Fadia Ibrahim


1962:  Fadia Ibrahim was born.

1990:  Ibrahim immigrated from Beirut, Lebanon to Canada.

2009 :  The Virgin Mary first visited Fadia Ibrahim during Mass, by inscribing the letter M on her leg in blood.

2010:  In response to now numerous messages from Mary to Ibrahim, a Catholic group in Detroit, Michigan delivered a statue of the Virgin to her.

2010 (March):  Ibrahim began to notice the statue weeping tears of oil.

2010 (May/June):  Mary told Ibrahim to place the statue outside her home.

2010 (October):  The City of Windsor Ontario received the first complaint about the presence of the statue.

2010 (early November):  Media in the U.S. reported on the statute, leading to an increase in visitors.

2010 (November 5):  After opposition to the display of the statue outside of Ibrahim home, the statue was moved to St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church.


There is little known about Fadia Ibrahim’s life before her experiences with the Virgin Mary. It is known that she was born in 1962 in Lebanon and migrated to Canada around 1990 (Yonke 2010). She resided in East Windsor in Ontario at the time her messages from the Virgin Mary began (Willick 2010). Ibrahim attended the St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, an Orthodox Christian church.

Ibrahim’s first encountered with the Virgin Mary occurred during a Catholic Mass. A bloody M appeared on Ibrahim’s leg, placed there, Ibrahim reports, by the Virgin Mary (Wilhem 2010). Mary continued to visit Ibrahim through messages and additional markings on her body. Ibrahim describes Mary in the following way: “She’s pretty. She keeps smiling. She covers her head. … She’s 49, 50 years [old]. … She’s like, I don’t know how to say, she’s different. She’s different” (Yonke 2010). Once word of her messages from Mary began to spread, a family of Chaldean Catholics from Detroit presented a boxed four-foot statue of the Virgin Mary to Ibrahim (Yonke 2010). It is believed that the statue originally came from the Los Angeles area (Morgan 2010).

After receiving the statue, Ibrahim stored it inside her home. It was on Canada Day (July 1), she reports, that her daughter discovered that it was dispensing oil. It was a request from Mary that led her to then build an enclosed pedestal on her front lawn to display the statue. Visitors began to appear immediately, and some brought flowers. According to Ibrahim, Mary was pleased. She states that the statue was smiling and secreting oil. Shortly after the statue was placed outside the home, Ibrahim began to report oil secreting from her own hands. Ibrahim stated the oil came from the statue and was of the Virgin Mary (Yonke 2010). Daily attendance at the statue rose to as many as 1,000 visitors per day (Willick 2010).

Following persistent complaints from neighbors about the noise and traffic generated by visitors, municipal officials ordered Ibrahim to remove the statue from her lawn by November 19, 2010. Ibrahim reports also receiving a message from Mary requesting that her statue be moved. According to Ibrahim, “She told me she wanted people to go back to the church,” said Ibrahim. “My house is not a church.” Ibrahim later commented that the statue was happy in its new location (Kristy 2010). Ibrahim initially offered the statue to her own church, St. Ignatius of Antioch Orthodox Church, but the pastor declined her offer. Father Chaaya at St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church, which serves primarily Catholics of Lebanese origin, did agree to accept the statue at St. Charbel’s, although he was not convinced at the time that the tears were real. Within a short time, however, he changed his mind: “Then, during recitation of the rosary on the evening of Nov. 13, the Maronite priest said he and about 50 worshippers clearly saw tears dripping from the statue’s eyes. “It’s true. I saw it,” Father Chaaya said. “Now I know” (Yonke 2010). Nonetheless, the transfer of the statue from an independent to a church-controlled site proved definitive. As Laycock (2014:192) noted, “Once it was inside the church, the statue received far less attention. There have been no reports of Ibrahim receiving messages or the statue secreting tears.”


