Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quick glance of the LA center

The Art of Living Foundation recently purchased a beautiful classical style church located in the historic West Adams District of South LA, just two blocks from USC. While the Foundation is an educational and humanitarian NGO rather than a religious organization, its plans for the building are remarkably close to its original intention: creating a landmark for prayer, peace, service, and community upliftment. Location: 948 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007

This is where your money goes, in case anyone still thinks it goes to

"25,300 villages in India, benefiting more than 2.3 million people. The statistics are mind-boggling. Over 75,000 Nav Chetna Shibirs, more than 28,350 cleanliness campaigns, more than 1.3 m trees planted, 12,857 medical camps benefiting 4.3 lakh people, 1,474 homes helped built and 50 model villages developed. In addition 25,710 village youth have been trained in the Youth Leadership Training Program and 2,000 self-help groups with a membership of 35,000 villagers have been founded."

SSRS makes up numbers (if there were only 300, he says there were 1000, if there were 3000, he says there were 30,000. We have all made fun of him that way. Press releases are made by his media center, numbers are not sustained by any proof, but just his press releases, and the little that is done, is done for free and by asking for more donations for that specific project, that is later not carried out). There are scandals surrounding Pitaji too that the organization has carefully guarded, yes, involving sex and money. But at last, here is a real project that clearly allows us to see where all the money went and will be going the next few years.

Who wants to guess the property value of this mansion in the very expensive Los Angeles area?


Anonymous said...

This 'haloed' old Pitaji & his alleged spartan lifestyle was admired by consummately violent ferreters like Gopals & his/her/its jivani sycophants.

Socrates told one such faux austere charlatan :-

" Your vanity shows through the holes in your clothes!".

Kiransjivanisgopalsnarendras & several lurking india salvagers , please don't shepherd my alleged "racist india berating" and/or non berating comments into your brains or blogs or printouts.

Superpretentious truthseekers & Godchasers ought to have internalised by now there IS a GOD unceasinly monitoring every susurration of thought , word & deed even unmanifest.

When whistleblowers like OTOH & yours truly politely voiced our scepticism these patriotic holy cows tossed everything out with contempt.

Your thankyous are pukeworthy ingratiations.

Sridhar krish said...

Thanks klim for the photographs of the service oriented projects of AOL. hope other people in aol wake up and come out of the closet.

Realtor Chuck said...

Bought for around $5.2M.
I'm pretty sure it was privately funded by SoCal Indian doctor(s) who have been working with SSRS for a while to locate and buy a facility in this region.
Quite impressive due to its historical legacy, one of which was having the "largest dome" in the US when it was built for Christian Scientists in the early 1900's by a world famous architect.
Definitely a majestic facility.
Question is: What's going to go on in there from now on?
Most likely, the facility will be used as a national course or lecture hall of sorts (due to size, location and prominence) but the following for AOL out in this region is a little lagging to date.

Namitha said...

Making money and property is no crime. But collecting money in the name of social welfare and noble causes and hedge it into these sleazy activities is criminal.
I had asked questions on their money making scheme. AOL folks have a ready answer. They claim their Guru and organization is blessed with the grace of wealth Goddess Lakshmi. If that is the case they should be distributing money and wealth and not begging for donations. AOL has only 'income' - the donations, course fee all at zero tax. Their outcome to soceity is zero,except organizing huge guru shows and so called cultural activities.
You are doing a great job in exposing this guru and the sham organization.Hope people fooled by AOL wake up and see the light.

Anonymous said...

