Well, the meeting ended badly. He hadn't read the mail. I had anticipated that, so I had a print-out which I handed over to him, on my way out -in complete shock. This is what I wrote down on my laptop, immediately afterwards:
I gotta write this down before I forget. I went to the meeting. He started telling us about a great spiritual time starting from 2011, and how until then we would see people losing faith and falling into darkness. I told him then that I personally had lost faith in him, but I did not feel particularly in darkness, quite the opposite. I told him I had some issues with the organisation and in particular his person. He cut me off and started talking about faith, how important it is to be faithfull. I told him I had lost faith in his Divine status, and felt no worse for that. He got angry and started shouting: ”Do you know me? Do you think you really know me?” I was pretty subdued at that time, not able to do anything but stammer something. That happens, when a person that I have considered for 10 years to be the closest thing to a living God starts shouting at me. Then he went on shouting, ”I know your past as well as your future”. Something else -I was scared out of my wits at this time, I don´t remember clearly- and then he said ”you can just leave anytime, nobody is stopping you."
So I left. Clearly he didn't know my future that well, at least he did not seem to have anticipated that: 10 minutes later I got a call from one of his people asking me to come back. I said no. Then another call asking me to come back and give my Kriya tape back to him in person (I had left it with his secretary on the way out). I refused. Another call -I didn't pick it up. Then an sms asking me to hand over the course manual too. I answered back, ”you can have it all”. Then another sms asking me to hand over the course manual -to the Guru, in person. I didn't answer that one.
I wonder what he told my (ex) colleagues after I left? That I was severely deluded? Possesed be a Demon, perhaps? Or maybe that he staged the whole event, to deliberately set me free, for my own sake? I am curious, but I no longer care about his opinion. This event established it for me: the guy is a fake. He lost it, the nice facade cracked and an altogether too human nature shined through.
I am sure some of my ex-colleagues feel very sorry for me right now, as I used to feel very sorry for the people who left the organisation. All I feel now is relief and great joy!
The next days and weeks are a blur in my mind. The emotional stress of leaving AOL after 10 years was tremendous; fear and doubts made gave me bouts of regret. Had I thrown away the most precious thing in my life? Was this the ultimate, bad karma? Immediately after leaving, I sent an e-mail with the two letters above attached, to all the people in AOL that I knew personally, including the people I had taught on courses. It caused some upheavals, as people started forwarding it to others, but curiously enough the only hate-mail I got back was from a German senior teacher, to whom I hadn't sent the mail:
I have read your two Emails concerning you views on Guruji and AOL. Maybe Art of Living just needed a "bad" guy; thank you very much for playing that role. But please make sure that u don't drown in the bitterness and hatred. You are so compassionate to save people from being cheated you're your are sending mails to everybody to make them aware so that they don't get cheated . Is it out of compassion for others or out of your own hatred in which you were reeling for some time. Actually its too late, you have been party to it for so many years yourself! Your words have no value now. Did it take so many years for you to realize this???
To know somebody is a fraud, you need to know that person in and out. You never had a chance to know Guruji from close corner. Perhaps that jealousy is what makes you act like. Ask yourself, is it not jealousy that makes you act like this? I have seen Guruji from close corners. His sincerity and simplicity is just mind-blowing. You call him a fraud, yes, but this is absolutely ridiculous.
With best regards
With best regards, Lars? Oookay, if you say so.
A few weeks after my dramatic exit, I met with a former AOL teacher colleague, who also happened to be a friend and business partner. He had been present at the meeting also. Out of curiosity, I asked him what had happened on the meeting, after I left. He told me that SSRS had read my letter. Then when asked by one of the teachers what would happen to the teachers who left the organisation, he had replied: ”They will be eaten up by their own minds”.
Hearing those words, I was paralyzed by fear. My worst fears were confirmed, just like that! I was damned, by my sinful actions! And because of my mail, there was no way back to the Guru's Grace!It took several days of counselling by good friends (also ex-teachers) for me to realize the fact that curses only work on those who believe in them. One very good example is this: http://www.redicecreations.com/article.php?id=10282
Two years have passed since the Guru's curse. I still haven't been eaten up by my own mind. In fact I feel fine, better than ever. I certainly don't miss the stress and sense of urgency permeating AOL, putting most of the teachers in a state of heightened arousal, making them easier to control and manipulate. These words of Janja Lalich have been a great inspiration to me:
"Now that you are no longer on a mission to save the world or your soul, relaxation and rest are no longer sinful. In fact, they are absolutely necessary for a healthy, balanced, and productive life." (Lalich, Janja: "Take Back your Life: Recovering from Cult and Abusive Relationships")
With your mind conditioned by AOL to believe that SSRS is enlightened, a lot of the craziness in AOL doesn't make sense. Still, we excuse His erratic behavior with the usual arguments: it is for the good of all, the Divine works in mysterious ways, etc. An incompetent leader is allowed to keep her job ”because she needs it for her personal growth”, and we are in awe of His compassion.
But once you ask yourself one simple question: ”What if He isn't enlightened? What if He has self-interest?”, then everything makes sense. An incompetent board president is allowed to stay, because unquestioning loyalty is valued more than leadership skills, and because it makes the group easier to control. Fits of rage from the Guru suddently makes sense -the anger is not ”faked”, it is genuine. And the primary motivation of the man who started it all is no longer love and compassion, but greed for power, money and personal fame. As a senior teacher (an elderly Indian woman living in Bad Antogast) once told me: ”He feeds off devotion”. She meant it lovingly, but I think she was right back then, and when I think of the consequences of this -that He is addicted to devotion, seemingly wanting it more and more- it makes me shudder in horror. Joel Kramer describes in his book "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power" how cult leaders often show great love, compassion and tolerance, as long as their growing needs for personal ego gratification are met. As soon as the cult's popularity and growth starts to diminish, the cult leader will often react by weeding out the weak of faith, and strenghening his grip on the remaining members. So my advice to any AOL members reading this is: get out now, while you can, it is bound to get even more crazy than you have experienced until now.
I no longer believe in enlightenment. But do I belive in the opposite, then? Is SSRS the Anti-Christ of all time, purely evil? Actually I believe that he might have started out with the best of intentions, back then. But, as often happens -in the words of Lord Acton (1887): "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." The power you are offered as a Guru, when devotees surrender their free will to you -that is absolute power. If you take it, you are lost, you have gone to the Dark Side.
The whole point of democracy is to limit power, and make the people in powerful positions accountable for any abuse of their power. In business, legislation prevents companies from monopolizing the market, thus preventing them from becoming too powerful. Nothing in the AOL prevents SSRS from aquiring and exerting absolute power; quite the contrary, in fact. Of course the poor guy turns out megalomanic. Yes, he is dangerous. But he is also a victim himself. A victim of misplaced devotion. For as long as there are people in this world willing to trust the word of another above their own judgement, thus bypassing their intellect, we will have Bad Gurus. Maybe it is time to think for ourselves?