I began my spiritual quest at the age of 18 and moved to India from the US at that young age. Now I am 64 years old. I was first introduced to Gail Tredwell in 1978 when she arrived in Tiruvanamalai at the ashram I had been residing in. Since I was living with and closely associating with a well-respected teacher, Gail looked upon me with reverence and respect. She would pose her spiritual questions to me, and I would give her general guidance on spiritual matters. Upon reaching Amma’s ashram at the beginning of 1980, Gail seemed innocent and shy initially, but I soon began to witness a change in her behavior. I was surprised by her obvious lack of maturity as her attitude quickly shifted and negativity got the better of her. She would react like a jealous child in relation to Amma, often kicking the side wall of the small hut that we lived in when peeved at Amma for whatever reason. As she eased into the living situation and began to feel at home, a different side of her personality manifested. At first, I thought it was due to her immaturity, but as timed passed, I realized that it was not that simple. She started to make fun of and mock people right in front of their faces without any tact. No one was exempt from her immature behavior, including me. If anyone directly criticized her, even if it was for a good reason, she would immediately react towards them with an unusual viciousness and display of emotion. Of course it’s natural to react when one is criticized, however, Gail’s reactions became more extreme and any respect for me quickly faded. She grew arrogant and abrasive. Somewhere I hoped that, through association with Amma, she might eventually start to introspect and mend her ways. Yet, this never happened, and even until the time she left this behavior not only continued but worsened.
“I asked her to give me a drink of water since I could not easily get up. Her mood instantly changed and she shouted at me to get it myself and then threw the dirty wet rag in my face.”
Initially, except the house where Amma’s parents and siblings resided, the rest of us lived in a single tiny hut. One day while I was lying down in the hut with a debilitating migraine headache, I felt very thirsty. At that time, Gail was cleaning the floor with an old rag. I asked her to give me a drink of water since I could not easily get up. Her mood instantly changed and she shouted at me to get it myself and then threw the dirty wet rag in my face. Naturally, I felt upset, got up, and struggled to make my way towards the bathroom on the far side of the property. It was midday and extremely hot, so I stopped behind the temple to rest in the shade in order to gain some strength. Amma saw me there visibly struggling and came over to see what was the matter. I explained to her what just happened. Saddened by Gail’s latest outburst, she advised that I consider Gail as an ignorant child and not react when mistreated by her. If I did react, it would make me as ignorant as she was. This made perfect sense, and I decided to practice patience and restraint from then on. Of course, with Gail around, there were a lot of opportunities to practice these teachings.
I used to feel sympathetic towards her because, from my experience serving my spiritual teacher in Tiruvannamalai, I knew that serving a Mahatma was an austerity equal to performing immense spiritual practice. Due to the close proximity of such beings, a devotee’s innermost negative tendencies, like anger and rebellion, come to the surface and cause a lot of inner turmoil, which may manifest externally in one’s conduct as well. But, eventually, a devotee realizes what is happening and learns to restrain and reject those vasanas (innate tendencies). They are like poison that was consumed in the past and prevents one from becoming healthy unless purged out. In other words, these negative vasanas that have accumulated from past due to ignorance must surface and be destroyed in order to develop purity of mind. Of course, Amma was fully aware of this fact, and always found ways to teach us to become aware of our own negativities and inner struggles. She had even advised myself and Gail, very early on, that a Guru will first reveal a bit of their divinity to the disciple and then act in such a way as to bring out one’s vasanas in order to purify the disciple. Such teachings are for one’s spiritual growth and evolution and must be taken as lessons to learn from.
I continued to show sympathy towards Gail as I mentioned before. But eventually, her anger, arrogance and foolishness not only persisted, but grew. I wondered about her stubborn nature but could not do anything about it. I could just silently observe it. Eventually, I decided to keep a safe distance and had minimal contact with her during the last years of her stay.
“Reading these allegations make me think she is very confused and mentally unwell. She herself mentions in her book that, ‘I felt too much pain to review my beliefs or to determine what had been real and what had been projection.’ This statement reveals a lot about Gail’s false perceptions.”
During her 20 years at the ashram, I was not aware of the accusations of abuse that she has leveled in her book against Amma and Amma’s disciples. Reading these allegations make me think she is very confused and mentally unwell. She herself mentions in her book that, “I felt too much pain to review my beliefs or to determine what had been real and what had been projection.” This statement reveals a lot about Gail’s false perceptions.
Depression is a condition in which, among other things, can cause a consistently negative, painful and angry mindset. Depressed people can perceive those close to them with paranoia and negativity and project situations upon them. When the brain chemistry becomes unbalanced due to various factors, this is what happens. Medicine can help a lot, but it is difficult and humbling to admit to oneself that one should get treatment. Although Gail was in a very bad state when she left, I never felt that she would publish a book like this and go to such extremes to promote it. Although she obviously had a lot of anger and resentment, I never imagined that she would write a book, which is self-destructive and might destroy the faith of others who are not beginners and well-grounded in their faith. Surely, she did have some awareness of Amma’s greatness. I think that the people who showed a lot of sympathy towards her after she left, encouraged her to write and publish the book and convinced her that it was the right thing to do. As some of them had already published material against the topic of gurus, perhaps seeing Gail’s vulnerable condition prompted them to selfishly seize an opportunity to push her book out in the marketplace. Gail quotes some of those ideas at the end of the book and it’s obvious there was a motive to push an agenda.
Swami Paramatmananda Puri