‘Holy Hell’

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‘Holy Hell’

Post27 Feb 2014

Amma and her organization terrorize and intimidate people: Gail Tredwell

Gail Tredwell was an unknown name to a majority of Keralites till last week. That was when ‘Holy Hell’, a book on her experiences during the 20 years she spent at the Mata Amrithanandamayi math, was released online. Over this past week, the book has been downloaded and read by thousands, which in turn kicked up a fierce debate.

The debates stayed online for the first two days when the mainstream media completely ignored it. But the discussions sustained longer than anyone expected forcing even the Chief Minister to comment on the issue. In this exclusive interview over email, Gail Tredwell speaks out about the factors that led to writing this book and about her expectations from it.

One of the questions being raised against her book is the delay (of 15 years) for publishing this. Also, supporters of the Mata Amrithanandamayi are asking why she chose to stay back at the math for 20 years, enduring the things that mention in her book, including ill treatment on the mata’s part and that allegation of rape by one of her close disciples.
Gail Tredwell wrote:The first few years after I left Amritanandamayi Math were very hard. Physically I was in very bad shape, plus suffering from an enormous amount of emotional pain, confusion, and feelings of betrayal and loss. It took me many years of rest, good nutrition, support from friends, and a healthy balanced lifestyle to gain perspective.

During those early years it was impossible to speak about any of the harm done. I did not have the clarity of mind nor the strength to face the retribution that would inevitably occur if I shared even a fraction of what I knew. I needed to heal first. During those initial years, I wanted to forget everything and move on with my life.

Eventually, despite my fear of retribution, I felt I had no choice but to publish my story; that I morally owed it to the public and the numerous devotees to share what I knew. So I spent the last four years working on my book.

Despite much abuse, I stayed at the ashram because I held the mistaken belief that Amma was one with God, and that all of her actions, despite how seemingly cruel, were for my highest good.

Also I was surrounded there by people I loved and loved to help, and with whom I was able to participate in fulfilling devotional and selfless service activities.

As for the sexual abuse, I was afraid to speak out about it. Being a Western woman, I feared I would be the one blamed. As many victims do, I also carried a lot of guilt, shame and self-blame. I held the fear that if I told Amma I would be kicked out of the ashram. Something I wasn’t willing to risk. One could compare my situation to that of a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, or of a servant being abused by the man of the household. Like these women, I suffered in silence out of fear of the consequences.

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