Guruphiliac: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kreepalu Protegé Out On Bail

File under: Gurubusting, Gurus Doin' Time and Hands Where They Don't Belong

Just like his naughty guru, Kreepalu, Prakashanand Saraswati got out on bail after being indicted for sex crimes. And just as we predicted, the Kool-Aid Brigade is trying to cast it as a case of Western anti-Hindu sentiment run amok:
In the past too, some Indian spiritual and religious gurus preaching in the West, like Swami Rama, have been accused of sexual misconduct with their devotees. The response of their organisations usually is that the allegations stem from an attempt by vested interests to malign the gurus and Hinduism in general.
Accuse the accuser, the oldest defense in the book. It's worked for the JKP the last two times a guru of theirs got busted for being a pervert. Here's hoping they don't get to make it three for three.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Love Guru To Bruise Hindus

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Falling right into their hands like little kids playing marbles with the big kids, overly-sensitive Hindu leaders are providing millions of dollars worth of promotion for the Paramount Studios summer blockbuster, Mike Myer's The Love Guru:
"If the trailer is an indicator of the content of the movie...then we feel that this movie is most likely to hurt the sentiments of seekers from various spiritual will hurt the religious sentiments of the millions of Hindus worldwide, who hold the 'Guru-disciple' relationship as sacred...we are supporting Rajan Zed's protest against the denigration...", Shinde stressed in this communiqué and added, "Poking fun is one thing, but if it creates a sense of belittling other's faith, then it is wrong."
And every "communiqué" like this will just drop more money into the producers' bank account. Like it or not, The Love Guru is coming soon to a theatre near you. We predict a huge increase in interest in the Hindu faith after this, and of gurus in particular. Some of the big-time satsangs may even see a Love Guru effect in increased attendance, and all despite the efforts of a bunch of kill-joys who have been riding on the waaaaaaaaaaahmbulance over it the last few months.


Monday, April 28, 2008

The Anonymous Saint

File under: Final Samadhi and Real True Gurus

She apparently was the real thing, that combination of spiritual understanding and compassion that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar so skillfully emulates in the masquerade of his false sainthood:
Pushpa Anand, a Hindu guru and social activist who worked ceaselessly for the health of Indian villagers and the empowerment of women, has died. She was 83.

None of the hundreds of thousands of people who benefited from her charitable work knew her name. Nor, indeed, did many of her disciples. She was known simply as Ma, whose dedication to the poor, especially women, inspired followers from around the world.

From the age of 34, she dedicated herself to several years of intense religious study and spiritual practice, and thereafter became known as Param Pujya (Her Holiness). But she always preferred Ma.
While the false saint Sri Sri spends millions upon millions celebrating himself, a real saint like Ma would have plowed that money right back into charity. Think about that the next time you attend another AoL birthday celebration.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rushkoff On Gurudom

File under: Gurubusting and Notable Quotes

One of the ways the Mother has blessed us is to put us into orbit with some exceptional bodies of influence. Doug Rushkoff is one of these. He's the cultural critic we've always wanted to be, if we'd written over 10 well-received books and lectured all over the world about them. A few years ago he offered his comments about gurus in Arthur, worth repeating today:
The path of devotion offered by gurus is also a natural fit for those of us who are fed up with the relativistic haze of a world where there are no discernible rules, yet equally disillusioned by institutional religions that appear to have sold out to American consumerism. The guru offers absolutism. Certainty. A point of focus.

As one slick guru, chronicled on Guruphiliac explains on his website: “When you meet a master, you have two choices. Transform or walk away. You cannot be in his presence and remain the same.” Uh, yeah. In other words, conform to his reality or scram.

The guru is the starting place from which all other decisions are to be made. You start with the guru as the one perfect point in the universe, and from there everything else can fall into place. If the guru has instructed you to eat a certain food or do a certain practice, then – according to the logic of gurudom - everything else you have to do for this to happen is part of the perfection. Slowly but surely, surrender to the guru requires you to reject pretty much everything that doesn’t fit whatever model of the world he’s offering you.

But, honestly, that’s what the devotee was after in the first place. An excuse to do or not do all that other confusing stuff in life like encounter people with different ideas, wrestle with the questions of existence, and accept that nobody really knows what happens when we die.

