About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects.

The recent spate of large-scale riots in Assam, according to conservative estimates, has claimed 58 lives and rendered 400,000 people homeless in various districts of the north eastern state. We, as members of the Art of Living Family, and believers in the principle of One World Family, extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims.

Relief work is the need of the hour after the violence

The primary aim of Art of Living volunteers right now is to provide help and assistance to the displaced people from 400 villages who are staying in relief camps in Assam. The 124 teachers of the Art of Living in Assam along with thousands of volunteers have jumped into relief and rehabilitation work for the lakhs of people taking shelter in 270 refugee camps.

Amid all this bloody carnage, a gleam of hope is emerging from three villages which have become islands of peace in riot-hit Assam. Two of these villages Borlao and Borpara, where Art of Living has been carrying out its community development programs, saw absolutely no incidence of violence. The folks in these villages took the initiative to guard their villages themselves. They did not allow any outside person to enter the village. The three villages are from Chirang and Kokrajhard – the worst riot affected districts. Considering that the village inhabitants are a mix of Bodos, Muslims, Asamese and Bengalis this is an exceptional display of solidarity against forces of division. 164 children from these villages receive free education in the Art of Living tribal schools in Chirang and Kokrajhar.

Tribal schools of The Art of Living in Chirang and Kokrajhar

164 children receive free education in Art of Living Tribal Schools of  Chirang and  Kokrajhar

The surrounding villages, where Art of Living has not yet started its work, succumbed to the fury of violence unleashed by escalating ethnic tensions between indigenous Bodo community and migrant  Muslims  from Bangladesh.

It has been proven repeatedly that spiritual education is the only long-lasting basis for a sustainable, peaceful and responsible living at individual and community level.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, founder of the Art of Living has appealed to all in Assam not to retaliate irrespective of your community and ethnic background. He said, “There are good people in every community. Art of Living will do the work of applying balm to the hearts and minds of traumatized riot victims.”

As fellow human beings and citizens of India it is our duty to reach out to the people of Assam and do our best to bring normalcy in the lives of displaced people. We hope the government takes speedy and definite steps to resolve the fundamental issues that led to the riots before they snowball to uncontrollable dimensions.

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Goddess Lakshmi has a spiritual significance also

Namastestu Mahaamaaye Shreepeete Surapoojite
Shankha Chakra Gadaa Haste Mahaalakshmi Namostute.

Vara Mahalakshmi is the festival of goddess Lakshmi celebrated in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra mainly by women folk on the second Friday in the month of Shravana . As the name suggests Vara Mahalakshmi is the one who grants Vara (boon). The festival is observed by the married woman for the well being of all family members, especially husband.

It is believed that worshipping goddess varalakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping Ashtalakshmis, the 8 forces or energies namely Sri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Saraswati (learning), Preeti (love), Keerti (Fame), Shanti (Peace), Tushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength). Each force is considered as Lakshmi and all 8 forces as Ashta Lakshmis. Lord Vishnu is also considered as the asylum for the Ashta Lakshmis (Eight-Lakshmis or forces).

Puja ceremony at homa for health and happiness

Ashtadala Padma Rangoli (Ashta is 8, dala is leaf, padma is lotus) is drawn on a wooden plank (peeta in kannada) which is tied with thorana (mango leaves) and bale kandu (banana stems) on both the sides. A Kalasha is kept on a plate spread with rice. Lamps are lit on the either sides of the kalasha. Kalasha is filled with little rice, water, beetel nuts, beetel leaves, Kharjura(dry dates) and one coin. Turmeric n kumkuma is applied evenly to a coconut without husk and is kept on the kalasha with mango leaves surrounding it. Face of goddess(eyes and nose) can be drawn on the coconut or the ready silver faces are available which can be tied to the coconut. Arishina dara (Yellow thread) with nine knots are kept on beetle leaves to the right of kalasha. First Lord Ganesha is worshipped. Ganapati Ashotthara is read. Then the Varalakshmi Puja is performed in the  prescribed manner. After puja Sumangalis (Married Women) tie the yellow thread to their right hand. Katha (Story) is read by the elderly person of the family.

