Experiences with Indian Avatars
By: Robert Favour
In the Hindu faith an important aim of the earthly existence is to come free from the cycle of rebirth. This can be realised when one has come free from karma, the unfinished business with other souls and one has ascended from day-to-day worries and maybe even realised God or integrated one 's Higher Self in the existence. There are however people who stand free in relation to daily existence and whose souls have come to earth to help humanity. They have come here to bring something, they carry with them their Godly gifts and with their higher conciousness they can help others in reaching the aim of self realisation by transfering their wisdom, energy and applying of their special gifts. Avatars are here to support improvement for people, bring their conciousness on a higher level and maybe help attain enlightment. At the moment in the Western world the most well known, still living avatars from India are Mother Meera, Amma and Sai Baba.
Basically it is a good idea to make use of them. They offer help without asking anything back. You do not need to associate with them for a long time or identify completely with one guru; you can also visit them all three and maybe compare what they do, see what feels good for you. In this matter I have been someone of the latter approach.
The most asked questions around the Avatar phenomenon are: 'What do they do actually? ', 'Do you get better by visiting them? ', 'To whom should I go to? ' The answers to these posed questions give a pragmatic insight into esoteric realms. The following report contains some personal experiences, a profile and an impression of the main discussions on these avatars.
This avatar came to my attention in 1995 when a friend had gone to her and told enthousiastic stories. I called right away to Germany where she was living. A staff member booked an appointment for darshan two months later (darshan is the daily encounter with the guru; in fact the word darshan is derived from Sankrit and means something like clear seeying). One day I drove from my home town to Thalheim, the little village in Germany some 50 kilometers North of Frankfurt. A group of around hundred visitors were waiting in a queue in front of her house. One after the other got checked in by Herbert, the German husband of Morther Meera, and took a seat in the small living space or on the stairs. When everone had found a place it became silent, Mother Meera descended down the stairs and sat down on the central chair. She was wearing a beautiful Indian gown. Everybody started to meditate and tried to connect to her peaceful presence. First the staff members kneeled in front of her. For about a second or twenty she held the head of the one sitting before her. When she looked away these staff members went back to their seats. Now a small line of admirers developed, who were patiently waiting till it was their turn. During the darshan there was complete silence; no one spoke. I waited till halfway the two hour session. When I was sitting in front of her, she looked me deep in the eyes, as though she looked right through me. I felt a strong light energy going through my body and went back to my place. The rest of the dashan I sat in a feeling of extasy and astonishment about that energy I had received. That night in a small hotel in the area I slept as a rose. In the first visit one can attend four days of (after that two) and the following days I noticed that indeed I felt more comfort in my body. The encounters created a new sort of happiness and hope and within a few days that I had returned home I had made my next appointment for over two months.
The darshans with Mother MeeraM were a real blessing for me. Eventually I have visited her at least twenty times. My mental state was not great when I started to visit her, but after a few visits I developed new structure in my life. My aura changed through her wonderful interventions (for those who can see auras, I developed a lot more healthy purple in it). The light energy became stronger. It was remarkable that I always had a more than normal need to clean up my appartment when I returned home. This way I threw a lot of old stuff away. It looked as though my environment needed to reflect my new more clear inner state.
In one of the few interviews that Mother Meera has given, she explaines that during the encounter with the devotee she removes the knots out of the ethereal lines which come out of the head and lay over the back of the body of humans. This kind of lines can not be seen for someone with normal vision. The knots represent the traumas from the past. By gradually removing these knots people can come free from old stress. She has also told that she heals the personality during darshan and that she brings down the Paramatman light to the earth.
Not so many authors have written down their experiences with Mother Meera. David Cousins, a London based spiritual teacher spoke about a rain of little light points he saw during darshan. Andrew Harvey wrote a more critical essay after she had disposed homosexuality as unnatural. Later she took those words back, but the relation with Andrew Harvey never re-established itself. For me she was indeed an avatar, who significantly helped to clear up a difficult time in my life with her wonderful energy and unselfish support. I took up my life after a few visits to Mother Meera, found new direction in my life and moved to Southern France.
