Monday, February 20, 2006

Jai Gurudev

Before I write anything, let me clarify these are my personal views, and I mean EVERY single word of it, and NOTHING more than that. So, please don't read much in between lines and anticipate.

I went to the Silver jubliee celebrations of the Art of Living foundations on Saturday. Whether I believe in the teachings or not is a nonissue(which I must confess, I do to an extent), what matters most is, whether such gatherings are of any practical use.

What I intend conveying is that, when there are millions of people gathering, the purpose of the occasion is brutally killed, deliberately or not, is again, a nonissue! It becomes, just a gathering of totally annoyed and agitated people, who feel cheated, who most often, don't complain in public, but carry the frustration in their heart. And exactly for this reason, it kills the purpose of the whole event. Come on, they have gathered to seek peace and answers, not frustration!

I have absolutely no reasons to distrust the genuineness of the Guru in question, in this case Sri Sri Ravi Shankar(Could someone clarify who decides how many Sri's to be added and what rules guide it! It's a genuine doubt with absolutely no pun.) Any sincere Guru, especially a spiritual one(the religious ones do give me reasons to doubt their sincerity), would in the truest of senses want to help his disciple. And that in my viewpoint, requires a one to one interaction, you need to connect to the person in pain, feel his agony and then help flows out automatically.

I know this for a fact that millions of people come from so far away places, with such diverse set of problems. Many of them, if not all, spend a fortune of their repective life's savings to attend such events. Mostly, they are those defeated soul's who have lost all hopes, those who have tried everything that they trust and believe in, and finally they come to the Guru for the guidance! No doubt, there are many who sincerely believe in the teachings(even I do to some extent, until the God angle comes in, atleast the yoga and spirituality part), there are some who are just onlookers(like me again), who come to see what's the fuss about, and then there are a few misguided souls who blindly come there just because it's a fashion to have a Guru these days, and they have a social standing to prove by donating to the spiritual organizations.

But, isn't it the responsibilty of the Guru, to atleast try to connect to the grassroot followers? To try and give everyone equal amount of time and guidance? Even the Guru knows, that this guidance is nothing but a consolation for the troubled soul, and ultimately if the yoga helps, it's for the fact that it's a healthy excercise and that it helps to keep us occupied. There is no miracle associated. The Gurus also know this for sure. I have seen the interview of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on CNN-IBN, and he too acknowledged it.

It's totally understandable that once a rightly guided philosophy is spread properly, it soon becomes a cult, and later the Guru just symbolises the philosophy. The organization outgrows it's own envisioned fate, and millions of follwers are born daily. But, what disheartens me is the fact, that once such a state comes, the Guru becomes celebrities' Guru. He becomes partial. Great, that one has the Heads of States who follow one's philosophy, but those are just a very few in number! The majority who really make you the Guru in the actual senses, are the common masses. And even these heads of states are just normal people. Why so much bias?

Why does a Guru allow a celebrity follower to meet him in person, or for that matter why he gets a front row seat, when he is the one who comes at the last minute or mostly late, while the million others have struggled their way through the miles long queues in scorching heat and dust storms? Why does not the Guru make things fairer, let people sit the way they come? Afterall, these are the people who need the connection of their souls with that of their Guru, the celebrity might be needy too, but not as desperate as most other.

And back to the original question, how in the world does one get the satisfaction of interacting with the Guru? how do you get the solace you are seeking? Afterall, you get to see the same Guru on TV channels daily! What's the big difference!(No pun intended!)

What I can observe, is that, beyond a point, when the organization outgrows its capacity, the Guru doesn't have a control over his way of life. He might be a Guru for millions, but his life is controlled by the set of greedy people we get to see everywhere. And the Guru cannot be blamed at all! It's quite inevitable! How in the world would the Guru know that the place which was supposed to be a ground for spiritual liberation would turn into a business center. Afterall, he is just a Guru - one who can articulate facts in the most comforting way, to help you feel special by consoling you, and yet subtly guide you back to the right track of life. He definitely is not God, that he can see with his third eye that there are cheap loafers selling a bottle of fake mineral water in his name and under his organization's label for a sum of 15 bucks!


Shruthi said...

Keshav, this is a fantastic post! In fact, I was discussing this same thing yday with my parents. (Even down to what rules guide the number of "Sri"s! Believe it or not!! :))

I think Sudarshana Kriya is a wonderful breathing exercise, and that's as far as my affiliation to Art of Living goes :)
I heard that they took an oath on the first day, to adopt 90 villages and eradicate alcoholism, and introduce rainwater harvesting, and such stuff. If such huge gatherings create awareness and succeed in improving the life of the rural people, then it is worth it.

