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Questioning “Enlightenment”

April 30, 2012

The subject of enlightenment, and in particular the enlightened status of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is something which has been brought up and questioned on countless occasions on this and other blogs. To date, most claiming that RS is an enlightened Guru have not been able to provide any reason why they believe this, and more importantly how we can test this in any objective manner.

In response to questions recently asked on the subject of enlightenment, drpetersutphen offered the following:

Submitted on 2012/04/29 at 7:46 pm

Of course I consider SSRS to be enlightened. Why would I follow the teachings and the techniques of a spiritual teacher that wasn’t enlightened? Now, how do I know SSRS is enlightened? That is the million dollar question that all seekers struggle with. To look for an ego ideal is a huge mistake because who knows what vasanas are unwinding in your guru (see the Tripurya Rahasa for a fascinating discussion on this that helps explain the personality differences between enlightened gurus.) I know SSRS is enlightened, a knower of Brahman, from my own experiences around him and through the practice of his techniques. I think every seeker needs to resolve this question on their own. There is no objective criteria. But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.

Firstly Peter, thanks for being honest in telling us this. There are many in AoL who secretly believe this but publicly deny it.

Peter then adds the following:

Submitted on 2012/04/29 at 8:21 pm

Doctor said,”I’d actually like to hear YOUR definition of “enlightenment” as well since you have already told us in your above post that you believe RS to be enlightened? And I’d especially like you to describe “enlightenment” from a clinical psychology perspective.”

Actually, clinical psychology can not describe enlightenment because it is outside the conceptual domain of this science. At best clinical psychology would define enlightenment as some sort of disssociative state! My model of enlightenment is greatly informed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later by many traditional yogic texts. It is also informed by my own direct experience. You practice a serious sadhana for 40 years, you have serious experiences! I started TM in 1972 and became a TM teacher in 1973 and was deeply involved in the TM movement all through the late 80′s. In fact, I practiced TM up until last week when I finally decided to take the Sahaj Samadhi course at the upanishad course in LA. My friends thought it was hilarious that I would take Sahaj after 40 years of doing TM. I just felt like it! My definition of enlightenment focuses on the mechanics of it.

The first stage of enlightenment is the recognition that there is no localized, psychological “I” or private self or ego. The mind experiences this lack of localization as emptiness or “shunyata” because the mind can only experience in time and space. What has created this emptiness is the withdrawal of the projection of consciousness into body/mind boundaries. Patanjali uses a great metaphor to explain this identification. He says that pure consciousness is like a transparent jewel placed upon a colored cloth. The jewel takes on the color of the cloth and appears to be that color. But this is an illusion. The jewel is inherently transparent and no color at all. The first stage of enlightenment is the recognition of consciousness of its own “isolation” or “separateness”, or “aloneness” (i.e. Kaivalya as Patanjali would call it) from boundaries. A perfect duality is created in this state: Atman on one side, as it were, and all subjective and objective phenomena on the other.

In my experience, the pranic manipulation through SK profoundly calms the mind and allows Atman to “recognize” itself. This is nirvikalpa samadhi. I experience this a lot when I practice meditation, but it cracks me up that that it is also produced during the vigorous activity of SK. In nirvikalpa samadhi the mind is “absorbed” by the Self and this absorbsion is not known until it comes to an end.

I’m going to stop here for now! Obviously a lot left to talk about

Now, to date this is actually the best reasoning anyone has come up with so far on this blog or even elsewhere when it comes to the subject of enlightenment and more importantly being able to determine is someone truly is enlightened. In fact, it was discussed at length in the post How to Recognize a True Guru, but even then no one was able to come up with any means of determining whether someone is enlightened or not.

The most important things to note from Peter’s comments are:

I think every seeker needs to resolve this question on their own. There is no objective criteria. But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.


My model of enlightenment is greatly informed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later by many traditional yogic texts. It is also informed by my own direct experience.
[Added emphasis mine – Doc]

This is absolutely fair enough, and I’m not about to challenge Peter’s model. He has been very honest in stating that there is no objective way to determine if someone is truly enlightened and that he has come to his own conclusions about what it is.

What all of this does make me think though is simply this. Why do AoL even need to describe or define RS as being enlightened at all? If there is no way to test for enlightenment other than by essentially having faith in scriptures which are after all simply words which describe what enlightenment is? Yet at the same time and usually in the very same scriptures we are told that enlightenment is something beyond anything which can be described using mere words?!

Also, can people follow a teacher of “spiritual wisdom” without that teacher being enlightened? Or at the very least without caring if the teacher is enlightened or not? Wouldn’t it be enough to follow the wisdom that the teacher imparts, see if it has any positive impact on their lives, and then conclude that this teacher’s teachings are worth following?

These are from discussions I have had with various friends over the years, particularly Hindus in recent times. One friend did tell me that the situation in India is such that Guru’s had to have people believe they were enlightened otherwise they wouldn’t have any followers because they wouldn’t have any credibility. Has anyone else here had this experience?

I too could write a lot more on this subject, but let’s take things from here for now and see where they go.

  1. Ronin permalink
    April 30, 2012 9:20 am

    Hi Peter

    An old time Tm’er your path sounds very familar. May I ask you if you still do you Sidhi practice and if so which one brings you closer to the unified field of consciousness as MY used to call it.

    And let me ask you this as you wel know becoming a theacher meant lots of rounding courses and learning the Puja ceremony. The whole checking process ect But the puja that was such a big thing sacred as the holy grail.

    In Aol it is made into a course now as you might know. Any body can learn it now it has become a commodity. Does that not raise some questions. Also how can Ravi now suddenly appear in the lineage of of the parampara if he left MY. There are many explanations but honestl none that i could rhyme with so far.

    We all were kinda blown away when we realized that the choosing of the mantras were related to age. Nothing special there but we never spoke about it in our intro talks. Kinda deceived people wouldn’t you say.

    MY model of enlightenment was of stages CC, GC and then UC if i remmeber correctly Remember the end of each subject matter course at MIU linking it all back to the unified field.

    But isnt enlightenment just that, are there stages at which the ego drops away. The doership jutst falls away or it doesn’t. otherwise it is just an experience not to be mistakenfor enlightenment. And this is the real question if enlightenment is a impersonal process which means it just happens will some one meditating or doing SK be able to influence this to get there faster. The whole reaon why to take the Sidhi course do your rouding courses and now SK and there courses

    Will some one who has been meditating for 40 years get a better deal then the next door drug junkie. I dont think so yet that is exactly the carrot that is held in front of people in these org.

    Ravi mentions advaita lots of times and when you read about it and the knowledge given by the old timers those who just sat and taught the likes of Ramana maharshi a cord strike. Go beyond the scriptures drop it all, can the mind trully be trusted as it bases every thing on memmory. The mind has know sense of self beyond time and space who is then to say I am enlightened. There is such notion. I always loved this qoute “The belief I am is a memory you take to be yourself”

    An experience is just that, you seem to have all this knowledge and years of experience which has created all these concepts of that it is all about. Just as mine are really…:-))

    It is a impersonal process actually consciousness realzing consciousness. Thus the cosmic joke.

    When the moment arrives it will be something we would have never tought that it would be nor will we know how we are afterwards.

    Many pointers were given in many text but that is what they are pointers nothing else.

    Thanks for sharing it brought back some good memmories, sitting up till late at night in the dead of winter in Iowa with a few rebble students discussing it all. The waking up and having to go to the domes.


    • May 1, 2012 6:51 pm

      Hey Ronin, my fellow Ru! You said,”In Aol it is made into a course now as you might know. Any body can learn it now it has become a commodity. Does that not raise some questions. Also how can Ravi now suddenly appear in the lineage of of the parampara if he left MY. There are many explanations but honestl none that I could rhyme with so far.”

      The teaching of the parampara puja in a stand alone course doesn’t raise any questions with me. Doing a puja creates such a sweet, sattvic vibe in the atmosphere it should be done more often! As far as SSRS leaving MMY, my understanding is that after SSRS cognized SK he wanted to teach it through the TMO and Maharishi suggested that he teach it on his own. SSRS didn’t want to leave, but after close to a year he finally left.

      SSRS being part of the parampara and MMY not being in it is beyond my capacity to understand right now. Any conjecture on part would be just that, conjecture and only a reflection of my own unconscious bias.

      Ronin also said, “But isnt enlightenment just that, are there stages at which the ego drops away. The doership jutst falls away or it doesn’t. otherwise it is just an experience not to be mistakenfor enlightenment. And this is the real question if enlightenment is a impersonal process which means it just happens will some one meditating or doing SK be able to influence this to get there faster. The whole reaon why to take the Sidhi course do your rouding courses and now SK and there courses”

      SSRS just spoke about this at the upanishad course. The Kato upanishad is a dialogue between Yama, the god of death and a very cool dude named Nachiketa. In it Yama tells him that Brahman chooses who will be enlightened; there is no causal manipulation on the part of the jiva to bring this about. But then in the next sentence Yama says that the seeker must strive for Realization. Guruji explained the seeming paradox by using the analogy of a building with windows. We must keep the windows clean but whether the sun is shining on the building is outside of our control. All our practices are to make the body/mind as sattvic as possible. That is all we can control.

      In my understanding and experience the ego “drops away” in MMY’s “C.C” or cosmic consciousness. The ego dropping away is the recognition that consciousness has no qualities/boundaries/limits, etc. The ego or separate individual self is the result of the identification of consciousness with aspects of the body/mind. CC, or “baby enlightenment” as I like to call it, clarify’s that the “I” of the ego is actually an artifact of identification. Once the identification stops, pure consciousness recognizes itself as outside of limits. The mind freaks out, of course!

      • Ronin permalink
        May 1, 2012 11:20 pm

        Hi Peter

        Fellow RU, u made me laugh so hard when i read that it brings back memories :-)) thanks

        The puja is indeed a nice ceremony todo, the only reason i broght it up was because as you well know during TTC it isso indoc what it means and its secercy around it and when to prefrom it. So i was caught of guard, and to make it in a part 1 and 2 course seemed a bit much. Alo knowing how long it took us to get to that point. It seemed like another product launch. But that is my oppinion at least people do not have to go through the many hours of rounding to get it now.

        As for why Ravi left I have know clue heard many versions including the one you gave. I don’t care what is very obvious to me is that a model of doing things was learned and refined to suit the needs of AOL not necesarry its participants. It actually became a model for many others as well.

        Both org have doubfull financial practices and are not transparent about it. What is a fact is that lots of money washes thoug the web of corp non corp structures. And with time the TMO became very strange rajas and their crowns this will also happen with AOL and in the end another org will surface. Truly we have seen so many come and go.

        The Parampara thing does disturb me we old timers know where it came from, all the new AOL teacher think it is an AOL thing. Just like Jai guru Dev was nvented in AOL hahaha Be honest about it and recognize here you came from. But that is just me.

        One sid note What is your oppinion that recently one could become a sahaj teacher in just a couple of weeks realy.

        But peter we both know that in the TMO enlightenment was stressed so much each advance course was done because it would get us there fater. We ended up meditating for hours or even contemplated to go on Purusha. I remember listen to the Upinishads and the verrious interpertations but they became an obstacle pointers that one starts looking for in once pratcice. Instead of letting everything e as it is.

        You mentioned:

        All our practices are to make the body/mind as sattvic as possible.

        Says who peter again it is something we read and assume. and this then leads people to become arrogant in their thinking (not saying you are). Well i am a better person cause i mediate and follow dail ayurvedic routine ect. I am sattvic. Then when the next door junkie gets enlightened they feel so cheated. So inevertenly the all this knowledge and doing becomes a big obstacle. And it is axactly what the org want cause ur hooked with this kind of thinking. Yet once the angle of knwoledge changes u realize that Consciousness does not care it cant,t since it is al part of IT. All there is is consciousness

        But you did not answer the question when teaching and initiatiing people did you feel like there was a level of deception knowing full well that the mantras were not specially chosen as we said in the intro”s

        I love this qoute,

        Seekers continue to practice all kinds of self-torture without realizing that such ‘spiritual practice’ is a reinforcement of the very ego that prevents them from their natural, free state. Enlightenment is total emptiness of mind. There is nothing you can do to get it. Any effort you make can only be an obstruction to it.

        Be good enjoy it all, thanks again, memories of sleeping in the dome and hearing the bell to start flying are priceless. :-)) At least we have an interesting story to tell at happy hours…hahahaha

      • sadhana permalink
        May 3, 2012 10:27 am

        Dr peter,nice to know your experiences..U must write often.It initiates good discussion.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        May 3, 2012 6:33 pm

        Here is how I see it…Gurudev >>> MMY >>> SSRS.

        With SSRS particularly, there are moments of genius, and powerful spiritual presence – but also full of fear and insecurities which play out in the organization. He can teach you a lot, and he has some skill, but he is hardly a “master”.

      • Dayalu permalink
        May 3, 2012 9:42 pm

        Welcome back Peaceful Warrior after a prolonged Haitus! You were missed.

      • Jr. permalink
        May 4, 2012 2:23 am

        Welcome back Peaceful Warrior. I’ve missed your posts… but I understand we can’t all post here forever.

  2. Jr. permalink
    April 30, 2012 9:21 am

    “But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.”

    That’s exactly what I believed before, until I did my research and found out otherwise.

    • May 1, 2012 6:52 pm

      Jr, how can “research” alter a subjective experience?

      • Jr. permalink
        May 3, 2012 9:03 pm

        Dr. Peter,

        I wouldn’t call everything in this life a subjective experience. Like SSRS often says, opposites are complementary. We live in a world of opposites. Some things are abstract, while some are concrete. Although we are always the observer, certain things exists regardless of how we interpret them. SSRS also was quoted saying “whether you agree or disagree with me, what is, is.” An apple falling from a tree is going to be an apple falling from a tree regardless of whoever is observing it.

        Furthermore, we know for a fact that Art of Living tried to find out who was behind this blog, sue this blog and have it shut down. That is not my subjective experience, it’s something we all know is a fact. I don’t believe trying to censor freedom of speech is a good thing, and more importantly, trying to do so conflicts with many of the core beliefs and values of Art of Living.

        We know that Sudarshan Kriya is not safe for everyone. There’s been at least 100 stories of people (including myself) that have experienced negative side effects. The organization needs to warn people of this possibility, just like a drug company warns of potential side effects.

        These are a few major examples of actions my spiritual beliefs are not in line with. I don’t believe these actions show compassion, love, caring or concern for others.

  3. VSS permalink
    April 30, 2012 9:24 am

    In addition to the points of disagreement above, here’s another one, [Ref: drpetersutphen (April 29, 2012 7:46 pm)]:

    “Of course I consider SSRS to be enlightened.”

    “I think every seeker needs to resolve this question on their own. There is no objective criteria. But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.”

    Therefore, there is likely to be no agreement between seekers on how they figured out that Mr. Ravi Shankar is enlightened.

    This is very interesting. Picture this. One walks into an ashram of a cult. Everyone around says that the cult leader is enlightened. Each person has a different story for believing this. What’s the best way to blend? Make your own story. No one’s going to question you about the story you created as long as you don’t question anyone about the story they created. “Accept people as they are” means don’t question anyone’s story.

    So, if I ask someone in AoL, have you heard any fake and false stories that were offered to prove that Mr. Ravi Shankar is enlightened, what is that someone likely to say? That someone is likely to say “No.” Every story in AoL about how someone found out Mr. Ravi Shankar is enlightened is a true story. However, this applies only to stories that prove Mr. Ravi Shankar is enlightened.

    If someone says they have a story that proves he is not enlightened, then everyone in AoL is likely to say “Oh, that’s a fake and false story — there’s no proof to prove that he is not enlightened.”

    What’s absolutely fascinating is that though all the followers of Mr. Ravi Shankar do not have the same story, the end of each story is the same — the follower finds out that Mr. Ravi Shankar is enlightened. The last page is already written. As for the previous pages, followers are free to fill in the blanks as they wish. So, there is freedom in AoL — to the extent that people can write whatever they wish in those preceding blank pages as long as whatever story they write — leads to the pre-decided last page.

    Who decides the contents of that last page?

    Who decides the conclusion the followers are supposed to reach?

    Is it Mr. Ravi Shankar?

    Or, is it the fear in every follower — that if he / she cannot detect enlightenment — then maybe he / she is inadequate in some way?

    Here’s a note to all those of you who feel you have no story to fill those blank pages with:

    Don’t worry. Read “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. In that story, the entire town except a child thought that the emperor was wearing clothes that only the very intelligent could see. Who would you much rather be — a part of the entire town or the child?

    It’s really your call — your story. It’s about what you want to write on that last page.

    I once heard a story about what happened in a hostel in which many students were living. One student met Amitabh Bachchan and got his autograph. Another student who happened to be a forgery expert sat all night and forged Amitabh Bachchan’s autograph in everyone’s autograph book just so that all of the students in the hostel could claim that they’d met Amitabh Bachchan. One person’s autograph book effectively determined at least one page of what everyone’s autograph book contained. The only problem was that while this forgery was happening, the student doing the forgery copied the original exactly — and the original said — Amitabh Bachchan, Calcutta.

    Now, all the students hadn’t been to Calcutta. But it was too late to rip the “Amitabh Bachchan autograph page” from the autograph books of all the students in the hostel. So, each student decided that as and when they would flaunt their autograph book, they would add a story about how they went to Calcutta. Then, an impromptu meeting was organized. In this meeting, the student who’d actually been to Calcutta and actually met Amitabh Bachchan and got his autograph, educated everyone about Calcutta and the venue in Calcutta where the student met Amitabh Bachchan.

    This is how, in one night, every resident of a certain hostel went to Calcutta, met Amitabh Bachchan and got his autograph — if not actually, then at least spiritually. Needless to add, they were all ecstatic and smiled a divine smile each day for the rest of the year, and after that, each time they recalled that night.

    (I heard this story from the student who did the forgery.)

  4. The Seer permalink
    April 30, 2012 9:24 am


    You said you have been practicing for the past 40 years. You must be someone seriously committed to spiritual sadhana. I sincerely respect this.

    Your definition of the first stage of enlightenment (what I would call ‘awakening’) is entirely in alignment with my own understanding and experience.

    In my experience, the pranic manipulation through SK profoundly calms the mind and allows Atman to “recognize” itself. This is nirvikalpa samadhi.

    I agree that pranic manipulation through SK can profoundly calm the mind so that there can be an experience of samadhi, but I’m not sure this is nirvikalpa samadhi. In nirvikalpa samadhi, there is complete disidentification, there is complete cessation of all notions of duality, there is no coming back. There is a saying in yogic traditions that one who attains the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi remains in that stage for 22 days after which the body is dropped just as a dry leaf is dropped from a tree, of course there have been exceptions to this rule. I don’t think all those people who practice SK experience nirvikalpa samadhi and come back. And if people attain to this highest state through SK, the experience should remain with them forever, they wouldn’t have the need to go to the follow-up class again and breathe to the tunes of a tape.

    But it sure can be one of the lower samadhis as defined by Patanjali, such as the savikalpa samadhi, where ‘the body is in a trancelike state, but the consciousness is fully perceptive of its blissful experience within’. But don’t you think this is externally induced if you have to get to that trancelike state through SK? You have to go back the next week and practice kriya if you want to have that experience again. Many people don’t even know what they are upto, you ask why they go to the long kriya week after week, and they will say, “it just feels good”. They don’t know what happens or how that happens, and worse they completely give away their innate ability to attain to that state. Don’t you think this is manipulation?

    • May 1, 2012 7:05 pm

      @the Seer, great points! My naming of a particular samadhi could be wrong. You hear yogis arguing about this quite a bit. What I call nirvikalpa samadhi is the cessation of all mental activity. When you leave this samadhi the mind starts again but retains overwhelming bliss and clarity as an impression from the samadhi. I’ll have to check Ramana Maharishi again for his explanation of various samadhis.

      @ the Seer, But it sure can be one of the lower samadhis as defined by Patanjali, such as the savikalpa samadhi, where ‘the body is in a trancelike state, but the consciousness is fully perceptive of its blissful experience within’. But don’t you think this is externally induced if you have to get to that trancelike state through SK? You have to go back the next week and practice kriya if you want to have that experience again. Many people don’t even know what they are upto, you ask why they go to the long kriya week after week, and they will say, “it just feels good”. They don’t know what happens or how that happens, and worse they completely give away their innate ability to attain to that state. Don’t you think this is manipulation?

      I see the lower samadhis as leading into the higher samadhis. All yogic techniques, IMHO, are “external manipulation”. Maybe if we didn’t do anything other than live a simple, stress-free life, eat good food, get gentle exercise we’d all become enlightened eventually. But it is interesting that all Realized beings in all traditions tell the unenlightened to work vigorously to achieve Realization. Nobody ever says, “Don’t worry about it!”

      • VSS permalink
        May 1, 2012 7:26 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 1, 2012 7:05 pm]

        Do you seriously think that “enlightenment” can be achieved by working towards it “vigorously” because one is “worried” about getting “enlightened”?

        I’m not sure I followed the last two sentences of your comment.

        From all that I’ve gathered about “enlightenment” from multiple sources, it’s not about vigour and worry at all. There ain’t even a hint of “vigour” and “worry” in “enlightenment” — not even a tiny tinge.

  5. VSS permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:36 am

    @ drpetersutphen

    I have a question related to the above text which I’ve posted here:

    @ The Seer [April 30, 2012 9:24 am]

    “I agree that pranic manipulation through SK can profoundly calm the mind so that there can be an experience of samadhi…”

    If you can, could you please let me know about what it is in the mind that is to be “profoundly” calmed? Are we talking about all emotions, knowledge and information? Or, are we talking about biases and prejudices?

    • May 1, 2012 2:39 am

      VSS, the Seer pretty much answers this with his reference to Patanjali. I just wanted to add that what is calmed down through yoga are the “vrittis” of the mind. Patanjali said, “Yoga chitta vritti nirohda.”- Yoga is the cessation/inhibition/constraint of the activities of the mind. Just sit quietly and you will notice these “activities” of the chitta!

  6. The Seer permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:06 pm

    @VSS on calming the mind and samadhi.

    Yes, all mental impressions, when I say mental impressions, I mean the mind’s ‘reactions’, ie., the mental habits, biases, prejudices, etc. In the very first line of his Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali succinctly says, “Yoga is restraining the mind from taking various forms” (योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः). And we are talking only about restraining the mind, calming the mind, not erasing the mind of all knowledge and information. The question really is, to what extent are you able to control your mental activity instead of being controlled by the mind.

    The first thing to understand is that you are not your mind. You have a mind, but you are not the mind. If the mind, the mental activities, can be compared to waves, then you are the sea in which the waves arise and subside. So, when your mind is in perfect control, you are like a still lake in which the mountains, the clouds and blue sky are reflected perfectly. When your mind is calm and controlled, you see reality as it is, because you mind is the one thing with it’s biases, prejudices, etc., that distorts reality. And when your mind is in control, there is no suffering. You may have the feeling of pain, but you are in control of the mental reaction to pain, so there is not much of suffering. As they say, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

    But this control of mind has to happen from your own understanding that unrestrained mental activity is the cause of all suffering. When you have this understanding, an intention comes to the mind to voluntarily relinquish control. But it’s not easy because the mind is is not one single entity there are many conflicting desires and habits. So you may have to resort to a practice such as meditation. And during meditation, when you are in total awareness of what’s happening in your mind, the mental impressions and desires voluntarily relinquish control as you already have the understanding that you are not the mind and that the mind is the cause of suffering. IMHO, this is the natural way, it comes from your understanding, you know what’s happening, and you are independent, this way really leads to your freedom.

    But if you are to bring about this calming of the mind through forceful breathing, drugs, and what not, it is externally induced. It may become a habit and you have the urge to return back to the thing that calms your mind and you may lose your innate ability to calm your mind to a large extent. Here one desire is only replaced by the other. It’s even worse when someone else holds the key to your happiness (ie., calming of the mind). Even mantra japa, sahaj meditation, etc., is okay because the key is with yourself.

  7. VSS permalink
    April 30, 2012 2:09 pm

    @ The Seer [April 30, 2012 12:06 pm]

    I must compliment you on your excellent post.

    “When your mind is calm and controlled, you see reality as it is, because you mind is the one thing with it’s biases, prejudices, etc., that distorts reality. And when your mind is in control, there is no suffering. You may have the feeling of pain, but you are in control of the mental reaction to pain, so there is not much of suffering.”

    From this, I derive the following objectives:

    1. To control one’s mind to the extent that the distortion of reality does not take place.

    2. To control one’s mind to the extent that one responds to pain instead of reacting to it.

    (Please notice that I’m making a very clear distinction between responding and reacting.)

    If one achieves these objectives independently — i.e. — without dependence on a physical activity (or a cult) or substance abuse, and, without indulging in unethical means of any nature that might harm oneself or another being (or the environment), does it really matter what the path is? It’s open to individual interpretation, right?

    • The Seer permalink
      April 30, 2012 6:20 pm

      1. To control one’s mind to the extent that the distortion of reality does not take place.
      2. To control one’s mind to the extent that one responds to pain instead of reacting to it.
      (Please notice that I’m making a very clear distinction between responding and reacting.)

      Yes, that’s right, you feel the pain (physical or mental or emotional) and respond to it, take the best course of action. But impulsive reaction causes unnecessary suffering, and in the anxiety you may even do something that aggravates the pain.

      But the word ‘control’ doesn’t seem right even though I myself have used the word in my previous comment. You can’t really control the mind, if you try to control the mind it only reacts more. And who is it that’s controlling, it’s still the mind, isn’t it? What really happens is that, when you disidentify yourself from the mental activity, when you stand aside and look at the mind, the unrestrained mind understands itself to be the problem and restrains itself. Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.

      If one achieves these objectives independently — i.e. — without dependence on a physical activity (or a cult) or substance abuse, and, without indulging in unethical means of any nature that might harm oneself or another being (or the environment), does it really matter what the path is? It’s open to individual interpretation, right?

      Physical activity, such as yoga asanas, or even pranayamas can be helpful in calming the mind and keeping the body healthy. I think these are very good as long as you don’t develop too much of an attachment. And which path you choose is your call, it does’t matter as long as you understand the process and implications, and as long as you are honest to yourself so as not to delude yourself along the way.

      • VSS permalink
        April 30, 2012 7:04 pm

        @ The Seer [April 30, 2012 6:20 pm]

        I hear you. Let me restate what I meant but with additional semantic clarity.

        Here’s what I meant:

        1. One should not have a distorted perception of reality.
        2. One should respond and not react.

        Does it matter how one achieves this independently — as long as the process does not cause any harm to oneself or others?

        What would you say? Yes or no?

        (Harm includes all that can be considered harmful such as delusions etc. etc.)

        I am asking you because I shall list a third objective (with a related question) if you agree that each individual has a right to determine the process as long as it is not harmful.

        I think each individual has the right to determine the process as long as it is not harmful.

      • Jr. permalink
        May 1, 2012 9:53 pm

        I just want to say a quick thank to everyone for your interesting comments. Many of us (including myself), may not agree with Drpetersutphen on certain things, but it’s refreshing to see this blog being used for a healthy discussion for once.

      • May 7, 2012 5:20 pm

        The Seer said,”Physical activity, such as yoga asanas, or even pranayamas can be helpful in calming the mind and keeping the body healthy. I think these are very good as long as you don’t develop too much of an attachment. And which path you choose is your call, it does’t matter as long as you understand the process and implications, and as long as you are honest to yourself so as not to delude yourself along the way.”

        I see attachment to a greater or lesser degree to be inevitable on a spiritual path. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Attachment keeps one committed and dedicated to a spiritual practice. Of course it it can also bring fanaticism too! I saw plenty of this in the TM movement. But as your experiences deepen and consciousness starts waking up to its own nature, attachment, which is a dynamic of the mind, becomes less and less. A good spiritual practice transcends itself over time. IMHO, of course!

  8. VSS permalink
    April 30, 2012 3:11 pm

    @ The Doctor

    > Also, can people follow a teacher of “spiritual wisdom” without that teacher being enlightened? Or at the very least without caring if the teacher is enlightened or not? Wouldn’t it be enough to follow the wisdom that the teacher imparts, see if it has any positive impact on their lives, and then conclude that this teacher’s teachings are worth following? <

    Is the "spiritual wisdom" you speak of something that can be stated clearly and understood by mere mortals, or, is it something abstract that cannot be quantified or qualified?

    For instance, if there is a course conducted for acquiring this "spiritual wisdom", will the learning objectives be clearly stated? Will there be a pre-assessment that determines where the learner is at (before the course) and a post assessment to determine what the learner has learnt (after the course)?

    I ask because Mr. Ravi Shankar is selling an "abstraction" and that "abstraction" happens to be "enlightenment". Since no one has any clarity on what "enlightenment" is, and since it, in any case, defies definition in words, he is getting away without being accountable for the knowledge that he is imparting. That which defies definition can hardly be monitored, assessed, or, analyzed.


    • The Doctor permalink
      April 30, 2012 9:27 pm


      As ever with these matters, there doesn’t seem to be any universally agreed-upon definition of “spiritual teachings”, so it really depends on who you ask.

      Some say that the deepest “spiritual teachings” can only ever be transmitted from a Guru to a Disciple in complete silence. But of course the Disciple has to be “ready” – whatever that entails – and I have yet to meet anyone who has ever received any teachings in this manner. And no, I don’t count the AoL Advanced Course / Part 2 / Art of Silence here. The course certainly has benefits, but I don’t believe anyone ever comes out of it “spiritually wiser”. Just more relaxed at the end of it.

      Otherwise, can someone who is well-versed in various religious scriptures impart any wisdom they have gleamed from these scriptures? I don’t see any reason why not, but this begs the question, does one have to be “enlightened” to do this? Surely this is no different from picking up a modern-day self-help book, say How to Win Friends and Influence People, and teaching people the various lessons imparted therein? And last time I checked, I’m pretty sure Dale Carnegie wasn’t on the Top 100 Enlightened Masters of the 20th Century list.

      • The Seer permalink
        May 1, 2012 7:57 am

        @The Doctor

        I can’t say I am well versed in scriptures, my knowledge of scriptures is completely random. As far as I know not all scriptures emphasize the necessity of a guru to ‘transmit’ the deepest spiritual knowledge. On the contrary, many non-dualistic texts emphasize the importance of self-effort and inquiry over the necessity of a guru. Let me just quote from Yoga Vasishtha, a scripture that SSRS himself holds in very high esteem.

        Self-knowledge or knowledge of truth is not had by resorting to a guru (preceptor) nor by the study of scripture, nor by good works; it is attained only by means of enquiry inspired by the company of wise and holy men. One’s inner light alone is the means, naught else.

        (From page 147 of Swami Venkatesananda’s translation)

        And there is a story in Srimad Bhagavatam about an avadhoota brahmana who did not have any particular human guru. He learnt from diverse things and life forms such as a python, honey bee, elephant, a prostitute, etc., Check out the story at

        This is not to say that a guru is absolutely not necessary. A guru can show the path. As they say in Buddhistic traditions, the teacher is the finger pointing towards the moon, not the moon itself. But what one learns is very much a subjective phenomena.

      • VSS permalink
        May 1, 2012 6:45 pm

        @ The Doctor [April 30, 2012 9:27 pm]

        There are subject matter experts (SMEs) in the world of academia. Some of them were my lecturers in college. I majored in History. The topics included The Rig Vedic Age, The Later Vedic Age, and The History of Islam (including Sufism). However, none of my lecturers could teach “silently”. None of them claimed they were “enlightened”. None of them wore saintly robes. All of them were humble. None of them manufactured Ayurvedic products. Oh, and all of them could laugh at themselves. (Also, we never got a degree in “spiritual wisdom” though we studied religious texts from multiple perspectives and we studied various commentaries on them too.)

        But, I suppose, all these qualities made them very “uninteresting candidates” for heading a “cult”. We also didn’t experience any euphoria when we saw them. One of them was an expert in drawing the world map perfectly on the blackboard in less than three minutes. Watching him draw those maps and mark cities and draw rivers etc. etc. was an amazing experience. It seemed miraculous. But I’m not sure if spiritual/ mystical experience specialists would agree that with me.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    April 30, 2012 3:48 pm

    @ Dr. Peter,

    I also believed Ravi Shankar was enlightened for some time. But I became convinced that he was misuing various ‘powers’ and ‘siddhis’ to control other people, which fact he bragged about. As he became more and more paranoid in his dealings with other people, and as his requests became more and more irrational, I knew he was not enlightened, but exhibiting some kind of siddhis which allow him to enter the minds of others and use them. Please see the Srimad Bhagavatam for details about these types of powers. He is definitely able to make people feel “good” for awhile. But it all goes away when you leave him for awhile, which means it was not enlightenement conferred on you at all, but rather something like a psychic ‘drug’ which needs repeated dosing. Also, in my own view, an enlightened master would not be cruel for no reason, shriek like a banshee and turn angrily red when confronted with uncomfortable truths (like getting caught in some very bad behavior by any social standard) nor would he greedily collect money for “charity” and then enrich his immediate family and certain friends. An enlightened master would have no need to sue the owners of a little blog like this one out of fear. An enlightened master would not be afraid of anything, and would have no need to pay people who found certain things out in order to keep them quiet. I have seen all these objectionable behaviors around Ravi Shankar, and came to the conclusion that he was not enlightened, but possessed siddhis. That’s it. Many other people have witnessed the same things, come to the same conclusions, and left him and his organization.

    • May 1, 2012 2:30 am

      Anon, I hear ya bro’, but, of course, disagree with much of what you say. Also, as you read more and more literature about spiritual masters, there is quite a range to their behaviors. But you have to do what you have to do on a spiritual path. If you can not tolerate the behavior of your guru, then perhaps you have to leave and find another teacher. But, I guarantee you, the same “problems” will arise again with the new teacher. There is no guru that is a perfect ego ideal match for anyones personality. We don’t expect this in any other relationship other than with a spiritual teacher. It took me years to figure this one out!

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 1, 2012 12:47 pm

        @Dr Peter,

        Have been to several teachers/gurus. Many exhibited bizarre behaviors, by most standards. None were afraid of being discovered, as RS is. Also, each one could ‘see’ somehow where I had been, and verified that RS was a man with an agenda. Good that I left. And your words that the “same problems would come up with any teacher” were RS’s exact words, when I would confront him on his ugly behavior. But he was wrong. I’ve never had a bad experience like that with any other teacher. And I’ve had much better experiences, which lasted, and were not temporary, with several, where I learned about my inner self, not some emotional foolishness as AOL and RS prescribe, like “laugh sing dance meditate”, encouraging hysterical bhakti (if that’s what you can call it). To me, Art of Living and Ravi Shankar were simple emotional traps, and I was entrapped by the initial ‘blast’ of energy from him, which did convince me at first that he must be enlightened. That can be had in hundreds of places from hundreds of people, most of whom are not enlightened, but ‘talented’. There is a difference between a siddha, and an enlightened being. Overlooking cruelty in a master is not an option for me. Brahmanada Saraswati’s story was supposedly that he searched and searched for a guru “without anger” among other traits, and it was difficult to find, but he found that one. When a man exhibits the very traits I find objectionable in myself, why would I listen to him? Why should I learn from him? To learn more of those traits? This is how I felt around RS, and so I left. If you don’t find these things objectionable (or perhaps you are not that close to him, and so never saw them personally) then that’s your option, of course. I’m just sayin’…. Take care of yourself.

  10. Anon permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:27 pm

    @Anonymous April 30, 2012 3:48 pm

    “….came to the conclusion that he was not enlightened, but possessed siddhis.”

    What makes you think that he possessed siddhis. This is another lie propogated. I have never come across any siddhis in his presence.

    His ‘siddhis’ for example didn’t stop rain at the recent celebrations in Germany nor was he right about the shooting meant for dogs.

  11. May 1, 2012 2:23 am

    The Doctor said, “Why do AoL even need to describe or define RS as being enlightened at all? If there is no way to test for enlightenment other than by essentially having faith in scriptures which are after all simply words which describe what enlightenment is? Yet at the same time and usually in the very same scriptures we are told that enlightenment is something beyond anything which can be described using mere words?!”

    Amen brother! But I believe this is a problem with all spiritual movements. People need a belief that their spiritual teacher/guru is special in some way. But usually this is a pure concept and not related to any experience they are having and this could create all sorts of difficulties in the mind. In my first encounter in 1972 with my first spiritual teacher Maharishi, I had one of the most profound spiritual experiences I ever had in my life when he looked at me. So, I knew right away that this was not just some regular “Joe on the corner.” This experience and other triggered by MMY and the practice of his techniques always made me realize that something very deep and profound was going on with Maharishi even when things got pretty strange in the TM movement in the 90’s. There was always that “darshan of Brahman” that placed his surface behavior in a completely different context.

    When I first met Guruji here in Florida in 1993 I expected some sort of huge darshan blast like the one with Maharishi. But absolutely nothing! He just seemed like a really nice, mellow yogi. The crowds were pretty small then so I got to hangout with him after his talk which was pretty cool. So he started coming to Florida once a year. And I kept on going to see him. I had no contact with the AOL in between his visits, but I did SK every day along with my TM and TM-sidhis program. What kept me practicing SK and seeing SSRS was my experiences during SK which were the cessation of all thought and the very clear “experience” of pure consciousness while doing SK-which still cracks me up to this day because I always associate transcendence with no physical activity. I also enjoyed how personal Guruji was. Maharishi always kept a big distance on the personal level and it was nice to sit near and get a hug from the “big cheese” and watch him interact with people on a very personal level. I realized that this was a very nice, good man that deeply cared about people.

    About two to three years after this Guruji came to Florida again. I came late to a meeting and when I walked in the door, everybody was singing bhajans (which I couldn’t stand back then, now I love them!). I glanced at Guruji, he glanced back at me and the whole thing opened up, to say the least. I experienced Guruji as Brahman; huge, vast, infinite, yet outside of all space and time; all knowledge, all bliss; glowing with deep, profound “knowledge”. My mind just popped and collapsed into stillness! I finally saw who he was. He was Maharishi; Maharishi was him; infinite pure Brahman looking right at you!

    I’m sharing these experiences so people can understand the experiential context within which I see Guruji and the AOL. I’m not dismissing any experience to the contrary that people might have. We all can have very different karmas and dharmas with spiritual teachers. Heck, I hugged AMMA twenty years ago and total zilch! It was very clear my spiritual path did not lie with her. But for other people, it certainly did.

    I’ve been very blessed that I never had to understand the “specialness” of my two spiritual teachers as a concept; that I didn’t have to judge them from their surface behavior. If I only knew Maharishi from his surface behavior, I would have left the TM movement many, many years ago. We all have ego ideals that we use to judge and evaluate relationships, but these ego ideals have almost no use on a spiritual path. Actually, I’m beginning to realize they have no use at all on a spiritual path at all! But you do need that experience of Brahman; that darshan of the infinite to understand a satguru….in my humble opinion!!

    • May 1, 2012 5:32 am

      @ drpetersutphen

      I had these too. My first meeting with SriSri….zilch nothing happened. However, i loved the crowd around him, so I stayed. Over time, I too had some amazingly mystical “Bramhan type experiences”….and syncronicities.

      Much later, after I started to look closely and acknowledge all of the OTHER side of SriSri (the lack of financial integrity for one, the twisted knowledge points, blatant factual untruths being propagated)…….it just did not fit in well with my other mystical experiences. So, I sat and sat and really wondered about this and asked myself if I was going crazy? or whether my “small mind” had finally overtaken me. That irrespective, what I was seeing now, quite clearly, after 10 years in the organisation was not who I was. I could not support that aspect anymore….no matter if goodness in other forms was also mingled in it.

      So I left.

      When you leave and are away from the influence of all those who you surrounded yourself with before….you start to see things differently. I suddenly realized that these mystical happenings continued to happen much after I disconnected fully from my chosen Guru of 10 years. Interestingly, they had also been happening way before he came into my awareness. The bit that i did was to attribute and Credit all of my mystical experiences ONLY to HIM. When I look back that act of doing so was my undoing that kept me stuck and holding onto a story which would not serve me over the long term. And I stayed stuck for much longer than necessary…..if I had been totally upfront with myself from the very beginning.

      Hence, I feel…. maybe….just maybe……SriSri did nothing to initiate your spiritual experiences. This is very probable. There could be way many more explanations for these experiences you had. You cannot really be sure SriSri caused them. One other view, is that you may have other hidden guides/angels that have been with you longer than you can even remember. They in fun and jest may have facilitated/allowed you an experience in the physical presence of SriSri. Your mind connected the 2 and made SriSri the direct cause and accountable for your experience….and therefore also giving him all the credit.

      Its important not to discount these other possibilities….

      In the ultimate reckoning, your inner voice is your ultimate Guru.

    • Anonymous permalink
      May 1, 2012 12:53 pm

      @ Dr Peter,

      “I also enjoyed how personal Guruji was. Maharishi always kept a big distance on the personal level and it was nice to sit near and get a hug from the “big cheese” and watch him interact with people on a very personal level. I realized that this was a very nice, good man that deeply cared about people. ” That’s how he hooked me also, Peter, but I found out that he didn’t care at all about people, but used them in a horrible way. I pray you never have that same experience. Just don’t get too involved. I also had the big experience you describe with him which convinced me of his enlightened state. But he is not MMY, he is simple a man who has done lots of puja and can make people feel certain things. So what? It’s not permanent. It doesn’t help in the long run. He’s a good businessman with talents. I’ve seen them and recognized them. You saw them but mistook them for enlightenment as I first did. You seem like a very sincere seeker of Truth and Light. so again, I’ll say, be careful, take care of yourself.

      • May 7, 2012 5:28 pm

        IO and Anon,
        What can I say? You have certain experiences; I have certain experiences. Our understanding of SSRS is based on these experiences. Yours have changed over time and mine have not. I also know many AOL teachers and have known most of them for a very long time. These are all good, solid people who would not tolerate much of the nonsense that people claim regarding SSRS. So, until I experience differently, don’t worry about me! I’m fine ;-). I’m a big boy and accept full responsibility for myself.

  12. VSS permalink
    May 1, 2012 6:25 am

    @ drpetersutphen [May 1, 2012 2:39 am]

    So, do you agree with the following objectives?

    (This is where the discussion is at with “The Seer”.)

    1. One shouldn’t distort reality.
    2. One should respond rather than react.

    And, as long as one achieves these objectives, without harming oneself or others, the process of achieving these objectives is open to individual interpretation, right?

    That is my main concern. As long as objectives are achieved, how does the path matter? Why should any detail of the path be relevant to anyone other than the individual? Why should it even be stated — except to promote a certain path?

    I’m trying to distill the objective to its minimum possible ingredients — i.e. — the clear statement / expression of sub-objectives.

    @ The Seer [April 30, 2012 6:20 pm]

    Are we in agreement about the sub-objectives and an individual’s right to choose his or her path?

    Or, according to you, does the path have to include “yoga” of some type? Can we or can we not leave the ingredients of the path to the individual (as long as there is nothing harmful going on) ?

    • The Seer permalink
      May 1, 2012 7:25 am

      @VSS (May 1, 2012 6:25 am & April 30, 2012 7:04 pm)

      There is no should or shouldn’ts, but yes, the goal, if I may call it that, is to experience reality as it is without distortion… and when you are in that state, the reactive tendencies have no power over you. You respond to the situation if necessary or you just let it be and pass.

      And yes, as long as there is the right understanding of the objective and as long the individual is honest to oneself, he/she can choose any path, whatever works for them, it doesn’t have to include any particular type of practice. I stress on honesty and understanding because without these you may delude yourself.

      • VSS permalink
        May 1, 2012 1:17 pm

        @ The Seer [May 1, 2012 7:25 am]

        “…the goal, if I may call it that, is to experience reality as it is without distortion… and when you are in that state, the reactive tendencies have no power over you. You respond to the situation if necessary or you just let it be and pass.

        And yes, as long as there is the right understanding of the objective and as long the individual is honest to oneself, he/she can choose any path, whatever works for them, it doesn’t have to include any particular type of practice. I stress on honesty and understanding because without these you may delude yourself.”

        Beautifully said.

        So now, can we say that we have defined “enlightenment”?

        Or, can we only say that we have defined the first step of “enlightenment”?

        In the event that we have defined only the first step of “enlightenment” in simple English, then could you please define the next step of “enlightenment” in simple English?

      • The Seer permalink
        May 1, 2012 2:41 pm

        To experience reality as it is without distortion — to me that is enlightenment. This also goes hand in hand with becoming aware of the true nature of your self. Experiencing the true nature of your ‘self’ and experiencing reality as it is, both are one and the same thing. Not just understanding this intellectually, but experientially realizing. To me it’s as simple as that, and of course this is strictly a personal view of mine. Many people may have other notions of enlightenment, and some have grand imaginations about this thing. I wrote a little comment on this 4 or 5 days ago in reply to one of your comments in another post, the Doc will publish it as a separate post soon.

      • VSS permalink
        May 1, 2012 6:10 pm

        @ The Seer [May 1, 2012 2:41 pm]

        This to me, is a very worthy definition. The best part about it is that it is intuitive and instinctive rather than abstract.

        I would add a few things to this definition — such as realizing the mind’s potential — in terms of lateral thinking abilities, creativity, imagination, concentration (especially attention to detail), problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills etc. etc. but I suppose you cover these elements in “true nature of self”.

        What I find most damaging about cults like AoL is that they trap the mind in a uni-dimensional perception of the mind — pushing it towards repression rather than expression.

        This is the impression I got from all the “gyaan” that I received from the “knowledge sheets”. It closed doors rather than opened more of them. It limited the window of possibilities rather than increased them. It was more about adherence than about freedom. It was more about imposition rather than innovation. It was more about killing instincts and intuition rather than being about channelizing them more effectively. It was more about submission rather than about realizing one’s potential. That’s why the “brainwashing” I was subjected was like third-degree psychological torture. It left absolutely no room for individual interpretation.

        I find true education to be truly enlightening. I find freedom in rational thought. I find humanity in compassion and empathy. And, I think some of the truly enlightened people I know, and none of them claim that they are enlightened, are truly sensitive people who are kind to others at all times. I aspire to be a truly kind human being. If I could be truly kind, I would consider myself enlightened. I would be happy with who I was.

      • The Seer permalink
        May 2, 2012 11:00 am

        I would add a few things to this definition — such as realizing the mind’s potential — in terms of lateral thinking abilities, creativity, imagination, concentration (especially attention to detail), problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills etc. etc. but I suppose you cover these elements in “true nature of self”.

        These elements are still within the domain of the mind. The true nature of self is ‘pure awareness’ that watches the thoughts. The mind that thinks is not the self, it can be an instrument of the self, but it’s not the self. If the mind can be compared to the waves in the sea, the self (ie., pure awareness) is the sea. If the mind is the breeze, the self is the space in which the breeze moves about. I want to make this point clear because I don’t want you or anyone who might read this thread to misunderstand what I say. You can disagree, but don’t misunderstand.

        Just answer me a question, can you ‘think’ about the present moment? Just test it out right now. Think about the present moment, not the moment that’s gone by. Can you see that when you are totally in the present moment, there are no thoughts? Just thoughtless awareness? Thinking can always be about the past, or the future as in anticipation. A ‘thought’ is mind’s reaction to what is perceived, but it’s not direct perception of truth. If you are to directly perceive truth as it is, moment by moment by moment, you have to be thoughtlessly aware. Now do you relate your understanding to the statements “restraining the mind from taking forms (chitta vritti nirodhah)” and “becoming aware of the true nature of the self”?

        This is not to say that you have to stop thinking altogether. You can use your faculty of thinking when it’s necessary, but your true nature is ‘thoughtless awareness’, silent witnessing. To me, this is the enlightened state. When you get to this state, the mind is freed of unnecessary thought patterns, so it starts working efficiently, and so there is creativity, better problem solving skills, better concentration, etc., This is not something special, this is how the human mind is supposed to work. These mental skills, along with some psychic abilities, can be side effects of enlightenment, but these are no measure of enlightenment. For example, I have seen cruel people who are very good in problem solving. And there could be people with siddhis who are otherwise unenlightened.

        But a person in an enlightened state won’t manipulate others for selfish reasons, won’t make people dependent on him/her although he/she will do everything possible to help others. A person in an enlightened state will be kind, compassionate and sensitive to others and also the environment.

        I purposefully use the term ‘enlightened state’ and not ‘enlightened person’ because, I don’t think this state is a property of a select few people and it can be conferred to you only by one such person, no. It is open to every one of us, every moment. The fact is that all of us enter into this state for a few moments every single day without even knowing it, some of us recognize this state when we enter into it, some have (or have developed) the ability to enter into this state any time at will, and there could be some who can remain in this state all the time. But if for any moment anyone thinks they are enlightened and are somehow different from others, a mental impression called ‘pride’ has arisen in their mind, and they are no more enlightened.

      • VSS permalink
        May 2, 2012 12:04 pm

        @ The Seer [May 2, 2012 11:00 am]

        Glad you clarified your perception. However, I do think you’ve traveled into abstraction again. That is my perception.

        I think it’s important to be a humane human being.

        For me, a humane human being is an enlightened human being.

        The rest — especially if it wanders into the territory of jargon — is irrelevant and dispensable.

        I majored in History. Some of the people I studied with had a tendency of wandering into the wondrous world of jargon. It only confused them more.

        The fact of the matter is that all human beings are equal. Every human being has human rights. One of the sources to view a list of these is the United Nations Charter.

        As long as one is empowered enough to protect one’s human rights and humble enough to respect the rights of others, one can claim to be fairly enlightened in the pragmatic sense.

        If one can do something for one’s family — even better.

        If one can do something for those less fortunate than oneself — awesome.

        Jargon is used to manipulate people.

        Now, I can easily tell you that I don’t want to be a thoughtless human being, I’d rather be a thoughtful one. But then you’ll say, enlightenment cannot be expressed using words or some such thing.

        I can also say that an empty mind is the devil’s workshop, and I don’t want my mind to be the devil’s workshop especially if he is a cult leader who only wants to fill my mind with the pressure of making more and more people join his cult.

        While it is not a good idea to have a simplistic view of enlightenment, it’s not a good idea to have a jargon-oriented one either.

        One has to strive for a balance.

        There’s great beauty in simplicity — genius too.

        If I educate my 15 year old nephew about his human rights and how he must do his best to respect the human rights of others, he will be empowered.

        If I tell him about “thoughtless awareness”, I think I will lose him.

        Have you seen a film called “Philadelphia”?

        Denzel Washington repeatedly says in the film “Tell me like I’m a nine-year old.”

        If a nine-year old can’t get what you’re saying, then, well, that’s something to look into.


      • The Seer permalink
        May 2, 2012 2:53 pm

        I think it’s important to be a humane human being.
        For me, a humane human being is an enlightened human being.

        Of course yes… I don’t understand how my previous comment disagrees with this.

        Now, I can easily tell you that I don’t want to be a thoughtless human being, I’d rather be a thoughtful one. But then you’ll say, enlightenment cannot be expressed using words or some such thing.

        I never said you have to be a thoughtless human being. I spoke about ‘thoughtless awareness’ and it’s not something abstract. We all experience this… just see what happens in your mind when you happen to enjoy an amazing natural scenery, or a wonderful piece of music, you’ll know what I mean. I never said you have to do away with your thinking faculty. Do you think I am a thoughtless person to be writing all these comments in this blog?

        And did I ever say you have to join a cult and bring more and more people into the cult? Read my previous comment again and read all my previous comments in this blog.

        I admit my inability to express my point of view in simplistic terms. But all I have said comes from my own personal experience, it’s all my own views. It’s not all some meaningless jargon. Anyways, thanks for asking all the questions, for me it’s an exercise in expressing myself, and I learnt a lot myself answering your questions, that way the comments have served its purpose.

      • VSS permalink
        May 2, 2012 4:17 pm

        @ The Seer [May 2, 2012 2:53 pm]

        I beg to disagree.

        Firstly, I have never experienced “thoughtless awareness”. I am moved by a beautiful scenery or a beautiful piece of music. Usually, they remind me of something. They inspire me. They evoke emotions.

        Secondly, I believe that if something cannot be easily understood by a nine year old (something that I haven’t achieved yet) should at least be understood by a fifteen year old. It’s not about simplistic terms — it’s about simple terms.

        Thirdly, I never said that you are thoughtless. I was again attempting to show you the problem with using terminology that is not commonly understood. I can give you another example of the limitations of terminology derived from ancient texts — if someone says “the self is without the mind” — I’m likely to say I’d rather be mindful than mindless.

        Fourthly, I never said that you said one should join a cult. In fact, you’ve spoken extensively about the manipulation deployed by AoL to hook people. I was merely reiterating that.

        Fifthly, the comments have certainly served their purpose and will be enlightening for those who visit this thread in the future — and believe me — there will be thousands — if not in the near future — then in the distant future.

        Finally, I said it earlier and I’ll say it again — it’s extremely important that all of us can understand what is being said. If my choice of words has offended you, I apologize profusely. But I stand by my feedback.

        I have read many posts on this blog and I have seen that the moment terminology derived from ancient texts is tossed around, some people who usually comment on other posts, feel alienated.

        It’s not that I cannot engage in a “shastraarth” with you or anyone else on what is contained in ancient texts. I have studied multiple commentaries on ancient texts as a part of my B.A. with an honours in History. I was taught by some of the finest subject matter experts in India — they’re academic luminaries.

        But that is precisely what AoL wants. It wants to confuse people. It wants to keep them in a spin. Most of those ancient texts were written with the intention of causing a divide between those who were educated (in The Later Vedic Age only the so-called higher castes were educated) and those who weren’t educated (in The Later Vedic Age only the so-called lower castes were not educated).

        I can also assure you that I am capable of writing in a vocabulary that would serve as a tutorial for IIM aspirants if they started looking up the meanings of the words I deployed, but I won’t. I don’t want to alienate anyone who does not possess the vocabulary that I do.

        One of my greatest aspirations is to be able to express the most complex of thoughts in the vocabulary of a nine year old.

      • anon permalink
        May 3, 2012 3:57 am

        @ Seer

        I am at loss of words. How to request you to have compassion on VSS when you are already compassionate?

        She is such a beautiful person that I would love to ignore occasional burst of prideful anger coming from her. At the same time, I can understand your frustration as a genuine blogger on how to respond without hurting other blogger.

        This blog is not a court of law where every argument has to be contested. I understood your non response to previous entry (VSS – May 2, 2012 4:17 pm) as ‘no comment’ from an experienced lawyer.

        I admire your writing style. Striving perfection is a worthy goal but each one has a different definition of perfection. Even two totally opposite ways can lead to same destination.

        love you.

      • The Seer permalink
        May 3, 2012 6:04 am

        I was wondering how I got into this mire of meaningless verbal entertainment. It’s just useless to come up with a definition for the word ‘enlightenment’. It’s a lot better to assume that there is no such thing as enlightenment, it’s just a word. If someone sincerely wants to find out the root cause of all suffering and wants to find out the true nature of reality, they will just find it out, it’s not necessary to say them that there is something called enlightenment and provide definitions. For others, who doesn’t really want to get out of suffering, who just wants a quick fix so that they can continue to live in their world of illusions, no amount of explanation is going to wake them up. These people invent a word call enlightenment, give it some exalted supernatural meaning, keep it at a very high place they won’t be able to reach, and forever delude themselves into thinking that they are working hard to reach it.

        As for myself, the state I call enlightenment is very real, very natural, it’s there for anyone, it’s not something mysterious, it’s not supernatural. But I see that any attempt to put my understanding into words distorts the very thing I want to convey. The more I try to make it simple for anyone to understand, the more complex it becomes. I’m reminded of this song from the movie Rockstar. Really, it’s all meaningless blabber. Oh btw, I really loved that movie and the songs from that movie, you have a greater chance of moving closer to enlightenment by listening to the songs from this movie than by playing with words and endlessly going around in circles.

        So, if your 15 year old nephew or some 9 year old is to come to me and ask what is enlightenment, I’ll tell them this:

        Just forget about it, it’s nothing, there is no such thing as enlightenment. Just live your life, live it to the fullest, do all the things you want to do, enjoy life in all possible ways. But when you have some kind of suffering, find out what is it in you that is experiencing the suffering, go deep into yourself and don’t stop until you find out the very root cause of all suffering. Never seek answers outside, all answers you can find can come only from within yourself.

      • The Seer permalink
        May 3, 2012 10:48 am


        Thanks for your kind words! I saw your comment only after posting my previous comment.

        Whatever intention or frame of mind VSS had while posting those last two comments, her comments made me realize that discussing about ‘enlightenment’ is waste of time. This finding the ultimate truth about reality and truth about oneself is serious business. Anyone who seeks this truth sincerely within themselves will find it. Otherwise any attempt to define the word enlightenment is just entertainment.

        I’m not offended or frustrated, I have no ill feeling against VSS and would be glad to discuss with her on some other topic. But as far as the topic of enlightenment is concerned, I have no inclination to discuss about this any further. That last paragraph in my previous comment, that’s my last word on the topic. As far as I am concerned, this discussion is closed.

      • VSS permalink
        May 3, 2012 1:22 pm

        @ The Seer [May 3, 2012 10:48 am]

        I posted a comment earlier today but it didn’t get posted. Perhaps it’s a technical glitch of some sort. (i hope this one gets posted.)

        I had essentially agreed with all that you said in your comment before this one. I agree with this one too.

      • VSS permalink
        May 4, 2012 4:04 pm

        @ anon [May 3, 2012 3:57 am]

        I am an extremely ordinary human being — plain as plain can be. Ninety nine times out of hundred, I err. Sometimes, however, I am always wrong.

        @ The Seer [May 3, 2012 10:48 am]

        I agree with that last paragraph in your previous comment. That’s precisely the point I was trying to make.

    • May 7, 2012 5:33 pm

      VSS asked, “Or, according to you, does the path have to include “yoga” of some type? Can we or can we not leave the ingredients of the path to the individual (as long as there is nothing harmful going on) ?”

      Absolutely! Who knows what a particular person needs on a spiritual path. The best we can say is that I have had good experiences with this, you might like it. I believe it is obviously beneficial to be committed to a particular spiritual practice for a good amount of time before deciding to try something else.

      • sadhana permalink
        June 3, 2012 2:08 pm

        Seer…You have written such meaningful posts..n you seem to be a good teacher…You have been answering with so much patience.

  13. stupidseeker permalink
    May 1, 2012 8:21 am


    Just a few questions for you drpetersutphen:

    1)Adi shankaracharya was an advaitin who declared the “oneness” experience as truth. Even though he held direct experience in great esteem, yet ultimately he declared scripture to be supreme, since one’s personal experience cannot be validated objectively. Yet why doesn’t his current successor HHSSRS declare scripture to be above personal experience, especially when there are so many who disbelieve his “oneness” experience which presently is his baton of spiritual authority?? In fact, during the courses the participants are not allowed to write a single word of the course points. Can you tell why is that??

    2) On one hand HHSSRS gives commentaries (for a fee) on the Upanishads and the Astavakra Gita, the subject of which is Brahman and the means of its realization. Brahman, they say, is above karma, is equally distributed in all (not dependent on caste) and cannot be achieved by good karma alone. For good measure they also don’t lay much store by sacrifices and rituals conducted for fulfillment of desires either and look upon them as nothing but activities which increase the karmic bondage. And on the other hand, HHSSRS also conducts elaborate vedic rituals for interested people ( for a BIG fee) to various gods and goddesses to obtain fulfillment of desires which the upanishads say increases their karmic load ?? Can we have your comments on this apparent dichotomy ??

