Thursday, December 31, 2009

On DSN, by an anonymous

The following is a comment sent to the article "The Art of Acting and the Art of Marketing" by an anonymous. I found it important to post since for too many of us, many processes that happened in DSN and TTC still create noise in our heads. We knew but we could not question, we thought but we could not think differently, we felt but we could not feel ... Something was wrong with those courses, with those teachers ... with us! We were abused the entire day and were dancing at night in satsang with a big smile on our faces at night! We hated every minute of everything, but we went along because it was part of the course (not going along with it was a sign of weakness and big ego). We often thought the teacher did not make sense and was an insensitive arrogant, yet, we were all at his/her feet every day. A lot of abuse went on in these courses. Being in the "hot chair", etc. was all for your good, to get rid of your ego, when we were actually creating monsters in the name of spirituality. Anon, thank you for sharing.

I'd like to talk about my experiences at one of these DSN courses (as an attendee) this was probably 9-10 years ago and as a faithful AOL devout; this course opened my eyes into what a cult it had become. The teacher was charismatic and we all were awed by his presence. As he went on, he said a few things that made me realize that this is bordering on a cult. DSN's premise was you could take any criticisms in life after attending this course - this was based on making a person sit on a chair and have the rest of the course attendees hurl insults at you (granted they don't even know you but still).
I heard a story where a pregnant woman had a miscarriage because of domestic abuse by her husband (he kicked the newborn fetus) and she later took this course only to have someone from the class yell at her that she deserved it (the abuse, miscarriage).
My experiences weren't that horrific but they were enough to make me change tunes.
Some of the things that were done and said:
1. The teacher told an example of how one of his apprentices was being constantly pushed by his mother to get married and he responded by taking a bottle of rat poison and keeping it infront of his mother as an act of defiance - saying that if she asked him one more time to get married, he would make her drink it.
2. SSRS is God/Lord/Almighty and there is no one else.
3. The teacher lamented how the bangalore ashram at the time lacked a solar water heater and how it would be a good 'gift' to Guruji. Sure enough the next day, the class managed to get out their checkbooks and raised a princely sum of 300,00 rupees which at the time was a lot of money. I had this horrible feeling where i was sort of being pressurized to come up with a contribution and yet I came up with nothing - a very different kind of feeling to experience.
4. As part of the course, we were made to walk the streets and peddle AOL and get a lot of people to join up/ sign up so that you as an individual would fulfill your destiny. You were then mocked when you came up with nothing
5.they hurled abuses at a woman whose only sin was that her husband would not partake or support her in her AOL activities.
In the end, I lost total respect for the teacher whom I have known for a while. There's a thin line between preaching and forcing your views on someone and he crossed that line - making us believe that it is okay to forsake your own family for the greater good of AOL and that was something I could never stomach doing.
I wish I had the temerity I possess now and had done something back then. I guess that also comes with age 9-10 years is a longtime.
Good job with the blog. I have come to realize that one's own family means the most and wasting your time, money and energy on such a greedy cut-throat organization is bordering on being a cult follower/ retarded.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Klim and AOLeaving and all,

This comment was posted under "Art of Acting and Art of Marketing"

One finds his own path. Every Guru says he will only show the way and not hold your finger throughout the journey.
It is one thing leaving a movement dejected (or rejected?), but just finding fault with it blogging negatively on it, collecting like-minded dejectees (to rhyme with devotees) is such a horrible waste of good time and energy. Leave SSRS and AOL, fine. But put your time in some useful work, some seva. What?
Seva is a better way of getting rid of frustration. Blogging is mere energy loss.
No point in commenting on my comment, as I will not visit again here. I had enough of reading Guru-bashing stuff.
Anyway, thanks for another perspective.
Jai Gurudev.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Qualities of a Guru

I don’t know why I keep remembering an exercise that was done in TTC 1 and DSN: naming the qualities of the Guru. I remember the first time I heard this command. I suddenly wondered, “Really, what are the qualities of Guruji? Why is it I like him?” By the time 3, 4 people started timidly listing adjectives, the rest was just an act of imagination and poetic skill. By the end of the exercise, we were sitting in front of a flipchart with a list of adjectives that insinuated the existence of a Sri Sri Holy 108, the embodiment of God on earth. But, did we all really think that or was it fantasy, group enthusiasm induced?

Examples of qualities listed are compassion, funny, giving, loving, all encompassing, caring, wise, intelligent, responsible, hard working, etc. (interesting, even today I have a hard time working out this list).

Basically, the obvious lesson was we become what we love, we become what we hate, thus, better love than hate, and because we loved him the most, we would all become as amazing as he is. We were the best. The hidden lesson was worship HIM, there is nothing more perfect and more truly amazing than HIM. You are the chosen one, you have the blessing of being with the reincarnation of God on earth.

It’s funny. If I had to work on that list today, the first qualities I’d call out are disloyal, ungrateful, arrogant, unscrupulous, machiavellic, ambitious (in a negative way), power hungry, wealth hungry, fame hungry, narcissistic, lacks empathy, self-centered, selfish, vain, lacks compassion, incapable of loving, incapable of feeling, incapable of establishing deep bonds with anyone, distorted sense of grandiosity of himself, revengeful, abusive, manipulative, liar, sinister, stressed, explosive, deceitful, hypocritical, and I’d end it with a few “etc.”

It’s interesting but these are the qualities that prevail above all in the movement, especially amongst the teachers, even more so, the senior teachers. People with these qualities are the ones he supports, promotes and upgrades. Thus, indirectly, passively, showing these are the qualities and behaviors that get rewarded and awarded. Those who have a hard time living by these qualities find themselves in a more vulnerable situation, attacked, exposed, hammered ("it’s your ego"). Historically, humankind has always casted those who dare be different. It is not different in the Art of Living path (unless you have something to offer the organization that it still wants from you, eg. money, connections, status, etc).

One of the questions I pondered on for a long time was, “When I grow up, who do I want to be like?”

I searched deeply and vastly in my list of worldwide teachers and long-timers. I looked around … no, no, no, no …. NOOOOO … no, no no …. No …..!!! There was not one person I wanted to be like. Even worse, I did not want to ever be like any one of them! (If you know them off the course setting, even less!). And then came the big fish: not even when I was a devotee, I wanted to be like Sri Sri Ravishankar.

What are many people learning in that spiritual path? That being disloyal, ungrateful, machiavellic, betraying, etc. in the name of their devotion for Sri Sri or in the name of achieving whatever it is they want, adding the words “greater cause” to it, gets you away from anything and is the ultimate act of devotion, faith, spirituality.

What did I learn in my many years in that spiritual path? Everything I did not ever want to be like ever in life and everything I should never do if I want to live a life with integrity, values - success beyond success.

What would AoLers say about this article? That I am actually doing a “projection” and blaming on Sri Sri the things that actually are mine. It takes one to recognize the other, they say. There is one thing I am clear about: it is because I did not want to become those qualities, because I never agreed with them, that I finally left, that I finally lived the experiences that I did. Fortunately, the education I got from my parents, my grandparents, my elders, was a lot better than the one I got from Sri Sri. Fortunately, I have some discrimination left.

I stopped loving him and, fortunately, I never hated him nor do I hate him. I hope that saves me from ever being like him. Needless to mention, I work hard on myself so that I don’t repeat the mistake of regarding THAT as the ultimate HIM.

Monday, December 28, 2009

News Flash

A few years ago SSRS assigned one of his full time German teachers the task of surfing the net for anything negative written about the AoL/ SSRS.

For someone so enlightened, worrying about negative reviews and having someone actually check for them and print them out for him is a little too much, isn’t it?

