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Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 2

November 3, 2012

In Part 1, we began by introducing a working definition of brainwashing, described in some detail the Art of Living Ideology and what the benefits are for those responsible for propagating it, and showed how devotees can be considered as assets to the organization. In Part 2 we will look at how Art of Living has created an environment which is highly conducive to brainwashing.

An Environment Conducive to Brainwashing

In his 1961 book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A study of Brainwashing in China”, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton discusses his research into a recurring phenomenon he discovered amongst a number of American servicemen who were held captive during the Korean war, namely that a small minority of servicemen had actually emerged from the POW camps seemingly having converted to Communism, something which baffled many people at the time. His findings revealed that during their captivity, these servicemen were subjected to various processes by the Chinese to bring about drastic changes to their core belief systems, specifically to align their beliefs with the Communist ideology.

As a result of his research, Lifton describes in his book eight conditions which were used to bring about what he termed “thought reform”, a term which essentially means the same thing as brainwashing. The more of these conditions which are present within a given environment, the more that environment is conducive to brainwashing those individuals who are kept within it.

Lifton’s eight criteria were actually discussed in one of the first posts on Skywalker’s blog, Know Thy Enemy, under the section “The Mental Prison”, and the reader is encouraged to read the whole section if not the whole post, as it is still as valid today as it was when it was first written two years ago.

Since it is pertinent to the current discussion, I will re-list Lifton’s eight criteria here, and will provide a number of additional comments to those mentioned in the “Know Thy Enemy” post.

I have taken from the source for each of the points (in italics), and supplemented these with extracts from Kathleen Taylor’s excellent resource on the subject, Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control.

  1. Milieu ControlThe control of information and communication, not just between the individual and the outside world, but between the individual and himself.
    Over time, devotees are encouraged to spend more time within Art of Living circles, to abandon their friends and even any family who they are unable to bring into Art of Living. Within this essentially closed environment, devotees are encouraged to consume information produced by Art of Living, especially any and all propaganda about the organization, and are actively discouraged from reading anything which criticizes the organization, including internet blogs such as these.
  2. Mystical Manipulation – Wikipedia: The manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated.
    Taylor: Mystical manipulation often refers to higher purposes or supernatural authorities such as fate, the hand of history, or God, or to being chosen, or to the divine or semi-divine status of the controlling organization as representative of a supernatural authority.
    Both of these aspects of mystical manipulation are present in AoL. In the first place, we have a leader who has established himself as divine, enlightened, and the very incarnation of God himself on this planet. And together with this, we also have one of the most powerful mechanisms at the heart of the AoL brainwashing machinery, and that is the idea that devotees are somehow affected by this mystical power known as “Guru’s Grace” which stems from RS and which flows into a devotee. Any good feeling which a devotee experiences is due to this “grace”. The “grace” also gives rise to special abilities such as mind-reading, something many believe RS is capable of in spite of the fact that he is usually fed any information by other devotees beforehand which he uses to give the impression that he is able to read minds. There are actually many techniques for bringing about this good feeling, and we will look at some of these subsequently in this article.
  3. Demand for PurityThe world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection.
    There are several ways in which this is manifested in Art of Living. Firstly, those who eat meat and who indulge in alcohol and drugs are seen to be of “low prana” and hence impure. Those who do not conform to the Art of Living ideology and who cannot be converted are seen as being not ready, inferior, outsiders, unspiritual, materialistic and so on. And those who criticize Art of Living and RS are completely disgruntled, negative, have very bad karma and are considered to be the enemies of Art of Living.
  4. ConfessionSins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group.
    From as early on as the basic course, members of the groups are encouraged to share their life experiences with each other. This is emphasized again and again in all subsequent courses. In the Blessings Course, everyone in the group is encouraged to share their deepest sexual desires with every one else in the group. Many in Art of Living confess their deepest, most private secrets to teachers, senior teachers and even RS himself.
  5. Sacred ScienceThe group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.
    Taylor: He also lists sacred science, which like mystical manipulation involves a moral/spiritual mystique, in this case applied to the ideology’s basic tenets. As sacred science, these are regarded as morally unchallengeable—the very act of challenge can render the challenger a ‘non-person’—and scientifically exact; ‘thus the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science’.
    This is exactly what Art of Living devotees are led to believe, that they are on the highest path, that it is the ultimate Truth, and that they should accept it unquestioningly. Many simply refuse to read other sources of spiritual knowledge, or have been told that they shouldn’t shop around and should stick to just AoL resources.
  6. Loading the LanguageThe group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand.
    The use of negatives, and any negativity general, is strongly discouraged in Art of Living. Any words dealing with doubts, such as “skepticism”, are completely redefined to suit the needs of the group (see for example A Deeply Disturbing AoL Brainwashing Video). But most prominently, the use of words which have no universally accepted meanings or definitions and which are completely intangible, such as “enlightenment”, “grace”, “love” and “bliss”, are used to great effect to manipulate followers.
  7. Doctrine over personThe member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
    A devotee has to conform to the AoL ideology, and if they don’t, they are the one at fault. Whenever anyone has any doubts about the teachings, the organization, or RS, it is their “small mind”, their “low prana”, or their “bad karma”. Criticism of the AoL ideology is not only frowned upon, but any critical thinking is actively discouraged. Blind faith in the master and the teachings is required to stay on the path.
  8. Dispensing of existenceThe group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.
    Taylor: […] the right granted to the Party, it believes, to determine the fates not only of its adherents but also of the non-people beyond its sphere. This right follows from the Party’s belief that there is only one path to truth […] that it alone knows that path, and that false paths must be eliminated.

