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Ravi Shankar: Satguru, or businessman?

May 5, 2011

by anonymous

The Satguru, or True Guru, brings the disciple from darkness to light. He nurtures, patiently, kindly, compassionately. If at all he becomes angry, it’s directly related to something to help the disciple, not in anger at being questioned. The disciples that Ravi Shankar is producing are vicious (note Harshal and Corrector for local examples, and look to the higher up teachers for examples of cruel, unloving, nasty people), self-centered and fame-seekers. Ravi Shankar is not kind. Anyone who knows him very well and is honest, will admit this. Even the comments posted by one of his right hand men, raved on and on about the supposed mental condition of someone who had left Art of Living. He literally tore that woman to pieces in the letter! Where is the light in such a person? After nearly 20 years with Ravi Shankar, wouldn’t Raghu, if his Guru were Satguru, be a kind, gentle soul? Wouldn’t all of them? The Satguru doesn’t demand respect. He commands it by his Presence and Love and Kindness. He doesn’t order people around like slaves. He doesn’t sue people who have become disenchanted with him. He doesn’t copyright ancient truths which have long been available in India. He simply keeps trying to bring Light to the Darkness. Where is there any evidence of this in Art of Living and Ravi Shankar? Those nearest to him exude hatred and narrow mindedness if you get to know them. They don’t behave or speak like people who are becoming enlightened. My direct experience with Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living was that of meeting a group of people who were extremely competitive, always looking for ways to laugh at others and put them down, and looking for opportunities only to sit with the “master”. I never saw any evidence of any of them having the feeling “all these are my brothers and sisters and I want them to sit with my master so they can experience this fullness I have found in him”. Instead it was “let me get as many people as close to him as possible so he will congratulate me and give me a private meeting”. This was what I witnessed, and it was why I left. He was cruel. They were cruel. They were intolerant. He was intolerant. He and they appeared to love absolutely no one, and seemed to worship only crowds and money and accolades. I saw many immoral and illegal things happen in AOL, all known of by Ravi Shankar. Nothing was done about them. Some of the actions were bordering on real paranoia and insanity. They were directed by Ravi Shankar. This didn’t appear to me to be the behavior of a Satguru, a missionary of Peace and Love and Light and Knowledge.

This is what I saw in Art of Living and in Ravi Shankar after getting past the basics, and getting closer. There was no Truth. Just having courses on scriptural readings doesn’t give Knowledge. How can Knowledge come from someone obsessed with the number of people who attended a course? Has anyone thought of this (who is still with AOL)? Sure, you can read the scriptures as assigned. You will benefit from them. But you could do that without giving up your life to AOL.

For me, and for many others, even for quite a few who I see are still senior teachers, Art of Living and Ravi Shankar are a spiritual dead end. Some who remain to this day even said “where will I go if I leave here??” more than once to me. Although they recognized that the chance of them finding God and Light and Love were nil in AOL, they simply felt they had no where else to go! Yet people from AOL come here and call those who had the courage to leave, having given up careers in many cases, cowards? Who are the cowards? Those who left amid insults and lies from the ‘guru’? Those who left to rebuild lives they had dismantled when the ‘master’ told them “you don’t need another degree — this is the highest work….” or “this is your home now”? Or those who remained on in spite of their many misgivings, seeing the corruption and greed, because they wanted their bills paid, and they didn’t think they could re-invent themselves in the real world? Who are the cowards here?

The Satguru would never ruin the faith of a disciple. Yet Ravi Shankar has done that to many people. I am not among them. I have never lost my faith in spite of his ravings and terrible behavior and the abuse suffered in AOL. I have, however, because of him, sworn never to have another living human Guru. I will never trust another human being with my life. He abused that trust too much. I would never risk it again. And so I have to believe that Satguru will somehow come to me by dream, or inside somehow. I pray daily for this.

The Satguru gives Love, not Hate. The Satguru is Bhedanashini, the one who removes the differences, not the one who creates more bigotry and more differences. The Satguru is Lobhanashini, the one who removes greed, not the one who encourages it, flaunts it. The Satguru is Krodhnashini, the one who removes anger, not makes people more angry, and who exhibits irrational anger himself. The Satguru is not superficially great, just on the outside, in public, attracting groups. Many, good and bad, in this world, have attracted large groups. That’s meaningless.

The Satguru gives Freedom, not Bondage. Ravi Shankar does not appear to be Satguru in anyway. He is in the guru business. That’s all. Hundreds are in India like him. So what? Let them go on being. There will always be a demand for businesses like his. People like to go to some group, be a member, feel good temporarily, then discuss it with their friends. That’s fine. But if you really want Truth, Love, Light, Depth, and you are wandering in the mess called Art of Living, lead by Ravi Shankar, you are wasting precious moments of life.

