle energies there were more and more flowing from me, rather than to me. So, unlike my experience with Guruji, I was sometimes enervated rather than elevated after Ammachi darshans. This was especially noteworthy when I visited Ammachi’s Kerala ashram in 1992.

Moreover, I ultimately learned of private behaviors associated with or sanctioned by Ammachi which contradicted and belied her outer image and public pronouncements, and which so greatly disturbed me that I began regarding her as a flawed or false guru and not as a purported divine incarnation or avatar. (see Epilogue)

But like my traumatic marriage dissolution, the traumatic dissolution of my faith in Ammachi has proven to be a great disguised blessing which sparked an important new transformative life phase of reliance on inner rather than outer authority. (see e.g. my essay “I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life”)

Epilogue.

Because I spent seven important years at Ammachi darshans I feel obliged to write about those years in fulfillment of my obligation to Shri Dhyanyogi, my beloved guru, who requested that I write and publish my spiritual memoirs.

Until now I have been reluctant to publicly share my distressing disaffection with Ammachi and her organization. I did not wish to discourage other devotees with different perspectives, some of whom are friends. But I now feel morally impelled to tell my truth, with the intention of helping others who might learn from my experience.

Moreover, I feel morally impelled to share elsewhere my observations which support credibility of a recently published critical book about Ammachi.

Gail Tredwell (aka “Gayatri” or “Swamini Amritaprana”), who for twenty years was Ammachi’s revered first and closest Western female devotee, has just published a memoir entitled “Holy Hell, A Memoir of Faith, Devotion and Pure Madness” containing many shocking but credible revelations.

Some of Gail’s revelations are consistent with my observations and corroborate an incident which was my “last straw” with Ammachi, to be explained in another memoirs chapter. Moreover, some of her credible revelations are so shocking that I feel they should be seriously considered by those who may be contemplating relationships with Ammachi and her organization, or with other hierarchical religious or spiritual organizations.

As a long-time former litigation attorney deeply dedicated to social justice and with skills in evaluating credibility of witnesses, I read Gail’s book, initiated extended phone conversations with her, and discussed her allegations with other yet anonymous witnesses. I have found Gail to be a sincere, honest and accurate percipient witness.

Nonetheless, the MA Centers organization has attacked Gail’s character by asserting that she is “a troubled individual” whose writings are “completely untrue and without a basis in fact or reality”. Since I am quite convinced that Gail’s memoirs are absolutely true, I find deeply offensive an ad hominem attack on her by those to whom she selflessly dedicated much of her adult life, and I feel dharmically impelled to support Gail’s credibility.