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beautifulbobby193's avatar

Is Art of Living a cult, and is it a con?

Asked by beautifulbobby193 (1694points) May 21st, 2010

This group claim to be a non-profit making company, yet they file tax returns with the authorities (not a requirement for a charitable organisation). It is a meditation based group, run by a man they refer to as “His Holiness”, the self named Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Criticisms on the internet (particularly on Wikipedia) tend to get removed very quickly by devout followers. This is one of those things where people are encouraged to pay a fee to join a group session where they will learn these secret meditation techniques which they must keep to themselves. Alcohol and smoking are not permitted. I think they engage in retreats also.

Is anybody here a member of this group?

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15 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

sounds like scientology…. :P

CaptainHarley's avatar

It’s a scam.

dpworkin's avatar

It may be a scam, but so is Christianity.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

Pretty sure, if anyone was a member, they would not comment about it on this site, or any other site for that matter. These types of groups are very secretive when it comes to the ‘what’s going ons’ within the group.
My feeling towards any kind of group like this, is that the more the group spends time away from other people, the more time they listen to only the opinions & voices of ‘the herd’—the crazier they become. It’s difficult, trying to pull someone out of that group after they have been in it for a while. It’s because they feel like these people are their only friends. They listen to them, talk to them, understand them. They get the impression that ‘we just don’t understand’ because they have been told to not talk to anyone who is not in the group.
It’s a slippery slope when someone joins a group like this. It can be very dangerous to their mental health.
At least with the Fluther group :) all voices & opinions are welcome. No payments/fees & no outings where we drink red kool aid & pray the sun never rises for all the disbelievers.
Although, could you imagine an ‘outing’ for everyone in fluther? I think it would be funny & dramatic like a reality show.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

This Sri Sri Ravi Shankar guy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a US congressman….

arpinum's avatar

the term cult is not well defined. What exactly do you want to know?
Does it have a charismatic leader at it center: yes.
Unorthodox: in the West yes.
live outside of conventional society: hard to say.

His promotions seem to lean heavily on the logical fallacy of appealing to authority and tradition.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

Just to let people know that this is not the typical black and white cult. This guy promotes peace, and appears to have a lot of seemingly high profile supporters. I would really like the opinions of people willing to take a look at this group and the guy running it before forming an opinion, as what I say above is probably slightly weighted towards my own beliefs.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

It could just be my cynicism getting stronger with age, with the types of things I have seen people do… but after seeing his website & reading his mantra… I just don’t trust this guy at all. Of course, anything religious/spiritual gives me the weebie-jeebies. I am a just a human on Earth, living until dead. There is nothing special going on, but that’s just me. If you want, send me $5 and I’ll mail you a pamphlet on how to live this way. :)

lloydbird's avatar

Hey.., are we talking about this guy?

LostInParadise's avatar

I am skeptical of any group that keeps secrets. The great secret in life is that there is no secret.

MagicalMystery's avatar

@lloydbird : even before i saw your link, i was thinking i know Ravi Shankar has been around a long time.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

He changed his name to Ravi Shankar when he was younger, in admiration of the musician (or his name). The Sri Sri part I understand is a respectful way of referring to an important person, more so when there is a double Sri, as is the case here.

sysblithe's avatar

Hi folks,
I’m pretty familiar w/ the organization. I have friends and family involved and have myself been involved in the past.

I would say Art of Living does fit the label ‘cult’ if one understands the organization well. On the surface it seems like a great well-meaning organization that simply wants to help people with their stress and make the world a better place. However there are many serious flaws with the organization as detailed in blogs like these started by former teachers who were deeply involved in the org:

The tricky thing w/ AOL is that it is very very good at PR and essentially brainwashing. It attracts wealthy and educated members who over time spend thousands giving money to learn yoga and breathing exercises. Followers are told all money to courses goes to non-profit causes but many individuals who used to be in the org’s inner circle suggest the money is mostly making Sri Sri wealthy and is not being used to help the disadvantaged.

As current followers will tell you, the organization has helped people and does attract many sincere, well-meaning devotees. But deeper inspection into where money goes in the organization, insidious brainwashing of the followers, and suppression of independent thought throughout AOL qualifies the organization as a cult. It should be noted that my assertions here are quite mild when compared to the deeply troubling allegations made in the blogs mentioned below.

flowerfairies's avatar

This is a bit late and this thread is probably no longer active. I took an Art of Living course about 2 months ago. A friend of mine recommended it and I thought what the heck! So, I started my course without doing any research.

Anyhow, I no longer attended after day 3 or the 4 day course. They sent me emails until I asked to be removed from their mailing list.

The thing that hacked me off is that they did not tell me that there would be cold turkey no coffee, cigarettes, booze etc. until the morning of the actual course. Also, we had these homework things where we were told the answer and that answer was right. For example, the answer to the question was “when should you be happy?” and the answer was “we must be happy all the time and in the moment”. Which, any sane person knows, is not the case, if you found out that your dog died. But, I think they also realised that I was not one for them during a session where we had to tell everyone about myself. My answer was my life is and has been good and I have no complaints.

I don’t know whether the organisation is a cult or not, by the definitions used. But, I would say that my opinion is yes. As the teachers had a glazed, vacant look in their eyes and there was no debate around ideas or any evidence of free thought.

I felt that the breathing exercises were little more than hyperventillation. The euphoric feeling I got was excess oxygen and for those 3 days it just felt like a constant headache. Or that could have been caffeine withdrawal.

flowerfairies's avatar

Anyhow, I love my coffee and I am not giving that up for anyone. And, no, I don’t work for Starbucks.

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