Friday, March 12, 2010

My experience with AoL Advanced (Part 2) course


I attended a Part-II course of AOL conducted by Rishi Nityapragya at Noida (near Delhi) in (4th to 7th) December 2009.

There were certain things which I tried not to accept, but after reading your blog, I am forced to admit the same:

1. The course was advertised in the name of Rishi Nitya Pragya, but throughout the course duration, I could sense that involvement of Rishiji was simply not there. The course began each day from 6 AM and ended at 10 PM in the night. During this period, Rishiji used to be with us only from 11 AM to 1 PM. Then he would come at 9 PM in Satsang.

2. During his discourses, he infact pointedly remarked (which was in quite bad taste) that people should not say that Rishiji is not coming. One should stop complaining.

Why? Is commitment nothing?

Infact the support staff carried the programme with far greater sincerity than Rishiji.

3. At the end of the course, Rishiji litrally shouted on one of the participant in an extremely humiliating manner.

He used to say that he has been teaching Part-2 course since last 7 years.

I could not help in thinking that being a teacher of the course and that too from last 7 years when he cannot control his anger on trivial issues, what benefit will us mere mortals will have?


Dr Quentin Jones said...

There are only a handful of Advance Course teachers who are truly committed to teaching the course. For most of them it is a holiday of sorts, a local basic course teacher would lead the yoga & kriya in the mornings. The advance course teacher will come strolling in around 11 and most of the time all he has to do is to switch the tape (oh now its high tech - all advance course teachers use IPods) on and off.

Then lunch is sent to their rooms - and most of them (holier than thou) will have complaints about how they cannot eat this or that and half the food is sent back (not satwic enough for the pure soles ---oops souls I mean.

They will stroll in again at 3.30- the basic course teacher turns on the knowledge CDs and everyone is told to sit up straight and watch the CD - most of them sleep through it while sitting.

Then the divine soul will go back to his room at 5.30 come back at 7.30 instructs the basic course teacher to play another knowledge CD and he leaves the hall by 9. Most of the work is done by the basic course teachers.

I have done close to 15 advance courses in my 6 years of AOL and I have only seen one teacher who is 100% focused and involved in the course and she is from Taiwan.

Its all a farce - paying so much of money and getting shortchanged in the long run. Better stay and home and pray .

ND said...

Dr. Jones, perfect analysis.
One more thing about advances course,
The meditation cassettes in the voice of RS are very poor voice quality. One can hardly understand, so the Advance Course teacher's main job is to explain what is being said.
and all the meditations are guided meditations. Meditations like Hollow and empty are considered as precious as Sudarshan Kriya cassette.
After doing Advance Course, there is feel good factor for few days, but if someone asks what you have learnt in Advance Course (that can be practiced later)thats Nothing.

The Rishi described in the post is good singer but highly egoistic. If the music arrangement is not upto his satisfaction, he simply do not sing. He humiliates the musicians as well as the arrangement team. I have seen him 4-5 times, he cann't control his anger. If someone asks about it, he later says that he was not angry, but he has to behave like angry to get few works done. That is called Controlled Anger.

tahir-ul-qadri said...

Its applaudable to see such a thought provoking summary of the advanced course. This also provides one specific perspective to this particular course. I guess, like many events in our day to day life, there are many ways to look at this one too.

Mr.Klim claims that he had the good opportunity to be really close with the inner circles of AOL. It seems like his insider's perspective gives a great interest to this blog. He is blunt and forthright in his choice of words while providing his opinions on various activities of AOLF. He is also kind enough to publish differing viewpoints of other readers. This does provide an aura of credibility to this whole effort.

With that said, I would like to share my 2 cents on this advanced course. Unlike other others who took this course many times, I had an opportunity to take this course just once in the presence of SriSri. As mentioned by ND, it was a very joyful experience. Ms.Tanuja Limaye was one of the main course instructors.

I took this course to experience a sense of joy , based on other's suggestions. They charged me close to $700.00 for taking that course. In my opinion, it is difficult to put a value/price on to one's own experience. But if one were to look at the cost that AOLF had to spend to organize this course, then it is a different aspect all together. But I'm not AOLF, I have no idea as to what could be considered as the right price for this experience. Happiness cannot usually be priced. It is I guess, for this happiness that we all search in different things in this world.

