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A Thank You Note

July 3, 2012

by anonymous

I came across these blogs 3 weeks back and every since have been hooked to it.

I must say that even though I was not planning on being an AOL teacher; I was not completely cut off from the organization. It’s been a long 12 years of being a silent spectator. It was the love for the guru that kept me interested and sort of confused but I guess my intellect kept me from completely immersing myself into the so called ‘seva force’. It has been a battle between my head and heart for the longest time.

Things that drove me towards the organization:

  1. The guru
  2. His teachings – all the points are perfect
  3. The concept of helping/working for a higher cause – taking a step towards being a warrior for humanity (later only to realize that it is the feeling of grandeur – the idea of being the chosen one)
  4. A spiritual quest – a curiosity to understand the unknowns

Things that drew me away from the organization:

  1. The selling – I remember thinking “even if god came down and told me to sell these course I probably cannot”
  2. The warriors of the guru not following one bit of what was being taught
  3. The distorted idea of seva that was ubiquitous in the org
  4. The separateness among the followers – between one another within AOL and between AOL and the real world (this has to go on top of the list – it was like AOL teachers were not listening and watching themselves at all – everyone is an isolated separate island disillusioned to thinking that they were working together for a cause)
  5. No room for open talks to improve the org cause of the subservient attitude that was prevalent (from personal experience with one senior teacher)

What did I gain from AOL? Lots of knowledge….I did break through some of my shells and barriers. I found my voice and began to sing. I made some good friends through who I met my life partner (thankfully non-AOL). Did I feel indebted to the guru for all the good things that happened? – no – not enough to place my life in his hands. It was the faith in me that moved me and broke me free – not him.

My association also came with some negatives – sporadic moods, a feeling of grandeur, a sense of urgency, feverishness – cannot explain why those things happened but it did…the more I was into the practice/AOL meetings- the more I felt it….and I was not able to completely let go of AOL…[but now I do not blame him/AOL for negatives either – It was my faith that drove me to it in the first place]

Things improved after meeting my partner who is so grounded in the real world and it has been a very positive association and he has kept me away from the org. and reminds me it is a cult….and after I stumbled on this blog I am all the more grounded and feeling absolutely happy in the real world. I no longer feel that the world is imperfect…..I think I have come to accept its imperfections and feel like participating more with a smile rather than feeling that the world is stressed and imperfect and needs healing…

I learn that the healing is always within …it can never be outside of us…..and when we heal within, the world around us is naturally influenced by our positivity (which is true seva)….

Looking with an eagles eye view of the world I guess AOL has its role to play and it is as much a part of the universe that is trying to find the truth but may be stuck in its own grandeur and feeling that IT[AOL] is the ultimate answer to all miseries and hence further contributing to the miseries (and hence the people in it are stuck).

I really feel like I have come out of the MATRIX.

KLIM & Co, Skywalker, Obi-wan and rest of the people contributing – thank you for the good work. These blogs are really helping people heal.

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23 Comments
  1. July 3, 2012 8:19 am

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s always nice to hear more balanced views of Art of Living, and by the sounds of things you are making a very good recovery. And I’m really glad to hear these blogs have helped you, it’s good know that they’re reaching people out there.

  2. VSS permalink
    July 3, 2012 1:40 pm

    @ anonymous (author of the main post)

    Thank you for this rather insightful post. It’s incredibly thought-provoking. It makes me reflect on the following:

    — AOL KNOWLEDGE SHEETS —

    These are replete with all kinds of biases and prejudice, in addition to various contradictions. To begin with, I am talking about what the words express. The disastrous and damaging content contained in them found its way to my universe and caused me such torturous trauma that I was writhing in agony for months, I went into isolation, I lost my coherence, my self-esteem hit rock bottom, and, caused my professional slaughter. I became someone who existed only literally — there was nothing to my existence other than my mere existence. I have said on previous occasions that if I could afford to take Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL to court, then I would take them to court on the content of the Knowledge Sheets alone.

    It takes one human being to refute a statement in order for that statement to cease to be a fact. I refute the assertion that the knowledge contained in the knowledge sheets is perfect — it is the anatomy of psychological demolition — something that I experienced to the torturous extent that psychological demolition can be experienced. I have been through severe trauma on account of the content in the knowledge sheets.

    Secondly, if the knowledge contained in the “knowledge sheets” is perfect, then it should be effective. However, it is not, as you yourself have mentioned the fact that it is not followed by several AoL members.

    Thirdly, you have clearly attributed blame to individuals — as in members of AoL — and this, to my mind, is a very dangerous and destructive bias. The buck does not stop with individuals. Individuals who join AoL are “surrendering” their faith to Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL. If, despite various workshops, AoL is failing to make individuals “wise” — going by your definition of “wise” — then the responsibility lies with Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL. For instance, Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL are also responsible for the bias that you have expressed against individuals who do not follow “the knowledge”. It has been indoctrinated.

