Hello all! This is my first post!
I found this site a few days after finishing Elizabeth's Gilbert's book Eat Pray Love; I was curious about her guru, did som e googling, and voila! Even while reading the book it was obvious to me that there was something fishy about this group. I've got a fairly reliable bullshit detector!
Since finding this forum I've been reading a few threads; I have a bit of background both with cults and legit gurus and wanted to comment on the post below:
It appears one of the first to start the 'resume' movement was Poonja and
as Poonja, unlike Maharshi, could speak English, Poonja was able to do outreach to English speaking Westerners, without any need to resort to interpreters.
First of all, Ramana Maharshi did know some English. He went to English medium schools and was always able to speak to his English- speaking devotees without translators.
Secondly: RM was not in the least intersted in "outreach". He simply was;
people came to him of their own volition. He would have been just as happy if nobody came. Up to this day there is no advertising and no interest by the ashram in attracting visitors. They sell books, tapes and bags and that's it.
I've been a regular visitor at his ashram since 1973. It has always been free; that includes accomodation and meals. They accept donations but there is absolutely no pressure. I was last there in 2008, with my husband. We stayed in the ashram for 3 weeks and then moved into a rented accomodation nearby, but visiting the ashram every day. I did not make my donation until about 2 weeks after we had moved out, and nobody ever remarked on it. They didn't even notice. People can come and go all day, as they please. There is no formal instruction and there is absolutely nobody there who has "replaced" RM. Before he died he said "I am not going anywhere" and that remains true. His presence is there as powerfully as if he were there in person. It is utterly transforming.
He has always been for me the gold standard by which I measure all other spiritual teachers, and I've seen quite a few, including Nisargadatta, Amma and Mother Meera.
However, around the ashram in India a variety of new age cults and the like have sprang up almost overnight. It used to be a quiet ashram no-one ever heard of, and it's still quiet inside, but all around it is bedlam. Tiruvannamalai is the new Rishikesh!
I was involved for several years with a group of Westerners which sprang up around Ramanashram. The teacher was a German homeopathic doctor who had lived there for 20 years. He was pretty amazing, a loving, compassionate man who later on founded a charity near the ashram. But his group grew and grew, and with it all the tendencies we see in cults. Since one could not join without a direct recommendation by someone who was already in the group, it remained fairly small and selective. He married a charismatic American woman and they became known as Amma and Appa, or Ammappa, two in one. That's when the trouble really started to escalate and that's when I left. Many others left, some of them badly scarred. Luckily, I never got in too deeply. I always regarded Ramana Maharshi as my Guru, and that's been my protection.
For me, the three traps for wannabe gurus are sex, money and power. Sooner or later, if they are not absolutely vigilant, they slide down one of these three traps. Once they start taking disciples it is very easy.
And now I've rambled on far too long for a first post; please forgive me!