Monday, December 18, 2006

Sri Sri's PR Machine: Pimping & Recruiting

An example of AoL flackery employed as hard news, this time at allAfrica.com (including a few interpolations by us):
Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who arrived in the country yesterday, seems to have the answer to many questions on life and the concept of inner peace.
All answers are available for sale at your nearest AoL center.
He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, which is said to be the world's largest NGO, with representation in 156 countries.
Matched only in size by our guru's lust for fame.
"What you cannot win with a stick, you can win with love," he told the Sunday Nation. "What you cannot win with guns, you can win through love."
And what you can't win through love can be bought at an AoL center near you.
"The most powerful thing in the world is love - for we can win the hearts of people through love."
My love of name and fame is all that is behind these ridiculously simplistic platitudes.
"This is exactly why the Art of Living courses are important to every individual, regardless of their background or religious affiliation," a devotee, Begun Rishi Nityapragya, told the Sunday Nation before the guru's arrival.
Everyone is a potential mark to us.
"(Ours) is not a religion or a cult."
Ours is a multinational business operating under cover of NGO status.
"In fact, if you are a Christian, it makes you an even better Christian; and if you are a Muslim, you become a more devout Muslim."
Poorer, too.
In a flowing robe, long hair and a flowing beard and with disarming warmth and an almost permanent smile, Rishi had a lot of praise for the Art of Living courses.
Watch me play God as I sell you my snake oil.

We tip our turban to the AoL flacks, who seem to be quite adept at planting their fictions in the news as the news. We see a bright future for all of them as government bullshitters spinmeisters one day.

41 Comments:

At 12/19/2006 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from SSRS some years ago: "if Art of Living is a cult, then it's a good cult because it helps people feel better. If this is a cult, then everyone should join a cult."

Art of Living is, pure and simple, a cult. It survives by revolving around a God figure who demands (not commands) respect. Better behave or leave. If you don't tow the line, you're out. Like any cult, you are to worship and adore the Great Leader.

The usual bunk.

 
At 12/19/2006 12:46 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Well, to a narcissist, there is such thing as a good codependent, which makes the narcissist feel better. And to a codependent, there is such thing as a good narcissist, which makes them feel better. So you could say they have a good thing going. Except ....

then it's a good cult because it helps people feel better. If this is a cult, then everyone should join a cult


Since when has feeling better being the determiner of what is good?

 
At 12/19/2006 4:49 PM, Blogger CHUCK said...

theblade said, "Since when has feeling better being the determiner of what is good?"

................

If you don't know that by now, maybe Sai Baba's darshan would be the thing for you.

 
At 12/19/2006 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know that Art of Living's course has helped several people across the world? I, for one benefitted tremondously from their breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya. I have been practicing that for 4 years now and it has improved my mental and emotional health a lot - is it not better than Prozac?
You know, during the course, nobody asked me to believe in Sri Sri Ravishankar and no one spoke about him as though he was a godman or anything. So, I don't know what you guys have against him.
I feel violent words do as much harm as violent actions.

 
At 12/19/2006 10:27 PM, Blogger jody said...

I feel violent words do as much harm as violent actions.

There are no violent words here, just honest ones.

Sudarshan Kriya works just like any other technique, it gives people something to believe in, and out of their belief they help themselves. It is not special in any way other than the fact it is sold like hamburgers at McDonald's.

 
At 12/19/2006 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been practicing that for 4 years now and it has improved my mental and emotional health a lot

since your mental health is improved now, you will leave him soon. dont worry.

 
At 12/20/2006 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sri Sri was with Maharishi for a long time and learned a lot from him. He noticed what worked well in bringing in crowds and droves of people and what was missing. What brought in the droves were false promises. Not that TM isn't an effective tool, as is the pranayama Sri Sri teaches, which like TM is a traditional method, availiable in countless places, but presented in a nice package.

What was missing in the TM organization was heart. Sri Sri tried to add that to his package. Unlike Maharishi who never got close to his masses of followers or even presented himself as a guru at all. Sri Sri added himself to the package, dressing himself up like he did his pranayama technique.

I did TM for almost 20 years and found it a good technique. I also practiced Sri Sri's pranayama and enjoyed it very much. There is no reason not to continue this pranayama as long as you don't over do it. But Sri Sri himself? Forget about it!

 
At 12/20/2006 11:15 AM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Unlike Maharishi who never got close to his masses of followers or even presented himself as a guru at all.

