Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living it Up.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (sanjay austa austa)

Even Gandhi waited for Tagore to confer on him the title `Mahtama', however Indian Guru's don't need any such validations. Shankar went ahead and honored himself with the two Sri's.

(  Ten years or so ago I spent a day with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his followers on a  Delhi to Agra road trip . I wrote a tongue- in- cheek story on the high-flying lifestyle  of Sri Sri who advocates `simple living’ to those who flock to him.  Until the article was published I had not imagined his followers would be so intolerant of any criticism of their Guru.  Industrialist Rahul Bajaj,  an ardent Shankar devotee, and a major advertiser of my paper called the  owner  to complain.  Is it any wonder then that interviews of  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are usually adulatory?   Fortunately for me,  my  editor stood by the story. P.s. To put it in today’s context, I have made slight modifications in the original  story)

“Guruji takes care of everything. You just come”, says a middle-aged voice over the phone inviting you to the CII delegation at Agra where Art of Living Founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is to give a concluding lecture.

The bus leaves at 9am and the devotees saunter in the lawns and foyer of a sprawling farmhouse in Gurgoan (a Delhi surburb) where the Guru is staying. Amidst chants of Jai Gurudev- the greeting the disciples exchange on meeting each other- you try and pick the voice of the lady on the phone. “Hi , I am Maureen Motwani” she appears suddenly.

She says she is  not sure when the bus leaves for Agra. “With Guruji one cannot say what might happen the next moment”, she says ominously. And apropos of nothing adds, ” I was Miss India. Did you know that”?.

Indeed, the devotees thronging the plush bungalow are mostly  has-been beauty queens, aging socialites, media barons and stressed out CEO’s of companies- the latter having facilitated Ravi Shanker’s address to the CII delegates.

After a long wait, pregnant with expectations and emotions (few women weep with bliss at the very sight of  “Guruji”) a short, swarthy man donned in white, walks out of the house. Typical of an Indian guru, he has a long flowing beard and long dark tresses cover the shoulders of his unstitched robes.

The devotees suddenly break out singing a bhajan and escort him like a bride to a sparking Mercedes Benz waiting to transport him to Agra. Ravi Shanker slips in , slouches on the back seat, smiles and waves at the devotees peeping in through the car window, and is off.

All the high rank and file of the business world follow Shanker in a rickety bus to Agra. In the bus they  remind you, that  “Guruji” is different. “Didn’t you see how in his presence all the stress and tension is dissolved?”, asks  J. P. Gupta, a Company Director and owner of the farmhouse where Shankar stayed. I am not too sure . I am just perplexed why the beloved Guru went solo in a luxury car when there was so much room in the bus we are traveling in. Surely his adulating followers would have loved to have him in their midst? Except me and the other fellow journo, everyone in this bus had the power to own a couple of hot cars if they didn’t already.

I am amused by the irony of a man who claims to own nothing, zipping by in a gleaming Mercedes while those who can actually afford one, bumping along the Delhi – Agra highway in the less than comfortable bus. I try to ask the followers about this but I am scoffed at for my `ignorance’. ” You will never understand the ways of our Guru”, they conclude.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (sanjay austa austa)

Sri Sri gatecrashing into the Lolpal debate? Lot of people didn't like the idea of a religious person like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meddling in the Lokpal debate. But he ultimately became one of the key negotiators between the Anna camp and the Government.

It is a long bumpy bus-ride to Agra and we are  dropped off at the Jaypee Hotel- a deluxe five star hotel where the CII meeting is due.  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s merc.  had arrived almost an hour before and the guru is checked in a luxury suite. I ask the followers to let me interview him. ” It won’t be possible just now. Guruji just arrived from a long journey. He is tired and resting”, I am summarily  told.  I really won’t  understand the ways of this Guru, I think to myself. We were the ones who had a rough bus-journey to Agra. He had had it smooth in a Mercedes didn’t he? We were the mere mortals who should be resting.  Not the mighty Guru who could surely summon the reserves of his yogic- powers to de-stress himself.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar emerges from his suite only in the evening. At the CII meeting, he speaks for 10 minutes peppering his speech with truisms and repeating the lecture he gave at the  Millium Peace Summit in New York. ”  I am getting some vibrations from you”, exclaimed a visibly overcome CII delegate when offered the mike to ask a question. The lecture over, some of the top honchos of the industrial world sprawl at his feet.

Sri Sri is back in his plush five star hotel suite. The devotees sit on the floor while  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sits on a high sofa.   There is silence and it is broken only to compliment on what a “tremendous success” his lecture was. Indeed Shanker has been successful around the world with his breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya  over which he has even obtained a copyright.

It is this technique which has lent to his growing popularity for his lectures are  full of spiritual cliches and are shockingly insipid. But for his followers, even his off the cuff remarks are taken down as pearls of wisdom and repeated to the uninitiated. Critics say Sudarshan Kriya itself is nothing but  rehashed  Yogic exercise known to indian ascetics since antiquity. But Sri Sri was the first to market it to the modern world and its yours to learn provided you pay the price.  Like most guru-seeking people, Shanker’s devotees, mostly the urban elite, come to him  to get rid of their tentions and anxieties. And like many esoteric groups, his devotees attribute many miracles to him.

Art of living founder and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (sanjay austa austa)

Art of living founder and Indian Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

I am  finally ushered in for the interview. At the door I  hear a visibly shaken devotee exclaim “Guruji looks so much like Jesus Christ”. Its not hard to see how difficult it can be to ask any reasonable questions from a man so  deified and protected by an adulating cabal. As I take my seat , I am  suddenly aware that I am the only one besides the Guru sitting on a chair. Every industrialist worth his salt, sit crouching on the floor even when there are few empty chairs available.

For a few seconds I just look at the Guru waiting for something to happen. Maybe some sort of holy ‘vibrations’ to flow through my cynical veins, I hope. But the Guru looks away shyly. Unlike Osho, making eye-contact is surely not the way of Sri Sri I conclude . Especially  not if you ask him anything uncomfortable. When you do so he looks at his followers, who as if on cue, clap and cheer loudly on his half-hearted attempts at answering, drowning you out completely.

When you have touched that sensitive cord with the Guru you know your interview is over. Some of my  questions are basic but these are questions Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has dodged all his life, often with trite humour. Sample this- to  the question why he gave himself the two Sri’s he says “because 108 Sri’s would be too long” or “there was already one Ravi Shankar so to avoid the confusion”. Where  for anyone else awarding oneself  superhuman titles would seem very arrogant and egoistic, for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar it is seen as a natural assertion of his  so- called ‘enlightenment’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is also silent about his own guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, under whose  tutelage he grew to prominence in the Spiritual supermarket. And from whom he possibly picked up the idea of trademarking meditations. Mahesh Yogi became the  first Indian Guru to trademark a meditation technique when he  trademarked his Transcendental Meditation in the 1970′s.

As the evening sun sets  on the hotel in Agra, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gets ready to rest for the day.  Everyone is summarily ushered out of the room. On the train back to Delhi the  words of the followers come back to me ,” You will never understand the ways of Guruji”. Amen.

 (sanjay austa austa)

Students of IIT Delhi practicing Sudarshan Kriya in their campus.

371 Responses to “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living it Up.”

  1. Ashish Singh says:

    Loved the truth!!!
    Thank you Sanjay!

    • Rational Man says:

      If the Modern day Godmen are living like corporate world heads and do business, Pay tax and live like normal citizens. Don’t wear the halo around your head.

  2. Manoj Sharma says:

    You are so cynical Sanjay. Try to see the world from the eyes of his followers.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks for your comment Manoj. I tried but I failed as you can probably see.

      • ravi says:

        Sanjay,

        Your comments smack of bias and a lack of proper perception. And who are you and I to sit in judgement over someone so much more enlightened……and popular…..

        Mature journalism is at a premium these days…………

        Ravi
        Chennai

        • sanjay austa says:

          Hi Ravi, You are a believer and you think `someone’ is so much more enlightened. Thats your belief and you are entitled to it. As for me , I don’t agree that `someone’ is any more enlightened than you, me or the next fellow. Herein lies the rub. You obviously are taken in by that `someone’s’ popularity . Unfortunately I am not. I have not sat in judgement on Sri Sri ( Though i think anyone has a right to – he is a public personality after all and running a thriving spiritual/ commercial venture). I have only narrated my tongue -in-cheek encounter with him and his entourage. Mature journalism demands that. Singing peans to Guru’s is neither my forte nor journalism.

          • Anurag Sood says:

            Loved it.

            Keep up the Good word.

            Its worth experiencing original and truth than going by the Popular perception.

          • Gurumurthy Swaminathan says:

            I am curious, you can have someone who is faster than you, stronger than you, brighter than you, but not more enlightened than you:-)

          • Gurumurthy Swaminathan says:

            I am not talking about anyone. But logically if you can be brighter than someone (at any instant), stronger than someone, you can also be enlighten(er) than someone. I just want to point out to that fallacy. I do not follow any spiritual person per se, but am interested in enlightenment as a scientific subject (I have a background in brain science)

          • sanjay austa says:

            Gurumurthy. Its possible however it depends what you mean by enlightened?

          • shitanshu says:

            nice

          • Kurien John says:

            Hi Sanjay,

            Really appreciate your writing. I felt these were my words as I kept reading your article. And I wonder what has happened to the people of our country? When will they grow up to understand certain realities and truths about what’s going on around. When will they realize and recognize what true spiritualism is? Do people really need a Godman or Godwoman in their lives? Why don’t they realize these are criminals who have understood the weakness of the general public and have learnt the tricks of the spiritual market and have taken decisions to make it big in life by fooling the blind idiotic people of this world (which is in majority). Who can change these poor souls? It is they who grow these criminal Godmen. If the people grow wise one day, there wont be any more Sri Sri Ravi Shankars and Asaram Bapus and all the rest of them.. People need to have faith in the one above. Have a direct relationship with Him if one needs guidance and not these stupid Godmen and Godwomen whom we will one day see in the news as rapists or forgerers or criminals or caught in some scams etc.
            -Regards, Kurien

        • Pankaj says:

          If Chennai Express makes 200 cr., popularity cannot be a barometer of substance!

          My two bits on when I was disillusioned with the Art of Living course was when during a bhajan which started with something like bolo ram ki jai, followed by other Hindu deities, ended with Sri Sri in that string…not very subtle for me…

          there is a very thin line between the genuinely good things like yoga, and indoctrination which causes followers to become blind to questioning or questioners. For me that line got crossed in that string of the chant…

          • jyoti karnik says:

            i too have the same experience when in paid the fees and experienced but little, why should the common man pay huge fees to learn sudarshan kriya or reiki. he goes to such people who pride themselves by saying they are the saviours, only to be put into the fire from the frying pan????

          • Abby says:

            Funny, in India chanting Ram is not proffered – rather is looked down upon but Masjids can blare Allah-o-Akbar on loudspeakers 5 times every day. Sri Sri never tom-tomed being secular as far as I know ( I am not a follower)

            “Secular” folks like Ravi are the reason we are at this stage today, that we are afraid of being considered old-fashioned.

          • S Rajendran says:

            What I am more concerned with is the growing Pop-Swamy culture which to me and many others who think rationally like me, is fraudulent and lacks substance. What is more surprising is that people who follow these fraudulent Sri Sri Sri swamy are leaders in business and Government and therefore credited with some intelligence. Asaram Bapu who is a compulsive womaniser raped a minor girl, a Hindu believer, and supporting him are growing fanatical hordes of Hindu women who do not care what happens to the girl he raped. This is a tragedy of Hinduism and India which behaves so callously to their own folks supporting saffron robed swamis whose character is suspect and almost criminal. S Rajendran

          • Kurien John says:

            Such an egocentric guy.. Like you said about the chants, I wondered why is his photograph kept at all the meetings? Why is the man worshiped? Who is he? If he has shown any truth to people let there be realization that transformation of people and society taking place. Why worship this fellow? What knowledge or wisdom has he brought forward that was not already there with society earlier? Then why worship the man? Give him due respect for carrying it forward, not worship..

          • sanjay austa says:

            Thanks for your thoughts. I agree.

        • sinan says:

          Don’t preach others,by calling him enlightened you are also sitting in judgment.. You can, while others shudn’t..

        • Sandip says:

          I was shocked when I wanted to attend a discourse of sri sri. I was told to contact the franchisee to pay the required fees. I wonder “is it a business organisation?” I just stepped out and never ever visited any “franchisee” of sri sri.

        • Arun says:

          I saw a large amount of comments, and would like to join the forum on this issue.
          1 I wanted to join the AOL course but some how missed it and now at 60 not sure whether to do or not, however
          a) The AOL may have have helped a large number of persons and it will depend on with what level of faith one joins and follows the guidelines.
          b) If some attributes of the Guru are not of our liking, it does not mean that the course is useless fraud or otherwise.
          c) If we have full regards for the Guru, it does not mean that The Guru is infallible unless he has really really attained a unusual high level.
          2. From the perspective of followers of any group, divine/social/criminal/philanthropic etc,what their leader says, communicates, orders, follows, does is always correct. So followers of AOL would not like any issues against their belief and there is nothing to feel awkward on this except,
          If the teachings talk about self control, and neither the teacher nor the followers have it then it is a relevant issue, however a follower has full right to vehemently put forth his point on the merits which in opinion need merit.
          3. Having hymns/chants etc belonging to on belief system is not wrong as one is comfortable and to criticize on this point is wrong . Thus if the sect says about following Shri Ram only (or belief in any God of any religion)to the exclusion of other religious beliefs is not to be criticized to appear as secular and if one does not like one may not join that sect or organisation.
          4. Travelling in a mode deemed as luxury such as Merc/Exe Class, living in 5/7 star rooms is an irrelevant issue for head of any religious sect in case staying in 7 star or a hut or under the shade of any tree or even in scorching heat or travelling in Merc or walking on foot, truck auto bus have no bearing in the mind of the leader.
          5. Guru seated on high chair and followers standing/ seated on floor is an irrelevant issue as if respect is there, one would not like to equate with master.
          6 Having a patent in teaching a religious practice(such as Sudarshan Kriya) does not go well with the concept of the institution of AOL and casts doubts on the competence of the teacher itself. Teaching the same to only a selected few a per the judgement of the Guru is justified which may not be liked by others, but here the Guru is having right to his perception reg to whom to teach or not.
          7. Charging fees (high/low) is is dependent on Guru’s perception. Principally, it should be low, and on completion of the teachings, it shall be the duty to pay Guru Dakshina, whether as per Guru’s desire or one’s judgement can be a point of discussion.

          • kaliyug deciphered says:

            half or false knowledge is always dangerous and misguiding(Affirmation of a thorough observational and experiential understanding based on extensive research on conceptual vedic data provided in scriptures is also called as knowledge) …by writing this, u r shunning, vedas, upanishad, the very fundamental of hinduism bcoz u have no goal or vision however the vision of sri sri is that every person may attain his god /self/infinite/ within himself/herself through his favourite god which may be krishna, buddhha, allah, christ. well, the process 2 attain this is through following 1. kriya yoga(yoga, meditation) 2. bhakti yoga(bhajans, devotion) 3. jyana yoga(wisdom, knowledge of life) 4. karma yoga(selfless service 2 every living being) , aol says sadhana, seva satsang which is the same thing … just so u know where i come from, sri sri ravi shankar is my first guru, my other gurus are osho, neem karoli baba etc …i am also a follower of santana dharma and sufism, i also a fan of bob marley and abida parveen…all this dimension happenned after i started doing my yoga and meditation taught by the art of living guru…in addition 2 that, i was suffering from asthma, allopathy didnt help, i did sudarhsan kriya 4 only 6 to 8months…asthma vanished otherwise i had 2 take cipla inhalers all my life…so, mr. sanjay austa, self righteousness and reality is deceptive and it may only give u false pride,…only if u can understand this sentence, bcoz i know how much u r absorbed in showing an exaggerated awareness of one’s own virtuousness…(if u have the strength, i can counter u on every single sentence of urs) bcoz this world is full of people like you who would want bring the so called truth b4 eveeryone which is infact not,(bhavishya purana and other prophecies on kaliyug state that there wil be fake and real gurus in this era, followers of both of these will be selfish, greedy, shrewd..world will be full of atheists, gurus will be pelted with stones at a later stage of kaliyuga and i can go on and on and on) ….if u want 2 expose which are fake and real gurus, please kindly do an extensive research by personal observation and experiences….Your eyes should not only see vienna but also vidarbha..sri sri has travelled 2 both the places but u fail 2 see vidarbha …besides, if u know nothing about santana dharma, then its best 2 not misguide people….it is possible that he is enlightened or that he is just pretending..but surely some1 has 2 be a great pretender in order to fake it all his life…..Sri Sri ravi shankar does not gain anything because he is self realized , …now a self realize person doesnt understand the difference between rich and poor,whether he travels in mercedes or auto it desnt matter as it a definition of a self realized person…but in this peculiar age, spirituality is most conveniently available for rich rather then poor…3 most irreligious and corrupt institutions in this country are media, politicans, bollywood, cricket…i hope people stop follwing some of these…u can see only that much which your eyes can see, when u transcend ur five senses thats when the one almighty come s 2 u and makes home within ur heart….finally, sri sri never wanted 2 market this spiritual practices but there was threat that some ameericans might patent this breathing technique and b4 they could do so, he did it…now, if u r an indian and respect this country then you would not sell this priceless spiritual practice or knowledge to the thieves of the west..and this is a fact

          • sanjay austa says:

            Thanks for your views sir. I will just reply to the last bit of your comment. This priceless spiritual practice or knowledge is sold to the west by none other than your Guru Sri Sri. I wonder if you know about the celebrations he had in Berlin a few years ago.

          • Jagdeep Kaur says:

            Sorry ji Kaliyug ji for butting in. It is understandable, the devotion you are feeling. A lot of times a crutch feels soooo good, esp one that you feel might have helped you physically, or spiritually. Sudarshan Kriya is a minor version (albeit great, I agree) of intense breath-work exercises and other pranayams that of course us Indians have no idea about as we got lost somewhere on the road to “modernization”. So is the very basic yoga asanas that they demonstrate. For a “fee”, that they still insist on calling “donation” at a lot of places. And yes, they do overcharge, cos most of the sessions are mostly all philosophical gassing around and 20-30 mins of the actual exercises. Baba Ramdev does all those for free, or minimal amounts, but of course, the poor sweet guy lacks the glamour. :) It’s not about fake this or real that, it is about seeing something for what it is, na zyada, na kam. :) Ab the road that you are no one can (no one should) pull you away from it; all of us have our own roads, our own journeys. But I am thankful and grateful that they got the breathwork out of the rusted history. It definitely is helpful. But at the end of it all, it is a business. A pretty good one. If only I had the patience and stamina… :)

  3. Manjunath Shenoy says:

    You have an excellent style of the narrative, in the choice of words, and the brevity adds to the crispness of style. This is a wonderful article, and the tongue in cheek sarcasm adds a delicious touch.
    Just as I too do not believe in Godmen, except Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, who in my opinion are the only ones who can show us the True Path, these sort of people are inevitable in a world of insecurities, and mistrust.
    Thank you for the writings, and may your tribe increase.

  4. Madhavi says:

    Sanjay : coming on to a conclusion without relishing the depth is not a good idea .

    As the saying :where there is contentment abundance flows.

    Thanks

    • sanjay austa says:

      HI Madhavi , Thanks for your comments. I did not draw much of a conclusion really. Just wrote what I observed that day. In fact I was amazed at the followers who certainly have concluded something about Sri Sri and have somewhere stopped asking questions. Thanks

      • Megha Sharma says:

        Hi Sanjay,I am an Art of Living follower myself :)
        One of my friends just sent me this link to enlighten me about your article ( i feel he too doubts d credibilty of my guru :P) but i welcome tht. I appreciate inquisitive minds…well my Guru does that too! Not trying to sound defensve u must do an Art of Living course yourself. Also, I agree that there are quiet a lot of rich people n celebrities associated wid AOL but then thts not a negative point i guess….u might not know but there are villages in Arunachal Pradesh which China considers Chinese India has youths from AOL (still studying or working and taking out time) to contribute in the best possible way towards there nation. There are tribes in India who donot even have an understandable means to communicate, has followers taking out times from thier tough n busy lifes to help educate the tribal children, provide them wid basic amenities and do what ideally the govt shud be doing. I think this is one area which needs good journalism to atleast get into the real facts and truths of the ground realities :) Seriously its an interesting project u must take to get into the depth of the proceeding at d AOL. I promise u…it wud enlighten you :)
        And last but not d least…just give it a thought n ponder over it ” We humans havethisto tendency of doubting the positive…which also i see as an apportunity to something

        • sanjay austa says:

          Thanks for your mail Megha. I however feel we humans have a tendency to believe and we will believe anything. Doubting and questioning does not come easily to us.

          • Kriti Kumar says:

            Megha! Thankyou for making my job a little lighter. :)

            Dear Sanjay,

            I appreciate your inquisitive mind. But I also believe you could have gone a little deeper before making such article public. Because you know you are giving people an excuse to escape spirituality which I believe can solve many problems which we humans face.

