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

The perfect gift for Gurudev on his 60th birthday

All birthdays are birthdays but then 18th, 21st 50th are all special. And if you are in the South India, the sixtieth birthday is exceptional. For us his disciples, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whom we fondly call Gurudev, his Sixtieth Birthday, which falls on May 13th 2016, is very special and calls for an extraordinary gift.


That is where the dilemma begins for the options are many. A gift has to be something that the receiver needs. Well, what would our GOD ‘need’!!  He actually takes care of all our needs more than we could ever do ourselves. Once when asked by a devotee, “Gurudev what can we give you?” Gurudev had said “What I don’t have is problems and worries and pains of life. Give me all of yours. That is why I have come in the first place”.  So I followed the easy path. But I realized that though Gurudev’s birthday came only once a year, my ‘gifts’ to him were far more often in the year!  I felt guilty that I was burdening my Guru with my problems?  Gurudev has given us so much knowledge so that we don’t get into the usual tangles of life but he is always there to resolve our problems if we get into them due to ignorance.

A devotee once commented in a Satsang, “Gurudev, I keep giving you all my problems and they get solved. The world over all the devotees must be doing the same. You must be solving them throughout the day like you do mine. Now I don’t feel good giving you my problems.”

Gurudev replied “My dear one, one drop of problem added to the ocean doesn’t burden the ocean. So don’t worry about that.  Anyway I have come to this only for that purpose. Make maximum use of it. Just know that no amount of problems can bother me “

Aah! No more guilt now. I observed that people gave him a variety of nice gifts like beautifully embroidered dhotis. I too did that a couple of times. Then realized that the dhoti has to be liked by Gurudev and my choice need not match his.  I would only be creating one more irritant for Gurudev. He would be left with so many Dhotis that he doesn’t need.

I thought sweets would be a nice gift. Again how much could he eat? And also would it be right to give him sweets which might take days to reach him and become stale in the process? So I dropped that option as well.

Cash?  It is so convenient but would that really be a good gift for my god on his 60th birthday? My choice became clear when I was travelling and wanted to invite the president of that country to our World Culture Festival 2016.

We met some important people so that we could reach the invitation to the president. I was surprised by their response. All of them had the same answer, “Our president will not come”. It was not a rude answer when we heard their explanation. They said “Our president is a visionary and a great leader. He is already 75. We want to preserve him longer. So we do not strain his calendar in any way except under unavoidable circumstances. He guides us and shows us the path. We work so that he rests.”  Ring Ring !!  I realized they not only loved and respected their president but were very practical.

Here I was just thinking of myself? I remember since the first day I came to the ashram, Gurudev would say “give knowledge to a lot of people and fast. There is no time.” These words were prophetic.  Perhaps never in the history has the world deteriorated so fast the way it has done in the last twenty years. The Art of Living also grew at a phenomenal pace. The more it grew the more busy Gurudev became.  He is active and working for at least 19 hours every day without a break save for the Navratri and the ‘Agyatvaas ‘ which lasts for two or three days in the whole year.

A typical day for Gurudev at the ashram is somewhat like this.  Calls start coming early in the morning and go on till late night from all over the world. These are not only from devotees asking for blessings for the beautiful projects they undertake to spread joy, good  health and self  reliance or dates for visits, but from all sorts people including government officials of different countries, rebels and lay people, all call for assistance and help.  And they call at their convenience and their office hours.

Gurudev comes to office around 9.30 – 10-00 A M. Till lunch time the schedule is packed with meetings for the myriad agendas that people have –some of them similar to Gurudev’s agenda.  After a few reminders, the secretaries have to extricate him from people so that he can have lunch. (Gurudev typically does not have breakfast).  After lunch there are more meetings. Around 3.00pm Gurudev is extricated again so that he can rest.  The rest is usually with a couple of people reading out letters that are written to Gurudev from around the world while Gurudev is lying down and commenting “this is taken care of “ or “this must be an old letter. It has already been handled” or “Remind me about this” etc.


