Truth behind Allegations Against Isha — IV

Is Isha worth the hype?

Whenever such allegations appear in the media and die down, I am constantly asked questions about Isha. There are those who ask specific questions as to why something is so or how something is done in Isha. To those, I am comfortable giving answers based on what I know and allow them to come to their own conclusions. But there are others who ask blanket questions as to whether the allegations are true. To be honest, I am irritated by this. I really want to tell them, “Go, ask them.” But to keep things civil, I say, “No, they are not.” Still not getting what they wanted to hear, they change tact and ask categorically if Isha is a good organisation. I usually give them a smile and let them make whatever of it. But the truth is, there is no simple answer to this.

If you have interacted with Isha or any similar organisation, for that matter, for a reasonably extended amount of time, you will realise that they are not perfect. Yes, Isha is not perfect. Never has been, and this is no secret. The high levels of enthusiasm of the volunteers, may not necessarily be matched with capability. Their deep levels of devotion, may not necessarily be backed with matching endurance. So it is possible that along the way some people have goofed something up and may take a while to make amends. Yet, they manage to pull off things well enough for a lot of people to believe that they are super-beings.

Over time, we long time volunteers, learn not to get distracted or deterred by the shortcomings.

I am in no way trying to justify the shortcomings. But one has to be able to differentiate between deficiency in service and criminal negligence. One has to differentiate between an oversight and criminality of intent. In a particular restaurant, your waiter may be in a particularly bad mood on that day and take it out on you. Or maybe the chef failed to measure up to the usual standards that you were accustomed to. This is deficiency of service. This does not construe criminal negligence or criminality of intent. Somebody poisoning your food would be that. Deficiency of service can occur anywhere, even in most respected establishments. This is why even the best of organisations openly advertise the mechanisms to address it.

From what I have observed, generally, allegations that are made against Isha are primarily of the deficiency category. People allege criminality only to ensure that their voice is heard. It is only in some vile cases, people accuse the organisation of large-scale criminality.

So should we put up with the deficiency of service? No. At the same time, it is necessary to view it in perspective. Recently, Delta Airlines in the US experienced an unprecedented power outage at their headquarters. Since their backup supply could not power their systems very long, they shut down all their operations for over six hours. A national outrage followed on the social media. An employee of Delta Airlines put the whole situation in perspective in a short post, in just five lines:

  1. The last time a US domestic carrier had a fatality was in 2009.
  2. That’s 7 years or 84 months or 2,555 days ago.
  3. That means on each and every flight since then, they delivered you to your destination unharmed.
  4. At 1.73 million people per day, that is 4,420,150,000 people or 4 billion plus people.
  5. So US domestic carriers have carried 4 billion plus people from A to B since 2009 and did not kill anyone.

So pipe down!

Like an airline, Isha has a great technology. They have a good aircraft. But they not only enforce the “Seatbelts On” and “No Smoking” like the airlines, they also have a whole treatise of Dos and Don’ts to draw upon. Your freedom of speech and freedom of movement is curtailed by them for the duration of the flight. In addition, they may bump you off flights, (if you did not know, airlines are legally entitled to do so), double charge you (which they need to refund), lose your baggage (which they need to compensate), or spill coffee upon you with a poker face and not even apologise. They may also have a business class, whom they charge more and pamper more. But all in all, they fulfill their primary service perfectly well — they get every single one of the passengers from point A to point B.

You may find that a sojourn in a luxury spa may be far cheaper than an airline ticket. There may be more greenery and flexibility there. Food may be better too. Life may be more relaxed and to your liking. You may even bust into poetry and dance and no one will smother you to your seat. However, you are going nowhere. If getting from point A to point B was your priority in life, you really messed it up choosing a spa over an airline.

While I am on the airline analogy, let me take it a little further and explain why such organisations may seem tyrannical to you.

Aviation technology is not the ultimate technology in the world. Yet, it never fails to amaze me. Just look at it this way: an aircraft is made up of a million parts. These parts are not from another planet which has perfect material. They are from the same source as anything else around you. Nor are the people who operate the aircraft from a perfect planet. Now, we know from our experience that any of the parts or the people may fail anytime. Over sufficient time, every one of them will fail. There are no exceptions. Even something as simple as your kitchen knife loses its cutting edge after some time. Then there are Murphy’s laws to fulfill.

Yet, 99.9% of all flights that took off so far have landed safely. In fact, the airline industry has the best safety record among all the industries. They beat food, health, pharmaceuticals, armament and every other industry hands down, when it comes to safety. Now consider what they accomplish. None of the parts used in putting together the flight is flight-worthy by itself. To top it, this assembly of parts is commandeered by a bunch of humans, who are more prone to failure than these parts. (Ever heard of the term “human error”?) Yet, they take the aircraft on an extended airborne journey and land it in one piece.

What we are missing is that they are able to do this only because they do horrible things. By horrible things, I don’t mean the security checks, baggage checks and seat-belt rules that you crib about. I mean the amount of thought and rigour that is exercised in creating layers and layers of redundancies, the meticulousness of the operating procedures and the stringency of quality that is enforced upon the aircraft manufacturers and airline workers. It is only because they have already paid this price, beings like you and I, who are absolutely incapable of flight can mindlessly experience the miracle of flight by just trading in a handful of pieces of green paper.

What organisations like Isha attempt is something very similar. They use existing quality resources and embark on an ambitious project of delivering them to an unknown dimension. If they have to attain the high levels of successes that they deliver everyone who boards to the destination, they have to be tyrannical at times. Seat-belt signs and locked cabin doors during mid-flight are not an assault on your freedom of movement and expression. They are a minor necessity to deliver you safely to your destination.

My limited argument is that, when it comes to an unknown endeavour like disseminating the spiritual process to the masses, with high levels of integrity and safeguards, there may be more than what meets the eye. A little appreciation may be in order.

So is Isha worth the hype? It depends a lot on what your priorities are. If getting from one dimension of existence to another is a priority for you, then their quirkiness is a small price to pay. But if immediate comfort is your concern, then you may be better off visiting a spa.