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Letters to the Editor

Enlightening readers
Numerous inaccuracies in the article "Minds Without Bodies" in your Oct. 2 issue have led us at the AHAM Meditation Retreat Center in Asheboro, N.C., to believe we did not fully or effectively communicate with your reporter who visited the center and wrote the article. Therefore, we appreciate this opportunity to correct these inaccuracies and bring some clarity to the misinformation presented in the article.

First of all some basic facts:

The AHAM Mediation Retreat Center is chartered in the State of North Carolina as a nonprofit spiritual education organization. It was founded 24 years ago in Greensboro, N.C., by the Texas-born enlightened teacher, Ramana, and his first sincere student, Elizabeth MacDonald. Since then, AHAM has taught some 5,000 participants from all walks of life how to meditate in a uniquely "western" way, with eyes open as well as closed, while living their lives more effectively and happily.

The Sanskrit term "aham" refers to one's sense of being conscious, alive, existing, and having the feeling "I" or "I AM," as one's core experience, natural state, or "Heart." Hence, AHAM, which is also an acronym for the Association of Happiness For All Mankind, instructs individuals in how to access this "Heart-core" and direct one's life from it, no matter how busy the lifestyle. We teach that true meditation is connecting with one's true self and abiding therein, free of the limitations of unwanted negative thoughts and habits of the conditioned body and mind, free from being adversely affected by people, places and things.

Being the only curriculum of its kind, AHAM has attracted participants from across the United States and abroad who seek to realize their highest potential, spiritual and otherwise. They seek to realize and live from their true nature, which is inner peace, freedom, contentment, and certainly happiness. Here they are shown how to bring this inner happiness to life and their relationships, instead of "needing" it from life and relationships. They experience how to access this foundation of happiness through self-inquiry as well as how to live more effectively and successfully in the world. Your article is therefore inaccurate in describing the program as "the promise of perpetual happiness" with the potential effect of "addiction." The "addiction" that Linda Ray spoke of in her article is not self-inquiry. Self-inquiry is a way for one to break free of the real addiction, which is the addiction to seeking happiness, fulfillment and well-being outside one's self, by finding and experiencing the true happiness that's always, already within one's own being.

Your article inappropriately refers to AHAM's Spiritual Director, Ramana, by his birth name, Dee Trammell. He has not been called that since 1973, when the internationally respected yogi-saint, Paramahansa (Baba) Muktananda, in recognition of Ramana's transformed state of consciousness, presented him with the spiritual name "Ramana" in Houston, Texas.

Your article is also inaccurate in describing Ramana's background as "a former appliance salesman." Prior to his enlightenment he actually excelled in business sales and management, serving for a time as director of the nationally known Napoleon Hill Institute in Los Angeles. He also attended seminary at the Unity School of Christianity in Lee's Summit, Mo.

For your information, we do not refer to ourselves as "Aham-ites" as the article does, which is somewhat disrespectful.

Instead of seeking "followers" as your article states, Ramana and all our instructors constantly emphasize "don't expect and don't depend on someone else to do it for you." Participants awaken to their own inherent wisdom, dignity and sense of self-worth that empowers them with the self-discipline and self-responsibility required to complete the programs and the structured home-study and practice that is uniquely AHAM's. The majority of AHAM's participants live in cities across the country and do not consider themselves "followers."

The seven staff members who reside at the AHAM Center in Asheboro assume the primary responsibility for the maintenance of the facilities, programs and publications. Center residents are not required or expected to give up their personal possessions. Everyone here is free to live a "normal life," retain family ties, attend family events, and to terminate their residency at the center at any time. We are empowered to "live an ordinary life in an extraordinary manner." Residents are not restricted from leaving "only if their body died," as your article indicated. In view of these facts, the AHAM Center is clearly not your article's "commune."

Your article states the center is "compound of single and double-wide trailers." In fact, only one of AHAM's seven structures is a trailer. The main building where your reporter shared our noon meal is a 3,500-square-foot brick, ranch-style residence.

Contrary to your article, AHAM's primary teaching comes from Ramana's two main teachers who are Jesus Christ, and a little-known sage of South India, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The core processes in the AHAM curriculum are:

1. Self-Inquiry, to be distinguished from traditional meditations requiring one to sit in silence with eyes closed. Self-inquiry can also be practiced effectively with "eyes open" and while engaged in everyday activities. AHAM provides the experience and instruction of Self-Inquiry as an inward quest to the heart-core of one's being, in alignment with Jesus' teaching, "Seek first the kingdom of God ('within') and His righteousness and all else will be added unto you." Sri Ramana Maharshi introduced Self-Inquiry to the world.

2. The Completion Process developed by Ramana, a step-by-step self-guided process for discovering and utilizing one's own "Power of Awareness" to naturally and easily complete what is "incomplete" (unfulfilled, unresolved or lacking) in any and all areas of one's life.

To support graduates in meditating and abiding in their true self-nature, meditation groups across the country meet weekly and are connected monthly by "Heart Line" teleconferences. Callers use questionnaires to focus on life issues they have chosen to clear up, not "to weed out those who might detract from the mood," as your article states. Senior trainer Elizabeth MacDonald considers these calls "A way to be together 'Heart to Heart.' Even though our bodies cannot be seen over the phone, the connection is still deeply felt." This quote may explain the title of your article, "Minds Without Bodies." Although this title is attention-getting, it is a misrepresentation and hardly reflects AHAM's 24-year record of systematic spiritual education that contributes substantially to the quality of life of program graduates.

To summarize: During its considerable history, AHAM has been showing participants from diverse spiritual paths, nationalities and lifestyles how to experience their natural inner peace and freedom to bring happiness to their world. In so doing, AHAM has been true to its name and purpose: The Association of Happiness for All Mankind.

We invite you and your readers to experience what AHAM offers by attending our Introductory Seminar via teleconference on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m., or in person at the AHAM Center on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. For further information call (336) 381-3988, or personally visit the AHAM Center at 4368 N.C. Hwy 134, near Asheboro.

We, the AHAM staff and board of trustees, thank you for sharing the aforementioned information and corrections with your readers.
–The AHAM board of trustees and staff, Ashboro

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