Saturday, December 19, 2009

The blog: what, why, how, when

To be honest, I was caught by surprise when I learned Guruphiliac had quoted Confessions of a Guraholic, and then, even more surprised when I started to see the response coming in. I must confess I was overwhelmed and then paralyzed by fear realizing it had become public. I was instantly afraid of SSRS, knowing what he and company are capable of. I did not expect the blog would ever be caught by the public eye. In fact, I did not even think anyone would find it interesting or helpful. It was a personal exercise I owed to myself.

During my recovery process (which was excruciatingly long), writing helped a lot to organize my thoughts, ideas. It helped me see the events from a distance, understand, discriminate, evaluate, look inside, look outside, and mainly, demystify. Somehow, it was like speaking out a secret, and by doing so, removing the weight that it carried. There were so many things we were not allowed to speak or share, specially, as teachers.

When it was evident I could no longer stay in the movement, I thought I’d die, but then, staying was also death! I was cursed and threatened by the man I bowed down to, trusted, dedicated many years of my life and talents to. My last conversation with him created such deep damages in me it took several years before I could move around as a normal human being. In a world where whatever the Guru says is holy, even when you know he is not real, his words harm you in ways you cannot imagine. I spent most of my waking hours visiting doctors, going to treatments, feeling broken, at night hardly sleeping, falling asleep and waking up with traumatic flashbacks. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the ultimate joke.

And then, I was alone. Everyone I knew disappeared. Those who claimed to be my friends, my siblings, my family did not even send a “how are you” note. In fact, I was left without any money, home, help, and those devotees who saw through what I went through and knew it was wrong, were afraid of helping in fear of retaliation of the group, and worse, the Guru’s reaction.

The disappointment, the pain, the suffering … it was agonizing. Trying to reinvent my life when I had given my best to HIM, and then, going through the shame of recognizing my mistake: the big mistake of considering a sect SALVATION, a conman God, of giving my power to someone else, and even worse, of having brought so many thousands of people into this path of deceit. How was I to explain to all those students who trusted me and were now devotees who kiss his feet? The very same ones who turned their backs on me and even betrayed me? As the saying goes, “what does not kill you makes you strong.” It took a long time before I could slowly move in the world again.

When I passed the phase of anger, I allowed myself to read everything we were told not to. For ex. what ex devotees of other movements have to say, about sects, about mantras, etc. I recognized my stories and symptoms in those stories, and in the information, I started unveiling all the lies SSRS spreads with the help of the AoL armada. I was able to laugh out loud to all the BS I had bought and spread. I was guilty of my own naivete and stupidity! And also understood why he dissuaded us from reading!

Bottom line, I wrote wrote wrote wrote wrote and then one day I asked myself, “what will I do with all these texts?” Thus, came the decision of organizing them in a blog which I did not intent to share. Little did I imagine the role it’d play for many people! I always wondered why no ex AoLer had done something like that yet. Speaking with some colleagues, we shared fear and shame. Noone wanted to get their names “dirty”, it was already hard trying to reinsert in the world and find a job and new friends. Then there was fear of the group and the guru. For those of us who have been in the inner circles, we unfortunately know what they are capable of! The other half worked hard to keep their dissonance going as a way of survival (to recognize all the lies we went through is too much to swallow all at once, specially when you were so devoted!). All of this, in my opinion, says a lot about SSRS and the damages he does to people with his AoL.

Everything expressed are my experiences, my opinions. Opinions are subjective yet my experiences are what they are - first hand lived by an active member of the AoL who had access to a lot more than what SSRS probably wishes (and maybe that is why at the end he tried to buy my silence, though never paid because I did not accept his terms).

I am surprised to see the number of people writing with the same views, experiences, and contributing even more details and stories! Specially, the number of Indians! We were told AoL was the most respected thing in India! Till a few days ago, I thought I was the one “loser” who left and was not able to see his “light”, or endure the “test.” It would have been great to access information like this while I was in the AoL (if I had the guts to read it, of course). I wish many of my students found out about this blog, maybe doubt everything in it, but at least, that it makes noise in the back of their heads so that when shit starts kicking they understand SSRS is not God, he is not the person he claims to be and he is not helping the world, as he insists.

I still feel the need to protect my identity, many details, my life, for my safety and many of those involved. I have received threats and have been harassed even recently. I have learned first and foremost is my life, my peace, my health, my equanimity. People are free to agree or disagree. What matters is, I am healing, I am healed, and finally finding so much peace and joy within my self, my true self, not the one SSRS brain-washed me to adopt. “WHO ARE YOU” is the one piece of knowledge I took from the AoL and that I have been able to reveal to myself, after deleting all the Guru files. I gave myself this lesson, HE did not do or give me anything, nor cared, as some people would insist, “Oh, he did all the nasty so that you could have this epiphany.”