My experience is my own truth . It was never conditional on the hours that SriSri spent with us or the hours that Ms.Limaye spent or hours that Mr.john osborne sang.

I'm no one to judge the food preferences of these teachers.

But the point that is worth pondering is that participants like Mr.Klim , Mr.ND or Dr Quentin Jones took lot many of these advanced courses seemed more worried about the conduct of the teachers and not on their own self. What is it motivated these nice people to take this course again and again ? What is it that were expecting to experience ?

Why should I use my time to judge Rishi Nitya or Ms.Limaye or Mr. Mulchand ?

Why should I be interested in their personal lives or their sexual preferences ?

I would not want to consider them in any way superior or inferior to any other normal human being. They, I guess are doing what they were asked to do , just like all of us.

Anonymous said...

Like Mr. tahir-ul-qadri I took advanced course only once and it was also in the presence of SS. The course lasted for 10 days and it was one of the most painful experiences in my life. We were deprived of sleep all these days.
We were made to do hyperventilation called Sudarshan Kriya several times a day. Plus, loud music every evening. Yes, by the end of the course people's faces were cheerful, but their eyes were completely BLANK. If becoming an idiot is the price of joy, then, glory to insanity!
After all, the whole idea of AOL is to make you lose your mind and become a zombie so that SS could use his mind to move you.
According to WIkipedia "zombie is a creature that appears in books and popular culture typically as a reanimated dead or a mindless human being."

ND said...

There is difference between watching a Movie and attending a Course.
In movie, you are there to enjoy for couple of hours, you are not there to Change your Life. Yor are not concerned about the cost involved in making the movie.
In course, you are told repeatedly that Its life changing experience, you shall learn meditation and many other things.
If your purpose is to get a different experience, then enjoy the Advanced Course. But, if you are there to learn something, change your life etc. you are surely to disappoint after few days. If you tell this to any teacher, you are asked to repeat the course again and again.

jivani said...

@Now What posted this blog earlier:

I couldn't help but notice one of the descriptions of the teachers:

"As a successful teacher of the Art of Living he so completely fulfills all the criteria, the most important being…. Having a perpetual smile"

fair_and_balanced said...

That doesn't seem to match my experiences.. although I didnt have this particular teacher; yes, to some extent the teacher matters.. but then so does the location, arrangements and fellow participants. Usually its a bonus if the teacher is a good singer.

Frankly the basic course teachers shouldn't be doing some much of the heavy lifting (in the ones I took, they were barely there, never in a lead role; maybe for the morning exercises).

Although my info may not be current I definitely had quite positive experiences in the past.. maybe things have changed a bit and some people aren't that enthusiastic? Does Arun Madhavan teach anymore? He was pretty good as I recall. Some of the American teachers are decent as well, no?

fair_and_balanced said...

to anonymous who replied to Tahir

If SK doesn't agree with your constitution, its very poor judgment on your part to participate in an advanced course. Either that, or you are a not-very-imaginative troll;

I agree with Tahir on most points including his critique of QJ and others .. except that the teacher and peer group can significantly influence what you get out of the course (besides the feel good); so your mileage will vary somewhat across courses.

fair_and_balanced said...

ND: fair point; one of the weaknesses in AOL (actually it would apply to most other groups as well) is the "application" part. One could say that the individual is supposed to figure this out.. I'd think 4 days would be somewhat limited.. probably something on the order of weeks or months would be needed, and not just in an Ashram setting which is idealistic.

The missing link is probably that your life experience depends not only on what you bring to the table but also what the surroundings are like.. I cant imagine even a enlightened person being very blissful in a bad environment. The whole concept of Ashram living is to control this aspect.

If I were to critique AOL, I'd say that it is fairly anti-intellectual. Honest queries are sometimes addressed in a frivolous, non-serious way. Which leads one to conclude that the lights may not be very bright :-) Or that the bright lights are few and far between. Or that the intellect is generally devalued.

