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Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness
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Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness [Kindle Edition]

Gail Tredwell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amma, universally known as "The Hugging Saint," went through a two-decade transformation from a simple fisherman's daughter to an international wonder worshiped by millions. Gail "Gayatri" Tredwell was there every step of the way—from early devotee to head female disciple, ever-present personal attendant, handmaiden, whipping post, and unwilling keeper of some devastating secrets. At age nineteen, when she was a happy-go-lucky, adventurous lass from Australia, Tredwell never imagined that she would soon be trading her free spirit and skimpy clothing for a life of submission in an ankle-length sari. Her eager decision to serve the young "saint" began with innocence and a pure desire to please her new guru. In time, the relationship transformed into virtual enslavement in which Tredwell was on call 24/7 and worked herself nearly to death in the hope of finding God. Because she became fluent in the Malayalam language and had continual intimate proximity to Amma for twenty years, Tredwell is uniquely capable of portraying this famous woman. She tells her tale with straightforward honesty, fairness, and a dash of Aussie snap and wit. Although the guru’s flaws are a necessary part of her story and awakening, she strives to be factual throughout, digging deep to eschew victim frameworks and take responsibility for her own role in accepting the abuse and perpetuating the lies. The book evokes the joys of early devotional life and vibrant images of rural India. Through Tredwell's eyes, we watch a modest and traditional ashram metastasize into a business-oriented, bustling, mega-international organization. We also see how such a dizzying rise created vast opportunity for abuse, deceit, and hypocrisy. Tredwell takes us vividly through her varying stages, starting with naïveté and innocent devotion, then on to dawning awareness and confusion, finally to emotional breakdown and her shocking "enlightenment"—her realization that the liberation she urgently required was is in fact liberation from her own guru. In a gradual yet determined struggle, she managed to untangle herself from the web of myth and indoctrination. Only then was she able to muster her battered but not quite broken spirit and plot her escape. Gail's flight to freedom—her victorious recovery from a life of abuse and disillusionment—displays extraordinary strength and inspiring courage.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1658 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0989679403
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GB83S3G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #137 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT AVAILABLE ON AMAZON! 14 March 2014
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY - MEHER BABA 13 March 2014
- Spiritual Teachers are not Self-Realized but are only Spiritual-AGENTS, including the Sadhgurus; they show the WAY/PROCESS since Human Beings (Becomings) are already, self-realized but are not AWAKENED to their Godliness or Divinity

- The only purpose in life for a Human Being is to DISSOLVE the Ego-Disease to awaken Divine Love which is already latent in all beings

- As individuals have unique DNA the spiritual process is Unique to each one of us based on our Sanskaras

- Only the PERFECT MASTERS can guide individuals to disintegrate their unique SANSKARAS

- Spirituality is a Business just like anything else in the 21st century
- The two scandals in current India are: The Spiritual Market-Place, and the dysfunctional School-College Educational system
in addition to the 3 P's: Politicians, Population & Pollution
- Religion/Spirituality is an Operating System to suit individual needs not Community needs, and is similar to the High School-Bachelors-Masters-PhD degree depending on one's level of Consciousness. There is no GOD, only Godliness or Divinity