I do not intent to use this blog to accuse, but instead, to heal, to understand what I went through, to forgive, find peace. Through learning, understanding, questioning, we grow. Noone should ever be abused, not even in the name of knowledge and even less, of enlightenment and spiritual freedom! Spiritual search is a very noble need that should not be vulgarized nor raped.

On this note, if you have experiences to share, you can send your stories to Writing helps and what you have to say helps us all.

A humble thank you.


Anonymous said...

I read your blog and I have to ask you few question

1. What expectations did you have when you went full time into AoL?

2. Did you ever share the your expectations with the Guru and seeked clarity from the Guru?

3. Did HE ever give you any promises and did not keep them? Which were those?

4. Did anyone else ever give you any promises about enlightenment amd did not keep these promises?

4. Did you ananlyse your situation all the time and why did you not plan your escape route then and there?

5. With what expectations did you continue there? You could say anything +your health family problems whatever and could have left sweetly. Why you did not do it?

I am not a full timer but I know following first hand

We are not forced by anyone to do anything There is lots of social service going on which is / is not documented. I am part of one such service group.

We are not forced to get people for courses. If anyone forces us to do something we dont want to do we disappear.

All of us watch television, movies and eat any vegetarian stuff we like. Many times we skip satsangs and follow-ups. Its all democratic here in India.

WE follow our respective Gurus other than Sri Sri like Sai of Shirdi and speak about it openly.

1. We in India were told by a very senior teacher that If we have adequate financial backing to support ourselves now and later only then we should think of going into this spiritual stuff (AoL)full time. He said being full time is not an easy job at all

2. One of my very wealthy multi millionaire friend lived in bangalore aashram and asked SriSri that he would want to be there full time. He had enough wealth and didnt need to work. He was told by Sri Sri that he should live with his family and not go into this full time it was not for him.

3. One swami shared this with some of my friends - this swami when he was a full time teacher and not a swami he was berated scolded and shouted by mone other than Sri Sri and whole aashram got to know of it. He was crying for couple of hours later in the privacy of his room. Later Sri Sri made up with him.

4. I know one full time teacher who goes to sleep anytime and anywhere. He is always exhausted with work and is complaining. They work in terror infested areas. Its a thankless job but they are doing it as a service to humanity.

5. Sri Sri has got some 25-30 orphaned kids from terror infested area into aashram. These kids are being totally taken care of by AoL. I was told their families were killed by terrorists so Sri sri adopted them.

6. Again one old timer senior teacher once remarked in a course that its not necessary to follow AoL People can follow any path that leads to God. Being spiritual is important not the Furu or path.

I told Sri Sri I dont want to become a teacher. He said ok. HE told me I can come for 1-2 months to aashram or come full time I can do as I like. He shares jokes and laughs with me. There are No promises from either sides. I use my brains and do exactly as I please.

I wish you best luck and a total healing and peace in life

Anonymous said...

As an Indian Seeker on spiritual path I have only this to say to you - Its perfectly OK to leave your chosen Guru because you can not bear and you find things damaging you. If the Guru you left is indeed your Moksha Guru then he Has the obligation to enlighten you. He will have to come again and again for you until you are finally in knowledge, liberated. Dont you ever worry about that. And the Guru you left is not your Moksha Guru then its awfully too good for you to leave him. Because you can move on higher path and meet your own Guru and find liberation. So be very firm, gentle and forgiving and my dear dont leave your meditation and help people as and when you can.

Anonymous said...

Klim ,

Consider yourself blessed for yearning to tear yourself away from such a megalomanic 'guru' & his besotted followers.

Also don't refer to your healing in a future tense. We can never ever be nearer to our Maker/God/Creator/ Brahman/Aathma than what we ALREADY ARE. This is exactly what Jesus Christ also means with His " I Am That I AM '.

All our Upanishads also echo the same Truth.

Though an Indian, I have this unabashed admiration towards the American/Westerner for his/her spunk and commonsense to question.

We Indians have that thwarted at every stage right from childhood & coerced into meekly conforming by imperious , ill informed, cowardly adults around.

Whatever fear & anxiety you went through sound so familiar to my own experiences !

Till I serendipitously came across Jody's blog , there was not a single fellow indian I could reach out to. But trust herdlike Indians to muzzle you bandying words like 'gurutatva' ' hindoo culture' 'racism '. So what if they are highly qualified IITians or ceos ?? Such qualified idiots are not worth befriending.

Anonymous said...

" Noone should ever be abused, not even in the name of knowledge and even less, of enlightenment and spiritual freedom! Spiritual search is a very noble need that should not be vulgarized nor raped ".

