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How Art of Living Abuses the Vulnerable

August 11, 2011

by vss

. this comment is not for the faint-hearted or the frivolous and supercilious … but before i say what i have to say … i must … applaud the writers of this blog … and related blogs … for having the courage to express themselves rationally … i’ve read through posts extensively … and the presence of emotional expression adds to the seriousness of the posts … highlighting that it is born in personal experience … it is worthy of respect and not condemnation or flippant dismissal … any form of disrespect for a human being is nothing but a violation of human rights … those who are being disrespectful are perpetuating violence … there is no justification for the perpetration of violence … i’m a history major from the best history department in this nation … and the one thing that i remember precisely is the sheer number of times that the freedom of expression has been attacked by those who do not regard it as a human right … and whether they like it or not … whether they agree or not … whether they realize it or not … they are behaving like fascists … the bad news is that they’ll have to acknowledge that to even begin to change … the good news is that they CAN change …

. my experience with the art of living is excruciating … even though i haven’t been a member nor will be … but i have seen it … and am seeing it … from such close quarters that i’m distressed beyond measure … it is a nightmare to watch my former partner fall deeper and deeper into a well of delusions … he is an adult survivor of severe child abuse … suffers from bi polar depression … (people with bipolar depression oscillate between extreme emotion in short spans of time and constantly view the same situation from extreme perspectives; they also indulge in what is referred to in psychology as “projection” which is projecting their emotions on others) … is incredibly gifted with multiple talents … (i’m intentionally not listing them here as i don’t wish for him to be identified and attacked) … but suffers from an intense form of inertia … which is a result of a series of unsuccessful attempts at getting employed and getting respect from his family … he has a craving to belong … and the art of living foundation has successfully tapped on it … he also has an aversion to pain in any form … owing to his rather excruciating experience of life … something that again the art of living foundation has successfully tapped into … with all their tactical propaganda of “only the positive” … consequently, my former partner has turned into someone who is incoherent, insecure and insulated from society … it is almost as if his life was sapped out of him … right down to the last drop … he has lost weight … his smile in his facebook profile is forced … it seems like he is being drugged and dragged and has been reduced to a faint reflection of himself … his spirit is all but dead … i do not know precisely what the art of living foundation is doing … but i certainly know what they are not doing … they are not being able to provide a real life and a real rehabilitation opportunity to someone who needs it very, very urgently …

. i was a part of an important legislation on child abuse … a high court order … that defines the care and sensitivity needed for victims of abuse … the key is acknowledging the intensity of damage … and then resolving it with powerful tools for self development and relief … suppression of the expression of pain is disastrous … for anyone … but particularly for adult survivors of child abuse … suppression acts like a termite that eats away at the insides … and leaves a skeleton that is barely alive …

. to my utter horror … i saw a video of SSRV in which he says … “we have a rule in the ashram; you can bring all your problems but you can’t take any back” … in and of itself … that statement struck me as a brutally oppressive one … it disallows the experience of pain … the recognition of an existing problem … the emergence of a new one … and the pursuit of solutions and resolutions … thus generating a delusional way of life … a human has to live like a human who is mentally re-engineered to believe that all problems have been addressed … and no new ones can be born … for a trauma victim, this kind of life is catastrophic … encouraging people to be in denial damages even their inherent resilience … takes away from their ability to cope independently … and causes them to become more and more dependent on external control …

. still, i thought that perhaps there was some true happiness in the environment and hence my former partner was getting soaked into it … however, i soon chanced upon another video … one that featured him too … among other things, the video ridiculed those suffering from cancer … this was particularly horrifying for me to witness … as my former partner had seen my mother suffer from stage 3B cancer from close quarters … during the active part of her treatment … (had witnessed her severe burn injuries from radiation) … i couldn’t believe my eyes … the art of living foundation probably thinks they “expunged” a memory of his life … but anyone who has seen cancer from close … knows that it is humbling … and makes us far more humane than we were … not something to be forgotten or joked about … least of all when it comes to talking about its cure …

