another rejoinder

First off, since some of you raised this as a point yesterday, I would like to clarify. No, I
am not a PR lackey. No, I have not been asked by Sri Sri to write on this blog. I am an ardent
follower who has benefited immensely, a teacher who has seen several benefit immensely, and a human being who continues to draw inspiration from Sri Sri. I am just a guy who decided that I cannot sit by and watch a one-sided conversation bashing Sri Sri and the Art Of Living left, right and center. What I write here is not censored by anyone. It is just my own free opinion based on my experiences.

I have, here, compiled the charges made by Skywalker, and then I have compiled the charge-wise response provided by Swamiji – both have been suitably edited for purposes of size.

I have added comments based on my personal experience. I am presenting here rational counter-opinion. I am using Swamiji’s mail as the base document to respond to your charges just the way you asked me to. Will I get rational discussion in exchange?

Skywalker’s Charge: Several people involved in AOL activities have to co-operate out of obligations and at times completely against their will
Swamiji’s Response: Anyone who has been associated with the Art of Living knows that nobody is ever compelled by anyone to do seva nor is put on ‘a guilt trip’by Guruji as has been suggested.
My comment: In my 10 years as a teacher, and about 18 years with Sri Sri, I have never heard a single person complain to me that they are being forced to do seva against their will.

Skywalker’s Charge: Sri Sri Ayurveda formulas copied from Maharishi Ayurveda. the ingredients used are substandard and lot of commission is paid to bhanu’s husband (rs brother in law) by the suppliers of the raw material.
Swamiji’s Response: None of our people have visited Maharishi Ayurveda in the first place. Most of our products are based on the ancient Ayurvedic texts of Charaka (Ashtanaga Hridaya etc) and we don’t need to copy the formula from anyone else. Mr Narasimhan is not at all involved in the purchase of any materials in the ayurveda factory. Let anyone be able to produce one bill to prove that there is someone taking commission in the purchase of raw materials.

Skywalker’s Charge: Unfair means to the Good Manufacturing Practices of Sri Sri Ayurveda products to Europe. Goods Smuggled.
Swamiji’s Response: The preposterous suggestion that we smuggle medicines to countries and sell them is again wholly untrue. Proper clearances and licenses from each country are procured

Skywalker’s Charge: Unholy secrets of the Holy Guru Puja. Escaping the Tax in foreign land.
Swamiji’s Response: Anyone who has even a little knowledge about AoL know that the AoL European headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. We don’t need to transfer money to any country to evade tax because our organization is exempted from tax in all these countries.

Skywalker’s Charge: The Course contents are copied from other Institutions.
Swamiji’s Response: It is a joke that the contents of AoL are copied from other institutions.
My Comments: If the contents are copied from copyrighted material, then the owners of the copyright will not sit idle. Furthermore, I have heard Sri Sri mention on all few occasions in reply to similar questions on source of course contents. His responses have been consistent – that there are several techniques in the courses that are ancient, and several others that are his own.

Skywalker’s Charge: Sahaj Samadhi Meditation is borrowed from Deepak Chopra’s bliss technique or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM.
Swamiji’s Response: And the same goes for Sahaj Samadhi meditation.
My comments: Who borrows from who? The concept of mantra meditation is age-old and ancient. The origin of the concept of mantra meditation goes back to Vedic tradition that was before Buddha. If at all, the subject of borrowing the concept comes up, the source would have to be the Vedas and not Deepak Chopra or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Skywalker’s Charge: Communication Seminars copied from Oury Engolz
Swamiji’s Response: Oury Engolz was our guest and we invited him a few times. We invite them, but we don’t need to steal their ideas from them.

Skywalker’s Charge: Who actually does the charity from course contribution in AOL? And is it really spent each time for which it is collected?
Neither the course teacher nor a volunteer ever does the charity from course contribution.
Neither an Apex body member nor the organizer does the charity from course contribution.
Sri Sri Vidhya Mandir all across India charge a good fees and is definitely not a charity from
the AOL headquarterters
Swamiji’s Response: I personally have been involved in the trauma relief and rehabilitation projects in the tsunami hit areas of Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka. Anyone who has been involved in any of the service projects of AoL will know that these allegations are false.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir (SSRVM) schools are not charitable schools and no where we have claimed that. It is Sri Sri Vidya Mandirs and Bal Mandirs across the country which are free schools.
My comments: There are 12,639 students who are part of the FREE Sri Sri Vidhya Mandir schools across the country (

Skywalker’s Charge: The accountability of the Dollar a Day program seems doubtful
Swamiji’s Response: Those who have visited our rural school where more than 2000 first generation children from neighbouring villages are studying, would have seen for themselves how the money is spent. Children get uniforms, mid-day meals, transportation etc. free of cost.

Skywalker’s Charge: The Statement of Sri Sri Ravishankar about the overhead expenses of Art of Living being less than 10% and thus all your course fee money goes to the charity seems doubtful.
Swamiji’s Response: Vyakti Vikas Kendra India (VVKI) accounts are audited and anyone can verify them. We save only 25% from the course fees that is collected.

Skywalker’s Charge: A full time teacher having provided extra ordinary services in past and dedicated several years when becomes a liability or needs major help is either discouraged, rewarded much less then he really might need, paid less or eventually left stranded. They don’t have any legal work contract neither are they properly insured for health nor against accidents. Although recently some of the teachers are somehow insured. Some teachers of higher rank do have received some form of financial aid at times.
Swamiji’s Response: In fact our experience is that not all full-time teachers perform very well. There are 10,000 teachers worldwide in AOL. Except a handful of teachers who have left AOL, all the teachers will vouch for the organization and how it has benefitted them.

Skywalker’s Charge: Sri Sri does badmouthing
Swamiji’s Response: Guruji directly corrects people when they are wrong . He never humiliates anyone. The skill and knack with which he makes people realize their mistake without making them feel guilty is really amazing. All senior teachers would stand testimony to this.
My comment: My association with Sri Sri is not short. I have spent lot of time with him with many many different kinds of people and also in private. Not once have I seen Sri Sri refer to people with derogatory intent when they were not around. He has pulled me up for my mistakes on a few occasions too, but that was done directly, to my face.

Skywalker’s Charge: People are of the notion that Ms Y follows celibacy but may be not.
Swamiji’s Response: You can malign any organization on two accounts. One is sex, the other is money. AOL has stood the test of these accusattions. It is easy to label anyone as immoral and create doubts. If there is anyone who is the victim of a sex scandal, let them give evidence or face trial in the court for defamation.

Skywalker’s Charge: Despite of some sincere teacher’s feedback regarding some senior teacher’s sex scandal, Sri Sri Ravishankar doesn’t seem to have taken any serious actions. At least from the view points of victims and those who complained.
Swamiji’s Response: Same as above.

Skywalker’s Charge: Few claim Sri Sri Ravishankar of being immoral.
The local language kannada newspaper ‘Agni’ had a three part series on the sexual exploits of this Professor (Chayanna/Swami Suryapad) AOL Saint.
Swamiji’s Response: AGNI is run by a person who is an underworld don. He has four cases of contempt of court and a dozen criminal charges pending against him.

Skywalker’s Charge: Teachers or any devotees invited by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to join his tour are often left on their own for food and shelter. Although at time they are attended briefly, this leaves them highly grateful. May be it happens only during the first visit. As with experience people knows what to expect and do it yourself.
Swamiji’s Response: Anyone who has travelled with Guruji even once in their life know how much he takes care of them. He makes sure that they have have had food (many a time he himself serves food to everyone) and a place to stay. We receive emails or people ask Guruji directly whether they can travel with him abroad. It does not mean that AOL has to pay for their flights. We only pay the fares of full-time teachers who travel to conduct the courses.
My comments: I have travelled with Sri Sri several times – both nationally and internationally. The care and concern he showed for my comfort each and every time is touching. To state the charge the way it has been worded, as a generality, is highly inaccurate.

Skywalker’s Charge: At times instead of respecting people’s need for privacy, Sri Sri ravishankar simply ignores it. Not only that but he goes on to make fun of it. That is how your sincerely written personal emails end up. After all hasn’t he said: God loves fun!!
Swamiji’s Response: Guruji goes through nearly 600 emails/letters everyday. Any email/letter which is marked ‘confidential’, he looks into it himself. But, those mails which are not in English/Kannada/Hindi, he asks translators to read, confidentially.
My comments: I have personally had situations where I have had to share highly confidential information about my personal life with Sri Sri. Not once have I got the feeling that the confidential communication is public information. This is also true of several people in my circle of acquaintances who are with the Art Of Living.

