Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sri Sri's NGO Dojo A No Go

File under: Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

Authentic world peace-workers are finally getting wise to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's flimflamming:
I am back from Ravi Shankar’s Sangam 2008 within a few hours of its inauguration. It was supposed to be an “all-India NGO summit for protection of environment and access to social justice.” In reality, this was one of the cleverest hoaxes perpetrated in the name of a spiritual movement using the facade of NGOs.

We should keep away from this “spiritual” person. His is a commercial ashram doling out psychological products specially for some foreigners and middle-class women who have studied in English medium schools. Many are working there as volunteers. It was impressive to see how so many could be motivated to give their services free of cost to produce profit for an institution. This requires genius of the highest order.

I even met a professor from IIT Bombay who is a volunteer there. When I expressed my disappointment with the whole show, she was very “sympathetic” and assured me that she too felt the same way at first, and later thanks to “guruji” she could see the light.

Uniformly every volunteer to whom I complained about the NGOs being taken for a ride, responded in the same manner as though all of them were robots programmed by some unknown force. The whole campus is filled with security people. Going from one place to another place was like going from one section of a jail to another where every gate is protected by a security guard.

After charging Rs 5,000 as a delegation fee, Art Of Living was providing us a room to be shared with two others, and with no towels, soap, drinking water, etc. The food was sub-standard. We were expected to wash dishes after eating.

We did not go there as his disciples. I do not think delegates were taking part to learn about self-help as his disciples may be expected to do. I refused to wash dishes which was not liked by some. This is not because I dislike it. I have done it often. But I did not pay Rs 5,000 to do that. Moreover on the website, I was offered better lodging and food facilities.

What a wonderful way of advertising his product by charging us!

Companies pay money to advertise their products, but here Ravi Shankar collects money from us and introduces us to his product.

There were satsanghs, “free” introductory yoga classes, visit to his first abode, etc. I am sure some NGOs would have decided to buy his products and will act as his emissaries. Of course, there will be a few like me who will attempt to do just the opposite. There were spies in the ashram observing people like me. It was obvious and at one time I was even frightened.

During an evening satsangh, there were some planted questions put to Ravi Shankar. Still, his responses were pedestrian at best. One of the questions was about the new burning topic of global warming and climate change and what he (Ravi Shankar) thought about them.

At first, he ridiculed those who are worried about such things and proceeded to give the example of the Y2K phenomenon. Ravi Shankar dwelt on how foolishly people worried about Y2K, about places exploding, about the world coming to an end, etc and how nothing of the kind took place. He was suggesting that Y2K was not a problem and so also global warming. Little did he take into consideration the elaborate precautions taken by the world to prepare for Y2K and how India became the world capital for IT and outsourcing as a result.

What a pity such an ignoramus is considered as a “guruji” even by the firebrand Vandana Shiva.

Someone asked the question about the unrest and violence in Kashmir and his response was to pat the questioner and to state that youth should get involved.

After spending less than 24 hours, I decided to leave the place. The cult-like environment was suffocating. Some other delegates from Mangalore with whom I have been conversing also decided to leave after the inauguration. One of the speakers Ananth Nadkarni, vice president, Tata council for community initiatives, too decided to leave early. Another speaker who was to talk on HIV left even before the end of the first day.

But for Vandana Shiva, none of the advertised experts and well-known speakers (R.K. Pachauri, Ashok Khsola, et al) were present. Is it possible that their names were prominently placed to sell the Sangam?

We were told that about 500 delegates had registered and there were three silver sponsors. They must have raised at least Rs 30 lakh and the incremental cost would be no more than Rs. 3 lakh. This is an excellent and clever way of making huge profits. Business colleges should use this as a case study. We should admire the entrepreneurial capabilities of Ravi Shankar. It needs genius.

Despite being a keynote speaker, Vandana Shiva spoke for just few minutes and that too in a rambling manner. She took the opportunity to bash Tata’s small car, the Nano. Her so-called keynote speech was dull and did not dwell on the main subject. A high school student could have delivered a better speech with greater insight.

A High Court judge also gave an uninspiring talk making no substantive points except offering “pranams” to “guruji“. What a joke!

I attended the first workshop and it was also equally boring. Speakers were more interested in offering pranams than dwelling on the subject.

I do not think we can collaborate with this group. When they were pressing us to register all the time, and not giving us any suggestions on how we could collaborate, I knew this was a commercial establishment and not a spiritual centre as is advertised. Perhaps we should write an article on how NGOs should guard against such frauds in the future.