. it is then that i realized that the indoctrination was successful … the art of living foundation has powerful tools for enslaving minds … they are skillful in their brain-washing abilities … as most cults with several followers are … still, i’d say that if their intentions are noble … and they are misleading people and abusing their minds and plights unintentionally … they should revisit the content of the practices that they are promoting … silencing people with aggression is not the solution … if there is one, then it is addressing each and every apprehension or unfortunate experience with a rational response … if they have so far been unsuccessful in coming up with that rational response … or the needed set of rational responses and measures to reform … then my guess is that they are neither humane, nor compassionate, nor intelligent … and … of course … far from sensitive … a truly stress free society is born when diversity is celebrated … when each voice is valued … by turning a deaf ear to those who have suffered in and because of the art of living foundation or by attacking them with aggression … the foundation is only proving that it does not stand for peace … right here is the ultimate opportunity to prove their mettle in conflict resolution … why don’t they take it and lead by example ? … why haven’t they responded to all the posts on this blog with the compassion and unconditional love that they profess to believe in ? … why was there even a morsel of aggression and disrespect in any of the comments that contest what is said in the posts on this blog ? …

. res ipsa loquitur … their acts are evidence in themselves … the truth is obvious … leading a real life is tough … finding a real job is tougher still … and the toughest is having friends … i admire the courage of those who have walked out of the foundation and are facing the challenge of living a real life … every human being is blessed with the potential to make it … it’s not easy but it can be done … you guys are living evidence of that … along with many others who attempt to build a life outside the delusional environment of a cult … it is heroic of you … to not take the easy way out … well done! … way to go! … freedom is the only true way … and maybe many things can be copyrighted but spirituality can’t … may your quest for spirituality be a rewarding and enriching one … one that helps you develop your humane dimension even further … god bless … and god bless those in the art of living foundation too … may they be introduced to their humane side soon …

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18 Comments
  1. The Doctor permalink
    August 11, 2011 3:40 pm

    @vss,

    This really is very distressing to read, and I can’t imagine how you must feel having witnessed all these things.

    I too sincerely hoped that Art of Living would take onboard all the criticisms made against them and use these to reflect upon and improve itself, but alas nearly 2 years on and nothing has changed. I doubt it ever will either, since they seem to have gone from bad to worse. It is an organization which is rotten at the core, and the only way for it to change is if the core were to be completely removed, which is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.

    I only hope that your former partner one day sees the light and realizes what Art of Living has been doing to him the entire time, and that he somehow finds the strength to break free and seek the help he so badly needs in the real world instead of depending on the cult-induced fantasy world that he is has been sucked into.

    And thank you for having the courage to share your story with us, I really hope that it will help others in a similar situation.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    August 12, 2011 5:53 am

    Excellent post VSS. Really well written. Doctor can you please ensure that the comments on this post do not boil down to ego clashes between two “stupids” who are not “seekers” in any which way and are seriously diluting the purpose of this blog. You need to use your “magic scissors” more often.

    • stupidseeker permalink
      August 12, 2011 11:17 am

      @Anonymous,

      If you are against charlatans who operate faith based models of business, utilising the labours of an army of “volunteers” in the garb of “seva”, and then using the proceeds to live the life of multimillionaires without having to pay a penny in tax and then using their “enlightened” status to gain immunity from the law, then you and I are both on the same side.

      Regards
      SS

      • anonymous permalink
        August 12, 2011 12:48 pm

        @SS

        Since you are not associated with AOL, SSRS, nor are you evidently associated with anyone who has been or is in AOL and SSRS, why are you posting here? This is not a hindu-vs-christian forum at all. And that is all your arguments are about.

        @Doctor
        I’m actually beginning to wonder if SS is here as another ploy by AOL to take the heat off of them and divert this blog to other subjects. Can you please just delete SS’s posts? They are irrelevant to those of us who have been harmed, who are here to heal, not rant, and who want to express something that could help others before they get in too deep. SS and YouAmI ‘s battle needs to be someplace else. Truthfully, when I see a bunch of posts from them now, I just click off the blog, and so do my co-workers. Everyone has said “this has nothing to do with AOL anymore”.

    • You am I permalink
      August 13, 2011 7:30 am

      @Anonymous

      This blog was till it restricted itself to it’s purpose ..The moment @Doctor entertained articles and posts against Hinduism , i chose to highlight the errors and fallacies in those articles.

      to add to the irony , in came pastor stupidseeker with all his anti-hindu and anti-india rant ..which was well received by @Doctor. I had two options ..to still believe that doctor is a sincere warner against cults but is unaware of Hinduism and hence the oversight..OR ..to realize that doctor is another christian evangelist who is using AOL as a stick to beat Hinduism.

      I believed in the former ,hence i rebutted all the anti-hindu and anti-india posts on this blog.If i would have known earlier that this is another evangelical front against Hinduism i would not have tried to educate but to excuse myself from this blog..and now that i know …it’s goodbye to you all for good !

