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A New Hope

June 29, 2012

It really amazes me that we’ve come so far in a relatively short space of time. It all started in 2005 with Jody Radzik’s Guruphiliac blog, and from its inception it included many posts critical of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living organization. But it was in 2009 that Klim’s Confessions of a Guruholic blog (aka Leaving Art of Living) which really got the ball rolling with regards to exposing all the wrong-doings in the Art of Living, providing those who have left with a space to share any questionable experiences they had, and to help them to recover from any abuses they may have suffered as a result of their association with the organization.

In a little over 6 months, after a staggering 100 posts by a growing number of contributors, Klim decided to retire from blogging and subsequently froze his blog. Thankfully, one of the key contributors to Klim’s blog, another ex-teacher posting as Skywalker, decided to start the Beyond Art of Living blog, to continue where Klim’s blog had left off.

A little over two years later, with 200 posts and over 10,000 comments, that blog too was frozen. This time, it was done as the result of a settlement in a lawsuit which Art of Living filed against the creators and main contributors of these two blogs in 2011. A lawsuit which Art of Living not only lost but which must have cost them an astronomical amount of money in legal fess since they had to pay for the attorneys of both parties. You can read all about it here.

The outcome of this lawsuit was a huge victory for those who support these blogs, and with such a massive volume of work contributed by so many individuals over the past 3 years, it almost seemed as if there was no need to continue blogging. However, even towards the end of Skywalker’s blog, new angles were still being uncovered, new evidence was still being submitted, but most importantly of all, an evergrowing number of people were still coming forwards and sharing their experiences on the blog, and finding solace and comfort in what was written.

My Story

I myself at one time was one such person. Like so many others, I became involved with Art of Living at a time in my life when I was feeling very vulnerable. Prior to my involvement, I was an atheist, a skeptic who strongly believed in science and reason. Yet in a relatively short space of time, so many of my core beliefs radically changed. I came to not only believe in God, but I also believed that a man who calls himself “His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar”, and whose devotees refer to as “Guruji”, was a God-incarnated, enlightened being who was in command of a number of seemingly “magical” powers, at the heart of which was something called “Guru’s Grace” (or sometimes “Guruji’s Grace”). I believed he had the ability to read people’s minds, see into the future, control the weather, heal the sick, and even remove any “bad karma” I had, amongst other things. I even believed that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Lord Krishna.

I also believed that Art of Living was an organization dedicated to ridding the world of stress and bringing about world peace. And that by being part of AoL and helping to bring others into AoL, I would be doing a great service to all of humanity and to God himself – by helping to save all these souls from their impending doom. I genuinely believed this was my destiny, my purpose in life, and that I had been chosen by God himself to carry out His work on this Earth. This was my reality at the time, and so strong was my faith in these beliefs that I simply couldn’t accept any point of view which contradicted them.

But once I discovered these blogs, over time I came to realize that nearly everything I believed about Art of Living and about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was based on cleverly fabricated lies. That I and so many others had been subtly manipulated to believe certain things and to behave in certain ways which provided Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his family tremendous benefits, but which were of little or no benefit to any of us – his devotees.

Learning these things was excrutiatingly painful, as my entire reality crumbled away in a very short space of time. It took me some time to recover from this experience, however thankfully my family and friends were very supportive during this time, and together with the help of these blogs, I made a recovery over a period of a few months.

I count myself very fortunate indeed, as so many others who leave Art of Living struggle to re-integrate themselves back into society, finding it extremely difficult to survive outside of the Art of Living bubble. So many people have sacrificed so much of their time to serve an organization which rather than helping them and providing them with any support they may need has ultimately caused them a great deal of harm, some even to the point of suffering from trauma. It really is heartbreaking to read the many personal accounts that have been written across the various blogs detailing these disturbing experiences, especially those extreme cases where Art of Living has completely ruined lives and broken up families. If it weren’t for these blogs, many of these people would have absolutely nowhere to turn to, no one to share their harrowing experiences with, and little or no means of recovery. It is no small exaggeration to say that these blogs have proven to be instrumental in the recovery processes a large number of people who have left Art of Living, including my own.

As such, we will always need to have a live blog going forwards, a place where people can continue to discuss any issues they have had with Art of Living and which will help them to recover from their experiences.

Mission of this Blog

Essentially, to continue where Skywalker’s blog left off.

