Friday, June 4, 2010
Friends, family, even I, myself look forward to the day I do not mention the Art of Living or Ravishankar again. Further, I look forward to the day I am fully fixed and free of the traumas the AoL left in my mind and health. Overall, it was an experience that snapped me out of stupidity and extreme ingenuity and abusable niceness. I learned great lessons and thank to them grew immensely.
This blog played a big role in my recovery, as well as the readers who supported and even those who insulted. I was able to drop my fears, confirm that my decision to leave was a sign of health and self-preservation that, thank God, still existed even if 0.5%, transcend the guilt and my past history with these people, see the AoL and the education I got there for what it is and not for what was marketed. Recognizing I once belonged to a cult and helped promote it comes with a lot of sensations that range from anger to shame.
The truth is I have been trying to leave the blog for a long long time. For one, I grow tired of hearing and discussing the AoL – they are not the best nor the most important thing in the world and should not occupy the space they do in my life. While RS was fully immersed in his belly button, feeling important with an attack that was not, there were serious problems going on in Gaza and other parts of the world. Though my new life still suffers the consequences of my years of involvement with AoL, it is new, great, free and mine. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have rediscovered spirituality in its true essence and I have recovered my own source of joy and authenticity. I am again who I am and not what I should be or programmed to be. Together with the help of invaluable friends and professionals I have been working on myself the way we did not in the AoL.
A good friend I wished would get involved in the group said after a few months, “People in the AoL do not work on themselves” and walked away. I never quite understood his remark until I left the movement. Of course! We faked it until we made it, we repressed negative emotions and real life desires, we worked on ourselves through SK, hollow and empties, and being in “the Presence”. It was a good for all package for people with different problems. How could that help anyone truly work on him/herself? The most common remark teachers and long-time devotees said was, “I feel stuck.” After all those years, noone changed, except becoming more feverish, aggressive, greedy, competitive. We worked on ourselves through seva: organizing courses and enrolling people. People were judged as good or bad based on how successful they were at organizing courses or enrolling, not on their behaviors and quality of the heart. Why not call it a business then, instead of cheating people with a promise of spiritual growth? To be honest, I doubt anyone would be upset then.
To my dislike, readjusting, deprogramming, recovering, reinventing oneself is a long challenging process, however, I trust my new life should only be as good and even better than it was pre-AoL. When people ask me what I learned with AoL, I say, “I learned everything one should never do in life!” I learned the worst side of human beings, I learned that anything that creates separation, or takes one to any extreme is not healthy, I learned never to give my power again, I learned not to accept any abuse from anyone anymore, I learned to discriminate, I learned to live with opposite values, I learned to distinguish a manipulator, psychopath from miles away, but above all, I learned to love and value myself.
Ravishankar robbed me of many precious things in life. Most importantly, my faith and thirst for knowledge. I must confess I am still quite allergic to any kind of practices, satsang, new age talks, swamis and gurus, and still have problems trusting people or my own decisions. In my opinion, robbing someone’s faith and spiritual yearning is his worst crime. Fortunately, he was unable to take away my integrity, courage, authenticity and hutzpa. If Krishna stole the mind, RS stole the soul.
When I recently saw pictures of former colleagues who are still caught in the web, I was shocked to notice something was absent in them, as if their soul was not there and their expression dull. It’s funny I used to think they were bright! I whole-heartedly wish them the best. In fact, I pray they open their eyes and gather the courage to snap out of it. If they don’t, I wish they remained completely numb so that they never need to deal with the pain of realization. I truly wish everyone the best, including RS, who projects anything but peace, joy or relaxation. Unfortunately to him, there will always be someone better out there, and people finding flaws in him. Surprisingly, that pushes the buttons he still has. Power and fame corrupt even the ones good at heart, I guess.
This last incident-that-was-not, humored me but also bored me intensely. It became all too obvious, just as it became obvious that my time with the blog had reached its end. It’s a drag to still have AoL in my life even if through writing, further, my healing through it has reached its end. I can still write a lot about it but the subject has become tedious. They are who they are and we know what they are. What matters is I am free, you are too and soon, many will be too.
AoLers may cheer this announcement, or even think I am doing it out of fear of retaliation. On the contrary, because I realized I no longer fear their threats that I realized my healing through the blog came to an end. Moreover, honestly, how much longer is one willing to “read” those imbalanced, vicious, all-righteous fanatics? or write about these insanities? Even a guruholic in recovery like myself has a limit. At the end of the day, not only is it flabbergasting but also very sad. Most of those nasty coo-koo commentators I knew, hang out with and loved.
“Confessions of a Guruholic” will remain in cyberspace. Hopefully more people will find it and find solace reading it. I have plans to fully live my new life “art of living free”, with its many undefined projects waiting to anchor and blossom. I shall miss everyone and this lovely space of healing. If I ever have the itch, I may contribute in Beyond the Art of Living.
I have come to terms with those “friends” and students who betrayed me. I know my students did not have another choice. They did not act upon values but for “the cause”. Brain-washed, I most likely would have done the same. I wish they open their eyes soon and find sincerity and transparency again in their lives. I see my “friends” did not have another choice but to stab me and later hate me too for what they did. I know they suffer daily for just too many years. You’d be surprised how many senior teachers are depressed, lonely and in angst most of the time. Their hearts are sour but they don’t mean ill. They are ill and do not get the care and attention they really need. Furthermore, I no longer feel guilty for having brought so many people to “the path” and starting so many centers. At some point, we are all adults responsible for our choices. There are those who go and those who stay. Those who choose to stay obviously have issues to solve, just like I had too. I have even forgiven my basic course teacher. She was truly a nice lady – lost but good-hearted. Finally, I have even dropped Ravishankar from my existence. He is a sad sick man who truly believes he is God-almighty and his own delusions of greatness.
Let there be only love, healing and discernment for us all who woke up. Tough love, or rather, sick love taught me that spirituality happens whether you seek for it or not, practice it or not. God has made us perfect just as he has made life perfect.
As many readers predicted, a book project is baking in the oven. Maybe next time we meet will be in the midst of the beautiful scent of paperback pages, on your night table as you turn around just when you are about to fall asleep. Hopefully, sharing my experiences "in the path" has further added insights in your life. May you not make the same mistakes I did. At least, be creative and make new ones. But above all, cherish, love and value yourself. Do now what I did not do for so many years, turning, thus, into an easy prey of spiritual abuse and a brain-washed guruholic.
I have been looking for sponsors to help with the book project. If you wish to collaborate or better, finding possible sponsors or editors, it will greatly be appreciated.
So long for now. I wish you the best. Wish me the best.
Cheers to spiritual freedom and truth!
Thursday, June 3, 2010
A good leader motivates, doesn't mislead, doesn't exploit.
God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.
Good leaders abhor wrongdoings of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.
Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.
An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you're smart to stay clear of someone like that.
Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they're like spring rain and sunshine.
Get wisdom - it's worth money; choose insight over income every time.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The fact I write about it does not mean anything other than I am writing about it, just as a journalist writes about a story. There are days I have more time to moderate the comments, and there are days I don't. There are days I don't care, there are days I feel motivated to. It is only clicking a button after all! Writing for this blog has helped me see through a lot of things in me and in the AoL phenomena, as I understand it has also helped many current and former devotees process their confusion and pain. It was not just me. I know there are a lot out there going through what I went through for so long.
The only thing that makes me sad though is to see the hatred, feverishness, fanaticism, thought process, lust, greed, immaturity that the AoL commentators project with their comments. Yet, with all due respect, of course, they are convinced they make smart remarks and are absolutely correct in their conclusions. Where did the spirituality go? How can they teach and spread spirituality when they handle those who don't agree with them this way? At least I am not teaching anymore and probably, like many, I should have never taught at all. It is not just about reciting a few cute phrases or counting 4-4-6-2 or pressing a play button to a So Ham tape. Not even Ravishankar lives the knowledge, and if the teachings led people to true spirituality, then many things that happen, would not happen, and an AoL police would not be here together with other devotees posting with aggression. There is a lot more responsibility involved than one fathoms in teaching those courses. I would think true spirituality should lead one to greater humbleness and all-encompassion.
However, their minds and practice are all about good vs. bad, you vs. me, us vs. they, policing those who do not agree or control, whether they are out or in the AoL. Sadly, it happens also to teachers and volunteers inside the organization! But, as I grew out of it, I found out life is a lot more than that!
Believing that those who do not agree or do not see RS as the God almighty does not mean anything but simply that. What happened with “not seeing intentions behind people’s mistakes” then? Why can’t they see it as just as mistake? There is a lot of ignorance in the world and as far as it concerns me, it is all relative. Maybe I am ignorant for not seeing Ravi as god, maybe they are ignorant for seeing Ravi as god. At the end of the day, does it really matter? The truth is it only matters to them.
Some of the people whose comments are the most nasty are people I remember way back when they just joined the movement and/or even before they became teachers. Most of them were very nice and sweet people. Somehow, inevitably, as people become teachers and get more and more involved, something shifts and the niceness disappears. I wonder what will happen to these people if AoL falls one day, or if RS decides to run away with USD 7 million like Nithyananda did.
There is no good vs. bad, no us vs. they. As far as it concerns me, they can blame me of anything they want, insult as much as they need to. Of course, with an incident that hits so close, someone needs to be blamed because otherwise it could only mean there are problems inside the organization and RS. How can anyone, but a disgruntled idiot, not like RS? I was shocked myself when I found out there are many out there! Reading the Guruphiliac and other articles that questioned the AoL or denounced certain discrepancies was perhaps one of the most shocking yet liberating experiences after I left the organization. I had been convinced for so many years AoL was the best and if anyone doubted it, it was due to ignorance, jealousy, bad karma, low prana. One of the most embarrassing moments in my recent life was when someone asked the name of the organization I belonged to for so many years and a day later, having not shared anything about it or the reason why I left, said, “How long did it take you to realize it is a scam?” I was stunned. How did it take me so many years to realize but one second for this guy? To make matters worse, as the first AoL hate comments started flowing into the blog yesterday, I sent a few to him to see and he said, “You are not taking them seriously, are you? These people act like teenagers and write brainlessly!” Again. How did it take me so long to realize this but one second for this guy?