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33 Comments
  1. Dayalu permalink
    May 5, 2011 9:51 pm

    Take a look at this grad student thesis published in 2005, much before public criticism of Sri Sri and AOL began:
    http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04122005-173708/unrestricted/Shankar_thesis.pdf

    Read Pages 49 on Dr Janakiramaiah’s comments on SK research and how it was prematurely published and tall claims made about the findings by AOL.

    • Observer Jr. permalink
      May 6, 2011 3:36 am

      Wow, this might deserve it’s own link or story as well. An entire thesis on this? Incredible.

    • Anonymous permalink
      May 6, 2011 6:32 am

      That is an in interesting read. The author has spoken to the actual guys who conducted the research on SK.

      If you see the Aol research site, http://www.aolresearch.org/published_research.html – they used the name of Dr Janakiramaiah, N and all. I heard that name even in some basic courses.

      Funny, and here is the extract where the author of the thesis is actually speaking to Dr. Janakiramaiah

      There were others from the scientific community especially who did not have
      many good things to say about the Art of Living. Dr. Janakiramaiah was one person who
      recognized the marketing behind the spirituality and expressed dissatisfaction with the
      fact that although the research had been conducted jointly between the Art of Living
      and NIMHANS, he felt that the research findings had been published much before any
      valid testing could be done to prove the results were valid. Especially claims like
      improved areas of function in the brain etc were not done according to the approval of
      NIMHANS. The preliminary ‘positive’ effects had been observed and then published and
      used as a validation for the SKY before any actual scientific testing could be done.

      He referred specifically to one example and said that in one of the brochures they
      describe that doing SKY leads to a tingling in your fingers and toes. The brochures claim
      that this has to do with ultimate brain function and is a result of SKY.
      “But if anyone keeps breathing like that- essentially they are hyperventilating and
      flushing their body with oxygen, which is what is going to happen. There is no mystical
      meaning behind the tingling in their fingers and all that.Then you have those people who will say that they felt guruji’s presence while doing the SKY and when you ask them why they will say the same thing- that they felt this tingling sensation-

      “Arre if you keep breathing like that then what else will happen. I know these things- they say all this because they are swayed into believing that what is
      happening to them is spiritual or mystical but it is not.

      It is a common physiological reaction to hyperventilation. Then they throw in all this science and research that they have done with SKY and all that. One very clever thing they do- they tell you that other than teaching you the SKY method the rest is up to you.

      They have this subtle way of attributing any changes to you and this goes down very well with the western audience. It is easily accessible also so there are a lot of people who are coming in to do AoL courses.’ By attributing some aspects of the course as appealing to the western audience, Dr. Janakiramaiah is referring to the marketing of the AoL which takes into consideration the different backgrounds of people that it can refer to and then works on that basis.

    • Anoop permalink
      May 6, 2011 9:08 am

      Very good article

  2. Meditator permalink
    May 6, 2011 2:27 pm

    Another interesting discussion on the same subject :

    http://www.speakingtree.in/public/forums/Self-Improvement/topic/Does-poor-people-have-no-right-to-learn-Art-of-living

    • Observer Jr. permalink
      May 6, 2011 3:08 pm

      Lots of discussion on the cost of courses. IMO, they should only cost what is required to pay for the meals and nothing more. The 250 – 500 $ extra “course” fees are not spiritual. Not that it matters to me anyway, ’cause I’m never doing another course again. But just pointing out that spiritually should have nothing to do with money.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        May 6, 2011 4:04 pm

        There are different models – most spiritual places get lots of donations and public support, which helps keep it low cost. If you want to charge money, it won’t be for everybody and that is fine – as long as you are honest about it, and money is handled in a transparent manner. Pretending to be a volunteer driven service organization, while operating as a business is not ok.

      • Observer Jr. permalink
        May 6, 2011 4:14 pm

        I guess I wouldn’t think too much of it, but the courses are just getting ridiculous these days. A recent 3 day course in Los Angeles was over 1,000$. In earlier days, courses with SSRS were less than 200$. It’s obvious that they are trying to earn as much as they can now.

