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How do I see Ravi Shankar as Unethical?

December 7, 2010

-by DW

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.

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48 Comments
  1. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    December 8, 2010 1:57 am

    ###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.###

    True. I have seen people worshiping him in a bhajan that went like “ananda saagara, ravi shankara”. All through the performance, SSRS sat in a pose of Hindu deities in calendar art. He encourages his students to wash his feet and drink the water. Somehow, SSRS has convinced himself that he is God.

    ###….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.###

    People aspiring for proximity with SSRS understand very soon that he prefers people who literally treat him as God and can vouch for his supernatural powers. There is a competition among his close disciples to come up with more and more outrageous stories about his ‘miracles’. In earlier days, it used to be cure for stress, BP and asthma. Then, it went a notch higher and included cancer and AIDS. However, even that was not enough. Now a days, some of his devotees claim that they were revived by SSRS after their death. Now since it is hard to beat the claim of being raised from death to life, so poor new devotees are left to search still more innovative stories about how SSRS’ grace helped them. They are in an unenviable position. They have to demonstrate not only that SSRS’s grace helped them with a miracle, but also to prove that in their case SSRS actually out-miracled previous instances. Otherwise how would they prove that they were more ‘special’ to guru than the others?

    Anyone who has been for any length of time in AOL has heard these stories about guru’s grace – from benign to outrageous – from getting a promotion to bringing an earthquake – all attributed to SSRS by his devotees. These miracle mongers are then lionized and put up on stage to share their story and firm up the faith of lesser devotees. So, as a SSRS devotee, if you don’t have your special miracle story to share with others, you feel guilty and embarrassed and the senior teachers see you as if there is something wrong with you or some strong ‘tamas’ that is resisting guru’s grace to flow through you. Others have experienced such outlandish miracles, why not you? If you have not yet experienced guru’s miracles, the fault lies with you.

    Anyone who thinks that SSRS does not himself encourage these stories should read his Arosa account on bawa’s blog. A rain that was likely to interfere with the guru’s program miraculously stopped. When asked about this the guru benignly replied that the rain can wait, but his devotees can’t. Wow! Glory to the guru who can rein air, water, rain, earthquake and so on!! JGD !!!

    • Genuine Seeker permalink
      December 12, 2010 2:54 pm

      Dear Abhilash,

      Very true. It was for this very reason I was feeling suffocated during my association with AOL. I feel a lot relieved now. Absolute brain washing + slow poisoning goes on in AOL. These are done very discretely and methodically. Very crooked. Lot of innocent people are stuck with AOL without knowing what has stuck them. I would love to see this blog live and active.

      Cheers

  2. The Doctor permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:44 pm

    Slightly off-topic from the main thread but I suddenly had this thought/realization and wanted to post it somewhere, and here’s as good a place as any.

    Not long ago I met Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Swami Rama’s successor as head of the Himalayan Institute. The manner by which I met him was very interesting as well, I was just sitting in a small lecture room waiting for him to turn up as I was there to hear him speak, when a short Indian man who looked completely unassuming sat down next to me, smiled, said hello and shook my hand. I turned to him, told him my name, asked him who he was, to which he replied that he was Panditji, and I was a little embarassed I hadn’t recognized him.

    From the moment I first met, there was one thing that kept going through my mind, and that was that was so full of humility. He just came across as a humble little man who didn’t try to project himself as being anything larger than he was.

    And recently I came to the realization that I have never ever felt that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is humble in the slightest. Not once, and nor are any of his Swamishis (it’s a concatenation of Swami and Rishi, do you think it’ll catch on? ;-)), and even the senior teachers I know don’t seem to possess this quality.

    Has anyone else ever felt this, especially about Sri Sri, or is it just my imagination?

    • Ronin permalink
      December 9, 2010 4:45 pm

      @ Doctor.

      Very interesting point indeed. I have spend an considerable amount of time in the TM organization. It always troubled me that the Founder MMY was always so far removed from the flock.

      I mean we saw plenty of knowledge tapes and were infused with the unified filed theory and science of creative intelligence but there was never any closeness to him.

      Thus enters Art of Living and Sri Sri, marketing bhakti. What struck me right away was that he was very available, these two aspects attracted many TMer’s. Then all the guru stories started to go around it became a thing for most to meet this great enlightened soul. To be one of them who actually was in his presence and thus feel special.

      And I did on a couple of occasions, the first time it was moving, but more so because that was what the energy in the room was like and you are swept (or sucked in) away with it. The second time it suddenly it struck me that Sri Sri actually enjoys the celebrity status and attention just a little to much, and as I walked up to him and spoke to him I realized that in actuality he is an ordinary man. A man with lots of charisma and some insights, but one who relishes on that type of energy, and humbleness was not there. He answered my question haphazardly and was looking at others taking pictures of him. En did the same with others.

      On another occasion we were waiting and suddenly we were asked to make way later I learned that some wealthy family and personal advisors wanted to see him. Afterwards we came in and he was annoyed and was actually rude people. And I wondered what would haven if you ever crossed this man. Would compassion still prevail………

      As time passed I noticed that really no new knowledge was discussed it became apparent there were new books and knowledge CD’s but they were compilations of old stuff which was already published. Marketed under different titles ect. And during satsangs the knowledge was very superficial with slogans like ‘your decision my blessing”. Just answering questions but never those that probed to deeply into the nature of consciousness or problems with SK. Yet enjoying the stage and the limelight and seeing his corporation grow and with that is status.

      The man and his inner circle have it within there control to have a huge influence on many within the flock of devotees. It is a power which should be used with a sense of humbleness, unfortunately I have not seen it yet.

      Buyer be aware.

      The little giant has awakened.

    • anonymous permalink
      December 10, 2010 4:07 pm

      Doctor,

      Believe it or not, Ravi Shankar once behaved in much the same way. He changed when crowds started coming around him, and he is now what you see — full of his own ego.

    • Elle permalink
      February 13, 2011 3:11 am

      Oh yeah, I certainly have. I love reading comments where other people had the same experiences as me. I just can’t wrap my head around why people, and I mean very intelligent people, are able to be brainwashed to the point where they do not question the actions of someone when they know it is contraindicated for a spiritual man/woman to do so. It just baffles me.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    December 9, 2010 1:39 am

    I still love him. Even not wanting to. Even with so many things in the blog I KNOW from my own experience that they are true. It is this love that opens you up, which makes you feel all those things, which makes you grow…Not him… The never ending and always changing conflict in my heart is the following:
    Did Guruji lose his own mission? Did he change to the bad?
    Is it his fault or is it the people around him, for whom he is just the mirror?
    Or is it a combination of both?
    Why nobody ever answers to these questions?
    Can Guruji not change the people´s bad actions because he doesn´t want to interfere, because this would be violent on a subtle level? Or is he just as bad as them? Or even more responsible as he is the leader?
    All these things make you become so confused. There´s nobody to talk about.
    If it would only be the people, ok, I could manage to let go of only the organisation. But what, if Guruji accepts these things and even wants them and stands behind them?
    All this is an extremely painful process, especially when your main motivation was this strong love to your Guru, which you don´t manage to let go…

    • Independent Observer permalink
      December 10, 2010 7:25 am

      @ Anonymous

      “I still love him…..It is that love which opens you up”…

      Ok. Acknowledged. Do take a step back….is there anybody at all you hate very passionately ? I suspect it is a NO.

      Now, Let us only consider your experience at the very barest level (no stories, no explanations, no judgment…purely the sensory experience). What you feel/felt is/was a lot of love inside (within) you. Correct ?

      Now please answer the following…..Does this love go away when you close your eyes ? Does it go away when you turn your back ?. Does it disappear when you are not around Sri Sri ?

      You can sense that it is there all the time is it not ?

      Well, it has been all the time. You became aware of it at a point in time. However, your mind has since then attached itself to a story where it attributes this expanded experience to the form of Sri Sri. Interestingly, somebody-else suggested to you that you have had this realization or experience ONLY because of him and him alone (the so called Sri Sri’s Grace).

      Attributing this love ONLY to him is your way of explaining/expressing things. This is limited at best. There is nothing wrong with this version of the story or to being grateful…..however, to start believing that that is the very source of the love is inaccurate and it does not acknowledge that the source is within you.

      To be fair then, you should also attribute all the things that don’t go so well in your life, ALSO to him. Why don’t you do that ?

      Guess what?….he is happy to take credit for all the good things you experience. The many instances where his teachers have suffered greatly (death of a close one, business losses, accidents, ill health and so on)….he is the first to quickly deliver the prognosis and proclaim thats it’s their karma…”they have to go through it”. Why does he not say the same thing when the devotees have a larger and positive experience such as yours “Its their Karma, they had it coming”. Its not my grace or anything like that. So, when we attribute our larger than life experiences to SriSri ALONE, soon we start attributing everything to him and Him ALONE. Slowly, everything happens ONLY because of the Grace….This creates dependency and often lack of responsibility on the side of the devotee. So, when bad things happen (We rationalise, “He” knows everything, he is taking care….while we are on the spot not taking any corrective action).

      The state of love, anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy….ie..any of the strong emotional sensations we go through function like an internal filter slapped on top the senses. These filters then help us create our stories/explanations about an sensory event. These stories repeated often, become our truth and we in turn continue to project this onto everything around us. We tend to fit all new events into this reality or model of the world that we carry at that time.

      The thing to realize is that when we are in a state of anxiety everything has become a cause for being anxious. Likewise when we are angry. In your case at the time the “big love filter” happened, the most convenient explanation that you subscribed to was that it was because of Sri Sri. Yes thats right “subscribed to” is the term. Thats because, you were not given any plausible alternatives to consider. There are a zillion others things, many other attributes and causes which also helped you gain that love state…which are simply left out of your awareness or reckoning.

      for eg, You parents – Without them you would never have gotten here.
      The Planet earth – It gave you your physical form, it gave SriSri his form…so without it you would never have had that experience.
      The Sun – Without the SUN nothing on earth would have energy to sustain. You experience would have never happened.

      And yet…you choose to direct all your gratitude and love in just one direction. There is nothing wrong if you attribute all of it to SriSri. Just that it is incomplete. I am quite sure, none of the others are going to complain (nor are they going to take credit…Which BTW he loves to do….in very indirect ways…it was his Sudarshan Kriya, His hollow and Empty meditations, his Grace…which other senior devotees will plant in your mind).

      However, attributing THE GOOD THINGS to ONLY him is misleading. It prevents us from seeing the more complete picture of him (ie all ongoing exploitation, mismanagement, adharmic practices and living off the good intentions / feelings and energies of so many innocent followers) …..ALL of it in full view at any time.

      You do really need to take a deliberate and concerted 360 degree view of this entity you call SriSri AND It is time to take a stand……either way (pro or con).

      You really cannot have both ways. While opposite values do co-exist, we have the freedom to choose which side of it we will choose, live and express….every day, every moment of our lives. Why forsake that freedom ? It does mean you take more responsibility for yourself and your immediate world. Attributing everything to him is actually the easy way out and somewhat negligent.

      Taking complete stock and being accountable for everything in your life is more challenging as well as en-powering …..I don’t see any other way out….or in.

      Wishing you well

      • February 13, 2011 9:16 pm

        @ Independent Observer – now thats what I call brilliant brain washing! In calling AOL a cult and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a brain washer… you have become an expert yourself! Proves my point – law of attraction oh sorry… obsession!

      • anon permalink
        February 14, 2011 5:56 am

        cannot figure out the point corrector is trying to make, wish he’d elaborate. that will also ensure another brainless, comic post on this blog.

      • February 15, 2011 5:32 pm

        How could you understand??? You have a washed brain!!! With IQ of a tomato you can’t do much… ketchup ketchup!! Look up the word Cult… it was started by the ULTIMATE CULT – The Vatican to put down other religious faiths!!! Everytime you use this word it shows your support for such behaviour!

    • anonymous permalink
      December 10, 2010 4:12 pm

      Anonymous who loves Guru: You can love everyone on the planet. You can love Ravi Shankar. So did I. But would you associate with someone on the street whom you knew was a goonda, say? Probably not. You draw the line. Love in your heart is not wrong. But you need to not “cast your pearls before swine” as the Christian bible says. Since your heart is love itself, then loving everyone would seem to be natural and good. But if you love Ravi Shankar and not the beggar on the corner equally, you just have not faced up to RS’s disgusting deceptions. I hope you get over this if that’s the case, and see him for just what he is: He condones, and even directs all the awful things you’ve read about on these blogs. Sorry to say it, but it’s so. He doesn’t care about anyone. He did once, long ago. That ended with the money, name and fame.

  4. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    December 9, 2010 2:26 am

    “All this is an extremely painful process, especially when your main motivation was this strong love to your Guru, which you don´t manage to let go”

    If living in present is difficult, it’s a lot better to be attached to the future, instead of being attached to the past.

    Heartbreak is painful – but what’s the alternative ? You are naive in thinking that guruji has no role to play in these shenanigans. You have been conditioned to think that all the bad things in AOL are because of fallible people and RS has no role to play. In fact, if you observe closely, you will find the opposite – most people in AOL, imperfect as they maybe, are generally innocent, and RS is the main reason for the dysfunction in the organization. There are many many associations and organization in the world that are formed by free association of people (and these people are not even religious or spiritual) and none of them show the kind of dysfunction you see in AOL (except maybe TM ;). The dysfunction generally stems from fraud – there is the agenda that is the stated goal – seva, sadhna, spiritual regeration, and then there is the hidden agenda (pursuit of $$, power and fame for RS & family) that subverts and gains precedence over the stated agenda.

    • The Doctor permalink
      December 9, 2010 10:46 am

      I’ve spoken to many non-AoL Hindus about the problems in AoL, many of whom have gurus who have passed away. And they are all quite surprised about one thing: that all these things are even going on at all given that Sri Sri is still alive.

      Surely, they argue, he must be aware of these things and as such should do everything he can to stop them, which is what any good Guru would do. The fact that these things are even going on at all means that not only is he aware of them but he actually approves of them.

      And exactly as PW says, the whole AoL machinery is designed to make people believe that Guruji is all-loving and beyond any blame. So followers who come across these issues will try to rationalize them by saying that Guruji is not to blame, he is not responsible, but rather the fault is elsewhere, perhaps with the organization or other devotees.

      I’m not telling you not to love Guruji, I am asking you to examine closely what is it that makes you believe he isn’t responsible for these things. Please spend some serious time introspecting this if it is something which is affecting you. Hopefully you will find the answer you are looking for.

      • hope permalink
        December 9, 2010 7:04 pm

        I probably didn´t express clear enough what I wanted to say. Of course I see all what you´re expressing. The problem that happens – as I observed myself – is that you change your opinion many times from one side to the other. It seems to be part of the psychological liberation process. I was writing the questions down which keep arising in my mind. These are not my opinions but questions. Sometimes my heart wants something different than my common sense. I am spending a lot of time very seriously introspecting the whole thing. And I´m sure I will find the truth. Unfortunately I have this tendency of losing myself in love… It might happen to many of us…
        Thank you doctor and PW for your answers. I appreciate.

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 9, 2010 9:11 pm

        Dear hope,

        To begin with, I am neither pro- nor am I con-AoL. These terms don’t really mean very much to me, they are extremes that have arisen to create an “us vs them” dynamic. But as far as I’m concerned, they don’t come anywhere near close to accurately representing any possible reality that any one person may observe.

        In AoL, there is plenty of good, and as we’re discovering here, there is at least just as much bad. My perspective previously was that there was only good, and hardly any bad, or at least the bad was acceptable. Now my perspective has radically changed as a result of being here and seeing things I couldn’t previously see properly because it was obscured.

        So, now I see both the good and bad, it isn’t a case that I am now suddenly pro- or suddenly con-AoL based on these things. I accept that both exist, and have decided to get on with my life rather attack or defend the organization.

        If I were to think about taking any sides at all, then I choose the side of truth. Everything I have done since the very start of my being here, and in fact since I arrived on this earth, has been in pursuit of the truth. This really is my core purpose for being here on this blog, to help find the truth both for others and for myself.

        This thing called Art of Living is one of the most complex beasts I have ever had the fortune to become involved with. And I was on the verge of getting too involved, so right now I am very much still in the process of un-entangling my self from this machinery that nearly took over my life. Every day, new things arise and I write them down. Questions come out of all my introspections and I write these down, and as I go about my business, answers occassional fly out of nowhere and missing pieces of this incredible puzzle reveal themselves to me.

        Wherever I was when I discovered these blogs, I’ve come a long way since then, and my beliefs have changed dramatically, and for the better. I am, however, really curious to know in what ways you have observed that I’ve changed my opinion? For my own understanding of myself more than anything, it’s always interesting to note.

        But please understand, I don’t have the answers. I am just doing everything I can to find them out. I too am spending a lot of time going over these things, arguably more time than is healthy, but I am committed and highly determined to get to the bottom of this. And I will. We will.

      • hope permalink
        December 9, 2010 11:18 pm

        Dear doctor
        Now we really have a misunterstanding due to my English not being good enough. I said: “YOU change your opinions” meaning “ONE changes the opinions”. In this situation, when ONE is very close and wants to become free it happens that one doesn´t want to see what one knows. I saw it happening to many people involved. I was not at all talking about you as a person, just using the word wrongly. Sorry for that. Believe me, many things are definitely not OK with AOL. But to avoid the pain, ONE starts to lie to ONEself. I just don´t know how to get out of this.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        December 10, 2010 1:15 am

        @Hope: “Unfortunately I have this tendency of losing myself in love… It might happen to many of us…”

        What you are calling love is actually just your attachment (or guruholicism in this case). When you “love” a person for your own pleasure, it is not really love – it is attachment. Realizing it is so is first step to recovery.

        Pure love comes out of the being when you are unattached. Paradoxical – but true.

      • Independent Observer permalink
        December 10, 2010 7:55 am

        @ Doctor

        Truly Doc…can you put your hand on your heart and say

        “I am really not Pro or Con” as regards AOL.

        Lets say a young teenager came to you for advice. This person is very close to you. They are about to do a YES plus course with Bawa.

        Are you really in a position to say…

        a. Here are the good things about AOL ?
        b. Here are the bad things about AOL ?

        Now its your call. Whatever you do, I am okay.

        Can you be absolutely sure that you have no preferred outcome ?

        What I ask is not just rhetoric. I am looking for this deeply too. The thing is, I am faced with a very interesting situation. While I have done exactly what you are doing I decided not to fight the cancer, rather stay away from it…and occasionally contribute to the blog. I decided that I have no interest nor would like to invest energy to fight the beast.

        However, now, I find that it (lack of light) is manifesting in my life again in other ways and is forcing me to fight (The very same situation that Arjuna faced and he had to fight the war).

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 11, 2010 3:08 pm

        @Independent Observer,

        If a young teenager did come to me for advice and I told them about both the good and the bad, I can almost guarantee you that what I tell them will be enough to make make them steer well clear of AoL for good. This is because as far as I’m concerned, whatever good comes out of AoL, the amount of bad far outweighs it. And I will make this perfectly clear to them.

        But I will never in a million years interfere with anyone’s free will when it comes to making such a decision. Sure I have a preferred outcome, but I would never force my opinions on others, nor will I try to get them to do what I believe is best for them. This is EXACTLY the how AoL encourages its followers to behave, to go around proselytizing others to join AoL and to accept its way of life, and I know that most of us here realize now that this is just plain wrong.

        Now does this make me con-AoL? I really don’t believe it does, as I am not fighting against AoL, or at least I am not against everything AoL. There is definitely some good which I have taken away with me, and I do tell people even today about this. But once I reveal everything else to them, they get a good enough picture in their minds to know the truth about the organization.

        Your cancer analogy is very interesting as well. What I am seeing in those people who are taking sides is that on one side we have those who are denying that the cancer even exists, that the patient is perfectly healthy, and that anyone who says otherwise is completely wrong, is disgruntled or being negative. And on the other side there are those who are fighting not only the cancer but also the patient who suffers from the cancer. Rather than either of these extremes, neither of which benefits the patient, surely it is better to raise awareness of the cancer and then to do everything possible to help save the patient?

        This is exactly where I see myself. Helping to raise awareness of all the problems in Art of Living, and helping those who want to leave find a safe way out and a space to heal afterwards. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

        Finally, as far as Arjuna is concerned, wasn’t the battle he was fighting itself an analogy for the sruggle within himself, the ongoing battle between the ego and the higher self? This comes from my limited understanding of the Bhagavad Gita based on Paramansa Yogananda’s commentaries.

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 11, 2010 3:16 pm

        @hope, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and why you’re going through what you’re describing. It is perfectly normal to go through this, especially the last thing you said (“But to avoid the pain, ONE starts to lie to ONEself.”)
        I’ll go into this in detail in a post I’m currently working on, but in terms of getting out of it, I say stick around, I have a good feeling that we’re all going to help each other get through this. 🙂

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        December 12, 2010 2:39 am

        @Doctor:

        “Finally, as far as Arjuna is concerned, wasn’t the battle he was fighting itself an analogy for the sruggle within himself, the ongoing battle between the ego and the higher self? This comes from my limited understanding of the Bhagavad Gita based on Paramansa Yogananda’s commentaries.”

        That is one of the interpretation and is considered a bit ‘sanitized’. Yogananda was uncomfortable with the idea of Krishna preaching Arjuna to engage in war.

        The mainstream (and the literal) interpretation is that Krishna told Arjuna to do his duty and do it well. If as a warrior, Arjuna’s duty demanded him to battle his own relatives, so be it. In Krishna’s view, a man’s obligation begins and ends with doing his duty regardless of how it may affect him personally.

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 13, 2010 11:04 am

        Thanks for the explanation Abhilash.

        As an aside, can you recommend another version of the Bhagavad Gita which has a good English translation and a decent commentary? I have the “Bhagavad Gita As it Is” by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, however I grew tired of reading this as the commentary for nearly every verse contained some reference to Krishna consciousness and it seemed as if he was trying to get people to join the Hare Krishna movement in a very subtle way.

      • Compatriot permalink
        December 13, 2010 1:40 pm

        As an aside, can you recommend another version of the Bhagavad Gita which has a good English translation and a decent commentary?

        Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        December 13, 2010 2:00 pm

        @Abhilash:

        You are correct about Bhaktivedanta’s translation. It is not faithful to the original text.

        Traditionally there are three main schools that provide Gita’s commentary respectively from non-dual, dual and qualified non-dual perspective. I am personally biased toward non-dual interpretation.

        A. Parthasarathy’s commentary is a useful introduction from non-dual perspective. Translation is faithful.

        http://www.amazon.com/Bhagavad-Gita-Parthasarathy/dp/8190617923

        Swami Dayananda has written a short introduction to Gita’s philosophy, which is better than Parthasarathy’s. However, it is not a verse-by-verse commentary but an overall vision of Gita in a long essay format.

        http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_25?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=swami+dayananda+saraswati&sprefix=swami+dayananda+saraswati

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        December 13, 2010 7:58 pm

        By far the best translation I have read is by swami tapasyananda. It is a direct translation – not much commentary. He also explains the meaning of each sanskrit word – so you can understand the original sanskrit text if you know a little bit of hindi.

        http://www.amazon.com/Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita-Swami-Tapasyananda/dp/8178230968

  5. Observer permalink
    December 9, 2010 8:51 am

    Here is another take – Ravi sincerely believes that he is God. Note that is not all uncommon among cult leaders with charisma (lots of analysis books have been written – some were referenced in this blog, too). slowly over time, the leaders themselves start buying into what they have been passing on to their followers.
    I also believe it is almost impossible for anyone to continue to deceive people for years together, if that person doesn’t believe in it himself, to a good extent .

    • December 9, 2010 2:22 pm

      Yes, I believe he does believe that he is God in the sense that we are all part of one divinity. That I have no doubt on. He has often said we are part of one Big Mind. But being part of one divine consciousness doesn’t make one all-knowing and all powerful in the way we traditionally think of God. Being one with God and being the totality of God, I think are very different things. I don’t mean to get into a theological debate here. The point I was making is that SSRS allows the belief that he is all-knowing and all powerful to thrive among his devotees and there isn’t any evidence of that. It is very clear that he doesn’t know every little detail of our lives, nor can he make anything happen at will. (If so, he would have won the Nobel prize by now). That being said, I think he is very insightful and intuitive and probably psychic at times. So he can appear to know things about people that he shouldn’t have. That still doesn’t make him divinely all knowing/all powerful. It just makes him a gifted psychic.

      • anonymous permalink
        December 10, 2010 4:19 pm

        DW: Yes, Ravi Shankar is “insightful” and other things as well at times. He possesses many siddhis. So did Ravana. It does not make him good. It makes him talented. What he does with those talents? Well you can read it for yourself in these pages.

        He claimed to me, many times, that he was Krishna, Rama, Siva, even Devi. He was clear about it: “I AM Krishna…” and would site how many people would become his gopis, etc. Other times he would claim to be Siva. I found the whole thing schizophrenic, actually. It was one of the main reasons I left him, early on. He had become delusional, self-important, self-involved, and stopped caring about other people. He only seemed to care about his paranoia, right down to accusing people of stealing from him, and ordering others to search peoples’ belongings in their absence (!) This was totally distasteful to me, and pretty much sealed my exit plans.

        I just don’t think there is much left of the Ravi Shankar I knew in the “old days”.

      • December 13, 2010 3:50 pm

        Anonymous,

        Thanks for your reply. I am from the west so he didn’t claim to be Krishna, Shiva, Devi . . . so openly. At least he didn’t when I was around him. He would hint at it though. I am disappointed to hear about it. It makes him seem all the more delusional or manipulative. Outside of getting power, what would the use of such claims be is beyond me.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      December 13, 2010 7:39 pm

      The concept of avatar has been misused by many hindu gurus. Believe it or not – krishna or rama never claimed (except in intimate conversations with people close to them) to be god – but because they had divine qualities, they were able to accomplish with ease.

  6. Abhilash Shastry permalink
    December 9, 2010 11:04 am

    “Here is another take – Ravi sincerely believes that he is God.”

    Yes. And he doesn’t take kindly to any suggestions to the contrary.

    He might even quote from Vedantic scriptures that declare non-difference between jiva and brahman. “jiva brahmaiva naapare” (individual consciousness is same as the absolute consciousness – no difference) is the favorite quote of the fake gurus who want to ascertain their divinity on their followers.

  7. Relieved permalink
    December 9, 2010 9:20 pm

    Interesting posts as ever, the one from Anonymous certainly struck a chord with me, just when I think I am over it something comes and wallops me from behind again…such is the way of a grieving process. However, I would like to recommend Ram Dass’s latest book – Be love now- it is so well presented and has answered many of my questions. His Guru is Neem Karoli Baba, he sought no publicity and for his followers offered a mirror. His way was/is of bhakti yoga. Reading this book has helped me come to terms with my experience, of which I have no regrets and am grateful for the journey both in and out of AoL.

    It is said that the student leaves the teacher when they have learned all they can, so I do have to thank Ravi Shankar for being a teacher along my path, I gained a great deal in my time in AoL and in the leaving of it.

    I also have to thank this blog and Klim’s for creating a space to journey with others who have been in similar turmoil, it has offered a great community for healing.

  8. Blossom permalink
    December 10, 2010 6:11 pm

    @ relieved – I don’t think it is a good idea to jump into another organisation or path, however good, on the rebound. Take some time off from spirituality, Give attention to the neglected areas of life.

    To quote AOL Gyaan – You have come out of many bad situations in life and they are just a dream now.You can make it through this too.

    • Elle permalink
      February 13, 2011 4:17 am

      I agree with you, Blossom. Very wise words; probably from experience. It is also not good to leave any religious organization without being at peace before. I was once told this and it has always proven true. There definitely is enough bad going on in the organization to elicit pure anger and even hatred for some, but it isn’t good to leave with these things in one’s heart. Also, it is better to focus on what was wrong overall and not on particular individuals. This just brings the human side into the problem which means we didn’t really learn what we should have from our time in hearing the words. Even though SSRS basically repackaged old truths to make them seem as if they were birthed from his mind, those things which he has taught are true.
      What I did when I left, though I only spent seven months in the organization, was completely cut the cord. I told the local leaders that I could not support the behavior I was witnessing and that AOL just wasn’t for me. It was stressing that they did not want to let me go because of what Rishiji had told them about me, so I had to be firm with them. Still, I received a few more emails from one of the local members who was working hard for the organization to get participants to go to events, something I noted seemed to be really prevalent amongst those who I considered brainwashed.
      At the same time, I realized that not everyone shares the same values, and also I didn’t understand the culture well enough. The majority of members are of Indian culture, and I am not, so even though I wanted to understand, I missed a lot of the inferences because I wasn’t aware of the meaning. All I knew was that you can’t teach someone who has been raised in church all her life that lying to one’s employer is okay because you are going to an advanced course, which I guess, was above reproach, even lying. Not going to go over very well, I tell you.
      I came to this site because I had never thought to look and see if people reacted the same way I did, but it is very comforting to see that I was not alone. Even though I was never really tempted to convert, I did form significant relationships which suffered because I would not recant my beliefs, and that did traumatize me. I am sure I am not the only one that was in that situation. My heart goes out to all of you who have seen the light (which is btw evidence that love does live in us all), and I pray that you all find the peace you are looking for.

  9. Relieved permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:03 pm

    @ Blossom -I don’t think it is a good idea to jump into another organisation or path, however good, on the rebound. Take some time off from spirituality, Give attention to the neglected areas of life.

    I am certainly not jumping into anything else, I simply wanted to share a source that has been of help on my journey. I also do not want to neglect the spiritual area of my life, so I observe and read what comes my way and I take what I want and fits with me and leave the rest.

    I have always explored and kept an open mind even while I was embroiled in AoL, and it was that mind that observed all the discrepancies, and made me aware I could not stay. The further I got in the more I became aware, but I am glad that I had the experience. I will always hold warm memories of the ashram, feeding the elephant with chappatis, walking to early morning yoga and in Bali doing padmasadhana on the edge of the ocean. I, like many others, seemed to drop off when RS spoke. I rose well to the challanges of TTC and it was good to know I got through.

    I am blessed with very strong family who kept my feet firmly on the ground, I may dance with my granddaughters to Krishna Das, sing christmas carols, listen to Buddhist chants, read Sufi poets as well read trashy novels, play with tarot and astrology, walk my dogs and tend my garden. I recognise that RS was a teacher on the way, teaching discernment if nothing else and so I am grateful for that.

    Thank you Blossom – love the name – I am fine and all the stronger for the experience.

  10. Blossom permalink
    December 11, 2010 12:28 pm

    @ Relieved – Thanks, I love my name too!

    Sorry for jumping in with an opinion. What u r doing seems right. Enjoy ur multifaceted hobbies, family & the nice memories. Lots of stuff is good too in AOL, which is why so many of us were/are in it.

  11. BrightFaith permalink
    December 11, 2010 3:08 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed in AoL and in other spiritual groups (Catholic Church being a good example) is that there is a strong desire to be good, be pure, and God-like. Unfortunately, I think that many of the people involved end up repressing anything seen as negative or bad such as anger or sexuality. When such repression gets to an extreme point in these organizations, people even try to prematurely transcend and pretend to be God.

    Some people actually become dis-integrated instead of integrated in certain spiritual organizations. By integrated, I mean, being compassionate and honest about all of our negative traits as well as our good qualities. I’ve seen this dis-integration on blog posts here from people defending AoL (lots of smiley faces and signed “love to you” when really they are seriously angry!). When I was in AoL, I got the feeling that anything negative had been repressed for so long that things were imploding. There was a level of dishonesty so great in the belief that RS is God and has no negative qualities, and that AoL is the one true and purest path. I think RS himself promotes this because he’s come to believe it over time. Overall, it’s a very unhealthy way to live and a very poor example of living fully. Isn’t living more fully supposed to be what we get from these practices?!

  12. anon permalink
    February 15, 2011 8:02 pm

    Brain of a tomato!?!! ketchup, ketchup!! ROLF….need I say more about this guy!!?? Anyways, corrector, keep going, keep going, you never disappoint!! comical to the bone marow! Sense of humor inherent or result of SK, Guru grace, guru body fluids? Please enlighten!! Hold on to your seat guys, get ready for some more comical posts, Corrector likes to retort, he loves to have the last word, even if it’s at the cost of looking utterly foolish and demented!!

  13. February 16, 2011 4:49 pm

    From what I am observing of your comments and posts… its seems that you are all putting on such a wonderful show in praising each other’s wonderful performances and patting each other on the back! Get some perspective. A few people running around in circles does not constitute a movement rather a pathetic stroll!!! Please remember not to reply as you made a Beatle’s promise to Let It Be!!! Here’s the first and last word – Om!!!

    • Dayalu permalink
      February 16, 2011 7:31 pm

      Does that mean you will no longer entertain us? We’ll miss you dear, your comments were so representative of the state of minds of people in your ‘movement’.

  14. Doubtful guy permalink
    February 17, 2011 3:44 pm

    Can any one say, doing regular SK, Padma sadhana and sahaj help a person to get health and peace. Or It is just like any other Yoga and Gym actvities

  15. February 18, 2011 8:08 am

    @ dayalu – Not “My Last Word” but “The Last Word” – Om (Naad Brahman) is the first sound and the last… Get your self some nice reading glasses. I guess your extra compassion has made you totally blind as well as senile. Old age – As Rama said in Yoga Vasistha, Yam Raj views the White Hair on an old person’s head like the ripe melon waiting to be plucked!! I’ll miss you too… but where you go next is really like Russian Roulette… Blog Karma… 🙂 Don’t expect the universe to be as Dayalu as your name. Remember to have your will done soon.

    @ Doubtful guy – 154 countries, so many millions of people, it must be different or else how would it spread so far and help so many people? A bunch of disgruntled cribbers should not put you off that fact!

    • Yet another ex-aol permalink
      February 18, 2011 9:07 am

      154 countries, so many millions of people, …. put you off that fact!

      Am I a disgruntled cribber if i question whether those numbers are real? I have been in AoL long enough and seen such official numbers being made up on the spot.

    • Dayalu permalink
      February 18, 2011 4:04 pm

      Reading glasses fail fail before a demented mind’s incoherent blabber; still keep them coming.

