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STAGES OF CULTS- Which Stage is AOL at?

September 4, 2010

I invite all AOL members to read the extracts posted below from the book: “The Guru papers” and see the similarity with AOL. In my opinion AOL is foremost a cult, well into the second stage of its cult existence.

Extracts from the book: “The Guru papers” by Joe Kramer & Diane Alstad (A must read by anyone who wants to gain a deep understanding into cults and false gurus).

….first stage is messianic with the message being that all labors of the organization, including the guru’s are aimed at a higher purpose beyond the group, such as saving mankind. During this phase the guru is confident that he will eventually be acknowledged as the one who will lead the world out of darkness. The major emphasis is on proselytizing to bring in new converts. The continual increase in numbers satisfies the guru’s need for power and adulation…he remains happy and relatively benign in his treatment of those who have surrendered to him….the way he exercises power is through rewarding the enthusiasms of his followers with praise and positions in his hierarchy. He also whets and manipulates desire by offering “carrots”…Within the community… a celebratory, party-like atmosphere often reigns. Everything seems perfect…The guru is relatively accessible, charming, even fun.

The energy and excitement of proselytizing, conquest, gaining public attention, and of newcomers flocking to the group are what makes a cult feel vital and prosperous. Cults need a continuous stream of recruits and potential converts to reinforce the belief that they’re “where it’s at”–the vanguard of spirituality on the planet

…Feeling in the vanguard fuels moral superiority and cuts insiders off emotionally from outsiders, which binds them more deeply to each other. Because cults are relatively closed systems, proselytizing is their main form of communication with the outside world. New members are also a needed source of revenue.
…What most proselytizing groups face is how to sell their beliefs without appearing to do so. Recruiting is therefore always done in the name of helping or doing some kind of good.
..New recruits attend testimonial sessions with older members as part of the indoctrination. They are treated very specially and made to feel important, and then are typically pressured to “share their experiences” with others.
What such sharing really amounts to is a more oblique form of proselytizing that cleverly accomplishes several things: It obviously can bring in more new people, but less obviously, the more new or potential members share their experiences with outsiders, trying to explain and defend why the group attracts them, the more they themselves identify with the group. New members have great enthusiasm, but are often not yet emotionally tied to the group. In this context, proselytizing itself is a subtle kind of indoctrination, as the very act of “sharing” moves one to identify more with the group.

…Second stage…. Apocalyptic Paranoia
A time inevitably comes when the popularity and power of the group plateaus and then begins to wane. Eventually it becomes obvious that the guru is not going to take over the world, at least not in the immediate future. When the realization comes that humanity is too stupid or blind to acknowledge the higher authority and wisdom of the guru, the apocalyptic phase enters and the party is over….in order to attract more people the guru makes increasingly extreme promises and bizarre claims that offer occult powers, quick enlightenment, or even wish-fulfilment in the mundane sphere around wealth, love, and power.
….Any member who leaves threatens the cohesiveness of the whole group. …The Transition from optimistic expansionism to the paranoid doomsday mode involves a heavy turnover of people. Those not really “serious” leave, and others begin surreptitiously to question leader’s omniscience. in an attempt to counteract this, the group becomes more militaristic, demanding even greater obedience. Even when a cult is no longer expanding, some recruiting of new members still occurs to balance off the losses of old ones during the turnover of this phase. But a cult in decline has more trouble selling itself. It no longer looks that enticing or special.
Members and the guru become withdrawn and the focus gets more internal, insular, and isolating. Internecine squabbling and power struggles replace external conquest. When the guru realizes that most people are not going to acknowledge him, he often compensates (if he can afford it) by building monumental edifices that proclaim his greatness. This includes monuments or temples, buildings, model communities, and “learning centres.” The fun is over. The rewards are now put into the distant future (including future lives) and are achievable only through hard work. This not only keeps disciples busy and distracted, but it is necessary because the flow of resources that came with expansion has greatly diminished. This glorification of work always involves improving the leader’s property (the commune or ashram), increasing his wealth, or some grandiose project.

Whenever a guru’s power needs are not being satisfied by expansion, he generally seeks more adulation from and control over those who have surrendered to him. He does so by dictating more directly how they spend their daily lives…Though the guru needs his disciples even more attached to him, he becomes more remote, sending his dictates down the line. Subtle or not so subtle warnings proliferate about the disastrous consequences of disobedience and of trusting outsiders. Statement like this become prevalent:”Disobedience to the guru brings countless lifetimes of suffering.” “How can you expect enlightenment or salvation if you are not obedient and do not work hard for it?” “You must not pollute yourself by associating with those who are not spiritually developed.”

Although the guru usually preaches the unity of all humanity, he becomes increasingly more separate. His message is of love, but he shows little concern for those under him, as they have become mere tools for his ambitions. Often he consciously or unconsciously blames those around him for failure of his messianic aspirations. As the group’s isolation increases, so does its paranoia toward outsiders, which can trigger violence. Those who drop out are often threatened, violently punished, or sometimes even murdered. This stage commonly results in scandal and tragedy.
Authoritarian groups with a leader who has few constraints(our definition of a cult) derive their intense feelings of loyalty and unity from erecting huge walls between insiders and outsiders.(We define cults as a group where the leader is unchallengeable and considered infallible. The term “guru” is used generically for any such leader.)

I leave it to our readers to give the corresponding examples from AOL. The signs are all there for everyone to see. The existing members and teachers will do well to get out while they can, as those left behind will be the ones to bear the brunt of SriSri’s increasingly megalomaniac ambitions and they would be expected to compensate for the lack of revenues from newcomers. Already they were asked to dish out for the church building in Washington DC, then for his birthday celebration and Gurupurnima and for SriSri university, etc. And when it comes to the courses, it is existing members who are expected to fill up the coffers by attending Part3 courses with the master, Blessing course with the likes of our Swamiji, Guru Puja TTC and Sahaj TTC with Guru’s sister, Regular TTCs, SSY TTC and so on.

I don’t know if any of you remember that few years back SriSri was telling us (his teachers, in intimate settings) that “soon the closest you will see me would be from a helicopter”, meaning there would be so many people in AOL that he could only give darshan to everyone from a helicopter hovering over the crowd of his devotees. Even though SriSri uses helicopter often, it is not due to necessity or large numbers of devotee, rather a way for him to flaunt his wealth (wasting money donated for charity) and behave like celebrities.

But as reality sinks in further, we are well into second stage of AOL cult. Judging by the extreme, and at times violent, reactions of Yezdi and Sad. Swami and Ewald and Mr.Sumeru and few other AOL top men to the mere existence of our blog (no doubt all ordered to the front by the cult leader himself ), they believe our blog to be behind the rapid decline in the number of devotees (free slave labourers that is). As much as this is very flattering to our blog, has it occurred to SriSri and his henchmen that the decline could be due to SriSri’s bizarre behaviour in public (e.g. Ashram’s shooting incidence?) or the news of AOL land grabbing getting out? or perhaps that more and more people are realizing that Art of living is a scam? Our blog only gives a forum for ex-members to voice their opinion and perhaps confirmation that their unpleasant experiences are not isolated to a particular centre or country. If the issues raised in this blog were not true, no one, esp. members and devotees would take notice of us.

In last few months, to counteract our blog (and Klim’s blog), not one, but THREE AOL counterblogs were created, one by the Indian Ashram, second by the USA AOL board and the latest by Guru’s nephew. In the latest blog, testimonials were sought from AOL members worldwide. To date, in spite of repeated requests, only a dozen “paid” AOL teachers have come forward with their testimonials. As a result, the form below has now been sent to all AOL teachers worldwide and they are all required to complete it and send it to Alex Luthra, Communications Co-ordinator, International Web team, Bangalore Ashram. In this way, not only AOL is hoping to get much needed testimonials to put on AOL website, but also perhaps some promotional value from any project initiated by any of the teachers (Zero cost to the AOL corporation!).

The knee-jerk reaction of AOL to our blog is absolutely astounding. Those teachers who are filling this form are in risk of being associated with a cult, displayed on internet for the rest of their lives.

