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

One day my close friend called me to inform that Swamiji was at Ahmedabad and he had agreed to come over for dinner at his home. My friend invited me along with some others for dinner and knowledge session with Swamiji. I was delighted because I had tremendous respect for Swamiji.

I remembered the day when I first met Swamiji. It was way back in the year 2000. It was the last day of my first ‘Advance Course’ at Surat. Swamiji had graced that course as a guest of honor and gave a small talk to the participants. He told us how fortunate we were to be on this beautiful path shown by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. He shared that, before coming to ‘Art of Living’, he had practiced many different types of Spiritual techniques (Sadhana). Some of those techniques were so tough that, it was like undergoing major surgery without anesthesia. In contrast, the path of ‘Art of Living’ was like operation under complete anesthesia. The patient doesn’t even realize that he is being operated. It is a path of smiles and laughter. It is a path of celebration. I was deeply moved by Swamiji’s words. Over the years I have realized the truth behind his words.

That day, the knowledge session with Swamiji was amazing. We were a small group of 8-10 people, so it was more like a one-to-one question-answer session. During discussions many of our doubts got cleared. Someone asked something regarding meditation. While explaining, Swamiji told that meditation is nothing but complete awareness. He said that many people lose their body awareness during meditation, their spine and head stoops down while meditating. According to Swamiji this was not meditation.

 

 

I was totally confused. I had seen many senior ‘Art of Living’ teachers meditating with their heads bent down. I vainly tried to argue with Swamiji that even Gurudev’s head bends down when he goes into meditation during Satsang. But Swamiji was very firm on his opinion. I was puzzled. I knew that Swamiji was a very learned, rational and down-to-earth person. He had many years of spiritual experience behind him.  He was a revered personality in ‘Art of Living’ circles as well as outside. He couldn’t be wrong. I also remembered Gurudev himself saying that, “A mind in the present moment is meditation.” Being in present moment is being totally aware. So, Gurudev’s statement was also corroborating with Swamiji’s views on meditation. However, this doubt about meditation kept nagging at the back of my mind for many days.

 

Advance Meditation Program 

 

After a few months, luckily I got an opportunity to attend 7-days ‘Advance Meditation Program’ (AMP) in presence of Gurudev at Bangalore Ashram. By that time, I had almost forgotten about Swamiji’s visit and my doubts about meditation. But by some strange coincidence (as usual?), Gurudev cleared all my doubts on the very first day of reporting at Bangalore Ashram. Being Sunday, the Satsang was in the open amphitheater. During Satsang, Gurudev led everyone into a very beautiful meditation with eyes partially open during the meditation. It was ‘eyes open’ meditation with complete awareness. Gurudev told that this was Sakshi meditation (witness meditation).

 

 

Gurudev said, in Sakshi meditation, you are simultaneously witnessing all that is happening inside and outside. Like a candle (diya) kept on the boundary wall, your awareness lights both inside and outside environment simultaneously. With the practice of Sakshi meditation your awareness sharpens. Your intellect sharpens. But if you keep on practicing only Sakshi meditation, you may become dry. You will not get the juice (ras) of life.

 

Laya Meditation

 

Gurudev then explained about Laya meditation In Laya meditation, one dissolves totally. It is like meditating while getting totally engrossed in the music of Satsang. Even Sahaj Samadhi meditation, as taught in ‘Art of Living’ courses is a Laya meditation. In this type of meditation, the mind becomes no mind. If you keep on practicing only Laya meditation you will definitely get happiness and peace of mind but you may not have that sharpness of intellect which is desired of a meditator. So we should have a combination of both Laya and Sakshi.

Gurudev said, “For a seeker it is essential that the mind is alert and awake, at the same time emotions are also alive.” I suddenly realised that, the combination of ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ followed by ‘Sahaj Samadhi Meditation’, as given by Gurudev, is a beautiful combination of ‘Sakshi’ and ‘Laya’. During ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ the awareness is effortlessly focussed on the breath. Breath is always going on in the present moment.  By following the breath, mind comes in present moment. So during ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ the consciousness automatically becomes ‘witness consciousness.’ On the other hand, ‘Sahaj Samadhi’ is an effortless Laya meditation. During ‘Sahaj Samadhi’ meditation, mind simply dissolves with the help of the ‘mantra’.