- Meher Baba mentioned that he maintained SILENCE, since he did not come to TEACH, but to AWAKEN
- Personally having dabbled in different spiritual belief systems, the reviewer has met Amma and believes that if you are not a SADHGURU then one can't claim to be God-Realized
- Amma is only an AGENT, and humans are naive to think that the Teacher is going to make them self-realize, only a GURU can
- I am sorry for Amma's followers that they have surrendered their body, mind and soul to the Teacher.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  181 reviews
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Courageous Book Helped Us Understand What Happened to Us 16 April 2014
By Robert Ullman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gail (whom we knew as Gayatri) was remarkably courageous to write this painfully candid expose. My husband and I were with Ammachi from 1987 to 1993, hosted her once in our home, and held the Seattle Ammachi gatherings in our clinic during that time. We left abruptly after learning directly from Kusuma, one of her closest disciples, that Ammachi had used orphanage money to pay for a Mercedes, then lied to the American board of the organization about it. Knowing that Ammachi suffered from diabetes, and having traveled with her on an uncomfortably jam-packed bus of devotees through Southern India, we had no problem with her traveling in comfort. What haunted us was her having lied about it. It so troubled us that we confronted Amma in a private meeting at the next possible opportunity, and we were convinced that she lied about it to us as well. It was a traumatic, disillusioning experience, offering a number of conflicting explanations that made no sense. Immediately after asking Ammachi about it straightforwardly, we were promptly replaced by another couple. Her devotees told us that Amma knew best, that we were all poor, helpless children, and should never even think of questioning her intentions. We knew about Amma's special treatment of those who made large financial contributions, and the increasing materialism in the organization. When my husband, a year later after our leaving, was brave enough, in the darshan line, to ask Ammachi why she had lied to us, he was simply told, "That is like bringing up old vomit." We could not follow a guru whom we could no longer trust to tell us the truth. Gail's book had a strong emotional impact on me. The sexual allegations were the most shocking, though I fully believe that Gail is telling the truth of her experience. We wondered why, when Ammachi and her swamis stayed at our house for a few days while we retreated with our dogs to our clinic, they covered the bedroom skylight with a black garbage bag (they told us Amma was sensitive to light) and put a padlock on our bedroom door. It makes us wonder about what might have been going on in our bedroom. We witnessed many beautiful aspects of Ammachi and, undoubtedly, her pure shakti, but the dark side was unacceptable and psychologically damaging. In our book, Mystics, Masters, Saints, and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment, we did include Ammachi, despite having left her. Had we known the full, sordid extent of what Gail has revealed, we would not have done so. It is curious to see that several books by Ammachi's swaminis were published within a month or two of Gail's book. Looks to us like damage control.
78 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cult or God? You decide. 16 December 2013
By Anastasia B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Any time a book's reviews are largely 5-star or 1-star and not many in between, you know something is going on that's bigger than the book. In this case, Gail Tredwell's expose of her former guru has vindicated some and enraged others. In the book, Gail details her 20+ years of servitude to “Amma”, from her humble beginnings to the global multi-million dollar enterprise she now heads.

For those with a vested interest in the Amma organization, or those interested in guru-disciple relationships, this book will no doubt be very interesting (and salacious at times). I’m not sure the book would be of interest to the casual reader with no connection to the subject matter. My interest in the book comes from having a family member in the Amma organization. I was always slightly uneasy with the worship of one person as “God”. To please my family member, I have attended darshan on the tour several times, and have been discomfited by the dreamy devotees all in white, and the blatant money-making aspect of the tour. The book details what I know all too well, how Amma never gives straight answers to even simple questions, leaving the devotees to try to guess what a look or single word meant. The book does not mention that one of the popular items for sale on the tour is handmade Amma dolls, which devotees are encouraged to buy, sleep with, and talk to as if they are Amma herself. When you see a grown, professional, educated adult who you respect and admire cuddling and talking to a doll, you know something is going on that is not healthy.

The book details Amma’s physical and verbal abuse of Ms. Tredwell and other devotees, always behind closed doors, to preserve the loving image of Amma, The Holy Mother. Ms. Tredwell alleges that Amma had sexual relationships with several of her swamis, while demanding that her followers (even married ones) take a vow of celibacy. One of the most damning revelations in the book is that Amma menstruates just like a normal human woman. Why is this so shocking? In her biography, it is claimed that Amma is “ever pure” and does not menstruate. This claim of course bolsters her self-appointed position as the embodiment of God.

I would have liked to know more about how Ms. Tredwell re-acclimated to life in the outside world, as the story ends with her escape. She was 41 years old and had no money, no clothes, no education, and no job experience. How did she become a part of society after that? Also missing from the book seemed to be any compelling reason why any spiritual person would spend one day in the company of this irrational, demanding, violent, mean-spirited, hypocritical guru.

