Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

The sacred river Ganges flows through the doorsteps of Rishikesh, one of the ancient holy places in India. And when she sees man violating nature, she gives a polite but firm reminder, raising her flow with fury. I happened to be there in 2008 to prepare for a Yoga Teachers’ Training Program. I reached very late that August night to the gushing sounds of Ganges and the light rain was picking up. There was no one on the streets. And streets had no names. I had lost my way and found myself standing in front of an ashram when a young man came to shut the gate for the night.

I suddenly recognized this man to be the disciple of the now late Pragyanand ji Maharaj Swamiji (a revered holy man) who was a great friend of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji and used to often visit the Art of Living ashram headquarters in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). “Narayanji” I called out. I told him that I was from the Bengaluru ashram. He instantly ushered me in and said “Stay with us tonight. Maharaj is here”. I was given a simple comfortable room and told that I can meet Maharaj the following morning. He was also gracious in serving me some hot rotis (Indian bread) with rajma beans curry and a sweet to close the night and celebrate my newly discovered lodging.

The following morning I woke up early and eagerly to meet with the Swamiji who was known for his popular discourses on the Upanishads (Scriptures). He was known for his metaphor-filled stories to bring to life the finer aspects of the scriptures. I went up to his room to pay my respects when he had just about started a discourse on the Mandukya Upanishad scripture. There were about ten of us in that room. And a man seated in the front stood up and asked “Why do we behave, the way we behave?” After a pause he continued “…Why do people commit mistakes or crimes?”

The elderly Swamiji had a very child-like aura and smile. He was like a compassionate and loving grandfather. He gracefully signalled the man to sit down and closed his eyes. I waited with abated breath for the answer. He said “Souls who have passed away are hovering all over space. And some souls have unfulfilled wishes and desires. Good or wicked. So they sometimes choose a living person through whom they can fulfil those desires.” He continued after a silent pause “They simply get into the living person, get that person to perform the desired action and quickly exit after their job is done!” Some people in the room broke into a smile. Many were amazed.

And I was left with the lingering thought that ‘Soul play‘ is perhaps true. They don’t need to buy tickets to enter whether it’s a morning, matinee, evening or night show! They simply enter you, make you a hero/heroine or the villain and flee!

One doubting Thomas seated there asked Swami ji curiously “How can this be true?”. Swami ji replied “Go and ask any criminal in the prison, how and why he did the crime. Most of them will tell you that they did not intend to do it at all, that it just happened or they may insist that they simply didn’t do it”.

Doubting Thomas pressed for further explanation. And Swami ji retorted with a smile “When your prana (subtle energy) is very low. Awareness is also low. These souls find it very easy to sneak into your consciousness. This is your moment of weakness”. He added “That is why it is said that when you do chanting, prayers, yoga, breathing techniques and meditation every single day, a subtle shield of protection envelops you. Your prana and Sattva (harmony) is high. This makes it very difficult for the souls to enter and create havoc”.


Swamiji then looked at me and said “Last night my disciple Narayan must have been sent by some good soul to receive you at the gate so late in the night, when you just needed help. It is not a coincidence. Even good souls do seek entry into living persons to perform good deeds”.

Swamiji closed his eyes and said a beautiful Sanskrit prayer while tears rolled down his soft sparkling face. After a few minutes he opened his eyes and said “The play and display of souls is very mysterious. But when you are with a Guru like Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji you are protected, you pass the final exam easily”.

sri sri

So the next time you wonder why someone is behaving in a particular way, whether good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Understand that he or she is simply broadcasting ‘Soul play’ to an audience called ‘You’! And feel reassured that you know the remedies now.

I must mention here that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has given such simple and practical wisdom on the ‘body-mind-soul’ aspect through his various books and discourses specifically in Kena Upanishad, Ishavasya Upanishad, Ashtavakra Geeta, Yogasara Upanishad, Patanjali Yoga Sutras and Mind Matters.

With knowledge and understanding ‘Soul play’ becomes a game of joy.

Jai Gurudeva !

Vidyut Udiaver

Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

December 26th, 2009. It was a cold and a beautiful morning as the train whistled into the Bangalore City Railway Station. I was all set to stay for 10 days in the Art of Living International Ashram popularly known as Ravi Shankar Ashrama by the cab drivers and bus conductors. I was attending the YES!+ Winter Break program. The real reason was that I wanted to see and meet  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Cut to August 2009. I came to know about an introductory talk on YES!+ happening in my college BITS Pilani through a friend and decided to attend it. I loved the conviction of the organisers at the talk and enrolled for the course straight away. A week later, I was sitting at the YES!+ workshop happening in my campus facilitated by Shilpa Rau and Venkatesh (Venki). The course started with simple little things like Ujjayi breathing and art of questions and moved to powerful techniques like Sudarshan Kriya. I could see a sea change around in people after the 1st Sudarshan Kriya. Settled eyes, calm speech and a certain home coming in everybody around me. The Sudarshan Kriya surely did a great calming effect on my mind too.

