Sunday, November 29, 2009

To think or not to think, that is the question

Sri Sri taught one had to transcend the intellect in order to reach the Self. It is in all the Hindu scriptures. However, unlike the scriptures, the AoL regarded the intellect as the cookie monster. If one questioned or doubted anything regarding the movement or the Master, one was accused of being “too intellectual. Drop the intellect!” , or “too in the head.”

For example, if someone raises questions about something that makes no sense, that person is considered to be "too in the head, too intellectual!" The person would be told to drop the mind. "You think too much. You have such a big ego. You will never transcend the ego like that.”

In fact, Ravishankar accused me several times of many things I did not do, not even in my dreams! He even accused me of encouraging a “poor boy” leave the organization when in fact the boy was encouraging me to leave!

In one occasion, I confronted him about these false accusations, without any hold back. He got violently upset (he does not like to be confronted). It became “bloody”. Someone else who was in the room, later confessed he wanted to hide under the table. He could not understand how I could speak to him that way. I gave him a dirty look. He instead laughed and said, “Don’t you see? I know it is all lies! He knows they are lies! Don’t you see? He just wants you to agree with him!”

Till this day, I don’t understand what kind of spiritual evolution there is in supporting lies and lying, unless it is only to destroy someone’s morale and reputation! That is what he mistakenly calls, “surrender.”

I had done that for 8 years: shut my mouth and accepted all the lies spread about me and others, supported by him, and called it “surrender.” For 8 years I had heard it was all for my growth, so that my ego did not grow unhealthily. It led me nowhere except the destruction of my self-esteem, identity, psyche and my ego grew, instead, unhealthily! We learned lying was acceptable as long as it got his attention and his approval. Everything for the greater cause (of course).

I can see how the intellect can be a hindrance to sublime experiences, feelings and states of mind, but, I also see it is part of life and necessary for our growth. Without his highly developed intellect, Albert Einstein would have not been able to come up with the Theory of Relativity and many other great discoveries that changed modern life! Can we accuse him of being too intellectual? On the contrary, he was a spiritual man who pondered on deep thoughts about life through his highly developed intellect!

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing” –
Albert Einstein
"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

AoLers seem to forget the fact even SSRS has an acute intellect, which he uses more often than they realize! It comes in handy, however, to make the intellect an enemy when one needs to manipulate others. If one drops the intellect one would not question the many incoherences. “It is difficult to understand an Enlightened Master. An Enlightened Master has his ways. He does not see life in a linear way.” Each one of his actions was beautifully justified, as our dissonance grew more and more. In fact, when something went right, it was due to His Grace. When something went wrong, behold, it was your bad karma, your fault: “why did you do that!”

A negative glimpse from him or comment would change the way the rest of the people perceived and treated you. You could be everyone’s most beloved and suddenly, noone’s friend, not even deserving of a “Hello.”

I remember a senior teacher telling a story about devotion: if the Master tells you to jump off the cliff, you don’t question, you jump! s

There is a difference between being in the head and being stupid, being intellectual and being gullible. For one, I am happy I am in charge of my own head again!

Free thinking is the enemy of any fascist, despot, fraud, fake guru.

Be your own fan

I received the most amazing lesson from a 12 year old. I had sent her a parcel with a letter and some things, and in the letter I signed, "your fan."

She sent me an email saying she received the package and loved the letter but did not understand one thing: "Did you sign, ‘your fan’? You mean to say, YOU are MY fan? I don't get it, shouldn't you be your own fan?"

I think this is one of the most profound lessons that would force Art of Living to restructure itself, and Ravishankar loose his business and devotees, and many of us to reevaluate our lives with humility and courage.

Well, for obvious reasons I remain the fan of the 12 year old.

Mozart vs. Freud

I've heard Ravishankar state classical music is tamasic and brings one to a space of depression. How can such statement be made when one can go high simply listening to Chopin, Mozart, Bach? Is it not the impartial observation of someone who does not understand the classical western scales and, instead, prefers the Indian dissonant scales? When Nietzsche wrote, “Life without music is a mistake”, he did not state, “Life with western classical music is a mistake”! How can one judge a culture for being less "pranic" or more sattvic than another? Is that a genuinely objective spiritual possibility or just narrow-mindedness, prejudice, cultural bias?

