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An AOL Old-Timer Speaks: “The magnitude of fraud today amazes me!”

July 8, 2010

By Anonymous

Many ex-AOLers did go sincerely seeking a guru when they first met SSRS. Unfortunately, what started out as something that appeared to be a small group of people wanting to know Truth and God, morphed, over time, into a huge Guru-business as it seems to exist today. As I saw it start to happen, many years ago (before anyone signed anything like ‘legal’ docs to teach SK), I left, seeing that there was not going to be any Truth to be found there. SSRS (He gave himself the ‘sri sri’ moniker, btw, saying that it was what Maharishi used to call him), and he was not always called that, or even ‘Guruji’, long ago, lost whatever goodness and love he had in his heart and fell to the sway of name, fame, glory, and whatever else is mentioned here on this blog and others I’ve seen recently. The few old-time teachers and followers who remain, appear to have been ‘cloned’ by SSRS, dressing like him many times, faking up accents which didn’t even exist before, etc. It’s very sad. It appears he is simply a fallen yogi, who has fallen hard and fast and far. I don’t even know the many of the people mentioned in this blog, as they came after I saw the disintegration beginning and left before their arrival. Of course, some of the administrators mentioned are the originals. And of course, the family always ran the whole thing, and I saw them go from relative poverty to increasing wealth as this started to grow into a business. Because the person is dead, I will not site a name, but someone extremely close to SSRS told me in ‘confidence’, very early on, as foreigners began to come to the ashram which was being built up slowly that SSRS had “over 1 million US dollars in his private bank account now!” And was very very proud of this fact, which was inside, private knowledge this person had access to. I was shocked and horrified, knowing where the money had come from: ‘donations’. That was a long time ago. Just like mafia dons, that money has been made “clean”, it appears, by buying real estate and making companies and placing those companies in the names of his nephews and who knows who else. Just as many illegal activities are hidden in the US this way for years and decades, sometimes forever, it is even easier to hide and bribe away these sorts of activities in India.

It is very sad for all who have gone looking for answers to the sincere question “what is the Truth” and stupidly believed that this man HHSSRS as he now calls himself, could ever have done anything but misguide them.

Unlike many of the people whose posts I’ve seen here, I escaped relatively unscathed after a short time, and took up a normal life, AOL-free. I never even realized all this was going on until these blogs posted up after the ‘shooting at stray dogs’ incident. The magnitude of fraud today amazes me! Having seen this family, knowing their background, it is simply not possible that these companies that are now “legitimate” came from anything but stealing donations intended for other uses. I doubt very much that people were asked “please help my family become wealthy and set up a nice real estate empire by giving generously”.

At the very least, these people should be made to pay all taxes on all monies gained over the many years, with full penalties, to the Indian government. That tax money could build many toilets, houses, wells, and provide jobs for the very people who were supposed to benefit in the first place.

Then, “HHSSRS” as he calls himself now, should go to the Himalayas, and do sadana, taking advice from real gurus and saints living there, and wash his sins away, living the celibate, lonely life of a monk (which he claims to be).

His followers who have become his ‘leaders’? They should all go do some constructive work. If they really believe they want to help people, not just travel around in style and comfort, they should apply themselves to social work. Otherwise, go earn a living like all the people they have robbed in the name of charity, to enrich their ‘Guru’.

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14 Comments
  1. Screwed_by_AOL permalink
    July 9, 2010 6:04 pm

    Stealing donations is a crime.

    In a Indian society where sex and dating is a hush hush thing, Nithyananda issue was made a big deal even when the actress involved had no issues. It was probably a betray of trust of a so called celibate swamy and that was it . Some adult activity between two consenting adults.Nithy amassed close to 32 crores rupees in his personal account in a short period.

    Newpapers estimate HHSSRRSS personal wealth easily over 100 crore rupees.
    Mostly robbed through donations. Generated minimally through books and CD sales.Fake businesses would be NOT be raking any big cash like the distilled bottled water, ayurveda etc as of yet. Real estate business could be otherwise.

    Who is a bigger fraud – HHSSRRSS or Nithy ?
    Who exploited more people ?
    Who robbed across more countries?
    Who robbed the faith of more people?

    During global recession, when people are struggling with jobs, foreclosures and other losses, AOL is preying on the weak and insecure and generating global fradulent businesses in the name of spirituality ,bogus love and free volunteer service.

    AOL is politically connected to BJP (Advani and ruling Karanataka govt) and the US democrats and few european parliaments. But that does not mask the reality

    Lets hope Interpol, Tax bureaus in various countries catch the crooks in the best interest of ordinary citizens.
    International money laundering scheme

  2. Sincere Seeker permalink
    July 10, 2010 12:01 am

    What the media needs is documentary evidence, specifics, and witnesses. I am sure the Indian Govt. also needs something to justify an income tax “raid” or investigation.
    Please do contact me through the blog owner if you would like to provide any of this.
    I don’t think the truth can hurt anyone, only protect the innocent.
    The blog is good but really AoL will continue its ways till something is done either through media or govt.

