Art of Living Courses, Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

It was indeed a thrilling moment for me when it was announced that Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would be teaching Special Part2 course pan India and we, His instruments are blessed to facilitate HIS course. I was asked whether I was willing to travel out of state and I jumped at the opportunity. A few choices came my way and I chose Jaipur. There was no rhyme or reason for my choice because I did not know any one there nor I had any clue where in Jaipur I would be facilitating.

Research began. I saw photos of Jaipur ashram on the website and enquired whether course would happen in the ashram. Answer was in affirmative.

I had visited Jaipur 35 years ago as a north India tourist with family but frankly had forgotten the experience. I believe ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’ so, subconsciously I must have chosen the place, pink city, for its sheer beauty!

Clean and wide roads sans maddening traffic took us to the Sri Sri Ashram on Nov 8 .

Food came from the kitchen to my room in serving bowls, Serving spoons and plates with the sevak telling me rather curtly, ‘Do not waste food. Take as much as you eat”. Amused I said “yes Bhaiya, I will serve myself as much as I need and send back the rest untouched. You can use it”. I was happy about the instruction I got from the Sevak. It showed concern about wastage and honour for Annabrahma.

Thick and warm Jaipuri blanket of grace comforted me to the core and I rested with a smile on my face.

The next morning I was requested to lead long kriya follow up and it was filled with humorous warm up followed by calming long Kriya. A group Sankalpa was taken to bring maximum people to the course with Gurudev. There was still a good 24 hours before the course began and we all agreed with firm sankalpa, even mountains could be moved.

The day passed checking connections, deciding on the menu and other details ensuring there would be no obstruction in the flow of the course.

Satsang in the evening was again to bring people together in celebration and service. The young singers sang bhajans in a mesmerizing way that we all felt the energy of Silence Course had already set in. Demonetization that coincided with the course date did have an impact on the numbers yet the organizers succeeded in registering 63 people, many first timers.

It would be a futile attempt to describe the course as no words can justify the beauty of the Master’s presence or His knowledge. Long meditations,  joyful, soulful satsangs,  question and answers, He urging the devotees to follow Him  on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, share creative ideas and  invitation to writers to come together saw a flurry of activity in the hall with brimming  faces!

For the nth time I wondered how one being can have such a huge positive impact on thousands of people at a time! But then, He always says His secret is, He does not do anything that is not in His nature.

Simple, honest, down to earth… The factors that pull people to Him like a magnet. Needless to mention, course was wonderful, beautiful, amazing, boundless grace …goes without saying.

Lets us look at behind the scenes action.

 

Gurudev always supports scientific research about the processes we do in our courses. Benefits are tangible but validation is necessary.

Doctors from Rajasthan University of Health Sciences associated Medical College and Hospital, Jaipur, took initiative to conduct a study before and after the course. Dr Mohit shared the Abstacts with me.  Please have a look.

 

 

RUHS-CMS (Rajasthan University of health sciences associated medical college & hospital, Jaipur)

(Doctors in the Pic: Dr. Sudhanshu Kacker (HOD Physiology RUHS-CMS), Dr. Mohit Sharma (Asst Professor Dept of Cardiovascular & Thorasic Surgery SMS Medical College), Dr Mahima Sharma (Senior Demonstrator Dept of Physiology RUHS-CMS), Dr Neha Saboo (Asst Professor Dept of Physiology RUHS-CMS)

The kitchen has one main cook and an assistant. Prior to the course, I kept urging that we need lot more hands in the kitchen during the course.  As per the menu directed by me, main breakfast item on the first day of course was semolina upma with lot of vegetables.  After Long Kriya , I walked up to the kitchen and witnessed our Cook pouring packet after packet of semolina into a big pot of boiling water. Is this the way upma made here? I wondered. When we all sat down to eat, there was upma that looked more like thin porridge! No one complained. I offered to teach him how to make proper upma and told him to stick to his poha upma and Dalia (Broken wheat upma) which he was adept at making.

We south Indians take our dishes for granted believing that everyone knows how to make such a simple but wholesome items. But in the north it is as alien to them as making a perfect kachori or samosa for us.

Remembered Gurudev’s observation about how varied our cuisine is in India. It varies not only from state to state but within the state too. He has mentioned varieties of food as one of the seven wonders of India.

By lunch time kitchen was buzzing with several AOL teachers and volunteers pottering around with pots and pans!  I breathed easy! Things were under control.

Our participants, enthusiastic seva warriors, joined hands to roll out rotis and cut vegetables beyond their allocated seva time in the morning.  It looked like seva was their breath! I had to pass by kitchen every time I was going to the course venue and signal to them to move to the session.

Whether it is cleaning ashram campus, Course Hall, or cleaning the rooms, the participants gave their 100%. The result was shining faces, supple body and deeper meditations.