On that particular day, it was extremely hot outside. After the Sakshi meditation by Gurudev, many felt that the weather has suddenly become bearable. Gurudev said that a Yogi is not perturbed by hot or cold. For a Yogi hot weather or cold weather both are same.

In the evening miraculously there were clouds in the sky and there was thunder and rain. Temperatures fell by around 5-6 degrees. Weather became very pleasant. Next day, one of the participants thanked Guruji for rains. Guruji said, “The key was in acceptance. During Sakshi meditation, you accepted the extremely hot weather. As soon as you stopped resisting the hot weather, it changed.”

….to be continued

II Jai Guru Dev I|

 

Sanjay Sabnis

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

‘Child is the father of man’ said William Wordsworth 3 centuries ago. What does it mean?!

As a student of Literature, it intrigued me. I read through lot of annotations. Wordsworth meant, whatever experiences a child goes through in childhood shapes the person he becomes as an adult. I looked at myself. Yes, I am a product of my childhood, like everyone else is. The upbringing, culture, values, tradition and unconditional love of not just my parents but a large extended family of grandparents, aunts, and uncles made a huge influence on the person that I became as an adult. With such strong ethical foundation, I built myself as an independent thinker to blossom in my swadharma. Swadharma is our inherent nature.

All literary figures drive home the point ‘Literature reflects life’.

As a young girl of 6 or 7, I remember getting up in the morning and looking at the picture of a God, then looking at my right palm to chant ‘Karagre vasathe lakshmi, kara madhye sarswati, Kara mole sthithe gauri, prabhate Karadarshanam’.  This would continue throughout the day. A different shloka for almost every daily activity; be it going out of the house, sitting down for a meal, a dusk time prayer when lamp was lit, a prayer before beginning to study and conclude with a bedtime prayer to avoid bad dreams.

The house always brimmed with relatives who would come unannounced to be greeted with a warm welcome and special food. We as children touched their feet as they took leave. Birthdays were marked with special pujas and favourite home made goodies. We always had a band of relatives to rely on when parents had to go somewhere without us.

I have watched with dismay as this value system gradually started collapsing. Children are left confused. We cannot blame just the nuclear family system. Values have taken back seat to a degree where parents are focused on achieving a good standard of living; provide the best of best for their kids, everything they themselves could not have. Somewhere we missed the balance, tipped the scales by changing priorities.

 

 

All spiritual Gurus step in at the nick of time to save our rich heritage. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, envisaged setting up Sri Sri Sanskar Kendras not only in India but in other countries too where children could imbibe these precious values in a friendly, fun filled atmosphere. A dedicated team of volunteer teachers of the Kendras fill the void left by dissolution of joint family system and the values associated with it.

The age old practice of bed time or meal time story telling by grandmothers to young kids kindled the imagination and encouraged creativity. The stories were animated by the hand gestures and facial expression of grandmas.  The same scenario is recreated in Sanskar Kendra classes. Thus IPads and laptops fade in to oblivion saving the health of the child. A strong bond of love develops between teachers and kids. What a relief!

 

 

Holistic education is about integrating spirituality into main stream of education. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says ‘Education is not about stuffing information. It is much more than that. True education should impart values and create beautiful citizens on this planet’. With the hectic academic schedule, schools can hardly take relaxed time out to teach sanskars (values) to children. Sri Sri Sanskar Kendras bridge this gap and help mould the character of children who blossom to their full potential.

 

 

 
The most noble and much needed initiative that promises a generation of young adults who will not need stress management or de-addiction programs. Training programs are held periodically. It is a calling for every responsible citizen to join the team.

Bangalore is the base for one of the world’s largest NGO, The Art of Living Foundation.  Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra will be holding a 2 day Teacher Training sessions on 29th and 30th of this month  in Bangalore. Centres or Kendras will be set up throughout Karnataka thereafter.

For more information, connect with

Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra office

919811390972

919811090972

Email: SriSriSanskarKendra@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SriSriSanskarKendra/

Leela Ramesh

About Art of Living, Art of Living News, Art of Living Projects, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Nature’s bountifulness has always helped our life grow in prosperity. One such element out of the 5 building blocks of Life on this planet that have beautified the variety of existence that we see around us, including ourselves, is water. Water is an inseparable part of the life on our planet. Water is so important that we may call it life itself. But today, Nature has been taken for granted by us while we are busy stitching technology in our lives and we don’t even realise how it has suffered. This happened largely because of unawareness of the consequences of our actions.