Around 4 pm another set of meetings start. After which Gurudev gives darshan to hundreds of devotees who have come from many cities and countries. His pet elephants eagerly await the tryst which is scheduled around this time and become restless to meet Gurudev.  Then it is Satsang time at 6.30 pm. Hundreds and sometimes thousands experience bliss with the soulful singing and the master’s knowledge. Gurudev usually has a light supper after Satsang followed by a string of meetings. On full moon nights, (rarely) some select singers sing Gurudev’s favorite songs. The secretaries then get busy with Gurudev on various subjects, including concretizing Gurudev‘s schedule (which is usually booked 10 months to a year in advance).  Phone calls continue.  Around 1.00 am Gurudev says “Jai Guru Dev” to everyone present indicating that they have to go and sleep. Many times people find Gurudev walking in the middle of the night checking the storage tanks, to see if they are full for the next day.

Even in this busy schedule, Gurudev manages to visit different projects and developments happening in the ashram almost daily. He also walks to the Gaushala to meet the cows, and other animals. Some mornings, Gurudev walks the whole campus. It is not surprising that He always knows the minutest details of everything happening around him. He makes many visits to the city and the nearby places where people have invited him.  This is what He achieves on a physical level in a single day.


Wherever Gurudev goes we pack up his schedule so tight. I have also heard of instances where our organizers in their enthusiasm have not only forgotten to eat but also forgotten to serve Gurudev lunch. From the bhakta’s point of view, it is understandable that Gurudev comes to a chapter rarely and the opportunity to serve him is a rare privilege. For one does not know when He will give the next dates to the chapter again. But we tend to forget that for Gurudev each day of the year is the same packed. I do not think there must be another human on this planet who travels so much, crossing so many time zones so often continuously for such a long time.

Sometimes I think Gurudev travels so much because we haven’t done our job as volunteers very well. From His side Gurudev has given us so many tools each more effective than the other. We have also seen and experienced the results thereof. Are they any short of a miracle?

Many questions come up in my mind:

  • Have we as Art of Living volunteers and teachers reached our potential?
  • Has Art of Living reached its potential as an organization?
  • Have we as teachers and volunteers used all the tools effectively to spread happiness and good health to our full potential?

When I ask myself this, the answer that comes from within is NO. I could have done so much more, especially when I hear of the wonderful stories of our teachers, yuvacharyas and volunteers.  If so few of these people could achieve so much of which the whole ART OF LIVING is proud of, what would happen to this country if all of us could do our bit before the World Culture Festival and Gurudev’s birthday?

What if Gurudev works only for 30- 40 minutes a day rather than resting only for 30-40 minutes?

What if we took the load off his shoulder so that Gurudev need not travel so much?

That would be the PERFECT gift for Gurudev’s 60th birthday. The best part is that it is doable.

Swami Bramhatej

Art of Living Courses, Art of Living Experiences, Yoga and Meditation.

Being a full time sevak with the Art of Living Foundation, coordinating its Rural Development Programs, my travel schedule is very hectic. My recent trips have been to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh & Uttranchal, all in a span of 40 days. As I was finally taking my early morning flight from Delhi to Bangalore Ashram (my home and workplace), I opened my laptop to review the long list of proposals that I had to review, my pending office appointments and the 300 odd unanswered mails I had in my outbox. As the flight took off, I looked outside to draw inspiration from the clear blue skies emitting the first rays of the morning sun (one of the reasons why I take the early morning flights),  but could not see anything but clouds. I then tried to close my eyes to meditate, but could not think of anything but the tasks that I needed to complete once I reach my office.

On reaching Bangalore Airport, I booked a cab to the Ashram. As I reached Ashram, it was little past breakfast time. I left my bags in my room and called up office saying that I will reach office after in an hours time. My mind was bogged down by the continuous pressure of work. I thought to myself, let me do my sadhna before breakfast, but the mind completely rejected the thought saying, “BOSS you have a lot of work to do and your team expects you in office after such a long gap. As I sat on the breakfast table, Suresh Babu, a divine angel sent by Gurudev came by my table and asked me “ Have you also come for the Week Iong Guru Poornima Art of Silence Program that has started today”. I replied to Suresh Babu “Wish I could join”, to which he replied back “ You have just missed the Long Kriya and that there is another long kriya happening in the evening for some people who came late”.  I took this as a divine call and quickly went to the admin office to register for the course. A part of me was saying, “You fool, you have so much work” but another part of me was persistently saying “Work will happen, first clear the clutter in your mind”. You are a Sadhak first, and if your mind starts finding excuses for not doing your sadhna, then its time to tame it, and what better tool then a 7 days Art of Silence Program at the ashram.