    — INDOCTRINATION —

    How does an individual who has left AoL determine the extent of indoctrination? In fact, how does an individual determine the extent of any sort of indoctrination of a bias or a prejudice? What does one turn to — in order to investigate precisely how one’s psyche has been violated and distorted?

    I can share with you what I turned to. I turned to the UN Charter of Human Rights. As a human being, I needed to know what my rights are. But, I also needed to know what the rights of other human beings are. For instance, I have read several accounts of how certain teachers in AoL and certain volunteers in AoL misbehave. I have read several heartfelt accounts of those who have been subjected to severe verbal, psychological, and physical abuse. I have also read several heartfelt accounts of those who have been abused by Mr. Ravi Shankar — especially verbally and psychologically. A lot of people have seen him display extremely unholy and unhealthy degrees of rage. Do these human beings have human rights? Do I have human rights? Does my world view include a heartfelt and compassionate acknowledgment of the suffering they have been through?

    What about the suffering that those who are violent or abusive go through? How should they be treated? What about Mr. Ravi Shankar? Is he suffering because of his abusive behaviour? What are his human rights? What about Naxalites? What about terrorists? Does everyone deserve compassion? Does everyone have human rights?

    The answer is yes. Each and every human being has human rights and deserves compassion. So, what is that which we must fight within ourselves at the earliest? We need to fight any and every bias and prejudice against every human being — whether it is a devotee who has been subjected to abuse, or, a teacher who is abusive, or, the one man who is responsible for creating a cult called AoL.

    To err is human.

    What we need to do is to determine the issues that are unacceptable. What we need to do is to determine what it is that causes the birth of those issues and the perpetuation of those issues. What we need to do is to determine if we are being biased and/or prejudiced in the way we select a source of knowledge.

    For instance, a well-known piece of knowledge is that love is the most beautiful emotion on earth. Another is that we must be respectful towards the environment and all beings therein.

    Why don’t we trust a book that tells us that? Why don’t we trust those people who have impeccable credentials and integrity who said that?

    Why do we trust a dubious yoga guru who is not even honest about his basic education? How do we not know that he is not a con who is simply packaging or re-packaging what the most trust-worthy of people have said in the past — with the objective of psychologically manipulating people? (Here, I am making a reference to the very, very, very few things he says that make sense. These very, very, very few things make people trust him and then that trust is abused by being deployed towards effecting psychological manipulation.)

    Tell me something. Did Mahatma Gandhi ever sell non-violence or world peace? Has any great leader or philosopher or writer ever sold humanitarianism? Can a greater degree of love and compassion — within — be acquired for a sum of money?

    Are the means not as important as the end?

    Here’s a mere mortal — who makes some references to pre-existing “knowledge” — indoctrinates biases and prejudices — uses all kinds of tools for severe psychological manipulation — causes a number of people immense pain — never acknowledges it — uses every trick in the book to silence those who acknowledge it and extend compassion to those who have suffered — is suffering from a very high degree of obvious megalomania — says things like — by the time he is 80, every household will have a picture of him — sells a breathing practice that has caused severe harm to several people — does not inform or educate them properly — practically sells “salvation” — something that cannot be bought or sold — etc. etc. — and we’re still wondering if the organization he runs is “good”.

    The human race lacks the courage to call a spade a spade. IMHO.

    P.S. I apologize, in advance, to those who have a problem with the length of this post. Please don’t take it personally. I beg.

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 5, 2012 3:33 pm

      From the Author:
      Thanks VSS for the further thought provoking response….Not the least offended. I am somewhat glad it garnered such a strong thought process and response. Trust me I see what you are saying here (not sure if I have digested it all).

      I cannot tell you how happy I was to come across a forum that openly discusses these doings by Mr. Ravishankar and AOL as a whole. I was beginning to wonder if me and another friend were the only people seeing it.

      I have not directly spoken with Mr. Ravishankar or never come close to the inner circle. I was put off by certain things right from the onset which kept me from immersing myself . I think it was my ideals and spiritual cravings that kept me attached to the org. and Mr. Ravishankar (i took breaks from the org. but was not completely over it). To break free from this mental attachment is a very big thing for me. Like I already mentioned it was a battle – head and heart. Now I am free. My head is where my heart is.

      VSS – the points you make are really strong. +1 and like for the analysis and thinking…amazing indeed.

      The very first step to call a spade – a spade is to recognize it. That is where most people falter. How does one recognize it when one is so enamored by the ‘diamond studded’ spade? Is it lack of courage or is it lack of self-respect? If I am enamored by the diamond studded spade then that means I feel that I lack the ‘diamond studding’.

