Sunday, May 30, 2010

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Ravishankar loves being the center of attention and definitely loves being in the news. Again, he made it. Times of India writes on the 31st of May 2010, “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar escapes bid on life as man fires at car.”

I know that an incident like this should provoke some sympathy or pity in me towards him. I know. But, even if I try hard, I find nothing but laughter. I know it is politically incorrect but I find it humorous.

Here it is. The guy who spoke down on Gandhiji, insinuating that the man known for his message of non-violence, “ahimsa”, died in a violent way because he had violence within. Here is the man who waved off female devotees raped or beaten up by his devotees by telling them it was their fault or that they deserved it since “Violence attracts violence. Your karma.” Here it is. The man who always boasted nothing would ever happen to him because he was pure love, while speaking ill of other gurus, attacked by gunfire.

It truly amazes me how skillful he is at turning things around and manipulating people. “Violence attracts violence”, he always insisted, but when he is the one attracting violence he says, “For one who is established in non-violence, all kinds of hostility ceases.” Gee! How convenient! Can you please make up your mind? Is that how he will distract everyone from the incident that actually counts? That HE attracted violence to himself, even for just that moment, even if the attack did not fulfill its purpose?! HE ATTRACTED VIOLENCE.

At the end of the day, he turns the knowledge up and down in whichever way satisfies his needs. But, like a friend cleverly said, “Maybe he should listen to more knowledge.”

To make it worse, I guess his act had its effect on some people since someone left a comment in this blog blaming “disgruntled people” for the attack.

You got to be kidding me! Honey, wake up! Is RS never responsible for anything? When he attacks, he is helping us grow and eliminate our bad karmas. But when he is attacked, it is our fault. The truth is more disgruntled people should come out to do something about all the illegal activities that occur thru and in his organization, ranging from exploitation, to swindling, to cheating, to physical abuse, to sexual harassment and fondling, etc. He himself, not a little blog, is responsible for today’s attack. And, I bet it is not the first time nor the first person who has wanted to “get rid of him.” Believe it or not, he has broken too many families and ruined the lives of just too many.

For a long time after the Silver Jubilee, a heavily criticized event for its poor organization, mess, money scam and high level of unjustifiable narcissism, Bhanu and RS spent month trying to create pity on people by saying over and over again how he received so many threats, but despite it all, he kept the show going for his devotees and world peace. It was their lame way of distracting people from the obvious: the event was another failure and scam. He was “so busy” saving us from bombs and envious people. Back then, I remember hearing it with admiration. His life was at stake yet he kept the show going for the love of his devotees and the world! I still remember even the tone in which they'd speak about it just so that we'd feel bad. "Such an amazing guy! The world cannot stand so much light."

However, today’s news made me wake up and realize for the first time: for Heaven’s sake, he put thousands of life at risk just so that he could a few days of self-gratification and beat a Guiness record? Highly irresponsible. He is too narcissistic to worry about anyone else but himself.

I must be cured because today he did not manage to provoke any sympathy, pity or admiration for him, and definitely no guilt, but just disgust and humor. I am laughing at the lack of coherence and the obvious manipulation and sociopathology. I am laughing because today I see him very very very small. So pathetically small. I would not even be surprised if he planned it all just to get more news and distract people from the bad publicity he has been getting. Fame through pity sometimes work but I hope it won't.

At least in this blog, sympathy, guilt and pity won’t do it. Ravi & CO. still need to show more accountability, transparency and integrity. I still hope more people open their eyes to realize the farce. In his own words, “Karma is catching up, baby. Check on the violence inside you. Maybe you should do more seva? Have you been doing your sadhana everyday?”

Important note: Having expressed all of the above, it is important to clarify I do not wish RS anything bad, and definitely, I am glad nothing bad happened to him. I do not mean to ridicule the situation but I find humor in the incoherence and obvious manipulation of knowledge given the event, while at the same time, it is a self-reflection of how brain-washed I used to be, having fallen into the trap of those mind games too. I am aware the arguments in this article may offend some people. Apologies if it does.

