TRANSCRIPT Oh No, Ross and Carrie!: Ross and Carrie Hug Amma (Part 2): Satisfactory Embrace Edition

Several hours after arriving on the scene, Ross and Carrie finally down holy water and join the seemingly endless queue of devotees waiting to have their lives changed in the blink of an eye. It’s time to be hugged by Amma.

Podcast: Oh No, Ross and Carrie!

Episode number: 226

Transcript

music

“Oh No, Ross and Carrie! Theme Song” by Brian Keith Dalton. A jaunty, upbeat instrumental.

carrie poppy

Hello, welcome to Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, the show where we don’t just report on fringe science, spirituality, and claims of the paranormal, no, no, no, we take part ourselves!

ross blocher

That’s right! When they make the claims, we show up so you don’t have to. I am Ross Blocher.

carrie

And I’m Ross Blocher, and we went back to Amma!

ross

Amma. Well, we never left.

carrie

That’s true, you’re right.

ross

[Laughing] Actually that’s very—

carrie

We are still there.

ross

That’s truer than I intended it to be. Yeah, we never left. Yeah, last time we were talking about Amma, the hugging saint. Also known as Sri Mātā Amritānandamayī.

carrie

Oh, well done. You’ve been studying German, so you’re used to those sort of long—

ross

Long polysyllabic words, yeah. Also known as Sudhamani. She’s just one of those AKA kind of people. [Carrie responds affirmatively.] Also known as The Little One.

carrie

Also known as—what was her birth name?

ross

Sudhamani Idamannel.

carrie

Oh, okay, okay.

ross

Idamannel, which is weird because Idamannel is also used as kind of a placename in the biography that I read, leading me to think that maybe it’s common just to refer to the general area that a family lives of—

carrie

Like Jesus of Nazareth.

ross

Yeah, like by their name.

carrie

But it’s Amma. We know when she was born, 1953. She’s younger than my mother.

ross

Born in the Kerala region of India. We talked about her a bit in our first episode.

carrie

If you’re just joining us for the first time for this episode, you definitely want to go back one.

ross

This episode won’t make too much sense if you didn’t hear that first one, so do that. Anyway, Amma is a beautiful lady who travels around and hugs people, which we think sounds amazing. But we wanted to find out more, and go visit her and see if we could get hugged ourselves. So, last time you’d heard our first couple hours there at the event. I think I was getting ready to buy a book the last time we were talking about our timeline. I think you were holding our seats. And I remember at one point we were interrupted by some trumpets going off and some music starting up. And all of a sudden—we’d been talking about this big cube at the front of the event—but all of a sudden the curtains on Amma’s cube opened up for a moment, and we saw her inside there.

carrie

Oh, I think I was still turned around during this big reveal, because I saw a bunch of people stand in alert and look, and then I turned around.

ross

Yeah. So we all look around like, oh, something’s happening! And, I dunno, I’m trying to remember. There are people around her and, you know, you can see these various implements, and the singing is going on. “Oh, I guess it’s starting!” And then it closes again, and we’re back to normal.

carrie

[In a disappointed tone] “Oh, okay. She’s… here.”

ross

“That was cool.”

carrie

“Alright.” I want people to signal my entrance that way. Just trumpets, “There she is!” [Ross laughs and imitates a trumpet sounding.] And then close the door.

ross

[In a chanting manner] “Do-do-do-do, we’re singing, okay we’re not singing anymore, close the curtain.” So yeah, I have no idea what that was all about. Then, you know, went back to—okay, I’ve got my slip, I’m gonna go over to the little central area and pick up my book. And I get to the line to buy things, and the woman in front of me— [Carrie laughs and affirms multiple times as Ross speaks.] You know, you pick the wrong line at the supermarket, the person who’s going to pay with check. You don’t take check? Okay, I have exact change in pennies and nickels. I have saved for the last 20 years. It was exactly that woman. She was dropping all of her stuff on the ground, and then getting really defensive, like we were all trying to steal her stuff. Like, you know, we’re just—we’re just helping you lady.

carrie

That’s $108 just ‘cause Amma’s foot was on it. I don’t want it.

ross

Finally, it’s my turn, and then the woman behind the cash register says, “No more sales. Everybody needs to go back to their seats right now.”

carrie

“Now, after we’ve forced you to do nothing but shop, that part’s over for a second.”

ross

“That part’s over for now. You can come back later.” So, okay. So I hold on to my pamphlet. I head back to the seat. And yeah, now we’re ready to start the event.

carrie

Yeah! The big show! Certainly we’re about to hug her, right? That’s her whole thing!

ross

Yeah! Let the hugging begin!

carrie

Yea—no. Mm-mm.

ross

Nope. This is the begging of—well, they open up the curtains again and we see her, and she’s seated towards the front. She’s got like a low lying table in front of her.

carrie

Mm-hm. I’m picturing her in either orange or white, but that might just be from having seen pictures of her since. ‘Cause boy have I been spending some time with Amma this week, people.

ross

[Carrie responds affirmatively multiple times.] I think she might have had a costume change. I think she started out in white, and then I think later on she was wearing kind of a dark burgundy color. So, yeah. First, I may be totally getting the sequence of events wrong here, but I think the were like bringing bowls up to her?

carrie

Yeah, they brought up these big—brass maybe?—bowls. Heavy looking bowls.

ross

Yeah, like something you could cook a stew to feed—

carrie

20

ross

—a dozen people, yeah.

carrie

Eh, it depends on how hungry they are. [Both laugh.] 20 of my friends, 12 of Ross’ friends.

ross

Big bowl, and there were like four of them.

carrie

And so it seemed like they would hand them to her and she would sort of do some sort of blessing on them? And maybe… spit at them? [Carrie imitates spitting noise.]

ross

Right, somehow she was kind of interacting with them. Either something was coming out of her into them, or coming out of them into her. [Carrie laughs.] I dunno, she was interacting with these bowls.

carrie

I hypothesize that the stuff in the bowls was the stuff that they would then sell as “touched by Amma”.

ross

Oh, maybe!

carrie

So, there were probably just like, you know, 30 hair bands or whatever in there.

ross

That would be a good TV series. Touched by an Amma. [Carrie laughs.] At this point, we’re a good 80 feet away from her. So, you know, you can’t see anything too great of detail. But there’s some ceremony happening up there.

carrie

And there are big monitors.

ross

Oh, yeah. That’s true. They do have cameras trained on her, so you can see off to whatever side a big screen that at least kind of shows a close-up on her. So yeah, I think she was wearing white. There weren’t too many people up there. Just usually a few other people. And there’s always like, attenders on either wing of this cube thing.

carrie

Yeah, she’s definitely never alone. But sometimes she’s surrounded by more people than should fit in that size of space.

ross

Indeed, yeah, and we’ll see quite a bit of that later on.

carrie

If that were an enclosed space, we would have been dealing with a fire hazard many times. So, somewhere around here we also got something, you might say like communion.

ross

Oh, yeah. It was time for us all to receive our blessed water. They had these giant carts with many, many trays of prepared, individual, like to-go containers. Ones that you’d put your ketchup in, but with water.

carrie

Or salsa.

ross

And immediately I’m thinking, “Oh no, look at all that plastic.”

carrie

So much plastic.

ross

Though, when you look at it closely, it has a little bit of language on it saying that it is biodegradable.

carrie

Yeah, it’s one of those like, corn plastics.

ross

Yeah, made out of something other than just petroleum.

carrie

Better.

ross

Yeah, better. And so we get individual cups of this blessed water.

carrie

That Amma has blessed.

ross

And even before they handed out those cups, they separately handed out little caps.

carrie

Yeah! Oh, that’s right, yeah. When we sat down, there were some on our seats, rights?

ross

It was a weird system. Or they were passing them out? I think someone handed one to me, so then I kept it in my shirt pocket for a long time. But, okay, here’s this little plastic cap.

carrie

Hopefully that will be relevant sometime.

ross

Yeah, then they pass out the water, and it is like communion ‘cause they’ve got this tray, and then they’re having you grab some and pass them down to the people next to you. So, yeah, got my water, put my cap on it.

carrie

And then they said, “You can drink it now, you can sip it throughout the night. Or, we encourage you to put it in your water bottle and, you know, it will affect all the water in there, so then you can always just keep a little bit at the bottom and refill.”

ross

Almost homeopathic. It felt like it would just propagate this miracle. So I thought, “Oh, yeah, I’m gonna do that. I’ll have this wellspring of water.” And uh, my wife was very sick at the time, so I said, “Well here, have some Amma water.”

carrie

[Laughing] “Have some water of unknown origin.”

ross

So I poured it into her much larger container of water and said, “This will help.”

carrie

And how is she now?

ross

Well, uh—

carrie

Dead.

ross

Turns out, about a week later she was feeling better.

carrie

Oh, oh my gosh! A while later!

ross

Yeah. You know what, she ended up having strep throat.

carrie

Oh, no!

ross

Yeah, it was pretty bad. But eventually, things did get better. She didn’t die.

carrie

Oh, hey! Thanks, Amma.

ross

So, chalk up one for Amma water. And uh, I gave some to Andrew, too. He was also feeling kind of sick. I drank some—

carrie

Well, you keep passing around the same cup of water.

ross

Well, I was pouring it into individual water containers. I had some myself, and it had like a rose scent to it. They had added some kind of oil to it.

carrie

Oh, yeah. You said that. I didn’t smell that.

ross

Okay, but I had a bunch extra. I was kind of waiting, oh, how do I use this? But I think the biodegradable containers started to biodegrade. ‘Cause one morning I came out and my mousepad and my mouse and my keyboard were kind of swimming in this little pool of leftover Amma water.

carrie

Oh, weird.

ross

Yeah, I was like, “Aw, come on!” [Carrie laughs.] So I cleaned it up and threw the thing away.

carrie

Well, I put mine in my water bottle right away, ‘cause I carry around a water bottle. And—

ross

What miracles have you experienced?

carrie

Well, I put it right in my daily water bottle and brought it home, and I’ve been refilling it since, leaving like a little bit at the bottom. And then this one day I said to Drew, “I love this water bottle. It makes—” [She breaks off and they both laugh.] “It makes water just a little sweet.” And he goes, “What?” And I’m like, “It just, like, I don’t know. You know, it’s just something about the taste of the bottle. It’s just a little sweet.” And he’s like, “Carrie, give that to me. [Laughing] So I give it to him and he’s like, “I think there’s mold in here.”

ross

[Laughing] I’m so glad he knew that! I wouldn’t have thought that.

carrie

[Laughing] He has a very, very sensitive palette.

ross

He’s a super sniffer, huh?

carrie

Yeah. So he looks at it and yeah, indeed, we take apart the cap and there’s this like—I mean, I don’t know if it’s technically black mold, but to my eye it is the color black mold. And so we washed that right out, and you know what? Water’s not sweet anymore. Water’s just regular tasting. So I don’t know. I presume that wasn’t Amma’s holy water causing that.

ross

But it also didn’t clear it up on its own.

carrie

Exactly.

ross

And yet, without Drew’s intervention, the story could have ended up in one of the books about her as another miracle.

carrie

Oh, yeah. Yeah, if I were just like, “And she makes water so sweet!”

ross

Yeah, that would have been the caliber of an Amma miracle.

carrie

Totally. I mean, if we’re counting she wanted yogurt and then there was enough yogurt for everyone to have two. But, I did take a little bit from the cup and put it in my Rhythmia ayahuasca tincture, so—

ross

Woah, you’re mixing your alternative—

carrie

My miracles, yeah. So I figure, I mean, we’ve been told that homeopathy only gets stronger and stronger as you dilute. So I figure mixing these things, diluting them a little. I mean, this is so potent now, Ross. I’m showing it to you.

ross

Wow. Yup, yup. Carrie’s got the spray bottle.

carrie

So, do you want some—three sprays of Rhythmia and Amma? Okay. [Sound of spray bottle. Carrie speaks with mouth full.] That’s mine. Oh, still tastes like bad alcohol. [Sound of spray bottle again.]

ross

[Speaking with his mouth full] Tripping balls, man. [Carrie laughs, then inhales and exhales, sighing. They both respond to each other affirmatively with “mm-hm”.] Alright, let’s see how many things we can put in there.

carrie

I really hope we have some more holy items to put in there. Holy liquids.

ross

Oh, this is really high up to the top still.

carrie

Well, that’s because I poured the water in there.

ross

Oh, wow, okay. Gotcha.

carrie

Yeah, it was down to like half. But, you know, I think our listeners should be very grateful that we didn’t think of combining fluids when we were doing the pee episodes.

ross

[Laughing] Oh, yeah. Boy, you would taste that in there, that’s for sure.

carrie

Yeah, pee covers everything, guys.

ross

Pretty soon we get into the speech delivery section.

carrie

Yeah, the satsang.

ross

Yeah. And so she does not, or chooses not, to speak English. 

carrie

Ross is referencing our first episode, where we learned maybe she knows English, but she does not speak it. We’re not sure. I think they did call it a satsang.

ross

It’s in Malayalam, her spoken language, I would presume. And there’s no translation provided, at least not in real time. And so she’s speaking and she’ll talk for a solid, you know, four minutes. I counted one of them six minutes. And so, Carrie and I are kind of looking at each other. [They both start reciting “mm-hm” back and forth.] “Good point. That’s true. Yeah, oh well, okay. Fair, fair.”

carrie

It’s interesting. I like being in the position where my language is not the dominant language. I think that’s an important paradigm shift to have. But it’s always unusual to be like, “Oh, I think no one else heres speak the language you’re speaking.” ‘Cause even the folks who hail from India aren’t likely to have spoken this pretty unique language.

ross

[Carrie responds affirmatively multiple times as Ross speaks.] And so she’s joined up there by a man dressed mostly in orange, as I recall. He’s got long, sweeping, kind of peppered grey hair. Very distinguished looking man, with a beard as well. And that is Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, who happened to be the author of the biography that I read. And it’s interesting. There’s a portion where he tells his story, in the midst of many other stories of people following Amma, and he just uses the first person for that, which is kind of fun. So then he would start talking. We thought, “Ah, okay. This must be the—”

carrie

The translation. But something felt off about it.

ross

Yeah. It’s that sort of thing where, often in comedy, where someone will say one thing in a foreign language, and then the translation will come, and it takes like five times as long to say.

carrie

Right, or visa versa. [Ross responds affirmatively.] There’s a whole Friends episode about that.

ross

Is there?

carrie

[Laughing] Yeah.

ross

Okay. So, she would at first say like three minutes of talking, and then he would talk for three minutes. Like, “Oh, okay, now we kind of know what she was saying.” But then—

carrie

Well, we assume. We assume these aren’t companion pieces, but he didn’t at any point say, “I’m the translator.” I guess why would you? But, I don’t know. It was so—it felt so disharmonious that at times I was like, “Is this the translation? What is this?”

ross

Yeah, and also he was obviously reading something that was prepared. I’m not convinced that she was. It felt like she was just talking.

carrie

For her, it felt to me like a speech you’ve mostly memorized. You’re comfortable with it. You know like, there’s a little—

ross

Oh, I got you. Yeah.

carrie

—yeah, improvising in the moment.

ross

Like that time that I measured her speaking for six minutes. He then proceeded to give this very long delivery of 24 minutes.

carrie

Oh, my god. Was it that long?

ross

Yes. [Carrie repeats “oh my god”, incredulous.] And even there in the room, I was having a really hard time following what he was saying, because he has kind of a soft voice. He sounds intelligent, and in the book I learned that he had a philosophy degree that Amma told him to go get.

carrie

Holla, fellow philosophy majors.

ross

But at the same time, it was very low, so [Mumbling] he talked very softly. There was definitely an Indian accent to his English, though he had very good English.

carrie

It was delivered in these sort of waves. [Both of them imitate a cadence that rises and falls.] That’s interesting. I actually remember him having a British accent.

ross

That would make sense. But mixed with, I think, you know, the delivery of someone whose first language was one of the Indian languages.

carrie

Yeah, and it was truly hard to even get my brain to go like, “This isn’t a lullaby. This is a talk. Listen to the words.”

ross

Right, because it was such a constant— [Both of them start imitating the rising and falling cadence again.] And also it didn’t help that it was over, you know, a speaker system. And so you had various versions of this arriving at slightly different times from different parts of the room. So I had a hard time just like, even picking out a single sentence and holding onto it in my head.

carrie

Yeah, we both tried to. We were both listening at the same time and we’re like, “Okay, let’s try to just wrote down one sentence that we can understand the whole sentence.”

ross

And you’d be missing just a couple words that had been maybe too softly annunciated.

carrie

[Doing wave cadence again] Or said in such a way that it came at you in just a strange way and your brain had to process it just a little too late.

ross

Right, yeah. Did he say that word, or did he say that word? Well, neither of those fully make sense in the context of—oh, shoot, he’s saying something else now. So, here’s a couple that I got. [Doing the same cadence again] “The important thing of life would be how much you thought about God. It is us who need God and not the other way around. There are numerous uncontrollable factors that influence the heart.” But imagine 24 minutes of that, just one sentence after another, delivered without any excitement or, you know, like, “Hey, I’m saying this now!”

carrie

Variability.

ross

But this—right, exactly—but this is also important. Really, you need to remember, you know.

carrie

You don’t appreciate how much is communicated through tone and cadence and stuff until you meet a guy like this.

ross

But some of it would be like parables, telling a story of some guy and you’re not sure if this was a real person or just someone who’s being used to illustrate a point.

carrie

There was something about like, people in a car who get stopped and sit on the hood of the car because they’re mad at each other or something? [Ross laughs and affirms.] But it was so long. The story was so long. [Breaking into laughter] It was too long! Like, to where I couldn’t follow the point. I wanted to, but I was just like, “Huh? What is this? Why are we doing this?”

ross

So it was just a really weird experience in the moment, trying to lock on to something, like some takeaway. But then being washed over in waves of other— [Carrie starts imitating the cadence again.] —other sentences, and thinking, “Okay, wait, maybe I can find something here that I can hold onto. No, not really. Oh, okay, what about the next paragraph?” It was just really weird.

carrie

Yeah, I think it’s probably not unlike when people talk about like, the effect of chanting or rhythmic talking and how that will kind of lull people into like, a certain brain wave state where you’re just sort of, only sort of halfway there. I don’t know that that’s intentional here, but I think there’s a similar—like, it’s hard to keep your higher faculties engaged while listening to that.

ross

Yeah, essentially it was an address that felt like a guided meditation, in that your mind will start to wander off and then someone won’t speak for a while, then you realize like, “Oh shit, he’s talking again.” It was that kind of delivery. Which is convenient because then he did go into a guided meditation, had us focus on breathing. I don’t know if they called it a meditation per sound effect, but that’s kind of what it was. We were focusing on our breath.

carrie

I was telling you, Ross, that I feel like this guy should do voiceover and play a cartoon owl in a Disney movie.

ross

[Laughs.] And you had exactly the right word fo his delivery, which is soporific. Like, I could easily go to sleep listening to that. And, you know, we’re already now a few hours into this event, and—

carrie

Yeah, so it’s like, 8-9 PM now.

ross

Next, we had a chant that we repeated together. This is not a word for word translation. I’m gonna be saying it wrong, but it started with— [Ross recites chant phonetically, in a meditative monotone cadence.] “Oh mana shakee manaha.” So, we would all say something like that together. [Both Ross and Carrie repeat the chant.] We were turning around in doing this.

carrie

Uh-huh. It reminded me of REM’s “Stand,” that music video. [Ross laughs and affirms. Carrie begins singing the song.] “Stand in the place where you were,” and then you turn just, 90 degrees, 90 degrees, 90 degrees.

ross

So, we do the rotations and we’d be singing this together. It’s the whole room. It’s always fun when you’ve got like, a thousand people chanting the same thing. It’s just a cool effect. But then after awhile, it kept going, and we would say— [Both repeat the chant multiple times.]

carrie

You’re thinking, “Okay, this is getting high. The fellas are gonna drop out, we’re gonna be done in a sec.” [Chanting resumes.] “Okay, well, this has gotta be over.” [Chanting resumes again, louder.] “Alright, well, obviously this is—”

ross

“Alright, well, we did it.” [They chant again, even louder.]

carrie

“Alright, well, we certainly reached the—” [They chant again, at the highest pitch they can manage.] “Well, I mean surely—” [They chant again but this time it’s too high to annunciate at all. Carrie dissolves into laughter and Ross screeches.] Until, yeah. Until you’re sort of creaking out those last notes. It was really cracking me up.

ross

It was uh, entertaining. Yeah. [Both laugh.] Carrie’s having a good time.

carrie

Yeah, it was very funny.

ross

Finally got to the end of that and it was time to sit back down again. Then, just more talking, occasional singing. But then they would have words on the screen for that, and it reminded me of our brief visit to the Sikh Gurdwara. Very similar music. Like, if you look at the lyrics, they are kind of these praise notes about the depth of the divinity and how great your feat—

carrie

How great are your feet? [Both laugh.]

ross

Yeah. Well, I remember one lyric—’cause, again, I’m reading these streams of phrases saying like, “you stretch across all consciousness and contain all wisdom in all the cosmos.” You know, stuff like that. And one of the phrases said something like, “And you of the thin waist.” [Carrie responds emphatically and starts laughing.] “You are thin-waisted.”

carrie

I don’t know how to express this in words but you went like this.

ross

[Laughing] Carrie is scrunching up her face and leaning back, ‘cause that’s what I did. Like, really? [Carrie laughs.] So, I remember trying to search for that phrase, to see if I could find some common Hindu chant or other praise song within Hinduism, and nothing came up. There were various thin-waisted results, but nothing that fit within this overall cadence. So, I was just curious. Like, is this a popular song or are they just making this up? What’s going on?

carrie

Yeah, seems like it. Outmoded female ideal.

ross

You know, that went on for 20 minutes, this kind of music, singing. So there are all these ways just to keep this procession going on, and then sometimes they’d take a break for awhile, and they’d close up the cube. We’d go back to sitting around or maybe just hearing music in the background.

carrie

And I mean, yeah. Woman’s gotta pee. Go let her pee.

ross

Sure. Fair.

carrie

Maybe poop.

ross

After we had gone through that main service, then we just kind of went into waiting mode, because we were told, “Now we’re gonna start calling up people, watch for your number.”

carrie

Yeah, which as you all recall is F-Z. We are number F-Z.

ross

[Laughs.] So, we’re watching them set up these really tall, metal rods that have the numbers that you can flip over. Like, the old style sports counters. [Carrie responds affirmatively.] Like, “Hey, you just hit a home run! We’re gonna flip over, one, two. Bases were loaded, four.” It started out A-1. Thought, okay.

carrie

I thought, “Wait, A-1?” ‘Cause we have F-Z. Where does this fit in?

ross

Right, so I’m thinking already like, well, this isn’t great. We’re gonna go A-1 through through A… 9?

carrie

Ten?

ross

Well yeah, like do we go into double digits? I don’t know. So then you go from A-10 to B-1, or do you go to A-A and then work up to A-Z?

carrie

And then where’s F-Z?

ross

Either way, it’s not looking great for us. The F-Z when you start with A-1.

carrie

So we’re thinking, “Okay, well I guess these next few minutes will portend our future.”

ross

Yeah, and you want to start asking everyone around you, “Can I see your token? Is there a Z-Z? Is there a Z-5?” Like, you know, where is this gonna go?

carrie

Yeah, it’s like when you’re lining up at the airport and everyone’s like, “Wait, you’re 44, I’m number 45. Get behind me.” Southwest.

ross

[Carrie responds affirmatively and laughs multiple times while Ross speaks.] So, you’ve got a bunch of people who like, start laying down to catch some winks. We were there watching these numbers go up, and letters, and just not sure what the system was. And I asked one of the ladies who was doing the number flipping. I said, “Hey, I’m F-Z. I’m a little worried about my parking spot, because the lot’s gonna close at 11.” And by this point, it was 10:15. “Do I have time to go move my car? It’s like .8 miles away.” I’m giving her way more info than she needs, but you know. I wanna make sure I’m here to hug when it’s my turn to hug. And she said, “Oh, that would be a wise decision.” So I leave the building. I run down to Hollywood Boulevard. I leave my book with you, and I ask you not to flip to the end of the book—

carrie

Oh yeah, not to go to end of the book. I didn’t.

ross

You looked like that was a really difficult ask.

carrie

Well, it was just so, you know, it’s like, just say, “Whatever you do, don’t look in that room.” You’re gonna be like, “What’s in the room?”

ross

[Laughing] I could feel that.

carrie

“Don’t go in the west wing.”

ross

So, I leave the building and I get down on Hollywood Boulevard. I walk along past some Scientologists who give me this—

carrie

“Do I know you?”

ross

No, I don’t think they recognized me, but like, it was one of those young, cock-sure guys who’s like, “I know so much more than you do.”

carrie

[Laughing] “I’m clearing the Earth.”

ross

“You should really talk to me.” And I’m thinking, “I don’t have time for this right now.” So I rush past him and kind of half-jogged my way .8 miles to my car, drove back really close to Hollywood and Highland and found a nice, open spot on the street. So then I walk all the way back up there, and then you point out that your phone is getting really low. I think you were at 9% battery, I was at 20% battery. And so we realized this could go on for a long time. The rate these numbers are going, I think we’ve still got awhile.

carrie

And I keep doing the thing where, you know, I say to Drew, “Hey, I’m gonna turn my phone off, I’ll turn it back on when I’m leaving so you know.” And then you’re like, “I have to check in, ‘cause he’s gonna think I’m dead.” So I just kept turning it on and being like, “No hugging yet!” and turning it off.

ross

So I run back to my car and do this all again, but at least I don’t have to run quite as far this time.

carrie

You got your cardio.

ross

The Scientology place is already closed for the night. I grab the charger, run back. And then yeah, you go sit over by the exit on the opposite side of the room, next to the kids, reading for a while. This is earlier, but I went back to complete my purchase.

carrie

[In a sing-sing voice] Ross is going shopping!

ross

Yeah, but I also wanted to buy a picture of Amma, which I put in the back of my book. That’s why I didn’t want you to flip to the back of the book, ‘cause it was for you.

carrie

What?

ross

See, I had a gift for you there.

carrie

Where is it?

ross

It’s hidden away. I’m gonna give it to you—

carrie

Oh, okay. I just thought that was the reveal.

ross

—for Christmas. That would’ve been a good reveal. I don’t have it on me. [Both laugh.] Anyways.

carrie

There was one particular picture, just a picture by itself that I almost bought. I wonder. I’m doubting it’s the one, but it’s possible.

ross

Okay. Interesting.

carrie

Oh wait, there were two, actually. I didn’t get either one.

ross

Yeah? Are you gonna describe these?

carrie

One was her with a bunch of religious leaders. There was the Pope, there were— [Ross responds emphatically.] Yeah, there were like, a bunch of religious leaders. She looked very proud to be there. And then another looked Satanic. Like, she was sitting on the floor, she was surrounded by like, maybe a protective circle or something, but it just looked like Satanism as depicted in horror movies. ‘Cause it was like, very dark, and—

ross

[Laughing] Woah. Everything they warned us about in Sunday school.

carrie

Right, like red and purple tones. And I was like, “This is not giving off the vibe you mean for it to give off.”

ross

Yeah, that’s the one I got you.

carrie

[Emphatically] Is that true?

ross

No.

carrie

Aww. [Laughs.]

ross

Sorry. So I picked that up. It was $5 for the photo, $13 for the book. So it was $18 total. So I went back to the cash register, paid, took my little stamp-slips back, picked up my ill-gotten goods, and returned to the chairs to sit there for a while.

carrie

And I probably went over there about this time, and there’s very little to do. Might as well keep on wandering around these tables.

ross

So I’m starting to read her biography while sitting in the chair and just doing stuff on my phone.

carrie

I bought a couple books myself. So, I mentioned to you Days With The Universal Mother, Volume 1. In our last episode, we went through the seven or eight miracles described therein. I also got Days With The Universal Mother, Volume 2, which I hold in mine own hand. [Ross responds emphatically.] And a—I just thought this was very funny that they had it—just like a facial wash cloth that just said “Amma”. I was like, “Yeah, alright. Sure. I need a towel. Sure.”

ross

And I checked with somebody up front—again, the sign lady—and said, “Hey, can I have her bless this book?” She’s like, “Yeah, sure.”

carrie

Oh yeah. And I had the same thought. I thought, “Okay, I’ll have her bless this towel.” But I’ll tell you how that went down.

ross

Okay. So, it’s getting late. You wander off for food for awhile.

carrie

Okay, so I was getting hungry, and I’m thinking—I remember texting you, “This has gotta be another 90 minutes,” which, good good, was an understatement. [Ross laughs in a strained manner.] “So I’m gonna run down to Johnny Rockets.” Because I knew they have a vegan burger. Johnny Rockets, it’s in the same complex that we’re in. So I go down a flight, go to this Johnny Rockets, order a vegan burger, order some french fries, read my book, eat my french fries, eat my burger, walk all the way back up. And as I’m approaching the door, they say, “Can I just see your token real quick?” And I reach in my pocket, and I go, “What—I had one job. I only had one job.”

ross

They said don’t lose that token.

carrie

[Sounding distraught] “Oh my god. Oh my god. For years we’ve been trying to do this. They said they won’t give you a replacement token. They said it’s like cash. Oh my god. Oh my g—” I was so tired, too. It really like, got to 10 immediately.

ross

So, as we’d mentioned before, or maybe we hadn’t, you had had maybe six hours of sleep over the past three days, you said?

carrie

Yeah, something like that.

ross

So you’re frazzled. I think you were texting me saying something like, “Well, I guess maybe at least you can do it and talk about it and this is part of the storytelling, that I lost my token.”

carrie

That I’m the worst.

ross

I think I was out retrieving my car at this time. Sorry, time is very fluid in all of this. [Both laugh.]

carrie

We might still be there. We don’t know.

ross

Many hours have eclipsed.

carrie

So yeah, I’m like—

ross

Poor Carrie.

carrie

I’m gonna retrace my steps, just in case. So I walk back to the Johnny Rockets, you know, head completely down, just looking at every step I took. And right in front of the Johnny Rockets, truly 2-3 feet in front of the door, I see it.

ross

Yeah, I was with you. I had come back and I was looking for a bathroom. We’d gone to the Johnny Rockets. They didn’t have a bathroom. We walk out of there and yeah, you find it on the ground, like “Oh, my goodness! And here’s something else I dropped out of my wallet!”

carrie

[Laughing] Oh, that’s right! What was that? It might’ve been a Midsommar ticket stub. I saw Midsommar—

ross

Carrie loves that movie.

carrie

—four times in the theater.

ross

[Laughing incredulously] What? What is going on?

carrie

It’s so good! Have you seen it?

ross

No!

carrie

Oh, Ross! We gotta go!

ross

I wanna see—you’re gonna go back to the theater.

carrie

[Laughing] It’s not in any theaters. If it were, I would.

ross

Okay, so they let you back in this time, at least.

carrie

Yeah. What are we doing? Oh, Amma. Yes. [Both laugh.] So we went back, and I showed them my token, got in.

ross

Well, this was my favorite moment, because— [Carrie starts laughing in the background.] —at this point, when we return to the theater—and I remember because I have photographic evidence of this—it was a little after 11 o’clock and we’d been here since 5.

carrie

Yeah. And I was thinking, “I hope we haven’t missed our turn.”

ross

I worked, you know, a full 8 hour day at work, and now we’re 6 hours into this thing. And we walk in, and we’ve got our F-Z tickets, and we’ve watched these numbers slowly creep up, and what do we see hanging from the metal bars?

carrie

L-3! [Both start laughing.]

ross

L-3! And I’ve never seen this much despair in a face. I look at Carrie and her face just melts into misery! Abject misery!

carrie

[Through laughter] It was so funny, ‘cause it felt like that combination of glee and, okay—

ross

Yeah, but well then you started maniacally laughing! [Carrie maniacally laughs.] It was like, my favorite scene in The Money Pit. Have you seen that one, with you know, everything’s going wrong in this house and their relationship is falling apart, and they’re trying so hard just to stay above water and they’re sinking all this money into this house. And they go to turn on the bathtub, it creaks and then falls through the floor— [Both start laughing.] —and falls through the next floor and falls through the next floor, and you look up through the broken levels of this floor to them looking down, and Tom Hanks just starts laughing uproariously, he can’t stop. And this was you as you realized that we are only at L-3, whatever the hell that means, it’s not anywhere close to F-Z. We’re not even scratching the surface! And it’s 11 o’clock!

carrie

And you don’t even have a roadmap for like, where does this go to F-Z? When does the system change? Are we at the right event?

ross

Which tells me that it is purposefully obscurant, that like, we’ll just never know. So we were there, goodness, like a little past midnight. I remember it was T-4. [They both break into laughter again.]

carrie

And we got there at 5 PM.

ross

And then at 1:33, it had gotten to B-Z. So at least now we’re like, cool.

carrie

Okay, two letters.

ross

Are we going back through like, C and a bunch of numbers and letters before we get to D, E, or F? But thankfully it started moving up. Every now and then it would just be on the same combo for twelve minutes, and so you’d just be staring at it going, “Change. Please.”

carrie

Which, twelve minutes wouldn’t have been long for the A-1s, A-2s, A-3s though, right? We had gotten used to a more rapid cycle.

ross

Every now and then, arbitrarily, it would just stop for a while. Like, “No, please. You need to at least be making progress.”

carrie

Yeah, it’s like if you told a kid, “Don’t worry, you only have to get through twelve grades of school,” but grade seven is like, several years. [Ross laughs.] Wait, what? Then it’s more than twelve!

ross

Yeah, you’re gonna enroll in 7-B. What, there’s B’s? 7-C.

carrie

You know what it’s like? Scientology.

ross

Yeah. “Oh, I’m moving laterally, I’m not making forward progress. This is terrible.” You had gotten your phone charged halfway, and so I took the charger and I was sitting down there. Oh yeah, so I went over to the same place I thought you were, and I was looking for an outlet. So I’m kind of scouring the ground, and I see a table with a charger underneath it, like one of these multi-port power extenders. And I see a woman sitting at the table and she’s got something plugged in there. So I come over and say, “Oh, would it be alright if I grabbed one of these empty plugs?” And she said, “Ah, hm.” She scrunched up her face. “I’d really rather you didn’t.” “Oh. Okay. I didn’t know if this was the facility’s or if this was yours.” She said, “Oh, well, it’s the facility’s.” Now I’m thinking, “Oh well, why did I even ask you? But now you’ve told me not to use it.” And so I went just kind of wandering around for awhile—

carrie

The self-respect that person must have, that they felt like they didn’t even have to give you any sort of narrative reason.

ross

Yeah. So I wander around this corner of the building for five minutes, and I think finally she just sees how pitiful I look, just trying to get electricity for my device. And she says, as she’s, you know, taking great pity upon this poor soul, you know, like, “You know what? You can come over and use this. It’s okay.”

carrie

You know what, I wonder if she’s one of these EMFs are dangerous people, and she saw you had the phone.

ross

Well, she’s using a laptop herself.

carrie

[Laughing] Don’t try to rationalize the EMF fear! People are big on the cell phone being especially bad.

ross

Okay. Well, anyway, so I finally plug in, and I’m there reading the biography on the ground while I’m plugged into this thing. And then some kids come by and they’ve got an iPad that they want to plug in. They start gathering—

carrie

And you’re like, “Hey, I’d rather you didn’t.”

ross

[Laughing] Actually, the boy asked me, and I said, “Well, it’s not mine, but uh, I’ve got no problem with you using it.” So then other kids start to join this kid and so they’re just kind of huddling around. So they’ve got like, their foot sort of right on the cable, and then like some other kids kind of starting to brush up against me. So I’m moving as far away as I can from this charger and I keep moving farther as this crowd of kids is pushing me away from this. And I’m trying to maintain my bubble, you know? And they have none. So I’m covered like, in this passel of children. But then I get to sort of observe their behavior. They’re just playing some silly game on the phone. And this dad comes over and he tells one of the kids, “Hey, our number’s coming up soon. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to come join us right now?”

carrie

Yeah, you gotta get hugged.

ross

And he’s a white man with a beard, and like, he’s wearing the loose, long-flowing clothing, but it’s kind of silky and nice and colorful. Like, oh, wow, you’re not doing this for the first time, I guess. So he wanders away for a while, and the boy, I’m kind of watching him. He doesn’t move at all, and he just keeps playing the game or watching the other kid play the game. And finally the father comes and grabs him by the ear—

carrie

Oh, wow!

ross

—and pulls the kid up, and I think, “I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen that, other than in a movie.”

carrie

Yeah, in like A Christmas Story or something.

ross

Right, right, yeah. When we’re evoking the 50s or earlier, that we grab a kid by the ear and pull them.

carrie

And then like, stick a bar of soap in his mouth.

ross

[Laughs] Exactly, yeah. It was just such a weird thing that I’ve never actually witnessed before. Anyways, we’re shifting around the building. We’re trying to pass along these many hours of waiting and waiting and waiting. So, it was around 1:30, a little after 1:30, that finally we crept up to D-Z. [Carrie responds emphatically.] Woah, woah, woah. Carrie, Carrie, this is real. Here it comes. We’re finally gonna get up here.

carrie

But isn’t this a good time to brush my teeth?

ross

You probably should, if you’re about to practice your darshan with a spiritual being.

carrie

Be really close to her, she might smell my breath.

ross

You should have a pure and fresh mouth.

carrie

That’s what I’m thinking, and you know what I wish I had brought but I didn’t?

ross

Your Quip toothbrush.

carrie

Exactly! Ross.

ross

You see?

carrie

We are like one mind.

ross

We’ve got it. Just like I knew to buy that photo for you.

carrie

You know, the holiday shopping season’s here, Ross.

ross

It is.

carrie

And this year, your gift can start next year’s good habit with Quip.

ross

Quip is something that’s sure to put a smile on everybody’s mouth, because it’s dental care they’ll actually want to use every day.

carrie

It’s true!

ross

It’s true, ‘cause I use it every day.

carrie

Yeah?

ross

And I got one for my wife as well, speaking of gift-getting.

carrie

Nice! Does she like it?

ross

She does. She got the red one.

carrie

If you use a Quip, you can marry Ross. You heard it here. Quip is a thoughtful and practical gift, with an electric toothbrush, refillable floss, and toothpaste, all intentionally designed to make good habits simple.

ross

The Quip electric toothbrush has sensitive sonic vibrations and a timer with 30 second pulses to guide your routine, and the Quip floss dispenser has pre-marked string, so you always use the right amount. They think of everything.

carrie

They really do. When I think of pre-marked strings, I think of a violin. Beautiful art, you know? Quip is beautiful art. Plus, Quip delivers brush heads, floss, and toothpaste refills every three months.

ross

So join over 3 million happy customers and check everyone off your gift list right now with Quip.

carrie

Just go to GetQuip.com/ohno to save on gift sets, and to get your first refill free with a refill plan.

ross

That’s your first refill free at GetQuip.com/ohno.

carrie

That’s GetQuip.com/ohno.

ross

Okay, so we’re giddy at this point. We’re finally gonna get up there. Let’s get together, let’s head over there and make sure we’re ready. Make sure we’re right where they need us to be.

carrie

Surely there will be an intuitive line system where you just line up like normal people.

ross

So we get within the valence of the seats where we were before, but up ahead of those, and this is now the dedicated darshan line. There’s little signs to that effect.

carrie

So, darshan is a term for either giving something to your guru or visa versa, I believe.

ross

Oh, interesting. I see it as like an interaction with a holy presence. A communion of sorts. So there’s a bunch of handlers up there, and we kinda walk up, and they say, “Okay, well first of all, you’re gonna have to take off your shoes.” “Oh, okay. Alright.” So we start removing sort of like, baggy clothing, but also you’ve got merchandise, and you don’t want to like—

carrie

That they’ve really isolated you for the purpose of making you buy said merchandise.

ross

Right, and now you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t want to just leave it sitting, ‘cause if it goes missing.” You know, I don’t know these people. I assume they just heard the satsang. I assume they’re gonna be moral people. But I feel like I shouldn’t be leaving out the book I just bought.

carrie

And we don’t even know what the moral of that sitting on the car hood story was. Maybe it’s steal people’s stuff.

ross

And she’s said a lot of things in Malayalam, who knows what they meant? So, thankfully there was a little bag check area, but also that’s important because they want to make sure you turn off your cell phone. And you get that thing the hell away from Amma.

carrie

Yeah! This was interesting.

ross

Surrender your phone.

carrie

So I asked, “I’m just curious, why do you not want the cell phones up there?” And they said, “For her security.” And I kind of, you know, cocked my head, like. And she said, “I don’t know. It’s just like, you never know what people can hide things in there now.” Okay...

ross

Well, hm. You can take pictures with it.

carrie

Pockets might be a bigger threat than someone hiding something in your phone.

ross

Yeah. Phones don’t even have laser pointers.

carrie

Then she said, “Well, you know, people have tried to kill her.” And I looked it up, and there have been a couple of assassination attempts. People have just come to these and just run the stage with like, a knife.

ross

Well, I don’t know if anyone’s tried to bludgeon her with a phone, uh.

carrie

Yeah, right. Exactly. Like, how are you gonna fit that in there?

ross

But for whatever reason, they’re like, “Orange bag, phone, in.” So then you can also put in things like your book, but I wanted to take my book up with me to get blessed, so.

carrie

Right, and I wanted to put my purse in there, and they were like, “There’s not room.” So I had to go put my purse, you know, next to strangers.

ross

So yeah, we went and we put like, you know, my overshirt and my shoes down, and you put down your purse, and we said, “We’ll come back to ya. Hold still.”

carrie

And then we got in the TSA line.

ross

We get in the darshon line, and so you’re sitting in the chairs, and then they are just scrupulously monitoring you.

carrie

In this bizarre way.

ross

They want to make sure, “Okay, you’re sitting two by two next to each other. Okay, there’s a row right in front of you. One of the people in that row, move to the row ahead of them. You need—quick, quick Carrie, get up, take that seat.”

carrie

Abandon your friend, Ross, who will still sit in that seat, and you move up. Okay. Now the person who was sitting behind Carrie, you move into Carrie’s seat. So all these pairs of people are getting like, separated and then reunited.

ross

Reunited. Separated, then jumping—

carrie

Oh hey, you’re back.

ross

—then maybe two seats ahead of each other, then they’re reunited.

carrie

And then, you know, all of us, all the guests, are politely being like, “Oh, are you with her? Just go ahead.” You know, which is then—the person in charge is like, “Ugh, god.”

ross

“You go where we tell you.” Yeah. So then I’m sitting next to some other random woman. “Oh, hello random woman.” I’m nodding at her, at least. We’re all very quiet and reverential at this point. Also at the same time, while we’re just playing this ridiculous game of musical chairs, they’re handing us these pamphlets on how to address Amma, like what you’re gonna be doing, and how to get your mantra.

carrie

[In awe] A mantra! So, we didn’t know this was gonna happen until this moment.

ross

This was new information. Like, you might be able to get a mantra. And I remember hearing earlier that you could tell Amma something like, “Amma bless” if you have something that you want blessed. Or you can tell the people up front, “I want this blessed,” and she may do it. You can also say “Amma mantra”, which is a bit of a tongue twister.

carrie

The woman handing out the cards said, “This is a special thing tonight. It’s not every time, so you guys are very lucky.”

ross

Oh, interesting!

carrie

Oh, you didn’t hear this part? You were probably three seats ahead of me. But yeah, she said it’s very unique, you’re very lucky. You can ask her for a mantra, you just say “Amma mantra.” And she can tell if you’re ready. So, she may give it to you, she may not.

ross

I think it said it in the paperwork, that, you know, you’re not guaranteed a mantra. This is like an important spiritual thing that Amma will give you a phrase that you’re gonna repeat, and it was very—

carrie

It says! Oh yeah, go ahead.

ross

Like, this will essentially become your new daily mission, and your new goal in life is to repeat this all the time.

carrie

I think it said literally, “Every day until your last day.” So it’s like, oh, okay.

ross

That’s quite a commitment!

carrie

As you’re sitting here in line for this event most of us probably randomly decided to go to, I’m now deciding what I’m gonna do every day for the rest of my life? I’m getting married next year! [Both laugh incredulously.] That doesn’t sound quite as intense!

ross

What else does it say on that form? It was giving  us guidelines about kind of what to do and what not to do and what all of this meant, and there were little disclaimers about not sharing any of this information. This is highly proprietary.

carrie

Oh, did it? Uh oh!

ross

Well, it’s not word for word. We’re not sharing copies of it or anything like that.

carrie

Oh, okay. Cool, cool.

ross

Yeah, I didn’t get the sense that it was like—

carrie

Don’t even talk about it.

ross

Right. But it was like, “Do not reproduce this” kind of thing.

carrie

Oh, okay. Well, we won’t make copies for anybody. Don’t even ask, people.

ross

I think it was like, explaining some of the significance of approaching her, and just basic etiquette of it all.

carrie

Because, you know, she is God.

ross

She is the representation of Krishna and/or Devi. The Mother.

carrie

This is a perfect moment to make y’all wait for us to get hugged, so that I can tell you about the crazy things that the author of the book I’m ready calls Amma. Okay, this is just a short list. She calls her The Greatest Among Gurus, The Power Behind Body Mind and Intellect, The Personification of Patience, The Sole Refuge For All Beings Enslaved By The Body, She Who Delights In Divine Spirit, The Divine Mother Who Removes All Diseases And Sorrows Of Her Children and Bestows on Them Health Longevity and Liberation. I started making this list—

ross

Wow.

carrie

—on page ten. Just, by that point, I was like, “This is gonna be a lot of stuff.” But even before that, you know, it was pretty constant.

ross

Yeah, like right here in this biography I have that she was established in the ultimate state of God realization.

carrie

Wow! Those are superlative so super I don’t understand them.

ross

It’s funny, there was one part where it was talking about just how amazingly humble she is.

carrie

Sure.

ross

Alright. So, yeah, then we’re kind of pushed one seat at a time up onto the raised platform area that’s connected to the dais. So then we get up a little bit closer, there’s another series of chairs that we’ve gotta kind of jockey between. “Oh, oh, a chair just opened! Quick, get in it! Someone needs to sit there!” It was totally like the ride at Disneyland. “Okay, I need two people right here.”

carrie

“Do we have a set of three? We need three. Any single riders? Single riders?”

ross

Yeah. We get up on the stage. We’re getting progressively closer. But then, there was a bank of chairs, like three rows of chairs.

carrie

‘Cause she’s in the center, and there’s, you know, on this stage there are seats surrounding her, and there are people surrounding her. Then leading up to the stage you’ve got a security person who’s checking everybody, has a big earpiece in his ear. Then this row of chairs that are sort of step two of three to get up there, and so you sit in those chairs. But again, it’s like, “Someone moved! You have to move! I don’t care that you’re with that guy, just go!”

ross

Right, and the cube is very active, and we’ve been watching it for hours now, four or five hours. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a very specific name for what this thing is, but I’m calling it the cube. And we’ve got cameras trained on it, so we’ve been watching Amma with people coming up and getting hugged all night. So it’s been going on for a long time, for sure.

carrie

And we could see from the monitors that she’s leaning in and she’s saying something in their ears.

ross

Yeah, so we’ve at least gotten that one angle glimpse of what’s going on, that there’s always sort of a few heads waiting right behind the heads right in front of her. And when it’s time to get your hug, she’ll kind of pull you in onto her bosom, but a little higher, so she can kind of lean over you and lean down. And you’ll see her bring her head down with her lips close to someone’s ears.

carrie

Yeah, it seems like someone whispering, like [Whispers a string of nonsense words to demonstrate.]

ross

Mm-hm. For a few seconds, usually like five seconds maybe, and then she lets go of their head. So she kind of has one arm wrapped around the nape of their neck, and then she’ll let them go.

carrie

And sometimes she’s sort of rocking them.

ross

Cuddling them a little bit. Now we’re finally like, in the final three layers of chairs, up on the dais. And there’s just tons of people around. There’s handlers on, there’s the people ordering all of us and exactly where we need to be. And at this point now, like starting to physically grab us and kind of guide our motions.

carrie

Mm-hm. When I went up, I mean you’re herded very quickly and everybody has a job with how to manhandle you, so it happens super swiftly and roughly. So, they push me up, they get me in the front row of chairs next to her, perpendicular to her if you will.

ross

And you sit there for a while watching her.

carrie

Like, a minute, but yeah. This is all happening so fast that it feels like awhile. So, I’m sitting perpendicular to her. Someone came and pushed my knees so that they would be pushed toward her at like a 45 degree angle, so that I could more quickly go—

ross

Be pushed down.

carrie

—be pushed down in front of her. And as that happened, someone ripped the glasses off my face.

ross

Oh no!

carrie

Yeah! Like, I mean in one motion. It wasn’t like, an accident. It was like, “This is what we do with the people with glasses, you remove them.” So just ripped them off my face as I’m pushed into her.

ross

It does not say that on the sheet.

carrie

Yeah, as I’m pushed into her boob. And, I mean, I don’t need my glasses for seeing up close, so it was fine. But it was shocking.

ross

You are very close to her.

carrie

True. So, you’re kind of stunned for a second. And she cradled me, and she leaned in, and this is what happens, you guys. Are you ready? She went, “Dorodorodorodoro.” [Ross repeats the chant.] Yeah. And he was like, “do you, are you? Dorodorodorodoro.” So, I listened to that. I was like, “Okay, remember that sound, what it was.” And then, so I’m thinking that, and a second and a half later she sort of releases me. And I looked at her and I said, “Amma mantra?”

ross

Oh wow, you said it.

carrie

I think it was just a second too late. I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I was so quickly ushered out, and I was like, “I asked for a mantra.” And they kind of, you know, gave a little shrug. It was like, “Oh, she didn’t select you, I guess.” I was like, “I was here for nine hours!” [Both start laughing.] All I get is, “Dorodorodoro?”

ross

But, I mean, I gotta take a moment to say, I am incredibly impressed with her endurance. Because, I can think of situations where I’ve been kind of holding a similar pose or doing the same thing for a long time. Like after a while just the muscles in your face start to melt, and, you know, you’re just not able to coordinate your muscles fully anymore. It’s gotta be exhausting. She’s been on for hours.

carrie

Even just when we do our live shows and people come up to take pictures with us, which is a delight, but afterward my cheek muscles hurt from smiling for every photo.

ross

Yeah, totally.

carrie

And that’s 45 minutes.

ross

You know, and she’s not necessarily saying “cheese!” with each person, but she is regularly smiling. She’s glancing all over the place. It was interesting just watching her on the monitors as other people were approaching, because her gaze would almost just constantly be in flux. And she would sometimes do the whole hugging motion and performance without really making like, full eye contact with the person. It was like, “Oh, here’s the head.” Grab the head almost in like a headlock. You know, kind of whisper down. And, okay, they’re moving on, but she’s busy looking at someone nearby or something else happening.

carrie

Yeah, like a ticket taker taking your ticket stub.

ross

Oh yeah, did you get your towels blessed?

carrie

I kind of made a split second decision about, I’m probably only gonna be able to get out mantra or bless, I’m gonna go for mantra.

ross

Oh, okay.

carrie

So, I did have it, and it did end up getting pressed into her. So it has touched Amma, but it wasn’t specifically blessed.

ross

Eh, it’s Amma adjacent. I’d say you could sell that.

carrie

[Laughing] Ammadjacent.

ross

[Laughs] I’d say you could sell that for 108 bucks.

carrie

Write to me if you want it. If you’re willing to give $108 to like, the National Resource Defense Council for it, I’ll send it to you.

ross

I am honored that I was the first to use that towel.

carrie

Oh, that’s right! I broke it out for you when you were at my place—

ross

I washed my hands.

carrie

—and I didn’t have a towel out, yeah.

ross

So, consider that when you buy it or sell it. Maybe it’s worth even more than $108. I think I could add another three dollars. [Carrie laughs and affirms multiple times as Ross speaks.] Anyway, so I’m behind you. And yeah, just there’s people pressed all around, it’s this very tight choreography. And they know exactly where they want you to be, but you don’t know exactly where they want you to be, so you’re just gonna let them manhandle you. And everything is happening, at this point, so fast. Everything’s been so slow, and now it’s all super-fast. It’s super coordinated, and your brain’s just going everywhere. And I feel like I’m perceiving less. My memory of that moment is kind of like a strobe light. This fraction happened, then this fraction. Yes, so they’re kind of grabbing me, pulling me by the knees, by the shoulders, and just wantonly moving me forward. There’s a woman right in front of me. I just remember they were shoving my torso so that I was going to essentially bump up with my groin against this woman’s butt in front of me.

carrie

Oh, no. Oh god.

ross

So, I’m physically like, pushing back against them like, “I don’t want to assault this woman.” [Carrie laughs and affirms.] So that was super uncomfortable. But then she was kind of moved out of the way, and I was pushed forward right into Amma. And, you know, she puts her arm around me and it feels like seconds, but now I realize it must have been at least six, seven seconds. Something like that. But she leaned over and at first I got a really good look at, you know, just her close-up and seeing the cracks in her skin, and you know, just you see a lot more detail. She’s got a prominent nose ring that’s very...

carrie

Yeah, pretty.

ross

Yeah, a very characteristic feature. It’s just interesting seeing the streaks of grey in her hair. Just like, “Oh wow, I’m seeing this person—”

carrie

This is a real person.

ross

[Carrie responds affirmatively multiple times while Ross is speaking.] “—very, very close up.” Then it’s my turn for my head to be grabbed. She leaned over and she whisepred into my ear, “Jaybakajayjayjay.” Something like that. It was a combination of bakas and jays. And I did have—I just had her book in my hand. I didn’t say anything but she just kind of grabbed it out of my hand and held it—this was before the hug part—but she held it, and she sort of grabbed it with her fist and pressed it to her lap for a second, and then gave it back. And as I’m, you know, being released and let go, she presses into my hand something. [Carrie gasps.] Did this not happen for you?

carrie

Oh! The Hershey’s Kisses. Were those from her? I remember getting them but I didn’t remember they were from her. That’s right.

ross

No, those were directly from her, yeah.

carrie

Hugs and kisses.

ross

So, you know, there’s just this sort of like, silent exchange of, “I’m grabbing your hand and pressing this into it.” So as soon as I have a moment to step away from her, and I’ve been manhandled out of this line, I open up my fist and I’ve got one flower petal and two Hershey’s Kisses. Directly from Amma. Speaking of the flower petals, every now and then earlier, when people would come up around her and maybe they’d sing or there’d be the thing with the kids, she would suddenly throw out like a huge handful of flowers, like confetti.

carrie

Yes, and in a very sort of explosive motion. Not the way you’d strew something gently at say, a wedding or a parade. It was like, boom!

ross

[Laughing] Like a little flower cannon. So at least I know she’s got a lot of flowers around. So, I got one petal pressed into my hand, with the two Hershey’s Kisses. I ate one right away.

carrie

I ate both those Kisses right away.

ross

I saved the other one like, “Do I give it to a listener at some point?”

carrie

Oh, right! You did say that. It’s gonna melt, you gotta take care of that sucker. There was one woman that came down after me, and I was watching everybody who was leaving Amma’s embrace. And they let you sit on the stage for another three, four minutes watching and sort of being in her presence.

ross

Mm-hm. That’s true, they don’t kick you off the stage, but they do put you back in your new place.

carrie

So I was watching people. There was one woman who had clearly had such a profound experience. She looked, you know, sort of deer in headlights in the best way as she came away. And she was looking, I could see her looking for whoever she had come with like, “I need to share this moment. I need to somehow express what I’m feeling.” And then didn’t find who she was looking for, and sat down and just tried to collect herself and was still just like, staring off, and starts shaking her head. And I was like, “What happened to you?” [Ross laughs.] “Why do you get this? I want that experience!” But I just got a lady who hugged me and went “dorodorodoro” and gave me some chocolates.

ross

Well, I think mine was much better. “Bakajaybakajaybakajay.” [Both laugh.]

carrie

Yeah, did you feel anything like, “Oh, okay, maybe this is what makes people have a dramatic experience?”

ross

I mean, certainly just with the level of anticipation and kind of watching this all from afar for the whole evening. And then just suddenly to be like, I’m there, I’m in it, I’m that person now. This is me. This is my moment, I have mere seconds, and I need to remember these seconds. This will be the story I tell of my spiritual conversion. We’ve done mantras, we’ve been singing, we’ve been responding, we’ve been listening. Like, yeah. I can see how all of that would really prime you, especially after waiting for so many hours and being exhausted.

carrie

Yeah, for sure. I get that theoretically.

ross

I can see coming away from that just going like, “Oh, what just happened to me? This is a big moment in my life.”

carrie

For sure. Yeah, I can get that. I can sort of wrap my head around it intellectually. I just didn’t have any like, I don’t know, physiological response, or emotional response in the moment that made me like, “Okay. Oh, I get the glimmer of the thing that you’re getting at full blast.”

ross

Gotcha. Yeah, I think for me, my main thought at this point was, “I just wish I could run through that again.” ‘Cause I feel like, again, I had that strobe light memory where I just feel like I missed some of the connective tissue ‘cause it happened so fast. Like oh wait, I want to observe more details and I can’t. Here’s my poor human ability to fully comprehend everything that happened in that moment, and now I’m just left with this kind of partial memory.

carrie

Well, can I tell you my crackpot theory?

ross

Do it.

carrie

I wonder if the people who have a really dramatic response are the people who are ASMR responsive. [Ross responds emphatically.] And by ASMR, we mean that tingly feeling [Begins to speak softly] when they listen to someone talking like this or—

ross

[Also speaking softly] Maybe a certain sound, like fingertips rubbing against velvet.

carrie

[Tapping sound begins.] Yeah, or a woman tapping her fingernails on a desk like that. Or maybe she’s opening a little thing of creams. [Normal tone] Yeah.

ross

[Laughs] So, my brain is now thinking how we could run an experiment, where you set up a condition, everybody is in a similar, Amma-like situation, but we’ve already separated them based on whether they are ASMR responsive or not. [Carrie responds emphatically.] Yeah, I like where we’re going with this study. This would be a fun study.

carrie

[Ross responds affirmatively multiple times as Carrie speaks.] So, I thought, “Okay, okay. There’s gonna be some sort of data on this.” And I did find an interesting ASMR study, but it did not help in this question at all. But it’s just interesting. It turns out there’s like, certain personality clusters around the people who are ASMR responsive. More neurotic, less social. Like, lower social relationship values. Yeah. Interesting stuff.

ross

Interesting. We should quiz our listeners on which sound they like better. Do you like the “jaybakajaybaka”?

carrie

“Dorodorodoro?” I don’t know how she can do that so fast. “Dorodorodorodoro.”

ross

Years of Malayalam speaking.

carrie

Yeah, I guess that’s right.

ross

You know, that also made me think immediately afterwards, when we compared notes, I thought, okay, I want to know her technique now. Does she have a rotation where like, I say “jaybakajaybaka” and then I say “dorodorodoro” and then I say “guapguapguapguap” and then I say “edadebadebadeba”?

carrie

And if you’re rolling through 800 people a night, you only need this to be amazing for 1 out of 50 to keep growing your following.

ross

Yeah, and what are the odds that two people are gonna compare, if you have—like, how many do you need for it to be distinct? Like, if I only have 20 mantras or phrases that I go through, what are the likelihood that any two people are going to talk to each other and share that they have the same one?

carrie

Though, I don’t know that she’s claiming that they’re different for everybody, is she?

ross

When I was reading in the biography at least, it sounded like the mantras she gives people are distinct, but I don’t know if what we got was actually a mantra. I think it was just some little snippet of a prayer or something, I don’t know.

carrie

The people who are chosen for mantras after they left Amma’s embrace, they would go up to this volunteer who was standing behind her. And he had this sort of long card catalog box, and it had index cards of—there couldn’t have been more than 30 mantras. So, he’d say, “What did she say to you?” and then lean in and they’d say, “She said something like, you know, dorodorodoro.”

ross

Interesting. Oh, so you think there was—

carrie

It didn’t seem like they were hiding anything. And then, he would go, “Oh okay, that’s this one.” And he would hand them the card, so they could remember it. So, I don’t think it’s supposed to be totally unique.

ross

Gotcha. Okay, well, fair enough. Kind of reminds me of Scientology. They’ve got like, 8 or more different courses that you can take, you know, to get into the first step. They’ll find your ruin and they’ve got just the right course. “Oh, you’ve got financial issues, we’ve got this course for you. Oh, you’ve got relationship issues, you take this course. Oh, you have problems at work.”

carrie

“Look at all these different doors we have to the same room.”

ross

[Laughing] Exactly. By the way, if it wasn’t clear, we should spell out that this is not a full hug where two people are hugging each other.

carrie

Oh, true. You are being embraced by.

ross

You do not put your arms around Amma. She cradles your head in her arm.

carrie

Yes, that’s true. It’s very much like the rules of a haunted house. The actors may touch you, you may not touch the actors. Or a, um, exotic dance.

ross

Yeah, you’ve got a bunch of people watching you the whole time. I guess because there have been credible threats against her. There were a couple stories told in the biography about trying to stab her with blades, and then each time miraculously they suddenly could not move their muscles anymore, or they were filled with penitence and ran away. You know, so many of her miracle stories kind of end that way. Her subtly influencing the proceedings. This also reminds me. Somebody fulfilled Carrie’s wish. She is now on WikiFeet.

carrie

It turns out, I have been since 2016.

ross

Oh, what? [He laughs uproariously.]

carrie

I guess I stopped looking at some point. But someone found it and then pointed it out like, “This account’s been here since 2016.”

ross

Oh, well, never mind. Hey, you’ve arrived!

carrie

Heeey! [Laughs.] And thanks for whoever picked a photo of my feet being extremely dirty.

ross

Well, that was ‘cause we had done an episode specifically about our feet, and we took a photo of them, so.

carrie

Well, I’ll just get more photos up of me—you know what? I’m gonna run my own WikiFeet. [Both laugh.]

ross

Yeah, take charge.

carrie

Gonna start taking nonstop photos of my feet and putting them on WikiFeet. That’s more important than me getting that Etsy store out.

ross

This sounds like a good use of your time and I feel like this will actually happen. So yeah, then after we got to sit there and just sort of bask in the afterglow of this hug, then they finally encourage us to, “Okay, you can step down now and head back into the audience. Get your phone back. Get your shoes back on.” And yeah, so I don’t know how much longer after us this continued to go, because I don’t understand this numbering system still!

carrie

Yeah. Who knows?

ross

Because sometimes it advances by the second letter, sometimes it advances by the first letter, sometimes there’s numbers involved. I don’t know. I’m surprised they didn’t count back at some point. Because I think they really are trying to keep you from knowing like, “Okay, at this rate I need to come back at 2 AM.”

carrie

Also a reminder, when we walked up there was a special line for people who had never been hugged by Amma and we were in it! Yeah, so we had like, a prized position.

ross

So we thought.

carrie

And it still took—we discovered it was nine and a half hours, I think, to get hugged?

ross

Yeah, so what were the A-1 people doing? Like, I should ask them like, who do you gotta sleep with?

carrie

I think that they were the people who had come to the actual week long retreat.

ross

The retreat. Okay. At least, it was like a couple days’ retreat.

carrie

Er, sorry, I mean weekend long, yeah.

ross

Yeah, so when I did finally get my phone and turn it back on, it was 2:15 in the morning.

carrie

Good god.

ross

So we had been there for over nine hours.

carrie

That’s ridiculous.

ross

To get hugged. That’s how long it took.

carrie

To get a hug! And I’ll tell you what? I’ve had better hugs.

ross

[Laughs] Indeed! I absolutely have. I mean, it was great actually.

carrie

It was fine.

ross

I have no complaints.

carrie

C+.

ross

I enjoyed my interaction with Amma. I’m not dinging that. But, yeah. There’s been better hugs for sure.

carrie

Just a normal person hugging you.

ross

This reminds me, during the many hours we were just kind of loafing around, there was a guy sitting next to me. Very friendly, European clearly, and he said, “Oh, this is much better. I’ve waited twice this long before.”

carrie

[Exasperated] Oh, wow.

ross

To get hugged. Yeah.

carrie

Oh, buddy. Why? I’ll hug you.

ross

[Laughing] Yeah, right? I should say, “You want a hug? Free hugs!”

carrie

That actually—woah! It’s wild that this event doesn’t have a moment where they're like, “Hey! You know what, everybody? Hug each other!” [Ross responds emphatically.] That’s crazy!

ross

Missed opportunity!

carrie

Yeah. That’s crazy.

ross

Why have they not thought of that? Why don’t you turn around to the person to the right of you, give them a hug? They do that in church every single weekend!

carrie

Exactly! And you’d think they’d be like, “Now, just a reminder, God’s in us all, so Amma just may have a very special, intense presence, but you’re getting a hug from the divine even when you hug your wife who you’re mad at.” You know? [Carrie punctuates her words by snapping her fingers.] Milk this shit!

ross

Yeah, that was way better than any of the things that were said. [Carrie laughs.] That I understood.

carrie

“And if you ever are driving and sit on the hood of a car and you need to get mad at your brother, go ahead and do it, because someone might come by—” [Ross starts to snore in the background.] “—and try to change your tire, and there’s a lesson there somewhere, isn’t there? Because life’s like that, because maybe it’s really because your father was too mad at you when you were a child and now you don’t have enough self-esteem.”

ross

[Laughs] Yeah, that was about the size of it. “What just happened, what—you just said something.”

carrie

“What, what? Sounds like a parable. I don’t, eh.”

ross

Yeah, we high-tailed it out of there afterward.

carrie

Yeah, immediately.

ross

We didn’t stick around because uh, some of us had to get back to work in the morning, and some of us hadn’t slept in a long, long time.

carrie

Thank the fucking Lord that they didn’t tell us something like, “Oh, you can go, but you can stick around for X.” Because I think—

ross

We’d be like, obliged. That’s like the Supersize Me thing.

carrie

Exactly. I have a little bit of Supersize Me principle, you have massive Supersize Me principle. [Ross laughs.] I would be like, “Oh, it’s fine. We’re fine.” And Ross would be there ‘til like, 8 AM like, “It’s okay, you can go!”

ross

Thankfully they didn’t, but the event was still going on, and I don’t know when it ended. I kept getting little glimmers from various mentions, things that people would talk about. It sounded like usually these wrap up around 4 AM. So I’m guessing there were a couple more hours to the event.

carrie

When I listened to that interview with an Amma devotee, the Rob Bell Cast. She said that when she would volunteer, she often wouldn’t get her hug until 7 AM.

ross

So this can go on as long as an ayahuasca ceremony. Wild.

carrie

God. Well, I have been reading this book, Days With The Universal Mother, Volume 2. Which, by the way, the back of it says, “May the readers of this booklet attain material and spiritual prosperity, and go beyond the cycle of birth and death.”

ross

Well, may you.

carrie

A big promise for a booklet that was like six dollars.

ross

Yeah. Good deal.

carrie

But we got some more miracles, Ross!

ross

Okay, wait, who wrote this one?

carrie

Swamini Atmaprana, who also goes by Leela. In the last episode we left off with miracle 7. Okay, miracle 8. Amma makes Leela carry heavy sand for concrete for three days. Leela’s back becomes weak and stiff. The next day, she suffers from unbearable back pain and was in bed for some days, and later on, Amma cured her.

ross

I don’t know how to feel about that.

carrie

Mm-hm. Miracle 9, Leela had the thought that Amma is part of a divine play. That night, Amma asked her, “How was the play?” [Ross laughs and responds emphatically.] It’s a closer one. Here’s another. Leela was thinking of Amma and someone else—not Amma—called on the phone and could help her with her problem.

ross

That’s not a miracle.

carrie

That’s a miracle from Amma.

ross

Pass. Nope.

carrie

[Laughs] Amma stood in a cold river for hours, passed out, was dragged to shore. Her followers prayed for her to come back to her body, and after they had rubbed her for several minutes, she came to.

ross

I need more information.

carrie

Miracle. [Ross laughs incredulously.] Miracle 13.

ross

Why, why did this happen?

carrie

They went to this river and Amma like, just insisted on standing in it a long time. She was cold. [Both laugh uproariously.] You know how these stories go. I could tell you more and more of the story, and there’d be no clue. Miracle 13, Leela doubted Amma could be all-loving. You can’t doubt Amma, right?

ross

Oh, boy. Bad things happen when you do that.

carrie

So then one day, some followers were late coming home, and Leela could see that Amma was sort of looking anxiously at the road, trying to see if each car was their friends coming back. But Leela knew Amma’s omniscient. She knows everything, so why should she be anxious? So then she realized her looking at the road anxiously proves that she is all love. She worries even when she knows you’re fine! Miracle! [Ross responds unenthusiastically and Carrie laughs.]

ross

This just reminds me of those little debates. “Okay, well if Jesus knows everything, why does he need to ask that guy blah blah blah.”

carrie

Right. “Well, let’s use something else we haven’t proven to help you understand.” Miracle 14. Leela has a urinary tract infection, which are very painful and awful. She’s awake all night, she’s in pain, she cries and prays to Amma. And, quote, “After awhile, the pain subsides.”

ross

Oh, I remember the after awhile thing, with the boils, yeah.

carrie

Miracle 15! This is maybe my favorite one. Amma’s eating lunch. Leela’s food hasn’t come yet. And Amma’s like, “Hey, when your food comes, give me your yogurt.” [Carrie starts laughing uproariously as Ross flounders.]

ross

What is this, this is a miracle story?

carrie

[Through laughter] Yeah! And then Leela’s like, “Of course, Amma, of course.” So then their colleague who’s serving the food comes up and hands Leela her portion, and Leela takes the yogurt and hands it to Amma. And the colleague is like, “Oh, I can get you another yogurt.” And she’s like, “You know, if there’s more, that’s fine, but this is for Amma.” Who’s already had a yogurt! This is her second yogurt! So the colleague leaves and is like, “Yeah, I’m gonna find you a yogurt, too.”

ross

I’m waiting for a miracle here.

carrie

Colleague leaves, comes back and is like, “You know what? We ran out of yogurt.” [Both laugh again.]

ross

Okay. Still waiting for the miracle.

carrie

That was the miracle. So Leela prostrates herself at the holy feet of Amma! [Both laugh hysterically once more.]

ross

Did she want a yogurt that bad? I’ve never wanted a yogurt— [He breaks off into incoherent laughter.] —that bad in my life!

carrie

“For saving me from the peril of disobedience!”

ross

[Incredulous] What? Why? ‘Cause she wants yogurt?

carrie

[Through laughter] Yes, Amma demands two yogurts! Leela wants to obey the commands! And she would have had to disobey if she had taken the yogurt, because there was no more yogurt! [They both laugh so hard it sounds painful like a car backfiring or something.]

ross

That’s ridiculous, and yet it’s my favorite story!

carrie

Oh my god. Okay.

ross

This reminds me of one of the little stories in the second half of this biography, was that someone complained about Amma not having eaten in awhile. Like, you should really eat. And so she said—

carrie

She’s like, “Do you have any yogurt?”

ross

She said— [He breaks off, laughing.] She said, “Bring me a plate of food.” So they bring her a plate of food and she immediately eats it up, and they’re like, stunned at how quickly it disappears. Oh my goodness. She says, “Bring me another plate of food.” So they do that, and it immediately disappears. They’re like, “Oh my goodness, how did you eat all that?” And she says, “Bring me more.” So she does this like multiple times, and then gives them this sly grin, and then they realize, “Oh, we should have never questioned Amma about her eating.” So she’s just showing them, yeah.

carrie

‘Cause she’s just gonna do nonstop object lessons at us.

ross

Yup. So I guess the lesson was, “Oh, I can eat as much as I want to, or as little as I want to.”

carrie

“I’m gonna show you for trying to look out for me.” [Ross mutters the word “yogurt” gleefully.] Okay, miracle 16. In her head, Leela mentally asks Amma to—she says, “Amma, will you put your right foot on your left knee?” ‘Cause Amma is meditating, and she’s like, “I want proof that Amma can hear my thoughts. Amma, put your right foot on your left knee.” And she does. Okay. That’s a fun moment. I dunno if it’s a miracle, but it’s a fun moment.

ross

Yeah, that’s cool. Little bit of ESP going on.

carrie

Miracle 17, Leela wondered why Amma doesn’t have reddish-brown eyebrows, like the Goddess Kali. And that night, all the built up sweat and soot on Amma’s coat from hugging everybody got on her face and her eyebrows.

ross

Nope. Nope. [Carrie laughs.] Not a miracle.

carrie

That’s the end of that story. That’s the whole story.

ross

That’s just kinda gross.

carrie

Miracle 18. Leela left her meditation to greet friends, and when she came back a large coconut tree frond was in her seat. [Both laugh.] And then she’s like, “That could have killed me!” Is that true? Not a coconut, the frond. Are they really heavy leaves?

ross

A fallen coconut can kill somebody, but yeah, the frond?

carrie

The frond, though? Anyway, she made a big deal of this, that Amma saved her life. By the way, Amma, nowhere to be found in this story.

