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Stand Up For Yourself -Or End Up Falling

October 12, 2010

by freeagaiin 2010/10/12

It would be ideal to begin this posting by introducing myself, however my AOL experience as you will discover was harrowing enough and having witnessed the harassment, unethical behaviour, and character assassinations first-hand (not just the Sad Swamis) on a local level, makes it an un-wise thing to do. I have a family and siblings and friends who I do not wish to drag into this. So I hope readers of this post understand.

I assure you that this posting, is done with the utmost honesty and integrity. I assure you that I have not embellished anything in any way. I assure you that this is an accurate description of my experiences, after a very long period of reflection and self-analysis. I have decided to post my experiences in the hope of allowing people to open up about their experiences and maybe even see the truth of their situations. I have no doubt that current AOL’ers frequent this site.

I did my first AOL course and within a year I was made a part one teacher. Yes…streamlined through the process. I had done one advance silence course and that was that. I was not questioned on whether I had completed the Ashtavakra Gita classes, the Yoga Sutras or Bhakti Sutras. I had just been identified as someone who could recruit and had disposable income and good contacts in the entertainment and media industry.

My first basic course was incredible. Of course little did I know that I was just hyperventilating and my desperation to change my life at that stage, let me to make mountains out of molehills. I looked at every event as a sign, as a message for me to embrace AOL. In the beginning I was looking for anything that would make me feel good and allow me to fit in somewhere.

The basic course teacher, I had was incredible. In my entire AOL experience and to this day, the basic course teacher I met had the most amazing integrity, honesty and sincerity in her quest to find true inner happiness. That unfortunately was the basic course teacher’s downfall.

Needless to say, I got indoctrinated into satsangs (not by the basic course teacher who I can say did try her best to protect her students from questionable tactics of the die hard AOL’ers) but rather, by the die hard AOL’ers who had latched on to me, and I slowly began cutting myself off from my friends and family as I wanted to find this happiness and the source of eternal smiles that everyone around me had. No I hadn’t heard of “fake it till you make it” at the time.

I was hungry for an advance course in silence. I should have taken more notice when I inadvertently found out that there was an advance silence course happening in a nearby city, but it wasn’t advertised in our local chapter. I also later found out, that there had been a previous advance course in silence but because all the volunteers in the hierarchy and inner circles were devoted to creating an uprising against the only basic course teacher in the city they prevented dissemination of the information. As I found out, it was to prevent information of the underhanded tactics and battle for power going on in the local chapter to the regional chapters and senior teachers that the courses had not been advertised or promoted. Actually the entire die hard AOL’ers made a special trip to the nearby city where the Senior Teacher was to convince her of their stance. Without hearing the basic course teacher, the die hard AOL’ers and the Senior Teacher became judge and jury and it is no secret in the local chapter that underhanded and dirty tactics were used to force the basic course teacher to eventually leave.

I travelled to do the advance course in the other city and yes it was a very “special” experience for me. For I had again been identified as someone with “potential” and was given all the adulation and attention by the advance course teacher who I later observed to be very skilled and adept at the art of manipulation. My grooming to become a basic course teacher had begun!

I returned all high from the advance course to my city, only to find that the mutiny had occurred in the most devastating way possible for the only basic course teacher in our chapter. A “name, shame and accusation” campaign had begun. Every person registered with this chapter, including all regional contacts and nearby countries were copied and blind copied into emails. Even the Ashram and SSRS had been copied in to emails. Most people requested to be taken off the email lists, some voiced their disgust at the name shame and accusation campaign, but there was no response from the Ashram or from SSRS – who apparently reads every email that is addressed to him. His silence and the Ashrams silence endorsed the behaviour of the die hard AOL’ers hungry for a basic course teachers power, without being basic course teachers themselves.

It was horrific to stand by and watch and when I questioned the ethics and behaviours being displayed, I was told I did not know the real truth and they could justify their actions by telling me a story which of course portrayed the teacher as the villain. I made it very clear to everyone involved in the group that this was totally in contradiction to AOL spirituality that I had been taught in the basic course and in the advance silence course, spirituality in general and humanity. I refused to follow the pack.

In doing so, I had set myself for damnation by our local AOL chapter.

The teacher in question, who was of non-Indian ethnicity, despite all that was going on, all the embarrassment of having to face the entire chapter who had been emailed or heard of the unproven allegations, was still committed to AOL, still gave Long Kriya, and organised courses, which of course were unsupported by the rest of the group. In effect there were two AOL groups in one city – a city that could barely sustain one chapter of AOL!! The harassers and perpetrators of the name shame and accuse campaign, would still turn up to Long Kriya and pretend nothing had happened for that moment, and would even try and hug the teacher and make small talk. It was bizarre to watch.

I took it upon myself to make sure I spent time with the basic course teacher – being aware of the situation and understanding how embarrassing it must be for them. . The basic course teacher refused to drag me in to the drama and such was their integrity, did not discuss the matter with me. Rather, spent the time talking of spirituality in general, the Ashtavakra Gita and their personal journey in AOL.

And then there was the grand announcement of a “Special TTC of 21 days {for the Chosen Ones}. And somehow or the other, I ended up on that. Looking back, I can honestly say, at the time, I had been so influenced to believe this was my calling. The TTC was of no special significance to me – it was a haphazard course, with no real thought to the structure of the course – everything was made up as the course went along. Again, because of my good command in English, my ability to speak in public, my qualifications, I was spared the hot seat, and all other atrocities. The only thing I noticed was that people I thought were friends, became angry, bitter and twisted so much so, that one person had a physical altercation with me. Yes believe it or not. I was trying to have a conversation with someone from a different country, and this person, felt that I was avoiding them, and actually grabbed my seat and pushed me and then pulled me towards them to force me to talk to them. I was horrified and in tears. I spoke to the TTC teachers, and they gave me some wishy-washy explanation of how the person was going through their own process. Looking back its incredible how the safety of the person who is stressed out to the maximum and the safety of other participants are ignored.

I kept to myself as it was just too strange and besides I was utterly exhausted. I didn’t realise that sleep deprivation, hot-seating people and the subtle brainwashing made people that way.

With regards recruiting process, I could not within myself participate as I believe that each person finds their own path in their own way and just happily accompanied the die hard recruiters, and managed in this way to sight-see the country.

We did the begging process and of-course I did not realise it at the time, but certain people in each group were advised that the money had to come back and be accounted for. I myself found it especially hard knowing that we had taken a share of the “real beggars” money. When I asked the group if we could give the money back to the beggars, who actually gave their money and food to us, their was a real conscience struggle going on with some people, but of-course those with the loudest voice won. All they had to say was “but teacher-ji said we have to take the money back”. To this day, I do not know where the begging money went to. Yes, nothing was accounted for.

Now, the worst thing was to watch people clamber like animals to see SSRS. In the presence of SSRS, you tend to see the ugliness in people. I was lucky, I managed to bump into him a few times accidentally, and I managed to swim right next to him and had the pleasure of him throwing water in my face. Apparently I had been blessed!!! Each time I bumped into him, I honestly could not humble myself to even put my hands together. Call it gut instinct. I felt quite let down, when he handed me my Kriya tape and manual and a sweet and asked me if I was happy? I did expect something more profound and more personal – surely he could see into the future, being an enlightened being and all and knew all his teachers inside out, their strengths and weaknesses. Surely he would send each one out with some positive affirmation or even a caution or something profound that would carry them through good and bad times. Oh well…maybe some other time I rationalised.

But what was really sad, was at the end when it was time to go, a few of us were leaving early so would not be able to have the official audience with him. So we were taken to his room in the five star hotel of course, to have our audience with him. It was an extremely amusing spectacle to watch someone who had an audience with him for the entire week, take us to the door, walk in and shut the door in our faces. And then come out fifteen minutes later and say he has no time for us. Imagine those of us who paid $5000+ to be there, and to be told that the Master has no time for you – his new teachers who were going to spread his word and message. It was confusing and painful. But again, I think I was lucky, that someone in the heavens was trying to keep me from being further influenced and brainwashed.

