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June 15, 2010

I was asked by email to edit the Wikipedia post on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to give a more balanced view of his person. When you read the post, it might as well be a AOL promotional folder, it is that biased. So I added this:

Critique of The Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

On the internet, different websites offer critique of The Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Most notably are two blogs, started by ex-AOL teachers:

  1. Beyond The Art of Living -a critique of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
  2. Confessions Of A Guruholic -leaving The Art of Living

In those blogs, the viewpoint is given that The Art of Living is a religious cult.

Unfortunately, all critical viewpoints are very quickly tracked down and deleted by AOL watchdogs monitoring the web. Just view the “history” of that post, and read some of the comments, that will give you an idea about the vigilance of those watchdogs. I give my edit 12 hours maximum, before it is deleted. So be quick, read it now!

Update, June 17th: well, I was almost right. It took 14 hours before it was deleted! Anyway, in the interest of objectivity and fairness, I have re-posted it on Wikipedia. Let’s see, how long it takes this time…

Update, 1 hour later: gone again, deleted by some robot function. Ah ,well. I give up!

Update: Mat graciously re-edited the post, this time it seems the edit will stand! Good job Mat, even though the original links to this blog and Klim’s cannot be included.

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31 Comments
  1. WhistleBlower permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:18 pm

    Good one SkyWalker. It was about time someone added some balance to Wiki’s entry on AOL. I wonder why AOL Police are so paranoid about any comment with a different point of view. In your blog, you have even given AOL counter-blogs links. To me that shows your strong conviction and that you believe in what you are saying and that are not scared of any counter-argument by AOL people and indeed welcome it. Would be nice if AOL can reciprocate & give the link to your blog on their official website!

    By the way, I am not familiar with how Wiki works, I couldn’t see the actual changes/comments which were made previously. If it is not possible to retain the section about “Critique of The Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar” on Wiki’s entry, it would be nice if someone created a new entry in Wiki with this title, so AOL people can’t delete it.

    • June 15, 2010 10:28 pm

      Thanks, Whistleblower. In Wikipedia under History, to the left you can see “cur” (current) and “prev” (previous) versions of every edit.

      • WhistleBlower permalink
        June 15, 2010 11:00 pm

        I wished they would have just shown the bit changed or comment added for each revision, rather than the whole thing. I have allergy to reading all that AOL promotional lies, to spot the change/addition for each revision! Unless there is an another way of spotting the change, I have to pass on, as I get sick reading all those lies again & again! If some one can extract the attempted addition/changes, it would be most interesting to read them!

  2. Satheesh permalink
    June 15, 2010 11:34 pm

    There is a discrepancy on the age at which he got his degree

    Wikipedia says “He received a bachelor in science degree at 21 from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore University.[5][6]”

    The citation [6] is this page http://www.artofliving.org/founder/biography.html, where it says “By the age of seventeen, in 1973, Sri Sri had graduated with degrees in both Vedic literature and physics.”

    Same discrepancy on http://www.webindia123.com/personal/religious/sriravi.htm which says “He completed his degree in science and Vedic literature (Hindu scriptures) by the age of 17.”

    Whats the deal here? At what age did he get his degree? 17 or 21 ? More relevant question would be did he really get a degree ? Can they produce the transcripts ?

    • Satheesh permalink
      June 16, 2010 7:14 pm

      Some more info on this SSRS degree business. AOL websites generously inflate his academic achivements.

      http://www.artofliving.org.za/sri_sri_ravi_shankar.php?PHPSESSID=mdgs0hfjkmu5mqma8taeld3ij7

      says “By the age of seventeen, he obtained an Advanced Degree in modern physics.”

      http://uk.artofliving.org/srisri.htm
      says “By the age of seventeen, he obtained an Advanced Degree in Modern Physics,”

      http://www.srisri.org/biography/timeline
      says “1973, age 17: Completes his traditional studies in Vedic literature and a degree in modern science”

      What does AOL mean by advanced degree in Physics ? Is it a PhD or B.Sc or M.Sc ? The media should press AOL to release the transcripts for all his exams. Lets see what degree he really obtained.