Kalasha with Mahalakshmi face - Alankar and Post Puja

Vara Mahalakshmi Vratham Story

According to Hindu mythology, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a vratha that will be beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Vratha. The conversation on Varalakshmi Vratha between Parvati and Shiva takes place in the Skanda Purana. To illustrate the importance of the Vratha, Lord Shiva narrates the story of Charumati.

The story happens in a beautiful town located in the Kingdom of Vidarbha (Vidarba Rajyam). Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Vara Mahalakshmi Vratha. The pious Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Vara Mahalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja where blessed with wealth and prosperity. She recites the following sloka along with other women with utmost faith and devotion.

Lakshmi Ksheerasamudra rajatanyam sri rangadhameswareem
Dasibootha samastha devavanitham lokaika deepamkuram
Sri manmanda kataksha labdhivibhat brahmendra gangadharam
Twamtrayamlokyakutumbhineem sasijavandemukunda priyam

Meaning: Goddess Lakshmi, who is the daughter of the king of the ocean of milk, whose abode is Srirangam (with Lord Ranganatha), who is served by all the divine ladies in heaven, who is the guiding light for the world, who has obtained the sustained (continued, everlasting) glance (Grace) from Brahma, Indra and Shiva, whose abode is the three worlds (Bhu, Bhuva, Suvaha) – I offer my prostrations to Thee, the beloved of Lord Krishna (Mukunda).

PS:

I  wrote this blog after attending the Lakshmi Puja performed by HH Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar in Art of Living ‘s International Ashram in Bangalore , which made it the second puja that I attended on this auspicious day

About Art of Living, Art of Living Review.

I was born in a family that follows Jainism. Hence the first time I heard of The Art of Living and saw the picture of a saint, I wondered, “How genuine is Sri Sri?” After a few more proddings from my doctor who was strongly recommending the Art of Living Program to me, I enrolled for it. Very soon I would find out the answer to my question: how genuine was Sri Sri.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founder of The Art of Living

The first time I met Sri Sri was in Mumbai at a very small media gathering at a devotee’s place. Being a journalist I was trained to be sceptical, to question the genuine-ness of everything. I had interviewed a few prominent religious leaders earlier and so I was prepared for a series of instructions from his devotees prior to the meeting. Usually I was told to sit far away from the leader so that I do not pollute their aura and shout out questions, or I was frisked. I don’t know how valid such procedures were but it had got me to wonder how genuine it all was.

But none of that happened here.  We were simply ushered into a room where we sat in a small circle along with Sri Sri. The simplicity, the ease and the genuine manner in which it was conducted and in which he answered struck a chord in me. Yes! Here was a genuine saint. Natural. No frills, no drills.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the founder of the Art of Living

This has been an enduring impression in my future interactions with him – a genuine saint. I saw the media associate big-time industrialists and businessmen with him. But he remained unfazed by all that they had to offer, politely declining anything offered in excess. What could he want from anyone? His mission was to bring peace and happiness in people’s lives. And he was going about it in a practical way; a way in which he and his organisation, The Art of Living, were self-sufficient; a way in which he did not have to compromise on the genuine-ness of his purpose.

Once I happened to be on the same flight as him. He had just finished meeting  thousands in Bangalore and boarded a flight to Mumbai. When we got off, I saw at least 500 devotees at the airport who sought to reach out to him and in the process pulled his hair, his scarf, scratched his hands. The police struggled, hollered, pushed but it continued. Such was the frenzy but when I looked at Sri Sri, he had a smile, a genuine one, blessing all with his flower.  When someone asked, “How do you handle this each day, everywhere?” He simply said, “See the love behind the act. The intention is important.” Only someone with genuine intention would look beyond the act.