If guru means something like 'the great enlightened one on a pedestal', then, if it walks like a guru, talks like a guru, behaves like a guru, is viewed and treated as a guru by those under its control, then it has certainly presented itself as a guru.

It may be true that in higher and stricter definitions of the term guru, Maharishi did not present himself as one. Fair enough, no contest on that.

 
At 12/20/2006 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sudarshan Kriya works just like any other technique, it gives people something to believe in, and out of their belief they help themselves. It is not special in any way other than the fact it is sold like hamburgers at McDonald's."

Where's the beef in this statement? Do you have a study that backs this up?

There are numerous techniques out there and some, based upon scientific studies, definitely have effects that can be measured.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/101/46/16369

 
At 12/20/2006 11:46 AM, Blogger jody said...

There are numerous techniques out there and some, based upon scientific studies, definitely have effects that can be measured.

So what? I'm not saying meditation isn't good, I'm saying that the kind of meditation you do isn't nearly as important as the attitude you bring to your practice.

 
At 12/20/2006 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

blade said

It may be true that in higher and stricter definitions of the term guru, Maharishi did not present himself as one. Fair enough, no contest on that.
......................

What Maharishi didn't do was indicate he had the ability to enlighten anyone. He gave credit for that to our own nervous systems, designed by Nature, and he gave credit for the technique of meditation to his own Guru Dev. He did not take responcibility for other people.

 
At 12/20/2006 11:55 AM, Blogger jody said...

What Maharishi didn't do was indicate he had the ability to enlighten anyone.

Read The Maharishi Effect. Most of those bozos in Fairfield believed in the Madharishi's divinity like he was Ammachi.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So what? I'm not saying meditation isn't good, I'm saying that the kind of meditation you do isn't nearly as important as the attitude you bring to your practice. "

Really? Meditation is a practice - a practice just like running or swimming, once you scrape the "mystical" crap off of it. If I have a proper, scientifically based, training methodology for running, does your attitude matter at all? Maybe your genetics would, but certainly not your attitude.

This is the primary problem. The techniques have been separated from the theory of their mechanisms and effects. The theory is now the "core" while the important part, the practice, has been discarded.

Are high-end sports figures accorded the fame and devotion of gurus? The guru problem would go away if there was a return to the root - the practice.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody said,

Read The Maharishi Effect. Most of those bozos in Fairfield believed in the Madharishi's divinity like he was Ammachi.
..................

As George Wallace said, when accused of being a rascist by every major newspaper in the country, "Well, that's one man's opinion!"

Sorry, Jody, I don't need to read the book because I was there far longer than the writer. It simply is not true in my experience that people believed in Maharishi the way Ammabots believe in Ammachi. In 20 years I never knew anybody who did.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:26 PM, Blogger jody said...

If I have a proper, scientifically based, training methodology for running, does your attitude matter at all?

It does if you are a lazy ass and don't get out and do it.

When I mention attitude, I'm talking about the application of effort. If one applies themselves to a meditation practice, one will realize the benefits of that practice, more out of their application rather than any "scientific" qualities you may imagine that practice to have.

I say this to illustrate the fact that TMâ„¢, SK or any other practices are basically interchangeable, regardless of the fact they appear to be very different techniques.

In other words, any practice will produce results. It's not what you believe (or practice), it's how you believe (or practice) it.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:30 PM, Blogger jody said...

It simply is not true in my experience that people believed in Maharishi the way Ammabots believe in Ammachi.

So then Geoff must be out-and-out lying, right?

I think I'm going to take his word, that of an informed former member, over your obviously Kool-Aid saturated opinion.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jody said...

So then Geoff must be out-and-out lying, right?

I think I'm going to take his word, that of an informed former member, over your obviously Kool-Aid saturated opinion.

............................

That's a little uncalled for Jody. I don't think he is lying but he may have been hanging out with a small subculture of people even more immature than the average TMer I knew. I have not been involved or associated with them for more than a decade. I simply knew lots of other TMers in 20 years and none of us expressed this idea, ever.

Perhaps you have been drinking too much of your own kool aid.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:47 PM, Blogger jody said...

I simply knew lots of other TMers in 20 years and none of us expressed this idea, ever.

Somebody must have a very selective memory. The impression I got from Effect is that most of the folks in Fairfield in the late 70s - early 80s were on the godman tip, which seems eminently believable to me.