Firstly, to provide a space where people can discuss any issues they had during their association with Art of Living, whether they are ex-members or current members who are having any doubts. As most of us who were at one time associated with Art of Living know, this is something which was not possible within Art of Living as the organization is not open to any form of criticism of itself and especially of its leader.

Secondly, to expose all the lies and manipulations that take place in Art of Livng, especially with regards to processes which result in a marked change to the belief systems of those who undergo these processes – which many refer to as brainwashing.

Thirdly, to collate any and all concrete evidence to support the many views that have thus far been published across these blogs, including new evidence we have yet to publish.

Core Beliefs

It is important to understand that there are no core beliefs which are necessarily shared by those who support these blogs. We are not an organization which follows any philosphical, political or religious beliefs collectively. Each person who contributes here expresses viewpoints based on their own beliefs and is completely responsible for the things they write. As such it is erroneous to try to attribute the responsibility of a single comment or post that an individual makes to everyone who supports the blog or to the blog as a whole, as some have tried to do in the past.

One thing worth nothing which most of us who support these blogs do believe in is critical thinking, and as such we are greatly opposed to anything which promotes blind faith.

Posting Guidelines

Everyone who feels they have something to contribute here is invited to do so. We strongly believe in freedom of speech, and as such, we will endevour to approve all comments which are posted on this blog. However, there are two circumstances which will not be tolerated.

The first of these is abusive behaviour of any form, particularly involving the use of profanities or any kind of threat. If you need to make a point, you can do so without having to resort to being abusive. Otherwise, your comment will be deleted.

The second of these, which is even more important than the first, is that any comment you make is done so with the full understanding that you are being completely truthful in what you write. This applies to everyone here, irrespective of their point of view. If you are found to be lying, your comment will still be approved, however any and all lies you tell will be highlighted for all to see. Just remember, many of us who support these blogs have already spent a considerable amount of time in Art of Living, and we know a staggering amount of its insider secrets. This makes it very difficult for you to lie about something and get away with it. But at the end of the day it’s up to you. If you do lie about something and we call you on it, it will irreparably damage any credibility you have here. Just remember that a large number of people were exposed and discredited on Skywalker’s blog for lying.

To Those Who Are Researching Art of Living

If you have come across this website whilst researching Art of Living on the internet, please take the time to read as much as you can which is written about the organization on these blogs. The Recommended Posts section on the right hand side is a good place to start (Note: seven new posts have recently been added to this, four from Klim’s blog and three written by John Knapp). In particular the post The Purpose of These Blogs details the core issues with Art of Living which have been identified across these blogs. Although it was written nearly 2 years ago, it is just as valid now as it was then.

Whilst the Art of Living websites will only tell you about all the good things that Art of Living does (many of which we have challenged), these blogs will give you a very good insight into the dark side of Art of Living.

Ultimately, once you have done as much research as you can, you should be in a much better position to make an informed decision as to whether or not Art of Living is for you.

To Those Who are Opposed to Our Work Here

If you are upset by the things you read here, I cannot apologize for this. In writing about something of this nature, inevitably there will be at least a small handful of people who will not take kindly to many of the things we write. This has certainly been the case historically on previous blogs, and will most likely continue into the future. There are especially a great many revealing questions we will be raising which some people would rather we didn’t ask. Questions many of which have been asked previously but which to this day have still gone unanswered. If you are the sort of person who is easily offended by any of the things you read here, then I would strongly urge you to simply not visit this blog. Complaining about it, being abusive at people posting here, denying evidence we publish or worst of all trying to cover up for any of the wrong doings in Art of Living won’t do you any good at all.

If you are determined to put a stop to what we are doing here, the best way to do this is to listen to all the criticisms made on these blogs, discuss them with as many people as you can in Art of Living, taking it as high up in the organization as you can, and do everything possible to ensure that these things do not happen going forwards. Because as far as any of us can see, in the last three years Art of Living have not listened to any of these criticisms, have continued to live in denial of them, and have only gone from bad to worse – especially when you consider the whole debacle with the court case.

Whether you like it or not, we are here to stay in one form or another. All tactics to try to put a stop to these blogs have thus far failed and will continue to fail. The only thing left for you to do is to listen to what is being said here and try and bring about some positive change in the organization.