Very well put!!

Anonymous said...

There should never be a problem with anyone leaving She She Ravi Shankar. The man not only left his own guru, he went into competition with him, stole as many of his wealthy supporters as he could get, lied about being the number one disciple, did everything he could do to undermine his own guru, ie She She did exactly what his guru had done before him. The number one enemy of the Indian spiritual culture are people like SSRS, MMY, the various Ammas who claim to be gods, etc. A spiritual culture cannot be sustained unless it is lived at the most ordinary level with simplicity and humility.

Anonymous said...

I find your writings to be thoughtful and insightful. I get the feeling you are working on healing rather than bashing SSRS and AoL. I think you speak very clearly about your situation in AoL.

I guess I wasn't too surprised to hear you'd received some threats. People in the same situation as you or me (having lived through an unhealthy teacher/student relationship) can view things so differently. What I would now call abuse, another would say is just a normal part of a relationship or even helpful. Or maybe those people just really never did have the negative experience you had with RS or I had with my teacher. I don't know.

Regardless, it takes a lot of guts to do what you are doing and to speak the truth about your experiences. I spent years sorting through layer upon layer of denial that anything was wrong.

Sometimes helping others is not done in a typical way such as spooning food out at the local food kitchen. Sometimes helping means putting our own experiences out there for people to ponder whether they agree or disagree.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous who wrote this:
Though an Indian, I have this unabashed admiration towards the American/Westerner for his/her spunk and commonsense to question.

I'm curious about this. I have a friend who is Indian and he told me that Indians are taught to be very skeptical toward spiritual teachers too. I know every person/family is different though. But, he was actually trying to coach me in a way to not accept every Indian teacher/AoL etc...He thought I might not be questioning enough.

a humble witness said...

Dear Klim,

It takes guts to do what you have done—to share your experiences about AoL and make yourself vulnerable for the sake of your own and others’ healing. When I was on the verge of leaving AoL, Jody’s blog was invaluable. It helped me to realize that I wasn’t the only one carrying around feelings of guilt and betrayal while doing the “service” of recruiting for the cult. What you are sharing are your OWN EXPERIENCES, which is what makes your blog so powerful. Your own experiences cannot be refuted by anyone, nor can any amount of “wisdom” from ssrs erase what has happened to you and others within AoL. Certainly, your blog is going to stir the rage of those still indoctrinated within the cult (I do remember times when I myself would vehemently defend AoL against any type of assault, real or perceived.) Despite all this, I do hope that you keep up the good work. I am sure that this blog will be (if it not already is) a Godsend for those who are ready to leave AoL. What you are doing here is truly a service.

Love and blessings,
a humble witness

Anonymous said...

anon @7:22 ,

Yes , every family is different.What I wrote is based on my own experiences. Nothing much has changed in India as far as existence of charlatans/soothsayers go. Mostly denial springs from fear like what if he or she harms me with occult powers and so on. Knowledge alone is strength.

Even today only few are drawn towards Advaitham. Many clamour for people like Puttaparthi Saibabas who can conjure gold chains , holy ash , honey oozing from photos etc. My own relative has become such a zombified devotee of aol Ravishankar.

It is entirely due to Ramana Bhagavan I am healed. His own writings (have been so authentically translated into English also)encapsulate the very essence of Upanishads. What more do I need ? But for Bhagavan , I also would have jumped into the bandwagon of ' indooism is in danger...West is bad...hindus alone are superior yadayada ' brigade.

Anonymous said...

" A spiritual culture cannot be sustained unless it is lived at the most ordinary level with simplicity and humility ".

So true anonymous !

Art of Leaving said...


Thanks a lot for having the guts to put all the stuff out there. It is certainly helpful to me, as has been and Guruphiliac, of course.

I was only a devotee (a rather intense and desperate one, though) for 7 months and not even a teacher or an insider, and it is 3 years later now, and I am still struggling to get over him and to move on. So I can think what 8 years with him can do to one.

For a long time the activist in me wanted to speak out about the issues, but the yogi in me wanted privacy and to use meditation to get through it all, and so I have maintained silence - up until today, that is.

Having come across your blog (via Guruphiliac)a few days ago, somehow managed to move me into action, so today I also created a site - for my own story. The more sites there are, the better, I guess.

I posted a few pages I never intended for publication, written more just to work through the issues in a creative way, and perhaps to later show one or two people. But now it's out there, for what it's worth. It's just the start, showing how my own desperation and susceptibility made me fall for him.

I'm a sucker for detail, so it might be a bit boring, but hopefully it is useful as an illustration of how easily one can get sucked in even though you might be uneasy and critical about some things.

If seekers become more alert and start demanding higher standards from teachers, it might help towards the evolution of better Gurus.