He works twenty-two hours, seven days a week. The other two hours he sleeps on the floor. Here is a saint who doesn’t preach. He lives it, naturally. People ask him his mantra for success. I say it’s his genuineness which touches the hearts of the millions who follow him. Millions around the world can’t be fooled!

NK

The author is a journalist 

Others, Yoga and Meditation.

Preface:

Those who belong to this unique club, personalize it yourself – Think of you as “I” wherever used in this blog. This Biographical account is a Matter of FAT…Ooopss Matter of FACT. Take offense at your own risk – remember you will be ticking off a 100 kg+ mass.

Body (No Pun intended)

I am a guy (all my friends vouch for it) whose weight in Kgs almost matches (or exceeds) number of friends I have on Facebook (over 5K).

The website of Art of Living founded by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji popularly known as the Guru of Joy says, it is spread over 152 countries. I also have have matching number to claim some fame – I have 152 kgs of force acting on me towards the centre of the earth.

I cannot but help be reminded of that skeleton hanging from the hook in the Biology lab, when I see some skinny friends who call themselves fit – Baaahhhh.

People as skinny as a skeleton do not look healthy

As I grew up they also reminded me of those skimpy clothes that move around on FTV. I always thought it was just those 2-3 pieces of rags moving on stage till some one said there are humans inside it. I love when these people give me those very adorable admiring looks 😉 **Blush…blush**

I had this “Fats-Challenged” Size Zero poor soul who tried to poke fun about that lovely little paunch. Reader, tell me if a paunch smaller than that Hill where Sumeru Mantap is situated is a Paunch especially an on a lovely chiselled physical structure?

Is a pot belly really not healthy?

I challenged her if she has as much muscles in her entire body? (a friendly Doctor – Swami Hardik of my club asks me to refer it as Muscle, I have to agree that it is medically appropriate too). And she wears clothes that are as costly (if not more) though she just was wearing 1/10th of what I was wearing.

And here is an open challenge. I can hug anyone single handedly. Those Size-zeroes need to assemble ten of them in a Sam-Gachatvam circle to get around me. So who is more enviroment friendly? What a single person like me can do, needs 10 to do. HUGs… and I tell you, when we Hug, it indeed is a real HUG they get!!!

A hug is good for health and happiness also...

Some advantage (those skinny ones call it is unfair and envy me for this) – I never suffer from what some Not-Obese starlets refer to as “food-martyrdom” I mean I dont belong to those folks who say (or atleast think) Oh! No I should not have eaten that extra topping of cheeze on my Pizza, or Which devil had taken over me that I ate that slab of chocolate.

As my Guruji …err Gurudev (after an earlier blog by Aparazzi, I have to say Gurudev, BTW! she very nearly belongs to my club and empathises with my feelings here) HH Sri Sri Ravishankar ji of Art of Living Foundation says – Serve to your capacity and a bit more. I follow it to the “T”. I serve … to the brink of the capacity of my plate and more… Very Obedient follower, Am I not?

Too much food is not good for your health

Why I am popular with the kids. Kids never have to worry about getting bruised by the bones when they sit on your lap, like they do when they sit on laps of say Sumathi or Ashwin. What they experience is a royally cushioned unbeatable comfort on my lap – and as a bonus a reclining cushion (others call it a paunch)

Suresh is happy with himself

Another  reason why I love every gram of my bulk because my Obesity acts as a “Friend Filter” – Do I need to be friend with someone who cannot ACCEPT ME AS I AM?”

I am mortally scared of Tattooing (rather getting Tattooed) On a trip abroad, while everyone in the team was being forced by the gracious host (yes, Size Zero guy) to get a body Tattoo done at his cost, I was excused – because I had a large body surface to Tattoo (read – the host to dig his pocket into an abyss)

And now, instead of fighting my bulge (did it for so many years successfully – fighting it I mean) I decided to indulge. Only way to fight bulge is to indulge 😉

Another great part – I get tailored dresses not those run-of-the-mill stuff that you guyz/gals pick up as Readymade from local shop.Trying to find clothes to fit me is like a treasure hunt for my wife 😉

Evolution from Laptop to Belly-Top – Now how many of you have this luxuy?

