Ravi Shankar: Satguru, or businessman?
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.