  3. Meditator permalink
    May 6, 2011 4:18 pm

    Interesting read on HHSSRS and his followers. The comments section in the link is also worth reading.

    http://atanudeeshaa.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/his-most-exalted-holiness-sri-maha-param-pujaniya-gurudevji-bhagwanji-sriman-sri-sri-ravi-shankarji-mahadevji-i-presume/

    Original blog is reproduced below:

    Time for a little diversion, don’t you think? Of late this blog has been too involved with serious matters and I think it is time for something entirely different. Many of you regulars know that SSRS — a.k.a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a.k.a Param Pujaniya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankarji, a.k.a His Most Exalted Holiness the Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudev Bhagwan Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji, etc etc — is a favorite diversion for this blog. As luck would have it, another of His Most Exalted Holiness Sri Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudevji Bhagwanji Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji’s (henceforth shortened as HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM) devotees has deigned to write me a note instructing me to mend my ways.

    [I know that this naming of the man is getting a bit out of hand. Previously I had been persuaded by his worshipers that the proper title for the man should be “the Supreme Commander of the Universe out of whose Nether Regions the Sun shines in all its Splendor” which for convenience one should write as SCOTUOOWNRTSSIAIS. So I say, take your pick — use HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM or SCOTUOOWNRTSSIAIS — whichever you fancy, until of course another embellishment comes along to do proper justice to the amazing abilities of this god on earth.]

    One Sri Jeffrey Ainis wrote me an email. As his email to me was in response to something that I had written in the public domain — namely, a post on this blog titled “Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a con man?” — I wrote back and asked if he could show cause why his email to me could not be considered to be in the public domain. He replied but did not show any cause why his email should not be part of the pubic record and why I should not respond to his email publicly. So here’s my response.

    Sri Jeffery’s email is quoted and my response is interleaved:

    Hi!

    The note you wrote to your brother about Art of Living was done so long ago that you might have a completely new orientation.

    I might. On the other hand, I might not have. You see, just because something is old does not mean that it needs revision. Not all things are in the nature of fads and fashion. There are things that are enduring because they reflect what is true and that which is true need not change.

    I would have a completely “new orientation” if I had new information. From what I have learnt since my first tentative conclusions about His Most Exalted Holiness Sri Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudevji Bhagwanji Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji (HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM) — mostly from emails from his worshipers such as yourself — I have not found any reason to deviate from my conclusion that HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM is a very useful person doing very good business and thus promoting social welfare. HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM is not any more a con man than any other business man doing legitimate business.

    What you wrote then was interesting but strange. Looking over a website and claiming to able to declare not only the motives but even the state of consciousness of the founder has got to be a new level of confidence in the world. I wonder how you would evaluate yourself if you ran across your own letter. Or maybe it was some kind of satire on people who make judgments by projecting their experience on other things.

    Perhaps I am satirically inclined and do jump to conclusions. But that still does not detract from the fact that HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM promotes himself to the hilt and has legions of brainwashed morons to do his bidding. I don’t envy him his legions of brainwashed morons but I do take exception when some of them legions of brainwashed morons write to me telling me what I should or should not do. There are limits.

    You also claim to know that his technique must be nothing new — even though you don’t know what it is. It reminds me of the Harvard researcher Herbert Benson, who had the theory that you didn’t need to practice TM to get the same results. But to prove his point he only cited research on TM! (And of course other researchers found that the mantra was key in creating brainwave coherence, and that the level of rest was deeper when using those mantras.)

    Yes, I do know what he teaches as there are sufficient number of people who have undergone the training and have personally spoken about it to me. His technique is nothing new because it is part of the traditional methods of breath control that have been in practice for thousands of years in India. For ignorant Westerners, perhaps, HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM’s technique may come as a shockingly amazingly new thing. But for the average well-informed Indian, it is as amazingly novel as the fact that bears shit in woods.

    It is also interesting how common it is for people to elevate the consciousness of people who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago, and proclaim that no one could possibly have that level of consciousness or grace today.

    Thanks for that non sequitur. I will add it to my collection and let you know if it wins the first prize in the “Annual Totally Irrelevant Comment I have Ever Received Contest.”

    I would recommend taking the post down, and striving for a bit of innocence and humility. Why not support something that is doing so much good in the world? (If it is a joke, the humor isn’t that good. In my opinion. But even bad comedians seem to get work. Humor is a funny thing.)

    You would recommend, would you now? Take that post down? Are you out of your friggin’ mind? I take that back. You have to be out of your mind to have the gumption to write to me asking me to remove a post that has in any way done nobody any harm. All my post did was to reason that there is nothing special about a man who is so fucking full of himself that it has started straining credulity.

    Get over it, mister. Judging from the emails that I get from people such as yourself — brainwashed zombies who have lost the power of reason — I am beginning to suspect that the answer to the question “Is SSRS a con man?” to be a most definite yes.

