Thursday, April 1, 2010

The chair is sizzling

In order to be “somebody” in the AoL, one has to go through the hot chair at least once. It is a process done in DSN (a requisite for TTC) and in TTCs. RS explains one has difficulties criticizing and being criticized and both are an indication of ego. Thus, the infamous “hot chair.”

Though I agree with this “knowledge point”, I believe criticism should be constructive instead of random and destructive. Unfortunately the “hot chair” was more an exercise in which the teacher vented all his/her unresolved power issues and frustrations, and the participants their aggression and fears. By the end, the participants were broken down, vulnerable, demoralized, some traumatized, perfectly ready to be manipulated and brain-washed (a common exercise done in cults).

I remember a woman being yelled horrible words, including “slut!!! bitch!!!” just because she has big breasts. A gay man was called, “Fagget!” and many other demeaning things related to his sexuality. Another, who confessed she had been beaten up by her husband and had an abortion, which she still, 20 years later, felt guilty about, was yelled, “You deserved to be beaten up! Look at you! Who would want to be born to you! You deserved it! You bitch!” Can someone please explain how this can help anyone in a positive way? Definitely, neither the one criticized nor the one criticizing. It is not criticism, it is insulting. Worse, insulting in the name of knowledge, spiritual growth and “your own good”!

Teachers often misused their power and this exercise in various ways. I remember, for example, there was a teacher who wanted to get rid of someone. She thought this man was not worthy of being a teacher (although he had been made one) because he was “gay, fat, ugly and poor” (her words). She, the head in her community, gathered the rest of the teachers and the board just to put the man on the “hot chair”. It was demoralizing and abusive. I reckon the person had a lot more studies, knowledge and centeredness than many other teachers of the area. Unfortunately, they simply did not like him, felt threatened by him and were jealous of him. Not only did this person leave the AoL but it took him years to overcome the trauma it caused.

Looking back I see love was often used as an excuse to abuse someone. “This is all for your growth, to make you stronger, see how much the guru loves you.” Whenever one was abused, one was given that explanation. I guess, love can kill too.

I remember once the organization and the guru had done something horrible. My students, confused, asked a senior teacher why they were treating me so poorly. Her explanation was, “Understand that the more you are attacked and suffer in the AoL the more it means you are evolving.” For heaven’s sake! Some twisted thinking we followed!

I remember always asking, even when I became a teacher, how come so many senior teachers were still so nuts and mean if they had dedicated so many years to the path. The answer would be, “Oh, but you should have seen how he/she was before!” Funny, I found myself giving the same answer many years later, when perhaps, the correct one was, “this is just a sect, there is no growth here, it is all an excuse.”

Someone who was beaten up by the man RS told her to be with, was told she had to observe her own violence because she obviously was provoking the beating. The point about “we attract violence because there is violence within us” (the famous Gandhi example Shankar makes: Gandhi, the man who preached non-violence, died in a violent way because he was violent to his wife and to himself) is not always valid. Everything needs to be applied with logic and reason, rather than to justify “the means to the end”. What was so violent about Tibetans before the Chinese took over, tortured and killed? What is so violent about a child who is raped and killed? Of course, I can almost hear someone whisper, “past life karma.” Come on!

Anyway, some wicked lousy arguments we listened to and followed! Challenging them made one a rebel, with shaky faith, no devotion, lacking surrender.

What is even more funny is the man who preaches about the value of criticizing and being criticized cannot and does not like to be on the chair himself. If you never want to be in bad terms with Ravishankar, NEVER tell him you disagree with him or that something he did is wrong. Like, never tell him his organization lacks ethical practices and values, or that his teachers are bad, or that the Silver Jubilee was not really that successful and people were unhappy, or that an article someone wrote about him with some negative remarks were actually quite accurate. In any case, failures and mistakes are always ours, and achievements and glories always his.

I am often surprised by the reactions of AoLers leaving comments in this blog – aggressive and quite off-centered, and the fact that RS is apparently worried about the existence of it. Is this what I think is happening? RS is shaking on his hot chair! Yet he still does not and cannot understand this blog is not interested in destroying his organization, but rather to offer people a space to express themselves and find healing. Not everyone needs to agree with AoL/RS or think AoL/RS are the best. If they see it as a criticism of their actions and people, there is a lot I guess they should ponder about their own ego, maturity and hidden agenda.