      These blogs and open discussions are so important. It is the first step. Thank you again.

  3. Wanderer..sid permalink
    July 4, 2012 5:44 pm

    ‘thankfully non-AOL’ ….. hahaha. truly blessed !

  4. Anoop permalink
    July 6, 2012 5:11 am

    One interesting comment in bawandinesh blog
    http://bawandinesh.name/jilted-lovers-or-mercenary-creative-writers-or/#comment-260559

    • VSS permalink
      July 6, 2012 8:12 am

      @ Anoop [July 6, 2012 5:11 am]

      Thanks a million for the link. I’ve also emailed it to atanudey@gmail.com as he is the one who is mentioned in the comment. In addition to the link to this article, I’ve also emailed atanu dey the links to Skywalker’s blog, to this blog, the joint-statement, and, the article about how and why Judge Koh’s order about preserving the anonymity of bloggers is revolutionary. I’ve requested him to revisit the Art of Living and offer insights on all these new developments. Maybe he will. Let’s see what happens.

      In case anyone wants to read what Atanu Dey (the critic mentioned in the comment that Anoop linked us to) has said in the past, here’s the link:

      http://www.deeshaa.org/2007/01/30/art-of-living-another-letter/

      As for the comment itself, I think it’s been written by someone who is rather perceptive and intelligent — whether he or she is consciously so or not is a different matter.

      This is the first time I am reading empowered words on an Art of Living Blog. I think Skywalker, Klim, Doc, IO, SS, Jr., Dayalu, Obi-Wan — and all others who have spoken fearlessly — deserve a standing ovation in an amphitheater full of at least a hundred million people.

      You guys have taken the voice of reform, introspection and reflection to the Art of Living. The truth has prevailed. Outstanding work, my friends!!! Absolutely outstanding work!!!

      That comment has been written so brilliantly — and I don’t know if the brilliance is inadvertent or not — but it has worked — and that’s why that comment has been allowed to stay. It’s the quintessential *Trojan Horse* that offers issue-based criticism to tear down all that is abusive in AoL and asks for financial accountability as well. (It echoes the criticism of bloggers but I can bet that it does so just to get through to readers.)

      Also, that comment is not directed at human beings but at the ugliest human traits on display in the Art of Living — which is how it ought to be — for all human beings have human rights and deserve compassion — but no abuse or abusive behaviour should ever be condoned.

      The author quotes a heartbreaking instance of abusive behaviour —

      “But I have witnessed people who have come to do their 2nd advance course in ashram and when they ask this question of channeling the funds, they have been shouted down, right in the VM! That’s just not right.”

      Aren’t these blogs about raising such issues? Aren’t all the posts on these blogs as poignant? In over 30 years, this is the first time that issues have been raised on an Art of Living blog. The voice of reason has spoken. It has been heard, it is being heard, and it will be heard. But without these blogs, the voice of reason had no voice in the world of AoL. Once again, I applaud the efforts of all those who have spoken fearlessly and continue to speak fearlessly.

      It is only when AoL will begin to introspect that AoL will find all the fundamental flaws in its design and delivery. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and it has been taken — as of yesterday.

      Thanks again for bringing good news, Anoop. Appreciate it immensely.

      As for the issues raised (about bloggers) in the main post, I shall post my responses in subsequent posts.

      I would also request Doc, IO, Obi-Wan to respond to the issues that post raises (about bloggers) in their characteristic issue-based manner — and share their insights with all readers. I seriously believe that B&D have a lot to learn from you guys.

      • July 7, 2012 3:22 am

        Ha Ha….I pointed out way before they responded that this is how they would react….. I wish they would predict in advance how we will move as a blog.

        Our BLOG is OPEN Source. theirs is affiliated to ONE Master and ONE Organisation. Their only intention is how to keep the minds of their existing capitive base of devotees CAPITIVE. Attempt to read into their posts and you will see so much emotion. There is much fear driving this. Their very identities are threatened. Now expect violent opposition from them. What Harshal did verbally…..they will want to vent out physically. But we are a nameless blog.

        B&D, Kashi did us an amazing service.

        “DONT READ THE BLOG”….is an advertisement in itself.

        All humans are inherently curious. All the folks that visit the B&D blog are not B&D admirers. Just like they keep track of us, B&D detractors (within AOL and outside of AOL) are also constantly visiting their site. Over the last few years B&D have made many enemies…. especially inside AOL. These detractors will have found our blog.

        The simple truth

        1. This BLOG is not meant for the Junta.

        2. Its just a minority that will have the inquisitiveness, integrity and that have the heart and self esteem to follow through on what we suggest. The rest choose to believe that some Messiah (Krishna/Jesus) will come to save them. This bunch we will never be able to help. They are the majority, have been the majority and will be the majority. So we can do nothing…we just CHILL.