Perfect message in a classic rhyme:
Liar, liar, pants on fire,
Hanging by a thread on a telephone wire!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Run Forrest! Run!!!!


Teachers come and go. Just as devotees come and go. In fact, contrary to the AoL declarations, more go than come, and it is few who stay. Yet, despite all that fuzz AoL makes around the “sacred tape”, when a teacher leaves, they do not demand him/her to return the tape and manuals. It is often the teacher him/herself who does it out of a sense of duty or just to get rid of “that”; or otherwise, if in an area there is a despotic teacher, that one will most likely savor the opportunity to exercise the power and authority to request for them. All in all, the saddest funniest thing is the one returning the tape is happy, the one demanding for it is mad. I then wonder, actually how truly sacred is that tape and those manuals after all? How real is the copyright symbol we see in almost all their materials!?

There is a big dramatization around how difficult and sacred it is to have that tape, as if it was some Holy Grail. One needs to go thru torturous TTC, where bashing and smashing are part of the payment, thousands of dollars in course fees, followed by endless expenses that come before and thereafter organizing courses to prove one is deserving, attending courses to keep purifying, following RS for a drop of grace or two, buying books and tapes, etc. As a former teacher friend of mine said, “Don’t return the tape. You paid for it.” I had never thought about it until I heard it. Cheers to that wise observation and advise!

Unlike all other former teachers I know, RS asked for my tape when I turned down his offer to buy my silence. It was the first time I fully reckoned “the guru has a big ego" - a combination of hurt huge ego and worry is what I finally concluded. As funny as it seems, he worries I will create my own stuff, teach courses with the material he plagiarized and put in the form of “Art of Living courses”. Bottom line, that I become a competition. In another lifetime, I could have prided his fear is an indication of my competence. However, in this lifetime, I find it pathetic for it is revealing of the true nature of the organization and how little did he really know me. Though for a long time his bashing haunted me in paralyzing effects that impeded me from doing anything, today I realize I am more capable than I have ever been accredit for, and that because of it, RS and CO. trashed me but not before extracting all the juice out of me.

Though this blog was created out of a personal need, and a humble and shameful space, perhaps I am not wrong to state this is one proof of it. When I hear the efforts he is doing with his teams to undermine this blog, a little voice in my head says, “You want to copy even a blog you copy-cat? You are seriously afraid of a little blog? Of a little someone you trashed? You should have been nicer to me and I would have blogged in your favor! ;) ”

On another hand, another ex full-timer got this note from the "Holy Offices of His Excellency": “Further, we would like to state that you cannot use our name or any of our techniques / content for any purpose whatsoever.”

If anything, one cannot argue they are hilarious - hilariously arrogant and stupid. They try too hard to be the best and the professionals they are not. Maybe they should try harder. What does he mean? That this person, or in any case, all of us who left, cannot breathe, meditate, be vegetarian, do yoga, accept people as they are, live the present moment, not see intentions behind people’s mistakes anymore? It reminds me of the time he ridiculed the journalist who asked him if AoL was for everyone and he replied, “What do you mean? Breathing is not for everyone?” Ravi, dear, you really contradict yourself too much yet you still think the world is stupid?!

In a self-analysis and criticism, I notice that many teachers (especially full-timers) have in common 1. a distorted combination of arrogance and low self-esteem. The more arrogant the teacher is, the lower their self-esteem; 2. an unreal need to get the approval of a paternal figure/authority/people in general - in this case, RS and, often, students; 3. an incapacity to cope with their own life, a need to run away/hide/shelter from something; 4. some almost cute degree of gullibility; 5. the more involved, extreme behaviors that include being abusive, lacking sympathy, non-stop crying, sudden shouting (called, as per AoL teachers, "pita outbreak"), vulnerability, constant ups and downs, and unmeasurable anger, etc.; 6. some intense desire/need to serve, though for some, an intense desire to be served.