    3) Agehananda Bharati was an Austrian anthropologist who was also an ordained monk for nearly ten years of the Dashanami sect in the lineage of Adi Shankaracharya. During this time, he had many mystical and spiritual experiences. He eventually wrote a book on these experiences called “Light At the Centre: Context and Pretext of Modern Mysticism”. In this he states that while the mystical experience can be enjoyed and treasured, existential status should never be conferred upon them, in the sense that one cannot derive knowledge of the real world through these experiences. Knowledge, Bharati states, can be obtained by reason alone and not through these experiences. On the matter of the seven chakras, he calls them imaginary guides for the guidance of the yogi which Vivekananda later reified into actual physical entities. Can you please give your opinion on Bharati’s postulations.

    • May 7, 2012 5:40 pm

      Stupidseeker (that sounds like an awful thing to call you!) You’re asking me to comment on several things. Why? I’m not an expert in Vedic yagyas and their impact on karma. Sure, I have opinions, but what does that matter? There are lots of paradoxical assertions in the Upanishads, the Ashtavakra Gita, the Bhagavad Gita, the Avadhut Gita, the Uddhava Gita, etc., etc.. I’ve read them all. Different dharmas require different behaviors. Context is everything. What is good in one situation is not good in another.

      • stupidseeker permalink
        May 16, 2012 7:22 pm

        No, ur not an expert in most things peter. neither in the vedas nor in determining the enlightened from the unelightened. in fact, even as you accuse VSS of using specious logic, you, despite ur apparent closeness to a particular self proclaimed enlightened being aren’t above using it yourself.

        This vidoe nicely sums up what I thnk of you and your impending fate in AOL once you outgrow ur usefulness. Ask one of ur friends in the ashram to translate the contents for you:

  14. stupidseeker permalink
    May 1, 2012 9:21 am

    Sam Harris (of “End Of faith” acclaim) is another supporter of eastern mysticism which he propagates as being the rational alternative to the blind faith of the Abrahamics. He too, like our friend drpetersutphen, confers existential status on mystical experiences which he says are knowledge giving experiences. His claims were questioned by rational secular humanist, Meera Nanda, which can be read here:

    In the above, Nanda quotes from research done,reviewed and presented by Newberg and Aquili in their book entitled : “”Andrew Newberg, Eugene D’Aquili and Vince Rause, Why God won’t go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief, New York: Ballentine Books, 2001.pp 149-152””. An excerpt below:

    “” This noetic propensity to make existence claims with absolute certainty is not a metaphysical excess or a delusion: It is part and parcel of the mystical experience. Neurosciences are revealing the biological grounds for why mystical experiences feel as if they are actually uncovering genuine facts about the world. Andrew Newberg and Eugene D’Aquili, in their well-known Why God will Not Go Away, offer a clue. They believe that the ontological fallacy stems from the process of reification — “the ability of the brain to convert a concept into a concrete thing, or more succinctly, to bestow upon something the quality of being real or true. Reification refers to the power of the mind to grant meaning and substance to its own perceptions.” On this account, meditative practices slow down the transmission of neural information to the posterior superior parietal lobes of the brain, which controls spatial orientation, resulting in the sensation of pure awareness which is incapable of drawing boundaries between the limited personal self and the external material world. This sensation gets reified into the image of “reality of as a formless unified whole, with no limits, no substance, no beginning and no end.””

    More upon the subject by Meera nanda can be read here:
    Furthermore practice of meditation on a long term basis has been strongly correlated to altered brain anatomy which the authors below argue contribute to the meditative process.

    And whats more, Patanjali in his Yoga sutras lists out using psychoactive substances as a means to obtaining mystical experiences.

    Taken together the above may lay the physical and material foundation for the so called mystical non material experiences.

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 1, 2012 12:35 pm

      One question for anyone who can answer it:

      What’s the difference between a spiritual/mystical experience and a hallucination?

      No, this isn’t intended as a joke, it’s a serious question which I’m fairly convinced no-one will be able to answer. But it’s also something I would like to have answered, so if you think you can provide even a vague answer, please go for it.

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 1, 2012 12:57 pm

        Having had many spiritual experiences, Doctor, I’ve actually wondered the same thing myself. It’s a good question, and I don’t take it as a joke. But I don’t know the answer. Recently I read that it’s a common problem to find people in India lying stiff on the ground, not moving, and they found they had severe Magnesium deficiency, and were fine with IV of Magnesium. I wondered: could that be the ‘exhalted’ state that is described for Anandamayi Ma and others who were fasting continuously and it was called “samadhi”?

      • VSS permalink
        May 1, 2012 6:17 pm

        Even I want to know the answer to that question.

        Also, can rock concert happiness be categorized as a spiritual / mystical experience?

      • May 3, 2012 2:33 pm

        @Doctor….Ha ha! Good question. How do you differentiate between a hallucination/delusion and a spiritual experience? Well, if you aren’t crazy then you know you are having a spiritual experience. What’s so hard about that? And if the other guy isn’t crazy, then I trust he is having a spiritual experience too.

      • sadhana permalink
        June 3, 2012 2:33 pm

        Doctor,I will try to answer it on basis of little experiences I have had…Spiritual experience many times is associated with a feeling of deep calmness that can linger around you and within you for hours…Even if you are busy in other activity later, you can feel that calmness and peaceful feeling within you. In general at least when I’m concerned, I’m more loving,understanding and happy on that particular day and may remain like that even for a week or so..
        sometimes it is associated with an experience of depth within
        you…Sometimes it may leave you with a feeling of immense love or gratitude. Many times it can be associated with intuitions. In that case, when actual incidence happens, you will remember your experience of sadhana.

        A person with hallucinations is a diseased person..I’m not authority on subject. so can’t comment.

    • Robin permalink
      May 9, 2012 9:19 am

      wow! what a resource you have given. thanks a ton mate 🙂

    • VSS permalink
      May 17, 2012 7:54 am

      @ stupidseeker [May 1, 2012 9:21 am]

      Thank you for this post and the links therein. It appears to me that we haven’t reached a place yet where we, as a society, are willing to even consider that “meditation” (as it is spiritually defined) may not be manna. I could, of course, be wrong.

  15. stupidseeker permalink
    May 1, 2012 11:17 am

    Yoga is practised globally by many for many reasons including those of health and also to obtain spiritual experiences.Research has shown that apart from several beneficial effects the practise may be associated with several adverse effects that may significantly impact the quality of life. This site lists out some of the potential adverse effects.

    In the link below a yoga practioneer makes the claim that yoga can cure every disease while pointing out that one size cannot fit all. What makes this article really interesting is his statements that, Bhastrika is hyperventilation which can lead to asthma, anulom vilom can upset the respiratory centre, kapalbhati can cause uterine prolapse in women and nauli kriya can lead to damage to nerves innervating the intestines.

    Speaking of meditation adverse effects such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depersonalisation amongst others have been frequently reported.

    The most comprehensive study on the adverse effects of meditation such as TM, called the Kropinski Trial revealed serious psychological and physical damage amongst long term practioneers of TM in the cult of Mahesh yogi.

    Clearly given the potent ability of yoga to cause biological changes, it is time for the regulatory authorities to take note of the same and work towards the demystification and rationalisation of yoga practice.

    • VSS permalink
      May 17, 2012 8:03 am

      @ stupidseeker [May 1, 2012 11:17 am]

      Thank you for this post and the links in it too. To be in denial about side effects, even if they are not widely experienced, is to be in denial. Whatever applies to medication should apply to so-called “healthy” practices. As you’ve pointed out “regulation” is the need of the hour. Perhaps when our politicians have had their fill of different manifestations of vote bank politics, we will find an inclination towards “regulation”. Perhaps…

  16. visitor permalink
    May 1, 2012 7:43 pm

    did you read/heard UG krishnamurti’s comments on enlightenment…?.
    I would strongly recommend that…for all enlightenment seekers. (and i am not imposing him as another guru ;))

    just google or youtube.

    • Ronin permalink
      May 1, 2012 11:22 pm

      Laser like and gets to to point and core in matter of minutes.

      Worthwhile to listen to him to get another perspective.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    May 1, 2012 11:46 pm

    Check this out about the harhful effects of meditation

    While practising SK, I began to feel a strong pull on the top of my head. It felt like my brains were being sucked out, and would also feel throbbing on the base of my skull,in the cerebellum. Many times I’d be able to smell fragrance too. When I asked RS about it, I had hoped he’d give me some explanation about it. Instead he said that I should just ignore it. I tried to, but these sensations only become worse. Then I thought to myself, isn’t a guru supposed to guide is follower through this complex journey? He’s not even interested in what’s happening to me. So what’s the use for such a guru. I dropped him.

    • May 3, 2012 2:30 pm

      Anon, he did give you guidance, he told you to ignore it. Obviously you were not truly seeking guidance.

  18. VSS permalink
    May 2, 2012 8:48 am

    > …you do need that experience of Brahman; that darshan of the infinite to understand a satguru…. All yogic techniques, IMHO, are “external manipulation”. <

    drpetersutphen [May 1, 2012 7:05 pm]

    Since the "darshan of the infinite" is a perception that cannot be triggered / ensured for everyone at all times, what is its relevance / significance?

    Since the connection between "external manipulation" and internal enlightenment is a perception that cannot be triggered for everyone at all times, what is its relevance / significance?

    Isn't it all very random?

    How exactly can something that is meant to be deeply spiritual be random?

    Why is it not uniformly and universally applicable as all true knowledge is?

    Also, if the "guru" we're going to promises "enlightenment" through "manipulation", is the "guru" prescribing something spiritual?

    How exactly is "manipulation" spiritual?

    What is it that makes it okay?

    Don't the means as well as the end matter?

    If the means are based on "manipulation", will the end also not reflect the same?

    How can enlightenment that is acquired through "manipulation" be true enlightenment?

    Isn't AoL taking instant gratification a bit too far?

    Isn't the idea of paying money to physically manipulate one's way to enlightenment quickly a little too simplistic?

    Isn't it delusional?

    When enlightenment is reduced to a product in this manner, does any difference remain between buying enlightenment and buying any other product?

    Isn't this the worst manifestation of materialism?

    Isn't the mason who works all day for his family — often without a single proper meal — and in terrible working conditions — more enlightened than Mr. Ravi Shankar?

    Of course he is.

    But why would a money-flashing, lusting-for-instant gratification enlightenment-seeker learn from a mason?

    A money-flashing, lusting-for-instant gratification enlightenment-seeker would invest money in getting instant gratification — that ranges from buying an expensive cell phone to buying enlightenment.

    Why not?

    After all, life's about the value we can get for money.

    This is circa 2012 — if quick enlightenment is available for sale — why not purchase it?

    Why not quickly manipulate our way to it?

    What's wrong with manipulation?

    Everyone does it.

    Would everyone do something if it was wrong?

    Of course not.

    • May 3, 2012 2:39 pm

      @VSS: You’re lost in specious logic. I’m sure there are some legitimate questions in there someplace, but you write with a implicit cynical agenda of not wanting to further any understanding. An intellectual troll. No fun at all!

      • VSS permalink
        May 4, 2012 4:42 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 3, 2012 2:39 pm]

        Oh! Wow! Does that mean you won’t be reading anything I write again? How wonderful! However, I must correct you. I am not an “intellectual”. Therefore, I am not “an intellectual troll”. I am a very ordinary human being. I usually make a million mistakes every day. I have absolutely no agenda — explicit or implicit. I might be mistaken about AoL. I have been mistaken about many things in the past — it’s something that keeps happening with ordinary human beings like me. For instance, one of my favourite authors is P.G. Wodehouse. I had immense respect for him. I recommended him to everyone I knew. Some years ago, I discovered — along with the rest of the world — that he was a German spy. When I was reading books by him, I never thought I was reading books written by a German spy written with “an agenda”. Maybe I’m mistaken about Mr. Ravi Shankar. It’s very possible. It’s very possible that some years from now, he will prove to the world that he is an avatar of Lord Krishna.

  19. VSS permalink
    May 2, 2012 3:45 pm

    A note to all those who blindly believe every word written in ancient texts:

    Please keep in mind the fact that one of the irrefutable / historically documented aspects about The Vedic Age — is the fact that in The Later Vedic Age — the caste system was enforced. It caused discrimination that was intentional and deliberate. The jargon and or ideas that came about after The Rig Veda, especially, were used as a tool to subjugate the so-called lower castes, and to reinforce the supremacy of Kshattriya Rulers with Brahmin Royal Priests. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything contained in ancient texts is “true” and free of “ulterior motives”.

    The essence of all true knowledge lies in the fact that it makes us more humane — more compassionate, more sensitive, and more empathetic. Anything in any text that does not make us more humane ought to be discarded ex facie if the objective is to be more humane than before. The more we get trapped in a vocabulary that separates us from the mere mortals amongst us, the more damaging it is for us and for society. Education including excellence in any language must not become a tool to create divides.

    One of the things that is hammered into members of AoL is a blind faith in ancient texts — it doesn’t seem to me that members are ever educated about the historical context of ancient texts and the “ulterior motives” that influenced their contents. The other observation I have about members of AoL is that people are trapped in jargon about “enlightenment” before being given basic education in humanity. Many former members have mentioned in several posts / comments that AoL instills arrogance — people follow certain practices such as vegetarianism etc. and start exuding a holier than thou air. (The consequences of that arrogance are well-documented on this blog.)

    With the passage of time, this attitude progresses towards “knowledge” of the Upanishads etc. and concepts like this or that “samadhi” are tossed around. I’d really like to know how many Yes Plus volunteers have a clue about “duality”. The Art of Living seems to be running courses that make people experts in pontificating in a vocabulary that is intimidating for a mere mortal. As time progresses, the vocabulary becomes more intimidating. First, people are alienated from society. Then, there is alienation within AoL — the one who has done the course on Upanishads will be talking in a different vocabulary than the one who hasn’t. (This, incidentally, is one way of ensuring that the next time the course on Upanishads happens, the one who missed it, feels compelled to go for it. The more money you spend, the more you learn jargon. The more jargon you learn, the less alienated you feel within AoL. It’s just third-degree psychological manipulation.)

    Why should this happen?

    We’re talking about “the art of living”, right?

    It doesn’t have to “sound” like “rocket science”.

    Let’s get real.

    Let’s first become as humane as we can be. Let’s first be kind to ourselves, to our families and friends, and, to the unfortunate around us. Let’s make a habit out of it. Then, if we’re still stressed out and unhappy with our lives (and I don’t think we would be — there’d hardly be any time left to be unhappy but that’s another story), we’ll explore “enlightenment”.

    Just because we’ve done well enough in our lives to earn some money — shouldn’t mean we quickly buy a quick route to enlightenment. Enlightenment is not about how much money one can spend to acquire it. Mr. Ravi Shankar has made it that and that is one of his worst sins against mankind. He has distorted Indian Culture and Hinduism. India was never about materialism. Linking money to spiritualism is the greatest disservice that anyone could have done to spiritualism. Exploiting Foreign Nationals who have a genuine love for India is one of the most disgusting things that any Indian could have done. He’s a national shame.


