Art of Living and YES+ : My Perspective

The Visalakshi Mantapa

The Visalakshi Mantapam

I attended a YES+ course from the Art of Living foundation a few days back. It was a different experience for me, and I have queued up my observations about the course and AOL in this post.

First, a little bit of history…

A few years back, there was a big ‘Art of Living’ (let us call this AOL henceforth) gathering in the grounds of Anna

University in Chennai, where the new age guru – Sri Sri Ravishankar was answering questions from devotees. I had attended this gathering too. Though I call myself an

avowed atheist, and strongly go by the principle that there is no god, I normally like to attend these kinds of sessions. There are two reasons for this: One, there could be something good to pick up from anybody – be it a godman, or a professor of Physics. Second, a lot of people come to such gatherings, and it is a nice place for watching people. The yoga and breathing exercises taught that day were good, and I decided to attend something like this in future too, if I get a chance.

So, here I was called to attend one of the preview sessions for the YES+ course. It was a lecture on the glory of ancient India, titled “My country – My valentine”. I would not want to go into the details of this session. To put it plain, it was unbearable. The presenter was dangerously biased, with lot of attitude, and needless to say, I hated the session to the core. Another issue was, there were some crazy people in the audience who would clap and cheer at every pathetic idiocy which was passed on as a joke. It was irritating, and I was not convinced at all why I should attend the YES+ course.

The Guru on his Aasanam

The Guru on his Aasanam

Then, I thought, this person could just be one odd-man out, and the whole of the AOL group did not seem to be so dumb and prejudiced. I went through some stuff on the web, talked to friends, and read views for and against AOL. Finally, I decided to give this course a try.

Now, coming to the course itself…

Putting it in a nutshell, I have mixed feelings about this course. There are positive and negative points. I would go over the positives first.

The YES+ is a five day course, with each day taking up 4-5 hours of your time. I am pretty sure, at the end of these five days, you would not feel your money has been wasted. The course is usually scheduled to fall across a weekend, so that it is convenient for all. During the course, I was asked to visit the AOL international centre (called the Ashram) a couple of times, which, though unplanned, was a good experience in itself. The course is a mixture of yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and some interesting lectures.

First, some yoga exercises are taught in the course which, I feel, are really worth learning and practising. These exercises work out the body and give a sense of accomplishment, especially to people like me, who lead a sedentary lifestyle. By the end of the yoga exercises, you feel tired and exhausted. But, after a short period of doing nothing, the energy comes back and you are more active than you were before. The meditation is good, and relaxes the mind a lot. You feel peaceful after the meditation sessions.

As far as my limited knowledge in yogic exercises goes, doing these exercises regularly goes a long way in maintaining a healthy body and stress-free mind. I would embrace such practices whole-heartedly and plan to do such exercises in the days to come…🙂

Guruji and Satsang

A Satsang Session

There was a guy called Bawa (Khurshed Baltiwala) who gave us lectures and answered participants’ questions. He was there all five days talking to the participants. This guy knows his onions, and spoke exactly what the young teenagers wanted to hear. He was quite convincing, and most people I saw, serious about the course or not, enjoyed his sessions. He claims to have taught courses for 18 years, and it was evident in his wise handling of the participants’ queries. He was, for most part of the course, not preachy and tried to reason out with the audience. Another guy called Dinesh was always accompanying Bawa. He spoke less, and trained participants on a few Pranayama techniques.

And the Ashram… it is a nice, peaceful and serene place, especially in the evenings. The whole place has been landscaped quite well, and is pleasing to the eyes (even my lenses🙂. They have a magnificent meditation hall which has two floors above the ground floor. It has been built with cantilever beams, with no central pillar for support. The mantapa is ideal and quite appealing for yoga and meditation purposes. We had our course for a couple of days there, which was more effective than doing it at the other venue.

The Ashram serves food to its visitors every day. Though the food is bland and nothing much to talk about, the fact that it is served for all without discrimination is worth mentioning. Especially on Sundays, a large crowd comes to the Ashram from the city (Bangalore is 20 kms away) and engages in group bhajans (called Satsang). Food is served for them all in stainless steel plates, which you are expected to wash yourself after the meal. I liked this part quite well.