The smear campaign being waged against Ms. Tredwell reminds me of how Scientologists treat those who have left the organization. All the reviews and review comments being left here with links to Wordpress blogs are one-sided propaganda, backed and encouraged by the Amma organization. They would have us believe that Ms. Tredwell, who spent 2 decades never more than a few steps away from Amma, was actually a terrible person, disliked by all. If that is true, it wouldn’t speak very well of their beloved Amma, would it? Anyone in the organization will insist that it is not a cult. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Quack quack.
89 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the Sun Shine In 23 January 2014
By Lalita - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was impressed by Gail Tredwell's writing, especially for a first book. Definitely better than expected based on some of the reviews I had read. It was quite descriptive and kept me engaged--I read it in a matter of hours.

But more importantly, it seemed like a genuine effort towards finding and communicating the truth. I like truth. I don't know what really went on at the M.A. Math although I was involved in a low key way for about 10 years at a U.S. M.A Center quite awhile back. I just knew to not get too involved, I could see there were things going on that I would not want to be involved with. I saw a lot of ego manifesting in many ways. I could see that despite Ammachi's powerful spiritual aura, there was a mythology being created around and about her. I did profoundly enjoy the music and the beautiful Indian ritual involving flower petals, oil lamps and camphor and most of all the love that seemed to radiate from Ammachi and the love and fellowship of the people who came to the events.

However, I had some experiences that eventually made me realize being involved with the M.A. Center was really not for me. A few of them vaguely echoed some of the experiences mentioned in Holy Hell, but for the most part I was not privy to the kinds of information and experience Gail was.

I heard from people who had gone to India years ago that some of Ammachi's relatives were building big palatial houses on the other side of the river and did not believe that her family's fishing business could have taken off to that extent. I would go into the question line and find that Ammachi did not know what was on my mind as we were told she did and would not understand the background information relating to my question, so would not answer it in a meaningful way. I actually never really believed that Ammachi was too pure to menstruate, that her body worked in such a supernatural way because she had Type 1 diabetes and neck issues, both very human conditions. I heard people referring to Amma and her enterprises as Amma Inc. at least a decade ago because it was generally acknowledged it had become a big business.

There is enough concurrence by others of some of Gail's claims that her narrative needs to be taken seriously. There are accounts by people agreeing that Ammachi indeed does hit and abuse those in her service and that smuggling and tax fraud takes place. It is very unclear how much of the vast amount of donations that are given to the M.A. Math go to charities although it is clear some of it does. I think that should be explained in detail by the M.A. Math with along with an ongoing public accounting of all donations received and what they are utilized for. Records of their financial plans should be provided.

I just want the truth to come out and soon because many people have dedicated their lives to the service of Ammachi and her mission. I say this not knowing what the truth is, just whatever it is let the sunlight shine on a situation which clearly has harmed a number of people and has the potential to harm many more. And I mean on both sides....I suggest Gail provide whatever evidence she has to support her views soon as well. If even a portion of what Gail claims went on at Ammachi's ashram and on the tours is true, then this would likely be devastating to many people. They may wind up feeling duped and very angry--and even worse feel they have wasted years of their precious lives and find themselves lost and deeply disillusioned. At least let it be over if it needs to be. Let them move on if necessary.

And if Ammachi and her swamis are largely innocent of the unethical and cruel actions described by Gail, let them be exonerated.

The moral of this story, IMO, is be captain of your own ship. Don't give over your power to a guru or any other type of spiritual leader. We've seen and heard the story of corrupt gurus over and over--Sathya Sai Baba, Muktananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to name just a few. Also in some corrupt Christian ministries and in the Catholic Church priest pedophilia situation. The truth must be found in our own hearts and even then, it is still a little suspect because we have human hearts that are so affected by our own hopes, fears, desires and egos. Question even your own self. Where does faith come in? I don't know but somewhere...but faith in the light itself, not in a fallible human.

