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Summary of Criticisms Against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Art of Living

December 10, 2013

NOTICE: As of 22nd February 2014, this blog is closed for commenting. Thank you to everyone for their support over the years.

Finally, the time has come to do what I threatened to do some two or so posts ago, and put this blog to rest once and for all. I’m going to keep the comments section open for a little while longer in case anyone wants to leave feedback about this post itself, in particular if there are any mistakes or omissions which anyone feels need to be included. After some time has past, possibly in the next month or two, the blog will be completely frozen in time and space and there’ll be no way to unfreeze it!

So I want to wrap up by providing a summary of the various issues which have been raised over the years in criticism of many activities of “Sri Sri” Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living organization.

More than anything else, this post is intended to provide an overview as well as an index to the majority of articles which have been published across this and two other blogs which have been started and contributed to by ex-AoL followers over the years.

The three blogs in question are:

These three blogs are by no means the only blogs containing material critical of RS and AoL, and as such I have made note of other sites below where you can find any further information.

Read this First!

Before diving into any of the main posts below, it is of paramount importance that you understand exactly why these blogs have been created, who they have been created by, and most importantly who these blogs are intended for. The first two points are answered in the posts under the “Overview of these Blogs” below. The third and final point is the most crucial as there is a great deal contained in these blogs which really is not intended for everybody, and as such you really need to determine whether or not you should even be reading these blogs.

So to help you determine whether or not it is a good idea for you to even be reading this blogs, please consider the following:

If you are someone who has never had any dealings with Art of Living but who is carrying out research for example to see if taking an AoL course is for you, or if you are simply curious about AoL, then I would recommend reading at least the first few posts in the “Overview of these Blogs” section, together with the “Personal Experiences” section.

If you are someone who has been with Art of Living for any length of time, are generally happy with your experiences thus far, have never experienced anything too out of place, then I would honestly say to you, proceed no further! Really, these blogs are most likely not for you, and if you read even a little of what is written here, it will most likely make you very upset and may even cause you to become angry. This has certainly been the case with most people in this situation who have visited these blogs historically, so if don’t heed this warning, don’t say I didn’t tell you.

If you are someone who has been with Art of Living for any length of time and have had both positive as well as negative experiences, have seen things which don’t altogether add up and which have made you think deeply about your association with AoL, have found yourself being sucked into becoming a teacher more quickly than you are comfortable with, or have found that AoL is eating away at your time and your life when you don’t want it to, then I would definitely recommend reading at least some of the articles referenced below. Begin with the “Overview of these Blogs” and “Personal Experiences” sections, and if there is anything specific you want to find out more about, scroll down to the other sections to see if your issue has been addressed further down.

If you are someone who has left AoL because you were unhappy with some aspect or other of the organization, and you want to find out more about something in particular or to get an overall understanding of much of what goes on in AoL which isn’t immediately obvious, then hopefully at least one if not more of the articles below may help you in this respect.

If you do end up reading any of the articles on this blog, I would strongly recommend the following to you. When you start reading what is written here, you can very easily get sucked into these blogs and spend a great deal of time here. This in fact is exactly what happened to me. I initially started out with Klim’s blog and spent a great deal of time and energy reading through every post and every comment, and then did the same with Skywalker’s blog. The truth is, I got sucked into reading these, and looking back there I probably didn’t need to spend anywhere near as much time as I eventually did reading these blogs.

What I would say to then is simply when you start reading these blogs, have a very clear purpose in mind as to what exactly it is you want to get out of them. If there is something very specific you want to find out about, then hopefully this post will help you pinpoint it. Whatever it is, once you have achieved that, take what you need to take, and then please move on.

One more time I really need to emphasize this: if you have a good experience with Art of Living so far, these blogs really are not for you. If your situation should ever change in the future and things become disagreeable for you, then and only then should you consider revisiting these blogs.

Overview of these Blogs

The following set of posts provide an overview of the blogs themselves.

The Purpose of These Blogs
The Big Picture: An Overview of the Core Issues in Art of Living
A New Hope
The Prosecutor
What are You Doing Here?

A Special Note About Klim’s Blog

If you visit Klim’s blog you will find a section on the right-hand side labeled “Labels”, which are effectively classifications of different articles on Klim’s blog. Klim was particularly diligent in putting together his blog to make it as easy as possible to find anything specific you might be looking for, a lot more so than either of his successors.

Personal Experiences

A selection of posts relating to personal experiences by various ex-devotees who at one time or other realized that something was amiss in Art of Living:

Klim’s Introduction
The AOL Trance Is Broken
One World Family: Choosing the AoL family over ones own family
I Belong to You: Belongingness Limited to In-Group
Can We Help To Save The Art of Living? (“The Doctor” Introduction)
Is The Art of Living Org. Worth Saving? (Response to Doctor Introdution)
Independent of AOL (Peaceful Warrior)
Blog has been a tipping point for my decision making
Third Day in a Row
Stand Up For Yourself -Or End Up Falling [by freeagaiin]
An ex- AOL teacher shares [by Sincere Seeker]
From A Confused and Sincere AoL Teacher
The Duality is Gone! [by the Observer]
They Told Me Guruji Knows, Guruji Will Fix It – He Didn’t
Reasons Why I Stayed in Art of Living
Why I left Art of Living
Reflections After Leaving Art of Living
Confused – Please Help
Living in Denial in the Comfort of the Cult
Concerned Boyfriend – Please Help
Art of Living: A very UN-spiritual organization
A Deeply Disturbing Story

Brainwashing & Cult Culture

One of the most recurring themes throughout all blogs critical of AoL is that it is an organization which shares many features with what many people refer to as cults, and that it employs what many refer to as brainwashing. A great many articles have been written across all the blogs which go into detail in these areas.

Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery Series

This series of articles goes into great detail about the various brainwashing techniques which are employed in AoL,
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 1
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 2
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 3
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part4
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 5
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 6
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 7
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 8
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 9
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 10

Double-Edged Sword Series

A series of articles looking at how those things which are seemingly of benefit to AoL devotees are also used against them.
Double-Edged Sword – Part 1
Double-Edged Sword – Part 2
Double-Edged Sword – Part 3

Other Key Brainwashing and Cult Culture Articles

Brainwashing Articles on Klim’s Blog
Know Thy Enemy
Your Faith (refusal to think) is important to me
Original Sin in AOL & the final Salvation!
Hypocrisy, Brainwashing and Blind Following
No knowledge is worth your freedom!
Your bondage to SriSri saves you, so says SriSri!
STAGES OF CULTS- Which Stage is AOL at?
Drugs are Friday Nights, Cults are 24/7
Is AOL A Cult? The vaccine is right here!
Where does a guru get his power from?
10 Spiritually Transmitted Diseases
Some see AOL as a cult straightaway…
The game of specialness in AOL
Mind Share gives you Mind Control
Putting Art of Living in the ‘Hot Seat’
Steps of Evolution(?) in AOL
The Black Box of Religion, Spirituality and Faith
It’s not only a cult, it’s a dangerous cult
Siddhis are NOT Real
Karma Chameleon
Reincarnation or De-incarnation?
How To Recognize a Cult – Video
Deconstructing Religion: A Memetic Perspective
How Can You Recognize a True Guru?
The False Guru Test
The Main Characteristics of a Cult
How can my mind be controlled by AoL like this?
A Disturbing AoL Brainwashing Video
Art of Living: Breeding Intolerance and Crushing Individuality
Questioning “Enlightenment”
An Interesting Perspective on SSRS and Enlightenment
How AoL Brainwashes Its Teachers and Volunteers
Control Strategies Employed By The Master

Manipulation through “Secret Knowledge”

Secret AOL Knowledge Revealed
The End is Near!
AOL is not the ONLY way, like you are lead to believe.
What is Enlightenment?
How Sri Sri Uses Knowledge to Enslave Devotees
The Price of “The Knowledge”?
Manipulation Through “Knowledge”


Abuse Posts on KLIM’s blog
It Is Okay for Victims to feel Victimized
Abused And Discarded
Victims of Rape in Art of Living: We are all Guilty
Triumph of Evil?
How Art of Living gets away with abuse
An Experience For Life: Art Of Living [details of sexual abuse]
How Art of Living Abuses the Vulnerable


How to Heal the Trauma
Hi! I’d like to talk about Healing
There’s no one way to heal
What IS Spiritual Abuse?

Sudarshan Kriya

Commentaries on the Sudarshan Kriya Notes

Sudarshan Kriya Notes – Part 1
Sudarshan Kriya Notes – Part 2
Sudarshan Kriya Notes – Part 3
So Ham, So Fake

Kriya Tape

Long Kriya – Home Version

Alleged Benefits

Does Kriya Cure AIDS? The Art of Health Orientation TTC
Refuting “Scientific Research” on Sudarshan Kriya

Health and Safety issues concerning the practice of SK

Is Sudarshan Kriya Safe?
Heart Problems Caused By Sudarshan Kriya
Further Evidence of The Dangers of Sudarshan Kriya
An objective participant reasons that Sudarshan Kriya is Hyperventilation
A Better and Safer Alternative to Sudarshan Kriya
How Can a Divine Revelation Be Defective?
Why Teachers are Unqualified to Teach Sudarshan Kriya
Questions Sudarshan Kriya Practitioners Should Ask Themselves
Sudarshan Kriya and Bipolar Disorder
Would You Put Your Life in the Hands of People Like This?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

General Propaganda and Deception

His Holiness penchant for lying and deceiving-Part 1
His Holiness penchant for lying and deceiving-Part 2
Now I Realize That He Only Wants Money
How do I see Ravi Shankar as Unethical?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to head “Supreme Spiritual Council”?
Excellent Response to “Spiritual Council” Post
How can his techniques help in Pakistan, if they can’t help his own devotees?
Bringer of light or Desperate for limelight ?
SriSri’s Petty Deception and Lies…Why every devotee should always question what he says !!!
Ravi Shankar: Satguru, or businessman?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Betrayal of Anna Hazare and India
The Many Faces of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
He Just Lies, and Devotees Innocently Perpetuate His Lies
True History of Sudharsan Kriya

SSRS History

God Moves in Mysterious Ways
A brief account of Sri Sri Ravishankar and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi by Sudarshan

Guru’s Grace

The many claimed AOL miracles – Do they really happen ?
Debunking “Guruji’s Grace” – Part 1
Debunking “Guruji’s Grace” – Part 2
Debunking “Guruji’s Grace” – Part 3

SSRS Educational Qualifications

Sri Sri’s Graduation Certificate: What does it prove?
Why tell all these Lies in the first place?

SSRS and Nobel Peace Prize

A series of articles on how RS himself was behind the initial campaign and every subsequent campaign to persuade the Nobel Committee that he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ravi Shankar’s Hankering for the Nobel Peace Price, Part 1
Ravi Shankar’s Hankering for the Nobel Peace Price, Part 2
Ravi Shankar’s Hankering for the Nobel Peace Price, Part 3
Ravi Shankar’s Hankering for the Nobel Peace Price, Part 4
Who Gets the Nobel Peace Prize?

Sri Sri Shooting Incident

Concerning an alleged a “shooting incident” which took place near the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore. According to Art of Living propaganda, Ravi Shankar himself was the alleged target of the what they touted as a an “assassination attempt” on his life. It later turned out to be a farmer firing a warning shot to scare off a dog.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!
Sri Sri Shot At

Legal and other Action Against RS/AoL

PIL filed against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram for building on tank land
Parents demand Sri Sri’s apology

Various titles and lineage

Detailing how “His Holiness Sri Sri” Ravi Shankar actually gave himself all his titles to boost his public image, as well as invent his own place in an existing Guru lineage which he isn’t actually a part of.
His Holiness titles & Lineage
The Story of Satguru-hood

Biography changing over time, Editing of Wikipedia

Concerning the fact that RS’ biography seems to be continuously changing over time, with “facts” constantly being re-written, both on Art of Living-controlled websites as well as Wikipedia. The latter is being constantly edited and any attempt at adding a “Criticism” section is quickly removed by an AoL devotee monitoring Wikipedia.