As a full-timer/teacher leaves, the sense of vacuum is too vast many don’t know how to cope with it. The sense of guilt and shame are overwhelming. The feeling of incapacity – the head does not work, the memory is not there, the ability to use the intellectual faculties neither, the lack of sense of reality with regards to the world, the loss of friendships/family/ networking, the lack of curriculum to find a job, the lack of financial means and many times, legal paperwork, problems with the spine. You go from being surrounded by people, emails, importance to absolutely NOTHING. Not even one email from your best pal asking how you are. Even worse, the one you considered even more important than your own life and family is nowhere to be found, but you still remember he told you he’d love and take care of you for ever. The inner struggle and pain are, thus, excruciating and confusing.

Furthermore, many teachers (especially full-timers) leave with a sense of paranoia. Often when I talk with one they underline the same phrase many times: “Please do not tell anyone what I told you. Promise you won’t tell.” One is constantly fearful people will be discussing about you or that someone is going to betray you by divulging something about you. In fact, being more exposed to the lions and to the war zone, a full-timer is more vulnerable, has been more abused and been under more abusers, thus, more exposed to betrayals than anyone else. A friend is never a friend but a potential enemy who will sell you at any given time but until then and despite it all, you belong to each other and you got to reciprocate "to be in the knowledge". At the end of the day, it is inevitable one develops some degree of neurosis and paranoia.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know of any teacher who has left immaculate from the organization. Using AoL words, no one has left “stronger, more capable to cope with the world and difficulties, more centered, at peace and mature”. To begin with, the psychological trauma one has to overcome and all that comes with it is not a deal of just a few months, a year or two. Many, still scarred by the AoL brain-wash are ashamed of seeking therapy. The physical damages require all sorts of medical supervision that not even doctors understand. Unfortunately, it is not until one gets strong that one can take care of life, step by step. In the meantime, trying to find a job, earn money, learn to be in the world again, make new friends (or, in some cases, make friends!), patch holes with the family (which often one ignored for so long). It is not easy at all, certainly, not quick either. Looking back, I see a gap in my life and, gee! I got to catch up!

I am lucky I kept in touch with non-AoL friends who, despite always knowing I was in a cult, offered me unconditional support, compassion, empathy and love. Without them, recovery would have been even more difficult. The loneliness, confusion, disappointment, pain I felt for so long, and which sometimes still hit me are so deep, the only thing that serves as consolation is reminding myself that being in that shithole, loosing my freedom and my own identity is worse. Somehow, one is a phantom citizen who reappeared on Earth after a long absence, as if one resuscitated from a comma.

I feel those who are still living in La-La land need to hear the other side of a story too. The one not many dare to share but exists. If the education we got in AoL was that good, I guarantee, most senior old-time teachers would not be there anymore! Setting someone free is a sign of growth and love. Believe me, most senior teachers are not there because of their conviction, love and faith in the path but rather, because they fear not making it in the world! They are broken individuals themselves but are the role models in AoL. At the end of the day, instead of uplifting human values, one looses the value of oneself and those that should be practiced.

My basic course teacher was eager I became a full-timer but when I was big time screwed by the AoL and when the damages of being a full-timer became evident, especially financially, she was not there for me either. It is like the story RS tells in the Ashtavakra: the man stole for his wife and his children to have a good life, but when he asked them if they’d share the karma of the actions with him, they said, “No way.”

When I was a full-timer people praised me for my courage and selflessness. Everyone reminded me I’d get such good merits. They admired me. They wanted to be my friend. I wonder, does not being a full-timer for RS now mean I don’t have courage, selflessness, good merits, virtues? What does it say about those who help you only when you belong to their same beliefs? Is that not cultic behavior after all? Fanaticism? You’d be surprised to know how many people are afraid of helping a former full-timer even though they know the abuse the person went through and the struggle therafter. It still upsets me when I hear of someone donating to the AoL phantom seva projects, despite knowing about the frauds, but won’t give someone whose life was spoiled by it even masala for one cup of chai.

