One night as I lay not knowing why I wept I plunged my left hand into my chest and removed one of my ribs. This I fashioned in the image of a man, a man with long hair and wondrous kind sparkling eyes who told me he knew why I wept. “Little one, of course you have been crying, because you felt you were alone. But I am here now, and so you shall never need to feel alone or afraid again. I shall love you, protect you, cherish you. Only trust me–am I not a part of you? We belong to each other. Listen to me, love me, do as I say. We shall be so happy.”

I found him some clothes, for he was naked and I was ashamed of his nakedness. From the white sheets of my bedclothes I fashioned him a long, flowing robe. Long nights we sat together as I stitched intricate gold trimmings into the hem which touched his precious little feet. I had never been so happy.

When his robes were finished–how my fingers ached, striving for the beauty that would be worthy to touch his precious little feet!–he asked me to bring my closest friend over to meet him.

“Why, beloved?” I asked, “Are we not perfect only us, together as you said?”

“Are you not happy, now that I am here?”

“Oh yes, my beloved. Never so happy.”

“And isn’t it right that such joy be shared?”

I quickly agreed, yes of course it would be selfish not to share this perfect happiness. He told me to tell her that he had come from the mountains, that after a silence of a thousand years he came to me in a dream and then I rescued him, brought him to the world to share what he had found in his thousand year quest for perfect truth. I added my own flourish–that I had woken him with a chaste kiss! His true origin would be our little secret. I promised.

My friend came to seem him. Soon her friends came. My house was crowded with faces I had never seen, my food all eaten, many of my bowls and plates left dirty or broken. I was always cleaning now, never any time to see my Beloved except in the early hours of the morning, when even the bright eyed young men had been sent to bed.

I had never been so happy.

Soon my house was too small. I offered to again use my flesh, plunge my hands into my bones to build a hall worthy of Him. He said no, No–you must never use that power again or you should be terribly hurt, and I can’t let that happen to you.

Instead we gathered from each true devotee, all of our strong pillars, two of their back molars with which we built the foundation of the hall.

When the foundation was built, investors saw that our vision would become real due to Beloved’s Grace, and they flocked to help. Only this time, they did not give teeth or bones or even sweat–they gave coins.

Beloved said, “They are not as strong as you, my dear. They are weak and so they give money.”

“Beloved, if they are weak as you say, why do you spend so much of your time with them and not with us?”

“Because they are weak they need me more, and I must go where I am needed.”

The hall was finished! Or so they said–the contractors had stolen the insulation from inside the walls, so it was very cold in there. Often others complained of the cold. I did not care one bit for the cold, let the cold do to me as it may. When I could sit in an ocean of kindred gazing at Him as He sat on the throne we made for Him, I had never been so happy.

I am old now. I live in one of our Centers, and I work cleaning up after our dear guests–still cleaning after all these years! Beloved says I have a gift for housekeeping. I love making everything nice and cozy for the young families who come Home for courses, it makes me so happy. When Beloved came to teach last summer, He smiled right at me! I knew in my heart He was as happy as I was to be together again after all this time, even for a moment. But then the minders hurried Him along to teach the others– it was a very important course, one He says will stop this horrible war if we practice well and faithfully. I pray for that with all my heart– I know He will lead us to an era of peace, love and unity. He has come to us to show us the way. I may not live to see it, but it will be my legacy to all my grand nieces and nephews. We’ve never met–my sister and I lost touch many years ago–but I keep their pictures on my nightstand and I pray to Beloved for them every day and I know they will see that perfect world Beloved is bringing for them and their children, and their children’s children. They will be so happy.

The last time Beloved spoke to me was three years ago today. He hugged me–oh, the Bliss!–and then he smiled and said, “Remember? Our little secret!” and put his finger to his lips in a gesture of Silence. I couldn’t remember any secret, and I felt so stupid until I realized he must have meant the Silence that I have found in his care, the knowledge that has given meaning to my life where there was none, the precious secret he shared with me and our Family and that we will now share with the whole world. We all have that truth within us, Beloved says, we all have that power– I thank Beloved every day that He came into my life to help me find mine.


About theartofleaving

Former devotee and member of The Art of Living organization reflecting on the process of joining and leaving cults, abusive relationships, and sundry obsessions. Trying to draw the line by connecting the dots.
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15 Responses to Fairytale

  1. Skywalker says:

    Poetic, beautiful and extremely disturbing post. You have a gift with words. Truly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So what’s the translated story for those who can’t see the implied meaning.

    • Hello there–

      I’ll be writing a lot more about my factual experience and opinions soon– I’ve been away from the blog because my life got very hectic for a little while. This story is definitely more of a metaphor than a factual account, you’re right. I’m curious, what did you think it meant, what did it imply for you? Like with anything fictional, its meaning really depends on the person reading it. I’d love to know your impressions.