See Prosecutor Charge 20
Quick, Read This!
Wikipedia Revisited -1984?
The Beginnings of the Many Fabrications
It was Meant to be this Way
Where are all the relatives ?

AoL Organization

God is Indian, More Precisely Hindu
Art of Living using the Anna movement for its own shameless self-promotion

World Culture Festival

Concerning the World Culture Festival, an event organized by AoL in Berlin’s National Olympic Stadium which took place in 2011. The event was touted by AoL as being of significant importance to the organization, devotees being told that their presence there would in and of itself contribute to world peace. AoL had tried to convince their devotees that the event would be a resounding success, that the 70,000-capacity stadium would be filled. However, the event was attended by a significantly smaller number, with tens of thousands of seats remaining empty as could be seen on footage of the event.

His Holiness Grand Delusions
World Cult-torture Festival
World Culture Festival – Not so good for AoL
World Culture Festival Review

Financial Matters and AoL Controlled Companies

Concerning allegations of financial misappropriation related both to AoL and to any businesses which have been started off the back of AoL. It is a known fact that RS and his family are in control of a number of for-profit businesses including Sumeru Realty, Sumeru Solutions, Inwinex Pharmaceuticals, Sri Sri Ayurveda to name but a few. Many questions have been raised as to where the money to finance these companies came from if not from money raised by AoL allegedly in the name of charity. Similar questions have been raised about where the money came from to pay for the education of RS’ nephews in the states, as well as any properties they own there and elsewhere.

Also included are discussions about the questionable connection between AoL and its “sister” organization, IAHV – the International Association of Human Values.

Sick Money
AOL illegal financial practices
An AOL Old-Timer Speaks: “The magnitude of fraud today amazes me!”
Art of Living – Call it a Corporation not a Foundation
Because Bill Clinton Stayed There Once!
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Guess!
Art of Living is a business – So what’s the big deal?
Business Lessons from the Master
Lies, Damned Lies, and even more Lies
Scammed by Sumeru Realty
Characteristics of a Spiritual Business
It’s About Time
The story of a far(ce)ma-sue-tical business
Money Matters !! Inwinex Pharma and AOL. What is the connection ?
AOL and IAHV. What is the use of having 2 companies ?
How AOL screws around with their devotee’s trust

AoL Courses

Concerning the various AoL courses including Sahaj Samadhi Mediation, Yes!+, DSN and TTC.

Sahaj Samadhi Meditation

Sahaj Samadhi Meditation – guru mantra or guru scam?
“All You Need Is Bills”
The latest Con scheme of SriSri (Sahaj Samadhi TTC)


Courses Posts on Klim’s blog
DSN & TTC Posts on KLIM’s Blog
TTC -Ending Up Soulless
Slavery agreement with Ravi Shankar – I shall be a good slave!
My TTC1 Experience
Begging in Bali- A TTC experience

SSY – Sri Sri Yoga

The Choice was between gross and grosser – SSYTTC
SSY- Never Too Late to Earn Money

Lawsuit Against Bloggers

In January 2011, a number of bloggers received notice from Google and Automattic that those companies had been subpoenaed by attorneys in the United States acting on behalf of Art of Living to reveal information about those bloggers which would allow AoL to identify them.

18 months later, with the help of attorney Joshua Koltun, AoL lost the case and were forced to drop all charges. In return, Skywalker agreed to freeze his blog (KLIM had already frozen his in 2010.) AoL were also obliged to pay the attorney fees for the defense, which amounted to $250,000 – again from alleged charity money.

Google Subpoenaed to Reveal Bloggers
The BAoL 10: They’ve done so much for us. Let’s stand by them! URGENT!
I’m being sued by a religious cult.
Time to Fight Back
Blogger Flicks Copyright Claim From Art of Living
Update from Skywalker on the Lawsuit
The Lawsuit is Over … and We Won! (copy on this blog)
The Lawsuit is Over … and We Won! (original)
The Elephant and the Fly – a Final Note (copy on this blog)
The Elephant and the Fly – a Final Note(original)
Joint Statement of AOL vs. Does
The truth cannot be hidden anymore…An Open message to all current AOL teachers
Lawsuit Cost Art of Living at least $250,000

Argentina Incident

Art of Living under Investigation – Alleged Tax Evasion in Argentina
Testimony of journalist Paul Duggan, ex-AOL Volunteer
Argentinians See Right Through RS and AoL’s BS
Ravi is considered a Major Fraud by the Argentinian Public. His character is being used to promote condoms.
The REEL truth behind the Argentina Visit – A Shameless AOL version
Argentenian TV Spoofs on Sri Sri/AOL – Ave-”raging” 25000+ views per day

Feedback from AoL Devotees & Counter-Blogs

Counter Blogs

A number of counter blogs were created by various Art of Living devotees, including at least one senior individual, in response to these blogs critical of SSRS and AoL. However, for the most part these counter-blogs seem to have either died a quick death, or have been very slow in being updated.

Of particular note is the blog entitled “Art of Living Life Stories” which is essentially a “testimonial blog” containing accounts by mostly AoL teachers and also a small handful of volunteers of how AoL and SSRS have changed their lives. What is of interest here is that whilst so much AoL propaganda has claimed that AoL has a presence in 150-160 countries, and around 30 million people have taken the Part 1 course, in the space of 3 years only 61 people have actually provided any testimonials, a surprising figure given theses claims.

Links to counter-blogs:
Art of Living Life Stories
Exposing the Guruholic (Last Update: March 2011)
Art of Living Values (Last Update: September 2010)

Posts about Counter-Blogs

Posts on these blogs in response to the counter-blogs. You might call them counter-counter-posts?

Oh Yes, Time Will Tell
High Overhead or Low Overhead, SriSri and his men can’t agree!
Offer my life to the service of humanity. Really?

Feedback from pro-AoLers

Some feedback from mostly senior persons in the AoL organization.

Disgruntled Swami
SriSri’s PR man on our blog every bit as deceitful as his Master!!
AOL USA president plugging for his book and his master!

A Letter of Concern (by Ann Godwin) and corresponding responses

A letter which was sent to Skywalker by a long-time AoL teacher Ann Godwin criticizing the blogs, which was posted on Skywalker’s blog together with his response. Two subsequent responses are also included.

Original Letter by Ann Godwin
An Ex-Teacher’s Reply to Ann
More Ex-Teachers Reply to Ann
NOTE: After her original letter, we never heard from Ann ever again.

Other Attempts by AoL To Put a Stop to the Blogs

Besides the Lawsuit mentioned above, AoL have tried other tactics to try to put a stop to these blogs, as detailed in the following articles:

JGD, someone is peeing in his pants
Someone Wants to Put a Stop to Us
DISGRUNTLED SWAMIJI speaks up for his Master, again! [Swami Sadyojatha]

The following were written by contributors to these blogs in response to the above attempts by AoL:

Notify the NPP Commission
Let The Freedom Of Speech Roll
Blog Under Three Pronged Attack
Disgruntled President Speaks up for his CEO [Ewald Poeran – Netherlands]


In one email (reproduced and discussed here) circulated by Swami Sadyojatha to a large number of AoL teachers and devotees, he outright named an individual – Eng An – whom he alleged was behind one of the blogs critical of AoL. He also went on to make a great many allegations about her personal life, including revealing details of various medical conditions she allegedly has. The following posts are in response to this email.

Engan, the Person They Named
In Defence of Engan
In Further Defence of Eng An

Posts Addressed to AoL Followers

The following posts contributed to these blogs are addressed directly to AoL followers, and mostly concern promoting critical thinking amongst AoL devotees.

Promoting Increased Critical Reasoning among AOL Followers
General Response to AoL Extremists on This Blog
An Open letter to the AOL Inner Circle who visit this blog
A Message to the Common AOLer: Wake up and Make a Change
Your Blog hurts innocent devotees
Support for “Art of Living Illegally” article and a challenge to AoL devotees
Your Choice: Coercive Persuasion or Critical Thinking
Why the need to proselytize at all?
Questions AOLites should ask themselves
To those who ask for proof
Revealing Questions about Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The Truth Hurts – Part 1
The Truth Hurts – Part 2

Positive Changes in AoL?

AoL Teachers Finally Waking Up and Asking Questions

Foreign Language Blogs and Articles


L’Après Art de Vivre


A Summary of Art of Living’s Questionable Activities – in Spanish

External Critiques of SSRS and AoL

Articles which have been written by authors who are not associated with any of these blogs, but who nonetheless have had good reason to express their opinions based on dealings they have had with AoL and SSRS.

NZ Herald Journalist sees through Mr Rev Ravi Shankar!
IIT alumni question Ravi Shankar’s credentials
CBI turns the heat on Sri Sri’s medical college in Bangalore
Student who felt cheated after taking Art of Living Course
An Experience For Life: Art Of Living
Critical Article on AoL in the New York Times

Odds and Ends

Miscellaneous articles and links, some of which are quite amusing.

Be Blessed Online!
Marketing, AOL Way!
Sorry, Uma
The Origins and Truth Behind AoL Knowledge and Practices
Be Blessed By SMS!
Amusing Video
A Word About the Tone on This Blog

Other Critical Blogs

Writings by “Invisible Indian”, the latest critic of AoL(see Also links in this post)
Endless, Nameless
Expose The Art of Living (Facebook Group)
The Art of Leaving

Latest Blogs Critical of Art of Living

September 3, 2013

For those who are interested, a new blog has arisen in the last few months which contains further articles that are also critical of “Sri Sri” Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living.

Here is a selection of links:

Moving On

May 23, 2013

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that aside from the series of articles entitled Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery, activity on the blog has been very quiet of late. There are two very good reasons for this.

Firstly, neither myself nor Bloggisatwa really have a great deal of time to dedicate to running the blog, which is in and of itself a fairly time-consuming task. Secondly, we are both in agreement that there isn’t really a great deal more that either of us can say with regards to Art of Living. Everything that ever needed to be said has been covered more than adequately across both KLIM and Skywalker’s blogs, and to some extent within this blog.

When I set this blog up after Skywalker froze his blog in July 2012, one of the main reasons for doing so was that I wanted to get the series of articles on brainwashing in AoL published somewhere, and so this seemed like the best way to go about this. Now that this series is complete, I have very little if anything else to say on this subject, and as such the time has come to finally move on and say goodbye.

And this is exactly what I would like to recommend to everyone who visits these blogs. Simply, to spend as much time as you need reading what you feel is important, and once you are done, move on.

It is so easy to get caught up in much of what is written here, and I have seen this both in myself and in many others who have visited these blogs over the years, both in those who support these blogs and in those who are opposed to them. Whoever you are and whatever your reason for visiting, take what you need and once you’re done, get on with life and live it as best you can. Lingering here really is not good for anyone.

I am busy working on a closing post for the blog which will summarize the main points of what has been contributed to the three blogs since 2009, and which will act as an introduction for new visitors to the blog. This will hopefully be published within the next few weeks.

After this, the blog will be FROZEN for commenting. I will still check the email address in the disclaimer at the top, although this will happen very infrequently, most likely less than once a month.

For those of you who still want to take in the latest gossip surrounding Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living, here are some links to a number of sites which are being updated ongoing at the time of writing.

A number of links to articles written by “Invisible Indian”: (Topics covered)

Russian Translations of posts on the above site:

The blog of Anup K Nair which contains at least the following posts, if not others:

Facebook Groups

And I’m sure you’ll find plenty more if you look hard enough.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has ever contributed to these blogs in one form or another. In the first place to Klim, Skywalker and Whistleblower who between started this whole thing and let the cat out of the bag for all to see, to Doctor who ran Skywalker’s blog until it’s freeze, to Peaceful Warrior, Ronin, Sincere Seeker, Independent Observer, Prosecutor, Original and Sincere Seeker, and a whole host of other major contributors to the blogs, and of course my co-moderator on this blog Bloggisatwa. To so many other people who have contributed to these blogs over the years but who I have not mentioned by name, I am sorry but it is only because there are so many of you and I have not been able to remember everyone’s names, a big thanks for all your efforts. And yes, even to those of you who are opposed to what we are doing here, it’s obvious from much of what you wrote that it was far from easy for you to take in what was written here and it is obvious that many of you are really confused about what to believe. I hope that you too will take something useful away with you, whatever it may be.