Thus, I always come back to the question: what inside me did not allow me to see thru the truth and instead permitted so much abuse in my life? What was wrong in me? I don't hate them. I know they have no other choice but to attack me and anyone else in my similar stand. People like me challenge the comfort zone in their mind and heart. If anything, I feel bad for them. Nothing about the AoL comes with peace, soothingness, belongingness, harmony. Do I remember those days!
Of course, reading these hate mails is not fun (and I know it upsets many) but it certainly confirms my decision to leave this toxic community. I pat myself in the back realizing I no longer fear them and my mind is clearer everyday. Sadly, I probably had become zombie like them at some point or the other. It is impossible not to when that is your environment, association, language and education, and when one is trained to be and think that way. It is impossible to reason with them. It is impossible to reason with arrogance, self-righteousness and greed. They have their fanaticism to defend, but beyond that, they have feelings and a life to defend and justify. Waking up to the truth, questioning the validity of it all is a lot more painful. I went through it. I know.
They take this blog as a personal attack, they see intentions, they fire hatred, as if I was the only one who thinks and feels this way and in an act they are convinced is "ahimsa". How contradictory of all their teachings and actions? Maybe I was the first one to have the courage to express myself in a written form, publicly. But there are many out there too. Perhaps Vinay was luckier for getting only one bullet in his thigh. These bullets of hatred and insanity in the form of comments and blog persecution are a lot worse. But, unfortunately, nothing that is not familiar to me of the AoL days. Fortunately, I was well groomed for it during my extensive stay with them.
Believe it or not, I don’t care if AoL falls or not, if RS comes out of the closet or not (not in the sexual connotation). I repeat, this blog is just my journal to help me heal and deprogram. If I was interested in exposing or defaming, I would be writing different stories, with full names and details. This blog has served its purposed in marvelous ways and thru the writing, I have gained "consciousness" after a long deadly comma.
Art of Living-free people: please do not waste anymore time with this incident. It really does not matter who was the target nor the contradictions of the stories. We left. We are free. We own our minds and lives again. Is there anything more important than that? Just sit back, relax, let them feel important and enjoy the fun of the drama. Someone will tell you the end of the story. Whether the truth of the incident is unveiled or not, it also does not matter. Not everything that is good prevails and not everything that is bad falls. The only thing that matters is we are free! And it certainly feels SO GOOD to be Art of Living-free!
I do wish everyone the best. I do wish my former friends find peace beyond the indoctrination and fanaticism. I do wish Ravi the best too. He is a guy who started with good intentions (I hope) and I do hope that at some point, he remembers what they were.
The only truth is there is a lot more to the world than the Art of Living. The Art of Living does not even account for 1% of the world population and, just as it came, so shall it go. It is the nature of life. Wasn’t that one of the pillars of knowledge?
It is all changing.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I know that an incident like this should provoke some sympathy or pity in me towards him. I know. But, even if I try hard, I find nothing but laughter. I know it is politically incorrect but I find it humorous.
Here it is. The guy who spoke down on Gandhiji, insinuating that the man known for his message of non-violence, “ahimsa”, died in a violent way because he had violence within. Here is the man who waved off female devotees raped or beaten up by his devotees by telling them it was their fault or that they deserved it since “Violence attracts violence. Your karma.” Here it is. The man who always boasted nothing would ever happen to him because he was pure love, while speaking ill of other gurus, attacked by gunfire.
It truly amazes me how skillful he is at turning things around and manipulating people. “Violence attracts violence”, he always insisted, but when he is the one attracting violence he says, “For one who is established in non-violence, all kinds of hostility ceases.” Gee! How convenient! Can you please make up your mind? Is that how he will distract everyone from the incident that actually counts? That HE attracted violence to himself, even for just that moment, even if the attack did not fulfill its purpose?! HE ATTRACTED VIOLENCE.
At the end of the day, he turns the knowledge up and down in whichever way satisfies his needs. But, like a friend cleverly said, “Maybe he should listen to more knowledge.”
To make it worse, I guess his act had its effect on some people since someone left a comment in this blog blaming “disgruntled people” for the attack.
You got to be kidding me! Honey, wake up! Is RS never responsible for anything? When he attacks, he is helping us grow and eliminate our bad karmas. But when he is attacked, it is our fault. The truth is more disgruntled people should come out to do something about all the illegal activities that occur thru and in his organization, ranging from exploitation, to swindling, to cheating, to physical abuse, to sexual harassment and fondling, etc. He himself, not a little blog, is responsible for today’s attack. And, I bet it is not the first time nor the first person who has wanted to “get rid of him.” Believe it or not, he has broken too many families and ruined the lives of just too many.
For a long time after the Silver Jubilee, a heavily criticized event for its poor organization, mess, money scam and high level of unjustifiable narcissism, Bhanu and RS spent month trying to create pity on people by saying over and over again how he received so many threats, but despite it all, he kept the show going for his devotees and world peace. It was their lame way of distracting people from the obvious: the event was another failure and scam. He was “so busy” saving us from bombs and envious people. Back then, I remember hearing it with admiration. His life was at stake yet he kept the show going for the love of his devotees and the world! I still remember even the tone in which they'd speak about it just so that we'd feel bad. "Such an amazing guy! The world cannot stand so much light."
However, today’s news made me wake up and realize for the first time: for Heaven’s sake, he put thousands of life at risk just so that he could a few days of self-gratification and beat a Guiness record? Highly irresponsible. He is too narcissistic to worry about anyone else but himself.
I must be cured because today he did not manage to provoke any sympathy, pity or admiration for him, and definitely no guilt, but just disgust and humor. I am laughing at the lack of coherence and the obvious manipulation and sociopathology. I am laughing because today I see him very very very small. So pathetically small. I would not even be surprised if he planned it all just to get more news and distract people from the bad publicity he has been getting. Fame through pity sometimes work but I hope it won't.
At least in this blog, sympathy, guilt and pity won’t do it. Ravi & CO. still need to show more accountability, transparency and integrity. I still hope more people open their eyes to realize the farce. In his own words, “Karma is catching up, baby. Check on the violence inside you. Maybe you should do more seva? Have you been doing your sadhana everyday?”
Important note: Having expressed all of the above, it is important to clarify I do not wish RS anything bad, and definitely, I am glad nothing bad happened to him. I do not mean to ridicule the situation but I find humor in the incoherence and obvious manipulation of knowledge given the event, while at the same time, it is a self-reflection of how brain-washed I used to be, having fallen into the trap of those mind games too. I am aware the arguments in this article may offend some people. Apologies if it does.
Perfect message in a classic rhyme:
Liar, liar, pants on fire,
Hanging by a thread on a telephone wire!
Friday, May 28, 2010
Teachers come and go. Just as devotees come and go. In fact, contrary to the AoL declarations, more go than come, and it is few who stay. Yet, despite all that fuzz AoL makes around the “sacred tape”, when a teacher leaves, they do not demand him/her to return the tape and manuals. It is often the teacher him/herself who does it out of a sense of duty or just to get rid of “that”; or otherwise, if in an area there is a despotic teacher, that one will most likely savor the opportunity to exercise the power and authority to request for them. All in all, the saddest funniest thing is the one returning the tape is happy, the one demanding for it is mad. I then wonder, actually how truly sacred is that tape and those manuals after all? How real is the copyright symbol we see in almost all their materials!?
There is a big dramatization around how difficult and sacred it is to have that tape, as if it was some Holy Grail. One needs to go thru torturous TTC, where bashing and smashing are part of the payment, thousands of dollars in course fees, followed by endless expenses that come before and thereafter organizing courses to prove one is deserving, attending courses to keep purifying, following RS for a drop of grace or two, buying books and tapes, etc. As a former teacher friend of mine said, “Don’t return the tape. You paid for it.” I had never thought about it until I heard it. Cheers to that wise observation and advise!
Unlike all other former teachers I know, RS asked for my tape when I turned down his offer to buy my silence. It was the first time I fully reckoned “the guru has a big ego" - a combination of hurt huge ego and worry is what I finally concluded. As funny as it seems, he worries I will create my own stuff, teach courses with the material he plagiarized and put in the form of “Art of Living courses”. Bottom line, that I become a competition. In another lifetime, I could have prided his fear is an indication of my competence. However, in this lifetime, I find it pathetic for it is revealing of the true nature of the organization and how little did he really know me. Though for a long time his bashing haunted me in paralyzing effects that impeded me from doing anything, today I realize I am more capable than I have ever been accredit for, and that because of it, RS and CO. trashed me but not before extracting all the juice out of me.
Though this blog was created out of a personal need, and a humble and shameful space, perhaps I am not wrong to state this is one proof of it. When I hear the efforts he is doing with his teams to undermine this blog, a little voice in my head says, “You want to copy even a blog you copy-cat? You are seriously afraid of a little blog? Of a little someone you trashed? You should have been nicer to me and I would have blogged in your favor! ;) ”
On another hand, another ex full-timer got this note from the "Holy Offices of His Excellency": “Further, we would like to state that you cannot use our name or any of our techniques / content for any purpose whatsoever.”
If anything, one cannot argue they are hilarious - hilariously arrogant and stupid. They try too hard to be the best and the professionals they are not. Maybe they should try harder. What does he mean? That this person, or in any case, all of us who left, cannot breathe, meditate, be vegetarian, do yoga, accept people as they are, live the present moment, not see intentions behind people’s mistakes anymore? It reminds me of the time he ridiculed the journalist who asked him if AoL was for everyone and he replied, “What do you mean? Breathing is not for everyone?” Ravi, dear, you really contradict yourself too much yet you still think the world is stupid?!