Oh, by the way, "Say Hi."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Art of Acting and The Art of Marketing


I can still remember my very first AoL teacher. I remember being in awe at how well he was able to deliver the “knowledge” and conduct the class while smiling throughout, how well he handled student’s questions (especially the skeptical ones), and how at ease he always appeared. I was impressed. And all the other students must have been too because by the last night of the course, they all gravitated toward him and didn’t want to leave. Since that time, I had gotten to know many other teachers, and have gone down the long and twisted road of becoming an AoL teacher myself. I came to that path because I had good intentions and grandiose ideas of changing the world. But in the end, I know I was chosen to become a teacher because of my ability to pull off a decent appearance, recite from my script (the teacher’s manual), and sell the course to my community. And every requirement to becoming a teacher, and every aspect of the teacher training are geared toward finely honing those skills.

I didn’t realize that the course was scripted until I attended a number of part 1 courses. Different teachers taught the course identically, and all used the same words and mannerisms (isn’t it?). They even tended to dress the same way (white or light colors and usually adorning a shawl). It all made sense when I met ssrs, and saw that it was he they were emulating. This bothered me at first, but somewhere along the way, that feeling subsided, and I began to emulate too. I’m not sure why. Could it have been because following the herd was the easy thing to do? Or because I had spent so much time surrounded by devotees, that I came to accept those practices as the norm? Or perhaps it was because of all the positive reinforcement I got from my teachers while emulating ssrs. I suspect the answer is all of the above.

Further along the path to becoming a teacher, there were more and more intense lessons in the Art of Marketing. DSN was nothing more than a salesman boot camp in which course participants are first broken through sleep deprivation and physical and emotional exhaustion, and then made to sell the course at all costs. I remember on the last day having to walk into a jam-packed church in the middle of a sermon to recruit people to an AoL course. If that is not proselytization, then I don’t know what is. TTC1 also focused intensely on marketing. Again, participants are broken through sheer exhaustion. Aside from getting emotionally and mentally abused (which I will not go into here) students spend many hours setting goals (“sankalpas”) for the growth of AoL in their own communities, developing marketing strategies, and polishing their introductory talks.

I got introduced to the Art of Acting at TTC2. It is yet another course with the usual component of breaking participants through exhaustion. But the main focus this time is on memorizing and reciting the “course points”. Hours and hours are spent reading the manual and delivering “the knowledge” before the class. We are told not to get creative or to let our own thoughts interfere. Just stick to the manual. By the end, the course turns out an army of well-trained, finely-tuned robots (aka AoL teachers).

Over my years of continuous involvement with AoL, I have realized that ssrs & co perpetuate the myth that becoming a teacher of AoL dogma is a wonderful gift, bestowed by ssrs only upon the most worthy and select few. But my experience has shown me that AoL is printing out teachers like they’ve just invented the press. Anyone with the inclination who has the money to afford the training courses and can withstand the abuse can become a teacher. One who keeps coming back for more abuse has truly proven his enduring gullibility, and is entrusted with a God Almighty, holiest of holy, precious-more-than-life-itself kriya tape. The fact is the DSN and TTCs train one to become a walking, talking advertisement that can put on a good enlightenment act. And yes folks, it is all an act. I have witnessed first hand senior teachers break down emotionally, and I have seen the rage ssrs can become possessed with behind closed doors. These are not the behaviors I would have thought to ascribe to an enlightened individual.

I have heard the argument time and again from AoLites that no one is ever forced to do anything in AoL. But I would counter that the manipulation that goes on in the courses (both subtle and overt), as well as the brainwashing, runs so deep, and the emotional damage sustained so unfathomable, that one finds oneself compelled to continue to serve the organization. I suspect this compulsion is driven by the same psychology that brings an abused wife back to her husband abuser, a prisoner to defend those who have imprisoned him (as in Stockholm Syndrome), or an elderly couple to give up their life savings to a con artist. But whatever the reason, AoL continues to lure unsuspecting victims into its thick web of deceit.

I have seen many cases where ssrs and senior teachers have taken advantage of well-meaning, well-intentioned, innocent individuals, suck their time, money, and energy, and then leave them by the wayside, a useless emotional mess. I am forever grateful that I managed to get out with my sanity still in tact.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Twinkle twinkle little stars


A couple years ago, a full time teacher contacted me to ask if I had heard SSRS said anything about old timers leaving. This full time teacher was extremely unhappy, not taken care of, yet scared to leave the movement. Like myself a few years earlier, she believed there was no life after AoL. There is also the real question full timers, who are not in the 20’s and had dedicated more than 10 years to the AoL, face, “how will I survive in the world? What will I do to make a living?”

Soon after, I received several emails from all over the planet with the message Sri Sri was warning everyone about the difficult astrological moment that would create doubts in people and, as a consequence, many old timers would drop out. If doubts came up, one had to stay strong and chant “om namah shivaya.”

It was almost funny to see the reactions in people. It was as if another tsunami was hitting town! It was evident to me it was another one of his manipulations. The exiting of old timers, teachers and full timers would obviously create doubts in many people. He found the perfect explanation, the one he invokes every time he is in trouble and void of logical explanations: the stars. And there we were, again, blaming the stars to manage crisis.

Somehow, he always has the last say: sometimes doubt is due to your low prana but sometimes it is due to the position of the stars. Astrologers and psychics are bad yet if he predicts it or he says it is due to the stars, then, listen, astrology and clairvoyance are then good.

With this train of thought, no one, according to him, is capable of thinking on his/her own. If someone saw bad things in his organization, the problem was, of course, with the seer not the seen. Could it be that old timers started leaving because they could not cope and support the lack of ethics and mess of the organization anymore? Could it be some people think and use their heads? Could it be some people have integrity? What about the stars were in such position it helped people have clarity and see through deceit?

I know one thing: my leaving AoL was not a result of a bad astrological moment, if at all, it was due to a good astrological moment. Om Namah Shivaya to that!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sudarshan Kriya: FREEING or FRYING the mind?


Blank. That is how I remember feeling after my first kriya--blank, unable to think, lightheaded, and numb/tingly all over. I admit, it was mildly pleasant. At that time, it did occur to me that breathing faster and deeper than my body required for an extended period of time might actually be harmful. But because of the teacher’s reassurance that these effects are normal, combined with the fact that others in the class shared the same experiences, I ignored my intuition and neglected to research the physiological effects of over-breathing. And coming from a scientific background, I am still miffed at myself for not having researched it back then, but according to the old adage, “its better late than never”…

After devoting years of my life to AoL, serving as a volunteer and teacher, and blindly propagating the myth that the kriya is beneficial and should be practiced daily, I now realize that I have made a tremendous error in judgment, and that sudarshan kriya (aka hyperventilation) is harmful. This is just one of the reasons why I chose to leave AoL and cease promoting its practices.

When students ask where the kriya came from, I tell them it was “cognized” by ssrs during a 10-day period of silence in the early 80’s. Looking back, it’s amazing to me how many people (including myself) blindly accepted the kriya as something holy and beneficial based on its source and the short-term pleasant feeling it evokes. But I am left wondering what are its long-term effects. When a drug is discovered, it goes through years of clinical trials before being prescribed. Even cosmetics need testing for harmful effects. Sure, the kriya is claimed to consist of “natural rhythms” of breathing and therefore cannot be harmful. I could argue that masturbation is also natural, but just because it feels good doesn’t mean that one should practice it every day. Practicing kriya for its short-term pleasant effect is no different than doing drugs.