And now mes amis, real life beckons and not another moment to lose. I bid you all farewell and good luck whatever your respective futures hold!



Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 10

May 11, 2013

Links to All Parts

Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 1
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 2
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 3
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 4
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 5
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 6
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 7
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 8
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 9
Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 10

Summary of Articles

Since so much ground has been covered already in this series, I want to conclude firstly by summarizing the various discussion points covered in each of the articles which have already been published as part of this series.

In Part 1 we began by defining Brainwashing as the use of one or more techniques or processes usually involving some degree of manipulation or deception, which are employed to bring about a change in the beliefs of those being brainwashed. The beliefs can be considered to be an Ideology. Successfully administered brainwashing results in the brainwasher effectively controlling both the beliefs of those being brainwashed and also to an extent their actions. The reason for the brainwashing is simply to afford a number of benefits to those who are responsible for the brainwashing, such as financial gains, power and adulation.

We took at detailed look at the AoL Ideology in terms of beliefs about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sudarshan Kriya, the AoL organization itself, and any beliefs designed to suspend critical thinking and promote blind faith in the organization and the guru.

We showed several ways in which an AoL devotee can be considered to be an asset of the AoL organization, in particular with regards to the amount of money each devotee brings in to the organization.

In Part 2 we took a detailed look at the ways in which AoL has tried to create an environment which is conducive to brainwashing. We introduced Robert Jay Lifton’s eight conditions which were used to bring about thought reform in Chinese POW camps in the 1950s, and showed how every single one of these is present in AoL.

We noted how the AoL brainwashing machinery is actually mostly made up of the devotees themselves, who are for the most part the ones responsible for spreading the ideology. We further discussed that since AoL are unable to fully control their devotees’ environments (unlike in Chinese POW camps), that outside influences such as the internet are allowing their devotees to see perspectives of AoL that they wouldn’t normally see, that this is causing a major kink in the AoL brainwashing machinery and has over time caused a lot of devotees to break free from their brainwashing and leave AoL.

In Part 3 we began by looking at how an individual’s existing beliefs are to an extent a determining factor as to how much brainwashing needs to take place in order to bring about change in their beliefs. We then began by looking at Robert Cialdini’s Weapons of Influence discussed in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

We looked at the Contrast Principle which tells us that when we compare two items, the way we perceive one item is radically altered by the way we perceive the other. We showed that this was used in AoL mainly to draw a comparison between ones life before AoL and ones life after becoming involved, trying to persuade devotees that AoL had had a marked improvement on their lives, and using this as a springboard to bring other devotees into the AoL fold.

We looked at Reciprocation, which tells us that when someone gives us something of value or shows us a certain kindness, we feel compelled to repay that kindness in some way. More than anything, this technique is used in AoL to persuade devotees into believing that whatever they have received from AoL, such as Sudarshan Kriya or anything else which generally makes them feel good, is of far greater value to the devotee than any money they paid to AoL. As such devotees are made to feel indebted to AoL, and that they need to repay AoL back in some way.

In Part 4 we took a detailed look at the power of Commitment and Consistency, which tells us that once someone has made some sort of commitment, it is very difficult for them to act in some way which contradicts this commitment since they appear to be inconsistent, and this is highly undesirable behavior. We looked at ways in which AoL enforces commitment from its devotees, in particular by asking them to write down their commitments on paper, and to make commitments in front of others.

We also took a detailed look at various studies into Initiation Rites and the effort made by those undergoing those rites, and showed how in so many ways the AoL TTC can be seen as an initiation rite, particularly with regards to the ways in which it is greatly coveted by so many in AoL and how it influences the beliefs of those who undergo the course.

In Part 5 we spent a considerable amount of time looking at the phenomenon of Cognitive Dissonance, a term describing a psychological phenomenon which arises whenever an individual holding a particular belief or set of beliefs is presented with conflicting beliefs, resulting in a conflict in the mind which is experienced as pain. The mind then has to act in one or more ways in order to try to remove the pain caused by this dissonance.

As far as AoL is concerned, a devotee will experience Cognitive Dissonance whenever they are presented with anything which seems to be in conflict with either their perspective of AoL or of RS. This includes nearly everything written across these blogs, but also any experiences which they themselves have in AoL which they find questionable, which are normally experienced as “red flags”.

We listed so many areas in AoL which have resulted in devotees experiencing Cognitive Dissonance, including beliefs about Sudarshan Kriya, TTC, money issues, allegations of various types of abuse, behaviors of senior teachers include RS himself, beliefs about RS having “Guru’s Grace” and the ability to heal, and of course beliefs about RS being enlightened. We also showed how so many of the behaviors seen on the blogs by AoL devotees, and also the need for many devotees to start counter blogs, was directly as a result of Cognitive Dissonance.

But we also looked at how the effects of Cognitive Dissonance could be so devastating that those who had been in the organization for a long time would find it very difficult to leave and would rather continue living a lie than accept many of the things which are wrong with AoL or RS.

In Part 6 we turned our discussion to Social Proof, which states that whenever we need to make some kind of decision in life, we are far more likely to follow the same course that many other people have taken in the same situation. We looked at how the power of Social Proof to influence us is particularly accentuated when we are uncertain about a particular situation, or when those who have been presented with the same situation are similar to us, the similarity being a major influencing factor.

We showed how Social Proof is being used in AoL. For example by quoting large numbers of participants who have allegedly done the Part 1 course worldwide, the number of countries in which AoL has a presence, the hiring of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin which in the end was only filled to a fraction of its full capacity, and the ways in which AoL devotees are encouraged to make a big fuss whenever any AoL “celebrity figure” was coming to town.

In Part 7 we looked at the Liking Principle, which states that we are far more likely to comply with a given request if we know and like the person who is making it. We showed how this principle was manipulated in AoL, including leveraging existing bonds between friends by asking devotees to expend considerable effort in persuading their friends and relatives to join. We also showed how physical appearance was a contributing factor, and how AoL favored better-looking teachers and encouraged them to dress in a particularly congenial manner.