Apparently the head of the AoL marketing department (what a joke) and the US board are planning a meeting with RS to discuss how the blog has become a virus for the organization. Apparently even teachers are disturbed and having doubts after reading the blog.

1. If none of these stories resonated a little bit with ones experiences, then one would neither have doubts nor feel disturbed. On the other hand, many who have left, actually find healing with the blog because they identify with many stories.

2. If the organization really was about spirituality and its guru so great, then why even discuss “the blog” at the board level or at all? If a program is good, no virus could affect it. (I wonder if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have a board meeting to discuss all the news published about them. Imagine then Berlusconi would be in meetings only to discuss the press!).

3. The blog is overflowed by comments and emails from AoLers “daring” and “demanding” to be published. They are full of rage, hatred, often, quite imbalanced. Beloved ones, we left an abusive relationship and we will not enter another one, especially with mini-SriSris, thus, please don’t boss us around and tell us what to do. So far we posted every comment, unlike Bawa and Dinesh who only post those in favor of their voice. However, there is no room in this blog for AoL abuses nor demanding tone. Having been slaved and slapped around for whatever time was enough. On the other hand, we have received many messages from former members thanking the blog and requesting we keep this going as well as the space for healing. Thus, this is what will be respected.

4. If the organization really was about spirituality and the teachings effective, why do their followers write with so much rage, hatred and off centered? Why do they even check out the blog? Why do they perceive it as a personal attack towards them? Why are they even sending damage control teams to police activities of freedom of speech? We are all free to believe whatever we want, and it is OK if not everyone thinks AoL and RS are the best. It is time to grow up and realize it is OK.

5. It is interesting, when one is in disagreement with “them”, they label it as “bad energy” or “negativity.” But if they are in disagreement with “us”, they are “righteous and evolved.”

6. By the way, they have even tried to "hack" the account by sending faking an mail from "Gmail" requesting our full name, password, phone number and country within 7 days, otherwise, our account will be closed. Unbelievable. Why all this fear? If it is that good, why fear anything at all? It is more a mafia than a spiritual organization. Where did the spirituality go?

Can someone please find logic to any of these points?
What about you don’t see intentions behind my actions and I accept you as you are?

What can I say? It seems not even Ravishankar lives the knowledge and certainly his asana is sizzling. But don't worry, as we were often told, "It will be good for your ego and your growth. We love you."


Lax said...

Klim, don't care and give a damn to any pressures and threats. Let everyone realize that democracy prevails atleast outside AOL !!. I think you should start publishing or others should start contributing real events which have happenned at AOL involving SSRS also. That only should be the befitting reply by you.

Anonymous said...

very well written.. open al the stories abt aol .. hahahaha ..let them go to police.. anywhere .. bt plzz plzz plzz dont stop writing ... this is he best way to kick their asses..

Tahir-ul-Qadri said...

One of the very well written article in this blog. I would like to thank you for asking very thought provoking questions. Please continue this effort. This is a very helpful initiative for all the regular readers of the blog, people who may have had experiences with AOL and those that are planning to take some of their courses.

In the process, that you mentioned in this article, have you ever wondered as to "who" is getting "insulted" ? Please think about it.

Let us hope that people who "manage" AOL, live up to knowledge that they are trying to sell.

Anonymous said...

well written klim. compliments.
....... its surprising that a person like you with so preserved and developed reasoning and critical thinking as evident from your writings could be sucked in AOL for so long.
....It seems DSN is the turning point AOL life, a milestone after which you are 'destroyed' and coming out becomes more and more difficult.

Anonymous said...

It seems DSN and TTC takes out remaining reasoning and even common sense from teachers. course by course you become more and more measurable, dependent and 'empty' from within.
.....All this you are 'evolving' and reaching higher state of 'enlightenement'.