So I came back to our local chapter all excited and ready to start teaching. Lo behold there were more barriers. This time by the new teachers who were part of the rogue group who named and shamed the original basic course teacher in our chapter. They obviously didn’t trust SSRS’s judgment in making some of us teachers, so it was ordained that we were unable to teach unless we were supervised by one of them (of-course I didn’t know at the time, but it meant that the number of courses they taught would increase by inclusion in courses organised by us incapable teachers. I co-taught one course and was so restricted that I don’t think the guru’s grace could have flowed through me even if it wanted to. The teacher I co-taught with, who also had become a teacher at the same TTC as me, had imposed on me more rules than the Teachers manual. Participants were restricted in their verbal contributions to the course, i.e. their experiences didn’t matter because they forgot to add in the teacher’s manual to let participants speak a bit. My contribution to the course was really sitting next to the basic course teacher and nodding my head in submission and agreement. Because of-course the grace only flowed from him. He said it did. He could feel it. The grace, told him to not let me speak, the grace told him to not let the participants speak. The Grace told him that I could not drink from my water bottle, because it had been in the room where people had done kriya etc etc…

What happened to the only basic course teacher in the local chapter prior to all these new teachers being appointed – well that teacher was sidelined, marginalised and cut out. The local chapter became a totally “India-hindu organisation”. No acknowledgment of other religions special holidays were made – even though apparently at the Ashram everything is celebrated.

Almost every teacher became an Auyurveda specialist based on the hand me down tid-bits received in TTC, some became astrologists based on the occasional email that would be sent out warning us about a certain month being dangerous, some could interpret how the climate in our area would affect our thinking and of course most became mind readers of SSHRs mind to be able to interpret his wishes and desires for the local chapter.

Following the influx of the new teachers, were a series of bizarre episodes in local chapter. A few people had been identified as “non-pliable”. So it was decided that they needed to be broken down. Their egos were in the way of their growth and the chapters growth. Their constant questioning of unethical behaviour, of questionable policies and tactics was frustrating the growth of the chapter. So a new name, shame and accusation campaign began.

Allegations began circulating of these basic course teachers supposedly inappropriate behaviour with one teacher in particular, they were labelled as unstable, one person was inappropriately approached by a certain teacher and when complaints were made about that teacher’s behaviour, it was all swept under the carpet; because of course that teacher belonged to the inner sanctum of the local chapter.

The final straw was when a meeting was organised and those who were identified as “not pliable enough” were attacked verbally for their perceived failures as AOL teachers. A few teachers left and never looked back. I was one of them.

That period, was one of sadness, grief, loneliness and isolation. We were cut off, had no avenue to speak out or to even ask for help even from the Ashram. It amazes me to this day, the number of teachers who say why don’t you speak with Guruji? Unfortunately we were not of the inner circle to even have a phone contact with Guruji and no one volunteered a phone number. Actually we approached one person for the number and were advised that Guruji would be too busy to take our call.

For a while, I continued to do Kriya and when specific direction came to chant Om Namah Shivaya and not drive recklessly, I would follow it, but then slowly, away from the influence, I started questioning everything. I drive everyday of the week, I don’t drive recklessly, what an assumption to make. I am not Hindu, so chanting ONS has no significance to me, and it dawned on me, the subtle conversion that goes on.No one even discusses how you can supplement the practices with your own religion to have it make more relevant to the person. The practices take a “one size fits all” but the reality is not all of us are the same size.

And I came to realise how I had become a shell of the vibrant, confident person I used to be. And I realised I liked the person I used to be. I liked the person who embraced life, with vivacity, with passion. I liked embracing all practices and teachings and taking what worked for me and discarding what no longer served my spiritual growth. I finally started to come home to myself. It hasn’t been an easy road.

In reading all the postings on this site, I have to say I am not interested in where the money goes or Bhanu’s love for handbags and jewellery or all the swamis and their sordid love affairs and ménage a trios, what I am more concerned about is the innocent people who in their quest to find peace and happiness are caught up in AOL.

What I am concerned is about those people who have given up the core of who they are to be a stereotypical “seva warrior” or teacher i.e. to be someone void of their own unique personality and traits. What I am concerned is about how people are closed off to other teachings around the world that may be of benefit to them. What I am concerned about is this “kriya” which is actually hyperventilation colourfully packaged as a instant fix it. What I am concerned is people learning yoga from unqualified teachers and suffering severe injuries as a result. What I am concerned about is people who may be going through depression or other ailments and are encouraged to come off their medications sooner than required and rely on the hyperventilation technique to cure them. What I am worried about is people who have suffered trauma and other atrocities and mishaps in life, who undergo hot seating and sleep deprivation and other techniques done by people whose only claim to a qualification is that they have the Masters grace.

So if I can through the posting of this story, which is my personal experience make a difference for one person and help them realise that the doubts they harbour within themselves about AOL and its practices, are worth having a second look at, that it is in your best interests to question the things that don’t seem right, that the kriya that makes you feel sick and gag and creates more havoc in your body seems wrong, to actually step aside for a while, to take some time out alone and see you can come to a decision for yourself, either way – whether to stay or go, then this rehashing of my experience which I assure you was very painful, very exhausting, financially crippling experience and one that left me isolated for a while, has been worth it.You are worth it so just do it – Take some time out, from the organisation and look at it from all perspectives. Ask your family and long time friends, not your AOL associates, how they feel about you, how they feel about your association with AOL. What changes have they observed in you. Ask your collegues how they feel about you constantly trying to recruit them for courses. Ask your neighbours how they feel when you continuously invite them to introduction talks etc.

Then based on that, and how you feel, make a decision. An informed decision. Like you would if you were to move to another country, like you would before you purchase a car or a house, before you leave a partner for good or go into a partnership, make sure your decision is one that comes from you, and not one that you have been dragged into without realising it.

Be aware and find out how you feel about your association with AOL. Ask yourself, if the money you spend on courses is actually worth it. Surely the master would give you his grace and knowledge for free or a minimal cost. Surely the money that you expend on the five star hotels and the airline tickets can be better spent doing some good for people who have nothing. Surely, an organisation that is responsible would give clear accounts back to its donors to let them know where their donations go.

If you don’t stand for something, you might just end up falling for everything. So stand up for true spirituality, stand up for real charity, stand up for basic humanity, stand up for integrity, stand up for yourself. Stand up for an authentic spiritual journey, that may lead you to the highest of your hopes, the corner of your smiles and the most special places your heart has ever known.

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62 Comments
  1. WhistleBlower permalink
    October 12, 2010 8:16 am

    Dear freeagaiin,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us so frankly and sincerely. I have no doubt that it will go a long way to help others to avoid going through the same harrowing experience.

    If it is of any consolation to you, let me assure you that what you experienced in your local centre is a typical AOL scenario. Good, honest people, like your basic course teacher, build up centers and crooked ones end up in charge. These are by no means by accident, rather by design. SriSri needs crooked people in charge to do crooked things. Good, honest people are no good to him once a centre is built and revenues are flowing into his coffers. And you can be assured that while your basic course teacher was going through that harrowing experience, with full devotion to SriSri, his/her master would have enjoyed the dirty play and even stir it further. That is his holiness nature. He enjoys and quite often incites these kind of dirty plays and backstabbing and vicious attacks and he is always on the side of the winners, who are of course the ones who are the most dirty and vicious in their attacks, with no trace of spirituality. The attacked teacher is usually left totally demoralised, isolated and betrayed by his/her own Master, totally lost in trying to make sense of the situation and straitjacketed by his/her own misplaced trust in the guru!

    In all my years with AOL, I never came across any AOL center devoid of the scenario you have described, that is why I chose that heading for your post. (Please let me know if you’d like any other heading and I will change it .)All AOL centers I have seen, all over the world have been full of conflicts, dirty plays, backstabbing. There are the most unspiritual places you can imagine. SriSri actively encourages teachers fighting each other, students betraying their teachers. Even among the most pacifist teachers, he somehow incites disharmony, jealousy, fights, suspicion, mistrust. This is how he controls his teachers and his centers, keeping the teachers on watch on each other. You can imagine the good honest ones won’t last long and the longer they stay (due to their blind faith and devotion to Guru) the bigger cost to their health, both physically and mentally.

    I challenge our readers to name even one country where the AOL center has been free of conflicts and dirty politics. To those readers still with AOL, see if your basic course teacher is still with AOL. If not, ask yourself, why not. Find out how many teachers in your center have left and the circumstances in which they left. The wise are those who follow their teachers and leave AOL ASAP. Your basic course teachers knows a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in AOL, so if they leave, know that they have very good reason and that they have not taken that decision lightly.

    Thanks again freeagaiin for sharing and all the best with your journey.

  2. The Doctor permalink
    October 12, 2010 8:32 am

    @freeagaiin,

    Your story really touched me as it resonates so much with my own personal experiences. Thank you so much for having the courage to come forward and share it with us, I know from experience that it isn’t easy. There is so much sincerity in your words that I can really empathize with everything you went through. I never made it as far as TTC, thankfully, but everything else you have described is so reminiscent of what I went through.

