A Portrait of The Abject

“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being loveable.” Thich Nhat Hanh


The concept of the ‘abject’ is a fascinating theory well known in academia within the domain of the social sciences. It belongs to a highly thought provoking series of discourses on the mechanisms of ‘othering’. The concept of the ‘other’ suggests that such an individual or group of people are different from us in some fundamental way. We are all the ‘other’ to someone and we can never fully know the ‘other’, even if we try as the ‘other’ is constantly evolving and changing. The act of ‘othering’ is a direct manifestation of power relations between our social notion of ‘we’ and ‘they’, often portraying the axes of discrimination and power differentiation that exist ubiquitously within our current cultural paradigm.  

Over the many years since I first came across this particular theoretical concept, it has been something I have witnessed within myself and within society as a standard behavioral normalcy. The concept of the ‘abject’ takes ‘othering’ to the next level, as the ‘abject’ becomes that which we too embody, yet its something that we are not willing to accept within ourselves. The relevance of observing this type of projection is so wide spread within Western society, that almost everyone does this in some form or another. Moreover, If we lack the awareness and inner strength to confront ourselves at a fundamental and honest level; what we do instead is assign blame to something or someone in the external world. Thus, we create a scapegoat, known as the ‘abject’ to project our negative tendencies onto, instead of realizing that they actually originate within our own mind.

As a social and global collective throughout the world, we have very little desire to take the necessary responsibility for our actions or negativity, instead we reassign them to the external world around us, through the medium of people and situations. Hence, the ‘abject’ is a reflected component of ourselves through our own sense of discrimination, hatred and latent negative tendencies. All of our interactions act as a refraction of what lies within ourselves, revealing similar tendencies and the reflection of the ‘abject’ when we have a very strong negative feeling towards someone.

On most, if not all spiritual paths its clear that the only persons reaction that should be understood is our own. Thus if someone’s behavior makes us very mad or is upsetting we must first look at ourselves and why we are reacting so strongly, even if we did nothing seemingly wrong. To truly find any peace or happiness in life we must stop ‘othering’ people, reacting to the ignorance of others actions, and to take full accountability and responsibility for our own reactions and action. Of course we will slip and fall back into the conditioned and learned patterns of social behavior and find ourselves pointing out something about another person who has done or said something that we find disturbing. In this case, we are reminded that we still have a lot of work to do and that we must keep trying to maintain focus on our shortcomings and negative tendencies, rather than on making someone else the target.

I am sure in my life I have done this many times, yet I realized a long time ago that by finding blame in others, my own inner suffering did not lessen. Only by looking within at my own negative tendencies can I eradicate them through using proper discrimination in my actions and behavior towards others. In such situations even if I have fallen prey to pointing the finger at another person’s behavior I have later come to realize that it does not make the situation any better and that by reacting, I am the only one losing anything. As long as we are caught in this pattern of fault finding, we will never have inner mental and emotional peace, yet by lessening this association there will be much less desire to perceive the ‘abject’ in others and through greater self awareness we will gain much more inner peace and a sense of inner unity.

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Seeking The Divine

“India chose her places of pilgrimages on the top of hills and mountains, by the side of the holy rivers, in the heart of forests and by the shores of the ocean, which along with the sky, is our nearest visible symbol of the vast, the boundless, the I.” Rabindranath Tagore


Amritapuri is the ashram of Sri MataAmritanandaMayaDevi, who is a world renowned spiritual figure. She is considered to be an enlightened master or SatGuru. The ashram has been considered an ashram for over 30 years and originated as Amma’s families property. Today, its a sprawling ever expanding village that houses between two thousand to four thousand people, depending on if Amma is here or touring throughout the world, as She is accustom to doing. The ashram is located in a very remote area of India, right beside the Arabian sea and surrounded by a dense, dark green forested area, as far as the eye can see. The ecosystem here, due to the lack of development is very close to being pristine, with dense trees, which are mostly coconut trees and a vast array of natural birds and other animals that inhabit this area of the world. The air is pure and fresh with a sky that is clear without pollution or other such chemicals.

The ashram has multiple huge areas that provide filtered drinking water and all of the food is made fresh each day. The thing I love about the food is that there is an abundance of tree ripened local fruit that can be purchased for a very reasonable fee. In addition, there is a coconut stall where freshly picked coconuts can be consumed via drinking the fresh raw coconut water, then eating the inner flesh. I enjoy being able to consume several coconuts per day, in addition to making a hydration water with filtered water, several fresh limes (they are very small), some raw wild honey, and himalayan sea salt. Due to the heat and how much one is prone to perspire, as a Westerner its extremely important to consume both the fresh coconut water and the hydration water.