Perhaps you have been drinking too much of your own kool aid.

Orange and cherry go great together!

 
At 12/20/2006 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In other words, any practice will produce results. It's not what you believe (or practice),

it's how you believe (or practice) it.


Very well said Jody.

Move your ass and go to gym guys. you will get the same results.

watch some chicks, enjoy monday night football, SNL, hiking, travel, drink beer, go to beach, how about hawaii, watch funniest animals, discovery channel, national geographic, friends, everybody loves raymond, around the world in 24 days, cancun, milan, learn guitar, deal or no deal, go to nfl game, sexy cars, beautiful house, Food channel, Fashion TV, swim across english channel, fear factor, six flags, scooba diving, sky diving, eating, shopping, mt everest, broadway show, lose or win money in vegas, hooker in vegas etc etc etc..

so many good and exciting things to do in life. how can you waste your time and money with some jerk like Sri Sri.

 
At 12/20/2006 2:02 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

In 20 years I never knew anybody who did.


I've known TM people, starting about 20 years ago. Among the 'true believers' (the dedicated core), pretty much ALL of the ones I saw were on a space-daddy trip over the Maharishi. Many of them left TM as their space-daddy trip came to an end, though some of them still practice.

When I hear some of the things you said, the word denial comes to mind.

I simply knew lots of other TMers in 20 years and none of us expressed this idea, ever.

Whom do you expect to say, 'Maharishi is my infallible space-daddy?' The idea of Maharishi's near-infallible god-ness was cultivated, not explicated. One technique of denial is to say 'no-one ever said Maharishi was infallible', 'no-one said he was a god', yada, yada, yada. No-one had to say it, they lived it. That stuff about giving credit to your nervous system or Guru Dev is a red herring. As if that gets him off the hook!

If we define space-daddy/mommy to be a mythologized guru-like figure on an enormous pedestal, only a small fraction of gurus, people like Adi Da explicitly make themselves space-daddies. But don't think that not explicitly claiming your space-daddihood means you aren't a space-daddy.

There are even space-daddies who officially repudiate space-daddihood, while live as space-daddy to thousands.

The Blade's Space-daddy/mommy glossary with examples

Space-daddy explicator:
Makes it pretty clear that he is to be your space-daddy, and if you know what's good for you, you'll be his little chela
Examples: Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, ...


Space-Daddy silent cultivator:
Never claims space-daddihood explicitly, but cultivates it through his organisation
Example: Maharishi...


Space-Daddy repudiator-cultivator:
Explicitly tells you not to make him a space-daddy, then makes himself a space-daddy by cultivating it through his life and organization, just like the silent cultivator.
Example: J. Krishnamurti...


The above show people whom I believe fit decisively into those three categories. Other people skirt the categories, in certain aspects or times behaving as if they belong to one category, then moving into another category in another aspect or time.

Most space-daddies these days (except the extreme explicators) have some element of 'repudiation'. If you are getting into the game, this is important to know because many people think that when they hear a little repudiation of space-daddihood from their space-daddy, that he isn't a space-daddy. Don't be overly impressed when you hear something like 'You mustn't put me up on a pedestal. You must think for yourself'. Or credit being given to your own nervous system or Guru Dev. Think again! Think like a woman thinks when she hears 'I don't go after women for their bodies'.

The lower down they are in those categories, the deeper is the denial of the followers that the person they are following a space-daddy.

 
At 12/20/2006 2:52 PM, Blogger jody said...

many people think that when they hear a little repudiation of space-daddihood from their space-daddy, that he isn't a space-daddy.

Immediately, Swami Nithyananda comes to mind. He's certainly a "Space-Daddy repudiator-cultivator" to my view. Next time Antarananda sends along some of Nithyananda's repudiation, I'll know better.

Great work, David. This may become today's blog entry. Thanks again.

 
At 12/20/2006 3:31 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Thanks Jody. By all means do, I'd be honored. And it's good to get those concepts out.

 
At 12/20/2006 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you guys are making such fuss about SSRS.

As I see it, he has created a new merchandise, as so many entrepreneurs do; and he is trying to maximize his profits as every entrepreneur should do. There is nothing wrong in creating and selling something, which others find useful and are ready to pay for it.

