Art of Living: A very UN-spiritual organization
@ anonymus critical [March 25, 2012 4:36 pm]
Thank you, infinitely, for your supportive words.
I’ll definitely share my story with readers soon. For now, here’s a summary:
There were many reasons why I contacted AoL and decided to relocate to the Bangalore Ashram. However, I found this blog just a few days before I relocated, and changed my mind. I do not regret my decision. I changed my mind and do not regret my decision because I am an ordinary human being — I could see very clearly that AoL and Mr. Ravi Shankar are fully capable of demolishing me in the way that they have demolished other (far more exceptional) human beings.
I am also not cynical — in the sense that I don’t think that the world is such a terrible place that no matter what I do and no matter who I seek help from — that person would have deceived, abused, and, exploited a few people. I noticed that many who defend AoL and Mr. Ravi Shankar on this blog (and related blogs) feel that it is okay to harm a few people as long as the majority benefit. This, to my mind, is severe cynicism.
The fundamental basis and essence of any religion is love and compassion for all. Cruelty and humiliation towards anyone is not justified in any religion. So, I found Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL, irreligious. Since I work in the realm of education, I also knew that saying things like “you have low prana”, “your ego is too massive”, “you ask too many questions”, etc. etc. does not facilitate education — it causes the demolition of a learner’s confidence. Some learners recover from demolition of this kind sooner than others — but that doesn’t mean that demolition is not demolition. Hence, I learnt that AoL and Mr. Ravi Shankar are not spiritual.
One of the things that I would look for in an organization that trains adults is a knowledge of adult learning approaches and techniques. A phenomenal amount of research has been done in this field and it teaches us many things that we must know when we’re teaching / training adults. It doesn’t matter if we’re teaching meditation or teaching leadership skills. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learnt from this research is the fact that adults must not be humiliated. Any kind of humiliation is counterproductive. Teaching is considered a noble profession because of the sanctity associated with it. I found that in AoL, learners are not treated properly and the sanctity of the teacher-learner relationship is not respected. I read many comments from people who had been hurt by the insensitive and cruel attitude of teachers, and that this insensitivity and cruelty was justified as being “needed” by certain people. In the world of education, this line of thinking would be considered regressive and archaic as also damaging and arrogant.
In fact, this is why there is a widespread furore in India about the recent comments made by Mr. Ravi Shankar. Journalists, activists, and, educationists, are shocked at the sheer arrogance in the comments made by Mr. Ravi Shankar. He has, of course, further axed his own foot by not apologizing to the people who he hurt. The sentiments of those who have been hurt are of no consequence to him. If he had issued a simple statement that said something like “I am sorry for hurting the sentiments of those who study in and have studied in government schools — I didn’t mean to hurt anybody and it was unintentional — I admit that my choice of words was unfortunate and shall choose my words more carefully in the future”, I am pretty certain that all television channels would play his apology all day and there would be a queue of people outside all AoL centers in India. The majority of people in India are not members of AoL today because they do not associate any greatness with Mr. Ravi Shankar.
However, if he would have apologized, people would associate greatness and enlightenment with him, and he would not have to spend any money on promoting AoL for the next 30 years. Let’s look at both situations — one in which he made comments intentionally and another in which he made comments unintentionally. If he made comments intentionally, it is intentional bad karma to hurt so many people. If he made comments unintentionally, then it is unintentional bad karma to hurt so many people. How does one deal with bad karma ? One can’t deal with bad karma by meditating and yoga. One deals with bad karma by facing the people who have suffered as a result of the bad karma. If he had apologized to the people he hurt, he would have gained the respect of even those who are critical of him. One deals with bad karma by doing what one can to relieve the pain of those one has hurt. Therefore, an apology would have been appropriate — it would relieve those who were hurt by his statements. It would also have ended the potential for more bad karma.
Instead, he didn’t apologize. Many of his followers went on a rampage — abusing the media and all those who criticized them and a lot of bad blood was generated. (How can Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL possibly claim that they know anything at all about conflict resolution ?)
The point of mentioning this being that when I was thinking of going to AoL, one of my motivations was to get rid of bad karma. I read on sites and blogs promoting AoL that meeting Mr. Ravi Shankar, meditation, yoga, and, charity work for AoL projects, rid people of bad karma. When I read this blog, I realized that there are quite a few people who have not only not gained from being in AoL, but have been deceived, abused, and exploited by AoL. So, I decided to face myself and those who had been at the receiving end of my bad karma, and tried my best to do what I could to apologize and make up for my wrong actions.
Last but not the least, I wanted to join AoL because my ex had joined AoL. However, once I’d read this blog, I knew that if I went to AoL, I would not be honest about AoL with him, and I did not want to deceive him in order to be with him. He is still in AoL and has moved on. I have moved on too. Although I am not seeing anyone and don’t intend to either, I have started working on something that requires twelve to sixteen hours of work in a day. I have absolutely no time for anything else. The only other activity I create time for is posting on this blog as I think it is a privilege to post on this blog, and try and help the blog that helped me.
[Still, if those who are reading this post wish to join AoL, they should join AoL. I am not here to stop anyone from joining AoL.]