These are the famous Ashtavinayak temples - divine spots of pilgrimage of Lord Ganesh. Click on to enlarge and download
Original is here In 1879, when there was British Rule in India, Lt. Col. Martin of Agar Malva was leading the army in the war against Afgha...
Click on image to enlarge. From bottom left - Somanath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleshwar, Omkareshwar, Baidhyanath, Bhimashankar, Ramanath, N...
BENEFITS This is the stotra that provides us Lord Shiva's halo of protection. Whatever be your problems, whether of the horoscop...
From bottom left - SOMNATH, MALLIKARJUNA, MAHAKALESHWAR, OMKARESHWAR, BAIDHNATHESWAR, BHIMASHANKAR, RAMANATH, NAGANATH, VISHWANATH, TRYAMBAK...
II The Devi Mantra II देवी मंत्र ...
Shiva is dancing, lost in the ecstasy of Self, sounding his own cheeks. His tabor is playing and the garland of skulls is swinging ...
Shiva Stuthi Namaa miisha mishaana-nirvaana rupam vibhum vyaapakam brahma-veda-svaroopam nijam nirgunam nirvikalpam niriham chidaakaasha...
Here is a miracle directly stemming from bhakti for Lord Shiva Easy to please, delivers all our wishes, just deep bhakti is all we need ...
I would love to hear your personal experiences with TM. Seems like it is catered for the wealthy, a bit pricey, but the effects I hear is dr...
Monday, December 07, 2009
This is hilarious, but raises some very thought provoking questions - this video is a must SEE.
The AOL guys have blinders on - drinking the coolaid.
The fallout is inevitable....
From here (see article below)
Well, here is my input about AOL.
Here is the question I had posed to Sri Sri in the summer of 2008 when he was visiting the bay area. He reads one of my questions. If you play the video, you will notice the question he read varies from what I had typed up, printed and handed over to his team. Sri Sri has conveniently skipped referencing the fact that I have not taken the Sudarshan kriya.
I am a earnest seeker…(I think)
If there is one thing I have learnt in my life, this is it, that my only goal is self – realization.
I think and read a lot about the SELF…I practice Meditation and Pranayama….but I am not making much progress? My mind still rules
What kind of transformation is needed for me to reach the self.
Is this as difficult a path as Gautam Buddha had to go through?
I read about enlightened masters, their teachings and I feel it is so attainable – and so near – but it is still so far for me.
If it is Sudarshan Kriya that I need – I am certainly going to go through the program.
My question to you - Do you think I will attain this single objective of my life?
I did end up taking the Sudharshan Kriya class last year. I do believe that the class goes around in a song and dance, whereas the focus being sudarshan kriya / pranayama, we should have cut to the chase. There is no discussion on how the technique works - or even a basic explanation of pranayama. The rigmarole revolves around how each of us go through pain and suffering and we are not unique - for me it was all rudimentary that did not merit sitting in class and having to endure the group discussions etc. Perhaps others got more from it.
Five days was a bit much and I decided to skip the last two days - after I had learn the technique. I felt guilty wasting my time to learn what I had learnt. All the discussion before and after during the class seemed like a big waste of time and didn't contribute an iota to my learning. The instructor also made a case of hyping up the whole technique and the dramatic effect it has had on people, and how "every individual has a different experience". It seemed to me that it was a psychologically ploy to implant the impact of the technique into people's mind. Some folks are naive or gullible - more receptive to the cult mentality and likely to buy into it.
Come to think of it, the technique is basic pranayama, that was a PH.D Thesis of Patanjali a couple thousand years ago. The class does not address how and why it works - the mentality is to follow the herd "It works - just do it" There are some folks who are looking for a straw as they are sinking and more receptive to the herd mentality and some others who don't - who can typically see through BS and call it that. Reminds me of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, wearing the yarn made specially for him, and the little boy (with nothing to lose) calling out to the King, "Dude you are naked". Sri Sri is definitely charismatic and he has brought the massses over to his side, there is a fear element perhaps in going against an organization like AOL and calling it the way we see it.