Thanks again for your blog and good luck with the way forward.

Anonymous said...

Art of Leaving ,

Thank you for coming out with your experiences and please don't leave out the details.

One should avoid anyone who talks about mind control , breath control , hatha yoga , asanas. Period. I can't go into details of these treacherous paths & their limitations. Still majority would continue to go for it as they are so full of desires. What Chuck trenchantly summed up in Jody's blog as the desire to be someone very special & superior than the rest.

Aadi Shankara has brilliantly exposed the hollowness of Patanjali's yoga sutras , pranayama kriyas , mind control yadayada in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Psychiatric drugs & psychiatrists also wreak incalculable harm in the name of 'mental diseases'.

When somebody whined before Ramana Bhagavan " I am unable to control my mind " He replied:

" Where is the mind ? Give it to me here & now ( stretching out His palm) I will strike it down ".

He succinctly sums up relinquishing the idea I am this body-mind-intellect limited individual is exhalation; knowing I am Brahman/Aathma is inhalation; being anchored in this Truth alone is retention( kumbakham).

Anonymous said...

anon @7:22,

Not just guru business, I admire America/West for their profound search for details , integrity , quality , trustworthiness etc in mundane matters too.

Our Vedic Seers had it. Not contemporary Indians. What irritates is the contemporary Indians'( of all religions) overwhelming sanctimoniousness.

(Exceptions prove the rule)

Anonymous said...

Anon Writes:
"It is entirely due to Ramana Bhagavan I am healed. His own writings (have been so authentically translated into English"

Thanks. I will check out his writings. Are you sure you're not my friend? You sound just like him... A healthy skepticism...

KLIM said...

Thanks for the support of all of you who have written. I've been nervous since I posted this last note thinking I probably have exposed too much and that it'd be dangerous, wondering if I should delete or even wondering whether this blog shld be deleted. Just on Friday I was harassed again by these AoL people and reliving the feelings it comes with it is the most unpleasant experience! But then the many people who have been writing about how they have found this helpful ... so be it! I wished someone would have helped me leave earlier every year, every time, every incident I had doubts, instead of listening to those senior teachers and swamis tell me it was my low prana, or an astrological moment, or the test I had to endure, or His love for me to take me through evolution! Ouch! Stupid me! But, stupid them too!

To the first commentator: honestly, I am too lazy to reply to your many questions right now. Feel free to keep believing what you want. Just know there is also an explanation and another side of the story. Keep using your brain and keep exercising your power of freedom. Stay alert and don't give your power away to anyone except yourself!

Art of Leaving: Bravo for standing up for yourself! I wish you great luck!

Humble Witness: would you not like to contribute to this blog with your writings of experiences? I feel this blog is everyone's blog and I wish it became a forum in which many people contribute, not just me. This goes to everyone who would like to write. I know it is a matter of trusting each other ... but, keep it in mind.

You can write to the email address to see if you feel comfortable trusting me to post your texts, or to send your texts for me to post them up.

Thank you to you all. Really, I feel humbled with everyone's comments. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Klim says:

"..reliving the feelings it comes with it is the most unpleasant experience"!

Exactly.It resurrects resentment & pain.Ignore the first anon. This is how aolites in damage control exercise sweet talk to ferret out details about your identity. Earlier it was frosty haveanicedays:(( Pointless to engage in verbal gymnastics with them.

Anon @5:25

Thank you. I am a she.I am immensely grateful to Jody ,Stuart,Chuck,OTOH,Betty,Klim and all the others too.

Liz said...

It seems like you have gone through a bad epoch in your life, from your open admission. I guess your writing of these blogs might help yourself in your healing process. Most of the comments that I see here are also of conciliatory nature. I would also use this opportunity to express my sympathies for your experiences and would also like to admire your courage in coming out and expressing them in a blog like this one

I humbly request you to kindly be helpful to others. This would also aid in your healing process.

Financial misappropriations could be proved in any organization, with some good effort. From what I read here and elsewhere about AOL, it seems like a totally disorganized entity, with no proper checks and balances. While knowing more about the financial dealings of AoL might be of interest to many, it is the yoga practices, philosophical books and other spiritual practices that might be of interest to many. As you might have probably seen in your long years of association with AoL, people usually start with basic courses for spiritual reasons. You provided some anecdotal references to some health conditions of others and the depression like situations that you went through. These would be of immense help to others while deciding to do an AoL course. I would urge to provide more details, if you are comfortable sharing them, with us. Kindly share your teaching experiences and other course experiences too.

KLIM said...

Liz, thanks! I agree with you. It is almost imperative people know the negative side effects of the techniques and even that none of them are HIS or cognized in some spiritual moment! I am afraid I am not the only one who could contribute such stories!