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Urgent Help Needed

December 13, 2010

-by X

Hi, I have a very close friend who is getting involved very seriously with AoL (she finished the first course last week, is already thinking of repeating it, taking more courses, and she goes on the weekends to some group breathing while watching a video of SSRS, aside from being completely obsessed with AoL, she just can’t talk about anything else). I’m trying to inform myself as to how I can help her, I’m reading Steve Hassan’s books, I’m looking for any info I can use. Do you have anything that could help me? Since you’re an ex-member, maybe you know stuff that could help me make her realize what she’s doing.
Please, I’m really concerned about her, she just broke up with her boyfriend and she was really depressed, now she is really glowing, but I’m guessing it’s just the initial AoL effect, they got her when she was the weakest. Any advice you could give me would be really appreciated.
Thanks,

X

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29 Comments
  1. December 13, 2010 4:23 pm

    X,

    Please realize that whether she moves into AOL or not is ultimately out of your control. She has to make her own decisions. Also know that whatever way she decides it isn’t the end of the world. Being a part of AOL maybe what she needs to do for a while. I know that no one could have talked me out of AOL when I first got into it. I fell madly in love, and that first rush of love was blind. I would encourage you to be her friend and love her unconditionally. I know from my experience, I have a partner who supported my involvement with AOL and supported my leaving AOL. He wanted what I wanted. He respected me that much. Looking back, it was very helpful to have someone not involved in AOL to be very close with me. It gave me reality checks and kept me somewhat grounded in the non-AOL world. She has to find her way and going through AOL may be a part of that. I don’t know. For me, it was. I had to go through AOL to get out of it. Along the way I learned many things, so it wasn’t a waste of my time. In leaving it, I learned many more things. Life has a way of weaving through all kinds of experiences. If you push against her involvement with AOL too much, you could very much lose her as a friend (and that is what it is). I would suggest you love her and support her as a friend and human being, because she may need that whether she gets more involved or not with AOL.

    • Anon permalink
      December 13, 2010 11:50 pm

      I second with DW. Just being there unconditionally for your friend will provide her a reality check, when she has to move on. I guess, pointing to this and Klim’s blog might help her to keep balanced through her journey in and out of AOL. And ya, relax..maybe yourself do a AOL basic course or other relaxation techniques. You being tensed and in panic only provides a contrast to your friend as to how cool AOL environment is (as many AOL’ers fake thier smile), and AOL gets even more attractive to her, given that she was depressed to begin with.

      Its unfortunate that some of these neo spiritual organizations mostly prey on the weakned hearts (or when people are in that phase of life), as a little solace they get initially from breathing or little words of wisdom makes them think they are blessed and on a spiritual journey. After a while for these weak hearted people, these organizations become more of a social setting than a spiritual setting, a place where similary conditioned (brainwashed) minds hang on and feel good as they all now have similarities in thought, action and even looks! And then its the fear of loss of friends and social setting they are so accustomed to that keeps people from moving on with life (or away from AOL). If these weak hearted people were truly on a spiritual path, they should be liberated and have no fear or feeling of loss over anything (leaving friends or guru or society). Atleast thats my observation on the modus operandi of may neo-spiritual organizations. I recall, Swami Vivekanada says spirituality is not for the faint hearted, but for the strong souls. For a weak person spiritual practice can only provide some comfort and no more.

    • Original Anonymous permalink
      December 14, 2010 7:56 am

      The above advice by DW is a good one to follow ” X “….

      Fanatically stopping somebody from getting somebody out of AoL is the same thing as fanatically signing up people up for the course.

      In both the circumstances you are trying to influence the natural course of way.

      If she was depressed and she is glowing now then definitely I would keep her happiness first.

      Just be with her and don’t let her lose out on her studies/and or career .. your role as a friend should be to make sure she puts a lot of effort into her career and/or studies(depends on whether she is a student or working) too….

      If you alienate her now then things would be difficult for her maybe later on..

      Just support her. There were a lot of positive things I learnt in AoL maybe 90% were positive .. yes that came with a price… and too much involvement with seva may have had a negative impact on the workfront… make sure it doesn’t happen to her…

      Btw Mahesh Yogi calling Sri Sri “sugar coated poison is a speculation and there is no real proof that he said that..

