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Is AOL A Cult? The vaccine is right here!

October 5, 2010

Thanks to Goneagain for bringing this to our attention.

Art Of Living (AOL) – Is It A Cult?

Categories: General Posted on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by paul

I was looking to join some Yoga class and was intrigued by Art Of Living as i keep hearing so much about it and being highly skeptical by nature decided to do some investigation. In short it seems like a cult with recruiting techniques borrowed from Amway/Quixtar with the instructors possibly getting to keep a cut of the class fees.

Given below are the things that i came across and i have decided to curb my enthusiasm for taking AOL classes as of now. Looks like all cults, this cult starts in a benign way with an introductory course in which they reduce oxygen supply and make people feel high and people think its because they are feeling something spiritual. and then the cult members start pestering people to take additional classes for reaching the ultimate goal, which nobody seems to reach at AOL as there are AOL instructors who have been at it for many years and still searching for the elusive goal! The cult makes them feel that they are not liberated because they are sinners..its all their fault! Talk about a simpler way of inducing guilt!

I also read that as you stay with them they ask questions about your personality and then get to know your strengths and weaknesses and then use that to psychologically manipulate you if you start having second thoughts. Like all cults they have weekly brainwashing sessions called satsangs so that your life is the cult and nothing else, to make sure you have no friends.

So if you or anybody you know fell under the spell of this cult do forward this information to them, looks like people are stuck in this and not knowing that there is a way out as it has complete psychological control over you. Some of the links below are from AOL instructors who spent thousands of dollars to attend a zillion courses over 10 years ignoring their family and praising the living God namely RaviShankar and have now broken free and sharing this info. with the world so that others AOL members who wants to leave know that there is a way out. BTW the so called Sudarshan Kriya is modified techniques from ancient Yoga techniques such as Raja Yoga and the likes which have been modified for new age consumption.

 This is what i found, if you think i am off track do correct me where i am losing my marbles. I have nothing against AOL practitioners who derive benefit from it, i am just sharing my findings. NO FLAMES PLEASE.

 Mind Control In Cults

  1. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    October 5, 2010 2:03 am

    Here is another one.

    Ramchandra Guha is a veteran journalist and author of the book “India After Gandhi”.

    This one is from his Osla diary. Read third paragraph titled “Nobel Longings”.

    More interesting than the article itself are paranoid comments on it by AOLers. The article is just a small paragraph with a mildly irreverent take on SSRS. But AOLers are reacting as if the sky had fallen!

    • Yoga permalink
      October 5, 2010 4:01 am

      Reduced O2? hmmm…instructors keep a cut????

      What is wrong in marketing a good product? In fact, more organizations such as AOL should better market these techniques.

      Most people who come here took AOL courses…and here is a guy who never took a AOL course…..not even an intro talk…but he is blabbering something based on what he read, what he heard and what he dreamt.

      Earlier, there was one article in which the author did not understand a B.Sc or an M.Sc and managed to write a poor article. To the owner of this blog – you guys should do a better job screening the articles here. If you want to keep a high standard then you ought to do it. It seems like anyone with ability to criticize AOL is given a space here. If that is the motive then whole purpose will be defeated.

      There are many well written articles on this website. This article along with Abhilash’s latest article, scores a zero in terms of intent of the author and the content of the article. Will the owner of the blog pay some attention?

      Generally speaking, AOL is too big. Mistakes are bound to happen with in a large organization. Mistakes do happen with in a family 2 or 3 . Misunderstandings happen with in a family. I can ignore some of the mistakes committed with in AOL by its members..…but they can be surely more transparent with how they spend their money. I am sure AOL leaders are watching this blog. It is never too late to make it more transparent.

      • Yoga permalink
        October 5, 2010 4:12 am

        The above post was regarding the original article…thanks.

      • Willow permalink
        October 5, 2010 12:55 pm

        “Most people who come here took AOL courses…and here is a guy who never took a an AOL course…..not even an intro talk…but he is blabbering something based on what he read”

        Actually, some people think AoL is a cult without doing a course because it triggers that reaction in them. I am one of those people. I also saw it like Amway. Unfortunately, others come to believe this after many years in the organization and come out feeling psychologically traumatized. Even if you don’t believe it’s a cult, the author does. Each person has to trust his/her own experiences. Just as beginners in a yoga class usually have as much to share as long-time practitioners, so people here have wisdom to share regardless of # of years in AoL. It’s good to hear different perspectives.

        “What is wrong in marketing a good product?”

        Nothing, if it is done honestly. That is the question here.

