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Testimony of journalist Paul Duggan, ex-AOL Volunteer

September 13, 2012

Submitted by Anonymous

Testimony by an ex-volunteer from Argentina as published and translated from Spanish by web translator (may be with some error)

The repentant Art of Living

Testimony of Paul Duggan, journalist who worked for the foundation and handled the communication of Ravi Shankar’s visit to Argentina in 2008.

I met the Art of Living Foundation several years ago. I took several of his courses and participated in many activities for a long time. Furthermore, given that at the time was far from journalism and worked for a multinational PR handled the press campaign to publicize the visit to our country of its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in 2008.

The first thing I noticed is that the Art of Living, in spite of being so, does not function as an NGO. Actually, it is a company dedicated to selling its products: the famous courses of anti stress breathing. One hopes that an NGO does some social work. In all cases, the NGOs do not charge for “doing good”. This is not the case, they charge all their courses at high prices and only made few social tasks are always performed by volunteers, who undertake to cover their own expenses related to the activity, somewhat questionable. From an economic standpoint is negligible the contribution of art … to the community, in relation to the resources generated millionaires courses. That is contrary to the spirit of an NGO.

And herein lies one of the first questions that receives this institution. I’m told the authorities in our country, all the money collected is saved for, tomorrow, build a hospital and an “ashram”. Believing that this objective can be met is illusory and childish. The fact that art … denies, is that the resources of the foundation are periodically sent to India through the “teachers” (people who have been trained to deliver basic courses) traveling annually. The money goes into the hands of its founder, “the man who is changing the world.” In fact, it works differently from any multinational company that turns its succulent dividends to the parent company, although in this case, without leaving any record.

Inconsistencies of this foundation are many. While participating in the activities detected in preaching courses, in that the Art of Living does not promote any religion, was not true. Ravi Shankar is a Hindu and his religious preaching is overlap in the courses I and II. During his previous visit, I witnessed a religious ceremony where, to my surprise, came all the “teachers” I knew Indian dressed in the fashion, against all that is manifested in the courses. I have nothing against that religion, but they are saying something that is not true. The Hindu religion and is much clearer in the course who will be receiving “teachers”.

The day he arrived in Buenos Aires Ravi Shankar was one of those who was waiting in Ezeiza. For several days I heard from the mouth of the authorities of the foundation how much it would change my life to know, to be in his presence. None of that happened. What I could see is his treatment of his faithful. Just to see their faces when they watch it, you realize that for many of them is like a God. The personality cult of the leader and the suggestion that it is a deity is a constant. He speaks openly about his “enlightenment” of his power, his prodigious intelligence, capacity, etc.. A phrase many meetings through breathing and chanting (called “satsangs”) “Surrender your problems to guruji” say with total conviction. It is a mental exercise. Any resemblance to what Catholics call to pray, it is no coincidence. The huge paintings of his face, beneath the lighted candles, photographs detail scrutinized to discover unusual and permanent reference and exhausting about its virtues tend to believe it is a God (I know that many believe). It is also known and thinly veiled his obsession with winning the Nobel Peace Prize. That is his most ambitious goal, but desconozcamos what their merits for such a distinction. Given the success of their courses, perhaps deserved a prize in the field of marketing.

Which brings us to another dark aspect of the Art of Living. Who else is excited about preaching and the dynamics of the foundation are young. Many of them end up as “teachers” and begin to teach courses. In many cases, family and friends are amazed at the remarkable transformation in their daily lives. Change of habits, friends, relationships and devote one hundred percent of their time to the foundation. In some cases, living in community, I know many who did. During the course to be “teacher” are implemented the manipulation techniques known and repudiated by experts. One of them is called hot seat, an exercise in which a person spends in front of a group and is ruthlessly criticized by their peers. Another is being forced to reveal their own sexual fantasies in front of a group. In both cases it seeks to break the participants emotionally and then offer them protection and affection, creating a false emotional bond where the power is on the side of the instructor. This works perfectly with those weak and vulnerable personality. In all cases, the “teachers” are more experienced and have a strong personality emotional manipulation on participants without any itching.

And in The Art of Living the limit is plotted on the course to be “teacher”. From there, they must finish the questions and doubts. The reality on the foundation comes out, the truth is that dictates the Ravi Shankar and mandate is to go for courses to please. The marketing scheme that gives the foundation to their “teachers” is modeled on Tupperware sales system: arming meetings, be nice, ask neighbors to get together friends, make phone calls quantities per day, such conduct against the possible candidates, etc.. What happens is that the employment relationship between the art … and their “teachers” is quite particular. They charge a percentage of the resources generated by dictating courses, but participants must be called by them. There is just their rights. What about social work? And retirement contributions? What about vacation and Christmas bonus? That’s something the enlightened leader from India (where it receives the same questions), even in its extreme wisdom, not resolved. Although labor lawyers who have been consulted and have recommended them to regularize this situation urgently to avoid a flood of complaints working hard to answer.

A separate paragraph deserves the breathing technique taught in the basic course. It is a long series of breaths of different intensity and depth that is a recording with the voice of the leader himself. This year, say the “teachers” can only be carried out in this way: causing the belief that his voice has a magical effect. Breathing is called “Sudarshan kryia” and is nothing more than a strong and violent hyperventilation extremely strong effects on the body and emotions of those who practice it. It is common to have bouts of uncontrollable crying, cramping on the lips, nose, hands, legs and other body parts. At year-end one is mentally exhausted and empty, ready to go to bed and sleep for several hours. The true health effects of this practice the know, but for having traveled several times I am very curious to hear the opinion of independent doctors about it. Even health authorities should issue an opinion. On some blogs that exist on the Art of Living, written by people who have been in the foundation and turned aside, some argue that this practice can generate problems such as fainting, severe psychotic episodes and memory damage. While it is uncertain whether these problems have actually occurred, the fact that this practice is not supported by professionals who are not part of the foundation. I’ve seen some strange reactions in those who have practiced, even fainting. One concern is that the “teachers” are not trained to respond effectively to an emergency that the practice may cause.

Perhaps the particular social conditions of India, Ravi Shankar thoroughly knows the benefits of having celebrities among his followers. For his “ashram” of India is common to see famous people of that country. The same is true in Argentina. Anyone familiar figure approaching receives preferential attention and VIP treatment. Undoubtedly the big booty has been able to win over Marcelo Tinelli, who promises to put their programs to serve the guru. Rabbi Sergio Bergman and Jorge Telerman, two followers who call him “my master”. First, current deputy city by macrismo, opened the doors of the government of the City of Buenos Aires. Remains to be seen if the second brand new official Daniel Scioli, try something similar in the province of Buenos Aires.

Not consider it appropriate to dwell on the internal foundation and its miseries, as usual consider in any organization. The truth is that the practices promoted by the art … not been efficient to eliminate these problems so characteristic of our human condition ..



  1. Rita Lopez permalink
    September 14, 2012 1:32 am

    I am from Argentina. This was an excellent article. In that issue, other articles were published criticizing too. There were many like this and more than one person came out to expose them. In the country, he was subject of ridicule and debate. His business is clear in our country. People took out their calculators and figured out the fraud! Many jokes like this one are still coming out! For those who understand Spanish. The guy he is compared to is a local charlatan. In this link, Ravi comes out 10 times worse, and the other one almost innocent! This is the general opinion here. Ravi and friends need to get real.

  2. Guru-Ouch permalink
    September 14, 2012 6:35 am

    I am sure AOL is gonna brand Paul Duggan also as “bipolar” or “disturbed” or “imbalanced” or “maniacal” sooner or later 🙂


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