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From A Confused and Sincere AoL Teacher

November 3, 2010

A number of comments have been made recently by “Original Anon – Sincere Confused Seeker” which I really feel deserve a post of their own, as OA-SCS has raised many good questions and by the sounds of things can really use some good advice from those of us who are able to give it.

Originally posted: https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/sorry-uma/#comment-3382

@Blog Owner & Top Contributors…. Hi all.. reading this blog does give me an alternative perspective and many a times gives me comfort too…

Off late even while being in Art of Living I suddenly noticed that I do not really like anyone out here.. neither do I like the Swamis/Rishis/ Most of the teachers / Volunteers/Singers etc etc… with Guruji its like a love hate thing… In my 9 years I never felt any belonging to any of the teachers

Honestly right now I am facing a barrier in the path of Yoga and in life… and worst of all I cannot trust any of the one’s in AoL to talk to….

Sometimes I feel that this blog goes too much into mud slinging and reacting both against and for AoL.

This blog takes away a spiritual support even if it is fake… and leaves one empty…. Now I neither can organize AoL courses because I feel I may be doing something morally wrong nor am I able to fully detach myself from AoL as the practices do feel meditative and beneficial… Honestly suddenly I have noticed an aversion to Sri Sri’s growing popularity and power which was always there but I never expressed it because I thought it was my negative tendency… It could still be jealosy.. I dunno .. even now I suddenly feel a surge of love towards Guruji.. even now when I read Sri Sri as I know Him .. tears well up in my eyes… If AoL does indeed is fake it will be a big relief for me.. because that self blame for not enough registrations to the courses and not being able to organize big courses will go… One often feels bad about oneself because one is not able to organize big courses.. people who organize big courses are considered superior and glorified more than people who are unable to do so…

Do big courses and the ability to enroll participants help oneself in one’s growth?

Anand Rajendran and Mahesh giri can often energize the crowd?….

My request to the blog owners and to the key contributors is let this blog while it takes away spiritual support also provide guidance to alternate spiritual dimensions and paths (genuine one’s) so that one doesn’t be so empty.. Just because AoL is fake(if it really is fake) doesn’t mean that all paths are fake…. Spirituality, Meditation, Prayer, Vedic Rituals still hold value and power…..

Some of you don’t feel the need to be on a spiritual path… but some of us do feel the need to meditate and be on a path.. be in the company of seekers(genuine ones) …. And do need answers…..

Honestly as of now I need some opinions on Yogada Satsang Society of India, I feel it is pretty genuine.. I want somebody’s opinion on the practice of Kriya Yoga.. how is it…

Even after 9 years of practice of Sudarshan Kriya and Sahaj … I feel like a loser and have very little control over my senses.. There is very little increase in will power.. Is it because of the practices or is there some problem in me… I find heavy breathing can actually imbalance the Vata and also the Pitta…

Is the experience of other teachers also or is it only my experience….

Are there any practices in YSS that can help the mind go inward and not hanker for outward things…

Are there any other seekers that have abandoned ship on AoL and have gone elsewhere?

I don’t want to abandon my search for Self Realization… And also need to get rid of the conflict in the mind

Originally posted: https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/952/#comment-3017

How do you know I have ignored it?Are you some enlightened soul. I have been reading this blog thrice a day for the last 4 months and I do acknowledge the issues raised in the Prosecutor post.. I do agree that something is indeed grey somewhere… but I do feel the truth lies somewhere between the fanatical aol devotees and over cynical anti devotees… I do have my respects for SW, PW, Prosecutor, Doc, Doreen, Sincere Seeker and the other balanced posts on this blog.. We have to hit the truth… And we have to search for it together… This will happen when we post our true experiences(good or bad) .. only then can we really judge….. Some of the posts that I liked were “The Prosecutor”, A letter of concern, life after leaving aol, many moreetc but some posts are overly cynical like reverse-sucking of energy by the Guru, comparing AoL to friday night parties/drug addiction, calling aol a cult etc …. Many comments are very over cynical.. yes the aol devotees also respond in no dignified manner… But probably they don’t have info abt what is going on…

Frankly speaking I haven’t seen violence in Art of Living… at least no extreme physical violence … yes though I have seen sexual gestures/molesters being ignored… I have seen ppl sleeping around become adv course teachers….. but there is no underworld type of violence.. There is touching, no talk about controlling the senses, etc.. divorces because of aol n all… but still its not as bad as Osho.. who totally disregards the concepts of families… It is not violent enough to be a cult..

