vrijdag 9 mei 2008

A summary of the most common arguments and my replies to them

On this page of the blog you will find the most commonly used arguments and criticisms on my article send to me by the various AOL people that reacted to my article. I divided this 'summary' of arguments into several topics. Which i list here. (You can click on a topic if you immediately want to go to that part of the page).
By the way, you'll see that the biggest amount of 'arguments' can be found in the section of "attacks on the author" - it is in a sense rather telling. On the other hand a lot of the arguments can also be seen as a form of the main three arguments. That is why i grouped them in the first section in their most general forms. Perhaps that's a good start then.

The three main arguments

1. SSRS is a wonderful being. It is wrong to criticize such a great man. / The author is doing a great sin by tarnishing the image of SSRS. / Look deeper and you will see the greatness of SSRS and AOL / Controversies and rumours are always made against great people but they are not the facts.

Putting something or somebody in to question is far from 'wrong', let alone 'a sin'. Criticism can be correct. Questioning can be needed. It is not necessarily done to create controversy. History is full of examples where criticism was needed to stop all sorts of injustices.

My criticism as well is not merely expressed to create controversy. My criticism above all asks those i criticize to explain or clarify the things i bring up. I therefore simply question the thing or person that is criticized. And if an answer would be given, i'd be very happy to listen.

Thus the way to counter my criticisms would be either by solid counterarguments, showing me where my facts are wrong or providing new facts that prove the opposite of what i'm saying. Saying that “i shouldn't criticize” is trying to get around the whole point. Since no single reply from the side of AOL has given me any counterarguments, new facts or shown me how my facts are not true, i will continue to conclude that SSRS and AOL are not genuine.
Even more so, the deeper i looked and after figuring out more facts (even after i had written my article), i ended up getting more and more convinced SSRS and AOL were not so great as they claim to be.

Nonetheless I'm constantly being told that i should know that my view is limited, that i am doing something awful, that SSRS is an amazing person and that i am wrong in 'tarnishing' him, etc.
But never is there anything factually showing me that i am wrong when i say that the way AOL presents Sudarshan Kriya, has nothing to do with the supposed scientific research, that i am wrong in finding it strange that he was so silent about Maharishi being his teacher (until after Maharishi died), that i am wrong that it is very difficult to see what other social relieve AOL offers except Sudarshan Kriya courses, that i am wrong in doubting the amount of social projects they really have and the quality with wich they are organised (in those cases where they indeed would offer something besides SK), that i am wrong that the financial dealings of this multi-million business which is AOL asks for some clarity simply by the fact that they pretend it is for charity although some facts seem to show it is not, etc.

As long as nobody shows me with arguments or solid proof how i am mistaking, or as long as nobody clearly answers the questions i raise, i will not change or remove my article.
Even more so, so far only the opposite has happened. The clear answers (I mean answers that don't go around the problems by use of some irrelevant discussion on moral concepts) from those who can know only come from people that support my arguments.

An ex AOL-teacher for example wrote a 'resignation' letter directed to the American AOL branch. The letter was published on the net quite some time after the publishment of my article (see here: http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2008/03/defection-aol-teacher-sees-light.html ) but it brought up very similar questions:

1) Why the increasing corporization of the Art of Living organization?
2) Why the intensifying promotional push on all fronts?
2) Why the increasing course fees making it so difficult for many people who need help to participate in programs?
3) Why the pressure on participants in AOL to raise and donate funds?
4) Why the hype and myth creation used for indoctrination?
5) Why the effective undermining of people's self-trust and making them dependent in an infantile way on idealized images of the guru and his special abilities, and a perception of inferiority relative to him?
6) Why the misrepresentation of the placebo effect as the result of the speciality and uniqueness of the practices or the grace of a person?
7) Why the ongoing emphasis on specialness of the organization's leader and his omniscience?
8) Why the resultant cultish atmosphere within AOL and the possibilities for manipulation of all sorts?
9) Why the focus on organization growth and perpetuation rather than the advancement of the people involved and deeper self-inquiry?
10) Why the lack of transparency and accountability for the use of funds, projects implemented, etc.?
11) Why the organization's acting increasingly like a business in the guise of a non-profit?
12) Why the frivolous use of exaggeration and misrepresentation of facts in promotional efforts (as to the scale of humanitarian efforts or the scientific evidence for the benefits of the practices, for example)?
13) Why the conflict between encouraging people to donate a dollar a day to support poor children, etc. and staying in the presidential suites at expensive hotels (e.g. Ritz-Carlton), flying first class, etc.?

2. The author is focusing on negativity. It would be better if he focused on things that bring betterment to the society.

I am not 'focussing on negativity'. The point of Yunus News was to offer correct and balancing news about religious topics. This is in fact aimed at the betterment of society.

Based on the facts i have come to the conclusion that there is not much truth in the claims of AOL. It is of course my assumption that it is better for humanity to know this. So apparently both me and people from AOL think we're trying to get better consequences. I do so by writing what i wrote (because i think it's the truth) and they by trying to make me realize that i shouldn't write such things (because you think it's not true). So both sides think they're doing and saying the right things. Therefore, telling me that i should be 'more responsible' is really not an argument at the moment, since i of course am convinced that's exactly what i'm doing.

Moreover this exactly is what freedom of speech is about. I really don't think any of us are simply focusing on negatives. We all have the idea that we are working for more truthfulness. All in all this is a normal problem when people with different opinions have to find out a way of talking to each other. Mostly that simply results into something that is called a “discussion”. But apparently not for the people from AOL.

The people from AOL find it more needed to block out and get rid of everything that offers some criticisms on their views, organisation or guru. I have had many emails with this same argument and thus i concluded that it is becoming somewhat of a 'trait' of people within AOL.

Nonetheless their guru and their teachings often speak of 'more peacefulness through dialog.' As far as the reactions to my article are concerned, i haven't seen much of that dialog. Unless of course suppressing views and ideas because they don't fit yours is not considered blocking any discussion. Unless of course calling everything negative (or 'bad') which is opposed to your view and positive (or 'good') which is in line with it, is not considered as some sort of moral oppression of a possible dialog.

3a. The author was making comments about something he is not really familiar with and so the criticisms are not founded or grounded. / The author is an 'armchair intellectual' who thinks that all he has to do is cast a negative light on great Beings.

I don't know how i can be considered not to be familiar with any aspect of AOL. On the contrary, i believe i have relevant experience in about every field AOL is dealing with.

I am an anthropologian and theologian by education, I have published about meditation and written about the value of fasting in Gandhi's life. I have visited India several times, i have followed many meditation courses (i have for example personal experience with Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Hatha Yoga, Christian Meditation, Mantra-meditation and tantra-meditation.) have had many encounters with spiritual groups of different religious persuasions, i have for a long time been involved in social NGO work and i have put on efforts for better understanding about and between religions.

I also do not see why some have the idea of my work being 'primarily critical'. My work on Yunus News was primarily focussed on 'correction' . I think that is different then simply critical. The effort is to come closer to the reality and the truth, not to criticize for the fun of it. On the contrary, it corrects because so many misunderstandings create so much problems in the world. I believe harmony and understanding often go together.