    • May 3, 2012 2:44 pm

      VSS, how can you even make any comments about AOL or SSRS if you’ve never practiced SK or SSM? From what I’ve read, and please correct me if I’m wrong, your only exposure to AOL was getting “brainwashed” through “knowledge” by some guy that you claim was “brainwashed” by AOL, although you didn’t know that at the time. Apparently all this brainwashing over 7 months inspired you to move to the Bangalore ashram, until you came across this blog and were saved in the nick of time. Is that about right? Not the best of bona fides to say the least if this is correct!

      • VSS permalink
        May 4, 2012 4:30 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 3, 2012 2:44 pm]

        Since the time AoL came into existence, there are people who benefited from it and there are those who didn’t. I happen to be someone who didn’t. I happen to be someone who suffered immensely. The psychological manipulation that I was subjected to was excruciating and it went on for way beyond seven months. I am still recovering from the devastating impact of it. If you think no one has suffered because of AoL, you are sadly and badly mistaken. If you think I haven’t suffered, then I can’t help you believe that I have suffered. Just as there is no evidence of Mr. Ravi Shankar’s enlightenment, there is no evidence of my suffering. Also, if you have time, please read all the posts on this blog about the harmful effects of SK on certain people. Yes, I didn’t take a chance. I believed in the posts in which people mentioned the harmful effects of SK. If that is a crime, I am guilty is charged. I also hope that others who read those posts will be similarly influenced. If hoping for that is a crime, I am guilty of that as well.

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 4, 2012 6:31 pm

        Why, Dr. Peter, Because VSS did not let the brainwashing stick for more than 7 months? I am happy for him that he didn’t get more involved with RS, and saved his life from that sink of misery called Art of Living and Ravi Shankar. I think VSS has made some very good points that could be taken by the severely brainwashed in AOL.

    • Mangal permalink
      May 4, 2012 1:00 am

      @Dr Sutphen

      Please do not attack poor VSS. She has suffered a lot over the past seven months due to Art of Living.


      I was thinking of your when I read this article

      • May 7, 2012 5:49 pm

        VSS, sorry I was hard on you in my post the other day. And I am sorry you suffered; who wants anyone to suffer? But I still don’t understand how you can comment on SSRS and AOL without any direct experience with them and expect your comments to be considered seriously? You had a long post making fun of SSRS based on viewing a tape of him on Youtube? Really? I just can’t take your comments seriously because of your lack of experience. I don’t care (well, I do, but you know what I mean) if anyone’s opinion is negative or positive regarding AOL and SSRS but, good lord, please base it on your actual direct experience of AOL and SSRS!

    • Anonymous permalink
      May 4, 2012 6:29 pm

      I agree with you, VSS. A National Shame. He really is.

      • VSS permalink
        May 7, 2012 7:14 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 7, 2012 5:49 pm]

        I’ve seen many videos of Mr. Ravi Shankar on various sites. I stand by all that I have said. I would not have been able to survive in the Bangalore Ashram for the reasons that I have stated.

        I also find it absolutely baffling that you are unable to tolerate someone who doesn’t think that Mr. Ravi Shankar is charismatic or a good orator or sensible or interesting. This is precisely what I think is the effect of AoL’s philosophy. So what if I don’t find someone charismatic? If I say I don’t find Tom Cruise charismatic, do I have to first meet him to say that? Why can’t I say so based on watching a Tom Cruise movie? If I say that I don’t think a certain politician is a good orator, do I have to first meet him to say that? Why can’t I say so based on a televised debate? If I watch a video on and say that a certain prof is not a good teacher in my opinion, do I have to meet him to say that?

        Do you realize what you’re saying, Dr. Peter?

        You’re limiting human perception to in-person interaction in an age when technology is making in-person interaction more and more redundant.

        I have seen webcasts of Mr. Ravi Shankar too. Have you? When he went to Pakistan, he said that Pakistan should promote tourism. I think that if there was ever a list of most foolish suggestions made to Pakistan in 2012, that would be the top one. He made absolutely no sense. He started talking about tourism in Greece and Bali. Is the situation in Greece and Bali comparable to the situation in Pakistan? Have you heard of bomb explosions in Greece and Bali. I have a Pakistani friend who is studying to be a doctor. Almost every week, glass windows in her college break because of explosions in the vicinity.

        As for my suffering, you have no idea whatsoever about what happened to me and how long it lasted. Do you know the person who brainwashed me?
        Do you know how it was done? Do you know who he is in AoL today?

        You don’t know and still you are unable to contain your rage. How many years have you been in AoL? Didn’t AoL promise you that you would be able to contain your rage and not have to apologize to a non-entity like VSS?

        Why didn’t the “knowledge” succeed? Do you know?

        If you really want to know, please try this. Please list the ten core tenets of AoL’s philosophy that you follow — preferably along with the “knowledge sheet” you trace them to. Then, on your own, see if those tenets can actually be applied across the board — to every situation — to every human being. And, please do this as a favour to yourself, not to me. You owe yourself that much for thus far loyally serving Mr. Ravi Shankar. You won’t be betraying your guru in any way.

  20. May 2, 2012 4:08 pm

    I just found your blog and I’m surprised about the negative comments.

    In fact, we bought a property in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, on June 21st 2011 and we moved here on July 27, 2011.

    The Art of Living Foundation is our neighbor and we had no problems at all with its people.

    We are going there, sometimes, to have dinner with them, and we met a lot of gentle and happy people.

    They also invited us for their XMas party.

    Nobody seems oppressed or pressurized.

    In fact, Shri Shri is coming, for some days, on this week-end and a lot of people will come in the area.

    Their property, as ours, is smoke-free and we greatly appreciate them as neighbors.

    Michel J. Grenier
    Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, QC

    • Mangal permalink
      May 4, 2012 1:02 am

      @Michel Grenier

      You have to become a teacher in the organization to experience the torture the people here have undergone

      • May 4, 2012 10:54 am

        Are you in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, Mangal ?

      • May 4, 2012 10:56 am


        Are you saying that the teachers themselves “experience the torture” or the students?

      • VSS permalink
        May 4, 2012 4:16 pm

        @ Michel J. Grenier [May 4, 2012 10:56 am]

        Please join AoL. That’s the best way to find out if it’s good or not. There are some spectacular people in AoL — they are the reason why AoL is what it is today. There are others who have suffered because they did not encounter spectacular people. It all depends on who you connect with. Maybe you connect with the spectacular people in AoL and end up having a spectacular experience in AoL. No one can really predict what might happen — especially not me. I have no training whatsoever in Astrology.

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 4, 2012 6:35 pm

        @M. Grenier, nice that you have a good neighbor in Art of Living, their being smoke-free and all. I would advise you not to get more involved than you have. Many of the senior teachers are quite deranged. If you get around them long enough you will see bizarre tantrums, shouting, excessive anger, jealousy. They are ‘tortured’ by Ravi Shankar, and they, in turn, pass that down to their students when they feel like it. It’s one big, huge dysfunctional ‘family’ filled with disgruntled members, especially when they’ve been around for awhile and are about used up. Keep your distance and you will be fine.

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 4, 2012 12:52 pm


      If you’re really interested, please read this post which will give you some background as to what this blog is all about:

      You certainly won’t experience any problems on the surface with Art of Living, and many people who are involved are very sincere, well-meaning individuals.

      To use the word “torture” is a little extreme, however many people have been abused and traumatized by the organization to one extent or another, especially those who have become deeply involved. Their experiences are documented throughout this blog.

  21. stupidseeker permalink
    May 2, 2012 5:23 pm

    @The Doctor,

    Even though the below doesn’t refer to AOL in a directly, I’d request you to keep it posted as a guideline for when one encounters claims of enlightenment and other supernatural claims.

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 2, 2012 5:51 pm


      The amazing thing is that a friend of mine just posted this on Facebook and I was actually thinking about posting it here! Well, I guess I don’t need to contemplate any further. It can stay.

    • VSS permalink
      May 2, 2012 6:27 pm

      @ stupidseeker [May 2, 2012 5:23 pm]

      I must thank you infinitely for posting this video. Do you know why this video is especially needed in this blog? Because it doesn’t mention AoL. For once, AoL cannot claim that the video is “anti-AoL”. I have noticed several instances when an obviously issue-based critique of AoL is dismissed on the grounds that it is “anti-AoL”. This blog is really not about AoL. Yes, the context might be AoL. But this blog raises important issues with regard to spiritual abuse, with regard to psychological manipulation, with regard to the exploitation of human beings by cults and cult leaders, and, of course, with regard to false claims of supernatural powers. I especially liked the note on which this video ended. Society is definitely moving towards seeking more and more information, and, is relying less and less on superstition (what else is superstition but the belief in a claim of supernatural powers / siddhis for which there’s no proof). I sincerely hope and pray and wish that everyone here watches this video and listens to the commentary as carefully as possible. This video is what I’d refer to as a truly “enlightening” video.

      • May 3, 2012 2:47 pm

        This video “brainwashed” me so I’ve decided to make VSS my guru….

      • VSS permalink
        May 4, 2012 4:11 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 3, 2012 2:47 pm]

        May that day never meet reality. I don’t wish to become a “guru” — I’m still recovering from the “effect” of “knowledge” from one of them.

  22. VSS permalink
    May 3, 2012 4:18 pm

    @ drpetersutphen

    Here’s my response to all your comments:

    The fact of the matter is that there are people that AoL has harmed and harmed in every way. For someone who has not been through the same experience with AoL, it’s very difficult to accept this. I accept that some people are ecstatic in AoL. However, from my perspective, some thing that can seriously harm some people has the potential to harm several others — including those who are currently ecstatic. Attempting to demolish anyone who has been harmed by AoL in every way with the intention of gagging them seems to me the aftermath of the perception that AoL cannot harm anybody in every way. It can. It has. And, it will unless it reforms itself — and the first step to even begin to reform itself — would be the acceptance of the fact that it can harm some people in every way. If any of the critiques of AoL on this blog or any other blog were read for potential opportunities to reform, AoL would become a glorious organization for everybody. Resistance to reform is a function of the inability to recognize genuine feedback. Please read the feedback on this blog — every post is heartfelt and moving beyond measure. One can sense the human being behind the words. AoL has the choice — to listen to the voices of human beings who have suffered — or to attempt to discredit them with the intention of gagging them. In over two years, it seems that AoL has opted to do the latter. It took this blog to court with the same intention. If AoL simply accepted that there are people who suffered immensely because of it, instead of blaming them and discrediting them, there would be no conflict. I accept that some people are ecstatic because of AoL. I am willing to accept people as they are. How about you?

  23. stupidseeker permalink
    May 3, 2012 4:19 pm


    I’ll take the liberty of asking you another question even though I’m pretty sure you might not oblige me. Here goes:

    Many hundred years back Adi Shankaracharya postulated the advaita theory wherein he perceptually beheld himself as being non dual from the rest of the universe. When a disbeliever questioned him on whether one could call his personal truth as reality, Shankara declared that the scriptures and not personal experience provided final proof of advaita.
    In the case of HHSSRS, when someone lamented that he wasn’t feeling oneness, which ravi shankar frequently says is the reality like his predecessor, Shankara, HHSSRS unlike shankara did not direct the person to the scriptures, instead telling the person to take it for granted that oneness is indeed the reality.
    So it appears that HHSSRS not only trumped MMY when he ejected him out of the Shankaracharya lineage, but also Adi Shankaracharya himself, by asking the doubter to take his word on faith, instead of directing him to authentic scripture, like Adi Shankaracharya did.
    Which brings me to my question, that what is the spiritual experience in AOL that is held as reality, amongst a whole plethora of spiritual possibilities, and apart from the authority of the words of the guru is there any way the devotee can validate the spiritual experience ??

    • May 7, 2012 6:02 pm

      Stupidseeker asked,”Which brings me to my question, that what is the spiritual experience in AOL that is held as reality, amongst a whole plethora of spiritual possibilities, and apart from the authority of the words of the guru is there any way the devotee can validate the spiritual experience ??”

      Of course, all the spiritual scriptures that have been left behind by the people that “went” ahead of us. For me and most other I know, AOL is not some cult that forbids you to read other spiritual literature. I read plenty of spiritual literature on my own. It helps to have a firm foundation in a tradition though before you go off exploring other spiritual traditions because you’ll end up getting very confused. Let me give a personal example:

      When I started having experiences of what Maharishi called “CC” or cosmic consciousness I found the body of concepts that I had developed through his teachings regarding higher states of consciousness was, for me, inadequate to fully understand the experience. I had to seek concepts from the Buddhist tradition that fully articulated “shunyata” or the essential emptiness of pure consciousness. It was there in Maharishi’s teachings, but emptiness seemed to be almost an afterthought or a logical derivative from his main explanation of CC.

      So, I went “outside” Maharishi’s teaching to understand an experience. Why would anyone in AOL not do the same thing? Who is forbidding it? Nobody is!

  24. The Doctor permalink
    May 3, 2012 7:13 pm

    It strikes me that from everything we’ve discussed thus far, we can make the following statements:

    • “Enlightenment” is something which is both beyond definition and beyond measurement
    • There is no objective way to tell the difference between a hallucination and a “spiritual” experience, and in fact there is no way to validate a “spiritual” experience

    From these statements, it then follows that:

    • It seems completely pointless to designate any human being as being “enlightened”, other than for the purposes of giving that human being elevated status and power over those who wish to believe this
    • Any and every experience that a person has can be considered a “spiritual” experience, or none of them are
  25. Anonymous permalink
    May 4, 2012 6:39 pm

    So Dr. Stupen, Why are you on this blog if you are so completely satisfied with Ravi Shankar? Are you having doubts? Or are you here to try to convince those of us who have left to return? Why would you be here if you were not trying to make people believe in Ravi Shankar and Art of living, or you were yourself having severe doubts about your choice of guru? Seems you have an agenda — to prove that someone like VSS doesn’t have the length of experience that you have, and so, is not qualified to say his/her own experience was bad with AOL.

    • Anonymous (aka drpetersutphen) permalink
      May 4, 2012 11:19 pm

      I’m on this blog because it’s fun to talk and learn about this undertaking called Enlightenment. My only beef with VSS is that she has no direct contact or experience with AOL or SSRS. She apparently ran into some crazy guy who used “knowledge” to, I guess, try to control her or something. I’m sorry she suffered and was mentally abused by this guy. But it has absolutely nothing to do with AOL or SSRS. Yet she feels absolutely free to make all these disparaging comments regarding AOL and SSRS with no experience of either. Please, VSS, if I’m wrong correct me.

      • VSS permalink
        May 8, 2012 5:54 am

        @ Anonymous [May 4, 2012 11:19 pm]

        You are way, way, way, way, way, way, way off the mark.

        Firstly, I would request you to read what I’ve said about this (link below):

        Secondly, I am stating clearly yet again — there are spectacular people in AoL. I don’t think that the person who brainwashed me was / is / will be “a crazy guy”. Everyone has the potential to be spectacular. Even you do. So does Mr. Ravi Shankar. But, as of now, he is far from spectacular.