Today, its common knowledge that hyperventilation (defined as simply breathing faster or deeper than necessary) can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness in the limbs, and even fainting/loss of consciousness. The reason for these side effects is because by over-breathing, one is actually depriving oneself of oxygen-- hyperventilation excessively rids the body of carbon dioxide, low carbon dioxide causes blood vessels to constrict, and constricted vessels carry less blood and oxygen to the different parts of the body (including the brain.) This is a condition known as hypoxia, and cells starved of oxygen eventually die. So I cringe to think of how many brain cells I have fried after my many years of practicing kriya.

Advocates of the kriya might argue that it is “controlled hyperventilation” and therefore not harmful. They might even refer you to the “scientific research” on the kriya that supports its many benefits. Hyperventilation is hyperventilation (no matter how you spin it), and I have gone through a number of the articles on the kriya, most (if not all) of which were published by devotees of ssrs. Most of them (particularly the earlier ones) are lacking in the proper controls, and it is unclear whether subjects are doing the full sk with associated pranayams, or sk alone. I have yet to see a truly unbiased, well-controlled study with convincing data supporting the unsubstantiated claims that sk is the cure-all it is touted to be.

I also have my own experience to back up my conclusion that sk is downright harmful. During my involvement with the organization, I have witnessed many suffer from mental imbalance and detrimental effects after practicing kriya. I have known two people who had to stop doing kriya because it induced panic attacks in them. I have witnessed one pour soul lose mental stability and have to be committed due to manic episodes and delusions of grandeur. And I have seen three well-adjusted, well-educated individuals with a promising future and a passion for their career only to abruptly decide to throw away their education to do full-time “seva” for AoL. As for me, I can remember how I used to be before ever practicing kriya—much more sharp, and quick to respond and recall words and names. I feel my intellect has dulled since then. And after reading Klim’s posts, I realize I am not alone.

I can’t claim to know what is good for everyone else, but I can draw from my own faculties and experiences to decide what is right for me. I whole-heartedly encourage everyone else to do the same.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The blind and the seva

For more than a decade I ran on behalf of the AoL here and there “saving the world.” The world is not perfect. It was not back when I joined the AoL. Many things can be improved in the world, but listening to SSRS somehow makes you feel something must be done urgently before we are all doomed, and that salvation depended on, specifically, his intervention. I don’t know if I have become thick headed or if actually I evolved, but I now see the world is simply so perfect as it is, in its imperfections. Wanting to make the world better is nice, but having the feverishness to change the world is insane.

The man who taught me to “accept things and people as they are”, that noone could change anyone, except by accepting followed by responsibility detached from results, and that everything from the Divine is perfect, was, at the same time, urging me to change the world and everyone because what the Divine had done was not good enough.

Seva warriors or seva angels were so stimulated, so excited, so feverish in their conquering of seva, the only image that comes to my mind right now is that of many teenagers running around with excessive hormones trying to copulate with whatever comes in front of them! These behaviors obviously came with aggression, competitiveness, lack of integrity, instability, personality disorders, dissonance, etc. Anything was acceptable as long as results were achieved. I literally understood the saying, “over my dead body” coexisting with AoL teachers. I still don’t perceive corrupting values to uplift human values spiritual. I could be wrong. But I remember how upset Ravishankar was the day I told him it was hypocritical to break values in the name of human values.

There were a few seva projects here and there. I was one of those teachers who went without sleep or food for many days in crazy projects in crazy areas. I thought it was the best yet I did not receive the proper support, and finally faced the truth it was all for publicity or added material for his NPP nomination. None of those projects had real continuation. The real seva in the AoL was actually to bring more people to the course, organize courses, teach courses. Let’s face it. That is about 90% of the seva projects (oh yes, and doing the dishes and cleaning the toilets and ironing his clothes). The rest is placebo, a pretty decoration, an extra spice. Bringing more people will not change the world! It is all to add more money to his family account, value to his popularity, evidence for his narcissism.

Every time I clean the house, do the dishes, etc. I joke with myself, “Oh I am doing seva!”

Not long ago, I was crossing the street and turned around to see a blind man trying to cross too. I went back and offered to lead him. I helped him walk 3 blocks. When we reached his final destination, I had this immense feeling of satisfaction. I pondered about it for a long time and realized it was the first real seva I had done in years!

There I was, someone who for over a decade prided in having dedicated life to the selfless service to humankind realizing that was the one real seva I had done in years! The rest had been actually enrolling people to a course that is a fraud! The Greek have to agree it is indeed tragic comedy!

I was always reminded of all the merits I was earning from all the seva! When I think about it now, I shriek at the thought of all the karma I probably created on myself for having brought so many to the path of “devolution”.

The blind helped me see.

Flies: musca domestica

For a long time I kept wondering whether I did right leaving the AoL. I was told so much there was no life outside or after AoL, that people fell in disgrace, that being on the path was the most amazing opportunity in life, that having an enlightened Guru was such a life time blessing not everyone could enjoy, that all my talents were given to me by him, etc. I kept actually digging my own hole deeper and deeper thinking perhaps I was the worst thing in the world, like SS tried to convince me of, and, without him I was nothing. (He himself warned me I would “burn” if I left him, and that I would, in two years, crawl back begging him to let me in (I must add, he is such a poor psychic!)).

For a long time I was haunted and imprisoned by these thoughts, until one day my doctor said,
Then shit must be very good because trillions of flies like it.

Other than a big laugh, it helped me wake up one day with the realization AoL is only less than 1% of the entire planet! What am I afraid of? What did I really loose? They tried to convince me AoL was the biggest thing on the planet and that the whole universe would be his, but come on! Out of 40 people in a course, how many really stay? If lucky, 4 or 5. Out of those 4 or 5, how many actually become devotees? Maybe 1 or 0. Out of those, how many become teachers? Out of those teachers, how many stay for a long time? All the numbers given to us were usually fabricated. If there were 300 people in a talk, he’d say there were 1,500. If there were 2,000, he’d say there were 10,000 and so many who could not go in! I remember one day we even asked him if he counted the extra spirits in the room because we never agreed with his numbers. He’d just laugh and exaggerate even more each year! The lesson was “think big, make it bigger than whatever it is, then it will become that big.” Maybe this works, yet I rather achieve, small or big, with integrity rather than with deception. A man is great because of his greatness, not because of the publicity he showers on himself.

That is how one day, we heard over 20 million people had done the course. Even a teacher then, I wondered how had they come up with those calculations. AoL was and is a very disorganized organization, from bottom to top, from top to bottom. We never kept track of anything at all. And courses were so small … over 20 million people seemed like too large of a number. But of course, there was always India, where according to him, everyone fought to join the AoL! Even then, how many really remain?

Somehow, keeping things in perspective constantly has been of great help. 20 million is a marketing figure, AoL represents less than 1% of the world and it is not going to take over the world, even if he wins the NPP! And a trillion flies like shit!

A note from wikipedia: Flies have often been used in mythology and literature to represent agents of death and decay, such as the Biblical fourth plague of Egypt, or portrayed as nuisances.

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.

Monkey business: something to think about

“In a famous experiment of the 70’s, researchers put four monkeys in a cage that contained a ladder leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling of the cage. When the first monkey touched the ladder, the researchers hosed all the monkeys with cold water. Soaked and confused, the monkeys tried to reach the bananas again, but whenever one of them touched the ladder, all were “punished.” Soon enough, the monkeys learned the lesson: the ladder was “taboo.” The researchers then exchanged one of the “experienced” monkeys for a new one. As soon as he entered the cage, the new monkey started toward the ladder. Before he could touch it, the other monkeys pulled him down. After a few repetitions, the new monkey abandoned his attempts. The researchers then exchanged another of the experienced monkeys with a new one. Before long, none of the original monkeys remained. Yet the lesson endured: no monkey ever climbed the ladder. (Incidentally, had any of the second-generation monkeys tried, they would have succeeded. Researchers did away with the water hose early in the experiment.)” (Fred Kofman)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A comic strip speaks wisdom

A friend sent me the cutest comic strip with the following message:

"When something is nice, it does not need marketing."

