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Title Art of Living Foundation

Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

From the Art of Living Foundation Site: Operating in 152 countries, The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) is a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization founded in 1981 by the world-renown philanthropist and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. All of AOLF's programs are guided by Sri Sri's philosophy: "Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace."

The AOLF community is diverse and attracts people from all walks of life backgrounds and religious orientations. AOLF offers numerous highly effective educational and self-development programs and tools that facilitate the elimination of stress and foster deep and profound inner peace, happiness and well-being for all individuals. These programs, which include breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, and practical wisdom for daily living, have helped millions around the world to completely transform their lives. In addition to these courses offered globally, AOLF, working in collaboration with The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), has successfully implemented numerous humanitarian projects and service initiatives including conflict resolution programs, disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation, education for all, and environmental sustainability. It has been said of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that not since Mahatma Gandhi has one person united so many people of different races, religions, traditions, economic and social status, and nationalities, creating a One World spiritual family across the globe.

Sri Sria's message is simple: "Love and wisdom can prevail over hatred and violence."

Happily this message is not just a slogan but through AOLF has been and continues to be translated into action and results. --- The founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is a direct disciple or student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and served as his secretary for several years. He was a "pundit" for the TM movement and was apparently kicked out for unknown reasons. Many of the core teachers in the Art of Living Foundation were former TM teachers and the meditation course (Sahaj Samadhi) is very similar to TM. The TM movement has denied any connection with the Art of Living Foundation and in the early days would come to public talks to state this to all attendees. Sri Sri makes not claims to the TM organization or Maharishi, but uses the same Holy Tradition (lineage of masters) as the TM movement during meditation initiation.

1. Regulation of individual's physical reality
  a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
  b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
  c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
  d. How much sleep the person is able to have
  e. Financial dependence
  f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations

2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals

3. Need to ask permission for major decisions

4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors

5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).

6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails

7. Rigid rules and regulations

8. Need for obedience and dependency.

The Art of Living Foundation promotes itself as a non-religious stress management and breathing workshop dedicated to bringing world peace. They also offer advanced courses or silent retreats, DSN to create a "divine society", blessings course, puja (worship) course, and many other courses. They also offer programs for youth, veterans, victims of PTSD and trauma relief and for prisoners. They are basically a Hindu organization that promotes devotion to the founder and guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The members are encouraged to give up alcohol, drugs, become vegetarian and help the end goals of the foundation by recruiting everyone to take their courses. When going deeper into the organization the members are taught to pray to Sri Sri for guidance and that he is "enlightened" and hears every prayer and will send blessings to devotees. Sex is not encouraged as it is "draining" of the spiritual energies. All focus and devotion should go to the divine and in some ways the divine is the master himself, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Full time teachers are given a minimal stipend and work for the foundation. They are often people who cannot find full time jobs and have given their life to the foundation. Many people donate their time in service to the goals of the organization.

1. Use of deception
  a. Deliberately holding back information
  b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
  c. Outright lying

2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
  a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
  b. Critical information
  c. Former members
  d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think

3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
  a. Information is not freely accessible
  b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
  c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what

4. Spying on other members is encouraged
  a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
  b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership

5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
  a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
  b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources

6. Unethical use of confession
  a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
  b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution

There were critical blogs of the organization that resulted in a landmark lawsuit where that that was won by the bloggers. The foundation wanted the court to reveal the identities of the bloggers but the judge sided in favor of the bloggers. is the main blog. All course participants are required to sign that the teachings are private and not to be publicly shared. Only certified teacher are permitted to share the teaching or present the course material. Course participants are told that the course is experiential and only can be understand with the direct experience. The group often exaggerates their numbers and influence claiming they are the largest NGO in the world. Their finances are not public, but they bring in millions worldwide and have many properties and centers. Members are kept busy with seva or service all in support of the goals of the foundation. They have done much work in India with public schools and helping smaller villages, but there is also controversy on land grabbing for their Bangalore India property.

1. Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth"
  a. Map = Reality
  b. Black and White thinking
  c. Good vs. evil
  d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)

2. Adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words".

3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.

4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
  a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
  b. Chanting
  c. Meditating
  d. Praying
  e. Speaking in "tongues"
  f. Singing or humming

5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate

6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

Challenging the foundation or the guru is highly discouraged. Followers have complete faith and devotion to the master and are taught to surrender to him for a higher purpose, to create a "violence free, stress free society". Questioning the master is virtually unheard of, and if any negative comments are made it will be often turned back to the devotee being wrong and not having correct understanding or "knowledge". They are taught that the founder has the "highest knowledge" and teaching, that he is even a reincarnation of Christ or Buddha. His bio states that he had special powers at the age of 4 and was able to recite the Bhagavad Gita spontaneously. Going deeper into the organization there are many terms and words used to describe the states to be achieved. If you are feeling bad or depressed, your prana or life energy is low and you need to raise your prana by doing your practices or by doing more seva, services. Chanting sanskrit, praying and meditation are all used to help a follower get centered or in touch with their true self. Critical thinking is not encouraged, especially questioning the teachings or the master. One is taught to not see other gurus or teacher as that would be like drilling a well or hole in many places. The idea is to stay with ONE teacher to get to the center or true self, and complete devotion to the master is the vehicle that will take the devotee there. Mental health counseling is discouraged and thought of as "taking out one's garbage (the past) and digging through it". The teaching is all about staying in the present moment and not regretting the past or being anxious about the future. As a result there is a feeling of repression of negative thoughts or experiences. Sri Sri has designated some of his senior teachers as enlightened and they are all younger Indians and almost carbon copy clones of the master. They have studied his knowledge and teaching and go out to spread his knowledge through public talks and courses. Sri Sri aligns himself with Gandhi in striving for social change and helping India in a positive way.

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings.

2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader's or the group's.

3. Feeling-stopping. Like thought-stopping, this is the automatic suppression or blocking of feelings that are not acceptable by the cult identity- such as feeling "homesick" or feeling "depressed" or feeling "resentful".

4. Excessive use of guilt
  a. Identity guilt
    1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
    2. Your family
    3. Your past
    4. Your affiliations
    5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
    6. Social guilt
    7. Historical guilt

5. Excessive use of fear
  a. Fear of thinking independently
  b. Fear of the "outside" world
  c. Fear of enemies
  d. Fear of losing one's "salvation"
  e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
  f. Fear of disapproval

6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.

7. Ritual and often public confession of "sins".

8. Phobia indoctrination: programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
  a. No happiness or fulfillment "outside"of the group
  b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: "hell"; "demon possession"; "incurable diseases"; "accidents"; "suicide"; "insanity"; "10,000 reincarnations"; etc.
  c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
  d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are: "weak"; "undisciplined"; "unspiritual"; "worldly"; "brainwashed by family, counselors"; seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.

Everyone is taught that emotions should be full expressed and that when an emotion runs it's full course it leads to bliss. The main teaching is Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing practice that was "cognized" by Sri Sri during an extended silence that he took in the 80's. Negative emotions are released though the breathing practices. Former devotees have been told that if they leave the master or organization "their mind will be eaten by itself". If a family member does not want to take the program, the devotee is taught that they are not ready or evolved enough to receive the knowledge yet.



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