True, he has created an inflated hype around his product. But in this he is not alone. If you naively start believing the advertisements, you might soon conclude that every corporate in the US is there to help americans live better -- profit is only incidental. Same goes true with the hype around AOL. It is a big bad market out there. Sellers cannot be faulted for using innovative marketing tactics. The onus is on the buyer to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I think that those complaining a rip-off by SSRS are actually at fault. They did not do their home work. SSRS has only done what reasonable men are expected to do. Develop a new product; sell it and make profit. This is how america was built. May be his profits are dis-proportionate to his inputs. So what? Market is the only arbiter of what is proportionate or disproportionate reward.

 
At 12/20/2006 4:27 PM, Blogger jody said...

I don't understand why you guys are making such fuss about SSRS.

1. He's selling sea water by the shore.

2. His "NGO" status is a front.

3. He uses peoples' belief in his godman status to his own selfish ends.

 
At 12/20/2006 4:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was responding to one statement by Jody, namely:

"Most of those bozos in Fairfield believed in the Madharishi's divinity like he was Ammachi."

This remains untrue in my experience, since her devotees seem to believe she is actually God in human form. You can say all your space daddy stuff and I won't disagree with it, only that one point.

Sometimes Jody, you and blade seem like frustrated space daddys yourselves, bummed that you never got to pull the wool over the eyes of the mases and get the girls. I'd be willing to bet you are both unmarriable.

 
At 12/20/2006 5:05 PM, Blogger jody said...

Sometimes Jody, you and blade seem like frustrated space daddys yourselves, bummed that you never got to pull the wool over the eyes of the masses and get the girls.

I can't speak for The Blade, but in my case it was only after the wool was pulled off of my eyes that I saw what a clusterfuck of occluding nonsense about self-realization that space-daddies pour into spiritual culture in their efforts to remain "holy" in the eyes of their devotees. I'm straight-up pissed off about it, hence this blog.

I'd be willing to bet you are both unmarriable.

Again, speaking for myself, you are probably right.

 
At 12/20/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Anon said: True, he has created an inflated hype around his product. But in this he is not alone. If you naively start believing the advertisements, you might soon conclude that every corporate in the US is there to help americans live better -- profit is only incidental. Same goes true with the hype around AOL. It is a big bad market out there. Sellers cannot be faulted for using innovative marketing tactics. The onus is on the buyer to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I'll grant you some insight for seeing that SSRS is a profit-motivated scamster. But the rest is rubbish -- what you have written is tamount to saying that there is nothing wrong with a scamster because (1.) Scamsters are not alone (2.) Corporate America is motivated for profit (3.) If someone did happen to be naive enough, they could possibly be deceived into believing that corporate America was a non-profit (4.) It's a big bad world, so scamsters can't be faulted, it's the fault of those who fell for the scams.

Your ethical argument would be convincing to a sociopath though. It would be a good rationalization for deceiving anyone, at any time, in any way.

 
At 12/20/2006 6:09 PM, Blogger Geoff said...

Hi, all. I'm glad that my book is generating some discussion. The question of how people in the TM movement view Maharishi's nature is subtle and fascinating. My book touches the subject very briefly in this quote:

"If the stories are true and he's an incarnation of God..."

When I wrote that, I was thinking specifically of a rumor I heard on the MIU campus in the seventies. It wasn't widespread, and it certainly wasn't official, but it was there.

As far as I know, the movement doesn't say anything specific about Maharishi's role. I did see a quote to the effect that he "speaks for natural law," which might imply that he's some sort of prophet. Movement videos display him as a kind of living icon surrounded by boatloads of flowers and gold ornaments.

If you asked a bunch of movement people for their views you'd probably get a bunch of answers.
It would, however, be clear that most esteem him above all and many hold him in a kind of reverent awe. Furthermore, you often hear stories about him that go beyond the mundane into the realm of the supernatural. (Or whatever you want to call it. My book gives some choice examples.)

I used the "incarnation of God" rumor to briefly summarize all these facts. True, you might not hear those specific words from anybody in the movement. Given the lack of a specific party line, and the inevitable vagueness that follows, I think my summary is fair.

 
At 12/20/2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said that "he(Geoff) may have been hanging out with a small subculture of people even more immature than the average TMer I knew. I have not been involved or associated with them for more than a decade. I simply knew lots of other TMers in 20 years and none of us expressed this idea (that Maharishi is God Incarnate), ever."

I think this is also fair. When you were a student there, I was a grown man with kids to raise and lots of pressures, so we may have had different experiences. That he was and is honored and held in very high esteem by some (not by me) is certain. Why? Because they didn't take his advice to just take his meditation and live. They got bogged down in a silly dramatic trap. That doesn't make him God.