All through the workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed, the only question to me was: “Who is this person who designed Sudarshan Kriya which works magically on everybody irrespective of their personality and nature?” And obviously I could decipher that such a person should definitely be a super cool person and an iconic personality who intends to do good to people around him. As I was rejoicing my fan boy moments, I made up my mind to meet him. I walked up to my teacher and asked him – “Where can I meet this guy?” pointing to the photo right behind them. My teacher gently smiled and replied – “For this you need to travel to Bangalore and do another course. A course with more fun!” As we were nearing the Ashram, I was mentally making a list of what to ask him, a picture with him (selfies weren’t a rage then) and to actually do something under his aegis.

Probably that was what a 19 year old could think then! As soon as I walked into the ashram which was a world in itself, the first shock met me at the reception. The volunteer checking us in patiently answered my questions and told – “Gurudev (that’s how we all refer to him) is out of country. He is in Germany currently for the New Year and would be here on the 3rd of Jan. You can meet him post your silence course.” “Oh! One more week of waiting!” I mentally consoled myself and started my Winter Break.

Winter Break is a perfect wholesome package specially designed for youth from 18 to 30 years of age which includes a challenge, youth forum and a silence program (the advanced course) by renowned Art of Living faculty Bawa and Dinesh. This plus lot of music, dance and unlimited fun. True to its name, Winter Break was perfect break. The meditations were deep and relaxing. The knowledge on the course was strikingly relevant. I felt like a car going in for a service where it is scrubbed and cleaned with 17 kinds of shampoos and oil. In middle of the course, we moved to the New Year 2010. It was possibly a beautiful experience where everyone was in silence and yet the celebration and joy was so palpable. The course concluded the following morning. It was surely a new beginning for me as I felt much lighter, much stronger and much peaceful from within. The course was followed by a youth forum and a series of talks by some renowned personalities on entrepreneurship, contemporary art and judiciary.

Of course, there was a magnificent evening with a music concert by Vikram Hazra. That night I was told by one of my dorm mates that Gurudev will arrive next morning from Europe wrapping up his foreign schedule. All through this week, there were countless experiences and stories about Gurudev from how he setup this organisation from scratch in this very own campus, how he went around the world teaching this knowledge to people, how he created various wings of this organisation, brought people to work with him and later evolved Art of Living as a committed force for transformation and social change. Then there were these chilling experiences of how he travelled to Iraq when nobody could dare to amidst the warring factions and shared peace and how he went into the no man’s land in Srilanka to put an end to a 40 year long ethnic crisis.

Hearing all this, the eagerness to meet him only mounted. The following morning at around 11am we gathered in the Visalakshi Mantap, a 5 storey gem of a meditation hall named after Gurudev’s late mother. There were close to 2000 (people) packed in the ground floor of the hall. An asana with aqua blue cushions arrived out of nowhere. I could slowly feel the silence setting in amidst the noise. May be the nature was preparing for the meeting. The clock was nearing the 12 noon mark. I instinctively turned back. A figure around 5 and half feet tall totally clad in white slowly started coming in. I still remember how he walked in. He neither walked nor did he run. It was as though he floated. Like how a deer walks in the forest effortlessly. He patiently met people on both sides of the walkway accepting all that they brought for him. There was an unmistakable depth in his smile and genuine warmth for everyone. He slowly walked onto the stage and took the asana. He greeted everybody walking around the stage receiving thunderous applause and cheer. Did I mention the countless – “Love you Gurujis”? Much like what he was projected, he wasn’t. There wasn’t a single inch of hype around him. Not a single feeling of build-up or artificiality. Here was a man who spread the recipe of yoga, meditation and ancient Indian knowledge around the world in 150+ countries sitting in the front clad in a simple kurta and veshti and a million dollar smile.


It started then! The feeling of immense love and respect! He was looking all around the hall and he looked at me too. I still remember how he looked at me.  I still remember that look. My mind simply read a note: “Were you that magic beyond the realms of the dreams which I waited all this while to meet.” Then it gently struck me. “Who is this person? What is his role in my life?” And then, Gurudev first led us into a meditation which was about 25 minutes long. Then he took a few questions from the audience.

Somebody from the back asked him – “Gurudev, what is my relationship with you?” To which Gurudev smiled and replied – “What is the relationship with yourself. Did you ever wonder about it.” Ahaan! That was an answer I was looking for. Did he just read my mind? Do I need to give this relationship a name?  Do I need to call him something? It was something more than what I could describe and much more than what I could feel about it. It was an experience and only it had to be experienced.” By then I was almost feeling like a champagne ready to burst out and had already the craziness of 19 year old rooted right in me.

