A Letter from a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Worshipper

I expressed the idea that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not a supreme being endowed with the power of the Almighty God in my article titled “Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a Con Man?” I concluded that he is doing very useful work and as evidence I pointed out that he has very large numbers of followers who are willing to pay good deals of money for his guidance. But that rubs his worshippers the wrong way. Fortunately, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a Hindu and therefore his followers are not in the habit of calling for the murder of those who hurt their feelings. When SSRS’s followers feel slighted by my not considering SSRS god incarnate, they merely write letters protesting my view.

One such arrived today asking me to keep my opinions to myself. I don’t suppose the person appreciates the irony of expressing his opinion that I should keep my opinion to myself. Here is the letter verbatim, for the record:

Subject: Blog on Sri Sri Ravishankar and Deepak Chopra

Dear Mr Atanu dey,

I read your blog on both of them. I have read about both of them and also know the services rendered by Sri Sri Ravishankar.

I don’t know what you do? and also not interested.

I want you to keep your personal view points to yourself and not put it on the net.

You have written history only by reading the website. It is not simple.

They are contributing to the people and to the society and if they have to hire teachers, travel all over the world, give free food, build schools, develope villages, bring knowledge, empower women,
bring a change to prisoners,, they require money. How much is a question which can be answered only by involving oneself into these services. Not by reading website.

They are doing good, that matters.

Please keep your opinions to yourself and let it not float.

raghu

93 thoughts on “A Letter from a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Worshipper

  1. Sanjay Monday February 20, 2006 / 9:38 pm

    My father went to one of his workshops/courses that are held for 3-7 days in bangalore. He came back early because of some infection(probably stomach), this was a long time back(98-99). He was generally ok with the workshop. Didn’t really have any complaints. I too have no problems at all with such people as long as they don’t brainwash people.

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  2. Abhishek Monday February 20, 2006 / 9:58 pm

    Lol.
    Excuse this poor demented soul. May his brains rest in peace!

    No further comments! Seriously, we could do with more of these mails in case you wish to feel “normal”.

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  3. vinu Monday February 20, 2006 / 10:52 pm

    atanu, you gotta remember – this blog is your space. You have every right for posting your views 🙂 whether someone wants to read it or not is upto them!

    Like

  4. Sameer Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 12:02 am

    I read your article about SSRS (the one linked to from this post) and I agree with you on most parts except this,
    I believe that people like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Deepak Chopra are useful to India in general.
    and
    SSRS and Deepak Chopra actually increase the awareness about Indian philosophy abroad. They are in a sense cultural ambassadors.

    I believe that SSRS and DC and Osho were “good” or useful only to the extent that a good Indian businessman is useful to our country. Even though they are seen as culture ambassadors I wish they weren’t. Worshipping a person as a deity has been extremely bad for India in general and the spiritualist nature of Hinduism in particular. The moment we call someone a “sant” or “mahatma” we become blind to the human side (esp. the big backside, as you noted in one of your other posts) of that person. I think we need culture ambassadors who keep the philosophy on the forefront rather than themselves.

    One of the main reasons I have become more and more inclined towards the Buddhist philosophy is because Buddhism doesn’t have this “idolatary”. It strongly emphasizes the fact that Buddha was a human first and “enlightened human” later. It also emphasizes not to mistake the “finger for the moon” also. Due to this, in comparison to other religions, it has avoided fanaticism/idolatary to a great extent. Most Hindu traditions taught today require, to a certain extent, a surrender to the supreme authority of another person and acceptance of his/her divinity.

    Most of the fanaticism in Hinduism is a result of staunch idolatory either towards a person or a mythological figure. Hindus need ambassadors who will break this practice and put the philosophy on the forefront. We need more of the likes of swami Vivekanand than SSRSS, DC, and the assortment of maataas and gurus. We need ambassadors who tend to the “philosophical” bottom line rather that “financial” bottom line.

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  5. Ambar Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 3:53 am

    I must protest. You seem to have deliberately picked the more braindead of SSRS followers! 🙂

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  6. Tim Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 4:52 am

    Atanu,

    Great thoughts in your letter to your brother. It takes courage to tell a family member that their emporer has no clothes. It won’t get you any love to be a skeptic, however. My own mother is one of the most gullible people I know. She will believe any new age nonsense she is told (if the teller is reasonably charismatic).

    Just one quote from the Art of Living web site:
    “Developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Sudarshan Kriya® is the core component of the Art of Living Course. The Sudarshan Kriya infuses the body with energy and harmonizes the natural rhythms of the body, mind and emotions.”

    If the organization is nonprofit, why the “®”?

    Besides your blog, another of my favorite websites is James Randi’s ( http://www.randi.org/ ). It is an excellent resource for skeptics.

    Like

  7. Thasleem Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 12:23 pm

    “Fortunately, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a Hindu…his followers are not in the habit of calling for the murder…”
    I am not so sure of what you want to convey…but i would like to add that Dara Singh(Graham Staines) is also a Hindu…so is Praveen Togadia and his ilk…

    Atanu’s response: I wrote precisely what I wanted to convey: that the followers of Hindu leaders don’t go about murdering those with whom they disagree. Which part of this simple declaration do you not follow?

    The person(s) who murdered the Australian missionaries were not following the dictates of some Hindu religious leader. Praveen Togadia does not represent mainstream Hindus nor is he a Hindu religious figure. If Dara Singh and Togadia was the best you could do about Hindu “fundamentalism,” I am afraid that your case is rather weak.

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  8. Jayanth Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 1:59 pm

    Hi Atanu,
    First of all, I would like to say, good work in opening up atleast one person’s(your brothers eyes) to different paths of thinking. Secondly, I consider atleast the useful people for India are people like Baba Amte, who has developed the rural population in India. It is not adequate that somebody builds schools for free or anything for free, rather teach the population to sustain themselves. Like they always say “It is better to teach a man to fish, than feed him”. Any altruistic purpose, should be first to raise living humanity levels itself, not collect funds to build something or develop something which does not ultimately bring in change. Why does no cult member look at improving education standards which can bring a great deal of change? Let us think about this rather than build somethings for free, which is not a end-to-end solution.

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  9. S. Ramachandra Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 4:39 pm

    Atanu,

    I have been through a 7-day residential course in the Art of Living conducted by one of his very close followers; I believe it was the advanced version. Also, I have seen SSRS at close quarters and been to a couple of his satsangs- all courtesy the Chariman of a company I used to work for who is an ardent follower, so I can add a few observations of my own.

    The breathing technique is undoubtedly useful and to that extent it is beneficial. While I do not practice the kriya, I can accept that it can help relieve stress for some people. Also, the general teachings of SSRS are reasonably sound advice even if many of the “homilies” are vague and subject to varying interpretations. Much good is also resulting from the AoL foundation. To my mind the worst one can say of this is that it is completely harmless; and to my mind certainly useful to a point.

    However, I would submit that stating SSRS is a Supreme Being or God incarnate is probably over the top; and at least to me exposure to AoL, did not deliver the enlightenment that interaction with or the teachings of Swami Chinmayananda or some other great teachers has. From the reactions of various others I conclude there is no unanimity of views on this; and I am ok with this.

    Atanu’s response: Thanks for seconding my opinion of SSRS, that he is providing a very useful function to lots of people.

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  10. Parvati Tuesday February 21, 2006 / 9:52 pm

    Help! Where have my individuality and original thinking disappeared to? I am becoming a yes-man to all of Atanu Dey’s views nowadays!
    That follower of SSRS is indeed the most pathetic of them all it seems :D!

    Like

  11. Pradeep Wednesday February 22, 2006 / 6:19 am

    Everyone gets what he looks for. If you are sincere you will get a genuine guru. It is all very personal. Unless you are yourself self realized you may never know. So first find out if you are genuine and the rest will just follow. Till then do not pick on great souls and disturb their followers’ peace…. Remember what you sow … so shall you reap. As Gandhiji said ..”Be the change you want to see in the world..”. God Bless you to be a genuine seeker instead of wasting time nitpicking that helps no one.

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  12. deep Thursday February 23, 2006 / 6:29 am

    Atanu
    My God is way better than anyone else’s. Trust me on this one. However, I have chosen to keep His identity secret so noone else can benefit from His grace.

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  13. Vivek S Thursday February 23, 2006 / 9:06 am

    Idol or icon worshipping is an innate human character? I think so. Some psychologist can explain.

    Is it because most humans are so helpless that when they get help they start worshipping? Or when they see someone do things which they cant do in real life but wish to do, they start idol worshipping (e.g: cinema stars). Not the best actors are worshipped, but one who beats 100 rogues in 1 go is always worshipped (e.g: Amitabh, Rajini).

    Is it that people need a walking-stick or some sort of thing to hold to walk through life and when they get that or see that they start worshipping?

    I think humans wish to be master of some people and slave of someone.

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  14. Rohit Markande Saturday February 25, 2006 / 3:00 pm

    I find the article (letter) about SRSS very well written and thoughtful, I took the basic course and this is what I disliked the most, i.e. commercial aspect of it all. I paid a token Rs. 200 which is ok, but I was annoyed when they sort of interuppted the course to show the students the movies of the work done by SSRS and also asking us to buy his books (though they are good, esp. Celebrating Silence) and also ayurvedic stuff. One feels we are just being made a sheep in the herd of ppl blindly following the “n” number of holy persons we have in india. We even had a photo of SRSS on a pedestal there with a lamp in front (like if we were worshipping him rather than meditating). This is why I asked the teacher Capt Brij Paul Singh, that I will like to just call him Ravi Shakar and not guri ji, and he just said calmly that it is ok, there is no problem in that. In the end I would say that his techniques are really good and very effective in calming ur body quite simply coz it is not different than other forms preached by Deepak Chopra or Osho or our ancient saints. But you gotta find a teacher and gotta learn from somebody and for me that happened to be Art of Living course. I would say that I appreciate the immediate teacher (Capt Brij Paul Singh) more than SRSS coz he was the one who taught me, and I have respect for him not least because of his age. In the end the whole issue should be a very personal one. If you find that SRSS has helped you in some way no harm in praising him and discoursing about his methods, but to claim that he has magical powers or he is akin to God or he is a Godman, would be disgrace that I think even SRSS should discourage. In that sense I like Osho lot more, because he never claimed to be anything other than a normal guy (teacher from Madhya Pradesh) who just had some revelation one day and became a guru.

    In our changing times (read : stress riden) we will be in need for more and more such ppl, who can help keep our focus and destress our lives, they are important for the world to live in peace, they may deserve a Nobel at some point of time, but certainly not the status of God. I guess it is just with us Indians, let alone this emotive issue related to religion, we even make crikceters and film actors God, havent you heard about the temple dedicated to Amitabh Bachan. No wonder Hindu religion has crores of Gods mentioned in the Vedas.

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  15. Nachiketa Version 0.1 Saturday February 25, 2006 / 11:46 pm

    I always wondered what kind of an ego this person has when he prefixes n-number of Sri words in front of his name. Probably he did not prefix them by himself but I am sure he should be humble enough to warn his followers to not call him by Sri prefixes. Not sure this irked anybody but it irritated me a lot.

    The other personality who annoyed my intellectual curiosity for a long time is Puttaparti Sai Baba.

