Amma and God
Karma or grace? Why can't Mother Amma forgive sins? Only a true and loving God can do that
Amma (“Mother”) or Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is an Indian woman who has become well-known in Western countries in the past few years. She is best known for hugging many people in Finland as well as elsewhere. It has been estimated that her hugging has led her to meet 24 million people in the past 30 years. That is a huge number of people. Very few of us will meet so many people during our lifetimes.
In terms of doctrine, Amma is a Hindu. Tenets of Hinduism include reincarnation, karmic debt and universal divinity: everyone and everything is divine. These tenets of Hinduism are clearly visible in Amma’s practices. However, Amma does not encourage anybody to change religions. Like many other Hindus, she believes that all roads are equal and lead to the same place. She teaches that a person can become one with God and the universe through all religions
Another observation we might make about Amma is that her followers believe her to be a saint and a guru. Some even believe that she is an avatar (an incarnation of a god). There are dozens of such gurus in India, where Hinduism is the main religion. Sai Baba was a guru very similar to Amma. In her book Escape from the Guru, Barbara Szandorowska describes her time in Sai Baba’s community and how she was freed from its grip.
WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT AMMA’S TEACHINGS?
If we were to look for some positive lessons in the teachings of Amma, the first we would find is to love your neighbours. Amma teaches that love is something society needs, and that love should be present in everything we say and do. She is quite right. The importance of love cannot be denied. Many wars and societal problems are caused by the lack of love. Most problems would disappear if we had more love. This is easy to understand. It does not take a lot of wisdom.
The significance of love is also evident in the Bible. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one of many passages in which we learn of its importance. The following words written by Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians also stress the extreme importance of love:
- (1 Cor 13:1-13) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
4 Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
6 Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Amma’s teachings about love are in no way exceptional. All major religions recognize the need for love. The teachers of all religions have understood and taught that loving your neighbour is necessary. They have not introduced any new ethics. This is ancient knowledge, widely known by people then as now. The Bible explains this global knowledge. The Bible says that we know the importance of love because we carry the law of right and wrong in our hearts. This means that we instinctively understand how important it is to love our neighbours, and what is right and wrong. Everybody has this understanding, even though some people may harden their hearts to it.
- (Rom 2:14-16) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves:
15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
HUGGING AND LAYING ON HANDS
One thing that is strongly associated with Amma is hugging. She is known to hug each and every one of her personal supporters. Many people go to her when they want to be hugged or when they are seeking love and peace. They believe that Amma can offer them the experience they seek. Later on, Amma may teach them meditation and give them a personal mantra and a new name. This is a common convention among Hindu gurus.
However, many people who go to a guru, spiritual healer, or an energy healer do not recognize that they are subjecting themselves to false spirits. They do not see their subjection to these false spirits when they go to gurus or fortune tellers or spiritual healers or energy healers. They might think that they are receiving positive results. They fail to understand that the evil spirit world can deceive us and lead us astray, just as we find described in the Second Letter to the Corinthians:
- (2 Cor 11:14,15) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
There are three ways one can be deceived by false spirits. These are:
Continuous sinning leads to a person becoming more and more overcome by darkness. Practicing the occult arts (spells, automatic writing or psychography, spiritism, speaking in a trance, visiting a fortune teller, visualisation, spiritual and energy healing, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, palmistry, Tarot cards, occult oaths, including the ones Mormons and Freemasons take, hypnosis, ouija boards, etc.) and long-term passive meditation, in particular, are gates through which the devil can enter and influence our lives. Amma’s teachings focus on passive meditation, which is turned inwards. She offers instruction in meditation and a mantra to each of her disciples.
Inheritance can influence our lives. People whose family includes spiritual healers, psychics or other practitioners of the occult arts often inherit these “gifts”. People sometimes refer to whole families of seers who have psychic “gifts”. The gifts of God are never inherited.
Laying on hands is something closely associated with spiritual healing, energy transferance and the activity of gurus – including Amma. Many people have experienced spiritual stress from subjecting themselves to people through whom evil spirits work.
People may sometimes have been subjected to spiritual stress without even realising it. They may not have any problems until they turn to God. But when they do, they may experience harsh fights because the devil does not want to let them go. This is common among people with an occult background. Christians may also experience something similar if they let a spiritual person lay his or her hands on them:
Fifthly, people who earnestly and eagerly wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit should not allow just any person to put their hands on them when they pray. Evil spirits are very contagious, like a disease that spreads like an epidemic. I have seen how unclean spirits have been transferred to people when someone who has evil spirits in him has placed his hands on them. When such a spirit settles in them, they suffer terribly until they are freed from it. If someone wants hands to be placed on him in prayer, he should always make sure that the people who do that are full of the Spirit of the Truth. (1)
WHAT AMMA CANNOT OFFER US:
FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
People turning to Hinduism and other religions usually want their sins to be forgiven. They may pray, do penance or wash themselves in the Ganges River to achieve this. People do a variety of things to find the assurance that their sins will not be an obstacle and to clear their conscience.
Amma also focuses on this in her teachings. She teaches that people can only find the truth within themselves, by turning inwards. This basic teaching of Hinduism states that if people recognise their actual state, they will be released from the cycle of reincarnation and will no longer be born on earth. This is called enlightenment.
The problem is, however, that we cannot find assurance by turning inwards or doing some spiritual exercises. We can never succeed that way, and there is a simple reason for this: all people are inclined to sin and are far from perfect. Some people may be better than others, but they are still not perfect or free from sin. They are still guilty and unable to improve their position. Gurus are in the same position as the rest of us: their religion does not help them one bit. It cannot free them or make them perfect.