Many visitors to the statue at Ibrahim’s residence believed that the tears from the statue were a sign from God and an indication of the world reaching dark times. Visitors felt that Mary wept out of heartbreak as the world destroyed itself through injustices such as crime and war. Pam Martin, a visitor of the statue, believed the statue indicated such a message: “I watch the news and I can’t help but be saddened by what I see…[Mary’s] weeping for us because we’re killing this world” (Jette 2010). Ironically perhaps, Windsor was known as “sin city” to Americans (Wilhelm 2010). Thus, at least some locals believed that the statue brought much needed attention, prayer, and hope to the area. In this way, the statue was appreciated as a miracle. “I think it’s a miracle from God,” Ms. Ibrahim told The Blade. “She wants people to pray, go back to the church. She like people to believe on her Son, and she want people to help each other as before” (Willick 2010; Yonke 2010).

In addition to believing the statue itself is a miracle and a message, visitors believed that the oil from the statue possessed healing powers. When Ibrahim started to report oil miraculously appearing on her hand, visitors began to seek out her personal blessing. There are reports of visitors receiving healing and answers to the prayers from worshiping the statue and being blessed by Ibrahim (Wilhelm 2010).


Large groups of believers, predominantly of the Catholic faith, visited the site to be in communion with the miracle statue of the Virgin Mary. Although in place for a very short time, the statue in Windsor became a pilgrimage site for believers in Marian apparitions. Visitors reported being overcome with emotion upon simply looking at the statue. Worshipers also repeated prayers, such as the Hail Mary, and held religious items such as rosaries and Bibles while worshiping. Even after the statue had been placed in the St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church, believers attested to the statue’s secreting of tears: “I swear to God, honestly — we’re in church right now — by the fourth decat you could see it, it was just so clear,” Ms. Rizk said. “The tear formed on the top of the eye and dripped down and stopped at the bottom of the eye. It was a statue one second and then it became a miracle, right in front of my eyes” (Yonke 2010).

The most important ritual believers engaged in was collecting the Virgin’s oily tears. They believed the oil to be sacred whether through direct contact with the statue itself, with the hand of Ibrahim, or with the hands of those who did touch the statue. Ibrahim only allowed a handful of visitors actually touch the statue. These lucky few would place their hands on the heads of other visitors and bless them. Visitors brought with them ziploc bags, cotton balls, and makeup remover to collect the Virgin’s tears of oil and bring them home (Wilhelm 2010). Sometimes Ibrahim would use her hands to make a cross with the on the forehead of visitors. One woman described the experience as overwhelming: “When she touched me, I just felt overwhelmed and everything seemed to come out,” said Rosanne Paquette. “I felt this warmth, and it was unbelievable.” Another woman testified that her teenage granddaughter was cured of leukemia after Ibrahim anointed her with the oil: “She just put the oil on her, prayed for her…. The doctor said her blood, everything was normal” (Willick 2010).


Fadia Ibrahim and her statue of the Virgin Mary encountered opposition from two sources: neighborhood residents and municipal officials and officials of the Roman Catholic Church.

Once Ibrahim had moved the statue of Mary from inside her house to the front lawn, the statue quickly came under fire. Neighbors disliked the large increased traffic and noise in the neighborhood, which only increased when the U.S. began to report about it (Caldwell 2010). Neighbors quickly complained to the city and organized a petition against the statue that was delivered to municipal officials. Due to the lack of a building permit and to building code violations, the city gave Ibrahim until November 19 to remove the statue. Ibrahim quickly objected to the city’s notice and collected hundreds of donations and signatures for a petition to save the statue before finally acceding to the city’s demands. Ironically, a city solicitor at the time, George Wilkki, spoke to the media telling them there was an easy solution to the city’s issues with the statue. Ibrahim simply needed to apply for a minor variance and a building permit. Then, the statue could remain at its location in her front yard (Wilhelm 2010).

At the same time, Catholic Church officials had begun to investigate the validity of Ibrahim’s statue and its miraculous tears of oil. Church officials dissuaded people from visiting the shrine but never officially denounced the statue. Father John Ayoub of the Diocese of the Windsor Orthodox Church, St. Ignatius of Anitoch Church was more measured in his response (Laycock 2014: 192). He stated that he did not find the statue to be a miracle of God. However, he continued to accept Ibrahim as a member of his parish and allowed others to believe in her message if they so desired. Ibrahim, on the other hand, reportedly felt disappointed by the lack of support from the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

On November 5, fourteen days before the city’s deadline for Ibrahim to move the statue, visitors who arrived at Ibrahim’s home found that the statue had been removed. The expressed sadness and curiosity. The only explanation for the removal of the statues was contained in two notes left outside the home. The note on the outside of the statues casing simply asked visitors to leave the family and home alone. The other note, located on the front door of the home read, “The statue has been relocated and this structure will be taken down shortly. Please stay off this private property. Visit your church, please.” Members of the Ibrahim initially denied knowledge of the statue’s location when visitors made further inquiry (Vijay 2010).