ross

And a good lesson. Don’t sit under deadly things that might fall on you.

carrie

Yeah. True. So miracle 18, a wealthy family had Amma and her devotees visit. The family set out a special chair for Amma. They were sort of new to Amma. The family’s dog jumped in the chair, and the devotees are just appalled. They’re like, “That’s Amma’s chair. We decided that was Amma’s chair.” And then the family, the very cool family, says, “Well, our dog lives here. We’re not gonna move our dog in her home.” So, Leela of course is like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this.” So she prostrates herself at the foot of the chair, and the dog jumps down and quote, “sat in a posture of prostration”, and then she describes it, and it’s a dog’s play pose. You know, where like, it’s exactly like someone prostrating. [Ross responds affirmatively.] So then she tells the story about how everyone else, all her friends start jumping down and also doing the prostration pose. They’re like, “The dog just kept doing it!”

ross

This feels like the caliber of 60% of the miracles that I recall. That’s so interesting, too, because I feel like Amma will have different responses. Sometimes she will chide you for not being reverent enough, but sometimes she’ll ding you for being too reverent.

carrie

That’s a pretty Jesus move.

ross

Right, whatever you’re doing, I have some correction for you. That sort of reminded me of one where she had been doing like, a long darshan or baba. And so she finally gets to sleep, it’s early in the morning or late at night, and somebody came to the ashram and had missed the main ceremony, and called out for Amma’s name. And so one of the women who had been outside of Amma’s room, sort of protecting her from people who try to disturb her while she gets her rest. She was telling the lady like, “No, quiet, go away.” So then Amma came out and had heard this and of course knows everything, so she knew about this, and she was super angry at this woman and told her, you know—I can’t remember how she punished her, but essentially like, “How dare you, I need to be available at all times to people.” Ah, come on. She was just trying to protect your rest. Don’t give her such a hard time. It seems like this is a really guru thing to do.

carrie

It really is.

ross

Mess with people’s minds and like, “Oh, whatever you thought you could anticipate me wanting, my mind’s in a different place, and I actually want something different even though I said exactly that before.”

carrie

And it’s weird, ‘cause I feel like if you’re gonna be in this position, you want someone who’s generally like Amma. Who if they have this huge following, they’re a humanitarian, they run a hospital, etcetera, all of that. That’s really good use of that weird position. On the other hand, I think we all trust ourselves too much that like, well since I’m a good person, if I’m put in that absurd position, I will somehow make everything okay. It’s like, no, you are still a biological machine that will be worked on by all these outside forces you cannot anticipate. And it probably will ruin you in some way you could never think of.

ross

My guess is that that’s always the underlying assumption that powers this, where they think, “Okay, well, I’m putting on this whole thing, but look at all the good I do. So it’s worth it, and it gives me a voice.”

carrie

I see that the strongest in mediums, where it’s like, “Oh sure, yeah, okay, I’m making this all up, but look at all the nice things I tell them. That they should let go of their regrets, and so and so didn’t really die of suicide.” And it’s like, they’re so certain that they know what’s best for this family or person when they have no clue what the whole story is. [Ross responds affirmatively.] Fucked. Alright. Miracle 19. Leela has a bad allergy. She’s breaking out in urticaria, which is like, hives that can get really, really bad and kill you. So she goes to Amma for help, and Amma said, “I’m not gonna heal it, but I’ll use my power to keep it under control so you don’t have to take your antihistamines anymore.” So you’re gonna tell the woman not to take her medicine, not great.

ross

“I mean, I could take it from you, but I’m not going to.”

carrie

And then you’re gonna put a little proviso in there so that when she does feel itchy, you can still be like, “Ah, well, I told you.”

ross

I had a lot of stories like that, where she would tell this guy, “Oh, you need to send in a letter that you no longer want to take this job. You know what, you need to send in a second letter to tell them you changed your mind.” Or something like that. And then she’ll say, “You know what? I’m sensing they did not receive the second letter. You need to call them.” And then the guy does it, and then later on she’s like, “See? I told you you needed to call in.” So it’s like, always just these little moments of her being able to say, “I told you so.” Very literally.

carrie

Oh, right right. Okay, miracle 20. Amma cures someone’s eye ailment with rainwater—I don’t know what it was—and that person was soon cured. Miracle. Miracle 21: Leela had a boil on her butt, and the next day—

ross

Poor Leela, she’s going through a lot!

carrie

I know! No one will give her yogurt. [Ross snickers.] Uh, the next day, a bunch of people visit, they always have a lot of visitors. Among the many visitors of the day was one nurse. The nurse treated the boil, and she had no boil the next day. Thank you, Amma.

ross

I, uh—what did Amma have to do with anything?

carrie

Nothing. Miracle 22: A follower was suffering from a deadly illness, and begged Amma for death. They laid him in a room, and over a week later he died.

ross

Okay. Time frames are important, here.

carrie

[Chuckling] It makes such a big deal about how he’s suffering so terribly, and I’m like, “That doesn’t paint you in a good light.” That doesn’t help me think, “Oh, good for you!”

ross

Yeah, right, ugh. Goodness.

carrie

Two more, miracle 23: A guy with lung cancer got chemo, but still felt sick. Amma became Krishna. She did her first Krishna Bhava, which you explained to me as her kind of taking the form of Krishna. [Ross responds affirmatively.] And she told the medical clinic to give him pain medicine, because he was in pain. And the pain medicine worked.

ross

This is like someone who is just so amazed with their own advice giving. I feel like I know these people.

carrie

Aspirin worked, wow, yeah.

ross

Yeah, right, like, “I just had to be the one who told you this, and, ah! See! See! I said it!” Yeah, well, you said something obvious.

carrie

Right, right. Or you helped me think about it. That’s good, but it deserves about a minute of acknowledgement. This was interesting, though, I think the point she was making was, like, “But they were OTC’s, it was just, like, Tylenol, and it helped with his extreme pain.” But it was really interesting because I had just read a book called In Pain that was by a bioethicist who, after a terrible accident, got addicted to opiods.

ross

Oh, no.

carrie

[Ross responds emphatically several times as Carrie speaks.] And he talked about how we have this idea that over the counter medicines are weaker, but over time you build up a tolerance to opioids, and those more extreme medicines much more easily. And so they actually fight your pain much much less over time. And so when he was in the hospital, they put him on opioids, and they just like, wouldn’t control the pain, and then finally when he was at, like, “I want to die” pain, they gave him liquid Tylenol, and then his pain got better. Yeah. so, we think of these things as “oh, well, if it’s— if there’s no prescription, it must not be that strong.” That’s just not the case. Anyway, last miracle: A girl lost an earring in a river. She told Amma she would bring Amma a diamond nose ring if Amma helped her find the earrings in the river. And the earrings did surface, but she forgot to bring Amma a new nose ring. So, then she got an incurable bowel disease, went to a hospital, almost died, and the lesson was that she needed to confess her mistake to Amma and ask for forgiveness.

ross

[Ross makes several incredulous noises while Carrie giggles.] It feels like this is like, someone who is expressing the formless self, Godhood, and has to give someone horrible bowel pains because she didn’t get a promised diamond nose ring? I don’t know. That just seems a little petty to me. Okay. Yeah, there were a bunch of fun, exciting things in the second half of Amma’s biography that I read. A couple of highlights are that when she kinda realizes, “Oh my goodness, I am the Mother.” And all of a sudden, she’s wearing the Mother’s nose ring. But then she—

carrie

She loves a nose ring, okay.

ross

She realizes, “You know what, I can now meditate on Lord Shiva”, and she became him, matted hair, snakes on her neck, and coiled on her upper arms. And then she fixed her heart and soul on Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. “Immediately my being changed to that of Ganesha, an elephant’s face with a long trunk, a pair of tusks with one half broken, and so on.” So I’m thinking, I really wanna see camera footage pointed at her in these moments, because she’s talking about these physical transformations.

carrie

Was she by herself?

ross

Yeah. But she told us about this later.

carrie

Okay.

ross

I like this little note. “The people around her, including her family, continued to doubt and misinterpret her behavior as schizophrenia”.

carrie

Yikes. I’ve read a few accounts that are like, oh, her family wasn’t supportive of her kind of stuff.

ross

Oh, yeah. This is a fun footnote: “It should be remembered that as far as her family was concerned, the Holy Mother was possessed three nights a week by Krishna and Devi, and the rest of the time, she was a crazy girl.”

carrie

[Laughs] Okay, alright! Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, holy. Yeah.

ross

We’re getting little doses of other people’s perspectives as they see her. So at one point her father got really upset that she was doing this, and he was complaining to God, saying, “You need to give me my daughter back”, you know, “This is all just too stressful.” And so then, the Mother, meaning her as Devi, said, “If so, here is your daughter, take her.” Instantly, the Mother fell to the temple floor, within a few moments, her body became stiff, and her heartbeat stopped. Though her eyes were wide open, there were no signs of life to be seen. She was dead. So Amma died, and apparently someone came and took her pulse, and confirmed she’s dead, she’s not breathing. [Carrie groans unenthusiastically.] But then the father started saying “Oh, I’m so sorry, I take it back. Curse me for my ignorance, please bring my daughter back.” And then, y’know, she comes back to life, she stands up.

carrie

Now I’m watching the film. [Makes noise like a tape rewinding] Her body stands up.

ross

Another one of these punishments way out of line with the infraction. Her brother who was the athiest and had been giving her a hard time, eventually he developed elephantitis, and then he went on to die by suicide.

carrie

Oh, geez.

ross

And there’s always this refrain of, “I don’t wish anyone who is against me any ill, but they just have to suffer the consequences of their actions.”

carrie

Oh, right. That was in here in my book as well, where she said something like, uh, “I’m not worried about you not liking me. It’s just that when you don’t like me, that brings negative energy to my followers, and I’m so worried about them that I have to punish you to protect them.”

ross

Oh, interesting. Okay. But apparently, she then told everybody, “Don’t worry, your deceased son will again take birth as a devotee in the same house after three years.” So she told everybody, “Ah, don’t worry, he died, but he’ll be back again in three years as a devotee this time, instead of a critic of mine.”

carrie

“And I’ll let you know who he is.”

ross

There’s many stories of people who come doubting her, or to expose her, and then they end up being one of her best devotees. Or she, y’know, whispers something like a secret that they’ve never revealed to anybody, and so now they believe in her. I like that there is a Committee to stop Blind Beliefs. [Carrie responds emphatically.] Yeah. so that’s a whole group that arises in India to, kind of, counter her publicly. And I’d be really curious to know, what have they said about Amma?

carrie

So there was one guy from the—I believe he was from the Indian Rationalists Society—who wrote a book, like basically the main criticism of her in India. And got in so much trouble because the laws there are so protective of religious figures that he kind of got sued into oblivion.

ross

Was it Sanal Edamaruku, or one of—somebody else?

carrie

I don’t think so, but I wonder if there’s some connection there to the group you’re mentioning.

ross

Yeah, because most of these stories are from the early 80’s, so I wouldn’t expect to find these online. But yeah, if anybody has any of these kinda critical writings, I’d certainly be interested in those.

carrie

Speaking of critics, I’ve been reading a memoir by one of her former followers called Holy Hell, by a woman named Gail Tredwell. Trying to get ahold of you, Gail! If somehow you find this podcast, get in touch, we want to talk to you.

ross

Hi, Gail! Eventually, though, the Committee to Stop Blind Beliefs was totally dissolved. But yet, all of these stories that they tell about people who were critics, I’m always curious to hear the other side of the story. “Oh, they were falsely accusing us of mishandling resources”, or, “They’re falsely accusing us of this,” or like.

carrie

Yeah, tell me about that. Yeah.

ross

Yeah, why were they accusing you of that? Hmm.

carrie

You know, the whole problem of people claiming they’re God really comes to a head in stories like this. Because one of the ways we tell that people aren’t doing so hot is that they start saying they’re Jesus, or, they have superhuman powers, or whatever. You know, that’s when you start to be, like, “Okay, this person’s in a bad spot, and they need the help of experts.” But we’ve carved out this one little niche of people where it’s like, it’s fine for them.  “Oh, she says that she’s the reincarnation of several gods? Totally okay.”