    What this actually means is that the group decides who will be “saved” (the right to exist) and who will not. In this case, Art of Living decides that those who are part of the organization are the ones who will be saved, and everyone else who will not conform to the organization’s ideology will not. This includes everyone who rejects the AoL ideology, especially anyone who is critical of its various doctrines such as the many contributors of these blogs. In other words, by the AoL Ideology, we who are not part of the organization are effectively “doomed”.

So we can see that all eight of Lifton’s criteria are very much present within and in fact integral to the Art of Living Brainwashing Machinery. But there is a further condition which Lifton’s research revealed which is of particular interest to us. Whilst the American servicemen were held captive within the Chinese prisoner-of-war camps, these processes were continuously being carried out on them to bring about the radical changes in their belief systems. However, once the prisoners left that environment, over time the small minority who had emerged as followers of Communism eventually rejected those beliefs. This was usually accompanied by a period of confusion, and in some cases even mental illness.

We have already seen how most if not all of us who left Art of Living has gone through a period of confusion, and for some it has been a lot more intense than for others. But this observation further tells us something crucial to our understanding of what is happening in Art of Living. It tells us that for the brainwashing to be fully effective, it needs to be maintained ongoing. In other words, those being brainwashed need to be kept within the Art of Living environment. This is something which is absolutely imperative to the survival of the Art of Living Brainwashing Machinery, and is the only way for it to maintain the AoL Ideology. If anyone leaves this environment, the conditions for brainwashing are no longer present, and hence there is a good chance that over time they will come to reject the AoL Ideology.

This of course is something which Art of Living does not want. And this is the exact reason why devotees are constantly being enticed to sit and resit courses, attend satsangs, attend regular weekly kriyas, and of course develop close friendships with other devotees and try and spend as much time socializing with them as they can. This is the exact reason why the Art of Living environment is promoted as being better, safer, more fun than the world outside, and why devotees are discouraged from spending time with those who are deemed not ready for Art of Living or who oppose it in any way (“low prana” people). They need to keep their devotees within the confines of the Art of Living environment in order to constantly feed them the dogma which constitutes the AoL Ideology.

In Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, Kathleen Taylor reinforces some of these points and sheds some further light on what is occurring within AoL:

[…] many of the methods used in brainwashing have been refined over centuries […]. The use of uncertainty as a psychological weapon; exposure to a group of people with the beliefs to which the victim is to be converted; removing the victim from his or her former environment and from any chance to reinforce old beliefs by, for example, talking to friends […].

And specifically with regards to Chinese POW camps during the Korean War Taylor tells us:

Prisoners were cut off from their homes and friends […]. […] Individuals were typically put into small groups of ‘believers’ and subjected to prolonged discussion meetings, in which intensely detailed self-criticism, and criticism by other group members, was required. The aim of this criticism, which was used on Chinese citizens as well as on prisoners of war, was to ‘bring out political and ideological viewpoints’ and to ‘overcome erroneous thoughts, to correct various ideological errors, to elevate the Party consciousness of the Party members, and to assist the comrades.’

If this sounds all to familiar to some of you, that’s because Taylor is describing something which sounds almost identical to the now infamous Hot Seat process which takes place during both DSN and TTC courses. Designed to “transcend the ego”? Or to break down a devotee’s individuality and align their beliefs to the AoL Ideology?

[…] Finally, as many researchers have emphasised, the sheer amount of repetition experienced by those undergoing thought reform was mind-numbing. For hours every day and sometimes for months and even years, the Party apparatus reinforced, with lectures, posters, broadcasts or discussion meetings, its ideological messages. Sheer exhaustion undoubtedly contributed to the victim’s psychological surrender.

Again, it really does sound as if Taylor is describing, in lucid detail, the AoL Brainwashing Machinery, with a special emphasis on its operation again during DSN and TTC courses.