    I’m sure you are quite wonderful and like to be able to give your brother advice (and you do advise him ultimately to go with his own experience, which seems very wise), but it would probably help him more to speak about things you know more about.

    Feeling a tad patronizing, are we today? Stick it where the sun don’t shine, sweetheart. Here’s what’s puzzling about your attitude. If HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM is all that wonderful, perhaps he should have taught you some humility. What you display is naked arrogance of a person whose understanding is so little that he doesn’t even know that he is ignorant.

    I am finally coming around to the conclusion that SSRS aka HMEHSMHPGBSSSRSM is overall not as harmless as I had first thought. He is turning too many average people into zombies.

    In any case, good luck to you.

    Mister, it is you who needs all the luck you can get. Don’t go about handing it out so generously.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    May 6, 2011 9:40 pm

    Hysterically funny post! LOL!! Thanks for this. I think I like SCOTUOOWNRTSSIAIS best of the two monikers. How really truly funny!

  5. belle permalink
    May 7, 2011 12:07 pm

    “His Most Exalted Holiness the Maha Param Pujaniya Gurudev Bhagwan Sriman Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Mahadevji”

    Omg! LOL! thats some name. Pls tell me its not for real!

  6. Fudgey Fred permalink
    May 16, 2011 4:44 am

    Whether someone is a Satguru or not is extremely personal and only known through your direct experience. For some people SSRS is a door to the Infinite for others he is not. All this endless chatter and outrage is just spiritual immaturity. You need to trust your own experience more. Do a guru’s spiritual practices for a number of years. If good things happen, great, if they don’t move on. Why do you waste your time prattling on? You seem to be trying to resolve something on a conceptual level by seeing SSRS as all bad. Why?

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 16, 2011 10:29 am

      Why do you waste *your* time visiting this blog over and over and over again? You just can’t keep away, just like all the others here.

      The following was written to answer your question, “You seem to be trying to resolve something on a conceptual level by seeing SSRS as all bad.”:

      General Response to AoL Extremists on this Blog, specifically the section “Criticism versus Negativity/Hatred”. In short, the majority of us do not believe that SSRS is all bad, this is something you have led yourself to believe as your mind cannot accept that we can be both critical about AoL/SSRS and at the same time relate our good experiences.

    • Anonymous permalink
      May 16, 2011 3:05 pm

      Dear Fred,

      Assuming that people know what a door to the infinite, or the infinite even is…………. People go to Ravi Shankar and have a really good feeling. Some good buzz. A good vibration. They believe that to mean that he is a door to the inifinite. But as you get closer to him, you can find out that the door is to a kind of hell that I have never seen elsewhere. Those closest to him are the most miserable, in my observations. They are ill, mentally distressed, with fake smiles for the public. They suffer all the time from imagined and real problems. I never once met a person who was happy who was very close to Ravi Shankar. As I got very close, I became more and more miserable like the others, and so I left. Many I knew then remain, and I’ve been told from others who left after me, remain sick, twisted, even psychotic in their actions. They scream at people for no reason. They have endless ailments. They complain (as they did to me) that they no longer have anywhere else to go because they gave up their positions in life. Does this sound like the fruit of the Satguru to you? Ravi Shankar was once a yogi. Now he is a fallen yogi. He fell a long time back to name, fame, riches and other things which will go unmentioned in the post. Please take a long look at the inner circle. Be in it yourself. Then you decide. If you are already there, look around you, then in the mirror and be totally honest. Shells of people, trying hard to get through another day. That’s what his inner circle is. Pretending or wanting to believe they are now enlightened.

      The scriptures say that something can be known by 3 means: direct observation, inference, or valid testimony. From these you can know the Satguru as well. Direct observation will not always work, because some Satgurus are avadhuts, living by standards we cannot comprehend. But then you have inference and also valid (operative word here) testimony.

      Look into it.

      • Observer Jr. permalink
        May 16, 2011 4:10 pm

        I agree with some of you comments. Although I was not on the true inner circle, I have noticed a lot of the people I knew who were long time senior teachers, did not appear healthy, were very pale, were quick to be rude with people and did not show any more signs of being enlightened than the average person walking down a street.

        That’s not to say most people in AOL are like this. Most of the new teachers and participants are some of the nicest, most sincere people I’ve ever met. That’s why AOL is so destructive – it takes a lot of good, honest people and makes them more greedy, confused and sick over time.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      May 16, 2011 5:35 pm

      Fred,
      How many people have gone through the door, and how many are stuck at the door ? Look around AOL and judge for yourself. People have been brainwashed to believe that the door is the infinite. Clearly, such a door leads nowhere. Door to infinite is within you – scripture, and sat-sang is only the catalyst – not the goal.