Anonymous said...

this blog will save millions of possible new recruits in this information age from evil clutches of AOL. they can now know the other side of the coin.
Even those in early phase of AOL journey will have access to facts, truthfulness of which which they themselves can judge before it is too late.

Anonymous said...


All things written by you are so true. I was on this "hot chair" myself. It was then, that I completely realized that the creator of such practices is an abusive person Himself, because you teach what you really are. What kind of spiritual growth or strength may come out of being insulted and insulting other? But, as most of things are twisted in AOL and white becomes black (black becomes white), it is sometimes difficult to see the Truth, especially if you were already brain-washed during Basic and Advanced Courses. DSN course finishes the process, and human beings with multiple opportunities for inner growth become SSSR slaves. Spiritual slavery is the worst kind of slavery. It is the most destructive for YOU, as it is self imposed, of course, with a knowledgeable guidance of a manipulator. Yes, you are an obedient and perfect slave now, just a mechanical part of AOL. But at what cost? You sacrificed your intelligence, sensibility and individuality. You are so obsessed with the “hand pointing to the Moon” that you forgot about the MOON. It’s a pity.

Anonymous said...

The chair, if sizzling, in not because this blog writes against AOL but because they know and fear the contents are true.
My prediction is history will remember how a simple blog, can cause downfall of an organization as large as AOL, though not originally started for this.its a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Till sometime back it was surprising to see very few anti AOL stuff on net. RS/ AOL somehow managed it nicely. though the international list of CULTS includes AOL the world knew only the unilateral facts about it.
RS still enjoys good rapport with mainstream media.Blogs like this though do not have mass reach but can make a dent in long term.

Lakshmi said...

KLIM, Great job! I certainly believe this blog has done its part in healing some small wounds in my psyche. Although I was never damaged to the same extent as others, as my exposure was limited to two basic courses, and an advance course with his holiness himself. The way AOL works is very subtle.

I was first exposed to AoL in 97 as a performance obsessed sophomore engineering student. The local marketing rep (AoL teacher) had elite degrees from elite institutions, and was an effective evangelizer for naive ones like us. A group of about 12 friends joined the course and we mostly enjoyed amongst ourselves during the course. I realized during the the first course itself that the course teacher (Marketing guy's wife, high level indian civil service officer, and an equally accomplished lady) had serious issues with handling divergent views. Still, we enjoyed the course, and looking at the academic achievements of the dynamic husband-wife due, took SK quite seriously. I remember I did it almost for one full year without missing more than a few days. We regularly attended the long kriya sessions come what may, hail, rain, or severe wind chill of north India. I feel it helped my academic performance. My IQ certainly increased during the period, and I aced any standardized tests I took. During that time (1997-2000), we never saw any advertisement of Sri Sri's so called siddhies. There was no fee for repeating basic course. Advance courses were reasonably priced. There was very little of the divine shop stuff. In general, there was much less emphasis on Sri Sri as a person, and more on knowledge. I tried to recommend the course to as many people I could without any AoL coercion.

Fast forward two years, in 2002 I encountered AoL again, this time as a graduate student in US. I was very happy to find it again, and promptly sought to join basic course to renew the knowledge. Repeating the course was still free, but a strong pressure to donate was there. Here I encountered the tales of Sri Sri miracles for the first time, and saw a lot more emphasis on personality of the Guru. Within next three years, AoL changed very rapidly. Fees went up at the rate much higher than inflation. Every AoL meeting started converting into a marketing event. Divine shop gained a lot more visibility. More and more courses were advertised and sold, but things were still normal. I didn't like the emerging direct marketing environment and moved away. All the "Karma" talk also emerged in this period. People became "karma" accountants, It is good karma to do DSN, advance course etc, bad karma to question the guru, missing seva opportunities etc. I could sense something was wrong, but couldn't articulate it. Group dynamics alienated true believers from "also rans". Skeptics were made to feel deficient and scared with implied supernatural attacks on their karma. I saw many bright people neglecting their careers and finances to join as many courses as they could. Tall tales of how just the intent of taking a particular course paved ways for cheap airfares and vacation approvals from tough bosses started to abound.

Lakshmi said...