To Those Who Support or Need Us

But most importantly of all, if you are someone who has been involved with Art of Living but who has since left for whatever reason, and you have come here in the hope of finding a place to heal, to share your experiences, to help others to recover, or to better understand much of what happened to you during your time with the organization, then I sincerely hope that this blog helps you in whatever way it can, continuing the work started in the previous blogs.

Important Note: To those who submitted articles for Skywalker’s blog before it was frozen but which were never published, these have all been transferred to this blog and will be published in due course.

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12 Comments
  1. Gross ist Gott permalink
    June 29, 2012 12:52 pm

    Hello,

    a very interesting point exposed in this post: encouraging people to research AoL before getting in too deep.

    I went to an AoL Yes+ in a moment of my life when I was depressed and desperate for help, any help (seems like this is the main reason most of people get involved). After the Yes+, I started researching on the Internet and that´s how I found these blogs.

    In my country, AoL is very new, they are here for 3 years and they are just starting to “recruit”. People involved to the fund is just starting so they are all happy and cheerful and there´s no one that has already left, to talk to about their experiences. The fund has also yet not much workshops besides Yes+ and Part1 here, for other workshops, teachers from other countries must come.

    So, maybe because of that, most of my doubts may sound very basic, but I am curious and don´t want to miss the opportunity of asking:

    1. We were told not to teach to anybody SK. I understand that, since as far as I know SK is copyrighted or somehow protected to be only theirs. But instead of saying that, they said that we were not trained enough to teach SK and we could do serious harm to people if we intend to teach it, and that horrible things could happen to the person we teach SK to. But honestly, my teacher didn´t seem very prepared to manage every situation that showed up during the workshop, or to answer some questions. Anyways, question is: what exactly could happen to someone if I teach him/her SK? What kind of harm are we talking about? (this question was asked during the workshop, but wasn´t answered concretely by the teacher)

    2. I have read a lot about ex-AoL´s having to overcome the consequences of being so much time in AoL. Is it possible to know a little more specifically what cosequences are these? Physical? psychological? economical? (always respecting each one´s privacy, of course)

    Thankyou very much for the patience to “enlighten” me

    • VSS permalink
      June 29, 2012 8:08 pm

      @ Gross ist Gott

      You could read all the posts in the Recommended Posts section located in the right panel of this blog. To access this section, scroll up to the top of this blog. Then, look to your right — you’ll see — the disclaimer — below that — you’ll see — recent posts — below that — recent comments — and below that — recommended posts. This is an excellent selection of insightful and empowering posts. If you have any questions about any of these posts, feel free to post your questions. I’m sure someone who is reading will be able to respond to specific queries. I would also strongly recommend the comments on each of these posts. They’re incredibly insightful and empowering too.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2012 2:25 pm

    @Gross it Gott: You can read quite a lot about the negative side effects possible from SK on “Skywalker’s” blog, Beyond The Art of Living. Even though you can’t post there, it’s still good information for those who want to know.

    Personally, I have seen these events during different Sudarshan Kriyas: Someone turned blueish greyish colored, and lost consciousness. Only after some time did that person wake up, and it was feared they might die. That person was in their 40s. Another time, an older gentleman of maybe 55 or so, lost consciousness while doing the SK, and Ravi Shankar was conducting the SK with other teachers. He went over to the person, and looked very upset and frightened that the person was not waking up. Finally the man did wake up, but it was a scary incident. Ravi Shankar has said that one of his own ‘senior teachers’ (who has since left the organization, btw) died during the practice of SK, and only because he (Ravi Shankar) was there, did the man wake up and live again. So according to Ravi Shankar, it’s possible even for someone to die, and he (Ravi Shankar) should be there to bring them back from death.

    I wouldn’t recommend SK to anyone. I didn’t die, but I witnessed the first two events and heard him talk about the third. Who would want to do this kind of practice? It is risky.

  3. VSS permalink
    June 29, 2012 2:45 pm

    @ Obi-Wan,

    I must thank you and others who have fearlessly provided all readers with empowering insights into all things AoL.

    I must also add that I don’t think AoL anticipated a new blog so soon. And, going by what I just read on B&D’s blog — the best attack on these blogs that AoL can come up with is saying things like people should stop sitting behind their computers and try and make the world more beautiful — while doing precisely that which they accused people of. Additionally, their conceit has blinded them so much that with one blanket generalization about people who sit behind computers, they managed to speak contemptuously about the very people who work tirelessly to make it possible for them to even post that comment. I wonder precisely what it is that they have studied in IIT if they don’t know about the millions of people who make the world more beautiful by working tirelessly from behind computers. How foolish can they possibly be?