Back in 2007, I had taken the stress reducting workshop organized by AOL (my question was asked on Guru Purnima day at this workshop). It was a huge scam I thought, as we did yoga and some simple breathing exercises. Sri Sri came for a few minutes every day, and some of the questions he was asked, he did not answer (perhaps he was tired, and didn't want to waste his energy on folks who would not understand anyway) conveniently referring to his books, DVD (with the thought that if we purchased his books and DVDs we would get the answer. Why is Sri Sri so keen to sell more and more of his books, CDs, and videos?). Someone asked the question "There have been gurus who have been teaching Pranayam. You are teaching pranayam. Ramdev Guru teaches pranayam. How different is it all/ Why should someone come to your class and spend $350 to take this class" and Sri Sri responded in a very abrasive manner almost insulting the dude to have the audacity to question him. Is that the mark of a guru? This gal I had gone to the workshop with was so annoyed with the whole charade that she aggressively went after the organizers and got her $$ back - You Go Girl! I was willing to give AOL a second chance, perhaps I missed out and don't understand the whole concept, and with that I enrolled into the Sudarshan Kriya class last year.
Now, the instructor at the SK class was resistant to questions being asked and even made it a point to treat these questions casually or belittle them to an extent. The class became a charade where he was protecting his turf as the teacher and making sure that anyone who questioned him was made fun off - in a relatively benign manner. Which is fine - because he was a person with his ego, working in a high tech and to certain extent similar backgrounds (not to be regarded as Guruji as some students were addressing him) and if he wants to ensure that he wields the baton, so be it. It was clear that he had a vicious ego - and he would lash out at the slightest bruise - was the sudarshan kriya helping him? Or perhaps he only taught it but never practiced it? But what was truly upsetting is his / AOLs Amway like technique in asking us students to go out and solicit new members for a 2 hour introductory session - in the name of seva. Why is seva involved with asking us to recruit members? Is there a different form of seva? We were asked to sit around in circles and brain-storm on how we could recruit new members and invite them to attend the two hour introductory class scheduled over the weekend - obviously free. But they were all targeted to eventually take the AOL course. It was nothing else but Amway-like technique and that was the last straw (see Manju's comments below). I was not thrilled by being told that each of us should get five of our friends and relatives/ contacts to sign up for that 2 hour introductory class- that is not the hallmark of a classy organization.
The technique itself is good - it is good pranayam breathing exercise and I do a variation of this, for health and a focused mind. I wish they can teach it in 2 hours instead of the charade that I went through. There is also no reason for them to charge $350 for a technique that was essentially researched and written by Patanjali and that which exists for two thousand years.
Where is all the $ pouring into AOL going into?
HOW GENUINE IS SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar seems to be one of India's biggest export products these days. His popularity already being huge in India itself, many positive reports in several (above all American) media outlets make the guru hugely popular world wide. His popularity reminds us of other best seller gurus before him, like Maharishi or Osho. But these examples in turn remind us perhaps that we should be cautious when it comes to multi-millionaire gurus.
Osho (formerly Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) of course tops the fraudulent and hypocritical gurus having 96 Rolls Royces while he told his sannyasins were told to renounce attachment to possession. It only takes a little research instead of blind reverence to find a lot of information about how neither him nor his ashrams were quite like he pretended. The whole 'free love' idea that gave him the name of 'guru of the vagina' didn't quite work out all the time, he probably was addicted to laughing gas for a certain while and his organization, while based in Oregon, was even linked to murder cases.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was less flamboyant, but is nevertheless put heavily under criticism, not in the least for the question who benefits from the million dollar industry surrounding his persona. The Maharishi got his incredible fame because of his association with the Beatles. Although the Beatles turned away from Maharishi, and in a rather controversial way, his popularity did not wane. One of his following pupils would be none other than Ravi Shankar. This Ravi Shankar would later give himself the honorific title of Sri ('revered' or 'holy') and double it to make a distinction between himself and the famous sitar player with the same name.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is nonetheless very silent about his own guru Maharishi. The Beatles guru is not mentioned on his personal official website or the website of his “Art of Living foundation” - although this is kind of a give away, since the book that introduced Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation to the world was entitled: “The Science of Being and The Art of Living”.
It is in itself questionable why a guru does not mention his own guru. It is only normal in Hindu spirituality to trace one's lineage of Guru's, like in the case of Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of the Self-realization fellowship who was, besides Vivekananda, the first guru to bring modern Yoga and Indian spirituality to the United states.
