Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comment on the teacher’s pompous answer to a devotee’s sincere question

BY HUMBLE WITNESS

I have to comment on the teacher’s pompous answer to a devotee’s sincere question posted by anon on 4/19 @ 5:10 PM under “Ravishankar’s Hankering for NPP (part 2)”. I remember going through the teacher’s training part 2, and having to debate over this course price issue. I also felt that the price of the course was a barrier to those who most “needed” the course, and I was hoping for a chance at the TTC to air my concerns and get reassurance that in fact the exorbitant cost of courses was justified. This was not allowed—instead, we were made to defend an opinion that opposed our own in a sort of group debate. How clever of them to try and get us to do our own brainwashing, and I am sure it worked on some. As for me, I became only more convinced that AoL caters to the rich and ignores the poor because rs is interested in the money, and not in rendering any kind of service.

“Q> I am a staunch follower of Art of living and have done part 1, part 2 and Sahaj Samadhi courses. I thoroughly enjoyed them and love Guruji. But I always felt the courses are expensive. I thought spiritual knowledge should be distributed at the minimal cost and it is upto the seeker to offer how much ever it pleases him/her for Guru Dakshina. There were a few other situations when I was a bit under financial pressure to donate atleast $300. This has bothered me quite a bit even though I am a philanthropist. If people are rich and can afford it, it is a different matter. Sorry for my ignorance. I am not really clear. But if you can please explain to me in detail, I would really appreciate it.”


The answer posted by the teacher on his/her blog is clearly a compilation of arguments that the teacher trainers have taught us all to parrot, and some of the arguments are misleading, silly, evasive, or simply untrue.

“Spiritual Knowledge has never been at minimal cost .. earlier you would have had to go and do Seva in an Ashram for 10-15 years before you even got a whiff of learning about meditation… Then after all that, you would give a Guru Dakshina if at all…”

Okay, so why doesn’t AoL accept service and time commitment as payment for a course? These days, volunteers are asked to pay to volunteer at an event, especially for those events where rs will be in attendance. And why pressure course participants to give a dakshina at the end of the course? I am a westerner, and I might be misunderstanding the concept, but shouldn’t Dakshina come from one’s own inspiration, and not a result of external pressures? Clearly in this argument, traditions of the past are being twisted to justify the practices of aol today. Either stick to tradition, or call it what it is—a business.

“…The Art of Living courses are typically 18-40 hours in length, assuming you are paying $300 for an approximately 25 hour course, you are paying $12 per hour which is utterly exploitative … Would you even be able to get your toilet fixed for $12 an hour? Are you not willing to spend more money on getting your mind fixed, than you would on your loo?!...”

AoL courses are typically 18 h for a part 1, and 26 h for a YES plus. And since there is a 12-person minimum for the number of course participants, we’re talking at least $140-$150 per hour. And what’s “utterly exploitative” is the fact that the volunteers and teachers who do the work don’t see any of this money. And personally, I would rather pay that money to get my toilet fixed, because at least the money would have gone to a good cause--something real and tangible and useful to me. Claiming the AoL course fixes the mind is preposterous, and as we have seen for many who have shared their experiences on this site, being involved in AoL has done quite the opposite.

“…You talk about yourself, but you do realize that there are so many teachers and an entire organisation to run which has expenses… No government, corporate, UN agency funds Art of Living. When teachers travel, they have to pay the bus/train/air fare. In our homes we have to pay telephone and electricity bills, and for the food we eat.
We have to pay for the hall rent, the rent for the audio system used on the course, etc … Many people work to make an Art of Living course happen, we have to pay them at least their expenses. There is a pretty big bill thats there at the end of the course.
$300 is peanuts to pay for a course that you know gives you so very much….”