Though I have a pack of negatives to say about the course and the organizers, I have to emphasise on the fact that doing the course gives an overall feeling of wellness and feel-good attitude. It does not harm you in any way. Except for idealogical and practical disagreements, I feel the course is not bad at all.

Now, let us come to the negatives…

The view from the top

The landscape of the Ashram

The course is overpriced! I know places that teach yoga for a fraction of what AOL charges, and is nothing different from the yoga taught here. They claim that the ‘Sudarshana Kriya’, which is their USP, is a magic of sorts, which is the be-all and end-all solution to all problems one can face. I have a strong feeling this is a marketing gimmick, and just over-hyped to draw people to the course, though the AOL might claim otherwise. Of course the meditation has a calming effect, but nothing dramatic as the AOL team wants people to believe. The course teachers try hard to convince you that you are experiencing something out of the world, when in reality, you just feel a bit calm and dizzy like you have just gotten out of a sleep. I don’t say it is totally worthless, but I say it is hyped.

Let us look at the guy ‘Bawa’. Though I said this guy steals the show at AOL courses, all of what he says, I have read umpteen times in Self-help books available in any ordinary bookstore. He doesn’t speak anything new. He is wise, learned and speaks of generally good things only. However, be it lectures on life, relationship, attitude or whatever, he sounds too cliched. For a teenager who is trying coping with a lot of peer pressure and teenage issues, or for a normal person who is under lot of stress and depression, he might sound like a god-send and just the right and amazing person with solutions to all issues. But, that just means you are not smart enough. If you are well read, and have done your homework, you know he is just trying to be smart. And if he has indeed taught at AOL for 18 years, I am not at all surprised that he is an instant hit among the young crowd.

The Divine Shop

The shop selling CDs

For the initial couple of days, listening to Bawa was a pleasure. But, on the next days I lost interest as he was totally predictable and became a shrewd marketer. His proposition of the YES+ course as the supreme elixir for a good life and repeated canvassing for the same without convincing proofs, did some damage to his image, and a few sensible among the audience did feel the way I felt. Again, the course had little mention of religion and Guru-worship initially, but subsequently, it all converged into spirituality, religion, rebirth, punishment for bad karma, and lots of Guru-praising which left a bad taste in the non-believer that is me. I should say at this point that I am an atheist by principle, and this could be the reason why I can’t take these things in the way they are given.

Another major complaint I have is, AOL promotes herd behaviour. There is no place for individualism, or at least that is the end feeling you get. You have to be a group and do things in a group, which might not be healthy as far as teenagers are concerned. There are these group leaders who are members of the AOL, who try to influence you a lot in thinking the way they want you to think, and it looks like they succeed in this very well. The young adults desperately want something to hang on to, and the volunteers promote AOL and Sri Sri to them, which becomes an instant hit. Although AOL says, Don’t be a football of others’ opinion, all of what they do and promote are contrary to this, and the teachers want you to comply, no questions asked.

Nice landscaping

The pathway

For instance, when Bawa is asked simple half-baked questions, his face brightens up and he makes witty comments. He takes the opportunity to lecture on the agenda he has on hand. But, when he is confronted with practical issues and difficult questions, he tried to brush them aside politely, and makes sure the person who asked the question looks foolish in the eyes of others around him, that he feels embarassed to have asked the question in the first place. After a few questions, it is not difficult to see that everything Bawa says comes back to promoting YES+ and hailing the Sudarshana Kriya, rather than giving real-life solutions. Again I would say, he is smart, and with 18 years of AOL experience, this is child’s play for him.

I have another point to make. A lot of the participants in the AOL’s courses are repeat audience, since AOL wants people to do their courses again and again. And, the sad and irritating part is, a lot of these people act like zombies, with fake, and out of place enthusiasm, and I-am-eager-to-please attitude. These people are the ones that go gaga over even cliched jokes and one-liners, for which normally you can’t even manage a smile. They clap and cheer every now and then which idolizes the teachers. These people promote the herd attitude, and you are made to feel out of place if you think otherwise.

Also, I have listened to the Guru – Sri Sri a couple of times, and I have a feeling, that he proposes too simple solutions for complex problems, which might be good to be said and heard, but is too far from reality to be pragmatic solutions. You are made to float in utopia till you get out of the ashram and have a taste of reality. On the Sri Lankan issue, the Guru says, “You will soon return to your homes in peace”. Nice to hear. But on what basis is he telling this? He makes it look like some one broke up with his girl friend and is worried about loneliness, when in reality hundreds of people are dying on the streets of Lanka caught between warring sides. Again, I have never been among followers of any Guru, and I strongly detest blind faith and worship, and that might be the reason I felt totally out of place during the course…

Okay, so what is the conclusion???
Having said all this, do I recommend this course or not?
Should you do the course, or not do it?

