Guruphiliac: Sri Sri Ravi Hype-more

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sri Sri Ravi Hype-more

File under: Gurubusting and The Siddhi of PR

A few months back, we were interviewed by London's Financial Times about that boogieman of delusional, self-promotional personality cult-making, the personal fame-seeking and glory-hunting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We've included the highlights here:
[The Art of Living org] is also, however, given to hype. Its brochure celebrating the “One World Family” boasts of all kinds of programmes and workshops that the Art of Living runs around the world. There was a “workshop for Afghan women refugees” organised through the Afghan Coalition in Fremont, California, which left its participants feeling a “sense of great joy and peace”. Rona Popal, the executive director of the Afghan Coalition, says that the Art of Living ran a single demonstration of their Breath-Water-Sound workshop about three years ago, and nothing since. The brochure also features photographs and gushing quotes from prisoners in Ohio’s prisons, where the Art of Living ran a course. The Ohio prison service said that those courses have not been run for at least the past two years.

Jody Radzik, the creator of Guruphiliac, an American blog which keeps tabs on various gurus and mystics, is sceptical of the Sri Sri cult. “In public,” he says, “Sri Sri repudiates his divinity – he puts on the humble show. But in private, and in his organisation, there’s an assumption of his divinity and his ability to perform miracles.” Radzik says that the physiological experience of Sri Sri’s breathing technique is genuine, but no different from that of many others. What Sri Sri offers is a format for incorporating that experience into your life, via a cult built around his own personality.

Sat Bir Khalsa, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on the health effects of yoga and breathing, says that the Art of Living technique “really is very similar to a lot of breathing techniques in Hatha yoga practice. There’s nothing super-remarkable about what they’re doing.” He adds that there is a growing, but still scarce, body of research into the link between the mind and body and the positive benefits of breathing. There was certainly nothing to justify the “evangelical” approach of the Art of Living. He had witnessed “obnoxious and aggressive” behaviour from members of the Art of Living organisation insisting their technique is the only one worth following. “But I’ve also seen these things wax and wane. There was transcendental meditation in the 1970s, then the Hare Krishnas, and for the past 10 years Vipassana meditation has been very strong because of the Buddhists.”

“It is soft power,” says Rengaraj Viswanathan, India’s ambassador to Argentina, after attending a meeting between Sri Sri and the mayor of Buenos Aires. In his view, Sri Sri is simply an excellent Indian export. “You see yoga centres on every street corner here. In the 1970s, this was a fad, a fashion. But now it has reached serious proportions. You see younger people, professionals, business people all looking to this.” What about the ambassador? Did he meditate or breathe in order to relax? “No,” he said, rocking back with laughter. “I salsa!”
We'll save our dance for the day it becomes clear to the world that Sri Sri is really only in it for his Me Me. Until then, we'll try to keep shoveling his bullshit out of the way of the nondual truth getting covered up in the promotional pollution of his Art of Living org.

Note: Thanks, Gregory!

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At 7/06/2008 8:00 PM, Blogger bORED gURU said...

...nondual truth getting covered up in the promotional pollution...

Could it be a secret design of the consciousness, to sustain duality, precisely through the same people who are supposed to be in search of the the non-dual consciousness ? The urge for associating, (instead of realizing oneself) with someone supposedly nondualistic is breathtaking. It is also amusing to see the same 'nondual guru' hell bent on maintaining and promoting the duality all the time. The dualistic divide, it appears, is far greater only in places, where nonduality is apparently the name of the game.

At 7/07/2008 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These 501c non-profits are the most cut-throat deceptive businesses anywhere.

If you are devout enough to go for Mission Training, Acharya Training or whatever else it is called, don't be surprised if you are sent away to seva and miss much the program you paid for. You may even be accused of not qualify to attend the program but there is no refund for withdrawing.

If you ever dare to question anything, you will be lectured for "doing business with the Master/Guru/God".

Enlightenment is so big, that all the seva you do, all the fees you paid amounts to nothing, nothing compared to what these godmen are giving you - even if they are not physically present!

It is not only SSRS, but other godmen too. They are all so similar! I don't know if they aren't copying each other.

A godman guru can run a cut-throat business, devotees who question anything indicates "imperfect devotion" or "doing business with the Master".

These godmen, because they had realized their Divinity, do not need to behave like decent human beings any more!

At 7/07/2008 2:23 PM, Blogger Peggy Burgess said...