      • Smiling Monkey permalink
        June 17, 2010 2:37 pm

        There is nothing called ‘advanced degree’. Also, if he had gotten a post-grad or a doctorate by 17, surely, they’d have cared to elaborate when he actually got a graduation degree(he’d be even younger)

        Also, notice ‘Modern Physics’. Now, I may be wrong, but I haven’t heard of any college in India offering a B.Sc in ‘Modern Physics’ per se. Students at graduate level learn both classical and modern physics. Which course did he is undertake and which board/university offered him a ‘graduation’ in ‘modern physics’?

        Notice that the third link says ‘Modern Science’ instead of ‘Modern Physics’. So, what exactly is this mysterious advanced degree on? I love the typical AOL habit of using professional and impressive sounding language to exaggerate or inflate their own credentials.

        Also, note how the links given by Sateesh in the first post mention that he completed ‘degree’ in Vedic literature whereas the last link says that he completed his traditional studies in Vedic literature. What exactly did he do? Did he actually study Vedic Literature, on his own, or under a Guru or did he actually went through an accredited course and earned a degree? If yes, then, which organization/university offered his degree?

        To be honest, I won’t be surprised if all his ‘advanced degrees’ turn out to be the ones he was offered by his own SSRS university.

  3. June 16, 2010 2:37 am

    What you would need is solid references, your blog is just a point of view and will not hold water as a reference. Hence your edits will most definitely be removed more so because they violate wikipedia rules http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons#Reliable_sources Any news report or editorials (or reputed blogs) that corroborate your view point would be a good start, for example: recent Shoba De’s criticisms or other criticisms of his handling of the shoot the dog incident would be a good start. Be careful that you don’t get edited out as a “fringe theory” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Fringe_theories
    You maybe doing your own cause more harm than good by poor attacks that violate rules. I would suggest you collect articles and carefully draft a strong critique and then post it on the wiki.

    A suggestion would be to flag the article as NPOV, i.e. the article does not have a neutral point of view since it has been edited by people with a vested interest, namely AOL members.

    Read this for further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPOV I am sure the article can be flagged for a bunch of other things. See this for example

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons

    What Satheesh pointed out above about citation [6] is a conflict of interest and can be flagged. It basically cites his own website as a reference and is “Self Promotion” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Self-promotion

    Hope this helps. Good Luck!

  4. exaolteacher permalink
    June 16, 2010 3:48 am

    AJ you seems to be well versed with wikipedia why do not you do this work.

    • June 16, 2010 9:29 am

      @exaolteacher, Nice try 🙂 but this is not my battle. I don’t like god-men like these and have never been naive enough to invest anything in them. I do like reading these blogs and sympathize with your cause. I wish you good luck but I am not taking up cudgels on anybody’s behalf.

      • Stupid Yogi permalink
        June 21, 2010 3:52 pm

        You are very smart to stay away from God men. Something actually good might happen to you, so prevent this from occurring. Who needs gurus. We learn everything we need by ourselves anyway, right? Who needs a spiritual “coach”? Certainly not us who post here. We are so wise and insightful that we spend our days obsessing about a spiritual organization that we have nothing to do with anymore.

  5. avinashmawa permalink
    June 16, 2010 7:31 am

    I did YES!+ last year. My instructor told me:
    ” If you eat non-veg I will kill you”
    Funny, isn’t it?

    Read the article by Shobhaa De at http://www.deccanchronicle.com/op-ed/when-controversy-king-919. It’s really great

  6. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar permalink
    June 16, 2010 9:21 am