The Nature of The Beast

We have already looked at the different ways in which devotees can be considered assets of Art of Living, and this is the most obvious reason why AoL does not want to lose its devotees. But there is another aspect of this we have only alluded to in passing.

We have talked a lot about the “Art of Living brainwashing machinery”, but what exactly is it that constitutes this machinery? We know that at its core we find Ravi Shankar, his family, and his Inner Circle who are effectively the driving force behind it and who are ultimately its key beneficiaries. However, they are only a very small handful of people and by themselves simply have neither the time nor the means to continuously propagate the AoL Ideology.

No, if we were to examine what is actually happening in any detail, we discover something astonishing: the AoL Brainwashing Machinery is almost entirely made up of devotees themselves. The environment which Lifton describes as being conducive to brainwashing is actually an environment made up of devotees, with the majority of brainwashing carried out through courses, satsangs, long kriya follow ups and through the various friendships with each other. Devotees brainwash each other and they brainwash themselves, and so the AoL Ideology survives and those at the head of affairs in AoL prosper.

Whereas with the Chinese there was a clear distinction between the brainwasher and brainwashee, in Art of Living they are almost invariably one and the same. A brainwashee is effectively brainwashed so that eventually they become a brainwasher. It is part of the evolution of a devotee along the AoL path.

Whereas the Chinese were actually able to physically confine their captives within prisoner-of-war camps and hence have complete control over the environment conducive to brainwashing which Lifton describes, Art of Living cannot readily do the same. And so whilst it has done its best to control the environment of its devotees to whatever extent it can, it has been unable to keep its devotees cut off from the one thing which may prove to be the cause of its eventual downfall: the internet.

A Fight For Survival

The internet is something which, save for a few sites which are within its remit, is completely outside of Art of Living’s control. Yet it is an integral part of most people’s personal environments, its devotees included. And this is the crux of AoL’s problem: whatever amount of control they have over the AoL environment which they create through devotees, they can never fully control their devotees’ personal environments. The best they can do is to make suggestions and use fear as a weapon to keep its devotees from visiting any sites which are critical of its activities.

We already know from accounts of TRMs (Teacher’s Refresher Meetings) over the last couple of years that teachers are actively discouraged from visiting these blogs. And we have seen on Bawa & Dinesh’s blog how they warned their devotees to stay away from these blogs to avoid being “poisoned” by what is written here, which incidentally is a brilliant example of the application of Lifton’s “Demand for Purity”. But we also know that these tactics clearly aren’t working, since, by their own admission, Art of Living have told us in this document that “Since the false and defamatory statements were published on the blogs […] Art of Living’s enrollment and revenue have dropped.” (see point 68). We can only assume that this pattern has continued to the present day and has shown no signs of abating.

So, try as they might, it really does seem as if there is very little AoL can do to prevent its devotees from visiting these blogs, learning what is written in them, and ultimately leaving. The one time they tried to actually suppress content written against them by bring a lawsuit against Klim and Skywalker, they failed dismally and it cost them dearly.

Why exactly are the blogs such a threat to AoL? Simply, because they promote critical thinking, and critical thinking is the direct enemy of that which is essential for the AoL ideology to flourish: blind faith. Through the use of critical thinking, the whole of the AoL ideology has been scrutinized, with glaring flaws pointed out and entire aspects of it outright debunked. Whilst devotees’ critical thinking circuits are suppressed through the continued application of the AoL brainwashing machinery by keeping them as much as possible within the AoL environment, they cannot readily see these things. However as soon as their critical-thinking faculties return, they realize for themselves a great many of the things that have already been concluded on this blog. And then they leave.

And now as more and more devotees leave, not only is Art of Living losing their most valued assets, but the overall AoL Brainwashing Machinery itself is dwindling. Remember first and foremost, it is a machine, and one which feeds off the very people who are part of it. It needs people in order to operate, to serve its needs, which in turn serve the needs of those who are its head, RS, his family and co.

If more devotees leave than it is able to replace them with, over time the organization will shrink to become a shadow of its former self. And it seems, this is exactly what is happening at this time. This is why it is now fighting tooth and nail, fighting bitterly for its own survival, trying to do whatever it can to prevent its devotees from leaving, whilst at the same time aggressively trying to bring more and more fresh devotees into its fold. But in both respects it really does seem to be failing, and this as we have seen is because of Art of Living’s inability to either fully control its devotees’ personal environments, or to prevent prospective devotees from finding what ex-members have to say about the organization on various internet websites.

Whatever successes it may have enjoyed in the past in terms of recruiting and keeping devotees are now long gone and will most likely never be again. Its only hope of survival is to reform the way it operates, but this is extremely unlikely since it would have to completely rehaul its entire ideology and change its entire modus operandi – which would effectively mean dismantling the whole AoL brainwashing machinery as it stands and starting again. But really, is there any other hope left for the organization?

In Part 3, we start to look at some of the processes which Art of Living actually employ to brainwash their devotees.

  1. bloggisatwa permalink
    November 4, 2012 5:49 am

    Great Post again Obi. I wanted to add to this below point

    “Milieu Control – The control of information and communication, not just between the individual and the outside world, but between the individual and himself.”

    Once you are on the promised path its but natural that a participant want’s to measure their own progress. @ AoL, how do I check this ?

    I need to ask myself.

    Am I closer to the truth ?
    Am I closer to God ?

    But then within the system God = Guru. So my my progress is a now a measure in my position, ie how close am I to SriSri. How do I get close to SriSri ? (read inner circle)…..I have to become a teacher….since its only teachers that seem to have physical access to him. Its is believed that teacher’s Channel him.

    Now, I have to earn the ability to Channel him (him being the ultimate expert on all life). Once I am in the teacher’s position, I get to actually drive the system. Yet, deep down, most would have given up and declared that this is one thing we cannot achieve (its too difficult and far fetched). So let me at least fudge everything from the words he uses, to his hair style, to the beard, to the mannerisms..all of it. Its like how kids wanna be grownups. So I imitate. With this I have stopped being me. I am now a self attempted exercise in limited cloning.

    And since my milestone for all this is becoming a teacher…..I need to make sure I have subscribed to and mastered Ashtavakra, Narada Bhakti Sutras, Shiva Sutras, Yoga Vashishta, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, All of the “Notes to the Sincere Seeker” series, all the Audio talks “Krishna was a communist”…. Now I am brainwashing myself willingly. Since my TTC form specifically asks me how many people did you recruit…..I actively propagate the AoL idealogy so I can qualify.

    This is the same as any MLM. At least in the MLM the join in fee is one time and in the beginning. With AoL the same person gets recruited again and again and they pay for it each and every time. In other MLM’s after the initial payment you can get something back for yourself. @ AOL its purely notional. You keep on being recruited and in turn keep recruiting …PERIOD !!

    In parts, this may even seem authentic to a new entrant, for these AoL people seem to be walking the talk….they do to themselves what they are asking me to do, or at least so thinks the new entrant.

    Now we are enrolled. We pay for all the above goods and services. Not only that, we have to do 2 DSNs and 2 Advance courses a year (peer measure and pressure), we have to recruit for part-1 courses, repeat part-1 courses, do seva, attend satsangs …we actively buy into it because you are committed to our own growth. I have lost time…need to gain it back.

    Not even once realising that measuring our growth based on AoL’s milestones is in itself the most misleading measure and is the ultimate self-trap.

    • Nithin permalink
      November 5, 2012 10:07 am

      AOL and Ravi are NO1 fraud…. Look at his associates, they are politicians and power crazy people and are illegally grabing lands…(Ex Karnataka Chief minister Yeddapa, Nitin gadkari..etc). cheating farmers .. so is this idiot Ravi

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 5, 2012 10:08 am

    Recently concluded Navaratri celeberations in bangalore witnessed one more tactic which made a fool of the zombie devotees and proved profitable for the Sick Sri Sri 420. AOL sold AOL tabs which are of some local company make or maybe chinese and obviously they might have bought it dirt cheap in bulk and sold it for 17000 a piece and made a bulk fool of the zombie devotees.The point was that it has all the videos and satsangs and teachings related to AOL and Fraudster Guru His Hipocrite SIck Sick 420 Sucker. Man this guy can make money, who says he is not enlightened.

  3. anon permalink
    November 5, 2012 6:15 pm

    Is there a way to find out the names of the persons who made these tabs available???

    • bloggisatwa permalink
      November 6, 2012 1:17 am

      This is blatant Mind control.

      An excellent idea if I were a brainwasher and I needed my brainwashees to tow line. A real time AOL Bible updated every day which by brainwashees will read everyday. I can tell them when to wake up, when to do saadhana, when to eat, what to eat, what to think, where to spend my money, how to breathe, when to sleep, how to cross the road, how you are very special (because without me you would never know that). Selling just got easier. Now all I need to do is push stuff at you.

      Importantly, maybe I can also track you. I can know what you do. I can know if you visit THE BLOG. The entire network of Androids is now under my AoL network control. Since, to stay connected to the AOL network, you will now pay me a subscription FEE. I get a perennial income without doing anything.

      This Tablet has been developed by Chennai based EAFT Technologies India Pvt Ltd in association with the Art of Living foundation. The motive behind the launching of these tablets is to provide people Spiritual Enlightenment and to take Guruji’s work to the masses.

      • bloggisatwa permalink
        November 6, 2012 1:55 am

        Also there is no charity angle to this. These days they don’t even bother with that spin.