    I too was encouraged from the outset to become a teacher, because of certain qualities I had, and when I finally decided I wanted to dedicate my life to it, I was told I didn’t have to worry about the pre-requisites. When I finally did meet SSRS, he hardly appeared, especially when there was a major event organized which was supposed to be centered around him, he barely showed his face for a few minutes then disappeared. I thought it a little off at the time, but very quickly the bliss I was feeling at the time overcame that feeling. This has always been a common pattern with me whenever anything goes wrong in AoL, I somehow always rationalize it with the good feelings I am experiencing and the fact that we were saving the world.

    And this really resonated with me:

    In reading all the postings on this site, I have to say I am not interested in where the money goes or Bhanu’s love for handbags and jewellery or all the swamis and their sordid love affairs and ménage a trios, what I am more concerned about is the innocent people who in their quest to find peace and happiness are caught up in AOL.

    What I am concerned is about those people who have given up the core of who they are to be a stereotypical “seva warrior” or teacher i.e. to be someone void of their own unique personality and traits. What I am concerned is about how people are closed off to other teachings around the world that may be of benefit to them. What I am concerned about is this “kriya” which is actually hyperventilation colourfully packaged as a instant fix it. What I am concerned is people learning yoga from unqualified teachers and suffering severe injuries as a result. What I am concerned about is people who may be going through depression or other ailments and are encouraged to come off their medications sooner than required and rely on the hyperventilation technique to cure them. What I am worried about is people who have suffered trauma and other atrocities and mishaps in life, who undergo hot seating and sleep deprivation and other techniques done by people whose only claim to a qualification is that they have the Masters grace.

    Although the issues with the money are important, for me they pale into insignificance when compared to the much greater issues which you have conscisely described above. One of the major things we are trying to do on this blog is to help prevent people from coming to any harm as a result of their association with AoL, and it is clear from everything you have written that you want to do the same thing.

    Welcome to our blog, freeagaiin, and I look forward to hearing more from you in future.

  3. Onlooker permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:23 am

    Dear Freeagain

    This is interesting

  4. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:35 am

    “If it is of any consolation to you, let me assure you that what you experienced in your local centre is a typical AOL scenario.”

    I can vouch for Mumbai center. Teachers have formed several groups and they keep playing dirty politics with one another with every group claiming blessings of guruji. There is extreme competitiveness and oneupmanship among teachers to prove who is more loyal to SSRS. That is how you create people who are ready to drink SSRS’s washings and worse in the name of paad – puja.

    Mumbai chapter is not for the weak hearted.

    “Now, the worst thing was to watch people clamber like animals to see SSRS. In the presence of SSRS, you tend to see the ugliness in people.”

    The animal like clambering is carefully orchestrated. I remember my advance course in B’lore. The hype about “meeting guruji in person at the end of the course” was started from the first day. By the last day of the course the pitch had reached to hysteria. Lots were cast and time slots were distributed according to city. We were given a time slot of 1100 AM. However, when we reached the kutir, we were informed that 700 AM batch was still not through. Bawa’s sister Parvez came out and advised us to sit in the front and chant bhajans. Then somebody came and started conducting kriya. In between some important people would keep going in and coming out out-of-turn. Someone had to catch a connecting flight, so he was pleading with Bawa for arranging an out-of-turn meeting. Someone else had a knee problem and Kashi was using his influence on her behalf. Then Parvez’s friends came and of course they got straight entry. Meeting with Guruji was made as difficult as possible just to add the aura about the whole event. It took us three hours to go inside. At that time I thought that all this hodge podge could have been easily avoided with a little planning. Little did I know that a lot of planning had actually gone into to exactly ensure the way things happened.

    • ex-cultie permalink
      October 12, 2010 1:28 pm

      Wow, Abhilash, your comments seem to describe what happens in almost every cult. I was not too involved in AOL but got snagged by another godman, “paramahamsa” Nithyananda also of Bangalore. They too have a part-1 (life bliss program) and a part-2 (nithyananda spurana program). We had exactly the same sort of buildup throughout the program, at the end of the course, nithy was supposed to give “energy darshan” to all participants where he would personally bless you and activate your third eye.

      Towards the end we all had to queue up, people were asked to start singing or dancing along with the music being played. “The more sincere you are in participating, the better the effect of the energy darshan”, this sort of brainwashing was constantly shoveled into our heads.

      When the moment arrived I was on stage, he pressed between my eyebrows, I swear these guys have some siddhis or powers, don’t know what. I really can’t describe what I saw, an explosion of colours in some weird dimension, maybe I was just willing myself to experience something so badly, this manifested. The effect lasted 15-20 minutes, all of us came away spaced out.

      The hysteria is the same, the buildup and anticipation is the same. You’re made to believe that one darshan is something that will erase all your lifetimes of karmas.

      I bet there’s some “cult guru business for dummies” these guys all copy from 🙂

    • Onlooker permalink
      October 12, 2010 1:34 pm

      Your seem to be hurt because of 4 hour wait . Wishif you were allowed

    • ex Mumbaikar permalink
      October 12, 2010 6:51 pm

      This is for wise comment by Abhilash Shastry What he has written is partly correct.
      But the interpretation is different .
      I was with him on that day and we were made to wait really long .Nobody had any problems because people were really enjoying the wait itself .
      But Mr Abhilash the Mahaknowledgable Shastry was an exception . He had thought he will be welcomed like President of a country and given welcome deserved by kings .He will be recognised as enlightened soul waiting there humbly and will be declared as next messiah .

      When he was made to wait then this somebody instead of understanding he is nobody tried to provoke everybody. Nobody bothered .
      The Ego was punctured and I can still recollect the fallen face and broken ego .
      The hurt is deep and we could sense it continuing for long time . It is reflecting here like sour grapes .

      The Big ego will deny this incidence .What we can do .Meet this man many times and you will understand him.

  5. Observer permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:37 am

    In reading all the postings on this site, I have to say I am not interested in where the money goes or Bhanu’s love for handbags and jewellery or all the swamis and their sordid love affairs and ménage a trios, what I am more concerned about is the innocent people who in their quest to find peace and happiness are caught up in AOL.

    But it is precisely these persons who entrap/ victimize the other set of people you are concerned about, in Aol. We cant really ignore these perpetrators…

  6. ex teacher permalink
    October 12, 2010 12:38 pm

    Dear Freethinker, thank you for gathering the courage to post your story. To be honest, I thought you could be one of my students writing my own story. It is all just too familiar and unfortunately it is what happens everywhere – the power struggles, the mutiny, the manipulation, the lies, the people agst people, … the insanity …. Your basic course teacher is fortunate that someone like you has opened the eyes and spoken up. I must say I kept wishing it would be one of my students. Welcome to the AoL-free kinda life!

  7. October 12, 2010 2:46 pm

    I have seen the dirty politics in two centers in Maharashtra State (India). There are many good and innocent people but all the controlling of activities are done by some clever people with political mind, nothing to do with spirituality.

    • Independent Observer permalink
      October 12, 2010 3:21 pm

      I know that it is a similar story in Germany, UK, South America, The Middle East, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Canada and Australia. At least there is consistency in something

  8. Harshal permalink
    October 12, 2010 2:57 pm

    “Your seem to be hurt because of 4 hour wait . Wishif you were allowed”

    @onlooker- That is the whole point! . These are some people who could not get along with some other people in the organization, were marginalized and now are venting their frustration here…..with such a huge organization such things are going to happen, doesn’t mean the whole salad has gone bad-as these people would want to convince us. Moreover what this guy tells us is just his side of the story.

  9. Wondering permalink
    October 12, 2010 4:17 pm

    Do you think this is typical in general or just typical of AOL in India?

    I have heard from friends about the politics and general nuttiness in AOL in India.

    I am based in America, and have been involved in AOL in several cities, and haven’t run into this kind of behavior.

    Many of you who are convinced that AOL must be avoided at all costs seem to be based in India.

    • WhistleBlower permalink
      October 12, 2010 5:22 pm

      You must be kidding! Tell us the name of the cities you are referring to!! ALL AOL centers in the US are conflict ridden and many teachers (and members and volunteers) have left as a result, esp. old timers. Most of them have become Indian-Hindu social clubs. And most committee members are Indian too. The problem has got worsened by visiting Indian teachers like Anand Rajendran, Sangeeta Jani, Bawa,Tanuja, Nitin,Swamis, etc. and some resident teachers like Rajshree.
      Even Mickey was complaining to SriSri about all these Indian teachers visits and asking him to cut their visits down.