Pitaji father of Ravi had created a ponzi chit fund scheme in Bangalore and Chennai in the 70s. He had cheated the public millions of rupees. He was on the verge of bankruptcy when he was caught and asked to pay up. Thereafter he realized that holy business is far more safer and lucrative. He associated with Mahesh Yogi and used to be in the group which used to arrange for his meetings, stay and travel in south India. That's how Ravi inherited his association with his guru. It was pitaji who realized the potential his son had and he created the breakaway vedic school with 20 poor brahmin children. He was able to bribe and get huge land from the government for lease,the place where the current ashram is. The vedic school was just the first con job of Ravi & Pitaji and Ravi further perfected this over the years.
Pitaji was a terror and tyrant in the school if you ask some of the school children who spent typically 3- 5 years in this school. The school children had nicknamed him Pishachi(demon).
Pitaji's fondness for white women was well known in the early ashram days when he still had his juices flowing. He was close to a rich Belgian couple who had followed Ravi to bangalore. Pitaji treated or rather suggested various ayurvedic treatments to the ill husband and his condition only worsened. This couple were squeezed high and dry. What was troubling the ashram was Pitaji's fondness to the Belgian lady. Vishakshi had to suffer for all this and finally Ravi himself had a confrontation with his dad on his mother's behalf.
Ravi is again highly indebted to his father and in satsangs Pitaji is given an equal seating with his son. Ravi has mentioned several times that his father is enlightened and hence this treatment. His mother whom Ravi really loved also is/was enlightened according to Ravi and hence the huge building in her name. Sis is also on the path of enlightenment and one of the few teachers of the hallowed sahaj meditation and guru puja. Brother in law was an engineer in Indian Telephone Industries. But since the holy business started booming hequithis job some twenty years ago and ever since runs the ashram and undertakes other mundane tasks. He has also been spotted in the annual Osho mediation camp conducted by swami anand swabhav in bangalore. Maybe he wanted a break and see how other gurus operate.

Anonymous said...

Hey Klim,

I have posted many links to your site in the past such as the Javed Akhtar essay on RAVI RAVI (, and a response detailing the lack of financial transparency in AOL.

I just wanted to comment on WHY I CONTINUE MY INVOLVEMENT IN AOL despite knowing SRI SRI is a FRAUD FRAUD.

Reason one, I practice "worship" of the teachings, not the guru. That said, i am fully aware that some of the teachings in AOL are out right false. I for one am an individual who is guided by rational modes of thinking based on science and reason, and have no fear to express my ideas when i know the evidence is on my side. I have done so with fellow AOL students, and teachers alike. Truth is my guiding principle and i defend it fully using reason and evidence based thinking.

Let me also be clear, i think most of these falsehoods taught by AOL instructors are harmless, just as i do the belief in a deity in the sky who answers prayers. I keep the pearls of wisdom, which there have been MANY, and I throw out the trash, of which there has also been truckloads.

Reason 2: despite these contradictions, i think AOL is a great place to meet people, contacts and friends. A community of great people exists within AOL. The organization has gone beyond SRI SRI, it is too large for him to control, especially in N.A., and some of the teachers and students (not all) are exceptionally talented, intelligent, honest, and generally good hearted people. I go for the Networking as Javad Akhtar would say. For this, AOL is great.

Finally, i don't give a cent to any of RAVI's fraudulent charities, nor do i pay for his expensive courses, i participate in free activities. I won't financially support Ravi Ravi, but i do care deeply for the people in AOL and choose to remain for the amazing relationships i have developed.

If i were to recommend this course to others, as i do, I point out these flaws. No organization is perfect, this one isn't by any means, but there is still considerable value to be found.

Thanks and I'm happy to reply to any responses.

a humble witness said...

Dear anon @ 5:34am,

First, I wanted to thank you for posting that link to Javad Akhtar's speech. He has made some very astute observations about the follies of modern-day "spirituality" in general, and has boldly stated that guru businesses are a hoax and a distraction that suck away people's money and efforts, when they could be applying themselves toward something more tangible and constructive. It took guts and charisma to deliver such a speech before ravi shankar and hoards of his devotees, but I am quite sure that the sheer brilliance of his arguments passed right over most of their heads. I can only just imagine ravi shankar nodding off during the speech in "deep meditation" while his admirers stare at him and plot their next move to speak to him after the event.