Spiritual knowledge also makes one creative..

I could go on and on about why being Obese or fat is a virtue, but Editors don’t allow the luxury with Words that I take with my weight. So signing off…. with my LAST (BUT ONE) WORD! (I always keep a reserve of Capacity + More)

I can eat what I want, when I want and how muchever I want (the very reason I got here in the first place)

And Final Final Advantage of being FAAATTTTT!!!! Beat this…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOK7DNSNJ8I]

Long Love Obesity!!

PS: Copyrights of the Pictures/Video with Respective Owners – If in violation please let us know and we would promptly take it off. (However, read the preface – you will do it at risk of offending a 100kg+ bulk)

Art of Living Wisdom, Others.

Science and Spirituality take different routes to understanding the Truth. In its quest to understand the Universe Science has sought to go all the way back to when matter was created at the moment of creation of the universe, namely the Big Bang.

Spirituality on the other hand is concerned with the basic question, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?,” going back all the way to the time of creation of universe and from then on.

The enquiry into the moment of Creation is what creates the convergence point of Science and Spirituality.  The news of finding the imprint of the God particle has been so thrilling that it has created a new buzz around particle physics.

The God particle – What and Why
The naming of the God particle is a quirk of fate. The story goes that the Nobel laureate physicist Leon Lederman while, writing about this elusive particle, was so exasperated that he wrote it down as ‘Goddamn particle’. The editor toned down the exasperation and changed it to ‘God particle’. And that is how it came to be called in common parlance. Formally, the scientists call it the Higgs Boson particle. It was Prof Peter Higgs who had first proposed that such a particle should be existing to create mass in Creation.  The Boson comes from the name of the Indian Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, in recognition of his contribution.

God particle discovered

In the finding of the imprint of this particle now, it is this earlier postulate of Prof Higgs that is being scientifically alluded to. It is interesting to note that this sequence of scientific postulate being placed in a scientific paper and the actual discovery happening much later, has been one of the features of advancement of science.

Postulated first, discovered later 

For Instance, before the planet Neptune was physically observed in the skies, it was mathematically calculated in a scientific paper, that such a planet should exist because of the gravitation tug of planet Uranus. Similarly, the Russian scientist George Gamow had postulated the existence of Cosmic Micro Wave Background Radiation (CMBR) which was later recorded by the two scientists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson

Is it really the God Particle?

In the case of the God Particle, this particle has been elusive for, it self-destructs itself after one trillionth of a second after coming into existence. In this brief existence, it helps the other particles create the mass that this universe is made of. Which is why, an understanding of this particle is considered a major scientific breakthrough in understanding the universe.

If it were really a God particle as touted in common parlance, why should it self destruct itself within a flash of a moment of its creation? A God particle should exist from before the Creation, to after dissolution of the Universe and not be in existence for just a fleeting moment. Calling it a God particle would not be apt. Anyway, let us see, what the Higgs Boson Particle exists for?

Higgs Boson – the elusive trigger 

The Universe came into existence from the Cosmic Egg after the Big Bang, the Cosmic Egg’s dimension being just a point. How could such an infinitely small speck create this infinitely huge universe with all its mass? It needs a trigger. The search for this trigger is the search for this elusive Higgs Boson Particle. Since life of this particle is only one trillionth of a second, it is not possible to capture the particle. What is possible through the advance scientific practices at CERN and other scientific establishments is to get a glimpse of an imprint of this Higgs Boson Particle. Getting a glimpse of this imprint is a major breakthrough in itself.

Large Hadron Collider at CERN to detect the God Particle

How Higgs Boson adds mass to things

This Higgs Boson adds mass only when three quark particles get together. Just two are not found to form a stable proton with mass. These three quarks that group together are said to possess different colours. The term colour has been used by the physicists to denote that they possess distinct traits, qualities, characteristics.