As reiterated many times before in this blog and explained in particular in the post “Original Sin”, it is very important to emphasize, spiritual experiences, no matter how powerful, should not be used to enslave people or trap them in a cult. Nor these experiences can be the answer to issues raised in this blog and elsewhere, re financial and moral and ethical discrepancies in AOL. Good experiences are not, for example, an answer to questions such as “where the funds donated for charity projects go to?”.

If you look at the responses of AOL PR agents who frequent our blog, nine out of ten times, they try to respond to any allegations by reverting to “good experience” fallacy. One has to remind them that people’s good experiences completely belongs to them and that they have already paid for any courses they did. No one owes anything to AOL or SriSri for any good experience, certainly not their lives, nor their careers, nor their health nor their freedom.

By creating a blog and emphasizing “good experience” testimonials instead of replying to the issues, AOL only confirms its cult nature and that indeed it doesn’t have any response to numerous allegations raised against its conduct by its ex-members all over the world.

I also would like to warn the existing AOL teachers that as SriSri’s paranoia increases, he will exert even more pressure on his senior teachers and this will be passed down through the ranks. The form below is only the beginning.

Many people on our blog have commented on senior AOL teachers extreme anger, hatred and at times violent reactions. These can be better understood in the light of the huge pressure exerted on them by SriSri to bring more people and revenue and fame and glory (and NPP) to him. As AOL cult gets more into its second stage, these kinds of pressures will be passed down in bigger doses to teachers down the line, then to volunteers and even to ordinary members. So if there is an ideal time to leave this cult, it is NOW.

You don’t owe anything to anyone just because you did a course and you had a good experience. So what, you paid for it in cash (and some of you also with your time and free seva).

This is for a new section on the Art of Living website called ‘Our People.’ This section aims to showcase teachers and volunteers – our seva warriors who work on the ground.

We would like a brief write-up of about 300-400 words, based on the following questions. (Please note: the questions could be answered or you could write a brief write-up based on these points)

• Name:

• Age:

• City & Country:

• How long have you been with the Art of Living?

• Project(s) involved in: ~ How long have you been with the project? ~ What is your role?

• A brief background about yourself.

• Are you fulltime with the Art of Living? If yes, then what were you doing before this?

• What has inspired you to commit yourself to the seva?

• Would you like to share any experience from the project you’re working in?

• Any comments that you wish to add. Please send some of your pictures:

• Profile picture

• Taking a course/with participants of the course or project beneficiaries.

Anything that you would like to share- this would be great!

  1. WhistleBlower permalink
    September 5, 2010 10:18 am

    One thing we were told over and over in different AOL courses and TTC and TRMs was that:

    “If God is not happy, one can go to his/her Guru, but if Guru is unhappy with you, even God can’t help you.”

    So basically SriSri was putting himself even above God. This is just one example of mind games, control and manipulation of devotees/teachers by SriSri. He was (and still is) basically using fear to control his teachers/devotees.

    • Blim Blim permalink
      September 6, 2010 2:28 pm

      Hi WhistleBlower,

      Check this out…

      Sudarshan Kriya is no more a registered trademark 🙂
      No where they are using “R” next to the word “Sudarshan Kriya”

      • WhistleBlower permalink
        September 6, 2010 10:19 pm

        Thanks Blim Bilm.
        I wonder if it was ever a copyright at all.

        In light of AOL claiming copy right re Kriya, Kriya notes, etc., would be nice if someone knowledgeable to check these claims. There must be a registrar somewhere.
        Let’s see what is registered in the name of AOL.
        AOL people have never shown any proof.

  2. coward permalink
    September 5, 2010 10:44 am

    Its true that God Can’t cure fools who have unhappy guru. God is all bliss He never intervene in anyone’s personal life.

  3. Nice one permalink
    September 5, 2010 1:50 pm


    Quite nice article. Thanks for summarising the essence of cult and comparing it with the AOL. I have noticed u write a lot but it does contain some valid points!!

  4. Researcher permalink
    September 5, 2010 2:11 pm

    If these blogs feel like so much of a threat to the JGD’s that they are scrambling to get their act together, start counter-blogs, and have their senior swamis thrash out against former teachers and members, insult and abuse former teachers with health disorders, scramble for testimonials from paid AOLers, and generally behave no better than a bunch of uncultured scoundrels who have been called out on their misdeeds, it’s obvious there’s something deeply wrong with their organization and the great leader. This reflects extremely poorly on their claims of being great liberated masters and teachers.

    We are not even a huge multinational corporation or the catholic church with unlimited amounts of money and influence and power trying to bring down a rival religious group, just a bunch of regular everyday folks, former teachers and ex-members, not even a cohesive organization of rebel fighters. I am really surprised at the impact we’re creating.

    I see clearly now that AOL is beyond repair. The only way out is for the organization to implode or fragment, either after Ravi’s passing on, or by a huge series of scandals.

    Pity, they had some good stuff. If they had just stuck to simple yoga and kriya, they could have done so much good. I guess money and power makes anyone greedy.

  5. goneagain permalink
    September 5, 2010 2:32 pm

    Similar topic, earlier post by Soulshock is good read if some one hasn’t read yet.

  6. Peaceful warrior permalink
    September 5, 2010 3:07 pm

    Oh it’s wishful thinking to assume AOL will die out or implode. A bad rep is usually not enough to stop a cult – TM and scientology for example are still active, despite having a bad reputation.

    As long as there are people looking for a spiritual daddy, these cults will continue to exist. All one can do is free oneself and provide support to those who want to free themselves.

  7. abhilash shastry permalink
    September 5, 2010 3:28 pm

    In my assessment AOL has probably crossed its high point of stage one and slowly entering second stage. It is not there yet but will reach soon.

    I remember when I had joined AOL in 1997, there was still large untapped market for AOL. Lot of people had not heard of AOL by then and I used to approach such people with messianic zeal. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that the behavior of new members was and remains very similar to Amway people. In those days If I met some new person I would hardly listen what the other person had to say. Rather, in the back of my mind I would be mentally sizing him up as a potential recruit – just like an Amway person does. These things were not taught but we knew that the easiest targets were young upwardly mobile professionals who were disconnected from their traditional roots. In Indian context, it meant someone who was educated in English and generally working in a city away from home; someone who had loaded pockets, fewer responsibilities and general ignorance of his own spiritual tradition. That untapped market has now practically been used up. Today, if I meet someone with this profile in a big Indian city, there is a fair chance that either he has already done some course like this or he is totally averse to such things -hence not an easy game.

    Media is also slowly waking up. In the past, in a masterstroke of luck and genius SSRS had been able to recruit Ms. Indu Jain, Chairperson of the Times of India group into AOL. So, for quite some time, in contrast to other lesser gurus, SSRS was treated by Indian media with kid gloves. Now if his treatment by media is gradually changing to comparatively coarser route, SSRS has no one to blame but himself. His almost psychopathic desire to always remain in the news has ensured that gaps between his aberrations are now narrowing. He wants his hands in every pie. People are realizing that charity AOL -style means a photo op session with no real follow up commitment from the organization except for what a few volunteers do in their individual capacity.

    The full fledged signs of stage two though remain in future. The question is not “if” but “when” AOL would reach that stage.

  8. The Doctor permalink
    September 5, 2010 9:46 pm


    I see clearly now that AOL is beyond repair. The only way out is for the organization to implode or fragment, either after Ravi’s passing on, or by a huge series of scandals.

    As Peaceful Warrior said, this is very unlikely, and these blogs certainly aren’t going to be responsible for that. What we are really doing here is raising awareness of the various issues inherent in the organisation, which come from experience, and giving people a resource they can go to if they have any concerns.

    Prior to KLIM’s blog, if someone used google to find anything negative about Art of Living, as I did prior tp doing my basic course, all that came up was a clean slate. Of course these were all Art of Living sites, so there was obviously somewhat of a bias there, but the lack of any critical websites made me think it was safe. Now this situation has changed drastically, and so unsuspecting members of the public now have several resources which they should find with very little difficulty through google. And they will find these in spite of any Search Engine Optimisation Art of Living tries.