AoL did bring about a discipline in my life.. It brought about a regularity in my practices… Seva did increase my confidence, clarity and sense of commitment.. yes I did mess up my career a bit, I feel it was because of my own mistakes rather than Art of Living or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar….. the issue out here is that many people out there do need spiritual practices … there are people who are stressed and there are people who need yogic practices… Art of Living is the one of the few organizations who reaches out to them.. The benefit I feel Sudarshan Kriya gives is it enables people to close their eyes and meditate.. it helps people who cannot sit still and are totally new to meditation..the mind is restless.. okay so the Guru says you count your breath…. Many people have been transformed for the better .. yes on the other hand I have seen people who have been in the organization for quite some time behave like brain dead zombies too … and they don’t seem enlightened either…

What I wonder is why do we feel good when we do Seva?
When I first was asked to distribute pamphlets after my first advance course, I was very shy, but some nice lady asked me to speak out to people while distributing pamphlets ..I did.. Though I personally could not enroll anyone … but the entire two three days of distributing pamphlets was very blissful, it really opened something up in me.. my confidence improved so much…

But somewhere I also feel betrayed and cheated.. I do not like Narsimhan… I do not like his nephews.. BhanuDi is fine .. but seems a bit dumb… I do not like few of the Swamis and Rishis (the others I dont know very well) ….. Some senior teachers one does tend to like.. but when they come into their I-am-superior-to-you behavior then they do piss me off.. there are people you like at first but when they behave in their over fanatic manner they piss you off… but you still like them .. you hate their behavior … that irritates you… but you still like them.. one wonders is something wrong with me.. does my devotion lack somewhere….. I hate people doing ooooooooooooo…Guruuuuuuuuujiiiiiiiiiii,…. thats fine… they dont stop at that.. even senior teachers …… oooooooooooo … (B&D/Swamijiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii/Rishiiiji/Atikadiiiiiii/SJ/MG/AR…etc etc ) …………………… Honestly I hate it…. And thats why I love this blog.. coz I thought there was some problem in me… some ego problem which did not make me like the over fanatical devotion to Guruji….

But still the truth is that I did feel intense love for Guruji after my first advance course.. the truth is that a drop or two of tears do well up in my eyes when seeing Guruji after a long time…. all the charges in the prosecutor seem logical… but why does one feel this love?

But then again I do feel that somewhere I have benefited and somewhere I have suffered too…. Though the suffering can be attributed to my own short comings too…

Question in my mind is .. is it possible Maharishi was a genuine descendant of Swami Bhramanand Saraswati? And Sri Sri is actually carrying out the tradition of Swami Bhramanand Saraswati(Jyotirmath) …. One thing I remember is that Swami Bhramanand Saraswati used to say that one should never copy or behave like your Guru. . but what happens in Art of Living is quite opposite of that… people seem to just grow long beard and hair and copy Sri Sri Ravi Shankar… But our judgement cannot be based on zombie-devotees…

The truth is the knowledge sheets also were quite helpful in developing a clear understanding.. but then again the zombie like devotion to knowledge sheets can be harmful(open the page and it will be the one you require- which i have observed may not always be true). This zombie-devotion can send somebody in the wrong direction….

The truth is I am not able to accept the superiority of the I-am-superior-than-you type of teachers.. but is this my ego? what is this? This does create in me a desire to defeat these teachers in organizing courses….. The truth is I do not like these Swamis/Rishis and the truth is that I do want to defeat them in their game… that’s the reason I do want to still organize courses and beat them in their numbers game… there is no other reason why I want to organize courses just want to quit this organization as a winner.. not as a loser….

The truth is one does enjoy organizing the courses…. knowledge sheet did help… My relationships with parents did improve after going through the Yes!+ course.. Family life has improved over the period of years… Though they are still waiting for me to settle down( I am a full time teacher btw… ) and I am also waiting for the same…

Yes in between I felt deserted by Guruji and the Art of Living, I do think that Guruji does not care personally for you as many people think he does, but I do feel that for “humanity-as-a-whole” he does care.. I do feel he is concerned about the growing Maoist situation in the country .. he is concerned about reviving the lost Vedic traditions… he does seem concerned about war in Iraq, civilians being killed in Sri Lanka…. yes he may not be concerned about my career and my goals in life and my relationships (And I do feel cheated for that .. because I thought he did care for that too, or probably he does care and I cant see it.. …probably I need to take responsibility for my career and not leave it up to anyone else.. It seems an uphill task from here though to get my career back on track.. but I still feel its more because of my shortcomings than anything to do with AoL)

But again somewhere I feel some many comments are wrong.. for example somebody commented once that he never asks women with rich husband to separate because he has his eyes on their money .. I personally know one lady whom he did ask to separate and her husband was filthy rich .. rich to the heights of being in Forbes Magazine… I have heard that he turned down donations from Vijay Mallaya for the ashram which he said will be built by the people so that they can feel belongingness to the ashram.. I have heard that he has turned down huge donations and lovingly accepted small hundred rupee donations with his own hands …

Yes I have gone through the Buddha process and unlike others in my group who felt Guruji’s grace etc.. I was just waiting for the process to get over.. though I did feel more strong.. but Guruji’s grace no… I saw people getting beaten up .. I saw people(participants) getting arrested.. I saw people getting mobbed…. But the truth is that I did benefit…. I felt stronger…

Honestly in my 9 years of Art of Living I may not have really experienced something called Guru Grace.. but the truth is I sincerely felt Guru’s Love.

