Friday, January 8, 2010

Is spirituality not democratic after all?


Ah!!! I am actually getting tired of responding to AoLers writing to this blog, even those who fake they are not. What the heck! I left their organization to, years later, engage with them online? OK, a risk I took the minute I started this blog, but geez, they don’t even have such good reading comprehension skills because they are so emotional when reading they immediately jump to conclusions and/or are too anxious to make a point, ready to militate for Ravi any minute. Geez! With all due respect, reacting like men who were just told they have small tiny weenie penises! Excuse me. I did not say anything about anyone’s penis so please chill! And anyway, let’s respect each other’s size, shape and preferences! Is spirituality after all not democratic?! Do we all need to believe AoL is the biggest most amazing NGO in the world? (It is not! Check statistics. The AoL cannot even detail how many active teachers it has and how many teachers it has made! AoL cannot even give specific numbers of how many people did the course in each city, country and year! I was one of you when we tried to collect this data and we were not able to because we were lousy and disorganized as an institution, and because, unfortunately, that is the price for working with volunteers, some less prepared than others, and many, without any real professional experience). Do we all need to believe Ravi is the greatest man on earth, holy, the one and only, and the best? Do we all need to believe everything the AoL and SSRS claim as true? If thinking differently to you makes us stupid, then let us be! At least, stupid, free and happy. Let spirituality be democratic! The soul is, after all, FREE!

Neither AoL nor SSRS nor his devotees should feel threatened, shaken or offended by different opinions – I call them “different”, they call them “negative” … interesting. Good education is based on diversified information, not on unilateral, manipulated, censored information. One should decide if something is good based on all reviews: good and bad. Something is not necessarily good if it only has good reviews. On the contrary, it gives room to suspicion. In a world governed by minds like those of fanatic AoL followers and SSRS the system would be non-democratic, totalitarian, despot. If that makes you feel more comfortable, please practice it within your divine community but don't push it on others. I and many others, greatly appreciate democracy, freedom of speech, freedom for religious beliefs, transparency, wholesome education. For the love of these, I chose to leave.

I also don’t understand, when I was a devotee – truly devoted, by the way – I never ever thought of reading anything “negative” about “my guru” or “the best organization in the world”. First of all, I never thought anyone doubted we were the best. In fact, I was shocked to find out, years after I left, there were people and sources out there with “negative” observations and experiences! Second, I did not consider other opinions valid. My family, friends, etc. thought I had lost it. I was even told straight in my face I was in a cult yet I stood strong to my convictions. Needless to mention, I never thought of attacking someone who felt differently or tried to convince them they were wrong, belittle or dare them. I only kept bringing people to the course. Even then, I believed everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. How are you then practicing the knowledge “don’t make the mistake of going against the mistake” (Ashtavakra Gita)? Cause I am out, you are in, shouldn't you be "in the knowledge"?

SSRS speaks about the joining of all religions, breaking differences, but actions such as these of his devotees writing to the blog (and to many other links that present different opinions) or himself assigning people to check on “negative press” only reflect the contrary, and are a sign of little or no true spirituality, hidden insecurities, cry babies, and overboard narcissism. Should those who think differently, those who may appear to think “against them” (I prefer, “not in favor of”, or “not similarly”) be attacked, questioned, “dared”, threatened … eliminated? (a common AoL in-house practice after all).

Fortunately, I had many many years of training under this kind of despotic rule and tyrant thinking, and, unfortunately, I am not unfamiliar with the AoL kind of hostility towards difference in opinion. For heaven’s sake, keep conquering the world but let people enjoy democratic spirituality!!!

Is spirituality not democratic after all?


Prairie Princess said...

Maybe you identified one of the problems with AoL--tiny weenies. When you are told that to teach meditation and fancy breathing you must eat certain ways, act certain ways, and think certain ways, you are captured by a cult and not on the path of liberation. If you want to experience liberation, leave the organization behind.
In my brief stint in AoL I was shocked by the lack of organization but more shocked that the lack of organization was a point of pride (the mark of the Sat Guru). One would think the "sat guru" would be an organizing force. I was also shocked by the
in-fighting in some satsangs ..infighting about nothing important. Keep up the good work with this blog and don't let the cockroaches from AoL get you down. They are sooo sad and totally delusional.

KLIM said...

Princess, you are so right! I am laughing here remembering that Part 2 video tape in which he says how a Guru's job is done when he puts organized people in chaos, and chaotic people in discipline, followed by "hahahaa". Hahahahaaa? And thereafter we used that as a reference to measure his enlightenment! (except there was only chaos in AoL). We were so stupidly brainwashed and he is such a smart manipulator! Sadly hilarious.