Fast forward to 2006, and things started to go wrong seriously. A number of friends converted to some sort of teachers. It became hard to keep relations with acquaintances, as every social event was converted into a venue for sales pitch for upcoming course. I seriously started feeling that something was wrong with me, Why did I not enjoy this fun, high energy, everlasting laughter. Was something really wrong with my Samskaras? But this phase didn't last long as well. Recently, I noticed a kind of extreme pressure in the eyes of the Nouveau teachers as if they breaking under the strain of maintaing false pretenses. Surprisingly, suddenly websites and blog posts critical of AoL started to become more visible on google. Reading KLIM's website, I felt much lighter that my experience was a shared one, and I was not wrong in spurning the AoL web. I believe there might be very many folks who are carrying subtle pressure points within them due to abusive and expansionist AoL tactics and

Kumar said...

Dear Friends

This blog is really a blessing for those who intend to join full time in AOL or related cultish organizations .I am not against AOL or any Organizations or against people joining them . I want everyone to be well informed before taking such a step and this blog will help clarify many people about how manipulations are being done by many Organizations to seduce people in .Please enrich yourselves by learning Yoga , Meditations , Pranamaya etc but do not get trapped in cultish Organizations . Reality is in front of you and do not escape from it by running away from reality and joining such cultish organizations .

Anonymous said...

Delurking. I think this is a well written blog.

As an Indian who has steered clear of any gurus, I always wonder what it was that attracted people to cults- especially AOL.

You see, I believe that people flock to cults in no small measure do to the charisma of its figurehead/founder and in some measure due to the uniqueness (not quality) of the philosophy. In this case the founder has zero charisma (instead a sly & nervous look and a weak feminine voice to boot) nor are his ideas unique. Such a mystery.

As a charisma challenged person myself, I take hope in the fact that one can still be successful even if you do nothing right!!

Anonymous said...

It is RS who has such a bloated ego . No wonder his aggression spawns just that.

It was OTOH who wrote from his/her heart without a trace of embroidery all about RS. How ruthless & compassionless a person he actually is. Plus all details about his family background , the manufactured educational degrees which were reremodified & corrected several times.

It is all deja vu like all the charlatans around.

Keep it up Klim.

Good decision you took of not posting comments by his footsoldiers.

Chris Williams said...

Well well well, lots of stuff has happened, Chris is here, no worries everybody. KLIM, I am shocked that people use such words as slut and bitch in these so called courses. Wow. Shocked.
That should be reason enough for people not to join the fake org. I mean, it's okay to hook up with somebody spiritual if it leads to a good marriage,etc. but sleeping around, having multiple affairs even while married,etc. do not bring anybody to God. What the F is going on in this org.? Please, please people, don't fall for this crap. Just LEAVE. My deepest sympathies with all the victims. As for the aggressive AoLers, you can go * your *, if you know what I mean. Leave KLIM alone, he/she's doing a great job.

jivani said...

I think this hot chair you describe is the kind of warped thinking that defines a cult. They take good ideas for helping people and twist them so terribly that it becomes abusive and they call that spirituality and opportunity for growth. Landmark Forum does similar stuff if they're even still around--I hope not. Cults are masters of distorted thinking.

I noticed Bawa and Dinesh didn't post all comments on their blog. I read the comments and they were all "jai gurudev" "I love you Gurudev". There was literally no thoughtfulness behind any of the comments. They seemed like they were posted by young children or zombies. I thought maybe they are kids who took the YES course. I'm not sure which is worse, sounding like a child when you are an adult or being a child and being exposed to a cult and it's terrible leader.

Klim, I know this blog was not designed to "bring down" or attack AoL or SSRS. But, honestly, I felt happy that the board was meeting about this blog. I have to say personally, I would love to see them face reality and stop their abuses. I'm glad some teachers are taking this blog seriously and reading it and questioning SSRS and AoL.

I also think that SSRS is not all-powerful. The board is meeting most likely because they know it's a problem and SSRS is ultimately a weak and fearful human being. He seems like an almighty leader but he's probably a hair away from cracking. People who live as cult leaders and harm so many people (regardless of how many people they may help) are incredibly weak under their mask of serene spirituality. I bet he's shaking in his boots!

