Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom, Gurus, Saints & Sages, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

It is Guru Purnima again. The most precious day for a devotee. Each Guru Purnima has been revealing a different facet of mine to myself leaving me in utter amazement! It has ranged from just celebrating the day with Sadhana, Seva and Satsang to understanding in depth the Guru Principle, experiencing the infinite vastness of our Master and slowly recognising the same within me, gratitude flowing out as grace and finally dissolving in love. The process of mellowing into ‘Somebody to Nobody to Everybody’ has been very humbling. The blissful journey continues.

 

 

Now, the baffling question. Where am I?! Frankly, the answer is ‘I don’t know!’ and I don’t care. I have been running to sit on the conveyor belt. Now that I am there, I have stopped running. I will reach home. I have nothing to do but RELAX. I just watch the world go by with amusement and wonder! The scenery has lost its power to affect the Seer to a great extent.

I watch Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji go through the nitty gritty of Maya world and I know He is putting Himself through it all to uplift humanity.

The story of Ekalavya shared by Gurudev recently elucidates the power and compassion of a Guru. Ekalavya, a low caste boy who was not qualified to get archery lessons from Dronacharya , keeps a stone idol of him as his Guru and practices the art of archery. He excels in the art to an extent that Arjuna becomes insecure. Arjuna wanted none else to exceed him in the proficiency of archery. Dronacharya, seemingly to please Arjuna, asks for Ekalavya’s thumb as Guru Dakshina knowing very well that he won’t be able to shoot arrows without his thumb. Ekalavya, without a moment’s hesitation cuts his thumb and offers to his Guru.

 

 

Can anything be more confusing than this relationship of Guru-Disciple? How can Dronacharya be so unjust, cruel and heartless? What right had he to ask for such a Guru Dakshina?

How can Ekalavya be so naïve as to offer his thumb and sacrifice his years of practice to a Guru who did not teach him with his physical presence?

These questions are natural to surface at the superficial level. A devotee who has experienced the unconditional love of a Guru will see beyond the event. In Puranas, Ekalavya has been accorded an elevated place as a disciple par excellence because of his unflinching faith in surrendering to his Guru’s command. In fact, his place is higher than that of Arjuna. It is understood he would have excelled Arjuna had he continued his practice of archery.

Let’s look at the compassion and skill in thought, words and action of the Guru, Dronacharya. Without disappointing Arjuna, has elevated Ekalavya to a place we look up to for ever. Dronacharya is seen as unjust, unreasonable and partial Guru. But, a Guru does not care about his reputation. All he wants is to uplift his devotee. Even when He does a seemingly unfair act, deep inside He has the best intention for His devotee. Difficult to digest but happens to be the truth.

Do I see glimpses of Dronacharya and several Ekalavyas on this path? Yes, I certainly do. Many a time, nothing makes sense but then if everything makes sense where is the element of wonder? Where is the element of faith?

Faith is beyond doubt. When the prana is low, it is natural to dwell in doubt. The scenery also pulls one towards doubt. Retracting senses, moving from the scenery to the Seer, doubts are removed and faith becomes steadfast.

Lord Hanuman, a perfect example of a devotee, puzzled even Lord Rama. He wondered ‘Why is Hanuman so devoted to me when I am not doing anything for him! In fact he is helping me out by doing extraordinary feats.’ ‘Show me what is inside your heart’ commands Rama, out of curiosity. Hanuman tears his chest apart and shows Rama who dwells in his heart. Rama sees himself and Sita residing in Hanuman’s heart. Hanuman says ‘It is the strength and power of chanting your name that enables me to do extraordinary feats’.

In Kannada, we have a Dasara Pada, (Song of a Saint) ‘Neenyako ninna hangyako, ninna namada bala ondiddare sako’, means, I do not need you or your obligation. I only depend on the power of chanting your name. Gurudev has said ‘Whenever you are in trouble, whisper my name and I will attend to you’. What more reassurance does one need? Wherever in the world He is, He is available to us in an instant! Inner technology! Log in to the power of devotee, Inner Net. . It will connect instantly.

‘Connection with the Guru is already there. Or else, we cannot even come anywhere near Gurumandala’- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

 

 

The moment we recognise the connection, we become part of our Guru. Just as Guru dwells in our heart, we too dwell in the heart of our Guru. He has already sung years ago ‘My home is in your heart and.. Your home is in my heart’. That’s why I am an Antevasi, an ‘In-dweller’ in my Master’s heart.

Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

A rich man lost all his wealth in share market. Overcome with grief and fear, he lost his confidence and thought his life was not worth living. He was contemplating on committing suicide, but his good friends took him to a saint. He fell at the Saint’s feet and broke down while telling the guru about his misfortune.

 

 

The guru patiently listened  to his story and said, “Son, come out of your grief, remember the happy moments of your life, just like bad moments good moments are also part of your life, life’s happiness and sadness are like two sides of a coin. Now tell me about one happy incident in your life”.