            Now, as a believer of Sri Sri, I would like to answer your question. Why was he in Mercedes and not bus? Simply because people would scratch and hurt him in excitement and it would be chaotic.

            On his repetetive lecture, my answer is wisdom never changes and repetition is required sometimes so that you remember positive things. As humans, our tendency is to focus on negative things.

            On your observation that the stressed out lot go to him for peace. Ofcourse they do. And they do get peace and they become followers. The left out remain stressed forever maybe or turn negative or unhappy in general. So dont you think AOL has done a great job there by making people happy and peaceful.

            Some suggestions for you:

            Being inquisitive is good. Its great infact. But taking small things out like why was he in mercedes? why do stressed out people go there? why he himself gave a title? And forming a conclusion based on a day trip of yours. And then thinking over it so much based on so so such exxperience and knowing nothing of Art of Living philosophy that you end up writing an article is wrong. Sorry to be blunt. But people out there are reading it and since they have general tendency to brush anything spiritual, yogic so this just gives them one more excuse. And why it matters to me is because I have seen people violent, negative, unhappy , depressed and sometimes I feel they just lack knowledge, wisdom ………..which AOL gives.

            So go deeper. Do a course. Then another course. And then post an article about your experience if you really want to be fair and if you really care..

          • Archith says:

            “Why was he in Mercedes and not bus? Simply because people would scratch and hurt him in excitement and it would be chaotic.”

            Are you serious? Even Sri Sris are not scratch-proof anymore. May be all those devotees need to be back in kindergarten to learn not to scratch the dude.

        • Hari Krishna says:

          Dear Megha
          Your explanation completely off the track. Sanjay’s article is about the so called ‘simple’ lifestyle of Sri blah blah Ravi. And you are citing the various charitable/social works being done under the aegis of AOL. The fact is that all godman corporations have this charity wing. eg. puttaparthy. They show detail log book of those activities. Infact they flaunt such activities. And only god knows how much money they actually make in the name of such activities. Anyways that is altogether another story. Sanjay, would you care to investigate?

          Why does he need plum sofas to deliver his sermons? I have seen his talk in a prestigious auditorium in Bangalore. I have seen APJ Kalam, and many Nobel laureates speak from the same dais. All used the same furniture on the dais (which is of very high quality indeed). Only in the case of Ravi a huge sofa is arranged. Does he get scratches if he use the ‘humanly’ furniture?

          • Megha Sharma says:

            Hari,

            So…I assume that your problem is not the good work he is doing (i assume that you accept him as a humanitarian :))rather the issue here is that my Guru should stand on a dias and not sit on a sofa….shud travel in a bus and not a mercedes!! Hari…I never said my Guru is GOD…and even God in Hindu mythology wears all Gold and fancy clothes…why dont you question them my dear…
            If you want to point out mistakes in somebody, I am sure you will find ample of mistakes in God himself…just that he is not living in our own world (and we assume that GOD is immortal-any way that another topic for Sanjay to write a blog on ;)
            Plus if you actually want to challenge what our AOL youths are doing in the name of social upliftment programs, then my dear you will have to actually dare to go to those places to find out the reality….they are working day and ight in Arunachal Pradesh, in Assam, in Tamil Nadu, In Orissa….all across India. For a real example, one of the Major’s has commented on this blog about how he met the volunteers in Assam…who transformed the militants to surrender and maintain peace. We dont want to focus on that right….because criticizing someone is too easy and convenient for us!

            Also Hari, what if i give you a business class ticket and an economy class ticket…why would you travel in economy?? These are meaningless arguments…you want to compare Sri Sri with Kalam…why dont you compare Shri Ram with Shri Krishna…my dear…learn to accept the good in everyone and absorb as much as possible. Questioning the existence of something is good…because you become a seeker this way…but condemning something just by your opinion (arising from a partial incomplete experience) is not Wisdom!

            Regards,
            Megha

      • SHADAB khan says:

        My remarks won’t go down well. But I would still appreciate a good piece of journalism, sanjay. These gurus, babas and mullahs are minting money riding on our ignorance and its extremely important to expose them. I feel sorry for the educated intelligentsia that gets blinded by them.

        • Manoj Sharma says:

          Megha – I guess you might have mean’t this when you said ‘He might get a scratch and hurt’
          “Money can’t buy happiness but its better to cry in Mercedes than in an Alto”

          and I guess Guru himself is not sure if whatever he has preached has been well understood by his devotees. Some might have lost their mind during the kriya rather than attaining peace to scratch and hurt their SO CALLED GODMAN.

          • Jagdeep Kaur says:

            for/to whom it might concern. i have done the basic course multiple times, and the advance course too, and also visited the ashram. a HUGE concrete … ahem … structure. yep, i agree with sanjay. that apart, it is a very, very good business model, and well yes, that’s just what it is, of course giving some people exactly what they want, hence spreading a lot of peace and happiness. :) do note the fact that the “fee” charged for the basic course is referred to as “donation”. a lot of people (aol teachers) have started calling it a fee now, because it caused confusion and certain amounts of tensions. but most places the term “donation” is still common. i had gone all the way to rishikesh (from delhi) without any money on me, as i was told that it is a donation amount. but when i reached they wouldn’t register me without the money and still insisted on calling it donation. “ma’ma, you have to give the donation to attend the course.” it still makes me laugh…i am laughing right now…real hard…hahahahahahahahahhahaha… :D

            that apart, yes, also, like someone else mentioned here, you pay and then you realize it was nothing much. the courses mostly consist of a lot of spiritual gyan…something that i, being a saggitarian, keeps dishing out anyways.. ;) baba ramdev’s free classes are much, much better. like sanjay mentions, or “as critics say”, the sudarshan kriya is, of course, a small derivative of what is called breathwork, or breath exercises, or breath meditation, known to many who have done some looking into various types of pranayams and meditations. that’s about the only thing i liked about it. a proper breathwork session takes about 1-1.5 hrs, but sudarshan kriya is more time-convenient. but then if it provides someone with peace and solace, then why not…i mean, who am i to question or judge why anyone even likes and promotes that new SRK movie, that lungi dance wali. to each her/his own… :)

  5. Manu Katyaayan says:

    Great Article Sanjay, I never understand the Gurus of these times. As far as I’ve read and I assure you I’ve read more than most people on the subject of ancient Indian culture, spirituality and its roots (not being boastful here), the mark of a guru or sadhu or rishi was humility and denouncing of materialistic pleasures. They used to eat and live and were adamant on using the very basic necessities of life. This is just a business with I’d say some moralistic approach than other corporate cut-throat ones. Kudos for your editor too, he must be a person with a lot of integrity.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thank you Manu. I guess what you mean. Once Saints went from Palaces to the jungles ( Vishwamitra, Buddha etc) now they come from the jungles and go into palaces ( Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Asaram Bapu etc). However I would disagree with you on your point that the mark of a Guru/ Sadhu is denouncing materialistic pleasures. Living a life of an ascetic is no proof is his holiness. My grouse, if you can call it that, with Guru’s like Ravi Shankar is that they hypocritically pretend they are above material pleasures when they are clearly not. I agree with you that now its just a business in the garb of spiritualism.

  6. Perfect!

    Guru Ji/Dev is like a Child so it was really rude of you to ask such difficult questions from him.

  7. NC says:

    I like the article, it’s quite straightforward and well written; but you should use a more neutral approach when you write stuff like this .. with a very subtle inclination to your viewpoint.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi NC, Thanks for your comment. Will keep that in mind for my future write-ups. But in this article it was meant to be a bit sarcastic and tongue-in -cheek. Thankss

      • Judite says:

        Hari Om Beta Dushyantji,Thank you so much for the Spiritual Knowledge on Ashta Lakshmi last evening, It was so itsnretnieg & Inspiring! And also for the Quality Time you gave me & my Family this afternoon, it was a very Beautiful & a Wonderful feeling to spend time with you & hope to learn more from you! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti!!! NeetaHarish-Aruba.

  8. Glory says:

    Hey sanjay…very well written!

    Something that annoys me is the patent they have over their kriya.if you are out there to do good…why commercialise it? I have friends who have done this course and do not share what happens there coz they swear in not to do so! Plus this excessive belief that no matter what their ‘gurudev ‘ will help them…gurudev is not God for heaven’s sake!

    • sanjay austa says:

      Glory I know what you mean. I share your belief that yogic exercises / techniques should not be commercialized.

      • Ashish says:

        I’ve been doing Pranayamas regularly for last 13 years. I’ve taught to many (of course not charging) and they’ve also benefitted. I still do Sudarshan Kriya which is a brilliant Pranayama. However, Sudarshan Kriya is beyond doubt Bhastrika Pranayama done at different speeds merged into one, nothing else at all. Before doing Sudarshan Kriya, there is as they call Bhastrika (modified version with hands behind back from top, not the original version taught at esteemed Yoga Universities but that’s fine) and then Ujjai Pranayama both of which are age old Pranayamas. It is just not done to patent a Pranayama and then preach after the course strictly not to teach anyone this but to send people to costly courses to learn a Pranayama which is a simple modification of the original Bhastrika! All who know Pranayamas well teach to people around them, why not this one? If it’s because one might teach wrongly, then why charge for it? Did u know that many organization like Vipassana (meditation) helps u do a 10 days meditation course while giving you all fooding and lodging and ALL FOR FREE! They manage through donations while Vipassana is not even one-hundreth as popular as AOL or have as many donation giving people as AOL. I as a teenager student had paid 1500 bucks to learn AOL, 1500 bucks was a lot. Why can’t it be done for free or kept to be given if one wants or can afford to?

  9. Prateek says:

    Personally recommend you to do an Art of Living basic course and an advance course if you really want to understand things better.

    As for India against corruption, Sri Sri along with many others are part of the core committee of the organisation/movement and have been there since the very beginning. http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/aboutus.html

    My take – Why i so strongly recommend the Art of Living :) http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=178478985519941

    • sanjay austa says:

      Parteek,
      Thanks for the recommendation. I will surely do the Sudarshan Kriya one day but I wonder how that will answer the questions I have raised about Sri Sri ??

      • Jeevan Salke says:

        When some one suggest that you do the art of living course and then judge the Guru, what they mean is when you see/experience so called benefits of course you will tend to avoid the bad/uncomfortable part of guru. These people don’t mind Guru getting wealthy or arrogant until they get what they want, A quick fix to problems/Guilt. It is claimed that his course recharges you to go back in bad,ugly world when your charge drains out you are a course away from again getting recharged. It is like washing off your sins/mistakes in Ganga river and ready to do more sins/mistakes. He is “healing” people with some moral,philosophical,religious thoughts for their mental health and Yoga,sudershan kriya for healing any physical problems. There is a void in today’s lifestyle which is filled by such Guru’s for some money. It is like Fast food Guru’s. Do taste his offering i.e. do a basic course and your understanding will have another angle, it might be positive or negative I can’t tell you that. You will judge for sure. I had done basic course around 2001 and finally continued with my life. I am not supporter of this course. I would suggest live honest natural life and build a rational thinking with out any emotions then you won’t need help from such Guru’s or other exploiters (but it is not easy and quick fix). Do watch video of guy called U G Krishnamurthi on youtube, he is anti Guru and still a guru. very interesting.

      • Kriti Kumar says:

        Ya ..do a basic course and an advance course..thats what I recommended in my previous comment..just to be clear

        No the course does not mean sudarshan kriya in isolation. We mean the whole course. And trust me, we are not getting paid to recommend this course :P

        Well, I have answered your question as much as I could. And for now you are seeing guruji in a skeptical manner.. because you know nothing about him. When you do courses, you will know few things ..his teachings etc .. so you will start thinking for yourself what could be answer to your question..as you listen to him more and know him better… Well, then you don’t ask this questions. Ofcourse they have answers but when you know the selfless, humble man..you will start thinking the other way and before doubting anything ..you will be neutral and think reasonably rather than being skeptic..

        • sanjay austa says:

          Kriti.. the course you are talking of is nothing but a meditation technique. All medication techniques can do wonders to the mind and body. They have been with us since centuries. We however not debating that.

          • Paritosh says:

            @Sanjay a brilliant piece. I would love more such encounters with other spiritual businessmen of this country, if you can get them!

            For the others ‘justifying’ : trust me we are not getting paid to recommend you this or that!

            Here’s my $0.2: life is nothing but the ‘meanings’ you give to what happens with you. The one’s who grow to the next level of thought understand their priorities well and make ‘choices’ which gives their life a character!

            Everyone here supporting the guru: has made a ‘choice’ which is this gentleman will take us through life. His copyrighted breathing trick will lead us to a better, more fulfilled living.

            Is it? Sure! Lets get together a group of people who don’t have any ideas of where their next meal is coming from and ask them if they make a choice to do a basic and advanced ‘breathing’ course, will that change their life?

            You don’t need basic or advance courses to fall back upon. You are getting dependent on a structure, which you were NOT BORN WITH. And you won’t die with.

            You were born a ‘sufficient’ being. If you believe that, then, go ahead make a difference to the world by creating sustainable growth. The time you spend gaining ‘focus’ and ‘chanting’ for a self styled, spiritual multi millionaire (I am assuming his personal worth will be around that, may be an RTI will help) > I am happy to correct myself!

            Spend this time, making yourself believe: YOU WERE BORN COMPLETE. Now go and make a true dent in the universe, change the world!

        • Manish says:

          Hi Kirti, your comment earlier – “Why was he in Mercedes and not bus? Simply because people would scratch and hurt him in excitement and it would be chaotic.” was funny!Do you really believe that or you were just joking!

  10. Avnish Katoch says:

    Sanjay,

    I am glad there is someone to question these new age Gurus! In HP and here in US also, I know groups of SRI SRI (what exactly it means even if we go by scriptures and address seniors as SRI, never learned about SRI SRI in school)followers who are just following with deep devotion.

    I followed some journalist friends in HP to learn how the Guru treats them when he comes there. I learned that SRI SRI does interact a lot with local journalists, they are provided scheduled interviews, they and their papers are photographed exclusively with Guru Ji (:-)).

    In a way they are just showered with all the pleasures of meeting this high profile guru (I am sorry Sanjay you did not get to travel in Merc :-)). And then starts the best PR by Guru’s team to utilize the local traditions and cultures (like in HP, dancers are brought with best dresses and rehearsals are done well in advance) and media provides best coverage because they got the best time with the guru who travels in luxury.

    Now when I saw Anna ji belittling these new age media savvy Gurus, my belief just got more firmed that it is nothing more than high profile drama using all the means of this new world!

    I am glad there is someone who agrees!

    • sanjay austa says:

      Avinash thanks. Talking of Himachal, many years ago when Sri Sri was visiting Shimla the Art of Living Foundation defaced a beautiful hill near Shoghi by carving out a welcome message for their Guru. I was surprised no one made any noise about it.

      • Avnish says:

        Same was the scenario at Dharamsala when they left the ground without cleaning. Issue is that voice even if raised is just too small in front of media limelight created by these gurus.

        • sanjay austa says:

          Avnish Sri Sri is virtually the in-house Guru of the Times of India group and many media house proprietors are his followers so who will publish anything against him?? :-)

          • Ankit Agrawal says:

            Its not only about he being an in-house guru of the Times of India and many other publications and channels. Art of living like IIPM is also one of the biggest advertisers in the media. So the pressure for not writing anything against him not only comes from from the editorial side but also from the marketing and management side.

  11. Medha Saxena says:

    I think if a visibly simplistic Baba Ramdev can create a space for himself in the spiritual supermarket then why not someone as sophisticated as Ravi Shankar have crorepatis bowing at his feet. I have little understanding and even less respect for people who create a deliberate aura around themselves…
    Lets not forget he is part of an ilk that circulates money through political and business circles…I mean everyone knows the babas of the world provide channels for money laundering so I don’t think those industrialists are there just for spiritual enlightenment…if previous Chief Justices of India were keeping the accounts for our late Sai Baba I wonder what goes on for this one…

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Medha,
      Thanks for your comments. I share your sentiments on people who create a deliberate aura around them. However I won’t agree with you that Sri Sri Ravishankar is actively involved in money laundering and thats why the industrialists are there with him. There may be some people like that but most of them are indeed stressed out guys who have realized money won’t get them peace of mind. Sri Sri and Guru’s like him comes in handy to deal with all these insecurities. My problem with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is perhaps his pretense of being a larger than life figure who has answers to live’s problems. The only man I think he seems to have conned is himself , in thinking he has attained `enlightenment’ -if there is such a thing.

      • Medha Saxena says:

        I think my problem with the jet-setting spiritual class is slightly more cynical. I can’t see them as outside of the political-social fabric. Sri Sri may or may not be in the same league as Sai Baba (who got a shocking two full page obituary in The Hindu) or as heads of those countless religious institutions in this country that amass fortunes from devotees (lay or otherwise). But I do believe that religious, social and political power is deeply interlinked in this country. I don’t know if that is the case with Ravi Shankar but I would suspect he would command enormous “respect” here. I find their personal aggrandizement by followers/retinue/devotees as a very mild side effect of their actual and very real position of power in society.

  12. sirjanu chaudhari says:

    I so so agree…really swell write up That’s why i am always skeptical of godmen…

  13. Jonas says:

    Dear Sanjay,
    Thanks a lot for sharing your article. I really liked it. Nicely written. Let’s hope it gets the message across to some people.
    Warm regards,
    Jonas

  14. Vinita Upreti Tanu Pant says:

    I guess this was his redeeming moment…..

  15. Papori Bharati says:

    very apt observation on your part Sanjay. I too felt like that when I went to meet him once:) I attended a basic course of Sri Sri Ravishankar as I was coaxed by a friend and somehow it did help me that time (about 5-6 years ago) .. But what made me sceptical of AOL is the circle of chellas/chamchas around him who will not allow ordinary ppl ( like me) meet him( he is tired! he is resting!) but if there are any celebrities dropping in they get to meet him instantly! and the whole aura of artificiality created by the so called devotees can be quite sickening!!

    • sanjay austa says:

      Papori you were perhaps stonewalled by the `Inner Circle’. Every cult has one. To be fair, sometimes the Guru himself has no idea what his followers are upto and is in many ways controlled by the coterie around him. Remember Ma Sheela the disciple of Osho and her dictates in the Oregon Commune in the 1980′s?

    • Jagdeep Kaur says:

      when i did the advanced course in rishikesh, i was provided accommodation in a tiny room in a very huge ashram, and i had to share it with three other people. i think the cost of that little room, at that time (late 90s) was about rs 60/day. and then we saw foreigners enjoying themselves in 2-3 bedroom suites in the same ashram, for the same course. wonder if they had “donated” more…

      we all were made to “donate” rs 2000 for the 4-5 days course. the cooks were from the ashram, and we did the dishes and all the cleaning, “seva”. imagine the amount of money “saved”. :)

  16. Amrit says:

    The two-fold problem with your yardstick is that you’re clinging to ideas from ancient times, and are confusing use of a luxury with attachment to it.

    First of all, times change and nowhere is it written that the gurus have to live their material lives strictly according to the image provided by ancient texts. The yogis in ancient times, used a deer skin (mrig chaal) or tiger skin for their meditations. Yet, I don’t see you arguing that today’s gurus don’t use similar animal skins. In ancient times, the education system was quite different than what it is today, so it’s a moot point if the material lives of today’s gurus don’t resemble and agree with the idea you have in your mind based on gurukuls of yore. Besides, Hinduism is not static and doesn’t say that one has to live lives according to some standards practiced in ancient times, even for gurus. Hinduism is all about adapting to current times. I’ve come across similar expressions of shock – rather amusing to me – when some people see pictures of sadhus using cell phones. As if sadhus should still use fire signals to communicate.

    The second problem is that you are confusing use with attachment. Your argument would be valid if Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shed tears if a car wasn’t available, or if he complained about living in a shed instead of a hotel room. There’s a famous tale of two monks traveling along a road, and coming across a young woman. She asked the monks if they would carry her as she was tired. One of the monks readily agreed, and carried her for some time. After dropping off the young woman, the two monks continued on their way, but the other monk was perplexed and after a couple of hours, couldn’t hide his curiosity anymore and asked his partner, “How could you carry a woman when we have taken vows of chastity?” The monk replied, “I dropped off that woman more than two hours ago, and you’re still carrying her?”

    While other valid criticisms of AOL could be made, your post tends to get lost in the superficial and straw-man arguments.

    BTW, would you so effortlessly write a similar post critical of Christian or Muslim clergy (equivalent of “gurus”) in India or elsewhere? Or would you think ten times before doing so? Would you similarly question why Pope wears ridiculously expensive and garish clothes? Or why does he use a silly title like “Pope”?

    Hope you get the point.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Amrit I would effortlessly write a similar post critical of Christian or muslim clergy in India or elsewhere. In fact I already have if you read some of my others posts for e.g. `What’s Hair Got to do with it’ etc and my post on the “Satanic Verses” But last I checked Sri Shankar is not part of any Hindu clergy , though his posturing are more Hindu.
      As for your other point you have misunderstood me. I have not said Gurus should live like ascetics of yore. In fact I just wonder why they insist on growing a long beard and wearing those unstitched robes that make them look like characters from the Ramayana. They are welcome to travel business class and enjoy five-star luxury etc. My only problem is they advocate simple lifestyles to others and pretend to be indifferent to luxury themselves. That I see as hypocrisy and convenience. For example Osho lived a life of luxury too but he did not shy from admitting he loved luxury.Sri Sri Shankar tries to pretend he likes simple things in life while enjoying the bells and whistles of a five star suite.

