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

In the age of digital connectivity where everyone is connected to everyone else with the push of a button, the initial reaction to a world culture festival that brings millions of people together in one place to celebrate different cultures was ambivalent to me. A television broadcast would reach millions more with lesser effort, was my first thought. Why all this fuss? Why fly people from the Far East, far west, places in between and then herd them all into one place in India?

Then the probing and analytical side of my mind took over and surprised me. Here’s what I found: I Googled the phrase ‘celebration of diversity’ with a few key word variations. I learnt that the United Nation has sanctioned a day to celebrate and honour the world’s cultural diversity. I was impressed with the goals and ambitions set out by this great organization but found that the magnitude and reach of their programs were rather local, scanty and scattered. The United Nation’s programs were global in intention but lacked a global stage to present the differences it aimed to unite and celebrate. And then I searched for events that brought large numbers of people together in celebration. The search results ranged from the world renowned Kumbh Mela to large musical concerts to political rallies to papal parades. These congregations were huge, no doubt they brought over a million denizens of our planet together in one single place, but they were either religious, political or purely musical in nature – far from diverse – far from celebrating diversity.

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We celebrate the earth, we celebrate seasons, we celebrate love, new year, harvest, graduation, art and even food and drinks, but we have no significant way to commemorate and celebrate the different cultures of our world! This eye opening fact was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. We don’t have a unified forum or a global stage to present the colourful melange of world cultures. Like a mosaic that is created by assembling small and different pieces together, we could present a unified world by assembling a variety of people and culture in one place.

The Republic Day Parade in India is an example of national diversity. Similarly, the opening ceremony of the Olympics offers a stage for different countries and its people in one place – although the predominant competitive mood soon leads only the winning countries into celebration and leaves the rest a bit paler in comparison. Most global events induce a nationalistic feeling or a fierce sense of competition. Somehow, intentionally or unintentionally, they are inherently designed to divide us over our differences. They leave us with a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘the-rest-of-the-world sentiment’. In addition, political issues that make daily headlines reinforce our differences and further polarize us.

No wonder our religious, national and racial identities are stronger than our alliance as humans. We are ingrained to unite over superficial human attributes like colour of hair, eyes, place of birth, mother tongue and so on, while we overlook human emotions and values that are universal. You would agree that the basis of most regional and global conflicts is this very parochial sense of belonging.

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Just like language, culture can bind or divide. That is why the world needs an event like the World Culture Festival 2016 – to unite our cultural differences. When 155 countries, a hundred or more languages and cultural performances take the same stage, it instils a sense of belonging and oneness that would transcend national borders, languages, religions and physical appearances. Diverse congregations like the World Cultural Festival could potentially soften inter-religious strife that has over the last few decades led to the loss of innumerable human lives.

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Beyond all of the above reasons, why the world needs the world cultural festival, the fact that World Culture Festival 2016 will be hosted in the capital city of India seems befitting in many ways. India is a land of many colours and diversity. The world cultural festival gives India a chance to demonstrate its key essence – unity in diversity. The world culture festival is organized and managed by the Art of Living and its volunteers to mark the organization’s thirty five years of service to humanity. As the founder of the organization, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar quoted, ‘ …harmony in diversity makes life colourful, vibrant and joyful. The world cultural festival will be the largest interfaith gathering for peace!’

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Jai Gurudev !

Uma Muthuraaman

For More details Do check The World Culture Festival

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

In a humorous yet profound way, Rishi Vidyadharji gave numerous precious tips to walk on the path of happiness and freedom.

Some of the things told by Rishiji were so subtle that those might be bit difficult to understand for someone who is a novice to ‘Art of living’ or has no exposure to Ayurveda and Patanjali Yoga Sutras’. However if these precious knowledge bits are not shared here, this series of articles will be incomplete.

Ayurveda, Patanjali Yoga Sutras & Sadhana

Rishiji revealed the underlying connection between the ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’, ‘Ayurveda’ and the daily practices (Sadhana ) as taught in the Art of Living’s ‘Happiness Course’.

The ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’ deal with the mind, different modulations of the mind (Chitta-vritti), and the ways to overcome these modulations (Chitta-vritti nirodah).  ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’ tell that Yoga is nothing but overcoming the different modulations of the mind – Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah.

Maharshi Patanjali has enumerated five different modulations of mind. These five modulations are:

  1. Pramana (Proof): Mind wants proof for everything. Proof is connected to logic. Logic is very limited in its purview. Logic is applicable only in the field of known. All profound things in life are beyond logic. Love is beyond logic. Existence is beyond logic. The ‘Self’ is beyond any logic or proof.
  2. Viparyaya (Wrong knowledge): Vipryaya is looking at situations/ people through colored glasses of past experiences, concepts, ideas and feelings. Thinking that a rope lying on the road is a snake is Vipryaya. Vipryaya gives wrong understanding of the truth (Mithya Gyana).
  3. Vikalpa (Mere words having no reality): It is a sort of hallucination or fantasy. These are only words in mind with no associated reality. All our imagination is nothing but Vikalpa.
  4. Smruti (Memory): Smruti means remembering the past experiences.
  5. Nidra (Sleep): Nidra is deep sleep.

Mind is caught up any one of the above five modulations or a combination of these modulations. There is no sixth modulation. A mind devoid of any of above modulations is a mind which is dissolved in the ‘Self’. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means to unite or to integrate. ‘Yoga’ means to unite with the ‘Self’.

 

As explained by Rishiji, “Happiness is a result of moving towards the ‘Self’ and unhappiness is result of moving away from the ‘Self”. So, Yoga or uniting with the ‘Self’ results in unblemished pure happiness.

 

The literal translation of word ‘Ayurveda’ means ‘the science of life’. It is an ancient Indian system of natural and holistic way of healthy living. Ayurveda says that overall health depends upon balance of the tri-doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) in the body. Ayurveda also tells that the root cause of many diseases lies in toxins created in the body due to undigested food. These toxins are called as ‘Aama’. ‘Aama’ is a result of low digestive fire (Agni-mandya).

 

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Rishi Vidyadharji beautifully explained how the Vata, Pitta, Kapha and Aama affect the different modulations of mind (Chitta-Vritti) and vice versa. Food we eat directly affects the balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha as well as creation of Aama. Thus food, body and the mind all are related to each other.

 

Rishiji also revealed the subtle connection between Sadhana, modulations of the mind and Vata, Pitta, Kapha & Aama.

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Warm-up, stretching exercises and Asanas: These help to overcome the inertia, dullness and lethargy (Tamao-guna ).

 

Three Stage Pranayama: Three stage Pranayama helps to overcome Rajo-guna or excessive activity of the mind. It helps to balance the tri-doshas. (Balancing of Vata, Pitta & Kapha )

 