 

The man stopped crying  and his face instantly showed some pleasure when he started narrating the happiest moment of his life. He said that the happiest moment of his childhood was when he learnt that he had topped the class in 10th standard exams.

 

Guruji asked him.”Is it so? Did you have all the money you have lost now at that time? “.  The man replied, “not at all”. My father was a school teacher. We led a simple life. We were happy and contented because the whole family stood together. “That was the happiest moment of my life”.

 

Guruji said, “Son,  the materialistic things that you think you have lost , were not there with you when you were a small boy, still you were happy.  This shows that the materials were not the cause for happiness. It is only the thought that you possess them made you happy. Just as you were happy when you were a school boy,  you could be happy now too. Because you have enough to survive. There are scores of people on this earth who don’t know if they would survive the next day. They are not even sure of one square meal every day, Or shelter.  Sometimes, a person might be having everything, but still unable to enjoy life. A happy and healthy man can lose his life in a mishap, life is unpredictable. So be happy when you have health.

 

“Life is testing you. You know how?  We plant a sapling, we add manure, we cut the unwanted branches besides the pain of going through this, the plants have to bear the stench of the manure yet the plants never complain and use these setbacks to their advantage by blossoming profusely and yielding fruits.

 

“A complete man is shown as sitting on lotus. “ You know why? Lotus plant grows in the slush but when it blooms, not even a single drop of slush sticks to the leaves or the beautiful flower.  “Trimming is necessary for the growth of a person remember happiness and sorrow are part of every life. Every drawback in your life is an opportunity for you to emerge stronger and successful.”

As our Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says “Keep your money in your pocket, not in your mind, because happiness does not depend on the money you have, it is only “the state of your mind”. He says “see life from a bigger perspective, success and failure are temporary. Everything will change. Even a most successful man is going to perish one day. Have faith in the supreme power and take life each moment as it comes..”

Jai Gurudev
Geeta Murthy

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

An organisation should be like a picture frame. The frame shouldn’t eat away the picture.” In other words, just as it isn’t possible to hold a picture in the absence of a frame, without an organisation any work, whether spiritual or social, can’t happen. At the same time, if the organisation becomes too bureaucratic, it’s like the frame eating the picture.

 

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar words rings true as we watch the Art of Living volunteer based organisation grow by leaps and bounds. Knowledge, service and celebration …the three pillars of joy experienced by the chosen fortunate ones on this path know instinctively that picture spills out of the frame all the time! Knowledge is boundless.  So is service, that emanates from knowledge culminating in celebration.

God loves fun! He creates situations where in frame and the picture seems to be in conflict. As we realise there is no duality, it makes us steadfast in faith and gives conviction of our purpose.

 

 

As I watch the picture getting divided inside several frames to ease functionality, my vision refuses to lose the whole picture, the masterpiece with the caption ‘crime free and stress free society ‘ where there is a smile on every face. This is the grand picture that He is painting as an ongoing service. Frame, in other words the organisation is only a loose structure to contain the picture. If the frame is unable to it, the frame maker has missed the boat! As simple as that.

Gurudev mentioned in one of His talks that although He has created many positions in the organisation, there are many volunteers who are doing excellent service without any label, infact some, more than those holding positions.

When I came into the Art of Living about 2 decades ago and read about ‘ frame and the picture’ in a Knowledge Sheet, it was only bookish knowledge not yet a living reality at the experiential level. Today it is an experiential truth… volunteers who work without any selfish agenda for the good of others are found everywhere if we have eyes to see. These unsung heroes need not even belong to any NGO. They do well because they can’t help but do good.

 

 

These thoughts are stirred up in me after meeting an illiterate villager from Gadag, a district in Karnataka who had come to take Gurudev’s Darshan and blessings in Bangalore Ashram last week along with Gadag team. He has invented a wind mill and a spray device that can be used in a tractor or motor bike to water the fields and has several other brilliant ideas. He says he was invited by a reputed company in England to share his knowledge in return for whatever amount of money he quotes. He was also offered the services of an interpreter as he cannot speak any other language apart from his mother tongue.

The lure of money did not deter him from serving his mother land. He has stayed put here, patiently waiting for Gurudev’s grace and directives.

People, the good samaritans do not care for worldly riches. For them richness lies in caring and sharing. They know the value of a good contented sleep after doing a deed that benefits the larger society. Working for greater good is being rich. In Karnataka, India, we had a poet called D.V. Gundappa (DVG). He has composed a huge volume of poetry that holds universal truth and knowledge. When the society recognized the worth of his writings, they wanted to honour him with cash prize. But, DVG refused to accept on the stage saying he had no use for money. Not that he was reeling in luxury. He just had an elevated sense of greater good. He announced the same money to be used to print 1000 copies of his poetry and to distribute it free in schools. What a noble thought! He knew the value of imbibing knowledge and values in young minds.