      So don;t get so tensed up about it.. there are many more worse things in the world that she could have gotten into …. drugs, alcohol etc etc….

      All the best to both you and your friend .. Hopefully everything works out well for both of you… 🙂 ..
      And am sure it will

    • Jackie permalink
      December 26, 2010 1:20 am

      Thanks for this very wise answer.

  2. anonymous permalink
    December 13, 2010 9:50 pm

    I think you should risk your friendship and warn this friend in the strongest terms. Even tell her “at the risk of losing you as a friend, please, please, please, read through these blogs before you get further involved with this man!!” Also refer her to Klim’s blog, which has very detailed accounts of some of us who were very very close to Ravi Shankar and full time in AOL. If this poor woman wants to ruin her life after reading all of that, you’ll have to let her go. But my advice is to try to save her, as she could waste years of her life and even get sick and die as a result of her involvement. It’s such a twisted place. I once heard that Ravi Shankar’s own teacher, Mahesh Yogi, referred to him as “sugar coated poison” in the United States! That is amazing, but succinctly describes the whole of AOL and it’s Guru: Looks sweet on the outside, but will do you in if you take it.

  3. another anonymous permalink
    December 13, 2010 11:44 pm

    I also have a friend who has gotten involved with AOL and it is destroying her marriage and friendships. I am very worried about advice she seems to be getting from AOL members. She has a family member who is under medical treatment for something serious and recently had a setback. Her AOL friends, who are not medical professionals, have been telling her that it’s because of toxins built up in this family member’s body from the treatment and I think they’re urging her to change the treatment to something more in tune with Eastern medicine, maybe even discontinuing the Western style of treatment even though I think that would be very dangerous. Is there any known history of this group getting involved with interfering in medical treatments?

    • Doreen permalink
      December 14, 2010 2:00 am

      another anonymous,

      Actually this “medical advice” is completely contrary to the advice I’ve ever heard SSRS give. I’ve never heard him suggest to anyone that they should stop allopathic treatment in favor of only doing herbal treatment, detox, or sadhana. Absolutely the opposite. I’ve only ever heard him encourage people to do both.

      He has recommended a vegetarian diet and wheatgrass juice to those diagnosed with cancer – but never as a substitute of other medical treatment.

      • another anonymous permalink
        December 14, 2010 3:06 am

        Well, you’re clearly a current AOL person, Doreen, so forgive me if I’m not inclined to listen. There’s been a lot in these people’s actions which, as horrifying as it sounds, lead me to believe their goal is to separate my friend from as many people from her former life as possible even if that means through someone dying.

        These AOL friends who are based in India and she stays up all night on Skype talking to them have been very generous with the advice, including turning my friend against her husband who is a very good person. But I have a feeling her new friends will drop her once they realize the money comes from him and won’t be following her if a divorce happens.

      • Original Anonymous permalink
        December 14, 2010 8:13 am

        I too second Doreen. I have seen most of her comments on this blog.. and she is very neutral about the AoL And her comments have always suggested that she is committed to finding the truth.

        There may be members who suggest an alternate treatment method.. but that is their own personal opinion.

        In addition to this I would like to add a lil of my own opinion.

        Eastern medicine is highly effective and mind it AoL selling Ayurvedic treatment doesn’t mean Ayurvedic methods belong to AoL.. Ayurveda is powerful.. And honestly after understanding Ayurveda only did I come to know about some side effects of the AoL breathing practices.

        I have actually seen western medicine seriously mess up the condition of patients. And I have also seen western medicine cure some serious stuff.
        I have also seen ayurveda to have cured some serious stuff such as Diabetes and some forms of cancer and I have also found some people who do not respond very well to Ayurveda.

        So this is thing about treatment is a call that the patient has to take.

        Yes there are some very good non AoL ayurvedic hospitals .. such as Kottakal .. which is the pioneer in Ayurvedic treatments.

        I personally would vote for Ayurveda. Though its up to the patient and his family to decide the course of treatment.

        Western medicine is quite influenced by the pharma companies, which in turns pumps in a lot of money into the media and educational institutions to influence the minds of the people.. So actually they may be equally as messed up as any religious cult.