By contrast, the much recently maligned Nithyananda is actually a very sharp customer and has open exchanges will all and sundry. Quite impressive.

Anonymous said...

All enthusiasm dies in this blog. you criticized gurudev a monk having sexual perversions. he is a superhuman who can forgive you. christian missions, muslim $$$$$$ power all used in marketing their faith(Not necessarily the truth) same thing by AOL the only organization that stands up to this No knwoledge all money missionaries. Can you get 1 victim come out and speak up on sexual abuses I will be the first to get out of the AOL.

fair_and_balanced said...

could all the anonymouses please name themselves in a consistent way and do a favor for everyone here? thanks.

to the latest anon: yes, if klim and co. have insinuated such "perversions" (what exactly is a perversion is debatable; for example if you are an enlightened being, shouldnt you pretty much engage in any activity without influencing your base state?), I totally agree that a separate post by klim should be made spelling out what exactly is being alleged. Gurudev is held in very high esteem by thousands or more..including meself; so it appropriate to get the air cleared.

I dont need to agree with klim to appreciate his/her writings.. A lot of it is subjective; people have different tastes and tastes can change, can they not? I make a distinction between klim and jody (guruphiliac) who is unreasonably but consistently weird/off the wall.

Prairie Princess said...

Fair and Balanced?? Just as faux as Fox News. You have the credibility of a snake.

Art of Leaving said...

fair_and_balanced: “if you are an enlightened being, shouldnt you pretty much engage in any activity without influencing your base state?”

That is the kind of ideological nonsense that people need to start questioning radically. It’s probably been used since time immemorial by a few powerful priests/rishis to brainwash others into believing that they have reached some higher state of consciousness despite the fact that their personalities and actions don’t reflect it one bit!

So-called “Enlightenment” that does not visibly transform and purify all levels of one’s being (body, mind and soul) is no Enlightenment at all, no matter what some advaitic traditions may pretend.

Why exactly do you believe Ravi is “enlightened”? – Like I and others also once did – in great faith, but ultimately due to naivety and wishful thinking, and for all the wrong reasons.

Otherwise, how do you know I am not enlightened? I may be engaging in all kinds of activities here (like criticising the great Ravi Ravi Ravi), which seems to be very unevolved and unenlightened of me, but for all you know my base state is Enlightenment, and it is not at all influenced by these “questionable” activities of mine. I am just not stating openly I am enlightened, but shouldn’t that be all the more reason to believe I am?

Perhaps look at the Simpsons episode on sects, read some analyses of the characteristics of cults and narcissist personalities, and think again. Are you sure you’re not merely holding “Gurudev” in “very high esteem” because of all those other “thousands or more” who are blindly doing the same thing? It’s easy enough to project someone as special and make a few people bow down to him in great reverence, and quickly others follow suit. We have such a great need to believe in Someone. But if many of those thousands were suddenly to start questioning his integrity, and his popularity were to wane dramatically, where will your faith be then?

Art of Leaving said...

fair_and_balanced: “I make a distinction between klim and jody (guruphiliac) who is unreasonably but consistently weird/off the wall.”

This is not the first time on this blog that someone tries to play off KLIM and Jody against each other. Whatever you’re trying to do, it’s not succeeding.

For the record, Jody has done us tremendous pioneering work and service in exposing whole hosts of false gurus. I have been greatly solaced and Illumined by Guruphiliac while trying to make sense of things post-Ravi and post-AoL. It’s also through Guruphiliac that I found Guruholic, which completed the Ravi-demystification process for me.

Jai Jody & Jai KLIM!!!

P Naik said...

As with all things, Buyer Beware!

Anonymous said...

as for the temporary feel good: What exactly do we expect from a spiritual workshop for a set of days? enlightenment ( for whatever we define it to be). All the courses from all the organizations,be it vipassana, any org retreat just give you a temporary state of peace. This however could be a fuel to your further growth.

I agree the way the organization does it work is shameful. But advance course is super awesome.