    • grateful_reader permalink
      September 12, 2010 8:31 pm

      “but the lack of any critical websites made me think it was safe. ”


  9. The Doctor permalink
    September 5, 2010 9:59 pm

    @Peaceful Warrior:

    All one can do is free oneself and provide support to those who want to free themselves.

    This really struck a chord with me, especially as it describes my own situation perfectly.

    When I told my friends I had discovered these blogs, I was actually quite surprised by how many of them said that they had suspected it was a cult from the start. As I divulged the details to them, they told me about all the various red flags that they had noticed, some from the very beginning. One of the biggest red flags, in fact, was the secrecy surrounding Sudarshan Kriya, which had put a great many of my friends off doing the course at all.

    When I asked them why they hadn’t mentioned it previously, they told me quite simply that had they done so, it would most likely have caused a serious rift between us. It was plain to everyone that I had discovered something which I thought was amazing and made me feel much happier as a result, and who were they to tell me it wasn’t good for me? I discovered subsequently that this entire time I was involved with AoL, they were keeping a close eye on me and were ready to “jump in” at any time if anything bad were to happen. Thankfully, it never did, though they did notice that towards the end I was spending far much more time with AoL and far less time with them.

    So you can imagine their relief when I told them I had discovered the truth myself. They said it really was the only way, to find my own way out without anyone trying to point it out to me. And from where I stand now I think they were absolutely right.

    And just as you’ve said, now I really want to help provide the support for those ready to free themselves.

    • goneagain permalink
      September 6, 2010 12:38 am

      Doctor, you are right unless someone is open it may not be a good idea these info come from your end to your closed ones. You need to do exactly the way AOL does the brainwashing – showing these information in a very subtle way so that the people can make up their mind after going through the information. Otherwise it may cause a serious rift between you and your closed ones.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      September 6, 2010 2:37 am

      Actually, both of us are lucky to have come out relatively unscathed. Full-timers, and especially senior teachers have it much harder. By the time these people come to realize the real face of AOL, it is too late. They have spent the best years of their lives working for AOL and don’t have much to show for it. They are completely (financially and socially) dependent on AOL. It’s tougher to come out – easier to “Accept people and situations as they are” ;).

      I really admire the courage of ex-fulltimers and I hope many more find hope and courage to come unstuck.

  10. harshal permalink
    September 6, 2010 12:17 am

    @ Doctor: I searched all the DSM-IV Criteria’s to find a diagnosis for you, just to realize that ‘stupidity’ is still not considered a disease and its prognosis is mostly unknown.

    • Peaceful warrior permalink
      September 6, 2010 2:19 am

      Ouch harshal!! that is just a mean and nasty remark. We don’t mind being called names – in fact I’d say bring it on – but please – at least try to post something with substance, even if it is pro-RS, so we have something to discuss.

      • abhilash shastry permalink
        September 6, 2010 3:27 am

        >> …at least try to post something with substance, even if it is pro-RS, so we have something to discuss.

        That may be asking too much.

        Visit bawa’s blog and you will find people ooooh-ing, aaaah-ing and JGD-ing on a post about constipation! I am not joking.

      • Chandu permalink
        September 6, 2010 5:26 am

        Bawa and Dinesh are role models of Guru Bhakti.
        Bawa’s lover Dinesh is feverish and constipated. He hasn’t had a bowel movement for three days. Bawa suggests him to drink coke. Bawa even says constipation is due to possessiveness. he dosnt say
        possessiveness to what. It is one of those regular lover taunts.
        Obviously AOL techniques are not working for dinesh. Or maybe he doesn’t practise what he preaches. They take Dinesh to a hospital in bangalore. But nothing happens. But finally through Guruji’s grace he gets fine and his bowels start moving. Jai Guru Dev. Hail the master who controls even the bowel movements of his disciples.

    • Hari permalink
      September 6, 2010 3:02 am

      Welcome back Harshal… hope you put ur corpus callosum to use here 🙂

    • Anonymous permalink
      October 6, 2010 2:28 am

      Harshal, could you make an effort and be less aggressive? It does not seem to me that you learnt a lot of good things in AOL, otherwise how could you be so sarcastic, superficial and without any love? Is it like that that you represent the organisation? You are not really supporting their good image,I can tell you…

  11. Svetana permalink
    September 6, 2010 2:33 am


    I count him lost, who is lost to shame.
    – Plautus

  12. Anil permalink
    September 6, 2010 5:12 am

    Harshal Jadhav is at it again. When not able to respond coherently, in typical AOL style Harshal comes up with an ad-hominem attack. The plan is to disrupt and create diversion.
    You can find this Harshal in most blog posts relating to AOL and it is beleived by many in AOL that Harshal has been graced with the AOL award of the ‘best web seva warrior’ by Sri Sri himself.

  13. Harshal permalink
    September 6, 2010 10:02 am

    @Peace-‘fool’ warrior : Something of substance? When this guy says

    “I discovered subsequently that this entire time I was involved with AoL, they were keeping a close eye on me and were ready to “jump in” at any time if anything bad were to happen”

    When you read this , doesn’t it cross you even once that this doc has some serious issues? See his post, how he praises kriya and thepositive changes in his life etc etc and all of a sudden he says that he cant recommend it! early bipolar? schizo?

    @hari: I have all my sympathies for you. 6 years of basic science research can do this to some people. however I suggest you find another punching bag. (PS- I dont need google, however, I think you need my Pubmed link)

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      September 6, 2010 4:32 pm


      Dissonance is such a common thing among people recovering from abuse. I’m not the least bit surprised that Doctor feels conflicted. That does not mean that the person is bipolar or schizo – and shame on you for calling people (whom you don’t even know) that.

      I can appreciate that people have complicated relationship with AOL. However, all said and done, when I weigh everything in balance – my conclusion is that though they teach spiritual knowledge, they operate in a cultish manner. I would not recommend it to my friends – or anyone for that matter.

      • mojo permalink
        September 6, 2010 4:43 pm

        I have very serious doubts that Harshal even knows the meanings of bipolar and schizo.For him, these words are meant to be used as insults to degrade. Poor attitude, narrow vision are the traits of JGD’s.

    • Guruch permalink
      September 6, 2010 8:48 pm

      oh oh Harshal, look what AOL has done to you 🙂 I will be happy to look at your pubmed link and hoping that it would run into pages and pages… I thought you would be busy being a perfectly AOLed machine and would not have the time and interests to specifically seek and take a below the belt punch at an non-artistic people here … what happened to your “seva” time? or perhaps you are directing more “sevaks” to reply to this forum here as a form of “seva”. you need to be involved in university level dear Harshal, in vienna or somewhere. A panel of psychiatrists need to observe you for hours and hours, take notes, publish research articles on your psychotic behavior and heal you from the delirium

