Reflections of Amma

Reflections of Amma : Devotees in a Global Embrace

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Globally known as Amma, meaning "Mother," Mata Amritanandamayi has developed a massive transnational humanitarian organization based in hugs. She is familiar to millions as the "hugging saint," a moniker that derives from her elaborate darshan programs wherein nearly every day ten thousand people are embraced by the guru one at a time, events that routinely last ten to twenty hours without any rest for her. Although she was born in 1953 as a low-caste girl in a South Indian fishing village, today millions revere her as guru and goddess, a living embodiment of the divine on earth. Reflections of Amma focuses on communities of Amma's devotees in the United States, showing how they endeavor to mirror their guru's behaviors and transform themselves to emulate the ethos of the movement. This study argues that "inheritors" and "adopters" of Hindu traditions differently interpret Hindu goddesses, Amma, and her relation to feminism and women's empowerment because of their inherited religious, cultural, and political dispositions. In this insightful ethnographic analysis, Amanda J. Lucia discovers how the politics of American multiculturalism reifies these cultural differences in "de facto congregations," despite the fact that Amma's embrace attempts to erase communal boundaries in favor of global more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 17.78mm | 453.59g
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 12 black & white photographs
  • 0520281144
  • 9780520281141
  • 1,960,268

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"An intimate portrait of a diverse community." Common Ground "Lucia employs scholarly research and fieldwork in different devotional communities so that the entire sweep of this avatar-guru tradition is examined with great scholarly skill. This is a welcome addition to the literature on popular Hinduism and will be a classic in the field." CHOICE "Lucia's substantial field work covers both institutional and personal aspects of groups of Ammachi devotees. This novel analysis is an important contribution towards understanding the contemporary phenomenon of transnational gurus in the US." Karen Pechilis, Distinguished Humanities Professor at Drew University and author most recently ofInterpreting Devotion: The Poetry and Legacy of a Female Bhakti Saint of India "Lucia makes a particularly important contribution to the study of gurus in the United States as she analyzes congregational dynamics that occur when white and Indian Americans attempt to negotiate their own spaces within this multicultural movement." Lola Williamson, Nova Religio "I found the book to be lucid, fascinating, and thoughtful. It is relevant for anyone interested in contemporary transnational guru movements and the religious and spiritual landscape of the United States." Stephen Jacobs, Journal of Contemporary Religion "Lucia provides a rich ethnographic account of Amma's American followers and convincingly argues that there is much to learn here about gender, interpretation, and contemporary American religiosity." New Books Network "show more

About Amanda J. Lucia

Amanda J. Lucia is Associate Professor of Religion at UC more

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Note on Language INTRODUCTION Situating Amma as Female Guru in the Context of American Multiculturalism ONE A Darshan Embrace: Experiencing Authenticity and Feeling Recognition TWO Devi Bhava: Revelation and Performance of the Guru as Goddess THREE The Avatar-Guru and Ordinary Women: the Boundaries of Mimetic Behavioral Models FOUR Culturally-Situated Testimonies: Differing Interpretations of the Role of the Goddess FIVE Congregational Dynamics: Growing Pains En Route from the Particular to the Universal CONCLUSION Multiculturalism, Universalism, and Communal Identity: the Guru in the American Diaspora APPENDIX I: Current Literature Engaging the Field of Contemporary Gurus NOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEXshow more