Karen Dorfman, Class of 2005

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Karen Dorfman

Thesis Title:  "Mata Amritanandamayi:  A Modern Hindu Guru."

Advisor: Edwin F. Bryant

 
This year I completed a thesis under the guidance of Dr Edwin Bryant. It examines the female Hindu guru Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Ammachi. Ammachi has risen in the global landscape as an internationally acclaimed humanitarian and spiritual presence. She has imported a modified version of the ancient guruship tradition that is designed to accommodate the current atmosphere of religious pluralism and tolerance prevalent in modern society. I present Ammachi’s life, teachings and influence as a case study. I discuss her role as a guru in the social scientific context of the 21st century. Using various sources Ammachi is placed within the historical perspective of the Hindu tradition, particularly with regard to the feminine presence and situated within the milieu of her contemporaries. I examine the potential difficulties and unique challenges for the guru disciple relationship in the West. Some of these challenges include the psychological predisposition of the Western disciple due to cultural orientation and the misunderstandings that can occur because of a different world view. In addition, the paper questions the need of a guru disciple relationship for serious spiritual seekers. This topic attracted me because I have observed the interest in Ammachi and the phenomenon that occurs around her during her annual visits to the United States. I found the research gratifying because it allowed me to probe more deeply into the complexities of the guru disciple dynamic and to view it from varying angles.