Likewise, we find many examples of selfless service, the redeeming factor for a good society.

Picture is always bigger than the frame because the world is full of good people who do well.

If the frame cannot contain the ever burgeoning picture, the only thing to do is expand the frame! It is shortsightedness to think picture should fit into the customised frame. Frame can never be customised nor can picture ever be bound in that for long! The frame and the picture, both are made by our Gurudev and both are fluid. All that we can do is watch the phenomenon called Guru Principle in awe and wonder!!!

Smile and serve is the only mantra that works here in any given situation, never for an instant forgetting there is only One Doer!

 

 

 

I always remember that great quote which has been my favourite since I was young.

 

“For when that One Great Scorer comes, He asks not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game”.

 

Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sudarshan Kriya, Yoga and Meditation.

Existence has two aspects – the visible and the invisible; the gross and the subtle; or the tangible and intangible. Our body is concrete, it is visible; but our breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego and the spirit is the invisible aspect of the same reality.

Contrary to popular belief, the invisible aspect of our existence is much bigger and powerful than the visible aspect. Usually we think that our mind is inside our body, however in reality the body is inside the mind. Mind is much bigger than the body. Mind is also much powerful than the body. The body can’t take a single step unless the mind tells it to do so. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “A strong mind can carry a weak body but a weak mind cannot even carry a strong body.”

It is the invisible aspect of our existence which governs the visible aspect. But ironically, the invisible aspect of our existence is the most neglected aspect. The root cause of all the human suffering can be traced, by one way or other, to this gross neglect of the subtle aspect of existence.

Sadhana is one way to take care of this invisible aspect of our life. Sadhana refers to the discipline of spiritual practices like yoga, pranayama, meditation, japa, chanting etc. undertaken to elevate and enliven the spirit inside. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, ‘Sa’ means true and ‘Dhana’ means wealth. Sadhana is the real wealth, which nobody can take away from us.

Sadhana gives benefits on all levels of existence; physical, mental as well as spiritual. Sadhana enhances the process of evolution of individual consciousness. Consciousness evolves from animal to human and finally to the Divine consciousness.

Sage Patanjali says, “Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara sevito drudha bhumihi”. We can get firmly established in the Abhyaasa (practices), when we do our practices with regularity, without break, for a sufficiently long time and with honour and love (devotion).

Honour and love for the Self, for the technique and for the Guru accelerate progress on this path. Here, doing Sadhana as an expression of honour and love is the key. Respect helps us to maintain a one pointed focus, discipline and gratefulness. Love helps to maintain an unbroken connection with the Self, with the technique and with the Guru.

Gurudev says, “Repetition either leads to boredom or elevates you to perfection.” Our daily Sadhana is nothing but repetition. When the Sadhana is done mechanically as a routine job, it may lead us to boredom. However, when the same Sadhana is done with honour and love, it elevates us to perfection.

When Sadhana is done as an expression of honour and love, then there are no expectations from Sadhana (Achaah), no doer-ship (Akinchan) and a natural effortlessness (Aprayanthna).

The benefits of Sadhana increase manifold when we do our practices in a group. Scriptures say that, ‘Sanghe Shakti Kaliyuge’. In this age of Kaliyuga, if you are in a group, if you are united, that has more power than an individual. Thousands of years ago, the individual mind was very simple, focussed and full of faith. In present age, mind has become overloaded with information and concepts. Mind has become highly complex, stressed and divided. Individual mind has lost its original strength because its energy is dissipated multiple directions. However, when many minds join together in a group activity like Sadhana, the synergy produced benefits everyone.

 

 

Quantum Physics says that the whole world is made up of waves or vibrations. Individual mind or individual consciousness is also nothing but vibrating energy. When many individuals come together for some spiritual practice like meditation, chanting etc., it produces effect similar to ‘resonance effect’ in Physics. This helps in amplifying the effect of Sadhana for every individual in the group.

To have a better insight into the mechanics of ‘Group Sadhana’, let us understand the phenomenon of mob psychology.

Have you closely observed small kids in a play group? If couple of children start crying, it is very likely that the whole class starts crying.

Have you listened to any powerful speaker who is making some emotional appeal to a large mob? The mob simply gets carried away. The logical, intellectual part of the individual brain simply stops working and the mob blindly believes in the speakers appeal.

Have you ever ventured out on the roads where riots and arson is going on? If you have ventured out, you might have noticed that your mind also gets affected by the mob violence. You also want to throw a stone or burn down something, even if you are a law abiding citizen.

The above phenomenon of mob psychology can be used in a positive or in a negative way. It can be used to unite people or it can be used to spread hatred and violence.

During Group Sadhana, the phenomenon of mob psychology is used in most positive way to unite minds of people to spread peace and love.