The Koramangala folks

A group of participants

The answer is ‘yes’. I would definitely say ‘Yes’ to YES+ for anyone. Every course has its pros and cons, but this one is definitely worth giving a shot. But take it with a pinch of salt. The experience could be different for you than it was for me. AOL is not that bad… it is just hyped. There is always something to take home from everybody, and there are lots to take home from these AOL courses too. This course will leave something for you to remember, whatever be the ideology you might belong to. I have definitely learnt some things from this course, which I feel would be useful for me. However, what I don’t approve of, I just reject.

There is a YES+ advanced course, which I would want to do sometime in future, which is a 5-day residential course. Who knows, after that, I might become a disciple of the bearded Guru, and might end my blog saying ‘Jai Gurudeva’. But for now, it is just a bye…🙂

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Comments

  • dhivya  On May 26, 2009 at 6:19 am

    I’ve always wondered what goes on in these courses and like you, I’ve been quite skeptical about them… so it was nice to read your commentary.

    I liked the pics too🙂

  • Deepak Venkatesan  On May 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

    @Dhivya: Thanks for the comment🙂

  • januM  On May 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    well-written!
    had a similar kinda exp with the Isha Yoga, the coimbatore based org.

    someday they were callin everybody for a free intro session. al of us packed our bags quite early n landed at the venue, end of the session the msg neatly came in, “pls pay 1.5k and register with the volunteers. so funny, not even half the crowd stayed back!😉

  • KP  On June 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Ah!! Lengthy write up. I read it completely though🙂

    After reading the entire content, I am convinced that this Yes+ wouldn’t suit me. Thank god I didn’t goto such sessions😀 Points that made me says this – people encouraging silly thoughts, jokes, sayings and Guru making statements without proof / without knowing the reality.

    Can’t take it.

    Btwn, you have mentioned that the Yes+ course is costly. Evlo da price?

  • Deepak  On June 8, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Hey Karthick,
    The price is 2K for 5 days.
    And, doing Yoga is good. U can do it without AOL also… So, there is no dire necessity to go to AOL.

  • Pradeepa  On July 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Very Well written..
    True. AOL is worth doing for all. Ya somethings are not good, like the hype they have given etc… Everything has good and bad in it..
    Many good things are there with AOL which every Indian and other people know/learn…
    Simply, you have well written and covered most of it.
    Nice..
    Thanks…

  • Vinod  On July 25, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Nice article..
    thanks

  • Suman Roy  On July 25, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Good one..
    I was always curios about the course…
    Thanks for explaining …

  • pradeepa  On July 25, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I too felt very same during the course..
    I wanted to learn meditation and breathing exercise…
    As you told we should take what we want and just leave what are not required…

  • Deepak  On July 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  • Praveen U  On August 10, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Yes .. I too have same opinion..
    They are selling our good old very valuable Knowledge .. and making money..
    They have good marketing, its techniques.. and lets see.. how far they will go..
    But we have to learn such things.. Meditation and Yoga…

  • Gita  On August 10, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Yes they make more admissions and more money to courses by telling their participants not to disclose the course contents and just tell the effect what they felt in the courses..!! ..

  • Deepak  On August 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I felt their only motto was ‘Get more people to do the course and experience’. But what the experience is, I could not tell…

  • Karthik  On August 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    One of the pre-requisites for doing the AOL course is to drop your mind. This does not mean being part of the herd, it just means you are open to align yourself with the greater cosmic consciousness. Sure, it sounds like balderdash.

    But its not. Your very own teacher, Bawa, is an IIT Bombay grad, and the person you call Dinesh is a brilliant MTech from IISc. And they have the capability to understand your thoughts, no matter how smart you think you are.

    These are people who have sacrificed glorious careers to dedicate their lives to AOL. Dont you at least think they would have gone through the same process themselves? Do you think they would dupe themselves all their lives?

    The point is, you need to be willing to drop your mind to realize a higher truth. That is the definition of faith. If all questions were answered logically, then there would be no need for faith.