This is also reflected in the following words of Jesus that He spoke to the religious people of His time. He said that none of them kept the law, meaning that none of them was perfect and free from sin. This applies to us modern people, too:
- (John 7:17-19) If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law…
Rabi Maharaj, a former Hindu guru, writes of the same principle. He used to think that he would find the truth by turning inwards; instead, he found himself at a dead end. Gradually, after having found the true light of God, he came to understand that he would only find sin inside, not truth. It did not take long then for him to find Jesus Christ in his life:
During those long, lonely hours I went back over the life that I could remember and wondered at my blindness. How could a cow or a snake – or even I – be God? How could the creation create itself? How could everything be of the same Divine Essence? That denied the essential difference between a person and a thing, a difference I knew was there, no matter what Lord Krishna and the Vedas said. If I were of the same essence as a sugarcane, then essentially there was no difference between me and a sugarcane – which was absurd.
(...) I now feared the astral travel and the spiritual visitations I had once exulted in, but I knew no other way to search for God than through Yoga. My religion, my training, my experience in meditation – all had taught me that only by looking within myself could I find the truth, so I tried it again (...) The search within, however, proved futile. Instead of finding God, I only stirred up a nest of evil that made me even more aware of my own heart’s corruption. My misery only became greater, my sense of guilt and shame a burden impossible to bear. (2)
KARMA OR GRACE?
We noted in the previous paragraph that people want their sins to be forgiven. To achieve this, they may pray, do penance, wash in the Ganges River, or turn inwards as taught by Amma and Hindu teachers. They do these things in order to be freed from their sins, or to become enlightened.
However, the source of “enlightenment” and forgiveness is much easier to find than this. It is not found on the inside but on the outside, by the grace of God. This means that the almighty God will give His grace to anyone who turns to Him. No amount of spiritual practice or improving one’s karma can achieve this. Such activity will only lead one to a dead end. Karma does not even recognise the opportunity to receive grace; neither Amma nor any other gurus can forgive people's sins because they themselves are imperfect.
Almighty God can give us His grace, however. In an instant, He can forgive our sins and give His grace to everybody who turns to Him in their hearts. This does not have anything to do with our past or how well or badly we have lived our lives. Neither do we have to turn inwards or struggle in vain to become good enough: we can receive it all as a gift, in an instant. You should pay special attention in the words gift and grace in the verses below.
- (Eph 2:4,5) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, by grace you are saved;
- (Eph 2:8,9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- (Acts 15:11) But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
- (Rom 3:24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
- (Rev 21:6) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Amma's teachings often focus on two subjects: love between people and the idea that all roads are the same and lead to the same destination. The latter is clearly a Hindu teaching, even though many Hindus believe that their road is the best.
One subject that neither Amma nor Hindus teach, however, is the love of God. They do not mention that the almighty God loves us, He has approached us, and He wants us to come close to Him. They do not teach that the supernatural God who created the universe is interested in us and wants the best for us. Former guru Rabi Maharaj writes about this:
I stood up from my chair to ask her leave. There was no point in continuing this discussion. But she uttered the words, very quietly, that made me sit down again. “The Bible teaches that God is a God of love. I would like to share with you how I came to know Him.”
I was stunned. Never in all my years as a Hindu had I heard of a God of love! I listened to her eagerly.
“Because He loves us, he wants to draw us closer to Him.” This startled me, too. As a Hindu, I wanted to get close to God, but she was telling me that a loving God was trying to draw me nearer!
“The Bible also teaches that sin prevents us from getting close to God,” Molli continued, “and it also prevents us from knowing Him. This is why He sent Christ to die for our sins. And if we receive His forgiveness, we can know Him... ”
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. Was she trying to convert me? I felt that I had to make some rebuttal. “I believe in karma. Whatever you sow you reap, and no one can change that. I don’t believe in forgiveness at all. It’s impossible! What’s done is done!”
“But God can do anything,” said Molli confidently. “He has a way to forgive us. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ Jesus is the way. Because he died for our sins, God can forgive us!” (3)
The Bible talks instead about God’s love. The Bible shows that God approached us in His love and He wants to save us. It says that His love was manifested in His Son Jesus Christ who atoned for our sins on the cross 2,000 years ago. They no longer prevent us from getting to God, and His forgiveness is available to us.
God’s love also means that we do not have to build a road or roads to God like many religions say. There is no need to improve ourselves first: we can simply accept God’s love that He already shown. This will happen when we turn to Him through Jesus Christ, His Son. This is how we can receive the forgiveness, mercy and eternal life to which He invites us. Let it become true in your life.
- (1 John 4:9,10) In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
- (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- (Rom 5:8,10) But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Many people go to Amma or other gurus when seeking enlightenment, peace and love. They believe that Amma will give them what they seek. Later, she may teach them meditation and provide them with a personal mantra. This is a very common practice among gurus.
A much better approach, though, is to turn to the Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. He is much more loving than any gurus and wants to offer us eternal life. When we turn to Him with all our heart and want to repent, He will greet us lovingly, like the father greeted the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable. There is no need to try to earn salvation; we can go to God with empty hands and He will accept us. His hugs and His love are far greater than those of any person:
- (Luke 15:17-20) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you,
19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
If you want to leave your sins and find love, turn to God and Jesus Christ. See that Jesus Christ has already become the mediator for us (Hebr 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.) and when we ask Him to come into our lives, our sins will be forgiven. The following verses describe this:
- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name
- (1 John 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.
13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
THE PRAYER OF SALVATION: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1. Yonggi Cho: Pyhä Henki ja sinä, p. 100
2. Rabindranath R. Maharaj: Gurun kuolema (Death of a Guru), p. 109,110
3. Rabindranath R. Maharaj: Gurun kuolema (Death of a Guru), p. 113,114
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!