I am sure during your meeting with Ravi Shankar and his people, you would have come to the same conclusion. Let us now revert back to the poverty issue and stop any idea of collaborating with Ravi Shankar.

I am planning to demand the return of payment since facts were misrepresented to me while registering. I am exploring the possibility of filing a case in the consumers’ forum.
Big ups to the reader who alerted us to what amounts to be very revealing, but not at all surprising, evidence of Sri Sri's latest scheming. What is continuously surprising to us is how people can mistake the Art of Living org and its power, money and fame-lusting founder for anything other than the massive Kool-Aid distribution plot it so obviously is.

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17 Comments:

At 4/06/2008 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody writes:

" What is continuously surprising to us is how people can mistake the Art of Living org and its power, money and fame-lusting founder for anything other than the massive Kool-Aid distribution plot it so obviously is".

Most Indians are idiots . Supine idiots , period. They are so besotted with names and designations like IIT, IIM yadayada. So they reason "...if an IITian or a corporate bigwig endorses srisri, he must be above board..."

I had mentioned earlier, when I spoke about his mafia style credentials and his lynch mob, so called " mature & wise " people silenced me telling " in the name of national interest you should keep quiet".

In Middle East his aol makes a hell of a lot of money by ensnaring school children promising them " better scores and heightened creative power ".

By and large hindus are lamentably clueless about Vedanta. They want to cling on to what you rightly diagnosed " space daddy ".

 
At 4/06/2008 5:26 AM, Blogger yomamma said...

I've read this before, didn't you already run this? maybe it's something i talked about here. Well no matter, it shows condescension and hubris doesn't it?
but at any rate it's bad business, to not realize how to treat the premium paying customers, you don't treat them like staff or regular rubes. SSRS is assuming the Kool-Aid appeals to everyone outright. it seems a bit odd to me because i think above all SSRS is into money and power, so you wouldn't think he would be such a cheapskate bonehead.

 
At 4/06/2008 9:14 AM, Blogger stillsearching said...

"After charging Rs 5,000 as a delegation fee, Art Of Living was providing us a room to be shared with two others, and with no towels, soap, drinking water, etc. The food was sub-standard. We were expected to wash dishes after eating." Typical. I hope you do file suit and you definitely are due a full refund.

There are so many more paths to take. And many more gurus that are genuine. They're the ones you don't hear about.

 
At 4/06/2008 3:24 PM, Anonymous taodancing said...

Suggestions for those who are scammed by this scumbag godman: Demand a refund for your fees. If you or your organization had paid with a credit card, ask the card company to help get a refund. Make a stink about it even if you don't care for the money. SSRS would hate this kind publicity.

Expose him. Call the IRS to look into their non-profit status.

Tell other NGO's about the SSRS and AoL.

 
At 4/07/2008 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following is another victim's report:

"....I wish I had read your Web site, long before my fiancé and I were lured into registering for the Part 1 course of the Art of Living Foundation. We walked out on the last day of the course because we couldn’t stand it any longer. I couldn’t have written or explained the experience better myself. You have beautifully verbalized your opinion of the Art of Living Foundation.

I have lost my money permanently, and I am also, without permission, included as a statistic in the set of AOL “followers” of 20 million or so now, even though I strongly oppose the organization. I have to believe that are many others like me. Only about 30% of the Part 1 course was about breathing and the remainder was ear-splitting, fear-psychosis propaganda (for example, “A question is a hook that tears the brain”, and “Questioning SSRS’s principles and teachings can prove costly”), illogical analogies and anecdotes, and disguised pressure to encourage more people (friends and family) to give their credit card numbers to sign up for the course.

It is a totally for-profit, commercial, very well-marketed product and organization. I do see some token projects here and there in poor and tribal areas of India and around the world, the expenditure on such projects is negligible compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the organization earns from a single “US tour” of a “specialist teacher” from India. I have not seen any document showing or even referring to exactly how much money the organization is really spending on building schools or hospitals for the disadvantaged, other charitable projects. Since the organization is so fond of shouting out the numbers of their followers and so fond of promoting themselves as a philanthropic organization, why not reveal how much they are actually spending on these philanthropic and charitable projects? Wouldn’t that make them more credible? Almost everyone that “works” for the organization does so on a voluntary basis. Almost every piece of land that the organization builds something on, is donated by the government or a wealthy but gullible member of the AOLF. So where is all the money that is collected from their members really going to? What is being done with the profits?