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  16. Jayakumar Sunday February 26, 2006 / 5:37 pm

    Sigh. Religious people are so full of themselves.

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  17. Confused Wednesday March 1, 2006 / 4:40 pm

    intersting , I do consider Guruji SSRS close to god. He is almighty , his powers are beyond the world. What i am aginest is his followers , who are fanatic and will disslove even their marriage or friendship id you critise SSRS
    I love SSRS. Not his followers

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  18. Gautam Vig Wednesday March 1, 2006 / 6:05 pm

    Great Discussion !!!

    Enjoy…

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  19. Raman Saturday March 4, 2006 / 10:50 am

    One should read his interviews before commenting. He has never called him a God or a superhuman. With many millions following him, he may not be able to stop them from adressing him with prefixes like Sri Sri. There is nothing wrong in displaying the books or ayurveda products, there is no compulsion to buy. I too have attended the course. There need not be such a hue and cry – a person who serves the society is given respect, that too by persons who follow him – esp in a society where politicians and cine actors without any human values are celebrated the important thing is he has not harmed anybody and he reaches out to people in need of peace- his services in Iraq/Srilanka/US etc are cases in point.

    He teaches Love and Harmony. By reading some books and surfing the net some people think they have become competent to teach others, why not celebrate SSRS as a Guru.

    Atanu’s response: If you are the typical follower of SSRS, I guess it is proving the point that I have made in the post: that you are not reading what I wrote. It is either a personal failing as in low “reading comprehension” skills, or it is a result of brainwashing which makes one see red the moment SSRS is not admitted into the Hindu pantheon.

    Please do read what I actually wrote. Brief: That SSRS is doing a good job of commercializing Indian thought and I commend him for it.

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  20. Marcia Saturday March 4, 2006 / 5:35 pm

    Well, well, well….(This is Ladyloneranger responding.) I see that you are absolutely serious about writing. It seems, in my opinion, that you possess the type of inquiring, analyzing mind that disassimbles and reassembles; that poses, posits, questions, critiques and creates new avenues of thought and raises new awarenesses in the minds of your readers. I am impressed. This is very useful. I am envious.

    Now I will proceed to tell you that I have had the Kriya Yoga training as taught by two very well trained devotes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. They have been long time friends of mine whom I met when we were studying shaminism. I have heard SSRS lecture when he was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after which I was fortunate to have had a private audience with him many years ago. He seemed to me to give sound advice and and to be very wise to the ways of human behaviors and the nourishing of the soul. Is he enlightened? How does one define and measure enlightenment? A wise woman I know says that we are ALL fully enlightened. We just need to clear away the clouds that keep us from knowing it. I think some of us are more cloudy than others and I am probably one of the most muddle-headed of all. I am a student of the Great Mystery and have had some fine spiritual teachers, but I have yet to form devotion for any of the guru types, no matter how enlightened or charismatic. I have seen some pretty big egos and tend to steer clear of that. I guess I take a sort of buffet approach to spiritual teachings. I go to the buffet and take what seems to nourish me at the time no matter what tradition presents the slices of wisdom. I have heard it said that any religion is true if you follow it faithfully. Perhaps, but I have not yet found one that I want to pursue as a sole venue. Meanwhile, I daily sit in meditation, breathe and just be. I practiced Kriya Yoga breathing techniques for a time, but have not kept it up, although it would probably be good for me.
    I think we need the SSRShankar’s of the world to remind us that we are more divine than we know and to keep clearing away the things that get in the way of our knowing just how great we ALL are. Marcia

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  21. Elango Monday March 6, 2006 / 4:53 pm

    As I was reading your blog, one thing was clear to me, that you have good clarity in some areas in life. The coherence (in atleast 60% of the section) in the content being conveyed and the effectiveness with which the idea has been portrayed proves that this is not possible by someone who knows only good English and one who has access to a lot of knowledge repositories which is actually not his own.

    This can only happen in an attempt to express ones inbuilt and time-tested ideologies using a user understandable language, towards a particular motive.

    “The reason I am cautioning you about this is often a consumer may start attributing superior motives to a provider where none exists. And once you misjudge a person’s motives, you can make mistakes like putting them on pedestals, giving them all your money, accepting all that is said uncritically, etc.”

    “What works for you is what matters, not what I think of the technique or some person. In fact, that is the crux of the matter. The mind is the ultimate and what happens to you is what your mind makes possible. If you believe that something is good for you (and indeed it is not bad to begin with), then it WILL be good for you.”

    Main points from “the compilation of your opinions” (as far as my understanding goes).

     It’s a clever compilation of what already existed for long.
     Good technique of marketing and commercialization employed.

    The fact is that, we have solutions to most of our problems within us in terms of lessons learnt from our own experiences as well as others’. And for those we don’t have answers within us, we can get it from someone else who has a solution developed as a result of his own experiences or the set of others’ experience which he has come across.

    Having said all this, if he has done a clever enough compilation that is helping a dynamically growing huge group to solve majority of problems of their life and has made it reachable to so many people around the world keeping his capital as people themselves, I feel his act, deserves if not appreciation at least recognition but definitely not a statement calling it to be “simple and a usual act”

    I am not saying that he is a person to be worshiped.

    My stand point is: His preaching is his own version of the open source code of the system and is very profound.

    So I would like to conclude that if any one sees “The art of living” as a whole unit with an unbiased, neutral and a logical approach, they would (possibly) find that, there are few things of not great value which can be easily filtered but lots of great knowledge and practices compiled in a easily understandable way.

    I would like re-emphasise that am not a follower of sri sri ravi shankar but I like the content of art of living course.

    I saw that you have included few responses to your article in your blog……but then its orientation is single sided, If you really appreciate healthy arguments then go ahead and put this too….we will see where this takes us.