In a self-analysis and criticism, I notice that many teachers (especially full-timers) have in common 1. a distorted combination of arrogance and low self-esteem. The more arrogant the teacher is, the lower their self-esteem; 2. an unreal need to get the approval of a paternal figure/authority/people in general - in this case, RS and, often, students; 3. an incapacity to cope with their own life, a need to run away/hide/shelter from something; 4. some almost cute degree of gullibility; 5. the more involved, extreme behaviors that include being abusive, lacking sympathy, non-stop crying, sudden shouting (called, as per AoL teachers, "pita outbreak"), vulnerability, constant ups and downs, and unmeasurable anger, etc.; 6. some intense desire/need to serve, though for some, an intense desire to be served.
As a full-timer/teacher leaves, the sense of vacuum is too vast many don’t know how to cope with it. The sense of guilt and shame are overwhelming. The feeling of incapacity – the head does not work, the memory is not there, the ability to use the intellectual faculties neither, the lack of sense of reality with regards to the world, the loss of friendships/family/ networking, the lack of curriculum to find a job, the lack of financial means and many times, legal paperwork, problems with the spine. You go from being surrounded by people, emails, importance to absolutely NOTHING. Not even one email from your best pal asking how you are. Even worse, the one you considered even more important than your own life and family is nowhere to be found, but you still remember he told you he’d love and take care of you for ever. The inner struggle and pain are, thus, excruciating and confusing.
Furthermore, many teachers (especially full-timers) leave with a sense of paranoia. Often when I talk with one they underline the same phrase many times: “Please do not tell anyone what I told you. Promise you won’t tell.” One is constantly fearful people will be discussing about you or that someone is going to betray you by divulging something about you. In fact, being more exposed to the lions and to the war zone, a full-timer is more vulnerable, has been more abused and been under more abusers, thus, more exposed to betrayals than anyone else. A friend is never a friend but a potential enemy who will sell you at any given time but until then and despite it all, you belong to each other and you got to reciprocate "to be in the knowledge". At the end of the day, it is inevitable one develops some degree of neurosis and paranoia.
Unfortunately, I still don’t know of any teacher who has left immaculate from the organization. Using AoL words, no one has left “stronger, more capable to cope with the world and difficulties, more centered, at peace and mature”. To begin with, the psychological trauma one has to overcome and all that comes with it is not a deal of just a few months, a year or two. Many, still scarred by the AoL brain-wash are ashamed of seeking therapy. The physical damages require all sorts of medical supervision that not even doctors understand. Unfortunately, it is not until one gets strong that one can take care of life, step by step. In the meantime, trying to find a job, earn money, learn to be in the world again, make new friends (or, in some cases, make friends!), patch holes with the family (which often one ignored for so long). It is not easy at all, certainly, not quick either. Looking back, I see a gap in my life and, gee! I got to catch up!
I am lucky I kept in touch with non-AoL friends who, despite always knowing I was in a cult, offered me unconditional support, compassion, empathy and love. Without them, recovery would have been even more difficult. The loneliness, confusion, disappointment, pain I felt for so long, and which sometimes still hit me are so deep, the only thing that serves as consolation is reminding myself that being in that shithole, loosing my freedom and my own identity is worse. Somehow, one is a phantom citizen who reappeared on Earth after a long absence, as if one resuscitated from a comma.
I feel those who are still living in La-La land need to hear the other side of a story too. The one not many dare to share but exists. If the education we got in AoL was that good, I guarantee, most senior old-time teachers would not be there anymore! Setting someone free is a sign of growth and love. Believe me, most senior teachers are not there because of their conviction, love and faith in the path but rather, because they fear not making it in the world! They are broken individuals themselves but are the role models in AoL. At the end of the day, instead of uplifting human values, one looses the value of oneself and those that should be practiced.
My basic course teacher was eager I became a full-timer but when I was big time screwed by the AoL and when the damages of being a full-timer became evident, especially financially, she was not there for me either. It is like the story RS tells in the Ashtavakra: the man stole for his wife and his children to have a good life, but when he asked them if they’d share the karma of the actions with him, they said, “No way.”
When I was a full-timer people praised me for my courage and selflessness. Everyone reminded me I’d get such good merits. They admired me. They wanted to be my friend. I wonder, does not being a full-timer for RS now mean I don’t have courage, selflessness, good merits, virtues? What does it say about those who help you only when you belong to their same beliefs? Is that not cultic behavior after all? Fanaticism? You’d be surprised to know how many people are afraid of helping a former full-timer even though they know the abuse the person went through and the struggle therafter. It still upsets me when I hear of someone donating to the AoL phantom seva projects, despite knowing about the frauds, but won’t give someone whose life was spoiled by it even masala for one cup of chai.
There is nothing glorious about being a full-timer or a part-time teacher. It is gloriously stupid to give ones life to a fraud. Seva can be done in myriad ways and anywhere. Growth can happen without locking oneself to an organized path. Spirituality can occur at all times, without the need to kiss anyone’s feet or abide to any practices. Giving up one's life, avoiding it, pausing it, giving it away is not a solution or a sign of superiority. Certainly, it should not be an option.
Learn from those who today have the courage to share their mistakes, pain and struggle. As one of my favorite movies wisely said, “Run Forrest! Run!!!!”
"It's our choices Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (Harry Potter)
Monday, May 24, 2010
Since I left the AoL, many teachers have too. And as they do, I hear from them one by one. Though the details of the stories may vary, in essence they are very much the same. However, inevitably, the inner conflict each one has before leaving and the damages one walks out with are very similar, varying perhaps just in depth and length, or on whether one was a full-time or part-time teacher.
Though comparing who suffered most is not fair in any case of abuse, I do notice that full-timers leave with a heavier load to deal with.
As I lately have been lending an ear to a few former colleagues/ full-time teachers, I can’t help but ponder on the circumstances that lead us to the array of sensations, reactions, habits, fears post “cult-exit”. The thought, “it is just like a dream …. a bad dream … like a midsummer night’s dream” kept ringing in my head like a rhyme to a poem, and thus, the title “A full-timer night’s dream”. As I read Shakespeare’s masterpiece, I laughed at the realization it has a lot in common with that which we lived in the AoL. Of course, Shakespeare’s was a comedy, a grand master piece. Ravishankar’s is a version of cheap tragic comedy, a master fraud. But it definitely shares the leit-motifs of deception, fantasy made reality, authority becoming archaic, the dark side of love, magical thinking.
Becoming a “full-time teacher” is, without any doubt, the dream of most AoLers, of all ages. My own basic course teacher’s dream was I became a full-time teacher. Full-timers somehow fall into the trick of feeling somehow “the chosen ones”, as if the status of full-time exploited slave was a sign of higher evolution. I have witnessed people beg Ravishankar to let them be a full-timer. I have also witnessed people manipulate Ravishankar into being a full-timer. I have even seen people to which RS clearly said, “No” turn around and inform the world they were blessed to be a full-timer. I have also known of many cases of teachers who self-nominate themselves full-timers because they have no other responsibilities and don’t need to worry about money (usually rich ladies). In some cases, I need to give Ravi some credit. I have heard him instruct some to finish school or to get married. But, understanding beyond the apparent concern, he was very smart at who he made full-timer or not.
If one was young with a lot of money and/or an important family background/name, he’d usually tell them to finish school, marry, be in politics or be in Daddy’s business to get more money for the “seva projects”. If one was older with a lot of money, he’d also have them pretend to be a full-timer while he grabbed their money and literally, their free labor. Expenses usually would not be reimbursed to these people, neither a stipend or a 10% income. They were wealthy! That is their underline duty given their good karma!
On a large scale, usually either extremely efficient, charismatic young people with obedient and unquestioning minds and good hearts, or the very easy manipulated, highly ambitious people with no mind at all, or the ones hiding from the world/life, or otherwise those who could not do anything in the world, were made full-timers. A sad truth which ends usually in, one is good for him until he sucks one dry or until one starts to think of his/her own and/or starts to see through the unethical practices of the organization and the Ravishankar sociopathic behaviours. At that moment, his unconditional love suddenly disappears, though, of course, he makes you understand back-stabbing you, kicking you in the ass, lying about you, etc. are all part of his love for you, his sacrifice for your growth.
I never quite liked the “Catholic” expression of growth through suffering, but unfortunately, out of habit and after a while, as a full-timer, one recognized that as the norm. Some full-timers even felt proud of having to suffer through it with no food, difficulties getting medical treatment, no housing, no basic needs. The overall common worry all full-timers went through at some point or the other was so overwhelming, many started “taking care” of their situation by keeping money "on the side". Unfortunately, some take advantage of their status as a full-timer to get freebies through “illegal enrichment”. As time goes by, I recognize all the neurotic attitudes and thinking processes I acquired from my years of involvement as a full-timer. Even today, I worry about what will happen to me tomorrow. The constant fear that I won’t be taken care of, or that I won’t have to eat, or that I won’t know where I will sleep, or that plans change without any reason nor back-up plan, is a neurosis I constantly struggle with. I do the daily exercise of reminding myself the world works with more accountability.
Whereas I don’t care if AoL falls or not, I do worry about the youngsters who enroll everyday and even more, those who die to be a full-timer and all those he is actually making full-timers. When one is young, one is too idealistic and naive to understand "god" may back-stab you too.
If I could do it all over again, I wished some reasonable adult would have knocked me out of the stupidity of becoming a full-timer. Today I struggle, not only because I paused my professional career, but also the possibility of getting a higher degree, which could have helped me get a better job, but mainly I paused my personal life. At my age, all my friends are owners of a beautiful homes, car, vacations, family. When I look at my own life, I see a gap. Trying to catch up where I left 15 or more years ago is not something one does in just one split second. Not to mention, the struggle to get by financially.
When I became a full-timer some people gave me stuff to help me out. When I left, no one helped me back to life. Most did not even speak to me again. And believe me, that is what and when I most needed help! Somehow, I went into oblivion and instead of getting that Divine help and "I belong to you" I was made to believe I signed up for for ever, instead, I get written threats and a damaged psychological condition, dyslexia, memory problems and endless bills spent in recovering my health.
