About Art of Living, Art of Living Stories, Uncategorized.

The story of the monk who sold his Ferrari made it to the list of Best Sellers! The story of the saint who never sells his smile touches the hearts of millions and beckons as the hope for the humanity! Here’s a moving chapter from the book yet to be written!

Art of Living -Sri-Sri-smiling-2

The occasion was momentous. It was an event that will change the destiny of India. The turnout was more than what was expected. The mood was upbeat! Expectations were high! Tens of thousands of eyes were set on him, looking up to him for inspiration. Yet the man — I call him that for lack of more acceptable description – who was the source of it all remained his natural Self, completely untouched by the occasion. Not losing his trademark smile even for a moment!

art of living - sri sri - vbi

That Sri Sri didn’t play to the gallery and incite people to go on sloganeering at the Ram Leela Maidan during the Volunteer for A Better India (VFI) launch on 3rd February isn’t probably big deal. But that he didn’t lose his sense of humour even for a moment in such a charged environment speaks a lot about the depth of the movement. This is what will make it a milestone in the history of India.

sri sri-volunteer-for-a-better-india-rally-ramlila

Sample this. The serious point of alcohol being the main culprit of majority of the crimes in the country was hammered home with a humorous story. It goes like this. A man who comes to attend a public gathering gets a headache after listening to speech after speech and goes to a friend seeking a treatment to get rid of his headache. The friend promptly advises him to have a glass of alcohol. The bewildered friend asks how alcohol would help. “My land, job, wife and everything else left me after I started taking alcohol. Why wouldn’t it take away your headache too, when it has capacity to rob of you of everything you possess?”
Only a mind that is free of a personal agenda and has no feverishness for achievements can handle such a serious topic in such a light manner without diluting to the essence of the message he wants to communicate.

His sense of humour isn’t momentary! It is in the spirit! He could sense a few egos were getting hurt as their speeches were cut short because of paucity of time. Then just to lighten them up, he came up with the hilarious story of a speaker taking off and giving away his kurta when it was repeatedly pulled from behind by the prompter as signal to end his speech! This combination of sensitivity and supreme awareness is what makes Sri Sri stand out.

sri sri at tihar jail

Even the authorities’ attitude towards previous confluences in Ram Leela Maidan was dealt with wittily when Gurudev commented that he visited Tihar Jail the previous day to pre-empt the bad omen of being sent to Tihar after the agitation! For the record, Gurudev went to Tihar Jail to inaugurate a skill training centre!

What moves me the most about Sri Sri is the way he looks at everything from a space of wisdom and with compassion, even at the height of adversities. I recall a live event Gurudev attended in Bangalore some years ago! It was billed as a debate between Sri Sri and Zakir Naik to establish the unity of God. But it turned out to be a pre-planned conspiracy to indulge in Sri Sri-bashing.

sri sri and zakir naik

I could see blood boiling among Gurudev’s devotees in the crowd as the self-styled Islamic evangelist went on belittling Hinduism and Sri Sri with blinkered logic (kutark), parroting verses he has memorised from the scriptures. Everybody expected Gurudev to give a fitting reply and waited with bathed breath for his rejoinder! Nothing of that short happened. He stood up with his trademark smile and demolished Zakir Naik’s hard-laboured (il)logic in a sentence. “Pothi Padh Padh Kar Jag Mua, Pandit Bhayo Na Koye Dhai Aakhar Prem Ke, Jo Padhe so Pandit Hoye.” His opening couplet of Kabir was enough to make everybody including Zakir’s hardcore fans realise who is the real wise man!

sri sri- javed akhtar

The story repeated at the India Today Conclave of 2009 where Javed Akhtar mocked Indian spirituality and called spiritual gurus hypocrites. Instead of joining issue with him, Gurudev delivered profound knowledge through a beautifully written article titled, ‘Everyone has the right to be ignorant’. He wrote, “Should I argue and put him down? No! I have never put anyone down. I can’t deviate from my nature. So I simply said, everyone has the right to be ignorant.

“A flash of Aurangzeb, who butchered thousands of gurus and would not listen to any reason or logic, came to mind. An intelligent man would look into all the avenues before he makes a comment or accusation. It is necessary to stand up for justice and expose the misdeeds of the world. Instead the so-called activists only engage in accusations. Blaming the entire modern-day spiritual guru and sadhu community is as foolish as branding the entire Muslim community as terrorists.”

