Of ancient wisdom & fake modern gurus


Today, I came across this YouTube video of a talk given by the person known on this blog as P2S2RSg who was speaking at the recently concluded India Today Conclave 2013. The title of this session was “Is ancient wisdom in sync with modern living?” Listening and watching him in action, I have revalidated my earlier analysis that P2S2RSg is not a spiritual guru. Furthermore, this video has strengthened my view that P2S2RSg is an ignorant and inarticulate person who hides behind his public image as that of a “spiritual guru” spouting nonsense to fool gullible people. I suppose one would not go wrong in coming to the conclusion that he a fraud. What’s disturbing and disappointing is that there is a significantly large number of reasonably well to do and supposedly well educated Indian lower and upper middle class who believe that he is a genuine “spiritual guru”. And they have been swallowing his pearls of wisdom (I mean bullcrap) hook, line and sinker.

I have reproduced below the transcripts of P2S2RSg’s talk along with my comments which expose his basic lack of understanding of the subject matter that he tries to appear knowledgeable about. Also, you can see for yourself that much of his talk consists of incoherent, disjointed & meaningless sentences which do not even address the topic at hand.


 Wisdom is beyond time… like the sun is very ancient but yet today’s the sun ray is very fresh, its not an old stale rays… same with water…the river Ga Ganges is so ancient but today’s water is very very fresh. 

In the same way I would say wisdom is that something which is applicable to our life, which is new, which is fresh yet ancient.

That which upholds life, that you can call wisdom.

See the ignorant or fanatically religious.. the so called intelligentsia is fashionably atheist …And it is the wise one who know how to combine the old and new and make their life.

Like a tree it needs ro.. roots that are old and shoots that are new life needs to be adaptable and this exactly is ancient wisdom.

The very first hymn in Rig Veda says “rṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” 

“Aghniḥ” .. second hymn in Rig Vedas is (long pause)

“Aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” 

P2S2RSg first says that “rṛṣibhi nūtanairuta” is in the very first hymn in Rig Veda. Then he says that the second hymn in Rig Vedas (sic) is “Aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhi nūtanairuta”. The long pause he takes here and the repetition of almost the same verse with attribution to different hymn numbers got me curious and suspicious enough to check out the original Rig Veda.

I was also curious whether a “spiritual guru” of his standing could at least get right the very first hymn of the oldest of all Vedas i.e. the Rig Veda. And I was not wrong in my assessment of him; he got it all wrong. Look at it yourself here on this website or below where I have reproduced both the Sanskrit and English script.



As you can see the verse that he is quoting is not complete. It is supposed to be:

aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhirīḍyo nūtanairuta |

He neglected to add the boldened part of the verse as shown above. Also, what he refers to as Hymn 2 is really Hymn 1 and verse number 2 of Hymn 1. You would expect that someone like P2S2RSg would know this. Hell, even I would know if I were told once that the first Hymn of Rig Veda is dedicated to Agni (Fire) and the second is dedicated to Vayu (Wind) , the third to Asvins, the fourth to Indra and so on. A complete list of dedications can be seen here. Moving on to P2S2RSg’s talk briefly; he seems to be translating the verse from Rig Veda:

Modern and ancient rishis do it. The old and the new, they exist together and that’s wisdom.

I don’t know from where he got the translation of the second verse of Hymn 1 that he quoted wrongly to begin with but the translation is simply not satisfactory and is totally off the mark. The translation of that verse is thus as per this source:

“Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by ancient seers.”

Not only does he misquote and misattribute the hymn, he also mistranslates! Great going, you modern seer and “spiritual guru” attempting to bring the ancient wisdom in sync with modern living! So, there you see the proof in support of the statements I made at the outset of this blog post. The following lines contain the rest of the transcripts of his talk (that ends as abruptly as it began) interspersed with some poor attempts at humour through observation on my part highlighted in bold! If my attempt at humour doesn’t work, then I can only attempt to humour you by encouraging you to check out the comments on the YouTube video made by P2S2RSg’s followers. These zombies drool over the nonsensical garbage P2S2RSg spouts in this talk and show how they deserve each other’s company and their “spiritual guru”!

Look, like in technology and trade, tradition needs to be revived and renewed again and again. This is essential. And the vibrancy of India is that we were able to do this.