        Final advice .. do what you have faith on… ultimately its your faith which will see you through.. East, West does not really matter …. they ultimately meet at the same place…

      • The Doctor permalink
        December 14, 2010 1:57 pm

        @Doreen,

        I respect your views on this blog as they are generally objective and dispassionate, however your response here is actually a non sequitur.

        another anonymous reported that a close friend is being sucked into AoL at the cost of her marriage and friendships, and also that she is getting “medical advice” specifically from a number of AoL teachers. Sri Sri is not actually being implicated at all here, so I don’t actually see how your comment has any relevance to the problem.

        One can certainly make an argument that Sri Sri is responsible for how his teachers behave, however in this particular instance another anonymous hasn’t mentioned it at all, therefore we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this has been implied either when it clearly hasn’t.

      • anonymous permalink
        December 14, 2010 6:56 pm

        Well, Doreen, he did that to me and I could have died as a result. Only lucky, Grace of God, that I left him and AOL in time. He did give terrible advice to me and others who were ill. I don’t know if that practice has ceased or not. Some people did die. One man died in his ashrams because he just kept doing Kriya instead of seeking medical advice about symptoms that were clearly related to his heart. He was 49 years old.

      • Abhilash Shastry permalink
        December 15, 2010 9:38 am

        @Original Anonymous:

        Your comparison of Eastern vs. Western medicine is interesting. Too bad that senior AOL teachers like Bawa, Dinesh and even SSRS himself don’t know about the effectiveness of Ayurvedic system when it comes to treating their own near and dear ones.

        To be fair, I think there is lot of good available in Ayurveda esp. for chronic diseases. However, I find the attitude of many Ayurveda followers irritating. Exaggerated claims about effectiveness of its cures, being touchy about criticism and the claim of perfection make it look more like a fad than real science. No one takes it personally if a research says that Tylenol may be bad for kidneys or whatever. However, if a research says that some Ayurvedic medicine contains lead or is bad for health, Ayurveda followers do not take it kindly.

        Moreover, I do not think that medicine or any science for that matter, can be viewed as Eastern or Western. If it works, it is medicine; otherwise it is quackery. The whole debate about Eastern vs. Western medicine seems to be driven by ideological agenda rather than by any real concern for the patient.

      • Original Anonymous permalink
        December 15, 2010 5:30 pm

        @ Abhilash….

        Probably you are right about followers of Ayurveda taking it personally.

        And probably you are right about Ayurveda followers making exaggerated claims about the same. But the claims about Ayurveda are not all wrong. Yes the Ayurveda of today is not like the Ayurveda of the ancient times, where Ayurveda evolved from the intuition of great rishis. The ayurveda of today is a research based method and no different from allopathy.

        And the exaggerated claims about Ayurveda may not apply to the Ayurvedic docs of today but they do apply to the ayurvedic docs of the ancient times.

        In earlier days the Vaidyas (Ayurvedic Docs) used to be Rishis with highly evolved intuition and immense knowledge of the herbs. They used to be one with nature and hence chose herbs on instinct, nature would give them the knowledge of the herbs. And they used to use it on the patients, maybe test it on themselves 1st.

        This modern day ayurveda .. is where knowledge is gained from books and research just like allopathy. And I feel the difference between Ayurveda and allopathy is only in the words and in the type of medicines.

        The real ayurveda is born out of intuition and a little research not from “only research and study”.

        Like the real saints who stay humble and lie low.. these real Ayurvedacharyas today also lie low.. and treat patients not for money but as a service and provide medicines too at no cost. True ayurveda is not about making money but about serving humanity, about serving mankind.

        Currently to become an Ayurvedic doctor, people study for probably 5 n a half years, but in the earlier times .. The Vaidyas used to start training their children from a very young age and by the time they would practice they had a training period of more than 10 to 15 years. And their training used to have a lot of tapasya(penance) which I am not sure these modern day Ayurvedic docs undergo or not.

        To learn true Ayurveda one should be in one with nature, to be established within him/her Self. It cannot be learned in its full glory as a degree from an institution.

