How The Art Of Living Slithers Into Your Life
File under: Gurubusting, Satscams and The Siddhi of PR
Our man who forwarded the resignation letter he sent to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living staff delves further into the process of their mind control. This is Cult Indoctrination 101, folks. These same practices and techniques have been employed by almost every destructive cult that has defiled the name of spirituality:
While it is true that AoL does not force its members to stay, it uses control in a more subtle way. Subtle control is a much more effective technique than an outright dictatorial approach and it allows for capturing a much larger human base over an extended period of time. It also is a way to maintain a respectable public face.The Art of Living indoctrination sneaks up on you like a snake in the grass, and before you know it, you are envenomated with their Kool-Aid and stuck with a preening poseur for a guru who seeks nothing more than your mindless adulation and dollars to support his rich and prosperous first-class lifestyle, all while he claims to be helping the poor and less fortunate. Compared to that high-living pig, we are all poor and less fortunate. Let's pray that the fortunes of some of his victims allow them to escape the evil grasp of this cult before their bank accounts are depleted and their friends scattered to the winds.
How does AoL do it? The approach has many aspects but at its most basic it involves setting a standard for goodness/purity/wisdom/power and convincing you that you do not live up to this standard, while placing itself as the means through which you could get to meet the standard. The standard itself is personified in the image of the guru. The way for you to achieve the standard is to totally surrender to the guru, while making it clear that anything you do not wish to surrender represents an attachment which prevents you from achieving the aforementioned standard. This is all placed in the generally positive sounding framework of personal advancement and humanitarian work, which attracts people who generally have in inherent desire to be better and are curious to learn the secrets of Creation. It is a very subtle system of suggestion and reinforcement in which most of the work of convincing is done by the participant. Since the standard is mostly unlivable, there is in effect constant justification for doing more and more training with the guru at a higher and higher cost. Part of the positive reinforcement is based on how well you are able to recruit for the organization, recruiting of course being cast in much more engaging terms, such as sharing the wonderful knowledge with people, inviting people to our beautiful path, educating the ignorant and transforming the world into a much better place.
People who leave AoL are not viewed as strong from within AoL. If one left after taking a couple of introductory courses, they were never strong enough. If one left the way I left, after a longer involvement and having become a teacher, then one went off their center and is, by default, not strong enough as well. While the stated goals of many AoL programs is to make people "stronger", what is meant by that is to make people more devout volunteers and recruiters for AoL. Barriers are supposedly removed in courses so that the people whose barriers were removed become more efficient at helping advance AoL itself. For example, if you were a shy person who felt uncomfortable talking to people, you get to proselytize for AoL in the streets and overcome that limitation. One of the requirements for advancement in AoL is the ability to recruit (bring to courses) many people. The other criteria are devotion to SSRS, regular sadhana and a drug-, alcohol-, tobacco-, and meat-free diet.
Leaving AoL is not encouraged. Attrition is one of the biggest internal problems for the organization and special efforts are made to retain people. It is interesting that there is no graduation from AoL. Even the most senior devotees, who have been with SSRS for 25+ years, are still there waiting for guidance from him. I find this very telling as to the ability of AoL to create liberated beings. [Ed.note: Liberation? What liberation? There is NO liberation from AoL, except the liberation of money from your bank account.]
I am not surprised at all [some] don't view AoL as a cult based on [their] limited experience of [just] two courses. AoL uses progressive indoctrination and does not ask for big commitments from you upfront. The purpose is to not scare people away. Many times in a basic course you won't even see a picture of SSRS or may not even have him mentioned. You get some pleasant experiences, you may even get some eye-opening realizations (really, common sense ones, which we tend to forget in a stressful daily life). But once hooked on the path, the commitments you are asked to make will increase and you will gradually get exposed to the inside view of things, whereas the responsibility you were encouraged to take for yourself in the basic course is replaced with surrender to SSRS, who is now depicted as the biggest incarnation of the Divine that ever was, you will get to hear the so called "guru stories", which are not for everyone to know and which perpetuate the myth of his miraculous powers, you will be convinced how the effect of SSRS's 80 or so years in this incarnation will be felt for the next 5000 years, and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you will find yourself basing your identity on your association with AoL, finding it hard to relate to other people, who you and your fellow devotees now view with benign superiority, and making SSRS the ultimate source of every experience you have in your life (for which you keep the guru dakshina flowing, thank you very much).