  14. vedagama permalink
    September 6, 2010 1:44 pm

    hi there i have been following this blog very closely and commenting on the posts under my real name but, today i have decided to use an alias. anyways, in india the tradition is always been that of gurus especially in hinduism, jainism, sikhism and buddhism. However, some reformative and regenerative movementsstemming form hindu roots are often viewed as cultish by the westerners be it ISKCON, Chinmaya Mission, Arya Samaj,Art of Living ,TM, Ramakrishna Mission etc. I am not providing a defence to all the tit bits of controversies that these organisations have but i am trying to say that it is how westerners view indian tradition and are suspicious of Indian preachers. I have seen HHSSRS on many occassion and he does seem to speak some semblance of sense in an india which wants to reconect with her rots, i wouldnt call him a totally enlightened all pervading guru but rather look at him as a teacher, a guide who teaches meditation, well osho also had his share of controversy but the organisation is still growing. i know mnay people who are associated with aol in moderation and are doing good for the society like tree plantation etc so i guess one has to learn to accept the negative side of spirituality to a certain extent. Talk about the controversies in the richest hindu shrine in india -tirupathi and the millions of dolloars worth of missing jewellery or that a lot of the funds from this shrine re going to christian missionaries for conversions thru the congress government .. at least aol isnt forcibly converting or whatever some aolers are generally nice and helpful tough i havent done the courses yet nor do i intend to even though i have a deep respect for all hindu/christian preachers as i believe all religion has the same message with a different way of puting it accross. However, on the other hand, ive know followers of osho, aol ,etc becoming totally psychotic but there are millions others who arent that fanatic about ssrs.Okie so even Iskcon has a negative side and openly converts, so does arya samaj and other indian orgs. your blog is an eye opener for me to realise how these cults function and use fear psychosis for their members. I do guided meditations at times to ease my stress and find it quite relaxing. About the padmasadhna that aol teaches, this is an ancient vedic system from the agamas which was revived by swami brahmananda saraswati of the jyotir math , the guru of mmy and since aol claims to follow the philosophy of that its not surprising that theyre keeping intact the tradition of an ancient vedic sequence of yogasanas. Also, the ” jaigurudev” greeting can be heard by followers of jyotir math as well as shirdi sai baba.It simply means saluting the guru ,the divinity that resides within you.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      September 6, 2010 4:46 pm


      It takes years to figure out if something is good or bad. You really have to work inside the organization to realize how they operate. On the outside you see a pretty picture -but that’s just window dressing. Spend any reasonable amount of time working for it – and you’ll see the ugly face. This and klim’s blog is about those experiences.

      AOL is does not follow vedic tradition – it’s a business. Even the shankaracharyas of the shankara mathas have said so publicly about MMY. None of them have endorsed Art of Living also. Art of Living pays lip service to SBS – because it gives them credibility.

  15. anon permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:05 pm

    which stage? i think aol is still very much in to the first stage.
    i saw aol on tv and aol and the guruji is adored by the masses esp in india. the amount of people they attract was truly staggering.

    the advert introducing aol was also very positive and uplifting as was the entire show.

    so no, i dont think its the end of aol, no where near, i think they will be going strong for quite some time yet.

    • Independent Observer permalink
      September 7, 2010 1:22 am

      It depends on the times and the context. How long did it take Nithyanand’s movement to collapse ? Literally overnight. When followers will follow blindly, and when something goes wrong, these are the very ones that will jettison quickly and talk negative. Its unlikely that anyone of them would even lift a finger to make things right.

      Secondly, while they are devoted followers, if you are the one to point out some flaws… would get any of the following reactions (as what you do threatens their very identity)

      a) They will act like you are transparent and that you do not exist. You will see that distant look come into their eyes as they switch off the topic. I am dreaming, this is not real….back to my dream.
      b) They will listen with interest, come out with observations of their own too validating the topic, then the next morning is Saadhana, Seva, Satsang….business as usual. Why fix it when its not broken ???
      c) Classic—- @ Harshal Type Reactions (Almost always behind your back)…but most listeners will get it…or will atleast start getting those nagging doubts (the real thing as they are not yet as dumb and as brainwashed as AOL wants them to be) and therefore the truth spreads faster.
      d) The vehement, violent reactions…in isolated pockets.

      The stress is building. That is obvious. Where the cracks will appear is difficult to predict. Will there be an external event (Tax Raid ?) or continued internal goofs (such as the assassination claims) ….which will create the tipping point……..

      A question to existing AOL supporters “On the wall” that are reading this blog (classic behaviour – as in point “b” above)……do you really want to be on that ship when it sinks ? There are implications to this ……the market, future employers, friends……they are all going to judge you by the company you keep. You do need to evaluate this well when you sign off and give your smiley PP picture for your guru grace story which is likely to be published on the net. Best of luck.

  16. Cam permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:24 pm

    @vedagama: it is not only cults with Indian gurus people from all cultures dislike. There are Western cults and teachers that many shun like Scientology, Landmark Forum, etc…because they have many elements of abuse, cheating, lying, sex scandals or brainwashing. This is not about Westerners misunderstanding Indian culture. One of my closest friends is Indian. When I told him I wanted to take the AoL course, he immediately warned me off of it. He said it was a pop-culture cult and said he worried Westerners might be particularly susceptible to it without having much background about India or finding a good guru. Certainly, there are Indian gurus who are trustworthy but not AoL or RS. Every experience I had with AoL was cultish–like @Doctor said—-the secrecy of the Sudarshan Kriya was one of the first red flags but there were many.

    So, no, it doesn’t matter what culture you are from regarding unhealthy spirtitual organizations and teachers. No matter where in the world, AoL will still have elements of cult abuse and brainwashing. Regardless of culture, one need only use his/her brain to see this. There is a very clear difference between trustworthy teachers (Indian or otherwise) and cult leaders. Personally, I have found several Indian gurus I greatly trust and respect.

  17. Ronin permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:42 pm

    Just like a pyramid scheme of the likes of Madoff at some point the house of cards starts to come down. As those of us have mentioned many times this blog is creating an awareness, it is a help line to those who are realizing that they are deeply involved in a cult, which only has one beneficiary the man at the top.

    It was mentioned that the potential markets are thinning out, and it is true. Many young professionals who are well on their career path have taken some spiritual courses already or are doing yoga, or are busy with their careers. So what does a good Corporation do, it adjusts its target market or demographic. The AOL corporation has been focusing on those in college with the YES Plus program.

    Their strategy is very cunning they are targeting the students who are at universities. We all know that during this time as a student you are away from your support (read family and friends). It is a time when you are on your own experiencing life on your own terms.

    Thus the likelihood of any intervention from family is minimal. What actually happens is that you will have a couple of students under the wing of AOL teachers doing their best to persuade students to sign up with very clever sales tactics. Have them do or assist in the intro talks where they are used as front runners to make sure that those coming will leave with the feeling of: “I need to be part of this”, and then keep up with the after sales. Keep the pressure to have students join and sign people up.

    It is working though, their recruiting campaign is creating new young seva warriors. Those who will go all the way for the master. I have met some of them at their yoga rave parties, which are nothing more then a big recruitment campaign, being directed by the senior teachers in the background. I love their enthusiasm and energy, and spirit. This is exactly what the AOL corporation needs at this stage and YES plus is designed to catch and hook them.

    Some become very fanatic, they believe with heart and soul AOL is the only way, and that there does not exist another way to be happy in life. When I mentioned that there are other pranayamas and yoga exercises which are also beneficial they became very intense and argumentative even angry. For them I was the one that did not understand; their master (or Guru) had designed these programs. HE is the one who is saving humanity and creating smiles on people’s faces. To them it seemed that I had no idea what I was missing and they were sorry for me. All these other yoga programs were just watered down version or inferior versions of what AOL had to offer.

    Very good for the CEO and the AOL company.

    It is also out of this group that many go on to TTC and by then they are completely sold on AOL.

    It is my hope (maybe we can have a separate post on Yes plus) that within the college scene there will be those who will stand up and become a voice of reason to make sure that those who are ready to fall in the rabbits hole have a fair change to keep their sanity and enjoy life without becoming an instrument of the AOL corporation making its CEO a rich man all in the name of seva.

    Until that time this blog and those of us who are writing our experiences will be it.

    The little giant has awakened.

    • WhistleBlower permalink
      September 6, 2010 9:46 pm

      Yes, Ronin is quite right. Uni students are increasingly becoming focus of AOL. They are the easy targets.

      SriSri wants the slave laborers and $$$$, at any cost.

      Look at the following Yoga Rave Parties in Argentina and Washington DC with sound off:!/video/video.php?v=150338138317522

      and you would see how AOL is trapping these kids by giving them the disco scene!

      This brought back a memory from Ashram when SriSri’s mother was still alive and keeping an eye on everything, esp. kitchen. A group of young men and women were singing bhajans while chopping vegetables. She growled at them and said that it was disrespectful to sing bhajans in kitchen like that. They went quiet.
      I wonder what would she say if she would see the above videos!