      • Wondering permalink
        October 12, 2010 6:21 pm

        Based on my experience I have to respectfully disagree that all AOL centers are conflict ridden.

        It has to do with the number of leaders. I’m in an area with few teachers. Politics start when there are multiple teachers/leaders who share an area as opposed to each one having their own area to develop. This is not an AOL-specific phenomenon.

        Agree that AOL is often implemented in a very Indian way. This is partly because the majority of teachers are Indians, and most of the senior teachers mentoring the junior teachers are Indian too (not just Indian but based in India so they have a completely different approach).
        There really aren’t many senior teachers in the US mentoring younger teachers. I think it’s because senior teachers here are still in the trenches whereas the senior teachers in India don’t have to do any direct enrollment or organizing.

  10. Think permalink
    October 12, 2010 4:46 pm

    @Wondering: I have experience with an AOL center in USA. Its the same stuff. It just happens at much more subtle level. Even in USA organization higher up is messed up.

    I live in USA. I normally have a good to ok experience with the Satsang groups. I volunteered for some Seva programs and had exposure some intricacies of the AOL organization in our area.

    Its the same mess and politics. The most political creature in the local organization who also happens to be close to SSRS and doesn’t do any Seva with his hands, keeps on telling people that ours is the only AOL center with no rivals political groups and we are all one group.

    Its the same politics. Genuine spiritual people who get exposed to these immature/unevolved political characters, who control, maneuver and destroy the environment in AOL.

    AOL organization and the centers have a lot of undesirable stuff happening there.

  11. October 12, 2010 5:10 pm

    @ freeagaiin,

    Are you one of those 3 people whom i am expecting to contribute on this blog? As you 3 people have terrorize that Sad Swami and his guru to such an extent that even without your contribution on this blog they were anticipating you behind this charges.

    welcome anyway, Looking forward to many other thing that you are gonna write.

    • proton permalink
      October 12, 2010 6:33 pm

      Hello prosecutor
      You just wrote to me that you have no bad intentions and 2 days later I find you waiting for someone else to write the fancy charges .No proof . Just one man’s word against other .
      You should stand for elections for President of Srlanka .You will win.
      I thought you had changed .But the fire of hatred is burning contineously under disguise of exposing the so called misdeeds.
      leave aside AOL and RS . Atleast as a mature guy you should vent out your feelings and go ahead with your life . But you consider yourself a crusader and go on spreading malice .
      You are exactly doing what you blame others doing .
      You guys are trying to built a cult out of haterd. Anybody writing on the blog must hate AOL and RS.If anyone writes against you then you call them hypnotised ,zombie etc etc .

      You have built your self defence by closing your eyes and ears. Anyone who writes against you is PR agent of AOL . Permission is given to us to call you negative ( safely ). Yes .In this cyberspace I can call you anything and you do exactly do the same thing -abuse others by hiding your identity.

      You seem to enjoy what you are doing so no point in asking you to stop it .

  12. Ronin permalink
    October 12, 2010 6:25 pm

    Dear Freeagain,

    First thank you for sharing your story and welcome back. Welcome to being you again. If we were to share like this on TTC we would have gotten the full brunt of the TTC trainer. I am thankful (@ Skywalker) that we can do it here and not be humiliated and degraded. Although some do try.

    What you have described is very recognizable and is indeed the case in many AOL centers. And it is inherent (as WhistleBlower has mentioned) in they way the organization is set up and reflects the inner workings of the organization as a whole. The sad part is that those teachers who truly care and show a great sense of integrity are pushed out in the most nasty way possible, and then the supposedly truly gifted ones take over. What you see is that the numbers will go up indeed but the quality of teaching is not there. But as we all know large numbers means more REVENUE.

    All of this jockeying for position happens in order to eventually be close to the MASTER, and he does not stop it either why should he. He is getting better devoted employees oops sorry teachers who only strengthen the corporation…slipped again sorry foundation.

    During one’s time in AOL and actually straight from the beginning you are so indoctrinated (through various angles like the guru stories) that Ravi is the greatest gift to humanity. And that WE are part of this wonderful organization, and through his grace we fall under his umbrella and his watchful eyes. And as teachers we are his arms and legs, his body, HIS mind guiding us as we bring this knowledge and way of life to the people. We are part of his Parampara, the custodians of the knowledge and the teachings. So our minds are put in neutral and his MIND is guiding us to teach…….It is all HIM.

    Very very smart strategy, I would love to see the TTC trainer manual or notes, it probably reads, have fun with the devotees at their expense, but makes sure to identify the ones who are talented and have the most charisma, who can recruit and sell the products AOL offers. Make them feel special don’t bother with the others. CEO Ravi has created such a fail proof employee hiring process it is called TTC. They are able to cherry pick those who the corporation can use the best in a 21 day elimination process. And they are handsomely paid to do this it as well……. Crazy is it not……but very real.

    Since Ravi is the divine person, the fountain head of all the knowledge in the organization. To just be in his presence is to be blessed for life times, this is what the senior teacher preach to all the devotees. It is no wonder that people will stand in line for hours to have a meeting, a close encounter with him. To be able to say, I spoke to him and he received me, what they are really projecting is seeee I am special I spoke to him and he spoke to me. …….your not. How many times were you not asked did you meet ravi in person….. Like it is some sort of passage of rites, only then do you belong.

    I remember people saying, wow he looked at me as he passed by and felt like he uplifted my soul…….. Or he threw a candy at me as I had the question in my mind for him ….. And I thought Am I missing something, actually all I saw during satsang was Ravi falling a sleep on the couch….hahahaha. But when I jokingly said that to a senior teacher I was scolded how dare I say that, it is obvious that he was going into Samadhi…… we will never know will we……although I am sue that if his microphone was on we would have heard him snore…

    And thus people will do anything to feel special and be in his presence, and this is what the corporation plays on big time. What they don’t (myself included at the time) see is that it is a clever strategy. To divide and conquer, and keep the machine running keep giving it the fuel it needs. So they selectively invite people in and just say some rubbish to them and they come out feeling blessed and will give their 200%. Or they will be made to feel bad and then they still go out and give their 200%, see the catch 22. It is such a win – win for the Corporation. It is like a casino, the odds are always stacked in their favor.

    But we all know and even have experienced it maybe. You were given a free pass if your family was wealthy or you had wealthy contacts, or had very good connections with the government. You would not have to stand in line actually you are brought in and get lots of attention this too is very clever strategy. You are an valuable assets therefore are of more use to them then an ordinary devotee and they will leverage that to their favor. Again you are in his presence and his grace and you feel SPECIAL your told he actually made time out of his busy schedule to meet you and your family. And subtly you will be asked how you think you can help AOL, that you can do such great things for humanity and your family would receive such great benefit.

    Lots of people were used and paraded as spokes persons for the Corporation some not even knowing it until they found through other people. And families were torn apart as issue’s around donations to AOL (read money) started to play a role.

    Ones family wealth or status and form of work should be closely guard from AOL. Cause they will latch on it.

    So with this as a back drop it does not surprise me (now) that indeed it is the survival of the fittest, a take no prisoner attitude just to be recognized……. To get that pad on your shoulders or nod from the master yet in this game there is only one winner and I think we all know who that is……

    And I agree and have mentioned it as well just like the Doctor and others did that my concern is for the young ones. I sincerely hope parents will do their research and realize that there are healthier ways to introduce their kids to spirituality. I hope that those in college have friends who they will listen to, when they tell them they will take this YES+ course.

    In the past only one side of AOL prevailed. They now know that for many the bubble has burst and we don’t fall for their rhetoric and fake it till you make it life strategy anymore.

    The master is seen for what he is a clever business man with a great management and marketing team.

    The little giant has awakened.

  13. harshal permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:35 pm

    “Mr Abhilash the Mahaknowledgable Shastry “”Meet this man many times and you will understand him”—thanks ex-mumbaikar!

  14. Yoga permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:53 pm

    One thing is common among all anti-AOL posters. All of them were too involved in the organization, saw the dirty side of it which some are true and some are just their perceptions. Some are made up too. Many posters here were ex-teachers or very active ex-volunteers or if I may call as blind followers. Now these guys are at the other extreme. No organization is perfect including AOL

    A common AOL guy who practices SK a few times a week and occasional satsang goers have more balance. To me the techniques work and has worked for most people [not for some]. SK type technique (cyclic breathing) is a 5000 year old technique. It comes from Sage Pathanjali and also finds a mention in Gita. Do not undermine this technique by calling it as hyper ventilation or whatever.

