Thursday, July 20, 2006


The following words were quoted by a well-known international spiritual leader, in an essay about human values, reasons for terrorism, and people's march towards fundamentalism. I would preferably keep his name undisclosed, but the issue could apply to many such gurus. Much of the essay was reasonably sound, although a little banal. One simple thing which I was in complete agreement with him was:

"Most of us look at people who are already terrorists and ask how they can be reformed. There is, perhaps a more important and urgent question to ask. How can we prevent youth and children of today from becoming terrorists of tomorrow?"

But this is what came at the end:

"How can we get anger, violence and the sense of hatred out of the
hearts of people? This is the problem that is facing us today. We know the
answer philosophically, but what are the practical steps and how do we
begin? It is here that something very basic to our life comes into play
- our breath. Breath is the link between body, mind and emotions.

By attending to it, we can calm our minds."

Interestingly, that's it. That's the end of the essay.
It is when I read words like these coming from well-known spiritual gurus that I am really befuddled by, if not irked by spirituality. I am sure the man meant well, but how on earth is a rational thinker supposed to see how spiritualism can ever provide an answer to our problems, if he reads something like this? At the least, he would end up believing that spiritualism is as worse, if not worse, at providing solutions to dilemmas as are other efforts. This is when I start thinking of religion and/or spiritualism as literally being the opium of the masses. It won't solve your problems, but if you believe enough in it, you surely can seek solace from those problems and forget about them in a mist of breathing/meditation/other opioid things. But remember, they are still not solved. Maybe then you can believe that problems are never to be solved, only to be forgotten?

I thought about this, and as if to reiterate my opinions, a quote from one of the guru's students caught my attention:
"I used to get angry very easily, even at very small things. Now, almost nothing bothers me"

Correct. Just like Mumbai is so resilient, that it can never be bothered by bomb blasts. No?


Blogger SN said...

I agree with you - forgetting problems is not the same as solving them. Going a step further, I believe that getting angry about inhuman deeds like the Mumbai blasts is actually what makes us humans. Imagining that we are "exhaling" out the problem is like being a vegetable IMHO.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Hirak said...

A few shades paler than Mary Eddy Baker and her Christian Science.

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anand said...


Its funny how you have been writing n thinking about Art of Living and Sri Sri so much.. and still havnt bothered to even try out the course. Cheap trick to "increase membership to a cult" you may call it (and thats alright), but this keeps happening every other time... CONCLUSIONS based on mere PERCEPTIONS. But next time try EXPERIENCE, and trust me you'll know that just seeing/hearing is not believing... ;-D

Now about your response to his article...
All problems, be it Terrorism or a Natural Disaster, have a CAUSE and a SOLUTION. Now take a Mumbai Blast. CAUSE: Terrorism!!;

CAUSE(implicit): a-militant-who-had-a-disturbed-childhood-and-a-failed-youth OR (as with SriLankan LTTE) a-particular-community-having-some-genuine-issues-and -nonsync-with-the-government;

SOLUTION(post-mishap): Help people build their lives back, by giving them trauma-relief solutions like the unique(very!), efficiency-proven AOL courses and monetary help, which too has been done by AOL as well several other NGO's.

SOLUTION/PREVENTION (pre-occurance):
1. Help the militants get over their emotional and mental stress (so that they may solve the problem in the right way, and not by creating more problems around, eg: 911). JKLF, LeT, LTTE, Naxals, inmates-of-Jails and the Military have taken the AOL courses. Those Militants gave up meaningless manslaughter, prisoners wanted to come out and live a purposeful, happy life, Naxals started eradicating problems, rather than 'eradicating' the people-around-the-problem...
2. If there are 2 opposing parties invloved (as in LTTE-Govt), mediate a talk between them. SriLankan MP's flew to banglore to take an AOL course; men and children in Jaffna are been taught these simple life-enhancing techniques for past many months; SriSri flew to meet Prabhakaran and other militant leaders.. next day Prabhakaran announced willingness to start meaningful talks with the Govt. So thats not just smiling, exhaling and being 'mum' at problems... its about giving a solutions to all the causes of a problem...
3. In the state of kerala where the suicide rate was thrice the national average... after ArtofLiving reached the farming-district of Wynad, the suicide count reduced to 4 or 5 from 40 and 50. In Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Artofliving has seen immense success with Organic Farming, that was taught to the farmers. Thats how the PREVENTION and SOLUTION is taken care of !

Usually I just smile when I read/hear the likes of what you've written.. and then there are times like this when I wanna simply jot down what I feel. But basically this is about telling you and many others... that Life is very short.. just 80-90yrs.. (with around 20yrs for sleep alone !! ;-D) lets not waste time over finding fault, or whats not good..or 'appears' not good.. but maybe just get out there, try it out and find out what millions (including me) "claim" to be life-changing... and then actually start doing some service, and help change others lives..

Else, u cud just 'exhale out' this whole comment and go back to the life of PERCEPTIONS N CONCLUSIONS.. ;-D

God Bless.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Anand, thanks for your comment. I don't have any objection to the benefits of the activities that AOL and RS are engaged in, and I agree with you that one should admire these efforts. There are and have been many such individuals in the world, completely non-religious and non-spiritual, who have also engaged in this. What reason could one have, for example, to not regard General George Marshall as not being equivalent in his benevolence to RS?; after all, his Marshall Plan (after WW2) also gave hope and solace through monetary aid to a battered European continent of millions. My problem is not with the benevolent activities that RS orchestrates, it is only with the cult like following that he has. I see him being worshipped like god, and that's what I don't approve of. The problem with someone being worshipped so much is that you can fail to have an objective evaluation of his abilities and words. For example, I stand by my opinion that the article cited above does not say anything that could be viewed as an immediate, practical device. The way the article ends does not make any sense, and anyone like me would become extremely skeptical about the wisdom of RS's words after reading it. My point is, I don't dispute the man's qualities, nor his efforts at bringing peace. What I dispute is the cult-like following. Let me just ask you a few questions; if the answer to those questions is yes (excluding the last one), then I think you will agree that you are not engaging in hero worship of RS.
1. Would you be ready to strongly criticise or dispprove of RS's words or writings if they don't appeal to your objective judgement? In the first place, would you exercise your objective judgement when it comes to RS?
2. Let's say you have a child (maybe you already do), would you be ok with not trying to indoctrinate the philosophy of RS in him right from his birth? Will you be ready to let him form his own opinion of RS and AOL as he grows up?
And lastly, I also want to ask you,
3. Do you believe in god or RS? Or do you think they are equivalent?

The other point is that just because there are those of us who criticise RS (maybe even wrongly) does not mean we are not engaged in 'service'. There are many ways to do 'service', many of them indirect and long-term; science, art, and politics are only a few of them, and their merit should by no means be less than that of RS and AOL.

9:06 AM  

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