I don't think I have anything else to add, coz you have expressed almost everything that I would have, and beautifully at that.

anoop said...

yes keshav, such a waste of money(forget time as of now). yesterday while returning home from majestic, a bus conductor told me that around 2000 bus from KSRTC and 2000 from BMTC have been hired by this "Art of living" foundation to ferry people free to and fro and each bus costs 4,500 Re per day whether they use it or not. Maybe the conductor is exaggerating, maybe he is not, but let us assume a total of 2000 buses were hired, this comes upto around 1 crore for one day, jst for transportaion. Now there were a total of around 75,000 ppl who had reserved for the three day extravaganza who were staying at temporary accomadation at the spot, i heard the VIPS among them were getting food from a 5 star hotel and other 5 star facilities. I also heard that the thousands of musicians who performed simultaneously were paid around 100 per head.. and other such money wasting details...
My Question is: what was the purpose of this entire event, whatever the purpose was, is it justified to spend so much money, where did the money come from - from the people right - thru "art of living courses"...

@shruthi: if sri sri has adopted 90 villages for development, i feel he could easily have adopted 100 more with the money he spent in 3 days for no purpose!!

Shruthi said...

@Anoop: I agree with you. We discussed about that also. I know an AOL volunteer and he told me that the total cost came up to 25 crores. Imagine how it could have been used!!!
My point is that, if this serves the purpose of creating awareness, like, if you want to do something in society, you sometimes need power and recognition to get around red-tape. If this awareness and publicity, helps in that, and IF, IF they really do something useful, then maybe, just maybe, this extravaganza might be justified.

Keshav said...

@Shruthi: I really understand what you said, and as already mentioned in my post, I never doubted the sincerity of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

What I doubt is, if at all this gathering serves any purpose. As you said, they took an oath and all that. But, I do not think people who came there from far away places like Bihar, Rajsthan and even South Africa and Namibia, really wanted to participate it an oath taking ceremony. And more than that, such awareness issues AOL that tried to raise, though appreciable(as it's not their primary responsibilty), still could have done in much better ways. There are efficient ways to do it. They could have broadcasted a special day long interview of Ravi Shankar, or any other such thing.

The point is, it would have saved so much cash, which could have helped so many other noble causes.

And as far as awareness is concerned, as I see it, most of the followers of AOL(or for that matter any such organization) who are from rural background need immediate personal counseling, and that could be the best awareness for them. Regarding the educated and urban followers, I expect that education must have made them aware already.

And such organizations must keep away from such pompous demonstrations, and let their work stand a testimony, and the satisifed followers create the awareness.

@Anoop: I agree to you mostly, if not completely. You seem to be a quite vocal opposer of any such organizations. Sorry if you are not, but I could see your anger in your feelings. :)

anoop said...

@Shruthi: the AoL volunteer is downplaying the amount atleast by ten times!(maybe not intentionally)
What is the awareness they are creating? they are trying to attract more people for their courses. its nothing but consumerism (there are business organizations which sponsor entire events: like beauty contests, cricket matches... to establish their name), atleast these other business org are very clear about what they are selling (some product for the consumer). In this case, what are they selling - inner peace, love...?

@keshav: I have no anger towards AoL org or any such org, but, i just fail to see the purpose. As u rightly said; if their idea was to show their presence, they could have done many other things with this sort of money... If you cant convince them, confuse them... ;)

Shruthi said...

@Keshav: I agree with you completely on the matter of what possible use this could have been for the thousands who spent their life's earnings and came all the way here. [Now that I am thinking of it, they probably were absolutely sure that it would be of some use, else why did they come? Maybe it did help them somehow?? Anyway leave that now]
I agree with you that the amount spent on this could have been spent elsewhere. There is no doubt about that. And I am not one to justify wasteful expenditure of this magnitude. If it were before the event, I would have said, it is wrong to spend. Now that the event is over, and crores have been spent, what can we do? Just hope that this leads to something better, and also hope to goodness' sake that nobody else follows this example.

@Anoop: Whatever the cost :), what matters is that it was in crores, and it was wasteful. This surely is to attract more followers, but is that all? I think they could do that without this ostentatious display.

Sriram said...


Why do we celebrate any occasion? Independence day, Republic day etc. , this show that show. Its a celebration of culture, of common values. The bill was footed by the AOL via those who could donate. Its like they paid for a big party according to their means.

There is a lot of social service stuff going on.. see .. that doesnt mean every last cent must only go to such service projects. AOL has lower overheads than big orgs like the red cross.

This event will go a long way for volunteers to do more in the service projects that you are interested in.

The fact that such a big event went smoothly should be acknowledged..

FYI: I am very far away, didnt attend this but have enormous respect for the calibre of the AOL management, starting with sri sri

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