As Lord Acton said--power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. He had it right. Humans tend to be corrupted by power.

I have read some of the letters from Ammachi devotees criticizing Gail for her human weaknesses such as feeling annoyed when the gifts given to the female brahmacharinis were less than those to the males, and that she desired more comfort and love for herself. Her honesty about her own weaknesses are her strength (if those things are even weaknesses) and the feelings she described seemed completely normal and natural for a human being, especially under circumstances of abuse and exhaustion. When we acknowledge who we really are, we can evolve. As long as we are deluding ourselves and/or others we are stunted.

The best outcome of the publishing of Holy Hell would be for more truth and more light to manifest.
197 of 270 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE NEGATIVE REVIEWS ARE FAKE. My Utmost Respect To Gail Tredwell. 9 November 2013
By Kalliope Amorphous - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This Amazon review section is quickly becoming a typical smear campaign by the cult. It can be argued that this smear campaign is doing a wonderful job of backing up the information contained in this book by revealing the true nature of the cult and its leader.

I escaped the clutches of Amma many years ago, and when I tried to speak out about it, I was harassed and cyberstalked into silence. In this regard, Gail is a far stronger woman than I and she has my utmost respect for risking so much to share the truth.

I have still not fully healed from the trauma caused by my involvement and separation from this group and from the subsequent stalking, harassment, and character assassination levelled against me when I tried to tell the truth. I am only re-emerging for this one moment to thank Gail and to offer my respect to her for having the strength to do what she has done. It pains me to see the attempts to squash this important book with fake reviews and to see someone with so much courage come under attack.

I would like to let everyone reading these reviews know that the negative reviews are an attempt by the organization and its followers to discredit Gail and drive people away from reading the truth. They did it to me and they have done it to many others who have spoken out.

You can also expect the negative reviews to grow on a daily basis, as well as for the positive reviews to be voted down. They have historically embraced the lowest of the low tactics in the name of damage control. It is character assassination, an attempt to hide the truth, and nothing more. However,these negative reviews corroborate the atrocities and hypocrisy detailed in the book and prove how obsessed they are with silencing everyone who has left.

These negative "reviewers" have not read the book. None of the negative reviews show the "Amazon Verified Purchase" notation. They are simply members of, or supporters of the cult. They will ridicule the book and make personal attacks against Gail. They will try to make her life a living hell and make her look like a monster, because this is how they operate. Do not let them win.

I have been part of the cult, I have read the book, and there is nothing cheap or sensational about it. It's clear that Gail took a long time to heal in order to be able to write such an honest and direct account of her 20 years involved with the organization. This is a beautiful, human, touching account of one woman's journey from spiritual bondage to spiritual freedom and strength. If it contains shocking truths that many people would rather have kept secret, so be it. Even those shocking truths were presented with sensitivity and gracefulness (not an easy thing to do).

To say that this book might save peoples lives and release them from bondage is an understatement. The false reviews are from those who want to keep people in bondage, because the entire infra$tructure of the cult depends on it.

How many more ruined lives and suicides will it take for the world and the media to wake up to the fact that "the hugging saint" is a mirage?
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Holy Hell indeed! 3 April 2014
By Deepa Ranjit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gail Tredwell writes about her experiences at the ashram of Mata Amritanandamayi in Kerala, India. Although the writing style is very pedestrian (after all, the author is not a writer, in the real sense), the content is explosive. Among those familiar with the ashram and Amma, there will be many who support Ms.Tredwell and many more who will try and discredit her. The book does provide some insight into the minds of those who get caught up in cults and ashrams of Godmen all over the world. Those who are not familiar with Mata Amritanandamayi's ashram and the huge empire it has spawned may not appreciate the book as much, or the courage of the writer in coming out with this book. Whether you believe in the contents of the book or not, take any asram, cult or Godman/woman with a hefty pinch, indeed a fistful of salt !!

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