Second, I just wanted to point out that your continued affiliation with aol does in fact help to propagate its twisted teachings and further its fraudulent behavior and scamming of others. Even though you yourself are not giving money to their "causes", you bring others to the courses who get duped into doing so. Even though you yourself might be able to think with reason and logic and can sort the trash from the "pearls of wisdom", there are many others who you may have brought to the course that have lost (or never had) the ability to do so. And by continuing to practice the long kriya (if in fact this is one of the free events you attend), you are saying by your actions that this practice is beneficial, and you are encouraging others to do it, when in reality it can be very damaging to one's health.

By doing all these actions, you are helping to further aol's cause, which is ultimately to feed ravi shankar's ego and bank account, without regard for the many who have contributed their lives, and then were left discarded when no longer useful. I'm not saying it is a right or wrong thing to support aol, but its always good to be aware of the consequences of one's actions. If the benefits you gain from "networking" outweigh the cons of helping to support such an organization, then so be it.

And one more thing, I, too developed “amazing relationships” with many people over my years of affiliation with aol as a volunteer and then a teacher. After leaving the org, those people suddenly disappeared from my life. I say good riddance!

Peace and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:34 am:

Interesting post. I too had often thought of continuing an affiliation with AoL because of the connections I made. But ultimately, I chose not stay connected.

I applaud you for telling people the truth about the questionable aspects of AoL. I certainly was not told any of that nor did I ever hear any of the teachers or group members discussing the negative parts of AoL with people they invited. Quite the opposite. AoL was touted as being the largest volunteer organization in the world, SK is great etc...

As an example of why I broke off affilation:
I had a woman friend who was being physically abused by her husband. Yet, there were many wonderful qualities to his personality. So, she kept going back. He would be so nice for a long time and give her everything she needed. But he kept abusing her and she began to live in terror. Just as I would not recommend her to go back to him because of his good qualities, I would not invite someone to join AoL for the good stuff.

If people continue doing the courses and inviting others to do them, even if they themselves are not being duped, it perpetuates the big LIE and ultimately leads to great suffering for many involved. When people start resisting the fraud and speak out against it, maybe the organization would clean out the closets and end up thriving in a new, honest way.

Anonymous said...

Humble Witness,

Thank you for your reply. You raised some very valid points and i have to admit, i agree with much of what you said. You've addressed some of my fears.

To clarify, i don't practice Long Kriya daily nor often. Nonetheless, i feel the Long Kriya issue needs to be examined more fully. There are indeed numerous claims and studies posted on the AOL website linking to scientific studies. I've read through a couple of them, and of those, the methodology, analysis and conclusions drawn were flawed - They were not entirely credible studies. On the other hand, Klim's personal experience with the practice and his claims of a dumbing down effect are only the personal experiences of one individual and his observations.

Others, would claim just the opposite. The main point here is that Kriya needs further scientifically valid studies, which are controlled, double blind - good studies, not sham propaganda. To this date, there have been very few GOOD studies that either support the effectiveness of Kriya or found serious long term side effects to it's practice. If you know of any, i would love to see them. Note*** Most studies relating to breathing Yoga and mindfulness generally found benefits relating to stress and anxiety reduction, and emotional management (Here's a good backgrounder

With regards to my participating in AOL, the best analogy i can give you is that of a Jewish individual who goes to the synagogue despite rejecting doctrine. We are social beings, and the fact remains, as social beings, community and developing relationships is a vital role in maintaining our happiness - that's one of the reasons why so many non-believers continue to go to church.

Also, there are multiple AOL centres and courses offered throughout the world, and any individuals experience is relative depending on a number of factors - in this sense you could probably say that I've attended the most moderate version of an AOL course because the one i attended was for the most part, not full of pseudo-science or blind superstitious thinking, indeed it was just the opposite, for the most part (I'm trained to recognize the difference). In my experience with AOL, I've met a group of highly intelligent, mostly graduate student level or professionals in AOL who care about Yoga, spirituality and are good hearted people. It's really hard to find good people these days. I definitely won't be finding these types of people at the nightclub. So to answer your question. The benefits do outweigh the pitfalls.

Anonymous said...