And also I was a fan boy! Out of the box, I sprung up like a bed spring and shouted – “Guruji, do you believe in love at first sight ?” He looked at me almost instantly. I continued – “I believe in it. I saw you here for the first time and I am in love with you.” To which he smirked and replied – “Oh! You Love me? Very Good! Then Keep up that Love”. After this brief encounter and a full heart of gratitude, happiness and joy I started back to Hyderabad.

Jai Gurudev

Surya Tej Borra

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

” Grace has the ability to change anything at anytime”.
” Have faith that the Divine loves me so much that only the best will happen to me”.


Such powerful words from Sri Sri Ravishankar Guruji, my Master, rang true in an unexpected, out of the blue turn of events. I was going through some emotional turmoil and needed the attention of my Master.

My heart prayed ” Anyata sharanam nasti” ( I have no one but You).

In a disturbed state of mind, after a week of my return from the U.S., in August this year, I signed up for a week long Silence Course with Swami Brahmatej ji along with Bhagavad Gita discourse by Sri Sri Ravishankar, my Master. It was a spur of the moment decision. I can only attribute it to the divine plan.

The experience of listening to Gita by Gurudev in silence is something that cannot be expressed in words. A mesmerising transformation took place and my fluttering mind rested in tranquility!

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says in Ashtavakra Gita that, the entire existence is a futile attempt to express the inexpressible. Yet I am attempting to express my experience knowing fully well it is a futile exercise. There is an urgent urge to share, a calling, a divine plan perhaps. I am letting my fingers to flow on the keyboard. I am not the writer!

Life is a jungle, full of wild animals, both within and without. The importance of Sadhana, Knowledge and Service without expecting anything in return to be at peace with myself came into sharp focus during the course. This awareness can only happen with the loving and compassionate guidance from our Master.

With Swami Brahmatej ji’s guidance, I became Arjuna as I proceeded towards the New Meditation Hall for the discourse. Mind was caught up in the multitude of worldly affairs waiting for the solace that only my Master could give. I prayed ” Please, do not ever let me go. Help me do my duty keeping You with me”.

The silence and chanting in the hall while we awaited Gurudev ‘s arrival was electrifying. As He entered the hall, I felt His gaze on me and I folded my hands in reverence. I remembered a verse from Gita I had read years ago. ‘ Consider yourself blessed if the gaze of the Lord rests on you even for a split of a second’. I held on to the gaze and closed my eyes. Discourse began. I dozed off! Suddenly I felt someone tapping on my right shoulder, three times, to wake me up. I opened my eyes and looked to my right. There was no one! I was overcome with His attention, compassion and care for me.

I was wide awake and fresh. He was saying “Gita was given in a battle field , but here, you are all listening sitting comfortably in this beautiful hall. But haan, if there is a war going on inside you, it is a different story. Keep me with you and fight the war. It is the test of your faith”. Just what I needed! He woke me up so I don’t miss these vital words. He gave me all the answers to the duality in my mind in just two or three sentences. It was a moment of instant peace, contentment, faith, discrimination, valor and surrender, all at once!

Ever since like Arjun, whenever I am disturbed, I have learnt to bring my chariot to the middle to get an impartial, non judgemental view of the situation. From this space I find peace.

I also ask myself ‘ what could be the reason behind God creating this situation for me ? What lesson does He want me to learn from this?’ Stepping aside and be a witness helps me detach from the situation and to rest at the core of my being. From this space one can fight any war within or without. This space is Krishna, the absolute joy! One foot on the ground, firmly rooted to play in the world, to do one’s calling and the other in the air, untouched by Worldly affairs , just a witness. When I was ten years old, some one had asked me ” Do you know the meaning of your name? Leela means Play. You are the Play of the Divine.” I had laughed not knowing what it means to be a Divine Play.

Going back to the source again and again helps me get established in peace more and more. I am grateful to have a living Master to guide me lovingly. I wish the entire world to come in to the fold of the Art of Living to find the peace with in. I wish the butterfly effect of my Sadhana to reach far and wide to make a difference. My Sadhana is not just for me anymore. What a feeling of expansion!

As a young girl I was very fond of a picture of Vishwarupa that was kept in the puja room of my grandmother. ” Can I have it when I grow up? ” I used to plead to her. However, when I grew up and had my own home, I could not locate the picture as she kept moving from house to house of her four children. Desolate, I gave up. Years later Gita has taught me ‘ Whatever I am, you are That too’. I don’t need the picture anymore!

Gita is the source of peace. International day of Peace is celebrated on September 21 every year. Why do we need to celebrate peace only one day in a year when peace is our very nature?! I wonder! I am Peace, I am Joy, I am Love. The presence of a Master in ones life keeps one kindled. Listening to Gita by my Master has filled me with the longing to see Bhagavad Gita put on the world map as a blueprint for a life of peace and pure bliss.

OM shanti shanti shanti hi!
Leela Ramesh