ross

Right. That also reminds me, there’s this anecdote here, which I think is really telling, that says, “Some people find it difficult to believe Mother’s words during ordinary times, but if Mother says the same thing during the Devi Bhava, they will believe.” Meaning I can see why people would want to put on these performances, or say, “I am God, I am the Lord, I am the personification of the Holy.” Because, all of a sudden, people pay attention to them. And it’s saying here, like, “Oh, when she’s just Amma—”

carrie

Oh, right, just, a lady.

ross

Yeah, they don’t believe her words, but she could say the exact same thing when she’s in the appearance of Krishna, and people believe. I thought that was very telling.

carrie

You know what else works? A lab coat.

ross

Right. A stethoscope. Even if you’re not doing anything that has anything to do with a stethoscope. Uh, I thought you would appreciate this. She prepares one of her disciples to go out into the world, and she points at the bag that she has packed for him. And she says, “That bag contains dhotis, shirts, towels, two blankets, and other clothes. And in this one there is coconut oil, soap, a mirror, comb, something to make a hot drink—” [Carrie gasps and mutters “oh shit”.] “—and other useful things.”

carrie

So she was subscribing to Fab Fit Fun.

ross

[Laughs] Yeah. Which we don’t have an ad for today.

carrie

No we do not.

ross

Yeah, I thought you would appreciate that hot dr—

carrie

Yeah, it sounds like a good box. Good care package.

ross

She realizes the importance of hot drinks. There were a lot of stories about her casting bewitching smiles on people. Or, you know, sly grins that then change their mood, or opinion of her. Oh, yeah, this was really weird. At the end, there’s a chapter that’s just full of these little sections about various devotees, and their stories of being converted over. There’s this one guy, and he’s just really working so hard to please her. And she chides him one day, saying, like, “Oh, I noticed that there’s someone who should be focused on the spiritual, but is staring at a girl.” This guy’s name was Rhamakrishnan. And he asked, “Who is that, Mother?” And she says, “You!” And he’s shocked about this. “No, I don’t look at girls.” So then she starts describing this girl, and gives all these details about her life, and says, “Don’t you look at her every day?” So this is where it gets weird. “Rhamakrishnan kept silent. It was true that he looked at that woman every day, but why? The woman’s external appearance closely resembled the Holy Mother’s. Seeing her, he felt as if he were seeing the Holy Mother herself. When mother saw him standing there speechless, with his head hanging down, she burst into laughter. It goes without saying that after this, Rhamakrishnan never looked at that woman again.”

carrie

Oh, no! That poor lady, who’s like, his friend?

ross

Yeah, or, just a woman, like, “Oh, wow, you remind me of this woman that I have a non-sexual attraction to.”

carrie

Warmth for.

ross

And, what’s the lesson here, like? “Don’t look at her anymore”, or “I caught you,” or, “I realize that you’re fascinated with people who look like me.” I don’t know. It was weird, I’m not sure what the takeaway is.

carrie

Yeah, I feel like if you’re in this very unusual position where you are a guru, or someone at the center of all that attention, so many different feelings must run through you. And there must be some times that you feel kind of repulsed, you know? Most of the time, you’re like, wanting all the attention, but I bet sometimes, you’re like, “I see you not thinking for yourself, and I’m kind of annoyed on your own behalf.”

ross

Oh, right, yeah. I think we run into that sensation pretty often, especially reading books like this.

carrie

Oh, yeah yeah yeah, and then that’s why they start to act in these, like, kind of emotionally abusive ways. Not that that makes it anything close to okay.

ross

So yeah, those are some of the highlights from the second half of Amma’s biography, which I very much enjoyed. I’m glad I read it. 

carrie

Nice! I enjoyed Days With the Universal Mother, Volume 2. Probably give it three stars on Goodreads.

ross

Oh, nice. Okay. You know what, three sounds good.

carrie

Yeah. Three is a good score. It’s past the halfway point. It’s fine.

ross

Speaking of which, do we need to rate Amma? Pseudoscience?

carrie

Hmm, oh, pseudo—well, she’s doing all those healings, so I’m gonna give it a six.

ross

Okay. I’m with you at six, yeah. It registers on the scale. That’s not her main focus, though.

carrie

Yeah. And she does a lot of actual science, too, or funds a lot of actual science, so that’s good.

ross

Yeah, so we approve of all that. And, yeah there’s kind of a weird mixed message when it comes to getting professional, medical help? But I feel like overall, she does lean towards letting people get their medicine, though she may take credit for its effects. Alright, how about, creepiness rating?

carrie

I mean, omniscience creeped me out. The idea of someone like, reading my mind. Ugh.

ross

Yeah. Die Gedanken sind frei.

carrie

I’m sorry?

ross

The thoughts are free.

carrie

Ah, yeah.

ross

But not if Amma’s around!

carrie

That was one of the first like, amazing thoughts I had when I realized I didn’t believe in God. I was like, “No one’s hearing this. I could just swear! I could do anything.” And like, I get to second guess my thoughts. I can just be like, “Oh, you had an ugly thought, that’s okay, that’s fine, it’s over. Now you have this other thought.” [Ross responds affirmatively.] Alright. Um, eight!

ross

Oh, creepine—okay, wow, uh, I— [He trails off into a noise like a faucet creaking.] I’ll say six. Especially just reading the biography, all these descriptions of her taking on these fierce visages. It reminds me of, in Lord of the Rings—this is a bad example for you, but—Galadreel, when she tries to steal the ring. All of a sudden this beautiful Cate Blanchett character turns into this wild, crazy, power-hungry character who’s gonna kill you.

carrie

Do you think Ella looks like Cate Blanchett?

ross

I don’t know what to say to you in this moment. That’s ridiculous. [Carrie laughs.] Okay, so—

carrie

She does. I’ll show you a side-by-side. You’re gonna be like, “Ah, okay!”

ross

I’ll be like, “Carrie’s doing a thing. Carrie’s doing—”

carrie

Well, it’s true, though! She really does. I’ll look it up, I put it on social media.

ross

Okay, alright. I am open to seeing evidence. Alright, I’m gonna say—what did I say, six? I don’t know. Not too creepy. How about pocket drainer value?

carrie

I mean, if you can steer clear of all the shopping, it’s really a—at least for what we’ve done—a zero.

ross

Yeah! It’s just a mere nine hours of your time. You get a hug, as a first timer.

carrie

But if you wanna buy anything, 10. The doodads she sells are ridiculous.

ross

Yeah, I don’t know enough about her organization and how money gets used for various functions, and like, y’know maybe, maybe there are some really good things being done with that money. So, I almost feel like saying not applicable, but I’ll say three, just because there are obviously people giving voluminous donations.

carrie

What about danger rating? Where 1 is something not dangerous, and 10 is something super dangerous.

ross

You know, my gut is very low on this one. I’m just gonna say two. I think for most people, if you’re a fan of Amma’s, you know, you see here every now and then when she just happens to be in your neck of the world, and you remember like a, just a beautiful, kind woman. I dunno, it just seems like a fairly harmless thing. I think the closer you get to her, and the more of your life you devote to her, I think then you start to suffer consequences, and it becomes more dangerous. I’m sure you, having read some of Holy Hell, might have some more perspective on that.

carrie

I feel very much in the question mark category still on this one. Because most of the dangers in these things, you don’t really get to see until you peak below the surface a little bit. And there are so few accounts out there by her former followers that it’s hard to see below the surface. But if I were just basing it on the event we went to, yeah, you know, there’s no danger. You’re gonna go sit in a Hollywood hotel and get a hug.

ross

Hot drinks? They didn’t serve us any.

carrie

They didn’t serve us any, yeah.

ross

But she promoted them in the book. I’m putting my thumb sideways.

carrie

Okay, yeah, I’ll join you.

ross

Well. Before we leave, there’s one more important thing that you should all know about, especially if you live in the San Francisco area. [Carrie responds emphatically with “yes!”] We’re gonna be part of the San Francisco Sketchfest again!

carrie

Yay! 2020!

ross

SF Sketchfest 2020! It’s gonna be January 21st at 8 PM at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco.

crosstalk

Ross & Carrie: [In unison] That’s where we were last time!

carrie

This could be the only time you get to see us in 2020! So come on out.

ross

We’ll provide links on our socials.

carrie

Or just look up Sketchfest, you get it.

ross

It's actually on the Maximum Fun website as well.

carrie

Hey, there you go!

ross

If you go to “Events”. That's the best way to do it, because Maximum Fun recently redesigned their site, did an awesome relaunch with transcripts of our show, which we’re super excited about, but also these are the great features. So check that out and click on events and you'll find our show at SF Sketchfest. Alright, that’s it for our show. Our theme music is by Brian Keith Dalton.

carrie

Our administrative manager is Ian Kramer.

ross

Our editor is Victor Figueroa.

carrie

You can support this and all our investigations by going to MaximumFun.org/donate.

ross

Maybe you want us to go wait more places for nine hours to do something simple like get a hug.

carrie

Maybe you do!

ross

And you’re like, “Why do these podcasters need a hug so badly?” I feel like I should give you a hug right now. We’ve been here for a few hours, but—

carrie

Yeah, it’s been awhile.

ross

Yeah. [Sound of them knocking the microphone as they hug.]

carrie

Thank you. It was a strong hug.

ross

That was better than an Amma hug. It was mutual.

carrie

We also hugged when I found my ticket.

ross

[Laughing] Did we?

carrie

Yeah. I was so relieved.

ross

Just out of excitement. So yeah, please support us that way. Support us by telling your friends. Find us on social media, Facebook.com/ONRAC.

carrie

Or on Twitter @OhNoPodcast.

ross

And remember, from one of Amma’s events...

clip

[Clip of various chanting and speaking in Malayalam.] Speaker 1: So the meaning of the hug is love. Just love. Pure love. It’s an expression of the inner love that Amma feels towards the entire creation. And uh, she believes wholly in giving love, because in today’s world people have become mechanical. Business, businesslike, even when it comes to love. And um, our lady said that love should begin from the house, from home. But in today’s world there are no homes, because even the people who live under the same roof, they live like islands. Isolated islands, disconnected. So, what happens here is a real heart to heart meeting. In this world, many meetings happen every day, hundreds of meetings, thousands of meetings happen all over the world, but only the bodies meet. But here, a real meeting takes place, heart to heart meeting.

music

Oh No, Ross and Carrie! Theme Song” plays for several moments.

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Music: Upbeat, fun music. Lisa Hanawalt: Hey, if you like your podcasts to be focused and well-researched, and your podcast hosts to be uncharismatic, unhorny strangers who have no interest in horses, then this is not the podcast for you. Emily Heller: Yeah, and what's your deal? [Lisa laughs.] I'm Emily. Lisa: I'm Lisa. Emily: Our show's called Baby Geniuses! Lisa: And its hosts are horny adult idiots. We discover weird Wikipedia pages every episode. Emily: We discuss institutional misogyny! Lisa: We ask each other the dumbest questions, and our listeners won't stop sending us pictures of their butts. Emily: We haven't asked them to stop! But they also aren't stopping. Lisa: Join us on Baby Geniuses. Emily: Every other week on MaximumFun.org. [Music ends.]

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Music: “Switchblade Comb” by Mobius VanChocStraw. A jaunty, jazzy tune reminiscent of the opening theme of a movie. Speaker 1: [Severely distorted.] I’ve got a message for you. April Wolfe: Hi! It’s me, April Wolfe! The host of Switchblade Sisters and co-writer of the new horror film, Black Christmas. Katie Walsh: And I’m Katie Walsh. Film critic and occasional host of Switchblade Sisters. April: We’re here to announce that, for one episode, we will be doing something a little different. Much like Jeff Goldblum in David Cronenberg’s The Fly, I will be going through a truly disturbing transformation! Katie: April will transform from the interviewer into the interviewee. I will be asking her all about her new film, Black Christmas, her writing process, and ongoing existential dread. April: But I will also be discussing John Carpenter’s perfect masterpiece, Prince of Darkness. Speaker 2: You guys seen any movies you like? Katie: So, tune in to Switchblade Sisters for a one-of-a-kind episode, with April Wolfe. And me! Katie Walsh. April: See you then! Speaker 3: Only the corrupt are listened to, now! [Music ends.]

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About the show

Welcome to Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, the show where we don’t just report on fringe science, spirituality, and claims of the paranormal, but take part ourselves. Follow us as we join religions, undergo alternative treatments, seek out the paranormal, and always find the humor in life’s biggest mysteries. We show up – so you don’t have to. Every week we share a new investigation, interview, or update.

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