Ibrahim did subsequently offer an explanation. She stated that she had received a message from Mary asking her to take the statue of the weeping Virgin to the church. Ibrahim insisted that Mary did not want believers coming to Ibrahim’s house to pray, thereby treating it as Mary’s home. Mary, Ibrahim asserted, had only wanted her to attract public attention and then direct believers back to the church. Ibrahim denied any relation between the city’s demand for her to move the statue, or the strain the statue had created on her neighborhood and family, and her decision to give the statue to the church Her final statement was that Mary had given “a message…to pray you have to pray in church” (Vijay 2010).


Caldwell, Simon. 2010. “‘Weeping’ Virgin Transferred to Canadian Church.” The Catholic Herald. Accessed from http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2010/11/12/%E2%80%98weeping%E2%80%99-virgin-transferred-to-canadian-church/ on 4 November 2014.

CBC News. 2010. “Front-yard Virgin Mary to Come Down.” Accessed from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/front-yard-virgin-mary-to-come-down-1.939349 on 4 November 2014.

Jette, Martha. 2010a. “Miracles: Do They Still Happen Today?” (Part 1 of 2). Accessed from http://www.examiner.com/article/miracles-do-they-still-happen-today-part-1-of-2 on 16 November 2014.

Jette, Martha. 2010b. “Is Madonna ‘Weeping for the World?’” (Part 2 of 2). Accessed from http://www.examiner.com/article/is-madonna-weeping-for-the-world-part-2-of-2 on 16 November 2014.

Kristy, Dylan. 2010. “Visitors Welcome at New Home of ‘Weeping’ Madonna.” The Windsor Star , November 8. Accessed from http://www2.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=5c83fa0e-e79b-4671-85a5-6892beb84368 on 24 November 2014.

Laycock, Joseph. 2014. The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Laycock, Joseph. 2011. “Controversial Mary Statue Weeps because ‘We’re Killing This World.’” Religion Dispatches. Accessed on Nov 16, 2014 from http://religiondispatches.org/controversial-mary-statue-weeps-because-were-killing-this-world/ .

Lewis, Charles. 2010. “Weeping Madonna: Separating miracles from wishful thinking.” National Post , November 5. Accessed from http://life.nationalpost.com/2010/11/05/weeping-madonna-separating-miracles-from-wishful-thinking/ on 4 November 2014.

Morgan, Dale. 2010. “Canada: Hundreds of Superstitious Virgin Mary Worshipers Flock to Windsor Home to See Virgin Mary Statue.” Accessed from https://groups.google.com/forum/#!search/Fadia$20Ibrahim$20Canada$3A$20Hundreds$20of$20superstitious$20Virgin$20Mary$20Worshipers$20flock$20to$20…/bible-prophecy-news/BEPkyKdPj4E/ywF8T3qvcQcJ on 4 November 2014.

Paterson, Andrea. 2010. “A World Without Miracles.” Accessed from http://lifeasahuman.com/2010/mind-spirit/spirituality-and-religion/a-world-without-miracles/ on 4 November 2014.

The Canadian Press. 2010. “Homeowners Must Remove Structure Housing Virgin Mary.” Accessed from http://www.ctvnews.ca/homeowners-must-remove-structure-housing-virgin-mary-1.569727 on 4 November 2014.

Vijay. 2010. “Windsor’s Mysterious ‘Weeping’ Madonna Has a New Home.” Accessed from http://www.churchnewssite.com/portal/?p=35173 on 4 November 2014.

Wilhelm, Trevor. 2010. “Hundreds F lock to Windsor to S ee W eeping Virgin Mary S tatue.” Postmedia News. Accessed from http://www.jesusmariasite.org/Signs/Signs_.asp?editid1=5 on 16 Nov ember 2014 .

Willick, Frances. 2010. “Crowds Flock to See Mary’s ‘Tears’.” The Windsor Star , November 2. Accessed from http://www2.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=0c689192-80db-447f-a128-b6c1f370f8d1 on 23 November 2014.