    It’s a choice. Drop your ego, and you find AOL has many wonderful things to offer. Keep you ego, and it feels like a shallow pond, but then you sleepwalk thro’ life, with your set beliefs, like anyone else.

    And you term Sri Sri as a shrewd marketer. Hardly so. He doesn’t need our certificate, but as you go deeper into AOL and do all its courses, you realize just how great he is. How do you think you even got to do the course? Becoz of AOL’s marketing, right? And who is benefiting out of all this? You!! Sri Sri is still the sage who works 20 hours a day – so what does he get out of this? Nothing. You didn’t ask about the marketing part before doing the course, did you? So why be so selfish now?

    Anyway, for all good things to be accepted, a time has to come. Hope yours comes sooner rather than later.

  • Deepak  On August 25, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    @Karthik, FYI, I am not sleepwalking through my life. I am a highly successful person with a large positive attitude towards life. I also counsel people who are in trouble, and I am the founder member of a registered social welfare organisation. (U can check out the tag line of my blog).

    My ideologies are different from yours, thats all.

    For u, ur guru holds a higher truth and that gives a support to u in ur life, which is fine. I have realised I can be myself and still be quite successful.

    And, if someone like me is dragged into AOL, that is the evidence of the marketing done by AOL. Also, don’t u think mentioning IIT and IISc all the time is marketing?

    FYI, I have had so-called IIT-ans reporting to me at work. So, in ur words, does that not make me a better person to say if AOL was worth or not?

    I have to add, I never do anything with less than 100% commitment. So, for the days I did the course, I had dropped all my prejudices, stuck to every word said by the teachers, and kept myself open so that I can get a true experience of the course. But at the end of the day, I always retrospect and that is why I have been able to give both the positives and the negatives.

    • sindhu  On April 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      hey you say you pay more than it deserves right?
      But the money is not only for what you get but also what others can get from you…so the money you pay goes to many many students and unprivileged for their studies and so many things that can happens with that money…So how else can they fund many projects that happen across the world??

      you say its over hyped???
      Now you had an experience … bitter or sweet you share it right?…so if it sweet then you share it even more…so just want others too to get the feel good attitude rite?..so that’s how aol has become popular..

      ok now about sudarshan kriya..you doubt its power??? or its overhyped about what happen???
      every person experience differently you might just find it an ok experience… frankly speaking i too had a similar feeling….dont get caught up with the experience…they dont hype things without proof…its within you that changes happen…and nothing can happen with just a day.. continuous practice will show you the change…http://www.artofliving.org/in-en/sudarshan-kriya-research….

      as far as the part you say people behave like zombies or have fake enthu….its what they feel…why get bothered with others feeling!! it could be real…just put everyone in a same situation everybody reaction to it is so different…..sometimes even just opposite to your’s…

      and about when sri sri speaks….life seems to simple right???
      try knowing yourself better then you will understand his words and even start implementing….

      As far as atheism is concerned…..even guruji says that there is no one sitting up there in the heaven with a beard to bless you or curse you….

      And the knowledge that you get…may be in many many books…if everyone reads the books why dont they use it????…

      • annonymous  On April 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm

        Why should I believe that, they use this money in the welfare of the poor people…
        They charge so much for AOL courses.. Do they also allow someone poor to join AOL without any fee?
        If some mentioned kiryas in the course are so good for people, that these kiryas can benefit. Anybody in the society. Then why they don’t want to propogate such kiryas through people, why only through AOL after making the money… I heard from many people saying ( who did the AOL) courses.. We are not allowed to tell , what was taught..

    • raj bafna  On April 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      @deepak, jus read this response of urs and keen on reading further discussion, but really, NO time at the moment!! anyways i was going to go for the Yes+ course today bt i had similar feelings and u hav clearly reaffirmed them. And now i am certainly not going, for one, i know wat they r going to talk about and two, i think i know much more than Shri Shri (sorry that might sound absurd!!!! bt i truly believe i hav more knowledge than him). Ofcourse, although i may be more knowledge, i am not as great as him coz im not as forgiving, am not as calm and composed and i hav a lot of bad qualities that i need to get rid off. Simply put, i just have more information, which helps me to SHARE real practical solutions for very real problems to life (eg headache, or not able to concentrate or sleep or laziness or anger). why i say ‘share’ is that i hav NOT created these practices but learnt them frm someone else. the reason im commenting here is that u mentioned u are a consultant and help people. i just wanted to explore some opportunities here. we cud take this discussion forward, if u contacted me on raj.bafna1704@gmail.com. thanks