Three Quarks coming together

Three Quarks forming Stable Protons with Mass in Higgs Field

Immediately after its function of adding the mass, Higgs Boson ceases to exist. This is the nature of Nature! This concept of the need for the basic three to create matter, has been discussed in Indian knowledge system which describes the Universe as being created from TrigunathmikaPrakrithi. Prakrithi is the nature of the Creation of this Universe and Triguna are the three characteristics which help in this Creation process. The process itself is called Trivrtitkaranam, “the act of the three when they come together.”

The Yoga, or coming together, of the three gunas

Satva, Rajas and Tamas,  the three characteristics

Not Really Parallel But Synergized Systems

Like this there are many interesting parallels between the Indian knowledge system and the modern research of Creation of the Universe carried out at CERN.

In the Indian knowledge system, the Cosmic Egg is known as Hiranyagarbha, meaning “a golden hued womb” and the Big Bang is expressed as Brahmanda Visphotak, Universal explosion. The Cosmic Soup has been described as one in which the sub atomic particles such as quarks and gluons are floating freely without the influence of any force upon them until the presence of a God particle, Higgs Boson creates an energy field in which they interact and gain mass.

In the Indian traditional Narayana is depicted as resting calmly in the Primordial Waters similar to the state of inertness and equilibrium as found in the cosmic soup before the presence of God particle. Narayana is symbolically depicted with a consort, Lakshmi, who arises from the same primordial waters. Lakshmi denotes the source of all matter and material wealth and is the bi product of the churning of these primordial waters. We see here a striking similarity in the way the early stage of universe transmutes from an inert state to a material form, the difference being in the styles of expression.

The concept of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMBR) is akin to the OM which pervades through the Universe. There are numerous parallels between modern science and ancient traditional Indian knowledge system.

Om and Cosmic Microwave Function

OM and the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

In fact, the Indian knowledge systems offer deeper insights into aspects of Creation going to stages even before the Big Bang and into the process of creation of matter.  All this has been discussed in detail in our book and film, Creation – Srishti Vigyana.

Book by Bharat Gyan on Creation

by Art of Living and Bharat Gyan

One of the senior physicists of CERN Geneva, Dr. Archana Sharma, the only Indian, permanent scientist member in CERN, found the parallels interesting enough to come to Bangalore, India and make a significant contribution to the documentary film made by Art of Living and Bharath Gyan.

Modern science and ancient wisdom reaching the same goal

Synergy of science and ancient knowledge systems

The finding of God Particle at CERN has triggered a spate of discussions on the convergence of science and spirituality in recent times.

In India, what is interesting to note is that each time there is a breakthrough in science, people see parallels in traditional Indian thought which goes back well over 7000 years of knowledge compilation. Some recognize the convergence of the two at every stage. It is pertinent to ask, “Why is it that every time a new discovery in the frontiers of science is made, there is already a pre-existing parallel opinion in the Indian thought that is uncovered?

If such a match is being found on every such occasion, which has been the case so far, then why can not the people working in the frontiers of science draw inspiration from this vast ancient Indian body of knowledge to cross the bridge from gross to subtle and merge both aspects that parallely exist in this universe?”.

As we take this crucial step forward, it will be a proud, synergized march of human civilization and science, hand in hand.

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan.They may be contacted on bharathgyan@gmail.com and followed on twitter on @bharathgyan 

Editor’s Note: Click here for A beautiful Talk on God Particle by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Art of Living Review, Art of Living Wisdom, Movies to Watch.

Imagine having one of the worst days of your life – everything is going wrong, you are thoroughly annoyed with everything and everyone, and you can’t wait for this day to end. Now what if you wake up the next morning, and find out that you have to go through that same day all over again? And what if this would keep repeating itself…?

