How do I see Ravi Shankar as Unethical?
How do I see RS as unethical? In my opinion, he is unethical by the way he promotes and supports the whole guru mythology (this is the mythology that the guru is God and that the guru is all knowing and all powerful. That we need his grace to grow . . . ). I have seen how he encourages the belief in his mystical powers. I have been in the room where someone tells him something about someone else. That someone else comes into the room and RS uses the new information on them. The person who just came into the room thinks that somehow RS mystically tuned into their issues and needs. Often times the person gets all touched and emotional and thinks RS really is watching over them. Meanwhile, RS doesn’t correct their misperception and at times encourages it – all in the name of encouraging their faith in the guru. I have seen this happen in a number of ways.
It is this kind of behavior that I think is at the core of many of the things wrong with AOL. This self imposed mystification of RS takes advantage of the student’s love, innocence and enthusiasm to believe in the supernatural. RS may be unethical in his business dealings and with the promotion of AOL (exaggerations and fraudulent claims), but it is this mystification and mythologizing the guru that I find most unethical. It is a deception at the heart of what can be a very beautiful relationship of that between a teacher and student. This exaggeration of the guru’s powers and knowledge creates a very childish dependency in the student and doesn’t bring about maturity and wisdom in the student. It really just creates a needless mess. I am personally saddened that RS chooses to do it this way. I believe he could have created a wonderful organization and teaching that is straight up and honest. Not one built on a fantasy story.
I don’t think AOL will or can change at this point. It is too big and its trajectory is too strong in its current path. In the early days of AOL, I noticed how RS really tried to keep the organization loose and non-oppressive. I think he succeeded well for a few years, but eventually as an organization grows it has to get organized. With the growth of an organization, a corporate culture develops. RS’s attempts at keeping the organization loose backfired as it got bigger. Instead of the organization setting down simple, clear guidelines on how things get down and who is accountable to who, AOL”s collective culture took over. The collective culture’s belief in the guru and that the guru can do no wrong took over and set down guidelines. Instead of the organization organizing, the culture tried to do it in an haphazard way. This led to the guru being in charge of everything.
If RS only let the boards of his organization act as boards and not as his lackey, things could have been very different. There would have been less shadiness with many of the financial dealings. I know some of the board members of AOL in the US and they are trying their best to get things right with AOL. They even go against some of what RS wants. Unfortunately, they only have as much power as the guru gives them, which is backwards.
The boards should have the power because they have the legal responsibility. RS should focus on teaching and preaching not on organizing. This is the big mistake. Many in AOL are trying to get this corrected, but I don’t think it can be at this point. After he dies, there is a chance that things can change. I notice in the TM org. that things seem less oppressive and more moderate than when Mahesh was alive. We will see with AOL.