      • Yoga permalink
        October 5, 2010 11:08 pm

        Sorry willow. Not enough. it is good to hear different preservatives from people who have seen it or experienced it. not someone writing it from his or her dreams. The article, at best, deserves a mention in the comments section. Allowing poor quality articles does not help the actual cause. LM – to me it does not matter if the guy is swami or Guha or some movie artist. I have seen a Video of Guha criticizing SSRS. He has the right to do it…but he was not only biased with his views but also did not have a balanced opinion. Leftists are extremists in their own way.

    • Yoga permalink
      October 5, 2010 4:11 am

      Oh…some where it is there on Youtube (NDTV or IBN) – just want Guha on SSRS. Guha does not like SSRS for many reasons including the fact that he is not a simple person like Vivekananda or Ramana. He does not like the fact that AOL is marketing their courses. Guha’s mindset is in 1900. Most of these writers are leftists and pseudo secularists from Calcutta or Bengal. I believe Guha was educated in Bengal. Even if AOL is 100% perfect, Guha’s opinion will not change. These guys make money by criticizing the popular organizations and popular people. I would rather trust your poor writing than a leftist opinion…
      🙂 Good luck buddy.

      • Smiling Monkey permalink
        October 5, 2010 2:53 pm

        Guha is among the top historians and intellectuals in India. There are a lot of popular “organizations” and “people” that Guha speaks very positively about. He’s one of the rare people around who has both detailed knowledge of history, people, organizations and culture and the intellect and articulation skills to form logically coherent opinions on them supported by compelling arguments.

        Here is why he doesn’t like SSRS – He uses his brains and thinks. Something that is discouraged or freezed up in a cultish environment. His problems with spiritual leaders not propagating austerity and not walking the talk, themselves, is very valid one. You can not “sell” you products and claim to be a charity and expect the tax exemptions that come with it at the same time.

        It is funny that you totally rubbish the views of someone like Guha on the basis of “his education in Bengal” which you are also not sure of. Some of the foremost intellectuals of India including a certain Nobel Prize Winner (not a nominee, but a winner) happen to be among the pseudo-secularists and closest-leftist from the state of Bengal.

        As far as not trusting “leftist opinions” go, didn’t the Swami writing a blog for AOL proudly declared being a lifelong leftist as a credential of sorts? I hope you go there and comment about how you’d rather read this blog instead of Swami’s because he has leftist opinions.

  2. deepak permalink
    October 5, 2010 8:09 am

    Similarity between Sk and Vipassana: The meaning of Vipassana is same as that of Sudarshan Kriya. Both mean to have a proper vision without interference from the senses. The technioques are also some what similar at least the underlying stress on breath. Vipassan with a little clever modification and accompamied by sanskrit mantra chanting becomes Sudarshan Kriya.

    Similarity/ difference between SK and Osho’s dynamic meditation: Osho’s Dynamic meditation is chaotic breathing where as SK is rythmitic breathing. A little modification. In fact many of AOL techniques and knowledge points have been lifted from Osho’s books and courses.

    • Chirantan permalink
      October 5, 2010 10:57 am

      I would tend to disagree on the Similarities of SK and Vipassana. Vipassana (the burmese version taught by Goenka) is a technique which does not believe in manipulating the breath but rather it is observation of the breath as is. SK is similar to rapid breathing exercises like Bhastrika.
      I agree that Ravi has copied heavily from Osho, Just like most other modern day gurus who plagiarize him. The ashtavakra discourse of ravishankar is a big time copy of osho discourses. The views on Gandhi’s masochism, mullah nasruddin jokes and all that looks like a straight lift from osho.

      • Yoga permalink
        October 5, 2010 11:25 pm

        It is a waste of time to blame SSRS or others on copying Yoga techniques from others. I would encourage every Yoga master take good things from others and spread it. SSRS taking from OSHO and all is a total bull. No one has any original stuff

        All the Yoga masters take techniques from Patanjali. This includes cyclic breathing technique from Patanjali. It is not very uncommon to get ideas or revelation during long meditation sessions. Even when meditating for an hour can revel simple things or ideas to you. So, it is 100% possible that a SSRS came up with a form of Kriya Yoga (cyclic breathing) in his meditation session and called it as Sudharshan Kriya.

        Lord Krishna talks about cyclic breathing in Gita – “Kriya Yoga is referred to by Krishna, India’s greatest prophet, in a stanza of the Bhagavad Gita: “Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control”

        Read Autobiography of a Yogi for more info – this is a must read book – here is a chapter about cyclic breathing.