What is outstanding in comparison with other avatars is that this guru does not collect great groups around her. Permanently there is only a small staff with her. The rest of the followers and interested people can have darshan with her few times a year. In fact she wants devotees to seek enlightment in their own environment. The advice 'follow your own path, I will help you; it is not necessary to be with me ', I have picked somewhere from her. She travels, as many enlightened souls, through the astaral planes and can also give support from a distance, but the real meeting is the more powerful experience. For that reason people from all over the world visit her to receive her blessings. On specific times during darshan days it is possible to call her for questions. She then will not speak directly to you, but in stead she uses Herbert or another staff member as a channel to pass on answers.
A few years ago Mother Meera has changed her modest home in Thalheim for a monastery in the area, just under Castle Schaumburg, about 10 kilometers west of the little town of Limburg. There are train connections from Balduistein, the closest village, to Limburg and Frankfurt. For 2007 she has planned foreign trips, amongst them to the US and the UK. It is possible to receive darshan there.
When I got involved with a woman from New Zealand who was into Sai Baba and had travelled with her through Europe for a little while, one day she suddenly had left for her guru in India. It took me a few weeks, but then I decided to follow her. I had already intended to visit him; this time there were more reasons to go there. The trip was long: ten hours flying from Amsterdam to Mumbai, wait half a day there, then go on to Bangalore in Southern India and the another four hours by taxi to arrive in Puttaparthi (at the moment it is possible to fly twice a week directly from Mumbai to the village where they have created a landing strip).
The sudden transfer to a totally different culture and temperature brought me the first time into a cultural shock. I experienced the big city as slovenly and hectic; the countryside in the trip to Sai baba was dry and deserted.
Sai Baba has hundreds of thousands of followers and a whole village was developed around him. Inside the ashram was the house of Sai Baba and a beautiful Hindutempel. Furhermore there were a few hundreds apartments, massive dormitories, all meant for the short term visitors. In the village cheap apartments were for rent and many people stayed there to live longer or even permanently with this avatar. On a random day at least five thousand people Westerners and Indian people were living there. At religious fastivals this number multiplied a few times.
Puttaparthi was a lively spot with small restaurants, no star hotels, little shops where statues
and other touristic ware were sold, women offering small quantities of fruit etc. Before and after darshan a poor and chaotic business filled the paved and unpaved streets of the village. Devotees dressed in white, clapped out busses, old English taxis, horning rikshas merged with buffalos pulling carts, mules with tied front legs and hungry monkeys.
My new girlfriend received me kindly; I had to buy some Indian clothes for darshan
and we ate a small Indian meal; after that I went for my first temple visit. A few thousand people waited to see their spiritual master. Men were on the left side, women on the right wing. Men with blue scarves guarded the small walking tracks where Sai Baba was going to walk through the crowd. Suddenly loud Indian music came out of the speakers; the tour of Sai Baba had begun. He walked slowly from his home to the entrance of the temple and then traversed the public on his way to the huge throwne in the middle of the central platform. He stared absently into the public and took letters from some people. Out of thin air he created a gray ash, the holy vibuthi, and gave that to the devotees who sat in the front of the corridos in the public. He sent his blessing through the crowd and gave the impression as though he was bringing up the energy in this mass with a gesture with his hands. I saw when he came in my area that he looked me twice in the eye. I felt my body uplifting.
It looked as though he was serving all present at the same time according to their own needs. At the end of the darshan he walked along the throwne and invited a few persons he had selected to come with him to a room for a special treament. When they had entered that space the music stopped; most stood up; at the end of 1997 I had received my first darshan with Sathya Sai Baba.
In the evening we had dinner with some friends of my girlfriend. A woman asked if there maybe had been some sort message from this guru. I had to think a while but then I remembered that indeed I had reveived a message; something like 'Welcome, we will work together on your development here '. I heared more often things from the daily noise and had neglected it. But now it looked different. I resolved to focus if I could clearaudiently pick up any messages and that happened. After a while I started to ask Sai Baba questions and I received surprising answers which for me expressed important ans spiritual insights. It looked as though I was connected to an oracle. I felt God closer to God.
The alluding to higher spiritual ideas, special advice belongs to a relationship with Sai Baba. An inner dialogue with him happens not so often; ususally he comes to his devotees in dreams, via other people or other ways. In my case the experience established a close bond with this guru.
Many of his followers say they have a spectaculair connection with him. They express that he gives special insights in the Self and the world around. Sai Baba also tries to be a teacher. Regularly during darshan he gives lectures which lost eventually meaning for me. Besides, they are difficult to follow for Westerners, as his speech tempo is high and the English translation gets lost in the echoing hall. Also devotional songs are sung.