I was 20 minutes late for the first session. The first words I heard of Vasanti Ji, our Silence program teacher was “ We all are Fakirs who have come here to meet our beloved  & fakirs don’t carry mobiles and fancy bags. They just carry a cloth on which they sit or lie down & a bottle of water. Luckily for you fakirs, food and stay will not be an issue here in the ashram”.

In the evening we were supposed to inform every one that we will not be reachable for the next 7 days. When I told my family and team about my plans they could not understand the rational behind being in silence for 7 days. I think my mother was the only one who could understand me. I did not bother to explain any one and was eagerly waiting to become void, to let my mind and thoughts turn into ashes, to once again experience the bliss within me.

From the second day our silence with hollow and empty meditations began. This is when I realised that when the mouth shuts, the mind becomes double active. I was sitting in hollow and empty meditation and my mind was setting up a Food Processing & Ginger oil extraction unit for rural farmers in Assam. Our teacher told us to surrender all our thoughts & desires at the feet of the divine, and as I surrendered, one thought, a new thought of buying a piece of land to set up a model organic farm came up in my mind. My mind travelled the whole of India searching for a place to set up a model organic farm while my body was sitting in the meditation hall, in chin mudra, with eyes closed. Before I realised the game my mind was playing, the hollow and empty meditation in Poojya Gurudev’s voice got over and I felt completely hopeless for wasting a meditation session in thinking about things that did not even exist that very moment.

The third day was no better either. Its only that the mind graduated from setting up a model organic farm for rural farmers, to how good it will be to have such retreats closer to the Himalayas. My mind went on a spree of setting up a meditation and retreat centre with a 280 degree view of the Himalayas. I started travelling to Uttrakhand, Himachal, Gangtok, Bhutan in search for a land, with absolutely no ticket. It went to the extent of even designing the meditation room with glass windows overlooking the Himalayan ranges. My mind was running like a horse without reins and I was trying to ride the horse, to direct it this way or that. By the time I was over with my hallucinations, I realised that yet another hollow and empty meditation was over and I was feeling hollow and empty. My mind had fully substituted my mouth and was doing all the talking. I felt like a mad man. The only difference was that a mad person talks aloud to himself and I was talking to myself.  Every day in the night we used to have recorded knowledge sessions of Gurudev and  Gurudev on the first day said that “Have a tool gate in your mind and keep on checking the thoughts that are coming and going”. I started making tool gates in my mind but the moment I closed one , the other opened, then the other opened and after a certain point of time I couldn’t even count the number of tool gates I had in my mind.

As I look back I realised that we all are unconsciously doing this our whole life. We have completely forgotten that the process of talking can begin or end “at will”. We are so habituated to talking that we even talk in our sleep, all 24 hours of the day talking is automatic. We keep on talking and rehearsing. Before talking to someone we rehearse the dialogue internally and then after the conversation is over we repeat over and over all that happened- what I said and what you said and then what I said. We gradually forget what we are losing by talking unnecessarily. Externally we might be gaining something but internally we are losing contact with the self. We are getting closer to people but we are getting further away from the self. And the more adept we become in this game, the more difficult it becomes for us to go into silence.

 From the fourth day, I started understanding the tricks of our mind. I started to become a witness to my thoughts and was not trying to enforce any orders, as I started beginning to realise that one word was giving rise to another, to another and a thousand others, because all things were connected. On day 4 after the afternoon session, as I became truly helpless with my hopeless mind, I remember kneeling down before Gurudev’s photograph that was kept in the room. As I touched my head to the flowers kept near his picture, tears started rolling down my eyes. I was by then completely fed up of my chattering mind and prayed with all my heart requesting him to show me the way. I no more wanted to be in the valley of thoughts but on the lofty peaks where thoughts could not reach, in a space where there is only unbroken silence. On the fourth night, Gurudev said something that completely pierced my mind. He said “Thoughts are like clouds, they come and go. If your focus is on the clouds then you will never be able to see the infinite sky beyond it. Hold on to the blue sky you see between the clouds and after some time the clouds will automatically vanish”. That very moment I closed my eyes and was transported to a realm unknown to my mind. When I got up it was 11.15 pm and the night watchman was silently sitting outside the door. He was instructed by someone not to disturb me and to lock the room only after I left.

