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

 

 

About Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Kashmir has been in the news for wrong reasons since the last four months. Ever since then it been on the boil for past sometime. Violent protests, arson, looting and other forms of outbursts have rocked the very cradle of Jammu and Kashmir that once people called as `Paradise`.

I have never visited that place, but my parents told me that our ancestors belonged to Kashmir, living and thriving along the banks of the once mighty river Saraswati. We therefore came to be called as `Saraswats’, the people of the river Saraswati.

At that time, Kashmir Shaivism gave India the powerful spiritual wisdom of peaceful co-existence. The invaders from the West, forced us to migrate down south and some to the east of India, while imposing and promoting a totally non-Kashmiri philosophy.

In those days, one of the most inspiring core principles of Kashmir Shaivism that made Kashmir a true Paradise was thus – `That bondage, suffering and misery happens when one clings to a very strong sense of identity on the basis of race, region, religion, caste, creed and language`. That’s how the people of Kashmir survived the millennia, bonded together.

Has this sense of bondage come to haunt the people of Kashmiri once again?

That little bit of `Kashmir – in – me’, prompted me to write this piece on why I love Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s refreshingly new and profound initiative to restore Kashmir – Back to Paradise.

This is exactly the theme of the conference which he is scheduled to address on November 23rd in Jammu.

I have my own deep reasons to underline just some of his rare qualities which I believe, recognise him as a pioneer to `break-the-ice` in Kashmir today where human values, mutual trust, dialogue and understanding stand frozen.

 

Reason 1: A peacemaker who does not want to win!

 

Shocking it may sound. Someone who puts absolutely everything at stake for the larger good of people, takes risks and makes efforts to make others progress and win. A genuine conflict-resolution expert will never let anyone go back as a loser.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has offered to rebuild 27 schools in Kashmir burnt down by miscreants. With this offer, he has committed to the progress of Kashmir`s young and future. This I reckon is one of the true signs of a peacemaker.

 

Reason 2: Himalayan patience!

 

He is known to be a keen listener and brilliant observer. This is a virtue of someone who has a deep understanding of Meditation and also who is a successful Mediator. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in his initiatives towards conflict -resolution, brings immense objectivity and impartiality to a situation. He has a Himalayan patience and the people of Kashmiri now want to be heard on their uphill situation as soon as possible.

 

governor-meeting-shri-shri-ravishankar-member-sasb-11-400x243

 

The attendees of the upcoming Jammu conference are :

The stone- pelters and their leaders who engaged in violence in Kashmir, Gujjar Bakarwals, teachers and professors of colleges, trade unions, ex-militants, Sufi representatives, the representatives of communities like Sikhs, Buddhists, etc., NGO s from the State, support groups of Army, writers and poets, Youth leaders, media persons, leaders from women organisations, leaders of Kashmiri Pandit community, representatives from Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Travel Agent Association of Kashmir, representatives from J&K Hoteliers Club etc.

Reason 3: Season for Change

 

As this season changes, bringing a shift in attitudes and perspectives becomes imperative. His skill, creativity and wisdom for transformation has been record – breaking, if not magical. The need of the hour is to bridge the gap of mistrust, suspicion, doubt and complete breakdown of dialogue. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s vision and mission are both critical now for Kashmir. That`s why we look up to men of wisdom. This raises hope for that much-needed shift.

 

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Should I say `A Paradigm Shift for a Paradise`.

Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

Duality in life 

 

I have always been a person who enjoys worldly life to the hilt, be it travel, food, beautiful objects that please the eye, hobbies that excite or movies and plays that make me laugh, cry or think. I love life in its many splendour and at the same time acutely aware of a spiritual bent of mind that thirsts for answers about higher purpose of life. If there is one person who has confused me to the core, it is myself! How can I be a thoroughly worldly person and yet effortlessly dissolve in the inner world?! Is something wrong with me? Well, in the fourth decade of my life, my Master decided to shower grace on me by His living presence. The process of unravelling the duality in mind, layer by layer, began and continuing…

 

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Walking on the path that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has shown and looking up to Him with total faith has put my mind at rest to a great extent. Duality exists! Accepting and dealing with it playfully yet with profound wisdom is the art of living.