Should I send it to Sri Sri?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thinking out loud

If someone steals, there is a thief.
If someone molests, there is a sex offender.
If someone rapes, there is a rapist.
If someone blackmails, there is a swindler.
If someone harasses/stalks, there is a stalker.
If someone evades taxes, there is crime.

You got at least 6 episodes of Law and Order there and the list can go on.

Crimes exist. It is expected they are reported to the police. The system may not always work but there is an attempt to protect citizens and install justice. It is not a crime to report a crime. In fact, in some cases, it is a crime not to.

However, when it comes to a spiritual movement and its leader, the very same acts that the world considers crimes are seen as part of the game (leela), “for your spiritual growth, to make you stronger, taking you to something higher.” Talking about these crimes is considered a crime, an act of vengeance, not spiritual, negative, low prana.

Maybe, at the end of the day, there are no fraudulent spiritual masters and it is all for your growth, but then, in a culture in which anything is acceptable in the name of spirituality/enlightenment/ greater cause, how does one discriminate between right and wrong? How does one ensure safety if abuse is seen as a blessing in disguise?

Psychotherapist leaves a comment

The blog received the following note in Spanish from an anonymous that did not detail where he/she is from. After asking someone to translate it, I thought it’d be interesting to share it (original note followed by translation).
"He leido el blog, me impactó dad la importancia de empezar a darse cuenta de lo riesgoso del Arte de Vivir para la Salud Mental de muchas personas que lo frecuentan. En mi rol de psicoterapeuta he asistido varias personas que han resultado dañadas psiquicamente por lo que podria decirse "un lavado de cerebro" encubierto con una busqueda espiritual. No discuto los aspectos vinculados a la respiracion que adecuadamente ejercitados pueden ser positivos, me refiero a lo que en general sigue despues con respecto a cierta adoración de un "guru", que se cree una especie de encarnación de dios sobre la tierra, y que el se lo crea sería su problema, el tema que personas que he asistido han sido "programadas" para seguirlo y pierden su propia identidad en una masificación conductual que no puede ser cuestionada, algo asi como que él posee una Verdad y que impide la propia pregunta acerca de ella."

I read the blog. I am happy with the impact it is making. It is important people start to realize how risky AoL is for the mental health of the many people who attend it. In my capacity as a psychotherapist, I have treated several members who have suffered psychological damages. One can say there is “brain-washing” disguised as search for spirituality. I don’t question the benefits of the breathing exercises, which, correctly practiced can be positive. I am referring to what follows, the adoration of a “guru”, someone who believes himself as the embodiment of God on earth. It is his problem if he believes this. But I have noticed in the members I have treated that they were somewhat “programmed” to follow him and loose their own identity to a cultural massification that cannot be questioned. Somehow the idea is he has the Truth and noone is allowed to question it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maharishi, Maharishi not

Stories about how terribly “Guruji” was treated in the TM movement were told all the time. We heard how horrible Nankishore was, or rather, we knew how much “Guruji” did not like Nankishore. We were told “Guruji” was every TMer’s envy: he was Maharishi’s right hand, favourite secretary.

There were stories such as,
• Maharishi was told the man who would bring about the spiritual revolution of the new millennium would come to him. He recognized Ravi as this man.
• Once Maharishi asked Pundit Ravi to go somewhere and the other devotees, in a rage of envy, slashed the tires of his car so that he would not reach the event and be in trouble with the Master. His was so one-pointed he found ways to make it anyway.
• Maharishi was very mad at him when he left. He wanted him to become one of the Shankaracharyas instead of creating his own movement and become a competition.
• All of TM will become AoL’s (also all of Sai Baba, Chriatianity, in fact, all devotees of other Gurus and all religions will be his, except the Muslims, of course, and China Mainland would have to wait for his next birth, at least as one of his Indian teachers heard him once say).
• Ravishankar is the reincarnation of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Thus, Maharishi was his favorite disciple and his beloved master, and viceversa. Once in a while he would ask one of his German teachers to share his personal collection of photographs of Ravi in the early years and TM times, compare them with Gurudev’s and tell stories that would indicate the similarities (people came out of those talks mesmerized, or rather, idiotized! Of course, we were the best, following the best).
• Maharishi spoke badly about Ravi to the group when in fact he himself instructed him to leave and create his own movement.

I don’t know what is true and what is not. I just know they were all rumors that favored Ravishankar and that I myself never questioned. Long after I left, I met various long-time TMers who said Ravi (as they called him) never taught meditation, never underwent a TTC, was just a pundit boy, was a secretary but not Maharishi’s favorite (in fact, there were hundreds of secretaries), coordinated (not taught) the Patanjali courses. Apparently Maharishi said terrible things about him. The hush-hush one being, “he is dangerous. Sugar coated poison.”

I also don’t know which is true. Though, as far as I am concerned, Ravi does not behave that differently from Maharishi. He himself has cursed his own disciples who left and spread lies about many of them. After reading things about Maharishi and the way he conducted his movement, I doubt Maharishi actually blessed and instructed Pundit Ravi to leave and create his own organization. They both are just as ambitious and narcissistic, and they both have been deceitful about their techniques and teachings. Funny, I remember someone asking SSRS how he came up with the name “Art of Living”, to which he replied, “It just happened.” It just happened? What about Maharishi published a book called Science of Being and Art of Living?

Former TMers who left TM to follow Ravi hoped to join an organization with less politics, hierarchy and rules. Somehow, though, it seems AoL may have become an organization with a lot more politics, hierarchy and insanity than TM (although in AoL, you would often hear, ”Oh, it is a lot worse in TM”). We can agree on one thing: Ravi did a wonderful job in perfecting and expanding the work of his master!

The typical discourse to devotees, especially teachers, in the midst of politics was, “Oh, Guruji also had to go through these politics. If he could, you also can. Look how beautiful and strong it made him. You are so lucky you are given his same opportunity. They also envied him. They also lied about him. His own master lied about him.”

For many AoL devotees, psychological survival includes believing these remarks and drop the mind. Whatever our Master did, however he behaved, was for our own growth and that of the “greater cause.”

Somehow we never questioned this as devotees: if all the bad things said about Maharishi are correct, does it mean Sri Sri was initiated by a fraud? Does that mean “Guruji” is a fraud? Instead, we simply turned the stories around to support our dissonance and save our minds.

When Maharishi left the body, Sri Sri and company were proud to inform HE was invited to the funeral. Other than an obvious press release, the exciting highlight was “he was invited to sit in the front row. Justice was done.” For Sri Sri and company it meant TM finally acknowledged him and gave him the seat he deserves (even if, literally, over his dead body).

For Sri Sri, his master’s death was his own victory.
Victory to the big mind? Jai Gurudev, indeed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Inspiring words from John Knapp: "How not to be a cult"

When I first read this article, I felt relieved. It made sense and I liked the positive tone of it. It constantly reminds me of the kind of qualities I want in any organization I may join in the future, whether for work or personal interest. I thought AoL was an organization with these qualities. It took me many years to admit it wasn't like this, and a few more to stop justifying it.

Give me a moment. I mean to give this post a positive agenda. But it may take a second to get there.

I could complain about Transcendental Meditation. But I'd like to give the new leaders a few tips on how not to be a cult. In the future, at least.

Heck, science fiction has always been my preferred literature form.

This is what I observe. When critics label a group cultic, there's a knee-jerk reaction. The group enters an escalating spiral of defensiveness. First, they claim they are not a cult. They give dozens of reasons why they're just like other religions or groups. They attempt to destroy their critics. They claim critics are "disgruntled," criminal, bankrupt, unbalanced — downright crazy.

