Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Art of Living's Art Of Lying?

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Like a dog that keeps coming back to the same dirty, old bone, we find ourselves irresistably attracted to the task of debunking Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Fortunately, folks much more informed than us are gracing the blog at the moment:
Apart from the elementary school in the Bangalore Ashram campus, there is nothing that is provided free to poor and destitute children in India or anywhere else. Bangalore school gives education to about 250 students and if all the money collected by AoL was spent on these children, they would have been millionaires by now!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not claiming that AoL does not spend anything on philanthropic activities. It does. My point is that the amount collected by AoL to be (supposedly) spent on its charitable activities is egregiously disproportionate to actual charity work done by it. In any case, if they did not spend anything on charity, it would be difficult for them to extract money in the name of charity. So, they do have a share of token charity activities, which are hyped by their PR managers to attract more gullible people and more money.

The second thing about the organization is lack of transparency about their finances. If you have spent few years in AoL, you would remember ‘a dollar a day’ scheme floated circa year 2000. This was supposedly to build a fund to support underprivileged children in India. Do you still hear about this? This scheme vanished all of a sudden. No one knows what happened to the money collected in its name. My AoL teacher told me that the money was spent on other philanthropic activities such as tsunami relief etc. Is it not unethical? If the money was collected in the name of helping poor children, how can it be spent on any other cause (even if the other cause was also worthy)? May be I wanted to help poor children but I don’t want to contribute to tsunami victims. How can AoL take me for granted?

AoL has cultivated such powerful connections in media, that no one is willing to cross them. (Owner of “Times of India”, Sandhya Jain is an AoL devotee). Combine it with average Hindu’s reluctance to speak ill of any holy (?) man for fear of inviting sin, and you have the perfect recipe for AoL phenomenon.
Until the books are examined by an independent accounting firm, AoL's "charity" activities are little more than a black box, and seemingly likely to be nothing more than a case of bait-and-switch labeling.

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