As as for kriya only giving you temporary peace, thats exactly what kriya is destined for . It is a temporary stilling of the mind. . Permanent peace can be obtained only by the death of the mind,( as opposed to a temporary stilling of the mind ) for which self inquiry is recommended. Kriya and other spiritual practices like breathing and yoga could be a great precursor to self inquiry as self inquiry is difficult to practice.

PoorSinfulKLIM said...

Some of the comments here make me laugh. Poor disgruntled souls - please reflect where your life is headed (with or without AOL).

The advanced course is one of the best things to happen to anyone, with the condition that they are willing to go through a few hours of sitting still in meditation. That's all! Not everyone can do it and some people will realize it after the first or maybe the second time - that's completely fine. But blaming the meditation for one's own lack of ability to meditate is not right... that's my opinion.

Not all techniques are for everyone. The meditation techniques are generally suited for everyone, however, there will still be people who are just not used to sitting still with their eyes closed for a prolonged time - and that's fine too. Sri Sri himself tells everyone that it's okay if you didn't get it the first time.

Anyway, first do some introspection and then write this about others!!

Wishing you all the best!

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar experience with Rishiji's course in Bhubaneshwar. I took the course with him because a friend in AoL had lamented that Rishiji is one of the closest (if not the THE closest) teachers to RS. When I thought about my complaints, I justified keeping them to myself thinking that maybe my expectations were too high. I'm thankful for this entry because I can relate to each point you make:

1. Rishiji was rarely there.

2. Rishiji was extremely, disturbingly critical, especially w.r.t Oriya people/culture and especially towards women.

3. Towards the end of the course, I realized the DSN course was simply a tool for them to lure people to the next basic course. The money was carefully counted, but the forms were never looked at. I wonder if the folks who completed the forms were ever contacted.

4. Rishiji in a very gross way used his popularity for marketing: He and the other teachers had enacted a drama: Since on the first day we did not return with enough new participants, he had told us the course would be canceled. He and the teachers told us to pray hard to RS. People were at the verge of tears, that the most revered AoL teacher was about to cancel our course because we did not meet his expectations. And of course, the next day we were worked very hard to each get 3 new participants and we were told that RS had answered our prayers. BULL SHIT. naive we all had become.

5. Nothing but BS. Yet even then, my mind found ways to justify it. When I realized the marketing agenda of the course, Rishiji could see it on my face. He asked what was wrong and I sort of barked at him for the entire weekend--his derogatory remarks against Oriyas and women; he lame drama that cajoled us into "working harder". (c'mon, we were told we'd go do seva with the slum dwellers; little did we know we would simply become girl scouts selling AoL cookies). His reply to my out roar was a roar of his own. ...which he ended with a pseudo affectionate comment, "I will be mean and cruel if I have to in order to awaken you!" I really wish I would have read this blog back then. In fact, I'd really shove all the controversies in his face---the rapes at the ashram, the money scoundrel by Bhunua goddess's son, ...even my experiences with the Youth Leadership Training Program (read next point on YLTP).

6. Because I work with villages in remote Orissa, I was impressed by AoL's YLTP program, at least in the way the coordinator described it to me. But what a fool I was to think that a youth could be 'transformed' into a leader in 10 days. He gets transformed into a slave for AoL's events in the cities; however the youth thinks that one day he too will be an "international teacher". I have kept in touch with a few "yuvacharayas" who want to do development activities in their village, but they request that i don't tell their AoL supervisors. The supervisors simply demand that they recruit for new courses, when YLTP is advertised for village development via the youth. How horrible I feel now that I let the youth of the villages I work in get exposed to such brain washing tactics.

7. Get this--although a basic course is $400, the YLTP coordinator canceled the YLTP course 3 times because "there were not enough students". They had no idea how far and expensively (for a rural youth's budget) a village youth had to travel to get to the course venue. Also, the sub-organizers kept asking the youth for money. We pay $400 thinking that the money goes towards courses for the less privileged, but having had a glimpse of the programs, I can tell you that there is no money for those organizers organizing in the villages. They were always scrounging for money.

All these facts finally make sense...and I don't have to hide them or justify them to be ok. Thanks for giving me the space to write.