His Holiness penchant for lying and deceiving-Part 1
The following is taken from SriSri’s own official blog, http://wisdomfromsrisriravishankar.blogspot.com/, and is just one of many such comments he has made in different forums and different countries:
Friday, June 4, 2010 Excerpts from a public talk from the last month in Berlin, German
Q: If the courses and techniques are for the benefit of humanity, why is it so expensive?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is very minimal. It is not much expensive. There are expenses involved in renting a place for so many days, a teacher to come. We hardly save 10 to 15 percent on course. Sometimes it is little higher. It goes to a very good cause of charity. Of course, we teach free of cost in prisons, refugee camps and in villages where people can’t afford. If anybody thinks that they can’t afford, you simply talk to the teacher. They will take you in and accommodate you.
There are so many lies in SriSri’s reply above that I can dedicate an entire post to expose each, but I will try to be brief here. Any Art of Living teacher, whether still teaching or having left the organization, would know that SriSri is completely lying in his reply and indeed is contradicting his own directives to his teachers re course finances. The actual instruction to AOL teachers is that they must keep course expenses to a maximum of 10-25% of the course revenues (i.e. collected course fees). The actual percentage can be different in different countries, but around the same range (may be our readers can elaborate about the specific percentage in their countries).
So for example if collected fees from a course amounts to $2000, the expenses for the course must be kept to less than $200 to $500, based on the specific chapter’s instructions. And this amount needs to cover hall rentals and any other expenses, such as cost of brochures or advertisements, intro talks, etc. Teachers are asked to hold courses in someone’s home if the hall rental is more expensive than the allowed budget. They are also encouraged to hire cheap or free community halls and use AOL so called “non-profitable or charitable” status to get huge discounts for venue rentals. They are asked to use devotees’ homes or work offices to print the course brochures for free and promote the courses through any free channel or through writing articles in local papers or magazines or online or through introduction talks, etc. etc. Anything that can be obtained for free, AOL teachers are encouraged to use it so that they can keep the expenses below 10% or so. Paid advertisement are frowned upon, unless they are paid by sponsorship/fundraising! Also most places now have local teachers so there is no travel expenses involved, but even if a teacher has to travel to somewhere, he or she is asked to stay with a local devotee or a course participant. The host is expected to take care of teacher’s food, accommodation or travel to the course venue, all completely free of charge for AOL.
I do wonder how existing teachers reconcile the financial instructions they know they have to follow, with SriSri’s blatant lies in public. What more proof do you need that you are following a conman Guru and that you are his instruments of fleecing public in the name of charity? If SriSri claims “We hardly save 10 to 15 percent on course.”, my challenge to existing AOL teachers is that they start giving only 10-15% to AOL from any course they teach and see the kind of reaction they get & how long they will last as a teacher!
While SriSri claims “It goes to a very good cause of charity.”, all AOL teachers involved with any charity work, know very well that SriSri/AOL instruction to AOL teachers and centres/chapters is that all such projects must be self-funding and that the course fees/AOL funds cannot be used to finance them. A minimum of 60-70% of course fees which goes to AOL/Sri Sri is out of bounds for any charity work. Where this money actually ends up is more likely to be in Sumeru real estate or other private properties and businesses of SriSri, Bhanu Didi and family and their personal bank accounts. So all AOL teachers out there, please stop deceiving people that their course fees goes to charity causes, because it simply doesn’t. Never has, never will!
Again, he is lying when he says we teach free of cost in prisons. His direction to teachers/centres is to charge for prison courses to the maximum amount possible in that particular country or that particular prison. The Prisons are expected to pay for these. The courses are free for prisoners, but prison officials have to pay for them from prison funds. There are of course cases where prisons don’t have budgets for such programmes, then AOL may teach some free courses for publicity purposes. But if any prison does have funds for such programmes, AOL teachers are instructed to charge as high as they can and even secure outside sponsors. I have observed how upset SriSri gets when a teacher conducts a free course where there had been a possibility of charging for it.
