Recently, the High Court in India, held Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (the founder of the Art of Living foundation), responsible for polluting the grounds and the adjacent river where a ‘guiness book world record’ gathering was held. They assessed a fine of Rs. 12 crore ($ 2 million) for their polluting activities.
For a while now, I had been struggling to find the right adjective to describe my Art-of-Living friends and associates. The word that I had been searching for – was provided to me by the Indian High Court’s judgement – Irresponsible.
Skipping work, spending work hours counseling each other (in their AOL community), co-ordinating the next satsang – all this happens on company time. The reason I am so painfully aware of this is that I have had to cover for these absentia folk while they are off pursuing their spiritual goals (again, on company dime)!.
This, however, is the tip of the irresponsibility iceberg. Their irresponsibility spans beyond their work ethic (or lack thereof). When it starts affecting their family life, irresponsibility really seems too kind a word to describe these derelict, lost souls.
Consider this – The Guruji is about to visit a nearby location – you are told (by the Guruji himself) that attending his session is the best use of your time. That pursuing your spiritual calling takes precedence over all else. How can you ignore the call of your beloved guruji?
You end up leaving your family – not for a few hours –but a few days! Consider this – and let it sink in. To pursue YOUR spiritual goals, you ABANDON your family! If an AOL devotee doesn’t see the irony in that, there is absolutely no redeeming their souls.
Irresponsibility is one of two traits that AOL followers share in common. The other is what I like to call Literate Illiteracy. These are usually educated, college degree holders – who are, for all practical purposes, illiterate. Consider the following claims – all made by their revered Guruji – and swallowed whole by his gullible worshippers :
- When you learn a special type of meditation, you will be able read a book without opening your eyes (He teaches a whole class around this).. He also talks about humans being able to live SOLELY on the sun’s rays – for years on end. No food , no water, just sunshine and air – and he provides references of people in-his-know, who survived years on end with this diet!
- Everything written in the scriptures is true – and that India was the most technologically advanced civilization – including possession of rocket ships, missiles and even more advanced technological weapons. How does he know this? He astral travels to the past to see all this for himself !
- The followers believe that their Guruji is representing God on earth. There is no higher earthly power – and to disobey or disbelieve the guruji is tantamount to disbelieving God!
- Astral travel, extra sensory perception (seeing with eyes closed), sunshine based survival – if any other person made these claims, they would be a candidate for a mental asylum. However, Sri Sri not only gets away with it, he provides his followers with all the evidence they need – HIS own spoken word!
His followers are least perturbed by the fact that there is nothing to back these claims.
Not a shred of evidence of this technological advanced civilization – not one scrap of metal from a rocket – not one remnant of a piece of electronic gadgetry – NOTHING! Not a single human that can be showcased/produced as having lived on just sun’s rays for even a few days – forget about years. No proof of anyone being able to see anything with closed eyes! Yet – the believers believe!
I have yet to meet an AOL follower who believes in the scientific method of inquiry or discovery. They do not hesitate to utilize the latest medical advances to save their lives, but they believe that their lives are being saved through their beloved guruji, not through science.
I have also yet to meet an AOL follower that I could call ‘Responsible’. I have seen them drop everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to pursue their ‘spiritual calling’. This is not to say that the foundation isn’t doing some good work. They teach yoga in prisons etc. in an effort to help improve lives. However, on the literacy and general awareness scale, these folks are about as advanced as pre-historic man, who was content to let ‘God’ be the only explanation behind everything.