Anonymous said...

When things are disorganised and go wrong, the standard reply is, Guruji says that there should not be any structure or organisation in AOL - he creates havoc and mess when things run smoothly - its the Gurus masti - and it is a lesson on tolerance and acceptance.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it. This is precisely what I tell to all AOL volunteers/teachers when they try to push me into doing courses/seva. If they believe, let them continue doing courses. I dont even mind if they do some advertising to reach people in need. But keep pusing on me even after I tell that I'm not interested, making me feel that keep doing AOL courses are thee thing in life to do is a bit too much. I have always felt (by tone, by example stories told) the push coming by force, rather than sincere concern for if they desperately need to enroll as many people. In the process a very few are benefitted, but most are offended.
I ask, if somebody is really in need to AOL/other courses, they will find their way. What is the need to suffocate everyone to be a part of AOL.
Oh not only they try to grip in people, but also monopolize ayurveda and other products. AOL pushes several renowned ayurvedic doctors in India to sell their products with AOL label. Insane??

Gopal Krishna said...

Do you know: Sri Sri actually travels in business class than in economy class (my uncle who is a CEO travels by economy class). Wouldn’t it be saving of money if he travels by economic class?

See the answer of Bawa, an AOL teacher on this question -

Read Bawa's site - - and decide for yourself whether he is faking till he made it or genuinely seems to be a nice guy.

And plz read - - to find out whether Sri Sri was doing psycho-babble or giving some insights.

These are some different perspectives which free-loving people should also read.

Narendra said...

I read the answers given by Bawa in a yahoo group. I found them too general replies, hence given my opinion to give more specific reply. My comments were not even posted in the group messages, forget the reply.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for creating awareness. I took the basic course and used to go for weekly long kriyas. After an hour of kriya, our teacher used to read a passage from a book and give everyone that fake cookie cutter smile. Then he used to slip the bait for some course or the other. This went on every single week, eventually I couldnt take it anymore and stopped going there. Now I read about ill-effects of doing kriya on some people and thank god for saving me from this mess. After similar experiences from other groups that eventually turned out to be cults, I'm close to becoming an atheist. Enough of spirituality!

Art of Leaving said...


I was one of the casualities of Shankar’s global jetsetting adventures. I would have been far better off had he never wasted all that money getting onto a plane to come to my country in the first place, let alone doing it in business style.

As for Bawa’s defense of Ravi Shankar’s business-class preferences: “He has a physical body, which for our own sake needs to be protected and taken care of as much as possible. ... I defy you or anyone else to move the way He does and work at the pace He has set for Himself. 40 flights in 30 days, many of them long haul takes their toll on the body. Saving money like this [i.e. by travelling in economy class] is no savings at all.”

Well, I am really all for Ravi Shankar protecting his body, mind and spirit. And there are much better ways of doing it than idling your time away in business-class. Please let him stay home, scale everything down to one tiny ashram (ten or fifteen people), donate the proceeds of all his properties to some honest development NGOs, do some serious introspection about his failings and all those he has damaged, and try to make up for it by helping a few people properly in as honest and humble a way as possible.

Also, let him spend time familiarising himself with critical and progressive trends in the social sciences. I know he’s only into newspapers and CNN, and by his own admission doesn’t read books. But perhaps the time has come for some academic “enlightenment”.

To the question why AOL has a predominantly Hindu culture, Bawa replies: “Guruji supports the best practices not only of Hindutva, but of all traditions and religions. And ruthlessly He lashes out at the irrational aspects of the same.”

Um... I beg to disagree. Shankar is unashamedly aligned with Hindutva proponents to the extent of having helped with the BJP election campaign. He has not lashed out at the “irrational aspects” that caused the demolition of the Babri Mosque. In fact, he has defended the emotional need of Hindus to have a Hindu temple at that spot. He made an apology by Hindu leaders about the Hindu riots conditional on a handover of the site by Muslims to Hindus. He is often onstage with Advani who is indicted in the Liberhan Commission report as one of those ideologically responsible for the riots.

Many non-Indians don’t know of Ravi Shankar’s rightwing connections in India and would be alarmed if they got to find out about it. But Shankar is very clever in marketing himself in foreign countries. He builds up a diverse and wealthy following overseas and is careful to say all the right things. Then he can make use of their money for Hindutva causes back home. Gradually the foreign devotees are drawn into the Hindutva agenda.