    Do they not think? What were they thinking when they were recruiting people from the IT world? Did they think they would psychologically manipulate people into forgetting the power of technology? Forever? Did they think that they would control the way people will use the internet? Forever? Are they so arrogant about their tools and techniques for psychological manipulation? I think they are. That’s why AoL has tried every trick in the book to silence bloggers — including dragging them to court on false charges. Even after losing, they are in denial. They are not humbled by their defeat. They haven’t learnt anything yet.

    As of now, these are not people who think that the freedom of expression is anything beautiful. They can’t think that celebrating the freedom of expression by expressing oneself freely has any healing or therapeutic value. They cannot comprehend that expressing pain or asking questions about painful or strange occurrences in AoL — and getting to the truth by doing that — with help from others who might have empowering insights — is a comforting experience.

    What do they know about solace or compassion? They have no understanding of human beings if they cannot be humane. The first thing that needs to change in AoL is that it needs to have people with a humane attitude — not foolish and arrogant individuals like B&D who think that a breathing exercise can lead to personal or world peace — even if their behaviour is contemptuous and derisive. The biggest deception that AoL has been pulling off consistently is that it is a “humanitarian” organization. What is humane about suppressing the freedom of expression? What is humane about trying to silence people who have obviously suffered because of AoL?

    Hence, I am especially thankful to you for clarifying the following:

    “If you are the sort of person who is easily offended by any of the things you read here, then I would strongly urge you to simply not visit this blog. Complaining about it, being abusive at people posting here, denying evidence we publish or worst of all trying to cover up for any of the wrong doings in Art of Living won’t do you any good at all.”

    I sincerely hope your words are read by those they apply to — including B&D.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 30, 2012 2:37 pm

    Will we be able to post anonymously on this blog even if we have good experiences with AOL or is anonymity only reserved for those who post negative comments?

    • Anon to Anon permalink
      July 1, 2012 2:40 pm

      Doesn’t it make you wonder why so many people prefer to keep their identities hidden when sharing negative comments? Doesn’t it make you wonder why so many people fear retaliation from AoL and their magnificent “god-man” Shankar? Doesn’t it make you wonder why ONLY good things can be said about them, otherwise you are defamed and bashed? Maybe your questions should be asked directly to Ravi. A good question for the question basket perhaps?

    • VSS permalink
      July 1, 2012 3:55 pm

      @ Anonymous [July 1, 2012 12:40 pm]

      Thanks for the link. I’ve posted a comment there. Let’s see if it survives moderation — hopefully it will. In case it doesn’t, I’ll post the text of my comment on this thread just so that all of us know what it was that got edited out. Thanks again.

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 2, 2012 3:59 pm

  5. stupidseeker permalink
    July 2, 2012 11:06 am

    On another forum, http://guruphiliac.lefora.com/2009/03/17/sadhguru-and-the-isha-foundation/page144/, I came across a post in which the blogger likened his experience of another “spiritual” cult to the experience of the chief character of “The Phanton Tollbooth”, the boy Milo. To quote the bloggers words:

    “” When remembering what I did at the isha retreats and advanced programs I’m reminded of a book I read when I was a child called The Phantom Tollbooth. It’s really a good book even for adults. Anyway, one of the situations in the book was for the main character, Milo, to move a pile of dirt from here to there with a pair of tweezers. He didn’t question the task when it was given to him until after he had done it for some time. Then he asked what the purpose of the task was and he was told that after he moved the pile from here to there that he would have to move it back from there to here. What’s the sense of that, Milo asked?? He was told there was no sense to the task and that it was just something to do to keep him occupied. (I’ve condensed that chapter in the book quite a bit, naturally). So, that’s pretty much how I view isha and all their programs and retreats etc. It’s just moving a pile of dirt from here to there, and back again, and again, and again… with a pair of tweezers. It’s just something to occupy people’s mind to make them think they’re doing something special, or important, or noble etc. It’s just busy-ness.””

    This one post just about summed about what these cults are really about. Rowing away at a boat that’s firmly anchored to harbor with some slack cut every now and then to give the feeling that they are getting somewhere.

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