Perhaps the rumors on the net are true and Shankar is very disappointed because Maharishi Mahesh Yogi strongly and publicly renounced him after his departure. Or perhaps Sri Sri Ravi Shankar doesn't mention his guru because of the controversies surrounding the Maharishi. Such a stain in the image does indeed not go well with the overall clean-ness and pure-ness his sites and publications want to attach to Shankar.
To retain that image of being impeccable, much of the history of the founder is clouded in pure mystery. Again and again one can only find the official story of how Sri Sri as a little boy of four already recited the Bhagavadgita, how he had a physics degree at seventeen, and how he discovered Sudarshan Kriya in 1982.
Sudarshan Kriya is supposed to be the thing that makes Shankar so different. Many disagree on this point. The website of Art of Living says “Sudarshan kriya is a completely natural process that was cognized by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during divine meditation”. Others claim it is simply old Yoga techniques rolled into a new and more commercial package.
In any case Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had “Sudarshan Kriya” registered it as a trademark – though this move makes it more funny than different. When reading web pages about Sri Sri's spirituality, all of the sudden a copyright sign is seen every time Sudarshan Kriya is mentioned. It is strange for somebody who does not care for 'worldly matters'. He himself says he had to register the trademark, because otherwise others would have done it, and made profit on his expense. But perhaps he simply learned if from his own Guru once again, as it is again something the Maharishi has done before him when trademarking transcendental meditation.
Transcendental meditation is centered around the extremely old practice of chanting mantra's. Sudarshan Kriya is centered around the extremely old Yoga breath exercises. In both cases, although their respective promoter-gurus claim the opposite, there's nothing new under the sun.
The art of living foundation and Shankar of course say that you have to really try and do it before you can realize what is so different. But trying it would imply paying quite a lot of money for the courses offered at the Ashram or several centres around the world. Those who choose not to pay and to just observe it from a distance see no difference with other breathing exercises that are used in older Yoga forms, in rebirthing exercises or in some of the many Osho meditations one can try at the Osho resort.
Also in the claims of its effects the Art of Living foundation goes through great lengths to show what is so special about it, but for somebody with a bit of background into yoga or meditation in general, they absolutely fail in that effort. When they're programs promise reducing stress, reduction of depression, peace of mind and serenity, better health and well being, increased energy and stamina, making you more self-aware, harmonious relations at home and work, and so on, you can not help but wondering: in what way do they offer anything different than any other form of meditation?
Pupils from every guru and adepts of every form of meditation make the same claims as to how the encounter with the person or meditation changed their lives. From more self-confidence over energetic awarenesses to more health. And of course they claim so, as these things have exactly been the point of doing Yoga ever since its origin many many centuries ago. Sudarshan is no different in that respect.
Even the claim that it could help against cancer and aids has already been made by the other Indian export product in guruism: Ramdev. In the case of Ramdev the Indian Ministry of Health government of India stepped in to rebuke the claim. Ramdev replied that his idea was misrepresented. He believed that Yoga and Ayurveda together can alleviate the suffering from aids, not cure it. In order to escape from further legal consequences he distanced himself from some over the top claims made by some of his 'admirers'. It was nonetheless this kind of 'admiration' and the propaganda about the miraculous powers of the guru, his yoga and his products that proved to be the perfect marketing strategy to make his ayurvedic business very lucrative.
Unlike Ramdev, but just like Maharishi, Ravi Shankar loves to provide a huge amount of scientific research that backs up his claims about Sudarshan Kriya. On his website you can find many links to scientific articles that are supposed to proof the effectiveness of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga. The studies seem to indicate for example that it helps against depression, and that it brings better antioxidant status and lower blood lactate levels.
But, if one takes a close look, it actually does not seem to show what is so amazing about Sudarshan Kriya. Both lower lactate levels and better antioxidant status for example might simply be attributable to a better breathing pattern of the subjects and not so much to Sudarshan particularly. Depression on the other hand is something that exists in many possible forms and of which some as well are in general helped (not cured – as the articles also do not say the Yoga is a direct cure) by learning to control the mind, which again is a general outcome of any meditation.