Reinserting in society is not an easy process neither is reinventing oneself.
I was perhaps one of the first generation of full-timers, thus I did not have any other reference. Today I see how damaged all these senior full-timers are, and I remember our conversations in which each one cried, cursed, blamed, yelled. Those include TTC teachers, presidents, advanced course teachers, meditation teachers, swamis. One thing we learned well: to keep up the good face, the smile and fake it until we made it, but behind the doors, even some well-known TTC/Blessings course teacher have yelled out, "This is a sect! How do I get out of a sect? I am stuck! What can I do now in life?" Looking back, “being the chosen one” is actually the worst curse. Most senior teachers are still where they are because they don't have the guts to go back to life and be a nobody or face the challenge and reality that they will most likely not get a job or be respected in the world.
Thus, to the young people out there: “Study, get a degree, don’t give up anything, do seva on your side, be realistic, think with your two feet on the ground, ask yourself what are you really trying to evade that you want to run away from life? The organization will not take care of you and you won’t be a special case. Be realistic. Cherish your life, your skills, yourself, open your eyes.”
In Shakespeare’s words: “An overflow of good converts to bad.”
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
There was a time that on this date, May 13th, we'd congratulate each other with a "happy birthday", and of course, move around with anticipation of the big date, event, overflowing ecstasy to celebrate the birthday of the one we considered our "guru", our spiritual master, our best friend, the one who knew our soul and loved us unconditionally, even beyond death.
Plenty of times I heard RS state the entire world would celebrate his 80th birthday. The UN would one day be singing bhajans in his honour and sing him happy birthday. In fact, coincidentally, when he turns 50, the AoL turns 25 - silver and gold jubilee - he made it a point to highlight this fact, as if it was some Divine planning and we, somehow, brain-dead, gasped in surprise and fascination.
Back then, brain-washed, brain-dead, enchanted and fooled by this "package of promises and apparent perfection", we did not question the self-centeredness and absolute narcissism of the matter. Today, when I look back, I puke in disgust at the thought of it all. How did I not figure out earlier this was about a highly self-centered man who is too enamored by his own image and whose libido depends on abusing and extracting at the expense of innocent souls? The ones manipulable because of their idealistic nature and love for serving humankind, and the ones with some degree of psychological instability, vulnerability and need? It is all about him and he rejoices in it. I guess when he talks about "stop thinking about me me me", he actually means, "only think of him him him" - from "me" to "Him" (Ravishankar "HIM") lies the key of AoL joy. The more devotion people pour on him, the more power he seems to get. He even seems bigger! And even bigger in India where crowds are larger. "Vampirism" is a term that comes to mind.
Today is a day I ponder on my own mistakes as I still struggle with the ghosts of my past and the sporadic traumatic flashbacks that hit here and there. As much as I'd love to erase those many years of cult abuse in a just a magic touch, since there is no magic that can undo that, I choose to live it with responsibility, the courage to face each challenge step by step, and the loneliness this entails. Little acts like learning to trust in people again, remembering not everyone I meet will be such psychotic "asses", learning to discern again between good and bad and trust my own intuition, trusting I won't make the same mistakes again, deleting all the psychological abuses RS himself and company churned in my mind, may be insignificant to the average person, but a leap of faith of huge distances for someone like me. I guess, above all, understanding that if one failed once, if one was fooled once, one will not fail and be fooled again. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is those who manage to make the painful exit of cult abuse that are strong. Succumbing to it is the weakness he and the system need in order to succeed.
May 13th is a date I unfortunately probably will never forget because of what it represents in my life - the deception, the abuse, the lies, the manipulation, the psychosis, the sociopathy, my years of innocence, idealism, fanaticism, brain-washing, irrationality ... mere stupidity. Thus, I also have chosen to make this my day of freedom.
I recently heard someone say, "Without freedom of expression there is no evolution."
May I, you, we never forget the beauty and value of freedom of the soul, freedom of expression, freedom of the mind, freedom of living, and to, first and foremost, value and trust ourselves. If God and one are ONE then growth, evolution, spirituality is within and does not, should not ever depend on anyone else, and even less, giving our power away. Cherish and love yourself. We were once deceived not because we were stupid or had "bad karma". We were innocent and idealist souls. Let's humbly learn from our mistakes and cultivate that mind and heart that once inspired us to find a spiritual path and selflessly serve others. Learning from my mistakes and having the courage of admitting them is a wealth that I can proudly call mine. Let's pave our path with awareness, self-love, trust, and knowledge founded in our hearts, with precious care, critical thinking and responsible freedom.
Happy Free-Day to you all! And a true "Victory to the Guru that dwells inside you", that guru which is you and only you.
And as a perfect birthday present, check out the new blog: www. aolfree.wordpress.com and, though numbers don't matter, in a sarcastic note, please note that this is the only related to AoL thing that is truly what it is and not manipulated information by anyone: "Confessions of a Guruholic" has reached more than 100,000 hits in less than 6 months. "Celebrate in silence"? ;)
Sunday, May 9, 2010
During my recent Spring-cleaning effort, I was astonished at the volume of AoL materials I had amassed over the years. Boxes of unused flyers and promotional materials, file after file of course documentation and accounting paperwork, piles of course registration forms, shelves of books with rs’s face prominently displayed on the cover (with his characteristic “I am enlightened” expression), boxes of tapes and CDs of “knowledge” or satsang music, name tags, note cards, and other assorted course supplies had lined my storage unit and invaded my office and living spaces for years. As I sorted through it all, and took a good look at each piece of evidence of my long-term and deep involvement with AoL, I was reminded of the countless hours and dollars I had wasted on a facade. But instead of feeling the usual resentment toward AoL and rs for taking advantage of mine (and others’) good intentions, I was overcome with a sense of liberation as I hauled all that stuff to the dumpster. When I reflect on the events that have brought me to this point, a place I would have never imagined coming to even a year ago, I am left wondering why I didn’t wipe AoL out of my life even sooner.
It has taken quite a while for me to wean myself away from AoL, and at times I needed support from others to get through it. It took at least two years of reluctant involvement with the org and suppressing that feeling of “something’s not quite right” for me to finally take the plunge and announce that I was leaving. What really helped me in that transition phase was the support and encouragement I got from loved ones (who saw right through the cult from the very first day), and the space provided by the Guruphiliac blog to share my experiences. It took two months after that initial decision to leave AoL for me to stop doing the kriya altogether. It had been such a deeply ingrained habit--I rarely missed a day in 6 years. At first, I was afraid that I would lose my “centeredness” and “glow” after sadhana. All it took was a little research into the effects of hyperventilation on the body for me to realize that sk is harmful, and to drop it completely. And believe it or not, I am still very centered, and I have since been complemented on my “glow”, so I gather that there was never any connection. It took me another month or so to start eating meat again, and another several months to take a sip of champagne at a wedding—my first sip of alcohol after many many years. And no, I have not gotten depressed, drained of energy, eaten by doubts, or turned into a pumpkin due to “low prana”. Quite the opposite, actually, I have never felt more healthy and alive.
I realize that during the past several months, I have been in the process of re-building myself. Through the years I had been involved with AoL, I gradually allowed the aol dogma and the herd mentality to overwrite my own independent thinking. I became one of those puppet aol teachers who wore light-colored clothes and a plastic smile while parroting the dogma. But on the inside, I would be suppressing my own preferences, desires, and “negative” emotions such as fear and anger. Anytime I needed to make a big life decision, I was encouraged by “senior” teachers to seek guidance from “Guruji” in the form of a private conversation (if I was lucky), or an e-mail (I was told he reads them all), or a prayer (because apparently he answers them all). I did what “Guruji” and the teachers and the group expected of me, and in that process, I forgot who I was. To this day, I still cannot recall the old me who got lost, and I find myself left having to fill in the blanks to re-build my own personality.
Just a year ago, I would have told you that I hate onions and garlic (because they have “low prana”), that coffee is bad for you, that I don’t like to wear black, and the best thing to do in the morning is to wake up really early to do an hour of sadhana. For that reason, I would have advised you to do an AoL course whether you were suffering from marital difficulties or constipation, and I might have even paid your way if I thought you really “needed” it. Now, I have discovered that I love the taste of onion and garlic, I look great in black (and actually prefer it), and I still like to wake early--not to do any sort of practice, but rather to sip on a nice cup of coffee and get my day started right away so I can be productive. And certainly, I would advise anyone against doing an AoL course lest you get sucked into a cult that can cause plenty of physical and mental damage.
It has been so very liberating to be free of aol, and I have not since felt compelled to pursue any form of replacement spiritual practice (even though I had been meditating in some form or other since I was a teenager). Now, I live by the “golden rule” that we all learned in the first grade (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), and so far, it has guided me quite well.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Anonymous @ 12:29 am and yourdad:
Do you guys really think this is going to fly? I mean, do you seriously believe that the readers of this blog are so naïve that an attempt as pathetic as this is enough to undermine it? Guys, this is not AoL anymore. A simple brush off of an issue by the guru or a senior operative is not enough. Let me address your questions, anonymous, as well as the oh-so-typical yet utterly flat commentaries by yourdad.
Anonymous @ 12:29: “1) Are all of you saying that you gained nothing of value from your time in AOL and contact with SSRS?”
Of course I did! Even time completely wasted can be the basis of a potentially invaluable lesson. The most wonderful lesson I scraped out from my time with AoL is that I should never again yield my free will to anyone and that I should not let ultimately narcissistic persons manipulate me by appealing to my most intimate idealistic concerns. Besides that, my involvement with AoL led me to explore various traditions in spirituality (against the explicit direction from TTC to not do so, mind you!) and helped me find true teachers such as Ramana Maharshi. So, yes, ultimately it led to very rewarding things of lasting value. That’s why they say that when a devotee is sincere, even a fake guru will do.
yourdad: “They obviously gained many things, or else why would they spend so much time with AOL?”