No one can see , perceive, talk about or sell non dual truth ,but jody will defend it to the's kind of amusing. but Jode , they ain't sellin non dual, theys sellin snake oil!!! to riff on what bored guru says , yes what would happen if we all stopped playing this game?
the commodity gurus don't do any different than a lot of the old timers , they just market it better.

At 7/07/2008 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job, Jody! you get the attention of the Financial Times. I don't think AoL is going to collapse in one day. It is more likely to get exposed over time with more teachers and volunteers leaving and speaking out.

What SSRS did was to package some traditional kriyas and pranayam practice and market it as Sudarsan Kriya. It may well have some good effects. He is using some old practices and using for the basis of his cult.

At 7/08/2008 10:34 AM, Blogger Peggy Burgess said...

obviously a lot of people like organization and hierarchy , so i don't know how soon this thing could fall apart, it becomes a matter of protecting the franchise. look at werner Erhart, he got his butt in a sling, and now he just runs his empire remotely, you get members of the lower ranks to recruit , he doesn't rely on being a presence . i guess Landmark training is even respectable these days. smart guy.

At 7/08/2008 8:22 PM, Blogger bORED gURU said...

obviously a lot of people like organization and hierarchy

Thats precisely why the nondual truth is tossed up in the air at the start. The people who need protected environment of a 'community living' are the true strength of an organization. As much and many times more than the leader, the followers derive that special joy, when their organization is visibly flourishing. Because everytime their org could bite off a chunk in the media, their security is assured, and the nondual truth appear to have come closer. The thrill is in dreaming and hoping of the truth than the truth itself.

At 7/08/2008 11:38 PM, Blogger Balkrishnanitt said...

This article precisely indicates ur are here for hype too......

At 7/08/2008 11:44 PM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

ur are here for hype too......

It's my blog, and my opinion, but I wasn't soliciting it. The FT got in touch with me. It wasn't the other way around, as it often is with Sri Sri.

At 7/09/2008 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To AoL followers
It takes time, energy, money and reprogramming to enter into a non-dual or dual or whatever label on whatever system, organization...

Simply to find that the purpose is essentially to undo, unwrap, deprogram, unlearn (not re-learn)and become somewhat innocent. Maybe Sri Sri is a child, and all his followers grown-ups needing moral-teachings...;)

Don't you see the paradox of it all?

You become dependent on an organization for you to realize how to become independent. The whole AoL org. is the very barrier between you and truthfully abiding in your perfect non-dual-being this very second. I am not saying AoL is bad,- I believe it is fairly good for a certain time as long as you see it as a means not to an end. It is not the end, there are many pointers on the path..

The ugliness of it is that the org it self has become dependent on the money from who ever are seeking... One place did I read that Sri Sri said: "you have to eventually leave me" - but problems might escalate if he does state it more often, more clearly and more loudly. (Krishnamurti did it!!)

So when you have forgotten all your efforts, sadhanas, knowledge etc. from someone like Ravi who is in truth trapped (and suffocating) by your adoration - freedom might just as well be found in your nearest rosebush :)

At 7/10/2008 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AoL recently had their "seminar" near where I live in Raleigh.
A friend of mine worked like crazy in organizing this. Apparently, the local organization has to pay national some ridiculous amount of money ( 50,000 USD) to get SSRS to come to their city/ town. The volunteers tap all of their network to get this money - what they call Guru Dakshina - in the ancient Indian tradition.
Anyway, melted by the volunteer's sincere efforts, I bought a ticket for their "seminar".
It was the worst 25$ and 3 hours of my life.
The Master of Ceremonies - who was not local - was lousy. the local group of followers was unable to come up with even one good leader who can speak in public - a shame.
At any rate, this MC was a disgrace - I would have puked on another platitude.
The meditation was so - so & the "chair" yoga terrible.
All in all waste of time & money.

At 7/10/2008 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jody,
You are doing great work. This effort to bring logic into foggy minds is an uphill task. I just visited Bangalore Ashram, and what I noticed was that many people are aware of your website. Even the AoL devotees in Bombay and Calcutta are aware of you. And many are not even computer savvy. Not all would get out of AoL because of GP but atleast for some a balance in perception would happen. And who knows, for a few others this blog would be therapy as it had for me.
Again, good work!

At 7/13/2008 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Jodie, you really have a big hardon for AOL! So now you for a while see Sri Sri and AOL in what some person spouts whether true or not!