  16. February 18, 2011 4:40 pm

    @ Yet another ex-AOL – Whatever the numbers are, the argument for the exact details can go on for months, there is no doubting the impact and no blog with a few frustrated voices can belittle that! Many Masters have walked this planet and many more are yet to come. There have always been a few rubbed the wrong way and many have doubted the ways and value of the sangha and even the Master. But from History who do you remember? The Master or the disgruntled few? A river will flow and a few pebbles may try to make a Dam but they will be washed away. That is the power of the flow! Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has done more than what we could ever dream of for so many people, even for most of you. That is why you find it so hard to move on… because you all loved Him with your heart! Hate comes only from the strongest form of rejected or distorted love. You talk about leaving and stopping AOL, then what? What is the alternative you offer… nothing!!! You are just trying to shatter people’s hopes and dreams and trying to stop something that Has and Will change and define our times forever. Have you really been in AOL for so long living what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, if so then you would be mature enough to know that by giving so many people stress relief should be the main focal point here and the trivial details. You can choose to be negative but just remember:

    Negative + Negative = Positive!

    One day you will get it. If not then go to the nearest plug point and experiment for yourself.. be sure to be wearing Wooden Sandals however! Or else you may discover something new… a Bzzing Afro!

  17. VSS permalink
    May 5, 2012 7:19 pm

    This is an extremely insightful thread. The question about the alternative to AoL is an intriguing one. Perhaps the absence of an alternative means being dependent completely on oneself. Perhaps it means pursuing spirituality in solitude. Maybe solitude is a scary prospect. Maybe what all human beings fear the most is isolation — for isolation can be painful.

    Maybe going for the weekly follow-up SK session is about having some place to go to — where there are others — some place that is marketed as being more meaningful than reading a book or watching a film or spending time with family and friends (etc. etc.). Perhaps all human beings seek a sense of purpose that is more than quality time with family and friends or literature or cinema (etc. etc.) — and that sense of purpose is what AoL sells.

    Perhaps all the discussion that goes on is essentially about whether what is sold is truly purposeful or not. Those who believe in AoL and stay in AoL do so because they see purpose in it and those who leave do so because they start finding it purposeless at some point.

    The dictionary defines the word purpose as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”.

    I wonder what causes the perception of AoL to transition from something that is purposeful to something that is purposeless. It doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with rational evidence (especially if it is not first hand) — there is plenty of that on this blog to trigger and effect the transition. It seems more like it has something to do with the transition from dependence on AoL to independence. It seems that even those who continue with practices learnt in AoL after leaving AoL do so as a result of independent decision-making. They exercise their “free will”.

    It also seems like those who are happy in AoL are happy because they are not dependent on AoL. Dependence seems to lead to pain — to disappointment and disillusionment as well. Those who are independent within AoL don’t get affected by anything bad that is going on because it doesn’t impact them in any way. They are detached. (They are probably enlightened before joining AoL.) Those who are dependent on AoL are the ones who get angry with anyone asking questions. Those who are dependent on AoL also experience pain arising from attachment to AoL.

    Perhaps it’s important for those in AoL to assess if they are dependent on AoL. Perhaps they should ignore all the evidence for a few moments and think if they are independent within AoL or dependent on it. If they have difficulty arriving at an answer and if the exercise in and of itself proves difficult, chances are it’s because of attachment. If there is attachment, then any criticism of AoL will be upsetting. If there is attachment, any evidence of any wrong practice in AoL will cause disappointment and disillusionment. Therefore, the best way to ensure happiness within AoL is by being detached to the extent of not being dependent on AoL.

    So, there are two options:

    1. Solitude outside AoL

    2. Detachment inside AoL

    A decision based on “free will” is probably the one that works the best. IMHO.

    Further, I thank all those who have contributed to this thread. I learnt a lot from you all. Most of all, I am thankful because I was able to articulate my perspective on AoL accurately — I haven’t been able to — since the time I broke my ties with AoL. Now I know that I was too attached to AoL to ignore evidence. The moment I chanced upon all the evidence in this blog and Klim’s blog, I felt that AoL had let me down really badly. If I was capable of detachment, I would have been like all those detached people in AoL who are not impacted by evidence. Instead I was in shock for days. My worst fears got confirmed. I could not believe that there are so many people in AoL who are “okay” with all the wrong practices. The fact is that they are. It isn’t too much for them because they don’t get affected by some teacher giving some disciple a rough time or financial misappropriation or false claims etc. etc. Those who get affected suffer. Extremists who get enraged also belong to the category of those who suffer. They somehow want to silence all evidence and criticism by branding it “negative” or “false” or “anti-AoL” or “delusional” etc. etc. It’s all because they are dependent on AoL for their self-esteem. They, therefore, take it rather personally when they chance upon any criticism. Perhaps all who are suffering need to consider “detachment” in order to deal with rage and pain — including me. IMHO.

    Also, in addition to this thread, I found the following very insightful:

    https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/double-edged-sword-part-1/
    https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/double-edged-sword-part-2/
    https://aolfree.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/double-edged-sword-part-3/

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