      • Hari permalink
        September 6, 2010 11:52 pm

        I am shell shocked to see the way AOL functions in different countries. Adapting the motif that attracts the youth of that certain geographic location.

        A couple of weeks back I sent this video to my friend who is into the AOL thing

        I asked him why is there like a special lighting and wavy light effects when SSRS is addressing the audience? It looked very theatrical to me.

        He replied back – even the temples of our country has lighting on the statue of the idol and why would not I have a problem with that.

        I am seeking an answer here in this forum. Because, it sounded dramatic and theatrical platform that SSRS uses to address the audience.

  18. The Doctor permalink
    September 6, 2010 6:56 pm


    You are more than welcome to express whatever opinion you wish on this blog, as we encourage freedom of speech here, however I would like to warn you about one major issue with with being downright abusive to other posters: by being here and taking the position you have clearly taken, you are actually one way or the other a representative of Art of Living, whether you like it or not. This being the case, by acting in the way you have to date, you are pushing people further away from AoL, people like myself. Is this really what you / AoL want? If so, so be it, but this just makes the organisation look even worse in people’s eyes.

    I really have a lot more respect for people like Beacon Of Reason and WarriorOfDharma who have tried to make sensible arguments against the things posted here. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with their point of view, they don’t come on here and start just calling people stupid or idiots, they try to argue various points.

    So, either continue to post in your usual manner and make AoL look bad in the process, or start to post something with substance, so that at least we can take you seriously.

  19. The Doctor permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:49 pm

    And one more thing @Harshal regarding:

    See his post, how he praises kriya and thepositive changes in his life etc etc and all of a sudden he says that he cant recommend it! early bipolar? schizo?

    can you please explain how on God’s Earth you came to this conclusion about me from the anything I’ve said so far? I have and still will praise kriya, I always will praise the positive changes in my life I got out of Art of Living, but re-read my comments again and take us through the process of how you arrived at the above.

    And do you even know what bipolar or schizophrenia are?

    • mojo permalink
      September 7, 2010 12:39 am


      Nope, Doctor, Harshal and his organization have no idea of Bipolar or Schizophrenia Disorders are. Being totally ignorant, this organization uses peoples illnesses to poke fun at them and discredit them. They have no idea what these illnesses entail, scope of normalcy and extent of damage that such illnesses cause, and what’s worse is that they refuse to educate themselves. Funny that these guys then talk of love and compassion and call themselves a humanitarian organization.Their responses, whether on this blog or what I have read on Shobha De blog show how crass they are. I am tempted to say that Harshal and Royal Swami are not just representative of their organization but also reflect attitudes in India. But that would be a sweeping statement which I’m sure will be untrue. However, it is evident that these guys certainly reflect attitudes of their organization.

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        September 8, 2010 5:18 am

        >> I am tempted to say that Harshal and Royal Swami are not just representative of their organization but also reflect attitudes in India.

        I do not know what makes you think so?

        Just look at the comments section of this board. You can find Indians as well as non- Indians on both side of debate.

    • goneagain permalink
      September 7, 2010 1:12 am

      Only reason they are seeking identities of individuals writing/contributing to these blogs are to simply discredit each person instead of focusing on the issues they bring to the table. AOL/RS does not want to address any issues brought in instead focus on individuals which are much more easier for them. These issues did not happen by accident but most of them were simply deliberate attempt to get money, fame and power.

  20. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    September 7, 2010 12:18 am


    I would not nitpick on stage decorations. It’s just a matter of aesthetics.

    The bigger problem is that RS is dishonest and has delusions of grandeur – he wants all the glory and recognition of a revered saint, while all the time acting like a shopkeeper. If he actually did great things like gandhi it would be a different matter – but he has done nothing for the poor, and the destitute (I would go as far as to say that he has stolen money meant for charity). Neither has he resolved any conflict. The focus of his organization is to sell the Art of Living course to rich people and make money for himself.

  21. goneagain permalink
    September 7, 2010 1:04 am

    It would be nice if someone can translate these posts into different languages (at least some major ones like french, spanish) so that followers of several Europe and South American continents will have alternate view points before they get into this cult or we could cross link if they are already there.

  22. Anonymous permalink
    September 7, 2010 3:20 am

    AOL has made a mark in many Asian countries, Taiwan, Hong Kong,Malaysia, Singapore,Mainland China where the majority are Mandarin speaking. It will be useful if this blog can be translated into Mandarin and forwarded to the Chinese media who will propogate it widely

  23. Anonymous permalink
    September 7, 2010 5:06 pm

    Yes. Different languages! I have been praying to Higher Power for help and guildances!

  24. September 7, 2010 9:58 pm

    @WhistleBlower: You say
    “Judging by the extreme, and at times violent, reactions of Yezdi and Sad. Swami and Ewald and Mr.Sumeru”

    (To those who are not familiar – I am Mr. Sumeru as alluded to by WhistleBlower. I comment fairly regularly here)

    @WB: I am curious to know which of the views I expressed in the blog or in the defamatory notice I sent to WordPress you see as violent or extreme.

    You have already alluded to my company as a company run from “stolen charity money”. It was baseless. You pulled off the comment without objecting once I sent a notice to WordPress. You mention now that my comments are extreme and violent. Is there basis to this? I would like to know. Or are you just spraying names of everyone here who is pro-AOL and marking them out as extreme and violent? (Psst… you forgot WarriorOfDharma, by the way. Next time add him to your list).

    @Peaceful Warrior: The remainder of this comment is really for you. The reason I ask the above to WB is that there are several times where you (PW) have made the observation that integrity of the individual is paramount. If it is proven in one case (you have argued) that a person’s integrity is suspect, then everything else is doubtful (you quoted this to me specifically when you asked about Sri Sri’s educational qualifications). I have here two cases where the accusations made by WhistleBlower about me are baseless – clear and demonstrated without ambiguity. By the principles that guide your evaluation of a person’s integrity, does that make everything else WB does baseless too? If one of the champions of this blog is proven to be not beyond baseless slanging and presenting them to a perhaps unknowing audience as fact, does it not bring into contention many of the things said by this person in this blog?

    @WhistleBlower: While I do respect the opinions of some of the people here, I have never been able to get myself to respect yours even though, (unfortunately, in my opinion) you do seem to be a champion of sorts around here. Going forward I will desist from commenting on any of your posts or comments, and may I request you take care before you drag my name into one of your posts/comments in a derogatory fashion?

  25. WhistleBlower permalink
    September 8, 2010 1:38 am

    Now that you yourself admit again that you are Mr. Sumeru and introducing yourself as Mr. Sumeru to our readers, I hope you don’t file another defamation notice with WordPress for me addressing you as Mr Sumeru, which by the way suits you much better than “Beacon of Reason”, a term you took from our blog.

    You act, like a typical AOL Lackey. I recognized you as a lackey from your first post, well before you gave it away that you are Mr. Sumeru. And I even told you so in:

    BTW,I love it when AOL people give away the show, and their assigned task, by way of denial:

    Beacon: No, I am not a PR lackey. No, I have not been asked by Sri Sri to write on this blog.

    And other people also saw through your pretence and commented under Ronin’s post. I particularly enjoyed Svetana commenting on your attitude “LET THE GAMES BEGIN”:

    Many of our readers also exposed your distorted logic and answered your non-sense, basically just playing with words and avoiding direct answers.

    I encourage our readers to go back and read all your comments and all the replies to it under Ronin’s post “Art of Living – Call it a Corporation not a Foundation”, esp. after your latest comment and then they can decide for themselves whose integrity to question!!

    And like all AOL PR people, you seem to have a penchant for distorting the truth. You gave away your name and your Sumeru email address in a comment. This comment is still there minus your real name and real contact details:

    I replied to it (my whole comment was deleted later, because of your complaint to wordpress, but happy to reproduce it if you publicly say so in the blog! Of course, don’t worry I will delete all references to your real name!)