On top of it, I have worked in several NGO's with a focus on peace work and my work has often focused on interreligious dialogue. I guess that's enough for showing that criticism for the sake of it is certainly not my goal.

One more thing: for my arguments to be “grounded” or “founded” my personal background and expertise is not the most important issue. The strength of my proof, the solidity of my reasoning and the factuality of my references is. So as i provide some arguments that apparently nobody from AOL so far could counter and as i provide quite some references (in the follow up discussions on my article) i believe my arguments have enough solidity in themselves to be “founded” - even when you wouldn't look at my “authority” concerning the subjects.

3b. The expertise and background of the author is not enough, he should have really followed an SK course to be able to talk about it. / You can't comment on something that you don't know personally. Since the author hasn't done SK he shouldn't criticize SSRS, AOL or SK.

I do not think that anyone can be expected to have direct experience with everything in this world. If somebody has previously tried Vodka, i will not tell him that he can't say anything about the effects of Whisky since he did not try that specific product. His proof of personal experience with Vodka and my thorough reading and research about the experiences with Whisky should therefore be enough to allow him to state his opinion in a discussion where the effects of alcohol are the topic.

So, since i have enough background in various types of meditation and since my studies (both academic and personal) made me more then acquainted with such topics (like meditation, guru's, Indian spirituality and cults, etc.), i believe it is more than allowed for me to say things about them.
Certainly because there has so far been nothing that shows how SK would in any way be different then any other type of meditation. The claims of its effects are similar to the claims of other types, and the techniques used in SK are also used in other breathing techniques.

The fact that SSRS says you have to experience it for yourself to notice the difference is not a valid argument. That is simply a commercial trick. If it is different, you should be able to explain why. If you are bound to experience something different when practicing SK it should be possible to explain why this is so. But if the claimed effects as well as the used techniques are nothing new, there is nothing that should make anybody think that performing SK would give a different experience then the other techniques.

But, even if you remain pigheaded about the idea of having to have had direct experience, then on top of it, i must say that i also base my claims on many who DO have direct experience with SK. And many of those indeed describe it as being nothing different then certain other breathing techniqs or meditation types. See for example: http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2006/07/sri-sri-cons-iraqis.html

About SK
The author does not provide any details about what is the name of the “other yoga technique” that was supposed to be the original of SK. / SK is one of SSRS' great gifts to humanity and the author disregards this.

I did not mention any name, simply because in contemporary language “Yoga” has become a general term describing the huge amount of energetic body- and breathing exercises that come from India. In any case “Pranayama” is mostly mentioned as a predecessor to Sudarshan Kriya, but all in all one could of course also simply mention Hatha Yoga (the part of the Yoga system which is actually the physical and energetic breathingexercises which in the west has wrongly come to designate Yoga as such) or Kundalini Yoga. Or i could also refer to the Yoga Paramahansa Yogananda spread and was simply called: “Kriya Yoga”. Or last and not least i could of course mention Transcendental Meditation which was taught by SSRS' guru – Maharishi.

Of course i reckon the last example is more focused on mantra's then Sudarshan Kriya, but he can just take bits and pieces from everywhere and roll it into his own system. I have said it before: there is certainly nothing wrong with that. It is just wrong to present it as something new that you have 'come up with', because the truth of the matter is that Sudarshan Kriya presents nothing new under the sun. And that is not a shame, as the Yoga-system is in itself already more then extensive enough to offer the possibility to find both physical and mental health. It is just a shame that some find the need to say that they “cognised” a “natural process” - which SSRS and AOL do (see http://www.artofliving.org/Spirituality/SudarshanKriya/tabid/195/Default.aspx) when they in fact simply put together their own yoga system from bits and pieces of already existing techniques. The former gives a sense of exclusiveness, the latter a sense of relation to already existing things.

So i'm not saying that that there is some kind of 'original' of Sudarshan Kriya. I'm saying that SK fits in between a whole bunch of other exercises within the bigger Yoga system that all use their bits and pieces of techniques which all have been around for hundreds of years. Just like Maharishi didn't come up with Mantra's - but only used them in his own way -, SSRS didn't come up with the breathing systems of Sudarshan - but only used them in his own way.

So to summarise: The Indian Yoga system has always known many different breathing exercises. “The control of breath” as such is simply an integral part of yoga. Thus Sudarshan Kriya simply belongs to that Yoga system and as such it fits in a whole lot of similar breathing exercises and meditation types. Therefore there is no need to present it as something 'new' or 'amazing'. If you do that you are simply commercialising your 'product' with a simple trick like the Coca-Cola company bringing a Coke on the market which they call 'new' Coke, although they keep the exact same taste and only change the bottle.

The author does not give any examples of breathing exercises and meditation types that are supposedly so similar to SK? What would the whole lot of 'similar techniques', that he refers to, be?

Considering the moments of what i'll call “fast breathing” (faster breaths that connect the inhale and the exhale – i.e. There is no pause between the two) many who have had experience with Sudarshan and wanted to share their experience have refered to it as being very much like “rebirthing” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebirthing-Breathwork) or “holotropic breathwork (http://www.holotropic.com/about.shtml) – and indeed it has many similarities. I personally also see similarities with some parts of Osho's Meditation techniques where fast breathing (to increase the intake of oxygen) were also used.

And all in all, SK is also simply a technique within a huge range of possible forms of meditation – many of which are hundreds or even thousands of years old. To give you a very short list (the ones with a * are the ones i have personal experience with):

Qi Gong*, Tai Chi, Pranayama, Hatha Yoga*, Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Za-Zen*, Tantra* (in the sense of the meditation that tries to preserve sexual energy), Sema, Transcendental Meditation, Dhikr, Vipasana, Christian meditation*, Rebirthing, and so on.

So when i speak of 'many different techniques' i of course group them. Not because i'm vague, but because it would be needless to every time give a list.

Let me thus again stress that my point is that Sudarshan belongs in a long list of possible practices and therefore as i put it “nothing new under the sun”.

If my list would not be good, because Sudarshan Kriya would be completely different or a lot better than all the other practices i mentioned, than, i am afraid, the need for proving this is entirely up to SSRS and AOL, and not to others. As far as i am concerned i have not seen, read or heard anything that would make Sudarshan Kriya seem different then other types of meditation – not its theory, not its practice and not its claimed effects. It is SSRS's and AOL's type of meditation and that is all that makes it different.

Yet once again, let me stress that i do not want to downgrade the practice of meditation. Not at all. I truly believe meditation and breathing exercises to be one of the most useful techniques a human can discover in his/her life. All i'm saying that there are many you can choose from. And as a consequence, those who are at the point where they would like to start to learn meditation they can just as well go and learn any other type of meditation. There is no need at all to spend much money on Sudarshan Kriya, when other meditation types who are sometimes taught for free will do bring you the same results.

Sudarshan Kriya is not a meditation technique, it does prepare one for relaxing into a more meditative state and being able to go on into the practitioners meditation.

How can a thing that aims at "preparing for relaxing into a more meditative state" not be considered a meditation technique itself? This makes no sense. All these things are part of the whole of meditation.