        3. But for the precious few that have not surrendered their ability to question and are seeking the truth ….we will be a catalyst (not source) for their once again remembered self empowerment and freedom. Our job is to be a mirror and show people back to themselves. We do not need the numbers….(no quality in that majority )…we only need to be around in here till the critical mass / volume is reached.

        You have to feel compassionate about Kashi, B&D…..where can they go if their careers in AOL goes kaput ? Who will trust them again ? Who will give them anything to do ? They too will have realised by now that the 1st family is acquiring all the wealth.

        So, what would you do in their shoes ?. In whatever little time there is left before any potential big expose (tax evasion is the most likely….next to land grabbing)…..lets us make as much money to keep ourselves secure. So they will be cheating whatever system exists within AOL at this time (honour system or otherwise).

        This is what many age-ing models have to go through who have otherwise no other qualifications or skills other than modeling. They have to sell themselves to all kinds of elements …..and in the process they lose their soul and probably all their REAL / genuine friends.

        Its sad…as I write this….I am watching myself…..I do not feel compassion for these souls…..just a clear certainty…..this is a cancer…they made their choice to stay with the non-dharmic side….they will pay for the active choice that they have made. Because, not only do they not have the personal energy / resolve / conviction to get to the truth…..they are deliberately mis-directing 1000s of others AWAY from the FULL AOL picture by continuously presenting them with half truths and blatant lies even. Hence, the same thing will happen to them many many fold.

        What goes around comes around….The B&Ds and Kashi’s will also be kept in the dark…I suspect by none other than the Master……and that will impact their own personal freedom immensely in the years to come. These senior teachers at AOL should by by now be on a path (their own) and should care for the whole truth….after all they are preaching to 1000s every year that these 1000s should be on THE PATH.

        If they do not wish to be after the truth themselves, but would prefer only to preach it as words, then all they care for is their TAG of “Sr teacher” and that too within a very small world called AOL. To me that is attachment of a significant order. That very thing is going to be the cause of their very sad downfall. The Guru is going to be too busy taking care of his own issues that he will at that time have no time for his erstwhile devotees. I can so see it clearly now, maan….what it would feel like to sell your soul to someone. WOW

        Dear B&D and Dear Kashi…..you have been made aware that the above is a significant possibility. Looks like your pain threshold is seriously super human. Anyways, it is your call what you do.

        I think I kind of know what you will choose to do …its going to be nothing different…just continue the status quo…as long as possible…….thats my bet.

        So, Enjoy…the rest of your AOL batting…..I don’t think there is much time left at the crease.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2012 12:32 pm

    Yes, Anoop, very interesting. Especially the comment following the at-least-a-little-balanced one that you referred to. The reply after “I agree” from the admin, is followed by the usual AOL BS about how Krishna, when maligned, even let those evil people speaking badly about him go to heaven. obvious conclusion we are to draw: that Ravi Shankar is Krishna, and anyone posting the truth about him and AOL is maligning Krishna, but, due to his benevolent Grace, we will all go to heaven anyway. Yawn. Fanatical fairytale ridden fools living in a bubble. Why can’t they see that so many swamis are claiming to be Lord Krishna? The person who posted that some things need to change will not last, trust me. Right now he states that he “knows” that the money from courses goes to a good cause. I “knew” that once too. Until I didn’t know that anymore, as I saw where it was really going. Into the pockets of Ravi Shankar’s immediate family, and now on to some chief cohorts in their so-called NGO scam. Dear Anoop, the fact that you keep coming here means you’ve seen something that makes you really doubt the master, his organization, etc. Although the knowledge points are great, truth, wonderful, they are in the scriptures and not the property of Art of Living or Ravi Shankar. And the knowledge points (the real ones) are all that’s worthwhile in that mess. Take the basic course knowledge, and run away. Fast. Before your mind is gone. Before they take your life away from you as they have done from so many people you can see that are zombies at “the top”. Take what’s good, and leave the rest. If ‘friends’ you’ve made there don’t want to remain your friends after you leave AOL, then they were never friends, but only cult members who will only associate with those people who agree with them. I found out fast who my true friends were when I left. Most of them were not in AOL and those who were, left, when they heard the horrible things said about me for leaving His Majesty, Sri Sri Sri 1008 Sri Ravi Shankarji, aka Lord Krishna, aka, Lord Shiva.

    • VSS permalink
      July 7, 2012 10:22 am

      @ Anonymous [July 6, 2012 12:32 pm]

      Thank you for your insightful post. If it’s possible for you to share what it was that was said to you for leaving AoL, please do. If not, I understand — sometimes, it is too painful to revisit painful episodes in our lives. And, I’m sorry you had to hear all that — yet it’s encouraging to know that you were able to leave AoL and prevent it from causing you further harm.