    THE SPEAKING TREE

    Buddha, Sangha And Dharma

    Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

    On the spiritual path there are three factors: Buddha, the master or the presence of the enlightened, sangha, the commune or group, and dharma, your true nature. Life blossoms naturally when there is a balance between the three.
    The Buddha is a doorway, and the doorway needs to be more charming than what lies beyond so that people come to the doorway.
    Similarly, the closer you get to the master, the more charm, newness and love you feel. Nothing in the world could give that much peace, joy and pleasure. It’s like depth without a bottom. This is a sign that you have come to the master.
    Once you enter the door, you see the world from there, from the eyes of the master. Then in any situation you will think: “How would the master handle this?” See the world from the eyes of the master and the world looks so much more beautiful as a place filled with love, joy, cooperation and compassion.
    Looking through the doorway there is no fear. From inside your home, you can look at the storm and the bright sun too; yet you can be relaxed as you are in the shelter. Such a sense of security, fullness and joy comes. That is the purpose of having a master.
    Sangha is charming from a distance, but the closer you get, it pushes all your buttons and brings out all the unwanted things from within you. If you think a group is good it means you are not yet completely with the group. When you are totally part of that group, you will find that some bickering will come up. But you are the one who makes the group – so if you are good, your group will also be good.
    Sangha has a reverse nature to Buddha. Buddha makes your mind one-pointed; sangha, because it is of so many people, can scatter your mind, fragment it. Once you are used to a sangha, it loses its charm. This is the nature of sangha. Still, it is very supportive. If it were repulsive all the time, then nobody would be part of sangha.
    Buddha uplifts with Grace, love and knowledge, Buddha pulls you up from above, and sangha pushes you up from below.
    Dharma is to be in the middle. Avoiding extremes is your nature –to be in balance, to smile from the depth of your heart, to accept entire existence totally as it is. Often you crave for Buddha and are averse to sangha, and you try to change; but by changing sangha or Buddha, you are not going to change.
    The main purpose is to come to the centre deep within you, which means to find your dharma. A sense of deep acceptance for this moment, for every moment, is dharma. All problems and negativity are generated from our mind.
    The world is not bad; we make our world ugly or beautiful. So when you are in your dharma, your nature, you will blame neither the world nor the Divine.
    Dharma is that which puts you in the middle and makes you comfortable with the world. It allows you to contribute to the world, be at ease with the Divine, to feel part of the Divine.

    • Stupid Yogi permalink
      June 16, 2010 5:43 pm

      Wow! What horrible words! See how SSRS is trying to control our minds. It’s so obvious.

      • Bling Bling permalink
        June 16, 2010 9:51 pm

        @stupid yogi….why don’t you get SSRS to release all the academic info…Did he get a degree at the age of 17 ?? isn’t that four years earlier than normal !!!??

      • Anugraha permalink
        June 17, 2010 7:24 am

        I find Nithyananda’s discourses far more insightful than Ravi Ravi albeit everyone copies the same Osho style.

  7. Svetana permalink
    June 16, 2010 10:15 pm

    @Stupid Yogi

    The words of the “Speaking Tree” are not horrible. There is wisdom in them. Simply they have nothing to do with money, fame and power loving HHSSRS and trail of his slave-followers. RS is a master of propaganda. He knows how to play with words. Bury a lie in a heap of self-evident truth and it becomes self-evident truth.

    He says: “The main purpose is to come to the centre deep within you, which means to find your dharma”. But when you really reach this center, the whole truth about hypocrisy of RS becomes available to you. So, it’s really amazing that he has so many followers and so few reached this “center deep within”.

    • Stupid Yogi permalink
      June 21, 2010 3:56 pm

      Svetana, of course the words are wise and insightful. And I have found “my” deep within through my 19 year association with SSRS. He is a wonderful Satguru. These people who post here are fools. no problem leaving a spiritual movement but this trashing is ridiculous!

  8. FreedomFighter permalink
    June 17, 2010 1:22 pm

    The references on wikipedia to the blogs have been taken off already. We do need to post them someplace that people visit. Maybe the google/bing search results for Sri Sri , Art Of Living should bring up this blog in the top 10…

    • June 17, 2010 7:18 pm

      Update, June 17th: well, I was almost right. It took 14 hours before it was deleted! Anyway, in the interest of objectivity and fairness, I have re-posted it on Wikipedia. Let’s see, how long it takes this time…

  9. goneagain permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:38 pm

    Lackeys’ removed your changes calling it non-neutral. How funny.