        I m not sure if AoL has any real ayurvedacharyas, if they are then they wud hard to find, coz i have seen a lot of crappy delusional ayurvedic aol docs… but some like Dr Patanjali I suppose are good( though I have never personally met him, from feedback of AoLites i suppose he is good)

    • Doreen permalink
      December 14, 2010 2:48 pm

      @Doctor

      Actually, my post was in direct response to the last line of “another anonymous”‘s post:
      “Is there any known history of this group getting involved with interfering in medical treatments?”

    • anonymous permalink
      December 14, 2010 6:54 pm

      Yes. I was advised by SSRS himself to discontinue prescribed medicine, which was a mistake — I became very ill. He also told me that exercise was unnecessary, other than the occasional light yoga. He also advised me to do more kriya at one point, which made a physical condition much worse. He said that vitamins were a “waste” and we shouldn’t bother with them. In the few years I was close to him my otherwise good health declined to a state of very poor general health. He said there was no need for me to seek medical advice when I told him some symptoms I was having. I didn’t go to a doctor. In the end, I left him and AOL, went to a doctor, had cancer, had surgery, was cured, started taking vitamins, exercising and being normal. My health was 80% restored, although I was left with asthma caused by the Kriya. I feel that RS is very irresponsible in the way he regards medical advice, giving the wrong advice without being a doctor, jeopardizing peoples’ lives. He can say “bad karma” all day. I only know I’m lucky to be alive because I left in time and saw a professional MD. This is my own experience.

      • another anonymous permalink
        December 15, 2010 12:50 am

        Thank you, all. The range of responses here is validating my concerns. My friend has not received input from Sri Sri, as far as I know, but she is already making plans to visit the ashram next year. So perhaps she has.

        I am not sure how to proceed here. Whether to let the medical professionals who are treating the family member here know about what I am learning about AoL and the influence that my friend is under. But I may try. I have once before addressed the cult issue with her, but from the response I got, it sounded like she had already been schooled by her AoL teachers about such questions. At this point I am probably most concerned about this family member’s health. She may be past the point of returning unless it is through her own disappointment and disillusionment.

        thank you again for the responses.

  4. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    December 14, 2010 12:54 am

    While the turn to spirituality is a good thing – you gotta be careful of AOL. Only dissuading them from AOL won’t work – you have to engage them by giving alternate perspectives on spirituality. Even then, they might not come back immediately, but atleast they will be more cautious in their experimentation.
    It is crucial that you find a way to maintain friendship despite differences. You may think that your disapproval of AOL is not working – but it does work, even if the person may not say so explicitly.

    • Independent Observer permalink
      December 14, 2010 1:42 am

      Hello X,

      I agree with DW. More then ever, more alert than ever, be there for your friend unconditionally. The fact that you care matters.

      I would like to complete the perspective a litle more though. Also, life has a way of teaching us things. If the time is right, if not AOL something else will come along. Like they say, when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

      Its best to constantly remind her (without being naggy) that the only truth is her experience. There should be no projecting. Encourage her to ask hard questions from the very beginning (about the money, about being enlightened….and so on). Let her come to her own conclusions about what she hears and sees.

      Finally, there is no need to be afraid. Its just one more experience. After all, we all made it through. The voice of reason has woken up many of us from deep stupors and slumbers. We are doing fine now.

      Most importantly, there is you to take care of her. Remember, we had no one….we had to figure it out all by ourselves.

      Best wishes

  5. The Doctor permalink
    December 14, 2010 9:50 pm

    Dear X,

    There really is no right or wrong answer here, and although I’m sure you want to do what you believe is best for her, this may not necessarily be what really is best for her. It is an extremely delicate situation, especially given her circumstances you have described above.

    When I discovered Art of Living, I was at one of the lowest points in my life. It really helped me in so many ways, and partly as a result of my time with them, I have a become a better person. From very early on, several of my non-AoL friends suspected the truth about it, but didn’t confront me about it, and for good reason too. I was in a much better place than I had previously been, so they knew that if they were to say anything, they could really rock the foundations of my then new world, which had the potential to create a rift between us.