The next three days were one of the the most memorable days of my life. Gradually and very faintly I started to hear the footsteps of silence. I felt like a bird that had just been set free from the cage of the mind and now had nothing between its wings and the infinite sky. I can’t truly describe this experience as silence can only be felt and not explained. During my evening walks to the Ganpati Mandap at the Ved Agama, I began to listen to the winds stirring the trees. I begin to listen to the dry leaves fall. Sitting by the lake side I could hear the small waves in the water touching each other and could hear birds sing the glory of the sun set which they were witnessing. As I began to understand the silence within me, I began to realise that this silence is the principle of all the existence.  It is in this silence that everything in this creation exists. It is in this silence that a seed grows and becomes a tree, that sun rises and sets. It is in this silence that the 5 elements mix with each other in different permutations and combinations, creating everything we see around us. When we can learn how to listen to the silence, the void within, then there is nothing more to learn, because it is from that void where all the learning happens.


I feel that all the Gurus and all religions aim at only one thing; and that is to break this chattering within. Whether we call it yoga or meditation or repetition of mantras, the aim is to break the constant internal flow of words so that we can truly listen to ourself. If the internal dialogue stops even for a moment, we find the whole expanse of space opening within us; all that was yet unknown begins to be known. He who was a total stranger, with whom we were not acquainted at all, becomes our very own. The last two days of the course I felt as if I was sitting at the feet of my Guru. In the presence of a Guru there is nothing to say and everything to hear. We just listen and sit quietly.

Its been 4 days since I have come out of my silence, but can feel that a part of me is still in silence. This was my 13th Art of Silence Program, but it felt like my first. I feel Like I am just beginning to understand the true glory of silence.

Jai Gurudev

Deepak Sharma

Full Time Faculty with Art of Living

Pic Courtesy : Buddha Doodles & Deepak Sharma

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

Activity of mind is necessary for existence. In our day-to-day life cannot move with an inactive mind. However the mind gets so engrossed in the activity that it forgets the very purpose of this activity and blindly gets caught-up in the unceasing cycle of mental activity. Mind gets tired with this unending mental activity.

Secondly every moment the mind perceives the world around it through the five senses. Every perception gives rise to some thoughts and emotions. Some are pleasant and some unpleasant. These perceptions along with associated thoughts and emotions get stored in memory as impressions. Stronger the associated emotions stronger are these impressions. Thus we collect millions of impressions with passage of time. Some impressions are strong, some are not so strong. These past impressions in the mind colour our perception of present moment. Unless the mind is free from all past impressions it will never be able to perceive the present moment ‘as it is’. Unless the mind is free from all past impressions it will never be able to perceive the Truth ‘as it is’.

Tired mind and too many impressions in the mind cause:

  • Loss of enthusiasm & energy
  • Excessive stress
  • Confusion
  • Distraction
  • Lack of focus
  • and finally, derangement of the mind.

Nature has given some inbuilt mechanisms like sleep and dreams to erase or dilute some of the impressions. However present day hectic and stressful life demands something more. Meditation is the solution for all these problems of the mind.

Meditation is a delicate art of doing ‘nothing’ on the level of thoughts and yet having completely restful and alert mind. A meditative mind is silent and at the same time an alert mind. Meditation gives mind the deep rest it yearns for and at the same time it cleanses the mind of unhealthy impressions. It improves perception as well as improves communication and expression. It energizes and rejuvenates the mind in all aspects. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Meditation brings inner peace, gives energy to cope up with difficult situations and unites the hearts and minds of people.”

Meditation is a skill which needs to be mastered. The easiest and most effective way to learn meditation is to learn it from a Guru who has mastered the art of meditation. In a very subtle way the meditative mind of a Guru gently guides the mind of a disciple on the path of meditation. On this path the communication between a Guru and disciple is almost non-verbal. The few words the Guru utters, to guide the disciple into meditation, are there only to communicate something which is beyond words.

8th AUGUST 2015 is a special day for meditation and all the meditators. It is a golden opportunity for the uninitiated ones to learn meditation. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji will be conducting online guided meditation for the whole world from Russia. This event “The Planet Meditates” aims to bring together over 100,000 people meditating at the same time all over the world, and also setting a Guiness Record! It is an opportunity to experience meditation with the Master as well as opportunity to participate in a World Record event. It is said that when 1000’s of minds meditate together it has leaves a positive impact on the whole planet.

Don’t forget to become a part of this historic opportunity by registering on http://planetmeditates.org/ .The event is scheduled on 8th August 2015 at 2:00pm GMT / 7:30pm IST.  Log on to http://artofliving.org/webcast or the Sri Sri App on your mobile to join the LIVE online meditation with Sri Sri.


Sanjay Sabnis