 

 

 

 

In 1993, Maharaishi Mahesh Yogi effectively demonstrated the power of Group Sadhana. A two month study was conducted in Washington D.C. where up to 4000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners regularly practiced group meditation. It was observed that the violence crime rate in the city reduced by up to 23.3% during this period. This came to be known as Maharishi Effect. This experiment proved that Group Sadhana not only gives benefits to the individuals, but also spreads positive vibrations in the environment. It gives benefits to all the people in the vicinity.

When we practice our daily Sadhana individually, it is called as ‘Tapas’. When the same Sadhana  is done in a group, its benefits increase manifold and it is called as ‘Yagna’.

A ‘Yagna’ has three essential aspects:

  1. Deva Puja: Acknowledging and honouring the Divinity, honouring the subtle existence.
  2. Sangatikarana: Bringing everyone together, taking everyone along with you. Hastening the process of evolution by bringing together all elements and people in creation. Another meaning is bringing harmony among your different faculties like body, mind and the breath.
  3. Dana: Sharing and giving what one has been blessed with.

Group Sadhana has all the three aspects of a ‘Yagna’.

Deva Puja: Scriptures acknowledge that God or the Divine is omnipresent. So Divine is also present in every individual. Spiritual practices are nothing but acknowledging and honouring that Divinity inside.

Sangatikarana: In Group Sadhana, individual minds are united together. All minds vibrate in harmony. In a group, even if one person is doing Sadhana with total love and honour, this will influence the whole group. The whole group consciousness will get elevated to a higher level.

Dana: The benefits of Group Sadhana do not remain limited to the group but the whole subtle environment gets blessed. The prayer at the end of Group Sadhana is for the benefit of entire humanity.

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu, Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||  

Om, May All become Happy, May All be Free from Illness.
May All See what is Auspicious, May no one Suffer.

May there be peace on physical level, mental level and spiritual level!

 

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

Question: Guruji, whenever I see You, I start running after You. Is this devotion or lack of self respect?

Guruji: In the beginning you run, it is ok. But then you should learn to stop and look within. Dive deep within yourself then I will run after you and the whole world will run after you.

A story from mythology comes to my mind. The story is from Mahabharata. Venerable Dronacharya was teaching archery and warcraft to young Kauravas and Pandavas. However, that he had a soft corner for Arjuna troubled Duryodhana’s mind. Unable to control his jealousy, one day he uttered loudly “What is so great about Arjuna? He is like all of us’, making sure Dronacharya who was standing within the earshot heard his remark. Dronacharya heard him but did not say anything.

Next day Dronacharya hung a wooden bird amidst the branches of a tree. He called out to all the princes, made them stand 100 yards away from the tree and said

“There is a little test for you”.

Yudhishtira being the eldest, he called him to come forward first.

“Aim your arrow to the bird” he said.

Yudhishtira pulled back his arrow aiming at the bird and waited.

“What do you see Yudhishtira?” Drona asked.

“Why?! The bird, the tree, branches, my brothers and you of course, my revered teacher”, exclaimed Yudhishtira perplexed at the question.

“ Laydown your weapon” said Drona.

Yudhishtira retraced his steps.

“Now, it is your turn Duryodhana”, called out Drona.

Smirking at Yudhishtira, Duryodhana came forward. As it is, he was not happy about his poor cousins getting the lessons from Dronacharya as his equals.

He aimed the arrow at the bird.

‘What do you see” asked Drona.

“The bird, the tree and you my venerable master” replied Duryodhana and was about to shoot when Drona said,

“Place the bow and arrow on the ground and go back to your place”.

All the other younger princes came forward and failed the test.

It was Drona’s son Ashwathama’s turn. Ashwathama said that he could see nothing but the wooden bird. Little disappointed Drona sent him back reluctantly. After all he was his own son!

Now Drona calls Arjuna to come forward and aim the bird. Arjuna, with supreme confidence yet with lightness and in a relaxed manner pulls back his arrow and waits.

 

 

 

Here I paused…..Time for Manana (Contemplation).  This is the crux of the story I thought. I am sharing my personal thoughts with you, my dear readers. It connected so well with what Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar answered to the question about running after Him. Arjuna was Dronas favorite student which means he need not had to run after Drona.

The ‘supreme confidence’, ‘lightness’ and ‘relaxed manner’ of Arjuna at the time of taking test where all his predecessors had failed stems from him being established in the self, I thought. If others had failed, it was because of lack of self awareness and feverishness to please their teacher, perhaps?! As explained in Ashtanga yoga of Patanjali, Arjuna must have mastered Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama that gave him steadiness to move confidently towards his goal. The physical presence of his teacher Drona did not distract Arjuna from his goal.

Drona asked “What do you see Arjuna?”

“Only blackness in the eye of the wooden bird my revered teacher” answered Arjuna without wavering his gaze.

“Don’t you see anything else, the forest, tree, branches…” urged Drona.

“No sir, I see only blackness in the middle of the eye of the bird” replied Arjuna still keeping his gaze steadily at the target.