    I have posted this here many times. Many AOL techniques are excellent and works for most people. Practice what works for you and stop your involvement right there. Add some physical exercises to your routine. Getting too much into an organization can have consequences. if you want to do so then do it but have some balance.

    • zhoro permalink
      October 12, 2010 11:22 pm

      “Practice what works for you and stop your involvement right there.”

      Yoga, this would be fine and dandy were it not for the suggestion very early on (basic course), that doing that would be a fairly superficial choice. Participants are given the analogy of going to the ocean. Those who take the techniques and walk away are compared to those who only take a few shells from the ocean shore and go home. It is implied that they are not ready for serious spiritual work at this time. Those who get involved in the organization are compared to deep-sea divers, the serious seekers.

      That’s there is a pretty loaded choice, isn’t? If you didn’t get involved deeply with the organization, really, you were immature by implication. You just came and got something for your own benefit. Those who do get involved are the real deal, the “ready” ones. This is just one of the miriad of ways manipulation happens. Are you sure you are not on the immature list?

      • Yoga permalink
        October 13, 2010 3:21 am

        my input is…what ever u do…have a balance. do not go overboard. I have done many courses and enjoyed most of it. Every person who complains here went over board with what ever they were doing with AOL. Btw, never heard that Ocean analogy in my Basic course.

    • Shallow waters permalink
      October 13, 2010 5:07 pm

      You dint put your 100%. quite simple. We did and now we know what it feels like!

      • Yoga permalink
        October 13, 2010 10:40 pm

        🙂 100% on techniques and rest in balance.

    • Sincere Seeker permalink
      October 13, 2010 8:54 pm

      @Yoga – my thinking is that yoga is a science, a timeless science, that was then recorded by Patanjali (not invented by him). Yoga, like the Vedas, can’t be invented by someone. Yes you are free to invent what you like, but then don’t call it Yoga.

      Also, it is a big mistake to say that SK type technique is from Patanjali and Gita. That is far from the truth. If you want to do Patanjali’s yoga (including Kriya yoga) do just that.
      You say a lot of people have benefitted from it, yes you can have people smoke pot and say they had a good experience, a high, and benefited from it. The means used to achieve the end is important, the end should not justify the means. Like some people say oh Shiva smokes pot etc. etc. and justify their use of it. No, the meaning is that you offer the vices (the ruler of tamogun) to Shiva asking him to control them for you, not that Shiva smokes pot so u also should. Anyway, sorry for the diversion.
      The fast cycle IS hyperventilation according to me and should NOT be done. Once in a lifetime is ok but not repeatedly. Again my personal opinion and I don’t wish to do it. SSRS does not do it.

      As for your involvement and balance. Yes those who are simply consumers are saved from the cult, the revenue generators are completely consumed. However; if you say that one should not get too involved then how would teachers come about? how would volunteers come about?

      Yoga – are you a Part 1 teacher or are you going for TTC in Nov.?

      • Yoga permalink
        October 13, 2010 10:38 pm

        I disagree with some of your points. I have done SK for many years and I know people who have done it for 20+ years. Read Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi – in both they talk about Cyclic breathing. To me, SK is form of a cyclic breathing. Even they teach a similar technique in Isha. I am not a teacher or have any plans to go for TTC.

    • Sincere Seeker permalink
      October 13, 2010 11:54 pm

      Yes I have not only read both Autobiography of a Yogi, but have learnt Kriya Yoga. I have also read the Gita several times. Sudarshan Kriya is NOT either of those. Kriya Yoga is ancient, timeless, it was not invented by Yogananda or Babaji. I am not familiar with Isha. Sudarshan Kriya has been invented by SSRS. I have checked with several spiritual masters (including those of Kriya Yoga) and for all of them it is very basic sense – SK is not part of any system of Yoga, it has come up from SSRS himself.

  15. freeagaiin permalink
    October 13, 2010 12:12 am

    There is a train of thought that has come through very clearly from pro AOL’ers that bloggers who post unfavourable comments about AOL are disgruntled, egoistic, bitter and hateful people who are blind to the truth.

    For my part, there is really no hatred or bitterness. The decision I made was an informed choice, based on what I was experiencing and what others had actually been through. I made no assumptions, in fact I made a point of speaking to those who had walked away, and also to those who had so much faith in the organisation. What I saw scared me. I saw blind faith and an inability to face the truth. The solution it seems is “Guru will fix it”. But the truth is ‘Guru” has not fixed it at all. “Guru” has ignored it and by doing so encouraged it.

    Whilst I am Indian of origin, I have grown up in the western world. I have been educated in the western world and my thinking I would say is more in line with the country I live in as opposed to Indian. I have never been to India; my command of Hindi is very limited with my mother tongue being English. My understanding of the Indian culture is based on what I have been taught by my family. My thinking and experiences are western orientated.

    What is interesting is that whilst AOL is an Indian based organisation, it goes to follow that any organisation establishing itself in another country, must take into account the laws of the land of that country. To be successful, it needs to factor in the culture and a framework that will enable smooth running of the organisation. Businesses, charitable organisations, NGO’s all over the world do so. Their success, acceptance and ability to do the work they set out to do is largely due to the fact they taken into account the culture, customs and legal frameworks of the country they are dealing with.

    It seems very obvious that what is happening is that AOL is attempting, unsuccessfully to apply the India model straight into another country without much thought as to the consequences to its reputation and to its “fans and followers” – hence most of the issues. It is always a source of comfort for a migrant person to find organisations that are from their countries of origin. And it is only natural to want to utilise the norms of their mother country and feel a sense of ownership with the organisation. But with ownership, comes responsibility. And that is what we are experiencing. An irresponsible organisation with no thought of the consequences of its inaction.

    When integrating the organisation in another country and inviting people of that country to participate, there needs to be some element of give and take. There needs to be a clear understanding that there are somethings that will work, and some that don’t and therefore the one size fits all model does not work as most of us have seen with the hyperventilation technique.

    It is obvious from the range of responses, that there are issues that are very specific to AOL. And the range of experiences are very similar.

    What is also obvious is that AOL is not willing to budge and to assimilate whilst retaining its core values and teachings. Hence its operations and endevours becoming so muddled up and creating such negative experiences. This lack of foresight and thought is typical of AOL, in every area of their operations and in most countries.

    To establish AOL successfully in any country in this day and age, AOL like any other organisation would have to display professionalism, accountability, transparency, clear structures, open processes, review processes, dispute resolution processes, health and safety standards, privacy standards, human rights legislation, rights of people with disabilities, rights of those who are incapable of handling their own affairs, anti discrimination policies, etc. Ideally this would be displayed on the websites of the organisation along with all the other standard information.

    A failure to do so, indicates a lack of responsibility, accountability and foresight. Therefore more and more people are coming away from their AOL experience feeling isolated, betrayed, and with no avenues to resolve issues.

    Surely a “Master” who is peddling for a Nobel Peace Prize would use the AOL centres that are popping up left, right and centre as a microcosm of “world peace” – of the ideal. Of course there will always be dissatisfaction, uprising, and battles but by establishing clear avenues for resolving conflict would be the way to go.

    Also, apart from marketing to the youth and using Yoga Raves to entice them, I am concerned about the “Prison Smart” course. There is no practical experience given whatsoever to deal with the various issues involved in being a Prison Smart teacher. There is no thought given to preparing “teachers” for the prison environment, for dealing with prisoners who will fake it to get out of jail, there is no separate procedures on how to deal with follow ups for prisoners. Its just plain irresponsible. Not only is the safety of the teacher in jeopardy by the lack of preparation in terms of mind sets, insight into how prisoners think, the issues that prisoners face, principles and protocols of rehabilitation but so is the safety of the prisoner being jeopardised.

    @Observer

    “But it is precisely these persons who entrap/vicitimise the other set of people you are concerned about, in AOL. We cant really ignore these perpetrators…”

    From my vantage point, these people have no bearing in reality to what is happening on my home soil. On a local level in India, I think that those who are raising their voices need to do something there. My personal concern is at a grass root level – there are people who are getting hurt, misled and adversely affected in the country I reside in. Sure they may affect on some level the thinking of those in “power” in countries outside of India, but again, it is the responsibility of the citizens of India who are involved with Art of Living to Stand up and Take Action (no pun intended)

    @ ex teacher

     we all are one aren’t we…so on a spiritual level, I am your student.  I needed to add something light hearted – I am told that God Loves Fun 

    @ Harshal

    “There are some people who could not get along with some other people in the organisation, were marginalised, and now are venting their frustration here…with such a huge organisation such things are going to happen, doesn’t mean the whole salad has gone bad as these people would want to convince us..”