I have been involved in every aspect of course organization from the recruiting to the accounting and everything in between. Only 25% of a part 1 course revenue is allowed to go to such expenses as the teachers’ travel, hall rental, etc. For a part 2 course, its even less—a set amount ($300) has to go to VVM for each participant, and food/lodging is a separate expense that each participant has to pay. Often, volunteers have to dip into their own wallets to make ends meet for such courses, and hosting expenses for the teacher are non-refundable. So keeping things in perspective, if one pays $300 for a part 1 course, only $75 of it is allowed to go towards all those expenses this teacher has mentioned. Where does the rest go?

“…Another thing that we wanted was that we did not want people to be obligated and pay. We charge a certain fee for a service rendered. Its nice and clean….”

I’m confused. People ARE obligated to pay if they want to take a course, aren’t they? Also, this sounds more like a business transaction to me, than a service rendered by a charitable organization.

“…Finally, if you want to buy yourself a car, a solid education, a home… at this point you dont say its too expensive do you? You take a loan and get it. An Art of Living course is on par with these big investments of life. If needed, take a loan… you know its worth it….”

So is this teacher suggesting that one who cannot afford an AoL course should take out a loan for it? I personally object to this—I have seen people in my area who do exactly that in response to the prodding and pressure to take this or that “amazing” AoL course. These people cannot afford the basic necessities, and yet are asked to beg for, borrow the money, or launch a fundraising effort to take the next AoL course, instead of being smacked back to reality and told to get their life in order before going off the deep end with these courses. Its sick. Also, I’m sorry, but an AoL course is certainly not “on par” with a solid education, a car, a home, or even a functioning toilet.

“…Finally, some of the money collected on courses is pumped back into society, it doesn’t line anyone’s pockets. It could be used to rehab prisoners, or in some disaster area, or in some war zone to help people. It could be used to help children, women, etc…”

I have yet to see a single “service project” come from the money that has been raised in my area and pumped into the AoL national/ravishankar’s bank account. In addition to courses, I have helped to organize rs’s visit to my city, and have helped raise thousands of dollars for the org. through that event. We were allowed to keep a small fraction of the profit for our city to help offset costs of future aol events, but then had to return any unspent money after one year. The only “service” that money was used for (while we still had it) was to organize more courses. On a separate occasion, when I was ready and willing to join in a trauma relief effort overseas in a war-torn area, I had to seek out my own source of funding, and apply for a grant. I was told by the aol accountant that money raised in a particular area stays in that area, and does not go toward service projects overseas. We had to do our own fundraising campaign for that. So if aol “service projects” are funded by external sources and our own fundraising efforts, then where does all the course revenue go?

“… It could also be used to take care of our full time teachers and their families whenever needed, It could also be used to build up our Ashram infrastructure so that when you come there, you can be taken better care of…
”

Really, the full-time teachers and their families are taken care of using hard-earned aol course dollars?? Do full-timers have any health insurance? Do they earn at least minimum wage for their efforts? I don’t think so. As for the ashram infrastructure, I have yet to see any improvement to the Montreal ashram after donating to that cause year after year.

“…Our idea of doing Seva is not out of an empty bowl, so that we have to go to various people to get us money so that we can do Seva....”

So I see as of late, you’ve been reaching into Nithy’s bowl to do your “seva” (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

“…Our teachers and volunteers work hard to make courses happen, a solid value is given to the participants in the course and then out of the profits that are made on the courses, our bowl are filled…. “

Yes indeed your bowl is filled by the hard work of the teachers and volunteers—the first truthful and direct statement I’ve seen.

Out of a full bowl which has been made so by dint of hard work, we do philanthropy. (Though of late, quite a few funding agencies have finally woken up to the fact that Art of Living is doing some great work and have expressed a desire to partner with us towards mutual goals… and thats a nice feeling too 
I think thats quite noble,…”

I and others have yet to see any philanthropy come out of the “full bowl”. From what I can tell, anything positive that has come out of the org has come from the good intentions and inspiration of some of the duped participants who eventually wise-up and leave. And didn’t this teacher just say in the beginning that no corporate organization funds AoL? Anyway, someone should alert these funding agencies about the AoL fraud.