On top of it, the research on the effect of Sudarshan on cancer does not say that Sudarshan helps against cancer because of some 'energetic effect', but simply because the breathing exercises seemed to help smokers to quit. “This result could mean that regular practice might reduce the incidence and progression of cancer” because of “a reduction in tobacco consumption.” The less people smoke, the less cancer they will have. Sounds logical. Nothing mysterious here. Meditation is not a miraculous healer. Learning to breath properly just helps people to leave of smoking. It should not surprise therefore that the same study researched both Sudarshan and Pranayama and concluded that they both helped just as much.
On top of it, when one turns from those research articles back to the normal web pages of the Art of Living, it is amazing to see how all the 'scientificness' has all of the sudden gone. On the Sudarshan Kriya page it says that “this unique breathing practice is a potent energizer. Every cell becomes fully oxygenated and flooded with new life. Negative emotions that have been stored as toxins in the body are easily uprooted and flushed out.” What might 'a potent energizer' be in scientific terms? Energy in scientific terms is not the prana of the Yoga terms. And how does a concept like 'new life' relate to oxygenation of blood? Oxygenation is simply a chemical term describing the amount of oxygen in the blood. And what on earth are 'the toxins' that store 'negative emotions' in the body? A proper scientific research proving the existence of those would surely be very hard to find.
The research the Art of Foundation mentions is therefore not at all linked to the concepts that the organization uses in advertising its products. The wording all of the sudden becomes an obvious case of pseudo-scientific language when they explain it in their 'own' terms.
Thus, if Shankar's Sudarshan Kriya helps, it's because the control of breathing through Yoga helps. What is so wondrous about that? It has been known in India for thousands of years.
So what is the difference between Shankar and others. It is not the fact that he is a famous guru – many have been before him – it is not his message – because that as well sounds very similar to those before him – and it is not the technique – for many techniques do the same. Some critics claim it is the immensely good PR department behind him that helps him to (literally) sell his Sudarshan to the whole world. He's a better businessman than the others, they say.
Supporters of Ravi will reply time and again that those critics should stop attacking 'his holiness' without real arguments and should look at what he has done for the world. And indeed one of the difference with Shankar and the other gurus exported to the west seems to be his emphasis on development work.
But when one again has a deeper look at the types of development work Shankar and the Art of Living is engaged in, some questions can again be raised. His organization splits up in many branches of which one is the “International Association for Human Values” that was set up together with the Dalai Lama. The real structure behind all these organizations is not really comprehensible and it is very difficult to get a decent overview of the whole.
Not minding about the structure, one can just look at the immense variety of development work the whole of the organization is supposed to be involved in. Trauma relieve after the earthquake in Kashmir or the Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, women empowerment courses, rural development, prisoner rehabilitation, youth education, promoting ayurvedic medicine, and so on make up an impressive list of which one can not help but wonder how it is possible to all be set up by one man.
One thing makes it more comprehensible: in most of the different problems they simply bring the same 'solution': Sudarshan Kriya. Whether it is people having no homes after an earthquake, women that have to be empowered to face their suppression in male dominated societies, inmates in jails that need to refocus their lives or rural kids that need education, the art of living comes to teach them their meditation practices so that they can be relieved from their 'stress' and 'fears'.
What else the Art of Living does is a bit of a mystery when watching the promotional video's. Most of those consist of interviews with people like kids in Kashmir or inmates in South Africa, after a Sudarshan session who say they feel 'so much more relieved' now. Whether they are also materially and/or socially relieved from the situation that put them in their 'stressful' situation is not known.
Anyone a bit involved in development work knows how slow it goes, how much time and effort it takes. Anyone a bit experienced in the difficulty of thorough development initiatives that have a bit of a lasting effect knows that it is rather impossible to reach “30,000 villages through personal interactions, teachings and humanitarian initiatives and to reach out to an estimated 300 million people worldwide.” like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's personal website states.
Certainly when you consider that Shankar himself is not involved in really leading the development work. He himself is conducting classes, giving lectures and traveling all over the world.
Some of the other efforts of the Art of Living foundation therefore involve Ravi Shankar personally meeting with and talking to leaders of various religious and political groups. But the depth of these talks is also questionable as he invariably proposes those leaders the same message: more peace through more friendly dialog and breathing techniques. Nothing concrete but simply a good emphasis on “love, peace and understanding” that should do the trick apparently.