From ancient times, the tradition were kept ,certain aspects of traditions were kept intact yet we became vvvery much adaptable as time flew into the modern day ummm requirements in life and life’s challenges that one has to meet. What is really wisdom, why why should we be wise? Nobody wants to in suffering. Nobody want to uhhh be upset

(Here the camera pans to a part of the audience comprising of women. These women look visibly embarrassed and bored! One girl is even trying to get herself through this tortuous talk by playing around with two mobile phones. Another looks away from the “spiritual guru” tightlipped perhaps not to betray the disgust on her face)

That’s something which takes away from suffering… which gives us vision. It/which makes life vibrant and which connects you, the individual You to the universal You that exists in the universe and brings the immense satisfaction.. that small gratification doesn’t bring… is what is wisdom

(The camera pans to another lady who appears to be sitting there thinking, is that so!!?)

And it available in everybody… it’s nothing to do with education I tell you… you you will find wise people even among the illiterates in the villages, perhaps even more.They know how to manage their homes, they know to manage, keep harmony in the neighborhood, they know how to bring people together, (he failed at it, didn’t he?), and how to aahhh (with hands pushing) bring celebration in life, wisdom is that which brings celebration in life. It brings smile on your face. it keeps you healthy and gives you that intuitive ability to see life what is ahead of you

I would like to add one more thing, as we were talking about the thought, you know. I, I find the thought is like the gatekeeper of the house. Emotions are a little more powerful than the thought. You may think, oh, I am happy or you may put all your thoughts, but when some emotions come that they just barge in,, with such force, all the thought process you kept to yourself they just disappear.

 (The camera captures another woman sitting there looking perplexed)

Are are you are you with me what I am saying? You know you find that emotions are much more powerful than thought The situations overpower you though you want to say, oh I want to be happier, I am happy.. I am.. then suddenly what happens is a bolt of emotions comes up or some energy comes and all this disappears. So we need to work on several layers of our life. First: environment, body, breath. Breath is the link between mind and body. And then mind, the thoughts and then emotions which are even subtler and more powerful than that. And then beyond that is the energy field that the positivity, the radiance, the soul, the spirit that you are… that comes into play.

And all these techniques, meditation, and uh contemplative prayer as in Christian tradition or Buddhist, zen meditation. All these is to transcend the thought and reach to that level from where everything else runs. So that is like attending to the houseowner then the guard will listen to what the owner says. Thank you very much.


The Guru & the annoying parrot


I had speculated in my earlier post on Param Pujya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji (hereafter known as P2S2RSg) that he has been preparing the ground to make a leap from the spiritual domain to the political. Sample these news items of the past 2 weeks and his pronouncement on the news about DMK pulling out of the UPA government. With this my speculation moves ever so slowly and surely towards an explanation of the reality of P2S2RSg’s plans for a larger role in public life. It is likely that the Volunteer for a Better India (VfaBI) platform will be used to mobilize people that are loyal to him when it comes to the vote during the upcoming general elections. For all I know, I might be dead wrong about this because a lay person can only understand very little of the give and take of electoral politics.

But this post is not about P2S2RSg’s political avatar but about my perception of P2S2RSg in his spiritual avatar so that I keep the promise I had made in my first blog post on P2S2RSg.

Ask yourself what you would regard as some of the defining characteristics of a spiritual guru. To my mind, a spiritual guru is expected to have a clear understanding of the spiritual precepts (s)he is teaching/propagating/interpreting and should be articulate in expressing herself/himself since it is important to the followers in their pursuit to understand & follow the spiritual path.  Also, I would think that a spiritual guru is one who is above petty ego hassles because (s)he has already attained that enlightened state of egolessness or is close to that or at the very least has a deep understanding of egoism & its pitfalls.

My opinion about P2S2RSg’s “spiritual guruness” began to form when I saw a few YouTube videos involving P2S2RSg’s inter-religious dialogue with Zakir Naik on the topic of Concept of God in Hinduism & Islam in the light of sacred scriptures. Those videos and P2S2RSg’s responses to that event much later on in front of two different audiences made up my mind about P2S2RSg “spiritual guruness”.

In this inter-religious dialogue between the two, Zakir Naik goes first and while discussing the types of sacred scriptures in Hinduism says this:

“In Hinduism, the sacred scriptures have been divided into 2 parts. The Shrutis and the Smritis. Shruti, in Sanskrit means that which is perceived, that which is understood, that which is revealed and the Shrutis are considered to be the word of God and they are more sacred than the Smritis.”

“Next type of the Hindu scriptures, we have are the Smritis. The word Smriti means to hear. It means to remember. It means memory.”

Now, I am not a Vedic scholar or know anything about the Hindu scriptures but even I can figure out that Zakir Naik has at best a partial understanding of what he is talking about in relation to Shruti & Smriti. The first part of his understanding about Shruti in that it refers to “that which is perceived, that which is understood” is wrong. Shruti means hearing or listening. Likewise for the first part of his understanding of Smriti which he thinks “means to hear”; here again he is wrong since he is obviously confusing Shruti with Smriti.

Zakir Naik then discusses the concept of God in Islam as well as Hindusim which is the subject of the dialogue. He then starts discussing P2S2RSg’s book titled Hinduism & Islam: The Common Thread where P2S2RSg, among other instances, attempts to draw similarity of Islamic worship of symbols/images/idols in the form of the black stone in Kaaba to Vedic form of idol/image/symbol worship. Zakir Naik disputes this assertion by P2S2RSg and then goes on to refute P2S2RSg’s claim in his book that Muslims copied the prevalent Vedic practice of washing hands and legs before offering prayers.

P2S2RSg, speaking in response to Zakir Naik’s opening speech, is clearly thrown off balance by the above mentioned line of argument, which he sees as flaw finding of his book then says this in his defense!!

“I know there are some mistakes in that book. I would have told him before also; this book was printed in an emergency, in urgency, when there were riots in Gujarat. I wanted this book to immediately go. I did not go to big scholars because I do not know much about Quran. I myself am not a big scholar but the intention he caught behind that is to bring people together. So that the Hindus respects the Muslims and the Muslims feel a sense of brotherhood and belongingness to Hindus. So, I am happy that though with the mistakes, which he has already pardoned me, he has accepted the intention behind it. You know, intention is what we need to see.”

After a Question & Answer session with the audience where Zakir Naik picks up some more faults with P2S2RSg’s book, they proceed to final responses where Zakir Naik brings up some more mistakes in the book. At this point, P2S2RSg is seen pleading with Zakir Naik & everyone else in the audience to drop discussions on the book because he himself knows that there are many mistakes in that book which is the reason why he stopped with a single edition of the book. The video is worth watching to see the embarassed explanation as well the frustration on P2S2RSg’s face; curiously from the time I downloaded that video yesterday from YouTube, it is no longer available!

But the story doesn’t end here with the inter religious dialogue event that showed P2S2RSg in a poor light as a spiritual guru who exhibits an aversion to engage in a debate when questioned about his own book.  In these two videos, set in the backdrop of the aforementioned event (one is in English in front of a largely disinterested foreigner audience and the other is in Hindi in front of his fawning AoL followers), P2S2RSg launches into a personal attack against Zakir Naik calling him a fool and a useless person who parrots indices and glossaries. He also says that Zakir Naik’s level of intelligence is lower and he did not want to debate him as only people with small minds and intellect indulge in arguments and debate; obviously P2S2RSg hasn’t heard of Adi Shankaracharya who went around India debating every intellectual on philosophical and spiritual matters! One can see the contempt on P2S2RSg’s face when he talks about Zakir Naik in a vain manner; something that is quite unbecoming of a spiritual guru. P2S2RSg also says that he accepted mistakes in the book because he did not want any fight or riots happening there! Seems like a convenient excuse for someone who was totally unprepared for the events and just could not come back with a response clearly exposing a lack of presence of mind (or shall I say Self since he is a spiritual guru?!) as well as a lack of mastery over the subject on which he himself has written a book. These two videos clearly show the kind of ego hassles he has and his strong need to defend his actions thus pointing to an egoistic personality. The conclusion can be drawn about the “spiritual guruness” of P2S2RSg in light of the two defining characteristics I had laid down earlier.

On the road to Mahatmahood: “Param Pujya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji”


On my recent visit to Mumbai, I saw numerous posters like the one above informing the public of an impending “Maha Satsang” (because apparently a Satsang isn’t good enough; it has to be a great/grand one!!) there later this week. I also saw another poster that contained an exhortation to ‘Volunteer for a better India’. The man whose face was plastered on all these posters is referred to by his followers in a rather overt display of honoroficity (this is a word I have coined as a, even if I say it so myself, terrifically original response to the lack of an alternative word that describes such perverse and repulsive ass kissing behaviour) as “Param Pujya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji”. The subject of this blog post is that much revered man himself and will be henceforth be referred to in this post as P2S2RSg.