Therapists are regarded as bad by the AoL, however, I have known a lot of people who, without the help of a professional, would be locked up or “gone”. Some people suffer of chemical imbalance, some cannot handle circumstances alone, whatever it is, certainly, noone likes to be depressed or suffer of any personality disorder. Those very few who do choose to be in these states, of course, they need professional help too. Those who do not know how to get out of this state, of course, they need help, not discrimination. With the notion therapy is bad, a lot of AoLers feel guilty when they have the need to seek for psychological care, or when they fall into depression. People who fell into any of the two categories were made fun of, especially behind doors by SSRS himself and teachers, or out-casted, if their secret was revealed.

I unfortunately have witnessed many of these occasions in amazement and embarrassment. However, my biggest surprise was when a devotee had a psychotic breakdown and was on the verge of suicide. Desperate, against my will, I dragged him to the psychiatrist. To my surprise, when I called SSRS and described the situation, he replied, “What did the therapist say? If he does not get better tomorrow, give him Prozac.” For heaven’s sake! Everyone knows Prozac is a controversial medication used to treat depression. We had a severe case of psychosis, not depression! That day, I dropped my imposed-aversion towards psychologists. The man, still feels embarrassed about his condition and his need of a psychologist, however, he has geared all his faith towards SSRS as his key to salvation. He hides his condition by feeling SSRS favours him, and as long as this happens, noone in the AoL, will push him away or question his condition, although it is commonly said, “He is nuts, but he must have something, the Guru likes him.”

After all, it is all about being friends with the right people, though, everyone knows there is something wrong with him. Noone understands the attention SSRS gives him. Maybe because he is a pretty boy, or because his family is influential, or simply because he is, as diagnosed by SSRS, “bipolar, multiple personality, psychotic.” As Ravishankar always declared, “The nuttier the better.” Professionals urge the boy’s family to medicate him for the rest of his life. SSRS encourages him to become an AoL teacher instead!

Many cultures that once discriminated therapy are now more open and accepting of the fact some people need therapy, and even medication. There is nothing wrong with either of the two. Following SSRS's thinking, if one needs a doctor for the body, a guru for the spirit, then why should one not seek a therapist for ones psyche when it is needed?

I suspect SSRS is against the Freudian school of psychology, which has been replaced widely by cognitive therapy, counseling, etc. One cannot deny the AoL advanced courses, including TTC, are full of "cheap therapy.” There is nothing more harmful and dangerous than an untrained person performing psychological games and “counseling” others who are in a vulnerable state, especially when those “senior teachers” are unresolved nut cases themselves!

In my opinion, making therapy evil is a judgment made by SSRS based on his cultural bias and limited vision about the current world and academia. Or maybe he is afraid any therapist would be able to figure out the mechanisms of manipulation and brain washing performed in the movement, or how imbalanced the devotees are! After all, a devotee should not have a mind of its own! That would not be a sign of surrender.

(I was told Argentina is known as "the Freudian city of the world". I wonder then, what is his opinion about Argentines?).

I was recently informed by the head of the psychology department of his country of the overall worry among their professional community about the large number of patients-AoL members they are receiving, profoundly damaged psychologically, many, already in need of medication. I have heard of many doctors and psychologists diagnose some AoL teachers with some psychotic disorder, followed by the rhetorical question: “The Guru does not know?”

But, what do they know! They are only psychologists and doctors!

In AoL, when someone “flips out”, it is said they are having a “spiritual experience” or need to “get grounded”, followed by instructions such as, “eat potatoes, eat bananas, walk barefoot, do yoga, don’t eat white flour.” I know of someone who, years later, still walks, walks, walks, walks … It is either that, or go nut, but never ever seek for professional care: “Doctors don’t understand spiritual evolution. We are sensitive people. We meditate, the body processes differently.”

And then, of course, there are sad cases of people ending up in a psychiatric ward. Noone talks about it. Noone ever talks to those people again. Of course, it was their karma and the guru did everything he could to save them from it.

TTC: Teacher Training Course or Terror Torture Camp?

I have witnessed the courses of at least 7 teachers of different continents. Whereas I have to make justice by stating that the TTC of the early years were healthier and truly more loyal to the declared mission of the AoL, later courses became, unfortunately, boot camps with the emblem “spiritual” attached. Every teacher competed with each other trying to prove who was best. Each one projected his/her many unresolved personal issues on the students. Each one made damages. Each one escalated in his/her fearful state of unlimited ego, supported by the SSRS himself.