There is nothing glorious about being a full-timer or a part-time teacher. It is gloriously stupid to give ones life to a fraud. Seva can be done in myriad ways and anywhere. Growth can happen without locking oneself to an organized path. Spirituality can occur at all times, without the need to kiss anyone’s feet or abide to any practices. Giving up one's life, avoiding it, pausing it, giving it away is not a solution or a sign of superiority. Certainly, it should not be an option.

Learn from those who today have the courage to share their mistakes, pain and struggle. As one of my favorite movies wisely said, “Run Forrest! Run!!!!”


"It's our choices Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (Harry Potter)

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Full-Timer Night's Dream


Since I left the AoL, many teachers have too. And as they do, I hear from them one by one. Though the details of the stories may vary, in essence they are very much the same. However, inevitably, the inner conflict each one has before leaving and the damages one walks out with are very similar, varying perhaps just in depth and length, or on whether one was a full-time or part-time teacher.

Though comparing who suffered most is not fair in any case of abuse, I do notice that full-timers leave with a heavier load to deal with.

As I lately have been lending an ear to a few former colleagues/ full-time teachers, I can’t help but ponder on the circumstances that lead us to the array of sensations, reactions, habits, fears post “cult-exit”. The thought, “it is just like a dream …. a bad dream … like a midsummer night’s dream” kept ringing in my head like a rhyme to a poem, and thus, the title “A full-timer night’s dream”. As I read Shakespeare’s masterpiece, I laughed at the realization it has a lot in common with that which we lived in the AoL. Of course, Shakespeare’s was a comedy, a grand master piece. Ravishankar’s is a version of cheap tragic comedy, a master fraud. But it definitely shares the leit-motifs of deception, fantasy made reality, authority becoming archaic, the dark side of love, magical thinking.

Becoming a “full-time teacher” is, without any doubt, the dream of most AoLers, of all ages. My own basic course teacher’s dream was I became a full-time teacher. Full-timers somehow fall into the trick of feeling somehow “the chosen ones”, as if the status of full-time exploited slave was a sign of higher evolution. I have witnessed people beg Ravishankar to let them be a full-timer. I have also witnessed people manipulate Ravishankar into being a full-timer. I have even seen people to which RS clearly said, “No” turn around and inform the world they were blessed to be a full-timer. I have also known of many cases of teachers who self-nominate themselves full-timers because they have no other responsibilities and don’t need to worry about money (usually rich ladies). In some cases, I need to give Ravi some credit. I have heard him instruct some to finish school or to get married. But, understanding beyond the apparent concern, he was very smart at who he made full-timer or not.

If one was young with a lot of money and/or an important family background/name, he’d usually tell them to finish school, marry, be in politics or be in Daddy’s business to get more money for the “seva projects”. If one was older with a lot of money, he’d also have them pretend to be a full-timer while he grabbed their money and literally, their free labor. Expenses usually would not be reimbursed to these people, neither a stipend or a 10% income. They were wealthy! That is their underline duty given their good karma!

On a large scale, usually either extremely efficient, charismatic young people with obedient and unquestioning minds and good hearts, or the very easy manipulated, highly ambitious people with no mind at all, or the ones hiding from the world/life, or otherwise those who could not do anything in the world, were made full-timers. A sad truth which ends usually in, one is good for him until he sucks one dry or until one starts to think of his/her own and/or starts to see through the unethical practices of the organization and the Ravishankar sociopathic behaviours. At that moment, his unconditional love suddenly disappears, though, of course, he makes you understand back-stabbing you, kicking you in the ass, lying about you, etc. are all part of his love for you, his sacrifice for your growth.

I never quite liked the “Catholic” expression of growth through suffering, but unfortunately, out of habit and after a while, as a full-timer, one recognized that as the norm. Some full-timers even felt proud of having to suffer through it with no food, difficulties getting medical treatment, no housing, no basic needs. The overall common worry all full-timers went through at some point or the other was so overwhelming, many started “taking care” of their situation by keeping money "on the side". Unfortunately, some take advantage of their status as a full-timer to get freebies through “illegal enrichment”. As time goes by, I recognize all the neurotic attitudes and thinking processes I acquired from my years of involvement as a full-timer. Even today, I worry about what will happen to me tomorrow. The constant fear that I won’t be taken care of, or that I won’t have to eat, or that I won’t know where I will sleep, or that plans change without any reason nor back-up plan, is a neurosis I constantly struggle with. I do the daily exercise of reminding myself the world works with more accountability.

