I have added a new page to my Art of Living section.
Because the section tends to draw the most web traffic, I thought it was time to update some of its content and I chose to add a page on whether the Art of Living Foundation could be considered a religious cult or sect. Cult and sect are culturally charged words and any understanding of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organization will depend on your own cultural and religious background and beliefs. I will be cautious about passing judgment.
I thought I’d mention that I have approached the Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with skepticism and caution. I’ve asked myself whether I was getting involved with some kind of cult. First, I found out about AOL because of solid references from several yoga instructors. I stay active because the kriya practice had done me a lot of good. I’ve been impressed with the modest requests that the AOL people have used to keep me involved. I wanted to see Sri Sri in person this week to see how far off the deep end he might be. In general, I’d say I was underwhelmed — in the sense that I have not decided to give up all my worldly belongings and run off to his ashram.
I am the son of a Protestant minister, a PK, which is short for preacher’s kid. I consider myself a Christian, but do not belong to a particular church. I’ve gone to more Catholic masses in the past 30 years than my parents’ denomination. I have a healthy distrust for messianic movements and charismatic leaders. Guru and swami are loaded words to my American English ear.
I’ve done some Google research to see if I could find any accusations of any sect-like behavior. I could not find anything concrete. At most, some Indian forum participants accused AOL of being too successful, of being a power trip for the top leaders and an ego trip for Sri Sri. The comments were laced with jealousy about being successful enough to sustain an international enterprise. In its literature, the Art of Living Foundation tries to give assurances that it’s legit and accepted by other mainstream organizations. It’s also true that its practices are getting serious inquiries to confirm their validity.