The scientific information should not hold much value, just concentrate on the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya. So many people have benefited from SK and AOL that it can't be bad.

Even the existence of millions of people who say or do something is not an argument for that something to be 'good' or 'genuine'. There have been more then enough historic examples of this - from gurus (e.g. Osho) to political structures (e.g. Nazism) - that show how millions can do something that is not at all very beneficial to the society or the world. (Admittedly, the Nazism-example is way to harsh in this case, but i just wanted to make a point, i certainly don't want to compare AOL with it in any other way.)

On top of it, i wouldn't use the argument of "concentrate on the benefits" for i can find enough first hand experience stories that talk of possible negative effects. Here for example http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2006/07/sri-sri-cons-iraqis.html

To quote but one from that webpage: "My experience was that I became weaker and sicker with practice, as did many others I know who left the organization. These were people who practiced for some time. One original organizer died at in his 40s of cancer. Another died at the Montreal ashram in his 40s of a heart attack, having been previously very healthy and fit and unstressed in general. I could go on and on, but you see for yourself."

The quotes of those that have negative experiences are all subjective and from personal perception. It was not quoted from reliable medical research done on numbers of people to prove negative effects of the AOL and practices.

The fact that those quotes were subjective and personal perceptions is just as true for all the quotes and stories from the people who favor Sudarshan Kriya and AOL and describe them positively.
I did not try to give the idea that my quotes would in any way 'prove' that SK was an awful thing. I only bring up my examples of these negative experiences because people from AOL bring up their own personal experience as an argument.

Personal stories simply don't prove a thing about the 'goodness' or 'genuinity' of AOL, SSRS or SK because both positive and negative can be found. For personal reasons it might be an argument, but not in an intellectual debate (and i therefore also did not bring the topic of personal stories into my original article)

Maybe some people may feel some tiredness when they start doing the exercises as the body and mind destress. Continued use of the techniques does lead to more energy and better health, you can check the research for that.

This is exactly what i have mentioned in my very first article: I have checked the research and it does not say anything about such things.

First of all "energy" as such is not a term used in such medical research, so the word is not even mentioned in all the abstracts that i read at http://www.aolresearch.org/pubresearch.html

Second, above all the research seems to show that Sudarshan Kriya has an effect on reducing anxiety and certain types of depression. That is not something you could call "better health". The term to use would be better "sense of well being". This is not the same as "health" as a "sense of well being" is a psychological state and health includes your physiological state. Admittedly it has relation to concepts like "mental health", but when you write "more energy and better health", then people get a very different idea of what you mean.

Thirdly, when one takes a better look at the research summaries, it turns out that most of the scientists who wrote the articles make it very clear that the research that they conducted was on very small scales and so should be done on bigger scales if you want them to be conclusive. Thus the research so far provides us more with 'promising information' than with conclusive statements.

And i'm not the only one to say so. It is backed up by people who helped doing the research. In the the Masters Thesis (in The Department of Geography and Anthropology) of Shirisha Shankar httP://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04122005-173708/unrestricted/Shankar_thesis.pdf
One can read the following: "Dr. Janakiramaiah was one person who recognized the marketing behind the spirituality and expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that although the research had been conducted jointly between the Art of Living and NIMHANS, he felt that the research findings had been published much before any valid testing could be done to prove the results were valid. Especially claims like improved areas of function in the brain etc were not done according to the approval of NIMHANS. The preliminary ‘positive’ effects had been observed and then published and used as a validation for the SKY before any actual scientific testing could be done.

He referred specifically to one example and said that in one of the brochures they describe that doing Sudharshan Kriya leads to a tingling in your fingers and toes. The brochures claim that this has to do with ultimate brain function and is a result of SKY.

But if anyone keeps breathing like that- essentially they are hyperventilating and flushing their body with oxygen, which is what is going to happen. There is no mystical meaning behind the tingling in their fingers and all that."

The author should not criticize such a wonderful thing like SK.

I already answered the argument that “I shouldn't criticise SSRS because he is such a wonderful being.” My same arguments could apply here.

But there is one more:
In fact, my issue is not with Sudarshan Kriya as such. I have enough experience with several forms of meditation to know what kind of impact it can have on a persons life. I have no problem with that at all – on the contrary, i would even recommend to everybody to meditate (although that certainly does not necessarily have to be SK).

But my issue, as i believe my article makes clear enough is with the commodification, commercialisation and productification (of which patenting a style of meditation is but one example) and of spirituality that Sri Sri and AOL bring. Also my issue is with the lies (like the claims of scientificness of those things that are not backed up by scientific evidence - not even by the scientific research provided by AOL), exaggerations (like the obvious impossibilities of the amount of social work) and manipulations (like the cash flows within the organisation) that happen within these processes. And mostly my issue is with the fact that all these things are done in the name of 'spirituality' and 'peace'. At least if Coke brings a 'new' type of Coke by changing the bottle, they do not claim that it is because it offers 'better health'.

Sudarshana Kriya is the product of AoL and naturally they talk good about it. I do not know why you find it difficult.

I do not find it difficult at all. Sudarshan Kriya is the PRODUCT of AOL. Indeed. It is a commodity that is created, patented and sold by AOL using all possible commercial means.

And that is exactly where i have a personal problem with the whole thing: meditation should not be a 'product'. Meditation is a religious practice that is supposed to help you on the path to enlightenment. Adding commercial value to it only inherently hollows it out. Like the Buddha said: “One road leads to wealth and fame, the other to the end of the road.” It seems to me that the whole product-based dealings of SSRS and AOL make him walk the first path.

Not a problem so far. Many companies and corporations do so. Capitalism is certainly not inherently wrong. If AOL would just try to make as much money by use of the 'guru-business' then that would be just fine, but the problem is of course that AOL and SSRS claim to be interested in spirituality and service, and not on in becoming rich. Even more so they use exactly this claim to make people 'buy' their product.

Really, i can't see the spirituality in the 'productification' of meditation.

About Scientificness
The author wrongly generalises and dismisses the findings the scientific se research (offered on the AOL website) as nothing special.

I could of course not address every single finding in all the articles in my article. So I am honestly a bit sorry about the generalisation. But there is no dismissal at all. I believe my article does state the findings. But it also states that the findings are used in the wrong way. That is the critique, and not that the findings would be dismissable. On the contrary, personally I am always happy when some research shows the potential of meditation techniques.
But to claim that the potential of SK is higher, is a different matter all together. Because that, the research did not show.
So as it says in the article:"The studies seem to indicate for example that it helps against depression, and that it brings better antioxidant status and lower blood lactate levels." So I do not think I dismiss anything. But of course, as a theologian with some knowledge in the matter, I also need to admit that all those are possibly "a general outcome of any meditation."
And let me perhaps just repeat a paragraph:

"On top of it, when one turns from those research articles back to the normal web pages of the Art of Living, it is amazing to see how all the 'scientificness' has all of the sudden gone. On the Sudarshan Kriya page it says that “this unique breathing practice is a potent energizer. Every cell becomes fully oxygenated and flooded with new life. Negative emotions that have been stored as toxins in the body are easily uprooted and flushed out.” What might 'a potent energizer' be in scientific terms? Energy in scientific terms is not the prana of the Yoga terms. And how does a concept like 'new life' relate to oxygenation of blood? Oxygenation is simply a chemical term describing the amount of oxygen in the blood. And what on earth are 'the toxins' that store 'negative emotions' in the body? A proper scientific research proving the existence of those would surely be very hard to find."

Thus the irony of the matter is that I did not dismiss the scientific research in my article, but that AOL apparently did so on their own websites by not using any conclusions of the research when presenting their own claims about Sudarsan Kriya. As I wrote: "The wording all of the sudden becomes an obvious case of pseudo-scientific language when they explain it in their 'own' terms." This therefore, for me, seems to be very misleading for people who do not have the time or the possibility to analyse all this thoroughly.

Also, and this is very important, most of the research makes it very clear that the research that they conducted was on very small scales and so should be done on bigger scales if you want them to be conclusive. Thus the research so far provides us more with 'promising information' than with conlusive statements.

Here i should repeat something i have replied to another question before:
"Dr. Janakiramaiah was one person who recognized the marketing behind the spirituality and expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that although the research had been conducted jointly between the Art of Living and NIMHANS, he felt that the research findings had been published much before any valid testing could be done to prove the results were valid. Especially claims like improved areas of function in the brain etc were not done according to the approval of NIMHANS. The preliminary ‘positive’ effects had been observed and then published and used as a validation for the SKY before any actual scientific testing could be done."
(http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04122005-173708/unrestricted/Shankar_thesis.pdf)

The argument about the scientific results being used in an improper and pseudo-scientific way is too technical.

Let me try to make it clear to you in non-technical terms:

It wouldn't matter whether AOL comes up with a hundred researches like the ones they have because eventually, when they talk about Sudarshan Kriya, they do not make any use of the conclusions of the research. They say “it has been scientifically proven that it works” but once they explain why it works according to them, it has absolutely nothing to do with the reasons the research provides. This to me, seems like abuse of research to fool the people for who it all would be 'too technical'.

In very vulgar terms it would be called: “cheating” or “telling lies”.

(And again, to reference something i have already referenced to: in http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04122005-173708/unrestricted/Shankar_thesis.pdf we can read that Dr. Janakiramaiah "that in one of the brochures they describe that doing Sudharshan Kriya leads to a tingling in your fingers and toes. The brochures claim that this has to do with ultimate brain function and is a result of SKY.
"But if anyone keeps breathing like that- essentially they are hyperventilating and flushing their body with oxygen, which is what is going to happen. There is no mystical meaning behind the tingling in their fingers and all that."")

Scientific explanation given to us about benefits of Sudarshan Kriya is basically not required; it is just an add-on information available to us.

And if this is how AOL thinks about scientific information, why then are they so keen in offering it?

About the social projects and development work of AOL
Adopting thousands of villages in the country which are below poverty line - Is it not greatness? It is an NGO with maximum number of village adoption in the whole world. The adoption include following activities - Teaching and promoting Organic farming, Irrigation techniques, Water harvesting development programs, Cleanliness, Drainage system development, Wells etc. They have built up villages on strong values, so farmers and poor sustain hard times.

One: My article first of all says that these things were not truly mentioned in the promotional videos on the official websites. Even more, when those things are mentioned in some parts of the texts on the website, nowhere is explained how exactly those things are done. And that makes me question it, for i'm fully aware of the fact that each and every single element of those things needs quite some expertise to handle them correctly. So i of course wonder where all the expertise comes from or which models are adopted to put these things into practice. But AOL does not seem to feel the need to show which models they apply or where their expertise comes from.

Two: If the quality and the way they handle conferences about social projects and development work is representative for their way of doing that development work, then it really doesn't look very promising. Here is a first hand account of somebody who was thoroughly appalled by the way AOL abused the idea of "an NGO summit for protection of environment and access to social justice" which, according to the author, "In reality, this was one of the cleverest hoaxes perpetrated in the name of a spiritual movement using the facade of NGOs.": http://churumuri.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/the-the-great-great-sri-sri-ngo-ngo-scam-scam/
If this is the way AOL and SSRS handle their NGO summits about "social justice" and "protection of the environment" and if this is the way they show their "expertise" in these matters, i really wonder how their actual social justice projects or efforts for protecting the environment are really conducted.

Three: Even if i suppose that you are in fact doing all those things (because you can't explain everything on a website of course) and even if i suppose that the NGO summit i referred to was simply a bit of an unintended mishap because of organisational mistakes, even then it all remains extremely doubtful. As my article says, the numbers they present about their projects seem highly exaggerated and again make it questionable that those things are indeed done (and certainly on the scale that is proposed).

I have myself been involved with another NGO called Village Reconstruction Organisation. They have build over 500 villages in India in about 30 years. I have seen quite a lot of them and even helped somebody making a documentary about those villages and there development-programs. I was fully aware how difficult it was to make it all work, and i even would say that the amount (500 in 30 years) was absolutely unmanageable to do it all properly. It needed a lot more time. Not because of a lack of effort (the organiser worked continuously and there were many volunteers helping) but simply because the villagers have to be educated and trained in all these things and that takes a lot of time, effort and care to do it properly. So even if a development organisation has twenty enlightened people working in it, it is simply impossible to overstretch the limits of the people you work for. In other words, even if SSRS is enlightened, the villagers aren't.

So, as i know from personal experience how difficult it is to set up decent and sustainable projects in rural areas in India, and since i know that 500 villages in 30 years is already too much to handle properly, i heavily question the numbers AOL offers. According to SSRS' personal website "In 1997, he founded the International Association for Human Values, a humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization that advances human values in political, economic, industrial, and social spheres. The Association is working in poor rural communities to promote sustainable growth, and has reached more than 30,000 villages." This means that in 11 years (or 4015 days) the association for Human Values has "reached out" to an average of more than 7 villages a day!

Now i don't know what "reach out" is supposed to mean but they make it seem like it means that they genuinely and seriously did things like "Teaching and promoting Organic farming, Irrigation techniques, Water harvesting development programs, Cleanliness, Drainage system development, Wells etc". It is simply impossible to do those things at such a tempo. Even if we suppose that SSRS is truly enlightened and capable of doing or organising such a thing (though i doubt it, because he travels and gives lectures half of the time), then, as i said, the villagers themselves don't let themselves be 'educated' or 'developed' on a day. So either AOL reaches out extremely superficially and simply mentioning the name of SSRS is considered to be "reaching out" and doing "development work", or the numbers given are totally impossible.

To make matters worse, the same official biography says that “Through personal interactions, teachings and humanitarian initiatives, SSRS has reached out to an estimated 300 million people worldwide.” That means that if the 52 year old Shankar would have interacted with, set up humanitarian initiatives for or given teachings to an average of about 15806 people a day! If being seen on TV counts as an interacting and teaching humanitarian initiative, then maybe the number could perhaps be true... although... even then...

Four: If the people they associate with and which they allow to give speeches at their gatherings are an example of the expertise they use or those they reach out to, then there are yet some other doubts to be raised as is shown by the example of Filip De Winter's presence at the Silver Jubilee 25 year anniversary of AOL. (For a reference that Filip indeed speaking at the Jubilee (sadly enough in dutch): http://www.filipdewinter.be/page.php?linkID=309 )

Filip De Winter is a Belgian politician. Now as a Belgian i'd like to contextualise his presence at the jubilee a bit.

Filip De Winter is the frontman of the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Importance) a political party that had previously been legally banned because of public display of racism (they then came back under a new name), they have always been linked with aggressive politics, they are an extreme-right party promoting the idea of "own people first" and because of all of this the other parties in Belgium have for a long time chosen to stick together in explicitly refusing to form a government with Vlaams Belang.

All in all then, everybody living in Belgium knows that associating with Filip De Winter is exactly the opposite of associating yourself with peace. Quite the contrary, you'd be linking yourself more to neo-fascist thinking.

And they didn't invite him to "go into discussion". It was not a debate or anything else that could put his presence there into some perspective. No he was invited to join the festivities (and probably asked to endorse their cause in Belgium) just like all the other people in the AOL family and to address all the people present with his own personal message. Whether the content of his message (and the thaught-system behind it) is in line with the message of love from AOL thus seems less important than the fact that a politician supports AOL.

Now to counter the obvious reply (that SSRS has previously given when confronted with other such incidents) that to condemn is the job of a politician but that the job of a reformer is to transform with love and not through condemning, i'd like to add that there is no issue here of condemning De Winter. He is loved by some and thoroughly disliked by others. So be it. But there is no such thing as "condemnation". (he has only been put in jail for a couple of hours recently for becoming aggressive at the police during an anti-islam gathering that wasn't allowed by the municipality-officials). But not to condemn does not mean that you shouldn't at least put into question. And if you don't put into question at least you should not enhance the possibilities of their acts.

If SSRS claims to be so Gandhian, he could learn something from the Mahatma's letter to Hitler: no condemning of Hitler at all in that one, but quite a lot of criticism on his actions and pleading to change his mind by use of argument. If all Gandhi did was smile in a nice way, i don't think he wouldn't have gotten very far.

AoL claims that SK is the medicine for a whole lot of problems. If that is so should the SK not be offered as single treatment for all?

This is exactly why i had to show that SK was not different of all other meditation forms, because, if that is true, then that means that SK can simply NOT be offered as a single treatment to all. No meditation can. I'm seeing meditation as one of the biggest helps in my personal life as well, but i would never claim that it will solve everything from depression to poverty. Medition has its limits. To present it as the one cure for all is as unrealistic as presenting antibiotics as the one remedy for all diseases. And if i am right that Sudarshan Kriya is not different then normal meditation (and i think i made a very strong case of showing this) than that means that it is just as incapable of solving all the problems in the world.

If the same Tylenol could treat headache of American housewives and the people of war torn Iraq, why not SK?

I do not think that many people would find it acceptable to to compare the problems of the people of Iraq to something simple like a headache? I guess few people would disagree that it is quite something different to help an American housewife that is stressed because she has to get the kids in time, doesn't see her hard working husband enough and has a mother that is constantly meddling with her affairs. Believe me, i'm not downgrading such problems. They are problems in their own right, and everybody has the right to be helped. But i simply do not think they can be compared to the stress of people that live in constant danger of their lives because bombs explode around them every day in a neighbourhood that has bullet holes in every wall, of people that live in a country that has lost all its social structure, that lacks possibilities of proper healthcare, education and governance due to the fact that a foreign power with a totally different culture has invaded them and now imposes a legal and political structure on them that is totally foreign to them, of people that try to get by with bits and pieces because the daily economy is on completely shattered while just some kilometers outside of their city some big (foreign) companies are making huge profits because they could get a hold of some oil wells.

Although SK might – again, just like other meditation practices – possibly help with calming some of their emotions, could perhaps help dealing with their inner struggle and so on, i'm afraid that lots of other elements will also have to be tackled. To continue with the example: Tylenol won't do much good if your headache is caused by the fact that your neighbor every day comes into your house and hits you on the head with a heavy hammer.

About the financial dealings of AOL
Sri Sri believes that service and spirituality go together. Obviously, one cannot do charity from an empty bowl.

I do not disagree with this idea.

The trademarks, organization and course fee are all a means to support the social work.

This i do disagree with. For one, the reason for the pattenting found in the interview on http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/jan/14inter.htm is "Because someone else was going to patent it. We patented it so we could teach. Otherwise, it would have become a commercial commodity in the US long ago. People started copying it and we stepped in." Thus the patent is not there to create more money for social work.

Also, on on the "art of living" page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_of_Living)one can read:"The foundation states that the money collected from courses is directed towards its "operating expenses, special service related projects, building improvements and endowments". According to the 2005 tax return filed by the American chapter, AOLF had total revenues of $3.2 M (mainly from course fees and public support) and expenditure of $1.9M (mainly in salaries, occupancy expenses and travel) in 2004; however none of the money went towards international developmental or humanitarian programs, disaster relief, scientific/medical research or charitable activity. According to the document, the organizations sole accomplishment for the year was to "teach art of living courses"." (You can find the tax-file here: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2005/770/240/2005-770240101-025eb863-9.pdf ).

All in all, the lack of sources for such information is of course the problem. I can not really say whether the claims about what happens with the money are true or false. (And I also did not claim it in my article) The only thing is that the AOL is a multi-million dollar enterprise, and that calls for some transparency. Some people would like to see what happens truly with all that money. I personally can understand this wish. I myself have been involved in development work for a longer time and have often seen that the money does not always go where it is supposed to go (certainly in countries like India where it is very difficult to keep track of everything going on for various reasons). Transparency is a must in such issues that involve this amount of money, and so far, to my knowledge, this transparency has not been seen in AOL.

The projects cost hundreds of million dollars every year. Huge portion of funding for all these projects come from Course fees collected at metro, urban and sub-urban areas.

Well, in any case, as i said in my previous answer, the funds don't come from the course fees of the American branch of AOL. Which is strange, as Americans still offer the bigger capital-possibility for such robin-hood-like ideas. But no, appearently there is no need for the funds of the wealthier parts of the world to be used in favour of the poorer parts. It makes me wonder where they do get the money for all the projects they claim to do.

Attacks on the author
The author has bad intentions.

I have to admit that my language was harsh, ironic and sarcastic. But that was merely a choice of style. And I believe that, as long as I do not tell any lies or distort facts, I am entitled to choose any style I want to convey a certain point.

So yes I use harsh language like "his blatant exaggerations and mystifications in presenting himself and Sudarshan Kriya seem at least to point in that direction." I believe that the whole of the article shows that this might perhaps be bluntly stated but at least not factually wrong.

Therefore, I did not, as some AOL people say, want to "tarnish" Shankar's image, but I wanted to correct the extremely "holy" and excessively positive picture often found in today's media.

So here are my intentions as clearly as they can get:
As a journalist I wanted to give another view on SSRS than is lately give a lot in the media like for example CNN because the information became to one-sided. As a philosopher/theologian I wanted to set some things straight like the weird way in which the existence of 'scientific research' is used as an argument, while the language to 'sell' the Sudarshan Kriya is very pseudo scientific. And as a spiritual person interested in peace and religion I also wanted to make sure that proper investigation is given to SSRS and AOL before they receive a Nobel prize.

I believe there are no other intentions than these with my article. I am a fan of Indian spirituality, but not of hypocrits abusing it. Therefore, because some elements make me doubt, I am simply wondering whether SSRS is genuine or not. Hence the title.

The author is prejudiced against spirituality / Hinduism / Indian spiritual teachers:

I am very sorry if this is the feeling the article gives to someone. Especially because actually the opposite is true. I have travelled in India many times, specifically for my interest in and experience with Indian spirituality. Personally I have an enormous reverence for Mahatma Gandhi for example. That is why I have made my masters of theology dissertation about him, asserting that following Gandhi and his ideas about fasting is still relevant today. That is also why I said that SSRS misuses Gandhi's legacy of non-violence to back up ideas that are not really Gandhian. As a theologian with specialisation in the matter, I could not let that one pass.

Also I have a huge reverence for people like Vivekananda, Krishnamurti, Vinoba, and many others. The article mentions Yogananda as well, for example, and certainly does not say anything bad about this person - I only mention him because he, as a famous guru long before SSRS, is honest in mentioning (and even emphasises) the lineage of guru's before him.

But yes, the article is a bit harsh on Osho and Maharishi. Simply because those two have often been shown to be controversial - if you want to put it nice - or downright frauds - if you want to state it harsh and critical.

The author seems to imply that to be a true guru, a guru should hide in the caves of the Himalayas.

Considering I have a big reverence and knowledge of Gandhi, I am of course not at all the type to say that one has to go into the caves of the Himalayas to suit my standards of a spiritual teacher.

Also, considering Gandhi's maxim of "God is truth" I can answer that according to my convictions a guru does not have to hide in the Himalaya's but at least he should do one thing: he should be honest.
For SSRS this means: he should say whether Maharishi was his guru, he should provide a whole lot more (traceable) facts about his history (this is: before the Maharishi died – see later comments in the Maharishi section), he should stop his AOL from abusing the existence of scientific research to 'sell' his SK in pseudo scientific terms, he should make his whole organization more transparent so that the financial dealings can be better observed, he should not claim to propose ideas in line with Gandhi when he is not saying really Gandhian things, he should be a bit more nuanced in dealing with very complex and difficult issues like for example the war in Iraq, he should not write books about Islam "in a hurry" (he gave this as an argument in a debate with a Muslim scholar who showed the flaws in SSRS' book – see next point for more explanation) when we all know how sensitive the Hindu-Islam issue is in India, etc.

Honesty, transparency and thoughtfulness therefore go a long way in meeting my standards of a genuine guru. The amount of followers you have and the amount of social projects that you have set up do not mean much to me. For history has known many that had much followers and have done a whole lot of projects without being the slightest bit genuine.

The author should take into account the negative effects his article might have.

I did take the effects into account. I did not see many except for some AOL people being angry. And perhaps some people would not go to the course because of it, and thus not loose their money to something that – according to me and others – is not worth it – but that would be a positive effect (except for the finances of AOL of course).

Secondly i also give my intentions very straightforwardly: to balance and correct the news that we normaly get in the media about AOL. I guess that effect my article has reached.

But now that we are on the subject of responsibility. What about the responsibility of AOL's guru - SSRS? I could easily asks this to the people who come up with the argument. For SSRS has previously written a book about Islam. It was full of mistakes. I have been told by people of AOL that AOL took away the book and did not publish it any further. Meanwhile it's first prints are out of course.

Now considering India has experienced a lot of communal hatred and especially between Hindus and Muslims, it does not seem very responsible of a spiritual Hindu leader to write a book about Islam that is full of mistakes. Taking it back is fine, and i'm happy he did, but if he was so enlightened he could have foreseen what the reactions were going to be. Certainly when writing it "in a hurry". And he himself said he wrote it in a hurry. Literally. (see for the video about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojeyl6v0lNc ), What i expect of a religious leader in a country that indeed has known a lot of communal violence is not simply to withdraw books that offend people but above all to first and for all NOT write them in a hurry, but to think, research and redact a lot before you publish such books.

And admitting his mistakes does not show “his greatness and humbleness” in this case, as i've read somewhere. In this case, it shows his carelessness, because, considering the sensitivity of the issue, he should not have published it at all, certainly if he is as enlightened as he claims to be.

The author should realise that one cannot attract attention with cheap headlines.
All the official websites of AOL and SSRS actually prove that you can.

The author's truth conception is limited. / The author should know that Truth is multidimensional.

A philosophical truth-concept is of little concern in face of certain facts. To repeat for example, when the research does NOT show that Sudarshan Kriya gives "more energy" and all the official AOL pages say that it does and this can be verified by medical research, then truth can be as multidimensional as it wants, and my truth-concept can be as limited as it wants, it remains a false statement.

The author is desperate to prove that Sudarshana Kriya is no different than any other meditation technique.

I'm not really desperate to prove that. It's simply one of my arguments. But it is, i admit, one of the arguments that many people in AOL seem to take personally for some reason.

Nonetheless i can also think of two very good reasons why proving that it isn't unique would be a very worthwhile as a goal in itself.

1. If it is the same as others, then it would mean that everybody can just go and learn the techniques that are taught for free as then there would be no need to pay for the AOL courses. And as such – maintaining the 'product'-idea – i could be considered as a critical consumer trying to show to other people who are wondering about it why they should or should not buy the thing. And my review would be clear: “do not buy it, because you can get the same thing a lot cheaper.”

2. It is presented as something different, better or special by AOL itself. If i'm right, that would mean that AOL is telling lies - and that will not often be considered as a very moral or spiritual thing to do. Let alone, show enlightenment.

The author is too research oriented

I'm not really that research oriented myself, but AOL and SSRS go through a lot of effort to show how research can back up their Sudarshan Kriya. So i just tried to show how it actually does not. I wouldn't even consider the research if they didn't constantly mention it and try to use it to show the worth of SK.

The author is obviously not a big believer of Sri Sri but he could have shown minimum courtesy by for example addressing him as Sri Sri millions of people in the world believe in him.

One: I'll reserve the title Sri for those names where it is appropriate. So i'll for example gladly talk of “Sri Krishna” or “Sri Shiva”. But i do not think it is really a necessity of courtesy to give mr. Shankar the title “Sri Sri”. First of all the double honorific is already bogus in itself and second its even more bogus if you consider that he added this “Sri Sri” to his name himself (to distuingish himself from the famous sitar player). Suppose George Bush would call himself “Holy Holy George Bush” simply to distinguish himself from his dad, would anyone except it and use those terms because of courtesy?
For a reference about the fact that he added the honorific Sri Sri to distinguish himself from the sitarist, see: http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/738?print=1 There one can read this explanation: "Shankar met the famous sitar player Ravi Shankar, who complained that the holy man was unfairly capitalizing on the name the musician had made famous. Soon after, the guru added the honorific "Sri Sri."”

Defences for SSRS' genuinity
It is hard to believe what Sri Sri achieved at early age. But if you look into other gurus that you seem to attest, they have similar abnormal stories.

One: I have no problem with abnormal stories as such. I have a problem with it all being clouded in mystery. In the case of SSRS for example it are the same few sentences repeated all over again, never is there any more data about it. But above all they never offer a possibility of verification. And if there are people saying the opposite, and i use their accounts as argument it gets disregarded as 'hearsay', 'jealousy' or 'rumor'.

Two: Because of the fact that i KNOW that he was a pupil of Maharishi and he does NOT mention it (before Maharishi's death) and thus shows to not present his personal history very accurately, i also start questioning WHAT ELSE he does NOT mention and – by reaction - i also start wondering about the truthfulness of what he DOES mention.

About Maharishi
If some one asks SSRS whether Maharishi is his guru, he is silent. This is because Sri Sri believes that the Guru principle is omnipresent and we learn from everyone, what to do and what not to do.

When a factual question is raised, a spiritual answer can be very out of place. Example: if a journalist was to ask Pratibha Patil, president of India, "do you have kids, and if so, what are their names?" and she answers: "all the kids of India are my sons and daughters" then of course, spiritually or symbolically speaking she might be right. But it would put the journalist who simply wanted to know the names of her son (Rajendra Shekhawat) and daughter (Jyoti Rathorand) in an unnecessary void.
Similarly: If the question is asked: "Were you a pupil of Maharishi once?" The answer is simply yes or no. It is not: "so many people have thaught me so much." I'm sure they did, but the FACTUAL question was something else.

So of course you have the right to interpret SSRS' silence to the question in a spiritual way. But others also have the right to interpret this silence as a way to get around the question.

The author is mistaken in the fact that SSRS would deny his relationship to Maharishi. He released a press report after the death of Maharishi showing how much he owned to his previous guru.

Indeed, after his death, all of the sudden an article was published in which SSRS himself sings the praise of his old time guru and gives us stories of his days as a student in Maharishi's Ashram. My first article was written before that time.

I can assure you that Maharishi was not mentioned before he came to die. It is then of course also very telling that although his own websites artofliving.org and srisri.org make no mention of it whatsoever, the office of SSRS was very fast in publishing an article that supposedly came from the hand of SSRS himself about his days as a student with the Maharishi once it was clear that all the other mediaconcerns also reported nice things about him the day that he died. So as long as the guy is still alive you don't mention him in your 'official biography', but when he dies you all of the sudden start saying that he is “a great saint” and that you “have never seen anyone as deep as Maharishi”.(see: http://www.mail-archive.com/fairfieldlife@yahoogroups.com/msg114644.html and http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/06aol.htm)

He even continues by describing how the days he spent as a disciple had been. Apparently you could call Maharishi quite a significant person in his life then. Strange not to mention that explicitly before.... unless of course... you can only say it when the person you want to say something about can't reply to you and publicly contradict you. Considering Maharishi died, that prerequisite seemed fulfilled.

Now for the possible reasons behind this:
1. It has been said that Maharishi has before renounced and scolded SSRS
http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2006/02/sri-sris-big-jubilee-blow-out.html
http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2006/02/sri-sris-inflation-unabated.html)
2. In the West Maharishi was not praised everywhere. He was, to say the least, a controversial figure. So perhaps, if you want a nice image in the West, you don't try to associate with the controversial people – until of course courtesy-newsreports start showing that he is more liked then disliked.

A small remark on top of all of this: although SSRS' official biography does not mention the Maharishi who he calls “a great saint”, it does mention that at a young age he “Starts lessons with his first teacher, Pandit Sudhakar Chaturvedi, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi” It puts extra questions behind why the Pandit is mentioned but not the Maharishi. On top of it the reference to the Pandit needs some extra clarifications.

One: As far as i know, the part with Pandit Sudhkar Chaturvedi is fairly new. But new or not, it is remarkable that it is there, stressing the relation with Gandhi – thus trying to show that he is in that tradition.

Two: If you try to show why he is in a certain tradition because of having had somebody as a teacher (A vedic scholar – by the way) why does he not mention his other teacher and Guru (who also claimed to be a vedic scholar)?

Three: Being a Gandhi-scholar myself (as i researched and wrote my graduation dissertation about Gandhi, satyagraha and his fasting. I wrote this dissertation in the Theology Department of the Catholic University of Leuven. You can see that here: http://www.kuleuven.be/nieuws/berichten/2006/thesis/godgeleerdheid.html ) i must also remark that Chaturvedi is not likely to be considered “a close associate”. Sure, he witnessed Jallianwala Bagh, and of course he encountered and knew Gandhi personally and was a Gandhian, but that hardly makes him a “close associate” which would be something you'd reserve for people like Abdul Gafar Khan, Nehru, Vinoba, and the like. Not surprisingly so, if you search the net, only the SSRS and AOL related sites seem to mention Chaturvedi as a "close associate" of Gandhi.

The author has no reason to conclude that Maharishi was bogus.

The reason my article is quick in deciding that Maharishi wasn't as Maha (great) as he himself or others have claimed, is because the amount of evidence around showing the difference is amazing. After his death it was surprising to see how so many aknowledged mediahouses seemed to 'overlook' all this evidence. On my website i have mentioned that at the time of his death it “took a deep delve into the internet to find an article shedding a less positive light on the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement” but it was not impossible. On top of it, those articles once again swept all the hagiopgraphy away. For example the last journalist to interview the Maharishi also wrote an article, and since he was the last to have a first hand account of an encounter with the Maharash his story is once again showing well enough why we should not consider the Maharishi as enlighted as he or his followers claim:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=512747&in_page_id=1773

And so why do i conclude from such an account that he is bogus? Well it's very simple. Both Maharishi and his followers claimed he was enlightened. The account given to us by David Jones (the last journalist that could interview him) however clearly shows us that he really wasn't – not unless angry frustration is something you consider to be an aspect of enlightenment. Now, i'm not saying that i and others don't have moments of angry frustration ourselves, but i and most of those others also do not claim to be enlightened, because if we did, we could be considered as ...yes, indeed ... “bogus”..

About Gandhi
Gandhi and his practices were uncalled-for in this discussion.

Not me but SSRS himself brought it up in his interview with CNN ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-Sstlp1u7Y ). So i just thought that it needed some reply as i considered his reference to Gandhi inapropriate - or at least he oversimplifies the Gandhian way of handling the conflict.

Perhaps i should here also remember you of my previous answer earlier where i showed how he specifically tries to link himself to Gandhi by claiming to be a pupil of Pandit Sudhkar Chaturvedi and calling this Chaturvedi a close associate of Gandhi.

Why would SSRS not offer solutions that might be as good as or better than what Gandhi offered? How does the author know what would have happened had Gandhi asked people to meditate to get ride of their anger?