Most of us who have had gurus eventually see something awful – like sexual exploitation, financial abuse, or faked magic – that turns us off. (If we see the guru as perfect, then those blowjobs and false claims get justified: perhaps the guru is testing us, or breaking our hang-ups, At least for a while.) Or we decide that this guy is just too much of an asshole to really be enlightened. Or we simply tire of the idea that “enlightenment” is around the corner, and decide that life is just fine without enlightenment. And getting to that point is a beautiful thing in itself. If an experience with a guru really teaches one the futility of aspirational spiritual quests, then it can even be worth the time, money, and humiliation.

The biggest spiritual victim in the equation is the guru, himself. He’s just a person, after all, who probably had a profound spiritual or psychedelic experience and began to speak or write about it romantically. Charismatically. And this invites admirers and would-be devotees. The guru-in-waiting may not even mean to attract this sort of attention – at least not at the beginning. It’s just the kind of positive reinforcement that naturally comes to a person who speaks passionately about something.
Thus is described the beginning of the end for almost every big-time guru who has ever seen his/her sense of self inflated to the size of a football field. It's that constant supply of positive reinforcement – being blindingly mirrored by hapless devotees convinced you are God – that hooks you to the buzz like it was the purest heroin. Big-time gurus are addicted to your adulation, making you as complicit in their addiction as they are in yours.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shadow of the Guru Coming Soon!

File under: Gurubusting, Hands Where They Don't Belong, Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

Joan Radha Bridges, a prominent ex-SYDA devotee who was diddled by Baba Muktananada, has just released a trailer for her film, Shadow of the Guru:

As welcome as we might find this material personally, we're not sure many folks other than the anti-cult histrionics set is going to pay for it. Hopefully Ms. Bridges will see the importance of getting this work out to as many individuals as possible without having the same profit motive as some of the folks she's examining.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Going On The Wall

File under: Notable Quotes

Fifi, a member of several "tribes" we subscribe to on, talking about Eckhart Tolle's nondual spirituality:
The problem with dressing substance up in tinsel is that people will just throw the substance in the trash and adorn themselves with the tinsel.


The New Moon Rises

File under: Gurubusting, The Siddhi of PR and Wackadoo Gurus

All hail the prince of America, the Reverend Hyung Jin Moon, who has risen to take his place as the new messiah, seeing as his dad just doesn't have what it takes, despite the fact millions actually believe he does – first and foremost – his loony-tunes self:
"I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfil his duty as the successor of the True Parents," the 88-year-old founder said at an inauguration ceremony in Gapyeong, 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Seoul, the FFWPU website said. The True Parents refer to the founder and his wife.
Yep, still crazy as an arctic loon in Tijuana.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Murderous Monks Kill For Right To Bless

File under: Gurubusting and Gurus Doin' Time

A Calcutta ashram exploded in violence after ambitious monks killed one of their own for her diksha franchise with the org:
While the police remained mum on the reason behind the rift in the Mandali, devotees told Metro that the root of the conflict was the right to give diksha.

“Mamoni had the sole right to give diksha and these four men had challenged her right… We have learnt that some of them were surreptitiously giving diksha and collecting money from devotees,” said a Gurudham old-timer.
Greed scores a touchdown in Gurudom.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

A TM™ Story

Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

Longtime and now ex-TM™er Bronte Baxter and her new blog, "Splinter in the Mind," give us a window into the history of the TM™ movement and how the Maharishi had to continually adjust his teachings in the face of the constant stream of missed milestones he so hastily and grandiosely set up for himself:
But something happened on the way to paradise. Slowly and subtly, the tone of the guru’s teachings changed. What used to be 20 minutes twice a day became hour-long, then 90-minute, meditations. The mantras were reshaped into “advanced techniques,” and chanting and Vedic readings (hymns to the gods) began. In a bold move, Maharishi began teaching courses in TM-Siddhis, a slew of paranormal abilities which he said humans could develop. Turning invisible was one of the siddhis; levitation was another.
That's somewhat reminisent of the tactics of Sri Sri Ravi Shakar, a former devotee of the Maharishi who seeks to replace him as new guru to the widowed TM™ community. An Art of Living retreat attendee relates:
Do you know that I was actually emailed twice as a reminder to attend a follow up 'breathing' session for tonight. I found that very suspicious - I just spent 4 days breathing - do they think I forgot the technique that quickly?!
Extend ignorance, improve sales. The Maharishi pioneered it, and now Sri Sri has borrowed the business model.