“Windsor Ontario’s W eeping Madonna.” Accessed from http://www.visionsofjesuschrist.com/weeping556.html on 16 November 2014.

Yonke, David. 2010. “Faithful Flock to See the Statue of Mary Reported to Weep at Night.” Toledo Blade , November 21. Accessed from
http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2010/11/21/Faithful-flock-to-see-statue-of-Mary-reported-to-weep-at-night.html on 21 November 2010.

Post Date:
8 December 2014





1953 (September 27) Ammachi was born Sudhamani Idamannel in Kerala, India.

1975 Ammachi experienced an identification with Sri Krishna ( Krishnabhava) and with Devi (Devi bhava).

1981 An ashram, Amritapuri, was established in India.

1987 Ammachi visited the U.S. and became very popular with Western religious seekers.

1989 An ashram was established in San Ramon, California.

1993 Ammachi delivered a speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

2002 Ammachi received the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence.


Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as Amma or Ammachi, was born Sudhamani (“Pure Jewel”) Idamannel on September 27, 1953, as the fourth child to a poor fishing family in Kerala, India. Sudhamani suspended her formal education during the fourth grade at the age of nine to raise her younger siblings and assist with domestic tasks in her family’s household after her mother became ill. She never married. Beyond these few basic facts, information on Sudhamani’s early life is almost exclusively drawn from hagiographic accounts, with Amritaswarupanada (1994) being the primary source.

In the hagiographic accounts, Sudhamani is depicted as spiritual from birth, having chosen a self-sacrificial way of life, and
possessing extraordinary powers. According to these accounts, the signs of Sudhamani’s future spirituality began prior to her birth. During pregnancy her mother “began having strange visions. Sometimes she had wonderful dreams of Lord Krishna. At others she beheld the divine play of Lord Shiva and Devi, the Divine Mother” (Amritaswarupanada 1994:13). When Sudhamani was born she had a dark blue complexion and would lay in the lotus position of hatha yoga (chinmudra). By the time that she was six months old “she began speaking in her native tongue, and at the age of two began singing devotional songs to Sri Krishna…[E]even at an early age Sudhamani exhibited certain mystical and suprahuman traits, including compassion for the destitute. In her late teens, she developed an intense devotion to and longing for Krishna…sometimes she danced in spiritual ecstasy, and at other times she wept bitterly at the separation from her beloved Krishna” (Raj 2004:206). Sudhanami reportedly was so absorbed with Lord Krishna that “If she suddenly realized she had taken several steps without remembering Krishna, she would run back and walk those steps again, repeating the Lord’s name” (Johnsen 1994:95).

Sudhamani’s childhood is described as very difficult. According to Johnsen (1994:95) she was “the victim of years of physical and psychological abuse.” Her duties in taking care of her mother reduced her to a virtual “house slave” who was “beaten and treated as a servant” (Associated Press 2009). Sudhamani demonstrated great compassion for the suffering and poverty that she encountered in her hometown, and she began comforting and hugging the impoverished and ill, even those deemed untouchable by society. As a result, she was regarded by her family as mentally ill, and her brother is said to have attacked her with a knife for the embarrassment she was causing the family. Sudhamani’s parents attempted to arrange a marriage for her, but Sudhamani had decided not to marry and vigorously rejected their initiative (Raj 2004:206). As a result of these various difficulties, Sudhamani ran away from home on occasion and even considered drowning herself.

The transformational moments during which Sudhamani moved toward her spiritual identity as Ammachi began in September, 1975. As she was returning home after tending cattle, she reported having had a “spiritual rapture” and became aware of her identification and oneness with Krishna (Raj 2004:206). For the next two years Ammachi was said to be in the mood of Krishna ( Krishnabhava). Just six months after her initial rapture she had a second rapture in which she experienced oneness with Devi, the divine mother (Devi bhava). It is this latter identity as the Divine Mother that she has continued to express. By the late 1970s Ammachi was gathering a coterie of disciples. In 1978, a young man named Balu became one of Ammachi’s first disciples, followed in 1979 by two Westerners, an American, now Swami Amritswarupananda, and an Australian, now Armritswarupananda. The movement created its first formal ashram, Amritapuri, in 1981. Ammachi first visited the U.S. in 1987; she was enthusiastically received and gathered a devoted following of religious seekers who consider her a personal guru. Every year Ammachi makes an annual tour to nations around the world. There are now santangs in over thirty countries.