During several of our Part 1 propaganda sessions, we were told we would be the “privileged few” whose place would be reserved for the “coveted” Part 2 course, if we signed up right now. The whole six day course looked like a live version of one of those late night paid commercials that we were participating in and listening to. People from the class were picked on, randomly, to come up to the front and dance and sing, “so that all inhibitions would be vaporized and self-confidence would be developed”.

“Jai Gurudev” had to be the greeting instead of “good morning” or “good afternoon”. I cannot think of a better way to humiliate and control masses of gullible people than to make them do what is being commanded of them to do in front of uncontrollably laughing people. What upsets me more than my loss of money, is the sheer number of followers this organization has. When you can control a small class to dance on command, you can use that power to control the entire 20 million. SSRS is gaining popularity around the world, like never before and he loves to paste pictures of himself shaking hands with world leaders, on his Web site. “Wow, if he is shaking hands with world leaders, he must be good”.

He certainly falls in the “useful” category. Who is stopping all this madness?

Regards.
SG "


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

 
At 4/07/2008 11:57 AM, Anonymous taodancing said...

To the Anon who wrote "another victim's report"

Please fight for your refund if this happened recently. Your credit card company may be able to help. Most have purchase warranties.

Another site to post your experience is http://www.ripoffreport.com/

Don't be a victim. Fight back!

 
At 4/07/2008 4:19 PM, Blogger yomamma said...

Who is stopping all this madness?

Well if people would simply stop looking at spirituality as another consumer pursuit maybe that would be a start. or simply see it for that, except when you buy a Cadillac at least you get a Cadillac . Enlightenment is such an amorphous term, you could build any number of businesses around the getting of it and they would all probably make money. I've been watching this scene for years and I think it is becoming an ever more sophisticated scam. As always it's very important for people to pretend it isn't business and narcissism that fuels all this crap, that it takes no effort, all those bank accounts, those rock hard abs , the lovely long locked yoginis, the page after glossy page of products,workshps, hot bods, bemused wise menetc. It all comes from Guru's grace! You surrender all your earthly attachments to Guru and then you run around blathering about it for the rest of your life , so you can make a living! That is Whack!!!

 
At 4/08/2008 6:03 AM, Blogger Duke said...

Peace be with the moderator, as well as those able to read this message.(if not censored)
The time has come, the harvest is ripe.

The Faithful Witness

 
At 4/08/2008 2:55 PM, Anonymous Betty said...

Duke, your religious perspective is no worse and no better than the ideas and beliefs of the people here. It is simply what you feel and choose to believe. Putting all your faith into the basket of it being the end of the world will lead, if you are honest with yourself, to a similar disillusionment that many guru followers come to when they realize their teachers have feet of clay. Your religious beliefs also have feet of clay because they are mind born and mind based. If you are honest with yourself you will also be left flat by these beliefs of yours. Enjoy the exhileration of believing you know "where it's all at" for as long as it lasts. The earth will go on...

 
At 4/10/2008 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another whistleblower's report:

" Bhamy I really admire your guts and spirit for not giving up on your fight. Most people in India have been numbed by these spiritual conmen like Ravishankar. As you mentioned there is no news or any intelligent conclusion or minutes of the summit which is available.
I was involved in this organization in the early and mid 90s when it was still small and had not grown into the full blown cult that it is now. But all the cultish prpoganda mechanism and publicity stunts were right in place even then. Ravishankar had learnt a lot from his guru Maharishi Mahesh yogi on organising events and mobilizing funds. Mahesh Yogi was also the crazy guy who taught yogic flying. Esentially you can sell anything in this mad spiritual business market and there are enough gulliable people who will buy.

I was also instrumental in strating up some of the social welfare and development activities of art of living and one of the first teachers of AOL to teach in Bangalore central jail. However these social welfare activities are a big mask and the intention of this organization is the self aggrandizement of the Guru and his cult. Most of these social movements and adoption of villages are big publicity stunts. I know it first hand. I left this movement when I realized their sham social welfare schemes were used to recirculate money from alternate sources ( black money) into personal assests for Ravishankar, his family and associates and all the while doing some token social work. Incidentally Ravishankar’s immediate family (Sister, Brotherin law, father - pitaji and others) are the main members of the AOL trust.