    • Anoop permalink
      July 9, 2012 8:45 am

      I am no way involved with art of living !

      This is one of the many blogs I read, and have been reading this from 2011 Jan.

  6. anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2012 3:48 pm

    Poor people. They will never learn. Feel sorry for all the brainwashed people posting on B&D site. Where is Harshal btw? Haven’t heard from him after the court case results.

    • Mangal permalink
      July 9, 2012 12:59 pm

      “Where is Harshal btw? Haven’t heard from him after the court case results.”

      He has gone to India to get married It should cure his Pitta Dosha

  7. Dayalu permalink
    July 6, 2012 7:13 pm

    Read this comical post on Kashi’s blog:
    http://www.kashikar.org/2012/07/negative-blogging-extortionists-dream.html

    • Mangal permalink
      July 6, 2012 8:28 pm

      And read some totally juvenile stories of Guruji’s grace on this blog
      http://gurustory.blogspot.com

      Any slightly abnormal incident that happens under heaven n earth is sold as example of Guru Grace
      Critical thinking has been banished from this blog

      • Anonymous permalink
        July 7, 2012 1:18 am

        The MBBS guy’s guru story (1 July – You are my sunshine) is some what similar to the Gandhi thread in Munnabhai MBBS.

      • VSS permalink
        July 7, 2012 1:45 pm

        @ Mangal [July 6, 2012 8:28 pm]

        Thanks for the link. That blog is a must-read — even though it’s saddening beyond measure. It breaks my heart to read how people have been made dependent on these so-called miracles when the universe is replete with so much more — butterflies, flowers, the rain, mountains, seas, rivers, stars, the sun — oh, how can they be reduced to missing the most beautiful and most joyous miracles of the universe? How can they not marvel at the excellence of artists, musicians, film-makers, poets, writers, sportswomen, sportsmen, children — my god there is so much inspiration out there that everyone in AoL is missing out on. How can they reduce it all to one man and his photograph not getting burnt? It’s all so heartbreaking …

    • VSS permalink
      July 7, 2012 10:44 am

      @ Dayalu [July 6, 2012 7:13 pm]

      Thank you for the link. That post is shocking — and disturbing — but a must-read for anyone who has ever had anything to do with AoL or these blogs.

      I hope that one day I’ll be able to see the humour in all of it — as of now, I’m seeing white lies and complete deception — and the intention to deliberately damage all current members of AoL by attempting to distort the truth beyond recognition.

      In fact, that blog is nothing but a conscious attempt to manipulate people psychologically into believing something that is simply not true so that they can be misled and controlled — I hope that at least some of them don’t believe what they read and find their way to this blog and other related blogs — and ascertain the truth.

      I sincerely hope that they read this link:

      http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/unmasking-the-art-of-living/Content?oid=3221659

      And, this one too:

      http://aolfree.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/blogger-flicks-copyright-claim-from-art-of-living/

      I also hope that anyone who has any doubts downloads all legal documents from this link and reads them:

      http://aolfree.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/the-lawsuit-is-over-and-we-won/

      Fortunately, AoL is not able to prevent technology from taking the internet to every home. Nor is it able to prevent social evolution. It’s just a matter of time before each and every person who is contacted by AoL for recruitment will first google to see if AoL has deceived and abused people or not — and then decide if they wish to be recruited or not.

  8. VSS permalink
    July 7, 2012 9:55 am

    @ Anonymous [July 5, 2012 3:33 pm] [the author of the main post]

    — You’re very welcome, my friend. —

    And, thank YOU for this conversation. It’s helping me more than you can tell.

    If anything that I have expressed has been of help, I consider that entirely my privilege. These blogs saved me from the blunder of relocating to the Bangalore Ashram. However, the most spectacular human being that I have ever met is trapped there. I know for a fact that he is suffering and the only thing preventing him from leaving AoL is the lack of alternative employment. He’s judging AoL based on the fact that it gives him food, clothing and shelter. He is angry with the world for not giving him that as easily as AoL did. He is too proud to leave AoL and ask friends and family for help — or — have faith in his own ability to resurrect.

    — Why I nearly relocated to the Bangalore Ashram —

    I nearly followed him (the most spectacular human being that I have ever met) into that hell called the Bangalore Ashram of AoL. I had the same problems that he did. I was angry with the world for exactly the same reasons. I was not willing to forgive anyone and take help. My pride was getting in the way. I was not willing to even temporarily lean on anyone till I found my way in the real world. And, the added bonus of achieving “enlightenment” was a colossal hook for me. Like you, I too aspire for a higher consciousness — one that empowers me to improve every day in everything I can possibly improve in — and one that enables me in the pursuit of excellence in anything that I spend my time and mind on.