Thanks to Bronte for sharing her story. It's already a classic in the burgeoning annals of ex-TM™er testimonials.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Byron Katie Poisoned By Success?

File under: Gurubusting and Gurus Clockin' Dollars

Seemingly from the inside, folks are beginning to lament the effect her success is having on Byron Katie:
Someone I know who was recently at the "Certification" workshop told me that one of the workshop participants did a "worksheet", that's one of tools of The Work, on Katie asking her to stop talking about all the money that the TurnAround Houses will be making. He also challenged her to stop being fake and having a different public and private persona and actually live what she is telling others to do.

It's hard to accept that Katie has lost her way because it appears that she once was genuine, sincere, and honest. Now it seems she has become fanatical about the agenda of bringing The Work to the world. And in her zealousness she is using her own process of The Work to justify doing whatever she wants to do. She is incredibly skilled at acting kind and caring and she shifts to a very different person once off the stage and out of The Work process.

If you watch Katie in an interview she constantly has to refer back to The Work. In her mind every situation can be handled by doing The Work. As I watch her I see a woman who needs The Work instantly to deal with any confusion or discomfort. It is her only answer to everything.

Katie has a charismatic personality and she has gathered a flock of followers to spread The Work. It's free, but there is a catch. You will be encouraged to go to an event or use a facilitator and it will far from free.

Yes, there is a free hotline which is staffed a few hours a day. But beware, the people who are answering the phone aren't particularly comfortable about what they are in, which is usually way over their heads, and all they will do with your despair is tell you to write down your thoughts and ask yourself some questions. And if you stray from that exact process, in their discomfort with your actual life, they will tell you to stop and stick to it.

If it feels abrupt and discounting and strangely artificial believe in yourself because the person on the other end of the phone is mostly likely scared as hell and doesn't have a clue how to help you other than to say "Do The Work" like parrot.

If you can find a person who hasn't been infected with the BKI Persona virus and has a shred of genuineness left in them, then have them do The Work with you. Meditative inquiry has value at certain times used in certain ways. At other times and used in the wrong way it can get you more lost and further away from the truth of you.

As difficult as it may be if you are in pain and looking for help, trust yourself. There are a lot of confused people in BKI and there is a lot of interest in getting you to give them some of your money. If you feel you are being manipulated stop. Many of the people in BKI want to be helpful and many "believe" they are being helpful. But they are actually very controlling and fearful and they are using this method to mask their anxiety.

There isn't much genuine freedom or joy in BKI, it is on the fast track to becoming a group of burned out believers following a charismatic leader who has become a fanatic and blind to the wrong turn (around) she has taken.

Katie, just stop. Stop the bullshit you are in. Stop acting as though you aren't in this for the money. Stop acting as though The Work is working. Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you. See what is, Katie. Most of the people around you are faking it.

Katie, there is always the opportunity for you to stop this and return to the truth you were once living. Go back to the desert and walk with yourself in quiet. Stop this insanity you have gotten into.

Ask yourself if the world really needs you to end it's suffering or if you really are using the world to distract yourself. The Work is losing it's power because you are losing your way.
Byron Katie is a long way from the conniving type like Sri Sri or the Kracki, but being human comes with faults, and acting like you don't have them only makes them that much more apparent. There is no cure for suffering, Bryon. You can help folks through their lives a bit, but as soon as you begin to believe your own hype, you're doomed as a true guru.

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File under: Gurus Clockin' Dollars, Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

Scientology has their Clearwater, Florida, headquarters, so the Art of Living – the Scientology of Vedic-based spirituality – is building a headquarters in Florida as well:
Affordable vacation, retirement or primary home in NW Florida: At the heart of this master planned community will be a Meditation and Yoga. This community will be a sanctuary to relax, rejuvenate and learn the art of living.
Seems they forgot to mention lining the pockets of their founding fauxru with more cash.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Already Hitting Paydirt

File under: Notable Quotes

Our friend Stuart Resnick just dropped an evolutionary psychology bomb on the whole phenomenon of gurudom at the Lefora forum:
Millions of years ago, when our species was less evolved, I can see how it improved our chances of survival if we stuck in tight-knit tribes. As individuals, we'd quickly starve or get eaten by wild animals etc. It makes sense that DNA would wire us to blindly follow a leader, so we'd all stick together in the tribe, and we'd have a fighting chance to keep nature at bay, long enough to procreate and all.