Anonymous said...

I always felt he is a weak creature.he is weak scientifically, may be spiritually,ethically, and what not.
He controls people weaker than him;
weaker s are being controlled by weak.what the hell rest of the world do about it. just watch as we are doing.
But many millions who do not know the bait can be saved.
May god give CLIM and others the strength and courage to save the unsuspected,'normal' and less evolved homo sapiences.

Anonymous said...

I always felt he is a weak creature.He is weak scientifically, ethically, may be spiritually, and what not.
He controls people weaker than him.
weaker s are being controlled by weak. what the hell rest of the world do about it? Just watch as we are doing.

Prairie Princess said...

I met one woman who walked out of DSN because she thought the international teacher was a blow-hard and "too rah-rah marketing " aol. Do people ever walk out of the other courses?
My encounter with aol was brief. I simply stopped and left it behind, Too many of the people I met seemed to be totally without critical though when it came to the organization..almost like they were on drugs. Too bad because I did meet some lovely souls that I trust I can know again when they get clean of the drug of this cult.

Thank you for your blog. It confirms my thinking about the mind numbing effects of aol. BTW, I have gotten some of those same requests for information about my account information. It is spam and should be treated just like letters from Nigeria indicating that one is the heir of millions and millions of dollars but you need to send bank account information (so they can loot your bank account). aol just wants to loot your mind at this point.. then they will get the bank account anyway.

Anonymous said...

I was an AoL-er for many years. Did the DSN two times. Yes, I was mad, but I was greedy for "spiritual growth".

As an ex-insider, I can share some insights into the hot-seat at DSN. Much of what happens depends on the teacher. My first course was quite good for me, because the hot-seat truly and honestly helped me develop a thick-skin. Comments and criticisms were to the point but civilized, and I understood what it was trying to help me achieve.

It worked nicely because the teacher moderated the criticisms and comments, and did not let things get out of hand.

The second course was the opposite. It was literally a free-for-all. The teacher sat mute. Did nothing when the insults escalated and reached the zone of complete douchebaggery. Thanks to the earlier experiences, I was able to take it in stride, but many others couldn't. People broke down, ran out of the room, threw up ... it was not nice.

That disgusted me. You're paying them good money to get called nasty names and insulted?

Swarnalatha said...

The 'hot chair' technique is not an original technique of AOL or some revelation of Ravishankar from his enlightened somnambulism. This is actually a straight lift from the Landmark Forum's program. Werner Erhard used to teach this in his EST in his 1970s. Osho used to use these kinds of techniques in their therapy sessions. AOL is using a mild version of these practices.
The whole DSN program is a straight lift from several previous mind control programs. It is essentially an initiation into cult behaviour and make people into unthinking robots like how most people in AOL are.

Anonymous said...

Is this true that DSN was developed by Rishi Nityapragya?

Atul said...

This "hot seat" must have been added later on. When I did DSN course in 2004 no such practice was followed

KLIM and CO. said...

Atul, this process was there since the beginning of DSN. Maybe you "lucked" out or maybe you "checked" out or maybe your teacher did it a lot simpler, like, for example, having people form groups of 10 people and do it among 10 people lightly. In any case, it doesn't matter when it was introduced, what matters is it is an abusive process a lot of people suffered with in the name of "spiritual growth".

Anonymous said...


I have enough damaging information on AOL that can raise a lot of nasty questions.....

I am biding my time....

If anything or anyone threatens the this blog, I will take it would represent a threat to my own freedom of expression and life...

I wonder how many more like me that frequent this blog.....

Anonymous said...

"Though I agree with this “knowledge point”, I believe criticism should be constructive instead of random and destructive. Unfortunately the “hot chair” was more an exercise in which the teacher vented all his/her unresolved power issues and frustrations, and the participants their aggression and fears. By the end, the participants were broken down, vulnerable, demoralized, some traumatized, perfectly ready to be manipulated and brain-washed (a common exercise done in cults)."

I agree that this is a very powerful tool that you need to be trained how to use. It is not wrong in itself, but you have to know what you are doing.