Ammachi’s followers consider her both a manifestation of the Divine Mother goddess and a guru. According to Kremer (2009:5), “Devotees look to Ammachi, not to scriptures, ideas, philosophy, or traditional theology. Ammachi is their foundation, their ideal to strive for, their lens to view other religious ideas and texts through, and their example for moral action. Ammachi is the ultimate authority, and as a living symbol and mother goddess incarnated, she is the base for divine knowledge.” Despite her lack of formal training, Ammachi is believed by her followers to be a true spiritual master (satguru).

Ammachi’s primary teaching to her followers is to seek liberation by serving God and surrendering ego and desire. It is devotion to God that leads to a loss of ego. Devotees seek this goal through meditation, recitation, and community service. As an incarnation of the Divine on earth ( avatar), Ammachi is believed to have completely eliminated her ego, a separate sense of selfhood (Edelstein 2000). As Ammachi has put it: “Reasoning is necessary, but we should not let it swallow the faith in us. We should not allow the intellect to eat up our heart. Too much knowledge means nothing but a big ego. The ego is a burden, and a big ego is a big burden” (Johnsen 1994:99). She teaches that “The love of awakened motherhood is a love and compassion felt not only towards one’s own children, but towards all people … to all of nature,” she says. “This motherhood is Divine Love – and that is God” (Lampman 2006). The ideal of “universal awakened motherhood” is one of Ammachi’s central tenets. She exalts motherhood, love and compassion, and exhorts her followers to be true mothers, regardless of their gender, by exhibiting these maternal qualities to all of creation.

Gender equality plays a major role in Ammachi’s doctrines. She seeks to empower women through her spiritual practices and teachings. In her scripture Awaken, Children!, Ammachi proclaims that “spiritual realization is easier for a woman to attain than for a man, provided she has the proper discrimination and determination” and that “women are the repositories of infinite power. In spiritual matters they can surpass what many men attempt to do; therefore, do not think that women are lower than men” (Kremer 2009:10). Ammachi “teaches men to see their wives as the Divine Mother and women to see their husbands as the Lord of the World, and also to serve their families, the community, and the world. Humility and service are her constant themes” (Johnsen 1994:101).


Ammachi’s central ritual is the Devi bhava darshan, which allows a devotee to experience a mystical connection with a deity by seeing and being seen by the deity. Ammachi’s darshan features hugging, which is atypical since physical contact is generally eschewed by Hindu gurus. This has led to Ammachi’s sobriquet, “the hugging saint.” Ammachi reportedly developed and then ritualized this practice in the course of soothing those who came to her for advice and consolation.

Ammachi’s Devi bhava is elaborate and highly ritualized. She is seated on a floor mat, often decorated with flowers, and attendedby a female disciple who performs the ritual foot worship (pada puja) by sprinkling water on Ammachi’s feet, then placing sandal paste and flowers on them. Two monks recite from the Sanskritic slokas, followed by the ceremonial waving of a lamp. Another devotee decorates Ammachi with a garland. There is a lecture on Ammachi’s message and spirituality. Finally, Ammachi and an Indian band lead the devotional singing (bhajan). After a period of meditation, Ammachi’s devotees are invited to approach her individually for her trademark embrace.

