Ammachi, the beatific Indian hugging saint, has received wonderful clips from the press this most recent U.S. tour. Here’s Erik Davis’s Salon.com article about his encounter with her. And he even got to speak with her! Here’s what she said:
“Today people are willing to die for religion, but no one lives in the central truth of religion. Religion is just the outer shell. The fruit is spirituality. People look at the outer shell and don’t realize the spiritual essence. Spirituality is not different from a worldly life. Spirituality shows how to lead a happy life in the world, to minimize problems and maximize happiness. It is like an instruction manual. What is wrong if you get more happiness from spirituality than worldly pleasures?”
The article includes an excellent analysis of Amma’s marketing strategies and charitable work. There’s some questioning of whether or not she’s over-guru-izing herself (sort of lording herself over us hapless underlings), but in the end Davis, author of “The Visionary State; A Journey Through California’s Spiritual Landscape” can’t help but embrace her in more ways than one.
If you’ve been wondering whether hugging Amma is worth the six-plus hour wait, Beliefnet’s own Valerie Reiss describes her meeting with Amma with such warmth and precision, you’ll likely be in line next year. Read her take here.