        Learn Sudharshan Kriya or a similar technique, Pranayams and practice them along with Yoga asanas, Surya Namaskar, Walking, Tennis or Cricket. SK or a similar technique (as long as your body can take it) is too good. I know a very small percentage of ppl who could not take SK. They used to get head aches. I have not seen other harms. Most ppl are fine.

        It is good to know about an organization including its positives and negatives. You will be better off learning the techniques from whoever you wish to and focus on the techniques and lead a healthier life.

      • October 6, 2010 1:55 pm

        RS copied Osho in knowledge part. I have read many jokes of Mulla and few statements from RS same to same given by Osho. Something I remember:
        1. I don’t want anything from you, if you want to give me something, give me your sorrow, problems.
        2. Don’t try to follow contradictions in my talks given on various times. I have contradicted myself thousands of time.

      • Chirantan permalink
        October 6, 2010 2:35 pm

        “SSRS taking from OSHO and all is a total bull”

        If you study on the different narrative styles of several of the best indian gurus from Vivekanananda, Ramathirtha, Sivananda, JK and Osho you can see who is original and who copies. Osho’s narrative style of discourses was unique in the sense he brought modern pshological selp help, philosophers, sciense, jokes and different traditions in an orchestrated discourse. It was unique at that time and you can find hardly any little comparisons from his predecessors. It is clear to any one who has heard ravishankar’s ashtavakra how he plagiarizes whole passagees, anecdotes and including the narrative style of osho.

    • Srikkanth permalink
      October 6, 2010 5:44 pm

      I do not think SK, Vipassana and Osho’s Dynamic meditation are similar. There are vast differences. The minor similarities may be mere coincidences. It is like tow persons visit a city and describe it. So there are bound to be similarities. It does not mean one has copied from the other.

      As far as knowledge part is concerned Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar never approved the scandalous activities in Osho Communes. He has made many indirect references to these. In Astvakra discourses there is a passage that the enlightened should maintain cleanliness in conduct and behaviour also. Similary citing old anecdotes about mulla or any other story may be coincidences as neither Osho Nor Sri Sri invented these anecdotes. these are there since time immemorial.

      There are vast differences in Osho’s interpretation of Astavakra and Sri Sri’s discourses. One is advised to go through both before giving any opinion.

  3. The Doctor permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:10 am


    It is a waste of time to blame SSRS or others on copying Yoga techniques from others. I would encourage every Yoga master take good things from others and spread it. SSRS taking from OSHO and all is a total bull. No one has any original stuff

    You are right, no one has original stuff, and that is just it: SSRS is not only copying others, but is actually claiming that all the things he has copied were invented/discovered/cognized by him. And he is making people think that he has the most superior techniques of all time. Not only that, he is creating an aura of mystery around these techniques, calling them sacred and secret and insisting that anyone who has done the course should not share them with others who haven’t done the courses.

    He then creates a special course called TTC which he charges a small fortune for (~$5500) which apparently prepares people to teach the technique, whereas in actual fact the content of the course is all about how to market the organization by giving an intro talk and has very little to do with the technique itself. And people go to this course, in many cases spending a substantial amount of their savings, believing they are going to save the world by helping humanity.

    And to add salt into the wound, they are taught to teach the same technique to everyone irrespective of what that person’s needs are, and if that person has a bad reaction to it, they are told to tell them that this is “normal” and that they are detoxing, everything will be alright if they continue the practice.

    The reason we are contributing on this blog is to warn people about these issue, of potential dangers to their health and wellbeing, to highlight all the negatives so that they be better informed if they have to decide whether or not to join AoL.

    • Yoga permalink
      October 6, 2010 2:50 pm

      >>> I understand SK is patented. None of the other techniques are patented. I do not know of any example when SSRS told people that his techniques are superior to others. I know of two specific examples when SSRS advised two of my friends to stick to one technique that they feel comfortable with and not to mix two techniques. Their dilemma was if to practice AOL techniques or a technique that they learnt from another organization.
      >>> TTC, as I understand, is priced higher because too many people want to do this course. I understand that pricing was fixed higher so that only truly interested/motivated people become teachers. In my opinion higher pricing is not a bad idea.
      >>> As far as the courses are concerned, I have immensely benefited from them. The people to whom I have recommended benefited from them. As I posted in my previous message, cyclic breathing is a great technique and I will highly recommend these techniques.

      Ram – do you know from whom OSHO copied? Read my message again. As long as good things are copied and spread to people…so what? who cares man? Don’t make it a big deal.

  4. Anon permalink
    October 6, 2010 5:26 pm


    “As long as good things are copied and spread to people…so what? who cares man? Don’t make it a big deal.”

    Does it mean anyone can copy Sudarshan Kriya and spread it to people.