    (cur | prev) 10:57, 17 June 2010 TheRingess (talk | contribs) (13,086 bytes) (→Critique of The Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: removed section, very non-neutral) (undo)

  10. Laxmi993699 permalink
    June 17, 2010 4:45 pm

    Ravi Shankar holds no ‘earned’ degrees. That is to say, he did not go through school then college to the eventual receipt of a degree in anything. He left school at 17, not having graduated, to be with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This has been corrected multiple times on Wikipedia, but it just keeps getting changed back. I heard he did receive some honorary degrees from some places not so long ago, just for existing. But he did not study, sit for exams and get a degree. He told me this himself. He said he did not need it. There is no way to prove it, but his classmates in Bangalore know it to be so. What can you do? If you have enough money and influence you can convince the world of anything. I don’t know why his followers are so keen on making this degree thing up. There is nothing especially terrible about not having one, imo. Bill Gates dropped out of school. Lots of people have. SSRS is very rich and successful in his realm of GuruDham. Why do they push this lie? Hard to tell.

    • Vishal permalink
      June 18, 2010 6:19 am

      Lakshmi,
      Why does AOL and Ravi Ravi keep pushing about the degree although it is so insignificant to his current stature. Well I think it reflects the culture of falsehood and lies that Ravi Ravi/ AOL and similar fraud orgs/gurus are built on. Chronic lying is their second nature. It is similar to kleptomania. There are lot of rich people who steal insignificant things just for the sake of it as they cannot help it. It is a psychological disorder.
      The same is the case with Nithyananda, he lied about his date of birth and made it to be Jan 1 1978, which is actually false. Jan 1st is no big deal especially in the Indian Jyotish calendar. Some astrologers even say that the chart for this time is in no way spiritual. His actual DOB on passport is Mar 13 1977 and some of his school mates tell that he is older than that by two years. But still he lied. But he acheived nothing by lying about his age.
      In looking at the claims of these cult leaders it is always good to be critical and suspicious. They thrive on suprious and bogus claims and have a proven track record of gradiose claims with no substance.

  11. Smiling Monkey permalink
    June 18, 2010 5:08 pm

    Vishal has hit the nail on the head. Lying is second nature to these people and it is something that even they can not control. It is understandable when someone lies in order to gain something. But, some people(most cult leaders fall into this category, they are very creative people mind you) tend to lie even when they are not getting anything significant from it. It’s more of a psychological disease in creative people, than anything else.

    But, the really amazing aspect here is that, this when this disease of serial lying haunts the cult leader, unlike kleptomania, somehow it can spread through the entire organization. Most cults including AOL justify it by saying that the wrong means were used for the right ends. They feel absolutely no shame in not revealing their real motives, hiding their own belief system, blatant spread of misinformation and when caught justify it by pointing out at the ends.

    For instance, many AOL teachers who feel that SSRS is akin to God will never give hint of their belief to newbies or outsiders lest it puts them off.

    Note that AOLers compare SSRS to Christ and Gandhi. But, neither Christ nor Gandhi ever lied to their followers so that they could ‘gradually bring them to the right path’ as the followers couldn’t ‘handle the truth’ when told that. They were fearless, truthful and were unafraid to reveal their true beliefs even to to those people, who could cause bodily harm to them, leave aside potential followers.

    The only ones who have had the history of giving these justifications are not Gandhi or Christ, but common cult leaders, many of whom have led their followers to doom. (Notice how using clever word-play, AOLers call themselves the ‘devotees’ of SSRS. Gandhi never had any devotees. He had followers and faithfuls. Not devotees. God has devotees)

    So insecure is SSRS and his followers of the fact that others may not accept his ‘greatness’ or ‘divinity’ that they need to fudge up every part of his past, some of which, the followers wouldn’t have cared about in the first place, in order to make him look better. Nobody goes to religious Gurus because they have a degree in Physics. There are millions of people who have such degrees and thousands who have PhDs. There was absolutely no need to lie about it. Again, a religious guru doesn’t necessarily have to be a child prodigy, but these people want to hint at ‘divinity’ by talking about what he did when he was four or his ‘advanced’ degree at 17.