    Like

  22. Elango Monday March 6, 2006 / 4:55 pm

    sorry dint include my email for any further communications

    its elango.n@tcs.com

    Like

  23. SorryForThem Thursday March 9, 2006 / 4:34 am

    I feel sorry for those who consider Ravi Shankar God or even Godlike. Poor Raghu! So upset that a blogger might question the divinity of his guruji.

    Ravi Shankar may well be doing some good for some people in India and other places through sincere devotees doing social work in his name. He and his family have also grown personally wealthy from his “work”. He also has harmed many people with his behavior and with slander and gossip of those who have dared to leave him in the past, or question his authority. Many immoral and illegal things have occurred at his ashram(s). He is far from Divine, in my opinion, and I am entitled to that opinion.

    In my experience, he can be cruel, paranoid, gossipy, and ingenuine. He has successfully hidden quite a lot about himself, or he would NOT have the huge Indian following that he has today. Far be it from me to disclose those things he has hidden. I’m too scared of him and his followers. No, they won’t kill you (I don’t think) but you can bet they WILL call your friends and family, lie about you, say all sorts of fantastic things about you in your community to discredit you before you can utter “peep” about H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Heaven forbid anyone should ever know the truth about this man.

    What a joke. Nobel Peace prize nominee? Well, I guess if Arafat and Qadafi could receive that prize then it’s possibly become irrelevant anyway.

    It is typical for his followers to demand that you keep your opinions to yourself. You are not allowed to have any opinions around such a person, so they are used to brainwashed zombies who just say “yes guruji” all the time. You have shocked them with your posts even slightly wondering about him! God only knows what they would do if you knew anything about him and dared to post it. Probably sue you, or call you up and threaten you with a life-long curse, tell you that you’ll be ruined if you continue to defame him, blah blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all, and not from a few.

    The Art of Living group is sick, sick, sick and doesn’t care at all for people. They only care to further Ravi Shankar’s agenda, whatever it might be this week.

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  24. Confused Sunday March 19, 2006 / 12:05 pm

    Dear Raghav

    Who are we do judge who is doing good or bad job? Every role is well defined by god.

    So you need to play the role. As far as kriya yoga is concern it is good without restrictions. God never laid any rule for prayers or even SSRS. rules are laid by teachers who are too pround that they are the world.

    Please read autobiography of yogi . Origins of kriya yoga have no rule just the desire is enough. Who are we to lay rules. And why one should get upset I do not know

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  25. Charuta Apte Wednesday March 29, 2006 / 8:38 am

    Hi Atanu,
    We form a set of opinions and judgements based on our experiences…. So you have the opinion you expressed about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar…
    I’m not saying your opinion is right or wrong.

    I just want to ask you, do you think that there is a possibility that you may be wrong?

    Thanks,
    Charuta

    Atanu’s response: By the time a person hits puberty, if the person is not somehow mentally handicapped, a person realizes that one’s view of the world is just a partial view of what reality exists out there. Since I am old enough and do not suffer any impairment, I too concluded decades ago that my opinion is just that — an opinion. And like all opinions it is vulnerable to error.

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  26. Confused Wednesday March 29, 2006 / 8:27 pm

    ATANU
    YES I AGREE WITH YOU.
    fOLLOWERS OF ssrs ARE FANATICS. tHEY DO NOT SEE BEHIND SSRS. One must understand all yoga and mediation comes from stone age. Not from SSRS. SSRS is great but not greater then yoga and mediatation or god itself . Do you agree.

    Atanu’s response: No, I don’t agree that the followers of SSRS are fanatics. They are devoted to him and all that, but they are not in any sense evil. SSRS is very good at explaining things to people who need simple explanations. As I have maintained, he does a good job of repackaging things that already exist in Hinduism. It is an important job because he is making good ideas more accessible. My only concern is that his personality overshadows what good he is trying to convey.

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  27. Charuta Apte Friday March 31, 2006 / 1:21 am

    Hi Atanu,

    This is regarding your comment “SSRS is very good at explaining things to people who need simple explanations.”.
    I agree that the knowledge in the Art of Living Course is conveyed in very simple terms… but when you apply it to life, it can be equally subtle. It needs a lot of commitment and awareness to live the knowledge.

    My personal experience is that, as time passes, I understand more and more, the knowledge goes deeper.

    It is like the word ‘God’. On the surface, its meaning can be very simple, but the deeper you probe into it, it can get very complex.

    Rgds,
    Charuta

    Like

  28. Anahita Sunday April 9, 2006 / 4:43 pm

    I was reading the response from ” Sorry for them”. Im curious to know about the “immoral” things happening at the SSRS ashram. This could “enlighten” a lot of people. Feel free to write.
    Anahita

    Like

  29. kiran Wednesday April 19, 2006 / 7:00 pm

    hi anita please advice me your e mail to give details

    Like

  30. NS Tuesday April 25, 2006 / 2:43 am

    Hi,

    First of all, I am not a member of Art of Living organization. I have few friends who are into it, my opinion that follows, is based on my reading and activities of Art of Living.

    I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that Sri Sri is not worshipped or put absolutely parallel to God. If you have seen Art of Living followers placing his photo with God idols, that doesn’t mean that he is worshipped as God. Anyone who has studied hinduism properly would know that how much importance ‘shishyas’ give to their ‘guru’. Here same is the case, the followers are having enormous respect for their guru, that doesn’t make it cult.

    I also read a comment about idol worshipping by someone. Usually muslims and christians prefer to point at idol worshipping practice in hinduism. A well read hindu would know that idols are merely symbolic representation of God and not God in themselves. Someone who has read Geeta would know that God regards himself as ‘Nirakara’ as well and hence it is not necessary to worship Him through idols.