In my life, I've had the opportunity to observe the likes of Tony Robbins, have read about the Werner Erhards, Ron Hubbards, the Oshos. It's been an interest of mine to study the practices of these large group awareness programs, some of which can be classified as cults.

One interesting thing that is often left out of the conversation when talking about cults, is the benefits. Some of the techniques they use, WORK. Current research in "positive" psychology shows the effectiveness of some processes or techniques.

This is by no means an admission that someone should go out and join a cult if there looking to improve there lives (a cult would probably do just the opposite), I'm only saying that we always have a tendency to look at the bad side of things without looking at the good. Indeed, cults also utilize "brain-washing" practices that also WORK.


Anonymous said...

"The difference between a cult
and an established religion is
sometimes about one generation."
- Scott McLemee

I hold religions in the same breath as cults. They have much in common. In terms of the monetary benefits of the leaders - The Dalai Lama travels first class, dines at the finest establishments, stays in the fanciest of hotels. Same holds for the pope. In the sikh religion, it is frequently found that temple leaders are the ones profiting from the donations of the worshipers - they buy big houses using church dollars.

The testimonies of this website and lack of transparency in AOL leads me to believe that in terms of monetary aspects, it has much in common with a number of religious organizations.

Now i'm not writing this with the intention to point out the wrongs of spiritual organizations, (these are just more examples of the saying absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is just the nature of power which is common to most types of social structures whether political, or religlous:
I'm writing this because i wanted to point out that no organization is perfect, whether it's the Obama Administration, or the Catholic Church, they all have there flaws.

Speaking out to these flaws is necessary, and a great service, that includes this blog. These types of undertakings lead to the "cleaning out of the closet," and hopefully over time, things improve.

Buy my main point is, despite all the flaws that exist, even in AOL, there is some level of benefit that exists, that's what i've been trying to say in my other posts. We have to look at the whole, and see if the good outweighs the bad. If it does, that should be pointed out. If it doesn't that should be pointed out. That's mainly why i've tried to discuss the good with the bad. And i appreciate the last few amazing replies.

I've come to realize that we live in an irrational world where irrational unconscious thought is one of the driving impulses of humans - Freud was right here. I reject completely the doctrine of ALL religious organizations when they attempt to tread upon the domains of science. I also resent the fact that people blindly accept falsehoods and live with cognitive dissonance. It's damn frustrating.

I accept that, and i also accept that some people benefit from there religious organizations, despite all of these contradictions.


Narendra said...

Anon @ January 24, 2010 7:13PM -
I like your view points. Infact, after I decided to disconnect from AOL only thing come into my mind was loosing contacts with some good hearted volunteers. But, I find it difficult to remain in organisation and manage it because, when we meet, the main topic is Ravishankar, AOL etc. If my views are negative about AOL, then either I have to shut my mouth when everyone is talking the nonsense. Or dispute with them, which never gives any positive results, but, may hurt feelings of others.
I think if you have such capacity, you can remain in the organisation only to maintain personal contacts.
I don't have such capacity. I wish I had.

Anonymous said...

All sorts of cultists and queer fish teach all kinds of techniques for achieving health, contentment,
peace of mind; and for many of their hearers many of these techniques are demonstrably effective. But
do we see respectable psychologists, philosophers and clergymen boldly descending into those odd and
sometimes malodorous wells, at the bottom of which poor Truth is so often condemned to sit? Yet once
more the answer is, No.
- Huxley, The Doors of Perception

Despite Ravi Ravi's many deceptions, He does address Huxley's gripe by focusing on non-verbal learnings, and offering at least some truths which are often not taught in our educational institutions or modern society.