      • stupidseeker permalink
        August 14, 2011 3:12 pm

        @You Am I,

        Don’t worry mate, “enlightenment” that great dissolver of dualities hopefully is just around the corner for you. Me and my stupid abrahamic God will have to just to make do with what we’ve got.

  3. v s s permalink
    August 12, 2011 11:22 am

    us bebasi ki qataar mein
    ek mera yaar bhi hai
    gumrah hai, gumshada hai
    aur use is baat se inkaar bhi hai

    maaloom nahin kyun mayoosi par parda dalte hain vo
    maaloon nahin kyun parda hatane par keechad uchhalte hain vo
    khud ko khuda ke bande kehkar khudgarzi ka karobaar chalate hain
    maloom nahin kyun insanon ke zehen par zeher taraashte hain

    aadam ki zindagi mein khushiyon aur gam ke silsile hain
    par unki hukumat mein aadam ke kafn hi mile hain
    apnon ki barbaadi ke juloos ka nazaara hai
    behkaane vaale khud had se zyaada aawaara hain

    na sunta hai koi, na aawaz phonchti hai
    zindagi berukhi se bas haath jhatakti hai
    saal beet gaye hain aur saal beet-te jaate hain
    aur ye kasaai aadam ki tanhaai ki khaate hain

    jo shikast hai inke panje mein hai
    usi ki jagah inke dhande mein hai
    inki neeyat par afsos hota hai
    inki tabiyat par afsos hota hai

    nahin koi insaan jo doosron ki zanjiron ko tod sake
    nahin koi insaan jo khuda ki khidmat ko marod sake
    jinhein apne guru hone ka guroor hai
    unki zillat unse zyaada mashhoor hai

    jinke taur tareekon mein insaan ki izzat nahin
    vo apne shagirdon se zyaade bechaare hain
    jin aavaazon ko dabaate phirte hain
    jeete unhi ke sahaare hain

    band darvaazon ke peechhe jeete hai
    sachchai ke hont seete hain
    parvah na kar ai aadam, tu inke khauf se mat dar
    apne rooh ki avaaz sun, apne aap se na ho bekhabar

    jo tera hai vo tera hai
    tu khuda ka dera hai
    himmat kar aur inse rihaai pa
    khuda ki khidmat mein khudaai pa

    tere chaahne vaale teri raah dekhte hain
    tere apne teri parvaah karte hain
    tu insaaniyat ko mat bhool
    yaad rakh apne usool

    har gali mein seva ka mauka hai
    har kadam par khuda ka reham
    inki jeb bharna seva nahin
    inki taareef nahi hai tera dharam

    apne andar jhank kar dekh
    apne nek iraadon ko pehchaan
    inki qaid ke sikke phek
    apni kismat ke ikkon ko maan

    sab tere bas mein hai
    teri zindagi aur tera aasmaan
    inke tareekon se mat behek
    band kar de inki dukaan

    khuda ki dukaan chalaane vaale
    khud khuda se mehroom hain
    vo sab ka hai aur sab uske hain
    har jageh uski dhoom hai

    jo us tak phonchne par daam lagaate hain
    vo khuda ke darbaar mein haivan kehlaate hain
    unhein gareebi ka ilm nahin
    jo apne aap ko bhagvaan bataate hain

    inke chehron par kaalikh ki naqaab hai
    inke liye toh maalik bhi sharaab hai
    inke theke ko apna thikana mat bana
    apni zindagi se ek naya zamaana bana

    khuda ki khudaai ko bina paison ke baant
    inke laalach ko apne aap daant
    ye tere bikne ki keemat lagaate hain
    hisaab kar kar ke bhajan gaate hain

    insaanon se mooh mod liya hai inhonein
    insaaniyat ko tod diya hai inhonein
    apni beemaari tujh tak phailaate hain
    phir beemari phailane ke vaaste tujhe uksaate hain

    kyun ho kisi bhi bandagi ki keemat ?
    kya khuda gareebon ka nahin ?
    kyun karte hain ye hukoomat ?
    kya har insaan ek farishta nahin ?

    . for some, this may be just a blog … for me, this is a sacred space … i am overwhelmed with admiration for those who’ve found the courage and resilience to find the freedom to pray … nobody should have to pay to pray … and we are all equals … those in the art of living … those outside it … those who were inside it and are now outside it … the first step towards becoming “humane” is to recognize that simple fact and truth … to label someone who walked out as “weak” … is nothing but the inability to accept another human being and their right to seek their own freedom … the fact that this and other such labels originate from people who belong to an institution that condemns all outside it … collectively … is even more damning … i spent a lot of time reading about the definition of a cult … for me, it boils down to one simple question … ask yourself if you are someone who can tolerate a perspective other than your own … if you can’t, then you are intolerant and have ceased to be receptive … if an institution or its practices are making you intolerant … and making you create stress for anyone who disagrees with you … then it may claim to be about peace and conflict resolution and a stress free society, but those claims are empty … every human being has the potential to find their own path to faith … and each path of every human being is worthy of respect …

  4. stupidseeker permalink
    August 14, 2011 10:20 am

    anonymous permalink
    August 12, 2011 12:48 pm
    @SS

    “Since you are not associated with AOL, SSRS, nor are you evidently associated with anyone who has been or is in AOL and SSRS, why are you posting here? This is not a hindu-vs-christian forum at all. And that is all your arguments are about.”

    I apologise if my posts have been a source of discomfort and irritation to you, and will offer no excuses for the same.All I request of you is, please do not assume I have not been harmed by AOL or rather that I allowed myself to be harmed by it.Else I wouldn’t have been on this blog all this time.
    And at the end of the day like all bloggers I have certain arguments which may or may not appeal to all, and I once again apologise to those who may have been hurt by them.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    August 16, 2011 2:29 pm

    come on guys… plz move on from your post-AOL syndrome… everyone moves on in their life… there is no point in keep on pouring in your thoughts about AOL or what it did to you… any person who is seeking some relief, please spend some time reading the blogs here, pour out your thoughts and move on… your life and time is too precious to be spent complaining or repenting about a tainted business in AOL… once you have learned about what AOL is all about, just move on… some of us have moved on even when we lost our near and dear… met with a personal or professional tragedy… broken up or ended in divorce after a long term relationship… this is just AOL, a pseudo-spiritual organization… JUST MOVE ON… BE STRONG… IGNORE PRICKS LIKE HARSHAL or OTHER AOL WACKOS…

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 17, 2011 7:08 pm

      Why are you here then? Why haven’t you moved on? In case you missed it, we have moved on, or we would still be in AOL.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 18, 2011 2:37 pm

        Dude, I have not been into AOL at all to begin with… I have seen my best friend go that way and the disturbing transformation that he is going through… that is the reason why I visit the blog often… its only upon seeing the same set of people posting their thoughts repeatedly about AOL and what it did to them made me write this…I am asking them to move on… even the ones who lost their business, near and dear in the Japanese Tsunami/earthquake have moved on… moving on from post-AOL syndrome is no big deal… that’s what I am saying

  6. v s s permalink
    September 25, 2011 7:03 pm

    . @ the doctor … he (my former partner) moved out of the ashram (around mid august) … to another city in fact … but is still sounding incoherent to those who are in touch with him directly … they say that he is aspiring for unrealistic “big projects” along with some other AOL friends (who sound ”over the top about what AOL can help them achieve through still other AOL contacts” in terms of money and fame; it almost seems like they’re being set up for failure) … if it’s not too much of a bother, could you point me to a post (on this blog or any other blog) that gives me an insight into the reasons why people leave the ashram … i need to know if i should think his move is a good sign … i also need to know the chances of a relapse … in the sense that … if he is unable to make it in the outside world … in terms of employment / projects … is he likely to return to the ashram and fall deeper into the trap ? … so sorry to bother you … i just don’t want to assume anything without the perspective of someone who has lived in the ashram and was able to walk out of the AOL trap … thanks a million …

    • The Doctor permalink
      September 25, 2011 7:47 pm

      @vss, I honestly can’t think of any post anywhere on either of the main AoL critique blogs which cover individuals leaving an ashram. There are many posts about individuals leaving AoL in general, but I don’t think that’s what you’re after sadly.

      If anyone else can offer any suggestions, please do.

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      September 27, 2011 3:28 am

      @Vss….

      From my experience – most people in AOL including teachers and participants genuinely mean well and it can be a place of refuge and healing for many. It’s just that people like your former partner need individual attention, and not some one-size fits all version of spirituality, where the onus is on the student to figure things out for themselves – lacking which they become sheep, and being surrounded by sheep it’s natural to be one.

      Ambition and faith are good, but maturity and commonsense are also needed – something AOL does not supply. If you are still in touch with your ex – I would advise you talk to them about starting with a job, and leaving more ambitious ventures for later. Getting back into the real world is a huge step. It’s a small step for people in the real world, but for someone in an ashram, it’s gigantic. You want to encourage them to take it one step at a time. (Maybe consulting an astrologer would help – AOL folks really believe in that sort of stuff ;))

      Good Luck – Don’t worry so much….just give them a steady dose of reality, and life will be good.

      • v s s permalink
        September 27, 2011 8:55 am

        . @ peaceful warrior … thanks … you’re right … it seems that AoL actually causes the erosion of “maturity and commonsense” … by engineering submission … i am not anti-submission but i do think that one needs to be very discerning about who or what ( ideology / thought process / way of life ) one is submitting too … also, all that i’ve read about AoL on AoL sites is far from humble … the comments of AoL folks on this site too are marinated in conceit and arrogance … AoL seems to be promoting some sort of notion of a superior identity … a notion that can be sustained only inside its own world …

        . to someone like me … who is outside that world … it seems like a self-perpetuating universe of specific thoughts and points of view … for instance, the anti-pain / anti-negativity dimension of this universe prevents the acceptance of failure or depression as common elements of anyone’s life … the ban on expression is bound to cause repression at a day-to-day existence level … (i recall watching an SSRS video where he says “we have a rule in the ashram — you can bring all your problems but you can’t take them back with you”) …

        . at an artistic expression level … the same repression is likely to manifest in an acute form of self-destruction … where the artist is prevented from expressing himself / herself … as we know, a lot of celebrated art is about expressing internal conflicts and pain … my former partner is an incredibly gifted and versatile artist … but his non-AoL friends have told me that he has become “incapable of spontaneity” … the pressure to be someone who is constantly smiling and consistently happy has made him someone who sounds less and less like himself and more and more “like a clone” … he is also becoming someone who resists … with greater and greater vehemence … each time … any and every “dose of reality” …

        . those of us who wish him well … have no choice but to have faith in life … and the real universe … and believe that “experiential learning” will eventually bail him out of the AoL trap… and, i do appreciate your concern … but we are well past the stage of worrying … most of us have stopped voicing our concerns because the exercise becomes counterproductive … as is the case with many who defend AoL on this blog too …

        . what bothers us … is the fact … that there are many people in AoL who get similarly alienated from their non-AoL support system … in their quest for a failure-free life … it seems that AoL exploits those who erroneously associate failure with “disgrace” … by offering them a “face-saving universe” … thereby creating an army of those who internally experience severe depression but project “a fake resilience and an aura of irrefutable success” … i, for one, simply cannot comprehend why people can’t see through this exploitative device / construct … designed, marketed and promoted by AoL …

        . sorry if i’ve simply stated what you already know from personal experience … was just expressing myself … and thanks again …

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        September 27, 2011 5:21 pm

        @Vss….For what it’s worth – whatever is taught in AOL is best experienced in the real world outside the confines of the ashram. True spirituality does not make artificial distinctions between AOL and non-AOL.

        Ashram life is sugar coated poison for someone who is young (different story for older, retired folks) – one feels validated and connected to people, but by protecting one from the harsh world out there – they are only encouraging people to act in childish and immature manner, instead of facing reality.

        I would not take the quote about taking problems seriously though…i think he means that ashram is a place to find clarity and solutions to your problems. If at all it is a false promise – solution depends on individual effort. Guru grace is no magic pill – but that’s how it’s sold. There is an epidemic of stupidity inside the ashram like you would not believe. RS is only too happy to have useful idiots serve him.

  7. v s s permalink
    September 26, 2011 6:13 am

    . @ the doctor … thank you for letting me know … appreciate it … i hope someone who has been a member of Aol, has lived in the ashram, and visits this blog can help … (i do recall reading somewhere that life in the ashram becomes depressing after a while … but am unable to locate that … shall try again) …

  8. v s s permalink
    September 30, 2011 7:31 pm

    . @peaceful warrior … i hear ya … and thanks again … for all the insights pertaining to life inside the ashram … i think i have a fairly clear picture now … yet, i can’t help but wish the AoL foundation revisits its bad practices … and makes the changes needed for it to become something that doesn’t harm / exploit anyone in any way … (even though i can tell from all that i’ve read on this blog … that … that’s something that is not likely to happen any time soon) …

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