I have discussed in the last few blogs how my husband and I have come to arrive at Amritapuri, thus I will not reiterate the subject. Currently, it has been a little over two months since we first arrived on September 7, 2013 for an initial stay to 6 months. Of course, in the beginning of our stay we were bombarded by several challenges. Since we were originally placed in a very old building, our room was very sparse and basic, to say the least. Not to mention, all the water has traces of iron oxide, due to the aging pipes, in conjunction with the nature of the climate here. Thus, to wash all of the whites that are worn in the ashram, one must use a water filter and be very careful when doing laundry. There is a laundry service, yet for two people the cost is extremely expensive when one choses to stay long term, costing more than what it would cost to do laundry in the West in a laundromat.

Therefore, each day or every second day we do our laundry by hand, then walk up to the roof to hang the laundry. At this point, it feels very natural and does not feel like a lot of work. However, when we arrived it was still monsoon season with almost constant rain. As the ashram is located very near the beach, all the ground is made up of red sand, which when you get it on the bottoms of your pants or skirts, it is extremely difficult to wash out. The solution, is some super strong India bleach, which I never used previously in life, yet here a little is necessary to keep everything clean. Another factor was the mosquitoes, since our initial room was very basic and did not have netting over the windows. Hence, we put a net on the window to keep the birds out, yet the mosquitoes could easily come in. Thus, waking up at 2am to spray natural repellant on is not fun, especially when the morning wake up bell sounds at 4am and Archana (chanting of the 108 names of the Divine Mother and the 1000 names of the Sri Lalita Sahasranamavali) begins around 4:45am for men and 5am for woman. As this is an ashram, these are held at two separate locations.

When we arrived it was at a historically all time high for the amount of people staying here, due to Amma’s 60th birthday event. There were people from all over the world here, in addition to around half a million people on the birthday itself, which was held offsite. Therefore, it took around a month to feel grounded and adapt to this place after figuring out what foods to eat, hydration water, when to avoid going outside for too long, and also doing a daily Seva. Seva is volunteer work that contributes to the functioning of the ashram, everyone staying here must participate in something. My husband and I did several Seva’s in the beginning that were in the afternoon, which was extremely hot and we could barely survive working during that time of day. Later we got an opportunity to do an early morning Seva, while its still cool enough. The afternoon heat and the feeling of having a high level of humidity in the air creates the feeling of perspiring constantly, thus it has taken me awhile to get used to this type of humid climate.

Just before Amma left in early October, friends of our allowed us to stay in their very nice flat. It was just before Amma left for the Europe tour that we finally felt settled in and were able to take in the amazing splendor of the ashram and the beautiful environment. To be here with Amma is something that defies words, as its magical, despite the numerous crowds and the various cultural nuances that are diametrically opposite to our Western standards of personal conduct and politeness. In this part of India, people are extremely physically pushy and will not hesitate to bud in front of you in any line, or push you out of the way. It was initially challenging, yet now that I recognize this factor I stand my ground and make sure the person waits their turn.

Now, our daily lives are steeped in a daily routine, of waking up at 4am almost everyday, of course we have slept to 6:30am. Yet sleeping in only by two additional hours leaves us feeling the drowsiness of having over slept. In addition, the notion of time is very different here, its as though one day lasts forever; its endless and the amount one can get done seems infinite. Since its an ashram there is a structure to each day, with various events that are set up for everyone to attend and participate. We do have some free time, which we use to relax in our room, go to the beach to gaze out over the Arabian sea, or to meditate. The room that we are currently staying in, is on the 10th floor giving us the most beautiful view of the ocean. In addition, the sound of the waves crashing along the shore is a familiar sound that I hear whenever I am in the room, like right now. I have always felt an extremely strong connection to the beautiful ocean, therefore to have an entire wall view of it, as well as listen to the rhythmic melody of her rolling waves, is so sublime. 

After Amma left the beginning of October, both my husband and I started to experience this extremely expansive joy and gratitude to be here. We both have this extremely strong feeling that we have always been here, doing these things in perfect harmony; like our lives have been going on for an eternity.

Being here, feels like being at home which is a feeling that both my husband and I have never experienced before. Amritapuri is not like being on a magical holiday, yet a place where a lot of discipline and work is required to move towards the goal of deepening one’s inner awareness and to inevitable realize our true nature. Thus, with this perspective in mind we are enjoying each new day with a beautiful graciousness of fully enjoying our precious time here.

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