  • Meenu  On October 9, 2009 at 11:32 am

    pretty straightforward review … almost the same feelings that i felt when i did the YES+

    but i feel that AOL is a great group to be part of, and the enthusiasm and masti going on in course venues is very infectious. (I am not denying that over enthu turns idiotic at times). and sudarshan kriya is definitely a powerful technique. Though it did not have any dramatic effect on me on the first or second time i did it, practicing it reguarly have brought many changes to my day today life.

  • Deepak  On October 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Definitely Meenu, practising yoga is helpful indeed.

  • harsha  On November 22, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    hey good review…
    i have done yes+ course too. it was good, sudarshan kriya did help me a lot( been practising it for a year). it does bring changes(good) in ur life.
    as for marketing and….its simply take what u want leave the rest.
    actually its better than rest of the programs offered by others and remember no single course can bring a dramatic effect in ur life.

  • Hemanth  On February 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    good article….
    I too did the yes!+ course…….Definitely it is a good course and art of living is a very big foundation . I dont call promoting a course as a marketing strategy because what the money they get out of this course is mostly spent on social activities .

  • Deepak  On February 17, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Thanks for the views guys!

  • Gaurav  On April 1, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Pretty Straight forward review but i liked and will comment more, once i attend (which will be sometime soon) . We are similar in opinion and “for the purpose” I have done “my homework”. Will go with open-minded and “for experience”.

  • Deepak  On April 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Thanks Gaurav

  • Hemal  On June 18, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hi
    Jai Gurudev
    .,
    Whatever you have written in this blog, is just your views.
    You have no right to blame “Guruji’s view” like that.
    What proof do you have that Guruji’s view is base-less?
    How much you do for the mankind in your life?
    How much time, money you have spend for them?
    Did you visit Sri Lanka at that time?

    I think , you put these all information without open mind.

  • Deepak  On June 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Thanks Hemal :p

  • Vinay  On July 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Jai Gurudev !

    Hi Deepak
    I have done part I. It was very special experience for me.
    U have written a very good article.

  • Neeraj  On July 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Good balanced review.

    I found myself attending a 3 day (2 hour per day) sahaj samadhi meditation course from AoL. The teachers would not tire of praising Sri Sri all the time. There were 2 half hour poojas out of the 6 hours; I would rather learn meditation techniques. The course fee was 3k or 3.5k, but they kept insisting that you are very fortunate to be having “guruji” teach you this great stuff, even though indirectly through us (the teachers). As if the course was free.

    And yes, serious questions were stepped aside glibly.

    I am an agnostic, though a keen student of yog and meditation and open to beliving, if it comes from within. And for the later I am willing to suspend the skeptic in me. They just took it to far when they assumed that I, and the rest of the class, had already accepted sri sri as my spiritual guru.

    Didnt work for me much. No receipt for the course fee either..

    That said, I would still like to try the part 1 – sudarshan kriya course and see if theres any additional takeaway apart from the pranayama I practice .. just in case I ran into some bad apples ..

  • Vishal  On July 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Check out these sites to understand the dark side of AOL:
    http://aolfree.wordpress.com

  • Heemal  On September 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Hey Deepak,
    A very balanced perspective. I agree with you. I did the Art of Living Part I and it was a good experience. The fee was high, but the teacher was good and overall I do not regret having had to pay through the nose. After Part I, I was kind of put in a spot and got bombarded with calls to attend “The Art of Meditaion”course…The fee this time was higher, but I was almost pushed into a corner and I decided to attend with an open mind and looked forward to it. This was a totally different experience. I had an experience similar to Neeraj. People were made to feel stupid for asking some very valid questions about the mantra…It became like an ask only “good questions” kind of session, interpersed with a lot of waxing eloquent on the Guru. I respect the man, but then he is a man….and “ahankaar” and selling spirituality are not a part of our ancient Vedic values. Whenever you try to sell something too hard, it reeks of something not right with the picture. After this experience I am done with AOL. I think I took away whatever is going to help me, and ultimately it is upto your own self to figure things out, after all God gave us all brains to use and be able to discern. I would say a little bit of AOL is good but beyond that it’s a trap.
    Heemal

  • the best dentist from geelong  On October 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Omg, Who would want to go on a heavy diet ,anyone?. Eat however much you wnna, just dun forget to work for it

  • padma  On December 15, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I just attended Level 1…
    Was almost pulled into the course by volunteers…can’t blame them either as I finally yielded to their force.
    Pranayam and excercises were good but I couldn’t digest the Sudarshana kriya nor the spiritual concepts they were teaching as mathematical formulae..