Humiliation was seen as necessary to transcend the ego, as well as the uncensored destruction of the self-esteem. By the end of the courses, students were different. Not because they had rounded long hours of meditation and received knowledge, but rather, because they went through extensive hours of sleep deprivation, brain-washing, self-destruction. Without any exception, students who were before humble and sweet, became arrogant and aggressive. To be a teacher was to be someone “more evolved” – the chosen one. Again, “us/they”. Instead of understanding really what this meant, people enacted the meaning they gave to it.

A former TMer, renown psychologist of her country, who underwent a TTC, was in awe with the processes of the course. She insisted the teacher was lucky since she constantly drove many students to the verge of a psychotic breakdown.

I would not be surprised her assessment was true. The teacher herself is on the verge and blames everyone but herself for her constant temper tantrums that could break anyone’s ear drums and mental health. Somehow, in her opinion, we all provoked her to express the energy we were repressing.

I personally was shocked to witness one of her opening processes: one had to look at everyone in the room and choose who was the most disgusting person, someone who’s everything was repelling and disgusted you profoundly. Then, without saying anything, you had to follow that person and make sure that person knew you were following him/her. A few minutes later, she would stop everyone and yell at everyone, calling everyone, “Chickens! Cowards!” and insist they needed to make their selection clear. If one had no guts to pick on someone, it was one’s ego, one’s incapacity to feel one with the other.

The exercise resulted in 50 aggressive people trying to cover their egos and avoid being called bad names or humiliated in front of the class, and 1 or 3 people whose self-esteem, for the Love of God, was damaged forever, in the name of spiritual growth.

I have seen teachers provoke with physical violence, slap students, throw water at them with the excuse the student was a tough rock, too stuck in the head or had a big ego. I have witnessed teachers wake up in joy because that day they would “destroy them.” I have seen teachers encourage people to confess – only the deepest humiliating secret would be classified as satisfactory – and then used as an attack. For example, a woman confessed she had been battered by her ex husband and aborted as a consequence. The very next day, the students were encouraged to criticize each other, with no prior selection of words or thoughts. Again, anyone holding back, would be called names or humiliated in front of the class. Participants ended up yelling at this woman she deserved to be beaten up and that no soul would want to be born through her!

I have even been told of a teacher calling one of her students “Prozac!” during the whole course. This student suffered of depression and was under medicated treatment.
Everything was done under the justification of destroying the ego, increasing belongingness, living the knowledge, making one transcend, ultimately, your karma. Unfortunately, I have experienced that egos become tougher and bigger after TTC, especially after becoming teachers. At the end of the course, students became experts at enrolling, instead of going deeper in the knowledge or understanding of themselves. It was only all about that. About losing the shame to enroll people to the course! And the biggest egos were those of the Teacher Trainers!

As a very wise four year old girl said once, “Ego is being an Art of Living teacher.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You won't die if you leave

In my beginning days with Ravishankar, he often called me into his room – just him and me – to tell me terrible stories of people who dropped out of the movement. Some woman got cancer and died. He had to send his devotees to visit her. “Poor woman, if she would have stayed with me …” Another committed suicide. Such stories were endless, and told not only to me, but many others, who in turn, would tell their students. Leaving the path was a confirmed disgrace with stories of people we had never met or questioned.

When an active volunteer left, Ravishankar declared he would never again, in any life time, have the chance to be in a spiritual path. He had lost his chance for spiritual evolution and was forever doomed to misery. He warned us all about it and were advised not to contact him. The truth was he left to follow another spiritual master and years later, when I finally had the courage to contact him, I was surprised to meet a positively changed, happy person! Another teacher who left, according to RS, would eternally be doomed to failure and unhappiness, had also managed to be successful in his job and led a very happy life.

Ravishankar never takes responsibility for wrong doings. If someone leaves it is because they became delusional, negative, or someone else influenced them. I have even heard him blame people for influencing someone’s decision to leave, when in fact, there was no truth in it. I have even heard him blame the stars! “Old timers will be leaving because of the position of the stars.” It is funny. The man who teaches about responsibility, does not take any. It never occurs to him he may have done something wrong, or that his organization is not perfect. It is always someone else’s fault.

It took me many years to finally leave. I was basically trapped by the idea that dropping out of the path was the most terrible thing that could happen to a human being, as, being in a path was a privilege “only for a few”, as he often described. Sadly, I dare say a lot of teachers want to leave. In fact, in our private conversations, many would confess their unhappiness and wish to leave, but 1) some feared the world. At least within the movement they received help, had a community, were somebody; 2) some worried they would not find a job or know what to do to keep them going in life. Unfortunately, many live in terrible conditions even within the organization, begging most of the time for the basics.