 

Spirituality is our nature !

 

Learning the true meaning of dispassion (Vairagya) relieves one of duality. People on the spiritual path are often regarded by others as some special species who shun tasty food, good life and worldly enjoyment, not knowing that spirituality is not averse to enjoying life. In fact, those who are not following any Master or a Path, are also spiritual. We are first spiritual beings and then human beings. Spirituality is our very nature. Spirituality is nothing but being natural and living all the virtues that we are endowed with by the Divine. If we see opposite of this in society or in ourselves at times, it is because of the company, environment and food habits that affect our state of mind. To combat this, we can just attend to these aspects and make our practice more regular and strong. Within a couple of days, we can surprise ourselves with the positive change!

During Navaratri satsang, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar mentioned about the effect of company. There is a lone horse called Raja. He lives in Goshala among cows. Someone brought two mares as gift to relieve the loneliness of Raja. Raja got so flustered at the sight of the mares that he began to run away from them! Raja has forgotten that he is different from cows and believes he is one among the cows. This is the effect of sangha if we lose sight of our unique identity. It is very easy to get pulled in opposite direction, specially as a beginner on the path. The whole thing becomes a snake and ladder game.

 

Strategy ! 

 

As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says so simply and beautifully, the strategy to move up as a Seeker is to set short term goals, then increase the span gradually as we get more and more strength and will power. Not to feel guilty if we slip occasionally. In fact, our resolve should become stronger each time we slip.

When we play in the world with total awareness, not losing sight of the goal of the Being even for an instant, dealing with duality becomes a cake-walk. Krishna philosophy is having one foot firmly rooted in the ground and play all the roles one is required to play as a human being. The other foot is off the ground, totally untouched by the worldly affairs. That is who we are at the core.

 

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Balancing both worlds with equanimity, playfulness and joy will awaken the Krishna consciousness in us. Thus we make our life a celebration enjoying every aspect of life, within and without. Where is duality to deal with?

Without my Master, I would still be groping in the dark, as reading any amount of scriptures would not give me the experience that the living Master provides. A Master, as a friend and guide helps us integrate and live the knowledge of Krishna philosophy. He creates situations to help us grow and glow.

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Projects.

India is slowly coming to terms with the government`s move to demonetize its 500 and 1000 rupee notes in a massive effort to curb black money, corruption and terrorism. While this move has been hailed by many as a rightful masterstroke by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the rush for new currency notes and smaller denominations has been creating a near-chaos on the streets.

Long queues at banks and ATM`s across India is a familiar sight. Bankers are stressed while the serpentine queues outside are distressed. When someone thought that it was a nightmare on Indian streets. This weekend the scenario was changing for the better.

Thousands of volunteers of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s Art of Living have spread into the streets of India to comfort, care and help people at banks and ATM`s.

 

 

 

“A wave of goodness has gone viral” said Anjesh Thakur as she was busy distributing water and biscuits to a five hundred people long queue outside a bank in rural Bangalore.

Similar moments of volunteerism are happening in various parts of India where selfless and inspired people are helping and cheering-up those waiting for their turn to touch, feel and use the new currency notes.

In Kerala, a massive wave of inspired volunteerism sparked by Art of Living volunteers is galloping at a rapid pace. The towns of Kasargod, Kozhikode, Pathanamthita, Thrissur, Trivandrum are seeing people being helped in many ways – filling out forms, music for the bored and reassurances for the panicking citizens.

The famous Kerala banana chips and tea is also making its rounds to anxious people waiting in the scorching sun. Senior citizens and the physically challenged are being given much attention as volunteers chat with them and take them ahead of the line to special counters set up by the banks.

A bank manager in Nasik, Maharashtra is reported to have profusely thanked Art of Living volunteers saying “Without your support we would have landed in hospital”. Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar are also seeing the goodness go viral.