    Finally, someone feel offended that indirectly muslims were associated with terror. In turn he provided example of Praveen Togadia and Gujarat riots. I would like to ask him is Praveen Togadia a substitute to Osama Bin Laden or those jihadis who behead innocent people? Recently an Afghan convert to christianity was about to be punished to death and many people were killed during cartoon controversy of mohammad. The civillized society considers it to be violence which is more common in islamic world.

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  31. Anahita Wednesday April 26, 2006 / 11:04 pm

    Hi again,

    I heard nothing from “sorry for them” or Kiranji who was going to provide me some pertinent details i believe about the “immoral things happening at AOL ashram”…Im still waiting…..i guess everyone is waiting.
    A request is to write directly here only…unless Atanuji has filtered such content.
    Cheers.
    Anahita

    Atanu’s response: I don’t filter content.

    Like

  32. Mohammed Saif Ullah Thursday August 10, 2006 / 7:18 am

    Hi Atanu,

    Bless your heart and soul! The thread of thoughts/words here and now decidedly points to, what one would obviously be led to suspect is your aim of stirring some sort of controversy about a spiritual teacher.
    To know the difference between devotion and worship takes not much diligence in one’s thought process. Yet we confuse ourselves by identifying devotees and worshipers as the same manifestation of just people who breathe and love and breathe and eat and breathe and sleep and one would guess breathe and stir controversy! And then we breathe again and dwell in greed and envy and breathe again in schemes and dreams. So it is not surprising that SSRS is being vilified here just like any other great teachers of the past and the present, and for that matter the future. There is really no need to name these great teachers here which one may see clearly will only facilitate your goal in the first place.
    Does it really matter to you that SSRS is a marketing genius promoting a 4K year old wisdom? Face it Bill Gates is a marketing mogul too and that may or may not shed some light on why he is a controversial figure too. SSRS is simply helping people to point their attention toward regular contact with the divine, through opening hearts and souls to direct communion with God by whatever name. His teachings of inner focused breath awareness from the ancient wisdom of Patanjali may not be as appreciated and accepted universally as say Windows XP if not more! And one may not go that far to call Bill Gates a great teacher which probably brings some relevance to this comparison. Bill generates capital energy by being the marketing whiz he is just like SSRS does the same by teaching us simply to breathe. And they both pump that energy right back for the good of humanity and again in the case of SSRS if not more!
    It is fairly easy to draw conjectures on a renowned spiritual teacher and even easier to judge him in context of other teachers. What is harder is to understand his teachings in the first place and practice them in real. Yes, just like Nike says “Just Do it”, Divinity says “Just Be Real”! SSRS never claims to be a supreme being endowed with the power of the Almighty God in as much you express it at the first line of this thread. He is very accessible just like you and me and yet is real! Being real is effortless.
    Being real is loving yourself enough so as not to warrant self doubts of being murdered for speaking out your thoughts. Or are these self generated dark thoughts just the perfect dose of spice for the controversy curry you have so skillfully prepared that I am tempted to dive into here. Only you can tell as you own it. As for the controversy it seems your curry has gone stale since April 26, 2006 when you curtly respond you do not filter content. May be time…only you can tell…

    Regards

    Mohammed

    Like

  33. Shyam Thursday August 17, 2006 / 12:08 pm

    I did the AoL course quite a few years back and was deeply impressed with the course and the values projected by the organisation. The AoL course stresses on empowering the individual through personal growth and development. The organisation is doing a lot of good social work, providing a framework for likeminded people to come together and contribute towards making the world a better place. I have seen the transformational effect it has on people, and have also experienced it myself.

    But over the years, the organisation has become more and more cult-like and seems to have lost much of its once solid credibility. There is too much focus on publicity and collecting donations. The same courses are recycled and remixed to form new ones, for which substantially high fees are charged. Stories of miracles and angels(!) are being spread and believed by highly educated people, presumably to lure more people to the fold.

    I moved away from the activities of the organisation when the focus shifted from spiritual knowledge and social work to publicity and adding more people to the cult, but I have no grudge towards the Guru or the organisation. Rather I am grateful as the course helped me at a very crucial point in my life.

    I have a few friends who are staunch devotees of SSRS. They are highly educated, extremely intelligent people who regard SSRS as a SatGuru and do not eulogize him or revere him as God. Yet they justify the cult-like practices of the organisation, including the excessive publicity and hype. They continue to spend a lot of time, effort and money towards AoL courses and activities and for all their pains they don’t seem to radiate peace and joy as they initially did, after first getting involved with AoL. Ironically they sound unhappy, even frustrated at times and their families are pained and worried with their dysfunctional lives.

    Everyone chooses to live life his own way, so I guess they must be finding satisfaction in what they do.

    Like

  34. MANIK Thursday August 17, 2006 / 11:11 pm

    I have been ssrs follower for a long time now almost 4 yrs.i had an interim period where i moved away from him and his teachings only to find more pain and agony . so in short what i want to say is that the author of this blog speaks from a very different wavelength as he still needs to go alot of distance for his spritual quest for answers and he seems ignorant. what ssrs has done to me and many others like me is beyond words but in a nutshell he has brought back our smile.
    as ssrs says we will easily believe someone saying wrong like”i hate u ” but wouldnot believe someone saying”i love you”.
    my advice to the author is dont have pre-concieved notions , although i agree with him there are lot of con gurus around.
    Its a process of self-realization where you go through a lot of apprehensions and doubts and finally you see the real light and delusion is no longer there.

    god bless all
    jai gurudev

    Like

  35. MANIK Thursday August 17, 2006 / 11:37 pm

    i am just continuing with what i just said.
    regarding people’s query why so much publicity by srss , if i can answer on his behalf,how else does he unite the world and spread the message of god. and about loads of money that aol is making, has any one cared to see how much of it has gone into rahab of quake victims , tsunami victims and rural india.
    we guys would spend lots of money uselessly but when it comes to real cause we all hae reservation.
    actually noone is to be blamed as we are ignorant and very few spritual leaders like srss is there.

    Like

  36. Rishi Sunday September 17, 2006 / 10:35 am

    #

    August 28th, 2006 at 3:58 pm from Amit
    #

    Dear Atanu

    I have been observing the AOL movement for a while now. My conclusion is that it is an organisation using religion to grow big in size and scale and bring name and fame to SRS. Would like to put forth the observations that drive me to this conclusion

    1. Every one is asked to greet saying “Jai Gurudev” akin to “Hail …”

    2. Celebrities were signed on early to do reference marketing. I remember around 6-7 years back friends in Mumbai wanted to do the course because a certain celebrity was the organiser / teacher!

    3. For influential people, (big business magnets), teachers are sent off to conduct one to one sessions

    4. The meditation centre built at the ashram in Bangalore, with public money, is named after SRS’s mother – Vishalakshi

    5. Steep fees are charged for the courses, thus accumulating huge funds

    6. Close association with a national newspaper, so that SRS is in News every day. Good PR strategy.

    7. It is a classic case of multi level marketing – teachers are produced after a 3 level course. From a novice, one could become a teacher in 3-4 months, and starting dishing out spiritual guidance for a fee. Easier than aquiring a driving license!

    8. Participants of the courses are asked to get their friends, so as to increase collections and no. of followers.

    9. There is a divine shop in the ashram, selling potato chips amongst other things. There is a brand of products – Sumeru. There are cassetes and CDs sold to increase revenues. Not only sold from campus but placed in music shops to increase revenues.

    10. The 25 yr celebration had a stage set up at an estimated cost of Rs. 7.5 million. What public good is that?

    11. AOL has ventured into ayurveda, schooling, etc. to increase source of revenue. It has projected itself as an NGO to increase grants from Govt. and international donors. Yet you see SRS spending more time abroad than in uplifting the poor and needy in the country.

    12. Recently, there was a big buzz by AOL supporters that SRS had been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. The truth being the names of the Nominees are not revealed, so how would they have known?

    These are a few among the many questions that fox me and I dont need to do a basic course to get answers for these, do I?

    I agree SRS is above the average to have started this whole movement with so many followers and centres. Hats off to his marketing skills. But any suggestion of making him out to be an incarnation, etc. is outrageous. I would agree with your scale and his rating as – “Useful”

    Like

  37. Frank Friday September 22, 2006 / 4:23 pm

    1. Jai Gurudev means victory to the Big Mind. Often we follow the Small Mind, telling us to chase fun and pleasure all the time. But then we ignore the important aspects of life, and trouble and pain comes sooner or later! Jai Gurudev means victory to that mind that includes everyone on this planet, sees the best in everyone, and all that which is best in the longer run.

    2. To my knowledge, some Hollywood stars and famous singers have done the AOL-course, but it is certainly not promoted to any significant extent around the world! Never have I seen _anything_ resembling that in 6 years of AOL.

    3. You can’t expect leaders and significant persons to do a regular AOL-course, so special arrangements are done to meet their steep criterias. If you were Bush, would you share your intimate person in a regular course, or in a course with Clinton?

    4. It is a tradition in India to honour your mother, father and teachers. These person influence your life in such profound ways. So to name the Mantap to the mother is quite natural. In the West we often name our children after grandparents and others. This is quite natural.

    5. The fees are usually below average fees for such courses and duration. Free courses are being provided in India in rural areas where there is no such funds, so some of the funds goes to funding this and other projects. But you may be right that keeping the Ashrams certainly demands alot of money, so the fees should really be much higher!

    6. What to do to get media attention these days? Have journalists on the course and experience for themselves is a good and honest strategy. It is actually a part of a special journalist-program to educate journalists into more responsible reporting. Just a few days ago, news of the pope hit the world, saying he was villifying Islam, while he was just quoting some other pope that said that a few centuries ago. Now, this fuels the fire in many muslims, and they hate the West even more. What is good in that? Responsible journalism is actually a burning and pressing issue these days.

    7. You go and try. See how “easy” it is.. You go and DO something good for the world, anything really, and watch how “easy” people will support you..

    8. The primary source for course participants are friends, relatives and others. People have fantastic experiences on AOL courses, but may feel shy to recommend it. We shouldn’t be shy to show what is positive in the world, or to do something to contribute. This is actually one of the most important messages of Art of Living, to contribute positively to the world around us, instead of blaming others (politicians) and shunning responsibility.

    9. Branding is important for all businesses, even spiritual. Music and knowledge should be available everywhere, not just in one obscure Ashram.

    10. How much is that divided by the 1-2 million people that was there over the days? I would think it would be much more expensive even.

    11. AOL is a global organisation, based in 140 countries. To travel so much that SSRS is doing, is evidence in itself that he is something extraordinary. In 2004 he visited 175 cities, in his tireless effort to spread the message of harmony in diversity across the globe. This was just one year, he’s doing this all the time, with multiple flights every week. Nobody of his closest aides are able to keep up with this his schedule of meetings and talks more than a week or two..

    There are programs for the poor. But the most important thing you can teach the poor, is that they’re not poor. You just don’t give people a free lunch all the time, but you encourage them to find solutions themselves.

    12. Officially, nobody knows. Of course, human nature is not “official”. Why, all the newspapers were announcing Bono, SSRS and others had been nominated. How did they know this?

    “These are a few among the many questions that fox me and I dont need to do a basic course to get answers for these, do I?”

    If your mind is loaded with doubts, I see no reason to do the course at all. However, if you want to be free from all that, I can heartily recommend the AOL-courses.

    “I agree SRS is above the average to have started this whole movement with so many followers and centres. Hats off to his marketing skills. But any suggestion of making him out to be an incarnation, etc. is outrageous. I would agree with your scale and his rating as – “Useful””

    We will see 😉

    My experience has been genuinely positive. Of course, you can always find things that go wrong, or left missing from the planning.

    The more you focus on the negative, the more it will grow. More questions, more doubt, will grow, _in you_.

    The more you focus on the positive, the more that will grow. We have the choice, and the responsibility to make things right.

    Frank

    Like

  38. Rishi Monday October 2, 2006 / 10:59 pm

    I must appreciate the effort and the whole web of words used to attempt the justification of the commercial activities of AOL and SRS. Hardly convincing.

    A good thing for AOL would be if insiders and followers like you are open to these ills and try to correct these rather than blindly defending the same. There are good things and there are the not-so-good ones. A true follower should be balanced in his approach and not be over-whelmed so much as to believe everything. Then it starts becoming a “cult” and meets the same fate as so many across the world.

    Like

  39. Frank Friday October 6, 2006 / 3:34 pm

    What is funny is that if AOL were completely commercial, funded by private interests and had private stockholders, then everything is automatically “OK”. Everything people do out of greed, is understandable for everyone, and will quickly be approved and supported.

    People will often not get why someone will give something without demanding anything in return! They will look at you with suspicion… (Try it!)

    Even when you are a world-recognized registered charitable organization!

    There are more than one way to do things, and people are genuinely working for the positive. Not everyone will approve of it when you do good. Jesus was misunderstood and crucified. So people will crucify you. No matter how much good you do, some people will badmouth you.

    I can only share my heart 🙂

    Namaste

    PS. I would love to answer more questions if you send it to: fDrDDaDnDkDDsD {alpha} tDiDhDlDdDeD [dot] DoDrDDg

    Like

  40. Megha Thursday October 12, 2006 / 2:14 am

    why is everyone discussing the issue , of whether Sri sri Ravi Shankar is genuine or not , of whether he is God or not?? How can u comment upon someone else’s beliefs for eg; of his followers??For some AOL may have benefited moderately but i know of people for whom it has been immensly beneficial , even close to being miraculous … So for them Sri sri would be someone that would always look upon and perhaps would want to worship ,and alos the concept of God for one person may be different from another person .So with so many differences of opinions about God , belief etc with people , it is not correct to point out on someone’s belief and check their validity.And to the best of my knowledge AOL is very much into “teaching a man how to fish rather than giving him food” , they have dealt with so many problems of rural and poverty laiden areas , by helping them become self sufficient ,by giving them that mental strength , knowledge and courage that they need to uplift themselves.If u are commenting about AOL’s teachings and work , tell me , have u done anything at all for the good of the society??? then why point at somebody , who is doing some good.God or no God , well i can say one thing , that the followers of sri sri Ravi Shankar , hold him very close to their hearts ,his teachings are actually very useful and practical , and he connects to everyone through the language of love.

    JGD

    Like

  41. Sneha Thursday October 12, 2006 / 5:46 am

    i think mark made a remarkable reply to Rishi!! I thought that would shut all his questions up , but no , Mr.Rishi has a small ego problem of not to give in 🙂 even if a person with no inclination towards AOL would be satisfied with Mark’s reply , like me 🙂 U see Rishi , even after all that u pointed out , i would still like to remind u that AOL is non-profitable organisation . yes , it needs money , money to do a LOT of development projects everywhere , so there isnothing wrong in carrying out marketing strategies etc .. to promote something , that is useful for everyone!! Did u hear about the latest news of Guruji’s talks with Prabhakar to promote peace?? And u still think he is doing all this for his own selfish interests of promoting his business ,then u must be a fool!! People like u have no better job of commenting on small issues , of something good that is happening. Please stop all this ,this is a waste of time for u… (even expressing ur unbiased opinions blah blah) cause negative pin pointing does no good to anybody , and what u say negative isnt ACTUALLY negative.Instead , go do something good for the world urself ,be useful…

    Like

  42. Sneha Thursday October 12, 2006 / 5:52 am

    Sorry ! in my prev mail , i meant Frank instead of mark 🙂

    Like

  43. Yudi Thursday October 12, 2006 / 6:14 am

    Atanu’s response: No, I don’t agree that the followers of SSRS are fanatics. They are devoted to him and all that, but they are not in any sense evil. SSRS is very good at explaining things to people who need simple explanations. As I have maintained, he does a good job of repackaging things that already exist in Hinduism. It is an important job because he is making good ideas more accessible. My only concern is that his personality overshadows what good he is trying to convey.

    Dear Atanu,

    If u think he is just teaching what already existed , then i think he is teaching us to go back to our basics , which i think is the best thing to do!!Its easy to preach knowledge , but make people to practice it , requires a lot of widom and skill , remember that.If guruji , was so business minded and AOL so commercial as u state , tell me why do so many of AOL followers linger on to him? why do they believe in him so much ? after all its the same knowledge thats been there for so many years , and according to so many of ur observations , he is a very shrewd businessmen too , and people dont exactly “love” or “worship” people they do business with!! 🙂 My dear , its the way u impart it , the same knowledge , u and me cannot impart it…its NOT a business!!To impart knowledge u have to LIVE the knowledge , and this requires great learning , which guruji has , nothing to do with the marketing skills.I suggest u to do AOL course , with an open mind and then tell me if it is a commercial business..
    And tell me one thing ? can u name any people who have become rich or made huge properties by being into AOL?? do u have any such information .. u know… would be helpful in emphasising ur point 🙂
    If AOL is marketing its product , then YES it is doing so … and with that money , it helps to uplift the society …
    and about the GODLY image given to Guruji , well he cant help it, can he?? And if he has made a big difference in people’s life , then he will be worshipped , simple 🙂

