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What IS Spiritual Abuse?

November 27, 2010

So, what exactly do I mean by Spiritual Abuse? Let’s back up a step and set up some definitions.

Spirituality:

Values, intention, and action that create an intimate connection with something larger than yourself, sufficiently intense to suffuse your selfhood—inspiring feelings of awe, wonder, worship, and service.

I believe this definition is specific enough to account for most religiously inspired concepts of spirituality—while broad enough to encompass the secular spirituality of scientists, humanists, atheists, social activists, and more. (Please feel free to help me tweak it in the comments below.)

I’ll never forget a wonderful afternoon spent with an agnostic astronomer who spoke of the awe and fulfillment he felt in the presence of the desert night sky—with the same passion and radiant glow on his face as an ascetic saint in a devotional painting.

So, to my way of thinking, any form of religion, spiritual practice, 12-Step meeting, mysticism, talking with God, compassion for our fellow humans, worshiping ancestors, love for one’s family, appreciating Art, Science, or Nature, and so many more may all be spiritual paths worthy of respect.

Spiritual Abuse:

Spiritual abuse occurs when a group or leader manipulates members by appealing to Unquestioned Goods larger than the self to achieve the group’s ends, whether leaders invoke God, Buddha, Enlightenment, Going Clear, the Bible, the Vedas, the Constitution, psychological health, the American Way, Success, or some other external, unchallengeable principle.

Looked at from the other end of the telescope: Any organization, family group, or individual  that causes members’ suffering in order to fulfill the leader’s needs for power, money, adulation, or personal gratification1 commits spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse flourishes between member and toxic group when one experiences involuntary pain and dysfunction due to high-intensity demands on one’s time, energy, money, and/or emotional resources to fulfill the group’s dictates.

Spiritual Trauma:

Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a traumatic event.”

So saith the Circular Sages on Wikipedia.

Psychological trauma may create long-lasting, maiming emotional states and destructive behaviors. It comes after a threat or series of threats to your life, body, or mind that trigger life-or-death panic or terror long after the event itself.

What would “Spiritual Trauma” be?

Bewildering damage to your sense of self, meaning, purpose, and connection to loved ones, the world, or a Higher Power—sufficiently severe to compel pain and dysfunction.2

Too vague? Some examples:

  • An Eastern meditation group claims to raise members to enlightenment through breathing exercises, meditation, and most important of all, devotion to the guru.It touts itself as the world’s largest NGO charity, but has built no hospitals, donated no money to the homeless, in fact, used donations to simply grow their own membership—and support the “guru” in a lavish lifestyle.Meanwhile, insiders report being emotionally blackmailed to perform seva, or service to the guru, by herding in new members, especially rich, wealthy, attractive, or talented ones.I have worked with women insiders from this organization, Art of Living, who reported their guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, personally requested they entice prime recruits by having sex with them or even marrying them.3

    Shankar reportedly claims to be Jesus, Krishna, God. It’s hard for me to believe either Jesus OR Krishna encouraged prostitution to further a world movement.

  • A quasi-Christian group in New England promised salvation through faith in its leader, who claimed to be God on Earth. News reports and former members allege that Brother Julius had multiple wives, slept with any female member he fancied, and turned a blind eye toward molestation of group children.
  • But some spiritual abuse is less extreme—and happens in mainline churches.Like my client’s nondenominational church that demanded more and more involvement in nearly daily church activities—until his family dissolved in divorce.Or another client’s Protestant congregation that purged all members who didn’t agree with the new pastor’s rigid fundamentalism, shunning them as disloyal, sinful, ungodly.Or a Bible “youth camp” that trains teenagers for the approaching Holy War against unbelievers.
  • Or the global scandal of clergy abuse rocking the Catholic and other faiths.

Defining Spiritual Abuse, for me, is not about the beliefs of a group. To an outsider most religions—or even the Elks—are incomprehensible.

Nor is it about intention—most of these groups have lofty, if unattainable goals.

It’s about manipulation, fraud, deceit, and devastating damage—what groups or leaders do or members experience—not doctrine.

Whether intentional or not, spiritual abuse is the long con—practiced by leaders claiming to be Women or Men of God—if not God Him-, Her-, or Itself.

J.

Notes:

  1. Such as sex, drugs, or lavish lifestyle.
  2. Victor Frankl‘s logotherapy has influenced some of my thinking.
  3. I am not aware of media or other documentation for these reports. I have worked with 12 former AoL members over approximately 10 years, all but two considering themselves insiders. Four women reported that Ravi Shankar personally requested they begin relationships with males useful to the Art of Living movement; one male recruit’s wealthy and influential family believed he was the target of this manipulation. All reports reported similar behaviors.

Cross-posted on FacebookHubPages.com, and Beyond Art of Living

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83 Comments
  1. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    November 28, 2010 2:23 am

    @John:

    “I have worked with women insiders from this organization, Art of Living, who report they were commanded by their guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to entice prime recruits by having sex with them or even marrying them.”

    Though it is not relevant for the topic we are discussing, even I -as an ex AOLer – find the above information difficult to believe. SSRS has generally tried to stay away from any scandal that may have sexual implications. He has emphasized this in his insider meetings also that one whiff of sexual scandal and his Hindu devotee base would vanish.

  2. OASCS permalink
    November 28, 2010 12:17 pm

    @ John….. I too agree wid Abhishek John.. AoL does not seem that scandalous in this department… there may be a few promiscuous ppl.. but overall the character of AoL is fine…

    They may be guilty of merciless marketing.. but sexual misconduct to this extent is difficult to believe …

    • November 28, 2010 2:05 pm

      Hi, Abilash & OASCS,

      Forgive me. I’m just learning names and histories on this blog. I do not remember what level either of you were in the organization.

      I’ve worked with roughly a dozen former AoLers, all but two from within the inner circle, starting roughly 10 years ago.

      As in all the reports of groups other than my own, I was not there—so I cannot for certainty verify the reports of the people I’ve worked with.

      But I’ve heard enough reports of Ravi’s own questionable sexual conduct and his requests of insider women to entice wealthy, attractive, and talented males through marriage, relationships, or straight sex that I’m fairly convinced this is “policy.”

      I have been thinking of writing some “case histories” from the people I’ve worked with—naturally heavily anonymized to maintain confidentiality—that readers may find helpful.

      I appreciate you directly challenging my point. I hope you will continue to do so.

      In fact, I want to thank you for this favor. It’s the only way I know to actually advance our knowledge and understanding—actually discussing the ins and outs without rancor.

      I’m slightly editing the article above to reflect the point that this is reported behavior, not certain fact.

      And I’ll try to post a brief article today or tomorrow with summaries of reports I’ve received about sexual misconduct. Maybe through discussion, together we can find reasonable conclusions to draw.

      J.

      • Doreen permalink
        November 28, 2010 2:38 pm

        John,
        I very much value your contribution here and am very glad that you’re on board with this discussion.

        I also appreciate your attitude and openness, and would like to further pursue a few things you stated in your post:

        – AOL “claims to raise members to enlightenment” – is this true? Is it an active claim made by the organization? It is true that there was a rumor started by SSRS 10 years ago about 7 people getting enlightened. It was published in one of the weekly Knowledge Sheets. Have other claims been made?
        – AOL “touts itself as the world’s largest NGO charity” – is this true? Or have they only touted themselves as the world’s largest volunteer-run NGO?
        – AOL has “used donations to… support the guru in a lavish lifestyle” – is this true? What do you consider to be the lavish aspects of SSRS’s lifestyle? How much money per year would you estimate goes towards SSRS’s lifestyle?

      • The Doctor permalink
        November 28, 2010 3:11 pm

        @Doreen,

        – AOL “touts itself as the world’s largest NGO charity” – is this true? Or have they only touted themselves as the world’s largest volunteer-run NGO?

        The following came directly from Rishi Nityapraga during the first few minutes of the first talk I ever saw him give: “In just 27 years, Art of Living has grown to become the largest NGO in the world.” When I later mentioned this in a smaller group, I was told that in actual fact that we [AoL] aren’t actually allowed to say that and should be careful what we say as the “truth” is that we [AoL] are actually the fastest growing NGO in the world. I have no way of verifying either of these statements, however when someone as high up in Art of living as Rishi Nityapragya makes such a claim, then to answer your question, yes it is true.

      • anonymous permalink
        November 28, 2010 3:41 pm

        I’ve replied elsewhere, not having seen this post. I have to say that unless he changed his modus operandi drastically in the years following my exit, he would not have asked women to get wealthy men to join by offering sexual favors. It’s just not like him at all. He has his own problems in that area, that just was never one of them (asking people to prostitute themselves for him in that particular way). Many young and pretty women were there who could/would have been asked, and none were at that time, at least. The problem was if you wanted to be with someone, you got punished for it, unless it was first approved by him as a “blessed” relationship. There was no obvious criteria in these “blessed” unions. Mostly, they were people who were not as involved getting together (not full time teachers), or the okaying of full timers breaking up and going with someone outside of marriage because the spouse didn’t like AOL very much, and the new partner did. It was never about luring wealth into the organization. Again, I find this accusation difficult to believe. Ravi Shankar is, in my opinion, a monster. Just not that type of monster.