I am at a junction here in my life.. where I feel I may say goodbye to AoL and hop on to some other path(probably SRF or YSS i dunno).. or I may continue here.. I honestly don’t know… waiting for the clouds to clear and the truth to shine through… I am looking around for jobs too.. I am feeling a little disappointed more with myself than anybody else.. and yes I am also hoping that somewhere something will shine through.. somewhere somebody will correct him/her self… maybe me maybe art of living….. somewhere I hope something shall go right…

My only appeal is that let our criticism be the truth… not opinions but the truth… our true experiences … that will be of real help.. otherwise such blogs can really be a waste of time and can also mess up people as bad as any cult can do… This also applies to the random comments that keep popping up here and there…

Would like to sign off by saying that this blog did help clear some clouds…. though some over cynical posts do irritate you… as much as zombie-devotees

See also: https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/952/#comment-3063

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38 Comments
  1. belle permalink
    November 3, 2010 5:15 pm

    soz i cant help him/her i’m probabaly even more confused then him/her.
    all i do is give my opinion, thats all.

  2. belle permalink
    November 3, 2010 5:17 pm

    oh yes, i need advice myself!

  3. belle permalink
    November 3, 2010 5:32 pm

    actually, its not advice, but if he/she is becoming distressed over critical blogs, i suggest dont read them. dont come here out of curiosity, but only come here when you feel you need them.

    if you are happy with your sadhana and guru, then why come here?
    if and when you are not satisfied with your path, then seek out critical info on it.

    the purpose of these blogs is not to cause distress to anyone.

    if you are sincere, and it does come across as you are and this guru works for you, continue to do so.

    • Original Anon- Sincere Confused Seeker permalink
      November 5, 2010 4:57 am

      Its “he” 🙂

  4. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    November 3, 2010 6:37 pm

    I would say the opposite – it is okay to go through a little bit of distress – One should not be too sensitive to criticism.

    While the purpose of this blog is not to cause distress, one does realize that this truth hurts and hurts bad for people in AOL – there is no way to sugar coat it in a way that it seems palatable.

    All I can say is that it is bitter medicine – and better in the long run. One has to let go of knowledge that one has been fed, and find true knowledge inside one’s heart. Yoga Vashistha, Bhakti Sutras, Ashtavakra Gita and Bhagvad Gita are excellent scriptures to read – read it on your own instead of listening to commentaries. You’ll see there is a lot more depth and richness in the original.

  5. Think permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:26 pm

    @Bradley production is up and running:

    My sincere advise…

    Leave AOL full time. Find a job and start earning a living. Stop depending on AOL for your livelihood. Follow your heart. Consciousness takes its own time to evolve. Don’t force it. Follow your heart and your inclinations. Live happily and spontaneously.

    You will eventually metamorphize. A caterpillar takes time to become a butterfly. No amount of trying will help it directly. But indirectly it all works out. Be positive, be happy and live a fulfilling life.

    There is no right way. Right is what works for you. Be true to your values. Be happy and you will radiate happiness for people around you.

    Good luck my friend. Life is a puzzle. Solve it with fun, one piece at a time. Don’t get frustrated and confused by it. Have faith. Eventually it all will work out.

  6. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    November 4, 2010 5:35 am

    @OA-SCS:

    Having gone through the similar experience myself, I can fully empathize with OA-SCS. The first time you recognize the true nature of the organization that was the center of your universe for all those years, you feel used and cheated and in a spiritual vacuum. The biggest loss you feel is the loss of friends. During all those years in the AOL, your earlier friends have moved. Now all the friends you have are in AOL. And you realize that despite all those knowledge points of unconditional acceptance and love, the friendship of AOL friends does not come unconditionally. It is conditional upon unconditionally accepting SSRS as your master.

    You realize that all along, you have been living in a cocoon while the life outside has continued at its pace. The world outside looks like a strange place. Picking up the threads of your life is esp. painful if you have come to AOL immediately after college. But for your involvement in the cult, these years would have been the most productive years of your life. While your classmates have climbed social and professional ladders, you haven’t acquired any real world skill apart from marketing AOL and a half baked knowledge of yoga and spirituality.

    Besides, the realization that you could be cheated and used for so long is a big jolt to your self esteem.

    I have gone through all these stages and suffered the spiritual vacuum that comes after leaving AOL. In my confusion I window shopped for many spiritual organizations. Many (but not all) were plagued by the same problems as AOL. I realized that many of these so called spiritual organizations were not really that different from worldly organizations. One good thing that came out of my association with AOL was that I was in a much better position to discriminate the good from the bad. In hindsight, I can say that spiritual window shopping during such an emotionally vulnerable phase is not really a good idea, though it worked for me.

    Fortunately, I had avoided my temptation to become a full time teacher and had held my job steady. I am sure, had I been in your position with no real job, I would have been lost. It may sound depressing to you, but in my opinion there aren’t any easy answers for you. Unless you are financially independent, it will be difficult for you to take an independent view. My suggestion would be to start exploring the out side opportunity for a real world job however small it may appear. Start earning at least enough for your own needs. Till that time there is no harm in continuing your full time teacher status. Do not feel guilty about this. AOL is not doing any favour by offering you as a full time teacher basic boarding/ lodging and subsistence level stipend (if you are getting one). You have given the best years of your life in the service of a greedy and megalomaniac man and his unscrupulous family. You deserve at least this much from them.

    Also talk to other full time teachers. Many of them (who are not from rich families) are undergoing the same dilemma.