    These were on our blog for some time and many people saw both comments.Then you emailed us to say that you gave your name and Sumeru email address by mistake and asked us to delete your comment. Respecting your anonymity, I deleted your name, your email address and the other wordpress blog you had given away in the above comment. I also deleted my reference to your name in my reply to your comment . I also informed our readers:

    But instead of thank you, you threatened us with defamation notice:

    I replied to you:

    but you still filed your “defamation notice”, and SkyWalker had to delete my comment (which by then didn’t even have your real name and only referred to you as Mr. Sumeru, something you now admit openly.)

    But obviously you didn’t want to be known as Sumeru man either! Who can blame you, it wouldn’t go very well with the persona you were trying to create, right? And obviously you didn’t think our readers would be interested in you declaring any conflict of interest, right?! It sure wouldn’t help your PR campaign!

    Then Skywalker told me you have filed another complaint with wordpress, re my comment below:

    as I referred to you as “Sumeru man” and quoted your exact sentence in comment 1427 above, i.e.

    “Don’t bother deleting the comment on “Sumeru Solutions (one of private businesses of SriSri and family run on stolen charity money)”. Probably before the day is out, mate, WordPress is getting a defamation notice with ref to your comment, and there need be no doubt or need for anonymity – I am the guy who is going to be behind that notice. And while I am at it, maybe I should ask them to reveal your identity for your incisive analysis on the way my company is funded – Mr. Courageous.
    My company gives money to the Art Of Living projects. It doesn’t take a pie from there. And man, you are in for trouble when you make such absolutely baseless statements as Sumeru Solutions “runs the company from stolen charity money”. Is this the kind of evidence and research based on which you make your accusations? It sucks, it really does. “

    And my own quote from the comment 1430 above:

    And is that supposed to be a joke? Your company, Sumeru Solution, gives money to AOL projects? Suddenly Sumeru Solution is your company and has nothing to do with AOL and SriSri? Wow, this is getting more interesting by the minute!!
    I still do remember that in those early days at the end of Ashram adv courses they would come and talk to participants about Sumeru Solution and ask for volunteers and donations and even used computers. Now this joker expects us to believe that his company gives money to AOL projects!! Yap, sure, it would be like Coke giving money to Coke, using funds collected in the name of charity! Art of Living should change its name to Art of Cunning!!

    So I was asked to delete both your quote and mine and the reference to Sumeru man in comment 1647 above, which I did, for the sake of blog and re-enabling posting.

    So, yes, I see you as a person with lack of integrity and courage. And yes, I consider your actions and your threats as extreme and shall I say not very friendly! You are happy to use our blog, the forum we have provided for free speech, to let your opinions known to our readers (can’t blame you, not even one free speech forum in AOL!), but man you would do anything you can to shut us down!

    You seem to have some sort of identity crisis, not knowing who you are. Must be difficult trying to portray an image and force people to believe you and respect you: “ I am not a PR lackey. No, I have not been asked by Sri Sri to write on this blog.” , Don’t like to be referred to as Sumeru man, etc.

    Anyway, glad you came out of closet a bit by saying you are Mr. Sumeru! One less pretence for you to carry on!

    And your threats are not always as those overt ones to me, defamation notice, etc., but plenty subtle ones too (like don’t post your blog URL’s here and there!Don’t publish AOL moles, don’t infringe on AOL space on internet!) , or shall I call them EXTREME suggestions?!!
    Some of these were replied to beautifully by our readers:

    And I think Ron replied well to you in this comment:

    Now that you say:

    “You have already alluded to my company as a company run from “stolen charity money”. It was baseless. “

    (note that my comment was deleted as per your complaint to WordPress. You are the one who is repeating this and then denying it as baseless, inviting debate, so don’t rush off to wordpress for another defamation notice!)

    and you also admit you are Sumeru man and that Sumeru is your company, would be good if you let our readers know your capacity there. So when you reply to questions re Sumeru, people know if it is CEO of the company answering the questions or one of the junior programmers!

    And hey, let’s see if you can stop your urges to filing “defamation notices” to WordPress and just express yourself like everyone else here!

    And rather than worrying about my integrity, I suggest you focus on your own badly in tatters image. I trust our readers judgement whether in regard to your integrity or mine. You are again acting in AOL ways by trying to isolate and attack individuals to take away the focus from issues! Somehow I doubt it works with our audience here!

    Re not respecting my opinions, that is absolutely fine. I sure wasn’t writing in the blog to gain your respect!
    And re:

    “Going forward I will desist from commenting on any of your posts or comments.”

    I take that as a compliment. My posts and comments are usually based on AOL published stuff and facts, so there is not much you can say!


    “and may I request you take care before you drag my name into one of your posts/comments in a derogatory fashion?”

    Did I hear another threat there?!


    “you do seem to be a champion of sorts around here”.

    Well, I don’t know. You are the first person who complimented me in this way; thank you, but I am just one of many contributors to this blog. Again, I leave it to our readers to decide why you have decided to single me out in your comment today, but as far as I am concerned if AOL people ever attack someone it is usually because that person is asking some good questions. They prefer to discredit the critics rather than responding to the issues raised.

    PS. I haven’t seen your defamatory notices to WordPress, so can’t comment on them. But feel free to post them on the blog!! I am sure they will be self-explanatory!

  26. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    September 8, 2010 2:13 am


    So what if whistleblower uses strong language. That is the style in which he chooses to express himself – and while it is not my style, I frankly don’t see anything wrong with it.

    Regarding his allegations of your conduct being extreme – he sees your complaint to wordpress as extreme. Considering you are a close confidant for RS, people may see that as part of AOL’s tactic to shut down this blog. It may or may not be true – but that does not reflect badly on his integrity.

    Integrity is not about being right all the time – if it was then no one in the world would have integrity. Rather the lack of integrity I speak of is about willful misrepresentation of facts – especially when one seeks to gain financially from the lie – which in AOL’s case is big money. Lying on one’s resume (for example claiming to have an advanced degree in physics, when one has none), or consistently misrepresenting one’s links to other tainted organizations (TM for example), would be examples of dishonest behavior.

    On his second point – I think I speak for everyone on this blog when I say that AOL money is tainted – hence all businesses born from it are tainted too. This “original sin” I speak of is related to the claim that course fee supports charity (which is used to persuade people to pay the high course fee – they feel money is going to charity, while in reality it’s not), or diverting funds intended for charity to VVM (as one poster pointed out – when he was asked to donate money for care for children, they asked for checks to be made out to VVM, plus no accounts of charity money making it a murky situation)

    You may be carrying out a perfectly honest business at sumeru software by providing services to your clients – but that’s not the point here. The point was about the original sin.

    This is also not to blame you for being dishonest – Being a CEO of an IT company you are probably a person of integrity. Like many of us, you may be an honest person caught in web of lies propagated by RS.

    • mello permalink
      September 8, 2010 3:26 am

      It’s always a pleasure to read you, PW.

      Speaking of willful misrepresentation for financial gain – I wonder if RS dyeing his hair and beard comes under that category!

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        September 8, 2010 3:55 am

        Thanks – I guess 😉

        and no need to split hairs on the other stuff you mentioned 😉

    • Priya permalink
      September 8, 2010 7:05 am

      Sumeru Solutions development center is located in the aol ashram. The ashram land was leased from the government for educating poor children. What is this for profit enterprise doign here.

      • freethinker permalink
        September 8, 2010 5:38 pm

        So does their Washington DC office.