        As for that guy, he has serious existential issues at this time and has had them for some time. However, one needs to be discerning and not judgmental. One needs to be compassionate and not dismissive. I understand why you have whatever stand you do and why you have this judgmental, dismissive, and derisive air about you. I am also learning how to be compassionate all the time (albeit slowly).

        Thirdly, please read the link that talks about “the purpose of these blogs”. If, after that, you feel that what’s happening here is a “fun” conversation about “enlightenment”, then I can’t help you.

        Fourthly, have you ever had any “direct” interaction with me? If you haven’t, then why are you making “disparaging” comments about me?

        How do you know who I might be or what state of mind I might be in?

        What if I suffer from a mental ailment?

        Is your definition of loyalty to your guru so blinding that you forget your humanity — that you forget to apply to me what you apply to him?

        Fifthly, do you have any “direct” experience of leaving AoL — based on the way that you define “direct” ?

        If you don’t, then how can you comment on someone else’s experience?

        Sixthly, have you been subjected to seven-months of 24-7 in-person brainwashing (followed by years of long-distance brainwashing) based on the “knowledge” contained in “knowledge sheets” by someone who is now a core member of Mr. Ravi Shankar’s team?

        Then, how can you comment on it?

        Do you not practice what you preach?

        Why on earth should I practice what you preach but don’t practice yourself?

        Finally, if you really want to know what’s wrong with the “knowledge” in the “knowledge sheets”, please list out the ten core tenets of AoL’s philosophy along with the “knowledge sheets” you trace them to and see for yourself if they apply to everyone and every situation across the board. Do this for yourself in the privacy of your space where there is no blog to influence you. See for yourself the worth of “the knowledge” in the “knowledge sheets”. If you find that “the knowledge” is universal, then please accept the possibility that I might not have the prerequisite intellect to process “divine knowledge” and I am one of those people in the world who think that Apple Inc is a fruit company. Thereafter, spare me. You don’t have to read the personal opinion of a zero-intellect human like me on a blog like this and vent your own frustration — the operative words being “have to”. You can instead practice SK or meditation. Can you not?

    • VSS permalink
      May 5, 2012 5:15 am

      @ Anonymous [May 4, 2012 6:39 pm]

      Your comment raises important issues. I think Dr. Peter might be missing the big picture at this time. It’s been articulated very comprehensively in the following link:

      Here’s an extract from the same link:

      “This sort of behaviour has led many to believe that Art of Living is full of people like you, and although this reinforces much of what is said in the blog about Art of Living and its followers, it is also completely unfair on all the well-meaning individuals who are actually practicing the knowledge and trying to do good in the world. In short, you are ruining it for all of them and will end up driving them out.”

      • May 7, 2012 7:28 pm

        VSS, again you do not directly address my question because I can only conclude that you fail to see the distinction between opinion informed by direct experience and opinion informed by no experience. Someone who has spent time with SSRS and AOL and has a negative impression, while I may disagree with them, I do respect what they have to say. But someone has no direct experience with what they are criticizing, makes no sense at all. Why this point is not self evident to you is beyond me!

      • VSS permalink
        May 8, 2012 8:00 am

        @ drpetersutphen [May 7, 2012 7:28 pm]

  26. Robin permalink
    May 5, 2012 6:57 am

    @ Dr. Peter

    I read your post and respect your sincerity towards spirituality. You remind me alot about my past 🙂 But my ‘subjective’ as well as ‘objective’ experiences have taught me a lot when I passed them through the vivid scrutiny of FACTS and LOGIC. I won’t talk just about Ravi Shankar (AoL) or Mahesh Yogi but spirituality and meditation in general. As you already know, meditation is the core of spirituality, the basic currency in the spiritual world with samadh(so called enlightened state) as its goal. One point where I beg to differ from you is that only subjective experiences cannot determine the truth about it all. Even subjective experiences have to be dealt with objectively so to say.
    But anyways coming back to my point. First of all, samadhi is ‘just a state of mind’ and has got nothing to do with God, Spirituality, Moksha illusion, Maya, Suffering, etc etc or any other supernatural elements which the old books are full of. Maybe those guys had no better way to explain it. But using modern scientific method now we know that ‘samadhi’ is just a HORMONAL HIGH. It’s interesting how detailed the meditative techniques are given by ancients but being embedded into the earlier religions to such an extent that mere mental exsecise got entangled with bogus religious explanations and morality. For example connecting samadhi with soul(Atman), supersoul(Brahman), Karmic justice, transmigration of souls, karmic impressions(sanskaras)…long list of totally baseless assumptions. I can’t believe that those ancients didn’t have the guts to just admit that samadhi is just a feel good state! lol
    The brain activity observed during ‘samadhi’ was found to be almost similar to that during the sexual orgasm (the null state of mind we reach for a couple of seconds just at the peak of sex?) In short meditation can be called a systematic way to be in a blissful mental state for as long as we can unlike sex where it is momentary. But people need to be taught not to buy whatever those books said in the past and that it has got nothing to do with moksha or ultimate liberation or whatever.
    It’s ironic that on one hand you say samadhi is a state with no thoughts (or brain currents) and on the other hand your mind is cluttered with all these bookish explanations regarding what is actually happening inside your mind, which btw you are just BELIEVING BLINDLY and state any modern explanation as inadequate. So i dont think you differ much from the dogmatics in this matter at least. As far as I’ve observed meditation should be done within limits and just as a relaxation exercise. Over indulgence in it like the serious spiritual seekers do, turns people into walking zombies. Turn to any ashrum in India or elsewhere where you’ll find ageold seekers practicing meditation day and night and just look at them. They don’t even care if your whole life is fucked up or a major disaster has struck you. They have an explanation ready for it all. that is Karma. Earlier I used to believe them but then as time passed, I asked myself. ‘Karma? Seriously? or is this man just a deluded numb zombie who’s got no practical solution to offer other than making yourself feel good by some breathing and meditation, which btw releases serotonin and cortisol into the blood stream just like the major antidepressants do……………………………
    I know most of the people in the spiritual domain have asked this question to themselces but still something holds them back…Is it fear?…Is it weakness?….Is it this mental conditioning?…………….

    • VSS permalink
      May 8, 2012 6:15 pm

      @ Robin [May 5, 2012 6:57 am]

      I think some of the points you raise are truly worthy of discussion. I could, of course, be completely wrong. To err is human and I err as much as any other human.


      What exactly is meditation? What are the short-term and long-term benefits of meditation? Are there any situations in which meditation can be harmful? Is meditation essential for everyone across the board — is it critical in order to lead a happy and healthy life? Are those who meditate necessarily better than those who don’t meditate?

      How is it done / taught in AoL? Is the effect of meditation as taught in AoL comparable to that of major anti-depressants? If so, then has meditation as it is taught in AoL rid many people of the symptoms of depression?

      (I know only one person in AoL and he, unfortunately, hasn’t been cured of depression — in fact his symptoms have become much worse — he has lost coherence — and has also become bereft of any compassion — is severely bitter and cynical — that too with a perpetual plastic smile on his face — and he’s in a state of denial. He also practices SK along with meditation.)


      Are facts about ancient texts taught in AoL? Are people made aware of the fact that in The Later Vedic Age, these texts were written with the motive of creating linguistic divides in order to enforce caste divides — with the ultimate objective of reinforcing the supremacy of brahmins over so called lower castes — and so they shouldn’t just be taken with a pinch of salt but a sack of salt?


      In AoL, what is the basis of establishing this link between “karma” and “meditation” and “karma” and “yoga” (such as SK)? Is the basis something that can be considered rational or is it something for which no rational explanation is provided?

      This is certainly not at the heart of Hinduism. In Hinduism, a “karma yogi” is someone who simply thrives on doing good “karma”. It is not essential for a “karma yogi” to do “sadhana” in the conventional way — “sadhana” for a “karma yogi” is simply doing “good karma”. In fact, a very learned gentleman told me recently that in Hinduism — there is place for an atheist too — he or she is considered a “karma yogi” if the person does “good karma” that is beneficial for everyone around — and does not need to pray to one or the other God or Guru — because Hinduism is actually more a way of life than a religion.

      • Robin permalink
        May 9, 2012 7:59 am


        I really appreciate the time you took to reply to my post. If I could give my 2 cents worth, it would be this. As for AoL and what they teach, there is NO rational explanation for anything they teach and same is true for every spiritual organisation out there. RS is an expert at using sweet words and a sweet smile for luring people to become his followers. Who knows what are his intentions for selling his sugar-coated poison. Or is he himself brainwashed? Well, whatever the reason be, the fact is that the AOL Knowledge is devoid of rationale.

        As far as purely meditation and breathing exercises are concerned, I’m sure honest research is going on in different parts of the world and will keep going on until we find some concrete scientific and rational explanations for the HIGHS we experience after meditation. But from whatever has been shown, it’s clear that meditation does not need any cult, guru or even God to be practiced sincerely. But then again, it will take some time for us to really isolate this purely mental exercise from irrational theories of Enlightenment, Truth, Nirvana or whatever and science has a big role to play in it. (Side effects have to be taken into account as well, because who knows maybe negative effects far outnumber the positive ones?)

        From my personal experience, SK and meditation works just as any other anti-depressant but people have to be made aware that anti-depressants DO NOT cure depression. They just give some relief from the symptoms of depression until you really figure out the ROOT CAUSE of your depression and fix it. Unfortunately, people get dragged into these cults believing that their life has been set back to normal by the GRACE OF THE GURU and now they’ve got some VIP passport to Liberation unlike their ‘low’ counterparts who are still ‘unfortunate’ or ‘badnaseeb’ as RS once told his people.( I’m not joking. He really uses these words to create a sense of Karmic Superiority among his followers and dare I say that this is equivalent to modern caste system). I can’t believe that after all these millenia of psychological torture in the name of religion, spirituality and truth,people and mostly Indians still buy into all this crap by a self proclaimed guru. It really sucks man!

        Lastly, I respect your views on Hinduism and what is at its heart but for me, even Karma Yoga appears to be a scam created by ancient brahmins to even control those people who didn’t give a shit about them or their theories and so these scholars (brilliantly btw) brainwashed their own followers to make them stay around by saying “that their counterparts are also on the same path but they are doing it in a DIFFERENT way. The past impressions or sanskaras which the followers are ‘burning’ using Gyan Yoga or Raj Yoga (both of these include meditation and spacing out syndrome), the same sanskaras those ‘Karma Yogis’ are burning by performing good action or Karma( Nishkama Karma in particular)” and to what end?..Obviously the dead end of Moksha :)))))))

        Oh man! the list goes on and on and on…….. High time we wake up.

      • VSS permalink
        May 9, 2012 6:58 pm

        @ Robin [May 9, 2012 7:59 am]

        Many thanks for shedding light on so many aspects.

        I completely agree with you on your observation about AoL knowledge. It is indeed devoid of any rationale. The more I look at the knowledge points, the more it becomes clearer to me that they are irrational. I am waiting to recover completely from my brainwashing experience to actually look at these knowledge points again. In my humble opinion, each should be discussed on this blog. Do you think you could find the time to write about one or some of them? Think about it. I think you’d do a great job of it and many will benefit from your observations.

        Also, have you shared your AoL experience on this blog? If you have, please link me to your post. If not, then please do write about it.

        And, I have wondered too if SSRS actually believes he is God or simply projects he is God. There’s no way to know if he is consciously manipulative or delusional. It seems from accounts that he is delusional but then there are those who say that he is intentionally conning everyone.

        I also agree with your “root cause” perspective. I have never understood the logic of how a breathing exercise / meditation can possibly take care of pain / depression from a bad experience. It can serve as a distraction. It may provide temporary relaxation. But, like you said, the root cause has to be addressed. Do you think it’s possible that AoL is taking advantage of those people who think that there’s a stigma attached to going to a therapist so it’s better to go to AoL? I don’t know enough people in AoL to know if this is the case. If you do, then please do share your findings.

        Your “modern caste system” description is very true. I do believe that AoL is using ancient texts and their potential for creating a social divide for the purpose of creating a divide between AoL and the rest of the (non-AoL) world. And yes, those very ancient texts induce an air of superiority and arrogance. People indeed start feeling that those who are not in AoL are unfortunate. But oddly, they don’t feel compassionate towards those unfortunate people. When I disconnected from AoL, the people in AoL that I had connected with did not extend any compassion. Initially they tried to sell AoL aggressively to me to make me change my mind (about returning to their realm) and then they became offensive. So, my guess is that this air of superiority brings with it a great deal of insecurity instead of confidence. However, this is based on my interaction with only 7 people — who were helping me relocate to the Bangalore Ashram and in getting involved in “seva” projects. I saw their true colours when I said that I had changed my mind and needed some more time to think.

        Why those 7 people and thousands of others or millions (god and AoL alone know the exact number) buy that crap — which I did too — is a question I haven’t been able to answer. I think I was just trying to conform to someone else’s perception of me but I can’t really say. I did believe that crap was awesome at one point in time. I think I have to first recover from brainwashing completely to be able to know for sure.

        Your observation about why atheists were included in Hinduism is a thought-provoking one. I don’t agree with it right now but it’s a possibility that I won’t dismiss. I’ll definitely think about it and do some more research on it as well. Shall let you know what I find out whenever I do. Could take a while.

        And yes, the means may be different but the end seems to be “the deadend of moksha”. I’m very suspicious about this though — since childhood. Firstly, it’s difficult for me to believe that certain species of animals are becoming extinct because they’re reborn as humans (and hence the human population is growing and the animal population is decreasing). Secondly, there’s no consistency in the prediction of how many times one can be reborn. Thirdly, there’s no rational evidence so it’s very much conjecture. Fourthly, I’m not sure if it’s very exciting in heaven or wherever one reaches when one achieves moksha. Finally, what if one becomes another Trishanku — suspended between heaven and hell? I wish someone would find some conclusive evidence soon about all of this. I read a post on some time back that said that a spiritual leader who passed away was very disappointed when he reached heaven because he found it very austere and boring compared to his mansion in this world. He missed his Persian rug and his television. That post was written in jest but it got me thinking. What if … 🙂

      • Robin permalink
        May 10, 2012 7:43 am


        I’ll try and write something surely. And about the root cause thing, i hope u’d have noticed the thing that during EVERY satsang with RS or his apostles there would be 2 bowls, one for questions and the other for botherations. Which one was filled upto the brim and what were the questions mostly about? 😉 yeah..they were mostly about PROBLEMS…thats what people are there for! to solve their problems in life! but boy oh boy, they dont know what they are getting themselves dragged into. argh remember that crying session just after the very first SK in the basic course?…man! that was really something.. haha….even i thought there was something genuine going on there. Trust me , even I bought into all their theories. And most of them are mere speculations without any proof whatsoever.
        Hey, don’t feel guilty if you bought into that shit earlier. Because most people do, most normal people do fall prey to their excellent marketing skills. There is nothing abnormal about this and we all can get over it. Just treat it like a bad chapter that’s it. 🙂 And btw, what’s your name? 🙂

    • sadhana permalink
      June 6, 2012 4:02 am

      Robin,in stead of doubting ancient people’s ability to express,I think you should accept our limited potential to understand what they meant.
      ‘Samadhi’ is not state of mind.It requires going beyond the mind…

  27. Anonymous permalink
    May 5, 2012 12:46 pm

    Did you notice that Dr Stupen never answers that question? Why is he here? This blog is “beyond the Art of Living”. Not “in defense of and in Praise of the Art Of Living” Is he trying, by passive-aggressive, seemingly sweet tones, to defend and bolster up support for Ravi Shankar on a blog started by people who left? Strange behavior. Or is he in doubt of himself, looking for answers to his doubt, and thinks if he states his ‘positive’ experiences over and over again here in writing, the negative things will go away? I wonder.