I myself also thought I would die if I left. You find yourself in a highly neurotic situation, suffering if you linger and dying if you leave, unable to make a definite decision.

Leaving was painful, but dealing and justifying the incoherences, manipulations and constant abuses was worse. To my surprise, I discovered not only is there life after the Art of Living, but it is a lot better!

The "drop-outs"

The few who have left question the many contradictions. I wonder though, how come those few who left many years ago have not raised the same issues? Or did they but were kept away from us? But then, most of those who left were with TM prior to AoL. The new batch of “deserters”, like myself, are brand new collected souls, who mostly were in the late teens or 20s when joining the group. I wonder if that is where the difference lies. Ex-TMers left one cult to join another cult. They still sought for salvation in a greater image. Even today, they quote Maharishi, they still think they need to meditate if they want to look brighter than the average person, some still carry a back-pack full of concepts that has not given them any freedom to be in the world nor feel part of it, they still justify SSRS’s actions with arguments that include words such as, “karma, greater good”. Ultimately, they do not agree with many things, they know, but, they still believe, whether as defense mechanism, or genuine opinion. I do not doubt there is some degree of truth in their many habits and concepts, however, I do question their lack of ability to be part of the world, of valuing themselves, despite all the practices and knowledge received. They are still in the “us/ they” structure.

Once in a while they still tell you: “It was for your growth.” In fact, I was told everything was for my growth. Lying about me, exploiting me, abusing me, was for my growth, and He did nothing wrong because I accepted it. I was told the fact I did not accept the abuses anymore was an indication of my weak faith (Please read this last phrase with the background music of the Twilight Zone).

Knock, knock, who is there?

AoL is an organization which teachings and organization itself encourage people to leave the families, or at least to be distant from them, eg. every Xmas you prefer to spend it with the Guru in Germany, or every summer vacation, or any free time you have, you need to go wherever to be with him. Or ultimately, you were busy working for a "higher cause" and that was a sacrifice we had to do over anything else - "In the long-term, one would see the results". Under this model, debts were common amongst people, if not, highly encouraged. After all, you did not want to miss out the chance to be in His presence since that itself was a merit, Grace and removed karma! and, so much fun (note: at some point, nothing else that belonged to the so-called world provided one with any pleasure anymore). This created a degree of competitiveness amongst the followers: who gets to be with Him more is "luckier", is getting "more knowledge/ higher knowledge/ good energy". The same was considered about those who could enter his room more often or travel with him more often or drive him. Curiously, he often invited the very wealthy or prestigious people to travel with him, and he often allowed only those with very nice cars to drive him.

Often people would state things such as "oh, he looks so much brighter, he was definitely in Guruji's room all day", or one felt lesser than others who could join him in the room or trips - "I missed out some higher knowledge. He is letting him/her in because he/she is more evolved". People fought with each other, pushed each other, became enemies in trying to reach these goals. In trying to get into someone’s room, or drive a car, or spend thousands of dollars you did not have! The irony is, nothing happened in that room, only mere dullness, CNN or reading of emails, or a bunch of boys massaging his feet, shoulders, head, caressing him, showing their affection in countless ways. In a car ride he often did not say anything, only meditated, snored, or read emails. Everything could happen except “higher knowledge”, unless of course, there was someone new or VIP he needed to seduce.

Under this model, one could conclude that wealthy people have more merits, Grace and good karma than those who have less. “They must have done something very good in a past life!” (no matter if they were nice or not, the important thing was how much money they had and how much they were worth to the organization). Note, this created an "us/ they" model within the community too, more so because SSRS evidently gave more attention to the wealthy or those who could provide him with something.

One could also consider that men have better karma than women since men could get into the room more easily and for longer hours than women. In fact, I dare state that women were used to do the work, and boys had the luck to play with him. An Indian man who was always in his room once told me it was all about karma: “to be born a man is better karma."

The feeling of worthlessness, or being less than others, inspired a feverishness to do more to get His attention, in order to get closer to him or get his approval. Looking back, I feel it distracted us from the original reason that brought us there and, instead, distanced us from ourselves, our inner peace, our centeredness, our self-value, and created conflicts with others.

God is Indian, more precisely, Hindu

AoL claims to embrace all religions. It is true, however, once you join, you are slowly converted to Hinduism under cover.