      • Anonymous says:

        No idea. Just remember the lines:
        “I found him some clothes, for he was naked and I was ashamed of his nakedness.”
        That you are one of the first members of AoL and that you know his true origin. That “His true origin would be our little secret.”
        And this one: “I was always cleaning now, never any time to see my Beloved except in the early hours of the morning, when even the bright eyed young men had been sent to bed.”

        KLIM implies in his blog that Ravi Shankar had sex with young bright eyed boys, etc.

        I am guessing you also had intimate encounters with Ravi Shankar.

  3. Peaceful Warrior says:

    I’m intrigued too – if beloved came from the rib, why be ashamed of his nakedness ? And all the trouble of dressing him in beautiful clothes – to hide the shame, or the nakedness ?

  4. Okay, wow, let me be very clear here.

    I was never intimately involved/associated with Ravi Shankar. I am not suggesting in ANY WAY that I think he has sex with young boys. This is fiction. It’s metaphorical but that doesn’t make it directly parallel.

    This isn’t just about AoL, this is about the phenomenon that all cult leaders take advantage of. We have in us the capacity to project OUR birthright, our godhead, our innate and total belongingness to creation and its omnipresent origin (whatever you want to *call* that), and create a mask for another human being to wear so that we can worship them as THAT.

    I believe that what we do, often, as seekers is take a piece of ourselves we find too bright or too dark or too terribly awesome and try to take it out of us and put it somewhere else, to worship it or sacrifice it– the scapegoat or the guru, the symbol has many parallels.

    but let’s not get too esoteric. The important thing right now is, fiction is fiction. Metaphor is metaphor, and if I’m writing something fictional it’s not meant to somehow veil my meaning, it is specifically because my meaning is better conveyed in fiction.

    So for example if I write a piece alluding to Julius Caesar and why he had to die so that the Republic could live, I am NOT suggesting violence is an appropriate solution to political disputes. Is that absolutely clear? It’s about ideas. It’s a metaphor. It’s about how there is within the human psyche a desperate urge to crown an emperor and then to savage him when he fails to truly be a god. We make our gurus and yes, we crucify them. We can blame them in this only so far as they take advantage– but it is our hunger for god, love, certainty and community that let them do so.

  5. The Doctor says:

    We have in us the capacity to project OUR birthright, our godhead, our innate and total belongingness to creation and its omnipresent origin (whatever you want to *call* that), and create a mask for another human being to wear so that we can worship them as THAT.

    I believe that what we do, often, as seekers is take a piece of ourselves we find too bright or too dark or too terribly awesome and try to take it out of us and put it somewhere else, to worship it or sacrifice it– the scapegoat or the guru, the symbol has many parallels.

    A very interesting perspective.

    Back in the day when I was still an atheist, before I became consumed by all this tree-hugging spirituality nonsense, I never had the tendency to worship any human being as divine, nor for that matter to worship any god or gods.

    It is this idea of worship I’m still struggling with to this day. I read about it in many of the spirituality books, especially those on Tantra, however it is the one thing I just cannot conceptualize.

    I do believe that as a species we certainly have a tendency to look up to one or more individuals whom we believe to be an authority in some respect or another, as well as to admire and in some respects put on pedestals personalities such as film stars, musicians, writers, artist, famous scientists and anyone who creates a type of beauty which elates us. Do we generally treat these people as gods and worship them? Almost certainly many do for one reason or another, but the question is why?

    You seem to allude to this being a “symbol” as if it is something innate within us, if I understood you correctly? Or is this something that we are conditioned to believe by our upbringing? Certainly I have noticed many Hindus I know are inclined to worship something or someone as a god figure, which would almost suggest that this is due to upbringing rather than an innate tendency.

    But it could also be argued that this tendency is innate in all of us, it just needs to be awakened correctly, and perhaps that is what happens to those of us who end up in cults.

    • Peaceful Warrior says:

      SSRS is not a real guru – he tries to copy MMY, who tries to copy SBS. SBS on the other hand – was a true master. You see it in his talks, and how he brings out little details. Unfortunately for us, he was very traditional, and totally un interested in fame or $$, so it took someone like MMY, and SSRS to bring the teaching out. These people are mere traders – to have a real satguru is very rare – but there is a big market for copycats and pretenders to exploit.

      Just as western civilization is based on the thoughts of people like Aristotle, Kant and Hegel – so is the east based on gurus and philosophers. Most of us are not like that. When you are in the presence of greatness like that, you follow naturally. The human need to live a meaningful existence is enough.

      • Funnily, i think the idea that “to have a real satguru is very rare” is one of the fallacies that keeps us in cults. Certainly, if we think of satguru as a literal god-man, a fully realized soul within a human body here to teach US etc etc, perhaps that’s a rare experience. Perhaps most of them prefer to just chop wood, carry water, and sit quietly by the river.

        However, when we view satguru less literally, indeed less individualistically, we see that the true light-bringer is an archetype and an accessible internal reality–a truth which is not limited by bodies, names, or traditions. We can “sit close” to dead masters, dead poets, ancestors and friends; we can feel presence, knowledge, truth and transcendence as they resonate in our marrow. It is not so rare.

    • Ok Doc, there are some very good questions here but each of them ties into the other, none of them are simply put to rest, and to respond requires explicating an entire cosmology in some detail. Where shall we begin?

      First I just want to say, with all due respect (a phrase I’ve wanted to say more often since my early days of imagining I might join the military) that “noticing many Hindus [you] know are inclined to worship something or someone as a god figure” doesn’t exactly qualify as an exhaustive inquiry into religious practices as innate vs. learned in the human psyche 🙂 If anything can be called universal to humanity beyond biology, it might be this “tendency” to worship. And the human organism is built so as to make parsing the learned from the ‘natural’ behaviors impossible; they are inseparable, symbiotic, incapable of growth in isolation. Natural man *is* civilized, socialized man. Attempting to *argue* whether worship is learned or inherited is an exercise in futile academia, and bears little relationship to the quest that brought you to such questions. However, going beyond the either/or scenario brings to light a constellation of fascinating thought.

      secondly I just want to say that some of the best hugs I’ve ever had have been from trees. And I certainly wouldn’t call that nonsense.

      • The Doctor says:

        So you’re saying you’ve received hugs from trees? I wouldn’t call that nonsense at all, but I must say I’m somewhat astonished, not to mention a little concerned about trees having arms.

  6. The Doctor says:

    @PW – you say that SSRS isn’t a real guru, and it seems many people share this opinion.

    @TAOL (BTW – what do you prefer to be called?) – it seems you are alluding to some innate tendency for human beings to deify other human beings and go as far as to worship them as gods.

    Now, in my own case, I was never looking for a guru, nor someone to worship as a god or an incarnation of God. I was an atheist prior to Art of Living, and as such these things never had any place in my world view. By the end of my time with AoL, something radically changed in me as a result of my time there so much so that I believed SSRS was enlightened, was true guru, and was a living incarnation of the God, specifically the Divine Mother.

    In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini makes a very strong case that we are hardwired to be influenced in some way by someone whom we consider to be an authority. Cialdini also mentions that we can easily be tricked into submitting to such an authority if the authority exhibits certain traits that we have come to expect of someone in the position of authority. For example, wearing a specific uniform such as white robes, having long dark hair and a beard, giving commentaries on ancient vedic texts may give the appearance that one is some sort of enlightened being. However, most of us who have been following these blogs and who have left Art of Living have come to realize that we have in fact been tricked into believing these things about SSRS using very clever manipulation.

    What I really want to get to is simply, how does one tell a true guru from a fake one? In other words, how can we protect ourselves from being manipulated into believing a human being is God, whilst at the same time still being open to the possibility that there exist out there genuine souls who have attained God-realization or enlightenment? And what specifically separates those of us who fell victim to SSRS/AoL from those who could from the outset what it was really all about?

    Along similar lines is the question: is there anything in the vedic scriptures which would help us to test a guru to see if they are genuine? I have a few things I’ve collected which I will publish in due course on this subject, however it would be still be good to get as much background on this as possible.

    • Peaceful Warrior says:


      SSRS does more than manipulate. He fakes. Whatever signs that are in scriptures can be copied and faked. Moreover, there is no dearth of fallen yogis in the world, and beginners can be fooled easily.

      I once had an acquaintance who was part of another tradition, take the AOL course. He was not very impressed – though he felt it was good for beginners. I think it takes a certain familiarity with spiritual path to know it’s pitfalls. Usually it is some elder in the family who guides the young ones – otherwise you learn it the hard way like we did.

      For me, the key is to go to satsangs with different gurus initially, and then choose one, if that is what you want to do. It happens naturally. SBS did this spiritual shopping for 7 years before he found his guru. So did MMY – I read somewhere that he used to be fond of attending satsangs when he was young.
      Even in those cases – the kind of immersive spirituality that you see in AOL is very rare. It is only for a few die-hard aspirants. In most traditions, group sadhana is not emphasized – it is mostly about living the spirituality in daily life. Living away from family is strictly voluntary – that sort of sannyas is for very very few people.

      On a tangential note: read the book “Nine Lives” by William Darlymple. It has some nice stories of people who spent their lives in various spiritual paths.

  7. Pingback: Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a Theologist! | The Art of Leaving

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