    • Sincere Seeker permalink
      November 4, 2010 11:08 pm

      Very well described! and amazing that so many people have the same experience!

  7. rajnish permalink
    November 4, 2010 6:22 am

    Who are Atika and Mahesh giri?

  8. e=mc2 permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:29 am

    I left AoL a few years ago. Ravi Shankar, his teachers, his volunteers and his teachigs all were superficial for me. I had started reading Chinmayananda, listened to Osho’s Ashtavakra and enrolled into YSS/SRF getting their tutorials mailed to me. I could not help but compare. As my questions were not being answered by RS but by books. And RS and his advanced course/ senior teachers looked down on that. Ravi Shankar’s knowledge and logic was way too infantile. Ramana, Osho, Chimayananda spoke intelligently about Advaita. YSS/SRF and even Muktananda’s books gave better insight into the kundalini process. The Sivananda school gave clearer instructions on Yoga. I could not talk to the senior AoL teachers- as their philosophy was simple, i.e- surrender to Guruji. My small mind was coming in the way etc,etc. Ravi Shankar would evade questions that needed clearer answers to a genuine spiritualist. I somehow could not believe that he was the Universe, that everything started and ended with him. The more the evasion the louder my doubts became, the worse my confusion got. Seeing RS hankering for the NPP / need to be with celebraties made him look like an ordinary mortal. And being around people who would do anything to get noticed by him did not help. I continued teaching, clinging to the logic that I was relating to the “guru tattva”, that I had to look beyond his physical form. I was only creating more confusion for myself. And as a result of this state of mind, my health began to suffer. I am guilty of also having a couple of illicit romances, with RS’s knowledge. I would tell myself, that as my Guru, if I was doing wrong, he would correct me ( I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in his kutir, or travel with him or get to talk with him on the phone) . And I believed,( quite unlike the popular belief, that he conveys his message insubtle ways, like not acknowledging you or other such gestures) that communication with him will be in a language I understand, rather than decoding cryptic gestures and actions. For , if I was capable of decoding then why need a Guru? Why not decode message from life, from Nature? The whole purpose of a physical Guru was to receive guidance on the spiritual path, in a crystal clear language. Of course, I did not expect answers to mundane issues. But here, my actions were causing distress to my family, the beau’s family, to my partner and to me. Lot’s of lives were involved, therefore, this issue was not mundane, was my opinion.
    Finally, being totally disillusioned, I quit. And I had NO IDEA how or where I should start reinventing myself. Being so let down by Guru ( Guru being equal to God, as stressed by all the other orgs/ cults as also by AoL) where 10 years of time and emotion had been invested, was distressing. Typically, I tried to find answers by being initiated into other pracitises like Kriya yoga and various other new age techinquies. It did not help. The people I met were as arrogant as closed minded as AoL. A practitoner of YSS/SRF mentioned that the Auto of Yogi had been doctored and editited so not entirely authentic. So, what should I trust, where should I go? The swami who initiated me into kriya Yoga ( may his soul rest in peace) adviced someting quite common sensical, in human form everybody had limitations. Not to idolize any Guru, because they too were imperfect. Continue to connect with ” myself” as that is where perfection lay. And 5 years down the line, I say that there could be nothing truer than that.
    I discovered Astrology. Spent time over it. It was more my spiritual tool than something used for prediction. It has shown to me those aspects of my personality that need refinement, reasons of my rebirth, progress in my spiritual evolution, reasons for various events in my life, next life, the kind of ” sadhana” most appropriate for me, my sanchit and prarabdh karma. Those areas where I can apply my free will versus those areas where I cannot. I feel satisfied. Of course, this path will not be for everyone, as it’s not one size fits all.
    I have defined in my head God – whom to me , apart from being all benevolent and loving is a more a Principle. I am not looking for a kundalini journey, for that, a qualified teacer is a must, and it’s next to impossibe to get one today. IMO this concept of “guru” and it’s glorification is put forth my those with vested interests ( I’ll get brickbats for that), no matter which saint/ sage from whichever era. If God and Guru together stood in front of me, I will first pay my respect to God. I participate in life now- that’s my prayer. I am not looking for earth shattering visions or revelations. This has given me security and equanimity. My day to day living is my rational thinking, I trust that, and that’s ” God’s guidance”. I live by those basic human values, no matter how hard, that strenghtens my character. Even on the days I feel disconnected with “God” I just know it exists.
    Getting out of the clutches of dependency is really hard. Cults do not help in any way. And yes, one more thing, I have refrained from revealing my identity because of the sheer embarrasment of wrong acts, from the bottom of my heart, with total sincerity, I ask forgivness from the famalies I hurt. From God. I do not have the guts to do this in person. This is admittance of my weakness.
    Thank you for listening.

    • Sincere Seeker permalink
      November 4, 2010 11:24 pm

      Very sincere sharing. You know my life has been very similar to yours in AoL and afterwards. Almost ditto, as if it was me who was writing.
      I am still exploring various saints like Chinmaya etc.