… and you should feel privileged to give money to such an organization… even if it means a bit of a stretch for you….”


No thanks, I think I’d rather flush my hard-earned money down my working toilet than to give it to such an organization.

I do hope that the poor devotee who had the guts to pose his/her question was able to see through all the AoL B.S. in that teacher’s answer, and has since left the org. If not, then God Bless and good luck.

20 comments:

Deepa said...

There are enough number of gulliable people who beleive in people like Bawa and Dinesh. They are so pathetic and artificial, hope more and more people see through the duplicity of these pompous cult recruiters.

Lakshmi said...

I had an epiphany reading this email. I was associated with AoL back in late 90's when course fees were reasonable and donations were not emphasized. Then two trends started: 1. escalation in fees and hankering for donations for every trivial thing. 2. stories of Ravi's siddhis and miracles. Now I realize that no. 2 was maybe planned to support no. 1. The reasoning behind exorbitant fees is so ridiculous and contrary to vedic Gurukul traditions that it could only be upheld by supernatural means.
Nithy being the young Turk, realized the power of no.2, and went straight for the luxuries of money and women, while promising Nirvikalpa Samadhi to everyone for 6000 dollars.
Ravi is an out and out cheat, he deserves a worse fate than Nithy. Nithy is atleast more human in his failings.

John said...

I am curious whether RS shares the profits with his senior teachers, swamis, etc.
Also, it would be interesting if any ex-AOL folks who were accountants in AOL can share some info as to where the money goes.

Anonymous said...

LA Upanishads fee - $1100 to $1500. Sri Sri set the fees.
Fundraising banquet table: $25,000. Sri Sri tells Rajshree when she asked him about content, "just concentrate on getting more money".
Wow! Money is more important than spirituality - that's the reality.

Navratri at ashram - to get preferred seating ~ Rs 90,000 (termed as "Sankalpa") for Chandi homa. ~ Rs 40,000 for other days.
Wow! that's very un-holy. And Sri Sri said later - the devi is pleased (NOT!).

Wake up AoL full timers!
While you slog and get no home or money - Ajay owns 10+ homes, car, etc. Rather give 1 each to full timers who have given their life.

Money scam Look at the tax returns http://www2.guidestar.org/. 6 million went from AoL/VVM to India in 2008. Even more millions in India. Yet no accountability/transparency - no it's not going to service projects - which themselves are a front!

Can someone approach the media?

WhistleBlower said...

Dear Humble Witness,
Thank you & Bless you for the Excellent post.
Bawa & his toy boy Dinesh are so revolting that I can hardly ever bring myself to reply to any trash they say.
But if I did, I couldn’t have put it any better . Well done Humble Witness for taking time to cut through that piece of propaganda by SriSri’s pimp.

Everything you say is true. I am an ex-teacher in another country & everything you say is true about our country too.
I will write more in future posts in more details on many aspects. But just few things in support of your post now:

-Ravi user Shankar & his pimp agents (like Bawa/Dinesh & many others like him) ask for guru Dakshina on top of the course fee. It is not an either/or case in RS/AOL situation. They double dip!!
And this guru Dakshina business is an on-going affair. Never an end to it. They shamelessly ask for it again & again & again.And not only Guru Dakshina for RS, people like Bawa even ask for guru dakshina for themselves too. It goes on & on!!

-RS has introduced new 3- evening courses , 3 hrs each evening to maximise on financial gain & force people to enrol for further courses if they want to know more!
He was even saying that shorter courses should be charged more!Will write more on that later.

WhistleBlower said...