Whereas I don’t care if AoL falls or not, I do worry about the youngsters who enroll everyday and even more, those who die to be a full-timer and all those he is actually making full-timers. When one is young, one is too idealistic and naive to understand "god" may back-stab you too.

If I could do it all over again, I wished some reasonable adult would have knocked me out of the stupidity of becoming a full-timer. Today I struggle, not only because I paused my professional career, but also the possibility of getting a higher degree, which could have helped me get a better job, but mainly I paused my personal life. At my age, all my friends are owners of a beautiful homes, car, vacations, family. When I look at my own life, I see a gap. Trying to catch up where I left 15 or more years ago is not something one does in just one split second. Not to mention, the struggle to get by financially.

When I became a full-timer some people gave me stuff to help me out. When I left, no one helped me back to life. Most did not even speak to me again. And believe me, that is what and when I most needed help! Somehow, I went into oblivion and instead of getting that Divine help and "I belong to you" I was made to believe I signed up for for ever, instead, I get written threats and a damaged psychological condition, dyslexia, memory problems and endless bills spent in recovering my health.

Reinserting in society is not an easy process neither is reinventing oneself.

I was perhaps one of the first generation of full-timers, thus I did not have any other reference. Today I see how damaged all these senior full-timers are, and I remember our conversations in which each one cried, cursed, blamed, yelled. Those include TTC teachers, presidents, advanced course teachers, meditation teachers, swamis. One thing we learned well: to keep up the good face, the smile and fake it until we made it, but behind the doors, even some well-known TTC/Blessings course teacher have yelled out, "This is a sect! How do I get out of a sect? I am stuck! What can I do now in life?" Looking back, “being the chosen one” is actually the worst curse. Most senior teachers are still where they are because they don't have the guts to go back to life and be a nobody or face the challenge and reality that they will most likely not get a job or be respected in the world.

Thus, to the young people out there: “Study, get a degree, don’t give up anything, do seva on your side, be realistic, think with your two feet on the ground, ask yourself what are you really trying to evade that you want to run away from life? The organization will not take care of you and you won’t be a special case. Be realistic. Cherish your life, your skills, yourself, open your eyes.”

In Shakespeare’s words: “An overflow of good converts to bad.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New blog on the block

Check out the new blog on the block "Beyond the Art of Living - a Critique of Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

and the Facebook group "No, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not enlightened"

Kudos to Skywalker!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Free-Day (and new blog)


There was a time that on this date, May 13th, we'd congratulate each other with a "happy birthday", and of course, move around with anticipation of the big date, event, overflowing ecstasy to celebrate the birthday of the one we considered our "guru", our spiritual master, our best friend, the one who knew our soul and loved us unconditionally, even beyond death.

Plenty of times I heard RS state the entire world would celebrate his 80th birthday. The UN would one day be singing bhajans in his honour and sing him happy birthday. In fact, coincidentally, when he turns 50, the AoL turns 25 - silver and gold jubilee - he made it a point to highlight this fact, as if it was some Divine planning and we, somehow, brain-dead, gasped in surprise and fascination.

Back then, brain-washed, brain-dead, enchanted and fooled by this "package of promises and apparent perfection", we did not question the self-centeredness and absolute narcissism of the matter. Today, when I look back, I puke in disgust at the thought of it all. How did I not figure out earlier this was about a highly self-centered man who is too enamored by his own image and whose libido depends on abusing and extracting at the expense of innocent souls? The ones manipulable because of their idealistic nature and love for serving humankind, and the ones with some degree of psychological instability, vulnerability and need? It is all about him and he rejoices in it. I guess when he talks about "stop thinking about me me me", he actually means, "only think of him him him" - from "me" to "Him" (Ravishankar "HIM") lies the key of AoL joy. The more devotion people pour on him, the more power he seems to get. He even seems bigger! And even bigger in India where crowds are larger. "Vampirism" is a term that comes to mind.