The 5th limb of Ashtanga Yoga, Pratyahara, that occupies the middle place, needs a sadhak to retrieve his senses just as a tortoise retrieves its limbs into its shell to get established in Samadhi. Arjuna must have shut off all the external stimuli of senses like tress, branches, people around him including his revered teacher to get ‘fixed’ (Dharana) in his goal, to shoot the bird’s eye. Our mind is often compared to the tortoise shell and its limbs the senses. Mind is also likened to the Queen Bee after who runs all other labour bees, the senses. When Queen Bee stops running, all other labour bees also freeze! Then one is prepared for Dharana. Revelation indeed !

Exulted by Arjuna’s answer, Drona says “Shoot!”

Next moment the bird lay on the ground with an arrow pierced in its eye, right in the middle!

Was Arjuna in a state of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi when he shot the arrow? Was his one pointed devotion and focus to whatever he wanted to achieve the key for success in life, worldly or otherwise?

Is there something profound for us to learn from Arjuna, especially when all others see ‘Dronacharya’ while aiming the bird except Arjuna? Does it connect with what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says; when you look within yourself I will run after you. The whole world runs after you.

A Master manifests in physical body to make one realize whatever He is, so is His disciple. He walks us through the path with utmost love, compassion and patience till we reach home. But then, is it not my responsibility to keep the focus on the path rather than making a relationship with the Guru Principle?

“In the beginning it is ok to run. But then you must stop and look within yourself. Then I will run after you. The whole world runs after you”.
Gurudev’s words pregnant with profound meaning.

The truth struck like lightning!

No wonder Arjuna was the privileged one to get Geetopadesha from Lord Krishna. He was ready! What will a Lord not give to the one who is ready?

 

 

It is crystal clear. The only aim and focus walking the path with Sri Sri is to become Arjuna.

Manana (Contemplation) continues…..Thank You Sri Sri.

Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

Once upon a time, there was a very strong woodcutter. He asked for a job from a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason the woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought down 18 trees.

 

The Boss was very much impressed and said, “Congratulations keep it up!”

Very motivated by the words of the boss, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring down 15 trees.

The third day he tried even harder, but he only could bring down 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing down less and less trees.

“I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought to himself.

He went to the boss and apologised, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

“When was the last time you sharpened your Axe?” the boss asked.

 

 

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my Axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees.

The moral of the story:

Our lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to sharpen the axe. In today’s world, it seems that everyone is busy, but less happy. Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp?

 

 

There is nothing wrong with activity and hard work. But we should not get so busy that we neglect the truly important things in life, like our personal life, taking time to care for others, taking time to read, divine activity sharpens the in heart.etc We all need time to relax, to think and meditate, to learn and grow. If we don’t take time to sharpen the axe, we will become dull and lose our effectiveness. So start from today, think about the ways by which you could do your job more effectively and add a lot of value to it.

“To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.”

 

Jai Gurudev

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

Rehman and five others were waiting at the edge of the stage at the Vishalakshi Meditation Hall with huge cake boxes in their hands and a twinkle in their eyes. The cake was thick, deep brown oozing with chocolate in every corner. The white icing on the top struggling to make its presence felt ! I had just peeped into Ajit`s box.

Perhaps they were waiting for their rare moment of truth.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar seated on the chair had just announced “Anyone`s birthday, anniversary today?”. It was the closing moments of the daily Satsang (an evening of music, wisdom and meditation) public event that he has been conducting for over thirty five years every single day, no matter where he is.

Moreover, he makes it a point to ask this question at the end of every Satsang.

Hundreds of people had just imbibed the fabulous celebration of that evening and were dripping with joy, asking for more.

Just then Gurudev asked Ajit to come on to the stage. He ran with the cake and placed it in front of him beaming with a smile. He rose from the chair and walked forward gingerly towards the crowd that was beckoning him time and again.

He tip-toed slowly, in a graceful style that sent people into a rapture. His eyes had a cute mischief that a child springs on you.

I thought perhaps he is going to break into a great jig, a special one between the Master and his fans. The music and the famous `Sundaranana`  bhajan had reached a superb crescendo by then. He clicked his fingers to every rhyme and rhythm of that song.

Something was about to happen? It was a goose-bump moment.

He gestured to all the other birthday boys and girls to come on stage. I could see six cakes and Gurudev.

Suddenly he swirled the well-dressed knife and plunged it into Rehman`s cake and took out a nice big slice on his hand. I could clearly see strawberry was feeling lucky to be on his finger tips and Rehman went red blushing in the background.

People gasped. What was going to happen next ?

Gurudev swayed the cake to the music that had really hit a high note by now. His right hand swinging back and forth. People in the dozens lunged forward. Some with mouths wide open. Others trying to catch it.

Ecstasy, playfulness and laughter was running riot. All heaven broke loose!

Was this cake ready to fly ? It`s path and target unknown ?