    You missed the point, with this many people now speaking out publicly because the organisation has no transparent, internal processes to deal with conflict, actually indicates that the core of the organisation is flawed.

    An organisation that is based in 150 odd countries and has so many people doing courses would surely have some planning, processes and structures in place. There obviously isn’t. There is no natural justice – the right to be heard, the right to a fair hearing. As a general rule of thumb, most people would prefer to resolve issues internally as opposed to going public. However in AOL, most have no choice but to go public or disappear into thin air. I like to think that most of us here are speaking out because we feel a sense of responsibility.

    The current recruitment drive to induct as many teachers as possible is irresponsible. To create so many “teachers” who have no real accountability to anyone, save their “Master” who is remote to them, who pays scant attention to issues, is sorry to say “NUTS”. The TTC, does not teach basic teaching principles, it does not teach the skills to ensure that your students have gained clear understanding of the knowledge points. The reality is it teaches you manipulation and evasion techniques. The recruitment drive to create more “fans and followers” is equally NUTS. No thought is given to the influx of people into the organisation. People who are from all walks of life, all levels of fiscal ability, different countries etc. etc.

    @Whistleblower

    “The problem got worsened by visiting Indian teachers….”

    Spot on! Visiting Indian teachers, have no understanding or interest in the laws of the land, the culture of the country they are visiting. Their interest lies solely in the media and attracting those in high profile positions and ultimately generating revenue. These visiting teachers encourage “fans and followers” to behave irresponsibly. They encourage “fans and followers” to ignore the rumblings of people who have started questioning the very fabric of AOL. Some teachers won’t even teach unless there is a “huge minimum number of participants” (excuse the pun)

    @Prosecutor

    “Are you one of those 3 people whom I am expecting to contribute on this blog?”

    Alas no. But by speaking out, I hope we can get the 3 people to speak up without fear of further slander. I sincerely hope, that defamations suits are being taken against Sad Swami and Kashi for printing their names. Again it only highlights the failings of AOL and the Masters teachings. For if his own Swamis, do not respect the right to debate, to speak out, and rather than dealing with the issues at hand and creating peace. Again, why would a Nobel Peace prize be given to someone whose own organisation and people do not reflect peace?

    @proton
    “just one mans word against other”
    Not just one man’s word, a womans word, a teenagers word, a mothers word, a fathers word, a lesbians word, a homosexuals word, a transsexuals word, a black persons word, a white persons word – the range of those affected is vast. This site also allows the opportunity to comment and respond in a constructive way and hopefully to create a change. If you noticed, most people have voiced their experiences and concerns in a thoughtful manner with care and integrity.

    “You are exactly doing what you blame others doing. You are trying to build a cult out of haterd. Anybody writing on the blog must hate AOL and RS. If anyone writes against you then you call them hypnotised , zombie etc etc.

    You have build your self defence by closing your eyes and ears”

    The first point, the reason I have come here, to post my views and experiences is that not only can I do so, but I can also see and hear others experiences. What is happening if you observe with dispassion (!) is that there is no real constructive responses to these postings by pro AOL’ers. There is just an accusation that we are egoistic and bitter. In fact, I would suggest that maybe you have built your self defence by closing your eyes and ears. You think that I harbour hatred for AOL and SSRS. No, I do not harbour hatred, I am trying to make a positive change. If by raising my voice and speaking of my experience, at the very least, a dispute resolution process is set up within AOL then I think I have utilised my experiences in a responsible manner. Can you really hear or see what I am saying without judgment and a preconceived notion that I hate AOL and SSRS.

    @ Yoga
    “One thing is common among all anti-AOL posters. All of them were too involved in the organization, saw the dirty side of it which some are true and some are just their perceptions. Some are made up too. Many posters here were ex-teachers or very active ex-volunteers or if I may call as blind followers. Now these guys are at the other extreme. No organization is perfect including AOL”
    I beg to differ. I hold a full time job, have family responsibilities, have other activities, including part time study and going to the gym (you suggested physical exercise) and also had some involvement in the local AOL chapter. In fact, I didn’t have as much involvement as the die hard AOL’ers. I like to maintain a sense of balance in my life and make sure that I am effective in all the things I have committed to do. Even the minimal involvement I had was enough to see what was going on and highlighted some of the inefficiencies and issues. Again please bear in mind, that in the local AOL chapter, they decided to take their propaganda on a large scale (name, shame accusation campaign – locally, regionally, overseas and to the Ashram and SSRS himself). Many “fans and followers opted out of the AOL chapter soon after, and peace was made for a while, to allow the basic course teacher to rebuild the base again, but as soon as the die harder’s got their teachers badges, they were back to their old tricks and again created such an intolerable situation that the basic course teacher, left, as did many other basic course teachers.

    • Anonymous permalink
      October 13, 2010 3:55 pm

      Thank you for your excellent comments.

  16. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    October 13, 2010 12:34 am

    I grew up in India, and my personal values and thinking is quite similar to sanatan dharma – and I can say with confidence that very little of what goes on in AOL is in line with Indian values. They have twisted our values, using it wrongly to meet personal ends.

    Guru is indeed revered in India – but reverence has to come naturally – it is not forced. Also a person has to prove himself before he can take the title of a guru – and even afterwords his conduct has to be shrotriya (in line with scriptures) and brahmanishta (in tune with the brahman). He has to be a man of impeccable character and integrity, and have sound ethics.

    Mahesh yogi was never endorsed by Indian saints because of dodgy ethics. His chela RS, is following in the footsteps of his master – and claiming that he is following tradition, when his master violated it’s basic tenets – especially in the area of ethics.

    Chandrasekhara saraswati, a very revered saint – once remarked that one recognizes a false guru as easily as one recognizes a bad apple. Truth does not need any marketing – what is stated in these blogs is self evident to anyone who has been in AOL. People are dissonant about it as they have been programmed to ignore doubts – not because these words don’t ring true.

    • Karan permalink
      October 13, 2010 4:41 pm

      “I can say with confidence that very little of what goes on in AOL is in line with Indian values.”
      As an Indian and Hindu, I agree completely. A lot of what goes in AOL is in line with several network marketing firms like amway, herbal life and landmark forum.

  17. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    October 13, 2010 2:15 am

    “It seems very obvious that what is happening is that AOL is attempting, unsuccessfully to apply the India model straight into another country without much thought as to the consequences to its reputation and to its “fans and followers” – hence most of the issues”

    @freeagain:

    What you say above is actually a small part of the problem. The real issues with AOL are not cultural misunderstanding. The real issues are lies, deception and fraud. All other issues are peripheral.

    In India, people may be more comfortable with AOL meditation techniques and practices because of their Hindu background. However I don’t think anyone here is questioning AOL meditation techniques or yoga or pranayama practices. Personally I find that apart from SK (for which we don’t yet have enough objective data and which in the long run may prove to be better or worse, we don’t know), rest of their techniques are fine. No issues with them. As a Hindu I may be more comfortable with bhajans than non Hindus. That is also fine. Though, here also I think that non- Hindus should be told before hand that these bhajans are in the praise of Hindu deities. Why put a facade of non sectarian organization to trap unsuspecting victims ?

    The real issue is deception. They don’t just tell their potential customer that they have a good meditation cum yoga package that will cost so much. If they disclose their business intentions upfront they won’t command the high premium they charge. Rather they spin elaborate lies about non existent or volunteeer supported charities being funded by course fees while all the money goes to B’lore and practically nothing comes back. Many pro- AOLers ask what is wrong if AOL wants to sell their techniques and earn some profit. My answer is -nothing wrong in that. Only thing is that in that case they should accept that they are doing a business and should not claim tax exemption. By hiding their business intentions, they are not just able to deceive the tax authorities but are able to attract a much larger customer base at a much higher price.

    Any token charity that AOL takes in hand lasts only till the cameraman is there. After that it is left entirely to the volunteers with absolutely no support from AOL kitty. Ever. Every activity, every event supported by AOL has just one theme – get more recruits, get more money. If there is money in selling meditation, AOL will do it. If there is money in selling Yoga, AOL will do it. If there is money in selling Ayurveda, AOL will do it. If there is money in selling books, CDs, toothpastes, soaps or shampoos, AOL will do it. if there is money in selling chandi puja or navratri or homam or sankalpam or whatever, AOL will do it. Money. Money and more Money. SSRS and his coterie have become blind in their mad rush for money. Today the only aim of AOL is self aggrandizement. Nothing else.