    — Religion can be a metaphor and an allegory —

    I don’t know if you have — but I have seen great adversity since the time I was a child and spent years and years feeling restive and uncertain about the past, the present, and the future. Whenever something terrible happened, I found myself doubting my belief in God. Then, I met a very wise poet. He is one of the few people I know who has seen greater adversity than I have. He’s an American. While in conversation with him one day, he said that he once knew someone who specialized in the allegorical study of Christianity. (I’m not a Christian by birth or conversion.) At the time, I didn’t know what an allegory was. I barely knew what a metaphor was. I used to read and write only to express myself.

    — The significance of the freedom of expression —

    For me, the freedom of expression leads to freedom from oppression and repression. You see, what I discovered as soon as I discovered these blogs was the point that you have emphasized brilliantly — the importance of open discussions. The moment I noticed that the heartfelt expression of pain was being not just dismissed and trashed by AoL but often being abused too — I could easily see what AoL stood for — and it stood for encouraging both oppression and repression. I also saw that it did not stand for compassion either. When I read that AoL had taken these blogs to court, I was shocked out of my wits.

    — What the wise poet said —

    I discussed this with the wise poet. He said that I was justified in being shocked. I asked him to explain how he arrived at that conclusion.

    He said — if you ran an organization with the best of intentions — and it was huge — with millions of people in it — and you were happy and delighted that millions of people were benefiting from it — and you suddenly discovered that there’s a blog where people who have suffered abuse in your organization are expressing themselves — what would you do?

    I lapsed into silence — I was even more shocked than I was before that moment.

    He said — here’s what I would do — I would apologize to all those who have suffered — just like a government does when it needs to take moral responsibility for something bad that happens to people it is supposed to take care of. He added — I would immediately set up a committee that looked into all complaints — and addressed problems — I would initiate reforms.

    I asked — what if the government didn’t take moral responsibility — didn’t apologize — tried to silence the people who were abused by it by dragging them to court — and YOU were one of the people who voted such a government into power.

    He said — it’s called making a mistake. He added — I would promise myself that I would never make the same mistake twice — I would never validate such a government again — unless and until the people in it apologized profusely with a contrite heart — and took an oath that they would do all they could to make it up to the people who they had previously abused and harmed — and put a system in place whereby (1) the instances of potential abuse were minimized and (2) if abuse still took place, there was a mechanism in place for redressal.

    — Making a mistake or an error of judgment —

    I asked — wouldn’t you wonder interminably about why you made a mistake.

    He said — of course I would — it is human to do so — it’s a good sign — it means the inner learner is awake. He also said — I would also introspect about all those instances when I didn’t make a mistake and try to understand the factors that enable me to “recognize” a potential mistake — before — I make it.

    When I read these blogs, I realized that I had made a mistake in my assessment of Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL. The wise poet helped me to revisit those instances in my life when I did not make an incorrect assessment or a mistake or an error of judgment. He helped me develop an internal mechanism for evaluating situations and people — and for responding rather than reacting. (I must add that I am still a work in progress but the work has begun and it does progress.)

    — Higher consciousness —

    That, to my mind, is what a higher consciousness is — it enables one to remember at all times — that one must consciously prevent oneself from succumbing to biases and prejudices — and it enables one to remember that everyone has human rights — the abused and the abuser — but no act of abuse must be condoned. I’m not there yet and I don’t remember to be in this state of higher consciousness at all times but I try. That is the message of the Gita — one that I believe in. The idea is to try — each and every day — that’s my personal pursuit of excellence as a human being — in order to one day be a completely humane human being — or — at least as humane as I possibly can be.

    — Responding or Reacting —

    If any human being shows up in one’s universe and claims to be completely humane — as in someone who claims that he or she has that higher consciousness and is always in it — and always responds and not reacts — exudes equanimity — then what should one do?

    One must ascertain the veracity of that claim. One must evaluate the actions of the human being.

    No human being is perfect. But, when one brings inconsistencies to the attention of that human being, one must ascertain whether that human being is responding or reacting — whether that human being is receptive to feedback — whether that human being is willing to address abuse-related issues or turning a blind eye to them.

    In the case of Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL, as you can see, they are reacting. They are not responding.

    First they took Skywalker and Klim to court. Now, they are attempting to demolish their credibility through name-calling (ref: B&D’s recent blog) and white lies (ref: Dinesh Kashikar’s recent blog).

    — Recognizing a “diamond-studded” spade —

    One must also make a distinction between a mortal and an immortal. Whether someone believes in God or not, the fact is that the globally accepted definition of God includes the term “immortal” and all that the term encompasses.

    Those who don’t believe in God say that “an immortal entity” does not exist. And, they are free to do so.

    For me, I’m happy if God is a metaphor or an allegory who simply empowers me to “identify” a “spade”, no matter how “diamond-studded”, because he is a mortal claiming to be an immortal.