    Like

  44. Yudi Thursday October 12, 2006 / 6:31 am

    ps: mr atanu,

    Some people have made some ugly comments about Guruji and AOL in the blog , and u have not replied to all that?U have not replied to any of some senseless and BASELESS(ask them to give proof and details) comments by some idiotic people ..
    but when people who know about AOL and guruji try to clear ur doubts , u reply by calling them “ardent follower of SSRS”
    clap clap clap clap!! and all the negative things said by other ignorant people makes a lot of sense to u!!!what is ur intention ?? To defame AOL and guruji ,by using these ignorant and useless people?? ha ha ha ha ha

    Like

  45. Yudi Thursday October 12, 2006 / 6:35 am

    and mr Atanu,

    U R USELESS!!! And I am not saying this because of anger ,with a quite unbiased opinion , u r more useless and less useful ;)and maybe jobless too !! cause only people like u would like to pin point and criticize something good that is happening around u … i think we have better things to talk about … like terrorism , and people like u will hinder whatever good anybody does to bring peace in this world

    Like

  46. chaitanya Thursday October 19, 2006 / 10:40 pm

    The followers of SSRS who say things like they love him but not his followers, or that SSRS would not take titles like Sri Sri, but that those are put on him, or that SSRS never claimed he is God, simply don’t know him very well, regardless of how much time they think they have spent with him.

    He has told me that his name Sri Sri was given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi long ago when he was his disciple. He wished to be called by that name because he loves MMY (even though MMY wouldn’t take his phone calls).

    He told me himself on more than one occasion that he was Shiva, that he was Krishna, and also that he was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The man is clearly out of his mind.

    Perhaps his recent social programs help the poor of India, but surely not nearly as much as he himself has been personally enriched (his dear, now dead mother told me proudly that her son had “over $1 million US dollars in his personal account”), and as his useless brother-in-law and sister and newphews have been.

    This man has worked the system from the outset, having failed in school, setting himself up as a guru, getting free land grants from Karnataka with the promise of setting up schools for village poor (only a tiny fraction was used for that, most was used for building facilities to attract monied people for ashram courses), and now becoming extraordinarily famous. Good for him.

    In his wake he has left countless ruined families, people, minds. He doesn’t care a wit about that. He’s made it.

    I count myself extremely lucky to have left his domain while it was still very small and one could still know the complete truth of his nonsense and lies.

    If the Indian public once finds out what and who he really really is, they will pack it up and leave. I am certain of this, and so is he. Once I suggested he come clean, take off his false robes, put on ordinary clothes and tie his hair back and let the chips fall where they may. He declined saying, if the Indian people know how I am, they will run away.

    He once told me that his mission was to do what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi could not do: to “get” the Indian population. He felt that MMY had been successful in the west, but not in India. So dear ravi has done just that.

    He also indicated that he wanted to be more famous than Amritananda Mayi from Kerala. He’s working on that, I suppose.

    All in all, the man is a fraud. I feel real pity for those taken in by his mesmerizing power. I feel real disgust to see him grow and grow in his deception of the public at large.

    How has he kept his long time followers who “knew him when?” Easy: one teacher once told me ‘I’ve left everything. The travel is free. What else can I do with my life now?’

    Too bad.

    Like

  47. Mosur Sunday November 5, 2006 / 10:23 pm

    Hi
    I totally agree with your blog on “Art of living”.I have read sri sri’s articles and one of his followers used to forward me the emails he sends to his followers.I think its too much hype for basic common sense.Javed Akhtar totally demolished him in his debate and any guru worth his penny would have had good points to argue.There is no depth in his writing or talking.Its all marketing gimmick.Pranayama(breathing techniques) has been there for centuries in this country and somebody marketing it with a different brand name and claiming it as his creation is similar to patenting of genes by pharma companies today.People just seem to accept yoga only if some bearded guy with a fake smile sells it to them.I am very sure all those guys who got cured would have still been cured if pranayama had been taught to them by a normal yoga instructor.

    Like

  48. NavS Wednesday November 29, 2006 / 6:39 pm

    I agree with the above comments by Mosur.
    Now while am typing this,Ravishankar is conducting a 3- day course for his so called followers in cochin(Kerala).Here goes a simple calculation after I understood the following details abt the course – Each person is charged Rs 500(course fee) + 150 for accomodation..The duration of the course is 3 days which is conducted in a Stadium..So a wooping “tax free” amount of 3.25 crores(assuming 50000 of his followers attends the refreshers course) is made by the cult..Imagine a public ltd company trying to get the workin capital of atleast half of the above mentiioned amount..In my Opinion Sri Sri is a good business man..he has proved himself by running his MNC – AOL. But i agree practising yoga is good and i du not have anything against Sri Sri regarding this.

    Like

  49. N K Srinivasan Saturday January 20, 2007 / 3:52 am

    Dear Shri Atanu,
    I would like to know the educational background of SS Ravishankar,who must have grown up in Tamil nadu or karnataka …..What is his real formal school education? .It is said that he got his science degree at the age of seventeen..From which University? How long did he learn from Mahesh Yogi….These basic data should be easy to get and ascertain.Did he learn the scriptures in the formal way? Did he learn sufficient Sanskrit ? I found that the explanations of his during a program in the TV were very vague and school-boyish….Please let us know the early background of this new-age guru….He may be doing useful work for which the credit is to be given…As you had written,he has good marketing skills,for which he could become an advisor at Harvard or Wharton business school—-for it is not easy to do such marketing in India…

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