Flew it did, in different directions. Making Gurudev`s way of celebrating legendary.

Do we have that quality of making an individual`s celebration collective and inclusive?

Today Saturday 13 May 2017. A million people will be asking a question at the end of the Satsang “Anyone`s birthday, anniversary today?”.

 

 

And who do you think will stand up ?

 

(A tribute by Brahmachari Vidyut Udiaver to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on his 61st birthday)

Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The sun was sharp and thousands of people had lined up on either side of the road. Luckily the lush green flora in the International Art of Living Centre in Bengaluru was giving that much needed cover. The flowers in the gardens swayed to the once-in-a-way summer breeze. The crowd kept their cool and a certain silence was in the air.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (popularly called as Gurudev) was seated in his car that was slowly winding its way down that road. I was sitting behind him as he had beckoned me earlier to travel with him that evening.

I had several things to discuss with him. Questions and clarifications.Ranging on issues from personal to social-work related.

Before getting into the car, he had already met with, over a thousand people in the beautiful Vishalakshi Meditation Hall listening to their queries, welfare, woes and requests. And now from the car, he was very keen to meet those eagerly waiting along the road too.

As the car stopped at some points from time to time, I could see a whole procession of emotions of people who were seeing him almost face to face.

Happiness, excitement, wonder. Eyes going big with joy. Tears flowing down some eyes. Some doing a respectful Namaste (the traditional Indian way of greeting), others waving out cheerfully. Few were seen spelling out their woes and seeking advice.

Some looked dumb-struck perhaps not knowing what to say, how to express. Others asking him for blessings, wishes to be fulfilled. Some giving pieces of paper in his hand with their message or supplication.

Were they seeing the face that launched a billion smiles?

 

 

Just then I saw a young boy, perhaps in his early twenties, hold on to the car window. His slim and weak frame was emanating body odour. I could see him dripping with poverty. I felt sad as I saw him reaching out to Sri Sri.

The boy suddenly told Gurudev in Hindi “Mein car mein kabhi nahin baitha hoon” (I have never sat in a car). Gurudev gently gestured to him saying “ Aajao” (Come). The boy`s eyes widened in wonder asking “Mein aajaoon” (Shall I come). He replied “Yes”.

He hopped across the other side, opened the door and sat next to me in the back seat. `Our` car moved on! I kept looking at the boy as he settled himself in the seat with loads of smiles.

I was totally immersed in his new-found happiness, as he joyfully started waving to the crowd. Basking in the moment of having a dream being fulfilled.

Gurudev then asked him what he did and where he was from. He replied with the name of a village in the deep rural pocket of Karnataka and said his parents were daily wage laborers.

A few minutes later, he told Gurudev “I`ll get down here because I have a bus to catch back home”. Gurudev smiled, gave him some money and gestured his blessings saying “Have Prasad (food) at the dining hall before you leave”.

Soon after that I saw him frolic and melt into the crowd.

(This article is a tribute to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on his birthday 13 May 2017)

 

Vidyut Udiaver

About Art of Living, Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, The World Culture Festival, World Culture Festival.

India’s wildest and least explored state, isn’t just called the land of the rising sun for no reason. Arunachal Pradesh’s pristine beauty and lush greenery still remains beyond tourism’s reach. And this can only be a blessing in disguise. Especially with numerous rivers that bless this state with their abundance, it becomes essential to keep these rivers from the reach of miscreants.

The scenic Art of Living Ashram is situated along the bank of the river Jullang. Few river panoramas are as awe-inspiring as this one. Anyone who has sat on the banks of a river and gazed at the flowing water can testify to this. Given the serenity this can offer, its hardly surprising that Ashrams and other retreat centres are situated adjacent to a water body.

 

 

The sound of the flowing Jullang river, however, is not the only sound that emanates from the quiet surroundings of the Ashram. Even in the darkness one can hear noises that seem out of place in the setting – the sound of vehicles – trucks plying behind the Ashram in the river bed. One wonders what are city trucks doing in such a place. The reach of man can never be underestimated. Its common knowledge that river beds are the source of sand, gravel, and stones that are required for construction activity ranging from roads to bridges and buildings. Excessive quarrying for stones and gravel in the river bed can, however, have long term severe negative impact on the environment. This includes excessive erosion of the river banks leading to landslides and other damage to property. There is a sincere effort in other parts of the world to ensure economics and nature coexist. The Art of Living Foundation has been working incessantly for the last 35 years to serve mankind and nature alike.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has always championed the cause of the environment in today’s times. The 40 odd rivers that are rejuvenated in India today stand testimony to his and the organisation’s commitment, along with its teachers and volunteers who have contributed relentlessly to this cause.