    The concept of God inspires me because God — to me — represents the destination that the perfect pursuit of excellence takes us to — we may never get there — but that’s not important — what’s important is to relentlessly try — that’s what the Gita says — do what you can and think is right and don’t worry about the consequences. What has to come to you — definitely will.

    — Coping with a mistake —

    If I do something wrong by mistake — because I made an error of judgment — at least my intentions weren’t wrong. And, more importantly, I learn. I am empowered with a new consciousness that’ll enable me to not make the same mistake twice.

    — Dealing with bad karma —

    Community Service is a good thing — any kind of seva is a good thing.

    However, if I have intentionally or unintentionally wronged someone, then the only way to atone for that is by apologizing to that person and by doing what is referred to in Hinduism as the concept of “Praayashchit”. For instance, when I was determined to relocate to the Bangalore Ashram, I had nasty arguments with one of my family members who was opposed to the idea. However, I did not know at the time that AoL is a dangerous cult. Later, when I found these blogs, I apologized to that family member — and spent my time and mind on thinking about how I could alleviate the suffering that I had caused — to such an extent and in such a way — that the person was able to forgive me — because the person was able to believe that I was truly sorry.

    It was very tough to come up with what I had to do — and tougher still to implement — but I did — and the person has forgiven me completely. In fact, that person helps me with my posts on this blog. In a way, writing for this blog is a part of that “Praayashchit”.

    Now, instead of this, if I went to a community of poor people and did some work — my bad karma against a specific person would not get addressed.

    This is what AoL is selling to people. This is what is causing the death of inner peace in AoL. This is not the way to deal with life — nor is this the way to deal with life according to Hinduism.

    Charity and charity work are not a ticket to salvation or enlightenment.

    Bad karma — whether intentional or unintentional — has to be faced and addressed — and has to lead to internal reformation — in order to fix the core bias or prejudice that led to the bad karma in the first place. Then, that new consciousness has to be sustained. It’s a lot of hard work.

    Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL have diluted the power of religion and spirituality. They’ve reduced it to a pathetic joke — one that harms people in distress who turn to it for solutions — as well as one that harms genuine seekers of enlightenment.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    July 9, 2012 5:27 pm

    VSS- I concur You have expressed your thoughts very well and really good ones indeed.

    While in the org. I thought that maybe it is just that the followers are not ‘getting’ it. I felt that maybe Mr. Ravishankar is beyond all this. Reading these blogs with personal accounts of him abusing his followers was an eye opener for me.

    I wish more people are able to see past the image and illusion that is created around Ravishankar to give him this divine status to attract more people to it. It is indeed disheartening to read the ‘guru story’ blog.

    Quoting VSS “the freedom of expression leads to freedom from oppression and repression” – this is true in every step in life and true for every relationship.

    This is a statement from Jilted Lovers article –
    “Don’t you at least have one friend in whose life you were a part of the beautiful times he/she were experiencing in a relationship for months or years – the high of life, the wonder of love… But if and when it ended in a break up, weren’t you also party to the tirade from that same friend about how lousy the whole time was, how everything from the word go was a pack of lies, how their partners used them, psychologically played with them and their emotions, how they were naïve then and they are wiser now, and how their naivety was taken undue advantage of, etc, etc …”

    What is he trying to tell here? How I understand this is that – probably the Jilted Lovers did break up because they were abused and not respected in the relationship. It is exactly the point and the reason some people are leaving the org. because it is not what it claims to be and starting from the founder – NO one practice what they preach and further abuse the faith that people have in them.

    • VSS permalink
      July 11, 2012 4:37 pm

      @ Anonymous [July 9, 2012 5:27 pm]

      I take strong offence to devotees being referred to as “current” or “former” lovers.

      This is because the guru-shishya relationship is like a parent-child relationship. Words carry with them the weight of what they mean and using words like “lover” is really morbid and stupid.

      However, since you have brought up the subject, I shall share my thoughts about it with you. This entire assumption that B&D make about everyone in their blog is absolutely wrong — and a completely juvenile perspective on human beings and human relationships.

      Just like every other human being who has been around for a while, I’ve had friends who I am no longer in touch with — for various reasons — including unpleasant ones. But I don’t look back and demolish those friends in my head — I remember to separate the sin from the sinner and I hate no sinner.

      Anyone — who is even a little perceptive — will know that every human being has human rights — and that includes the abused and abusers (sinners). Usually, those who abuse have been abused in their childhood. The impact of abuse is excruciating. I know from personal experience that after abuse — particularly violence — one is injured and each injury has the potential to make one cynical and bitter. One has to make a super human effort to transcend the impact of abuse — it’s like taking a million splinters out of one’s soul — one by one — patiently — and — conscientiously. If we don’t do that, then we can succumb to rage and turn into abusive people. So, as I said — the abused as well abusers have human rights.