He regards himself as the most important incarnation on earth. He says he is of all religions,
but in practice there are only Hinduistic statues and signs to be found in the ashram. The energy of Sai Baba is in comparison with the serenity of Mother Meera best described as wild. Being with MM never gave me the impression she wanted to teach me anything special. Change came due to the purification process in the conciousness. This guru on the other hand did want to teach. I regularly received advice from him in matters he had raised. Devotees sometimes go through heavy processes and it looks as though he spiritually drops you and then subsequently picks you up again a few days later. This way it looks as though you develop yourself unselfishly and come quickly on a path ascension, whereby old conditioning is released and the master pushes his energy through you, leading you into higher conciousness. In a newsletter from the ashram this was described as 'Progressive Dynamism '. I think that Sai Baba leads you besides into spiritual realms, also more away from daily existence. The upward kundalini energy in the spine rose after some time within me. As the Hinduistic theory states spiritual awareness and special gifts come then within reach when this energy starts to touch the brains. In my case it led to a deeper understanding of things, knowing beyond the usual stages of doubt and discussion.
You are taken well care of you when you are with him: twice a day you attend darshan if you wish: early in the morning and half way the afternoon. In the ashram there is both a Western and and an Indian cantine. Both serve three times a day a meal. Volunteers run these places. As the food does not need to be expensive and the rent for the apartments is not comparable to Western standards it is relatively cheap to live around Sai Baba; one of the reasons many stay long time with him � sometimes for years - and also travel with him to his summer resorts in Whitefield and Kodaikanal. For the rest he hardly travels.
Eventually I was deeply touched by this spiritual adventure and I stayed in a period of three years two years with him. The devotion and letting go of my own place had advantages as well as disadvantages. No doubt an advantage was that my ascension process proceeded quickly. Also with the new light power, I became stronger; not so much physically, but mentally and ethereal. I used the losts of free time to read into the old spiritual Indian spiritual masters.
Also I read many new age books about angels, extraterrestrials etc., like the ones of Joshua Stone. In our little room I connected in long meditaties with these angels and also with the ascended masters. Eventually I could sit for hours in peaceful meditation. I started to come in a state which the Hindus call Samadhi or the realisation of Atma (God). This is a very Eastern way to attain the Godly realms, where you merch into something bigger than yourself and give away a lot of the ego. Someone like Rudolph Steiner strives for strengthening of the Ego. With that a disadvantage is mentioned: it all works as long as you stay in the East. I was not destined to stay there.
After a while more and more things started to go wrong in relation to Sai Baba. He showed I had to rake up old matters with some old contacts, while I knew it was better to leave it. As a consequence of wrong actions I went through a spiritual crash that shrunk my power and feeling of wellness. I had become worse than I had begun with him. Gradually I became aware that this guru had strong shadow sides. I started to doubt his good intentions and wondered if he meant all that well as it showed at first glance. I found out that his materialisations out of the blue were based on magic tricks: the vibuthi came from clay tablets he held between his fingers; the golden rings with gemstones proved to be fake that could be bought in every third shop in Puttaparthi. We were betrayed. One of his devotees whom I admired and whom had written a few books on Sai Baba turned against him, because of the complaints he got from young Indian boys on sexual abuse of Sai Baba. I heard a story of a Dutch man having to do a blow job on God, or a boy of seven with a teared up anus.
The claims of his faithful followers to dispose these abject sexual acts as a methods to free prana energy points more to slavish docility than on a realistic view on sexual misconduct. When later on the Internet an inventory was made of these appaling deeds, it finally became clear how many victims of criminal games were made. There were simple too many accusitions to denounce this as slander. What sort of man is the one who calls himself Sathya, meaning Truth, and deceives every day thousands of people? What is the energy of Sai Baba worth when his most important aim seems to be to bring his devotees in blind admiration? For that game he is not afraid to use every possible tool. I also started to experience unknown adversity which was new for me, which caused me to doubt him and put even more questions on the sincerety of this man and his work in helping people ascend spiritually. Objectively, from all these indications, one can miniminally ascertain a double agenda within the man. In spite of the help in my begin period with him I personally got convinced that he is not okay and that he abuses and betrays people, not only in the physical levels, but also on the spiritual realms.