      • Blim Blim permalink
        September 9, 2010 11:36 am

        not only that but donation for new kitchen building it self came as donation from Mr. Vijay Mallya; see how Sumeru is using 20% of that building space. Ashram land was leased from government, Sumeru staff like all others eats free in the Ashram kitchen! Many of the Sumeru staff members live in the ashram but mostly in the pathetic condition like some labourers…in a small room 4 people at least…when they become senior then 2 per room…

        OKAY this was regarding their Ashram office…

        Now truth about their Bangalore City office…

        Huge apartment was donated by late Mr. Manu Makhija, from Hong Kong
        ( he donated money for Sri Sri Rural Development Programme (SSRDP) and trustee for SSRDP is Mr. Vinod Menon!
        Sumeru had started their operations from this office…Sona Palace, 34, Norris Road, Richmond Town, Bangalore; and are still operating from there…
        This was supposed to be an SSRDP office…

        and as we all know and has been discussed 1000 times here, Sumeru Software comes under the roof of Sumeru Group of Companies, owned by Arvind Varchasvi, his elder brother Ajay and father Narasimhan (Anna)…

  27. mojo permalink
    September 8, 2010 9:29 am

    Mr. Sumeru sure has the audacity to post here after complaining about the blog to WordPress. It’s the goodness of the blog owners who allow that. And now to continue complaining about language etc ….??!!

  28. ANON permalink
    September 9, 2010 12:31 am

    Read the interveiw report by Michele Hewitson, NZ Hearld Journalist. It is funny and reflects poorly on both AOLers and Ex AOLers that they are/were part of a cult which a journalist could make out in a single interview. Better late than never. Read, enjoy and ACT (runaway from both Guru and AOL as fast as you can!).

    Michele Hewitson Interview: Ravi Shankar

    Auckland, New Zealand: 4:00 AM Saturday Apr 10, 2010

    From the briefing notes from the PR company to the guru, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “It is really important that the interview is conducted as on time as possible and without unnecessary fuss.”

    What good advice. His message is a stress-free life. He is about conflict resolution and happy, happy, joy, joy and who does not want that?

    But of course there would be briefing notes. I suspected there might be a bit of fuss. He is a very famous guru, the fifth most powerful man in India, according to Forbes’ Power List of 2009. He has inspired more than 300 million people worldwide, according to his The Art of Living Foundation blurb.

    He was in Auckland to give a talk which covered conflict resolution, women’s empowerment, how to achieve a stress-free mind and a disease-free body, what to do about problems with youth and more besides.

    We were to meet in his hotel suite, which had been guru-fied by way of wrapping it in white sheets. I had an unspiritual thought: Do hotels charge gurus extra for the use of all of that linen? The guru was not in the suite. There were plates of nuts and fruit and an enormous box of expensive chocolates on the table beside the guru’s throne, an armchair draped in a sheet and an orange, embroidered cloth.

    Please, sit down,” invited one of the many people in the suite. Not on the throne, obviously. I would later be mildly ticked off for calling the chair a throne. His Holiness said: “My sofa! I wouldn’t say throne. Thrones are very thorny these days.” I think he said thorny. He’s a bit of a mumbler. Whatever it was, it was funny. I know this because the chorus laughed, heartily.

    That was later. While waiting for the guru I was introduced to the chorus, or entourage – I am not allowed to call them followers. An elegant English woman, “a former lawyer/teacher” for Sri Sri’s The Art of Living Foundation gave me a lesson: “It’s centered on the Indian guru who presents the ancient knowledge completely for the 21st century and it can be adapted for all the races and religions and creeds and cultures … It really gets inside the individual to transform them …” I was a bit distracted. I was interested in the bit of paper she had in her hand: Those briefing notes. There was a brief conflict resolved by her not letting me see them. I know what they said because the guru absent-mindedly, his mind no doubt on higher things, left the notes behind and I, my mind on nosiness, pinched them.

    There were two fellows setting up a video camera. They were going to film the interview. No, they weren’t. A bit sulkily for spiritual fellows, I couldn’t help but feel, they took the thing away. You could call that conflict resolution. I wouldn’t call it stress – or fuss – free.

    I thought: Where’s the guru when I need him? And there he was. He said, “Hello! Hello! How are you?” How should I address him. “Well, just usually Sri Sri.” He kindly explained that one Sri means Mr; two means Reverend. So, here is Mr Rev Ravi Shankar, looking very serene and smiley. He had bare feet and a soothing, sing-songy voice. He said, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” But he seemed a bit distracted. He was reading his briefing notes. Fair enough, if you are a guru to more than 300 million people worldwide, you need to know what’s what.

    You might also be regarded as a good businessman. He said, “Not at all. Because I am not doing this as a business. You take more and give little, that is business. If we had good business sense we would have made millions … but, no, I don’t have. Because charity and business are opposite.”

    There is no point talking to him about money, although it is a talking point on the internet. He doesn’t Google himself because, he says, he is of the wrong generation – he is 54. “No, I don’t Google. I don’t go into all that.” He does know what is written about him and his foundation because people tell him. Some of what is said is less than complimentary: that he and his family have become wealthy; that his breathing techniques are simply old yoga techniques repackaged into a commercial package.

    When I asked whether these things were damaging, he smiled beatifically and said, “No, I don’t think opinions make any damage if there is no truth to it. If there is some truth to it, it helps you to correct yourself. If not, it is just prejudices and I feel sorry for them …”
    There really is no point asking him about money. He never spends any. “People around me will take care of almost anything and I don’t need anything. But I keep some money in my wallet.” Goodness. He has a wallet? “Yes, yes. I do. I have $500.” What does he spend it on? “Oh, I don’t spend anything! Ha, ha! I’ve had [the $500] for many, many years. Perhaps once or twice I put $1 to take a trolley out of the trolley machine.” I’d imagined one of his followers would push his trolley.

    If you ask how many followers he has he laughs and says: “I don’t make followers. I only make leaders. Ha, ha. When I am sitting there’s nobody behind me!” Well, no, his chair was up against a window. He gestured towards the non-followers, who were on the other side of the suite. The non-followers laughed like drones. We could move the chair, I suggested. Nobody laughed.

    I asked, a tad grumpily, thinking about what it must be like being followed around by a laughing chorus, if he had any normal life. He said, “I feel I’m pretty normal!”
    He said, “I continue being a child.” As a 4-year-old he recited verses from the Bhagavad Gita, which he had never heard before. “Yeah, it came out like a poem.” What does he make of that? “Our consciousness is old; there must be some impressions from the past.”

    He is given to gnomic guru-ish utterances, thankfully – otherwise he’d be a terrible disappointment. If you ask about his friends, he says: “Everyone is my friend.” But does he have close personal friends? “You know, anyone I speak to goes close to my heart.” I’m not sure he totally took me to his heart. I, honestly, tried to give him a chance to talk about what he was doing here, which is the free plug cue, and he got ever so slightly snippy. “Tell me why I shouldn’t come? Do you know the reason why I should not come?”

    He said: “I like to say my family is all over the world.” Does he have a house? “I feel at home everywhere I go.” At the age of 8 he announced: “All over the world people are waiting for me. One day I will visit them.” That sounded a bit nutty. “My mother used to scold me. She said, ‘Why do you tell lies?”

    It is fair to say I was more interested in the idea of what it’s like to be a guru than he was in talking about being a guru. Obviously while gurus are thin on the ground in New Zealand, in India they are 10 a rupee. A guru is merely a teacher, he says. Still, people come bearing gifts and sit at his feet. “You know, I play two roles. And one role is as a religious and spiritual leader and there are certain protocols that people follow. I personally don’t advocate any protocol. Not at all. It is in the tradition and the people come with flowers and all the food and I give them back! Yes, absolutely.” He swept his hand before the offerings on the table and said, “What do I do with all this for?”

    A normal fellow then. He sometimes eats porridge with tabasco for breakfast, which sounds disgusting. “Ha, ha. Tastes are so different. Yes?” He travels first class, when he has a long trip and has a programme to deliver when he arrives. He doesn’t have a driver’s licence but did drive in either 1981, or 1982 (the memory of a guru is not infallible), in Switzerland. “On the wrong side of the road!” He is not very good at driving. “No, I don’t think so.” He said, “Well, I drive people crazy sometimes!” The chorus roared. They were driving me a bit crazy.