We also showed how many of the processed in various AoL courses were designed to make devotees like each other and the organization even more, for example by giving each other compliments, encouraging regular contact with each other, and encouraging cooperation towards a common goal. We also looked at how conditioning and association could be used to influence people, citing the specific example of AoL’s association with Anna Hazare’s IAC movement and how AoL tried to leverage this association to attract more devotees.

In Part 8 we examined the power of Authority. We began by reciting the findings of the now infamous Milgram Experiment, which demonstrated how individuals reacted to authority in situations where they had to be outright cruel to another human being, and the ways in which that authority effectively overrode their consciences.

We showed how authority in AoL is exploited, in particular by noting how RS is projected as being an enlightened guru, the ultimate authority figure in Hinduism. But we went on to show that RS simply has to show various signs, or symbols, of being enlightened to make people believe this is the case. We showed how his titles (“Sri Sri” or “His Holiness” – both of which he has bestowed upon himself), his appearance (white robes, long hair, beard), Guru stories of his alleged “siddhis” as well as his alleged “Guru’s Grace”, and his purported knowledge of various scriptures are more than adequate to convince the majority of devotees that he is indeed an enlightened guru. We also looked at the way in which the whole AoL organization itself can be viewed as a “hierarchy of authority”, with those lower down surrendering their power to those higher up in the hierarchy, the power moving from devotees to teachers to senior teachers to the AoL “inner circle” and finally to RS and his family.

In Part 9 we examined Cialdini’s final Weapon of Influence, Scarcity, which tells us that the more limited the availability of any given thing that we may desire, the more we come to desire it and hence the greater the influence it can have on us.

We showed a plethora of ways in which Scarcity is exploited in AoL, from marketing certain courses as having limited availability, claiming that certain senior teachers are so busy that people should feel blessed whenever they visit a certain region to give talks, certain knowledge being very special and claiming that it should only be made available to certain people (or that the world isn’t ready yet to receive this knowledge yet), and using it to sell various products such as the Ashtavakra DVDs.


There are many who believe that much of what goes on in Art of Living requires some mystical explanation or other, and I myself even believed this at the time I was associated with the organization. However, as I alluded to at the start of this series of articles, my intention here has been to try to explain most if not all of the things that transpire in AoL from the point of view of psychological manipulation.

Whilst I very much subscribe to the old adage that awareness is curative, I feel even more strongly about the even older and more prevalent adage that prevention is better than the cure. The problem, however, is that most of what is detailed in these articles, and the background research which they are based on, isn’t taught in schools anywhere in the world, at least not to the best of my knowledge. If it were, then most likely people wouldn’t be so quick to fall into organizations like AoL.

If you are looking at becoming involved with AoL, these articles should at least help you decide whether it really is an organization you wish to become involved with.

If you are currently part of AoL but are having any doubts for one reason or another, then these articles may help to highlight the sorts of doubts you are having and explain the reasons why you are having them.

If you have already left AoL but are still trying to understand much of what happened to you during your time with AoL which still still remains a mystery to you, then these articles will hopefully shed a great deal of light on at least some of the things you went through. This in fact was the position I was in when I discovered the background material to these articles, and I found it extremely helpful in my own breakaway from the organization.

In everything I have written here, I have tried to remain as objective as possible and have tried my level best to refrain from any form of judgement. As such I cannot emphasize enough, this really is not about good versus evil, about right versus wrong or anything like that. Rather, it is about highlighting the ways in which people who are associated with AoL end up losing their freedom, surrender their responsibility and power, and lose their ability to think rationally and clearly.

Whilst it might seem obvious to some that these are undesirable things, the sad fact is that some people really don’t want to take responsibility for what they do in life, they don’t want to think for themselves, and would rather happily allow others to tell them what to do and think. And this isn’t just limited to organizations like AoL, it affects so many people on the planet.

It is also a sad fact of life that so many people lie to themselves in order to make themselves feel happy. This again is not limited to just organizations like AoL, it is pandemic. People believe things because they want to believe them, even in spite of evidence to the contrary. What makes this so concerning is that from a psychological perspective, this effectively causes the mind to split into two, one part which believes the lie, and one part which knows that it is actually a lie. In other words these two parts directly contradict each other, and hence disharmony ensues in the mind. If this sounds all too familiar to anyone who has been following this series of articles, it is because this is the exact dynamic which gives rise to Cognitive Dissonance, discussed in Part 5.

As Cialdini remarks throughout his book, it is our natural tendencies and desires which are ultimately exploited by those who wish to manipulate us in some way or other – and of course, our vulnerabilities. And this is exactly what the AoL Brainwashing Machinery takes advantage of.

If there is one thing which everyone who has ever been associated with AoL has in common, it is that every single one of them has one more vulnerabilities of one kind or other. Whatever the nature of their vulnerabilities, for many AoL offers some means of dealing with them, or at the very least it claims to. Whilst in and of itself this is not a bad thing at all, all too often these very same vulnerabilities are used to exploit individuals in the ways which have been detailed in these and other articles across these blogs.

It may sound surprising but without exception everyone who is part of the AoL Brainwashing Machinery is to some extent a victim of it. Everyone from regular devotees, volunteers and teachers all the way up to senior teachers, swamis, rishis, and even its ultimate beneficiaries including of course Ravi Shankar himself and his close family and friends.

The AoL Brainwashing Machinery is designed to keep people under its spell for as long as it can, controlling their thoughts and their day to day activities in whatever ways it can. But very often people see through its cracks. And when they do, they find themselves with one of the most difficult decisions they have to make: to stay with the organization and accept whatever it is they have objection with, or to leave. And for most, the latter is far more difficult than the former as it can mean a great loss. This can be loss of identity, of purpose in life, of friends and community, and of course the loss of the one person whom they felt they loved and trusted and to whom they had surrendered all their power to – Ravi Shankar. And as we all know, the fear of loss can be so overwhelming and even debilitating that we would rather do anything we can to avoid it.

If you are happy living a lie, or are happy to be manipulated and deceived, then that is absolutely fine as long as you are aware of these things.

But if you ever wish to break free of it, know that you can. And know that countless people have done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future, and that it really isn’t as difficult as it seems. Whatever loss you feel you may have to incur, know that you have so much more to gain after you leave – if that is what you really wish to do.