We know what happened. As Gandhi constantly asked people to do just that. A known quote like “My greatest weapon is mute prayer” (http://www.mkgandhi.org/epigrams/p.htm) certainly hints in that direction. There is no way around it: For Gandhi the spiritual change was the most needed of all and for that he saw prayer (meditation) and fasting as the best techniques.

Why would SSRS mention Gandhi in the wrong way? He is doing Gandhian work is he not?

The difference is that Gandhi added enormous actions, great political insight, huge efforts of education, social reform and even rural reform to it, based on quite a bit more then just a Yoga practice. You could say that SSRS and AOL do all of that as well, but as i have stated in my article: when you take a closer look at all the social relief work they offer it always seems to come down to teaching Sudarshan Kriya classes. And as i have said before, when if they claim to do other things than SK classes, they claim it in such a way that it becomes highly implausible that they would do what they say they do.

Also when he mentions Gandhi he does so in inappropriate ways as his way of handling things is not very Gandhian at all. Again, for me that amounts to fooling people. You say something to present people a certain image, but when you look into it you see that that image is false. Therefore he obviously neglects all the things that make Gandhi really Gandhi and SSRS really SSRS. Examples: Gandhi was a strong advocate of being poor with and for the poor, Gandhi would never have associated with extremist hindus but would have tried to bring them to other ideas and as Gandhi knew how tensionful the relations between Muslims and Hindu's were, he would never have written a book about Islam “in a hurry” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojeyl6v0lNc) - as this would lead to "many mistakes" (as it did in SSRS case, so he admitted).

Other arguments could be put forward to show the difference between AOL's way of handling things and the satyagraha of Gandhi, but that would lead us even further away, and all in all it wasn't the topic. It suffices to say that for Gandhi the way to peace was not simply contained in hollow sentences like “wouldn't it be better if we would just talk to each other and show more love and respect to one another?”.

Sure it would. And it would also be better if guru's didn't productify meditation, if they were honest about where all their millions went to, if they wouldn't claim scientificness when they are not, if they would watch out when they write books about tensionful subjects, if they back up their words with provable actions, if they would truly be engaged in social work instead of flying around the world half of the time, and if they would give some useful ideas that could help humanity advance instead of only a big smile.

No disrespect to a big smile though. On the contrary. As long as smiles are genuine i truly love them.

3 opmerkingen:

Yunus zei

JM, of who I already placed an email on this blog commented on my new blog with its summary of answers to common AOL claims and critiques. She added some more info and figures and a nice insight into (the marketing of) AOL from her point of view as an expert in the field and corroborates my views.

This is what she mailed

"Merci de votre document de synthèse qui reprend tous les arguments avec justesse.

Si les cours de yoga et de méditation ne présentent pas en soi de nouveauté, il semble que le talent de SSRS soit celui d'un businessman qui a su développer une "multinationale de la méditation"(cf. NouvelObs.com – 16 février 2006 – n° 2154) en utilisant subtilement les statuts d'ONG, de fondation et d'association, dont les flux financiers ne sont pas très lisibles.
Comme le dénonce l'enseignant démissionaire, je suis interpellée par le prix des stages (250 € pour le premier stage de18 h) alors que les professeurs AOL (qui ont payé eux-mêmes leur formation) sont bénévoles et convaincus que le bénéfice des stages va à des actions humanitaires.
Pour avoir moi-même pratiqué le yoga depuis plus de 20 ans, avoir une activité professionnelle dans le domaine du développement personnel, je suis totalement d'accord avec votre point de vue sur SSRS : son but n'est pas de conduire les personnes à l'autonomie et à la méditation mais de maintenir les bénévoles d'AOL dans une dépendance affective et spirituelle, en contrepartie de l'utilisation de leurs compétences, voire de leurs moyens financiers : la cible actuellement visée par AOL dans les pays occidentaux est, en effet, les futurs"young leaders" (cf le développement de stages pour les étudiants YLTP, Youth Leadership Training Program).

Je suis également de votre avis sur l'action prétendument humanitaire de SSRS : Il semble, en effet, que la seule action humanitaire de SSRS soit de propager le SK, qui permet de supporter les conflits (Irak, Kosovo), les catastrophes naturelles (Tsunami), la pauvreté (Haïti), combattre la dépression (agriculteurs indiens), le racisme (Afrique du Sud) ...etc...bref, le remède miracle !
Pour être moi-meme impliquée dans l'accompagnement de personnes en difficulté, la vision quasiment "miraculeuse" de l'effet du SK et de la présence de SSRS pourrait prêter à sourire si je pouvais me permettre de prendre ces enjeux à la légère. Mais je sais comme vous la nécessité d'un travail au quotidien, poursuivi dans la durée et adapté à chaque situation.

En revanche, là où Art de Vivre excelle, c'est dans la magnification de ses actions (voir plus haut), et la récupération d'événements dont il prétend subtilement être à l'origine (Exemple : Le Poverty Millenium de l'ONU où SSRS montre sa solidarité avec les personnes souffrant de la pauvreté à partir de l'Hotel Intercontinental d'Oman !), le business symposium à Bruxelles soi-disant organisé par IAHV alors que c'est la Chambre de Commerce Indienne ( SSRS y fait une intervention mais IAHV en profite pour "caser" juste avant une session des young leaders où ils "bénéficient" d'un stage SK)
La manipulation est subtile et très efficace auprès des adeptes d'AOL : rien n'est vraiment "faux", les événements existent bien mais AOL ou SSRS n'en sont pas les initiateurs, seulement les habiles récupérateurs. Visiblement, les chargés de communication à AOL sont performants (Sont-ils formés au Sri Sri Center for Media Studies ?).
Ce qui m'a alerté, c'est la différence entre ce que l'on peut voir sur le site ("l'une des plus grandes ONG mondiales") et le peu d'articles mentionnant AOL ou même SSRS dans les médias "classiques" internationaux, qui heureusement font leur travail de vérification des faits.

Merci de votre travail de réflexion juste et d'argumentation pondérée, démontrant une ouverture d'esprit et une volonté de dialogue à partir de faits : c'est là la principale difficulté avec les personnes impliquées dans Art de Vivre, notamment la visibilité sur les financemes d'Art de Vivre, IAHV et Sri Sri Org."

Anoniem zei

Vitarka Atmagyanam - It is said that truth is beyond logic. It is foolishness to engage one self in maligning a person without knowing any experience to the truth.

Akash

ritesh zei

well, lets see wat's lies beneath.
I have done part-1 course, some things are there which I don't enevn I don't admit.

but I am still following, But I will be allways with truth. so lets catch the truth.

ask the AOL community, if the purpose if solved is it required to give donation (fees) to AOL?

I mean, tell them if some one don't want to donate (contribution / or fees in ur term) for course at AOL but can happily donate at any XYZ place(or feed any hungry kids, or spend in humanatrian activity by exact or more amount then cource fees)then can that person can do the course by showing receipt or so?

by this way purpose of welfare gets solved & AOL people should not have any objection in it.

but if they have any abjection then some logical people will leave the path of AOL.

I am only with truth.

regards,