Independent of AOL
My happiness is quite independent of being part of AOL.
Does the AOL course help you ? – In the beginning yes, because it introduces you to spirituality, but in the long run no – because it fills your head with useless dogma and silly superstitions. The improvement in my quality of life is because I was a sincere student of spirituality and applied myself to studying scriptures and living a life according to spiritual values. Sri Sri, is wrong to claim *all* the credit for it – though as my teacher he does deserve some credit.
There are many in AOL who take comfort in being part of a large group. That sort of happiness and comfort is an illusion. The mob mind is the lowest sort of mind. AOL actively encourages such groupthink and herd mentality. For some reason intellect is considered the great enemy of spirituality – while the reverse is true in real life – the spiritual force illuminates the intellect. A deeply spiritual person will have sterling intellect.
In the end, I realized that following a guru was actually counterproductive. All the senior teachers I met had their head filled with dogma and lost the ability to see things as they are. I actually started to notice what a negative atmosphere it was – behind the facade of smiling faces was a feeling of negativity towards the world, which I found very unspiritual and life denying. You see this attitude in senior teachers and people who’ve been there for long time – they are afraid of food, of people drinking alcohol, and of popular culture and people, treating these with an air of disgust and superiority. Ultimately they (especially senior teachers) end up creating an Art of Living v/s the world kind of mentality – which is what we describe as a cult.
I was fortunate to realize this at the right time. Such a life and world denying philosophy is not for me. Many people realized this after spending their whole life in AOL – being in Art of Living one denied, not embraced life. I think this is true of any religion/cults – one begins to associate one’s identity with it – it’s not a good thing.
About the other questions about financial irregularities and other stuff – they are just red flags that point to lack of integrity and accountability. The teacher – student relationship is an asymmetric relationship. Knowledge is power and the teacher has an overwhelming amount of influence over the student. Especially spiritual knowledge which requires the student to put himself in the hand of the teacher. There is nothing to stop a guru from exploiting his students. Which is why it is very necessary for a teacher to be very pure and have impeccable integrity. So yes, it matters to me that the school which I go to to learn about spirituality is not corrupt. The fact that the founder blatantly lies about his educational background is a big red flag. Moreover, If I know an organization to be corrupt, I have to do my best to expose them – especially in this case where the organization commands wide influence.
I also feel a guilt for exposing my friends, family members and people at large to this toxic spirituality. I used my reputation on behalf of the organization. People who did not trust the organization joined because they trusted me. I feel I did them disservice – the organization does not conduct itself with integrity and high ethical standards that are deserving of the public’s trust. I used to believe that art of living makes your life better – but i’ve seen so many people who feel trapped and unhappy – and I feel responsible for those that I lured in.