Another challenge appeared by evening. Course time was announced 7am to 7pm. Now, Gurudev’s satsang ended after 8pm. Nonresident participants, who were not ready, began to panic. It would be well over 9pm by the time they could set off homewards to their waiting family.

Love, care and dedication of kitchen sevaks ensured dinner was available to nonresident participants before satsang. We saw smiling faces again.

That is the beauty of this path! We are ready to smile through changed plans, uncertainty and discomfort for long term joy.

It was a cake walk there on. Seamless flow of the course was only possible because of excellent technical support from the Bangalore ashram team. . Our volunteers had zero problems accessing the network.

I had to do something which is not normally done while teaching a course.  I was on WhatsApp most of the time! Because that’s where we got updates from NTC regarding Gurudev’s arrival to the course and other information. One local  Swamiji who was attending the course remarked to STC, Abhishek ji, after silence was broken, that the teacher was always on the phone while the course was going on! Abhishek ji had to explain to him why.

Now that things were under control from the 2nd day of the course, it was time to spend some precious moments with volunteers by bonding over the dining table. It never fails to amaze me how we connect in an instant. There are no strangers in this global family. One thread binds all the pearls together.

Well, I am sure readers already know what conversations took place during breaks. GURU STORIES!

Hours of toiling in the kitchen hardly tired them. Each one with a glowing face shared their story.

A story that left me speechless yet again is about Chappan Bhog when Gurudev visited Jaipur ashram.

250+ dishes were lovingly made by devotees for their Master. There were 2 glasses of lassi (thick buttermilk), one sweet and another salty standing on the table side by side. No one knew which one was sweet and which was salty. Gurudev asked for the salty one. “But, Gurudev, we do not know which glass holds salty lassi” said devotees in unison. “Give me the right glass. That has salt lassi” said gurudev calmly and it sure was the salty one! Has anyone fathomed the depth of the Master? We can only wonder!

Tears of joy and gratitude flowed at the end of the course. I am especially touched and admire young couples, to be married who choose to attend the course to celebrate togetherness. May this tribe increase!

I read in a knowledge post of Gurudev, that one of the vows couples who get married according to Hindu tradition take during Sapta padi is, that they will serve together for the up-liftment of the society.  Gurudev’s idea of starting Sri Sri Matrimony is to facilitate such ideal marriages. What a blessing!

By the way, I am married according to Hindu tradition 40 years ago, but I never knew such a clause existed in sapta padi.  Today I am blissed out to realize that because of Gurudev, we are able to fulfill this divine vow by doing our bit for the humanity.  Ever grateful to my husband who walks the path with me lending great support. His selfless attitude has enabled me to walk smoothly in my quest to find myself.

Are you ready for another great Guru story? I know you have said ‘yes’!

As I was taking a walk around Ashram campus feeling so very content, two yuvacharyas joined me and said Jai Gurudev  Didi.

They recounted a Guru story that again made my hairs stand stiff on my hands!

A huge YLTP course had taken place in August at Jaipur ashram this year. It was monsoon time and the course was outdoors without any roof. One evening there was thunder and lightening.  The participants saw a shaft of light slowly descending and feared it would fall on them.  Instead, it changed its course and cut through a cement umbrella made on top of Gurudev’s room!  Later on, a participant shared that he had seen lightening descending on them while doing Hari Om meditation. Because he was in meditation, he could not share what he saw with others at that time.  A Master would go to any length to protect His devotees.

The next morning we went up to the terrace to take a snapshot of broken umbrella that is symbolic of His promise to protect us, come what may.

After a fulfilling day of sadhana, seva and satsang, it is always sheer bliss to slip into the blanket of grace, placing our head at the feet of the divine in the form of pillow and sleep like a baby.

After the course, I had another day to explore the beautiful pink city,  Jaipur, all the splendor it offers.

 

 

I hope to write my travelogue on Rajasthan in the coming episodes.

Leela Ramesh

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Uncategorized.

In the last week of April 2009 I happened to be part of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s entourage, when the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the now late J. Jayalalithaa had invited him to Chennai.

 

The Meeting 

 

On that typical summer evening she had just arrived from a whirlwind tour of several districts of Tamil Nadu. As our car entered her Poes Garden residence, she came to the main door of the house to welcome us. Her trademark smile with folded hands made the reception complete.

It then struck me that I was in front of the same superstar Jayalalithaa, whose movies I grew up watching in the 70`s.

She ushered us into the meeting room.

I distinctly remember the exact words with which she began the conversation “Guruji, I am very happy and fortunate to receive you. Your humanitarian work for the people of Sri Lanka is highly commendable. I appreciate your efforts at bringing peace there”.