        That’s another Sri Sri business entity peddling its wares. It is this same entity that is now selling the tablets.

        Mr. Ramanujam Muralidaran, Business Head, Sri Sri Publication Trust, Art of Living said “We are very pleased with the Enlighten tab designed for us by EAFT. They provided us a total solution enabling us to give all Art of Living (AOL) members a single platform to access all our content, be it videos, guided meditations, books, talks, yoga and bhajans of Art of Living, through a state-of-the-art DRM enabled OEM tablet PC. DRM helped us to ensure that our content is digitally secured with no room for copyright infringement of any kind. Enlighten has been well received by our members especially because of the ease of use factor.

        Looks like they are going on a media and mind assault

        Now candidates pay to be recruited. This is indeed interesting……I had not kept track of AoL for a while…looks like the marketing wings have been busy.

        Like with everything else…..this is just a tool…… if its not used properly, the same thing will come back to bite you and AoL are known for their screw ups.

      • bloggisatwa permalink
        November 6, 2012 2:27 am

        The AoL business is paying for all this.

        1) The tablets have to be bought from EAFT before they are sold. You will need to stock them. They will probably be stocked in the divine shop. Now divine shop is a separate business. They will have an internal agreement with Sri Sri Publication. They too will need a markup.

        Assuming their buying price is 10,000 Rs.

        2000 tablets (Stocks for Navaratiri sale, purely a guesstimate) would have cost them Rs 20 Million. URs 2 Cr (About US$ 400,000). They would have had to pay this in advance.

        2) There is a lot of branding and packing work that is involved. There is a separate box, carry cover with AOL logo and so on.

        3) The content has to be loaded and organised.

        4) The content has been made digitally secured. (Eventually, perhaps no more need for cross border smuggling ?.)

        5) Warranty and support will cost money.

        6) The idea needs to be marketed (Volunteer devotees will all do this……but that does not mean its FREE…it only means that the costs are hidden).

        While direct margins are about 6999 per machine…..the indirect benefits are as follows….

        a) I keep my devotee busy. I don’t give them time to explore options. I keep them brainwashed. Devotee retention just got easier.Earlier they would enforce courses on you. That was once in a few months. Now they can force content as well everyday. Any aspiring teacher will be forced to get a tablet and will be forced to get content.
        b) As long as the devotee is brainwashed they cannot leave me.
        c) As long as they are with me, they are a cash cow. They attend courses every year. They buy content.
        d) They recruit others for me.
        e) You get people subscribed, then the name of the game is Upgrades….and Updates and new versions. This is the Microsoft game. You also start to sell futures.
        f) Once people are subscribed, I can track them and herd them. Any deviations, can be punished and dealt with swiftly.
        g) I can make sure that they talk only to me through the tablet. (You can see how the youth these days are addicted to gadgets).
        h) I have to make sure that the tablet does not fall into the wrong hands (the bloggers for instance)…hence I will be forced to introduce biometrics.
        i) I capture my devotees credit card details upfront. Or even introduce the branded AOL pre-paid card. It can store all my loyalty points. The more I buy the more points I get. When I get 10,000 points, I can exchange it for a free advance course or a 1 minute exclusive meeting with SriSri.

  4. freeOne permalink
    November 7, 2012 8:21 pm

    Actually the MRP is Rs7199, obviously AOL will get it much lower say around 5-6k.

  5. Jacob Ezekial permalink
    December 4, 2012 3:55 am

    Wow! Looks like the Art of LIving course really had a traumatic effect on you huh?

    You are very far from being ‘Beyond-AOL’ & far from being Free

    You had a bad experience & don’t wanna be part of it. Cool!

    But why the exhaustive psychological (over)analysis of how AOL is supposedly ‘enslaving’ it’s teachers & volunteers???

    You were part of the AOL group & liked it for many years. Now EVERYBODY in that organization is either a CROOK or being MANIPULATED or BRAINWASHED? Ha ha ha ha ha

    Think about it – You go from being an AOL (over) Enthusiast to AOL has ‘Mental Problems’

    So you mean to tell me there is NOTHING GOOD about Art of Living? That Pranayama is hogwash? That Meditation is hogwash? That Kriya is hogwash? That doing Service is hogwash? That chanting/satsang is hogwash? That the Part 1 Course points are hogwash? Really now?

    All these ‘Desi Men’ remind me of ‘White’ Women. They Love me in the beginning but when I dump em they analyze how ‘Screwed-up’ I am.

    Get it?

    • December 5, 2012 6:23 am

      I can see from what you’ve written that you’re obviously very upset about this, to the point where you have had to resort to making things up in order to try to make yourself feel a lot better about it. Because it’s obvious from what you’ve written that a) you know nothing about me or my experiences in AoL, and b) you haven’t actually been following what this series of articles is trying to explain, or if you have your are desperately in denial about what is being said. Because you haven’t actually raised a single criticism about any of the points which have been made in any of the articles.