Everything that is western was discouraged and labeled as bad, negative, not that evolved, low prana. "Every culture has its strengths", SSRS would say. Every culture has its specializations: Switzerland watches, Holland cheese, Japan technology, USA marketing, India enlightened gurus and human values. Are these objective observations? Is it fair to say that only through Vedic knowledge one can attain human values, spirituality, enlightenment? Within a short period of time, even Westerners regarded Indians as being more evolved! One Indian person went as far as telling me once: “to be born Indian is better karma, only Indians can attain enlightenment.”

I don’t know what is sadder: the statement or that some “white people” actually thought that way because his/her guru was Indian!

By stating Indian culture and people have higher moral values and are more evolved it insinuates Indian gurus and Vedic scriptures are the only way to salvation. It is perhaps just as bad as religious extremists declaring Heaven is available only to those who follow their faith, or the KKK claiming Caucasians are superior to African-Americans, or Nazis regarding Arians as superior to the Jews. Such views are the roots of racial discrimination, wars, genocide - “us/they.”

Needless to mention, Indian teachers were treated better than non-Indian teachers. So far, swamis and rishis are all Indians. However, one must not forget it is the non-Indians who started and made the organization happen. In fact, it was the donation and the dedication of Westerners that allowed Him to have what He has today.
Although we sold breathing and meditation techniques, and world peace (of course), without realizing, we were silently being converted and converting others into Hinduism. Pujas, yagyas, sanksrit words as part of our daily language, singing mantras, dressing in saris, dotis and salvar kamis, bindis, etc. In a few years or less, one was praying to Ganesh, Laxmi, Krishna, Shiva, and definitely to SSRS, as per his instructions.

Rumours were SSRS was the reincarnation of Shiva, Vyasa, Krishna, Adi Shankara , Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jesus Christ. As you see, a good Hindu himself, he despised Muslims too.

His stories about the miracles of the tsunami were, “ it destroyed everything, except the Hindu temples and the Art of Living centers. Everything else was destroyed by the tsunami.”

Bottom line: if you want to be saved, you need to be Hindu, or else, a devotee of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the only one on earth God favors.

I belong to you

Aol claims to be a ONE WORLD FAMILY (vasudeva kusumbakham). But, the Guru who talks about BELONGINGNESS, which courses start by making everyone greet each other with "I belong to you", actually promoted only belongingness within the group, instead of belongingness with the whole, and even less, with those who have the courage to leave. Isn’t the "us/ they" concept contrary to the meaning of "enlightenment"? Spiritual evolution? Going from somebody to nobody and from nobody to everybody? Do true enlightened beings, do truly spiritual people, do genuinely evolved people still separate themselves from "them"? - I meditate, they don't. I am vegetarian, they eat meat, consume alcohol. Can the evolution or goodness of a person be judged based on food consumption, religious practices, what they read or watch? Or instead, simply on actions that promote all-inclusiveness, of all-acceptance regardless of? No “us/ they”?

I left a movement but in reality, I left a community. I lost 98% of my world. Needless to mention the 2% left are non-AoL people. My so-called “spiritual brothers and sisters” never even sent a Xmas or Birthday greeting. The few who realized I would have problems inserting myself in the job market were afraid of helping in fear of retaliation - SSRS would find out and they’d be punished. It is amazing the concept his own devotees have of him. Not that of a master of love and compassion, but rather of fear and revenge.

The one who leaves is worse enemy than the one who has yet not been converted. “I will help you as long as you belong to me.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

One World Family

Not Peace but Division: "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Bible, Luke 12)

I recently realized that since I left the Art of Living, the relationship with my family and theirs with me has totally changed. Of course, we still disagree about many things, in many ways, but, contrary to all my years as a “devotee”, I am again part of a family and there is a family that includes me. It is a bizarre experience I forgot I once enjoyed. Today I understand that anything that separates one or encourages one to distance oneself from ones family must be questioned.

Even if you did not completely cut ties with the family, the family ties weakened at some point. He never encouraged us to work things out with them. Somehow, the only family we needed was him and the community he offered us.

The "us/ they" notion encouraged one to perceive ones family as worse, not good energy, not evolved, based on what they eat (meat, alcohol), what they watch, wear and listen (movies, TV, newspaper, novels, jeans, dark coloured clothes, wordly music), what they don't worship (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), what they don't practise (yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, Hindu chantings and scriptures), and wanting to recruit them constantly. One was told one had the Grace, the merits and the good karma to serve a living Master, and/ or to be on a Path. One was taught that whatever merits one earned from this seva (service), and/or being in His presence, would somehow also benefit his/her family. The same belief was there with the merits of our meditations.