In the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is a nasty, egocentric, sarcastic and selfish weatherman of a local TV station in Pittsburg who thinks he is Mr. Perfect. He doesn’t like his job, his colleagues, or most other people for that matter. As he puts it: people are morons. All he cares about is himself and his happiness. When he is sent to a small town called Punxsutawney to report a local tradition of a groundhog predicting how much longer the winter will last, there is only one thing on his mind: finishing the job and leaving that small town with its simple people as soon as possible.

It turns out to be one of the worst days of his life, and finally he is not even able to leave the town, due to an unexpected blizzard. When he wakes up the next morning, eager to go back to Pittsburg, he realizes that everything is the same as the day before – he is going through the same day all over again! The days that follow, he keeps reliving the same day over and over again… something that reminds one of the philosophy of Karma and Reincarnation! And there is more…

Groundhog Day teaches one The Art of Living

Initially Phil panics. He decides to go see a psychiatrist, who tells him: “This is an unusual problem Mr. Connors. I think we should meet again. How is tomorrow for you?” at which words Phil becomes even more depressed.

Getting drunk at a local pub, he wonders out loud: “I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl; we ate lobster and drank piña coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get THAT day, over and over again?!” He then asks one of the local guys: “What would you do, if you are stuck in one place, and every day is exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered? What if there were no tomorrow?” The guy answers: “That would mean there would be no consequences, we could do whatever we wanted!” Suddenly Phil’s face clears up. “That’s true! We could do whatever we want!”

From this point onwards, Phil stops following the rules and does whatever he wants. It doesn’t matter if he ends up in jail or worse, as he again wakes up in his hotel on the same day. He gives in to all his fantasies, and starts learning from previous experiences, not making the same mistakes over and over again. Just like in the ancient scriptures, this story shows a mind, or soul, going through repetitive existence, experiencing the same world over and over again, and in the process exhausting all its karma or past impressions. Whatever desires, cravings and aversions are there, are all lived through and experienced until one becomes satisfied, contented, or simply realizes their impermanence. This happens when Phil realizes that he has fallen in love with Rita, a kind female producer from his TV network that came with him to Punxsutawney. He has now lost taste for any other enjoyments. A similar thing happens to a spiritual seeker who has found his Master, or Guru. Being the most attractive, the Master becomes a lightning rod for all the disciple’s longing – it is the last desire, the desire that removes the taste for all other desires. And finally, this last desire is also dropped, and one becomes free.

Using different approaches, Phil tries to get Rita to fall in love with him, but every time he ends up getting slapped in the face! Over time, he becomes desperate, because whatever he tries is not working. He becomes depressed and starts committing suicide in many different ways, trying to end this repetitive existence. But every morning he wakes up in the same hotel again on the same day.

When he realizes that there is nothing he can do to alter his situation, something changes. He starts becoming a nice and caring person, helping out wherever he can. He has dropped the one last desire! In the end he becomes a ‘perfect’ guy, available to help anyone at any time, humble and caring. That night, Rita stays with him to keep him company. Phil tells her: “No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.” This is the final destination of a spiritual seeker: accepting one’s place in the bigger picture, without any personal needs, one starts serving the society and the world in whatever way one can, being totally dispassionate and fulfilled. And once this beautiful state of fullness dawns, one becomes free from the cycle of repetitive birth and death, Samsara.

Groundhog Day teaches one spiritual values

Source: www.gonewiththetwins.com

When Phil wakes up the next morning, he finds Rita is still there with him. Full of surprise, he tells her: “Do you know what today is? Today is tomorrow!” He is finally free. And then he asks her: “Is there anything I can do for you, today?”

Thank God His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has given us a shortcut to save us so much of trouble: the Art of Living Course and Sudarshan Kriya! 😉

Do let us know if you also enjoyed watching Groundhog Day and what else you discovered in this movie! And stay tuned for more movie reviews in the upcoming weeks… 🙂

About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects, Yoga and Meditation.