Today is a day I ponder on my own mistakes as I still struggle with the ghosts of my past and the sporadic traumatic flashbacks that hit here and there. As much as I'd love to erase those many years of cult abuse in a just a magic touch, since there is no magic that can undo that, I choose to live it with responsibility, the courage to face each challenge step by step, and the loneliness this entails. Little acts like learning to trust in people again, remembering not everyone I meet will be such psychotic "asses", learning to discern again between good and bad and trust my own intuition, trusting I won't make the same mistakes again, deleting all the psychological abuses RS himself and company churned in my mind, may be insignificant to the average person, but a leap of faith of huge distances for someone like me. I guess, above all, understanding that if one failed once, if one was fooled once, one will not fail and be fooled again. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is those who manage to make the painful exit of cult abuse that are strong. Succumbing to it is the weakness he and the system need in order to succeed.

May 13th is a date I unfortunately probably will never forget because of what it represents in my life - the deception, the abuse, the lies, the manipulation, the psychosis, the sociopathy, my years of innocence, idealism, fanaticism, brain-washing, irrationality ... mere stupidity. Thus, I also have chosen to make this my day of freedom.

I recently heard someone say, "Without freedom of expression there is no evolution."

May I, you, we never forget the beauty and value of freedom of the soul, freedom of expression, freedom of the mind, freedom of living, and to, first and foremost, value and trust ourselves. If God and one are ONE then growth, evolution, spirituality is within and does not, should not ever depend on anyone else, and even less, giving our power away. Cherish and love yourself. We were once deceived not because we were stupid or had "bad karma". We were innocent and idealist souls. Let's humbly learn from our mistakes and cultivate that mind and heart that once inspired us to find a spiritual path and selflessly serve others. Learning from my mistakes and having the courage of admitting them is a wealth that I can proudly call mine. Let's pave our path with awareness, self-love, trust, and knowledge founded in our hearts, with precious care, critical thinking and responsible freedom.

Happy Free-Day to you all! And a true "Victory to the Guru that dwells inside you", that guru which is you and only you.

And as a perfect birthday present, check out the new blog: www. and, though numbers don't matter, in a sarcastic note, please note that this is the only related to AoL thing that is truly what it is and not manipulated information by anyone: "Confessions of a Guruholic" has reached more than 100,000 hits in less than 6 months. "Celebrate in silence"? ;)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Life after leaving AoL


During my recent Spring-cleaning effort, I was astonished at the volume of AoL materials I had amassed over the years. Boxes of unused flyers and promotional materials, file after file of course documentation and accounting paperwork, piles of course registration forms, shelves of books with rs’s face prominently displayed on the cover (with his characteristic “I am enlightened” expression), boxes of tapes and CDs of “knowledge” or satsang music, name tags, note cards, and other assorted course supplies had lined my storage unit and invaded my office and living spaces for years. As I sorted through it all, and took a good look at each piece of evidence of my long-term and deep involvement with AoL, I was reminded of the countless hours and dollars I had wasted on a facade. But instead of feeling the usual resentment toward AoL and rs for taking advantage of mine (and others’) good intentions, I was overcome with a sense of liberation as I hauled all that stuff to the dumpster. When I reflect on the events that have brought me to this point, a place I would have never imagined coming to even a year ago, I am left wondering why I didn’t wipe AoL out of my life even sooner.

It has taken quite a while for me to wean myself away from AoL, and at times I needed support from others to get through it. It took at least two years of reluctant involvement with the org and suppressing that feeling of “something’s not quite right” for me to finally take the plunge and announce that I was leaving. What really helped me in that transition phase was the support and encouragement I got from loved ones (who saw right through the cult from the very first day), and the space provided by the Guruphiliac blog to share my experiences. It took two months after that initial decision to leave AoL for me to stop doing the kriya altogether. It had been such a deeply ingrained habit--I rarely missed a day in 6 years. At first, I was afraid that I would lose my “centeredness” and “glow” after sadhana. All it took was a little research into the effects of hyperventilation on the body for me to realize that sk is harmful, and to drop it completely. And believe it or not, I am still very centered, and I have since been complemented on my “glow”, so I gather that there was never any connection. It took me another month or so to start eating meat again, and another several months to take a sip of champagne at a wedding—my first sip of alcohol after many many years. And no, I have not gotten depressed, drained of energy, eaten by doubts, or turned into a pumpkin due to “low prana”. Quite the opposite, actually, I have never felt more healthy and alive.