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  • First stage of Pranayama – First stage of Pranayama directs the subtle life force energy (Prana) to lower parts of body below naval region. First stage Pranayama balances the Vata-dosha. Even though Vata affects all the body parts, the primary seat or domain of the Vata is in the lower part of the body. Vata is responsible for movement on a gross as well as subtle level in the body. On subtle level Vata is associated with movement of the mind in the past and future. During first stage of pranayama, if you are able to observe your mind (without interference) you will see that, during this period the mind is mostly concerned about security related issues (i.e. future) or otherwise brooding over some past incidence. When the mind gets caught up in the past or future, it is looking at the reality through colored glasses of past experiences or future anxieties. This is nothing but the modulation of mind called as ‘Viparyaya’. First stage of Pranayama is helpful for bringing the mind in present moment and for overcoming the vritti of ‘Viparyaya’.
  • Second stage of Pranayama – Second stage pranayama directs Prana to the abdomen and lungs. Second stage of Pranayama balances the Pittadosha. The primary seat or location of Pitta in the body is in the middle portion of body.  On a subtle level Pitta is associated with anger, thirst, jealousy, hatred or in-short all our cravings and aversions. During second stage of Pranayama, you will see that your mind is busy either thinking about some person or situation you like or dislike. This is the time when mind gets caught up in thinking about matters close to the heart. Cravings, aversions, likes & dislikes are mere words in mind and have no physical existence as such. Being caught up in cravings and aversions, likes and dislikes is nothing but modulation of mind called as ‘Vikalpa’. Second stage pranayama is useful for overcoming ‘Vikalpa’.
  • Third stage of Pranayama – The third stage of Pranayama directs Prana to throat and head. Third stage balances the Kapha-dosha. The primary seat of Kapha in the body is in the throat, head and sinuses or upper part of body. On gross level Kapha is associated with inertia or heaviness. On subtle level Kapha is associated with attachment, greed, possessiveness and the tendency of the memory to hold on to negativity. Third stage of Pranayama reduces this attachment and tendency of mind to hold on to negativity. It helps us to overcome the modulation of mind called ‘Smruti’.

Bhastrika Pranayama: Prana flows through the subtle energy channels (or Nadis) in the body. These channels get clogged due to ‘Aama’ or the toxins created by undigested food. Accumulation of ‘Aama’ reduces the natural energy flow in the body leading to many diseases. Bhastrika Pranayama clears these subtle energy channels to increase the flow of Prana. On the level of mind, ‘Aama’ is responsible for creation of doubts (Samshaya). A doubting mind wants proofs for everything. Doubting mind gets caught up in the modulation of mind called as ‘Pramana’. Bhastrika Pranayama helps to liberate the mind from clutches of doubts (Samshaya). Bhastrika Pranayama increases Prana level and helps us to get established in Satava guna.

 

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Sudarshan Kriya®: Sudarshan Kriya is a powerful yet simple rhythmic breathing technique that incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath, harmonizing the body, mind and the emotions. Sudarshan Kriya cleanses the whole body-mind complex, releases deep rooted stresses and rejuvenates each and every cell of the body. It makes the person more natural, free and happy. Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya followed by Meditation helps us to get established easily in the fourth state of consciousness called as Turiya-avastha or the state of being one with the ‘Self’. This is the state of pure bliss and happiness.

 

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I realized that the ‘Sadhana’, as taught in Art of Living’s Happiness Course is designed so beautifully that it takes care of physical, mental and spiritual health of the individual. It pulls the individual out from ‘Tamo guna’ and ‘Rajo guna’ and helps him to get established in ‘Satva guna’. It balances the ‘tri-doshas’ in the body resulting in both physical and mental well-being. It cleanses the toxins (Aama) from the body thereby reducing the chances of future ailments. It increases the Prana level in body, making the individual more confident. It releases the mind from the clutches of five modulations (Chitta-Vritti) of the mind. Sudarshan Kriya releases the deep rooted stresses, rejuvenates each and every cell of the body and harmonizes the different levels of existence. Sudarshan Kriya with Meditation helps one to get established in the ‘Self’ and helps to realize one’s true potential. With this knowledge, my commitment towards my own ‘Sadhana’ grew manyfold. I once again realized that this is the most precious gift given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji to humanity. My heart was filled with love and gratitude for everything I received during these seven days of bliss with Rishi Vidyadharji

II Jai Guru Dev I|

Sanjay Sabnis

Pursuit of Happiness – 1

Pursuit of Happiness – 2 

Pursuit of Happiness – 3

 

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

What creates bondage?

Every living being naturally wants to move from bondage to freedom. On the physical or gross level ‘bondage’ is very easy to understand but on a subtle (mind) level it is a bit difficult to understand.