    • Yoga permalink
      October 7, 2010 4:12 am

      Anon – legally you cannot do it because it is patented.

    • Researcher permalink
      October 7, 2010 8:20 am

      I looked at the USPTO :

      WIPO :

      I can’t find anything related to the art of living, sudarshan kriya, ravi shankar or anything related to the breathing we were taught in Kriya.

      Can someone point me to the US patent # or the WIPO patent # ?

      • Kitapati permalink
        October 7, 2010 11:59 am

        It is clear that AOL has not patented Sudarshan Kriya. Ravi Ravi has claimed in many interviews that they had to patent it as others were trying to teach it. This is another big lie. Please add it to the list of his other lies.

  5. The Doctor permalink
    October 7, 2010 9:45 am


    I understand SK is patented.

    I don’t believe SK is patented for the simple reason that they have no way to enforce any patent. Sudarshan Kriya is their bread and butter, it is the biggest money spinner for AoL and their best way to get people into the organization. They have tried every possible trick in the book in order to protect it, from telling course participants to keep it a secret because this will spoil it for people who haven’t done it, to claiming that you have to have a teacher in order for the tape to work and that it is useless without it, to claiming that it is actually “Guruji’s grace” which causes the feelings people experience during Kriya. They further reinforce this by claiming that the whole point of TTC is to prepare an individual for becoming a channel to receive Guruji’s grace and transmit it to the course participants during Kriya.

    Now, I myself have tried the tape without any teacher being present, and I am not a teacher, and I got as good if not better effects from the tape in the privacy of my own home as I have ever done going to the weekly follow ups. My conclusion: everything surrounding the kriya tape and TTC is a completely lie, designed entirely to protect their prized product and to convince innocent seekers to part with a large amount of money in order to become guardians of the sacred technique and transmitters of divine grace. “Intruments of the Divine” is an expression you will hear regularly if you ever get involved that deeply.

    So in actuality, there is nothing whatsoever to stop people from teaching Kriya outside of the confines of AoL, and there is nothing AoL can do about it. All of the above is just their best attempt to protect it as it’s their biggest asset. Except that thanks to these blogs, people are now waking up and realizing it’s all nonsense.

    I do not know of any example when SSRS told people that his techniques are superior to others.

    This is implied from the outset, and is reinforced throughout the more advanced courses. It is all done through implication. If you ask the majority of serious devotees, they will all tell you that AoL’s techniques, particularly SK, are the most superior, because that is what they’ve been led to believe. Furthermore, we were told never to tell people about 3-stage pranayams, bhastrika, bandas or mudras, as they were considered to be part of the content of the Basic and Advanced Courses, whereas these techniques have been known for thousands of years. This is how AoL works, by trying to claim they have solely been empowered by the Divine to give out this sacred knowledge.

    Also, I’ve heard one of the most senior teachers in the whole organization claim that AoL is the highest spiritual path in the world, and he said it at a time when everyone was vulnerable enough to accept it and believe it.

    TTC, as I understand, is priced higher because too many people want to do this course. I understand that pricing was fixed higher so that only truly interested/motivated people become teachers. In my opinion higher pricing is not a bad idea.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. The way AoL works, at every possible opportunity people are encouraged, persuaded, and in many cases pushed into becoming teachers – I have one friend who told me that this was what happened to him, that he never had any strong desire to become a teacher. At no point is the price of the TTC ever mentioned, until people have their heart set on becoming a teacher and they decide they want to commit to doing it, then they are presented with a hefty price tag. Given that they are about to sacrifice a huge part of their lives to serve the organization for free, and have no way to ever make this money back, do you honestly believe having a high price tag is fair to them? They are certainly convinced that this is the case, because they are made to believe it.

    As far as the courses are concerned, I have immensely benefited from them.

    As have I, and as have the majority of people posting here. I would still recommend these techniques to people. But we are not criticizing the techniques, we are criticizing the organization and it’s leader. Just because we had good experiences and benefited from the courses does not mean that we will turn a blind eye to all of these issues that are going on. We will in no way suppress the memories of the experiences we had, as this will cause even more pain, but rather we will share these with the world.

    There are a great many serious things being discussed here, things that will utlimately cause harm to people if they don’t tread carefully or if they aren’t made aware of it. Children and especially the younger adult generation are particularly vulnerable to these things, and there is no one to protect them here.

    All you’ve done is mention that there are good things coming out of the organization, and you’ve tried to deny all the bad things or make them seem irrelevant because of the good experiences. This is simply an attempt to deflect people’s attention from all the bad things, it’s been tried before by so many people posting here and they’ve all given since they realized that it was actually causing more damage to AoL than to these blogs.