 
At 12/20/2006 9:34 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Anonymous said: Sometimes Jody, you and blade seem like frustrated space daddys yourselves, bummed that you never got to pull the wool over the eyes of the mases and get the girls.

Anonymous, you are right this far: that (in the film-noire cliche at least, however about reality) a good cop has something of a criminal inside him. This doesn't mean that he wants to be a criminal though, or envies criminals, or is a frustrated criminal. He just knows (from inside) what criminals ARE, a bit more than most maybe, and knows that there is a lot of value-added to society in kicking their asses.

But yes, there is something in me that makes me know how those guys are ticking. Which does mean that I probably have some elements that they have. But no, I don't envy them or want to be them. I don't want to pull the wool over the eyes of the masses to get the girls. I much prefer pulling the wool back off, even if there are less girls in it.

I'd be willing to bet you are both unmarriable.

Ha ha ha! Touche! Maybe I'll go out in my trenchcoat alone into the drizzling night, but in he end, I'll get the villain and the girl. And only one girl is needed, while my appetite for villains is insatiable.

 
At 12/21/2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Blade said, "I'll get the villain..."

If you are doing more than just having fun with this role you may be sacro-mythologizing yourself yet again! Women don't care for that. You have been warned!

 
At 12/21/2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous durga said...

anon said: "Women don't care for that. You have been warned!"

Whoa, sounds like the oracle of Delphi is making an appearance on this site.
I kind of like Blade.

 
At 12/22/2006 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't seem to like him when he was slapping you around in a very condescending manner. But maybe you're a different kind of woman than I am.

Truthfully, I was just playing with the Blade a little. I think theBlade can take it. It does seem obvious that the Blade has sacro-mythologized himself too many times in the past and needs a good woman to either take over that role or help him be satisfied just being a regular guy.

 
At 12/22/2006 8:31 AM, Anonymous durga said...

anon said: You didn't seem to like him when he was slapping you around in a very condescending manner.

I think you're mistaking that for an anony. I don't recall that blade was slapping me around. He actually said some helpful things.
I usually call them on it when I feel I have been treated in a condescending manner, as you might have noticed.

 
At 12/22/2006 9:16 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

...needs a good woman to either take over that role or help him be satisfied just being a regular guy.

..................

This sounds like betty on prozac. Whether theBlade self sacro-mythologizes hisself is not in doubt, just whether he follows the right or the left handed path. Either way that act alone makes him a "regular guy".

 
At 12/22/2006 10:41 AM, Anonymous betty said...

durga said...

I think you're mistaking that for an anony. I don't recall that blade was slapping me around.

..............

No, if you check back you'll find it was the Blade. You even had chuck taking up for you. This may be why you have so much trouble with your boyfriends, you can't tell friend from foe.

 
At 12/22/2006 4:02 PM, Anonymous durga said...

betty said: This may be why you have so much trouble with your boyfriends, you can't tell friend from foe.

Thank you, betty, for your incisive comment on my "boy friends". Maybe you should start an advice column based on the little tid bits of personal info you can glean from this blog. Would make an exciting read.

 
At 12/22/2006 4:11 PM, Anonymous durga said...

Betty, blade gave his apology: "Please pardon me ma'am (sincerely), I will be more considerate and gentlemanly in the future. It's possible that your chosen handle, and my image of 'Durga', affected things! :)"

I accepted the apology and forgot about the incident. thank you for reminding me.

 
At 12/22/2006 4:24 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

No, if you check back you'll find it was the Blade. You even had chuck taking up for you.

Durga is aware of our recent discussion, and there was no slapping her coming from me, although Chuck did use the word, in jest/exaggeration.

Betty, we are not much for slapping and biting here in general. Might I suggest adultfriendfinder.com because it can be helpful for people who can't find what they want in this area. Female-on-female too can be found, whatever is your fancy.

 
At 12/26/2006 12:19 PM, Anonymous betty said...

You can both bite me!

 
At 1/02/2007 9:10 AM, Blogger Liberated Fred said...

I was in the TMO for many decades and have lived in Fairfield. What Geoff says is correct regarding MMY's "divine " status. There is no official position, but there is an always present implicit sense of his unfailing cosmic status with many people. But there is also the opposite. Tremendous range in peoples beliefs about MMY.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home