We can define ‘bondage’ simply as anything that restricts our freedom. On subtle level, freedom is lost when our mind gets torn between cravings and aversions, when it gets bogged down by past impressions and concepts, when it is troubled with fears and hatred, when it is burning with anger or withering in sorrow. All these things cloud our intention, attention, perception, observation as well as expression. We can’t function in a free & fair or natural way. This restriction of our mental freedom is ‘bondage’.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Freedom is your very nature. Only with freedom do joy, generosity and other human values blossom. Without freedom, attitudes become stifling, concepts become a burden, information is of no value and imagination becomes stagnant.”

It is strange but true that sometimes we get so much attached with our bondage that we try to nourish or strengthen the bondage. We do not want to abandon our sorrows, our fears, our cravings and aversions. We are afraid to move away from bondage even after knowing that it is the cause of our suffering. We identify ourself with the bondage. Bondage itself starts giving us a strange sort of security. But this is only a temporary phenomenon. With time (may be a few days or few years or few lifetimes) everyone has to move away from bondage to freedom. Natural direction of evolution of life is from bondage to freedom. Growth comes only when life moves from bondage to freedom. True happiness can come only with freedom.

If freedom is so precious, why do we lose our freedom in the first place? What are the reasons for our bondage?

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Rishi Vidyadharji categorically stated that there are only three reasons for bondage.  Actually these can be called as three great illusions which result in bondage (or ‘Karma bandhan’).

  1. Attributing our happiness (Sukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  2. Attributing our unhappiness (Dukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  3. Thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav)

Rishiji explained that, happiness is a result of moving towards the ‘Self’ and unhappiness is result of moving away from the ‘Self’. However we usually fail to see this truth and due to ignorance attribute our happiness or unhappiness to some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ and this leads to bondage.

We perceive the whole world in our mind as nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ (Nama & Rupa). All the words we listen, all the books we read and all our thoughts are nothing but words in the mind. All the forms we see in outside world are in reality images in our own mind. All our memory and imagination is also nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ in the mind.

Suppose I eat a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (form) and think (words) that ‘Gulab Jamun’ has given me happiness, the image of ‘Gulab Jamun’ along with the thought of its sweet taste and associated happiness gets stored in memory. Repetition of same experience a number of times results in deep impression of association of thought of eating a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (words and form) with happiness. Everyone wants nothing but happiness in life. Hence, repeated association of ‘happiness’ with ‘Gulab Jamun’ results in craving for ‘Gulab Jamun’. Craving restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Similarly repeatedly seeing ‘unhappiness’ in some ‘word’ and ‘form’ results in aversion for that person/object/situation/place. Aversion also restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Thus, repeated association of experiences of happiness or unhappiness with some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ results in bondage.

The third cause of bondage is, thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav).

What is ‘doer ship’ (Karta bhav)?

If I perform a charitable act because I am righteous then I am doing it through ‘doer- ship’ because that action is born out of my identity (as a righteous person) in my mind. This will result in bondage. However, if I am performing the same action just because, That action is the right action to do at that time’, then I am not doing it through ‘doer ship’ and it will not result in any bondage for me.

Suppose I am a doctor and I do not give medicine to a patient in need because he has insulted me in past then there is ‘doer ship’ in my not giving medicine to the patient (non-action) because my decision is result of my prejudice against the patient. Hence this non-action will lead to bondage.

So, any action (or non-action) which springs from the ‘ego sense’ or ‘prejudice’ has ‘doer ship’ attached with it.

The actions of a soldier shooting in war or a policeman using tear gas during riots does not create bondage for them. This is so, because here the soldier or the policeman are simply performing their duty without any ‘doer ship’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “You will realize that I am not the doer only when you put your 100% in self-effort, not before. If you have not done anything, you are only sitting there with your hands folded, you can never realize that I am not the doer.”

So when we have purity in the heart (no aversion or craving), clarity in the mind (mind free from doer-ship and prejudice) and sincerity in our action (being 100%) then there is no bondage.

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………to be continued…………….

In Pursuit for Happiness – I 

In Pursuit for Happiness – II

 

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis