GURU RATING: 2 / 5 (QUESTIONABLE) — NET WORTH: 150 MILLION.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a spiritual guru known for his Yoga breathing techniques as well as his peace initiatives. He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values charity.
Ravi cut his spiritual teeth working alongside his teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He helped him set up Ayurvedic centres around the world and, essentially, run his business.
During a 10-day silent retreat, Ravi claims that a rhythmic breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya suddenly came to him. The practice remains at the core of his teachings to this day.
The Apple Never Falls Far from the Tree
You may remember Maharishi as one of the first Indian gurus to achieve fame and fortune in the Western world.
He was the so-called spiritual advisor to The Beatles. Legend has it that he weaned them off LSD with his Transcendental Meditation technique. According to some reports, the band broke their relationship with him when he tried to rape Mia Farrow.
Viewed in a more critical light, Maharishi essentially repackaged an ancient mental method into a slick product.
In business, timing is everything. The West was thirsty for wisdom from the East. Maharishi made hundreds of millions of dollars selling it to them. His mansion reportedly had 200 rooms.
Nevermind that Transcendental Meditation (TM) is only a means of focusing and relaxing the mind. It’s harmless but beyond these benefits, it will not open you to the silence within.
Maharishi would have made no money at all with TM in India as it was well-known. The West, however, was ready to shell out big bucks for promises of spiritual growth and enlightenment.
The Business of Breathing
One can easily see parallels between Ravi & Maharishi. They both took a commonly understood technique and repackaged it into a spiritual product, earning many millions of dollars along the way.
Is this why they had a reputed falling out? Was Ravi undercutting his boss by setting up his own rival business?
His volunteer initiatives mostly pertain to introducing his breathing techniques to crisis situations. Perhaps helpful, or perhaps another self-serving business move.
We certainly do appreciate his frequent appeals for world peace, though it’s easy to cynically dismiss them as just another marketing campaign to draw attention (money) to his charities and foundations.
The bottom line is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Sudarshan Kriya, including paying for courses or feel-good retreats. If it improves one’s life in any way — great!
On the other hand, it is quite limited in scope. Serious seekers may wish to move beyond the glitzy marketing campaigns and find a true spiritual guru, one who has realized the truth of his or her own nature. One less motivated by profit and attention-seeking.
We rate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as questionable. We doubt his spiritual enlightenment. This said, Sudarshan Kriya may help some. Also, the world can always use another cheerleader for peace!
“Yoga is not just doing some exercises. It is much more. It is to expand your awareness, sharpen your intellect and enhance your intuitive abilities.” — Sri Sri Ravi Shankar