      I have had the good fortune to have come across some very spiritual in my family. Like a older relative who is like a saint and extremely knowledgable yet an ordinary person. We have Satsang with him every Sunday and it is so fulfilling to have spiritual discourse with him and that I can ask him any question and get answers on hinduism. (Other spiritual answers I get within my own meditation and contemplation, they come to me as soon as I ask the question.) And another family Guru who is so knowledgable and humble, listening to his discourse on Bhagwatam was an eye opener – I realized so many people have so much knowledge, not just Sri Sri as I used to think. In AoL most people don’t realize that.

      Just want to tell you not to blame yourself, go past it and move on. Remember behind it there was only love – even though expressed incorrectly. Doesn’t matter. Some of it is Karma.

      Let me know about the astrology. I am curious to know.
      I got my Nadi (tape) and it is coming true, amazingly.

      All the best!

    • Original Anon- Sincere Confused Seeker permalink
      November 5, 2010 4:56 am

      Move on e=mc2 …. everybody makes mistakes in life… forgive your self and carry on with life…. I think you are already doing that…

      Btw called YSS yesterday and got a very rude reply from the receptionist .. i guess all organizations are the same..

      I have decided to adopt a simple self analysis strategy… list out my strengths, list out my weaknesses.. work to strengthen my strengths and weed out my weaknesses, i guess it cannot be more simple than that… meanwhile continue with the practices and meditate on my own.. do good work professionally and also socially while not being part of any organization…. attend temple gatherings in the evening … and lead a simple life and enjoy it….

      Happy Diwali to all….

      And thank you once again for all your concern….

      Regards….

      • anonymous permalink
        November 5, 2010 1:15 pm

        @OA-SCS:

        When I left AOL, many years ago, seeing the direction SSRS and the organization were heading in, I was very upset, confused and hurt. RS’s ugly behaviors towards me in person (anger, shouting, threats) and then lies told about me afterwards, just devastated me. I had to simply hold on to my core belief that God is all that matters, and pursue God in any way I could see fit. Obviously that would be different for everyone. I resisted the temptation to reject all spiritual paths out of hand just because of one “bad apple” (Ravi Shankar). Visiting many saints and temples, I found solace and stayed on my path of Love of God and Search for Truth. I will never give up. Don’t let your doubts about AOL and SSRS stop you from pursuing spiritual life/paths. But do it with your eyes wide open! AOL is crooked. Ravi Shankar is a fallen yogi, with lots and lots of personal problems that few know about. Just look anywhere else, but again, with eyes wide open.

        Pray always for God’s guidance, and you can’t go wrong. That very prayer is what directed me out of AOL and away from RS.

        Good Luck in your pursuit of Truth.

      • Sincere Seeker permalink
        November 5, 2010 3:00 pm

        @Anonymous : “Ravi Shankar is a fallen yogi, with lots and lots of personal problems that few know about.”
        What are the personal problems that few know about?

  9. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    November 4, 2010 1:42 pm

    “I am at a junction here in my life.. where I feel I may say goodbye to AoL and hop on to some other path(probably SRF or YSS i dunno).. or I may continue here.”

    You know there is no such thing as a path. School is good for few years, but after few years of education, one has to live life….and Live life for it’s own sake – not for the other world. This is a wake up call – we all had begun to think that to succeed in AOL was to succeed in life, but that’s not it. Every college graduate is afraid of stepping into the real world, but in a few years he is it’s citizen. So is stepping out of AOL.

    Final thing – the impulse to stay away from rat race, but have a passion for public service was a good one. I hope we can all continue that in our own way and make the world better.

    • BrightFaith permalink
      November 4, 2010 8:57 pm

      @Peaceful Warrior:
      I like the idea of there not being a path. Thanks!

  10. belle permalink
    November 4, 2010 2:55 pm

    @ well Original Anon – Sincere Confused, if there ever was good advice, i believe you’ve just got it imho, take heed to the wise words here and be well.

  11. BrightFaith permalink
    November 4, 2010 8:52 pm

    I have certainly been a sincere confused seeker! Very nice post from the heart.
    I too wanted to find a new practice after getting out of my first cult and later out of AoL.

    “some posts are overly cynical like reverse-sucking of energy by the Guru, comparing AoL to friday night parties/drug addiction, calling aol a cult etc”
    I felt the same way about calling certain groups cults, that it was too harsh and cynical. It’s a word which brings up a lot of bad feelings for many people.
    It wasn’t until 10 years after getting away from a fallen guru that I really accepted the idea of calling a spiritual group a cult.
    And that was a great healing moment.
    It helped me to understand what had happened to me. It reminds me of saying “My name is….and I’m an alcoholic”. It’s a good feeling to recognize something for what it is and to be willing to admit it openly.
    There is a lot of literature and support out there for this.

    After leaving Xcult, I studied with different yoga teachers and never fully trusted any of them. Maybe i was jaded, I don’t know. It was a very confusing time. There were many questions like ‘do I need a teacher at all?’ ‘Who is a good teacher”? ‘Should I give this up altogether’? ‘How will I ever learn yoga on my own?’ etc…Years after studying with a few teachers, I looked back and recognized them as good-hearted people who do not run cults. I left them behind out of distrust, but now I have a deep respect for them.

    It started to become clear to me what it means to be a good teacher. It’s not about being perfect because teachers are human too, but it is about integrity, kindness, and humbleness. These teachers do not require a lot of money and a following or full surrender to guru. They encourage students to find their way through practice and to always question and find their own answers, not just get answers to questions from the teacher. They require one to find faith inside, which can be difficult at times. It’s much easier to simply run to a teacher for refuge and wisdom and take them for their word.

    Recognizing a cult for what it is, is half the battle in understanding all this. It’s a first step, even if it’s shaky, into self-trust and spiritual maturity (if there is such a thing!). I can spot cults and teachers who are faking it fairly quickly, like I did in AoL. It is through personal practice of meditation over time, that I have come to be able to trust my own heart without surrendering totally to anyone. I can still greatly respect certain teachers without thinking they will save me by their grace alone. It’s almost as though to be able to really understand the wisdom of great teachers, we actually have to trust in ourselves first. Looking back, I see my time in cults as like being a toddler. Eventually, I learned to stand on my own two feet.

    There is a story about teacher Sylvia Boorstein. A student was very upset about learning that the Buddha would not allow women to become monks at one time. She very angrily asked Sylvia about this and wanted to know how she could ever trust the Buddha’s teachings. Sylvia’s answer was something like: ‘Well, maybe the Buddha was right about suffering but wrong about that’. Teachers can be wrong, so we need to think for ourselves.

    There is no real advice to give someone about who to study with or what to do. It’s like just a daily question for everyone, even those firmly grounded in themselves, trying different things, but ultimately, coming back over and over again to self-observation without judgment. All anyone can do is live in the question.

  12. nirmal permalink
    November 5, 2010 10:50 am

    try RAM KRISHNA MISSION you wl be satisfied

  13. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    November 5, 2010 1:28 pm

    “Btw called YSS yesterday and got a very rude reply from the receptionist .. i guess all organizations are the same..”

    Whatever you are seeking for lies inside – not outside. Joining a spiritual organization is not a solution to one’s woes. Indeed, a little bit of guidance is needed initially to learn how to delve deep – My sincere suggestion would be stick to a practice that works for you. Sahaj samadhi is not a bad technique, since you already have it – stick to it….or choose one that works for you amongst countless (I would not recommend kriya though).

    Don’t make the mistake of seeking your happiness in an organization – it can only be found within.

    • Original Anon - Sincere Confused Seeker permalink
      November 6, 2010 8:01 am

      Yes Sahaj does work for me, even Padmasadhana, the 3 stage pranayaams, work for me. Bhastrika, Kapalbhaati and Agnisaar work for me seasonally but sometimes creates a lot of heat in the body as I am a pure Pitta prakriti. Suryanamaskaars always work for me. So do I have a lot of techniques in my kitty :). Hatha Yoga also always works for me. I can go deep too in meditation, I don’t have any problems in meditations as such. I usually stay happy and cheerful too. Kriya also works for me, though sometimes there is a lot of dryness in the body due to all this heavy breathing. Sometimes i do feel some heaviness after Kriya. … but that could be because of not drinking enough water. Sometimes I feel great after Kriya too.

      My major conflict is about .. should the Art of Living course be taught or should it not be taught…. As professionally as of now I am a full time Art of Living Teacher… One does feel nice and pure when one is teaching the course. Only I do not want my participants to mess up their lives by getting too much into this and I in no way want to provide fodder to the sexual desires and egos of some people in art of living, esp singers and rishis and other senior teachers…

      I truly desire the people to benefit from practices and bring about a benficial change in the lifestyle… to get rid of addictions etc in their lives.

      • Prairie Princess permalink
        November 6, 2010 2:04 pm

        Sahaj is meditation. Meditation works for most people as does yoga and breathwork. AoL is unnecessary for these practices to “work”. The real questions for you and each of us is does the organization and all of its abuses work for anyone? Is this organization in integrity with the highest good of each of us and the world? Does one’s being part of AoL support and condone financial extraction for unknown causes and/or abuse of others?If you answer “no” to the first 2 questions and “yes” to the last question, the organization does not work for you, no matter what the “techniques” do, especially since the techniques are not unique to AoL. Google any of them and seem what you find. For sahaj google mantra meditation.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        November 6, 2010 4:11 pm

        “My major conflict is about .. should the Art of Living course be taught or should it not be taught.”

        In art of living, the good comes with the bad. You cannot have one without the other.
        You are just replacing one addiction with another. The addiction of a cult is much worse than the addiction to substances. People get out of substance addiction when they become mature – but getting out of a cult is more difficult.

        Maybe, you can spread dharma and love in your own way in ways other than teaching. Teaching is easy – living dharma and bringing about real change in the world is tough. Don’t expect it to be easy like teaching AOL course.

      • anonymous permalink
        November 6, 2010 9:10 pm

        If you teach for AOL you are contributing to the ruination of young lives at some point. Think about it.

  14. Manju permalink
    November 5, 2010 3:59 pm

    I went to Ramana ashram and had a very peaceful time there. Paths, sadhanas are alls tools to self-realization.