      Instead, you felt the need to lash out and just outright invent things that not only haven’t been said anywhere on this blog but haven’t even been remotely hinted at. Traumatic experiences? Nothing good about Art of Living? Pranayama hogwash? Meditation hogwash? If you can show where I have indicated any of these things then we can have a discussion about them.

      But you know as well as I do that reading through these articles has caused you a great deal of pain, and you really don’t want others to read through them and suffer the same pain you’re suffering. Because you really believe in all the so-called “magic thinking” that happens in AoL as being something truly mystical, an expression of some divine force, and not some psychological trick which is the explanation being presented here and which all the evidence seems to indicate.

      Part of me is really sorry for having to do this, but the reality is I’m not forcing you or anyone else to read this. Reading it, like reading anything else here, is purely optional, and it is mostly intended for those who have already left for one reason or another and who want to deepen their understanding of how they were manipulated during their time in Art of Living. For those who are still part of Art of Living, it is going to cause them a lot of pain and suffering. They will certainly be in denial of it, just like you are. As such I wouldn’t really recommend reading this to anyone until they start having doubts. So my best advice to you is to stop reading it, and only ever come back if or when you feel you are ready. Otherwise there is nothing you can do to stop it or to fight it, because you are really only fighting with yourself if you try.

      • Jacob Ezekial permalink
        December 5, 2012 6:49 pm

        There is neither pain or anguish on my part. And perhaps I don’t know anything about your experiences with AOL.

        However, having said that – this blog is perhaps for those that have been AOL TEachers for decades & have been discolored or disenchanted by their experience(s).

        As for the grand majority of folks that take the Art of Living – Basic Courses, Silence courses, volunteer for Sewa(Service) projects & attend/host Satsangs there is no pain – no anguish. Au contraire – it is Blissss..Aaaaaaand neither are they brainwashed 🙂

        They are not brainwashed because – Pranayama is not an AOL invention – it has been practiced for ages. Satsang/Chanting/Japa has been recommended by Rishis for ages & reinforced recently by – Guru Nanak, Tulsidas, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu & Sri Ramakrishna. Meditation is the highest practice in spirituality. All these have been packaged wonderfully by the Art of Living Foundation.

        So the majority of folks that take part in this package that AOL has put together are better off for it. They don’t care about the petty politics – backstabbing & gossiping that may or may not occur behind closed doors. Because majority of AOL attendees have a ‘Life’ outside of AOL 🙂

        They have ‘other’ friends & ‘other’ friend circles that may or may not follow other paths.

        You & the others on this site – it seems – AOL was your ENTIRE life for 12 -20 years. And from God knows what expectations were had – but they were obviously let down. For majority of those that are in AOL – it is a positive spiritual global outreach which has for the better – not worse- helped millions of people.

        I was just scratching my head at the Freudian analysis of AOL done at almost a level of paranoia. I have no intention of trying to take down this blog – nor is it my wish. All viewpoints are to be heard & discussed – I

        Also, it’s not a matter of whether I like/dislike or happy/sad at your blog – As a person that enjoys the Art of Living was wondering how volumes and volumes of vitriol & pschoanalysis can be done on an organization which has helped tons and tons of people & its overreaching message is “Peace’ & ‘Unity in Diversity’?

        I’ve spoke to friends/colleagues/relatives about Art of Living – All groups of folks were overwhelmingly open to it & enjoyed the classes. The group of people that expressed the most skepticism & cynicism were Indians – LOL! Some said, ‘No yarrr der is some fake guru yarrr. Why he has name of Sitar player yarrr?’ Ha ha ha ha ha They are so stuck on the outside & those of you there on the inside were JADED.

        Those of us that are in AOL now Love the Pranayama, Kriya, Meditation, Service, Satsang & bountiful knowledge sessions..etc.. – All tenets of Hindu Spirituality teach these – So brainwashing is not the culprit. It’s happiness for what is.


      • December 6, 2012 3:54 am

        Jacob Ezekiel,

        I really hate to point out the obvious but in just your above comment alone you’ve shown major signs of Cognitive Dissonance (I am not brainwashed, the majority of people in Art of Living are not brainwashed, we are all in bliss) and have tried to resolve it using both Social Proof (AOL has helped millions of people, I’ve spoke to friends/colleagues, the majority of people are better off for it) and Authority (pranayama, satsang etc. were recommended by rishis and sages of old) whilst completely ignoring the actual criticisms themselves. The fact that you even had to take any time at all out of your otherwise “blissful” life to post anything here at all, or to even read what is written here is again a major sign of Cognitive dissonance.

