Yoga and Meditation.

Human race, knowingly or unknowingly, is practicing ‘Yoga’ since time immemorial. The primitive man while hunting for his pray with his bow outstretched, arrow pointed at the heart of the pray, body and breath still and mind totally focused was ‘Yogasth’ (centred in Yoga). The ‘eureka’ moment of the great scientist Archimedes was a ‘Yoga’ moment. The ‘wow!’ moment we experience when we see an extraordinarily beautiful sunrise at a hill station is a ‘Yoga’ moment. A five year old, when he eats his favourite ice-cream, forgetting the whole world outside is experiencing ‘Yoga’ moment.

With time, the original meaning of the term ‘Yoga’ got distorted. The techniques practised to achieve the state of ‘Yoga’ itself came to be recognized as ‘Yoga’.

The word ‘Yoga’ has been derived from Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means “to join”, “to integrate” or “to unite”.

In simple terms ‘Yoga’ is the state of harmony or union of body, mind and the spirit.

On an individual level our existence has two distinct aspects. First is the gross aspect (visible) i.e. our physical body. The other is the subtle aspect (invisible) which includes our breath, thoughts (mind), intelligence, memories, ego and the Self. Most of the times there is no harmony between these different layers of our existence due to reasons like health conditions, surroundings, past memories, expectations, ego, emotions etc. Only when all the layers of our existence are in harmony, we can give our 100% in whatever we are doing, we can work to our fullest potential, we can enjoy our life to the fullest, and this is the purpose of ‘Yoga’.

Thousands of years ago in ancient India the enlightened Masters realized that ‘Yoga’ is the way to remove misery from human life and it is also path to realize the full potential of human life. They realized that by practising certain techniques and ways any ordinary person can achieve perfection in ‘Yoga’.

Maharshi Patanjali perfected the art and science of ‘Yoga’ as a discipline. Maharshi Patanjali knew that irrespective of race, religion and culture the human mind works on the same principles. He knew all the tendencies of human mind and knew the ways to overcome these tendencies.  He compiled the essence of his teachings in a systematic way in “Patanjali Yoga Sutras”.

With practice of ‘Yoga techniques’ the vacillations of mind in past and future reduce. Mind stays more in present moment. The tendency of mind to hold-on to negativity reduces. Misery reduces and joy increases in life. Our skills of perception, observation as well as expression increase. ‘Yoga’ gives us more clarity in thinking and better communication skills. Slowly the mind gets trained to remain centred even in adverse conditions.

During day-to-day activities we are partially aware of our physical body and usually not at all aware of the subtle layers of our existence. At a physical level we are doing something and at the same time we are doing different things at thought, intellect, memory and ego levels. Our total energy is dissipated in different directions without our awareness. With regular practice of ‘Yoga techniques’, our fragmented existence gets integrated, different layers of our existence come in harmony with each other and we can achieve single pointed focus of our energy in any activity we undertake. With the help of ‘Yoga’ we can achieve excellence in any activity.

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The verse “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam” means “Yoga is skill in action”. Practice of ‘Yoga’ bestows us with skill in action and conversely when we are doing any action with total perfection at that time we are centred in Yoga.

Modern man has to face so many challenges in his day-to-day life. He/she has to play many different and contradictory roles throughout the day. In office he/ she has to be a boss for subordinates, a good friend for colleagues; at home a loving husband/wife/son/daughter; in kitchen a good cook; for children a good father/mother/teacher and so on. All these roles and expectations create lot of stress and tensions in life. With a regular practice of ‘Yoga’ techniques one can skilfully play all these roles perfectly without getting stressed.

On physical level ‘Yoga’ bestows us with many benefits like increase in energy level and stamina, improved body posture and flexibility, increase in immunity level and hormonal balance, improved digestion and elimination etc.

With increased awareness through practice of ‘Yoga,’ one slowly realizes that at some level the whole universe is inter-dependent and inter-connected. It is the same energy or consciousness which manifests in millions of forms. With this realization, belongingness and love increases, hatred and violence reduces, the whole world becomes a better place to live.

Life starts flowing in a direction to ‘unite’ with its very Source!

Jai Gurudev !

Sanjay Sabnis

Movies to Watch.