I am not anti-Indian at all. I find certain aspects of Indian culture very beautiful and it resonates deeply with me, but I am now able to see more clearly where Shankar had been subtly pushing a Hindutva agenda in his talks.

Personally I would never have fallen for Shankar had I kept my wits about me and first done some careful background research on him. Unfortunately, I was so enamoured of his charm and the idea of having a Yoga Master, that I dropped all my academic training and critical thinking skills. At the time I thought Yoga must be way superior to science, academia and European philosophy. I have since come to a more balanced view.

Interesting how towards the end of his post Bawa refers to honest straightforward enquiries as “nasty questions” – there he really shows his true colours.

Here is an interesting article by Meera Nanda on “Hindu Triumphalism and the Clash of Civilisations”:

In it Ravi Shankar’s biographer Francois Gautier is mentioned as a mouthpiece of the French New Right and an associate of the Hindu right.

I think Nanda might be a bit too alarmist and extreme in some of her views, but she raises interesting questions. I would very much like to hear the opinions of readers of this blog about her concerns, especially those in India.

KLIM said...

Dear Gopal, It because "free-loving people" have read and EXPERIENCED different perspectives that they chose to leave or not to join, not because they simply chose to dislike AoL. Some of them have even spoken the very same words of teachers like Bawa, some were teachers like Bawa and some even hang out with Bawa outside of a course context. It is really OK if not everyone thinks your Guruji is the best and finds flaws in the AoL. Really. But you see, the way many AoLers write to this blog angry or bullying, or refreshing our memory of how we manipulated so much with words, twisting it here and there, with a background smile followed by jokes, only further convince us we did the right thing of leaving. Not only does SSRS travel in first class and stays in the best hotels, he only cares about his teachers bodies. I don't know about in India but I know in the West a lot of teachers worked and lived in awful conditions. Teachers brought in the dough, stayed in dumpsters and begged for food while he stayed in upper class style. Even when the doctor has advised to take rest he has made them keep going, "there is no time, keep going." I know of many cases, including that of my own.

Anonymous said...

looking at the comments above, its interesting that bawa's name comes to mind - he was the same teacher I went through the DSN indoctrination and he's the one who came up with the ideals mentioned in a previous posting and dinesh (in the photo next to him) was the one who gave rat poison to his mom in defiance..
Its a small world

Anonymous said...

KLIM your claim that Teachers brought in the dough, stayed in dumpsters and begged for food while he stayed in upper class style. Even when the doctor has advised to take rest he has made them keep going, "there is no time, keep going." I know of many cases, including that of my own.
seems to be an exaggeration

I know a full tome teacher who is completely exhaysted but he never had to beg for food or live in dumpsters. They woek too hard and go withour food. SSRS slogs and he expects others to slog foe social cause. Do you really mind that?

Anonymous said...

To Art of Leaving

Its very nice for you to sit in your cozty aprments drive your plush cars and enjoy life and write about Hindutva in the luxuries of your home. Self sufficient Indian culture is been totally finished by Britishers. They started Hindu Muslim divide. apartheid in South Africa was due to Bristish Rule! Now missioneries are trying to convert poor people by giving them few days food any leave them in lurch after conversion. What religion has got to do with poverty? Come and live in rulral india for at leat one year see things for yourself and then talk about Hindu or Hindutva. Reading some articles on internet doen't make you a masster of the subject!

SSRS is not a Yoga Master! From your lengthy article I could not really make out anything. What are you looking for?- a personal trainer? If you think you are a spiritual seeker then i think you read a book called Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhamsa Yoganand. read it again and again if needed then some of your concepts about 'Master' 'Yoga' 'Hindu' 'Indian Spirituality', 'Seeking' 'Guru' etc. will be clear!

Just for your kind info I do not belong to AoL or Paramhamsa Yogananda! Best wishes and no hard feelings.

Anonymous said...

Prairie Princess

Before calling AoL a cult for asking you to be veggie please read this carefully.
off course you are entitle to your opinion but what is a good practice is good practice. CAlling AoL a cult need not change other facts!

Gopal Krishna said...


You have every right to create this blog and express your feelings and opinions. If AOL members are really mature, they should not react - after all, is this not what spirituality teaches us. But, unlike AOL people, you should continue allowing even AOL-supporters (and neutral people like me) express their thoughts on the blog and of course, give your counter-points. And I am convinced you are already doing that.