Due to indiscriminate actions taken by humans of cutting trees and constructing concrete jungles, nature couldn’t shower enough rains and all the living creatures got affected. The forests faced soil erosion, while rivers and greenery vanished. The global warming eventually led to the droughts which struck almost everywhere in the interior parts of our country. The farmers who earn their living relying on rains got disheartened and were deprived of their livelihood. The major rivers also faced droughts. The problems of water-wars, crop failures, farmer suicides, environmental degradation and unsustainable agricultural practices started dawning.

It is said that an aspiration to make a change can inspire many to achieve a righteous cause. One such inspiration for us is Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself who is Humanitarian & Spiritual leader and an Ambassador​ of Peace. He knew that the rejuvenation of rivers was the only means to remove misery from the lives of millions thirsting for water all over India. This strong intention to empower the lives of our ‘Annadaata’ farmers was also the inspiration to help them become the able pillars of our country. The Art of Living volunteers gathered spiritedly to rejuvenate the life-giving rivers.

Various projects were taken up for the rejuvenation of rivers like Vedavathi, Kumudavathi, Banjara, Palar and many many more. Vedavathi river rejuvenation’s success inspired the Government of India to learn from this project and initiate similar projects across the country to revive the drying rivers. Kumudavathi river rejuvenation aims to reduce Bangalore city’s water dependence on the river Kaveri. 2700 volunteers including corporate employees’ engagement saw a remarkable resolve with youthfulness exhibited an astounding result which directly benefited 70000 people. Manjara river which was desilited over 14 kms  in length and was cleaned in 5 months time has saw its revival. The humble citizens of Latur contributed Rs.6.25 crores from the household savings to take the charge of curbing sudden water crisis.

Palar river rejuvenation project which when completed will bring back water to various districts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. This will set an example of how a model of inter-state river management should be.

The scientific approach with community engagement and project management complemented in such a way that till now 27 rivers have been revived and 3000 villages have benefited along with 50,00,000 people.

The river rejuvenation teams are committed to not just reviving rivers but also to rebuilding lives by empowering individuals and to rekindle the hope of fortifying the future of the country. All the projects taken up are employed with the latest scientific technology, insightful scientific knowledge and guidance by experts.

 

 

The success in the projects has been achieved by providing local solutions to restore water sources and to directly benefit many people by providing a reliable and safe water supply. There are various other steps taken to reduce contamination of water sources and to improve sanitation and hygienic conditions in many rural areas thereby securing lives from diseases and ensure basic health to many.

The fact-sheet that can leave us in wonder is that work has been done for over 290 kilometers of river lines and 60 kilometers of similar work is in progress. This work done till now; covers about 9 districts and 6 more districts are to be covered in the ongoing projects. 21 rivers have been rejuvenated in Maharashtra, 3 in Karnataka and one in Tamil Nadu. The projects have revived 75 canals, 18 lakes and ponds and the list continues.

 

This effort by the Art of Living Foundation is not just a project but a way of touching the lives of millions under the guidance of a caring spiritual master who aims at establishing heaven on earth by creating happiness and love for all across the globe.

Rejuvenated rivers will rejuvenate lives, rejuvenated lives will rejuvenate society, rejuvenated societies will rejuvenate the country, rejuvenated countries will rejuvenate the whole world, one step at a time and then this planet will undeniably be the best place to live in.

 

For all latest updates please visit  www.water.artofliving.org

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Jai Gurudev !

Meeta Soneji

 

About Art of Living, Art of Living Courses.

 

The Art of Living courses have found takers from across the length and breadth of the world. People from all walks of life have found the courses beneficial to their well-being. It is surprising to see the courses, despite being just stress-relief courses in their essence, have been doing more than just relieving individuals from stress – after doing the courses individuals have blossomed with efficiency, new-found talents, and smiles which don’t disappear easily.

 

“Under the pressure of work and a new lifestyle as a fresher who had just started her corporate journey, I had soon started to smile less and less. After doing the happiness program, I saw a great shift happen within me. I started smiling more and more. And even my work efficiency doubled.” – Manisha Tayal, Software Engineer, Sapient, Gurgaon

 

So, how does a simple stress-relief program deliver much more than simple relaxation? Or is our idea of relaxation not similar to the relaxation the courses wish to bring about? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the organisation says, “Deep rest cultures talents and brings you closer to your nature. And your nature is all bliss.”

