The biggest spiritual Guru in the world – the founder of the largest spiritual movement, the Art of Living foundation and its trademarked ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ breathing technique – the man popularly known as “Sri Sri” Ravishankar, gave a talk on “Secrets of Success” to students at the flourishing premises of IIT Kanpur, which in its own right is arguably one of the best technical universities in the Indian subcontinent. The entire speech was recorded by Students TeleVision Club, popularly known as STV and a copy of it was posted to YouTube in November, 2011.
In this hour long talk laced with contemporary spiritual jargon, occasional mentions of India’s golden fall from glory, Mr. Ravishankar, at the 42m 23s mark, called for a volunteer to come up on stage for a surprise demonstration, the details of which were not immediately revealed. One of the students from the back rows of the auditorium was chosen to share the dais. The chosen volunteer, a lean-framed male student wearing a black t-shirt with horizontal white stripes, was asked to extend his arm parallel to the floor, clinch his fist and resist the pulling down of his arm. Mr. Ravishankar, gripping the volunteer’s arm near the wrist, was able to pull down his arm easily over and over again, much to the amusement of the audience. He then produced from his pocket a small vial containing an unknown fluid, and shed a few drops on the volunteer’s arm. The volunteer was then asked to rub and spread this oil over his arm. After the volunteer took a step back and a deep breath to relax, the whole exercise was repeated again – except this time Mr. Ravishankar struggled quite hard to pull down the volunteer’s arm, amazing the vast audience. The volunteer, visibly impressed and believing that he had in fact become stronger in a matter of seconds after the application of the oil, went onto fall at the feet (cultural practice of surrender) of his new Guru Mr. Ravishankar. Following the thundering applause from his audience, Mr. Ravishankar went on to urge stronger volunteers to come forth.
The next male volunteer also went on to fall at the feet of Mr. Ravishankar after his new found strength. The frenzy in the arena seemed to have attracted a male skeptic from the audience to volunteer. He was visibly unimpressed by the arm pull down test and the claim of instantaneous improvement of strength and vigor following the application of a few drops of oil. The skeptic boldly asked for permission to perform the same test on his own test subject on the dais. While the skeptic readied his subjects, Mr. Ravishankar began offering an unscientific principle for the efficacy of his oil, that [sic] “one drop of poison can destroy the body. Can it not destroy? One drop of poison can destroy the immune system. No? The reverse can also happen – one drop of nectar can also strengthen your body.” The collective silence in the arena sounded like a silent hiccup in digesting the machinations uttered by Mr. Ravishankar. What happened afterwards was amateurish at best. The test subjects chosen by the skeptic gave testimonies to the audience that they felt “something different,” and the skeptic had to agree, on the microphone, that he was convinced of the gimmick, much to the delight of the student audience that was already spell bound.
The following part of this article would debunk the pseudo-science that was sold convincingly, and with authority, to an audience that was clearly unwilling to be skeptical of a revered spiritual leader.
The mystery oil, supposed to be containing Amruth and three Ayurvedic herbs, seems very similar to a dietary Herbal supplement (revealed on November 27, 2011) called Shakthi Drops, which are sold for €25 in 30ml vials on Art of Living’s EU website. Even though the directions for use clearly state oral administration after dilution in 150ml of water to build up your “immunity”, Mr. Ravishankar’s participants topically applied it onto their skin under his guidance.
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