Rajaque Rahman, a Practising Muslim talks about how blinkered interpretation of what’s permitted and forbidden in Islam is making the Muslim world hesitant to take advantage of universal healers like yoga and meditation.

Even as I was persuading a group of Muslim elders in Itanagar — the capital city of eastern-most Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh — to give yoga, pranayama and similar ancient Indian techniques a try for a healthy and happy living, the group went serene with the azan for the Jumah (Friday congregational prayer ) from the neighbourhood mosque. As I followed them to the mosque, I noticed the gentleman who was the most vocal and orthodox during the discussion was heading in the opposite direction. When I queried why he wasn’t coming to the prayer, I was flabbergasted by his innocent but distorted logic. “I can’t go to the mosque as I have to pass through shops that slaughter and sell meat of swine to reach there. You know, Islam strictly prohibits swine meat. I would rather miss the prayer than commit haram by going near swine meat,” he reasoned.

Though I knew Islam prohibits eating swine meat, I never imagined somebody would ever interpret that prohibition in such a myopic way. When I pondered over it, I realised this type of blinkered interpretation of what’s permitted and forbidden in Islam is what is making the Muslim world hesitant to take advantage of universal healers like yoga and meditation.

Art of Living Course participants in war-affected areas in Middle East

People from war zones in an Art of Living meditation

Like the old man, orthodox Muslims fear the practice of yoga will erode their faith in Allah and Islam. As the Quran and Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s teachings) have nothing specific that will make practise of yoga haram (forbidden), they based their judgement on their own concocted fear that supposedly ‘Hindu’ elements of yoga would destroy the faith of a Muslim.

As a Muslim who has been practising yoga for over a decade and has experienced the depth of yoga at the physical and spiritual levels, I felt the best way to allay the fear is to look at the Hindu philosophy on yoga and see how and where it contradicts the tenets of Islam. For this, I wouldn’t settle for anything less authentic than Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living has given an extensive and lucid commentary on the yoga sutras.

Yoga simply means uniting with the Self. The Yoga Sutras starts by calling itself an enunciation in union. And a self-imposed discipline to attain that union is yoga. Is striving for such a union with the Self against Islam? Definitely not, for Prophet Mohammed has said, “He who knows his own Self knows his Lord.” So anything done in pursuit of knowing the Lord cannot be termed as forbidden in Islam. Instead, it will count as a meritorious act of honouring and following the Prophet. So yoga as a spiritual pursuit is very much permissible in Islam. Dara Shikoh, eldest son of the Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan is known for his Persian translations of the Yoga Vashishta and the Bhagavad Gita.

The best explanation of why yoga is not just a permissible, but also a desirable act for Muslims is to be found in the second sutra of the Yoga Sutras. “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah.” It means yoga is stopping all the modulations of the mind. Ceasing all the outward activities of the mind and reposing in Allah is the ultimate goal of Islam. So any act done to reach such a state cannot be un-Islamic.

People in Iraq learning yoga and meditation through The Art of Living

Iraqis get solace in yoga and meditation

In fact, it represents the highest form of ibaadat (prayer). Prophet Mohammed said, “I have a time with God to which even Gabriel, who is pure spirit, is not admitted.” Hence, the soul of prayer is a complete absorption, a state without room for any outward thoughts which is also the ultimate purpose of yoga. So doing yoga asanas with the sole intention of attaining a thoughtless state so that one can connect with Allah wouldn’t make one a bad Muslim.
This leaves only one ground for orthodox mullahs to frown at yoga: that yoga stems from polytheist beliefs of Hinduism. But when yoga means union, how can it be linked to polytheist beliefs? In fact, yoga takes one away from polytheism and leads to Advaita, which is in perfect agreement with the Islamic doctrine of tauhid (oneness of God).

Just because something has its roots in Hinduism, it doesn’t become forbidden for Muslims. If it were so, many arts, languages, foods and cultural practices with roots in other religions, would also be forbidden to Muslims. So, when we can accept foods and music from other cultures, why not the wisdom to unite with the Self?