A graduate of the Sri Sri school of oversimplification, I see. You are right, actually, I pointed above. I did gain invaluable lessons from my association with the cult. But you are not correct that I spent so much time (6 years in my case) because I was gaining so much. The time was spent because I let my idealism overcome my discrimination and was willing to justify all the fishy things I was encountering. Following your ultimate idealistic concerns is gratifying in its own right and that drives you through walls of doubt for a period of time, but it is ultimately unsustainable when the reality of what AoL represents is consistently inconsistent with them. Truth ultimately prevails and we leave.
Anonymous @ 12:29: “3) Did any of you actually have good experiences with AOL techniques (SK, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, etc.)?”
My answer to your first question partially answers this. Beyond that, let me state that pleasant experiences and truth are two different things. The techniques mentioned are not themselves conducive to arriving at truth. Refer to Ramana Maharshi’s expositions of the nature of reality and you will see how far off the mark is most of what AoL people focus on.
yourdad: “Yes they had. Thats why they went on to become teachers. Now they have some issues with AOL. They cant explain their behavior, where, they liked it first and then are not liking it.So they come up with theories like AOL is cult and that they were innocent victims who were trapped. Such pathetic arguments from weak minds.”
I am perfectly able to explain and I already did. AoL appealed to my idealistic streak, my ultimate concerns. AoL managed to convince me initially that it was the right arena for me to act upon these concerns. It purposely targets those aspects of a human psyche. For many people these types of concerns are very important yet they don’t easily find ways to express them in modern society. AoL seems like the answer to this conundrum. Ultimately, it fails as such. That’s why people leave disappointed. In all honesty, I was never impressed by SK, it did nothing for me during my first basic course. The reason I went back was that most pure and intimate desires seemed to have found fertile soil for growth.
Why do all of you seemingly obsess over SSRS's alleged siddhis? I've never heard a single teacher talk about them as some sort of selling point for AOL nor have I ever heard SSRS talk about them.
I don't see who here is obsessed with siddhis. On the other hand, the so called guru stories are very prevalent in AoL. In fact, they are an essential part of the curriculum in courses at later stages of involvement such as DSN, TTC, Blessings course and Guru Puja course. To say that they are not emphasized in intro level courses or marketing does not deny the big part they play in indoctrination later on.
It is a classic bait and switch situation. AoL markets itself to potential recruits with programs for relaxation, stress management, improved efficiency, etc. These are things that appeal to people in our times. RS is kept largely out of the picture, at least in the West. In many cases, there is no RS photo shown in courses and his name is mentioned only in passing in intro courses. Once a certain level of involvement is achieved, new recruits are exposed more and more to the mythology of RS’s person. Anyone who has gone through those stages can attest to this.
There are special guru story sessions in TTC courses. Bhanu is never shy to relate her own guru stories in Guru Puja courses. As I am writing this, I recall the story of how the angel of NYC (a very benevolent entity, it was said) showed up in RS’s hotel room and ask him how he could assist him on his mission in the city.
The switch from the focus being on stress management and relaxation to guru worship happens not so subtly, but somehow group dynamics make it possible for people to overlook it. While at times RS would pay lip service to the idea that siddhis are insignificant to the sincere spiritual seeker, they are very much emphasized in AoL in the process of drawing people into guru worship. In contrast, Ramana Maharshi always cuts any inquiry about such extraneous matters at the root and invariably points the attention to the source of the perception.
Anonymous @ 12:29: “4) If you don't like AOL and SSRS why are you obsessively talking about it? What are you trying to resolve? I think you're trying to resolve something but you're not sure what it is. Simply trashing something or someone rarely works.”
I’m sorry but this is a disingenuous question. It seems to come from a desperate desire to be left alone and not criticized. KLIM has explained many times what he/she is trying to resolve and the purpose this blog serves towards that. Besides, it is only in AoL’s book of formulae that not bringing something up for discussion when you don’t like it is the correct thing to do. Coincidentally, following that rule in this case would seem to be in AoL’s best interest. It is not a convincing argument at all. Simply trashing is not what happens here, although some people may have a tendency to express their emotions in a more abrupt manner (just as AoL people do, by the way). Very necessary alternative to the party line points of view are expressed here. Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause AoL.
yourdad: “Because they have nothing else to do. Before joining AOL they had nothing to do, after having left AOL they have nothing to do. So how to spend time? Hence talking trash online, trying to damage other people's name and achievements.”
Now what kind of response do you give a trite statement like that? What would Sri Sri do? Probably come up with something even more childish.
Friday, April 30, 2010
the latest post on our ”ghostblog”, www.artoflivingfreefree.blogspot.com, was suddently edited recently, omitting the following RS quotes. In the interest of objectivity and fairness, we have decided to re-publish them. Really I find that they speak for themselves, and I fully understand why they were suddently deleted. This is the original Free Free post:
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I got a chance to talk to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar today. I mentioned to him that i had started this blog, basically to counter the stuff that some of those bilious minds seem to come up with about him. I told him how it could affect many people's opinions about Art of Living and him adversely, and what he said left me quite speechless.
He said, Oh let them write whatever they wish. As much bad things they want to write they are welcome to write. it's good.
Seeing the quizzical expression on my face, he smiled and continued. If there are any people who believe this and are going away, then they are weak minded people. People who want to deny the overwhelming evidence that is staring at them in their face, or who doubt their own experience and listen to some bunch of people criticizing us are being filtered away from us. and that is good!
We will be able to find out who is intelligent and who is strong. We should thank them. They are doing us a big favor.
What a different way of looking at things.
Later, I asked some others why Art of Living had not put up any official counters to this disgusting (at least to me, most of them seemed not to be bothered about it), they said in different ways, we are too busy.
Very few were concerned about it, but when i told them what Guruji had said to me earlier, they all brightened up and encouraged me to write more on this blog. Some of them even said they wanted to contribute.
One of them told me about an interview that Sri Sri had given sometime ago. He had been asked, Guruji can you predict the future? With a smile He had replied, wise men don't predict the future, they make it!
This volunteer told me i have much to do, to make the future, can't be bothered by Guruholic and co.
I asked another, what about Satyameva Jayate? That truth should prevail.
She smiled and said, in time, truth will always prevail.
OK, J, since you are an ardent reader of this blog, please answer the following questions (i will submit this post on the free free blog also, as a comment, just to make sure you read it). If you are left speechless, as seems to happen to you quite often, you may bring the questions to your Master, for him to answer.
”If there are any people who believe this and are going away, then they are weak minded people. People who want to deny the overwhelming evidence that is staring at them in their face, or who doubt their own experience and listen to some bunch of people criticizing us are being filtered away from us. And that is good! We will be able to find out who is intelligent and who is strong.”
Please show me the overwhelming evidence, staring me right in my face. Really, I am not being sarcastic! Finally RS comes to the level of sound arguments and reason, instead of asking everyone to simply have faith. I will be most happy to study any evidence you may submit, arguing the claims that
RS is an enlightened being, with no self-interest
has the power to know people's past and future, as he claims (uups, then why does he need this blog ”to find out who is intelligent and strong”?)
has heightened awareness/supernatural powers, thus being able to predict/manifest the future
has any other siddhis or powers, like for instance these guys, who miraculously levitate (It's true, they actually fly through the air, watch the video! My rationalist point of view was shaken watching it... or not!)
....Oh, I could go on, but what is the point?
Okay, please explain to me then, why RS wants to ”filter away” the ”weak minded”. Isn't the whole point of a guru to help the weak get stronger? Or could it be that what RS really intends is to filter away the strong minded, those who dare question and think for themselves? Does he feel threatened, maybe? It reminds me of a quote from one of Nick's posts:
"Joel Kramer describes in his book "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power" how cult leaders often show great love, compassion and tolerance, as long as their growing needs for personal ego gratification are met. As soon as the cult's popularity and growth starts to diminish, the cult leader will often react by weeding out the weak of faith, and strenghening his grip on the remaining members." (Nick)
Maybe the weak of faith are the strong of mind, intelligence and integrity?
”People (...) who doubt their own experience and listen to some bunch of people criticizing us are being filtered away from us. And that is good!
J, listen up: we are the ones who stopped doubting our own experience. That is why we left. We write now to the people with secret doubts, the ones who are in pain and who need a way out. When we share our pain and insight, our experiences in and our liberation from the cult and its leader, these people gain hope and inspiration. If you are happy in AOL, fine. If ever you should feel that nagging doubt about the integrity of your Master, you will probably find -like we did- that nowhere in the organisation are you allowed to openly express those doubts. Yes, you may criticize the organisation -it has become quite the fashion amongst senior teachers, to openly do that, as if they feel the need to demonstrate that the organisation is open and transparent enough to allow this. But who criticizes or questions the guru? Once you start doing that, you are weeded out.
Is doubt really just lack of prana? Or are doubts your own good judgement desperately trying to be heard, through the AOL mind conditioning? If doubt is lack of prana, how come so many people in the prana-enriched AOL community are having secret doubts? RS, if you are really only interested in the strong of faith, why do you threaten your remaining teachers, telling them "they will be eaten up by their own minds" if they leave AOL? Don't you know that fear makes you weaker, not stronger? Or is it all really about (your) power and (your) control, rather than about empowering and freeing people?
No wonder Sri Sri censors censors Free Free!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Apparently what came out of the meeting between the AoL US board and Sri Sri to discuss how the blog “Confessions of a Guruholic” has “become a virus” is the creation of another blog led by two of their marketing people (Harish Ramachandran, CEO of Sumeru India, and Bharathy): www.artoflivingfreefree.blogspot.com. In the same way I no longer read “esatsang” or visit any AoL websites, I also have not checked out this one. I have no doubt, however, they will do a good job - in style, content, schemes. After all, the AoL is what it is due to witty marketing!