Evolution is brilliant that way, but it moves very very slowly. After all, natural selection has no tools except trial-and-error. We generate a bunch of offspring, and the ones best designed for survival last long enough to pass on DNA codes to future beings. Amazingly effective adaptions arise, but only over the course of many many generations.

Then we got these incredible new tools. Rational thinking allows us to run "what-if" scenarios, and conclude what's best for our survival so much more quickly than the brute fforce of trial and error. The development of language and the printed word allow us to accummulate information/knowledge across populations, and pass it on to the future. What to speak of the internet.

Rationality, technology, scientific method bring us to our current condition, in which individuality and independent thinking are a far more effective survival mechanism than they were in our caveman days. (When I need food, I pop something into the microwave. Satisfying my needs apart from any tribal allegience has become a lot easier, compared to when I'd have to live off of dinosaur meat (joking, joking).

The new tools of rationality etc allow at least part of the population to live as free-thinkers. But for many generations to come, this advancement towards personal freedom and independent thinking will be bumping up against the hard-wired drive to adhere to a tribal authority, that drive being a hold-over of a strategy that was more appropriate millions of years ago.
Being huge fans of evolutionary psychology and Stuart, we wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. Whether we find it desirable or not, gurudom in its present form isn't going anywhere, and you can thank your genes for allowing yourself to be duped by a con man like the Kracki or a preening poseur like Sri Sri.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Culty Criteria

File under: Gurubusting

Due to speak at the Mountain States Conference on Cults, Gangs and Hate Groups this weekend, pro cult counselor Nancy Miquelon offers a few of her thoughts on Robert Jay Lifton's criteria for thought reform:
One is to just control someone’s environment, what Lifton called “milieu control.” Sometimes that’s external environment. A lot of groups, as a part of their recruiting, take people to secluded places and unfamiliar places. That leaves you in unfamiliar surroundings, so you don’t have your normal points of orientation and points of reflection and reality checks with family and friends. Another part of milieu control becomes internal, in that as the group begins to do their persuasion and their indoctrination, part of it is repetitive and part of it is taking away your normal system of checks and balances, to where you start believing some of what they’re saying, and you start programming yourself. So your mind becomes part of that milieu, and matching their definition of “the right way to be” becomes part of the internalized control.

Another idea would be “sacred science,” and that’s where a group would say, “We have the real truth.” That kind of thinking is aimed at stimulating your critical thinking, but it really ends up shutting it down.

Another would be setting up what is called the “demand for purity,” where you must be completely perfect or you’re horrible. The demand for purity sets up this impossible standard, which often happens with what we call some “lovebombing” initially — where they say you’re perfect and you’re wonderful and we’re the only people that will accept you unconditionally — but once you’re in, then you have to match this perfect standard. Of course, nobody can quite get there. It’s this carrot.
Now we know where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living cult picked up their recruitment practices.


New Guruphiliac Forum

File under: Announcements

We've decided to start a new discussion forum at the new forum engine, Please click over, join up and get to smacking-down the con folk and wackjobs we so lovingly slice and dice here. Or, defend your favorite flimflammer if that's what's gonna float your boat. You can leave suggestions for new categories here or there.

As a result of this development, we are going to shut down the Guruphiliac Yahoo! group. Thanks to all who signed up, and please click on over to the new forum for a more vigorous pursuit of gurudom's many faults and foibles, and even maybe what it really has to offer.