I realize that during the past several months, I have been in the process of re-building myself. Through the years I had been involved with AoL, I gradually allowed the aol dogma and the herd mentality to overwrite my own independent thinking. I became one of those puppet aol teachers who wore light-colored clothes and a plastic smile while parroting the dogma. But on the inside, I would be suppressing my own preferences, desires, and “negative” emotions such as fear and anger. Anytime I needed to make a big life decision, I was encouraged by “senior” teachers to seek guidance from “Guruji” in the form of a private conversation (if I was lucky), or an e-mail (I was told he reads them all), or a prayer (because apparently he answers them all). I did what “Guruji” and the teachers and the group expected of me, and in that process, I forgot who I was. To this day, I still cannot recall the old me who got lost, and I find myself left having to fill in the blanks to re-build my own personality.

Just a year ago, I would have told you that I hate onions and garlic (because they have “low prana”), that coffee is bad for you, that I don’t like to wear black, and the best thing to do in the morning is to wake up really early to do an hour of sadhana. For that reason, I would have advised you to do an AoL course whether you were suffering from marital difficulties or constipation, and I might have even paid your way if I thought you really “needed” it. Now, I have discovered that I love the taste of onion and garlic, I look great in black (and actually prefer it), and I still like to wake early--not to do any sort of practice, but rather to sip on a nice cup of coffee and get my day started right away so I can be productive. And certainly, I would advise anyone against doing an AoL course lest you get sucked into a cult that can cause plenty of physical and mental damage.

It has been so very liberating to be free of aol, and I have not since felt compelled to pursue any form of replacement spiritual practice (even though I had been meditating in some form or other since I was a teenager). Now, I live by the “golden rule” that we all learned in the first grade (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), and so far, it has guided me quite well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The rewards of AOL

By Zhoro, in response to comments on the previous post.

Anonymous @ 12:29 am and yourdad:
Do you guys really think this is going to fly? I mean, do you seriously believe that the readers of this blog are so naïve that an attempt as pathetic as this is enough to undermine it? Guys, this is not AoL anymore. A simple brush off of an issue by the guru or a senior operative is not enough. Let me address your questions, anonymous, as well as the oh-so-typical yet utterly flat commentaries by yourdad.

Anonymous @ 12:29: “1) Are all of you saying that you gained nothing of value from your time in AOL and contact with SSRS?”
Of course I did! Even time completely wasted can be the basis of a potentially invaluable lesson. The most wonderful lesson I scraped out from my time with AoL is that I should never again yield my free will to anyone and that I should not let ultimately narcissistic persons manipulate me by appealing to my most intimate idealistic concerns. Besides that, my involvement with AoL led me to explore various traditions in spirituality (against the explicit direction from TTC to not do so, mind you!) and helped me find true teachers such as Ramana Maharshi. So, yes, ultimately it led to very rewarding things of lasting value. That’s why they say that when a devotee is sincere, even a fake guru will do.

yourdad: “They obviously gained many things, or else why would they spend so much time with AOL?”
A graduate of the Sri Sri school of oversimplification, I see. You are right, actually, I pointed above. I did gain invaluable lessons from my association with the cult. But you are not correct that I spent so much time (6 years in my case) because I was gaining so much. The time was spent because I let my idealism overcome my discrimination and was willing to justify all the fishy things I was encountering. Following your ultimate idealistic concerns is gratifying in its own right and that drives you through walls of doubt for a period of time, but it is ultimately unsustainable when the reality of what AoL represents is consistently inconsistent with them. Truth ultimately prevails and we leave.