This was the same time when the 30 year old war in Sri Lanka was coming to an end. For almost a decade, Gurudev had pursued a continuous humanitarian relief and conflict resolution initiative to bring lasting peace in that beautiful island nation.

Jayalalithaa listened to him very keenly for most part of the conversation which revolved around contemporary issues. Listening skills was perhaps one virtue that made her a powerful leader. I reckon she could thus feel the pulse of the people she served so passionately.

 

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As the meeting finished, we left the room heading towards the main door of her house where she came to see us off.

She then asked Sri Sri “Please bless the people of Tamil Nadu”. Suddenly it occurred to me that she did not ask anything for herself, which one normally asks of a spiritual Master.

He gestured a blessing with a smile. And she acknowledged saying “Mikka Nundri” (In Tamil language “Many Thanks”).

 

 

We reached the porch of the house to get into the car, when I realized that I had left my diary and pen behind in that meeting room.

So I rushed back to the main door where she was still waiting to see us off. She asked me “What happened?” I replied “I left my diary in the room”. To which she said “Oh….ok…take it”.

When I returned to the main door with my diary in hand she told me with a smile “When you leave something behind, you definitely come back….Poitu vaango!(In Tamil language “Please do come back again”). 

In some parts of India, it is a unique cultural understanding that when a first-time guest leaves behind a personal belonging forgetfully, it is a sign that the person will visit again. 

With her death, she leaves behind a rare courage, skill and brilliance that redefined the strength of a woman – that was Jayalalithaa.

Today, it is my turn to wish the same in my prayers for her “When you leave something behind,you definitely come back….Poitu vaango ! “

 

Vidyut Udiaver

 

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Projects, Art of Living Stories, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Breathes there the man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said

This is my own, my native land!

-Sir Walter Scott

In the era of ‘Brain Drain’ where youngsters flock to foreign land in search of greener pastures, it is refreshing to spot youngsters like Varun Prabhakar who realize in time that the grass is greener in our own native land after all!  As a true patriot; Varun has taken responsibility to work towards a more prosperous, healthy, happy and peaceful India. He is back to roots.

I would like to introduce Varun Prabhakar and his journey towards natural farming. I hope his transition inspires many more youngsters to find their foothold in their own native land, identify their area of passion that could become their profession and serve humanity.

 Tete a tete …Read on

Varun, I know that you grew up in Dubai. Can you tell us in brief about your hard core beliefs while growing up there?

Yes! I was in Dubai between the ages of 6 and 17. Dubai certainly helped shape parts of who I am today. The high standard of living and success that I grew up around helped me envision the life that I want to be able to provide for my family. The way the city had transformed during the years I lived there showed me first hand that the impossible can be made possible. My parents provided me with a strong spiritual background from a very young age and it is truly one of the things I am most grateful for. It has instilled strong values in me as well as given me a more grounded perspective on life. I think that as a whole, growing up in Dubai gave me the motivation to do something big yet meaningful with my life.


Later on, you moved to the United States of America for higher studies.  Can you please share your experience of living in the U.S. and the learning?

I moved to the US to study mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison which is a very good engineering school and ironically, has one of the top 5 agriculture programs in the US. At that phase in my life, I had absolutely no interest in agriculture and was focused on working in the automotive industry. I gradated in 2010, at the peak of recession. Jobs for non US citizens were tougher to get. Fortunately, I succeeded in getting an entry level engineering job at a tech start-up in New Jersey and over the 5 years that I worked there, I was involved in almost every aspect of the business from engineering, recruitment, sales and client relationship management to operations, project management and product development. At the end of my career there, in 2014, I was in charge of all day to day operations for the North American office. It was one of the most amazing and challenging experiences of my life. More than anything else, it gave me the experience of building a company from the ground up and I loved it! I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug!

 

One of the things that I feel I should mention is that, spending 10 years in Dubai, a very cosmopolitan city and then 10 years in the US through my youth gave me the opportunity to learn from and interact with people from countless ethnic backgrounds, political leanings, religious beliefs and socioeconomic groups. Along with spirituality, it taught me that there is always some way you can build a connection with someone.

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 How did you make the decision to move back to India?

Throughout my life I have always trusted my gut and in early 2015, out of the blue, I had a feeling that I needed to be in India. I can’t really explain it considering I’ve never really lived in India (born in Bangalore but left when I was 4) but it made a lot of sense to me at the time. My mother says it is India calling her children back!

Here are some of the thoughts that helped me to make the decision to return to my motherland, India:

 

Why should I be working for the US economy, which is not my own, when I can be working to make my country better?

I am very optimistic that in the next 10-15 years, India will progress by leaps and bounds and being Indian, why am I not a part of it? The entrepreneurial spirit is taking India by storm and is supported by major players in the private and public sector. It’s a great place to start a company!

I have the love and support of my family in India, which helps considerably when starting a company.