The Googru

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Sick of all the self-deludedly divine gurus who flimflam their equally self-deluded devotees? Meet Larry Brilliant, former hippie psychedelinaut and resident philanthropy guru at Google's save-the-world effort,
One day, while waiting in line at the American Express office in New Delhi, Wavy met Ram Dass, a.k.a. Richard Alpert, who, along with fellow professor Timothy Leary, had been kicked out of Harvard for experimenting with LSD. [Larry's wife] persuaded Brilliant to follow Ram Dass into the mountains to meet his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, one of the holiest men in India. It was a seventeen-hour journey, by train and trail, to the ashram, where Brilliant slept on a mat, meditated, chanted, immersed himself in the Ramayana and practiced nishkam karma yoga, which Brilliant has described as "the work of being reunited with God, through actions in the world, without attachments to results." Over the next thirty years, this simple discipline would become, for Brilliant, "the propellent force in my life."
Karma yoga as it was meant to be, the complete opposite of what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is trying to shove down our throats.

Damn, we just can't seem to escape the shadow that the fauxvatars cast over the world, despite the Brilliants who shine on despite them all.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

More AoL Evil

File under: Gurubusting, Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

A reader supplies us with a bit more AoL/Sri Sri exposé:
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 [this whistle-blower] for at least taking up this issue.
Vicious and powerful – all brought to you by that false prophet of peace, the fame-whoring and money-lusting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Satsang Infinity

File under: Sites of Note

Consider us completely blown away by The turban is off and thrown on the floor over this fine project.


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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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sri Sri's Shameless Flimflamming

File under: Satscams and The Siddhi of PR

How does an inveterately preening pretty-boy fame-whore get people to believe he is a divine guru? Simply make up some bullshit like this and start getting your "guru" on:
In my experience, the stories really came up in the first phase of the teacher training course (TTC1), which is an indoctrination intensive. Let's see. There was the one told by one of the seniormost teachers and devotees in the US about the space ship that landed at the outskirts of the Bangalore ashram when he and others were staying there for an extended period of time. The visitors had come to see SSRS, of course. More detail wasn't available. Yet another time, they observed him talking in some unknown language looking up in the air. Upon inquiry, SSRS explained that Vasistha had had his ashram at the same location many years ago and that people in those days were much taller, hence his looking up. The devotees asked what instructions had Vasistha brought and the reply was that SSRS wasn't taking instruction from anyone.

Another story, from the same person, was about how SSRS, through a nonchalant-looking gesture of his hand sent a ball of blue light up the nostrils of a kid, whose mother had brought him to a meeting with SSRS in the US early on (late 80s or early 90s) and who had been looking quite disturbed and inadequate. This teacher asked SSRS about it and he replied "Oh, you have seen my magic?" and then explained that the child had time moving backwards in his perception, which he fixed.

Another senior devotee and teacher tells the story of an event which finally convinced her of SSRS's divinity, where a large aggitated male charged SSRS, shouting "Satan! Satan!" in a church in DC, where SSRS was giving a talk. At the last moment, as he was towering over the totally unperturbed SSRS, the man fell down at the guru's feet and started crying.

Then there's the story told by one of the swamis, who was a skeptic when he met SSRS, but a hug sent him into another dimension of consciousness, after which he became a follower. Another story by the same swami has SSRS insistently asking him to not leave the place wherever they were staying that night (I think it was in Delhi). The still immature in his faith in the master swami did not comply and left in a car with other devotees. The next morning, SSRS showed him a newspaper with a story of a car accident the previous night in which a bunch of young people the swami's age had died. SSRS said it should have been the swami, had it not been for a intervention by SSRS. The swami is greatful to SSRS for saving his life (and apparently sending the victims to their doom). In yet another story by the swami, SSRS revealed to him that he was the one who did not go into fight in the Mahabharata as the Lord (SSRS) wanted to preserve him and arranged things so (this was a little vague). The swami had forgotten this, but SSRS remembered.

Another story has SSRS's body go lifeless and droop in a car seat causing distress in the teacher driving him to the venue of a course. He came into the body for a few moments to calm her down and then went out again. Later, at the course venue, she spoke to a participant who assured her that SSRS had been at the course venue all the time that she had been driving him there.

Last year, when he came to the US after visiting Mongolia (where they claim about half of the population has taken AoL courses), stories were told of two paralized ladies getting up from their wheelchairs healed.
Absolute. Complete. Total. Horseshit. This is exactly how a guru flimflammer works. Welcome to the criminal enterprise known as the Art of Living, with its mastermind con man and charlatan, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

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.

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).
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.

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