  3. Roy permalink
    July 10, 2010 2:10 pm

    I still feel the goodness with in me when I am in Ashram, or when attending the Satsangs. How ever, whether or not Guruji is aware, I can see the luxury around his nephews, which is quite disheartening.

  4. Jagadish permalink
    July 11, 2010 7:20 am

    Many of the gadgets, clothes, phones, laptops, and other expensive items the senior teachers and trustees have (for example Bawa or Dinesh) are gifted by their fan-club and followers. Don’t underestimate the rock-star like status some of these senior leaders like Vikram Hazra have. I know personally one person gifted a top of the line mac-book pro to a teacher, and this is much more frequent than most people realize.

    • anonymous permalink
      July 12, 2010 4:21 pm

      I hadn’t thought of that, Jadadish. So you must also know if some extremely wealthy donor has paid for the travel and top-class foreign educations of SSRS’s nephews? And their expensives houses in US? And the luxurious lifestyle that did not come at all from their father or mother’s earnings, but from the ashram? If I’m wrong in this assumption (that all their ‘legitimate’ businesses came from ‘donations’), please do explain: who was the rich industrialist who gave all the money for the family’s lifestyle, which was once quite poor? I’m sure it’s possible that someone or even several rich folks wanted to give millions upon millions to SSRS’s family to make them extremely comfortable. So fill me in on that one if you know.

      Now, even if that were the case (millions of rupees given by rich people for the family) shouldn’t the family of a saint give all the money to that saint so he can do some real social work? The family was not starving. They had a modest lifestyle with sufficient food. Why not share with the community and get rid of some of the slums in Bangalore? Or, if they have done that, please show links to films of the houses built, the location and number of all houses, etc.

      I’m tired of hearing “some tailoring machines were given to poor ladies….” or “toilets were built in xyz village”.

      Show me the money.

  5. Anon permalink
    July 12, 2010 3:02 am

    What’s wrong with unasked gifts ? Agreed teacher should not hanker for them, or drop subtle hints like women do, but what’s so wrong with enjoying what comes to you naturally.

    I’m sure Vikram, makes more than enough $$ through album and ticket sales of concerts that he doesn’t need free gifts anyway!

  6. Jagadish permalink
    July 12, 2010 8:10 am

    @anon, July 12, 3.02am: nothing wrong with unasked gifts. In fact, I don’t claim there’s any outright fraud happening.

    To give some background, I worked part time as a volunteer in the ashram from 2002-2005 or probably 2006 I don’t remember exact dates. During that time, we saw two types of trustees or teachers. A large number of them were low(er) profile, like the advanced course teacher Suresh-ji and Prashant Rajouri. The other type were the rock-stars like Vikram and Nitin Limaye.

    The teachers never openly suggested gifts or dropped hints, they are not fools. But.. there was a general social undercurrent, a culture that was built up, maybe by senior staff or over-enthusiastic junior teachers or other volunteers. It was considered a privilege and honour to gift something to one of the rock-star teachers.

    This habit was actively encouraged in small ways. A very common occurrence you can see – after a DSN or advanced course, we would collect money and buy the teacher a gift, often something quite expensive. There was surely an element of emotional pressure in this. I have heard a senior organiser telling a DSN student “this knowledge is priceless, after all that you’ve gained from this course, don’t you even feel like giving something back to the teacher?” I’ve seen variants of this same pressure more times than I care to remember. I have also been *told* point blank to exert this sort of pressure on participants when I was organising courses. Of course none of this was ever documented, for that matter even the list of course participants is almost always lost somewhere untraceable, so there are no records.

    Though there was a definite element of love and admiration for the teachers, I had a serious problem with the permanent smiley-face masks and pseudo-sweet words and pretend-love I saw (and continue to see) in the organisation.

    So to cut a long story short, nothing wrong with enjoying gifts, unless your whole org builds up a mythos and culture of gift giving by emotional pressure. Mind you, this is not one incident, it is in the bloodstream of the organisation.

    This, among other problems alienated me from the org and I finally quit in 2006.

    As for your second point, Vikram is the program director of AoL foundation and is a full time trustee and “employee” of AoL. All album and ticket sales proceeds goes to AoL and not Vikram. Theoretically, they cannot touch that money except the small percentage part of the proceeds that is due to them. Second, I have nothing against Vikram, he is a sharp guy, a good singer. I just used that example to highlight a deeper issue.