Art of Living - smiling Sri Sri

Only an enlightened sage can see such mockery through an eye of wisdom. How blessed to have found such a master, who doesn’t have to perform a miracle of manifesting a golden ring from from thin air to tell of his status! His fully blossomed being is the biggest miracle and blessing!

Art of Living News.

In a TIMES NOW exclusive, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation, speaks to TIMES NOW’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, says politicians not afraid of people anymore.

Art of Living Ashram, Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Gurus, Saints & Sages, Uncategorized.

Narayan Naraayan Naraayan Naraayan!. To those who are regular with the daily satsang at the Art of Living International Ashram in Bangalore, it’s not just a chant of the name of the divine. It tells of a saint of unusual depth!

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-5

Maharaj ji, as Gurudev called him was a very gracious being, clad in an orange robe, with a clean shaven head and white vibhuti on his forehead, with all his teeth intact and a big smile on his face! I simply loved Pragyanand Maharaj from the first time I saw him in Ashram with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. His commitment to knowledge was an inspiration for everybody.

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-8

His devotion for the Lord showed in every word he spoke. I still remember, Sri Sri was in silence and Pragyanand Maharaj ji was talking in the Navratri Satsang to a crowd of about 10000+ people. Suddenly his voice started to break and tears started to roll down. I was wondering what happened, and then his intense devotion just caught on! I realized I also had tears in my eyes among so many others who felt the same!

It was very interesting to witness how Sri Sri interacted with him.  Sri Sri would praise him so much and Pragyanand Maharaj ji would respond by praising him even more. It used to be like a game of who is more humble! Guudev would praise him, by acknowledging him to be a master in Vedic scriptures. Sometimes Gurudev would say something and then would ask “Haina maharaj ji (Isn’t it Maharaj ji) ?” as if asking for his confirmation.

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-2

Maharaj ji would fold his hands in front and bow down indicating, “Why are you doing this to me!”  and the crowd would laugh! Gurudev deeply loved Maharaj ji  and Maharaj ji would indicate in his talks (sometimes very clearly) that Gurudev is none other than the incarnation of Shri Krishna!

His commitment to dharma was also very inspiring. Many a times, he would be on a wheel chair but still come for the satsang and share some knowledge! In between his talks, he would always crack one or two jokes, that  would make our sides split with laughter. This sense of humour and ability to take life lightly despite possessing enormous wisdom was intact till the last moment.

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Once in a close group when the topic of “siddhis” was being discussed, Maharaj ji shared  that in his younger days he used to go from one village to another as a wandering monk. He would stay in one village for a few days, give discourses on scriptures and then move on to another village. Once, he happened to come across a tiger. He said, “It came near me, and stared at me. So, I also stared back at him.  And suddenly the feline ran away in the other direction.” It was only after the tiger had gone away that the villagers told him that it had picked away children from nearby villages and eaten them up. It was a Man eater !

Maharaj ji with Sri Sri at Art of Living Ashram

He always equated Divine to a loving mother, who would never fail to respond to a sincere cry from the heart.

He would always begin his discourse by chanting “Narayan” four times. This gave him the sobriquet of Naraayan Swamiji ! His understanding of advaita was so deep that no matter what one asked, he would come back to the same thing – “There is only one… there is no two.”  Very often Pragyanand Maharaj ji would speak the same thing again and again, sometimes sounding repetitive and boring. But the enthusiasm with which he would speak the knowledge would make the listeners believe that he had just discovered it and is saying it for the first time!

Sri Sri and Pragyanand Maharaj ji-4

It was such a delight to be in his presence. We would feel so calm and rejuvenated in his presence.

Our beloved Swami Pragyanand ji (90 years) peacefully left his body on 12th Feb 2013 at 12:25 pm at Art of Living Ashram and returned to the source. The last rites were held in Allahabad during the Kumb Mela in presence of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji. We will always remember him for his humility, his depth of wisdom, his devotion and innocence.

–  Vishal Merani

(Vishal is an IITian and Yes Plus teacher residing at Bangalore Ashram)