      What we learn — by being a bit perceptive — is that no abusive action must be condoned. You see — I was living in my universe — with no connection whatsoever with the Art of Living — and the Art of Living entered my home — and destroyed my universe. It was a humbling experience. I could have turned bitter and cynical and decided that I am going to have nothing to do with this ugliest episode in my life. But I thought about all those people who are similarly vulnerable — and thought about how their universe could be destroyed by the Art of Living — and decided to write in these blogs — because these blogs helped me understand what had happened to my universe and me. I thought that if even one person could benefit from even one word that I wrote — and save their universe — then I would feel that I had done my duty towards them — by informing them about something that they didn’t know.

      I wish someone had informed me. I wish someone had helped me save my universe.

      My main objection to the Art of Living is the way it programs volunteers into converting others mindlessly. Volunteers are told to convert any which way. Some people say that those who are weak get converted easily. But my stand is — just because one is weak — does that mean that one can be hunted? Are we a society of human beings or are we cannibals? Just because Mr. Ravi Shankar can manipulate people psychologically and alter even their reflexes, should he do that? Just because he can enslave human beings, should he do that? Just because he can break homes, should he do that?

      What B&D say is absolutely ridiculous and preposterous — not to speak of brainless and lame.

      If the Art of Living destroys a home, will the person whose home was destroyed not speak? If a person assaults another person brutally, will the assaulted person not scream in pain? If someone screams in pain after being assaulted by them, should they be posting a blog further assaulting the people they’ve already assaulted? How low can they stoop? Is this humanitarianism? Do they know anything about human beings, anything about what is non-abusive behaviour, anything about empathy, anything about compassion — and anything about justice? Just because I don’t have the money to take them to court, are they going to silence me? Are they going to prevent me from informing others who could be harmed just the way I was harmed?

      I’ll speak about how the Art of Living harmed me till the end of time — that is my right. Bullying won’t work. Stupid attempts at discrediting bloggers won’t work.

      B&D are just taking advantage of the fact that the Indian media hasn’t woken up to their murky activities and exposed them.

      I think if Rajdeep Sardesai did a show on the most disgraceful Indians ever — based especially on the shame they’d brought India by conning Indians and Foreign Nationals — B&D and Mr. Ravi Shankar would definitely figure in the top 20.

  10. Confused permalink
    July 10, 2012 10:30 am

    I haven’t been able to read entire posts on any blog condemning Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living, and it’s followers. However I do agree with you on some points. It’s a hard sell, when they keep pestering you to join courses. Their teachers and fake, their followers are fake, mostly and Guruji likes putting up in rich people’s houses. Bhanu Didi is very materialistic. They all make you feel like Sorry poor folks if you do not do their courses and do seva. Spirituality is an investment according to them. I don’t know anything anymore. Who is lying, who is telling the truth? Does it even matter?

  11. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2012 2:28 pm

    @Confused,

    It probably doesn’t matter if you don’t ever join Art of Living. Stay safe with your family. Visit real saints and go home and do seva to your family, neighbors, friends. Ravi Shankar doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. God matters. And God is our Mother Father Family. God is our neighbors in need, even for a water connection when the water is off temporarily. God is in even the faces of the poor folks at Art of Living who have been fooled. But you don’t need to worry about them, if they are not your near and dear. If people spent all the time giving to their immediate family and friends and neighbors that they spend in Ravi Shankar’s ‘ashram’ doing things for him, the world would be Heaven right now. It’s good to serve the saints, as you probably know, but finding one that’s real, not just some businessman like Ravi Shankar, is not so simple. Do the practices you have learned, follow the Upanishads, Gita, etc., go to a satsang of a real saint here and there, and you will be fine. Your confusion will go away. I was so confused when in Art of Living. It took some time, but my thinking capacity returned after leaving, and I realized the value of my service to those who actually need me at home.

    • VSS permalink
      July 11, 2012 8:10 pm

      @ Anonymous [July 10, 2012 2:28 pm]

      Very well said. I agree with you completely. And, I can add to this — they go on and on about helping poor people. There are many poor people around me and there’s a lot I can do to help rural India — if I want to. I don’t have to be a slave of Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL to do that. All those of you who are reading — and think that the only way to help poor people is by first becoming a slave of Mr. Ravi Shankar and AoL — please think again because you’re not thinking straight. There’s nothing and no one who can stop you from going to the nearest village and doing what you can to spread literacy or health and sanitation awareness. And, there’s nothing and no one who can stop you from helping someone who is from a nearby village and working in your home or in the neighbourhood. You can also help through an NGO that does not need you to be the slave of the CEO of the NGO.

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