When these tactics don't work, cults ratchet up repressive isolation of their members and forbid them to read critics.

Critics rightly point out these defensive maneuvers make the groups even more cultic than before. Which sets off another round of defensiveness.

Once in a great while, modern cults claim they've reformed. Scientology and ISKCON come to mind.

I remember opening my apartment door one sunny summer day in 1996 to Gene Ingram's smiling face. Gene's a private investigator best-known for allegedly intimidating critics of his main client, Scientology. He heard I left a startup cult activist foundation. So he thought I might be sympathetic to Scientology's side of the story.

"Scientology used to have some problems. But it's over. We threw the bad guys out. The good guys won."

And yet cultic abuse complaints continue to dog Scientology some 12 years later. Maybe the mainstream media didn't get the memo.

Same tune, different day with ISKCON's Hare Krishnas.

Okay. So on to my positive agenda.

Not every organization that critics label a cult started out to abuse its members. But without forethought, any organization can become cultic. Look at the problems the Catholic Church faces.

So here are a few tips for Nader, Hagelin, and the other new TM leaders. Maybe, just maybe they can dodge the cult label.

Be Transparent

* discuss policies, procedures & scandals openly

* publicize open complaint procedures

* report public scandals promptly to members, law officials & public media

* allow free information flow & fully disclose "secrets," especially those that might affect potential members' choice to join

* fully disclose the group's political & legislative involvement

* fully disclose finances, particularly international finances, with third-party audits

* create a member-driven task force to set reasonable fees for retreats & "courses"

* dialogue openly with laity, the press & the public

Be Accountable

* publish — and adhere to — a set of ethics

* publish — and adhere to — all fees & donation policies

* oversee clergy & other agents with governing boards

* if any group agent acts unethically or illegally, take full responsibility

Advocate Freedom

* allow open questioning of the leader's beliefs & practices

* Create a mechanism for modifying beliefs & practices

* create an elective or accountable structure of representation (as in most churches)

* promote freedom of speech within the group, without reprisals for contrary opinions

* promote academic freedom for clergy & scholars

* allow access to files/records held on members & public individuals

* advocate freedom to explore our spirituality without shunning or other repercussions

* avoid use of shame or guilt to control members

Provide Member Protections

* institute safeguards against members devoting damaging amounts of time, money & emotional resources to the group

Value Respect for Non-Members

* foster a systemic respect for other spiritual traditions & non-members

* foster a systemic respect for the rule of law, rather than the belief the ends justify the means

* foster a systemic respect for members' families, whether they are members or not

* foster a systemic practice of charity & support to the less fortunate

* encourage members to live or socialize with non-group members

Provide Informed Consent

* fully disclose negative side-effects of group's mind-altering or medical techniques

* undertake real efforts to address & heal side-effects

* accept financial responsibility for members suffering side-effects

Imagine a Transcendental Meditation Org that acted with this kind of integrity.

That's a spiritual organization I could be proud of.

John M. Knapp, LMSW

Now imagine an Art of Living Foundation that acted with this kind of integrity. That's the spiritual organization I dreamt of and definitely one I could be proud of!

You can find more articles by John in and

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

YES we can!

Someone wrote, “Like that other time when the current president of AoL in the US shared at a small intimate dinner just after Bush was elected for his second term that SSRS had said Bush would not finish this second term. We were also asked not to talk about this with anyone. For good reason, I'd say! :)”

Actually, SSRS swore Barack Obama would not win the elections. “He is too young and inexperienced. He has no chances.” He supported Hilary instead but brown nosed all of DC, just in case, despite his predictions. After Obama’s victory, he borrowed the famous slogan: YES we can! And is now “yes we canning” all over the planet promoting the YES+ courses.

I would not be shocked if one day they start saying Obama got inspired by the AoL to come out with the “Yes we can” slogan.

Yes, Obama could.

The one million dollar question: where do all the millions go?

There was a time we were taught to say all the money of the courses went to the million social projects the AoL sponsored. We were gullible and obedient enough to not question. A few years later, we were taught to say all the money of the courses went to the social projects and less than 5% was used for overhead, unlike the Red Cross or the UNICEF that use more than 70% of their funds in overhead. We were always better than the Red Cross or the UNICEF!

We heard about the 5H program, the rural schools, the VISTA, the tsunami, the prison projects, the terrorists projects, the Kashmir kids, Iraq, etc. But the truth is we only have a few pictures to prove it. And they were always the same pictures and same video footages! (let’s admit, good editing does miracles).

During a trip to India, I had the embarrassing job of escorting a few journalists to see the famous social projects. Let’s leave it at “it was embarrassing.” If they called that “social project” I don’t know what they’d actually call the projects carried out by the Red Cross, the UNICEF, Peace Corps, Doctors without borders, etc.
Upon the request of some VIPs traveling to India, I tried organizing visits to social projects and got absolutely no answer from the secretariat and senior teachers.

Unfortunately, social projects in the AoL serve only the purpose of publicity. After all, we did say we were a non-profit organization focused in sustainable development, etc. However, his focus was only to get more courses, enroll more VIPs, become more famous, get the Nobel Peace Prize!

A few people from a rather poor country told me the story of the time they found a rural school they were eager to sponsor and needed his approval. Upon telling him the project, his response was, “Oh … so much headache, children give so much work, so much headache a project like this, you don’t know, just keep teaching courses, bring more people …” The disappointment and, eventually, the clarity they got regarding the true objectives of the organization made a few devotees drop out after this meeting.

A donor was once approached for money to build a rural school in Southern India for underprivileged children. Not only were none of the deadlines and plans delivered, worse, with the millions of dollars donated, they launched a school for paying tuition students! Another wealthy person was asked to buy lands in the surrounding areas of the Bangalore ashram to donate them for the sattvic villages they are building and selling for extraordinary prices. In fact, I have heard many donors ask in a complaining tone: “Where does all the money go? Where are the projects?”

Let me translate: the deal is he makes the big bucks, you get fooled with the story of good karma.

Social projects are never long standing. Prison projects are worth a picture, a letter from the director of a penitentiary, footages of an interview, but there was no real continuity. Actually, we had to raise funds or use our own money to carry out projects in the prisons and elsewhere. So then, where does all the money of the courses really go?

He claims it takes a lot of money to maintain the ashrams. Maybe. But, what happened with his argument: less than 5% of the income is used for overhead? Keep doing your math. He gets all the money from courses, from products, etc. He gets free labor. He travels first class, stays in 5 star hotels, Bhanu’s jewelry have bigger diamonds and rubies, her saris are more expensive everyday and she gets offended if you ask if her designer purse is fake or real. His nephew lives extravagantly in the US. Bhanu and her husband are full time dedicated to the AoL, in other words, that is their only income. I don’t know about you, but I am already way pass the 5% overhead, and I still have no real proof of any social project other than stories and pictures.

(I heard him once scold a teacher for not housing him in the other more luxurious 5 star hotel instead of the 5 star hotel he was instead staying).

The Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values are the only two non-profits I know that don't openly provide an annual financial report. Not even, upon request.

I used to be one of those fervent cheerleaders of the AoL’s social projects, proud of everything I was told we did. I woke up one day and tried gathering more than 2 or 3 pictures for each project and it just did not make sense. As a teacher I tried very hard to carry out social projects and I know the resistance and lack of support of the organization. If it did not serve the purpose of publicity, a meeting with a VIP/ Government, “teach more courses, don’t waste your time, bring more people”.