If you’re looking for a slick Hollywood pot boiler, then skip this one. This is a film without a taut story. So, if you want a good story, you’re hunting in the wrong place. The Tree of Life. Does the plot move around a magical tree that materializes over night on the front lawn? Nope!

Even the word ‘movie’ is deceptive here. Yes, there are moving images, but more like a montage or a series of montages tracked onto some stunning music with occasional whispered monologues. It is these precious strands of thought, whispered to the great consciousness, that bring cohesion to the images. And the audience listening to those familiar silent prayers become that Universal Consciousness: listening, witnessing as Life unfolds its dramas.

Life. The very word implies death. Life carries with it the shadow of death. Each character must deal with the reality of death: the death of one’s friends, family members, one’s own death, the death of childhood; each phase of life implies death on some level for the new to flourish…the endless cycle of birth and death, the wrath of Nature and the unexpected renewal and blossoming of life.

The film begins with death…and of living in the shadow and memory of one who has died. “Where were you, to let a boy die? Let anything happen?” is the mother’s anguished cry to God. “Will you die too?” asks the distraught son of his mother. Life rolls on two wheels, made clear as the film opens, “the Way of Grace and the Way of Nature”. The mother, played by Jessica Chastain, ever kind, loving and forgiving, symbolises the Way of Grace. She holds the family together. She is perfectly cast – a delicate beauty much like a wisp of passing life.

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The camera closes up on Brad Pitt, the father, as the mother’s voice over reveals, “Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it too…likes to Lord it over them.” A good introduction to what is to follow…the typical, earning male stereotype, Lord of the Manor, who takes it upon himself to tirelessly ‘educate’ his young sons. Of course he is well meaning, but it comes at a painful price (for his family!).

Are you patient? Has life delivered its lessons of Patience to you? Can you make sense of your life? Have you even tried? Perhaps this is what director Terrence Malick is asking us, the audience. He has done his best to capture the incomprehensible unfolding of life with individual beliefs, confusions, doubts and questions posed by the actors given roles to play in this grand scheme called ‘Life’. Are we not actors struggling to make sense of our lives and although we are so minuscule compared to the vastness of the Universe are not our concerns real and felt and lived?

If these are your concerns: Who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing here? What is all this about? Then this is the movie for you! It unfolds slowly, like huge waves forming and dissolving in slow motion, the movements of Nature merging with the movements of Man.

There are many pauses, slow dissolves, the screen goes black momentarily, reminders of life and death, of the mind going blank, stories beginning, ending and merging one into the other. An effortless meeting of generations living and gone on the sands of Time. The film captures dramatically the meeting of the river with the ocean, and the meeting of the child with the grown up self, the grown up with its childhood parent, as past, present and future freely mingle as one. The movie ends with a grand embracing of the self, forgiveness, love and joy, a quiet celebration on the shores of a grand ocean of life.

It did strike me that had the family learned the Sudarshan Kriya and practised it along with meditation on a daily basis, there would not be an eternal lifetime of mourning. There would be no space or reason to remain unhappy “when all the world is shining around and love is smiling through all things.” Gurudev (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) would certainly have ensured they imbibe the wisdom that “Life goes on, people pass along. Nothing remains the same.” That is the path of viveka, of discrimination we all live by at The Art of Living.

Given the spectacular and recurring images of water in its varied forms (whether in the form of a gardener’s hose enticingly spraying water on the mother’s feet, an inviting swimming pool, a river flowing wide, the lashing waves of an ocean) I wonder whether Ocean of Life would have been a more apt title. This is definitely a must see film for those of you who enjoy experimental movies, classical music, nature that takes away your breath…and mostly for those of you who, long after the show’s over, like to ponder over that mystery we call life, your life!

Jai Gurudev !!

Radhika De

About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects.