    AOL targets people who are culturally unsure of themselves, so cultural misunderstandings are bound to happen. Even in India, their target is urbanized Indians who are cut from their traditional roots. Their reach among non-English speaking Indians is practically NIL. NRIs are esp. lucrative segment. They are rich and eager to explore their roots in their home culture. And westerners who are either fed up with their own culture or are spiritually experimental and are looking for answers in eastern spirituality. In a way, whether in India or abroad, AOL targets people who have weak links to their own culture and sells them a promise of alternative spirituality. So, cultural issues are definitely there but they are only at the fringe of the problem.

  18. Relieved permalink
    October 13, 2010 3:38 am

    Freeagain I honour you for telling your story and for presenting everything you have to say in a succinct way. Your story has once again opened the last part of my AoL journey that has stayed with me and has caused me shame.

    I too was at the 21 day TTC, although as I had done TTC 1 at the ashram I did not have to attend the first few days. This one was held in a 5 star hotel in Bali and we were often told it was the 5 star TTC. My reservations grew whilst there, things did not seem right to me on many levels. I have to say that my time was easy, I was never in the hot seat but found it hard to bear witness to it and at times it almost felt voyeuristic. We were sleep deprived, the evenings finished late and the mornings started early but I can honestly say it was not as intense as the ashram schedule.

    My real discomfort came with the Buddha process – which entails going into the streets to beg. We were told to wear our dirtiest oldest clothes, not to brush hair and to look as scruffy as possible. We were all given a letter to keep with us at all times in case we were caught by the police as begging is illegal in Bali. Those of us of western descent were told we should not beg and they wanted us to promise we would do this in our home cities, I made no such promise. Instead of begging we were told we had to go out and earn food and drink by offering to work for the locals. I started off with a friend and in the first place the lady wanted to cook us breakfast and we had to then shun her hospitality as she was about to cook us eggs that we were not supposed to have. We then split up, the only places to ask was in shops or hotels for work. One place I went to was a tailer’s shop and I was asking to sweep the floor in exchange for some water, the lady was not able to understand me so when an american customer came in who spoke the local dialect I asked her to translate, which she did and got an answer from the shop keeper that still shames me. She told me that I was asking the impossible of her as I was ‘high caste’ and she could not ask me to work like that. I felt such a fraud, I was going back to the nice hotel, to as much food and water as I wanted. At that point I felt I could do no more and went for a walk and ended up working with room service cleaning rooms.

    Those that had been our begging all came back with money that was handed over and I have no idea where it went to, although I think it was staying in Bali and I hope was given to a charity. The Balinese are kind generous people and gave freely to my classmates, including new clothes and food and showed great concern to those seemingly reduced to beggar status in their country. They are not a rich nation and income is largely from tourism that of course was reduced after the Bali bomb. We were told that it reduced karma to take from those who had less than us and not to worry about it.

    It is with relief that I tell this story that has haunted me and I am so grateful that this site provides the means to do that. It has certainly been a healing place for me as I have made my way back to being the fun loving, creative person that I lost along the way. I too thought that AoL was my calling, in many ways I am grateful to have gone through the experience and come out the other side with having learned so much and with my dignity and integrity intact.

  19. freeagaiin permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:22 am

    Dear Skywalker

    Could you please pass my email details on to Relieved.

    @Relieved, keep going, have no regrets cos the best is yet to come!

  20. freeagaiin permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:27 am

    @Abhilash Shastry
    I agree with you regarding the deception, however rather than focussing on what has been rehashed over and over again, i thought it might be good to spell out some possible solutions – in the hope that we could effect some change. Maybe by having the transparency, the adherance to local country laws, basic human rights legislation application, the organisation will bind itself in such a way that deception is not possible. Idealistic i agree, but maybe another angle might get people thinking.

  21. Funlover permalink
    October 13, 2010 5:30 am

    This is for Freethinker

    Liar Liar Pants on Fire .
    What a beautiful rhyme .
    Sorry to know your pant is burnt .Hope the delicate body parts are safe .
    Subsequent to fire ,if you have difficulty in sitting then please stand it will improve your health ( little risk of Vericose veins if continues long)
    Have fun guys .Laugh at the joke .As I said this blog is cartoon movie for adults .

    • Anonymous permalink
      October 14, 2010 8:25 am

      Please mature up. Do you have any answers to the authentic questions and concerns posted here? Ignoring them, and then throwing in childish stuff like this is a shame to AOL.

  22. harshal permalink
    October 13, 2010 6:44 am

    Thanks funlover! You summed up this blog very well…cartoon movie for adults!

    Why are they calling ex-mumbaikar cheat? He must have used that ID just to let everyone know that he was from mumbai, but you are so blinded and hateful towards AOL, that you cant take a word against shashtry, who from the day one sounds so ignorant and foolish. How many of you post from the same IP with different usernames? And if your intentions were right why would you even stalk people by checking their IP? Why are you posting profiles and FB links when you are so concerned about your own identity? Such hypocrisy!

    @zhoro: never heard of shell and ocean analogy, may be it was just you who invented that while teaching your own course….

    @yoga: these are people who were either too involved or either progressed through the org very quickly..like becoming teachers in a year or two…

  23. Observer permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:13 am

    Yeah!! Let us all join hands with Harshal, Funlover and co…. let us ignore the substance of what is being shared and call each other names. Let us fling random accusations and dismiss everything as ‘kutharka’. JGD Web Seva Warriors!!
    (*sarcasm*)

  24. Janakiraman permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:55 pm

    This blog is a much needed and I would have loved to see this come much earlier. Better late than never. To all the AOL lackeys a knowledge insight from Glenn Beck:
    Remember, beneath every cynic there lies a romantic, and probably an injured one.

  25. Anonymous permalink
    October 13, 2010 5:00 pm

    @harshal, Funlover

    “Cartoon movie for adults!”

    Yes, for adults but not for Sri Sri who says he is still a child and has not grown up.

    That is why this ‘Cartoon movie’ is a torture for him as he has lost millions of dollars.
    He is unable to end this movie despite all his powers.

  26. fire permalink
    October 13, 2010 6:12 pm

    They see him as God, the creator of the universe or cosmic avatar (God incarnate). The number of devotees would have been greater, had he not erected a well-guarded compound to keep the hungry poverty-stricken masses out. If it is true that God “helps those who help themselves” then who helps the helpless? Naturally not these idiot of gurus. Why would God want to fence himself in to avoid the poor? It is very simple he is not God, which is difficult for the gullible to recognize.

  27. Sincere Seeker permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:25 pm

    @freeagaiin – very well written, should be shared with AoLers. I wish this would be shared openly on Facebook, etc., anonymously somehow.

    Dalai Lama is a good example. He is Buddhist and has a huge fan following. He doesn’t hide Buddhism behind the garb of being secular. He is not different in public and private. See how his org is run in US. There are many spiritual Indian saints and gurus, who are authentic, a lot of them in US, Europe and elsewhere. A LOT of people who are in AoL just don’t know about alternatives.

    I agree completely that AoL has not grown outside India so much because SSRS is such a traditional, conservative Tamil Brahmin and hails from a family who is such. It is run as a typical Tamil family business. Even amongst Indians I have seen SSRS favor Tamil brahmins, so much for One World Family and all his preachings.

    I too have experienced the cut throat politics and the very anti-spiritual characters of AoL teachers. It’s laughable what a hypocrisy it is. The whole culture of AoL comes from the top down. SSRS has created it in his image. People competing with each other to get ahead. I have heard all of them say, ‘you should feel honored/previleged that you are on this path, this knowledge, to become a teacher, to be able to donate to the org., to do seva, …’ An attitude of arrogance from SSRS and all seniors in AoL.

    Would be good to see how other spiritual orgs. of good standing run their orgs in US and other countries.

    • John permalink
      October 13, 2010 11:52 pm

      Can you share names of indian spiritual gurus in US who you consider authentic.

      • Sincere Seeker permalink
        October 14, 2010 12:11 am

        Different orgs. are available in different cities and depends what you are looking for. I like Chinmaya Mission, Rama Krishna Mission, these have been around for a long time and that I have experience with. I look for signs of how commercial they are. These places are not and there is no feverishness. Yogananda’s SRF (Kriya Yoga) is also in several places in US. If you are looking for Yoga, there is Ashtanga Yoga, Yoga Bharati, and several others.
        Since I am not enlightened myself I can’t tell which Guru is enlightened and who is not. It is however a very rare. I have found immense gratification in finding other spiritual masters whom I can interact with and who are not necessarily famous but are authentic and true.