    Notice again, that the greatest spiritual and socio-political messiah of India in modern times, Gandhi, in his autobiography, never wrote anything about his childhood that portrayed anything out of ordinary. The thing is – someone who is genuinely great doesn’t need to lie about himself. Bill Gates doesn’t have to make up some fake college degree because he knows that he has done enough in his life to earn him the respect he wants for himself. Gandhi doesn’t have to make up stories about his childhood or even adulthood, because he is comfortable with what he’s done in his life.

    Only insecure but creative cult leaders go about fudging up past educational records and talk about unverifiable achievements of childhood. It is little surprise that when you visit the blog(a ling over here) against Nithyananda, the very first point his critics attack him with is his fudged up educational record as well as past history.

    The greatest irony here is that all these cult leaders and followers base their organizations to the fact that they are unique, they are divine, they are the reincarnation of so and so whereas a little study of all these organizations will show you that they are all pathetically similar.

  12. LOL permalink
    June 18, 2010 7:27 pm

    I saw this on another blog which is anti-Art of Living:

    I found it hysterical on two counts:

    One, that R. Patel’s brother is now involved in AOL. I heard he once got ugly and in the face of the guru, demanding that his sister be “released” to go back to her family. I guess money talks in the end — SSRS gave him some money, and he joined. How funny this is to me!!

    Two, the idea that anyone would say that this brother expects women to use their “femininty” to get what they want for AOL just like his sister ????? Are we talking about the same middle aged lady who is seen disheveled, looking like an old clone of SSRS, on You Tube, blathering away in a fake accent (she didn’t used to have an accent, I’m told– where did that come from???), draped in what looks to be a white sheet or dhoti? This is femininty?

    LOL. Yuck. It sounds all so backward and crooked and evil from all the recent participants and teachers posts.

    Good I didn’t get too involved.

    “Kamlesh has been heard to tell attractive women to use their “feminity” to buy influence for SriSri. I once had to console a young woman who was deeply hurt & felt insulted from such comment. Obviously Kamlesh thought other women would like to operate same way as his sister. And have you seen Kamlesh when he gets angry? Not a pretty sight! Seems runs in the family! Knowledge points they only preach to others, no sign of them practicing it themselves.
    The only times I have seen them using knowledge points were either to attack someone or justify themselves when they were caught with their pants down. As to practise Sadhna, again it is only when they teach it to innocent people, otherwise those who have lived with these guys know Sadhna is not part of their daily routine. Kamlesh even boasts about not needing Sadhna or adv courses! He even proudly talks how he even didn’t finish basic course. All he cares about is $$$ & buying political influences for SriSri. He brags about how much he has fleeced Mittal family & other extra-rich Indian families in Europe. Then goes around & mucks them behind their back about what a show off they are re their wealth & how easily they part with $$$ to get SriSri’s blessing!
    Rajshree & Kamlesh have no integrity. They just have sold their soul to SriSri & getting paid hefty sums for their services.
    All of us have responsibility to expose SriSri & his lackeys. Many innocent people are deceived & hurt by them. And see how the more corrupt & deceitful lackeys are the more they get promoted. That is why Rajshree became TTC teacher & blessing course teacher, not because she is spiritually advanced!! “

  13. Dr Quentin Jones permalink
    June 19, 2010 2:48 pm

    Hi LOL

    What is the URL for the anti AOL website that you mentioned in your post.

  14. June 21, 2010 6:48 am

    very nice!.. you could possibly include the criticism he received for the handling of the shoot-the-dog incident and his spat with Chidambaram calling his statements a “white lie” 🙂

  15. Svetana permalink
    June 21, 2010 9:17 pm

    @ Stupid Yogi
    You write: “I have found “my” deep within through my 19 year association with SSRS. He is a wonderful Satguru.”
    And it took you 19 years to become a Stupid Yogi? I am really sorry for you. And you are not an exception. Art of Living is built on people’s ignorance.

  16. WhistleBlower permalink
    August 18, 2010 6:41 pm

    AOL lackeys are looking for volunteers to police Wikipedia. Please see AOL circular below.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that SriSri/AOL are on defensive big time!! They have every right to be afraid, because getting exposed for them equals to “bye bye to all that free flow of cash”!