And endowing individuals with the ability to rest deeply seems to be the objective of the Art of Living courses. But how do they achieve this? To know how, let’s dive deeper into the Art Of Living’s basic-level courses:

 

Happiness Program

 

If we observe carefully, the source of stress is our own mind. The situation or person bothering us is outside, but the stress created by them is an inner-world phenomenon. Through the application of practical wisdom and practice of meditation, the mind can be trained to keep calm despite the presence of stress stimulants.

The practical wisdom and profound processes of the Happiness program give individuals tools to train their mind into calmness and restfulness with ease.

What to expect in the course?

-Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique which has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone and shown to boost immunity.

-Profound processes which give a glimpse to your inner self

-Practical wisdom that helps you remain dynamic in action and peaceful in mind

 

 

Sri Sri Yoga

 

Twisted hard postures is what comes to our mind when we think of yoga. But, the course content of the Sri Sri Yoga Program is bound to change your mind. The program not only teaches Yoga which is easier for beginners but also offers profound experiences which a practitioner of advanced level of Yoga craves for. The objective of the course is to help individuals unite with themselves and lead a healthier life.

What to expect in the course?

-Yoga postures ranging from mild to intense

-Meditation

-Breathing techniques

-Pranayams

-Simplified knowledge from the ancient Patanjali Yogsutras

-Lifestyle tips

 

Sahaj Samadhi

Meditation  is often thought of as a difficult exercise done to obtain the state of thoughtlessness. What the Sahaj Samadhi course does is to simplify this exercise and make it easy for an individual to reach this state. The Sahaj Samadhi course uses the principle of mantra chanting to lead an individual into meditation. While an ordinary thought when repeated becomes a worry, a mantra when repeated becomes a tool to cut the web of thoughts, thereby leading one to a space of serenity.

The simple technique offered by the course makes itself appealing to anybody who wants to learn an easy way to meditate.

 

What to expect in the course?

-Effortless meditation by the use of a particular mantra

 

Art Excel

Studies show that meditation has numerous benefits for kids, including improved focus and self-awareness. However, what studies don’t show is how difficult it is to make kids stay at one place, let alone make them meditate. The Art Excel program solves this difficulty with fun-filled activities interspersed with meditation and mindfulness lessons.

What to expect in this course?

  • Sudarshan Kriya
  • Meditation and other breathing techniques
  • Techniques for overcoming fear and anxiety
  • Interactive processes
  • Simple tenets for daily life
  • Team games
  • Group discussions
  • Learning through fun and games

 

Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!)

Adolescence is one trying phase of life where an individual faces a host of challenges: peer pressure, entrance exams, expectations of parents, and their own intense emotions. The YES! program employs meditation and practical wisdom to endow teens with the skills to overcome these challenges with confidence.

 

What to expect in this course?

-Sudarshan Kriya

-Meditation and breathing techniques

-Techniques for overcoming anxiety and fear

-Techniques to develop concentration

-Simple tenets for daily life

-Interactive processes, group discussions, and team games

-Confidence building and leadership

-Fun-filled activities and games

 

APEX

 

As studies find happy employees more productive, organizations can no longer ignore their well-being. And while health insurances of employees can take care of physical health, there are no official arrangements ensuring the emotional health of employees. The APEX program bridges this need and not only ensures calm and happy individuals at the workplace but also ensures improved workplace performance.

 

What to expect in this course?

-Sudarshan Kriya

-Practical Wisdom

-Leadership development

 

 

There are no pre-requisites for doing the above courses. Just age eligibility for the YES! And Art Excel programs. And while the course contents are different, the objective of all courses is one: a happier and healthier individual. So what are you waiting for? Come on board to the journey to your happiest and highest self! And send your loved ones on it too.

 

So Which program are you enrolling in?

 

Vandita Kothari

About Art of Living, Art of Living Wisdom, Others.

My experiments for staying fit (both mentally & physically) led me to The Art of Living workshop and later it was

Rishi Vidhyadharji who introduced me to Ayurveda. My thirst to know more about Ayurveda, made me take up reading about this ancient science.

Let me just share some known & unknown basic facts about Ayurveda.