      • wassup permalink
        October 14, 2010 3:43 am

        I actually went in and looked at the chinmaya mission and ramakrishna. It gave me the creeps. It was the same words again, and the same feel. Silver Jubilee, courses for downtrodden woman etc. I have even heard one of ravi ravis gays in white say the maximum good for maximum people(the ramakrishna motto). And at ramakrishnas website I even recognised the picture, it is the swan and the setting sun(the old aol logo). But wait a minute Ramakrishna is from 1897. And then I realized Ravi Ravi maybe just copied it all from these organisations. After all a friend of mine have been to the so called social works of aol and ravi ravis farther farther, and it was an embaressment for some one who at that point believed. So maybe the rotten, false sense one have after some time in aol, is the fact that it all is a bad and illfaihted coppy of hindu organisation.

        So I start thinking, maybe not all hindu organisations is rotten like aol. Maybe there is hindu organisations with integrity. I feel that would be very healing for me personally, so I will go and check it out.

    • Abhilash Shastry permalink
      October 14, 2010 2:03 am

      “Dalai Lama is a good example. He is Buddhist and has a huge fan following. He doesn’t hide Buddhism behind the garb of being secular.”

      Ironically, Dalai Lama was SSRS’s inspiration behind the feverish NPP lobbying program launched by him. Dalai doesn’t hide his Buddhism because he is not out there to sell you anything. You go to him only if you are interested in Buddhism.

      SSRS cannot take such risks. He has a business to look after. Operating under the garb of SECULAR, NON-SECTARIAN organization is so cool, so politically correct. Moreover being an advanced degree holder in physics (at the age of 17), he cannot afford to be seen dabbling in such superstitious beliefs as Hinduism. So, all his techniques are rational and scientific and proven in laboratory (in advanced physics lab naturally) and his organization is SECULAR and NON SECTARIAN.

      “Different orgs. are available in different cities and depends what you are looking for. I like Chinmaya Mission, Rama Krishna Mission, these have been around for a long time and that I have experience with.”

      Yes. But they are openly Hindu. They attract only those westerners who are interested in Hinduism. That is very narrow market segment. You cannot build a successful business out of such a narrow base.

      And don’t forget that an openly religious character of the organization puts off lot of rich, educated and NRI Hindus also who like to believe that being more successful they are a cut above the superstitious beliefs of un/semi-educated Hindus living in villages and moffussil towns. They also need a facade of ‘non-sectarian’ ‘rational’ spirituality to admit their roots.

      Both these segments are the cash cows of AOL. SSRS cannot afford to alienate them.

  28. Albert permalink
    October 14, 2010 3:01 pm

    Dear all,

    Ravi Shankar has cognized sudarshan kriya in following way (this is out of his mouth): “As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandma. During the night I was watching my old grandma, I was observing her breathing during her sleep. There were some patterns …“

    Now, if he used the patterns of old lady’s breathing during the sleep as rhythms for SK, that is deathly dangerous. Why? Because, from medical literature it is known that during early morning hours, morning heavy breathing effect (read: hyperventilation, overbreathing) is cause of death in the sickest.

    What SK is, can be easily proven by making brain scan before and after SK. After hyperventilation there is reduced oxygenation of the brain, reduced blood flow.

    Majority of people believe that a deep or heavy breathing pattern provides more oxygen for body. It is totaly wrong because overbreathing reduces oxygenation of the human body (and all vital organs – read: brain). There is no scientific evidence, a medical study, medical doctor or physiologist who has proven or shown that a overbreathing (like sudarshan kriya) improves body oxygenation or is good for people.

    Role of CO2 is most important in maintaining human health and it is not waste gas. Capability to hold breath longer in effortless manner is sign of good health.
    Yogic breathing technics (pranayamas) are meant to achive this. But for every person there should be totaly individual approach because every person has different starting capacity.

    Ravi S. has no real yogic knowledge, and it is obvious for people who know a little bit more about yoga and physiology.

    “Pranayama is the cessation of inspiratory and expiratory movements.” – The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

    “Breath-control exercise may be classified into two main groups: long-slow type and short-quick type. Breath suspension forms the most important part of long-slow type.”- S. S. Goswami in “Hatha Yoga”

    What Ravi S. is doing is totaly opposite to real yogic tradition and knowledge. His invention, sudarshan kriya, is in real yoga nonexistent long-quick type of breathing and it is dangerous for human health.

  29. Dr. Yogiji permalink
    October 14, 2010 4:29 pm

    Hyperventilation is used in specific pranyamas in yoga, but only for a limited time and wih enough caution. Hyperventilation can also be used to create alkalinity in blood, which is many a times required to get balance.
    That said sudarshan kriya is a highly amateurish technique without much insight into how the prana and human body works. This kind of long term hyperventilation is very bad and you can find many many aol senior practitioners who are all quite sick and unhealthy. The folks who are healthy like kishanji are people who do not practice kriya. The pure diet and disciple is what has kept many of the sk practioners out of harm. SK in short is a harmful technique of hyperventilation.

    And those who believe all that tingling and numb sensations are some prana flowing in the body or is due to Guru’s grace. This is the medically observed effects of hyperventilation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperventilation

    “Hyperventilation can, but does not necessarily always cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, chest pain, slurred speech, nervous laughter, and sometimes fainting, particularly when accompanied by the Valsalva maneuver.”

    How many of you experienced or witnessed these symptoms during SK, raise your hands.

  30. 2bit permalink
    October 14, 2010 5:44 pm

    >> Kriya = hyperventilation, and it is bad for you.
    If that was the case, no one should report benefits of the technique, even people here who are critical of AOL (e.g. Doctor, goneagain etc) report its value as technique…seems like oversimplification to me perhaps driven by your obvious enthusiasm to belittle AOL? Is it possible that Kriya *merely* appears like hyperventilation to some researchers, who might be using broad strokes of few indicators to paint the whole picture?

    >>True Yoga
    Yoga is too vast and alive entity to be described in few quotes. Nor it was “invented” by one person at one point of time, and nor it is to be followed like a dogmatic text. Various sages infused their insights and techniques from time to time. And if Kriya is unlike any older technique in its entirety, that would rather may make it more in line with true spirit of Yoga….It might be something truly alive instead of dogmatic deadwood mirepresentation of Yoga.

  31. ex-cultie permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:47 am

    As someone else commented earlier on the process of kriya, I shared some concerns with an old friend of mine who has been a yoga practitioner, researcher, advocate and part time teacher for nearly 50 years. He tells me he’s only come across the fast cycle type of SK breathing a few times, and that was to address some very specific temporary condition in the body. He’s never seen this fast breathing practiced daily, as its long term effects when practiced daily have never been studied in detail, and that the impact on the body is quite immediate and rapid.

    He advised me to do the 20-40-40 very gently and with very shallow breaths, not to try breathing too deeply or force it, and if possible, avoid the fast cycle completely.

    This goes against the teaching in the basic course and the follow up sessions where most people do the 20-40-40 with great vigor and intensity, literally kicking up a storm.

    I remember asking one of the basic course teachers about this many years ago. She pointed to kapalbhati and agnisara pranayam, saying that the medium and fast cycles were very similar. This struck me as very shallow, since the process for kapalbhati and agnisara are completely different from the 20-40-40 in SK. There is no breathing at all during the repetitions in agnisara. Kapalbhati focuses more on the stomach movements, the breath itself is secondary.

    I wonder how AOL considers these teachers qualified to teach yoga and pranayama when their basic knowledge of this field does not go beyond what they are taught in AOL TTC courses, which is precious little about yoga itself and more about the different processes, marketing, hot seat and all that other stuff.

  32. anon1 permalink
    October 16, 2010 1:14 pm

    whistleblower “That is his holiness nature. He enjoys and quite often incites these kind of dirty plays and backstabbing and vicious attacks and he is always on the side of the winners, who are of course the ones who are the most dirty and vicious in their attacks, with no trace of spirituality”

    goodness me, you’ve managed to describe my ex guru down to a T!

  33. anonymous permalink
    April 15, 2011 7:34 pm

    This post really says it well.

  34. Wanderer.. permalink
    April 30, 2012 6:46 pm

    your expirences are same as mine, i am also fucked up but dont know what to do…. waiting life to take a good turned…

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