Nepal is a country rich in heritage and tradition. It is endowed with mountains as high as the Everest and plains of the tarai. The Nepalese (Gorkhas to many) owe their origin to various surrounding geographies, be it Tibet or north India. The Shah dynasty which ruled Nepal for most part of its existence could perhaps be from the plains of India. The founder of Nepal Prithvi Narayan Shah drew his spiritual strength from Baba Gorakhnath, from where comes the word Gorkha the founding place of the Shah Dynasty, from where they emerged and unified Nepal as one entity. Since time immoral the brave warriors from Nepal came to be known as the Gorkhas. In India, Baba Goraknath’s name is synonymous with Gorakhpur, the history of Nepal and India being intertwined. Siddhartha was born in Lumbini, in present day Nepal and became Buddha in Gaya in present day Bihar, India. Sita from Janakpur in present day Nepal was married to Lord Rama and spent the rest of her life in present day India. The Pandavas were working in the kitchen of Raja Birat during their Agyatwas in present day Biratnagar in Nepal. In fact if local folklore is to be believed they hid their weapons in the Vijaypur Hill in present day Dharan town in Nepal.

The Gorkhas who were recruited into the British Indian Army have a very rich tradition of Velour from time immemorial. So much so that one of the bravest sons of Free India Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw once commented “If a soldier says he is not scared, then either he is lying or is a Gorkha”. To this day the Chief of the Nepalese Army is the Honorary Chief of the Indian Army and Vice-Versa and they exchange words when they meet. In fact the present day Indian Army Chief is from the Gorkha Regiment.  A Gorkha Officer in the Indian Army spontaneously greets with the salutation Jai Gorakh. In fact recently when a Colonel of the Gorkha regiment made the supreme sacrifice in Kashmir, his young 11 year daughter saluted her dads mortal remains with the Gorkha War Cry” Katar Hunu Bandha Marno Ramro”(its better to die than being a coward) electrifying the already emotionally charged Gorkha troops of his regiment.

A country so rich in tradition with its various tribes and castes and sub-castes, people here have very high kinship within their own tribe or caste group and as a downside of which racial strain with other groups. With the coming of democracy, these differences long swept underneath have started coming to the surface resulting in mushrooming of political parties and interest groups of all shades and colour, many a times pulling in different directions. The Gorakhwani of Baba Goraknath “ Hath na Kariba, Padha na Rahiba, Dhera Dhariba Paon”(Neither be too aggressive, nor to passive, move gently) seems to be fading.

In this present day environment Nepal needs a new wave of spiritual awakening, a call for which was given by the world renowned spiritual master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation,  when he visited the city of Dharan on 1st March(Fagun 18th Gata) 2013. He said “from now on every 1st of March (Fagun 18th Gata) should be celebrated as Nepali Topi Diwas” so that Nepalese who are fast losing their traditions and pulling in different directions,  to come together under the banner of the Nepali Topi and start moving with a common agenda and direction with pride in their culture and tradition. A people need to be proud about their past to be confident about their future. Societies that have forgotten their roots have had various ills affecting them like drugs, AIDS, depression and divorce.

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Since the clarion call given by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, the Art of Living Nepal along with various other organization like the, Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Red Cross, Udyog Vanijya Sangh, Janjati Mahasangh, Marwari Samaj and many other like minded organizations have been celebrating Fagun 18th Gata as Nepali Topi Diwas each year.  On this day thousands of people from across various towns and cities, wearing their traditional dresses and the Nepali Topi march through the streets singing songs in praise of the Nepali Topi and their country. More and more organizations and people are joining each year, including parliamentarians, senior police officials, college lecturers and businessmen with the custom also spreading to the villages.

Today many calenders across Nepal have entered March 1st (Fagun 18th Gata) as Nepali Topi Diwas. The aim is to instil pride in your own culture along with accepting the good things from other parts of the world, with the overall vision of  what             Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji  says, “Deepen your Roots and broaden your Horizon”. While addressing the United Nations, Guruji   said, “Those who take responsibility do not pray and those who pray do not take responsibility. I pray as well as take responsibility” . This statement becomes important and relevant to emulate since for years Nepal went through exactly the same dichotomy.

Also, what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji said while addressing the World Culture Festival in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where people from across the world were presenting their cultural diversity celebrating 30 years of Art of Living ” One Divinity, One Humanity, Celebrating the Diversity is our Sacred Duty” cannot be more true today in the context of the logjam being witnessed.

Jai Gurudev

Samir Jolly

An International Faculty of the Art of Living, Samir Jolly is the son of a Gorkha officer Late Brig S.C. Jolly, VSM.