When Bawa says: “…but you do realize that there are so many teachers and an entire organisation to run which has expenses..”,
He talks about himself & Dinesh as teachers who entirely live on AOL income. Did you see him bragging about his flash new laptop being the most expensive ,in his recent video lectures to some poor students in India that he is trying to recruit for this sick organisation?The guy & his father have made a lot of money out of AOL & even bought a house in Bangalore. And Bawa brought his lover Dinesh (Another celibate AOL Adv/DSN/Youth course teacher) to live with him in his house to provide him with all worldly pleasures he can imagine 24/7. No my dear, those loving attentive glances of Dinesh are not because of brotherly love between them!!They only preach celibacy to other youths to impress them with their spirituality & level of commitment to path! By the way, they do it so cleverly too. They always talk about not having sex with girls, which is true in their case. They just simply forget to mention they are gay & have different sexual preferences, like their guru!! They are known as gay couple of AOL! And shows the level of their deceit, using their “gay” ness (ie sexual preferences) to pretend they are celibate (no sex with women!)And even during the courses they teach they insist on sleeping in the same room & you should see how they cover the windows & keyholes!!Anyone brave enough to do what Lenin did to Nithyananda?
And if Bawa & Dinesh are separated more than a week, their longing becomes unbearable & AOL has to pay for the cost of their reunion!!They even buy gifts for each other from AOL money. So when you wonder where your money goes, that is where some of it goes.. to support hedonistic lifestyles of RS & Bawa (who is every bit a psychopath like his guru ).I will write in a future post about these in more details.
- When Bawa says: “… It could also be used to take care of our full time teachers and their families whenever needed....”
Again he is telling you the truth, AOL does pay for all of his & his family’s expenses, including the costs of his “live-in”lover. They are making a fortune from AOL/SriSri & SriSri is making a fortune from them. They have a lot of dirt on SriSri & his family & AOL. And SriSri has a lot of dirt on Bawa & his family. So they are safe with each others secrets !And the financial arrangements suits both parties! Most of the inner circle senior teachers fall in this category. SriSri has a hold on them by knowing all their dark secrets (He actively seeks all such secrets & get them to spy on each other)& these “inner circle” people in return know a lot about SriSri’s dark secrets. So SriSri has to keep them happy. Not one person in inner circle of SriSri is innocent. They all know enough about SriSri to know he is no virgin messiah!!It is their lack of integrity, financial incentives (most live off "AOL business"!!) & their position of power which is keeping them glued to SriSRri. Not one of them can claim ignorance & innocence. They will go down with SriSri when he goes down by year 2012. That is why SriSri is buying as many real estate as he can all over the world.

Peaceful Warrior said...

@Anon 3:45 PM

I'm pretty sure he's planning to start a political party soon. That is the to be the only logical reason for this lust for $$$.

Otherwise he would be happy with the millions he has, and stay below the radar.

Peaceful Warrior said...

@Anon 3:45 PM

I'm pretty sure he's planning to start a political party soon. That is the to be the only logical reason for this lust for $$$.

Otherwise he would be happy with the millions he has, and stay below the radar.

WhistleBlower said...

- When Bawa says: “....Though of late, quite a few funding agencies have finally woken up to the fact that Art of Living is doing some great work and have expressed a desire to partner with us towards mutual goals… “
That is another bull s...! The opposite is true. For years AOL/sriSri have filled up their coffers in the guise of being a charity & doing service. More & more people have woken up to the fact that AOL is no charitable trust and no money from courses, donations, etc goes to any charitable work. So the latest SriSri is telling to his teachers is to go & partner with respectable organisations. His latest strategy is to use the good name of the true charitable organisations & THEIR WORK to promote AOL. How? by partnering with them. He even has told AOL centres to organise AWARDS to other organisation/VIPS engaged in service to get AOL name into media. His strategy is : we are not doing any service ourselves, no one giving us a medal, so how to get to media? By giving other genuine charities medal & use their good name for our publicity, not to mention their $$$. I am sorry for any organisation, person who falls victim to this foul play of SriSri.

Anonymous said...