        Just like the Art of Living Secrets blog – why do you think it even exists? Stories which are trying to counter the many criticisms made against RS and Art of Living by using Social Proof and Authority whilst again completely ignoring the actual criticisms themselves. It’s just another piece of the Art of Living Brainwashing Machinery – as I’m sorry to say are you.

        If you were truly happy like you say you are, you would just enjoy your happiness without feeling the need to be here. But the fact is there is at least a part of you which suspects there is some truth written here. It’s just that there’s another part of you which doesn’t want to admit it because you don’t want to suffer the pain associated with it. Did you even notice the way you desperately felt the need to state that the majority of people in AoL are happy, without actually knowing what the majority are experiencing? Don’t you think that’s also a little telling Jacob Ezekiel?

    • Dayalu permalink
      December 5, 2012 2:54 pm

      @Jacob Ezekial,

      Have you ever heard Art of living dumping anyone. ha ha!
      As long as they see even a remote possibility of you bringing in dough and paying for their sham courses, they will tolerate you, even if your beliefs are diametrically opposite to their apparent principles. It is we who dumped AOL… can’t you see that. You and others in AOL behave like those ‘Desi men’ or ‘White women’ that you mentioned…. Isn’t that obvious reading the comments of Sad swami, Harshal, et at.

      • Dayalu permalink
        December 5, 2012 10:23 pm

        @Jacob Ezekial,

        Is your reading comprehension so poor that you thought this blog to be a critique of Satsang/Chanting/Japa or any of the spiritual practices? May be you’re so brainwashed that you equate any criticism of AOL to criticism of these traditions..your so called ‘bliss’ that has been sold to you as spiritual experience is a direct effect of that brainwashing and is no different from the intoxication provided by drugs or alcohol…you need to be periodically fed by ‘knowledge’ which is nothing but Ravishankar’s brainwashing packages that tell you to shut off your critical thinking and blindly follow him… so that you guys will not question or doubt even when he publicly makes the dumbest of statements or when he displays the vanity of an immature bollywood (or hollywood) starlet, numerous instance of which have been illustrated in this and the previous two blogs.

        if you read the teachings of any of the saints you described, you will know they warn about getting stuck with these ‘experiences’, but Ravishankar will not tell you that because that is exactly what he wants you to be stuck with and come back for more, pumping out more cash. Nor will he encourage you to read the teachings of any of those real saints like Vivekananda or Ramana mahirshi, because that amounts to ‘spiritual shopping’ which will result in his losing control over you. However, none of the saints you mentioned responded to criticism in the hostile manner in which your guru did.

        But don’t worry, we have all been there and we know exactly how that false sense of bliss feels like and a few years ago most of the contributors to this blog would have reacted in a manner very much similar to how you’re doing now, but we’re fortunate that Jody and Zorro showed us what the organization really was and subsequently KLIM’s and Skywalker’s blogs helped tons and tons of people realize that the EMPEROR HAD NO CLOTHES on and come back to their lilves.

        Enjoy the ‘bliss’ while it lasts, but I do hope you wake up to the truth before it is too late. Many are not that fortunate, they get suck into the black hole from which there is no escape and the only option then is to live the rest of thier lives as spiritual slaves of the organization ;by then there is no bliss and no enlightenment, it is just slavery with a facade of spirituality.

      • Jacob Ezekial permalink
        December 7, 2012 12:12 am

        Deer in Dayalu Lights said -‘live the rest of thier lives as spiritual slaves of the organization ;by then there is no bliss and no enlightenment, it is just slavery with a facade of spirituality.’

        First of all Deer..I mean Dear Dayalu – it is ‘their’ not ‘thier’. Perhaps Spiritually freed slaves like yourselves are running so fast from the Ashram you’ve forgotten how to spell.

        Anyway getting back to your literary acclaimed comments. I think you are gifted with (ESP) – Extra Sensitive Peon. That there are ‘spiritual slaves’ running around in the Art of Living is heee-hawww funny and highly dim-witted.

        Now that you are the Harriet Tubman of The Underground Spiritually Free. How dost thou feel?

        Yes, Sri Sri Ravishankar is so Anti-Vivekananda acknowledgement that the Vedanta Society/Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center has reached out to Art of Living Bangalore for joint charitable outreach. Similarly AOL has done the same with the Vedanta Society in Calcutta. Meaning..Shhhhhh volunteers from both orgs mingle FREELY That is why Sri Sri visited Calcutta earlier this year & spoke on the importance of Vivekananda’s contribution to the World as his 150’th Birth Anniversary is set to be celebrated in 2013.

        That you all felt enslaved in the first place is a matter of pity – although abundant humor is the initial knee jerk rxn.