I am, however, still processing my thoughts and feelings about it. It is the ultimate fall of someone who once was my “idol”. If I still had any hopes or ideas that perhaps RS was a good person corrupted by power, I sadly have no longer any doubts we are facing a man greatly blinded by power, led by acute narcissism. I don’t know whether to worry, laugh, pity or fear them. This is the story of a man who claims to be a spiritual enlightened master, but also of one who is afraid of losing power to a blog. If there is truth in anything he does and who he is, including his condition of “spiritual master” and “enlightened being”, then, he/they would not even bother campaigning against it by defending themselves, convincing anyone of anything or “exposing” anything. Truth speaks alone. A blog that desperately goes out to negate another only insinuates weakness and deceit. I am afraid Ravishankar is neither well-assessed nor thinking with the “big mind”. The ultimate, absolute fall of my former “idol”.
A "blog blog" will only weaken their status and bring more popularity to this one. I and Co. are not interested in numbers, hits, popularity. I keep insisting this blog was not created with the intention of defaming anyone or anything. This blog was created with the sole purpose of allowing healing, sharing, recovery (mainly, that of my own). If I were interested in defaming, other kind of stories would have been published, with full names, details, locations, etc. Whereas we used to justify the “nasty” by exhonerating the guru of any wrong-doing, this finally teaches me it is all only an expression of the guru. As the popular saying states (and he also does), “we become like the one we love.”
However, I only have one question that rhymes to “where have all the flowers gone?” - “Where did all the knowledge go?” Wasn’t it that we should not be “football of other people’s opinions”, “not see intentions behind people’s mistakes”, “not make the mistake of going against other’s mistakes”, “we are all responsible for everything”, “I belong to you”, “accept people as they are”, “love our enemy”, “love is not an emotion it is our very own existence”? Where did all the knowledge go???
I understand the blog has 2 “free” in its title, and something about “exposing the guruholics”. Thus, my second question: can fanaticism lead to so much stupidity they actually cannot even think? The title “Confessions of a Guruholic” is a criticism of myself, of my years of brain-washed, brain-dead guru addict. I was a “guruholic” and no longer am, thus, the “confessions” (though they say, once an addict, always an addict. I, for one, do not want to see a guru in any size, shape and color for quite many life times). Whatever attack or exposing they do to the “guruholics” will only be of themselves since they are the only “guruholics” here! Noone following this blog, except AoLers, are “guruholics”! Sadly, their hatred and fanaticism does not allow them to realize this. Is it all only about conquering the world or smashing those who do not agree with them? Is it really all only about money, as I am told by many?
Further, in a logical equation, “artoflivingfree” means, free of AoL. By double negating it, their subliminal message is one cannot be free of the AoL. Whatever you do to free yourself of it, they will eliminate because there is nothing such as being free of “it”. Freeing the free means there is no free. Question: Wasn’t it that spiritual evolution gives and leads one to freedom? What happened with “a master is happiest when the disciple transcends him”?
With just a little bit of reason and critical thinking, any half intelligent person will see the only message AoL is sending with this attempt is the confirmation they are a cult of a bunch of fanatics who rule with despotism.
Many people have expressed they find this campaign ludicrous. I find it sad and disturbingly embarrassing. This is what the man whose feet I once touched and the organization I once represented narrows down to. Not even an ounce of dignity, integrity or elegance. Further, they keep accusing a friend for being Klim and leading this blog. In the last month she’s received 2 written threats from Ravishankar. Excuse me, wasn’t it Ravishankar knows it all?
And so, in the spirit of maintaining the true essence of this blog, we will add their link to ours under "Helpful Links", for the love and respect of freedom of speech and of the being and because “opposite values are complimentary”. We were not allowed to express nor think on our own while with them, and though they try to censor us even when we are no longer with them, it is our intrinsic birthright (just like “having a body free of diseases and a mind free of stress”). It is sad to see how many people leave the organization totally destroyed, disheartened, shaken, confused, ill. Few people understand the pain of spiritual rape and deception, of cult abuse and brain-washing. Though I have attempted to shut down this blog many times due to lack of time and (I must confess) interest because I grow tired of hearing about AoL, “Confessions of a Guruholic” will remain here for those who need a place to heal, share and be heard, because there is need and it is a free world. People are only righteously demanding for transparency. That is all. There is nothing wrong with that. RS/AOL should not be afraid of it nor defend themselves. If they humbly understood this, they could improve their organization.
However, it seems RS & Co. are in the mood for war but I am not. It was never about that. It was about love, love for myself, the love that I did not have while blindly working for him while worshipping him, thinking I was being led towards spiritual growth. Scream, threaten the wrong people, threaten me, lie, but, if you could see me now, you will see a big sincere smile in my face and peace in my heart. I am happy to be truly FREE. If RS were a true Master, he would only just be happy for me and give me his blessings (instead of curses).
I salute those who have deceived, betrayed, hurt and lied about me. The feverishness, hatred, fanaticism, ambition, fears I’ve found and keep discovering in the AoL have taught me great lessons, and keep further adding maturity, strength and depth in my life. As I often say, ever since I left the AoL, I have found real spirituality. In humble gratitude.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Well, the meeting ended badly. He hadn't read the mail. I had anticipated that, so I had a print-out which I handed over to him, on my way out -in complete shock. This is what I wrote down on my laptop, immediately afterwards:
I gotta write this down before I forget. I went to the meeting. He started telling us about a great spiritual time starting from 2011, and how until then we would see people losing faith and falling into darkness. I told him then that I personally had lost faith in him, but I did not feel particularly in darkness, quite the opposite. I told him I had some issues with the organisation and in particular his person. He cut me off and started talking about faith, how important it is to be faithfull. I told him I had lost faith in his Divine status, and felt no worse for that. He got angry and started shouting: ”Do you know me? Do you think you really know me?” I was pretty subdued at that time, not able to do anything but stammer something. That happens, when a person that I have considered for 10 years to be the closest thing to a living God starts shouting at me. Then he went on shouting, ”I know your past as well as your future”. Something else -I was scared out of my wits at this time, I don´t remember clearly- and then he said ”you can just leave anytime, nobody is stopping you."
So I left. Clearly he didn't know my future that well, at least he did not seem to have anticipated that: 10 minutes later I got a call from one of his people asking me to come back. I said no. Then another call asking me to come back and give my Kriya tape back to him in person (I had left it with his secretary on the way out). I refused. Another call -I didn't pick it up. Then an sms asking me to hand over the course manual too. I answered back, ”you can have it all”. Then another sms asking me to hand over the course manual -to the Guru, in person. I didn't answer that one.
I wonder what he told my (ex) colleagues after I left? That I was severely deluded? Possesed be a Demon, perhaps? Or maybe that he staged the whole event, to deliberately set me free, for my own sake? I am curious, but I no longer care about his opinion. This event established it for me: the guy is a fake. He lost it, the nice facade cracked and an altogether too human nature shined through.
I am sure some of my ex-colleagues feel very sorry for me right now, as I used to feel very sorry for the people who left the organisation. All I feel now is relief and great joy!
The next days and weeks are a blur in my mind. The emotional stress of leaving AOL after 10 years was tremendous; fear and doubts made gave me bouts of regret. Had I thrown away the most precious thing in my life? Was this the ultimate, bad karma? Immediately after leaving, I sent an e-mail with the two letters above attached, to all the people in AOL that I knew personally, including the people I had taught on courses. It caused some upheavals, as people started forwarding it to others, but curiously enough the only hate-mail I got back was from a German senior teacher, to whom I hadn't sent the mail:
I have read your two Emails concerning you views on Guruji and AOL. Maybe Art of Living just needed a "bad" guy; thank you very much for playing that role. But please make sure that u don't drown in the bitterness and hatred. You are so compassionate to save people from being cheated you're your are sending mails to everybody to make them aware so that they don't get cheated . Is it out of compassion for others or out of your own hatred in which you were reeling for some time. Actually its too late, you have been party to it for so many years yourself! Your words have no value now. Did it take so many years for you to realize this???
To know somebody is a fraud, you need to know that person in and out. You never had a chance to know Guruji from close corner. Perhaps that jealousy is what makes you act like. Ask yourself, is it not jealousy that makes you act like this? I have seen Guruji from close corners. His sincerity and simplicity is just mind-blowing. You call him a fraud, yes, but this is absolutely ridiculous.
With best regards
With best regards, Lars? Oookay, if you say so.
A few weeks after my dramatic exit, I met with a former AOL teacher colleague, who also happened to be a friend and business partner. He had been present at the meeting also. Out of curiosity, I asked him what had happened on the meeting, after I left. He told me that SSRS had read my letter. Then when asked by one of the teachers what would happen to the teachers who left the organisation, he had replied: ”They will be eaten up by their own minds”.
Hearing those words, I was paralyzed by fear. My worst fears were confirmed, just like that! I was damned, by my sinful actions! And because of my mail, there was no way back to the Guru's Grace!It took several days of counselling by good friends (also ex-teachers) for me to realize the fact that curses only work on those who believe in them. One very good example is this: http://www.redicecreations.com/article.php?id=10282
Two years have passed since the Guru's curse. I still haven't been eaten up by my own mind. In fact I feel fine, better than ever. I certainly don't miss the stress and sense of urgency permeating AOL, putting most of the teachers in a state of heightened arousal, making them easier to control and manipulate. These words of Janja Lalich have been a great inspiration to me:
"Now that you are no longer on a mission to save the world or your soul, relaxation and rest are no longer sinful. In fact, they are absolutely necessary for a healthy, balanced, and productive life." (Lalich, Janja: "Take Back your Life: Recovering from Cult and Abusive Relationships")
With your mind conditioned by AOL to believe that SSRS is enlightened, a lot of the craziness in AOL doesn't make sense. Still, we excuse His erratic behavior with the usual arguments: it is for the good of all, the Divine works in mysterious ways, etc. An incompetent leader is allowed to keep her job ”because she needs it for her personal growth”, and we are in awe of His compassion.