One such champion is Swami Bhavyatej, who is currently in charge of the Arunachal Ashram. He had been observing the mining activity for some time. He had assumed that it was being done with the proper authority, since it was being done openly but started becoming concerned at the sheer scale of excavation. When the Ashram boundary wall was constructed a few years back there was more than thirty feet distance between the wall and the edge of the river. Over time, the Jullang river slowly ate away at the river edge to the point that it is now eroding the foundations of the boundary wall! Parts of the Ashram boundary have surrendered to the raging water in the last couple of years. Twice, sections of the boundary wall have been rebuilt at considerable cost. A stretch of about sixty metres of the boundary wall is currently damaged and is in need of repair. Is this just a natural phenomenon due to excess rains? Is it due to natural changes in the river flow due to landslides upstream? Arunachal Pradesh being a hilly region is prone to landslides and other such disturbances. Or is it due to the human activity in the river bed that was causing changes in the span of a few years that nature took millions of years to make.

 

 

 

 

Swamiji decided to inspect the activity himself. He politely talked to the truck drivers and other people engaged in the quarrying to be mindful of property near the river banks and how the boundary wall had been damaged in the past by the water. Of course, polite request fell on deaf ears. Subsequently, at a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner of Itanagar, Swamiji, requested a review of the mining in the area.

 

 

 

Officers visited the site to inspect the river and the surrounding area. They communicated that the quarrying activity was definitely excessive and illegal since the area in question was not “notified” for legal mining of river minerals. Coincidentally, while the review was being conducted, the Deputy Commissioner was transferred to Delhi. I assume it was a routine transfer but the timing did seem strange. Was it possible that invisible hands were at work?

A word here about how things run in Arunachal. The official writ is largely ignored in many matters. If a piece of land is unused, anyone who starts using is, for whatever purpose, since the owner doesn’t need it currently, becomes the unofficial owner of the land.

Finally in the face of determined enquiries by Swamiji and in light of the official review report, the district administration had no choice but to pass an order banning the illegal mining. The order was passed under section 144 of the criminal code. Once the order was communicated to the people engaged in the said mining, truck traffic greatly reduced, though it did not completely stop.

The river mining activity was being carried out by local politicians and thugs. Within days the Ashram was visited by people of various hues, explaining how the mining ban was affecting their livelihood, how people’s construction projects were on hold because the supply of raw materials had stopped and how poor labourers would lose their jobs. The visitors were accompanied by mining officers. It seemed as if the official machinery did not want to enforce the order at all.

Swamiji was handed a copy of a letter on their behalf saying that mining be allowed for personal use and that it would not affect the environment is any way and wanted his signature on it. Swami ji flatly refused. He explained that the order had been passed by the district administration, based on a review by their expert committee and that the Art of Living had nothing to do with it. He also suggested that they should petition the DC office to legalise and regulate the mining activity in the area and issue proper permits so that the activity could be carried out in a sustainable manner. Even after the order banning illegal mining was issued, enforcement was halfhearted at best. Activity continued in a distance. One day, Swami ji saw a truck parked in the river bed about half a mile away from the Ashram. The mining officer was called but initially did not answer the phone. Swami ji went up to the people loading the truck and explained the mining order. In the meantime, the officer had arrived as well. This happened a number of times in the first few days.

It seemed as if the Art of Living was in charge of enforcing the order also. Swami ji joked that the district administration should be paying the Art of Living for doing their job! Swami ji was told a number of times that he had to “live with the neighbours” and as long as mining did not happen immediately behind the Ashram it should not be a problem. This was by the district officer in charge of enforcing the order.  Swami ji said “The whole river is mine!”. Since the order mentions nothing about the Art of Living campus it needed to be enforced wherever illegal activity was happening

 

 

At a followup meeting with the Deputy Commissioner, Swamiji mentioned that the order had been partially enforced and some activity was still ongoing. The concerned officer was summoned but on questioning gave excuses saying that development work needs sand and gravel from the river. After the meeting, outside in the parking lot, things got a little heated. The said officer confronted Swamiji. “Why are you always complaining?!”, “Nothing will happen! I will not visit the area again to enforce the order” “You will have trouble with the local people!” Swamiji didn’t back down and told him that we will not be cowed down, that we were not afraid and that he should not threaten us. I personally felt a little scared by this exchange and also wondered why Swamiji had to make this matter so personal. Maybe it wasn’t personal and it just seemed that way to me. Or maybe it was : I said to Swamiji – “I have not felt afraid in a long time and have forgotten how it felt like”.

Swamiji smiled and said that “It is all a game”.

This exchange was communicated to the Deputy Commissioner who replied saying that he would resolve the matter peacefully. The next day, an official complaint was lodged with State officials regarding the concerned district officer. I realised that by this time my fear had vanished and I had started participating fully in the process. I wondered how this was going to unfold. Time will tell.