      • Dhirendra says:

        Correct!!! I Liked your reply

      • Bramha says:

        Pray you, kindly point it out to me as to when has Sri Sri said that I want everyone to lead a simple life and by simple I mean a life devoid of luxury, of comfort. Has he chastised the industrialist followers that you have mentioned or has he in any of his sermons asked people not to aspire for more? Does he call for simplicity in values and thoughts or simplicity as renunciation of materialism? And if he hasn’t said anything of the sort explicitly, is it not your surmise, a convinient interpretation to create an impression of hypocrisy where there is none?

        It is bizarre that you think the word simplicity in life has to do with renunciation of possessions or luxury. Is it your case that simplicity cannot co-exist with wealth and luxury? If that is so then the logical culmination of your argument would be that the mendicant is the simplest of all because he has no possessions whatsoever. He consumes no luxury whatsoever. So does it mean that Sri Sri advocates all of us should become mendicants? Because that would be the acme of simplicity as you have chosen to define.

        What is this simple life that you claim Sri Sri preaches but doesn’t lead himself? How has Sri Sri defined it and where has he defined it? Or is this a blanket statement that you have first attributed to Sri Sri, then interpreted on your own and again attributed the interpretation to Sri Sri and consequently proceeded to vociferously make a case for his hypocrisy?

        • sanjay austa says:

          Bramha he said it here among other places.

          ”We all can lessen the burden of consumerism of the planet; live simple, think high and do what you can for the society. So this prayer meeting, the International Cultural Meet that we will be having in Germany will be geared to create such an awareness” This is from a website called http://wisdomfromsrisriravishankar.blogspot.in/2011_03_01_archive.html

          I had to go through a lot of your Guru’s sermons to find this. Please don’t make me go through that again early in the morning.

          I would advise you to at least read up your own Guru, if you won’t care to read up my comments. In the comments I have clearly said I don’t want the Gurus to be mendicants.

          • Nikodas says:

            Nice work here. It’s sad to see so many “educated” people foaming at the mouth for this so called guru. He’s walking around collecting millions and doing nothing for this country. Yet everyone is fawning over his greatness.

          • Bramha says:

            Ha! First, Sri Sri is not my Guru. I am just someone who loathes opportunism and opportunistic cynicism in equal measure. And I don’t think hypocrisy is exclusive to Gurus, it evidently comes pretty easy to photojournalists as well. The fact that you think I must be a disciple because I disagree only goes to show the prejudices in your head.
            Second, I was here to read what you wrote in the post and not what you may have commented elsewhere. It is bizarre that you think it was incumbent upon me to have first gone through all the comments on this post before proceeding to drop in a comment myself.
            Third, the fact that you had to go through a lot of sermons to dig up one statement of Sri Sri wherein he exhorts everybody to lessen the burden of consumerism and live simple only corroborates my initial scepticism that the entire post was based on an opinion, an inference.
            Now since you have taken the trouble to dig up a statement let me respond. In a nutshell, consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. Elsewhere you have mentioned that while he travels in fancy cars he wants others to be content with Maruti 800. So I believe according to you Sri Sri wouldn’t have been hypocritic had he commuted by a maruti or holed up in some budget hotel. But the purchase of a maruti 800 is as much consumerism as purchase of a Mercedes. Qualitatively different but consumerism none the less. So if both are instances of consumerism, your argument becomes logically untenable. The only way one can avoid being consumerist is by opting out of the entire process. Which means one should become a mendicant, which you claim you are not suggesting but is the only logical outcome of what you are saying.
            Now let us put aside what you think consumerism is and talk about what it actually is. So would travelling in a fancy car or putting up in a great hotel, all of which was arranged by people who wanted to meet Sri Sri, be the same as encouraging purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts? Not likely. Your assertion may have been true had Sri Sri often indulged in a shopping bilge, had a fantastic collection of the most exquisite wristwatches, visited fancy spas and resorts all over the world and more. I cite instances of high-end consumerism because clearly these would be affordable to a man like Sri Sri. You have hardly pointed out anything to show that Sri Sri is such a man in his personal life. And yet you accuse him of being hypocritical because his disciples chose for him to commute in a fancy car. What do you think he ought to have done? Ohh! Get me a maruti 800 else I won’t budge! If you know of an instance when he refused to travel by more ordinary means, I will accept your contention, but if you have no such instance to cite, you have no case.
            Also, he says lessen consumerism by leading a simple life, thinking high and doing more for the world. Simple life here implies simplicity of values. Decline in consumerism will be an outcome; it will be a voluntary process. There is no coercion. And at no point does he say that to lead a simple life one must give up consumerism which is what you claim he says. Renunciation of materialism is not a pre-condition for a simple life. So he is not asking you to give up consumerism. He is asking you to do the rest. Decline in consumerism will follow.
            Now let us see how less of a hypocrite you are. Let us see this comment posted.

          • sanjay austa says:

            Brahma I know you are taking all the time to explain etc. I appreciate it. But your each new comment is just a rehash of your previous one. Please say something new and I will answer you. Please don’t ask the same ‘ why can’t he ride a merc’ question. I have answered it a million times already. Surely you can look it up before spending so much time to write the same old drivel.

            Its interesting you say you are not a Sri Sri junkie. A lot of people are suddenly denying they are adherents of Sri Sri and other Gurus after Godman Asaram’s arrest for alleged rape of a 16 year old girl recently. I am not saying you are a disciple but even Peter the most adherent disciple of Jesus denied him thrice. So take heart :-)

          • Prashanth says:

            Hello Sanjay,

            As far I as I know, my Guru has never rejected wealth. Rejection is as much bondage as indulgence. Here is an extract from one of his talks. Link to the article is given below

            “In our country, materialism and spirituality are not in conflict with each other. Lakshmi – the symbol of material prosperity – is portrayed pressing the feet of Narayana – the symbol of spirituality.

            We always say Laxmi Narayana, which refers to the combination of wealth and spirit. There is no need of saying materialism is bad and leaving that you want to go towards spirituality.

            What I say is “keep money in your pocket and not in your heart or head.” When the money is wrongly placed, that is when the problem arises. Ancient sages honoured money as a part of the Divine and transcended the grip of its illusion. ”

            http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/InnerVoice/The-material-spiritualist/Article1-1101489.aspx

          • Vitthal Patil says:

            Hi sanjay,

            The AOL Machinery is at work again. These people have been programmed to advocate how great & good HHSSRS is. They would not hesitate to defend any bullshit that HHSSRS says. Nowadays the AOL machinery is keeping a record of Guru stories to prove that the Guru is omnipresent & watches his followers 24 X 7 to keep them away from any harm. Some time back one of the stories claimed that the Guru’s photograph can recharge the battery of a mobile phone & guess what…..the machinery was out to defend it. No wonder in a short while the brainwashed minds realized that the story was just too much for a B.Sc. graduate Guruji(at the age of 17 that is) & the story was removed.

    • Saji says:

      Hi Amrit,

      You said it !!!

  17. Abhishek says:

    Dear Sanjay,
    Read your article. I have done Sudarshan Kriya and it has only helped me in every way. Are you not being too harsh in your judgement? Like you have a problem with two ” sris” in his name. Its like asking why you name is spelled Sanjay and not Sanjai instead. As for his going in mercedez cars, I am confused as to whether your problem is that Sri Sri was going in a merc or that you were huddled in a bus.

    Anyways, the equivalent of gurus in western and arab world own more than a few merc. Have you seen any bishop’s house in any part of the country?? Just a Bishop of a small congregations has an official residence that can put a minister’s house to shame. The big daddy of the bishop’s – our pope owns a country. People like I mam Bukhari dabble in policies so openly. Have you seen his residence?? Ayatollah, the spiritual leader of Iran… what luxuries does he lack?? and these luxuries come to them officially.

    When it comes to Guru’s, you feel they should be wearing a lion cloth only. Why this double standard?? Sri Sri has never told his followers to go to jungle and attain Nirvana. So why should he do it? If he does not preach it, then why practice it? As for Sudarshan Kriya being an age old technique , when I did my basic course, it was told by the teacher that it is indeed a 5000 year old technique that has been repackaged to suit today’s needs. As for patenting it, it is a powerful breathing technique solely depending on the rhythm of breath. I do not know if you have ever been into sports in your life, the rhythm of breath does make a difference to how smooth or rough your activity is. The wrong kind of breath in Yoga or weight lifting can lead to grave injuries. if every T,D and H start practicing this thing on his own and something goes wrong, who will be held responsible?? It will become a major article for you right??

    As for Art of Living defacing any hill or mountain, I do not know what is your definition of defacing. If it means that one hill had to be bulldozed for it then it’s wrong. But if a view is being obstructed for the duration of the visit, how does it matter yaar?? I have been to AOL courses and the first thing they ensure is that their campsite is cleaned thoroughly.

    If you can find nothing right with Sri Sri, it just means that you are extremely prejudiced. You have a problem with his name, his cars, his yoga , his hotel…. is there nothing good in this man at all???? And you have not even done the course like AOL people said. Is is not a bit too much? All because you were not given the VIP treatment as a photojournalist?

    • Bhavesh says:

      Hi Abhishek

      There are people in the world who keep us in balance by removing the negative factors around us. I bet most of the people here(including Sanjay) who are finding the great pleasure in scolding, have never attempted to find the reality. Most of them would be writing in the polished english and awaiting to take a deep in the running water. They would be doing nothing for the society and some of them are taking self pride by attempting to elaborate his profession (yellow journalism) as noble as social service. Instead they constantly try to create a ridge & furrow for the others and neglecting good deeds, they are more & ever interested to belittle them and by this way they are trying to become a hero in the eyes of the other blind people.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Abhishek,
      I will only be repeating myself if I say that I did not expect Sri Ravi Shankar to live like a hermit in a loin cloth. Kindly read my previous comments to know what I mean.
      Regards,

    • ganesh says:

      thank you abhishek for your detailled reply to sanja augustus
      he seems to be christian or catholic
      when the country is in danger, he seems to blow over his
      musical instrument like KING NEERO.
      OUR COUNTRY IS ATTACKED BY SONIa ‘s paid army and instead of defneding
      our fortress, people try to weaken ii and give it to the neo-invaders.(sonia and
      her western papaal and industrial and political friends…
      chanakya

    • ganesh says:

      thanks a lot to reply in a detailed way …this augustus is 100 percent sure is a paid congress media man whose mission is to target people like sri sri and but he does not know that now people can see clearly the picture behind the screen and they know who is paying whom to do what ..it is a pity good hindus turn to xtian sect for quick money but i think augustus is 100% chrisitan converted so he does this dirty work for cong boss pity such a good man like sanjay augustus should trick the whole country for some money…from SONIA ANTONIA maino etc

      • sanjay austa says:

        Ganesh I am not Sanjay Augustus. I am Sanjay Austa. Please get the name right if you can’t get the facts in order. And sorry to disappoint you. I am not a Chrisitian either. I usually reply to all comments but it will be comical to reply to yours. Take care.

        • ganesh says:

          I think i could be wrong about your religion may be you think
          that by saying something unconventional about sri sri you may attract
          attention of westerners and than you can become famous and that may help in
          your photographic or documentary work..am i right ?
          but we know you are intelligent but you lack the sixth sense that tells you what is important and what is superficial what to retain and what to reject…as they say in tamil that a mythological bird called “anna paravai” can drink milk containig water by taking only milk and leaving water ..in sri sri there is more than sri sri in him : they are last warriors to defend our fortress they are contemporary SHIVAJIS who continue to cling on to hindu values when mud is thrown on them as bullets from a gigantic machine gun…from the Italian cunning woman and her gang.but please do other thing to attract the western attention than this one…your sensitivity to tigers is nice i appreciate that but don’t throw mud on someone who does what he can perhaps he has ateleast the courage to do something to serve humanity in his way. WE CAN NOT DO ANYTHING WITHOUT CONSIDERING KALA : is it good time now to do intestine quarrels ??? you know very well now it is dangerous to be hindou that demands a ton of courage because anti-hindu machine guns from cong gang are pointing to every hindu and hitting at them constantly…a man like Modi would have been president in another country in ours he is yet a chief minister …now with italian woman in power and her nexus with white people in the USA , rome and europe we should stop quarelling among ourselves and wait atleast until the BJP comes back.

    • Megha Sharma says:

      Abhishek!!

      I buy your point. BDW why don’t we question our Hindu God’s then, who are covered with pounds of Gold and fancy Dresses?? I think it is a natural reaction to provide our Guru/Parents/Gods with the best of Health and Wealth…which is why Guruji wanted to rest, which is why Guruji traveled in a different Car. And Sanjay…you could have easily asked one of the volunteers to sit with Guruji if you wanted, I am sure you would not have been disappointed.
      Also Sanjay, When you hug somebody, shake hands with somebody, when somebody touches your feet, they take away all the Positive energy from you (which is why people feel this state of high energy and aura around Guruji) which drains the person completely, and I am sure he is entitled to charge himself up for the next series of events lined up. FYI, this man meditates to regain his energies (as he preaches) and works for more than 20 hours a day, still to have people around criticizing him for being what he is….

      I pity…not him…but the doubting minds…which are hell bent upon doubting the positive…always!

      • sanjay austa says:

        Megha exactly my point. Sri Sri is just an ordinary mortal like you and me who gets tired – (even in a merc), who need to charge up and perhaps has all the sundry human issues that plague us all. To believe he and other gurus including Asaram etc etc are super humans is a big folly. Any dull mind can believe. And indeed it believes any nonsense that is out on offer. A true seeker , if ever there is such a thing, is someone who doubts everything.

        • Manoj Sharma says:

          One of the better posts and I agree to most of it.

          I read a couple of comments saying that one should do Sudarshan Kriya (Basic & Advanced Courses). I have done the basic course and although it will heal your body but it isn’t any greater than running 10 KM/Climbing a hill or anything that involves breathing in an isolated space. The very fact that Sri Sri RS copyrighted something that he himself learnt from Ancient Yoga tells you about him being dishonest to the religion from where he learn’t the basic product on which he is earning his ‘Art of Living’. But then that’s what you call business .. right?

          To me he is a businessman and a very good one that too. I would equate him to someone like Bill Gates/Steve Jobs, who have brought revolution in many lives including me, but earned hell lot of money themselves(Not that I mind).
          AOL might also be doing some charity work but then so does Bill Gates too. But in the end its the money they are after and not the social work as they claim.

          For the followers/devotees who are brainwashed, They should ideally buy his product- Sudarshan Kriya(As one needs to pay for it) and then use it. His preaching are almost repetitive so can be distributed as a product itself.

          There are always people who use the product, like it and then appreciate its creator. So here, what Sri Sri RS has done is to bind himself together with his product to get the same amount of attention that his product gets and that’s where things doesn’t go down well.

          I and everyone else knows that he is mortal and might leave this chaotic world one day. But the questions is would that be the end of this Business or would someone else pop-up from nowhere starts preaching and then we are back to where we started from.

          If he really had humanitarian thoughts, why would he charge money for this from everyone including students(Barring a few area’s to show his charity work). Why would be copyright this and make sure no one else practices it without his permission. Isn’t it something businesses do..?

        • Muzmech says:

          First of all…sanjay I would like to congratulate you on writing this article which condemns the blind followings. For spirituality teachings I personally feel it demands a sense of restrospection & rennaissance of authentic teachings of spirituality…its not like anybody can come start customizing for their own cause & needs.

    • Mubuku says:

      If the Guru wears “lion cloth”, will the lion wear “Guru cloth”?

      Just curious! (I am not a smart person.)

  18. I would like to share my opinion, from a non-indian point of view.
    I really love your country! Is full of wisdom, history, spirituality and human values. Yet most of you don’t even realise it!
    Most of you lost their capacity to see in dept into things!
    You are sitting on a true gold mine and you don’t know it, distracted by silly, glittering and superficial things… Just like in Europe we do.
    When I come to visit your country I see that you are getting more and more trapped in the west point of view.
    Caught in the way you criticise, the way you think, in the emotions you express, most of you is losing their Royal origin… Forgetting the thousands of years of civilization you have behind of sages and enlightened kings.
    You think Europe became a better place to live in with the economical development? If you think so, you are wrong.
    If India (and other countries also) wants to reach a true wellness needs to integrate ancient wisdom with education and economics.
    This is why i truly appreciate and support Anna Hazare And Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
    And i suggest everybody to take the Art of Living course. Your mind will become prosper, sharp, clear and clean from sorrow and insecurity.
    Kind regards

    • sanjay austa says:

      Emanuele,
      Thanks for telling us how worthy we are. We have always had to rely on European’s like you to tell us how good we are- be it in our movies, our literature and now in our spirituality. The Gurus’s including our marketing savvy Sri Sri Ravi Shankar knows this very well and has been pandering to westerners like yourself for years for recognition before the Indian’s here took him seriously. Is it any wonder then that when Sri Sri decided to mark the 30 years of his Art of Living he choose Germany rather than India?
      I personally think westerners have a very superficial knowledge of spiritualism. Why do you think most Guru’s insist of dressing up like museums relics? Thats because their long beard and long robes are enough to sway the multitudes in Berlin and Boston. In india thankfully, some of us know better.
      Regards,
      Sanjay

    • RD says:

      Emanuele and other Sri Sri supporters:

      a. The treasure trove of Indian spirituality is enhanced – not diminished – by questioning the gurus and their ways. Many of the points raised in this post – albeit tongue-in-cheek – are perfectly valid points. If the very essence of a spiritual journey is the lack of attachment, it is certainly not enhanced by always staying in the lap of luxury. If the very essence of a Guru is to raise the spiritual awareness of a lay person, why do cults (and I do not use the word pejoratively) including Sri Sri’s evolve a culture of taking the Guru’s word as gospel and evolve a fawning culture where you are not supposed to question the guru. In a culture and tradition where you are allowed to question even the existence of God and the infallibility of every single word of every single gospel, why would the words of a guru be above reproach.

      b. The Art of Living classes are certainly useful. No denying that. As are pranayam classes. Or Running. Or Kayaking. I have done some of them. But for a moment think about this – how much will a volunteer lay man teacher (who writes software code) be able to engage a student properly on the important questions of “who am I, where did I come from and where am I going”? I believe Sri Sri decided some time back that packaging the words of wisdom into little trite truisms is a good way for many people. It certainly is – I know of friends who have tangibly benefitted. But that does not make him above reproach. That does not mean we do not understand his words or somehow we are not evolved enough. It probably means we are more evolved than his target market.

  19. sreeraj says:

    whether Saints went from Palaces to the jungles or come from the jungles and go into palaces, peoples in the world is getting benefits from them. That is the thing we should concentrate. Can you deny the fact that Lots of peoples are getting benefits from art of living

  20. Srividya says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    reading your article made me realize all the more how awesomely lucky i’am to have a Guru in my life :) :)

  21. Srividya says:

    oh..i forgot to thank you :)

  22. Dhirendra says:

    Truth is always bitter!!!.
    Sanjayjee, followers trying to justify sri sri here :) .

    Thanks for this post.

  23. Suzy says:

    I have observed that Sri Sri’s core followers are mostly socially inept techies who use the organization as a social networking organization. These followers read self help books and restrict their social activism to hustling up more customers for their $800 a pop Sudarshan Kriya classes. This “life saving” technique is nothing but meditation exercises that have been around for eons in India. Any form of questioning is gently hushed by the followers who seem like ever smiling zombies with not a single intelligent thought in their heads. It is amazing how popular they have become among the Americans who seem starved for a sense of belonging to a social community that their culture so lacks. Sri Sri just laps up all the adulation of his adoring followers. Hope he doesn’t trip up on some sex scandal and thus abandon his emotionally charged fan following.

  24. Jasmine says:

    I follow him on FB on suggestion of a friend and soon noticed that every quote of Sri Sri is accompanied by a photo of his face – daily never ending. How egoistic is that? If the remark is about a flower’s beauty, showing a pic of a flower would inspire much more natural joy. Instead we are blessed with the guru’s Omni present hairstyle. Far cry from the humble, towering gurus of Yogananda’s linage. So I searched to see what others think and ended up here.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Jasmine in my view no Guru is more `towering’ than the other. This article may be about Sri Sri but it applies to all Guru’s . (With an exception to Osho perhaps who actually advocated living a life of luxury if one could afford it.)

  25. komal says:

    hello mr.sanjay!
    now that you have TRIED to show the negative side of sri sri ,why dont you write next about the various art of living sewa projects undertaken??? the recent is the rehabilitation camp for riot victims in assam. also the 102 free schools run by aol, the vista program for empowering women,
    may be while doing so you will realize your grave mistake.:)
    the problem with people like you is that even if the truth is sticking on your face,u will not realize.u will just go by your own thinking and beliefs.i call people like you BLIND BY CHOICE.
    and i agree wid srividya… im really grateful to have a guru in my life!!
    jai gurudev!

    • sanjay austa says:

      Komal Sri Sri’s sewa projects and other social work is indeed laudable. But this article was not about what he does but about how he is venerated by his followers and about his lifestyle.

    • ganesh says:

      thank you for your comment sanjay seems intelligent and good but than somthing makes him speak like this i don’t know why but he has his won reasons or it is all just to defend his ego when he will let go that ego maya ?

    • Jagdeep Kaur says:

      it’s part of the business model. if i can remember correctly, initially, aol targeted mostly moneyed entities, people. it soon became an in-thing in spiritual social circles. of course, then the next move to popularity was charitable work. spend a little, gain a lot.

  26. Sadanand Bendre says:

    Great write up, Sanjay !

    I myself am a great advocate of meditation and its importance in the spiritual realm of life. However, I also firmly believe that a true leader walks with those he leads. This article is in no way an attempt to defame SriSri or to undermine the service his organisation has done to humanity in general.Therefore, I think every reader of this article would do well to read not just the article , but also the responses and Sanjay’s replies to them. I summarize the article in these three basic points :
    1. This is not about whether or not AOL is good or bad. On the contrary , the writer wholeheartedly agrees with its virtues.
    2. This is about the persona of SriSri that seemingly contradicts what it preaches.
    3. If 1+1=2 holds as true with SriSri as it does with everyone else,why should he not make an honest attempt to shorten the distance between himself and his disciples that his organisation apparently puts in a lot of effort to maintain ? Mother Teresa , Baba Amte, Sindhutai Sapkal are but a few of the true modern day Saints who always believed in rolling up their sleeves and doing exactly what they preached.

    If we keep the exchanges limited to these three points only and keep it simple, we would not veer away from the basic points that the article has aimed at making.

    • PARMINDER says:

      Sanjay you have touched a very important chord and you are absolutely on point. Ravishankar has a strong sense of business and has been able to market well. The franchisee system is working perfectly with him. He uses his poor deciples to telemarket and get new members. I wonder why a true Guru whould want to do that?? He is just another of those long list of Gurus who have been conning our poor public.

  27. Chetan Monga says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    I agree with you. My family is really fond of him. We also have an Art of Living teacher in the family. But as you rightly said we should not come to conclusions. Your encounter is not the first one. Me, You and many like us have gone through the chaos when he is around.
    In one of his congregations where health was the main topic. People were happily throwing away plastic bags which were given by the devotee volunteers to cover their shoes just like the govt does at Taj Mahal and the arena after that was full of wasted plastic thrown on the grass. What healthy ways of the organising committee of the famous guru i must say. And all of the members were rich, educated and sophisticated people. We are not here to draw conclusions. Action are the ones which conclude what you do.

    Regards,
    Chetan

  28. Pankaj Mohan Dixit says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    More than your artcle, it is the comments below that I liked. Do you realize that the way the supporters of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have reacted. They did not get angry over your article. instead they are trying to explain you the benefits they have got by practicing the kriyas.

    I know people whose life has changed after joining the course. And possibly the course do help in de stressing our hectic life. I believe you should start the course as suggested by many readers and then rewrite the article. May be we also want to see the change. You cannot be a movie critic when you dont believe the idea of watching movies.

    And being a spiritual leader, and riding in a mercedes is ok dude. You cannot compare him with the stereotypes.

    Regards

    PMD

    P.S. I am myself planning to start a basic course.

  29. Inder misra says:

    Hi Sanjay
    Read your article. What you have said is almost universally true. All you need to do is change the name of the guru and you will have a fairly accurate story. I am Not running them down. I too have gone to them and adopted the practice they recommended. Maybe i was lucky that i am not fabulously wealthy. So i was not really marked out for addictive special favours. I went there to fulfill a need .which was a mix of trying to understand myself and also to deal with the world at large. I devoted myself to the recommended practice . And then left when I felt that the rest of it was more of the same. And did not feel the need to become a part of the hoopla.. I backed this with a lot of reflection on what I was really like as a person..and of course a lot of reading and listening…after a while I could, very comfortably ,at least tell myself the truth about myself…..why I am writing this is to point out the fact that the current guru is fulfilling a need and no amount of your pointing out anything is going to make any difference to the devotee.you are taking away the straw which he has found with great difficulty and you will be attacked with a vengeance. The best might be to write some sort of a fly on he wall account and leave it at that….the reader is astute enough to figure out things the moment you mention the merc and the bus….and the one who doesnt will only get to it when he is good and ready ,if ever. And look at the benefits no boss or devotee can complain and you have the field wide open to report all you want ….. Sorry this has become longer than expected. And I don’t mean to preach…but just a point of view….things exist because they fill a need…so do a story on this great need and you will fall in love with the gurus…lol….We deserve each other !

  30. Ankush Hans says:

    Hi Sanjay,
    The need of the hour is to understand that no one is perfect we are all humans after all, if you are looking for perfection than I am sorry you will be disappointed and anyways it is very easy to find faults. rather we should look for good vitues in people that can make our lives easy.

    Look I am not Sri’s disciple or something but all I am saying is what matters is the end result, if he is able to make some difference in someones life wether rich or poor you got to give him credit for that. Lets take Baba Ramdev’s example maybe he is minting money, he may have power and manuplating things in his favour but he has been also able to revolutionized millions of people by giving them an healthy approach towards life absolutely free (Yoga). Atleast they are better than are politicians who claim to be public servants instead they are robbing their own people. Nobody is perfect neither me nor you. Rather than criticizing others lets give back something to our planet lets just not consume, I don’t see any difference between humans and virus anymore, so lets appreciate those who are making some kind effort to make this place a better place and pounce on those who are only consuming.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Ankush I won’t agree with you that we should look at the end results only. Especially in the case of Guru’s who claim to be holier-than-thou, we should be all the more vigilant in how they live their own lives.

  31. Manjunath Shenoy says:

    I read your article with relish, and when I was scrolling thru the comments, I realized that I had commented on this article a year ago, almost to the day. I still maintain that Rock ‘n roll is the only path to true enlightenment and there is nothing better than a good guitar riff to set the morning on fire. Jai Jai Jim Morrison, all hail John Lennon.

  32. Noni Chawla says:

    I have never met Sri Sri and do not desire to do so. I have a healthy disregard for all these high profile “gurus”. Most of them are frauds capitalising on the gullibility and insecurity of people.

  33. Rahul Jain says:

    We the people have easy tendency to fall for and buy opinion from others and form ours. Very natural and human. But will it not be right to refrain from commenting untill we ourselves have known/seen the truth ? I honour & respect the freedom of speech and expression once a person has made his enquiry. Others simply follow the emotion of commenting simpliciter. I am not for or against anybody. With due regards to everybody.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Rahul in my opinion the pursuit of the so-called `truth’ is meaningless. You should as Noni ji described have a `healthy disregard’ for anyone trying to show you any `truth’.

  34. Rajat Jamwal says:

    I have always appreciated the article. Its all truth. I am always with you.
    Cheers. And yes jai jim morrison.

  35. Justin Rabindra says:

    Brave, honest writing.

  36. Vivek Jishtu says:

    I did the AOL course as part of my training when I joined a company some 7 years back. It was relaxing as any form of Yoga is but beyond that I did not get any “divine visions” as many other people in that course were experiencing. I still don’t get it how people seem to blindly follow such Gurus. I should probably learn a few magic tricks and become a Guru. It seems like a profitable venture.

  37. Jyoti Dogra Sood says:

    good piece and this holds true for all gurus, they live life king style and teach simple living

  38. Harpreet Kaur Jass says:

    But it holds true for people who run after them, why do we revere so much beyond our own existence.

  39. Sourabh Soni says:

    this is good stuff sanjay, keep it up mann,

  40. Bharati Motwani says:

    Laughed my head off at the responses and counter-responses. All of them very well answered by you :-). Salaams for that. Have had some close encounters with Sri Sri and Co. and am quite inspired to write a piece too. But for me the most worrying part of the Guru business is the sheer number of deluded people around. We that question are very much a minority. Every second person has a Guru or a Ma of some sort (in fact i even have a few disciples of my own :-)! ) . And each one of them is markedly arrogant and actually quite unkind to their fellow humans. Worrying because , judging by the sheer numbers , humans clearly have a spiritual vacuum that they are at a loss to fill – it is so shockingly easy to exploit that. And certainly it keeps people from true spirituality which is a very solitary and interior thing. Skepticism used to be an honored tradition in Hindu thought – it helped you arrive at spiritual enlightenment by sifting through mere vanities .

    • sanjay austa says:

      Bharati will be interesting to read your take on it. But it will be more interesting to see which paper publishes it. Most the newspaper owners and even editors are Sri Sri’s devotees :-)

  41. Maneck Khanna says:

    Good Job !!! I remember more than 10 years ago when I was in Shimla with you we had a debate about Rajneesh (still cannot remember why it started) but your point of view was different and evoked criticism from me that time. I had read this article when you posted it and and read it again today and can’t help but laugh at the responses you have got below. The article is pretty good but the responses from the “so called” devotees reinforces the fact that in today’s time people seek refuge in a concept or a “BABA”. BABA jee sab jaante hai (he knows everything) but a devotee cannot even imagine to know a fraction of it. They are so blinded by the faith of another man that they fail to recognize the scam their mind is playing with them. I am sure the kriya devised by the art of living concept would be helpful in someway but a blind faith in another man amazes me beyond comprehension, especially by men & women who have achieved great success in their professional lives … makes me believe that I am at a much better place than any of these followers. I have listened to quite a few of these BABA’s and read sparingly about some and at the end of it I realize that what the BABA say is what the person already knows but like a blind disciple they just need someone to tell them the basic truths about life again and again. Plus you are a brave man to open a can of worms which people stay away from with the fear of inviting wrath of the blind (otherwise intelligent) followers.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Maneck yes i agree. You are right that what the Guru’s says are basic things of life that we already know. And yes I am not denying that the Kriya or any other meditations have their benefits.

  42. Jamal Syed says:

    A well written and non-offensive piece Sanjay Austa. I agree with you when you say you could easily write a similar piece on Christian or Muslim clergy. I think the people getting agitated by your piece are somehow missing the point.

  43. Mukta Naik says:

    Loved the piece…but it is not one that will convert the devout into cynics….we remain entrenched on either side of that fence!

  44. Swatantra Chhabra Kalra says:

    Liked what you have written, I believe it is the people behind guru who make him this bi

  45. Vir Rawlley says:

    Reminds me of Dylan ….You may be an ambassador to England or France
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody .

  46. Avnish Katoch says:

    Thought many times to become ‘guru’ :-). lol…few tricks of yoga, mixture of religion and some new form to get high….wow I can be pretty successful in this trade….and then to get people follow me (who cares about Facebook likes :-)) worship …pretty flourishing idea…

    Sanjay this article needs more exposure. Wonder if Times group has balls to publish it !

  47. Deepika Singh says:

    Nice article Sanjay ! Had a chance to meet Sri Sri hat The Hague in June this year and he did seem to be an expert at dodging questions through humorous replies ! :D I asked him what triggered him into spirituality for life and he said he was born like that .. another guy asked him about why he had decided sri sri into his name and he replied somethings are just meant to be :D But yes i did kinda hear on why people like him so much from a lady who follows him closely .. as per her ,he has this sing song voice which makes people with worries and problems feel like they have a virtual ” listening shoulder” even though he doesn’t really listen to people’s problems .. he acts like a virtual walking stick for support to those who think they cant handle things on their own .. As for my own opinion on him .. I wudnt care less if he did or did not exist (i know its mean to say that)

  48. Thomas Zachariah says:

    As P.T. Barnum once famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Period

  49. Sunil Harjal-sheelu says:

    What is ths Sri Sri ….. Who is this .plz

  50. Malcolm Arnold says:

    I am reminded of words of my late sister . ” ALWAYS REMEMBER THESE PEOPLE NEED YOU MORE THAN YOU NEED THEM” hr thoughts and mine : we all know our own answers but are scared to listen and follow our own heart

  51. Vir Rawlley says:

    I have by intent been on the “spiritual” path for over a dozen years now (and yes the Universe does look after you), and have gone through all sorts of situations. I am a Reiki master, Tarot reader, graduate of the Silva Method, Level 3 Esocen Energy Medicine, Shivananda Yoga, Vipassan meditator and New Ager. The reason I give a string of “qualifications” (and there are others more along the Path), is only to share that I have and continue to go through the “grinder” intentionally. I have also done the Sudarshan Kriya “Soh Hum”. Irrespective of what anyone may “think” of Ravi Shankar, he is successful. I have a friend – a master of Kashmir Shaivism – who knows Ravi Shankar when he was working hard to establish himself – yes like any field being a Spiritual Guru is a career choice, and like any “consultancy” has a price, it costs, and like any profession has a certain “attitude” associated with it. We see the world through the “specs”/conditioning (social and personally experiential) we accept – and as such there are certain things we all share and grow into and out of (eg kissing in public, being vegan, etc), hence Sanjay looked at Ravi through this conditioning, as I do through mine – and each of you who read this will have their own take. One of the essences of the “spiritual path” is that of cleansing, and Sudarshan Kriya does that in less painful way – You cannot fill a glass that is full ! My question to all of you who hold some sort of a “grudge” against Ravi and life situations, is How long are you going to allow yourself to remain imbalanced with ignorance ? The way I see it as now, is that Spirituality is the only activity that stands before Pornography and can guarantee an orgasm …. Sat Chit

    • sanjay austa says:

      Vir Rawlley. Thanks for your views. However why do you feel this piece is against Spirituality? This piece is not even `against’ Sri Sri and there is no grudge. Its just an account of a day spent with Sri Sri by a skeptic, if that’s what you want to call me. As for spirituality I don’t agree that you need to go through the ”grinder” (all the spiritual practices and the Guru’s) to get there. I am all for spirituality but spare me the ”grinder” please.

  52. Rajesh says:

    I don’t care much about spiritual leaders etc.
    But Sanjay you seem to be very biased and the way you are reacting to criticism; well I suggest that you take up a course in Yoga or better a psychologist.

    I would appreciate if you can define simplicity to me.
    And trust me I’ll show you the mirror.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Rajesh. I think if these are the only two options, I will still go with the psychologist. :-) Jokes apart, a very close friend of mine was diagnosed with some ‘disorder’ by the shrinks so I have actually also seen how the psychologists function. And believe you me there is hardly any difference between a shrink and a guru. Both pamper you and prey on your insecurities. Will be writing something on this particular issue soon. So watch this space. :-)

  53. Asheeth Manu says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    Thank you so much for finally posting an honest piece of writing on the new-age Guru. I have done the first level twice. While it relaxed me, I didn’t experience any visions or miracles in my life.

    In fact, all the miracles in my life have been a result of my hard work and perseverance, and yes, luck. Doing the Kriya did not impact my ‘luck’ only made me more focused (which I’m sure any meditation would do).

    Both times, my practice of the Kriya extended only about a week beyond the workshop. I found it to be tedius and not so useful. Plus the emphasis during the course on the deification of Sri Sri and the hype around him, and the “rules”, just put me off.

    I have found pranic healing – the twin heart meditation – to give me the same results without any of the hype.

    Once again, it’s nice to read someone raising very pertinent questions. Rest, it’s belief. And I question no man his belief, and I allow no man to question mine.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Asheeth,
      Thanks for sharing your experience. I am glad you liked the article. Thank you.

      • Rohit says:

        Its a interesting discussion on faith versus experience.

        Most people want to experience first before the faith, but usually it has to be other way around. We need faith to look beyond the limitations of logic :)

        So, if we look beyond the obvious observations like luxury car and sitting down before master….it is a deeper experience.

        What we observe always is not the truth :)

        • sanjay austa says:

          Thanks for sharing your view Rohit. I would however say Trust is a much better word than Faith. The latter is an abstract word unlike Trust. Faith is usually blind.

          • avinash says:

            Sanjay,
            Well ur narrative skills are good . U should be a novel writer man u will really sell better :) .

            And Secondly what i have heard is that a guru is like a mirror . He just reflects u in multifold . U Means ur current state of mind .

            “I am amused by the irony of a man who claims to own nothing, zipping by in a gleaming Mercedes while those who can actually afford one, bumping along the Delhi – Agra highway in the less than comfortable bus’ – I have a question for a person dear to you , will you not do things which is way out of reach for u ??? its the same way for the devotees of him , whats wrong in that ?? only thing is that he dint give much of air to you right ??? he din’t bother to give you that kind of respect which you were expecting which has made you to write like this . Basically you are pissed of with the way you have been dealt with .

            ‘When you have touched that sensitive cord with the Guru you know your interview is over. Some of my questions are basic but these are questions Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has dodged all his life often with trite humour. Sample this- to the question why he gave himself the two Sri’s he says “because 108 Sri’s would be too long” or “there was already one Ravi Shankar so to avoid the confusion”. Where for anyone else awarding oneself superhuman titles would seem very arrogant and egoistic, for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar it is seen as a natural assertion of his so called ‘enlightenment’ ‘ – This is like you are absolutely pissed off with him and asking this . Simple question Why your name is Sajnay Austa if i ask you this question what is your anwser ??? and if answered in simple terms you feel its arrogant . I think till now he has never mentioned that he is ‘enlightened’ . May be ur special that he told you this .

            with my humble humaness i tried to answer . Moral of the story : You are mightily pissed off as your EGO was hurt .:) god bless take care

            Generally anyone if the ‘Journalist’ tag is there they try to be extra polite with ppl , give little more prominence , where as it was not visible in your case.

            ‘For a few seconds I just look at the Guru waiting for something to happen. Maybe some sort of holy ‘vibrations’ to flow through my cynical veins, I hope.’ – Well simple explanation . you dont have any set top box to connect your tv to the satellite network but you expect to connect to that network , which is humanly not possible . I hope you are intelligent enough to understand this , this is the simple possible explanation.

  54. rohit says:

    Sanjay u hav been blessed by guruji….i wait for d day he calls u for courrse..nw to u cant avoid him…he wil cl u definately…

  55. Got here from steve mc curry post to kumbh post to this post.. wholeheartedly agree! Most of his followers come across as brainwashed people (that includes some of my relatives), who, when it comes to it won’t refrain from harassing you to protect their “guruji” from any remotely cynical remark – experienced by me on twitter! For the life of me, I don’t get how the students who are supposedly taught that “you are not here to fight” (one of this commandments) do exactly that all the time and worse!

  56. NK says:

    Sanjay – I have had same thoughts as you. I have done art of living course and many other courses.
    I wish to make few points(will be little direct):
    - If Sri Sri did not have larger than life persona, would you have paid attention to him? I mean you did not write about me. why did not you?
    Because you know most of the readers will NOT relate to it and will not even read your article.
    So corollary is you have to have larger than life persona to get mind’s attention(be it positive or negative). Yours is negative.

    - Your article does not help anyone. You are putting doubt against Sri Sri. Sure. Then who should I or anyone lookup to? You are not providing that solution. You are taking away the stick people are hanging on to float but you want to take away that from them and not provide alternative. How is your journalism helpful to me? If people follow him, there is a reason. Just because you have not experienced it does not mean, the reason does not exist.

    - Lastly, have you observed that our minds always doubt the positive. We doubt honesty of a person and not dishonesty.

    - have you wondered why there is no value in the news: “10000 flights landed safely today” instead this negative news gets attention: “1 crash happened”. Mind’s tendency is to put attention on negative(that’s why some journalists write negatively).
    But Reality is there 1000′s of people getting benefit from Sri Sri. He does not want to go in Merc, it’s people who want him to go in Merc.

    May be something for you to think and observe about ….

    • sanjay austa says:

      NK.. the answer to your question is very simple. ”Who should I or anyone lookup to?”- No one. Look up to yourself. Be a light unto yourself. Why are you looking for a crutch. Why are you treating yourself like a handicap? Its because of our insecurities and our tendency to lean on others that these Guru’s from Sri Sri to Asaram Babu mushroom.

      • NK says:

        Yeah we live in a stressful world(and you can see that – people are not happy(full of negativity, with insecurities), our thought process gets muddled so one looks for help(to get clarity). And whoever helps/advice you at that time becomes your guru(be it from best friend, parents, teachers)
        .
        Some go to spiritual gurus. Although not all Gurus are of same quality and your heart will tell you if he is for you.
        But some of Gurus are full of wisdom(not ideas) and their guidance can help you become stronger person. That has to be experienced and cant be explained in words. It’s like you asking me how does “Gulab Jamun taste” and me explaining it to you(when you have not tasted it). Would not work. My explanation would only create concept and you will forget.

      • Kriti Kumar says:

        If people follow him, there is a reason. Just because you have not experienced it does not mean, the reason does not exist.

        Sanjay you are replying to only what you feel comfortable. There is whole lot of valid points which NK and others have raised. And you just pick up one point and reply to that.

        Being a lawyer, I can put it as ” You don’t have a locus standi to write this article”. We understand how you feel. I myself have felt that way about many gurus and even Sri Sri before I came to know about it in depth. Because as many have put it – We have a tendency to doubt the positive”. But writing a full length article based on your “doubt based on the appearance of Art of Living” without even knowing an iota of what Art of living is about is UNFAIR because you are basically sending out a wrong message.

        And your previous reply that meditation has helped mind and body and there is no question to it. I agree it has. But without even doing the course, how did you come to a conclusion that its just the meditation which we have known since forever. I practiced meditation even before Art of living happened in my life and it did help me and yes it has magical healing properties. But thats not all about the course, there is much more to it. Dont be judgemental.

        • Kriti Kumar says:

          Your doubt is based on the appearance of Art of Living. Don’t judge a book by its cover buddy.

          We have a tendency to doubt such spiritual organisations because of the misfortunate incidents that have happened in our country. But dont let that make you generalise things specially when it comes to AOL.

          • sanjay austa says:

            Kriti. Its not an ‘unfortunate incident’. Its a case where a high profile Guru- Asaram Bapu- is alleged to have raped a minor – 16 year old girl. You have mentioned twice you are a lawyer. But even so you should know better than to use such defensive jargon when it comes to defending your own. I wonder if you would call the ‘ Delhi gang rape’ and the Mumbai rape case also ‘unfortunate incidents.

            Rape is a heinous crime and it does not become any less barbaric because some holier-than-thou God-man is alleged to have committed it.
            Therefore such so called- Gurus / Godmen should be doubted, questioned and doubted again.

  57. Vijay Singh says:

    Quite interesting & expected too. Those who wish to open their eyes would clearly see what you have seen & those who prefer to remain blind cant see the truth. This man & his foundation is really cheating (well almost) the people at large. His followers are now trying to make him God. Look at the various miracles they are trying to attach him. Its really sad……..I am sure one fine day everything would be clear but alas it would be too late….rather its already late. Like many before him he is out to make a mockery of the so called spirituality & make a bad name for India. Just read the reports about child molestation by Sathya Sai Baba & you would agree with me. Sri Sri is on the same path but is a better businessman & hence is driving skillfully unlike the past babas\gurus. Just a last note of humour. Here he is saying that his photograph can replace a mobile phone battery charger.
    http://www.webcitation.org/6EOQTaigV

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Vijay for sharing your views.

      • Deepak says:

        Sanjay,

        I don’t know if you have written this artical with a vested interest or generally from your ignorance. If the latter then I really feel sorry for you. I am not advocating Sri Sri here but advocating the truth. Being a Major in Assam Rifles I ve seen the AOL volunteers have transformed thousands of militants in Manipur, Assam and Jharkhand just with the power of Sudharshan Kriya. For that they use to put their own life at risk. I remember when we were talking about creating a rehabilitation policy for surrendered militants we contacted 56 vocational training providers and NGOs and no One came forward except Art of Living. Their unwavering devotion for service be it for a guru was something heartening to see. Even if an individual is brainwashing people but getting them to do something good then we should support. Good that youths are getting brainwashed and going for satsangs and places like dharmsala for meditation camps instead of goin to pubs and to goa and raping women..

        People who are doing even a little good should be supported. You have not mentioned any good points in your article and this clearly reflects the lack in your life. And you have made such strong judgements in just a day… God bless your intellect… Love.

        • sanjay austa says:

          Dear Major. No one is contesting the work of AOL. Also please get out of this medieval mindset that going to pubs and to Goa is bad and a potential rape scenario. Don’t get me started on so called Holy men systamatically abusing their followers including little children in the guise of spiritualism. You obviously have not been reading enough.

        • Virat says:

          No doubt they have done some good work but that does not mean we have to ignore all the wrongs they are indulging in. Brainwashing of any kind is not good. Humans are not machines. AOL brainwashes their volunteers to look at Ravishankar as if he is God. I am a former volunteer & have seen from close quarters what actually they are into. They want to make their Guru so famous that the Nobel committee wont be able to ignore him. In the name of Spirituality no one should be allowed to swindle people of their emotions & money.

        • Megha Sharma says:

          Such amazement to read your views….such an awesome feeling of content to be a part of AOL :) Had just heard abt d good work AOL youth are doing thru YLTP….proud to read tht tooo :)

  58. Kunal says:

    Aren’t all “godmen” perfect orfices in the derrière?

  59. Anoop Negi says:

    well well!:)

    all this for questioning a few simple things about the hypocritical god men/ gurus like the Sri2.

    Thanks for writing about it. There are very few rational people in India and it was a pleasant surprise to find out about your viewpoints here.

    I consider these blighters as shams, charlatans and utter frauds.

    Just another profession that we as Indians are good at. Deceit and hypocracy are some of the strongest foils in our Indian armour and those who can practice it successfully become the modern day Gurus.

  60. Ashok Sharma says:

    An immature outburst of an ignorant and pompous journalist. Your lack of spiritual understanding is clearly visible and all you tried to convey is rubbish. The entire article revolves around Bus, Mercedes and other silly things. He never says his followers to go in bus when you can afford to go in luxury car. He advises to be industrious, enterprising, be healthy and happy and create wealth following the ancient Vedic wisdom and the techniques he has brought for all of us. Hatred doesn’t help anyone but love does.

    Love yourself and others …you will de-stress and become a better human being and a better journalist. Just trying to grab attention by raking some controversy is a very old technique of mediocre journalists to become famous. God bless you.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Ashok I the technique of getting famous does not work. I wrote that article almost 12 years ago and I am still not famous. You give good sermons yourself , so instead on launching on a diatribe against me you could perhaps answers my queries since your Guru didn’t/ couldn’t? Thank you.

  61. Iqbal says:

    Well written Sanjay. as old saying if there are no dumb people than how the smart will live. In every religion such as care takers of old grave of sufi/baba make and exploit people who have no other place to go and needs help and yet they get robbed by these so called sufi/baba’s man. If people believe in God than why not ask directly to him since they have access to Temples/Churches/Mosques/ etc where God resides better than going to these people who think and manage to make people believe that they are God’s man, ( I didin;t know that until, I start reading that Gods have so many agents) who lives in luxury lives, eat lavish food and travel in first class luxury transportations along with that to manage their life-style they (God’s man) continue to look for donations. I consider every thing other than Temples/Mosques/Churches a fraud and should be investigated just like United States investigated Guru Rajanish and kicked him out of country when they found of tax frauds and other illegal activities were happening in so called Ashram.

    Folks, This is just my opinion as you have yours!!

  62. Sujay Shetty says:

    Well done Sanjay,
    Most humans are looking for god, instead they find a human being who is more intelligent/shrewder than them, they are then taken advantage of, not just by the God-men, but also their flunkeys. In more ways than one it is what the politicians and their flunkeys do.
    Unfortunately in a country like India, where even talented people like a Sachin Tendulkar follows a God-man, it is impossible to make people realize that no human can be superior or inferior to the other.
    The original Sai-baba was a perfect preacher in that respect, he never accepted any gifts from his devotees, he lived and died like a fakir, never wanted people to worship him. None of the so-called present day preachers/god-men would be able to resist the temptations of luxury like he did.

  63. Karan Singh says:

    Very well written Sanjay. I am extremely glad that there are people like you who is not afraid to write the truth, even well your job is under threat because some Rich man has called you boss.

    I have a lot to say in this regard to “BABAS” in India. A baba who had a private jet under his ass 24/7 (provided by a devotee of course), owning Islands in Europe and US, plush cars and farmhouse. Massive amounts of money in their bank accounts. Now my question to all the enlightened devotees, since there a millions of you, at what stage do you become a personal friend of the baba or sri sri because he seems to choose his close disciples very cleverly. Mallya, Bajaj, Reah Pillai, Jaypee. So is there a minimum requirement to become close to sri sri.

    I am very keen to know, my personal experience in India has been very contradicting like the country itself and people here. According to me the word ‘Hypocrisy” should be the synonym to India. Every Tom Dick and Harry is made into a Godman here.

    One Ashok Sharma and NK question the writer and his intent in their remarks, so my answer for them is that sri sri is godman to you because he smarter than you. So while you were all making money, he was reading the books we all have access to and then preach you stuff that you should have know just by being born as a human which “GOD” himself made you. To find god and peace you dont need a sri sri.

  64. Mayank Vats says:

    Hi Sanjay,
    A truthful perspective about the lives of so called “Sadhus”. I know people who are under the charm of these enlightened ones and I’ve tried desperately a lot of time to get them out of their magic. But, instead of them leaving the guru, they tried to pull me with them. I’ve been forced by one of my friend to attend the basic course and if we leave out the yogic kriya’s from the course there is nothing in it. When I was doing the things they ask people to do, I felt like I was not being myself and acting to become someone. I’ll give an example here. So on one of the days in the course, they asked us to bring something eatable from their home. Then they offered us them as prasad after keeping it in front of their guru. Next they made everyone eat is very slowly and asked to feel the energy of that bite flow within us. I was ROFLing in my mind the whole time.
    I loved your article and keep up the good work.
    Mayank

  65. Pradeep Marwaha says:

    Nahin bhai….I was not convinced with the only 2 things Sanjay talked about – why the ‘Sri Sri’ and why he travelled in a merc. Come on don’t you think that’s too naive. He travels a lot ….why deny him the comfort. He is never telling you not to be comfortable. And the 2 Sri’s ….it’s like a name tag that got stuck to him . You can call him Ravi if you so like. He won’t mind.

  66. Rakesh Sharma says:

    that concept is in our own homes pati parmeshwar !! Y women worship their spouse on karva chauth!

  67. Romit Chowdhary says:

    Have you seen Ray’s Mahapurush Sanjay? It’s a satirical comedy based on a famous Bangla novel about a fraud Godman. Your story uncannily reminded me of the film. Too bad the protagonist there got away exposing him, but in today’s India any such effort will be perilous as their fanatic support base grows…

  68. Minhazz Majumdar says:

    we as Indians never question – gushing is more our way of responding ….good read ..sharing this so that others can read too

  69. Mayank Gautam says:

    I’ve done the course personally and I recommend everyone to try it once.
    But I could never understand why one can’t learn it and then teach it to others (as being preached in these workshops).
    Even the money transferred in the process is hand to hand and no electronic medium is used

  70. Aleem Shah Mohammad says:

    Finally we agree somewhere!

    Anyways, I had one such ‘enlightening’ experience around 3 yrs back when I went to the Old Fort in Delhi for a morning photo-walk. As I approached the fort ruins towards the right of the structure, I saw a huge spread of used paper-plates and plastic glasses scattered across an area of approximately 500 sq m. Upon asking the sweeper, who seemed to be facing a tough task cleaning it all alone, I was told that there was an AOL session conducted the previous night! So much for sensibilities coming from the magic of ‘art of living’!

    Another fine example was seen in a retaliatory speech video of him, which I chanced upon by accident. I have no qualms about who he is speaking against. But what leaves me feeling sorry is that here is a man who is known for his ‘poise and spiritual guidance’, but here he himself fails miserably to control his own feelings of inner hatred and religious fanaticism. Even more disturbing is the acknowledgements of his ‘helpless’ followers.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Aleem all major world religions were once just cults not very different from what these Gurus run today. If you agree to that we agree. Also the Gurus are no less than what Prophets were to their follower. But at least we can criticise these Gurus. You know well there are some Prophets we dare not criticise.

      • Aleem Shah Mohammad says:

        Then we don’t agree Because I dare not criticize some Prophets. Not so much for my beliefs, but for the sake of appreciating documented facts (at least Prophet Mohammad – pbuh). Also, it depends on what exactly you imply with the word ‘criticize’, as it seemingly imbibes a negative thought, by default or otherwise. I would rather term it as a ‘healthy debate’ or ‘reasoning’ without any initial biases. Also, though you may have the liberty to exercise your freedom of speech, I feel that with every right also comes some duty, especially when we live in a society with heterogeneous beliefs that need to co-exist, and not in isolation.

        And by any coincidence, if you are comparing this guy who digs into luxury and spreading hatred with the Prophets who are known to have lived a selfless and humble lives, then it would be a blasphemy of a different kind – that of humanity.

        To me my beliefs and to you yours!
        Peace be unto you

  71. Rajni Dhanda says:

    even comments thread is equally interesting aptly replied by you “Once Saints went from Palaces to the jungles ( Vishwamitra, Buddha etc) now they come from the jungles and go into palaces ( Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Asaram Bapu etc) ” how true is this ….

  72. Himanshu Khagta says:

    This one is my personal favorite.
    Jai Guru Dev!

  73. Ashish Godara says:

    Many years ago a very well to do patient of mine whose husband was a prominent industrialist had an unpleasant experience with Asaram which she narrated to me. They had to put up with him in their house because of a request from another industrialist. Asaram and his followers not only took over their sprawling mansion but in the evening at the dinner table a drunk Asaram himself offered a book called ‘Yauvan’ meaning ‘youth’ to their daughter and asked her to leave this ‘materialistic’ life and to come and live in his aashram where he promised that she would see ‘god’ for herself. Asaram was politely ushered out of the house next day.
    As far as adulation goes 2 very intelligent surgeons I know of sing praises of Ravi Shankar which go beyond any rationale. Once I got into a heated argument with one of them becaue I shot off some uncharitable remarks about this ‘baba syndrome’ which surprisingly seems to afflict the most intelligent of our society. We debated but I discovered that trying to reason with these blind people is fruitless.

  74. Deval Kartik says:

    While I like the way you follow people and write about them, I also admire your editor who stood by you!! Really like your pursuit for truth!!

  75. Vitusha Oberoi says:

    What a fall-out this story had!!

  76. rajkul says:

    Some of the pro responses are as vague and biased as they claim this piece of article is which clearly emphasizes on the apparent reality in the article.

    But all said and done Mr. Ravi Shankar of Art of living has clearly established his brand in the niche territory primarily comprising of HNIs. Even though most of the content and activities were not invented they were certainly well marketed for which it is appreciable. He has clearly sought after the multi level marketing concept well. These MLM concepts are often accused of scams but are also appreciated in some cases. Nevertheless the aggression of the followers is individualistic and only reflects on what has been cleansed or not.

    To follow something intellectually, with reasoning or blindly is a gain and loss of the individual as much of the supposed gurus which are no different from the concepts of endorsement of various gods across the planet.

    So called gurus from asaram to ravi to sudhanshu to that lady with polished lipstick have all carved out of the craving of a normal person to surrender to someone than think or act for herself/himself. One does require support but doesnt realise it could be found within oneself or family.Will cut it here else I may end up writing a book here :)

    Thanks for narrating the facts in relatively unbiased manner, relatively because such narrations of real events always offends the deep followers.

  77. CR says:

    I have seen several people rushing to the airports just for his one glimpse. The security and police find hard to control the mob and it completely screws up the work at the airports. Not just that, the so called ashram in Sec 48 Noida is also an addition to several examples of places where people rush in create havoc for the normal residents in and around these places. If you ask a follower that why does he like so much publicity and treatment as a God, they say that it is not him but some evil followers who are commercialising it all. There so called ayurvedic products that have come into the market(some of them are good though), the kriyas are commercialised, the meetings are commercialised, Why? His products are sold for some price and his followers tell that he does not make any money. Has anyone got courage to get into the books? Has he made the books public?
    The answer from the followers is same – Some evil followers!! My question is that what kind of preacher he is that he cannot convey the right message and even if some followers are commercialising, why can’t he prevent? Can’t he speak publicly to stop them? Can’t he keep his schedules private? Why all schedules are displayed on his website and are made viral on social networks and IMs? I am sure he only must have signed for all the content and commercialising. He has targeted all the NRIs, Top businessman and bureaucrats who just slap away the normal people even if someone dares to say a word against him. He is treated as God and he knows it and does nothing to stop it because he likes it.
    To all his followers – Were 33 crores gods and goddesses in Hinduism and different Gods in different religions are less for you? Better go to a temple and worship those Gods FOR GOD SAKE!!

  78. Vick Mederata says:

    Interesting article. I have not read much about Sri Sri, so I will do a little read about him to understand better. Why would intelligent million dollar net worth smart and shrewd businessmen place another on a pedestal and go through trouble. Could it be the three generation companies that lived superstitiously.

    I was watching how David Letterman was conversing with Obama and Bush, and reflected how many Indians can speak like that one to one with our PMs. The culture here of hoozoori that runs in all hierarchies.

  79. Shishir says:

    I do not get it. Criticise any body. Infact it is not criticism, rather it is condemnation. This continuous condemning shall only support their popularity. Half of the people will say YES and other half NO to what you say in all this condemnation. Why to waste your precious life in such debate. Enjoy your existence and explore how can you contribute. Lets start some empowering conversations which would take us all forward. Why to stay stuck to some shri shri, baba, sadhu, politician, …. when we can observe n think so clearly n cleanly…

  80. Madhuri Kumar says:

    While we may be construed as being insolent for our ignorance in understanding what about him has millions at his feet, his ardent and obstinate devotees don’t see life beyond venerating their Guru.Very well written Sanjay . The Art of Living it Up.

  81. Meghna says:

    Dear Sanjay
    I absolutely love the sudarshan kriya and swear by it, and believe that its regular practice can do wonders to the mind and body.
    But equally so, i liked reading about your day with Sri Ravi Shankar (and the ensuing comments–kudos to you for putting up with such nonsense, professional hazard i guess) primarily because you are one of the rare dissenting voices I have come across. You’re right in that the guru is protected by media barons who wouldnt take anyone writing anything against him. Nothing escapes politics!
    What i appreciated of your writing is that even though you came across as very cynical to me initially, I could soon see the logic of the point you were making.I also appreciate that through the article and comments, you kept your objectivity.
    I agree with the opinions of people who have recommended you to do the AOL course, i would too. But equally, I feel that the experiential always needs to be balanced with the intellectual, or even just plain common sensical!

  82. A V Varghese says:

    Good article. Simplistic, perhaps, and yet revelatory. This guy is going to be exposed further in the days to come. Like Asaram Bapu and many others. Also, remember that under that white robe he wears the khaki shorts of the RSS. I did Yoga for 7 or so years and this sudarshan kriya stuff is baby stuff compared to real pranayama. These guys, including Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, take one tiny bit out of a whole system and copyright that component and sell it to gullible slaves. I did TM too for quite some time, so I know what I am talking about. Of course, I do not grudge this guy his “believers”.India is full of zombies who are hunting for gurujis, it’s a country full of spiritually insecure folks. Good luck to them if they want to follow this “smart” Mallu who figured out how to have a Merc and more by doing nothing productive in life.

  83. Benedict Gnaniah says:

    Some said Power in the hands of sheep is more dangerous than power in the hands of hyenas…
    ‘cos the Heynas are used to handling power while the sheep are not.
    Look at these guys they come out as sheep, all the the god men. They looks so humble, divine and simple on the outside. Its sheer packaging.

    Now I look at them as mirrors of society, to me they are a pie chart of a extensive research document of the cognitive profile of the millions of people who are his followers.

    Make them all stand together nearly 90% of India will be following someone or the other… Now u know why Justice Katju said that 90% of Indians are Idiots.

  84. Sanjay,

    I read your article in detail. Thanks for the same.

    Just so that you know, I am a digital entrepreneur and someone who has been meditating on Sri Sri’s Sudrashan Kriya for the past 12 years.

    My observations:

    - You have related to him as ‘yourself’! (YOU would not travel solo; you would not be tired in a luxury car etc etc)!

    Thats funny because you are not Sri Sri and hence are in no position to judge!

    Imagine if I microscopically examine your life and start commenting on the phone you use, the clothes you wear, the transport you use etc, it would be bizarre!!

    - If you would have been a REALLY professional journalist, you would have examined HIS WORK – NOT his METHOD!!!

    So what if he travels in a Mercedes if he delivers Education, Food and Relief to hundreds of poor people in India?

    So what if people call him Jesus if he is able to deliver stress relief to INMATES in Indian Prisons?

    So what if he gets tired when he works to help people 20 hours a day?

    If you examine the life of MOST celebrities and world leaders, they ALL have quirks and idiosyncrasies! but who cares?? The world loves them for what they DO – not the beard they wear!!!

    This is my challenge – Tell me the one person who terribly inspires you – I will (or you can simply on google) find out something weird or odd about him or her!!

    - Sri Sri has rehashed the Sudarshan Kriya you claim. Maybe! But had you heard of it before Sri Sri brought it to the world? You may be writing this blog post in WordPress which was basic word editing code that long existed, but once WP made it a simple platform (or Blogger) and ever since then, we all have benefited!!

    Are you saying that being able to expose and disseminate precious information is a fake thing!!??

    Then all the Harvard’s and Stanford’s of the world would also be “fake” since everything they teach has been revealed before!!!

    - I would have expected much more content from you, but alas it turned out to be a ‘celebrity snooper’ kinda article rather than a Larry King discussion!! I think its time you MOVE up from ‘photo journalism’ to ‘content journalism”

    PS – Great Pictures!!!

    Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal
    alok@rodinhood.com

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks for sharing your views Alok. You don’t examine me or anyone else’s lives because we are not holier- than -thou nor claim to be, quite unlike our Gurus and Godmen who are virtually worshipped and are up there on a pedestal. Therefore the need to examine their lives. They are public figures and they have made it their business to preach morality to others. Its perfectly in order therefore to examine if they follow any of it themselves or is it just hot air to impress the gullible , the vulnerable multitudes.

      • Of course, but the ‘examination’ must be practical!

        If you have millions of fans (lets say a Shah Rukh Khan) who does not pretend to be a Godman (as yet), why would you criticise him for traveling in a Mercedes or staying in a 5 star?

        The point I am making Sanjay, is that the ‘examiner’ (In this case you) should be elevated enough to pick the right ‘tools’ for the examination!

        Examine Sri Sri on grounds of Morality, Peace, Community, Spirituality etc etc?

        In KBC, where the contestant is on a pedestal, he or she is examined for knowledge – not for the clothes she wears?

        I was photographed by Raghu Rai and by Prabuddha Dasgupta on different events – when their photos came through, the world (and I) examined them on the quality of their shots?!

        Just think a bit more deeply on this.

        Jai Gurudev!

        • sanjay austa says:

          Alok, I don’t know why you keep mentioning celebrities. There is no comparison between them and Guru’s/ Godmen on the basis you point out. The article is the observations of a skeptic who watches a Guru preaching something but practicing something else. But more than the Guru, the article reveals the almost childlike gullibility of his followers.

          (p.s) If you need to name-drop, it can also be done in a more subtle way than in the embarrassingly blatant way you have done. Your Guru did not impress me. Do you think I will be impressed by the fact that you were photographed by Raghu Rai and Prabuddha Dasgupta??

          • Raag says:

            Well said Sanjay. People who ask others to “think deeply” need to look at their own superficial attitude first. BTW, I’ve not been photographed by Raghu Rai or Prabuddha Dasgupa nor do I do Sudarshan Kriya. Nor am I spiritually or morally or financially enlightened. So, i am least eligible to criticize or write against anyone. So, will stop here.

          • Sanjay,

            I am happy you took my name-dropping bait :-)

            The reason I mentioned them is because, in the field of Photography, who remembers which car did Raghu Rai or Prabhuddha drive or their habits and fetishes??

            Check the work they did!!

            And I argue – why should a Guru be different? If he can “function better”, why can’t he drive in an ac car?

            Tomorrow you will suggest he travels by 2 tier train rather than fly??!!

            Get a does of sensibility into your thinking my friend!!

          • sanjay austa says:

            Alok I don’t know why you keep asking the same question when I have answered it a zillion times before. Kindly scroll up. I am NOT criticizing the Guru for his merc or his five-star suite. I hope you can understand satire. One usually needs a good sense of humor to appreciate it. Alas the tireless defense Sri Sri’s followers are putting up here just shows otherwise.

            As for Sri Sri’s ‘work’ , in my opinion its only rehashed drivel. You will realize it only if you care to read up a little on India’s rich spiritual traditions which includes knowing the different meditations that were developed over the ages by many mystics from India, China and Japan ( all without a copyright).

            My article as anyone can see, is less about the Guru but more about the fawning nature of followers who in their blind adherent to a Guru/ Godman have lost their capacity to question , to have an open mind and as its being demonstrated here, lost even their sense of humor.

        • RAJ says:

          ALOK,

          PLEASE read /watch these and comment objectively…I am an ardent Yogananda and Babaji follower..BUT THIS GUY IS A PHONY. OPEN YOUR EYES AND HELP PEOPLE OPEN THEIRS.

          1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkJ-5hh1Ago

          2) http://www.devicewatch.org/reports/power_balance.shtml

          3) http://www.devicewatch.org/reports/power_balance.shtml
          http://bharatmymotherland.blogspot.com/2007/11/sri-sri-paramahansa-yogananda-vs-sri.html

        • Mubuku says:

          I am really impressed by your ‘logical coherence’. Keep it up.

  85. Gaurang Agrawal says:

    Sanjay ,

    1. I am sure you don’t understand what is meditation all about .
    If you did , your post would have been epitome of positivity unlike this one .
    About Sudarshan Kriya , it’s a beautiful kriya .
    Meditation , if done incorrectly can be fatal and many of the people who just acquianted with Yoga had “not very pleasant” experience .
    There has to be some regulations / proper guidance during the yoga process ,which Sri Sri actively promoted, in such an amazing way that whole of the world is meditating correctly , which is eventually helping everyone getting rid of ill mindedness ( I am sure you didn’t try it ) , toxins from body and giving everyone joy & happiness .

    2. You must not be having any “guru” , because in case you did , you would have understood that devotees will do anything to provide comfort to their “guru” .
    For them ( devotees ) ” Guru is brahma , guru is maheshwar”, guru is everything”

    I don’t understand why everyone like you vehementely wishes that gurus shouldn’t have any luxury , it’s pointless to argue about he being traveling through mercedes . for you , it can be luxury , for others it’s just another vehicle.

    If you ever get a follower , you will notice that he will bring food for you , drive you wherever you want , will try to make you smile . That’s what devotees / followers do . They love their guru selflessly .

    Sri Sri is not just about Meditation , just about love , happiness . He reached out to millions and taught lessons of holistic living , taught how to be happy consistently ( while everyone of us forgot how to ) .

    • sanjay austa says:

      Gaurang I have said it many time before and will say it again for your benefit. I never said I expect the Gurus to shun luxury. I am only talking about hypocrisy. I agree with you that everyone including the Gurus have the right to luxury and comfort. But Gurus preach about simple lifestyle etc. Thats hypocritical. As for a Guru to whom you bow and get your ‘truths’ from – i find that entire process Ugly. But meditation I am all for. Regards

  86. kj says:

    Sanjay:

    He looks pretty modest. I thought he would use a helicopter. Sharing the road with his devotees is so humble of him!

    Look at Asaram, he frequently uses helicopter. Once his helicopter crashed and he came out unscathed. What better proof you need. Princess Diana’s Mercedes crashed, and she died.

    So when SS is using mercedes it is sign of humility.

  87. Aniceto Pereira says:

    What a strange lot – SSR is a simpleton by any standards, lacking the intellectual fervor you expect from a teacher (and that is truly what is needed in a Guru – intellectual passion and rigour – Buddha is exemplar in that sense, and to some degree Osho, yet I believe Osho was weak in spirit at times) yet SSR has a raw cunning and sense of guile, having deceived so many and so far. It makes you question the intelligence of his followers.

    Merely being rich or successful is no indication of intelligence (More middle class and upper middle class people fall for Ponzi schemes than any other income group does, despite their ‘education’). If you were to examine the educational backgrounds of his followers, none of them would have had the kind of education (either from their environment, school, or family) that allows them to think perspicaciously, discerning the truth from the dross. It’s mere comfort they’re seeking rather than truth.

    SSR speaks aphoristically, dropping bromides, and equivocates when confronted directly – he’s not capable of an actual intellectual discussion. Time and time again, he’s been caught out by people – there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence around and enough evidence on video to back it up. For a man who deals in serenity (as if it were a carbon credit), he doesn’t really seem serene.

    I always thought a smart man who figured things out and became a ‘god’ would just walk away from everything or keep his mouth shut. Anyone seeking to profit from it knows few will challenge them because the number of rational intelligent genteel individuals would be far too polite to interfere in what is obviously someone else’s folly.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Aniceto.

      • Megha Sharma says:

        Aniceto,

        I am amazed why people want to dislike someone/something so strongly with out even knowing him. Watching somebody over an interview/ listening to somebody’s comments is not enough to be able to dislike somebody so much!!
        About the followers, i feel immensely proud to tell you that a number of IITians, IIMians ans ISBians have quit their jobs and joined hands with AOL for just a salary of few thousands….do u think they have been hypnotized by my Guru ;) :P No… but jokes apart they have their own experience to justify what they are doing…
        FYI…just google about Bawa and Dinesh to answer your query of AOL people being not much EDUCATED.
        So as earlier said, i would again say that each one of us is entitled to have our own opinion, but still one has a RIGHT to do an Art of Living course, experience the Sudarshan Kriya…get known to the good work the organisation is doing in our country along with so many others nations!
        You ll feel blessed…and each one of us is actually blessed in our own special way…which will be magnified when you under go the process of self-realization through the AOL courses :)
        I am telling you, I am not one of those people who follow something very easily…but i ve had my own share of life changing beautiful experiences to be a part of the fan following.

        P.S. I am feeling great to be able to be a part of this whole debate…atleast people will have some brainstorming on what to believe and what not to…

        • MktgProf says:

          Never seen a more idiotic reply ever. So if IITns, IIMers and ISBans gave up something to follow SSR that makes him a god-man? What kind of logic is that?

          SSR is one big fraud; because anyone who claims to know how to lead a better life and proposes to teach others is a fraud. You don’t need religion, spirituality or any other bs to lead a moral life. Morals are absolute and are not open to debate or interpretation through the eyes of some simpleton, ganja-eyed idiot god-man with some copyrighted yoga kriya.

          What a waste of talent those poor IITans, IIMers and ISBans who are chasing the Swami.

          • Megha Sharma says:

            Hello,

            Why so aggressive dude??? Take a deep breath in…..and slow slowly breath out….feel good! Not debating with you on anything until and unless you please go and read why had i mentioned the IItian/IIMians…

            And we are not discussing here if Sri Sri is a Godman or not…please get your understanding right….you need more reading :)

            Stay Blessed :)

  88. Prashant says:

    Blind faith is wrong. But if some person is helped and his life has been changed with the coming of some guru, then there is nothing harm in it.
    We Should also see the positive side of every thing. Making money is the
    reality of today. It is this kind of era. Why we look diff when some spiritual org is making money. I feel there is nothing wrong. They are earning money in a righteous manner. Yes in case of Sri Sri there is too
    much showcase baazi and every thing is attached to money.

    I am a follower of Paramhansa yogananda( Autobiography of yogi ) who died in 1952. He said once become like me and then go beyond me.

  89. Shailendra K Rajpurohit says:

    Sanjay,

    Why are you so desperate to get Fame. Your Moto seems Badnam honge to kya, Naam to Hoga. Cheap Publicity. Easy to write about Sri sri ..
    So, you selected Sri Sri, for your writing. Just to get fame….

    Even after two years, you are getting responses.

    Millions are people across the globe adore him, love him. They all are equally intelligent like you. It is their own choice.

    You keep your criticism and we keep our faith.

    You do not understand what GURU means. 100% faith & Love.

    People go to Guru as seeker…

    Here people like You, prescribe what Guru Should be, how he should behave. Do not try to be Guru’s Guru.

    People (millions) love him, Sri Sri as he is. He is not religious head. He is Spiritual persona.

    As You are Documentary Photographer. It looks. You just take a photo, without understanding “Life” within it.

    Constructive Criticism, helps in nation Building. Sanjay at this time our nation is passing through volatile time. Write some thing which helps the people at large.

    AAp jese Log Kehte hey:
    Khuda dikhta Nahi, aur hame Khuda ke Shivay Kuch Dikhta Nahi!

  90. Rahul says:

    Bloody True…
    Every word !!

  91. Rohit M says:

    hehehe … worth a read once (only!); But this isn’t fair Sanjay.

    I don’t mean its not fair to SSRS but not fair of you putting together a tongue-in-check based on YOUR 1 day ordeal alone. You should research & publish, if not all (I think there is a lot to cover), some work he/AOL have been doing around for 30 years and whether it has made any difference to people by-and-large. No? Come on ! We readers deserve to read more on it, especially in your humor filled with satires :)

    My research shows that he was earlier called Pandit Ravi Shankar. His followers would address him as Pandit ji. Due to name clash with musician Pandit Ravi Shankar, his followers started calling him Sri Sri…Anyways I would not make/break my opinion simply on what someone wears before his name or the car his followers make him drives in. If I were you – I would also see what cars has he driven each day since he kinda became a Godman. Has he ever taken a rick, or walked or traveled in unreserved Indian rails and still maintained his godmanship during those travels.

    Do we really ever care what someone like Ratan Tata, Warren Buffet or Milenda / Bill Gates wear before their names or what cars and watches they sport. I am happy seeing them do good work for the society and that they don’t run a ponzi. I would let SSRV be in that comfort (Merc is not a luxury, what world ru in) if he is doing good for people by-and-large and is not running a ponzi.

    Don’t say you don’t time: you are reading this :), have been following your post and responding with so much spark since this was written.

    Btw this piece has made you a Godman too. People believe in you, love what you say ;)LoL… Never buy a Merc or a stay in 5star :)

    Unbiased journalism, Un-cropped photography.

    Cheers.

  92. Teena says:

    Loved this article ! Indians can believe anything I guess .

  93. suryansh says:

    HI all,

    Spirituality doesnot mean austerity, and to run such an organisation that allows you to propogate something you want to, requires a lot of money and man power, it is okay to charge, but I agree with sanjay..copyright is a big no no!

    I have always observed that if you look at a guru, he should be perfect from all angles..austerity, desires, motivations, etc….he should be just perfect. If I am at a level X and want to reach Z (enlightenment)….i may find a guru who is at Y (and claims to be at Z)…thats okay- he is still above me…lets see what he has to offer….if its a pittance packaged in shiny paper, lets take that pittance and use it rather than condemning the whole package and benefitting nothing out of it, accept proving that another guru is not “perfect god like”…

    Meditation techniques have been there for centuries, they are tough and there are many people who offer these teachings in simplified forms, its okay to learn and become more aware, but to start worshipping is to insult the very basis of what spirituality is all about “experiencing the truth as it is, without your mind (reason) and emotions muddling it up”

  94. Capt. Viraf G Edulji says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    Great article, enjoyed every word. Such articles bring our much hyped “Gurujis” back to earth. I drive a Mercedes too, but the difference is that I paid for it with a LOT of hard work!
    Good work, keep it up.

    Regards,
    Capt. Viraf G Edulji

  95. Jay says:

    Sanjay,
    I like the writing style and the in-your-face journalism.
    The fact that you managed to get some many people engaged on the topic itself is a worthwhile achievement. A few thoughts:

    1) a common thread in most of the comments above, and which i can empathise with, is the question of journalistic integrity. Part of the reason is you seem to have taken a very binary approach based on limited observational data. To be fair, you have provided your disclaimers. Factual data, numbers, a broader view could help – instead of sweeping statements based on anecdotal evidence.

    2) But a bigger question is, would you (i hesitate to use the word *dare*) do a similar hes-a-fraud-cos-he-drives-a-rolls expose on the religious leaders of other so-called-minorities. As far as I know, the current Pope Francis is the first one (possibly ever in the last 2000 years) to propose toning down the trappings of the papal office. I am not sure Cardinals and Clerics in India go in public transport or auto-rickshaws. I am yet to see any vigilante journo have the courage to apply the same moral lens to these so-called-leaders. Do the same, and you could possibly prove you are not just another person targeting the low hanging fruit.

    3) a fundamental flaw in the premise is that SSR is a ‘god man’. He is not. Most people do not think he is. Except his most overadulatory followers, even hardcore devotees of AOL treat him as (read carefully) a Spiritual Leader. A guru. A guide. A teacher. I doubt the AOL devotees expect him to pull rabbits out of hats or cure people of cancer by snapping his fingers. There ARE devotees who go overboard. But then again, there are people who worshipped Elvis, the Beatles and Bollywood stars. I think the idea is to view him from the same pedestal you would put any religious leader.

    P S I am not a follower of AOL or anyone else. I am also aghast at the absolute stupidity and self-criticism we Indians put up with

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks for your views Jay. Quite honestly I would. But not before meeting them and seeing it for myself. But haven’t had the opportunity to meet any of the people you suggest I meet. But the Pope’s and cardinals etc are criticized to the hilt regularly and if I may point out more brutally in the West where they have their followers. As for self-criticism it is nothing to be ashamed of in my view.

  96. Ramesh Pole says:

    Hi Sanjay,
    I really like to see your interview on another guru “Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev” of Isha Foundation.

  97. Zenith says:

    Every word rings of truth. After being around for a decade with this organisation as a volunteer and finally leaving it for good, I’ve realised how gullible even some of the most level headed people are and how strategically the abstract domain of Faith is exploited by the Gurus.
    I am glad that you could see through the facade in the first meeting itself.

  98. Truly loved your post Sanjay. Hats off to you and appreciate the way you are handling all the critical comments you are getting from his followers. I am sure it may not have been easy for you to pen this experience and post it to the world. You have just echoed down what many people believe yet are a bit taken back to criticize such “Gurus” publicly due to the tremendous following they have specially among their own relatives and close friends. Thanks again for airing your frank observations.

  99. Bramha says:

    Ok.I find it amusing that you think having the luxury of a fancy car or a five star hotel in some way are disqualifications for a Guru. A Guru is what he is for his thoughts, for his actions and for his contributions to the world, for his endeavors to make it a better place. Having a car, or having high earning businessmen follow one in an allegedly less-than-comfortable bus and other balderash, are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for one to be a Guru. So I fail to understand how does Sri Sri Ravi Shanker become less of a Guru on account of something that wasn’t a pre-condition to be a Guru in the first place? I really wish to be enlightened on this account. Because as far as I can think, and it may not be much, there can be no disqualification which is not a pre-requisites. If something is a disqualification it will necessarily be a pre-requisite. I really wish to be enlightened on this account.

    Would a man who has none of these luxuries be a Guru? Quite simply no. So clearly to be a Guru requires a set of conditions other than what you have concentrated upon. It requires what you, in a fit of opportunistic cynicism, have dismissed as truism, as a discourse in spiritual cliches. I don’t think this proposition of your’s merits a response because if one were to go by your logic I can’t think of anything good and worthwhile that cannot be dismissed or undermined by calling it a truism. And even if for the sake of argument one were to accept that everything he says is truism, these truisms have had an immense impact in making several people’s lives better and stress-free.

    I am sure you cannot have a case that everybody is a fool and has been done in by some stupid altruistic cliches. The fact that one pays money for learning the art of living and that the latter has established itself as a brand which is consumed by people the world over speaks volumes about the quality of the product and how it has succeeded in delivering what it promises. While in ordinary circumstances you would have praised the product,even recommended it to your friends, here somehow you find it revolting.

    Now there are a few things I urge you to read more about because I am quite amused by your ridiculously desperate but vacuous attempt at contrived criticism. First you ought to understand the difference between a Guru and a Sanyasi. Second you must understand Nishkam karma or detached involvement. Third you must understand that wealth is incidental to Sri Sri or other Gurus, it is a means to reach out, it is also a means to help when the need arises. It is these very Gurus who are at the forefront of disaster relief efforts, educaton initiatives, affordable health initiatives, orphanages and several other social initiatives.

    You must also understand the difference between wealth that is owned, possessed, pined, and wealth that incidentally accrues, but is not pined for. Moreover, what is it that you find so revolting about Sri Sri’s wealth? It is not as if it is ill earned, it is not earned through crime, he is not evading taxes, he is doing nothing illegal. Also wealth is not unholy. It in itself is not something that holy men should keep away from. We worship Goddess lakshmi don’t we? It is ill gotten wealth that should be avoided and which is unholy if you may. Is it your case that no rich man can be a holy man or a man of God?

    Sri Sri was born in a very humble background and everything that he is today is because of his hard work.Normally this would be a success story but to some people the achievment of others is a commentary on their own failures. Even more so when the achievement does not go down well with one’s hubris and a misplaced notion of being the repository of all knowledge. The fact that you think usage of Sri twice is arrogant speaks volumes. I don’t think it really matters if he uses it twice or thrice or 108 times. Nobody would care if you did the same. It is hardly important let alone arrogant and the reason Sri Sri resorted to humour when asked about it is because it was a stupid question and he was being polite.

    So man, I suggest the next time you decide to un-Guru a Guru, you should concentrate on reasons for which he is a Guru and not beat around the bush.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Bramha I know you have spent a lot of time writing this comment. But i wish you had spent a little time to read my comments where I have said that I am not against Gurus living in luxury. Kindly scroll up. Your questions have already been answered already in great detail in my replies to your fellow Sri Sri fans.

    • Megha Sharma says:

      Brahma…you perfectly addressed the issue! Point by point…word by word…i know Sanjay would not agree… but Sanjay…Dont you see!! Majority of the people who have been a part of AOL and experienced the kriya are so much more positive in their approach…sounding so much more content and happy in spite of all the negativity coming from the fellow commentators who merely have an opinion based on what they have heard n what they assume!
      Why do you think we are evn justifying all this….the reason being same….WE ARE NOT PAID TO DO THIS…its just that we feel each and every human being is entitled to feel that peace and contentment as we felt through AOL…and we want to encourage more and more people to understand the real human values…see a human being as a part of themselves… establish the motto- “I belong to you”…”I am the Universe”, So Ham- meaning “that is me”- I am a part of God…God is a part of me….

      • sanjay austa says:

        Thanks Megha. However the problem I see with followers of any Godman/ Guru is that that they seem to be absolutely ignorant of both meditation as well as India’s spiritual history. They have not read the Upanishads not any other spiritual books nor have any idea about other meditation techniques that were developed over the centuries. Therefore Godman/ Gurus can easily impress their disciples with any rehashed drivel. The peace you are talking about is possible even without anyone being part of Art of Living. You just have to try and stand alone. Its not easy but its possible.

  100. Vertica says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    I don’t think you are wrong, my friend. Just that, you have stretched your viewpoint quite far without proper research. Being a journo doesn’t mean we should move around like ‘Question banks’!

    Drop your questions for a while and at least experience anything before writing blindly. The subject is good but not handled well. It lacks substance may be because of your hurried approach and poor research!

    • sanjay austa says:

      Being a journo to my mind means exactly that- moving around like a ‘Question Bank’ as you put it. And its infinitely better to be a ‘Question Bank’ than an ‘Answer Bank’ that all the Gurus/ Godmen are because being a former means you are a seeker. Being a latter is plain conceit.

  101. Darpana Athale says:

    Thanks for the share, Sanjay! You raised questions that so many have been dying to ask, but didn’t…

  102. Sethu says:

    True Sanjay. I agree with most part. But the thing is, In these days where there is no love among fellow humans and corrption and scams prevails and where people are more driven by greed than need you need someone to spread love. Even if its not agreeable and not the excat way atleast someone good is happeening.

  103. Rini says:

    Good that you have put out your views. I had a similar say when I saw him for the first time at a conclave in Delhi. But I suggest you go in depth and find out about him with an open mind; his work, his schedule, experience sudarshan kriya, your views are bound to change. Research more, speak your experience, observations as a spectator can be misguiding.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Rini. I will edit my views if I have any different experience anyday. But Sudharshan Kriya is nothing but a meditation technique. All meditations are helpful so its not surprising Sudarshan Kriya will be good too.

  104. Saurabh Tak says:

    Sanjay Austa,

    Thumbs up! Your essay is awesome. It is hard to go against orthodox customs and Priests, Sadhus and so called Guru’s in a country like India. It becomes even harsher if the Guruji has ardent followers which include some big names. As far as, Spiritualism is concerned, I would rather like to read Swami Vivekanand or Kabir. Even with the recent examples of BHAGWAN Nityanand, SANT Asaram Bapu and so many early incidents, the mere MORTALS still fail to see the real world and this is why I think they can never get enlightened. I am glad that there are people other than Narendra Dhabolkar, who can still raise their voice against orthodox, rubbish customs and fake gurus. Your writing is a voice unbiased and one of the live vibrant torch in the darkness, which prevails and rules the social structure of India. I enjoyed reading your essay.

    Saurabh Tak.

  105. Tanu says:

    I loved it…. agree with you in totality…. and cant stop praising you for this.

  106. S Shenoy says:

    We all know why India is abundant in Godmen. Gone are the days when fearless and truly enlightened Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda tried to share their enlightenment with us, leading such simple lives.Now Swamijism is a new style of living and there are ever so many who know how to talk, endowed with the gift of the gab,say a few of the things they have read from our ancient books, dress and grow beard appropriately and they will have a huge following and money just flows into their coffers.Who is responsible for this? We are.When we fail to cope up with our problems we seek solace in these Godmen. Instead, if we served the poor, helped the sick and took up social causes it could give us so much of mental satisfaction and better understanding of the world around us.This experience will enlighten us into understanding what life is all about.But make sure you don’t wear robes and grow beards lest you have a fan following and end up as an “Enlightened Swamiji” !!!

    But then all this needs dedication and lots of hardwork compared to sitting in the Godmen’s meets and chanting bhajans in search of the inner peace and wisdom which will never be yours. Think about it.

  107. Dharm says:

    articles like these are nothing but propaganda being funded by the vatican and the million christian NGOs who have set up shop in India under the benevolent patronage of the UPA.
    Notice the methodical hounding of our Dharm gurus, including Sri Sri, Kanchi Shankaracharya, Nityanand and now Asaram Bapu. These paid writers are usually christian converts using their Hindu names to hide their true identity.

    The true filth amongst religious beliefs lies in the 2 desert blood cults which have between them killed a billion souls, pusing billions across Asia, Africa & america into poverty while claiming to save their souls. These desert cults are pure evil & imperialist cults which cannot accept a differing view point. Hence any different way of life has to be crushed and/or discredited. While the RoP’s standard operating procedure is the more earthly bombing/beaheading/rape/pillage , the xians use propaganda to sneer and denigrate the other belief systems which is the sole objective this article. Once sufficient propaganda has been done, then descend the true vultures of chrisianity, the pedophile padres and prostitute nuns who come bearing the devil manual bible and the proverbial “40″kgs of rice to entice the poor and promises of riches, scholarships & visas for the not-so-poor, I kid you not.

    Such articles deserve the strongest condemnation & these sellout writer need to impressed upon in strongest of terms so that such blasphemy and slanderous pieces are never written again. What Hindus need is something like the Jewish ADL to drive out these ricebag converts/neoconverts/deracinated Indians and stamp out their vile attacks against Hinduism.

    • Manoj Sharma says:

      Dharm,

      So, there are these extremists like you who do all the wrongdoings in the name of religion(Including Jihadists claiming to save their religion).

      When someone has such extreme views, we know all religions can not not live together with harmony in this society. These are the views that are then made a propaganda by these So called Guru’s to set their base and gain popularity.

      Why can’t all religions live together and why can’t everyone be free to choose their religion. I don’t think its mentioned in any of the religion that another religion is bad. I feel that something is not good in the society when people start supporting gurus like Nithyanand/Asaram etc.

      Sri Ravi Shankar is still a good businessman(Though he wouldn’t himself one), it is just that people should just buy the product(Sudarshan Kriya) and not start following the creator of it for whatever he says.

      For you, I don’t think anyone would have such extreme views if he/she had read in detail their respective religion, its these gurus and preachers who indoctrinate these extreme views in general public’s mind.

      A true leader is someone who leads by example. Isn’t he leading such a huge mob(AOL) in certain direction and telling people about how to lead their lives as well.

  108. Tyagi says:

    Thanks for this blog entry Sanjay!

    I will write my point of view: Humans are not taught well to tackle issues, tension, depressions etc. Whenever they are in some kind of situation, they tend to find a *black-hole* where they can put all their issues, and hope that it will take care of things for them. God, Swamis, Babas, Ammas, Bapus – all are created for this one purpose, to delegate peoples issues, so that they don’t have to worry about it. For some people it is gods/living gods and for some other it is alcohol. Finally all these are just addiction which will eat our money and gives us an excuse to not to improve ourselves.

    Regards.

  109. Sasikanth says:

    Sanjay – you should research this ‘great’ thing called ‘Landmark Education’.

  110. Rajnish says:

    Awesome Article !

  111. MktgProf says:

    Sanjay,

    I admire your patience. If I were you, I would not waste a second debating with SSR fans.

    It is unbelievable that even in this age, educated people can believe that a god-man can make them feel better about their life.

    What is this shallowness in their souls that makes them reach out to false prophets? I guess this has been the case since time immemorial! Men are prone to seek answers to questions for which there are honestly, no answers. All prophets, sages, sadhus and the like exist because of human frailty.

    There is no better place than to look within oneself and figure out the true meaning and purpose of life. It exists in helping others, particularly those that cannot help themselves. There is no higher purpose to life.

    Great post anyways.

  112. Nitin Verma says:

    One funny thing I read in your blog is that people sit on the floor and Guruji on the Higher Sofa. Ok, now if you know the tradition of Gurukul system, all the shishyas or followers were to sit at the feet of their beloved Guru and that’s why people sit at the ground floor and not at the chairs which also shows the respect towards their Guru. Its the sign of showing Respect to the Guru and that’s why you will and would not understand the psychology or science behind this beautiful Guru-Shisya relationship. Why, there are few reasons, one we are blind follower of Material Science without even knowing the science within, second we are so disillusioned that our eyes have gone blind for the Gurus. We always think that Guru should be like Gurus 1000 years ago. Are you nuts, you say you’ve brain but it looks you are empty minded, thinking that Gurus should suffer in this country. What crap thinking is that. If he is teaching things that one should follow and his followers are happy seeing him, getting teachings from him, then why do you have a pain, you had only one experience with him, and how can you conclude that this experience is best or worst. Even science says that you may have to try multiple times to get the real result, why didn’t you do that. Its a mere irony that you wrote this article with lack of knowledge and lack of patience, coz you just wanted to write.

  113. Krishnan says:

    Wonderfully written indeed.

    What could perhaps add to your article are the complete questions that you posed and the answers that you got in your one on one session. In this article, you only indicate with an example.

    Faith is often unexplainable through logic is what I have seen.

    We need more such questioning :-)

  114. Priyanka says:

    Why are there so many spelling mistakes in this article?

  115. Sanjay says:

    Sanjay,
    My name sake, we have similar thinking. I say only one thing…why should a person with so much “Gyan” fails to see that all Gyanis have had “down to earth” life style. They did not travel out of there countries to increase following. “Gyan” bantne ki cheez hai, but if you use it for creating wealth and life style, it loses the spirit and becomes profession. Spirituality and “Gyan” are two different things. Sri Ravi Shankar is a good Orator and says the same thing a Pandit sitting in a small town Arya Samaj says. It has nothing to do with Spirituality but is only a way to impress and have following. I shall not say much, but yes you are absolutely right.

  116. Vinu says:

    India is really missing real Yogis like Ramana Maharshi , Vivekananda , Shankaracharya. Now India is going bad phase of Dharma where we see all new age gurus who wants followers.

    In my opinion yogis need to get a right balance for not becoming a God and where was they should not go for forest residing and not indulge in earthly activities. Though they should be in middle of humans to understand their purpose in life.

    Now God man followership and fake gurus are used as a tool by new age religions to attack Dharma all together.

    – I think we need new age leadership rather than just commenting on what are faults of Matrix(world).

  117. Shaan says:

    Dear Sanjay,
    Hatts off for expressing Your true views, there’s no doubt that all these Gurus are money minded. Anything divine connected to money is from the Devil, not the saints.If anybody has a second thought, then for Your revision let me tell You, both Gurus of Christianity and Islam, Jesus Christ and Muhammed never travelled in a luxurious vehicle other than a camel. They had millions of followers and still do, they never charged for their spiritual encounters with the mass. They did not market God world wide. They simply asked us to seek the truth. And in that truth You and me will find peace, enlightment, freedom, love and devotion. Its simply submission to God, and not submission to Guruji’s who take a different course in luxurious hotels, Truth is always simple, and people who have faith in God will be truly simple in life. Extravagance and luxury is a trademark of the devil himself. And for feeling great and You dont have to go to Gurujis, You just travell across the globe and You will see the mighty creations of the Mighty creator. That simple question in You will make You thirsty enough to strive in search of Your creator, in search of the Truth. Check it out for Yourselves. Hope the educated class in India will learn some day at least, else what difference does it make between the educated and uneducated. Wakeup and theres still time to correct ourselves.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks for your views Shaan. But I won’t agree with you that ” anything divine connecting to money comes from the devil”. Jesus and other Prophets used camels simply because there were no cars then.
      I don’t agree with the assertion that Prophets of yore were somewhat different from the present day Gurus.

      • Shaan says:

        Sorry Mr, Sanjay, I prefer You to read more on the prophets before commenting, because You have misunderstood great people and concluded them among the many who are corrupted, hope that will make more sense to You. And dont judge anyone including the prophets by reading what the critics has to say,,,instead try to listen what they have to say, what they really taught the people to follow and how they ensured justice to all. Dont hesitate and mould a wrong opinion even before You get to know them. And to Your attention, they werre not any kind of saints, meditating all the time. They lived like normal human beings and they lived among the common man, and I dont see where they have anything common to these Gurujis. Please correct me if You can tell one instance where they are the same..I would be grateful in that case.

  118. Shaan says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    To be clear, no prophets were similar to these Gurujis. Because they did not kick start a course of living one day all of a sudden to enlighten people and fill money in their pockets. They did tell people we were sent by God, and as proof they had nothing but pure words of God to preach, they didnt say submit yourselves to God in the form an excercise, instead submit Your life in every walks of life, in every breath You take, in every smile You give, in every deeds of goodness, You just do justice like he did to You. So theres equality, freedom, love and Justice. Nobody is supposed to be harmed, unless tried by a court of Justice just as Courts do day today. So it did protect humanity in all means, even Science could only teach people whether one things good or bad, medicine or poison, harmfull or harmless, edible or unedible,,,,but think can science tell You what to pick ??? You are stuck over there,,,people who consume liquor made their choice, people who smoke or use heroin, they made their choice,,,,cos science cant guide them, science cant teach morality,,,and thats where religion comes into play,,,its just we Humans who have made them look grave and bad,,,,its our mistake that we tend to deviate from what is acceptable and say we need absolute freedom,,,its like telling our parents, I dont care about You and Your teachings, I just care about myself…So we have to grow up…Do good for us, do good for the people around us, and do good for our parents,,,and lets not forget never to harm anyone, not even ourselves. All these moral values in life are taught by religions, not science,,,and what happened to the modern world equipped with technology and advancements? Why is it not helping even the United States quit wars ? Why are the TERRORISTS not quitting their fire breakouts ? Why are the Africans still under poverty ? Simple,,,,nobody cares,,,,nobody cares what religions taught us,,,nobody cares for our brotherhood,,,nobody cares for being simple and keeping away from doing injustice and harming other creatures….all we care is for fame, wealth, status and power,,,,what are all these terms ??? These terms are supposed to be neglected by every human being in all religions,,,in all walks of life,,,thats why religions are all great…its just that we have to find the TRUTH, the true God, and submit ourselves to the only one. We just have to quit fighting for power, fame, glory, wealth and be happy with simplicity in life…thats the only way we find peace and happiness,,,So hope we learn from our mistakes…

    And remember,,,,THE CLOSER YOU ARE TO GOD, FAR YOU ARE FROM THE DEVIL. THE CLOSER YOU ARE TO GOODNESS, FAR YOU ARE FROM WICKEDNESS & EVIL. So GET CLOSER TO GOD

  119. prasad katankot says:

    I had attended Art of living course a decade back for Rs 500 and it was worth it. It was Ravi Shankar who took effort to promote Sudarshana Kriya, the yogic technique which is claimed to be known by all ( in truth a vast majority still do not have any clue about this technique). If a majority of people can experience peace at RaviShankar’s presence or because of the Kriya, why not give credit to him? Your logic of comparing RaviShankar’s stature based on couple of questions asked by you is silly.Would you or your media dare to question the adulation and support of Rahul/Sonia/Advani using the same logic ?

    • Pankaj says:

      Hi Prasad,
      Not sure what media you are exposed to when you say that it does not question the political leaders. In fact it feels that the media goes overboard at times.

      Pankaj

    • sanjay austa says:

      Prasad its great it worked for you. I have no reason to doubt why it wouldn’t have. Mediation always helps. As for criticism of political leaders , i don’t think you are reading enough.

  120. prabhakar says:

    This was an eye opener for me. Glad that i have read your article and understood the truth and mind you, I’m a follower of Sri Sri and attended his workshops on meditation. No one is super power than you, me and like any human is…. We should research on the origin of the meditation techniques which will give us more clarity.

  121. Sandeep says:

    Thanks Sanjay for the article. I was one of the early disciples of Guruji when very few people knew of the AOL. Over the last 20 years, I have seen a massive shift in the man he is and the institution he runs. I am not sure if it is him or the people around him who try hard to immortalize him. It is sad that even highly educated and learned people lose their judgment regarding Guruji as god.

    Imagine decades of people regarding him as god equivalent, jesus christ and all that. I find absolute fault with the followers and not Guruji.

    He is just a guru and not even in the league of legends such as Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda et al. The only humble guru I have seen in my lifetime is Swami Bharathi Theertha.

    my humble 2 cents, guys, don’t run behind his car at the airport, don’t make him a god, don’t defend when there is criticism – If he is what he is, then he should be above all this and lastly, never talk about the charity he does. It is shameful to use charity for publicity or to prove a point. A man who does never talks.

    • sanjay austa says:

      I think it takes tremendous courage and honesty for a former and one of the oldest disciple to come out and speak up. Thanks for sharing. My article is mere observation of an outsider. Your views hold more weight certainly. Thank you.

  122. Harish says:

    This guy is a fake baba, thanks for exposing him.

  123. Bilal says:

    Quite a bold article Sanjay! I had once been to their course. Couldn’t digest the illogical claims the “representative of guruji” was making. Had to literally run away from there.

  124. Sandeep says:

    I feel that a real saint/guru/god wont ever consider himself as god, wont accept fancy ‘sri sri’ in his name and would not like to be called like that.
    A guru would never not practice lessons that he teaches.

    Although we see some people like this doing things which they should not since it proves double standard somewhere. And it should not be his followers explaining us what we should or should not do, i think teachings of a guru tells about that person.
    But i dont know what does people like him teach. I think everything is in shastras and vedas, why is this (or others in general) godmen? That content is not their property or creation so how can they copyright!
    What i agree is that these people could have more perspective and understanding (which people confuse with being enlighted), so we should learn from them. Not forgetting that he is not the one telling the path but the text from freely available geets/shastra/veda. I think people should understand that the ultimate path is reading and following our ancient scriptures/books.

  125. Mohammed Farooq says:

    Hello Sanjay,

    Really a good one. Thanks a lot for this.

  126. Ranmoy says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    This article is bang on target !!! Hope this becomes an eye opener for atleast some people.

    Thanks,
    Ranmoy

  127. Ursula says:

    Well written. Could be more direct even. The so called gurus are fake working out only for their own benefit. Pathetic.

  128. Tarun Goel says:

    So does the Dalai Lama. Have you seen his envoy moving around in Dharamsala?

  129. Kiran Shankar says:

    Firstly, kudos to you Sanjay for your sensible replies – they are actually better than your extremely sane article! Kudos also to all those sane voices out there who are able to see through the posturing ‘God’ men! If this were Facebook, I would have loved to ‘Like’ many of the posts here. In contrast, the replies in defense of the subject couldn’t be more pathetic or desperate!

    Indians first need a basic course in how to think for themselves! Living off of the brainpower of others, like parasites, betrays a serious lack of self-belief and self-esteem, fear of the natural ups and downs of life, and insecurity in one’s own hard work, honesty and integrity. Perhaps the culprit is the Indian education system where nothing is required but to learn for economic success. Thus one simply learns by rote without any basic understanding or critical thinking.

    Someone here was wondering why it would be wrong for Ravi Shankar (sorry I cannot use his egoistic prefixes) to lead a luxurious life when even ‘Gods’ like Krishna and Rama wore gold! Seriously? A guru that has failed to make you understand that our perception of God is only that – a perception to which we give names and forms to keep us on ‘track’ – cannot be the right kind of guru. Did you ask yourself why other sadhus and sants such as Adi Shankara, Kabir, Shirdi Sai, Sadashiva Brahmendra, or more recently, a Ramakrishna Paramahamsa or Ramana Maharshi did not surround themselves with luxury? They barely cared about what they wore, ate or how they lived! And yet today, it is we who foolishly build temples for those who renounced the world, and decorate their idols with gold and silver jewelry!

    Reg the much-abused Sudarshana Kriya, I can only say this much. Any local yoga teacher can teach you all that and more, often for free or even a pittance! As someone who tries to be regular with some basic yoga and only succeeds some of the time, I can tell you the wonders it does for my body and mind! No yoga teacher is however going around patenting this lovely way of life, nor did our selfless ancestors for that matter. For those gullible enough to fall for a ‘God’ man simply because of a 20-minute yoga/breathing workout, that you failed to do in your childhood/youth when it was as easily available but not attractive because of that very reason (easy availability and thus lacking in coolness!), you could still explore the same options around your house. Maybe you will save yourself huge amounts of money, and more than that, your own thinking mind and perhaps, the ridicule of your own more logical children/grandchildren!

    It is absolutely shocking how the wannabe believers fall for these multitudes of self-professed Godmen – Puttaparti Sai Baba, Ravi Shankar, Ammas (don’t know how many of them exist!), Nityananda, Shankaracharyas and so on – despite the overwhelming proof that stares them in the face about their fakeness! Perhaps this also explains the apathy Indians have towards all the multicrore political scandals in the country!

    And what is with Indians venerating monetary success and celebrityhood so unabashedly?

  130. Shirshendu Mukherji says:

    Sanjay,
    The only worthwhile point/complaint that you have made here is that you were made to travel in an uncomfortable bus all the way to Agra while someone else seemed to be enjoying a car and a luxury suite totally ignoring your physical discomfort.

    Aside from this all you seem to have done is sell your cynical narrative style and dry humour (not bad!), for which you do have a decent flair, in the journalistic supermarket ;)

    I mean what is yaw problem buddy!!?

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Shirshendu. I have travelled in buses. My worry/ complaint was actually for the rich industrialists who may have never travelled in any bus in their lives.

      • Shirshendu Mukherji says:

        On the other hand, a charming exercise in nostalgia for the one’s with humble beginnings who stopped traveling in buses once they became rich. Quite like the Sri Sri himself.

        What really gets to me are the children of these guys who have never travelled on buses and are found overspeeding on BMW’s. That’s an ugly sight.