The pros seemingly outweighed the cons, so I planned to move here and launch a tech start up in the cyber security space.

During this phase in my life I had become more aware of healthy eating and the adverse effects of chemical farming but I still had no interest in agriculture professionally. 


Now that you are back in India, can you recollect that decisive moment and process that led you to take up organic farming in your native land?

I took a few months off after I moved back and got involved in my family’s farm. My father had avidly studied agriculture in his youth and as a ‘passion project’ set up an experimental farm. He had spent the last 5 years collecting open pollinated seeds from all over the world and testing them to grow in Bangalore’s climate. At this point in time, he had identified 150 hyper exotic varieties including blue corn, purple capsicums, red bindhi and purple beans to name a few. We started selling our exotic seeds and curating educational farm experiences. I was struck by a fascination for agriculture! There is truly nothing like planting your own seed and eating the fruit from that plant. It gave me a connection to nature and the earth unlike anything I had experienced before.

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As I started to explore India’s agricultural industry, the more concerned I became for the farmers and end consumers. With most of our produce, which is chemically farmed, consumers get highly contaminated food and it is barely worth the financial risk for a farmer to produce it, not forgetting the negative environmental impact the chemicals have on our water supply and soil. There is just so much that is fundamentally wrong with the way we are growing and selling our fresh produce today. I also noticed that the Indian farmer is losing out on most of the amazing agtech innovation happening in the US, Israel and Europe since the solutions have no place in the Indian paradigm.

My past experiences had made me realise that stress is going to be a part of life no matter what you do, so you might as well be doing something meaningful with it. 

 So I gave up on my cyber security start-up idea and dove into agriculture, feeling I could really make difference in so many peoples lives with something as important as food!

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How do think we can address the problems facing Indian agriculture today?

For a rural farmer, it all comes down to economics. If we can prove that switching to chemical free farming will give you the same or higher revenues then it’s a no brainer! We need to be able to provide viable business models that eliminate the dependency on chemical inputs, reduce overall input costs, reduce dependency on the big seed companies and connect producers more directly with consumers. We also need home grown tech solutions that address the unique needs of the Indian farmer.

On the consumer side, we need transparency. I believe that consumers will make the right choices with their food if they are exposed to how it is grown. Apart from being a way to connect with nature and gain an appreciation for what we eat, it is an absolutely fascinating industry that we are all losing touch with.

Today, there are some amazing things happening at all levels of the public and private sector to support our agricultural industry. From restructured government funded crop insurance schemes and mobile solutions to connect farmers with daily market pricing to startups focused on natural pest management or predictive agri-weather forecasts. The way I see it is that the problems in agriculture are too big and complex for one entity to solve, we need as much innovation as possible from every source we can get our hands on. It is an exciting time to be in India and be a part of an initiative this meaningful and important to our future.

 

How has Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision for organic farming in India inspired you?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision is exactly the way that I feel that we should farm. I love it because it puts the farmers back in control by removing dependency on third parties. Gurudev wants the farmers to only have to go to the market to sell their produce and not buy anything required to farm.

He stresses the importance of the desi cow and how by using desi cow dung and cow urine a farmer can eliminate the need for chemical inputs from large multinationals. The science behind this goes back to our vedas and was the way we used to farm 100’s and even 1000’s of years ago. We need to get back to that methodology… we don’t have a choice for the sake our our health as well as the health of our lands.

Gurudev also wants to promote non hybrid and non GMO seeds. The fundamental problem with growing hybrid or GMO varieties is that the farmer needs to buy new seeds from large seed companies every season since the seeds that are created from a hybrid parent plant will not guarantee the same child plant. If you really think about it… it’s a pretty messed up concept

Lastly, Gurudev wants to make farming profitable again. This is easier said than done and involves all levels of the agricultural supply chain.

karnataka-organic-farmers-convention-jan-2015

 

 

My foray into agriculture is my way to support Gurudev’s vision. I only use inputs from Desi cows and am using non hybrid/non GMO seeds hoping to prove out a scalable business model for other farmers to produce these hyper exotic vegetables. I am currently selling my exotic lettuces for up to Rs. 500/kg, my exotic tomatoes for Rs. 300/kg and my exotic capsicums for Rs. 400/kg wholesale. The consumers are willing to pay these high prices because of the uniqueness of the vegetables and the knowledge that they are 100% chemical free. These prices are unheard of for a farmer in India. I am beginning to see glimpses of a road to success. It is going to take at least a full year of production before I can expand to other farmers because I want to be confident that it will work when an average farmer adopts it.

Natural, honest and open minded conversation with Varun has left me with a feeling of contentment. As though I just got soaked in rain after suffering drought!  Was it a divine plan his parents named him Varun, the God of water?!!! Let’s wish him all success in his endeavour

 

Leela Ramesh