    I read books by Ramana Maharshi , Eckhart Tolle (Power of NOW) , Gangaji (Diamond in your pocket) and realized that a true spiritual teacher doesn’t teach/preach spirituality but rather points you inside of you to examine/investigate for yourself the TRUTH .They never give direct answers so that you can mentally remember the concept of SELF/GOD but let you be consciously aware of the SELF within and let it guide you.

    After just 3 days of course I am resenting it so much that I just want to stop going for the remaining 3 days.I was analyzing/judging myself too much why I am not able to adjust when others r so blindly agreeing with what ever the Teacher tells and are so happy about the pseudo trans thru Sudarshan kriya.
    But I realized that I should trust the SELF with in me and not do anything which it is resisting .GOD has given us all the wisdom /intuition which we all have and can only be recognized when we shift our attention away from the egoic mind which blindly follows the crowd and wants some one to worship as one other form of GOD instead of recognizing the fact that all of us are made of the same divine .

    Anyways after reading all your blogs I got confidence that I am not the only one who felt that way

    teachings and with my self examination

  • Deepak  On December 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Hi Padma,

    You are right. A lot of people believe in things just because of peer pressure, and because their friends believe in it.
    Remember… the story of the Emperor’s new clothes…? It is exactly like that.
    Just taking a step back and thinking through it will save you from a lot of heartache.
    And remember, if you think you are doing great already, you definitely are, and you don’t need any guru to reinforce into you what you already have.

    Cheers,
    Deepak

  • Shravana  On January 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Just attended a Yes+ intro in my hostel @ IIT Delhi & I decided to do a little search on Yes+. An instructor, a Canadian AOL volunteer was trying to convince us to avail his ‘service’ rather than wasting time during those hours. My question regarding the course contents was brushed aside without giving much details. I have been practicing yoga and pranayama for some time. Though I believe what u learn from a yoga teacher is less wrt what u gain by regular practice, based on all ur experiences I decide not to lose Rs.3000.

  • Ketan  On February 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

    i attended the yes+ course and i also got mixed feelings about the course.I learnt some good thing and thoughts, most of all the yoga,though it was pretty basic and can be learnt spending much less.Yoga felt pretty useful,about their ideology and their teaching about life relationships etc was pretty basic i could almost guess what the instructor had in mind and was going to say.and the irritating clapping and cheering for no reason by the volunteers.upon being question something they told me you just hav to trust us and have faith in us. The instructor was mechanical engineer and kept repeating how he left it all and teaches aol and some other freelancing…they took commitments from us to bring atleast two friends on the last day..on signing me up i was signed up against my will by sweet talking my parents so were other people i found there. the course left many question in my mind unanswered, may be i think at a higher philosophical level than people my age, To sum it up the course is good and the yoga is helpful it wil give you a perspective on life.🙂 but stop coaxing us to become devotees and to bring in more people, i learnt good stuff here, the compulsiveness left a bitter taste in my mouth. we learned some now let us live our life freely, sadly i see my friends become zombies and practically waste days on end working for them bringin more people in spreading the word..like they want to start a new religion or something building up a army of sorts. do the course learn abt life and move on dont get caught up

  • NS  On June 1, 2011 at 2:42 am

    would it be possible to write of the techniques taught at yest+ besides the sudarshan kriya. i attended the art of living course but never yes+ and have heard of some concentration breathing- were any of those things effective. thank you.