Translation: bring more money (you may not see them but it is all for social projects after all …).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Relax, SOMEONE will get the Nobel Peace Prize

He was obsessed with getting the Nobel Peace Prize. As a consequence, we were all obsessively working to get him the prize. Actually, I can’t think of anyone more spoiled than him. Except, he does not pout when he does not get what he wants, he slays.

I just did not know how obsessed he was with the NPP. Someone who left the organization secretly shared that the last time they met Sri Sri, he asked them to take him to a psychic. They found him two. And to the two, he only asked one question: “Will I get the Nobel Peace Prize this year?”

It is hilarious and I am confused.

1) Wasn’t it that he knows everything?
2) Wasn’t it we should never consult psychics, astrologers, etc.?
3) Wasn’t it we need to live the moment?
4) Wasn’t it we need to practice “dispassion”?
5) Wasn’t it enlightenment comes with dispassion, the state of no desires?
6) Wasn’t it “we are not the doers, it is all a happening”?
7) Wasn’t it awards, etc. do not matter? “All those actors and actresses, so insecure … blablabla … the Oscar awards …blablabla”

I would have loved to be a fly to hear the conversation between the guru and the psychics and see the expression in their faces. I understand one of them told him he was too caught in his big ego. I cannot imagine anyone telling him that but I am glad someone did! (Thank you Mr/Mrs psychic).

Of course, the devotees who took him to the psychics dropped out not long after this.

He blesses, He curses, He threatens

The man who promised to love and take care of me unconditionally, for ever and ever, lifetimes even, cursed and threatened me when I decided to leave the organization.
I used humor to make it more bearable. I joked I was so special I was the only one ever to be threatened by him. To my relief, and sorrow, I later found out he had cursed and threatened others who decided to leave too. Perhaps the funniest one being he warned someone he’d take away all the merits of his seva if he left. There you go. Backstage scenes.

He cursed me warning me I would be utterly miserable in the world and would not be able to do anything in life. Everything I ever had was due to him. Without him I was nothing. He warned me of never speaking ill of him, otherwise, whatever I’d say would come back ten fold to me.

Of course, he did not say it with the big “Guru of Joy” smile he poses in his photographs. He shouted it erect, Zeus-like, with a big frown and evil look in his eyes, waving his long arm at me, pointing with his accusatory finger. I was so disenchanted by then, I calmly asked him, “Are you warning me or are you cursing me?”
For a long time I was embarrassed to speak out everything he told me during that dreadful conversation, in which he falsely accused me, lied about me, cursed me, destroyed my morale and self-esteem as much as possible. For a long time I was paralyzed by his words, taking them as mine, believing in them. For a long time I walked around in fear and shame.

It took me a long time to slowly share and seek for help and understand those were lies and manipulation. It took me a long time to remove Sri Sri from the seat I had placed him in. It took me a long time to realize he is just a brilliant but ordinary man, guided by insatiable ambitions of fame, wealth, power, a sociopath.

Sri Sri Ravishankar abused me, lied to me, lied about me and others, manipulated me and others, used me and others, threatened me and others, etc. These are facts I just wrote, thought and spoke, and nothing has happened to me. Nothing will happen to me. He used to say Maharishi used fear instead of love to hold his devotees. I am afraid Ravi has very little self-reflection.

It is interesting. If someone steals, we call that a “thief” and we report it to the police. There is nothing wrong with that. But if someone reports something wrong the Guru did, the one reporting is the criminal, the ignorant, low prana, will be stroke by thunder. The Guru abuses you for your evolution, because he loves you, because he cares, because he is moving you to the next level, because he is removing your karma, because he sees the big picture, because he is the big mind. I need to be forgiving, I need to see the big picture, I need to see beyond, I need to be grateful, I need to drop it, “accept people as they are, not see intentions behind people’s mistakes.”

Like a swami dared say to me once, “The fact you don’t want to accept anymore abuses is an indication of your lack of faith.”

First, he recognized there are abuses in the AoL. Second, he exposed one of the many mechanisms of manipulation of the AoL.

Fake it until you make it

In fact, even after leaving the organization many of us felt embarrassed to share certain experiences and insights. Somehow we knew something was wrong, yet the fear-based education we received was stronger. Even no longer a member of the organization, we feared being ridiculed, ostracized, punished, having made the mistake of leaving the blessings of a Guru.

One day, I asked someone who had recently left the movement if she was still doing her practices and if she had ever felt sick with them. After crossing the first barrier of “we don’t talking about these subjects”, specially former teachers, she confessed she had not felt good with her practices for many years. She described feeling her head oppressed and in a bad, irritable mood the rest of the day, among other things I no longer remember. She admitted, almost in shame, she had stopped doing her practices some time before leaving the organization and noticed a remarkable difference. Feeling guilty about it, she’d do it again, and again, she would not feel herself and well.

Curiosity led me to ask other “drop-outs”, who would take a long time before they’d feel comfortable to confess, and, to my surprise, most of them (not all, but most, easily 80% of them) had the same experience. Not only that, the common description was that since they stopped doing the practices they felt more themselves, more real, more here, enjoying better health, finding improvements in various ways.

I had the same experience. Every time I sat for my practices, I felt a strong pressure in my skull, and inevitably, as if someone else was sitting on top of me, in my head. My mind was no longer my mine, everything dispersed in one way or the other, to the point, I had no control, no use of my faculties. I felt numb during and after, and definitely, I no longer felt the relaxation, the lightness, the relief all first time students claimed to feel. I would, during the day, feel like a zombie, inert, dead, unable to remember anything, unable to think of details or focus on anything.

Somehow, we, teachers, had the strong obligation of selling the product, without questioning. If anything went wrong, it was never the technique, the course, the organization, or the Guru to be blamed. It was our fault. Being guilty of something made you an easy target of ridicule, isolation, shame. If one ever felt anything that was not joy, peace, enthusiasm, the most common question was, “Are you doing your practices?” If you had never stopped doing your practices and you still felt things that were not joy, peace, enthusiasm, you felt guilty about it and people treated you differently. Somehow, you were dirty, worthless, unworthy.

As teachers, we needed to “fake it until we made it.” That was part of Sri Sri’s teachings, just like faking joy until it became our nature. Excuse me, wasn’t joy, to begin with, our nature? Then, why the need to fake it?

Bottomline, we faked it so much we no longer knew really what we felt, and if at all we ever felt anything bad, we hid it, repressed it. It was a lot of blablablabla followed by a lot of empty beautifully decorated words, just to enroll more clients (I remember once in a TTC, the guru called and only asked the teacher one question, “Are they strong at enrolling already?” Even then I could not believe my ears. That was all he cared about. He did not care about how much they were understanding the knowledge, how deep they were going in their practices and processes, but just that they enrolled a lot! In the meantime, those poor TTC students had the illusion (probably still today), the Guru called, concerned about their well-being).

Most teachers are unhappy. Specially, full time teachers. If you want the pretty package, then meet them only while they teach. When teachers are on stage, “the grace flows through them”, thus they shine, they smile, they exude an unbelievable energy and joy. When teachers leave "the seat", they are bitchy, histrionic, hysterical, psychotic, tired, sick, unattractive ... ordinary humanoids with a lot of flaws and zits. We all became great actors, just for the sake of that moment in which one had power and the attention of so many desperate souls, for the sake of having the Guru's approval. We were immature people, unprepared to hold so much power and the responsibility of influencing people’s lives. That is what we were. That is what they are.

When I was still a teacher, I asked someone what made her decide to leave the organization. Her answer was, “I looked around and I noticed all teachers, specially the senior teachers, are so unhappy. I don’t want to be like them.”

End of the conversation.