The most simplified definition of Ayurveda = Ayu (Life) + Veda (Knowledge): It is Knowledge System which makes life free from the obstacles. It teaches how to maintain and protect health, how to cure diseases and promote longevity.

In Bhagavad Gita, it is mentioned

“Yuktahara-viharasya yukta-cestasya karmasu, Yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkha-ha.

The right amount of food, the right amount of activity, and the right amount of service (service is necessary) is essential. When you follow this, then all the sorrow runs away. 

The right balance is the key, isn’t it?

TriGunas – Our Life consist of 3 Gunas: A subtle inner quality that exists behind all material forms in nature. Sattva, Rajas & Tamas: balance of these three Gunas is what makes our life easier & happier. There are five elements, also called as Pancha-Mahabhutas, namely Ether (Space), Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The various elements with their attributes are as mentioned below:

Ether Element

Air Element

Fire Element

Water Element

Earth Element

TriDoshas – Dosha means that which gets vitiated. Since they get vitiated and disturb the physiological functions of the body thereby initiating the process of disease. They are branded as Tri Dosha. There are 3 doshas namely Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Each dosha is born out of impairment of combinations of Elements.

Ayurveda is based on two fundamental theories, the Pancha-Mahabhutas and Tridosha theory. When the Pancha-Mahabhutas or five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) is balanced, the body is healthy and when they are imbalanced, there is disease. These elements manifest into life forces and make each one of us unique, physically and mentally. The elements combine into three Doshas (life forces) – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The combination of the three Doshas influences our mental, emotional and physical tendencies.

The primary focus of Ayurveda is to seek balance & restore health thereby avoiding illness proactively.

Interestingly each dosha has timing:

Prakriti – “Pra” refers to be Beginning and “Kriti” means Creation or to do. So Prakriti means ‘The Original form of being’.

A brief guide to understanding different  prakriti :

 

Vata Prakriti:

  • Feel hungry at any time, day or night
  • Love excitement and constant change
  • Sleep at different times every night, skip meals and keep irregular habits in general
  • Digest food one day and poorly the next
  • Display bursts of emotions that are short lived and poorly the next
  • Walk and speak quickly or in a fast manner
  • Spontaneous

 

Pitta Prakriti :

  • Feel frantically hungry if food is even half an hour late
  • Live by your watch and regret having your time wasted.
  • Generally wake up at night feeling hot and thirsty
  • Take command of situation or feel that you should
  • Learn from experience that others find you too demanding, sarcastic or critical at times
  • Have a determined step while walking
  • Sharp, intelligent and creative in nature
  • Lots of moles, freckles or pimples

 

Kapha Prakriti :

  • Think for a long time before taking a decision
  • Wake up slowly, lie in a bed for a long time
  • Contended
  • Respect other people’s feeling with which you feel genuine and empathy
  • Seek emotional comfort from eating
  • Even though overweight a gliding walk and graceful movements
  • Often good looking
  • Calm and quite nature

 

Vikriti : The mind-body complex functions normally when the doshas are balanced. When they go out of balance it leads to some malfunction in system. Imbalance in doshas is known as “Vikriti”.

To stay healthy it is very much necessary that a practice of regular yoga asanas (exercise) meditation, relaxation, is adopted along-with healthy eating habits.  A regular visit to Nadi Parikshak is very important too. Nadi Pariksha or Pulse Diagnosis is the ancient ayurvedic technique of diagnosis through the pulse. It can accurately diagnose physical, mental and emotional imbalances as well as diseases.

I highly recommend everyone to contact Nadi Parikshaks / Ayurvedic Doctors before coming to any conclusion from the facts that have been stated above, as they may vary from person to person.

 

Disclaimer: All the things mentioned in above article are personal experiences of the author & in no way associated to any organisation. These details may not be true to every individual. We do not claim any of the points mentioned above, about the organisation, person, information or the book. Readers are advised to contact local Nadi Parikshak before following anything mentioned in above article.

Our readers may also buy Ayurveda Simplified Book at Sattva Store.

http://www.sattvastore.com/ayurveda-simplified-print-10000000000048.html

 

Jai Gurudev

Vishnu Dhanuka

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

A chance encounter with Dr. Janaki Sinha, an octogenarian, in The Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore, reinforced the faith in me that age is only a number if you have the passion and commitment to serve.  Altruism requires giving back to society all the good, and more.  Dr. Sinha struck me as a perfect example of altruism. A retired professor from S.B.L.N.T.M College (Vinoba Bhave University, previously known as Ranchi University), Jharkhand, Dr. Sinha exudes warmth and friendliness with a steely resolve to complete her mission of uplifting the people of  Deogarh, the 5th largest city in Jharkhand.