    He won’t tell me what his indulgences are because he was once asked if he liked Pringles and he said, “‘Yes, of course I like Pringles,’ and then wherever I go, I tell you, hundreds of Pringles land up in my room! So I’d better keep what I like to myself! Especially to the newspapers!” The chorus cackled. He played to the house. “I will be on a diet of Pringles!”
    What do people want from him: to tell them how to be happy? “You know, people are looking for ways to be happy. There are conflicts within themselves, with the family … And some come to have fun! Spirituality is all about making life light, bringing the energy and joy and happiness amongst life and you can’t take it too seriously!”

    You couldn’t accuse him of that. He has been described as the hottest guru around. “I think I’m the coolest!” Is he a celebrity guru? “You mean: Am I a guru of the celebrities?” Is he? “I am a celebrating guru!” I said, “That’s a terrible joke,” but the chorus proved me wrong.
    Having never met a guru before, I have no idea whether he is a pretty normal sort of one or not. I suppose it is entirely normal, for him, to be interviewed with an appreciative audience supplying the laugh track. This might be one of the perks of being a guru.

    I was offered a perk: A free meditation class. Perhaps I should have taken it. I was feeling rather stressed. Perhaps I needed enlightenment, because conducting an interview with a guru, in the presence of an adoring, affirming audience was not exactly my idea of happy, happy, joy, joy.

    • goneagain permalink
      September 9, 2010 3:12 am

      Thanks ANON,

      It was very interesting interview, yes some people do get it rather quickly, for some it akes life time. The best one below, I don’t think RS can survive one interview without a herd of sheep, may be the interviewer didn’t notice the placards shown to the crowds telling how to react!

      “I was offered a perk: A free meditation class. Perhaps I should have taken it. I was feeling rather stressed. Perhaps I needed enlightenment, because conducting an interview with a guru, in the presence of an adoring, affirming audience was not exactly my idea of happy, happy, joy, joy.”

  29. mojo permalink
    September 9, 2010 4:06 am

    In my time he’d refuse to be interviewed unless the interviewer had attended a basic course.

    • goneagain permalink
      September 9, 2010 12:37 pm

      That reminds of me of infamous interviewer “Rajiv Malhotra of Nithy”, give interview only to the ones already a lackey or ready to be one. No wonder why that is, this interview is a great example of how RS came out in a very bad light (which is true side of RS), had it been a lackey it would have been completely different.

  30. WhistleBlower permalink
    September 10, 2010 9:47 am

    Read the latest message from SriSri below and see if the extract below from “Guru Papers” rings true!
    He has been sending these kind of messages more frequently last few months. Is the end getting closer?!

    “Whenever a guru’s power needs are not being satisfied by expansion, he generally seeks more adulation from and control over those who have surrendered to him. He does so by dictating more directly how they spend their daily lives…Though the guru needs his disciples even more attached to him, he becomes more remote, sending his dictates down the line. Subtle or not so subtle warnings proliferate about the disastrous consequences of disobedience………”

    “From: Office of H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
    Date: 10 September 2010
    Subject: Important message for all

    Dear One,
    Jai Guru Dev! Below is a message from Guruji.
    “People should not travel late at night. No rash driving. Everyone should chant Om Namaha Shivaya for 11 minutes everyday.”
    Warm Regards
    Girin Govind/Jaina Desai
    Office of HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
    The Art of Living International Centre
    21st Km Kanakapura Road
    Tel: +91-80-28427060

    • Mahishasura Mardini permalink
      September 10, 2010 10:56 am

      “Jai Guru Dev! Below is a message from Guruji.
      “People should not travel late at night. No rash driving. Everyone should chant Om Namaha Shivaya for 11 minutes everyday.””

      This is a means to create paronia among the faithful flock. The leader starts warning about bad times and apocalypse. This will also enable the leader to connect with his flock on a daily basis. every day the faithful chant the mantra they feel connected to the leader. Thereby the leader increases his power base with the flock.

  31. Vismritti permalink
    September 10, 2010 11:22 am

    C’mon y’all – How many times do I have to tell you – No rash driving. I’ve had it with your rash driving. You are grounded baby. No going out at night anymore – Go sit in the corner and chant om namah shivaya.

    • WhistleBlower permalink
      September 10, 2010 11:41 am

      The funny thing is that in satsang he said “till mid Oct.” Jaina forgot to put this in, but others are circulating emails with the same message but they have “till mid Oct”.

      So AOL people can start rash driving after mid October. Public be aware! After mid Oct. , non-AOL people are the ones who need to repeat OM-Namah-Shivaya to protect themselves against AOL drivers!!

      Seems SriSri had forgotten to include rash driving in his earlier message, see link below, so had to send another one!

  32. Bling Bling permalink
    September 10, 2010 4:39 pm

    “So AOL people can start rash driving after mid October. Public be aware! After mid Oct. , non-AOL people are the ones who need to repeat OM-Namah-Shivaya to protect themselves against AOL drivers!!”

    Whistleblower, thats too good… I never considered that… ROFL… !

    • WhistleBlower permalink
      September 11, 2010 12:15 am

      Hi BlingBling,
      Wasn’t joking, see below the message from another source from Ashram.
      So do all your shopping/driving before mid October. After Mid Oct. AOL drivers will be hitting the road with rash driving, as Guru said only till mid Oct they need to follow those instructions.

      And non-AOL people keep chanting Om-Namah-Shiva after mid-Oct while driving, even if you are driving late at nights, because AOL curfew for late driving is over by then, so even at nights you won’t be safe!
      Date: Fri, Sep 10, 2010
      Subject: Important message for all

      Jai Guru Dev Dear Ones!

      This is a message from Guruji’s office:

      “People should not travel late at night.
      No rash driving.
      Everyone should chant Om Namaha Shivaya for 11 minutes everyday.”

      Atleast till Mid October please follow the above

  33. Shiva Chandra permalink
    September 11, 2010 12:52 am

    I did the AOL course for the 1st time 6 years ago and still dothe odd course, like I did the yoga course last week. The meditation, knowledge and yoga that is taught in AOL is very beneficial. Any spiritual/religious group is prone to cultish/dishonest practices by the people involved. Look at the Catholic church for example. I never wanted to become an AOL teacher for this reason. I think anyone who gives themselves completely to any group is misguided. AOL was great for me in helping me discover my spirituality but as the Guru says, “you are what u seek.” Ur very nature is the divine spirit which u seek. He likens it to sitting in ur car in ur driveway with the engine on wanting to drive home. U r always already home and in ur own divine essence. Although the Guruji says this there will always be weak and stupid people, many of them are friends and family of mine, who refuse to acknowledge their own divinity and can only see it outside of themselves i.e in the Guru. It is probably good for these people that there us this spiritual parenting available. However it will never provide full realization and the people writing this blog have realized this. Sri Sri has never told me to do or not do anything. In fact most times I’ve met him he’s ignored me. Just because I’ve had really awesome spiritual experiences hasn’t made me blindly throw my life away and do everything a bunch of weirdos have tried to tell me to do. Unlike the writer of this blog I never did an AOL teachers course and I never will. My family have been heavily involved in the administration said of AOL in this country but all of them have eventually given up because the majority of people in AOL are there for their own purposes and act a different way when Guruji is there to when he isn’t. Any spiritual group, like AOL, is only really going to be ineresting to people who r crazy or have serious problems. The result of this is a big group of slightly crazy people with questionable integrity. I would highly recommend anyone doing the AOL course but I always say to people that it’s amazing but to realize that the people in it r all weirdos and after the course is done not to feel any obligation to any of them. I personally don’t see how hanging out with a bunch of other people in a group like AOL is going to bring u closer to divinity. It’s a good idea to take from various places, like AOL, and form ur own concept of divinity.

  34. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    September 11, 2010 2:16 am

    >>….but as the Guru says, “you are what u seek.” Ur very nature is the divine spirit which u seek.

    Yes. That is the message of Advaita.

    SSRS has just slightly modified this- “Everyone is divine. But I am more divine than you.”

    • Shiva Chandra permalink
      September 13, 2010 9:11 am

      I never heard him say that.

      • anonymous permalink
        October 12, 2011 4:54 pm

        “every body is a spark of divine, but in some it is like a small spark where as in some it is like a huge flame” – SSRS

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