There is another senior teacher/singer by the name 'Vikram Hazara'. Whenever he performs in western countries, he asks for a personal donation. Normally, local group is forced to organise a dinner event where everyone contribute cash of $100 to $200 per person. He sings 2/3 bhajans at such dinners and the total collections go straight to his pocket. Senior AOL teachers can throw more light on these cash collections and Guru Dakshina collection arrangements. In all these cases, local AOL organization remains a guilty partner. I would ask them to come forward and give specific details on these arrangements.

Peaceful Warrior said...

@Whistleblower

Although we all dislike bawa for his arrogance - I don't think being gay is wrong. Their privacy (right to remain in the closet) must be respected.

An onlooker will see them as celibate - maybe even praise them for it- but as long as they themselves don't boast about their celibacy, it is quite ok.

Anonymous said...

lemme tell u one thing.. this teacher v r tokin abt -Bawa, wears clothes donated to him by volunteers,infact he asks ppl to get clothes for him.. i hav seen that.He even goes out with rich volunteers for shopping.Its obvious who pays.Thats how cheap he is ..

WhistleBlower said...

Dear Peaceful Warrior,
I never said being a gay is wrong. That was your interpretation. I have many gay & lesbian friends, whether out or still in closet. But none of them covers their “gay” ness by saying they are celibate or lecturing youth to stay celibate or boast about their celibacy. You read my post again.
And yes, I have heard them myself many times (both Dinesh & Bawa) when asked why they are not married or if they are going to get married, replying that they prefer the bliss of meditation & celibacy & how they have dedicated their lives to RS & spiritual lives. And you go & check out their replies to young men when they ask them about their sexual urges.
And Bawa’s arrogance is the least of his shortcomings in my opinion. He is a fraud, corrupt, deceitful individual, every bit like his guru, that is using deceiving of other people to enrich his own pocket.
And someone like him & Dinesh who teach DSN & talking about integrity,and dealing with fears etc, I can’t see why they can’t be honest about their being gay. Now a days that is no issue & common fact of life!And no, it is not onlookers seeing them as celibate, they actually put on that pretence that they are & they go a long way to give that impression. I, myself, believed their pretence for many years, till I saw them together myself & then checked with other senior teachers who confirmed that they are gay & a couple but pretend they are celibate!
They are doing no favour to gay community, that is for sure!

Peaceful Warrior said...

@Anon

As a professional singer, Vikram is quite good, and the audience and the organizers are usually happy to oblige. I for one would love to listen to him live!

He is open and transparent about it. He needs to make a living too and what's wrong with that. It's not that he is asking money for charity, and pocketing the money himself. In fact many professional singers charge $ for charity concerts too. It's their livelihood.




.

Az said...

As the author of the original comment (Annon @ 4/19, 5.10p) Thank you for making this a separate blog entry. Since then bawa's site has been down and I did post a comment on his site that read:
"Wow, you really come off sounding like a pompous ass - shamelessly telling people that its a privilege to give money to such an organization, even if it means coming at the cost of caring for yourself/feeding your family? You know why the art of living is getting such a bad rap off late? Its down to people like yourself who have lost touch with reality - where’s the spirituality in your arrogance?
Reply
Bawa says:
April 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm
re read please at no point have i said you pay if you cant feed your family or care for yourself … infact i dont even know why i am bothering to reply to you … yes now i am being a bit arrogant :)
Hmm the last lines that say 'you should feel privileged to donate to such an organization, even if it means a bit of a stretch to you.. makes me sick.I knew bawa growing up and I used to look up at him in awe. This was back then when I would follow the herd mentality and do all AOL courses because I felt pressurized to do it.I was coerced into attending a DSN course that was headed by bawa, my experiences have been published before by Klim.Ever since then, I have been put off by the organization itself and it just hurts that bawa is able to conjure up a big following of youth who do not know what they are getting into. Another comment that was published underneath that same post read:
Mridu says:
Jai Gurudev!
I wonder why people are ready to pay so much for each visit to a psychiatrist for rest of their lives without getting their problems solved while paying USD 300 for just 1 AOL course solves most of the issues one faces in life and saves the cost of going to a psychiatrist. May be people are concerned that psychiatrists might run out of job :). Isn't it scary how people are swayed by blind faith? I'd like to contribute more and share my experiences - I was actually in a greater position than anyone out there could imagine. Klim, let me know how I can help. I just cant get over how he shamelessly touts that you should be giving money and feel privileged to do so.