 

Deogarh district has a large tribal population known for its folk art, music, drama, dance, culture, temples, and medicinal herbs. Various species of medicinal plants are present in  Dumka, Hazaribag and Gumla districts of Jharkhand. Deogarh is the main city of Deogarh district in the Santhal Parganas division of the state of Jharkhand. It is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre with the Baidyanath Temple being one of the 12 Shiva Jyothirlingas and also one of the 51 Shakthi Peethas in India. Also known as Baidyanath Dham, Deogarh has a remarkable history. It goes back to the times of Lord Rama in Treta Yuga. In the 8th Century A. D. the last Gupta emperor, Aditya Sena Gupta, ruled this region. The Baidyanath Dham temple is famous since then.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, the founder of one of the world’s largest NGOs, the Art of Living Foundation, travels extensively  in India and abroad for the up-liftment of the society with the single most motto ‘to see a smile on every face’. People around the world and in India eagerly await his visit to their homeland. Gurudev  will be visiting Baba Baidyadham Teerth in Deogarh on 1st March 2017 for the darshan of the Jyothirlinga.

 

 

Dr. Sinha who is going ahead of Gurudev to Deoghar to prepare some youth to become leaders and to seek blessings of Gurudev says, “It’s my sankalpa (resolve) that Gurudev meets the tribals of the area who are waiting for Him since a long time”.

There is a history of 30+ years of hard work of Dr. Sinha for the betterment of the tribal community and yet much is left to be done. Stoic in her countenance, wisdom that comes with age, Dr. Sinha has been patiently waiting for the time Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji blesses Deoghar with His presence and guides the people there. Her frail body belies the strong person that she is.

Her eyes sparkle as she recounts the story of her journey.

Let us hear in her own words –

“The Centre for Women’s Studies was registered in 1985/86 in Bihar. The idea was given by Smt. Phulrenu Guna, then MP from West Bengal 1984-89, in one of the conferences of Women’s Association at Kanpur. She made us understand that when society has given us so much love, affection, and everything, we have to also contribute something good to the society. Dr Vina Mazumdar, the founding Director of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), an autonomous organisation established in 1980, was my teacher in the university. Thus we started the work along with Smt. Sulekha Dua. I was the Director and Sulekha was the Deputy Director. I was assigned by the Chairman to work in the tribal fields santhal parganas. We were concerned about the up-liftment of the Santhal tribal society on the whole. Our area of work was from Deogarh extending to a few villages in remote areas. The people of these villages belong to Paharia tribe who live in the mountains and their main source of livelihood being forest produce. “Now, their race is fast diminishing”, says Dr. Sinha with wistful eyes that look far away.

“Why is it diminishing?” I ask her with curiosity.

“There are about 30 tribal groups in Jharkhand. Paharia forms 1% of the tribal population. Paharias live in more interior pockets which are generally inaccessible and with declining sources of sustenance they become more vulnerable to hunger, starvation,  malnutrition and ill-health. Some of them are even on the verge of extinction”, says Sinha with pain in her voice.

“As a result of unrest, naxalism and alcoholism is also on the rise which needs to be curbed.”

Dr. Sinha wants to address 3 main issues – to preserve the race; to preserve the culture; and to preserve the cultivation of medicinal herbs.

It is interesting to note that the area was once known for traditional folk art, music, dance, drama. Dr. Sinha added that the tribals were experts in making stone pottery, bronze sculpture, carpets from rags and exquisite paintings on the walls. “Every home was painted by the family and it was a feast to the eyes.”

Because of difficulty in finances and marketing, this rich heritage is in the danger of becoming obsolete. The present youth needs education and awareness to value, revive and sustain their culture. They have to learn to take pride in what their ancestors handed down to them. Dr. Sinha hopes to accomplish this through the help of the volunteers of the Art of Living. She is a great believer in YLTP program that brings out the leadership abilities in the youth who will in turn take responsibility for their community.