  • MRV  On December 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Dear Deepak,

    Rather relieved to see a person who shares my views on AOL. I had attended a DSN course recently and I had exactly the same feelings that you have expressed. Even I am open to new ideas and things that I feel ‘good’. I felt that there are a lot of take-aways in the course( and I regularly practice yoga and meditation an Sudarshan kriya), but at the same time I strongly agree with you on the following points:
    (All are based on my personal experience. Well, it will take a long to explain them)

    1. These people promote the herd attitude, and you are made to feel out of place if you think otherwise(based on my personal experience)

    2. the course had little mention of religion and Guru-worship initially, but subsequently, it all converged into spirituality, religion, rebirth, punishment for bad karma, and lots of Guru-praising which left a bad taste

    3. If you ask practical doubts (out of real curiosity to understand) you are brushed aside telling “You are using you intellect” followed by an advise, “Stop thinking… just believe” :p

    And above all I liked your open mindedness that accepts whatever ‘good’ and that makes your article ‘balanced’. Though I am not an atheist like you are, happy to meet a person like you. In fact you wrote something that I always wanted to write. !! 🙂

    And to counter somebody’s comment
    ” ….teacher, Bawa, is an IIT Bombay grad, and the person you call Dinesh is a brilliant MTech from IISc. And they have the capability to understand your thoughts, no matter how smart you think you are…..” is simply a a marketing technique. I am from IISc, and blind-faith really doesn’t find much acceptance among these communities in general. There are ppl who follow Ravi Shankar, but that is there personal choice and lets NOT comment on that. But ‘simply following Ravi Shankar’ doesn’t make them especially smart !!! And to tell you the truth, there are a lot of people who are much smarter than IITians and IIScians outside. IITians/IIScians are NOT superhuman beings who totally outwit your imagination and intellect !!! In fact that statement was ridiclous

  • MRV  On December 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I am posting it in my FB. Hope that should be ok with you.

  • chandu  On December 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    i agree with ur views .. had similar experiences.. i hav been to many yoga classes n such yog shibirs. i had experienced the real “feel” in many of those yoga classes. itried AOl as well simply because i like to learn new things, want to know more about yoga and the practices. i accept the fact that they market it, well its ok to market as long as what they teach is correct and doing some good, paying money is also ok.. as long as ppl r deriving benefits (almost like buying peace of mind for a while) .. but what turns ugly is whenevr i asked a question leading to some kind of discussion i was asked to attend advance course. i dont midn paying a lil if its helping me lead a balanced life.. but do i have to even pay for a discussion ? i wanted to go there to learn to reason out.. but alas.. was disappointed.. nevertheless the sudarshana kriya was good🙂

  • swati  On February 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    You told your experience honestly that’s appreciable . U did the course right .But may i ask you have you ever repeated or volunteered for the course.First time when you do the course you may feel that they charged you more or its just marketing . When you will know how such courses are organised and what hardwork teachers and volunteers do to organise such a workshop i am sure u will be astonished🙂 Hope that time comes sooner .Jai Gurudev (May you be wise and Playful)🙂🙂

  • Rob  On April 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    deepak, you are biased yourself inspite of all the claims that you make of not being so. i am a silicon valley entrepreneur who visits india regularly. people like you try to divide society with your petty mindsets.

  • Neeraj Vernekar  On July 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Hey,Deepak

    A friend whom I just met is a volunteer of AOL and he’s convincing me hard(I can feel it) to take the YES+ course which is 2.5K.It’s of 5 days he said and convinced me to bunk classes and studies and attend the 4-5 hours course.
    He said it would improve your Leadership qualities,Interaction(girls :-D),Discipline etc.He was very convincing and showed me some videos of how AOL was founded i.e Guruji’s history.You will make many friends there and will be effortless bonding between you and them,your addictions will be removed from you,concentration increases etc.

    Should I take up the course,really so effective that it changes a person’s mind and behavior as shown in videos(some of them were completely changed)?
    Also I have my studies,classes,college at other hand?!

  • Deepesh Deomurari  On July 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I am sorry to say that this is the reason why you have enjoyed it 80% – because you started analyzing the things rather than participating fully.

    If you feel that you are genius and you know most of the things then I must remind you .. grow up .. stop limiting yourself to your belief.