But once you ask yourself one simple question: ”What if He isn't enlightened? What if He has self-interest?”, then everything makes sense. An incompetent board president is allowed to stay, because unquestioning loyalty is valued more than leadership skills, and because it makes the group easier to control. Fits of rage from the Guru suddently makes sense -the anger is not ”faked”, it is genuine. And the primary motivation of the man who started it all is no longer love and compassion, but greed for power, money and personal fame. As a senior teacher (an elderly Indian woman living in Bad Antogast) once told me: ”He feeds off devotion”. She meant it lovingly, but I think she was right back then, and when I think of the consequences of this -that He is addicted to devotion, seemingly wanting it more and more- it makes me shudder in horror. Joel Kramer describes in his book "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power" how cult leaders often show great love, compassion and tolerance, as long as their growing needs for personal ego gratification are met. As soon as the cult's popularity and growth starts to diminish, the cult leader will often react by weeding out the weak of faith, and strenghening his grip on the remaining members. So my advice to any AOL members reading this is: get out now, while you can, it is bound to get even more crazy than you have experienced until now.
I no longer believe in enlightenment. But do I belive in the opposite, then? Is SSRS the Anti-Christ of all time, purely evil? Actually I believe that he might have started out with the best of intentions, back then. But, as often happens -in the words of Lord Acton (1887): "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." The power you are offered as a Guru, when devotees surrender their free will to you -that is absolute power. If you take it, you are lost, you have gone to the Dark Side.
The whole point of democracy is to limit power, and make the people in powerful positions accountable for any abuse of their power. In business, legislation prevents companies from monopolizing the market, thus preventing them from becoming too powerful. Nothing in the AOL prevents SSRS from aquiring and exerting absolute power; quite the contrary, in fact. Of course the poor guy turns out megalomanic. Yes, he is dangerous. But he is also a victim himself. A victim of misplaced devotion. For as long as there are people in this world willing to trust the word of another above their own judgement, thus bypassing their intellect, we will have Bad Gurus. Maybe it is time to think for ourselves?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Is the Art of Living Foundation a scam? Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a fraud?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi called Ravi Shankar "sugar coated poison". That kind of sums it.
The latest is that in his current US tour, RS (Ravi Shankar) is summoning his people to raise more money, get to the wealthy, for another project, Sri Sri University. Another scam! Raise money from others using volunteers (who do it for free and sacrifice their life, rather than earn it for themselves) and then invest it in property who's beneficiaries are his family members and use the front of Sri Sri University! Wow! that the best model in the world don't you think? Very similar to that of Maharishi his master. They say the devotee out does the master!
Before the Nithyananda scandal broke out, Rajshree Patel, the executive director of the Art of Living LA Center went and met Popat Savla, the head of the Nithyananda org. in LA. Mr Savla then mailed Rajshree a $50,000 check!
He gave $2.5mil to Nithyananda to buy and build the temple in LA. Even after the scandal broke out Sri Sri had the guts to visit them in LA. You all read the article in the Deccan Herald about Sri Sri going to visit the Nithyananda temple and Mr. Savla contacted the newspaper and told them if felt like a corporate takeover. Yes, he's a good candidate for take over since he gave millions in the past.
After going past the "sugar" it takes wisdom to recognize the "poison". I am eagerly waiting to read more articles from Whistleblower on the deep dark secrets of Sri Sri. I hope that all of you read Whistleblowers extremely intriguing comments under the post Comment on the "Teacher’s pompous answer to a devotee’s sincere question."
Friday, April 23, 2010
It is exactly two years now, since my exit from AOL. I was a member for 10 years, a teacher for 8 of those. Reading this blog, I sympathize deeply with the people who have been hurt by their affiliation with the organization. I understand the need for anonymity -I myself do not want my full name associated with the organisation. I imagine a future prospective employer googling my name, and there I am, linked to a religious, new-age cult. How embarrasing! So, I am using my ”Nick”name, to write these posts. People who knew me back then will know who I am, and they can make their own judgements as to how reliable my story is. Anyone else... sorry guys! My years in AOL are not something I am proud of. If I am going to be able to put them behind me, I need to be able to keep my name clear of AOL.
Some writers have expressed fear of violent reprisals by AOL'ers, lest their identity be known. I have no fear of that; the AOL teachers and organisers in my area are basically good people, albeit severely deluded. True, there are some genuine nutcases also, more powerful now that many of the good people have left. But the violence in AOL seems to me to be primarily emotional. There is quite a lot of that, though. But I live in a quiet part of the world. Ex-devotees in other countries may have different experiences. As for the fear of legal reprisal: Imagine the organisation suing the authors in this blog, for libel. ”We are not a cult. We do not use mind-control techniques. No money has been siphoned off to private accounts.” Can you imagine AOL doing that? No, me neither.
I no longer do any practice, except for some occasional yoga. I regard the AOL practice as helpful in many instances, potentially harmful only if you overdo it (as many of us did back then) or regard it as a miracle cure for all personal problems, mental and physical -thereby not seeking proper, professional help (yep, we did that too).
In the years before leaving, I had gradually ”lost faith”. A clinical depression, lasting several years, had not lifted, despite SSRS's claim that "I was in a difficult astrological phase, and it would get better next year". A trip to India, personally invited by SSRS to travel with him, left me feeling empty and even more depressed than before. There were no answers to be found in the Holy Land. Personal time with the Master turned out to be... well, boring. And the hysteria, the manipulation of devotees and the general bad craziness was worse than ever before.
One day, sitting in the throes of deep depression, with suicidal thoughts, I suddently realized: He won't be able to save me. In fact, no-one will come to save me. I am alone, and I have to face up to that reality. In that very moment, my three-year long depression lifted, just like that. I also lost the last shreds of faith in the Guru as a person of supernatural power, able to communicate with and and influence people through metaphysical means. I still had faith in his good intentions, though, and a couple of months later, with this new conviction I left home for a National Teachers' Meeting with the man, to test whether my newfound belief would be accepted.
You see, I really enjoyed teaching the course. And I figured, why not be the first atheist AOL teacher? Sure, maybe SSRS believes himself to be enlightened and in posession of divine qualities and supernatural powers. Well hey, everybody are entitled to their own personal beliefs, so why not him also? Maybe some people actually need a guru to whom they can surrender their free will, someone to relieve them of the responsibility of life. Maybe he is doing good things for some people, and only unintentionally messing other people up.
Two days before the meeting, I sent him an e-mail, with copies to my teacher colleagues. This is the mail:
I have two important issues that I would really like to discuss on the National teacher's meeting Saturday, where I will also be present. One regards the Art of Living organisation as a whole, the other regards the local organisation.
My main concern is the emphasis and focus on your person, as a Divine being with supernatural powers. A new Messiah, you might say. In fact, are you aware that a lot of people -teachers in particular- actually believe you to be a reincarnation of Christ? Some of them even claim to have heard you yourself say so. I am not saying that you are not, although personally I find it very unlikely. All I am suggesting is that you either deny those claims, or get ready to prove them should they become publicly known, as is bound to happen eventually. Can you imagine the reaction from the christian community?
Already on the internet many of these stories are being told, by "defectors" from the organisation. If you don't believe me look at http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2008/03/defection-aol-teacher-sees-light.html and it continues at
Now of course these examples could just be someone trying to drag your name through the mud. It just strikes me how similar my own thougths regarding you have been recently.
I used to believe in your Divine powers, your ability to hear and answer prayers coming to you from across the globe, your ability to be present in two places at the same time, to heal the incurable etc. etc. Why shouldn't I? I was surrounded by people who were prepared to swear that their miraculous experiences in your name really happened. The fact that I myself never saw you perform any miracles -defined as "exertion of supernatural powers", something that could not be explained by reason and science- made me feel very shameful. Maybe I was not a proper devotee? Maybe I was not worthy to get a glimpse of your true, Divine being? Not strong enough? Not surrendered enough?
For many years I used to pray to you, to give me a sign -give me my own "Guru-story" that would vaporize my doubt and make my faith strong! Shame and guilt grew in me, because of my secret doubts about my Guru. I was told repeatedly on courses and TTC, that doubt was just lack of prana. As a way to compensate for my guilt, I would try my best to convince other people that you had these special powers.
The teacher's training reinforced my inner conflict. We were told countless "Guru-stories" documenting your Divine powers, and many stories going "My Guru told me to do this-and-this and I didn't and I was miserable and then I did it and everything became fine", and "this person left the organisation and look at him now he is miserable". Maybe these stories are meant to be inspiring. In me they created fear - fear of independent thoughts and actions. Fear of following my heart, should my heart tell me to do things that was not related to Art of Living. For many years I was afraid to ask your advice in personal matters. What if you told me to do something that went against my own, innner conviction? Then I would have to do it, because not doing as your Guru tells you is extremely bad karma. So I had been told. So better not ask. And then lots of guilt for not trusting you.
It seems to me that you have allowed a whole mythology to be created around your person. The closer you get to the "inner circle" around you, the more people act as if you are the ultimate answer to all the problems of the world. You are all-knowing, you posses special Divine insight etc. As a concequence, very few dare question you at all -and may even be feeding you wrong information about your own organisation, based more on what they think you might want to hear -based on your "prophecies"- than actual reality. It is certainly a joke how AOL activities and achievements are routinely exaggerated. Maybe you are surrounded by yes-sayers, of the worst kind? Certainly a strong dogma among the teachers is that you do not under any circumstances question the Guru.
At the root of every religion is the notion that "We have the ultimate truth. Everybody else are deluded". Too many people are treating Art of Living as a religion. I can't say that I blame them. I used to believe myself that you will save the world, that your ultimate and Divine knowledge will envelop the whole world. If we do nothing to stop this tendency, then I believe the Art of Living will end up just like that -another religion, of which the world has too many allready. Just recently attemps were made to throw me out of the TTC group in my country, on the grounds that "I was not adhering to the proper teachings of the Guru". It was demanded that "I declare the nature of my relationship with you". Many teachers have been blinded by faith, to the extent that declaring your proper faith becomes more important than living basic human values. The whole Guru-hype culture and in particular the massive indoctrination happening in the TTC is creating this, and I can not at present recommend teachers training, DSN or even phase three courses to anyone. The risk of getting caught up in the myths surrounding you, and thereby loosing trust in your own judgement is too big.