Ashtavakra Gita.

Thousands of years ago there was a king named Janaka. He had attained the highest position in a peaceful and prosperous society, with a vast knowledge of life. But even then he was restless and wanted to know more. One day an enlightened Master named Ashtavakra arrived at Janaka’s court. What unfolded, says H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was “the most unique conversation that has ever taken place on this planet.” The text of this interaction has been passed down for centuries as the Ashtavakra Gita.

The Ashtavakra Gita occurring in the Vana Parva of Mahabharata, is a profound enquiry into the nature of the Self and reality.  To avoid any wrong understanding  by the unprepared minds, it is traditionally recommended that  Ashtavakra Gita be pursued by only those who have practiced meditation and are already on the  spiritual path.

 

Chapter 1 (Instruction on Self Realization)

Chapter 2 (Joy of Self Realization)

Chapter 3 (Test of Self Realization)

Chapter 4 (Glorification of Self Realization)

Chapter 5 (Four ways to dissolve)

Chapter 6 (The higher knowledge)

Chapter 7 (Nature of Self Realisation)

Chapter 8 (Bondage and Liberation)

Chapter 9 (Detachment)

Chapter 10 (Quietutde)

Chapter 11 (Wisdom)

Chapter 12 (Abiding in the Self)

Chapter 13 (Happiness)

Chapter 14 (Tranquility)

Chapter 15 (Knowledge of the Self)

Chapter 16 (Special Instruction)

Chapter 17 (The True Knower)

Chapter 18 (Peace)

Chapter 19 (Repose in the Self)

Chapter 20 (Liberation in Life)

 

Shiv Sutras.

  1. Everyone of us has experienced happiness sometimes in past. The Nature of mind is to hold on to Negative things keeping Positive things aside. And the Art of moving ahead with positive things has been described in “Shiv Sutras”
  2. The first sutra is . That with which every particle of universe is made up of is called “Consciousness”. If we want to have “Self-Realization” then we will have to become aware about “the power of consciousness”.
  3.  A person who is awake also has consciousness and a person who is sleeping also has consciousness but difference between both of them is the consciousness is “awakened in the person who is awake”.
  4. Every particle of this Universe has “Consciousness” in it but it is awakened somewhere whereas somewhere it’s in idle state. Knowing this person can attain Self-realization.
  5. All these gymnastics of Sadhana – Kriya – Yagyas is to awake the consciousness in you.
  6. Next sutra is . We understand or grasp knowledge through “Words”. But sometimes the collective form of knowledge or words itself takes form of Ego and disturbs us so that time what shall we do?
  7. If there is anything that is bothering you then it cannot be a single “Word” it would be a “Sentence”.
  8. Then it is said that from “Sentence” you break up “Words” one by one and focus on them.
  9. That is where power of “Chanting” comes.”
  10. When we move from “Sentence” to “Words” and focus on our energy plexus in body then mind calms down.
  11. Next sutra is . Our mind and body has opposite perspectives. The body becomes sturdy when you do gymnastics or effort whereas mind becomes strong when you relax more and more.
  12. We usually say “Let it happen at God’s Will” but this is not true. We will have to make the EFFORT and then RELAX.
  13. When we give our 100% in to any work we are doing then the (rest) happens automatically which gives you a glimpse of “Samadhi”. Here the effort could be “Worldly” or “Spiritual” anything.
  14. When you are unhappy do some effort, do some Sadhana, Seva and Satsang.
  15. Next Sutra is .
    There are three kinds of state: “Awake state”, “Dreaming state”, “Sleeping state”. The state in which we are neither Awake nor Sleeping or Dreaming is called Turiyavastha or a state of “Highest Samadhi”. That is called “Shiva Consciousness”.
  16. Thus Shiva cannot be found in “Kailash” it is in-between state of all other three states.

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