Any free AOL course to refugee, etc is done to get huge publicity. And any such free courses are done totally free of cost to AOL. Such courses are usually the initiative of a particular teacher who is expected to pay for all the costs himself/herself or fundraise for them or apply for some sponsorship. And when such courses do happen, AOL gets all the free publicity and claims that is where AOL money goes to! The reality is that no AOL money ever goes to these projects and indeed AOL uses these projects as a pretext to fleece people in the name of charity!
SriSri is again lying when he says: “If anybody thinks that they can’t afford, you simply talk to the teacher. They will take you in and accommodate you.” SriSri and his senior teachers privately repeat again and again to teachers not to teach free courses or let anyone to do it for free and not even give scholarships/discounts. They say those who don’t pay won’t benefit as much or won’t value it as much. If a centre or teacher insists on letting some poor people to do the course for free or at least with reduced fee, they are told to do their own fundraising or collect donations for such purposes and do not use AOL funds! Please note that here I am talking about Part1, Part2/Adv, DSN. Sahaj and not about free BWS/Nav Shabir/intro courses for villages or for public to allure them to AOL. Any of these free courses are also done totally free of charge to AOL, by volunteers on their own initiative & their own funds or sponsorship/fundraising.
SriSri is yet again lying when he says the course fees are “very minimal. It is not much expensive.” The truth is that AOL courses are very expensive and in each country they charge to the maximum they possibly can. Sometimes they keep increasing fees so much that they put themselves out of business by making the courses unaffordable to general public. They will then put themselves in an embarrassing situation of giving “discounted fees for a limited times”, except that they have to extend the limited time again and again! For example see enclosed below, one such directive from the US AOL president Michael Fischman. Note how the official price is US$450, but the reality is that they are begging for$175. Indeed it goes from $450 to $350 to $175!! And it is obvious that no one in their right mind would pay $450 or $350 if they can pay $175! And please do note #6 re the maximum limit for expenses, and compare that with SriSri’s reply above.
In short, I am asking existing AOL Teachers to ask yourselves how long you can go on with these lies and be part of SriSri’s web of deception. Ask yourselves, what kind of Guru would lie so much and to this extent? Why is he lying so much? What is he trying to hide from public? It is obvious to me and all the teachers and volunteers who have left. You have a responsibility to find out the truth and stop being SriSri’s instrument in deceiving the public and sincere seekers, otherwise you are just as guilty in this fraud & an accomplice.
August 17, 2009
Dear Teachers and Volunteers,
To help spread Gurudev’s knowledge, the Art of Living Foundation and its sister organization VVM will be offering special pricing incentives for Art of Living Part 1, YES+ , Sahaj Samadhi and Part 2 courses that we feel will be helpful during these difficult economic times. Below are the details:
1. The Online Registration System (SAO) standard fee for Art of Living Part 1 course is $450 with a current discount of $100. Thus, the current course fee is $350 for the Art of Living Course and $350 for the YES+ Course.
2. Teachers will now additionally be able to offer a discount code that reduces the course fee to $175 for the Art of Living Part 1 Course and for the YES+ Course using the admin console of secure.artofliving.org. In addition to promoting the discount code on marketing materials, the discount code should be highlighted in the course details page shown in SAO for the participants to use when they sign up. (Please note that this promotional course fee of $175 also applys to seniors and students.)
3. Please include the following sentences in the Notes section for each Part I or YES+ course you post on secure.artofliving.org that the new discounted rate will apply to. This way people registering for your course will know what discount code to use during registration: “Your course is being offered for the discounted course fee of $175.00 through October 31, 2009. To get this discount make sure to select Discount Code from the Discount Category drop-down menu when registering online for the course and enter your course’s discount code of [organizer/teacher insert here the discount code assigned for this course fee amount when course was created]..”
4. The period over which this discount is available begins right away and ends for any course that begins after October 31, 2009
5. Refunds for those participants who may have already signed up for a course and ask for the benefit of the discount can be processed by the organizer/teacher requesting the refund from Susan Brandt in the National Finance Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Expenses will still only be reimbursed up to 25% of the gross revenues for each course, so it is up to each teacher and organizer to ensure that expenses can be covered before offering the $175 discount.
To Be Continued….