Book on Amritanandamayi by former disciple raises grave allegations

New York: A book written by a former disciple of Mata Amritanandamayi, has raised some serious allegations against the ‘Hugging Saint’ and functioning of her Ashram.

Amritanandamayi is referred to as a saint by many, with her hugs believed to cure cancer and other diseases. Thousands line up, often waiting hours to be hugged and blessed by the godly woman.    

However, a different portrait is painted of Amma in the new book Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness, written by her former personal assistant, Gail "Gayatri" Tredwell.

Tredwell, in the book, claims that the true picture is far different from the facade of beloved holy woman that the public sees.

The book depicts an unsettling portrait of Amma in a voice that brims with honesty and hope.

For two decades, Tredwell acted as Amma's personal servant, expected to be available at the "saint's" disposal at all hours. She became fluent in the Malayalam language and was with Amma continuously. The author shares her unique story, keeping to the facts yet taking responsibility for her own role in the situation.

The book talks about Amritanandamayi ashram's meteoric rise from religious community to mega-empire, completely business-minded and rife with hypocrisy.

Tredwell leads readers through the stages of her servitude to Amma, beginning with the early years fraught with innocent devotion, then to the developing awareness of the severity of her situation, until at last she realizes her needed liberation is not from God, but rather from Amma.

Only after years of recovery and reflection has Tredwell been able to reveal this story in all its raw and unflinching truth.

In the book, Tredwell recounts her personal experience in the ashram, where she admits she was complicit in covering up all sorts of ashram secrets, in a misguided attempt to protect the guru’s misdeeds from public view (believing, as all guru cultists do, that the guru is God in human form and therefore exempt from human standards of right and wrong).

Tredwell’s riveting book recounts stories of donations intended for charity being converted into gold jewelry and hidden under the garments of Amma’s sanyasis (monks) as they passed through customs – then the gold being passed to Amma’s family to make them fabulously rich. Tredwell tells of being beaten, clawed, and bitten by Amma, who would succumb to fits of rage over small mistakes made by her attendants.

Tredwell also speaks of her discovery that, while claiming to be a lifelong celibate, Amma secretly had ongoing sexual affairs with several of her closest swamis (monks who have taken lifelong vows of celibacy). And she speaks of being raped herself, repeatedly, by one of these same swamis, and names him.

She currently resides in Hawaii. Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness is now available on in both Kindle and paperback editions, and available as an e-book via several other online retailers.