"In a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible
to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions. There is always money for, there are always
doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who
influenced whom to say what when? Even in this age of technology the verbal humanities are honored.
The non-verbal humanities, the arts of being directly aware of the given facts of our existence, ale almost
completely ignored. A catalogue, a bibliography, a definitive edition of a third-rate versier's ipsissima
verba, a stupendous index to end all indexes - any genuinely Alexandrian project is sure of approval and
financial support: But when it comes to finding out how you and I, our children and grandchildren, may
become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to the Spirit,
less apt, by psychological malpractices, to make ourselves physically ill, and more capable of controlling
our own autonomic nervous system - when it comes to any form of non-verbal education more
fundamental (and more likely to be of some practical use) than Swedish drill, no really respectable
person in any really respectable university or church will do anything about it."
- Huxley, The Doors of Perception

It's a shame people have to turn to dubious characters like Shankar. We probably wouldn't be complaining so much if AOL lost it's non-profit status, and Sri Sri was more ethical. Despite this, his course was the one where i first learned to appreciate non-verbal learning.

Anonymous said...

There are good things about AoL. There are many good people, a sense of community, spiritual practices, some volunteer work and more. That should be acknowledged. I can see why people stay in AoL. But like Anon 12:01 AM, I find it nearly impossible to be in the group because I either have to muzzle myself or try to argue with them when they say things I disagree with. That does not seem to benefit anyone. For those people who can continue with AoL and not let that bother them, so be it.

Everyone has to do what's right for themselves regarding how involved to be with AoL. For some, the pros outweigh the cons. But not for me. The thought of hearing SSRS's voice in the meditations and thinking of things I hear about him on this blog and elsewhere, just ruins the meditation and practice and actually, sometimes even the friendships for me.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:34 AM:
"If i were to recommend this course to others, as i do, I point out these flaws."

I'm just curious about the reactions of people you invite to do the course when you tell them the flaws. So, you tell them you've found a good community of friends who practice yoga together and invite them to join the group. Then you go on to tell them that the organization scams people, that the main teacher is a narcissistic, manipulating fake, that many people have walked away from the organization completely destroyed psychologically, that it is a cult, that some people actually get sick from practicing sudarshan kriya (though how harmful this is still needs to be scientifically proven), and that the volunteer activities of the organization actually barely exist. And do they still want to join?

And they should do all this to be with a good group of spiritual people which is "really hard to find these days"? I can't help but believe there are better spiritual groups to join which have good people.

Though, I do think there are a lot of good people in AoL. So, that point taken.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:01,

You've asked me a great question yet you've gone ahead and given what you assume to be my answer. Here's my answer for those who may be curious and are interested in respectful discourse.

I've only actually brought up the course with three of my friends who were curious. I recommended it to two out of the three.

Here's my reasoning:

Benefits: you will learn, meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, Prayanam and other breathing techniques, you will be taught the course by an amazing instructor, with 10 plus years of education from two of the finest academic institutions in the world, and it will be good fun with a variety of games and activities.

On the other hand. Keep a skeptical mind because some of the things taught have no scientific evidence. ie, there justifications for vegetarianism, and some of the statements of the Organization figure head seem to me to be absurd. They will also show one video by this man, Ravi Shankar. I don't connect with his message, and find he speaks in many absolutes + i feel he's wrong on a lot of things. I suggest you just ignore that part of the course. Other than that, it's great, you'll have fun, you'll dig a little deeper into yourself, and make some great friends.

My rational is that this is a great bootcamp like course that will give them their first exposures to meditation, Yoga and an intro into the ideas of lesser known eastern thinkers such as J. Krishnamurti. It's not the be all and end all course, there are other options, but i think this particular course taught by this particular instructor is great - i can't personally comment on the other ones having never experienced them, but i probably wouldn't suggest them due to some major financial controversies related to the organization as a whole.

Anonymous said...


I can only speak for the course taught by this particular instructor! In his course, there were no mentions of miracles. They were a few extraordinary claims, but I'm a believer in extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and had a few discussions with the teacher in front of the class, when i felt extraordinary claims were made. We had fair constructive discussions, and where we disagreed, we respectfully disagreed. I investigated every claim fully. That's what's led me to sights like this. I've also done more academic research into yoga, breathing, meditation, and other practices taught in the course - and here there exists considerable evidence supporting there utility which i'll discuss a little bit later.