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, shortly Amma or Ammatchi, is living in Kerala in Southern India. A few months a year she travels over the world to give hugs to her admirers around the globe. The fist time, in 1996, I visited her when she had come to Belgium. There were a few hundred people present there. Her darshan that went on all day was a little party. There were stands where goods from India were sold. She was accompanied by a group of Indian musicians, who played for hours religious Hindu songs. Her voice drifted beautifully above the music and appeared to be in touch with heavenly realms. It thrilled the visitors. After a few hours she started to embrace her followers. Two rows of waiting people were formed for a personal encounter with the avatar. It took long before it was my turn and I could receive a enlightening hug.
The happening is very spontaneous. Amma talks regularly with her staff members during the giving of her hugs. Everybody gets a sweet after the embracement. Although darshan was quite different from the experience with Mother Meera, I did feel energy waves going into my body when she hugged me. After that I retreated at a quite spot in the hall to let the newly attained energy settle in my body and to listen to the wonderful songs of the band. The next day the ritual was repeated. Some devotees travelled with her to other countries.
The next time I met her was a year later when she gave darshan in Bordeaux in France. I also had beautiful experiences there, but meeting Amma did not grab me the way Mother Meera had done. Only a few years later, just before the Millenium feasts, I visited her again, this time in India.
The Amritapuri Ashram was located on a penisula along the coast. Her place held the middle between the big scale of things with Sai Baba and the small scale around Mother Meera. The long term staying devotees were mainly Westerners. Here also devotees were taken care of quite well. There was a Western kitchen that was run by volunteers and that served cheap meals. In the ashram was a tall apartment block erected with little rooms where a few hundred devotees could stay. We had a beautiful view from our flat and for two months my girlfriend and I stared regularly over the pacific where sometimes some dolphins passed. Every day I went to the temple for an encounter with Amma. Often religious songs were played by the little orchestra and again Ammachi 's voice engulfed the area with heavenly warmth. I had the impression Amma enjoyed the company of her admirers. After some time I could hold more of her energy. We celebratated the start of the millenium with her in Kerala, but aft!
er two moths we wanted to do something else and so we moved on in India.
During my time with Amma I have not found many books on her. She sometimes gives initiations in meditation techniques to selected devotees. She also does a lot of practicle aid work. For instance she has set up schools and other development projects in India. I remember she was on the edge of being nominated for a UN peaceprice, but 'so the story went ' she did not want that recognition.
Personal experience colours judgement; sure. But that does not mean that trends can not be derived from these impressions. The conclusion from me shortly reads that visits to the two femenine Indian avatars can be recommended. I think both are able to improve the spiritual awareness and general wellbeing of someone. Mother Meera does not collect great numbers of devotees around her, what can mean that she has no interest there. She appears free from egoistic preferences and seems sincere in her silent purification work and energy gift. But two encounters in two months is for some not enough. Amma works with a different energy and approach and has the advantage that you can see her at least a few times a week. Furthermore you can stay for a longer time period with her aqnd that way maybe you can be busy more intensly with your developments. On the other hand staying for a longer period can also enhance the co-dependency towards the guru. To go to Amma takes a flight to Bangalore or Trivendrum and then another long train trip or taxi ride will bring you to her ashram. But you can also try her out on her visits around the globe. As yet no planned trips for 2007 outside India are known.
Someone who wants it quickly and who does not care about risks with his/her wellbeing may go on an adventure with Sai Baba. Be prepared for a rough ride; an avatar called him a poker player. In spite of the fact that he has far the most admirers in the world, it can not be denied that there is a vast record of people having negative experiences with this man and that he is by far the most controversial avatar around. And this is only a mild statement, a neutral explanation. From my own experience of hundreds of darshans with him I do not doubt that he has paranormal qualities, but in spite of the sensational stories and magical capture of many of his devotees I am not convinced Sai Baba is enlightened. Someone who is not free from mind manipulation, sexual abuse and betrayal, to mention a few of the negative behavioural aspects can hardly be called enlightened. If his materialisations are fake and he expresses appaling behaviour, the question is what he is doing in the spiritual realms. I am convinced that Sai Baba plays strange games with the faith and willingness to believe of his devotees. He is a sick man. You are being warned. For those who do not want to believe this: at the end of the day it is clear that with such a controversial man it will be very uncertain if you, as a spiritual seeker, will indeed improve yourself being with him and after all, that still is the goal of avatars on earth.
Robert Favour is psychologist. At the moment he works as a spiritual advisor in a healing practice in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (see www.robertfavour.com).