My first introduction to P2S2RSg and his Art of Living (AoL) foundation was from a series of blog posts by Atanu Dey where he brilliantly answers his own question “Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a con-man?” I read these blog posts and was quite in agreement with Atanu’s basic argument that P2S2RSg was a simply an intelligent person well versed in marketing to have attracted all that interest in his breathing techniques & have it commercially packaged in the AoL courses. I did not think much of P2S2RSg after that until recently during my Mumbai visit.  Looking at the numerous posters across the length & breadth of Mumbai, I realized P2S2RSg through his Art of Living variety spirituality & volunteerism holds a sway over a substantial proportion of India’s educated metro elite. I also got a feeling P2S2RSg is attempting to expand his influence from the “spiritual” domain to that of the political. Alternatively, perhaps there is a bunch of interested people aligned with him who are trying to use P2S2RSg & AoL’s brand equity and PR machinery to project him on the national stage as a politico-spiritual reformer of sorts. The more likely explanation is that it is a combination of the above mentioned. The ultimate idea driving their machinations is most likely to create a votebank loyal to P2S2RSg that will vote as per his directions and provide him and the abovementioned interested group leverage to negotiate with the eventual powers that will emerge.

I don’t know what P2S2RSg deems as good utilization of his time but I sure can tell that he spends an ordinate amount of time meddling in affairs that he has no skills, talent or business to be interfering in. On one or two occasions in the past, I have noted with dismay the kind of activities that P2S2RSg chooses to involve himself in; like playing the peacemaker in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Since, it would appear that P2S2RSg’s claim to fame is that of being a spiritual teacher by virtue of Sudarshan Kriya® which has helped millions of people to find relief from stress and discover inner reservoirs of energy and peace in daily life, I think he really should stick to helping many more clueless devotees of his to lead a stress free life.  Instead, so that he remain free to pursue his other roles of a humanitarian leader and a peace ambassador, P2S2RSg has delegated the responsibility of being a spiritual teacher to a band of merry followers who are on a never ending mission of expanding P2S2RSg and AoL’s devotee count by aggressively marketing and recruiting clueless people into the courses offered by AoL.

I was curious to know if P2S2RSg and AoL always offer their courses at a price or do they also hold out the promise of leading a stress free life to those who cannot afford to pay the course fees. While searching for this on the internet, I stumbled upon these blogs whose purpose is to provide a critical perspective of both the Art of Living organization and of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, based on experiences that both the creators, and anyone else contributing, had during the time they spent with the organization. The contents of these blogs are disturbing as they charge that

(There has been) damage to physical health of various practictioners of the techniques taught on the courses,

(There has been) psychologic damage resulting not only from meditation and kriya, but also from spiritual abuse by senior members of the organization itself, including Sri Sri. 

The majority of techniques in AoL have been plagiarized from other organizations and sold to course participants as originating from AoL,

(There are) allegations of harm to local communities, for example the villages around Bangalore Ashram having their land snatched up by AoL to build the Ashram and associated accomodation.

Not a penny of these goes to any charitable projects but instead goes direclty into the pockets of Sri Sri, his immediate family, and a small group of people referred to throughout the blogs as Sri Sri’s Inner Circle, who include the various Swamis and Rishis of the Art of Living organization,

AoL is commercializing a great many sacred Hindu practices and profiterring heavily from this venture,

Probably the most disturbing of all the allegations is that Art of Living is actually a cult masquerading as a humanitarian organization. 

This sample list of charges is explored in great detail on this blog here.

One can only arrive at their own conclusion based on their own experiences with AoL or their perceptions of P2S2RSg (something that I will write about in a separate blog someday). I noted with interest that AoL had sued these bloggers for defamation and trade libel in mid 2010 and then by mid of 2012 eventually decided to reach a settlement agreement with them. Apparently as per one of the bloggers, the real reason why AoL sued them was because they also had published AoL’s manuals and Kriya notes here. Apparently these bloggers continue their discussion about AoL here.

Meanwhile in India, the flock of sheep led by P2S2RSg seems to only increase as I note that he and his foundation are now indulging in a feverish campaign to increase their visibility and relevance at the national level going by yesterday’s interview to CNN-IBN.