Armed with this advice, Shankar headed for Iraq, and somebody in America got the idea of sending Iraqis to Shankar's Ashram in Bangalore, India. Official reason: reduction of the trauma of the war and more empowerment of the women so that they can go back and lead their communities. To achieve this, once again, in the video news reports we could see how this translates in Shankar or his pupils teaching Sudarshan Kriya as a solution to the 'stress' and the 'problems' of the Iraqis. As if the post-war situation of Iraq is comparable to the problems of an American house wife who has difficult kids in their puberty.
This oversimplification was very apparent when Shankar was in Iraq and gave an interview to CNN. He said he wanted to bring non-violence like Mahatma Gandhi and that he wanted the several parties to simply talk to each other peacefully instead of drawing arms. But that exactly showed how little he knew really of Mahatma Gandhi. The Mahatma for one had understood that the parties 'not being able to talk' was exactly the problem. The Mahatma at certain points knew that proposing a 'peaceful dialog' was simply ludicrous. At those moments Gandhi would resort to non-violent civil disobedience.
Not with flower power peaceful words did the Mahatma try to win independence, but with strenuous action. Non-violent, but with action nonetheless, and not with words or meditation. Gandhi understood the 'stress' of the Indians not to be simply a spiritual problem but to be a material, social, political as well as a spiritual problem. If Gandhi had simply told people to meditate to get rid of their 'anger', he would not have gotten far in all likelihood, because it certainly was not only 'anger' they had to get rid of.
If Sri Sri Ravi Shankar therefore is proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize – a prize which the Mahatma never received although he was five times nominated – it makes one wonder where and how he exactly is creating peace.
His own guru, Maharishi, once went to Pinochet to propose to the dictator that if only he and others in his country would meditate twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening everybody would be better off and get closer to world peace. The future showed that perhaps Pinochet just didn't listen to well. But perhaps such an effort is also simply not very effective or comparable to the efforts of Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela and as such not really worthy of being given a Nobel Peace Prize for it. In Maharishi's case nobody considered to do so.
In Maharishi's case, just like Osho's for example, public controversies made it of course obvious that he was a bit 'bogus' and 'dodgy'. In Shankar's case the critics do not often come up with anything concrete to pin on Ravi Shankar and unmask him as a fraud, except personal stories of individual encounters and experiences.
His very commercial New Age image is far from a crime and does not at all take away the possibility that he might be genuinely wishing well for his followers and the rest of the world.
But, as the previous analysis has shown, there is certainly enough grounds for reasonably doubt as well. So he might just as well be a man on search of money, fame and glory through Guruism. His blatant exaggerations and mystifications in presenting himself and Sudarshan Kriya seem at least to point in that direction.
Or he might be a bit a fraud and a bit genuine. Again, he wouldn't be the first in that sense either.
In any case, the whole world should by now have enough memories of encounters with various guru's that are at least be a bit suspicious in certain cases. Certainly in cases like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's, because it involves many many millions of dollars of which nobody really seems to know where they're going to.
So to use a spiritual word that for once was not exported out of India, it remains to be seen and heavily investigated whether Ravi Shankar is “kosher” enough to be given the Nobel Peace Prize or even the title of Sri, and certainly when using it in double.
Source: Yunus News – 01/09/07
Welcome to the spirituality blog
This blog is an offshoot of a website that I had conceived as a result of the spiritual grace and resultant inspiration during Shivaratri Y2K (http://www.jyotirlinga.com) on the joy of Shiva Bhakti and my quest for spiritual progress. Not finding the time (yep, bad excuse!), this blog suits me fine in quickly adding content... my spiritual forays and thoughts - helps log them too. My spiritual journey started with Hinduism and it's simple stories/ teachings as far back as when I was a 2nd grader, with Lord Shiva and has now found convergence with Advaitism / Duality. The Advaitism gurus like Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj; they have provided that spiritual boost of energy in many lagging moments and have tremendously influenced me ... little baby steps at a time... that will hopefully all lead upto a final crescendo. The merits of satsangh are many!
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