Personally, I am all for democratic spirituality. Guru is a great friend for us, but no real Guru worth being a Guru will ask us to suspend our critical faculty of rational, free-minded thinking. This is how Sri Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Sri Yogananda and all true masters throughout the ages did. Real faith comes only after going through all types of questioning and a real Guru supports that as we can find in the life-story of Swami Vivekananda. How much he questioned Ramakrishna Paramahansa in the beginning phase and how lovingly Paramahansa Ji accepted his questioning attitude. That is what a real master does.

Best wishes and peace.


KLIM said...

"I know a full tome teacher who is completely exhaysted but he never had to beg for food or live in dumpsters."

You know only ONE full time teacher who did not live in dumpsters? Lucky you. Cause I met many who did.

Anonymous said...

I just want to know when Bawa and Dinesh are coming out of the closet.

Anonymous said...

Man, these people are crazy and they don't even know it. They think they are being highly spiritual working for a good cause. If they could realize how aggressive they are, how upset, how eager to crush anyone who does not agree their guru is not so good. It only shows the poor education they are getting, how deluded they are and what a cult they are turning to be. If I was Shankar I would be simply embarrassed to know my disciples are coming out this way in my name. It gives very bad name to his teachings cuz noone seems to be getting it nor living it, but only going hip hip ray for it, "we are the best", like little children: my toys are better. Pathetic. I feel sorry for the guy. He started loosing his good teachers and faithful devotees because of this madness within the organization. People of quality, of true loyalty and virtues. He "traded" them for numbers and fame. The good ones are not willing to go unethical just to fulfill results in the name of spirituality. Ethics please. Ethics even in spirituality. Obviously, all he has left over is obviously more and more immature, unstable, nutty people. Quality vs. quantity - high price just for fame. Was it worth it? I feel sad for these pathetic losers and for this pathetic ambitious man, who is every year more stressed. If he would have really stuck to his original idea, to how he was in the early days. This is what these new fanatics don't understand. This guy was not like this many many years ago. But then, maybe many many years ago, these guys would have never sought out for him. In fact, they did not. He is now selling because he is "famous". Cruelties of consumption world. He fooled many, keeps fooling many but mainly, he's fooled himself.

Anonymous said...


It all was teachers' choice that they chose to live in dumpsters and serve humanity. It was not imposed on them. That is why AoL is a volunteer based organization. AoL doesnt know how much they are going to make or save so how can they promise anything to the volunteers? its selfish and hypocratical to criticize because they dont give anything to tachers, then criticize because they beg for donations and then criticize because its not a formalized organization! All from one mouth!Do you have a concrete plan to suggest to improve working? Look at Mr.John Knapp he is of some real use to the society. He is actually offerring useful advice to former and to be cult members. It was of help to me.

If you want to criticize AoL and advise youngsters / gullible devotees you could say that being full time into seva and being a teacher means this this and this. People could be disillusioned like us and they may feel cheated so consider they should consider following and then decide to go into AoL full time. Then say such and such are my experiences and obsevations /opinoins. This would be your constructive seva to the society.

All you are doing is trashing sudarshan kriya sadhana and SSRS. If its not personal revenge then what is it?

Anonymous said...

I am confused, whenever I see Sri Sri Ravishankar I cannot imagine him being rude, self centred or egoistic, he always potray such calmness and love. When I read all the comments on this blog I dont know what to think. Is he really a Jekyll and Hyde personality?

I am a regular visitor to the Bangalore Ashram for the Sunday satsang from 1999, I have noticed a few high profile ladies always with Guruji - amongst them was Nandini Sen, a well known model.One would not see Guruji without Ms Sen, she was always with him but these days she seems to be missing. On enquiry I was told that she has left the organisation and has vowed not to step foot into the Ashram - and she has kept her stand - apparently she did not even attend her sons wedding at the Ashram.

KLIM, is this true? Would you know why she left the organisation? I find it strange as she was one of the leading teachers and persons in the Ashram.

Your blog and all the information that I have got recently has made me think twice about AOL and I have not visited the Ashram for the last couple of weeks.

Art of Leaving said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for bothering to read my lengthy comment and giving your perspective.

1. I never pretended to be a “master” on the subject of Hindutva. That is why I actually asked for people in India to give some firsthand perspectives. Anyway, the article I referred to was written by an Indian who grew up as an observant Hindu.