I want to finish by tipping the hat to the late and great comedian and social commentator Bill Hicks. Art of Living is very much like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to be part of it you think it’s very real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And just like a ride, it has ups and downs and thrills and spills, and it’s brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun … for a while. But some people who have been on the ride for a long time have seen things which make them think that there is something seriously wrong with it, and they begin to question it. But when they speak out, those who have so much invested in the ride tell them to shut up, accuse them of being negative, of telling lies, of trying to defame and so on and so forth. Because those who have so much invested in the ride want the ride to go on and on and on for ever, and don’t ever want to wake up from it. The problem is, they have forgotten that it’s only a ride, and they believe that the ride is actually real life. Even when they are shown that it is only a ride, they choose not believe it and continue to live the lie. Those who have fully woken up and who have seen it as just a ride have moved on, and have realized that outside of the ride real life awaits. And guess what? They have never felt the need to turn back and get on the ride again. Why not? Because they realize they can have all the thrills and spills and joy and laughter which they’re hearts desire in the real world, outside of the ride. And anyone can make exactly the same choice they made, if they want to. But the trick is, they have to want to in the first place. If the ride is giving you all the fun you want and you have no need to get off it, then stay on it by all means. But if you’ve been on the ride long enough and want to get off it, then you have to realize that if the one thing keeping you on the ride is fear, then you are allowing that fear to control you and prevent you from experiencing real life which lies outside of the ride. And as almost everyone who has gotten off the ride will tell you, real life is so much better than the ride can ever be. In the end, the choice is yours and yours alone to make.

Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 9

March 2, 2013

In Part 8 of this series we took a look at the power of Authority and how it is used to persuade and manipulate those who are in some way associated with Art of Living. In this part we will look at the last of Cialdini’s Weapon’s of Influence, Scarcity.


The sixth and final of Cialdini’s Weapons of Influence is the Scarcity Principle, which states that the more limited the availability of any given thing, the more we desire it and hence the more influence it can exert over us.

An important variation of this principle occurs when something which is currently available becomes considerably less available, we value it significantly more than if it was already scarce. Another variation of this principle occurs when something is not only scarce, but when additional social demand comes into effect, in other words when we feel that others desire an already scarce resource, then its perceived value increases even more than if there was no competition.

In Art of Living, this principle is used almost exclusively to manipulate existing devotees, as the ways in which it is used cannot readily be applied to those who are effectively outsiders to AoL.

Probably the most innocuous way in which the Scarcity Principle is used in AoL is to try to convince devotees to attend a specific (usually more advanced) course by claiming that is a special course which is rarely taught, or is being taught by a teacher whom “we are very blessed to have with us” since they rarely visit this area and hence we should be grateful. Often a claim is made that “we don’t know when they’ll teach this course again because it’s so rare and special, so you should really attend this time whilst you have the chance”. Whilst in some cases this may be true, more often than not the course is actually taught a lot more regularly than those applying this tactic make out.

Along similar lines, whenever a prominent individual from within the AoL hierarchy visits a particular region, much of the feverishness and fuss which ensues stems from the attitudes of many staunch devotees that this again is an extremely rare opportunity as Swami x or Rishi y is so busy, and rarely has time to visit this area. The last time he was here was many years ago, and we don’t know the next time he will visit. Again, we should feel really blessed by his deciding to honor us with his presence.

Tied in with many of these visits is the idea that Swami x or Rishi y is actually in possession of some “special knowledge” which Guruji himself has instructed him to reveal to us, and which he didn’t feel the world was ready for until now. This tactic was certainly employed by two subsequent visits of a certain well-known AoL “celebrity” in my local area – and both times he gave exactly the same discourses and revealed no special or otherwise secret knowledge.

This overall idea of an organization or individual being in possession of some secret or special knowledge exclusive to them is itself another exploitation of the Scarcity principle. It is used very effectively in AoL, especially as one becomes more deeply involved with the organization. Many promises of secret knowledge being revealed are made to devotees throughout their time with the organization, and it is nearly always done to make them take steps towards going deeper into the organization, taking more advanced courses, and of course sitting TTC.

Even certain talks and courses, especially those with prominent AoL figures, are only open to those who have achieved a certain status within AoL, such as becoming teachers or volunteers. For those who are neither a teacher nor a volunteer, hearing about these talks can give them a good incentive to consider become either a volunteer or a teacher. Especially when they are further told that during these talks “extra special” or secret information will be revealed which can only be revealed to teachers and devotees as they are perceived to be more spiritually evolved and hence ready for this knowledge.

Having attended a number of these closed talks myself, I can reveal that nothing of import is every mentioned in them. In fact, the sole purpose of these talks is to allow those giving the talks to use a level of brainwashing which they could not do so for a wider audience because they don’t already have the foundational levels of brainwashing that teachers and volunteers do. Many things are discussed in these talks which rely on a certain belief system to already exist in those attending, otherwise it simply won’t make any sense.

But the Scarcity principle is also applied to products which AoL sells. More than any other DVD produced by AoL, the Ashtavakra DVD set is promoted and sold using the scarcity principle. In the first place, it is considered to be something which should only be watched by those considering becoming teachers, thus limiting the remit of who should and who should not watch it. Secondly, it is deemed by those who have seen it to contain major life-changing knowledge not to be found anywhere else. Thirdly, its price in the West is astronomical, especially compared to other AoL knowledge DVDs. Pricing something in this manner is actually another means of making devotees value something considerably more than they otherwise would. But the most interesting thing about the Ashtavakra DVDs is the way so many teachers seem to both be highly protective of it, regarding is as something incredibly sacred, and generally reluctant to share their copy with anybody, especially those who they deem to be “unfit” for watching it.

All of these factors combine together to create a mysterious aura around the Ashtavakra DVDs, which increases demand for it and also instills the desire in those devotees to become teachers. These same devotees are usually enticed to attend group sessions where an episode of the DVDs is played followed by a group discussion of what they saw.