    Ramana says” if you cannot ask ‘Who am I’ then simply surrender. You surrender to me then I will withdraw your mind to place it at its Source.”

    If you read books by Ramana Maharshi’s devotees, you will realize that Ramana too was human with his own behavioural facets. Even Lord Krishna showed human behavior in several instances.

    We cannot judge Gurus- they are here for a Higher purpose. If we cling to them without taking the message and moving on in our quest for the Truth (knowledge of Self?) then that’s our choice…

  15. belle permalink
    November 5, 2010 4:42 pm

    @manju

    what naive twaddle! sure we cannot judge gurus but they have to be gurus in the first place. theres nothing stopping anyone in judging fake fraudsters.

  16. belle permalink
    November 5, 2010 5:58 pm

    @manju

    lets not take the arguement in a circular motion.
    people here are recovering from cults, they are not here to argue over religions/god in general. that’s a question best left alone.

    how gods/gurus behave(d) etc etc is not going to help anyone here.

    people here have made valid points here, and atleast they need to be acknowledged for it, not dismissed as if their experiences dont matter because it says so in so and so book/god/religion.

    • Manju permalink
      November 8, 2010 4:59 am

      Not dismissing- after all I too have had my share of doldrums in AOL and finally called it a day. I am simply trying to see it from a non-mind viewpoint.

  17. Original Anon SCS permalink
    November 7, 2010 2:28 pm

    @All …. Hi everyone .. today was sitting and contemplating.. … was browsing the sites for Kriya Yoga, applying for jobs.. I realized one thing that the love I feel from Guruji is very strong… I realized one thing that Guruji does love us… There is Love in His actions.. I may cease to be a full time Art of Living Teacher.. but it has become difficult for me to now love any body else as a Guru… I can forego enlightenment but cannot forego my love for Guruji….

    With due respects to all on this site… I do agree there is crap in AoL but not as much as in the world outside.. suddenly I do feel that all the crap is to make us strongly established in the self.. There is definitely Love in my life, in abundance.. And good things have been happening over a period of time being in Art of Living

    How suddenly this realization came, will tell you.

    I was searching for an article by Sri Sri Paramhansa Yogananda on How to direct your yogic energy to achieve your material goals…when I came accross this article and exactly this passage…which shocked me back onto the realization that all the money making by Guruji maybe partially my fault(or maybe the fault of the attitude of people, and I may be responsible for the same.

    I came across a site called cyber ashram(www.kriyayoga.com) where one is offered initiation into Kriya Yoga, and all the techniques all teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda are given free of charge at any donation which one may want to give.

    This was the particular page the Google led me to…
    http://www.kriyayoga.com/english/on_your_wings/goals.htm

    This is a nice page…

    And this was the passage which suddenly brought a lot of clarity …. those reading i’ll suggest you read the full article…

    Cut and pasted below….

    if YOU want to make God happy – then support those who make God happy, support those who contribute to your happiness and to the happiness and overall wellbeing of ALL.

    many of you have a physical guru somewhere on this planet, in Europe, USA or India or any other place on this planet – are you sure to truly support him proportional to his spiritual support for YOU ?

    I am VERY sure most of YOU do NOT ! if i look at most of the present gurus on this planet i see them either conducting a very simple life, with little or no food, with no bed, no real physical home on earth at all and no or extremely little comfort at all – that’s the life and LOVE YOU give them proportional to YOUR love for YOUR guru

    or

    i see them involved in money making to support themselves instead of focusing in supporting you with his spiritual services on a physical level or on spiritual level by divinely and lovingly guiding YOU from within – with divine bliss and love from God. it is YOUR missing or insufficient direct support of YOUR guru that causes him to waste a valuable part of his resources to support his own physical body and family instead being able to fully focus on supporting YOU for YOUR very own benefit. HE has to waste a part of his valuable spiritual resources AND that wasted part may be missing in YOUR personal spiritual progress by the end of YOUR present incarnation.

    he – YOUR guru – will return home to God by the end of THIS last incarnation and he has no reason to EVER return back to this planet. HE has given as much as YOU supported him to give.

    YOUR failure to to ALL you ever could have done in THIS very incarnation – THESE very days and hours – this your failure to do ALL is YOUR sole responsibility for eternity. never expect YOUR guru to come one last time because you may feel too lazy to do ALL at once – HERE and NOW. in these modern times ALL important spiritual teaching with PRECISE INSTRUCTIONS for your successful path of love home to God is published in a clear ORIGINAL that will survive all coming centuries and millennium. ONE precise teaching is enough for ALL.

    you can click here for the full article . .. its a nice read…
    http://www.kriyayoga.com/english/on_your_wings/goals.htm

    • anonymous permalink
      November 8, 2010 10:34 pm

      Original Anon SCS: It seems bizarre for me to hear this, that you feel love coming from Ravi Shankar! I once believed the same thing, though, and found out that the love was coming from my own heart. I loved him very very much. He took advantage of that fact. And when his threats and abuse happened, it was terribly shocking to me! Evidently that has not happened to you. But it doesn’t mean that the abusive person I knew is not the same man you think love is coming from. The love is from your own heart. You are giving him credit for something that is not his. He really is a selfish, nasty little man who is terrified of being exposed. He made that very clear to me and many others who left AOL. He can’t love anyone anymore. He is a pathological liar, cheat and fraud. He will make up any horrible story about anyone he wants to protect himself. I have witnessed this first hand, many times. His lies and his paranoia are much of why I left, and why others left as well.