    There is no way to stop what is going on here. The truth is coming out finally.

    • Yoga permalink
      October 7, 2010 10:37 pm

      Doc…you may be right about Patent part. Sometimes patent takes years. May be it is in process…all I can tell you is what various websites talk about it or heard about it. Serious followers any where will tell you the same. I can only tell you from my experience that Guruji was very open about what technique my friends should follow. He did tell my friends to go with what works for them. Regarding organization, some criticisms are valid and true…but you can only expect such short comings when an organization is large. Half of the time the organization is wrong…half of the time it is the people who see it. When two people get together there is politics. How many of us are perfect? Are you perfect? AOL is not perfect. I accept that. I would rather focus on the techniques and +ves than negatives which some are true and some are not.

      • Bling Bling permalink
        October 8, 2010 1:02 am

        Regarding organization, some criticisms are valid and true…but you can only expect such short comings when an organization is large.


        Wait a minute, you are dodging the issue with an excuse. The woes are _NOT_ due to the size of the organization but because of BAD PRINCIPLES which are being preached and followed down the hierarchy.

        (a) The boiler-room sales tactics, forcing people to recruit others for courses.
        (b) The lack of transparency in charitable efforts. Where does the money go. Come clean on the nephew Arvind Varchaswi Narsimhan involvement
        (c) The brain-washing. We are told to just abandon our family and work for AOL since guruji will take care you but he cannot.

      • Yoga permalink
        October 9, 2010 1:31 am

        BB – regarding a and c – you are throwing all speculations and unproven stuff. no one can answer such questions. At least I am not aware it or seen it. Yes, AOL can be more transparent about $ but do not accuse individuals without a solid proof.

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        October 9, 2010 2:20 am


        (c) may not be couched in such obvious words. But if you have been into AOL for any length of time, you would realize that this message is reinforced in so many subtle ways- Either you bring your family into AOL or consider AOL as your real family.

        (a) is more valid when you get sucked deep into AOL. In the initial stages, it is more through coaxing, peer pressure and group acceptance.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        October 9, 2010 4:52 am

        So you do agree that RS is fallible and can make mistakes ?

        In AOL you are taught to not pay attention to the negative – but in that does not work in reality. If you do that – you will be artificial, stepford wife, with fake smile on your face all the time – as you are choosing to ignore the negative aspects and “focussing on the positive”.

        The negative has to be dealt with, not ignored.

        The positive you get from AOL is not because of some magic (or RS’s grace, as we are told) – but because of your sadhana (see the post – Original sin in AOL). It will remain if you follow dharma and do sadhana at home also. So you can have both the positive without any of the negatives if you live knowledge on your own and not be part of the cult.

  6. October 7, 2010 1:07 pm

    TTC, as I understand, is priced higher because too many people want to do this course.

    As per my knowledge, participants to TTC are recommended by Teachers. Rather than keeping higher course fees, Why don’t they discourage teachers from sending ‘non-motivated’ & ‘uninterested’ people? If someone is really interested but can’t afford to pay fees, what should he do?
    TTC is also their fund raising program. Its amazing marketing skills by AOL, they prepare teachers to earn for them and also charge them. Two way profit.
    Ravi shankar is not less than TATA or AMBANI in business mind.

    • Chandran permalink
      October 7, 2010 1:19 pm

      “Ravi shankar is not less than TATA or AMBANI in business mind.”
      Oh please do not compare a crook like ravishankar to greats like Tata and Ambani. The Tatas have contributed immensely to India right from the IISC, Air India was started by JRD, Nano, thier excellent Iron and steel plants and corporate philantrophy. The sheer number of people they employ in TCS. How can you compare a scamster with these greats.
      About Ambani although he was corrupt during the license raj, look at the amount of shareholders relaince had and how they benefitted financially. These people have built profit making lasting instituion through their enterprise. They were not snakeoil salesmen like Ravi.

      • Srikkanth permalink
        October 7, 2010 5:51 pm

        By branding Sri Sri a crook you are only displaying your own upbringing. If Sri Sri has done you any harm you may be justified in calling him so. Otherwise I think it is a bit of injustice to call him a crook based on nere heresay and bigoted opinion of ohers. More over can we continue to keep this bog a bit civil and sane even though everybody is free to express his/her opinion

  7. Srikkanth permalink
    October 7, 2010 5:54 pm

    Another thing I have noted is that most of the commentators are digressing from the main topic. this particular post is about whethr AOL is a cult or not. But there is hardly any comment about that.

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