A decade and half ago, I suffered from an ailment very common to the soldiering community ‑‑ a torn knee ligament. Having been a frontline sportsman with excellent skills at arms and field craft, life could not have been more bothersome in the wake of the injury.
More than the jerked knee, the pain lay in the heart, for not being able to be in the midst of soccer matches, the heat of basketball games and scoring at handball fixtures; for not being able to lead the charge of men and getting soaked in blood, guts and the glory which follows.
Life hit its lowest ebb when I was confined to superficial duties of data collation and info interpretations rather than being in the thick of a patrol, to lead the finest soldier in the world, the Indian Infantryman, amidst the Insurgent infested forest, amidst the snow clad mountain and in the hot desert of Thar. The gung-ho of past glories seem to fade away into oblivion of disgust with oneself.
Life seemed jacked up. There seemed no hope and confidence in sync with my aspirations. Even the body started to give away and bloat without exercise which was staple few years back. Every well wisher gave suggestions according to their experience ranging from Pillets, Weight Loss Belts, Reiki to Pranic Healing. But, as any Commanding Officer across armies would tell you, young lieutenants are least likely to listen to any one.
During a holiday in one of the hill stations, a poster announced ‘Come and Meet Yourself’ with details of address, time and contact for ‘The Art of Living’ workshop. Taking a note and quickly reminiscing the other spiritual shopping list including reading and fully consuming ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi’, I walked towards the resort hosting the workshop. A large poster of a unshaven Guru who may not have had a hair cut since birth hung on the wall, smiling with twinkling, broad eyes. My ‘McCulay’s Education System Bred Mind’ asked me to beware. For anything which did not pass the ‘Western Test’ was to be suspicious about.
It was not possible for anything except ‘rarest of the rare’ to hold the young colt in me for six days. The workshop was interesting, with lot of interesting games, spiritual processes and interactive sessions thrown in, with no insinuations of ‘GyanGiri’ by the instructor. It was a perfect blend of Eastern Spirituality, Human Values and Western Scientific Thought and delivered with American Professionalism.
On the second day, we went through the ‘Sudarshan Kriya’, a unique rhythmic breathing technique that filled me with so much calmness and serenity that the whole being deeply rested in a perfect meditative state. After the day’s closure of the workshop, the whole body-mind complex felt attended to and in perfect harmony with itself, the surroundings and Nature. It all seemed beautiful, like never before.
The Instructor listed out the ‘Home Going Notes’ on the last day. Art of Living provides Follow Ups on weekends and holidays through Qualified Instructors. I realised that a life-long free support was available through the organisation’s extensive network of centres and instructors in 156 countries including our over-friendly neighbourhood of Pakistan. The practices taught in The Art of Living Workshops are free from any rituals, and can be performed easily once learnt under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Very soon, constant practice of the yogic breaths starts to positively uplift all the levels of human existence. The body becomes supple, the mind attains the ability to
remain in the present moment, the intellect starts to sharpen and the memory retention improves by leaps and bounds.
The Part I course, like the preamble of any constitution, was to prove merely a preamble, and I found myself wanting more of this relief; This succor, which touched the very soul, is easily available through Sudarshan Kriya at the comfort of home. Soon, I enrolled for a Part-2 course, and the four days of deep meditations, spiritual processes and silence changed the entire set of notions I had towards spiritual organisations and Living Masters. A slew of other ‘Post Graduate Workshops’ like to Sri Sri Yoga, DSN and Blessings Course followed and it brought to the fore a quotient of happiness from deep within, hitherto, totally unknown and unrealized, but hereafter blossomed, with tender thoughts, connection with the whole humanity, leaving the small mind thousands of miles away. Very soon, I was a regular at Weekly Follow Ups and Singing Sessions, and humanitarian efforts of The Foundation.
Then, during His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s tour in Kashmir to oversee local humanitarian efforts, I had a chance to meet Him in person. By then, having read most of his books, undergone most of His workshops, His Wisdom and spiritual practices were only second nature. I found being in the company of our new age ‘Guru of Joy’ to be simply joyous. A serene, joyous and calm atmosphere surrounds him. He meets everyone with the same intensity and listened to them with same rapt attention. In a cycle of 24 hours, he meets more people than a regular human being would meet in 6 months, and this cycle repeated itself every next city. His simplicity, His ability to retain the energy levels to look after each one of His devotees and skeptics alike, is something which every leader across fields should learn about.
He travels across continents, one day everyone in Africa is tweeting about His Love and Compassion, the next day more than 1.5 Lacs are participating in #ElPlanetaMedita programme in Argentina. In the US, the initiatives are operated out of a church building. The Europeans celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Foundation as ‘World Culture Festival. ’The Iraqi Government invites The Art of Living teachers to partner spiritual reconstruction in the war torn states. Argentina and Mongolia have honoured His Holiness with the Highest Civilian Award of their respective countries.
The US Army finds the workshops extremely effective to combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The workshop is delivered to war veterans returning from the Combat Zones. The Russian Military also found it useful for reintegration of its troops in the infamous School Seize.
I continue to return the challenges and dangers of serving in Rashtriya Rifles, an outfit containing the neighbor sponsored insurgency in J&K. Obviously, there are resource-crunches, adverse situations, dangers lurk at every corner, the terrain expects tough physical standards, and the leadership skills are tested every second. Combat stress builds up every day in the rank and file. But the spiritual practice and meditation helps to remain calm in tense situations. There exists a superb recharging mechanism in the practice of ‘Sudarshan Kriya’.
From a ‘Skeptic’ of yesterday, I just moved to enjoy ‘Fulfilling Existence’, to be ‘Sampoorna’. Your Holiness, thank you for being the Lighthouse to the current generation of humanity. Ahoy, ‘The Guru of Joy’ is here!