Each devotee receives a hug from Ammachi, as well as words of comfort (Ammachi speaks her native language, Malayalam, and has limited fluency in English). She then presents each follower with a small token piece of chocolate, rose petals and sacred ash. Each hug is treated as “a hug from the mother goddess herself” as Ammachi is understood to be “a vessel for the goddess to communicate through her” and “a passive recipient of a transcendent deity” (Kremer 2009:3). Ammachi has reportedly administered over thirty million hugs in sessions that can last up to twenty hours. Vasudha Narayanan, director of the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions at the University of Florida, described Ammachi’s hugs as “a sermon,” and the “experience so moves some that they give up their lives to follow the guru” (Associated Press 2009). Johnsen points out that “Many teachers emphasize the importance of love, but Ammachi’s words have particularly potent impact on so many who have met her because they see that she walks her talk” (Johnsen 1994:100). Ammachi herself has described the hugs as having great spiritual significance: “Amma’s hugs and kisses should not be considered ordinary. When Amma embraces or kisses someone, it is a process of purification and inner healing. Amma is transmitting a part of Her pure vital energy into Her children. It also allows them to experience unconditional love. When Amma holds someone it can help to awaken the dormant spiritual energy within them, which will eventually take them to the ultimate goal of Self-realization” (Raj 2005:136-7). One of Ammachi’s devotees communicates the power of this encounter as follows: “Ammachi gives all the time, twenty four hours a day…She lavishes her love freely on everyone who comes to her. She may be firm with them, but she always radiates unconditional love. That’s why people are so shaken after they meet her. She’s a living example of what she teaches, of what all the scriptures teach” (Johnsen 1994:100).

During the early years Ammachi would give hugs to as many as one thousand visitors each day, with double that number receiving hugs on Devi Bhava nights. In India the hugs sometime lasted for ten minutes. As the ritual has become institutionalized and the size of audiences has increased dramatically, each individual has received less personal time with Ammachi, now only a few seconds to a few minutes. Devotees receive a personal initiation and mantra from Ammachi. Consistent with “one Truth” message, Ammachi’s devotees are allowed to select a Hindu, Devi, Christian, Buddhist mantra, or even one in which the deity is not specified.


Amachi has never been initiated as a guru but is treated as a perfect spiritual master (sat guru) by her devotees, one who is capable of achieving god realization. Her devotees credit her with extraordinary powers. Reportedly she eats very little and often sleeps only a few hours a night. Her spokesman, Rob Sidon, remarks that ”We can’t keep up with her. I have to go to bed. She keeps going. You wake up and she’s still at it. After 15 hours she’s radiant” (Reuters 2001). Her powers are said to include levitation, clairvoyance, being in two locations simultaneously (bilocation), healing of both physical and emotional disorders; creating children for childless couples and absorbing or inhaling devotees’ negative karma” (Raj 2004:207). Some of Ammachi’s most famous miracles include turning water to milk, healing a leper, and permitting “a poisonous cobra to flick its tongue against her own” (Associated Press 2009). Ammachi’s first Western disciple, Neal Rosner, related the story of Ammachi healing a leper by “lick[ing] the pus out of his sores’” until the leprosy disappeared except for one sore (Johnsen 1994:106). Ammachi herself refers to such power: “If you were to really see Amma as She is, it would overwhelm you – you couldn’t possible bear it. Because of this, Amma always covers herself with a thick layer of Maya (illusion)” (Raj 2005:127). In addition to spiritual leadership, Ammachi oversees the movement’s extensive charitable activities.

In the late 1970s Ammachi and her small group of devotees established her first ashram, a simple thatched hut near her home. Two years later Amritapuri, her first formal ashram, was constructed. The ashram has continued to grow and now includes a temple a large dormitory. There are several hundred permanent residents and several hundred more visitors along with a small coterie of initiated, renunciate sannyasis and sannyasinis. The permanent residents at Ammachi’s ashrams, brahmacharins, follow a strict program of discipline (tapas), which “stipulates eight hours of meditation daily in addition to constant social service activities.

Ammachi first visited the U.S. in 1987, and an ashram that became her headquarters in the U.S. was established in San Ramon, California in 1989 on land donated by a devotee. This ashram houses a group of celibate devotees who practice meditation, recitation, and community service. Local chapters have been established in a number of large cities around the U.S. that are administered primarily by volunteers. American devotees are predominantly Caucasian and female, and women occupy the majority of local leadership positions. According to Raj (2005:130), “Western disciples seem more attracted to the asceticism of Ammachi’s spirituality….Indians seem more drawn to the devotional tradition Ammachi embodies.” The highest levels of movement leadership continue to be held by male renunciant devotees. Converts from Siddha Yoga and Transcendental Meditation are commonplace (Raj 2004:210).

Ammachi also operates a number of charitable organizations, including “four hospitals, 33 schools, 12 temples, 25,000 houses for the poor, an orphanage, pensions for 50,000 destitute women, a home for senior citizens, a battered women’s shelter and various technical education projects” (Reuters 2001). The Mata Amritanandamayi (M.A.) Center in the U.S. donated one million dollars to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. And Ammachi committed $23 million for rebuilding after the South Asian tsunami (Lampman 2006). Visitors are not charged for darshan or for receiving mantras; instead the movement supports its charitable activity through donations and sale of a variety of souvenir items.


Ammachi has generated only a modest amount of controversy (Falk 2009). Predictably, there have been Christian critiques of her teachings (Jones 2009). Other critics have taken issue with her directives to separate couples as part of their spiritual practice (sadhana) in order to “put pressure on their egos,” to maintain celibacy, and to engage in long periods of meditation with limited hours of sleep (Edelstein 2000). They dismiss Ammachi’s following as a personality cult and “they question the finances of her organization or even claim it is linked to radical groups” (Associated Press 2009). The legitimacy of Ammachi’s miracles also has been challenged, particularly in India where the tensions between traditionalist Hindus and secular rationalists remain high (Pattahanam 1985). Her followers claim that opponents have made several attempts on her life (Kremer 2009:7).

Some members of the traditional Hindu community resist Ammachi’s egalitarian teachings and practices as they violate traditional Hindu purity/pollution and gender norms. She allows menstruating women, who are considered impure, to participate in her darshan. She has elevated the status of women by allowing them to be priests within her movement. Ammachi also rarely holds gatherings in Hindu temples, preferring secular venues that are accessible to and comfortable for Western devotees. At the same time she requires modest dress for women and uses women as models of selfless service. It is the combination of her empowerment of women together with her commitment to the Hindu tradition and a divine mother model for women that is the source of her enormous appeal to women caught between traditional and modern worlds.

These various criticisms of Ammachi have been far outweighed by the adulation she continues to receive from disciples, the honors that she has received, the support of influentials around the world, and the popularity she enjoys on her annual world tours. She was invited to speak at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993. She was invited to speak at the UN’s 50th anniversary in 1995 and at the Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000. In 2002, Ammachi won the Gandhi-King Award for her promotion of nonviolence. In the same year she delivered the keynote address at The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders. In 2006, Ammachi received an interfaith award that previously had been given to only the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. She has been compared to Mother Teresa and heralded a mystic and a saint, and she is now “one of the most recognizable and popular Hindu female gurus in India” (Kremer 2009:8).


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Associated Press, 2009. “Millions Flock to India’s Hugging Guru.” AP. 8 March 2009. Accessed from http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/8/apworld/20090308082927&sec=apworld on February 5, 2012.

Edelstein, Amy. 2000. “Ammachi the ‘Mother of Immortal Bliss’.” EnlightenNext Magazine (Spring-Summer). Accessed at http://www.throughyourbody.com/fantastic-interview-with-mata-amritanandamayi-the-mother-of-immortal-bliss/ on 13 February 2012.

Falk, Geoffrey. 2009. Stripping the Gurus. Toronto: Million Monkeys Press.

Johnsen, Linda. 1994. “Ammachi: In the Lap of the Mother.” In Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India., 95-110. St. Paul, MN: Yes International Publishers.

Jones, Jovan. 2009. Chasing the Avatar. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

Kremer, Michael. 2009. Is The Guru a Feminist? Charismatic Female Leaders and Gender Roles in India. M.A. Thesis. Columbia: University of Missouri.

Lampman, Jane. 2006. “Hugging Saint is Compassion in Action.” Christian Science Monitor, July 27. Accessed from http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0727/p14s01-lire.html on 10 February 2012.

Pattahanam, Sreeni. 1985. Matha Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities . Kollam, Kerala, India: Mass Publicationas.

Raj, Selva J. 2005. “Passage to America: Ammachi on American Soil.” In Gurus in America, edited by Thomas Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes, 123-46. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Raj, Selva J. 2004. “Ammachi, the Mother of Compassion.” In The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States, edited by Karen Pechilis, 203-17. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tippit, Sarah. 2001. “Indian Guru Seeks to Love the World Personally.” Reuters. 27 June 2001. Accessed from http://wwrn.org/articles/13398/?&place=united-states&section=hinduism on 5 February 2012.

David G. Bromley
Stephanie Edelman

Post Date:
15 March 2012