        If completely untrue accusations begin to be posted here, the entire blog will lose it’s usefulness — to expose RS and AOL for what they are, and to help new people not to get involved.

        I’ve never seen a post of a woman claiming she was asked to do this on Klim’s blog or this one, but I have not read the entirety of either, as it’s grown so large. If there is such a post, please refer us to it.

        As you say, you don’t know Ravi Shankar.

      • November 28, 2010 4:36 pm

        @Doreen,

        Your points are well taken. Some of my language was sloppy without my realizing it.

        • Re enlightenment: This may be my sloppy language. This goal is reported by former members I’ve talked with. To be honest, I didn’t realize this wasn’t evident on the face of it. It’s not uncommon for groups like AoL to have one set of language used for the public and another for insiders. This may be the case here. But I’d rather be accurate about goals published by the organization—and report insiders’ views separately and labeled as such. The terms “realization,” “salvation,” “ecstasy of Divine Love,” “union with the Divine,” and other terms many would understand as synonyms for “enlightenment” are on official AoL websites. What is your understanding of the organization’s documented goals for individuals? I’ve read vague statements about “upliftment” of the individual. Something drives the passion and devotion of more deeply involved members for the lengthy practices and courses. Former members speak of twin drives to attain personal realization and global peace. Help me out. I’ll revise the language of the article with a little more feedback.
        • Re charitable: Sloppy language, as I’ve not read AoL’s incorporating mission statement—original or current. It is the term former members have used. The World Bank defines NGO’s as “private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development.” Aside from the legalities, in common speech these might be called charitable goals. The term “social benefit organization” has been suggested by some authorities as more accurate than NGO. Would that work for you?
        • I have no idea what AoL spends per year on Ravi. The man is no monk. Personal attendants, fine lodgings, whatever foods he desires, unlimited international travel budget, all material wants met, private chefs, many people would think of these as “lavish.” If you have other language you believe is more accurate, I’ll edit the article.

          J.

          P.S Thanks, Doctor, for your clarifying note.

      • November 28, 2010 4:45 pm

        Anonymous,

        I’m not sure what to say. In my own movement, allegations of sexual misconduct didn’t even begin to surface for 40 years. Similar things happen in other toxic groups.

        This certainly doesn’t surprise me. There is a good deal of lingering and understandable loyalty to the guru, personal shame, and fear of public stigma around such events. It is rare that a courageous woman—such as Judith Borques in the TM movement—will give public, attributed accounts.

        These are not my accusations. These are reports of people I’ve worked with, as I labeled them in the post. As I heard them from separate, credible insiders, I tend to think of them as true.

        I could add more clarification to the note I’ve already added. I’m hesitant to retract the reports, so l0ng as they’re clearly labeled as such.

        J.

  3. anonymous permalink
    November 28, 2010 3:33 pm

    @John

    Having been very close to Ravi Shankar, knowing his many faults, and disgusting behaviors, I also find this claim to be unbelieveable. For all the terrible things he asked me and others to do, having sex with someone or marrying them to get them involved is not among those things. In fact, RS had a real aversion about sex, and punished many of us who wished to have relationships, if he didn’t approve of them. Once, he ranted and raved (on tape, which he later ordered erased) about having “sex and sex and sex, like pigs or dogs….” He seemed to have gone quite nutty about it that time. Yet he had his own hidden agenda, which he denied until caught/exposed, and then persecuted any and all who knew about it, or were involved in it.

    So these reports you are making seem 3rd hand and not part of his ‘thing’.

    May I inquire why someone who doesn’t even know RS is now posting whole articles about him and AOL? It seems odd to me, although you sound as if you want to be helpful. Are you here as a professional counsellor? An interested bystander? A pro who helped people exit and want to help others to do so? The blog appears to have become dominated by your comments and replies to them. Just asking.

    • November 28, 2010 5:22 pm

      Hi, another Anonymous,

      They are first-hand reports of people stating they were personally involved. My posting them would indeed make them 2nd hand. That’s not uncommon among cult-watch groups. If it’s not useful or policy here, I’ll certainly not report them in future.

      I take your feedback seriously and would value some input from Skywalker, Doctor, or other contributors here. I have tried to contact Skywalker a couple of times in the last weeks, but haven’t heard from him.

      I’m a professional who has helped former AoLers in their healing from the trauma they experience. I became a professional after 10 years working as an activist in the broader cult abuse area and listening to literally thousands of first-hand accounts of abuse and trauma.

      I just want the pain to stop. For all of us. Professional credentials and training are just a means to that end.

      I’ve chosen not to help individuals exit AoL or any other toxic group. That sort of decision should be the individual’s alone without any form of coercion, I believe. In 1998, I participated once in an “exit counseling” at the request of a well-known figure in the anti-cult movement. I was uncomfortable with the implicit and explicit pressure put on the member by family and “authorities.”

      I’ve never been involved with exiting processes again.

      I’m not posting articles about Ravi or AoL. I’ve written two general articles about healing from spiritual or cultic trauma—which is what Skywalker felt would be helpful. The second one contained what I thought was a minor mention of reports of abuse I’ve received about Ravi. I certainly didn’t foresee them dominating our discussion.

      Skywalker and another person involved with BAoL asked me to post articles here because of my experience specifically with treating former AoLers, almost all insiders.

      And, of course, I am an interested bystander—moved to tears and action—by experiences very similar to my own. I would have given anything to have this sort of help available during my own rough recovery. It’s not what everyone wants or needs, but I’m passionate about offering it to those who do want it.

      I’d really like to hear from Skywalker or the other individual who invited me here. But I see that some find value in the posts, while others are questioning that. Since I am sincere about wanting to offer value, whether I hear from Skywalker or not, I’d certainly stop posting if enough people thought that was best.

      I do not want to dominate BAoL! I just don’t have the chops. I mean to offer a small additional focus to an already very active, influential, and powerful blog.

      At one time the posts here were more frequent. I would have been one among a number of voices. Right at this moment, contributors are fairly quiet, so my two minor contributions stand out a bit.

      I’m not sure if you were the second person to raise this question or if it was raised twice by the same person. I’m weighing your words carefully, however. If others feel similarly, naturally, I will withdraw.

      J.

      • Anonymous permalink
        November 28, 2010 5:39 pm

        PLEASE STAY! 🙂

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        November 29, 2010 2:43 am

        @John:

        Your posts are very valuable. They brought a lot of clarity to my understanding of AOL. I contested a few details in the post because they did not match my experience. However, the basic thrust of the post fully resonates with my experience. Besides, it clarifies many things that I could not have thought of myself. So, please stay.

        As far as the argument that “how someone who has not been a member of AOL can write about it?” is not correct in my opinion. As they say I may not have laid an egg but I know about the omelet better than a hen.

      • OASCS permalink
        November 29, 2010 5:21 am

        @John….. If you have reports that are true .. then please report it on this blog…. Truth however bitter must be faced….

        I was thinking about ur statement after I posted a comment on your post yesterday….

        There are two such instances which I would like to state….
        – One is of a girl I know who dedicated her prime to AoL and Sri Sri… probably last when I spoke to her she was still happy about it… She was “Blessed” by Sri Sri few months ago to marry a high flying DSN teacher… I don’t know whether she loves him or not.. I don’t know whether he loves her or not… But what I do know that she is a full timer.. she is a smart, dynamic young lady (not so young by age now but surely very beautiful and cheerful)… Her two sisters and mother are also fully involved in this movement since more than a decade….

        – A high run generating batsman for Team Sri Sri … who was once a head of another ashram.. who gave up the life of a sanyaasi to be a teacher for Sri Sri … Was recently engaged to be married to a beautiful young girl who probably has just passed out of college .. or probably was still in college… This high flying teacher must be touching 40 as far as I know .. or probably mid 30s….
        The latest news was that the marriage was called of by Sri Sri.. the girl was a daughter of some rich devotees from Gujarat…

        There is nothing fishy about the above two instances above.. but probably there are more such instances which might be more

        The first case I personally know the girl.. and she is a zombie devotee … a zombie teacher actually on the face.. deep inside .. I feel that she is kind of accepted her fate…. I am not in touch with her now.. but I sincerely pray that the groom Sri Sri has chosen for her is of her liking…

      • Thanks for leaving me permalink
        November 29, 2010 5:27 am

        @John
        I request you to stay on and keep posting. I think last three posts all by you have been wonderful. Regarding sexual allegation of SSRS, it is very difficult for most person to believe as such things have not been said so far in any of the posts except one post at KLIM’s blog(that too of a different type). These posts have been very very critical and harsh of SSRS, so if such a thing would have happened it would have come to the notice of many.

        However, I do not think your clients are also lying. May be there is some miscommunication. Because, the type of zeal in signing/ getting new members to AOL courses, it might have been said that do any thing but get him to sign up might have been interpreted as do have sex also. Or though I am no insider, as I understand SSRS plays role of matchmaker only with approval an insider can get married (thats what I understand), so such match-making with wealthy men may be the cause of such interpretation, because whole of AOL is after money. Or their could be some other reason. But it is difficult to believe these statements of your clients, though again I repeat I am no insider. However, I frankly believe because 99.99% have not seen/ believed in some act, does not mean those 0.01% are lying. The truth can only be known those women or SSRS, all others are just intelligent guesses.

  4. Doreen permalink
    November 28, 2010 3:43 pm

    @Doctor
    By definition an NGO is simply a non-governmental organization. It is not necessarily a charity.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGO

    There is a significant difference between claiming to be the largest NGO in the world and claiming to be the largest NGO charity in the world.

    AOL “touts itself as the world’s largest NGO charity” – is this true?

    • The Doctor permalink
      November 28, 2010 5:22 pm

      @Doreen,

      For all intents and purposes when AoL refers to itself as an NGO, it is implying that it is a charitable NGO, because after all AoL claims to be a charity. In this case, the two do go hand in hand, in spite of differences between them. In fact the definition you have provided actually makes Rishiji’s original claim even more outrageous. He never used “charitable NGO” or “NGO charity” in his deliberations. His intention, then, was perfectly clear: to make those present at the talk believe that AoL was the largest charitable NGO in the world.

      As such I stand by my original comment.

      I do want to add one more thing here which is relevant to the discussion, and which John has already touched upon above. A great many things which are said around AoL circles are spread by word of mouth alone, like what I’ve quoted above, and as such it is very difficult unless you hear these things with your own ears to find any evidence for them. AoL are very clever not to write a lot of this down, in case any of it is used in evidence against them.

      From personal experience I can tell you, the deeper one goes into AoL, the more “secrets” are revealed to them, and a lot of these so-called “secrets” one has to keep inside them and not share with the rest of the world, beacause “the world isn’t ready yet for these things.”

      I have heard more than my fair share of guru stories by now, and they were all told to me in closed sessions. As such you won’t find any of these things written down anywhere, so if you’re looking for proof of any of these claims, alas you’ll have to go deep into AoL itself to find it … or hope that someone’s made a recording of some of these claims.

      • Doreen permalink
        November 29, 2010 2:50 pm

        @Doctor

        Clearly this point is up for interpretation. In this case my interpretation is different than yours.

        AOL claims to be an educational and humanitarian organization. In my view this is very different than claiming to be the largest charitable NGO in the world.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    November 28, 2010 5:30 pm

    One of the AOL teachers (Europe) was in a relationship with her boss who was a politician and married with two children. They both visited RS numerous times. RS then told her the guy is going to be a very important figure and instructed her to marry him. She did. I will not go in any detail but this much for all of you who are saying this sort of things do not happen!

  6. November 28, 2010 5:50 pm

    Dear John,
    thank you so much for your posts, and do keep writing more. Your tone and reason is what I have wanted for a long time on this blog.
    I have a temporary “blog burn-out”, so I really appreciate the work of you, Doc and Peaceful Warrior in keeping the blog rolling. Also thanks to all of you out there reading and commenting. Together we are making a difference!

    • November 28, 2010 6:44 pm

      Thanks, Skywalker, thanks a lot!

      I’m enjoying blogging on BAoL more than I have in years. I’d be sad if what I post weren’t appropriate.

      I sure as hell know about “blog burnout.” I stopped writing or working in this field for about two years around 2002. Janja Lalich, author of Take Back Your Life, once told me she took a multi-year break herself.

      So please take care of yourself! Your work is too important to lose.

      I’m trying to build safeguards for staff against burnout and save-the-world anxiety into the CSCA. I think we recoverees are particularly susceptible to this kind of damage after leaving our groups. Many of us were attracted to and stayed in our groups BECAUSE we were altruistic and idealistic, which in themselves can tempt us to burnout.

      Unfortunately, we stumbled upon groups and leaders who were willing to exploit our higher instincts for their own purposes until we collapsed in exhaustion—and then frequently cast us aside.

      Some of us took graduate degrees in ignoring the signs of burnout. And may still experience it today.

      J.

    • Ronin permalink
      November 29, 2010 5:45 pm

      @ skywalker. Hope all is well. Take care of yourself and be there for your loved ones. You have made a enormous contribution in balancing out the one-sided information that is out there on the AOL organization. This blog has served many including myself.
      Rest up tomorrow is another day.

      The little giant has awakened

  7. Doreen permalink
    November 28, 2010 6:14 pm

    @John

    – Re Enlightenment
    Honestly, I can’t think of a way to tweak this particular statement of your post to make it accurate.
    AOL doesn’t talk about enlightenment as a goal the way TM did. In my experience, there isn’t a specific claim or goal that drives people to give so much to AOL. In general it’s more of a desire to be connected to the grace of SSRS and to what they consider to be “the highest knowledge” so that good things can flow in their life.

    – Re NGO Charity:
    It would be more accurate to say, “AOL calls itself the largest NGO in the world” instead of “AOL calls itself the largest NGO charity in the world”.

    – Lavish Lifestyle:
    The implication in your post is that a large amount of AOL funds are being used for SSRS’s lifestyle. So I’ll speak to that implication alone and not to whether or not his lifestyle is appropriately or inappropriately luxurious, which is a different question.
    It may be true that he has personal attendants and a private cook, but I doubt AOL funds are being spent on them; there are LOTS of people who would jump at the opportunity to do these jobs on a voluntary basis. Even if the people who work for SSRS are paid, let’s note that having a private cook in India is nowhere near as expensive as it is in the western world; at the high end a private cook might be paid 10,000 rupees – $218 – per month.
    It would be more accurate to say “AOL pays for SSRS to fly first class and to stay in 4+ star hotels during his considerable travels”.

    • November 28, 2010 8:27 pm

      Re enlightenment: in my 10 years in AOL, all of us teachers shared the implicit understanding that we would be enlightened on this path, as a promise from the Guru. Several of my teacher colleagues had been promised enlightenment, personally by RS. 12 years was the maximum time span considered to ensure this, for the sincere seeker. Sorry, Doreen, you are just plain wrong there.

      • Doreen permalink
        November 28, 2010 8:51 pm

        @Skywalker,

        Thank you. I was a teacher for quite a lot of years. I was never promised enlightenment, or heard anyone promised enlightenment, but perhaps some people were promised enlightenment by SSRS on a 1-on-1 basis.

        Would you agree to this tweak to John’s enlightenment statement?
        “An Eastern guru promises some of his devotees that they can reach enlightenment through breathing exercises, meditation, and most important of all, sincere devotion to the guru.”

      • November 29, 2010 7:42 pm

        I agree with John there. Especially the devotion bit is highlighted in AOL, where sadhana… “is just an excuse for the Guru’s Grace to flow”.
        Sadhana was necessary, though, to… “prepare your system for the enormous amounts of shakti, flowing from the Guru.”
        Do you see how he makes people dependant on him? Do you understand our fear of leaving him, lest we miss out on the one chance we have of enlightenment in this lifetime?

      • Doreen permalink
        November 29, 2010 9:54 pm

        Skywalker,

        Yes, I do understand. We could have a whole post dedicated to dissecting and dismantling the fears one might experience leaving AOL after being deeply involved. Such a post could be very helpful to others.

        For you the statement “AOL claims to raise its members to enlightenment” sits as solidly true. For me it lacks some precision and doesn’t represent what I experienced and observed.

      • The Doctor permalink
        November 30, 2010 11:37 pm

        Doreen,

        In my relatively short time in AoL, I was never once promised enlightenment. However, the deeper I went in the organization, the more I heard stories of so-and-so senior teacher / Swami / Rishi being enlightened. The reason for their enlightenment, I was told, was that they practiced their sadhana regularly and they spent a long time in the company of Guruji, who I heard on so many occassions was an enlightened master.

        As more time passed, I came to learn that spirituality itself is a journey towards enlightenment. At one point I was told that Art Of Living was the highest spiritual path, and that the best way to expedite my journey to enlightenment was to become a teacher, thus making myself into a channel to receive “Guru’s Grace” and become an “instrument of the Divine”. I was further told that by spending a lot of time with Guruji, his enlightenment would somehow “rub off” on me, exactly as it had for the various purpotedly enlightened senior teachers, Swamis and Rishis. Similarly, spending time in their company had the same effect.

        So in short, even though enlightenment was never promised to me, it was definitely hinted at and impliede at every opportunity, so much so that I would say this was one of the core reasons why I valued Art of Living so much. Based on my experience, then, John’s statement is completely accurate.

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 1, 2010 8:18 am

        In fact, I just found this:

        Enlightenment is the journey from the head back to the heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement. – Sri Sri Ravishankar

        Recall that the Advanced Course is subtitled, “Journey From the Head to the Heart”. This to me is yet another indicator that, however subtle, Art of Living will lead you to enlightenment.

  8. The Doctor permalink
    November 28, 2010 7:16 pm

    @anonymous,

    Again, I find this accusation difficult to believe. Ravi Shankar is, in my opinion, a monster. Just not that type of monster.

    If completely untrue accusations begin to be posted here, the entire blog will lose it’s usefulness — to expose RS and AOL for what they are, and to help new people not to get involved.

    Compared to many here, I spent a relatively short amount of time with AoL before waking up and seeing it for what it truly is. As such many things things reported in these blogs seem very far fetched, especially since I personally have never had any direct experience with any of these things, and producing any evidence is next to impossible given their nature. Add to this the image that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar portrays to the world, it makes these things even less likely.

    Now, quoting a few things you yourself have said previously:

    Yeah, the local politicians will not want to because their pockets get lined …

    AOL is a politically well-connected, powerful group of people, including paid off members of the police in some jurisdictions. If you are Western, this may seem hard to imagine.

    The risk of exposure (fear of Ravi Shankar and his very real attacks on people) kept me from speaking up.

    It’s direct threats sometimes, delivered to your own door, from “Guruji”, warning you, with implications of violence if you are ‘not careful what you speak about’, etc. In my case, money was even offered.

    All the really awful things you’ve read about personal abuse on Klim’s blog and here are things that happened to me, or things I saw happening to others.

    Based on my limited exposure to Aol and to Sri Sri, I find these things you’ve mentioned extremely shocking. This doesn’t mean to say that they didn’t happen, it just means that from my own perspective it’s very difficult for me to accept them, especially without seeing some evidence of them, or without knowing who you are as a person and trusting you.

    On the other hand, the allegations which John mentioned in his article above and which you are questionning I find far easier to accept. Let me explain why. My entire experience with AoL has always been about bringing more people into AoL whatever you have to do to do it. Sri Sri himself in a video in the Advanced Course says something along the lines of “Whatever tricks you know, use them to bring people to the courses. It’s ok to do this because it’s good for them!”

    Now, taking this and just the facts we have gathered on this blog into account, leaving all hearsay out of it, what John has mentioned, shocking as it may sound, is actually highly plausibile. And for me more so than the allegations you have mentioned above.

    For you, on the other hand, based on your experience, you obviously find the things that John has mentioned far less likely than what you yourself have experienced, and this is perfectly understandable. You have never seen any evidence for these things and they don’t fit into your perspective of AoL, or at least the one you had by the time you left.

    I do want to bring in one more thing you’ve mentioned, which is relevant to this particular discussion, and that is:

    So I left long back. I was a teacher for AOL. Truly a waste of several years of my life. It looks as if it’s gotten even worse these days, from reading these posts.

    Could it be that things have changed drastically since your time there? Could it also be that there were things that were happening in AoL that you weren’t aware of? Sides to Sri Sri that even you didn’t realize existed?

    Now, all of these things said, everything we are talking about here falls entirely within the realm of allegation, and such none of it will be treated as fact.


    p.s. Is there any chance I can ask you to change your nickname from anonymous to something unique to you? I’ll understand completely if you say no and you don’t have to, but it would just really help to improve our discussions here.

  9. eter permalink
    November 28, 2010 8:04 pm

    Nope, there is some truth to John’s saying. A former beauty queen was asked to get on the same flight to Singapore ( from Bombay) . She was travelling with her SSRS. The immigration queue was long even for premium passengers. A veerry well know, flamboyant industrialist was also in the queue. SSRS instructed Beauty Queen to strike a conversation with him, to invite him to a gathering. He did attend. This man is a leach. Known for a roving eye and a harem of Bollywood actresses and models. SSRS turned on his charm and suggested he take a course once playboy got back to India. It would not be a group session but a personal one on one class. SSRS , then on arrival back to India got this gorgeous, wife of a really well known, famous celebrity to conduct a course for playboy at his residence. Wife also used to pressure celebrity to endorse AoL ,poor guy did, despite his utter disgust for SSRS . Then, This celebrity wife , a social climber,who’s husband compared to playboy was not as big in money and power. Sparks flew, a torrid affair followed, all with SSRS’s knowledge. Playboy, smitten with his new girlfriend, began publically assosiating and promoting AoL. Divorce was the result between celebrity and his wife. Playboy gifted this woman, among other things a really fancy car. Things soured, they split too.But by then SSRS had gotten an endorsement from playboy. Playboy disassociated from AoL . Then a round of press statements followed. Him saying he was actually a great believer of a big Southern temple and not of ssrs. Social climbing celebrity ex wife is now married to an Indian guy who tries really hard to get noticed in Europe and America. Of course, he fails badly. But in India, he is accorded some respect.Not that well known. Now he is endorsing AoL. All this happened with full knowledge of SSRS. Now, whether he verbalized and instructed sexual liasons , I do not know. True also is SSRS;s sex life with many of his male teachers. One of them, who is like his body guard has himself told me , like it was an achievement. SSRS turs a blind eye to sexual misconducts of his followers, as long as they are raking in the cash. I have heard of SSRS’s liason with a female teacher in India. But do not pay heed to that as it seems more of a rumor. The other incidents mentioned , I know for sure. So many of his teachers are having rampant sex with each other, despite being married. SSRS says nothing. Once I asked him about it. His view is that it is the teacher;s own karma. He has nothing to do with it. It is not his responsibility. I was appaled to hear A guru disassociate from his teachers in this manner. gURU IS SUPPOSED TO GUIde. this Guy COULDN’T care less. This facet of AoL will also emerge.

  10. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:26 am

    @Eter:

    Your information is correct. SSRS used this star wife to hook the king of good times. However, he did not ask her to start the affair. That was entirely her own initiative. Let us not forget that this beauty queen was herself was more than eager to liaise with this baron. So it was not a case where one party (guru) used the other (student) for his own ends. It was a case where both the parties used the other for their own ends. For this playboy baron, such ex beauty queens are a dime a dozen. But for the AOL, she would never have got any access to him. So guru got the brand endorsement and the student got the playboy. Both were happy.

    But I agree to your point that as long as the person involved is bringing more people to AOL, SSRS will ignore all their misdemeanors.

  11. ANON permalink
    November 29, 2010 3:35 am

    It is unfortunate, that efforts of Vijay Mallya, a Liquor Baron who helped build parts of AOL Bangalore Ashram are being attributed to scheming mind of SSRS/Rhea Pillai. Give her a benefit of doubt. She might be genuinely making efforts (by any means) and collecting donations towards Largest (un)charitable NGO in world.

    After Rhea’s break-up with Mr. Vijay Mallya and divorce from Sanjay Dutt, a Bollywood film star, she is happily married.

    Apparently she has influenced her current husband (Leander Paes, a Tennis star from India) to play an AOL fund raising event on “Who wants to be a Millionaire”.

    • eter permalink
      November 29, 2010 9:17 am

      Exactly! now current beau is promoting AoL. Every few years a new man with resourceses at disposal used for SSRS’s benefit!! Is that not exploitation? If a parent knows that their child is prone to a self damaging bad habit, would not the parent keep a watchfuleye? But here, this man, Ravi, uses resourses gained by promiscuity to build his empire. It is his moral duty , as a guru, to show the right path to his followers. After all, is the disciple’s evolution the guru’s main interest. And it’s not this celebrity wife I am against. It is Ravi’s value system I question

  12. eter permalink
    November 29, 2010 4:33 am

    @ Abhilash

    This is only one such instance…. I know of a few more…..and SSRS should have had more sense than to send celebrity wife to flamboyant industrialist , knowing his reputation. Why not send a male teacher? someone “polished” enough for flambouyant industrialist- like a corporate course teacher?? And beauty queen and celebrity wife are two seperate individuals. Another is the case of wife of a non- Indian powerful politician of a foreign country. SSRS knows of her extra marital affair with hotshot Delhi based Minister. If this leaks out to the press all chaos will prevail. This liason started with SSRS’s knowledge. Both these celebrities rope in more celebrities. And this is possible as this wife comes to India every second month. There are many more….like I said, I do not know if SSRS will verbalize such instructions. Many things in AoL are unwritten and unsaid suggestions. If the guru knows someone’s promiscous nature, instead of correcting/ healing that trait SSRS exploits it to his advantage. True, SSRS would not do that with someone who has “old fashioned” morals and ideas.

  13. belle permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:23 pm

    @john

    i agree you shouldnt leave, your presence here is very appreciated.

  14. eter permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:48 pm

    @OASCS

    Ravi is well aware of the libido of this ex-sanyasi of another ashram turned Aol teacher .He impregnated a young girl who had been widowed and hoping to heal herself in the ashram. Never mind her vulnerable state, emotional trauma, this bas**** teacher took advantage. She was a sitting duck. And when she informed her effing guru, he turned around and called her a loose woman!!!!!! And banished her from the ashram. Then this Ravi promises this ex sanyasi turned teacher the post of Prime Ministership when RAvi will field him as a candidate for next elections!!! ( talk about delusional) All this IS exploitation. And this is because this teacher rakes in big moolah. Now Ravi is building his empire on the earnings of 3rd rate teachers like this ex sanyasi. By not correcting him, by accepting his earnings, promising him political power, he is encouraging such behevior.
    @ John, I totally believe you when you talk of experiences of your patients. Ravi might not say this openly i.e lure sexually if you have to, but by not discouraging, by accepting the goodies, according lavish praise and awarding these teachers private darshans etc, which is how they are made to feel special, Ravi is encouraging such acts.

    • anonymous permalink
      November 30, 2010 10:48 am

      Yes rightly said Eter,
      AOL is full of such incidence. And its a fact that the victim is made to feel lowly worthless characterless etc etc and the guy who’s exploited the innocent girl is given a bigger platform in AOL , made a Swami or Rishi or just a Singer. . and the masses in general are given an impression that these men are too spiritual and Holy and pious and divine…
      The best part is that – Not once does SSRS condemn or discourage or detach himself and AOL from such men, men who sexually abuse and exploit and it probably becomes a joke about the girl and a feather in the cap of the guy who did it..
      infact I suggest all the cheap men around the world to join AOL..this is one organization which will allow you ,encourage you and respect you- to use abuse and fulfil all your sexual desperations ..all in the name of Spirituality and Divinity and you will be made popular atleast in AOL
      Its amazing.. isn’ t it.. look at the spiritual growth of the girl who is raped by a famous guy from AOL..lucky she is to loose her virginty to AOL.
      The post “Abused and discared” also talks about such experience.

  15. OASCS permalink
    November 30, 2010 10:28 am

    @eter .. this info about Ex Mathadheesh is news for me.. i used to think that he is a celibate….

    How long back was this? Is the Mathadheesh standing up for the next elections?

    • eter permalink
      November 30, 2010 4:15 pm

      @OASCS

      Hahahaha!!! Ravi wants to field his candidates as he wants to be “king maker” ( his words, not mine) and take control of the country.so he tells his people to run for office and they lose badly. Let’s call ex sanyaasi MG. Now MG has oratory skillsthat appeal to the masses, his public speaking is like a seasoned politician. MG would gloat over this. He honestly believes he is India’s next PM!!! When SSRS found out that MG is highly over-sexed, he instructed MG to discard sanyasi robes for white ones. Guess that gives his a license……

  16. Peter L. Sutphen, Psy.D. (aka drpetersutphen) permalink
    November 30, 2010 10:09 pm

    John,
    Over the years, in various blogs I have read your words and have always found you to be professional in your presentations and comments. I have disagreed with you at times, but you have always come across in a fair manner. That is why I am really shocked at this statement:

    “Meanwhile, insiders report being emotionally blackmailed to perform seva, or service to the guru, by herding in new members, especially rich, wealthy, attractive, or talented ones.I have worked with women insiders from this organization, Art of Living, who reported their guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, personally requested they entice prime recruits by having sex with them or even marrying them…”

    To present yourself in this blog as a professional mental health expert and to write such an outlandish, unsupported statement that you readily admit is something you can’t be sure to be true is incredibly unprofessional.

    You need to to retract any statements that are unsupported to have any credibility with anyone outside of the “anti” fanatics.
    -Peter

    • The Doctor permalink
      November 30, 2010 10:34 pm

      Peter,

      In fairness to John, he specifically stated

      I have worked with women insiders […]who reported their guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, …

      This clearly makes this statement an allegation, as opposed to a proven fact. Anyone reading it sholuld clearly see it as such.

      Across these blogs there are many allegations, and I feel they are all valid in their own right, especially as over time many voices have come out and shared similar experiences, thus adding weight to these allegations. So if this statement resonates with someone who has had similar experiences, it should definitely remain so that these individuals realize that they aren’t alone and so that they can find solace here.

      At it’s core, this blog is trying to uncover the truth about Art of Living and expose all the wrongs in the organization to the world. If there is sany possibility that this statement is true, then removing it goes against everything the blog is trying to achieve.

    • Abhilash Shastry permalink
      December 1, 2010 5:50 am

      @Peter:

      As far as the first part of your quote is concerned, there is nothing outlandish or unsubstantiated about it. Even AOL-ers would agree -though they may not consider it emotional blackmail – that there is an ever increasing demand for recruiting new members, and yes – wealth, good looks and celebrity status of potential recruits matter.

      About the second part of your quote regarding sexually luring potential recruits, I have expressed my own doubts elsewhere on this blog. Though I would not disagree that SSRS does not mind sexual misconduct of AOL teachers as long as they are able to recruit famous and wealthy disciples.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      December 1, 2010 9:57 pm

      “Meanwhile, insiders report being emotionally blackmailed to perform seva, or service to the guru, by herding in new members, especially rich, wealthy, attractive, or talented ones.”

      Being an ex-insider I would vouch for that statement. That sort of thing goes around a lot – trying to recruit people is fine, but AOL teachers indeed do emotionally blackmail / coerce and manipulate people to do their bidding. They justify those things by saying it’s for the greater good. Even if one were to assume that what is good for AOL is good for the world, the supposedly noble end does not justify the tactics many AOL teachers employ.

  17. Annon permalink
    December 1, 2010 12:27 am

    So, could SSRS travelling by first class be to solicit wealthy/powerful people and as well be luxurious. If he goes in economy at the max he might meet some students and simplistic people. Well this had never appeared to my mind before!

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      December 1, 2010 9:51 pm

      Really – do you really know anyone whom his holiness has recruited this way.

      The most beautiful thing about a saint is his simplicity – if HHSSRS wanted to recruit industrialists, traveling economy would be much more effective. If your argument is that he has a hectic schedule and needs to rest in between, you may actually have a point.

      From what I have seen, the need for comfort is an excuse – it’s more a habit of living in luxury, and to massage his ego that he does that.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 8, 2010 10:29 pm

        What about going beyond limitations which you hear all the time in AOL? It´s very clearly said that this should always be done …
        How does it go together with 5 star hotels? It would still be a very small extension of your limitations even if you sleep in a 3 star hotel…

  18. December 1, 2010 5:56 am

    We all have gone tangential to the matter discussed in the post. The post basically tries to define certain things such as spirituality, spritual abuse, psychological trauma, and spiritual trauma. The example probably should have been chosen with care, as all the limelight has been hogged by the example rather than definitions themselves. I agree with the definitions, probably that will be first step towards healing.

  19. belle permalink
    December 3, 2010 5:17 pm

    @eter

    i agree with you, this is exploitation not to mention corruption aswell. my ex guru prem rawat ruled this way too. no ethics, no morals because there was no CARE about the individual at all. the amount of abuse brushed underneath the carpet and conviently forgotten both by the guru and his followers was/is/will be unforgivable. but this is the price of following the proverbial “wolf in sheeps clothing”. so much suffering hushed up for “spirirtuality”.

  20. Blossom permalink
    December 7, 2010 9:11 am

    Thanks for saving the next 5-10 yrs of my life. I was seriously considering TTC & though I had my doubts, I was getting sucked back.

    Re Enlightenment: There is no doubt that AOL is projected as a spiritual path to enlightenment. In Ashtavakra sessions, which is all about enlightenment, there are comparisons to other paths like Zen, Buddhism, Christian missionaries. Other established masters like Buddha, Mahavir are mentioned putting SSRS in the same league. In Q & A sheets circulated, in one, a devotee asks SSRS – Can you show me the path? The answer is – Why just point to the path, if you come with me, I am here to take you all the way to the goal! (or words to that effect) A co- TTC aspirant also mentioned that doing TTC was “guaranteed moksha” in this lifetime.

    • OASCS permalink
      December 8, 2010 3:18 am

      Same was also said about the Basic Course…. That those who have done the basic course will be liberated in this lifetime… But this was more a part of a gossip session than Sri Sri claiming so…. Even the TTC thing is part of a gossip session. Participants just feel something during meditation and assume that what they feel is true … or probably in order to feel that they are on the right track and just to feel better they talk like that…

  21. Doreen permalink
    December 7, 2010 2:23 pm

    I’ve changed my mind on this. I see it. While I don’t remember having many conversations about enlightenment in AOL (not the way TM people used to say things like “when I get enlightened…”), there was a subtle message – and sometimes not so subtle message – that AOL is the highest path, SSRS is the special being who has come to save the planet. It is taken for granted that the highest is guaranteed for you if you are on the path of AOL. In retrospect I can remember a period where I thought this way too. I’m a bit awed at how malleable the human mind can be.
    SSRS has also clearly referred to “the highest knowledge”.

  22. Ronin permalink
    December 7, 2010 3:13 pm

    Hi John.

    Hope all is well and that you still visit the blog when you have time.

    I have been with both TM and AOL for many years. The Son Ravi learned from the best MMY.

    The way TM hooks you is very different then the way AOL does, yet there are certain conditions that need to be in place before the hooks can even set in.

    I was wondering if you can shed some more light on the cultic relationship with the guru and an Organization in general. Can you highlight the traps so that those who read it can recognize it. I have looked at them from my own personal experience and have my opinion but would like to hear yours as well.

    The little giant as awakened

  23. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    December 7, 2010 7:03 pm

    Moksha is so simple – pay $$ and go to a course – no wonder everyone wants to do TTC ;).

    Regarding Ashtavakra – most people would agree that it is a scripture of great depth and if one really internalized the knowledge then that would indeed be enlightenment of some sort. That said, listening to commentaries, or some knowledge, though essential, is not guarantee of anything.

    RS continuously emphasizes following him over being with your experience. I remember once someone asked him why not follow your own path – and he replied saying when there is power line running next to your home, why generate your own power. Why indeed be a spiritual person having connected with the divine within when it is easy to be a brainless zombie follower. Believe it or not spirituality is being driven from inside and generating your own electricity.

  24. WIDE AWAKE permalink
    December 8, 2010 9:04 am

    I have been with AOl for 12yrs. In these 12yrs I have heard about enlightenment many many times.I did TTC 1 several yrs ago. I was told by my cousin , who is a sr. aol teacher and a key member, that “GURUJI SAYS , ALL AOL TEACHERS WILL GET ENLIGHTENED”. There was a time when they said, AOL has 6000 teachers and Krishna had 6000 gopikas!!!! We were also given hints like “Do you know what SO HAM means????? it means “I AM THAT” , Guruji is actually giving the upadesh(initiation) for enlightenment in the part1 course. This meant that all those who did the part1 course would eventually be enlightened. On one hand aol ridicules astrology and on the other I have heard that Guruji himself asked his teachers to go to Nadi jyothish to know their future. I have heard atleast a dozen of them claim that this is their last birth and one of them even said that she would get “enlightenment through Ravi Shankar Guruji”. What was surprising was that all these people had another thing in common – Guruji had approved these astrologers as genuine and had personally visited them (astrologers) . One NJ astrologer is from pune, one from delhi and another one from bangalore. Now, I am not judging the power of Sudarshan Kriya or the Grace of the Guru. May be the truth is beyond my comprehension. In every advance course, the teachers keep reminding the students that they are the “chosen ones” receiving the “ultimate knowledge” , from the “source” , the “ultimate Guru”. this is how it was 5000yrs back (which means, the teacher is reffering to Krishna’s time), there was music, there was dance, there was knowledge etc….. and we have all that now. aol is the only place where we have this combination (as told by a swamy) We were also told in TTC that when the devotees long for knowledge over many life times………. then God comes in the form of a human so you can talk to him, laugh with him, play with him…. and that we are those sincere devotees.
    Personally, I love Guruji and its extremely painful to read the contents of this blog as I see thruth in many posts. It has taken me 6 months to summon up the courage to post here. All I can say is that I have received knowlege through Ao and l am grateful to them for that. The knowledge points taught here are simple, yet profound. the gist of Bhagvat gita. I still beleive that Guruji is a Great person. i feel like a confused and hurt devotee who is still in love with the master…….

    • eter permalink
      December 8, 2010 12:18 pm

      Have you seen that Devi idol which is brought to the ashram ? What is all that about? I was told that the idol actually expresses her desire ti be taken to the ashram?

    • December 8, 2010 2:56 pm

      Wide Awake,

      I am touched by your honestly when you said that “. I still beleive that Guruji is a Great person. i feel like a confused and hurt devotee who is still in love with the master…….” I can so relate. I got to know Punditji in the early days in a personal way. It wasn’t hard. There wasn’t many of us. I fell in love with him and all that he stood for – unconditional love, wisdom, spirituality, devotion to God . . . I can still honestly say that I love him now. I can’t help love. I love what I love.

      With that being said, I also want nothing to do with his organization or following him personally. I still feel that there is something special about him and that he is very beautiful in many ways. He is an amazing man to me still. And. . . . I find him unethical (read my later post about that) and deceptive. This is the dilemma I find myself in. I love him and I find being around him is crazy making because of the lies and myths that he condones and promotes. How I resolved this is by realizing that loving someone is always a good thing and that doesn’t mean I have to agree or follow him or even condone what he does. I do know that it hurts me to deny loving someone and it also hurts me to dictate to them how they should live and conduct their affairs. Punditji is an adult who has made his choices to present his teachings in a certain way – both ethically and unethically. He has a right to do that. And I have a right to point out where he misrepresents, deceives and mystifies. And in doing that doesn’t mean I have to stop loving him. Loving someone and being honest with them and myself isn’t a contradiction.

    • Karma Appa permalink
      December 10, 2010 8:28 am

      When Ravishankar’s mother was not well during the last one year of her life. Ravishankar went to many astrologers in bangalore and tamil nadu for knowing what’s going to happen to her. I personally know one astrologer in bangalore who was consulted by ravishankar and bhanumati.

  25. Original Anon - Sincere -No- Longer-Confused-Seeker permalink
    December 8, 2010 12:09 pm

    @Wide Awake

    Join the club WIDE AWAKE….

    Ref: – AoL now has more than 10000 teachers and Krishna had 6000 gopikas.

    Btw I feel calling the Gopis Aol Teachers…is an insult to the Gopis… I am sure the Gopis would have been enlightened then and there in that birth with Krishna…. They would not need to come down now.. And if they did they would not be struggling to control their senses in this birth… many of the people in AoL are suspected of struggling to control their libidos .. as I have come to know.. I did come to know of a young aol teacher(pt 2 teacher) pumping it with a divorcee .. day before he became an pt 2 teacher.(Location Blore Ashram) .. I would advise AoL devotees to stay away from such teachers…

    Secondly calling Aol teachers Gopis is an insult also to the AoL teachers.. I personally take offense in being called a Gopi/Gopa… I am not going to accept anything less than the highest… And if the Guru cannot offer me the highest then I do not wish to be with such a Guru.. I am not satisfied in being a Gopi … if he is a true Guru he should make us Krishnaas and not Gopis…

    This deifying of Guruji is often a sign of lack of self esteem in the AoL Zombie devotees… Coz they lack a sense of individuality and making Guruji Krishna.. makes them to be Gopis..

    Even I used to love Guruji but I never thought that he was Krishna. I used to always keep quiet when somebody used to refer to him as Krishna.. coz I thought maybe I didn’t have the vision of these fellow AoL colleagues(read devotees) of mine… I thought maybe my ego doesn’t let me see him as Krishna…

    Even today I see Sri Sri as a good person who is may be enlightened… But Art of Living is not Enlightned… AoL as an organization is just like any other organization which is prone to all worldly vices…. It is maybe less corrupt than the government bodies, and less polluting than many of the MNCs.. It may be doing some good work .. but not enough…. it needs to increase the amount of good work it is doing…

    Personally I feel there are many things that one can learn from AoL
    Spiritually one can pick up
    – Sadhana
    – Random Acts of Kindness
    – Satsang
    – Reaching out to people
    – Scriptures
    – Knowledge Points( I do love the Knowledge Points of the course)
    – Games
    – Satvic Food & Vegetarianism

    On an Individual Level(Personality)
    – One can learn public speaking
    – Confidence Improves

    Materially One can learn
    – Entrepreneurship Skills
    – Selling Skills( Seriously if you can sell somebody their own breath, then you can sell anything in this world)

    Best course as of now for you is to stick to what works for you.. I.e. like I am sticking to the practices and all the good things in AoL and staying away from all the bad things..Btw isn’t this called Vairagya(Discrimination) (the second pillar of knowledge)…. We are supposed to take the good from the world and stay away from the bad… And I believe even a highly satvic organization is also part of the world.

    • Dayalu permalink
      December 8, 2010 1:31 pm

      Viveka is discrimination. Vairagya is dispassion

      • Original Anon - Sincere -No- Longer-Confused-Seeker permalink
        December 8, 2010 4:58 pm

        Yup my mistake…

    • Doreen permalink
      December 8, 2010 2:52 pm

      I agree. I personally find a ton of value in AOL and I know a lot of good people who are involved in AOL. The main thing that has changed for me is that I’m smarter about distinguishing between truth and marketing, and between personal truth and “group truth”.

    • WIDE AWAKE permalink
      December 8, 2010 4:28 pm

      “Personally I feel there are many things that one can learn from AoL
      Spiritually one can pick up
      – Sadhana
      – Random Acts of Kindness
      – Satsang
      – Reaching out to people
      – Scriptures
      – Knowledge Points( I do love the Knowledge Points of the course)
      – Games
      – Satvic Food & Vegetarianism”

      Yeah, I agree with most of the points that you have said. However, Sk dint work for me.

      I had been practising sk for 12yrs, every single day w/o a break. After some yrs of sadhana, I felt that I had lost the ability to think or comprehend. I had a poor memory and I could not converse with people, not on any subject other than aol. If it was anything other than aol, I would either be groping for words or I would forget the very topic of the conversation. I had no goal, no interest in life, absolutely directionless. I’m wondering if this is Guruji’s idea of bringing one’s mind to the present moment?

      My family always asked me to stop SK as they observed the difference in me…From an enthusiastic, confident, bubbly person with a sharp memory and never say die attitude to….. an unenthusiatic and depressed zombie who dint wanna work or even talk to anyone.

      I was totally brain washed by then, that Kriya is the ultimate cleansing process. that it had to be practised every day….. If you skip sk even a single day, you had to wait for eleven months, to cleanse that same set of cells . those who have attended swamy Bramhatej’s advance course will be aware of this.

      I practised Sk mainly to be connected to Guruji. Initially i had some great experiences….which made me continue. Over a period of time, I felt stuck in a complex maze with no way out. I detailed the problems that I was facing in my email to Guruji . We were told in amc’s that Guruji goes through all the emails. However, he chose not to respond to my email.The same mail was resent, hoping and praying that I would get a direction atleast this time, but Nope! Guruji chose to ignore me again.
      Infact, during satsangs, a couple of times, people have mentioned that they’ve had problems after practising SK. Guruji, ignored their concerns, infact he did not even let them complete.

      This is not some thing that can be openly discussed with the other teachers or devotees. The teachers would ridicule you, the devotees would treat you as a sinner, one who is not focussed on the master.” Do more sadhana and listen to knowledge to be more focussed , Guruji knows every thing and will take care of every thing “, was the standard reponse to any problem . As a matter of fact none of the teachers or volunteers here have been doing their sadhana, they are regular with the follow ups though.

      When I read about others experiences w.r.t SK, I realised that I should stop sk and see the difference. That was the toughest phase in my life. Continuing to do sk was as difficult as discontinuing it. However, ever since I stopped sk, my interest in life is back, my memory has considerably improved and i’m regaining my self esteem.

      This makes me question, How can an organisation based on such a false technique be genuine? Is sk not gurudev’s greatest gift to mankind?

      With all these qtns, I still love Guruji. JGD

    • Jabrun permalink
      December 9, 2010 10:52 am

      “If you can sell some one his/her own breath….”
      Superb, should find in quotable quotes of marketing. Probably, marketing can learn a lot from AOL.

    • Shikhar permalink
      December 9, 2010 5:52 pm

      “I did come to know of a young aol teacher(pt 2 teacher) pumping it with a divorcee .. day before he became an pt 2 teacher.(Location Blore Ashram) .. I would advise AoL devotees to stay away from such teachers…”

      So Seduction Kriya works !

  26. WIDE AWAKE permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:31 pm

    The above comment was in response to – Original Anon – Sincere -No- Longer-Confused-Seeker comment

  27. Original Anon - Sincere -No- Longer-Confused-Seeker permalink
    December 8, 2010 5:38 pm

    @WIDE AWAKe … You can call me Original Anon or OA previously OASCS…

    Btw m jus curious.. . in 12 years how many amc’s did u do?

    Is your cousin who is a senior teacher – Happy and Contented with his life? Do u feel that he or she has any regrets in life? He/She may not say so but from their behavior one can make out.

    Also do u drink a lot of water during the day? As of now I have made it a practice.. the day I do not drink atleast 2 – 3 Litres of water when I wake up in the morning I do not do the Kriya.. as it increases the heat and also imbalances the Vata which can actually create tension, worries and stress rather than take them away.. . Plus I feel the Kriya is kind of a good technique for beginners .. and it is more of a Meditation for Dummies kind of technique ..meant for those who have never meditated.

    In Ashtavakra Geeta .. Sri Sri in the end or I suppose in the last tape mentions that all the benefits of the kriya are really crap.. all lies… and everybody laughs….

    Ashtavakra brought about a lot of awareness in me… It is indeed one of the greatest scriptures ever written.

    One thing what I have noticed … like when teacher’s speak from the manual .. you tend to take a lot of interest and when they start speaking their own stuff thats the time when we feel restless etc..

    Similarly I have noticed that when Guruji directly speaks from the scriptures ..ie. does a direct translation … one feels nice and interested and as soon as he starts on his own explanations .. thats when one starts feeling restless and bored… So speak from the manual also applies to Sri Sri himself….My question to all :- Is it only me or have others noticed this too?

    It would be nice if we could have a post where people can freely & anonymously post their experiences of the Kriya in this format

    – No of years/months.days practicing SK
    Ans for me its 8 years
    – Regularity:- approx 4 days per week
    – Experience:- Fine.. sometimes feel dryness in body after Kriya… too much heat becoz of kapalbhaati and bhastrika.. Initially after first advance course some great experiences during and after Kriya for some 40 days.
    – No of AMCs – 8
    – Avg daily water consumptions 1-2 L
    – Health condition :- tendency to develop HBP…( no body told me that we dont practice bhastrika during HBP.. i came to know only when i was taking kriya notes during my ttc…) Imagine 8 years I was praticing bhastrika without knowing that it could be harmful for me.

    Also we can have similar comments section for all the other things(PS, Knowledge sheets, tapes, Adv courses, etc) we want evaluated from all those have involved themselves a lot wid aol and its practices.

    Your feedbacks please…

    • The Doctor permalink
      December 8, 2010 6:03 pm

      Similarly I have noticed that when Guruji directly speaks from the scriptures ..ie. does a direct translation … one feels nice and interested and as soon as he starts on his own explanations .. thats when one starts feeling restless and bored… So speak from the manual also applies to Sri Sri himself….My question to all :- Is it only me or have others noticed this too?

      I’m glad you brought this up OASNLCS.

      I never found Guruji particularly good at delivering any talk, and I always found myself drifting away, getting bored, getting restless, and even falling asleep at times, at least whilst watching his videos.

      Contrast him with Rishiji, I barely ever missed a word Rishiji said. He has such an amazing way to deliver knowledge and keep people on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next thing he would say.

      This did bugged me, but not much. I just found it interesting how there were better people at delivering talks than Guruji himself.

      As for your request for putting up a post for others to share their Kriya experiences, I like this idea a lot. Watch this space and we’ll hopefully put something up soon. 🙂

    • WIDE AWAKE permalink
      December 8, 2010 7:57 pm

      @Original Anon

      What difference do the number of advance courses make? I have done 11 advance courses and most of the times after the amc, I would fall sick. The calm state of mind lasts for a month and then you are back into the same old world with the same old problems.

      Well, my cousin still believes that he/she is the chosen one and he/she is going up the ladder. Let him/her enjoy being in Bhakthi and shakthi .

      As far as drinking water is concerned, I have nothing less than 4 ltrs/ day. If it was heat that driving me insane, I would know that, Like I did when i had ayurvedic medicines for a short while. b.t.w buttermilk is also a part of my diet. I have done ayurvedic cooking course as well.

      By experiences with sk, I dint mean I was looking for kicks from sk practise, but I never ever expected that a technique which is touted to be the best on planet Earth could cause such damage. Poor memory & poor intellect resulting in low self esteem, depression etc. Which means increased dependency on Gurudev.

      I practised sk every single day for 12yrs. I did that NOT based on my cousins state of mind or because of inputs received from my other relatives who are a part of aol. I did that because I wanted to stay connected to Guruji……as mentioned in my earlier post.

      Did I know I was hurting myself ? No ……I did not. Because the people I trusted in, Swami’s and Rishi’s told me in q/a sessions that These problems are surfacing only to leave you completly. Be committed to knowledge…committed to sadhana…..Nadi pariksha……Ayurvedic medicines……meditate more… Practising regularly is like throwing out the garbage once and for all. One of the a.m.c teachers also mentioned that when your not commited to seva (becoming a teacher), you get depressed. So, I did more seva, felt good initially but got drained mentally because of the politics. Yet, I was all the time thinking that I was taken care of. I beleived in faith or probably Blind faith.

      My experience is my experience. Each persons experience could be different. I have heard enough solutions from Drink plenty of water to listen to knowledge tapes…..My only qtn/pblm as to why is Sk causing me so much harm was not answered/ resolved despite me taking all the steps that they advised.

      I continued sk for 6 months…….even after I read this blog……..commitment to sadhana!!……until I burnt out and some thing in me asked me to wake up and see the truth..the way it is. Giving up was not easy

      After a couple of days gap when i practised sk again, i found that i was going back to the old problems. I stopped practising sk completly. I am happy with the decision I have taken.

      What hurts me the most is that my trust has been misplaced. Once again, I have the same qtn…… How can I ever trust aol when their most selling practise is probably harmful to some people (like myself). Are you not playing with their lives promising good health, peace , awareness. ability to deal with situations with a clear state of mind etc etc……… When infact your leading them into confusion, delusion and depression?

      I never listened to my parents, I looked down upon my family doctors …..To get to the state I am in 🙂

      I want to get this whole thing out of my system

      P.S (My mom could not practise sk as she used to get terrible head aches and feel dizzy after sadhana. She practises Kapalbhathi and Nadi shadhan pranayam……She has benefitted immensly from it.)

      I get mesmerised when I see Guruji. I tend to beleive every thing he says. I dont understand what kind of Connection I experience with HIm. I still cannot call him fake. He is special… I feel I am responsible for where I am now. Its painful…but I still love him and cannot leave him….whatever happens to me.

    • anonymous permalink
      December 10, 2010 4:02 pm

      OASCS: Be careful with the water — the original “water cure” man died, not long ago of, guess what, kidney failure! Too much water is really bad for your kidneys. 2-3 liters, unless you are living in hot sun, working outside, sweating all the time, is waaaaayyyy too much over time.

      I did the kriya for several years. I also taught. I developed allergies which I never had, to dust, mites, pollen. I began getting bronchitis very often, and even had pneumonia twice (when I was teaching)! I no longer do the long Kriya, and rarely do even the short one at home because of my lung difficulties that came from the practice. If I get a cold, it immediately goes to my lungs. I’ve seen a pulmonary specialist as a result (I’m way too young for all this junk to be happening, btw) and he tested me and said “you have lungs 15-20 years beyond your age….” and showed me all sorts of awful looking stuff on my xray. I know my lungs were normal before because I had a mandatory health physical for work before learning the Kriya, and was told I was in excellent health. It included a chest xray. I have a cough that never goes away, now, and sounds deep and hollow. The doctor has recommended an inhaler, and stated that I have asthma (didn’t have it before the Kriya). So go figure. I think Kriya is bad for health, especially if one is a teacher and does more long Kriyas.

      This is my experience, and that of others I know as well. Perhaps Kriya is better suited to people who live in pristine mountain air and not in towns, villages or cities where the air might not be as good? That’s my guess. Also, the overworking of the lungs appears to hurt many people.

      Good for yogis in the mountains. Not so good for regular folks like me and others.

      • Shikhar permalink
        December 10, 2010 8:50 pm

        OASCS: Be careful with the water — the original “water cure” man died, not long ago of, guess what, kidney failure!

        Can someone disclose the identity of this man who died?
        Is it true?

      • Original Anonymous permalink
        December 11, 2010 8:20 am

        Thanks Anonymous for the warning. Have reduced my intake of the same… In the basic course there is an instruction for the participants to drink a lot of water may be 5 – 6 L daily also in the Nav Chetna . they tell participants to have 2 L of water as soon as they wake up.

        No one ever talked about this.

      • anonymous permalink
        December 12, 2010 8:26 pm

        The man’s name was Dr. F. Batmanghelidj. He called his “system” “The water cure”. Obviously, it was not a cure, since he died of kidney disease. I’ve heard from several doctors that it is easy to drink too much water. AOL regularly recommends too much water. It makes many people very lightheaded, and sometimes emotional. It’s not good to drink so much as they prescribe.

  28. WIDE AWAKE permalink
    December 8, 2010 9:00 pm

    @Original Anon

    Ref : “In Ashtavakra Geeta .. Sri Sri in the end or I suppose in the last tape mentions that all the benefits of the kriya are really crap.. all lies… and everybody laughs….”

    Well that happens in the part1 course as well. The students are asked to note down their expectation from the course. A smiling teacher then tells them that they will get nothing from the course. Does that mean the teacher wants the participants to collect back their fees and leave?.. It means.. do the course with no expectations which is great knowledge indeed.

    Having no expectation does not mean that you take nonsense and keep quite….So when you actively accept the situation and qtn the technique, your told ……You are responsible for everything- what happens to you, your actions, Inactions other peoples actions etc…… So with all the belongingness…..I am posting my experiences on this Blog, which halped me wake up!

    P.S : After talking about expectation reduces joy, the teacher talks about the benefits of SK and on the 3rd/last day we have volunteers sharing experiences on how sk and Guruji changed their lives…Vow. No…We are not setting expectations 😉

  29. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    December 9, 2010 2:13 am

    “A smiling teacher then tells them that they will get nothing from the course. Does that mean the teacher wants the participants to collect back their fees and leave?.. It means.. do the course with no expectations which is great knowledge indeed.”

    I remember an interesting incident about this. In most of the courses, when the smiling teacher tells the participants that they would get nothing out of the course, people see the message and laugh it away. However, in one of the courses that I organized at my place it did not unfold like this. Manisha Mehta was the teacher. As per the rehearsed script, after asking the participants to write down their expectations, she finally told that they would get nothing from the course. Then one person in the group got up and said that since he was going to get nothing in return, he wanted to leave and his money back. There was some commotion. Then another person got up…then another. It was very comic. The teacher did not know what to do. Clearly, she had expected the act to follow in some different pattern. She had herself not dropped her expectations. Then she started explaining them to experience the course without expectations etc. Some got convinced. A few did not. Finally, as a true AOL -ite she told them that those who wanted to go could go, but the money would not be refunded. Spirituality is OK but how can there be any compromise on money? First things first.

    • anonee permalink
      December 13, 2010 2:19 pm

      @Abhilash

      Manisha Mehta is a crazy, greedy woman. This AoL is her way of making money. So when participants get up tp leave, she feels the pinch. Whether DSN or Basic course, all she wants to know is how many participants, then she does her math in her head. It’s only the 10% she is interested in. Also, in her courses she checks out the guys, tries to figure out whom she should hit on. Is she married now? Fat slob, so in your face. It used to surprise me that she was made a teacher. There was nothing spiritual about her. Scheming, calculating and fighting all the time. But what I did appreciate is that she took Bawa by his horns. All these AoL teachers pretend to be blissed out, fake beatific smiles. Each one is unhappy. And these foolish people, those defending that con=man, self proclaimed guru is a jerk. He is so damn rude and arrogant. Any body who says that the quality of their lives got better with AoL is lying. As long as you remain on the periphery it’s ok. The only ones who benefitted is the dumb, bimbo sister Bhana and her family and Bawa’s family. I have seen for myself how this con man talks so rudely to elders, to teachers who are confused and genuinenly wanting his help. His mom was also like that. I’m glad I got out.

      • anonymous permalink
        December 13, 2010 9:45 pm

        How right you are, anonee about how rudely the “master” speaks to elders! One man I know went to meet SSRS at the ashram to ask him to send his son home. SSRS told him “if you cannot control your own son, what am I supposed to do?” The son, who was a teacher, and thinking of simply living at the ashram (invited by SSRS to do so), saw through the “master” and was shocked at what he saw going on. He left after a very short stay. In public SSRS says that we should respect elders. But in person he doesn’t do this. He also often made fun of other people’s parents if they were asking their sons or daughters to quite AOL. He is really a fraud guru and a fake ‘master’. Stay away!

      • anonee permalink
        December 14, 2010 4:35 am

        We were in Rishikesk,a small group sitting in con man’s room. A teacher’s parent had flown in all the way from another city and was waiting to meet con man. Con man told us, winking, see how much entertainment I will get out fro this parent, ” dekho mein kya karta hoon” ( see what I will do). Con man mocked at the parent, providing laughs for his group. Poor parent, had no idea what was going on. The meeting lasted for about 20 minutes. Indu Jain, baroness of Times of India was also present. After the meeting, when the man left, the group roared with laughter. I was shocked to see a guru making fun of this elderly man, he must have been in his 70’s. On probing, I found out that this was a teacher’s parent, a teacher who had dedicated his life for AoL, quiting a good job and was a money spinner, thogh not in the close inner circle. No, Doreen, Harshal and gang, this is an obnoxious man, who will make fun of you and your family behind your back. He will talk to you insultingly in front of his lackeys, and if you feel humiliated, it will be seen as your big ego coming in the way. Your humiliation will be termed as ego- busting. This too I have seen. A senor teacher, being told in front of his lackeys, ( Prashant Rajore, Vinod Menon, Bhana, etc) that this teacher had loose morals and characterless. The teacher’s private life being discussed openly. And if they cannot find happiness in AoL, they will not find it any where else. If anybody says that con man accords respect and privacy,( as that has been their experience,) are lying blatantly or then not seen con man closely. Have you been with him in a public area? He tells his women followers to either walk ahead of him or behind him. Because he is worried about his image, he does not want the world to see how close these women are to him!! Wolf in a sheep’s clothing. Get the hell out of this man’s clutches. Dont waste your time defending this jerk. He’s not worth it.

  30. Blossom permalink
    December 10, 2010 4:26 pm

    I agree with Original Anon on the good things mentioned about AOL. Selling breath comment is awesome! But if you are into active seva, it comes at a high price.

    I can relate to what John has quoted elsewhere – “A relationship with any group becomes cultic when you experience high-intensity demands on time and resources that one or more core life areas stop working for you: relationships, career, finances, community, physical or emotional well-being, spirituality….”

    Re Enlightenment : Assuming that this path leads to E, doing TTC is probably just a good indication of the belief & committment to the path.

    Re Kriya : I’ve been pretty regular since 5 yrs & do it with Surya namaskar &/or Padmasadhana and meditation. My allergic sneezes reduced. I did not have any harmful effects but I don’t find it so effective also nowadays. It is not an essential part of my sadhana now and I skip it many times, esp after reading this blog. If I am restless, I prefer a good 1 hr walk. I think the body gets used to it and that’s why with different courses something new is added to the sadhana. I also did not observe any direct relation of seva & depth of meditation. Except maybe immediately after physical seva of advance course!

  31. WIDE AWAKE permalink
    December 11, 2010 1:50 pm

    @ anonymous

    Thank you for the warning. I used to drink 4-6ltrs of water every day following the NCS manual and ofcourse the instructions of the teachers.

  32. Blossom permalink
    December 12, 2010 2:59 pm

    @ anonymous – The only person whom I might have still recommended the course would have been an asthmatic.Now…the last barrier is also down!

  33. Original Anonymous permalink
    December 14, 2010 10:59 am

    My Asthma did get cured with the practices over a period of time.. and personally I would still recommend the course to any addict.. drugs, alcohol, ciggies and any other kind of alcoholic.. may recommend it to a sexoholic too. But if some body wants to give up everything to work for AoL then would advice him against it, but still eventually leave the decision to him.

  34. Doreen permalink
    December 29, 2010 2:20 pm

    Do you consider Catholicism’s propegation of the story that if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell as spiritual abuse?

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