Transport hoodoo, guru's only problem.

By Catriona Mathewson, Tony Keim.
27 April 2001
Courier Mail
(c) 2001 Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd

SHE may be able to turn milk to jam but even Hindu "hugging saint" Ammachi couldn't bring Qantas flight 522 into Brisbane on time yesterday. The woman known to millions of worshippers as "mother" kept a crowd of followers waiting for 45 minutes after she fell victim to the vagaries of modern transport. When she did arrive Ammachi was swamped by followers, leaving dozens of bemused travellers in their wake. It is the Indian saint's ninth visit to Australia and, although she doesn't speak a word of English, she blesses followers with hugs and is said to have once turned a jug of milk into jam. Ammachi claims to have wrapped her arms around more than 15 million followers and added a few more to the list in Brisbane last night, before heading to the Gold Coast. But what is so special about a hug from Ammachi? "You would have to ask them," she said, through an interpreter. And why does she hug?

"That would be like asking the river why it flows." Another Indian spiritual "guru" has led more than 4000 people on a journey of "knowledge" during a four-day convention, which ends today, on a remote property 60km west of Brisbane. The Maharaji taught "delegates" from 60 countries the four secrets of his non-religious way to enlightenment.

Organisers of the Elan Vital conference housed delegates in a massive tent city set-up by local scouts and State Emergency Service volunteers on the Ivory's Rock convention centre grounds. Elan Vital national director Kaye McKinnon said the conference was expected to pump more than $2 million into the local Ipswich economy. For more than 30 years the 44-year-old Maharaji has been teaching followers, but has refused to give media interviews for the past 17 years.