    If you are empty then only someone can give knowledge if you have biased mind(including atheist) then you are all gone. Do advance course and you will learn exactly on the lines what I am saying.
    Also repeating Yes+ is free.. Go and Enjoy once again.
    Jai Gurudev

  • An aheist  On September 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    very useful article. I have very much the same feelings for the course, and yes people like u and me (atheists) cant be imagined to worship a guru after an odd 5 day course :p when the whole society around us could not implant blind faith nd GOD worship in our mind in all these years of our life

  • rajan  On September 27, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I have two incidents to tell.
    #1 One day a man came as a Guest to my neighbouring house. He was showing off as an Art of Living (AOL) person. He said that he can control his blood pressure by AOL stuff & when he does AOL stuff, a sun would shine in his ass. He behaved like an enlightened and talked philosophically. I could do nothing but laugh my ass out.
    Next day morning, he went walking with my neighbour. Within 5 mins, he came home panting like a pregnant bitch which has just delivered. On seeing me, his face reddened and his ego had bruised.
    #2. I had a college mate who was so into AOL. He is so very into it that he talks only AOL philosophies. But he is best known for his bad relations with sluts. So AOL =A.O.F, eh?
    Their guru will also be a Fraud man like them. One day he will end up in jail eating his own shit.

  • Sagar Kalburgi  On October 2, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Hi Deepak,
    I really appreciate that you wrote on YES+ in a balanced way. I also appreciate the fact that you attended the workshop and recommend others also to give YES+ a try.

  • Aaron  On October 31, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Very accurate, but I fear your article will be used by people for the wrong reasons, to convince themselves that it is not worth doing the course. On the other hand, taken in the right spirit, this was an act of benevolence, so to speak. The aspect I enjoyed the most about your article is the fact that it did not have the casual treatment meted out to English in most blogs by Indian authors; there were hardly any obsence grammatical faux pas.
    I am disappointed though by those of your audience who’d deign to declare that the course and its teachers are defunct without actually seeing what it is all about from within. How can anyone in their right mind be judgemental about something they don’t even know about?

  • varun  On January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Hi, Was accommodation, food etc. included in the price ?

  • annonymous  On April 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Nice article bhai…..

  • naresh pareek  On November 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    i have also done this workshop just bcz to check what is all about even i have attended 89 different seminar like this yes+ , but this workshop given me what i wanted…… yes+ a worth doing workshop……forget about the organisation! just do this workshop….. a single human cant be perfect in every activity… how can this much big organisation can be perfect! it can be only right not perfect. second thing there is nothing wrong in organisation.
    sometime we feel out of place just bcz of our ego,because when we meet any new person whether he is right or wrong we make our own prediction and this prediction period time resisting you to behave in a particular manner (we all have felt it) and after some time we become familiar and we get to know the originality of things……

  • Amritanshu  On November 27, 2013 at 1:02 am

    No body wants to eat chapathi which is sold in market for free and one who eats free chapathi won’t credit the taste of it. In fact people chew their chapathi properly and are able to sense sweetness sourness and hype properly if it cost something. People talk about it and end up advertising it, They advertise positive because anyway there is something good in chapathi..
    I am still not sure whether it worth putting effort, time and money or not. And I really hated their management tactics you explained..That is quite demoralizing for a person who seeks answer to his questions and dilemma.

  • Ishan Kapoor  On December 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    I have done the YES+ course and have totally opposite views about the course. These days were the best days of my life. Fun, Masti, Knowledge, Games, Activities, Sudarshan Kriya, every thing in the course was felt like the things i was longing for. I felt little bit the same what you felt about Guruji, but you have to understand that Sages have their mysterious ways which a common person really cannot understand because he is so stuck with the logic, concepts and prejudices that he simply rejects what he cannot understand.
    I would.say that you should go for the next level courses which will make you understand spirituality and guruji’s talks much more.
    I too felt the course expensive initially but I feel that it is essential to put something valuable(in this case course fee) in return of something because our mind has made concept that something which is free and is not marketed or advertised has very low value and is a degraded thing, just take for e.g Baba Ramdev has been teaching Yoga for so many years for free and funnily there will be hardly any young person who does Yoga taught by Ramdev but on the other hand every young person eats a pizza or a burger(which they know is not useful to their body) and has become a status symbol for them going into these outlets because they are heavily utilised. Are you able to see that “Harmful things” if expensive are a status symbol while Yoga and Sudershan kriya (no doubt, healthy for the body) have been so degraded that people want them free.

  • Gayatri C Balekundargi  On December 30, 2013 at 10:04 am

    NICE PICS …..And me too felt good by attending the YES+course which was conducted in our campus……UAS Dharwad

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