    Over the time I was with Art of Living, I was slowly being reeled in, committing more of my time, energy and even money to the organization, and I truly believed this was the best way to spend my resources. And the more I was getting involved with AoL, the less time I had for my friends and even my family. It wouldn’t have been long before I started to neglect my career and dedicate even more time to AoL by becoming an AoL teacher.

    It was only through discovering these blogs one fateful day several months ago that I began to see the truth for myself. It was painful as hell finding out the truth as I did, but ultimately I was the one who did it and no one tried to convince me about it.

    Art of Living came into my life when I needed it the most, and subsequently these blogs came into my life at just the right time to help me get out of it before I made the biggest mistake of my life. I got to walk away relatively unharmed, and although I suffered some loss as a result, I took away a lot of good things with me when I left.

    Over the last few months I told many friends about my discovery, and those that suspected what was going on were relieved that I had found out the truth for myself, more so becuase didn’t need to step in at any point. But the fact is, they were prepared to intervene if things became really bad, that is, if it looked like I was going to abandon my friends and family completely, give up all the things I used to love, and fall deeply down the rabbit hole from which it seems it is so difficult to find a way out without coming to some harm.

    So what I would say to you here is, keep a close eye on your friend and make sure she is doing alright. As others have said above, she can gain a lot of good from AoL, so it would be good for her to absorb as much of the good as she can. But always be ready to step in and intervene, if/when you feel things get really bad. Especially do this if she reaches a point whereby she is about to become a teacher. I would say this is one key point in her association with AoL whereby once she crosses this point, it becomes very difficult to help her to see the light without her experiencing any of the various abuses detailed in these blogs, by which time I would say it is too late to help her.

    Ultimately, always be on the lookout to see how much of what John Knapp calls a Cultic Relationship she has developed with Art of Living:

    Cultic Relationship: 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….

    And if it comes to it and you need to convince her, you always have this blog as a goto resource. Feel free to pose any questions on here at any time, and even ask her to do the same if you feel this makes sense at the time. We will do our best here to help in whatever way we can.

    I really hope that whatever happens, she doesn’t come to any harm. And I’m sure with you watching over her, she’s in very good hands.

    Best Wishes,

    Doc

    • Jabrun permalink
      December 15, 2010 7:17 am

      @John Knapp

      We are missing your thoughtful and revealing posts regarding cultic realtionship and abuse. I hope everything is well with you.

  6. Blossom permalink
    December 15, 2010 1:01 pm

    I really admire The Doctor & other regular contributors for the time and effort being invested in helping other ex-AOL/AOL members. I was inspired to share my story.

    I was spiritually inclined, reading different books etc and I came across AOL & was hooked nice & proper. I faced a real nightmare professionally within 2 months and the sadhana and faith helped me thru it. That event was actually a great blessing in hindsight, pulling me out of a stagnant & no growth situation.

    I did other courses, sahaj, dsn, adv , eternity, blessings…I was into active seva and almost synonymous with local AOL. Even when I took a break from courses in between, I was into satsang or knowledge sessions. It was a merry go round I could not get off, though I wanted to stop at least for a while.

    My parents, spouse, some friends & colleagues kept hinting or telling directly about my 24 x 7 involvement .My marriage was definitely heading for rocks though we were a normal couple without any serious issues between us. That realization shocked me & I pulled back from most of it & worked pretty hard in spite of resistance on saving my marriage for 3-4 months. Once that was ok, I again got pulled into seva. It is quite addictive. I was like, whats wrong in calling/telling/ msging a few people about the upcoming course and again seriously thought about the inevitable TTC. God bless, I came across this blog last month. The post “Life after AOL” really resonated with me. Plus all the other issues of finance, overpricing of courses, charities done, local politics….which were also in my mind and some more ….

    Now, there is 100% non involvement in AOL. I do feel when I hear or see volunteers go do seva or drop in with smiling faces and JGDs to give fliers but I harden my heart. U have to give up all of it or else u will be pulled back. My phone no is all over banners and old fliers. If I get calls from participants, I tell that I am not involved in this particular course as I am busy with something now and ask them to call the other no.s for more details. If call is reg follow up place/ timings or venue directions, I give out the info or help out if they r hopelessly lost. I’m also holding out on satsangs for now, giving a genuine reason- which would have been no barrier for me earlier. I bless still as I really enjoy that. I get centred immediately. I don’t promise any miracles but I believe a sincere prayer helps.