2. I don’t deny the harm that imperialism and missionary activities have done, and may still be doing in India. My issue is with the danger of any form of religious or cultural nationalism. In South Africa it was not just the divide and rule policy of the British that was responsible for apartheid. There was also something like Afrikaner Nationalism which was supported by Afrikaner churches, of which I happen to have had firsthand experience. By the way, one of the justifications given for apartheid was the need to uplift poor Afrikaners (rather than all poor South Africans). I have seen how subtle, insidious, self-justifying, repressive and cruel such an ideology can be. That is why I am wary of Hindutva and of spiritual leaders who associate themselves with it.

3. Thank you for pointing out that Ravi Shankar is not a Yoga Master. I didn’t have your intelligence and so I had to find that out the hard way.

4. Paramahamsa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” was one of the books responsible for creating a mindset in me that made me vulnerable to someone like Shankar. I actually now think that Yogananda was not of a much higher calibre than Shankar. The same trends for name and fame, big institutions and masses of followers can be seen in his movement, the same one-size-fits-all spiritual techniques. Yogananda’s own Master was perhaps a bit better.

5. I also happen to have read Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi and a number of other Indian Gurus. With each and every one of them I can now see trends which make me feel uneasy. I have learnt to be more critical and selective in what I take from any Master.

Also no hard feelings. Keep well.

Anonymous said...

art of leaving
you are right. nice that you have read the masters. i read a tibetan proverb 'when student is ready the teacher appears!' we can only keep preparing. so long as we dont meet our own master disenchantment and quest continues.
personally i do not like blaming any master. they have been entrusted duties by their higher masters and they struggle just like us. our suffering is our karma and our quest. what we can take from masters we should take and move on! i know a few small persons (in india) who appear to be like any other ordinary person but are way ahead on path of enlightenment. they are entrusted duties by higher masters. they dont appear to be as flamboyant like some gurus. in fact they are usually very quiet. they operate alone and help people.
SSRS is right there is a lot of work to be done.
best wishes.

Narendra said...

AOL has supported to many BJP candidates in recent elections. But, it was done at Rishi-Swami level, not at Guruji level (officially). The same was done in closed door meeting of volunteers.
One Swami Mahesh Giri was clearly doing election campaign for BJP through his programs styled as Satsangs. For which Election Commission warned Mahesh Giri not repeat this again.
I have no problem with BJP, no problem with AOL supporting BJP. They are supproting it because of Hindutva. But, officially, they can not declare this, because of their presence in US and other religion majority countries.
I would be more happy if they were supported the Hindutva openly. But, then chances of winning Nobel prize are diminished and donations from western countries have to be lost.
No businessman can do it.
Ravi Shankar is great busienessman.

Anonymous said...

AOL is a cult of mostly people with low self esteem, personality disorders and escapists. after having seen and studying many AOL teachers psychology I am happy to comment that all the contents of this blog are pure 100% truth. whenever i get the time i shall post the individual issues in detail especially from a psychoanalysis viewpiont. lets save this innocent world from this virus.

KLIM & CO. said...

Anon January 21, 2010 4:54 AM

We are eagerly waiting for your text!

Anonymous said...

AOL targets professionals and highly educated to increase their credibility. they also act as brand ambassador. over the years they lose their professional sharpness and competency to become glazed eyed robots with total submission to ssrs. i have seen many doctors, IITians dragged into this. enlightenment what they believe is in fact their deterioration. any tom dick and harry can become an AOL teacher or follower but it takes years of hard work to become a professional.all professionals being 'used' should sit, analyze and understand that they are more useful for the society as professionals rather than a cult propagator. please understand that if you lose your power of reasoning and critical thinking, you are losing your soul. lets save this innocent world from AOL virus.

Anonymous said...

Deception is main tool to recruit newcomers. innocent people willing to explore new thing in the name of personality development, increased concentration, increased disease resistance, self confidence and what not...are lured by a planned drive. once into their clutches there begins a gradual and subtle process of mind control. most of people don't know of anything like mind control or by the time they know of it they travel too far into it to return back.spiritual movement all over the world use remarkably similar mind control tools.AOL is no different.with higher courses your mind becomes more and more controlled, intellectual autonomy decreases. chanting, controlled music, hyperventilation, character assassination,peer pressure to name the few can change thought process and belief of any normal person what to talk of vulnerable ones.ultimately what one thinks of is personal enhancement is in fact moral slavery which is totally unnecessary for a normal citizen. it may be like a B complex pill which you never required produces side effects/harm. yoga and meditation are user as catalyst for larger process of mind control and many time wrongly presented as solution for all problems.lets save the innocent and unwary world from this virus.