I remember one day I told SSRS my parents were still against me being in the movement. He replied, "Pray to me. I will see if something can be done." I wondered about this answer many years: why pray to him if I had him right in front of me? And what is all this "pray to me" business? He had nothing really to say about the situation, neither did he provide any advise, instead he enhanced his mystical power.

I missed out on many important events of the family and friends - from weddings to funerals. Back then I honestly believed I was working for the “greater cause” and that he would take care of all my beloved ones. His phrase: “You do my job, I take care of you.”

I have the privilege of being adopted again by the family, and despite all the differences, they are the ones who have been taking care of me financially and emotionally, despite SSRS’s promises of eternally taking care of us, unconditionally. Even though facts often made us question this statement, when we did so, it was our faith that was put on trial.

When I remember his poem ‘I promise’, which brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it, I laugh out loud today. Beautiful words. Sadly, only words. Bravo.

My beginning, our beginning

I met Sri Sri Ravishankar in the early 90s. I did not think much about him then. He seemed an ordinary small size Indian man dressed in white, with simple answers which often mocked the questions made by the public, giggled more than lectured - nothing really outstanding. I remember being more captivated by the eccentricity of his followers. Some seemed to float around, as if they were high on some peace and love pill, throwing flowers in the corridors, singing, dancing as they greeted us, brain dead, brainless, handing brochures, speaking to us about the wonders of this man they were following since God knows how long. The whole event was lame, small, uneventful, boring. I left suspicious, dull, cheated. How did I, a year later, got sucked into the organization, I still wonder. I had received very high education, considered myself intelligent and skeptical. But I do know that when he, Ravishankar, wants to lure a newcomer with potential (either because of the capacities the person presents or his/her contacts or he/she has money), he is the perfection of Don Casanova.

I went from disliking everything about him to being passionately in love with him. I found every stupid word he uttered, wise, deep, even funny. To my surprise, I can watch the very same talks today and find them shallow and repetitive. Actually, he never says anything new nor mind-blowing. I’d name it, “Variations on a Theme of Ravishankar” (without any doubt Rachmaninoff had a lot more creativity, depth, genius, confirmed by his numerous master pieces).

There was something about the way he spoke – slow, well paced -, the way he gazed – hypnotic … I cannot decide yet if his talks hypnotized us or made us stupid. Like I cannot decide either whether his famous Sudarshan Kriya, and other techniques, relaxed us or killed our brain cells. Somehow, as the years went by, I remember perceiving myself more stupid.

There are many things I have not yet found answers. However, there is one thing I am certain of: the art of living happens without the Art of Living. Leaving the Art of Living becomes an art itself.

Looking back, I see my years of involvement with the organization as a pause in my life. Everything that happened revolved around the ambitions of Ravishankar and his family. And there was only one clear ambition: fame, power, wealth, numbers. He wants to be the biggest, the greatest, the best … We all worked for free for him, in the name of “seva”, in the name of “spiritual growth”, in the name of “becoming stronger”, in the name of “burning karmas.”

I stopped being myself, I stopped living life, I stopped being happy by faking joy and teaching the means to reach it, I became stressed teaching how to be stress-free. Of course, you may think it is all my responsibility, or that I was unfit for the organization or the role as a volunteer teacher. I definitely am responsible, but for having bought a fraud and stayed for so long. I am responsible for being gullible, innocent, idealistic, insecure. I am responsible for not loving myself and not knowing how and when to draw the line. Unfortunately, it was not just me who suffered of the same stress, unhappiness, psychological dissonance, illnesses.

I have met many senior teachers who are unstable psychologically, psychotic, etc. I have met hystrionics, narcissists, border-lines, psychotics, sociopaths, obsessive compulsive, hypochondriacs, paranoids, immature people claiming to have the absolute truth and the key to salvation and enlightenment.

Being in a so-called spiritual path has given me a lot of pain, robbed my innocence, living my life, being myself. It has taught me invaluable lessons, woke me up to the fact there is a lot of evil in the world and that, regardless, it is beautiful as it is. At the end of the day, Ravishankar did not teach me absolutely anything. The lessons were provided by life itself only because I decided to turn every experience into a lesson.

Today, if someone asked me what I learned in the spiritual path, I’d reply, “I learned everything one must never do in life, and I learned what kind of a human being I never want to be.”