It is another matter about the law suits and land grabbing the ashram did and encroached on the Green belt sorrounding bangalore. There was a law suit in Karnataka High court on this which Ravishankar’s sister Bhanu and another teacher (now he has left AOL) used to attend court for almost two years. Finally they won and went through an out of court settlement.
Take even the example of the village adjacent to the ashram - Udipalya. There is no development work done in this village except that their land has been encroached by the ashram. The land this village used to use for Grazing their cattle in the late 80s is now no longer available. Now you find hotels, restraunts and STD booths opposite the ashram all owned, controlled by aol devotees and of no benefit to the villagers. All the people who own and control these establishments are not locals from udipalya.
It is difficult to fight a mighty powerful and vicious organization like art of living cult. Although it is a losing battle, I commend Bhamy Shenoy for atleast taking up this issue.
Finally I remmember a scene from the movie Anubhava, when the progressiveyouths counter the hero and conman ananth nag about the creation of a fake temple, he replies that “If you have 10 people on your side I can get 1000 on my side’. Ultimately it is herd instinct, irrationality and zombies who truimp especially in such a superstitious country like ours ".

http://churumuri.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/the-the-great-great-sri-sri-ngo-ngo-scam-scam/

 
At 4/15/2008 7:09 PM, Blogger Sedusa said...

this is a huge, stinky, wet piece of shit. I'm sad for humanity and I almost think they deserve to be slaves to this kind of totalitarian eogmania if they can so easily fall for getting bent over and used like this.

 
At 4/19/2008 2:43 PM, Anonymous taodancing said...

To anyone who has been scam or misleand by AoL:

Jody is doing a wonderful service making this site available. Thank you, Jody.

Some other sites to post or send your stories are rediff.com and
http://www.tehelka.com/

Tehelka would probably do some investigation of their own and expose more of the scams.

There is no business like the guru business!!

What other business you can get so many slavish volusnteers organizing, recruiting and teaching for nothing while charging big bucks for the scam programs.

 
At 5/19/2008 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you srisri desperated for being nominated for a Noble Peace prize?
how can i check if you certainly were nominated 4 times?
because....

Every year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sends out thousands of letters inviting qualified people to submit their nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The names of the nominees and other information about the nominations cannot be revealed until 50 years later.

oh , so convenient!!!

 
At 11/09/2008 5:05 PM, Anonymous Shivom said...

I have read many of the comments above and I would like to add my views
A year ago, I attended one of Art of Living’s courses on a friend’s advice. I am a Medical Doctor working in Florida and was a little bit skeptical about all these breathing exercises and stuff. However, since I have done them I have found them very helpful in improving my health and general well being. I can correlate the effects of breathing exercises and meditation with health improvement owing to their stress reducing effects. In medicine, it is an established fact that excess levels of stress hormone cortisol can lead to various long term health implications.
I paid $400 for the 20 hour course. Initially I felt it was a bit pricy but still I don’t agree with anyone’s objection to it. They teach you and charge a fee for it, a fee which they have the right to decide. If you don’t want to pay, don’t go.
You go on your own free will knowing and paying the fee they ask. Then if, they spend the money on charity or their organization or even themselves it is upon them. I don’t have any problem with it, and why should anybody have? The course was good and techniques useful; I got what I paid for. What’s the problem?

 
At 11/11/2008 4:14 PM, Blogger jody said...

What’s the problem?

The problem is that at a certain level of initiation into the cult, which is where they want to herd you if they think they can get you there, you are expected to believe Sri Sri is God and that he performs miracles.

 
At 11/13/2009 6:41 AM, Blogger vedang said...

Ok so you all are very intelligent people.Even Lord Krishna said belive in me and I shall protect you.Also he said to sacrifice for him and do everything thinking of him.So he is not good.Sri Sri Ravishankankar is doing only good to poeple and this you will realise but at taht time you will be marking that you are really late and you ahve done nothing good to the society.Also one mroe thing to note, see if any poeple have wrote here on the side of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
/ No because we are taught to forgive people and you all here are doing no good to society but spending hours and finding bad things and when you do not get you tyope things with no evidiences. You all poeple do the courses of art of living amnd see teh change and if at all you do not want to do then see the seva projects and then you will understand what this all is.If Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was not a good man then why would all poeple such as Presidents from all over the world call him to give lectures for peace and TEACH SUDARSHAN KRIYA AND ALL.yOU ALL ARE SIMPLY WASTING TIME AND JUST SEE WHAT good he is going to do to this earth and then you all will really regret on what bad you spoke about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. JAI GURUDEV

 
At 11/13/2009 6:42 AM, Blogger vedang said...

Jai Gurudev

 

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