    And more they behave so, more they show to the world how scared they are about the truth being revealed about them.

    It made me chuckle that, in spite of the sensitivity of the issue and the request below revealing SriSri’s manipulative ways in controlling flow of public info about him, he still wants free seva from members for policing Wiki! So much greed!

    Didn’t he claim in his recent BBC interview that he gives “freedom of opinion”(so generous of him, don’t you think so?!), that he doesn’t mind what people say about him, that it doesn’t bother him, etc.?
    [audio src="http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/worldservice/interview/interview_20100813-2332a.mp3" /]

    So how come he has a whole PR dept. geared into crushing any truth getting out about him and his fraud organization? How come he has created a whole PR dept and SriSri school of journalism to flood the media with favorable articles (made-up lies!) about him and AOL?

    Anyway SriSri stash away as much money as you can while you can, because the truth is getting out there about you and your family and your lackeys shabby businesses and soon there will be less and less young people giving their lives away to free seva for you to make you lot rich.

    Soon if you want to police Wiki you would need to pay for it, rather than asking for volunteers to halt the flow of info about you and your family.

    From: webmaster@artoflivingindia.in [mailto:webmaster@artoflivingindia.in]
    Sent: Wednesday, 19 August 2010
    Subject: Imp – Web Seva: Need Volunteers with Wikipedia account

    Jaigurudev Dear Ones,

    There is an important webseva for which we need all the volunteers who have a wiki account.

    In case you have one, please fill in your details on the link below or fill in the form below.
    https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dEoydkU2OWdXMkctb3EtcGI0azRUM0E6MQ

    Details of Wiki Users
    Web Seva : In case you have a Wikipedia account, please enter your details below

    Name *

    Wiki User Name *

    Email *

    Phone No

    City *

    State *

    Country *

    [Submit]
    Powered by Google Docs Report Abuse – Terms of Service – Additional Terms

    • goneagain permalink
      August 18, 2010 8:14 pm

      If you see number of edits – Wikipedia page about RS goes through you will be amazed. Now I understand how they do it – use AOL PR/Volunteer lackeys to sit and keep changing and of course remove any criticisms that comes along. There is no way people who would like to add ‘criticisms’ can keep up these lackeys.

  17. goneagain permalink
    August 18, 2010 8:22 pm

    Following criticim is back on the page – but soon lackeys will remove it.

    —————
    Criticism

    This article’s Criticism or Controversy section(s) may mean the article does not present a neutral point of view of the subject. It may be better to integrate the material in those sections into the article as a whole.

    The Art of Living volunteers have been criticized for making unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of Sudarshan Kriya in benefiting patients suffering from not only depression and trauma but also cancer and AIDS. Critics charge that exaggerated and pseudoscientific claims (for instance, the claim that HIV cannot survive in the oxygen rich environment produced by Sudarshan Kriya [18] ) mislead patients with serious physical and mental illness and thus prove dangerous and cause harm.

    A study prepared for the US Department of Health and Human Services, reviewed the quality of research in Sudarshan Kriya and other meditation practices, and said, “Overall, we found the methodological quality of meditation research to be poor, with significant threats to validity in every major category of quality measured, regardless of study design.” [19] The report concluded:

    Scientific research on meditation practices does not appear to have a common theoretical perspective and is characterized by poor methodological quality. Firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality study[20]

    The AOL foundation makes no official guarantee or promise of any therapeutic effects of Sudarshan Kriya, although research, personal experiences and testimonials of those claiming to have been benefited are highlighted.

    According to an article in Reader’s Digest: “There is no doubt, however, that some of its claims are exaggerated. For instance, according to an AOL brochure its “Youth Empowerment Seminar” is compulsory at 10 German universities. A random check by Reader’s Digest at five of the universities revealed that not only is the seminar not compulsory, it is not even part of the academic curriculum. It is offered as a leisure activity, alongside tennis and aerobics.” [21]

    Edward Luce in his book In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (2006) alludes to Sri Sri’s ties to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

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