Skywalker’s Charge: The commitments taken in high energy or activities done in grateful state in holy environment later seems unjust. The donation commitment taken during DSN is overwhelming. But during actual money collection after DSN the donors feel reluctant to pay that much.
Swamiji’s Response: We don’t compel anyone to give donations. Those who donate do so out of gratitude, or their commitment to be part of service projects or whatever reason but totally of their own volition.
My Comments: Why generalize what a few individuals may feel? How many people do DSN every year, how many make donations, and how many feel reluctant after committing? And how many feel it is forced? Taking individual examples and generalizing them leaves no room for objective discussion.

Skywalker’s Charge: The Navaratri Yagyas at various local centers are getting more contribution target oriented rather than for the welfare of the world peace. Rishis and swamis openly ask each other how were the contribution.
Swamiji’s Response: This Swamis and Rishis sit and discuss the amount of money collected for Poojas is baseless and ludicrous. I myself have conducted many Navaratri poojas and we leave it totally to the local organizers to conduct the entire event.

Skywalker’s Charge: Even your best pals ignore you if you choose to leave. As a full-timer/teacher leaves, the sense of vacuum is too vast many don’t know how to cope with it. “My basic course teacher was eager I became a full-timer but when I was big time screwed by the AoL and when the damages of being a full-timer became evident, especially financially, she was not there for me either.”
Swamiji’s Response: Guruji discourages anyone to become full time teachers. This lady did not wanted to take up a job. She only wanted to become full time teacher. She claimed that she was sick and was given three months free treatment in the German ashram even though doctors found that she was perfectly okay to work. As per Guruji’s instruction, we were giving her per month. Without doing anything she was being paid every month. Her best friend tried to put sense into her head. But she was constantly bickering and negative. Even after she left AOL and started writing these negative blogs, it is an AOL devotee who is still helping her to date!

Skywalker’s Charge: Sri Sri Ravishankar’s statement doesn’t always turn true. Actually, SSRS swore Barack Obama would not win the elections.
Swamiji’s Response: Guruji has never predicted anything about Bush nor on Obama. Have these predictions appeared in the media? Where has this lady got these ideas if she is not in AOL anylonger?

Skywalker’s Charge: Sri Sri Ravishankar does demand for not getting a stay in 5 star hotel of his choice or a soap of his choice.
Swamiji’s Response: Any sensible person will just laugh at the allegation that Guruji yelled for a soap!!! Guruji has stayed in tents, he has stayed in villages. He always adjusts to his surroundings with utmost ease and is always considerate about not inconveniencing his hosts wherever he might be.
My Comments: When groups of people are to be accommodated, space is needed. I have personally seen that where possible and where the houses can accommodate the people who come to meet with him, Sri Sri prefers to stay in the houses of devotees as compared to 5-star hotels. The charge on soap is definitely hilarious!

Skywalker’s Charge: Spoken und unspoken fights up to loud verbal abuses are quite common among local teachers for trivial affairs of the AOL centres. Often always a major topic of discussion in TRM remains to solve such affairs. Of course this actually doesn’t amount to any charge against AOL, but it definitely shows the life of a peacemaker.
Swamiji’s Response: AoL are not a herd of sheep! We are a heterogeneous group, of various backgrounds and from every walk of life right from prisoners to people who hold high posts in different fields. Only Guruji can bring such diverse group together. Guruji never shies away from taking responsibility for the misdeeds of people –not just the organization, but just about everybody. In our Teachers Refresher Meet( TRM) every teacher gets a chance to express their view point or difference of opinion if any, but, at the end everyone goes back charged with enthusiasm, to teach more courses and take up big service projects. This has been happening every single time.
My Comments: Oh yeah, teachers fight, teachers argue. Isnt that part of free speech?

Skywalker’s Charge: People following ethics in AOL aren’t as respectable as those following politics and charm. One of his most senior teachers of Germany, a very nice guy I happened to teach with and spent a lot of quality time with, decided to leave the movement after realizing that following ethical and, especially legal guidelines for organizational leadership was NOT vital to SSRS. SSRS´ comment was pretty much like this, ”He is free to leave the organization. He anyway never did anything to promote my work!”
Swamiji’s Response: Whether someone performs or not Guruji gives such care to every person. This teacher from **** wanted to stop teaching because of his wife and his career. He had no complaint against Guruji or AOL. Since he is a cook, he wanted to take up the job of a chef and Guruji had told him ‘’if you want to leave, you are welcome’’


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