      Fact is that in many many people in AOL see SSRS as satguru, not because of any personal connection, but because of peer pressure and subtle manipulations that they cannot see.

      • June 27, 2011 7:09 am

        “Fact is that in many many people in AOL see SSRS as satguru, not because of any personal connection, but because of peer pressure and subtle manipulations that they cannot see.”

        Sure, that may be so and it’s really too bad. I didn’t see SSRS as anything other than a nice yogi guy for two years then, POW! If it’s not your dharma to have SSRS as your guru, then you don’t have that experience. This is no negative reflection on anybody. Just that your spiritual path lies with another.

    • Harshal permalink
      May 18, 2011 9:54 am

      great. now your blog buddies can go and do poopy on it.

      • Dayalu permalink
        May 18, 2011 12:24 pm

        Absolutely. We’ve taken up the role of the child who screamed “The emperor has no clothes!!!”

    • anon permalink
      May 19, 2011 4:42 am

      The following comment is posted there. It may be deleted.
      ========================================
      Few questions:

      Is spirituality a Path or staying quiet?

      If consciousness cannot be measured then how does one knows that it is infinite? Has the writer ever tried to measure it? If yes, the writer must have reached his limitation and hastily declared that it is infinite. The truth may be that no one knows, however, by declaring it infinite the writer shows his hollow and empty knowledge.

      Is spiritual life an extension of human greed? The writer says that it brings MORE contentment, MORE peace and MORE energy. How much emphasis is on MORE and MORE.

      The writer has given importance to spiritual Goals. Can there be any non-spiritual goals when every thing is spiritual? If spirituality is all encompassing then doesn’t it include people like Ravan, Kans, Hitler, me and SSRS.

      • anonymous permalink
        May 19, 2011 3:59 pm

        anon said “If spirituality is all encompassing then doesn’t it include people like Ravan, Kans, Hitler, me and SSRS.”

        Ravan, Kans, Hitler and SSRS have one thing very much in common: They were/are all charismatic leaders who had huge followings, dedicated servants who would do anything for them, etc. Whether any of them were spiritual is up to your definition of that word. I would not say any of them are spiritual.

        In the huge scheme of things, everything is evolving at the Will and Wish of Nature/God, so yeah, if you see it that way, everything is spiritual, I suppose. But just as in the Buddhist parable, the monk smoking and flicking his ashes on the statue of Buddha is told by his master: “holy is still holy….”, even though everything is One and nothing really matters in the grand scheme, so too does differenting between the people you mentioned (Ravan, Kans, Hitler and SSRS) and great masters like Brahmananda Saraswati of Jyotir Math, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi, Ananda Mayi Ma, etc. To just lump the former group and latter group all together is to say it’s okay to behave any way, all the time, do whatever you like, kill somebody, steal in the name of charity, and it’s the same as giving someone good food and shelter and love or real instruction of some helpful type. When we are in physical bodies, the distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are made, albeit by our conditioned responses through our culture and upbringing and conditioning, but still, those distinctions must be made, in my opinion.

        This last is just a side trip comment, and is not meant to be critical of your thinking at all, just another point of view, which happens to be mine 🙂

  7. anonYmous permalink
    May 21, 2011 9:07 am

    Here is some more entertainment!

    http://ask.metafilter.com/52559/Has-anyone-here-taken-an-Art-of-Living-course

  8. belle permalink
    May 21, 2011 2:59 pm

    @ Dayalu
    “Latest in the Huffington post….”

    I read it and isnt it funny how all cult leaders start to sound the same after a while? I thought I was reading an article by my one time fatguru.

  9. anonymous permalink
    July 15, 2011 3:11 pm

    The Satguru would never threaten or abuse a student. I cannot imagine that if people actually knew what is going on in Art of Living, they would ever get involved (unless they didn’t have a job and were offered one at the ashram/business). I’ve read so many reports on these blogs about abuse of the students from Ravi Shankar, I wonder how long it will be before the press gets hold of it and runs!

  10. anonymous permalink
    December 22, 2011 6:29 pm

    And now it comes to light through the news that the legal fraud may be quite large, encroaching on hectacres by the lake, people having given money for these buildings……. Definitely a businessman, not a satguru, SSRS.

  11. dany permalink
    February 20, 2012 6:23 pm

    fuck of u bloody moron

  12. Anonymous permalink
    March 23, 2012 4:38 pm

    u guyss r so frustrated..! get a life ppl..! posting any comments wont help

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