“We worked in Paharia villages of Dumka district. They were famous as centre of culture because they were experts in the field of traditional music, dance and drama. Since forestry and agriculture was the main occupation, people including children were very innovative with the available resources. Once I happened to see a bunch of children picking and carrying home huge bundles of grass. I asked them what they intended to do with it. They said they would use them to make musical instruments! The culture of music was so predominant” says Dr. Sinha with amusement and amazement.

I found it intriguing that the children in the area practised the art of making musical instruments such as violin using grass!!! How I wish to see one such instrument!

The third issue is the use of medicinal herbs for the welfare of community at large. Dr. Sinha  relents the fact that the medicinal herbs grown in the area is utilised for personal use, to treat illness in the family. A large variety of herbs that grow abundantly which can be formulated into herbal medicines does not happen. The tribals use medicinal plants by traditional knowledge. Traditional medicinal practitioners known as vaidays or kaviraj are the primary health care providers in rural Jharkhand. The knowledge of medicinal plants has mainly been gathered by the people in the form of tradition and experiences and inherited over the centuries to the future generation. It is extremely important to save this traditional knowledge of biological heritage and explore new resources.

“I was fortunate to get encouragement for tribal welfare by The Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. A Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) was conducted for the tribal youth. The youths who underwent the program are very happy and have developed deep love and faith (shraddha) for Guruji. They are willing to take responsibility for the up-liftment of their community. One of the Yuvacharyas of the Art of Living is now a Mukhiya (Leader) of village Panchayat. She is working diligently for the welfare of the community. However, I am pained to say that because of lack of support from volunteers and follow-up, progress is blocked. I am now hoping and praying that with Guruji’s visit to Deogarh on March 1, work will resume in full swing. It is my dream to see a flourishing Deogarh reveling in its rich culture and tradition”.

Concluding Dr. Sinha shared that the Government has sanctioned 50 -60 acres of land to Mahila Samiti for plantation. “A Dhyan Mandir for the Santhals can be built in the land” says she with a ray of hope and faith.

We join hands with her mission and hope to hear success stories from the inhabitants of Deoghar.

For when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji steps in, Can there be anything else?!

Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Stories, Gurus, Saints & Sages.

With his presence in form of a statue at the end of every street and sometimes in middle of a traffic island, Hanuman is the most popular God across the length and breadth of India. Hanuman’s popularity is wide in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bali, Fiji and the Caribbean. He is known with the name Sang Kera Pemuja Dewa Rama in South East Asia and there is an 85 ft Hanuman statue in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

The first impression which comes to our mind when we think of Hanuman; is courage, which comes out of sheer dedication and commitment to the goal of his Master, Lord Ram. The dedication and commitment takes birth from the immense Bhakti he has for Lord Ram. Often Hanuman as a God symbolises – Shakti (strength and power), Yukti (trick and logic) and Bhakti (love and devotion). Hanuman has immense love for Lord Ram.

It was so immense that when Lord Ram would say something everybody would think twice before doing it but he wouldn’t even wait for a jiffy. He didn’t wait when he had to carry the ring of Ram to Sita in the Lanka crossing the vast Hindu Mahasamudra (Mahasagar). He didn’t wait to jump into the fire and smoke of the Paataal Loka (the world under the earth) to kill Mahiravana. He didn’t think a moment to jump across the Dandakaranya to fetch the Sanjeevini medicine to cure the wounded Laxmana.

 

 

To accomplish a task of this scale and magnitude, one needs unflinching commitment and strength. Undoubtedly, Hanuman was blessed by all the Gods with abundance of that. But the secret catalyst to Hanuman’s recipe was Bhakti! The Bhakti manifested dedication in him to work with a single mind towards  Lord Ram’s goal.

Every word of Lord Ram was a rule for Hanuman. Lord Ram’s smile – a blessing, his love – an ocean of contentment, his anger – war conch, his compassion – a rain of abundance! Hanuman would often say – “When I am the body, I am Lord Ram’s servant. When I am the Soul, there is no difference between me and him.” The love was so intense. For him duty meant Lord Ram’s work, happiness meant Lord Ram’s company and peace meant Lord Ram’s worship.

When Hanuman was a kid, one day he went to his mother Anjana Devi and asked her the purpose of his life. To which Anjana Devi smiled and replied – “One day you will meet a person. When you meet him, all your sorrows and thoughts will disappear. When you meet him, you will find yourself in middle of bliss and experience unconditional happiness. And you heart will say – Are you that magic beyond the realms of the dreams which I waited all this while to meet and longed for you eternally?” Serving him and living the message and spirit of service will be the purpose of your life”. He found Lord Ram, one day in midst of the dreaded Dandakaranya frantically searching for his abducted wife, Sita. That longing seamlessly transformed into love for his Master.