Anonymous @ 12:29: “3) Did any of you actually have good experiences with AOL techniques (SK, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, etc.)?”

My answer to your first question partially answers this. Beyond that, let me state that pleasant experiences and truth are two different things. The techniques mentioned are not themselves conducive to arriving at truth. Refer to Ramana Maharshi’s expositions of the nature of reality and you will see how far off the mark is most of what AoL people focus on.

yourdad: “Yes they had. Thats why they went on to become teachers. Now they have some issues with AOL. They cant explain their behavior, where, they liked it first and then are not liking it.So they come up with theories like AOL is cult and that they were innocent victims who were trapped. Such pathetic arguments from weak minds.”
I am perfectly able to explain and I already did. AoL appealed to my idealistic streak, my ultimate concerns. AoL managed to convince me initially that it was the right arena for me to act upon these concerns. It purposely targets those aspects of a human psyche. For many people these types of concerns are very important yet they don’t easily find ways to express them in modern society. AoL seems like the answer to this conundrum. Ultimately, it fails as such. That’s why people leave disappointed. In all honesty, I was never impressed by SK, it did nothing for me during my first basic course. The reason I went back was that most pure and intimate desires seemed to have found fertile soil for growth.

Why do all of you seemingly obsess over SSRS's alleged siddhis? I've never heard a single teacher talk about them as some sort of selling point for AOL nor have I ever heard SSRS talk about them.
I don't see who here is obsessed with siddhis. On the other hand, the so called guru stories are very prevalent in AoL. In fact, they are an essential part of the curriculum in courses at later stages of involvement such as DSN, TTC, Blessings course and Guru Puja course. To say that they are not emphasized in intro level courses or marketing does not deny the big part they play in indoctrination later on.

It is a classic bait and switch situation. AoL markets itself to potential recruits with programs for relaxation, stress management, improved efficiency, etc. These are things that appeal to people in our times. RS is kept largely out of the picture, at least in the West. In many cases, there is no RS photo shown in courses and his name is mentioned only in passing in intro courses. Once a certain level of involvement is achieved, new recruits are exposed more and more to the mythology of RS’s person. Anyone who has gone through those stages can attest to this.

There are special guru story sessions in TTC courses. Bhanu is never shy to relate her own guru stories in Guru Puja courses. As I am writing this, I recall the story of how the angel of NYC (a very benevolent entity, it was said) showed up in RS’s hotel room and ask him how he could assist him on his mission in the city.
The switch from the focus being on stress management and relaxation to guru worship happens not so subtly, but somehow group dynamics make it possible for people to overlook it. While at times RS would pay lip service to the idea that siddhis are insignificant to the sincere spiritual seeker, they are very much emphasized in AoL in the process of drawing people into guru worship. In contrast, Ramana Maharshi always cuts any inquiry about such extraneous matters at the root and invariably points the attention to the source of the perception.

Anonymous @ 12:29: “4) If you don't like AOL and SSRS why are you obsessively talking about it? What are you trying to resolve? I think you're trying to resolve something but you're not sure what it is. Simply trashing something or someone rarely works.”

I’m sorry but this is a disingenuous question. It seems to come from a desperate desire to be left alone and not criticized. KLIM has explained many times what he/she is trying to resolve and the purpose this blog serves towards that. Besides, it is only in AoL’s book of formulae that not bringing something up for discussion when you don’t like it is the correct thing to do. Coincidentally, following that rule in this case would seem to be in AoL’s best interest. It is not a convincing argument at all. Simply trashing is not what happens here, although some people may have a tendency to express their emotions in a more abrupt manner (just as AoL people do, by the way). Very necessary alternative to the party line points of view are expressed here. Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause AoL.

yourdad: “Because they have nothing else to do. Before joining AOL they had nothing to do, after having left AOL they have nothing to do. So how to spend time? Hence talking trash online, trying to damage other people's name and achievements.”
Now what kind of response do you give a trite statement like that? What would Sri Sri do? Probably come up with something even more childish.