  131. Arjit Singh says:

    well i have not read all the comments so i may be repeating what has already been said. and i welcome your criticism but i think you should not criticise in a taunting way just by observing someone for a day. Go with him for a tour of a month or may be two months. ask your boss to organise for it. spend sometime with the man who has himself become a phenomenon and then see and then write. then any criticism in any form will be highly appreciated. yes its true that i have not been much with Sri Sri, but I am associated with his foundation. and I have seen this foundation doing some pretty amazing work for the farmers, jailed persons, poor people, environment, and the list goes on. why do you always presume that being a enlightened sadhu means living in jungle and wearing almost nothing and doing nothing fancy. yes people feel stress free in his presence. so they call him jesus or krishna and many more things. u didnt feel anything. its just fine dont u think. because may be u r already happy and u r not looking for something like that. its something like u dont feel anything when you look at your daily meal because you just get it everyday. try offering food as simple as poorie sabji to a person who has not eaten for days, he will praise you like a god. its true for those stressful people also. they were looking for something like peace and happiness badly and when they find in someone, they treat him like a god. so just spend sometime with him to find out what so special with him, that people feel stress free around him. may be u will find an answer that i am still looking for.

  132. Nikhil says:

    What the hell are you trying to prove? If he travels by merc or doesn’t give you interview what does that prove. NOTHING.
    I don’t know who this guy is but surely doesn’t have any bad intentions about the world, where as on the other hand I am not sure if you wrote this article out of publicity or genuinely.

  133. Abhishek says:

    1. Well written and well positioned.

    2. Thought provoking and obviously quite debatable.

    3. Everyone has the right to criticize. Good that the right’s being exercise!

    4. Be happy and find peace in what you want to. If you want to follow Sri Sri and that makes you happy, do that. If you want to spend time and money in watching SRK instead, do that. No one’s forcing you to do one or the other!

    5. Faith, belief are quite personal and we customize it to our own needs. It should remain that way. Problems arise when we rather enforce ideas like “What has worked for me will definitely work for you as well” or “What doesn’t work for me can never work for you too”.
    Steve McCurry, Jimi Hendrix or Sri Sri – Follow what/who makes sense to you!

    6. I am glad that I read this article. I’ll now forget that I ever read it and continue doing what makes me happy :)

  134. Anusha says:

    I would like to appreciate the authors language skills and articulation. But I would stop to that, take a moment and would rather chuckle silently in melancholy. This is the state of humanity really. Instead of trying to improve their perception of truth they simply want to judge people because they drive a Merc?? This is sooo funny and so sad in so many ways. This does not expose Sri Sri in anyway but it definitely exposes people’s shallow perception of things. In this country people still relate to spirituality as masochism. A country where wife of Vishnu (The God of Spiritual knowledge and enlightenment) is considered Laxmi (money). Either you have a very misplaced sense of spirituality or you are hungry for publicity or you just love to criticize. To give a factual reply: 1)Sri Sri has worked very hard to earn all the money he has, you should check his sleep hours and his activities through out the day. If you become an entrepreneur some day and work as much may be you wont get the time to complain and maybe do some value addition. We adore Ratan Tata to give away all his money on charity but we cannot swallow the fact that Sri Sri can do the same??? Blinded by judgement.
    2) Having a simple life is not defined by driving a merc or not driving a merc, rather how you are despite driving a merc, in other words if you can be simple amist complexities of life. That’s quite a task, put yourself in his shoes, the kind of people he meets and the kind of work he does. You would not last a week.
    3) There has been significant brain research done on the technique called Sudarshan kriya in universities like MIT. Writing an article on someone so huge, get your research done. Scientifically ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ in particular effects the vagus nerve in a significant way apart from many other things ofcourse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagus_nerve
    Please dont be another fashionable critic of a Guru. I know there has been a lot of disappointments when it comes to gurus. But you see corruption is everywhere but not all are corrupt. India is not so barren that it cannot produce great men. In every walk of life it has produced outstanding men and will continue to produce. He is doing so much good work. And there are so many people’s life he has touched and changed. Never mind if you don’t like or understand him, you would not judge a great mathematician whether he has a mathematical outlook towards everything or not, you just wish him goodluck for his work and maybe even defend him infront of international media. Then why this double standard and hypocrisy when it comes to anything spiritual. How can India be a Guru when we have everyone trying to pull at each other’s lungi? High time we start looking at the larger picture.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Anusha for sharing your views. I have said many times in this comment section that I am not against Gurus zipping by in Mercs or having a lavish lifestyle. In fact I find it funny that Gurus – including Sri Sri- continue to, in this day and age, to wear these medieval clothes that come straight from the Mahabharata. Please scroll up and read. Also don’t get too serious. This was just a satirical piece, less about your Guru and more about the fawning, adulating followers. You like all the other followers rave about Sudashan Kriya alone as if it was something invented by Sri Sri. Just dip into the vast history of meditation in India, China and Japan. Its just one of the techniques. It was always there. Just tweaked a little by Sri Sri so he could get a copyright ( crass opportunism according to me ) But you can discover all this once you learn to question and learn to stop sprawling at the feet of any long-beard Guru who comes out of the woodwork.

      • Vijay Singh says:

        You have touched the hearts of the AOL followers so much so that they forget that this article was written two years back. This shows the business acumen of Ravishankar. Perhaps the AOL followers must have been ordered\advised to make you warm up to Ravishankar.
        But I am enjoying it. Somebody must call a Spade a Spade no matter what the majority does. My suggestion, Its time you follow it up with another article on Ravishankar. I wonder where he is these days….sh..sh… he is omnipresent.

      • Kurien John says:

        Good one written Sanjay.. You spoke the exact words I would have loved to say about people. Especially my dear womenfolks sprawling at the feet of these Gurus.. I have seen it with the Godman Ravi Shankar also how women hold his name as some Omnipresent being.. I heard one woman say, “I was only reaching the airport when my flight was going to take off. I stopped and prayed to Guruji (Ravi Shankar) and the flight stopped..” so that she could catch that flight.. Another woman claimed that she was dying of stomach pain and she called out Guruji’s name and her tummy pain went away.
        These testimonies are more like the ones narrated on the Telemarketing TV Shows or even some of the Network Marketing (MLM) meeting or gatherings. This is Spiritual Marketing thats all the difference is.
        In my truest opinion, if a person wishes to understand true spiritualism, please attend a 10-Days Vipassana Course where there is no guru to give you his stupid lame smiles and crack some idiotic jokes (at which nobody wants to laugh. But a lot of idiots do laugh unfortunately). Please go deep into your own self and find out reality of self (internal and external) using the technique taught at Vipassana meditation. Grow wise rather than grow unwise under the shadow of some self acclaimed criminals who call themselves Gurus whose names you will one day find in some scams, rapes and other criminal activites.

      • Anusha says:

        Oh So now you have a problem with his clothing, his beard and that he came out of woods, Man you are all about the looks huh!

        Well dear, I understand where you are coming from. It took me 5 years to accept him as a guru. I too felt very uncomfortable when people use to sprawl at his feet. IF you research on the age old guru and shishya tradition you would know its only natural for a lot of reasons which you will understand once you be a part of it. Its a very delicate emotion which cannot be expressed in words but only felt. But because of our education system we have lost touch of this ancient system. I think its more because we are at a crossroads of ancient values and modern living. I see this struggle very much as a prevalent in the Eastern civilizations (I live in Singapore a very mutli cultural environment). They want to emulate the west for success and distorted logic and their cultural roots are soo deeply embedded in them that they get confused where to go.

        Yoga in its purest form is pure science. A yogi has no morals, no beliefs and no conditioning of the mind. He acts according to the need of the hour. He is a true realist, who sees reality exactly the way it is.

        1) I never said he is enlightened. Because of the simple fact ‘I dont know’. I think enlightenment is possible and we have strong literature and scientific tools and methods to prove and reach that state. I think he maybe enlightened given the kind of hard work he does its not possible to maintain that consistency, that enthusiasm and that positivity and clarity without some superhuman capacity. Saying that he is not enlightened is as much a belief as it is to say he is enlightened. So you, my friend are the opposite side of the same coin, you are as much blinded by your belief system.

        2) Being half in knowledge is dangerous. HE has said soooo many several times that this technique is very ancient and has been practiced only by staunch yogis who could learn them from their Gurus only after being proved as worthy students. The comment below shows why it was important to give it to worthy students. HE thinks its bastrika in fast and slow pace. bless you!

        3) I know his money making and patenting has worried people a lot. The Guru and the technique you want to follow is a very personal choice. Vipasana is a good technique too and there are so many other techniques and genuine Gurus in India(watch out for beards though). Its very very rich that ways :). But you must understand from the perspective of the enlightened soul. It has a mission, it has a purpose. It has to work with all the resources it has, be it money or people or whatever, and make a maximum impact possible. His mammoth scale of operation requires him to be independent of just goodwill donation. A live enlightened Guru always works in a large scale. And they work according to the need of the time. So while you are judging and criticizing him, he is busy changing the world. He is soooo acclaimed internationally by all the major players of world change even Nobel, too bad you seem totally blind to that, being an Indian.

        4) He has acknowledged Maharishi as his mentor soooo many times, you have to be more attentive. Maharishi was not his Guru though.

        So find you own way if you want, good for you. But this nit picky criticism is uncalled for. And I think its a very irresponsible thing to do as a media professional. The attitude ‘I dont know’ has a lot of power, it always keeps you open to things that don’t fit in your definition of… whatever.

        I rest my case. Goodluck Pal! Stay blessed! :)

  135. Ashish says:

    Agree with Sanjay about the sheer opportunism. I’ve been doing Pranayamas regularly for last 13 years. I’ve taught to many (of course not charging) and they’ve also benefitted. I still do Sudarshan Kriya which is a brilliant Pranayama. However, Sudarshan Kriya is beyond doubt Bhastrika Pranayama done at different speeds merged into one, nothing else at all. Before doing Sudarshan Kriya, there is as they call Bhastrika (modified version with hands behind back from top, not the original version taught at esteemed Yoga Universities but that’s fine) and then Ujjai Pranayama both of which are age old Pranayamas. It is just not done to patent a Pranayama and then preach after the course strictly not to teach anyone this but to send people to costly courses to learn a Pranayama which is a simple modification of the original Bhastrika! All who know Pranayamas well teach to people around them, why not this one? If it’s because one might teach wrongly, then why charge for it? Did u know that many organization like Vipassana (meditation) helps u do a 10 days meditation course while giving you all fooding and lodging and ALL FOR FREE! They manage through donations while Vipassana is not even one-hundreth as popular as AOL or have as many donation giving people as AOL. I as a teenager student had paid 1500 bucks to learn AOL, 1500 bucks was a lot. Why can’t it be done for free or kept to be given if one wants or can afford to?

    • Kurien John says:

      I agree with Ashish completely. I was already practising Vipassana Meditation for more than 10 years however, I was curious to know what was taught at AOL by the so called Sri Sri Guru. When I went there I was told the charges are Rs. 1500 in the year 2004 i guess. I said ok. On the first day of the course, when I went there they collected the money from me. And they confirmed that it was donation being collected. I thought to myself, if its donation, it should be out of my own free will that I must donate whatever I like – like the way we do in Vipassana. However, here its the other way round. To me any money that is collected in advance is fees like in schools and colleges. You dont pay fees at the end of the course. There is a fixed amount and that is collected at the beginning. And donations are mostly given at the end of a course out of one’s own free will. But Mr. Sri Sri wants the money at the same time he wants to play nice by calling it donation. What a sad hypocrite..!!! May God save him.. and his blind followers!!!

    • Kurien John says:

      One thing I forgot to mention – When I attended his course in mumbai, I was not touched even 1 bit spiritually. I wondered what it was about the popular AOL course that people bragged about. I thought the teacher who taught me was not so effective. I came back and listened to some of Sri Sri’s talk on video. I was so irritated because after every 2 words that he uttered, he would grin and the people would laugh as though they understood what he meant. My brothers and sisters, there was nothing great about what he uttered. Every Tom, Dick and also Mr.Harry knows all these. Nothing new. But people sitting there behave as though some divine ‘gyan’ has been imparted with them. This fellow is so superficial. No depth absolutely. I am a Vipassana Meditator but still when I listen to Osho’s talks (though I am not a great fan of Osho), I find his talks to be greatly deep. He has material that he gives to the people. Even today when I listen to him, I cannot help but agree with him and learn new things and dimensions to myself and the world around me. But Sri Sri, what does he have? What can he give to the people of this world? Nothing.. Just a copyrighted Pranayam excercise which was already there. I want to ask Sri Sri how much money he paid to the great ancient rishis of the past who discovered Pranayam and taught the people of the world thru ages free of cost? Infact, they were so egoless that we dont even know their names. But here he has taken the same old technique of Pranayams (which he received free of cost) and made it a business, totally commercialised.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Ashish for sharing.

  136. NL says:

    Never ending arguments…!!!

    Always follow the conscious than anyone else….

  137. Tarun says:

    I appeal to followers of Sri Sri to feel pity and sympathy on all those who dont understand a Guru like Sri Sri they are ignorant people ,please pray for them rather reacting ,may the God be kind to them and grant opportunities to know more about life and India culture ,
    Tarun

  138. Jerry says:

    Not sure if anyone else feels the same way about Sudarshan Kriya as i do. I went for a course once and experienced the breathing technique. The first thought was the feeling was same as what one feels during orgasm!!!
    So basically, this breathing technique is nothing but mental masturbation. Best to avoid paying money to AOL and instead indulge in some healthy sex, probably something that these high flying CEO’s dont get time for :-)

  139. RAJ says:

    I am a businessman and in the fairly successful by listening to my gut. My gut says something is not right with this man…I have been skeptical of Gurus who run their organizations like corporations for a while. One thing irked me around Ravi Shankar is the “Sri Sri” title..”Holier than thou” comes to mind.

    Also the AOL recruitment process is a brilliant “sales funnel”…free meditation sessions are given to get leads into the funnel and then they are squeezed progressively for higher and higher levels of teaching and access to this man..starts off with access to AOL centers, then private farmhouses where only his wealthiest and most devoted are invited all the way up to private cruises (ALOK KEJRIWAL..comment?).

    I decided I wanted to meet this man and see for myself..went to an event he held in the U.S…there was no crouching on floors or anything of the sort you describe for the event you went to but he was certainly unable to answer a few questions from the sophisticated and highly educated American / american Indian crowd which i found VERY ODD….for the truly enlightened gurus like Yogananda every word rang with truth..some of Ravi Shankar’s comments elicited laughter. His effiminate voice and mannerisms did not help either.

  140. RAJ says:

    Sudarshan Kriya was taught in the west in the EARLY 1900s by YOGANANDA! This is nothing new..see this for an expose on the copying
    http://bharatmymotherland.blogspot.com/2007/11/sri-sri-paramahansa-yogananda-vs-sri.html

  141. Anonymous says:

    I was an Art of Living follower and I used to dote on ‘Guruji’, even hung his picture on my wall…but over the years I found many things wrong with the organization, like excessively charging for courses and shoving it down your throat; making the quest for bliss seem so unattainable (go deep into a mystery to know the self) is the shit they’ll keep puzzling you with but really it’s all a great scam!. They tout sadhana, seva and satsang and their many courses while one must keep patronising the ashram and many suspect charitable drives they come up with. Like the cause for a school building in Dharavi, we all donated generously towards, but even after 5 years, no brick has been laid towards it’s foundation and we don’t know what happened to our money!

    They would harp on how one must keep doing courses (to cleanse yourself or cut your karmas or whatever). In a way they try to make you feel guilty, and if you question anything, then you are stuck in the mind or the intellect! Like that knowledge is constantly getting twisted and manipulated by those AOL twerps! Seva for them is getting free labour; to do all their dirty work from menial jobs in the ashram or trap bakras to join their courses; so they would keep saying seva brings merit, but it is all just for AOL’s benefit. So they basically use you and call it seva!

    All their claims are highly inflated, from adopting villages to their many disaster reiief volunteering efforts. 1 or 2 good, gullible souls volunteer using their own funds for which AOL jumps to take takes credit for. Their other ploy is stuffing products down your throat from shakti drops to ojusvita. None of that shit works, it’s all placebo! It’s all placebo! They think Sudarshan Kriya helps them, it doesn’t. It’s a placebo. If you enjoy ice cream, that works better than hyperventilating, which is actually bad for you in the long run. Hype created by AOL and it’s hypnotic, aggressive and fundamentalist following is what makes most people believe that all the mumbo jumbo they tout and teach in the name of chanting and breathing, works! They have created that false aura around their beloved Guruji.

    That’s why I find your article such a welcome relief, you didn’t get sucked in by everything around you and your approach it was reasonable, rational, straightforward.

    In India people are so gullible and get brainwashed easily, I was also that way. It took me a decade to realise it’s all a hogwash. Now I think it’s sad we make people Gurus. Human beings are deeply flawed and we should not put anyone on a pedestal.

    I see these art of living followers get so up in arms defensive, I worry how long it will take for this cult to be exposed because these people are so brainwashed, mainly they are in denial, they refuse to believe they have been conned. The Guru is a fraud no doubt, he’s laughing all the way to the bank, meanwhile these gullible geese are fighting on forumns for him because they believe they’ve been blessed and will continue to be blessed with all they have in their life, that it’s all due to Sri Sri which is such trite and utter rubbish….just because these guys are so superstitious. That’s the other thing, superstition, Indians are very superstitious, it’s like a phobia. From my personal standpoint I’d appeal to them to wake up! Nothing bad happens if you stop believing, in fact life only gets better! It is important to question, then reason before arriving at logical, well investigated conclusions. Do your research and you’ll find how much muck swamis are hiding and indulging in full glare of the Guru and so often behind his back, exploiting their position while exploiting the followers.

    How can anyone take anything that comes of ‘Guruji’s’ mouth seriously? All the knowledge he doles out…it’s such a joke when his actions are so contradictory and insincere. It wouldn’t matter much if any other type of person was as fraudulent as he, but the fact that he is treated as a Godman and so called enlightened human being is what makes one nauseous and sick. Where his ‘purpose in life is supposed to be to get you on the right path’ !!! I just hope I get to see the truth about Ravi Shankar and Art of Living’s misdeeds made public to the world, like we are getting to know about Asaram.

    From what I have heard that there has also been a rape in AOL ashram. The story goes that one of his teachers raped one of the followers. For certain, the other news is how his male teachers sleep with followers, have affairs with married women leading to marital discord and ultimately divorce! There’s a lot of scum.

    The most morally bankrupt people become teachers in his organization. He’ll do anything to get into a Mercedes and makes it his business to solely network with the super rich and highly influential people. Caring for the depraved poor is just acting he has to do now and then…that’s right, it’s all an act he’s trying to keep up.

    Meanwhile I have to deal with family members and relatives who ‘Jai Gurudev’ me and believe he’s a God while turning a blind eye to all that’s fishy, faulty, simply wrong and inappropriate things happening, that Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living consciously partake in.

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  145. Mubuku says:

    So many devotees worshipping a blabbermouth, who cannot form a single sentence, all in one place. This almost violates the second law of thermodynamics.

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  147. Gopal says:

    The Good, Bad and the Mysterious: Am relatively new to AOL. I have done the part 1 course in June this year. My experience thus far:

    GOOD: Small Capsules
    Coming from a TamBram family the yoga postures and breathing techniques are not entirely new to us. However what is interesting to note is that, it is packaged into small capsules which can be easily followed by all. While it may not cure cancer or brain tumor, it can surely alleviate asthma and other respiratory troubles, if practised regularly.

    Charity / welfare activities @ BLR ashram
    Though we have not seen thousands of children, we observed dozens of orphan kids (esp from North-East) being fed and sent to schools. The well maintained goshalay (cow shelter) is home to several native Indian breed of cattle. Been told that this part of BLR was almost barren. With AOL the green cover has increased substantially. Understand that organic farming is practiced in the vast campus but could not visit the farm for a firsthand account. The produce is available for sale at a counter near the entrance.

    BAD: Rip off
    Having done the Part 1 or Basic course in Kuwait, I decided to do the Part 2 course (silence) in Bengaluru (BLR) Ashram during my vacation in India. I registered online and dutifully paid the fees of Rs3,800/- for 4 day course.

    Upon arrival at BLR Ashram we were told by the admin staff to shell out another INR 31,600 (17K for course and 14K for family stay) because we had come from Kuwait. This was based on the per capita income index of the country where I was residing and not on my actual income. Funny logic !

    Even a peon/clerk who barely meets ends in Kuwait (& few other countries) has to pay USD350 for 4 day course whereas a millionaire in India pays only USD60. I was told there is no option, but to pay. Considering that it was very late (10.30pm) and with a family of 2 small kids (Aged 7 & 5) we paid the sum.

    The deal: Except for separate dining hall we do not get anything special.
    Observation: Several overseas participants do not mention their country of residence as they don’t want to get ripped off. Late realisation.
    Our take: Would have willingly paid the sum for charity but charging it as course fees and accommodation charges is rip-off.

    Irony:
    They highlight the ill-effects of junk food but it is available right inside the Ashram. Followers claim the Ashram is open and accessible to all, but the security personnel stopped us visiting few areas.

    MYSTERIOUS
    “…Unlike Osho, making eye-contact is surely not the way of Sri Sri I conclude . Especially not if you ask him anything uncomfortable. When you do so he looks at his followers, who as if on cue, clap and cheer loudly on his half-hearted attempts at answering, drowning you out completely…”

    Witnessed open satsangs outside Visalakshi Mantap at the BLR ashram and could relate to the above observation.

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