A critique of ‘Art of Living’ followers

In the olden days, women feared if their men decided to follow Buddhism full-time, thereby abandoning their families and social obligations in their entirety.

The Buddha never asked anyone to renounce their day to day lives – he simply pointed a way that made each moment seem richer and free of ‘dukha’ (pain).

Yet, while some people got this message, and used Buddhist practices (mindful practices) to enrich their day to day lives, MOST people actually used Buddha’s teachings to ESCAPE from their day to day life!

Art of Living

The same can be said for Art of Living followers. The message of the foundation is even clearer than Buddha’s message – use mindfulness and yogic practices to ENRICH your existing life. Nowhere does Sri Sri Ravi Shankar advocate abandoning your family life, your work life or your social obligations in the pursuit of AOL activities.

Yet, that is EXACTLY what most AOL followers do! T

hey are looking for an ESCAPE from their everyday lives. I know several well-employed people who quit their jobs in the prime of their careers to ‘follow their heart’ fulltime. I know several people who routinely leave their kids at home (near abandoned) so they can attend a 3 day silence course!

  They claim that their guru ‘calls out’ to their inner being –and it is not a call that they could reject. Yet, they feel no remorse in rejecting the call of their family or their immediate work-family, in the pursuit of this ‘fake’ inner call. It is FAKE, because no real guru will ask you to abandon everything to follow him or her. It is only the devotee that has this interpretation of the guru’s teachings.

In my experience, I continue to see dozens of families suffer and lose their family-heads due to people misinterpreting the AOL foundation’s teachings.


I really don’t think there is any solution to these ‘abandoning types’. If the AOL foundation disappears tomorrow, they will find another replacement to divert their time and energy to. It is like a drug addict – if you deprive one of cocaine, they will find  a replacement drug. They still need their escape.

It is unfair to blame the foundation for the behavior of such people. However, at the same time, the foundation can do more to convince people that they are not being asked to leave everything behind, in the pursuit of AOL activities.

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Anuj Varma – who has written posts on Anuj Varma, Technology Architect.

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