    And yes, John you are conspicuous by your absence. Do join back in.

  7. December 15, 2010 2:30 pm

    Hi guys, X here, I read all your comments and found them very helpful. Though at times I thought of locking myself up in her house with her family and “deprogramming” her (I was a bit desperate, yes), I’ve accepted now that it is her decision, and like most of you said, I can only support her as a friend while trying to show her some of the things she can’t quite see, without forcing myself upon her. Two positive signs, she went out to dinner with her Yes!+ buddies and later complained about how some of them “have nothing to talk about but Guruji”, and she told me some of them spend all their weekends at the AOL center while she likes to do other stuff as well. I’m hopeful.
    Thank you all again for your advice, and thank you Skywalker for posting my concerns.

  8. December 16, 2010 8:08 am

    X, nothing much you can do. I was sucked in for the better part of a decade before opening my eyes. During that phase, anything anyone said about AOL in even a remotely questioning manner would set me off. I have broken friendships because of this.

    • Bling Bling permalink
      December 17, 2010 8:05 pm

      Me too. AOL is the kindergarten of spirituality. You have to go through that phase !

  9. shalini permalink
    December 17, 2010 5:23 am

    can anyone tell me wats the plan of aol or ssrs to involve mahesgiri and drsahk hathi inot politics….i have heard darshak hathi has be ordered to strengthen his political roots in rajasthan and maheshgiri has been asked to do same in delhi……wats up any one from inside circle can put light on this matter……also interested o know wats the story behind nandini sen to move out of aol

  10. sangietha permalink
    December 21, 2010 4:01 pm

    hi there nandini sen was quite ambitious to set up her own spiritual movement infact it is clearly mentioned on the mother tree website that she was an art of living teacher but her son and daughter in law are still into the movement of art of living and so is her sister in law chinky sen….she wanted to become an advance coourse teacher but apparently did not leave with a bad taste or else she woul dnot have attended her son’s wedding which took place at the ashram….nandini sen got registered as india’s first life coach abroad years ago and sri sri wanted her to train others to become counsellors at a charge but alas she felt better moving out in order to make more money and hence started her own meditation centre ……crazy….anyways aol is not the ultimate in spirituality tough they do some good work i have been a moderate follower for half a decade but believe in other spiritual things as well i do agree that there could be bitter politics in the inners but some are genuinely nice people doing real seva like educating poorer street kids or setting up old age homes….sri sri seems to be changing the methods of aol and rules for techers as well off late…. his meditation has helped me loose weight, control hormonal imbalances and feel calm no i do home kriya only 2ice a week…… maybe even once sometimes but do a lot of yoga and guided meditation… well atleast aol seems to be a tad bit better than osho

  11. preetha permalink
    December 22, 2010 6:09 am

    as such i not against aol or sri sri,but yes i know aol today is working as a multinational company with lots of opp for young ppl who want to achieve fame money and a glamorous life. AOl offers all this to its young facilitator who brings more ppl and fund to the organisation. I know nandini sen ‘s Daughter in law very well even know wat kind of background she comes from.For her being in aol is deserving everything materialistic in life. She belongs to a very mediocre family from india and aol was an opportunity for her to achieve freedom,fame and all comforts in life. She will never leave aol and wont even let her husband leave it.even her husband the famous singer who consider himself as a gr8 teacher of aol is a very rude as a person.He does not even mind to spoil character of girl he does not like by bitching about her…………The gr8 aol family i must say………………Under this blog there are so many such experiences shared about diff faculty of aol, it seems after so many year of sadhna they are still human. AOl has lost its claim of making them superpower or even humble. Wish AOl as an organization should stop making fake claims and should work as a proper corporate so tat ppl can avail there service without any high expectations.

  12. Kitapati permalink
    December 22, 2010 11:33 am

    Check out the latest scam of Ravi Ravi.
    CBI has raided his fake ayurvedic college.

    http://www.telegraphindia.com/1101219/jsp/orissa/story_13319452.jsp
    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/124153/India/sri-sri%E2%80%99s-college-under-cbi-lens.html

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