 

 

One of the Sanskrit verses from Hanuman Chalisa, an ancient 40 couplet song written by Saint Tulasi Das which translates to

“Wherever the glory of Raghunatha (Lord Rama) is being sung, Maruthi, the antidote to all the demons in this world shall be present there with folded hands and tears in his eyes.”

Hanuman proved that a devotee is supreme; devotion is Supreme and, a tad bigger than the Divine.

A less known story about Hanuman epitomises the power of his devotion.

Once upon a time, the kingdom of Kashi was ruled by a pious king. One day he goes to River Ganga to have a bath during the dawn. Due to the darkness, he accidentally stepped on Sage Vishwamitra who was also taking bath in Ganga. He is cursed by Sage Vishwamitra that he would die for insult caused to him in Kashi. Vishwamitra also curses  Hanuman that he would order his disciple Ram to kill him. On Vishwamitra’s instructions, Ram vows to kill the King of Kashi in 3 days. The King of Kashi respects and admires Ram and decides to surrender to Ram so that he can die in hands of the Divine. When he begins the journey towards Ayodhya, his journey is stopped by his Rajaguru Narada who refutes his claim that he committed a mistake. Narada convinces The King of Kashi to seek refuge from Anjana Devi, mother of Hanuman, who is the dearest to Ram. The King goes and seeks protection from Anjana Devi as Narada feels Hanuman is the only person who can save him from the crisis. The King of Kashi narrates the entire story to Anjana Devi, surrenders to her and prays for protection. Anjana Devi mollifies him and blesses him as  “Chiranjeeva! (which means may you be blessed with a long life” and calls out to her son. Hanuman arrives instantly. The King of Kashi narrates the entire story to him. Anjana Devi passes on the formidable responsibility of protecting the King to Hanuman. Hanuman assures protection saying that “Ramo Vigrahavan Dharamaha” which is “Ram is the towering edifice of Dharma” and Ram would never commit anything which is out of Dharma.

Hanuman goes to meet Ram. He is surprised as Ram is inured to his words as he has already made up his mind to attack Kashi and is briskly preparing for the war. Moreover, he resists to what Hanuman says as he treats it as an insult to his guru Vishwamitra. In the heat of the argument, a conflict breaks out between Ram and Hanuman. Hanuman feels that King of Kashi is innocent while Ram feels that he is guilty. Hanuman, bound by the promise given to his mother, thereby announces to confront Ram in the battle of war and protect the King. The war conch is blown and battle lines are drawn. Ram and his army arrive in Kishkinda and start raining arrows on King of Kashi. Hanuman starts singing Ram Naam (chants of the name of Ram) to which all the arrows start falling. The best of the Astras including the Bramhastra fail before the chants of Hanuman. The chants of Ram Naam by Hanuman are so powerful that they form a protective hemisphere around the Gandhamadhana Mountain in Kishkinda where Hanuman was sitting with the King of Kashi. The war intensifies as Ram tries a diverse range of Astras and Mantras to kill the King. Hanuman’s Bhakti also intensifies as he starts singing even more loudly and even start dancing and jumping in the intoxication of Ram Kirtan. Ram himself is surprised at this sheer failure and decides to kill himself to save himself from the defeat of war. Vishwamitra, then walks in and tells Ram and others present there that it was a drama hatched by him to send out a strong message that – A devotee and his/her devotion are greater than the Divine himself.

Everybody played their part well in the drama but the hero of the drama Hanuman innocently was soaked in the ocean of devotion and became an example for generation. Hanuman proved that a devotee is infallible.

 

 

 

More stories to follow …

In Service,

Surya Tej Borra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets us look at behind the scenes action.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Leela Ramesh

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Uncategorized.

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

 

The Meeting 

 

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

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

She ushered us into the meeting room.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vidyut Udiaver

 

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

Breathes there the man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said

This is my own, my native land!

-Sir Walter Scott

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

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

 Tete a tete …Read on

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

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


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

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

 

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

fullsizerender

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

karnataka-organic-farmers-convention-jan-2015

 

 

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

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

 

Leela Ramesh