Stupid or relaxed? Part 2

Struggling with my practices many years, I approached Ravishankar in different occasions about it. “Something is wrong with my sadhana, something is wrong with my mantra, there is something wrong … I don’t feel good with my practices. I don’t feel good afterwards. I don’t feel good during the day. My head is not good. My health is not good.” I don’t forget his look of disbelief and surprise. He clearly did not know what to tell me. Finally, he gave me his famous, “Keep doing it. It will change. It is an astrological moment.” To which I replied, “You call 5 consecutive years an astrological moment?”

For a devotee, catching the Guru in a clueless moment is perhaps one of the scariest situations ever.

A year after leaving the AoL, I stopped doing the kriya, the pranayamas, everything. It was a tough to stop it. I was used to it. I had been convinced I needed them to be successful and happy in life. To my surprise, I have not lost my radiance. In fact, people tell me I look so bright and a lot better! I was caught by surprise when someone told me one day, “Wow, you always look so happy, you are always so happy, what is your secret?” I did not know what to say! I was not doing any practice nor seva nor following a guru nor reading scriptures nor chanting mantras, and yet, people noticed my joy, my radiance, my good spirit. I used to reply to a comment like that, “Oh! I meditate!” or “Oh! You should do this wonderful course!” Suddenly, that day I realized, that joy, that light, that everything, is mine and only mine.

I am slowly recovering my ability to have critical thinking, of discriminating, of concentrating, of enjoying other things and not feel bad about it, of having interests of my own.

When I hear people attend Part 2 to feel relaxed, I don’t know what to say. On the one hand, I know it is true they feel relaxed, but on the other, I know they feel relaxed because of all the brain washing processes they go through. Sri Sri claims Hollow and Empty “polishes the mind”, washes away the deep impressions. What I have noticed over the years is people come out of it brain dead, agreeing with whatever previously they disagreed with, thinking they are happily relaxed. In fact, he always pushed us to get everyone to the Part 2 courses, as many as possible! “Your job (as a teacher) does not end until they do a Part 2, and then repeat it many times.” Of course, once you did the Part 2, you were programmed.

“Tip of the nose … base of the spine … the whole region from naval to throat is hollow and empty.” While people twitched and suffered, until completely hypnotized, as if under the effects of a trance, their heads became “hollow and empty”, in colloquial terms, “air heads.” You could see people’s annoyance the first days, until subdued, they walked around like zombies. After very cathartic processes of death and birth, people were put in complete silence, sitting through 3 to 4 hollow and empty, long hours of listening to that trance-like voice, reprogrammed, and then, “you may say your first word.” It was bizarre to watch people go wild after being granted the first word, actually, given back their freedom. But, their brains, our minds, already were not the same. We thought we were “cleaner”, I now know we were, literally, mentally hijacked.

It was almost funny to hear people who had hated every single moment of the course, the meditations, suddenly speak words of admiration for the whole program, in tears. It was always difficult to decide whether their joy was due to everything that we had done in the course, or that the torture was finally over. Then, still, under the seduction of the trance, we were made to watch a video in which he insists we needed to bring more people to the course, be smart, do whatever it needs to bring them - that is your seva, that is the way for you to maintain the joy you are feeling, remain in the path, surrender to the Guru. Or else, the other video in which nothing but throwing candies happen (it was apparently John’s birthday), and he only says, “Bring all your problems to me, drop them here.” Approximately 10 minutes of Radhe Govind, bad singing, stupid dancing, bad filming, corny set up, followed by people (in the tape and in the course, stimulated by the sobbing of the tape) breaking down in catharsis, in tears, and voila, damage done.

End of program (end of the programming).

I know someone who still dissociates today, as if they were still in a Part 2 but in real life - his mind tilts, freezes, checks out, even several years after having left the organization. In fact, he does not remember anything that ever happened in these courses. And believe me, he’s done tens and tens of Part 2 and 3!

Stupid or relaxed? Part 1

A few years into the AoL, myself a teacher then, I started noticing my mind was not as clear and sharp as it used to be. It was as if a part of my brain was dead and the rest, slowly deteriorating. I had always been a brilliant A student, with perfect memory, excellent health. I was slowly noticing I had trouble eating, swallowing food, sleeping, suffering of massive hair loss, loosing my memory, incapable of following a debate. I had lost critical thinking and the ability to discriminate or make decisions on my own without the need to ask Ravishankar first for blessings or approval. For the AoL, the intellect was my greatest enemy, thus, whatever I described as “losses” were seen as my “spiritual evolution.”

The techniques were never to be questioned, of course. If anything went wrong ever, it was our fault. Our doubts were only a sign of our “low prana.” He was so brilliant he even used knowledge in his favor: “there are three types of doubts: doubts in oneself, in the technique, in the master.” So that, if you ever doubted any of the three, you knew you were to be blamed for being negative. Solution: do more practices, do more seva, attend more advanced courses.

I finally gathered some courage and asked various senior teachers about the possibility of meditation having side effects. None of them, of course, had ever questioned this possibility. They made fun of my observations instead. Until one day I asked someone very close to Ravishankar. His right-hand man, teacher, long time TMer. He listened and said, “Never say I told you this, I will deny it if anyone ever questions me about it. Stop doing the Sudarshan Kriya immediately. Keep meditating if you want, but stop doing the breathing.” According to him, he had noticed the same in himself and other people. He claimed Kriya was not for everyone and the Guru did not understand these things.

Of course, I did not listen to him at that time. How could Sudarshan Kriya not be perfect? However, as my problems increased and I felt more “stupid”, I was surprised to hear one of his swamis give me the same instructions: “stop doing sudarshan kriya.”
In my years as a teacher, I noticed that, although every student felt more relaxed at the end of the course, not everyone felt good after a few months of practicing the techniques. Whenever we were approached with negative experiences regarding their practices, we were trained to tell them to keep on going, it was “unstressing.” If anyone in the course dared challenge us about the greatness of the technique, of course, we would kindly inform them it was their low prana that was not letting them see or experience the greatness of the technique. Whenever a student had some medical evidence that showed their health deteriorated after practicing the kriya, we were taught to understand they were doing something wrong, their problem was definitely not due to the technique but to their karma, the person was not worthy of the knowledge … “next life time.”

The first time I questioned the validity of the SK was when I took the “Science of breath”, the scientific research of the technique to a renown doctor, a researcher of one of the most respected research institutes of the world. After a few days, I met with him again, expecting to hear him impressed with our results, ready to incorporate us in their program immediately. To my surprise, he elegantly informed me the research papers were all incomplete and unprofessional. Conclusion: professionally, it said absolutely nothing and was not objective.

After seeing thousands of people go through the courses, I am still unable to decide whether the kriya relaxes people or idiotizes people. There is a very short distance between feeling relaxed and going stupid, as there is a very short distance between enlightenment and psychosis. Definitely, whether in a Part 1 or Part 2 course, the person slowly succumbs to whatever you say. Somehow, the mind shuts off, and even if you started with a questioning mind, you somehow zonk out, willing to agree with anything. We called that, “relaxation.”

I don’t doubt it has effects in the short term, but I am suspicious of its long term effects.

Today, this former A student suffers of dyslexia. I am unable to concentrate, remember anything, I turn numbers and letters around, I am unable to focus for long hours, I cannot read too much at once (as a kid I could read 7 books in a week!), I dissociate, I have sleeping disorders and other health complications.

Kriya did not relax me. It castrated me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deepak Chopra, according to AoL

I was in the room with him the day he told us Chopra had called him to negotiate the Sudarshan Kriya. According to Ravishankar, Chopra told him they should join forces and charge a lot more for the technique, promising him more clients and fame. Ravishankar made fun of Chopra, declaring Chopra is after money and fame but he is after helping people and changing the world. Mockingly, he put Chopra down, and of course, we admired our Guru then. He told us how Chopra had been sending spies to our courses and he was now teaching our pranayamas and other processes in his workshops.
Clearly, Deepak Chopra, the loser.