    • VSS permalink
      May 8, 2012 8:44 am

      @ Anonymous [May 5, 2012 12:46 pm]

      Powerfully and precisely said. I wonder too because he never answers this question. It’s possible that he might be looking for an answer. I wonder because if I was in AoL and felt like a wander (on the internet), I wouldn’t land up on this blog. I would simply ignore it. It is not that difficult. In over 30 years, if AoL has benefited a number of people, it has also severely harmed a number of people. It’s just a matter of accepting that. Any idea or philosophy can be looked at from diametrically opposite perspectives. It’s not such a big deal.

      For instance, some Hindus in AoL believe that bad karma can be gotten rid of by joining AoL and surrendering to Mr. Ravi Shankar. However, some Hindus outside AoL, believe that the only way to deal with bad karma is through the process of “praayashchit” — which means facing the action and doing what one can by making up for it. If I have harmed A intentionally or unintentionally, I cannot make up for it by doing “seva” for Z — I need to do “seva” for A — doing “seva” for Z when I have actually harmed A is a pure and simple case of escapism. Similarly, going to a guru and putting my bad karma on his or her shoulders and thinking and / or believing that the bad karma I indulged in against A will be taken care of by the guru is also a case of pure and simple escapism. But this is purely my perspective.

      Those who believe in AoL’s interpretation of Hinduism are free to do so. If they think that bad karma can be dealt with by doing AoL “seva” and by putting the burden of one’s bad karma on the shoulders of Mr. Ravi Shankar they are free to do so. I think that this is a distorted interpretation of Hinduism. I think we have to face our mistakes and face those we have harmed and do what we can to make up for the wrongs that we have committed and this is beautifully illustrated in the concept of “praayashchit”. Yes, it is not easy. In fact, it is very painful. It is like putting one’s soul under the microscope, seeing the million splinters of prejudice and bias embedded in it (that cause the bad karma in the first place), and taking them out, one by one. It is about internal transformation. It is about becoming a less prejudiced and biased human being over time. It is about becoming independent — and about being one’s own best friend and one’s own worst critic. But, as I said, this is my perspective and my understanding of Hinduism.

      AoL is entitled to its interpretation. If people in AoL feel that SK will rid them of bad karma, they are entitled to do so. If they feel that as long as one does charity, one doesn’t have to pluck out the splinters of bias and prejudice in one’s soul, they are free to do so. If they feel that the act of merely praying to a guru will rid them of bad karma, they are free to do so. If they think that the mere act of singing bhajans can rid them of bad karma, they are free to do so. The best part is they are doing so and there is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing so. There is nothing stopping them from aggressively engaging in conversion either. Words posted here are mere words on a mere blog written by mere human beings. Nothing less. Nothing more. IMHO.

    • May 8, 2012 6:31 pm

      Anon said, “Did you notice that Dr Stupen (sic) never answers that question? Why is he here?”

      Okay, okay, calm down. I’m not trying to avoid your question, I just had to clear my response with the AOL High Cult Council….just kidding. It is a good question though. There are several reason’s I’m posting here. One reason is that when I came across this blog and the first “anti” blog several years ago I was really shocked. I’ve had such a positive experience with SK, AOL and SSRS that I could not even remotely understand how people could be writing such things. As I read these blogs it became clear that many different types of people were posting negative comments. Some people had very legitimate “beefs” with AOL organization itself. Some had spiritual struggles because SSRS did not meet an ego ideal they had. Some had no experiences or bad experiences. And some were clearly mentally disturbed to greater or lesser degree. So I wanted to add my voice to let people who read these blogs know that you actually can have superlative experiences with the AOL, SK and SSRS.

      It is also in my nature to debate and argue. Not to simply engage in a mindless polemic, but to actually gain greater insight and understanding of “spiritual evolution”. I’m really curious about people’s spiritual experiences. One thing that fascinates me is how people can have such different experiences of SSRS. Some people will experience powerful, inexplicable, blissful darshan and others see a con man trying to stuff his pockets with cash. How incredibly strange!

      As I said in my original post in my name that the Doctor posted, I want the devas and the asuras to churn the cosmic waters because only good can come of this.

      • Anonymous permalink
        May 8, 2012 6:58 pm

        Thanks for the honesty, Peter. You said that SSRS didn’t meet the “ego ideal” of some who posted here. But I think it’s much more complicated than “oh you were egotistical, so you didn’t understand how great Ravi Shankar is…” which is what your saying sounds like…. Actually, I thought I was experiencing blissful darshan when I first met him. Then I saw it was actually a drug like trance that needed to be repeated, and when I questioned him on any point, he would become very angry for no apparent reason, except that I questioned his authority. I knew him very well. He abused my trust of him, lying about many things, and then calling me all sorts of names simply because I didn’t want to lead my life the way he thought I should lead it. It seemed to me that if I allowed him to make me into his puppet 100%, and never dared to question, then I would never progress spiritually. I wanted more than temporary ‘blissful darshans’. And I didn’t appreciate the behavior of the senior teachers which went unchecked. I got tired of all the excuses, which you are giving more of in your comments. The only thing he seemed not to excuse was someone walking away independently, living their own life, following their own conscience instead of his. He wanted to build, and has built a big empire. I don’t admire that in a yogi. It’s just some empire. He should have been a simple businessman. This is my experience and opinion. But objectively: He was paranoid, fearful, easily angered for little reason, irrational, boastful. If these are the things you like in a Guru, good for you. I thought they were traits I could do without and didn’t see how I would overcome my own problems if the person teaching me had more problems than I do. If you’ve been around Art of Living long enough and involved, then you must know that everyone who leaves is labeled and libeled. That’s his MO. Why? I really don’t know. But I saw it over and over again, and then experienced it myself when I left. Talk about ego? The man has a huge one.

      • VSS permalink
        May 8, 2012 7:34 pm

        @ drpetersutphen [May 8, 2012 6:31 pm]

        I agree. I have read the words of those who have had superlative experiences with AoL, SK, and SSRS. Many of those words seem as heartfelt as the ones that express excruciating injuries at the hands of AoL, SK, and SSRS. It is very possible to view the same idea from diametrically opposite perspectives and experience it differently. All human beings are not alike. SK is a case in point. Several people have described it as a helpful experience and several people have described it as a harmful experience.

      • May 8, 2012 10:03 pm

        Anon, all egos are “egotistical” to a greater or lesser degree. We can not help but relate to another through an ego ideal. The ego seeks the perfect “other” to affirm itself. We seek the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect guru. But there is no “soulmate” other in any form out there. Psychological and spiritual maturity grow in the working through of these relational imperfections. On the surface there will always be this tension of difference with a guru. He or she has a specific culturally bound mind. But with a guru it is the transcendent element that is important. The surface, the personality is secondary, IMHO.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    May 9, 2012 2:14 pm

    Peter, what I’m talking about is as simple as this: People who are treated well under a dictator/charismatic leader, are always happy with that leader. People who are mistreated are unhappy. Would you say that those closest to Hitler, and well treated by him, and happy with him, made Hitler just fine? Behavior of a leader is his behavior. It’s not a matter of perspective in the cases I’m talking about. I’m talking about illegal, immoral and sickening activities, condoned by the leader. It’s not my perspective. And why do you suppose these things have been kept hidden from public view, from you and others? Because 90% of his followers would walk away if they knew him well and understood what is really going on at the core of Art of Living. It’s not a matter of viewpoint, in these cases. He’s just not a nice man at all, and most people on this planet, would agree with me if they knew him.

  29. VSS permalink
    May 9, 2012 3:13 pm

    @ drpetersutphen [May 8, 2012 10:03 pm]

    What an excellent comment! I appreciate your honesty infinitely.

    Your perspective is that the “surface” and “personality” of the guru are secondary. You’ve also said that “the transcendent element is more important”.

    This is what lies at the heart of the disagreement between those who believe in SSRS and those who don’t believe in SSRS. (IMHO)

    For those who don’t believe in SSRS, the “surface” and “personality” are not secondary. They are symptomatic of what lies beneath, and hence very important. (If you read the most current post on this blog, you’ll see evidence of that in the 14 questions listed by IO.)

    For those who believe in SSRS, the “surface” and “personality” are not symptomatic of what lies beneath the mask. To know what lies beneath the mask, they rely on “the transcendent element” which cannot be explained or proved rationally. You had said in response to The Doctor’s question about explaining “enlightenment” from a clinical psychology perspective that it can at best be described as “some sort of disssociative state”.

    The dictionary defines “dissociation” as the “state of being disconnected”.

    The dictionary defines “dissociative disorder” as “dissociation so severe that the usually integrated functions of consciousness and perception of self break down”.

    The dictionary defines “transcendent” as something which is “lying beyond the ordinary range of perception”.

    Therefore, to a mere mortal, the enlightened mortal is incomprehensible — because enlightenment and spotting enlightenment in another are beyond the ordinary range of perception.

    Now the question is — has every mere mortal who has met SSRS experienced “the transcendent element” ?

    The answer is “NO”. There are several people who have posted on this blog and Klim’s blog who report no such “transcendent element”. Several people also say that they experienced it but only temporarily. Several also say that “the transcendent element” was not enough for them to ignore / condone the “surface” and the “personality”.

    This shows that there is a lot of variation in the effect of “the transcendent element” — it varies from individual to individual.

    Hence, shouldn’t those who can experience “the transcendent element” 24/7 feel fortunate? Shouldn’t they then extend compassion to those who have not experienced it or experienced it only temporarily? Don’t those who experience “the transcendent element” 24/7 feel supremely blessed? If they do, then why are they unable to contain their rage?

    Why was SSRS not able to transcend his rage at Skywalker and Klim?

    Is transcending rage not a part of “the transcendent element”?

    And, why didn’t SSRS view Skywalker and Klim with compassion?

    Why did he unleash his rage on them and drag them to court for not comprehending something which is beyond the ordinary range of perception?

    If “the transcendent element” does not include transcending “rage” and experiencing “compassion” for all those who cannot or do not experience it 24/7, then what is the purpose of “the transcendent element”?

    What I’m not able to understand is why Skywalker and Klim caused SSRS stress, and, why was his reaction to them was so violent that he dragged them to court?

    Isn’t the primary claim of AoL the fact that it guarantees stress relief and hence aids the development of a violence-free society?

    Shouldn’t at least the head of AoL be stress-free and violence-free? And, what kind of example is he setting for his followers?

    I apologize in advance if I am mistaken and transcending rage at mere mortals as well as extending compassion to them is not a part of enlightenment. So far, in my humble opinion, it is. However, this is a mere opinion. It is not based on any experience of enlightenment. I am a mere mortal — the merest of them all. I haven’t even got a tiny whiff of enlightenment so far.

    • Original Observer permalink
      May 9, 2012 6:54 pm

      Here is a quote I found on 2012 desk calendar published by AOL:

      “To love someone whom you like is insignificant.
      To love someone because they love you is of no consequence.
      To love someone whom you do not like means you have learned a lesson in life.
      To love someone who blames you for no reason shows that you have learned the art of living. — H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar”.

      Now we have three possible corollaries to this quote, in the context of the ongoing court case: (i) He didn’t mean what he said or he never said it and they just cooked it up in his name; (ii) This blog is blaming them for no reason, so those who instigated/filed the court case have NOT learned the art of living; and finally, (iii) This blog is blaming with a reason, so the above quote does not apply to the court case !

      Choose one.

      • Anonymous (aka drpetersutphen) permalink
        May 10, 2012 11:14 am

        The owner of this blog being sued for publishing private teaching material is being shown great love by being disciplined for his mistake. What, do you think a parents love for his children is all smiles an indulgence? No, the lawsuit is to prevent a worse calamity from occurring. It is a wonderful slap in the face from Guruji. Now, you decide if this post is facetious or not.

      • VSS permalink
        May 10, 2012 12:08 pm

        Dear Original Observer,

        Your post is probably one of the best posts on this blog. IMHO

        I think he means what he (SSRS) says — in the sense that — this is a classic example of “knowledge” that can be deployed for psychological manipulation — the idea is to sound profound — but that’s where “profundity” ends (at sounding profound — it’s highly pretentious profundity). There is no substance in this quote — it doesn’t apply across the board to all people and all situations. It’s another quote that sounds like a tenet but defies application. This quote also employs the word “blame” very shrewdly. The idea is to keep people in a spin — and it works. (In my brainwashed daze, I might even have said “WOW” after reading it just because I wouldn’t be able to comprehend it in any pragmatic sense.)

        If they (AoL) say this blog is blaming them for no reason (which I believe is what they perpetually claim), then they definitely haven’t learnt the art of living. (As soon as I was out of my initial stupor, I realized that the art of living is about everything except the art of living. It is the exact opposite of what it claims and when I have recovered completely I shall prove that irrefutably as a favour to myself.)

        The truth, however, is that they dragged this blog to court — they blamed it for blaming them for no reason — but as it turns out — they are wrong in doing that — which is why their copyright violation claim has been dismissed — so the above quote does not apply.

        I look forward to the next quote from that calendar. Please do share it with readers.

        – VSS

        P.S. Does he love his family members, friends, and followers so much because they constantly blame him for no reason? Or, is he excluded from the purview of this quote — because — he doesn’t believe in practicing what he preaches?

  30. Michel J. Grenier permalink
    May 14, 2012 6:53 pm

    Hi to all of you!

    I started a French post on “Enlightenment” in AOL on the Quebec Sceptics site at :

    Welcome to all French readers and posters !

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 14, 2012 7:35 pm

      Michel, that was a very amusing post indeed 🙂

      Funnily, we’ve actually asked many of the same questions on this blog and run into the exact same “answers”. Regarding “enlightenment”, you will find there is absolutely no way to test for it in any objective, scientific manner. This does not mean to say that there is no such thing as enlightenment, there very well might be. However what it does mean is that in the absence of any means to measure for it, any individual with enough charisma can persuade vulnerable people that he is “enlightened” and do it in such a way that they won’t question his “enlightenment”. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is one such person.

      Regarding Sudarshan Kriya, while it may produce positive effects in some individuals, it produces negative reactions in others. Whatever purported “scientific” research has been done on it, we have argued and continue to argue that insufficient testing has been carried out to conclude whether it is safe or not. The majority of research which has been done has been by those who are in some way affiliated with Art of Living and as such it is biased. Most disturbingly of all Art of Living claims that it has no harmful side effects whatsoever, something which we vehemently challenge.

      If you’re interested here’s a post summarizing a lot of what our thoughts are on this subject:

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