      • Jacob Ezekial permalink
        December 7, 2012 12:31 am

        True. Art of Living is an environment where one is free to come and go as they please.

        Now this is the funny part – this blog is a Jung/Freud analysis of why you left & why others are still there…Ha ha ha ha ha

        When you were in AOL – you thought ‘Wow. Folks that are not in AOL are missing out on this Bliss.’

        Now that you’re ‘out’ of AOL you say, ‘Wow. Those folks are brainwashed/enslaved.’

        Don’t you see how funny your thinking is?????

        AOL is the same today as it was yesterday only your thoughts have changed about it.

        You don’t like AOL? Cool. Scarred by your experience? I hope you recover and wish you well

  6. Anonymous permalink
    December 6, 2012 12:32 am


    ” I have no intention of trying to take down this blog – nor is it my wish.”

    Thanks for the small mercies. I wish your master was as wise as you are, it could have saved him half-a-million dollars and some embarassment.

    • Dayalu permalink
      December 10, 2012 7:44 pm


      No wonders your reading comprehension is so poor, your focus is on picking typos rather than understanding the content..Perhaps your over zealous practice of SK has fried your brain to such an extent that you have forgotten the fundamentals of good reading.

      If AOL and RK matth are working together, that could only have been due to the persistent pestering of AOL volunteers with all their claims of those fake seva projects. But it is just a matter of time before they realize what AOL and sri sri really are. Just look back and verify how long did AOL partnership with other organizations last.. No group that does sincere work can tolerate AOL for long because at the end of the day all emphasis from HHSSRS comes down to just 3 words – Publicity, publicity and publicity.

      Of course RS has to praise Viviekananda, does he have a choice? But then go to him and tell him you read the works by any of the established hindu saints and see how he reacts.

      Have you not heard him publically praising Mahatma Gandhi, although he is extremely judgemental on MG in many of his ‘knowledge’ talks? I will not be surprised if he praises Hitler, because that is the recent trend in India. At least he has stated that George Bush is worse than Hitler. This is after he met with GWB in the White house and got very cozy with him:

      And then a few months later he visits Iraq with much fanfare and makes the statement: “What Bush did in Iraq is worse than what Hitler did”….

      Ezeikel, your guru is never consistent about anything and he even uses spirituality to defend his inconsistencies. ” Truth is spherical, so don’t expect consistencies in what I speak”….. For a moment step outside the shoes of a devotee and analyze.. you can describe this behavior in one word – opportunism… But for those blind with devotion these are all his ‘leelas’.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    December 9, 2012 12:58 am

    Jacob eziekiel drank the kool aid. Good luck buddie. 🙂

  8. Blue Star permalink
    September 3, 2013 8:02 pm

    I remember I once read a post on one of these blogs about someone who said they were relieved to be not doing their sadhana anymore, but now they rather looked forward their morning cup of coffee. That was just so funny, I had to laugh. Not like ha-ha funny either, but just very ironic.
    Sri Sri says in the qualifications for Ashtavakra Gita that one who has never experienced stillness of mind has no right to come near such knowledge, because it is very easy for the mind to get half knowledge create concepts about such things. Unfortunately, that applies even for people who meditate frequently, but they are still far away from the truth. The truth is all encompassing and has no conflicts with anything whatsoever; it is beyond all concepts. It is the concepts in your mind that create the conflicts, and yes it is true in this case that people on both sides have some conflicts, because not many are actually enlightened.

    Your mind can prove anything if it really wants to; I can give you instances from my experience that go against all of these 8 things you’ve mentioned, but there’s not much point in arguing. Just for the sake of it though, I know a full time teacher with a husband who wants nothing to do with AOL, and another teacher who even still follows his old path. Most teachers I know are very committed to their jobs and social lives, as well as Art of Living activities, and they have even inspired me to find a healthy balance between those things. And that ultimately is Sri Sri’s original message, and the whole point of Art of Living – to be free in this moment, and the way to do that is to have a balance between everything in life, which is what Sudarshan Kriya basically does. But it takes time, and effort, and not everyone gets there, and the message can even get distorted along the way. But it helps to look at the positives, anyway.

    I can prove to you that any organized group is a cult, from government to society to schools to churches to families, but what would be the point of that? Sites like this are not much different from conspiracy theorists who are convinced that the government is doing to them the exact same things that you’re accusing Art of Living of doing. It may contain a grain of truth but there’s nothing proactive about it. Stop thinking you’re saving anyones soul from a big bad evil force, when you’re only creating more turbulence for yourself. I’m not saying you’re wrong about anything, but are you able to look beyond that, past the polar opposites? Are you even happy?


  1. Summary of Criticisms Against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Art of Living | Further Beyond the Art of Living
  2. Exposing the AoL Brainwashing Machinery – Part 10 | Further Beyond the Art of Living

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