      Again, the love you are feeling is from your own heart and from God, not from him. Don’t delude yourself.

      • Observer permalink
        November 9, 2010 4:19 pm

        Yes, typical narcissistic personality with manipulative charisma. Cult leaders are like that only. Nothing new here. But people keep falling for it, every time. Sad.

    • Abhilash Shastry permalink
      November 9, 2010 12:09 pm

      @OA-SCS:

      The feeling you are going through is not uncommon.

      If you are a Hindu like me, you probably share the strong aversion against being a guru drohi. Our shaastra-s denounce a guru drohi in no uncertain terms.

      However, before feeling guilty of being a guru drohi, you have to ask yourself whether this person was really a guru or a cheat. A guru has the best interests of his disciple at his heart. In case of SSRS, he has the best interests of his organization and family at heart. Disciples are expendable. His organization must grow at any cost. Spiritual growth of his disciples is only incidental. His heart lies in name, fame and money for himself.

      Please introspect if what you are feeling is love or just plain guilt. If your action is out of love, then fine. If it is out of guilt of betraying your guru, then you have to know a false guru from a real guru. In Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas tells of a false guru as “bechahi ved, dharma duhi lehin” (False gurus have no qualms about selling Vedic knowledge and milking spirituality for their benefit). See if this description fits SSRS.

      In my case, even after recognizing the true face of SSRS, I felt beholden to him for quite some time due to my samskara-s against being a guru drohi. It took me a long time to realize that SSRS was not a guru at all. He was only pretending to be one. It was not I who was betraying SSRS. It was he who had been betraying my trust all along.

      Guru droha is a strong word. Surely, opening ones eyes cannot be a crime.

  18. belle permalink
    November 8, 2010 2:21 pm

    @Original Anon SCS

    i see you’ve made your mind up in following your guru, good, thats your choice.

    as for the portion of the article you have posted, in which there is blaming the devotee for the guru’s failure, dear scs, in life noone is responsible for our actions but ourselves, including the guru.

    i think the excuses given, and no offence, are a cop out.
    if a guru had to depend on his/her student to get through life, he’s not a guru. he has to rely on the divine and if he does, all his wants and needs are suffiently met.

  19. goneagain permalink
    November 10, 2010 2:26 am

    http://abcnews.go.com/WN/atheist-ministers-leading-faithful/story?id=12004359

    Read this story and I reliased many in AOL is similar to that, even though many understand the path once they thought wasn’t what it supposed to be but still trapped not able to get out.

  20. OASCS permalink
    November 10, 2010 7:41 am

    @Abhilash… Yes I am a Hindu.. but am not feeling any guilt as such.., just conflict… Love for him is there … but yet I am not ready to take the crap of AoL along with him…

    So as of now I let the love for him be . and figure out a way to keep the crap from AoL from my mind…

    I agree .. a lot of introspection is needed .. till then will be holding on to the positive things like the practices, knowledge sheets, here … and being alert to resist any crap that is there out here…. will be extra careful giving any money here in any form… courses or donations… etc..

    So in short I’ll let the love for the Guru be there in my heart .. and at the same time may reduce & or finish all the crap AoL activities.

    Coz I do see many of the senior ashramites behave like cult leaders especially the Admin head and some swamis etc… And they do demand cult like observance to their words….

    Lot of introspection is indeed needed.. but atleast i’ll let the love and the practices be there till then..

    • Independent Observer permalink
      November 15, 2010 5:51 am

      Guys the AOL propaganda machine is at work again….The below was on e-satsang today

      From: Harshal Jadhav
      Date: Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 9:48 AM
      Subject: Do Watch : The Art of Living: Beginnings Video – too goood!!

      Jaigurudev Dear Ones,

      Here is a quick view about the Art of Living Organisation: How it all started; how it has grown over the years; how one man has inspired millions around the world to bring about a positive transformation in the society and to spread the message of peace,love and happiness

      watch it on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfeYcZZB4x8

      or on

      http://www.youtube.com/artoflivingtv

      1973 (Age 17) graduated from St Josephs college BSc Physics, so should have finished 11th std in 1970 (Age 14), Hence should have been in Class 1 at the age of 3 in 1959, Hence would have been reciting his Bhagavad Gita in his 2nd standard in School at age 4.

      What he did between 1973-77 is left untold !!!!

      This documentary is missing the advanced degree in Vedic Sciences !!!….Wonder if they offered this at St Joseph’s.

      Wonder whether any of his St Joseph’s classmates are with him now ? After all 3 years together with God can be an unbelievable experience.

  21. belle permalink
    November 20, 2010 5:44 pm

    @ i o:
    “Guys the AOL propaganda machine is at work again….”

    the cult propaganda never stops my friend, by the way they go about things its almost as if theyll save the world anytime soon…

    though look again, nothing is happening but self aggrandisement…

    odd!

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