    As for the question of fraud, you will find it hard to prove anything. In the worst case, you’ll find some activities in the grey areas, but nothing you can use to bring down the whole organisation, because it just isn’t there. The trustees and senior inner core are extremely smart people. They make sure money related matters are taken care of.

    • Anon permalink
      July 13, 2010 4:23 am

      I agree artificially creating peer pressure to give gifts is unethical – but if people want to contribute out of genuine love I don’t think we should nitpick. I’m not sure if some of the fault does not lie with us for succumbing to peer pressure and group dynamics.

      I’m not saying AOL is not at fault here – they do encourage a herd mentality, and hype a teacher’s profile. Particularly in DSN, they ridicule people who resist peer pressure (at least the one with Anand Rajendran as teacher) and “disobey” teacher’s orders. The ones left behind are true believers, or atleast people learn to hide their misgivings and start putting on masks. Spirituality I feel should do the opposite – make you more real and authentic, and give you the courage to speak and stand for the truth despite being in minority. They are creating sheep, not lions.

      Some people learn their lesson early, while others take longer to come out of AOL. The only ones left behind are those who actually profit from being AOL teachers/trustees.

  7. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    July 12, 2010 11:23 am

    “What’s wrong with unasked gifts ? Agreed teacher should not hanker for them, or drop subtle hints like women do, but what’s so wrong with enjoying what comes to you naturally.”

    Anon: If you have been in AoL for any length of time, you would agree that some senior teachers have rock star status and students fall over each other to get attention from teacher. Even though, a rock star teacher may not explicitly ask a personal gift for himself, there are enough subtle hints to students that personal gifts are welcome. So many comparisons have been made on this blog by AoL-ites between AoL courses and university courses justifying AoL fees. Now, you tell me if a university teacher accepts personal gifts from his students, would you not call it corruption? The fact is that any gift accepted by a person in authority from down below is nothing but a bribe.

    “I’m sure Vikram, makes more than enough $$ through album and ticket sales of concerts that he doesn’t need free gifts anyway!”

    As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “There is enough in this world for need of everyone. But not enough for greed of even one.”

    • Anon permalink
      July 13, 2010 4:29 am

      As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “There is enough in this world for need of everyone. But not enough for greed of even one.”

      I don’t think making $$ by ethical means is a bad thing. In fact the world is enriched by people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata – or even vikram hazra – as a singer and performing artist, he’s quite good – but that’s just my own subjective opinion.

      • goneagain permalink
        July 13, 2010 8:24 pm

        What I see here is like one of the low paid workers such like ‘waiter’ expecting or welcoming ‘TIPS’ (gifts here) from the customers. If you call yourself a teacher and compare yourself to university professors then I don’t see any of them either expect or accept gifts, I see only corrupt practice like government employees.

  8. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    July 13, 2010 11:03 am

    “I don’t think making $$ by ethical means is a bad thing. In fact the world is enriched by people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata – or even vikram hazra …”

    @Anon:

    I think we are talking of different ethical standards.

    In my view, a teacher’s encouraging and accepting gifts from students is an unethical practice.

    If you think that this practice is same as earning $$$ by ethical means- fine.

  9. Ronin permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:37 pm

    It never seems to amaze me at the length the organization is willing to go. Maybe be I am still gullible but I am waking up fast.

    See link: https://secure.artofliving.org/donations.aspx

    Now you have the choice to donate at your will to any of the mentioned projects or even centers (see options under projects). A great way to launder money, sorry misspoken to receive the grace of the Guru and good karma.

    Questions is though, are all the projects linked to one Bank Account number ?

    I guess that one is not to hard to figure out.

    The little giant has awakened.

  10. random permalink
    July 30, 2011 6:30 am

    @Ronin: very well said ,, and as far as i can say these people “ENTRAP” all dose coming under ( or rather who does any course ) of AOL,, they create an environment where guru is everything (GURU=sri sri) and anything and everything which u have in ur life is meant for guru( again GURU= SRI SRI) ,, now i didnt say ” MONEY” rather “EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING” which is even more dangerous ,, they just brainwash people in the name of GURU ,, and yes speaking of money ,, course fee is just too high for anyone ,, and yes i do agree dat dey provide service and we pay in return ( no offence) ,, but after a single course its like mandatory for a person to force oder people to do the same course so that these oder new people are also”BENEFITTED”,, and not only dis a person doing a single course is again and again asked to pay lots of money for satsangs ,, higher courses of AOL ,, rock concerts ,, i dont know hundreds of more things happening every day,, and the worst part the people associated with AOL all the tym asking n giving reasons to do these things ,,
    well in short many fallen in their trap ,, i myself along wid some friends did the course ,, but i soon realized that it is more of a profit based organisation dan “LOVE BASED”

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