Granted that AOL is not perfect nor is SSRS. However, methinks that you can starve SSRS of the oxygen of your attention. As it is you have succeeded in populating the web with some negatives about AOL and him. Fact is that a lot of people will read whatever has already been written and draw their own conclusions

At 7/13/2008 12:20 AM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

Wow Jodie, you really have a big hardon for AOL!

I am vehemently opposed to the AoL practice of promoting Sri Sri as divine and capable of miracles.

Fact is that a lot of people will read whatever has already been written and draw their own conclusions

The tragic fact is that too many people are fooled into following a space daddy because that space daddy's org is feeding them bullshit about miracles, happiness and health, along with that abortion of Vedantic truth known as Sri Sri's holiness as a special example of divinity. Now gag me with a pitchfork for saying Sri Sri and holiness in the same sentence.

At 7/13/2008 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only reading a book will just leave you with an intellectual understanding, not incorporating so much in your life, not really living the knowledge.

There is so much to chose from in this world, why are you picking up garbage?

At 12/20/2008 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

I still apologize I have no patience to read the blogs as I mentioned earlier in your website.

But I would like to clarify you certain doubts which you are going through.

I have no way to force you in this path, but I know for sure it is the strongest path.

You have your life and live it as you like. I do not know why Sri Sri is saying you got to choose this path. And intention is simple , the noble reason to see your success, happiness or your goal.

I am not a ordinary here in this path. I have also talking from my experience in this spiritual path.I have realized not as much as Sri Sri has realized but I do have a profound experience.

I do respect your efforts to know things and I find you are trying to prove which I can say not accepted.

By whom is may be question?

Have you ever realized this very truth. If you take a moment and look at yourself you will realize you are at head not at heart or soul.

You are so busy at analysying in your head no time to listen what your heart is saying. And if I am right it is referred as soul in spiritual path.

Do you know or ever tried to understand all these.?

You do not know right?

Then how can you call Sri Sri with false knowledge.

There are many religions in this world? Do you know why it exist?

Do you know why we exist and go?

Can Science prove this ?

Science will not accept anything that can not be proven?

That is the problem.

But for spirituality you do not need proof. Before proving it could be understood.

Unfortunately all who are wooing against Sri Sri have the mind of first category.They need solid proof.

Did you understand this?

Can you prove me you exist? If so how?

Ask yourself this question. You will get all answer about Sri Sri.

This needs a profound beyond scientific mind.

Thanks for criticism - Guruji Sri Sri's Devotee.

At 6/27/2010 8:53 AM, Blogger Amal Jain said...

Hi! I am another Sri Sri fan who started out with AOL to seek relief from some minor ailment. I spent a good few years disapproving and despising the way he is looked upon as a divine being.

But with time, the awe gained place in my heart realising the extra ordinary vision, power and grace Sri Sri was capable of. Imagine an organisation run through volunteers in 150 odd countries. Such overwhelmingly large setup with countless programs immaculately planned, executed and managed. And mind you, not by professionals, but by volunteers. Not out of some vested interests, but with the spirit of universal love and service inspired and instilled in their hearts by none other than Sri Sri.

He lives modestly, eats and sleeps very little, and is highly active 24x7. And if you ask any AOL member worth his salt, he definitely has experienced the grace of Sri Sri on countless occasions. Well it's a matter of faith but the faith in this case has invariably come from live and personal experience. There are countless testimonials as to how the problems/queries or simple desires of the devotees reach Sri Sri through prayer. And get acknowledged and solved conclusively. In case it's difficult for you to find an AOL devotee in person, you may search the net for the myriad testimonials to his divine grace.

It's immaterial whether the techniques taught by the AOL are unique or not. The bottom-line is that they definitely are highly beneficial. And for a person who has benefited from it, it's naturally expected that he should make an effort to spread the word around. The missionary zeal of the AOL volunteers (which includes people from all the different professions, religions, races, countries and economic backgrounds) comes from the desire to spread around something which has brought a positive change in their lives.

And anyways taking a distant view and speaking out against someone is really easy. A better approach might be to get involved and experience the truth on your own.

At 11/02/2010 10:25 AM, Anonymous Prakash devaraj said...

.....something beyond the Lord!!

this chap Ravi should be laughed away,in Hindu mythology, Lord Ram was only addressed with a single "Sri" ?????


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