At this time when the Art of Living World Culture Festival is again in the news for “damaging the Yamuna flood plains”, and all the good work that the Art of Living has done to rejuvenate 27 rivers in the South of the country seems to have been forgotten, the Jullang river is an Art of Living story that is not making the news. But what is doing the rounds is the fiction that the NGT and the likes have made up. For me, it is absurd to even hear that a man and his organisation that has invested so much in creating a better world can be accused of something like this. As I witnessed this story unfold with my own eyes, I found it quite ironic that the Art of Living people were going out of their way to fight for nature here in Arunachal disregarding personal safety. The story of this Swamiji is only one amongst many. There are many champions like this around the world who mirror their leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s, vision and conviction to create harmony, inside out.

Dr Rajesh Kumar

Art of Living Happiness Teacher

B.Tech. Computer Science. (IIT Kharagpur 2002)

Ph.D. Computer Engineering. (Carnegie Mellon Univ, USA 2007)

 

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

Sakshi – Part-I 

During the morning session, Gurudev had told that everyone should write something. He said, unless you use your creativity, it will not blossom. You should write your experiences, write about knowledge. Guruji said how he had told one of his teachers to write about his experiences regarding ‘Art of Living’. That teacher had no experience of writing but his book turned out to be extremely popular. It got translated into many languages.

By evening many creative writers were born. Gurudev had to patiently bear with the new born creativity of the course participants. Some of the creations were extremely good but some were plain childish but Gurudev listened to everyone with the same attention and love.

Next day Gurudev himself conducted the morning Yoga and Sadhana session. Everyone was pleasantly surprised and happy. He came sharp at 6:00 am. The way he conducted Yoga was hilarious. It was an amazing experience. Short Sudarshan Kriya with Gurudev himself doing the kriya with participants was an experience beyond words.

During evening Satsang, Guruji again led everyone through another round of Sakshi meditation. Someone asked Guruji, “We can have inner peace by directing our awareness inside. How wonderful it would have been, if the outside problems would also disappear just by directing our attention to those problems.” Gurudev said, “Pahle andar to sab thik karlo; bahar ke problems to sirf Gabbarsing hai!” (First set right the things inside, the outside problems are just like an imaginary bogeyman).

On next day, Gurudev shared a beautiful story about the ‘night watchman’. When Gurudev was 23-24 years old, he was given enormous responsibility but there was no authority to get the things done. There were the numerous problems but things were not happening the way Gurudev wanted. When Gurudev used to bless others their problems were getting solved, but his own problems were not getting resolved. One day, due to so many unresolved problems, he was unable to sleep in the night. He decided to take a walk outside. He saw the night shift watchman standing at the entrance of the Ashram gate doing his duty. Gurudev stood behind a nearby tree and kept watching. The watchman was stopping each and every vehicle passing through the gate and patiently noting down the details. Gurudev thought, “Main bhi watchman ban jata hun….” (Let me also become like this watchman). The watchman was doing his job with total responsibility but at the same time he was not attached with any of the vehicles passing through the gate. He was just a witness to the events. Guruji told that, the next step beyond taking responsibility is to be a witness. Take total responsibility, put your 100% in whatever needs to be done but at the same time be a witness to all that is happening.

Taking ‘responsibility’ and being a ‘witness’ appear to be totally opposite things but in fact they complement each other. The burden of ‘doer-ship’ which comes with responsibility gets dissolved by ‘witness consciousness’ and one gets more energy for work. Witness consciousness also gives the sharpened awareness and intellect needed for skilfully executing the jobs.

 

 

 

Some of the precious pearls of wisdom shared by Gurudev during the course are –

  1. Gurudev said, “Save your mind and use your brain ….usually we save our brain and use our mind.”… Mind is full of likes, dislikes, desires and all the garbage. When our life is guided by mind rather than by intellect, we land into problems. When our decisions are based on intellect rather than our likes and dislikes, we become successful in life.
  2. The moments of disrespect are the moments where your true qualities shine forth. When someone insults you, just observe what is happening inside you. How you react at these moments of disrespect shows your true nature.
  3. Become angry only if it is going to give some good result. Use anger as a tool only if it is required. Don’t get consumed by anger.
  4. In meditation only three things bother you ….your ego, intellect and desires. If you are able to freeze these things you can meditate. If you are able to let go of your ego, intellect and desires while meditating, then only you can meditate.
  5. वैराग्य क्या है? जो देखे हुए सुने हुए बात की तरफ तृष्णा न हो तो वो वैराग्य है। (When you don’t have any aversion or craving towards anything seen or heard, then that is dispassion.)
  6. कमलनयन मने क्या? पुरे कमल जैसे आँख हो लेकिन कुछ अंदर ना ले। ( What is the meaning of Kamalnayan? One whose eyes are fully open like a lotus – one who is fully aware – but at the same time he is not attached with anything seen or heard.)

Those seven days with Gurudev were filled with lot of insights, meditations, wisdom, Satsang, fun and happiness. Finally the day to go back arrived. With a heavy heart I bid adieu to the Ashram. The course came to an end but this beautiful journey on the path shown by Gurudev continues.

 

II Jai Guru Dev II

-Sanjay Sabnis