Another interesting exploitation of the Scarcity Principle is in limiting the availability of certain key individuals in AoL. At the most basic level this is seen during the Advanced Courses, where Advanced Course teachers are generally made out to be extremely rare individuals who have been specially chosen by RS, singled out from all the masses, to teach this special course. Access to these teachers is usually a lot more limited than access to normal teachers, and this is evident even in trivial matters such as the way these teachers are instructed (this is actually in the teacher’s handbook it would seem) to eat their lunch separately from everyone attending.

As we have already discussed, being singled out by RS or by a senior teacher in AoL usually makes that individual feel very special within the organization. But because it is perceived as such a rare thing, it makes others also believe that this person is someone special, someone who should be respected and even looked up to as an authority.

The availability of RS himself is believed to be extremely limited, so of course many people vie for his attention and covet time with him. And whenever he gives it, they feel they have received something of incredible value.

In Part 10, we will wind down this present series by summarising everything written thus far.

Where are all the relatives ?

January 8, 2013

I have been wondering about this for a while….so if the readers can share their views and experiences on this please ?

A typical South Indian family in the 50s and 60s…..would have 4+ kids. This means  Ravi and Banu would have approx 8 (aunts + uncles…4 each on mom and dad’s sides)…and assuming an average of 2 kids per aunt / Uncle…..there are at the very least 16 cousins out there. Is there a family tree OR is it actively discouraged ?

Readers : Have any of you met any one of them ? What are their names ? What do they do ? Where do they live ? How come they do not figure very prominently  in the organisation ? I have never seen or heard Banu or Ravi introduce their cousins / Uncles / Aunts to anyone ? This is actually pretty strange for an Indian family let alone a south Indian one.

One thing is for sure, in my decade + with them there were no cousins that I met or heard off. They were definitely not visible.

Maybe it was just me who missed out on them ?

Assuming that these relatives are actually scarce and cannot / will not be visible easily….I have some plausible explanations for this….

1.  Maybe they all know the REAL truth of the growing up days and can easily Dispute the REEL truth that the AOL 1st family dishes out.

2.  Maybe they are aware of the real timelines (Year of graduation, how much marks ?…BTW South Indian families tend to keep track of the passing marks of all their relatives)

3.  Ratnam’s many forays into grey businesses. The many unexplained police raids on their household ?

4.  Exposes and real explanations for some of the missing years in Ravi’s staged timeline and stories (Did he really travel with MMY….or was he somewhere else…..?)

All the above is speculative…..however, if I am right….then the 1st family will have a great interest in making sure that they maintain at best a COLD relationship with the rest of the family. AOL will blame it on family jealousy to explain why the rest of the family are not in the AOL movement.

Plus if the cousins do actually come in, they may also become very aware of the all the ill gotten Assets that their illustrious and famous Brother now controls. And south Indian Brahmin families are known to gossip like crazy amongst themselves.

Hmmm…another AOL explanation would be…The rest of the family…. they still have a problem …..they could not see God/Guru in their own cousin / nephew.

Seems like this is definitely worth a ponder.



Victims of Rape in Art of Living: We are all Guilty

January 3, 2013

by ex aol teacher

Over the years, as a “devotee” and eventually as a teacher, I heard several stories and knew a few victims of rape incidents within the organization. Whether in the West or India, by Western teachers or Indian teachers, including some with religious ranking such as “rishi” or “sri sri”, or board members, female or male victims, often turned out to be events discredited by the “authorities” and lost in time and space. Usually, incidents were known by one or more senior teachers, one or more regular teachers, one or more ashram coordinators, and definitely by “the guru”, though surprisingly, never the police. Of course, one or more senior teachers would be outraged by the event (cuz we always went first to a senior teacher to discuss any discomfort), before even approaching the guru. However, always surprised at the lack of expected action by the guru. And even more, when the guru himself would thereafter promote the abuser, to either advanced course teacher, or Sahaj teacher, or TTC teacher, or DSN teacher, or Rishi, or …… Sadly, often rumours would thereafter start circulating about the victim, “promiscuous”, “likes sex too much”, “slut”, “mentally imbalanced”, “blue star”. Rumours often started by the guru himself.

Definitely clear indications things work upside down in the AoL. Clearly, demonstrating the misogynistic aspect of the guru’s personality, an overall perversion, and the cultic aspect of the movement. Beyond all his talk about love and non-violence, money and publicity spent in organizing “women’s conferences”, etc., clearly, no coherence at all between speech and actions.

The recent incidents in India set me to remember all the rape cases I knew in the organization, victims, abusers. I too was guilty of keeping “the secrets” and by keeping shush, helped promote lies and violence within an organization that allegedly promotes human values. It makes me sick to the stomach to even think the possibility that Sri Sri is now talking about these incidents for further self-promotion and reprimanding Indian society, for what he himself does.

Of course, when I read articles about the protests in India, I understand he is no different than people like MP Abhijit Mukherjee who called women protesting gang rape, “dented and painted women” who go to discos, have little connection with ground realities and are making candlelight vigils fashionable.

Strangely, we were so trapped in the cult, none of us thought of reporting to the police, as any healthy person would do. Such incidents should not be kept indoors, or reported to another abuser, such as “the guru” or another teacher. Such incidents should go straight to the police, to authorities outside of the cult.

It took many years before victims dared to come out of the closet to report rape cases in the Catholic church. Many more before something was actually done, and for the Church to recognize and apologize to the victims. Hopefully it won’t take that much longer for victims to speak up about incidents that occurred within the AoL, for them to understand it is not OK, even if it happens in a “spiritual organization”, and for something to be done. Rape, no matter under what circumstances, where, and by whom, is unacceptable, unjustifiable. It is a crime wherever you see it.

Today when I wonder whether I should speak up, I understand that the vulnerability of the victim is to be respected. There is a reason he/she kept quiet. Mostly fear, mostly shame, mostly brain-washed. The victim him/herself should speak up when he/she is ready … if ever. But no. If it happened to you, know it is not OK, especially within a spiritual organization. You/we were deceived thousand fold. You are not guilty. You did not deserve it. It is not karma. It is an act of crime.

An article published by CNN wrote, “we are all guilty”. Well, yes indeed, we all are. All of us who knew at least one story, one victim, and did not speak up. We are all guilty.