Anonymous said...

@Whistleblower
If you have so much info and hopefully some evidence on the money, accounts, people involved, Sri Sri's sex life, can't you contact the media as anonymous and give them all this info. I am sure they are very interested right now.
Can you write a post of the details of the deep dark secrets of Sri Sri on money and sex?
Thanks.

WhistleBlower said...

Hi john
Most AOL accounts are usually paid by SriSri/AOL. Because SriSri needs to keep them happy & can't say to them that there is not enough money & they have to work as volunteers, can he?!After all they know better than anyone else how much $$$$ flows into coffers & not a dollar of it goes to charity!
And Srisri wouldn't want them leave & spill the beans, so he looks after them!
For most other positions srisri tries to change people all the time, so he is not dependent on that one person & also so that they don't find out too much or gain too much influence. So that is why you see him talking about rotating positions every couple of years (of course whenever convenient, this changes!)
But if you check, most AOL accountants stay in that position year after year. For example Jeff Houk in US. See how many years he has been USAOL treasurer.
These people get to know first hand that money from courses, donations do not go into any charity work. In fact often they even steal money which was fundraised for a specific charity work & don't pass it on. These accountants/treasurers are complicit in SriSri's fraud & deception. So sriSri has to pay them & keep them in the same position, as he knows he can't afford to upset them. They know alot & they cover up a lot for SriSri. Also where ever he can he prefers Indian treasurer/accountant as he can rely on their loyalty more.

Anonymous said...

Read with interest the lowdown on this organization. In fact, was thinking of joining the basic course just for health reasons, but something held me back. That something is my innate disbelief in gurus and godmen and instant nirvana, and in fact anything to do with organized religion.
Thank you for the exposure. However, as long as there are gullible people around, there'll always be people like SSRS who portray themselves as a saviour.
Padders

Anonymous said...

What's with these Gurus charging huge amounts of money (in dollars) just for a few admirers to sit near them? One Amma K is now charging $25K for people to sit near her corpulent frame!! I wonder what this scrawny Rasputin is charging these days to sit near him and learn to breathe...

Anonymous said...

i know for a fact that in a south east asian chapter there are teachers who do not account for the monies they collect.they claim they have lost the deposit slips.one teacher deposited monies in his personal account then issued a cheque to aol which bounced.the vip's from india namely the gurus close circle plus sister expect to be chaufferd to shopping and treated like royalty.The ridiculous talks of the guru are held in 5 star hotels with limited capacity .good money is wasted on such lavish bookings but obviously approved by RS.Women teachers and female devotees spend hours in hair salons and attend the gurus talks dressed for a bollywood function.The rich and famous are invited to sit in the front rows.the poor hardly get to attend.RS says some garbage on stage and answers some questions with his usual dump wit which appeals only to the brain dead female devotees mostly housewifes and senior teachers.thereafter they pander to his every need for special food n accomodation ina 5 star hotel.A guard usually a young man is placed outside his door who screens visitors but the rich and famous get in almost at will.He then flies off to exotic bali where a group of female devotees have already prepared his room in another 5 star hotel with special food freshly cooked for him.He laps it all up as does his cronies who follow him.Its all a criminal waste of money which could serve a much better purpose.money donated for charity totally misused.A spectacle to watch is when he jumps into the pool in the hotel surrouned by the mindless women in indian outfits all thrilled that he is "krishna surrounded by gopis.'..For these silly women his antics are godly.maybe they deserve each other.For an independent observer they are psycho and he the manipulator who keeps them psycho and stupid.No wonder gurus love the signboard that says leave your shoes and intellect outside.