There was and for the most part very little mention about the organization or Sri Sri, there was a bit, (and after watching his video - i noticed some major contradictions - i went to the website during the course, noticed many red-flags about humanitarian work and his claims of completing a physics degree, having heard him speak in the video, it seemed he had very little comprehension of physics.) In fact these were the red flags that led me to sites such as guruphilac, Randi, Javad Aktar etc. I researched heavily into the organization and learned of so many flaws higher up, it disturbed me. I went as far as to look into AOL's income statement and tax records (the single AOL one which is public) and based on this reading, more red flags. The more i researched, the more disturbed. Yet this was not my lived experience in my course, taught by my instructor - it was in fact a great experience. I willingly excepted the contradictions of an organization so flawed, yet an instructor who was very knowledgable and well trained, who had customized the course to include some of his insights from his educational training in academic institutions and his studies in philosophy, he by no means force fed ravi shankar but was able to quote a number of great thinkers and academics - He was more brilliant in many respects than Ravi Shankar and a man of considerable academic fortitude.

Now to the point of living with contradictions, This is a fact of life i'm trying to except. For example, I'm able to respect Gandhi for his many accomplishments but also recognize he was typically human with a much darker side: he was a man who slept naked with his young female followers, corresponded with Hitler calling him friend, not to mention his bigoted behaviour towards negro Africans, he even fought in war against them, this is the man so many respect. There's so many contradictions out there my friend. I've learned to live with them.

Now as to my reference to cults, i've read Hoffer's seminal book, True Believer, and other books on cults, and AOL may be classified as a cultish movement, in the same sense as the Hindu religion or other religions and in some respects, even positive movements such as Gandhi's or civil rights. Based on my personal experience i would classify it as a positive movement. Based on what I've learned from pages like these and other sources probably a negative one but that's why I only suggest this particular instructor. I have spoken out about the pitfalls of the organization.

Anonymous said...

FINAL POINT - from my personal experience, Kriya has been positive for me, and I've yet to find any evidence of harm - it has helped me in reducing stress, anxiety, and developing self awareness, basically it's one of the tools in my arsenal to better understand my consciousness, and so far, my subjective experience says its beneficial. My academic investigation (the good studies) all seem to show evidence for utility in the practice of breathing exercises - especially in terms of stress reduction and entering different levels of perception/conciousness. Though i should point out, AOL advertises breathing to be the be all and end all, this type of breathing cures this or that organ/part of the body/condition etc., in this i believe there is yet to be a shread of academic evidence to support these extraordinary claims.

Now in regard to other groups, I've just recently (last couple days) found groups organized by the state hospitals based on the methods of Jon Kabat-zinn, which are also cheaper. Moving forward, if i'm ever asked, I'll probably be suggesting these over AOL, just because it's a completely secular organization (hospital) and cheaper.

Thanx to those who have commented respectfully, and to KLIM, i wanted to thank you. I've been able to air out my personal issues with AOL here, and in a way used it as a platform to discover where i stand: I won't publicly be endorsing this organization in the future, but i will give respect to where it's due, to my instructor, and to some of the stress reduction teqniques and other tools that have pushed me forward on my journey to what socrates called our ultimate mission: to "know thyselve."

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:56 AM:
My apologies if I sounded disrespectful. I mean no disrespect. Quite the opposite. You have very good points. I meant to highlight the problems I personally have seen with AOL and the fact that you most likely DO NOT in fact say those to your friends when you invite them. So, I was not assuming your answer. I was trying to use sarcastic humor about AoL and to say that most people simply do not get the correct information about AoL. Next time, I'll just stick to asking the question! Sorry, not used to blogs yet and realizing I don't write my thoughts as well as speak them! Thank you for your post. It has given me much to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:53,

Thank you for your kind reply. I also struggle with not being able to convey my intentions into words, it's a problem we all face. My ability to verbalize my thoughts is one of the biggest challenges i face as a writer. I am also new to blogging and i'm glad to know i'm not the only one who has this problem.