I then saw Chopra at the Bangalore Ashram during the inauguration of the Mantap. Rumours about his presence spread quickly in a victorious ecstatic tone. Finally, he was there paying respect to our Guru! You see, there was a story about an astrologer telling Chopra he would be at the feet of a guru of Southern India, and that his life time mission was to surrender to this Guru. Of course, rumor also was this Guru was Sri Sri Ravishankarji and that Chopra was too arrogant to surrender to anyone. Not only did Chopra not touch Ravi’s feet on that occasion but he also left earlier. We rested our case.

When Michael Jackson died and Deepak Chopra was interviewed non-stop by Larry King and other media sources, I, for the first time asked myself the questions: Does Chopra really need more fame and wealth than what he already has? Does Chopra really need the help of Sri Sri in order to be more respected? How much does Chopra really need the Sudarshan Kriya and the blessings of Sri Sri? Chopra has evidently achieved all his results very successfully, efficiently, by his own means. Was it not then that Sri Sri needed Chopra’s name and success and not the way around? I wonder what is Chopra’s version of the story, if at all, there ever were such stories!

And then, one day, I did what we were told we should never do: read about mantras, initiations, ex TMers blogs, etc. To my surprise, I found the following:

We provide info on the bliss, primordial sound, and nighttime techniques below. If you think your head might explode (medical term) or you might otherwise come to harm by reading this, please read no further. You could, of course, just save this message without reading it until some day in the future when you want to save yourself 700 bucks or more. We absolutely do not recommend that you practice or even try these techniques. We struggle with the idea that we are doing people a disservice by providing information about something which may cause them harm. But we count it more compelling to expose the secrets and give people the dignity of making their own choices.

1986, Instructor: Deepak Chopra Bliss technique: I was instructed to put my attention briefly on the heart region before beginning regular TM, and then to allow the mantra to resonate there as I meditated. He suggested that I would feel warm flows of "soma" emanating there. During rest afterwards, I was supposed to hold awareness of the entire body -- especially the circulating soma -- in my awareness.

The instructions of Sahaj are, “Become aware of the area of the heart, and from that region, take the mantra and let go.” Which is what makes it different from the TM practise, which instructions are to repeat the mantra all the time. According to Sri Sri, of course, Sahaj was a lot deeper than TM.

Sri Sri had stolen from Chopra and not the way around! Sahaj Samadhi was a cheap copy of Chopra’s bliss technique, which, according to testimonies, was taught during a short time because it did not go well!

Mike Myer’s movie “Love Guru” ended up being a real satire of Sri Sri and AoL. It is true Sri Sri is dying to come out in Larry King’s and Oprah’s shows. In fact, so many letters have been written to Oprah, AoL has apparently been black listed as a “sect.” It is true Sri Sri is constantly competing with Chopra, just like the Love Guru. It is true Sri Sri is constantly brown nosing VIPs, people with money, beautiful women, etc. in order to escalate. Someone in a public talk asked him once, “How come you are always surrounded by beautiful women?” (If at least he liked women, but, unfortunately, is not even the case. Publicity, it is all about marketing. Just like the car and alcohol industries use women in their commercial to boost sales, Sri Sri does not differ too much from them).

Sahaj was “borrowed” from Chopra and Chopra is instead scrutinized. Sri Sri is constantly worried about someone stealing his Sudarshan Kriya. It takes one to know another. Thanks to internet though, you can now download it FOR FREE.

I wonder what Deepak Chopra would think about all of this. In fact, I would love to have tea with him one day. Could someone set this up? Thank you.

Gandhi also did not get the Nobel Peace Prize

It was not until Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize that the feverishness to get him the award mellowed. Otherwise, every year prior to that, we all felt the pressure of working towards getting the prize we all knew he deserved but it was time for the world to know about his greatness.

First, it was to get him nominated by getting letters from university professors, members of parliament, members of international organizations. Teachers were pressured to produce at least 5 to 10 letters. Constantly, we’d get emails from the “NPP team” making us feel bad if did not get any. When, on the other hand, it was always obvious those in the NPP team had pressure from the Guru himself, and they wanted to win more affection and approval from him by making us all get letters. Our hard work would be their Guru prize. Their Guru Prize would be the Guru’s prize.

Once nominated, it was about getting him meetings in Norway to brown nose officials, so-called “VIPs.” Bottom line, he claimed to work towards getting this prize for the world, not for himself: We all knew he deserved it. He did not care about awards. Bu the world is shallow and needs these kinds of recognition in order to value someone’s work.

I never really understood this hype, although, I must confess, I eagerly worked in favor of it as well, even if it did not make sense at all. For example, the year that we were asked to get as many support letters as possible and send them to the Nobel Committee. I even heard a teacher encourage everyone to get letters from everyone, anyone, “grocery keeper, the butcher, the bus driver … write a letter, write anything, have anyone sign it, our Guruji needs to get this award.” The result was, of course, chaos and hundreds of funny letters such as, “I am writing to support Sri Sri Ravishankar to the Nobel Peace Prize. Since I did his AoL course I no longer suffer of PMS.”

Of course, he did not win the award that year, and the NPP committee woke up to the realization it requires a lot more than just support letters to win the NPP. It required subject, content, focus. Why should Sri Sri win the NPP? Because he is teaching millions of people breathe and feel relaxed? Because he ONCE took a picture or two in the areas affected by the tsunami? Because he included projects in the prisons? Because he invited a few terrorists and few Iraqis to the Bangalore Ashram?

After I left the organization, I was invited to an event held by Amma’s group. I could not believe my eyes when they showed their video. It was almost the same as AoL’s: Amma at the UN, Amma accepting this and that award, Amma with such and such famous person, Amma helping out in the Tsunami, Amma in the prisons, Amma building hospitals, Amma’s rural schools, Amma’s work with terrorist, Amma … Actually, I have to say, Amma has done a lot more than Sri Sri and her video is a lot better than his! I wonder, is Amma also lobbying to get the NPP?

It was weird to see Ravishankar intensely follow the news when Bono showed up as a strong candidate. He would shut us up to watch the news. His eyes, wide open, focused, intense. Even then, a devotee myself, I found his attitude strange. For someone so enlightened, he seemed too feverish about winning this US$1 mi award. For someone who claimed to have done such great work, he was actually worried about the possibility of losing to Bono? Of course, if someone else won, “it is all about politics. Gandhi was nominated many times and never won. Mother Theresa was recognized only post-mortum.” When it came in handy, Gandhi and Mother Theresa were mentioned in positive manners, otherwise, he’d always speak ill about them.

Thank God Al Gore won. Otherwise, every year prior to that, we’d get statements: “Guruji says he will win the NPP this year. We need to work for it.” Now that I think about it, what an incoherent statement! Why did we have to work hard for it if it was a given he’d win it? Oh yes, of course, I forgot the knowledge: we are not the doers, it is all a happening, but we need to take responsibility for it and do something. (I am now confused, am I or am I not the doer? Is it, or is it not all a happening? Does he or does he not know everything?).

It is funny. Even after missing it so many years, the dissonance of the group was so big, noone wondered about his false prediction (again). Every year’s disappointment would be interpreted as, for example, “He would have won it if it wasn’t because of Al Gore. He obviously had a stronger pull. It is all politics. Guruji was going to win it this year though.”

What about the previous years though? Ah, what does it matter? Gandhi also did not get it.

I, of course, have lost respect for the Nobel prizes and every year, close to the deliberation of the winners, I worry Sri Sri may win the award. If that ever happens, I would have confirmed the world really is suffering of a hopeless crisis.