I have lost my faith in you as the all-knowing, almost-omnipotent, Guruji. And it is a great relief, as it has allowed me to gain faith in myself. I no longer believe in Grace as an actual thing transferred from you to me -and I am experiencing more Grace in my life than ever before! It seems to be coming from inside of me.
We were told on TTC that we were "The Chosen Ones" -hand-picked by You to spread the light in the world. And oh, it felt wonderful to be among the select few. Unfortunately it widened the distance between me and the rest of humanity (non-aol people) and made me feel increasingly lonely. After climbing down off my pedestal I feel such relief and so much more belongingness to everyone. I no longer follow the advice from TTC to "hide your attachments", I no longer feel pressure to maintain a proper front as an Art of Living teacher. I am just... me, mr. Average Joe, no better or worse than anyone else. Wonderful!
I believe I would have followed you even without the promise of enlightenment through Divine Grace. I acknowledge the tremendous, positive difference you make in people's lives. And I wonder why you allow people to attribute every single positive change to your Divine intervention, thus creating a false dependency on the Guru. As I see it, when people relax and gain knowledge, they heal themselves. It is a perfectly natural -not supernatural- thing. In fact, my innner conviction is closer to that of atheism than anything else. And frankly it offends me to read talks by you in which you claim atheists to be stupid. As if we are unable to perceive and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world without a belief in God.
I just recently finished teaching a Basic course, and I must say -I enjoy it very much, and I would like to continue giving these courses. And although I certainly do question your judgement, particularly in regard to how you allow cultish worshipping of your person, I do not question your authority in the Art of Living. I will bring my kriya tape Saturday, and if based on this mail you do not wish me to continue teaching, I will hand it back to you, no hard feelings. I don't really expect you to change anything, purely on the basis of my humble opinion, and I am ready to drop my involvement in the Art of Living complety. I am writing this out of love for the knowledge, the organisation, it's people and... well. You.
See you saturday!
(to be continued)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I have to comment on the teacher’s pompous answer to a devotee’s sincere question posted by anon on 4/19 @ 5:10 PM under “Ravishankar’s Hankering for NPP (part 2)”. I remember going through the teacher’s training part 2, and having to debate over this course price issue. I also felt that the price of the course was a barrier to those who most “needed” the course, and I was hoping for a chance at the TTC to air my concerns and get reassurance that in fact the exorbitant cost of courses was justified. This was not allowed—instead, we were made to defend an opinion that opposed our own in a sort of group debate. How clever of them to try and get us to do our own brainwashing, and I am sure it worked on some. As for me, I became only more convinced that AoL caters to the rich and ignores the poor because rs is interested in the money, and not in rendering any kind of service.
“Q> I am a staunch follower of Art of living and have done part 1, part 2 and Sahaj Samadhi courses. I thoroughly enjoyed them and love Guruji. But I always felt the courses are expensive. I thought spiritual knowledge should be distributed at the minimal cost and it is upto the seeker to offer how much ever it pleases him/her for Guru Dakshina. There were a few other situations when I was a bit under financial pressure to donate atleast $300. This has bothered me quite a bit even though I am a philanthropist. If people are rich and can afford it, it is a different matter. Sorry for my ignorance. I am not really clear. But if you can please explain to me in detail, I would really appreciate it.”
The answer posted by the teacher on his/her blog is clearly a compilation of arguments that the teacher trainers have taught us all to parrot, and some of the arguments are misleading, silly, evasive, or simply untrue.
“Spiritual Knowledge has never been at minimal cost .. earlier you would have had to go and do Seva in an Ashram for 10-15 years before you even got a whiff of learning about meditation… Then after all that, you would give a Guru Dakshina if at all…”
Okay, so why doesn’t AoL accept service and time commitment as payment for a course? These days, volunteers are asked to pay to volunteer at an event, especially for those events where rs will be in attendance. And why pressure course participants to give a dakshina at the end of the course? I am a westerner, and I might be misunderstanding the concept, but shouldn’t Dakshina come from one’s own inspiration, and not a result of external pressures? Clearly in this argument, traditions of the past are being twisted to justify the practices of aol today. Either stick to tradition, or call it what it is—a business.
“…The Art of Living courses are typically 18-40 hours in length, assuming you are paying $300 for an approximately 25 hour course, you are paying $12 per hour which is utterly exploitative … Would you even be able to get your toilet fixed for $12 an hour? Are you not willing to spend more money on getting your mind fixed, than you would on your loo?!...”
AoL courses are typically 18 h for a part 1, and 26 h for a YES plus. And since there is a 12-person minimum for the number of course participants, we’re talking at least $140-$150 per hour. And what’s “utterly exploitative” is the fact that the volunteers and teachers who do the work don’t see any of this money. And personally, I would rather pay that money to get my toilet fixed, because at least the money would have gone to a good cause--something real and tangible and useful to me. Claiming the AoL course fixes the mind is preposterous, and as we have seen for many who have shared their experiences on this site, being involved in AoL has done quite the opposite.
“…You talk about yourself, but you do realize that there are so many teachers and an entire organisation to run which has expenses… No government, corporate, UN agency funds Art of Living. When teachers travel, they have to pay the bus/train/air fare. In our homes we have to pay telephone and electricity bills, and for the food we eat. We have to pay for the hall rent, the rent for the audio system used on the course, etc … Many people work to make an Art of Living course happen, we have to pay them at least their expenses. There is a pretty big bill thats there at the end of the course. $300 is peanuts to pay for a course that you know gives you so very much….”
I have been involved in every aspect of course organization from the recruiting to the accounting and everything in between. Only 25% of a part 1 course revenue is allowed to go to such expenses as the teachers’ travel, hall rental, etc. For a part 2 course, its even less—a set amount ($300) has to go to VVM for each participant, and food/lodging is a separate expense that each participant has to pay. Often, volunteers have to dip into their own wallets to make ends meet for such courses, and hosting expenses for the teacher are non-refundable. So keeping things in perspective, if one pays $300 for a part 1 course, only $75 of it is allowed to go towards all those expenses this teacher has mentioned. Where does the rest go?
“…Another thing that we wanted was that we did not want people to be obligated and pay. We charge a certain fee for a service rendered. Its nice and clean….”
I’m confused. People ARE obligated to pay if they want to take a course, aren’t they? Also, this sounds more like a business transaction to me, than a service rendered by a charitable organization.
“…Finally, if you want to buy yourself a car, a solid education, a home… at this point you dont say its too expensive do you? You take a loan and get it. An Art of Living course is on par with these big investments of life. If needed, take a loan… you know its worth it….”
So is this teacher suggesting that one who cannot afford an AoL course should take out a loan for it? I personally object to this—I have seen people in my area who do exactly that in response to the prodding and pressure to take this or that “amazing” AoL course. These people cannot afford the basic necessities, and yet are asked to beg for, borrow the money, or launch a fundraising effort to take the next AoL course, instead of being smacked back to reality and told to get their life in order before going off the deep end with these courses. Its sick. Also, I’m sorry, but an AoL course is certainly not “on par” with a solid education, a car, a home, or even a functioning toilet.
“…Finally, some of the money collected on courses is pumped back into society, it doesn’t line anyone’s pockets. It could be used to rehab prisoners, or in some disaster area, or in some war zone to help people. It could be used to help children, women, etc…”
I have yet to see a single “service project” come from the money that has been raised in my area and pumped into the AoL national/ravishankar’s bank account. In addition to courses, I have helped to organize rs’s visit to my city, and have helped raise thousands of dollars for the org. through that event. We were allowed to keep a small fraction of the profit for our city to help offset costs of future aol events, but then had to return any unspent money after one year. The only “service” that money was used for (while we still had it) was to organize more courses. On a separate occasion, when I was ready and willing to join in a trauma relief effort overseas in a war-torn area, I had to seek out my own source of funding, and apply for a grant. I was told by the aol accountant that money raised in a particular area stays in that area, and does not go toward service projects overseas. We had to do our own fundraising campaign for that. So if aol “service projects” are funded by external sources and our own fundraising efforts, then where does all the course revenue go?
“… It could also be used to take care of our full time teachers and their families whenever needed, It could also be used to build up our Ashram infrastructure so that when you come there, you can be taken better care of… ”
Really, the full-time teachers and their families are taken care of using hard-earned aol course dollars?? Do full-timers have any health insurance? Do they earn at least minimum wage for their efforts? I don’t think so. As for the ashram infrastructure, I have yet to see any improvement to the Montreal ashram after donating to that cause year after year.
“…Our idea of doing Seva is not out of an empty bowl, so that we have to go to various people to get us money so that we can do Seva....”
So I see as of late, you’ve been reaching into Nithy’s bowl to do your “seva” (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
“…Our teachers and volunteers work hard to make courses happen, a solid value is given to the participants in the course and then out of the profits that are made on the courses, our bowl are filled…. “
Yes indeed your bowl is filled by the hard work of the teachers and volunteers—the first truthful and direct statement I’ve seen.
Out of a full bowl which has been made so by dint of hard work, we do philanthropy. (Though of late, quite a few funding agencies have finally woken up to the fact that Art of Living is doing some great work and have expressed a desire to partner with us towards mutual goals… and thats a nice feeling too I think thats quite noble,…”
I and others have yet to see any philanthropy come out of the “full bowl”. From what I can tell, anything positive that has come out of the org has come from the good intentions and inspiration of some of the duped participants who eventually wise-up and leave. And didn’t this teacher just say in the beginning that no corporate organization funds AoL? Anyway, someone should alert these funding agencies about the AoL fraud.
“… and you should feel privileged to give money to such an organization… even if it means a bit of a stretch for you….”
No thanks, I think I’d rather flush my hard-earned money down my working toilet than to give it to such an organization.
I do hope that the poor devotee who had the guts to pose his/her question was able to see through all the AoL B.S. in that teacher’s answer, and has since left the org. If not, then God Bless and good luck.