Banks around the country are working round-the-clock to ensure that people receive smaller denominations and the new currency notes. A tall order indeed for a nation of a billion people with 2,00,000 ATM`s and several thousand bank branches.

 

#Demonetisation work by Art of Living in Kerala

Our The Art of Living volunteers helping people with banking formalities & providing them with water & snacks during the long wait in the queues in #Kerala. #Demonetisation

Posted by Art of Living Service on Sunday, November 13, 2016

 

Care for You. Care for Queue.  This seems to be the password of goodness that`s gone viral this weekend. Inspiring all those volunteers sweating it out. For India. 

Art of Living Wisdom, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

A group of frogs was travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. When the other frogs saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and continued to jump out of the pit with all their might.

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The other frogs repeatedly kept telling the two frogs to stop trying, that they were as good as dead. One of the frogs resigned itself to its fate, fell down and died.

The other frog did not give up. He continued to jump as high as he could. Once again, the other frogs yelled at him to get out of the struggle and succumb. But, he jumped even harder and finally made it! When he got out, the other frogs asked, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained to them that he was deaf. On the contrary, he thought they were encouraging him, the entire time.

 

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This story teaches two lessons:

1. There is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it in life.

2. A destructive word to someone who is down can kill them.

 

Be careful about what you say. Speak ‘LIFE’ to those who cross your path. The power of words is sometimes hard to understand! An encouraging word can go a long way. Never speak words that tend to rob the spirit of those who going through difficult times. Special is the individual who will take the time to encourage others!

 

Many times Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has spoken about how powerful our words can be. In this video he talks about how our words have immense power and how we should be sensitive to those around us.

 

Do share with us how someone’s words have made a positive impact in your lives!

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories.

My birthdays have assumed a totally new dimension after the advent of my Master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in my humble life. Days before the D -day, mind starts celebrating in anticipation of being in the presence of my Guru.

 

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I become a little child of Kindergarten and look up to Him with shining eyes and declare’ Guruji, its my birthday!’ Totally participating in my childlike enthusiasm, He says ‘Oh ho’ and places something in my hand as prasad that means a world to me. A lotus, a string of jasmine, a saree or a scarf, a sweet or a fruit, anything that passes from His divine hands to mine acquires a special meaning. I know it is not just the object He has placed in my hands. It contains infinity.

This birthday on 14 Oct was way beyond my wildest imagination. Lingering in the euphoria of Navaratri celebrations that had concluded two days ago,I looked forward eagerly to be in His presence. After Rudrabhishek and Devi puja I went to the backside of Yagyashala for His Darshan.   He was playing and feeding bananas to the Ashram elephant while the elephant respectfully accepted Prasad. A sight we all love to watch! In between He glanced at me a couple of times to my utter delight.

Then a stream of people went up to Him and He kept blessing them with flowers and shawls that His designated sevaks handed Him. When my turn came, the sevaks had run out of flowers. I eyed His huge garland that was put on Him after Puja. My Guruji thought for a split of a second, removed the garland from His neck and put it on me. I do not or cannot express my state of mind at the moment I felt the garland on me, which was on Him just a second before. I leave it to the readers.

 

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The intensity of an intention and the purity in it translates into appropriate action by the Master. I experienced the power of intention and the connection.

On my birthday, every year, I distribute notebooks to students as I honour knowledge above everything else. I believe youngsters are the architects of our future world. Only though proper knowledge they can chisel out a better world.

However, I could not distribute the notebooks in the morning. I said to myself that I would surely find our Veda boys in satsang where I can happily give away the books.

My husband was quite flustered that I did not go to a school in the morning to complete my yearly ritual. I sat through satsang with the faith Gurudev would create situation for me and a band of Veda boys would for sure receive books from me.

Satsang was mesmerizing with full moon and dancing fountains adding lustre to the soulful bhajans. Rishiji sang my favourite; Tum gagan ke chandrama ho’. I had heard this song from him for the first time in 1999 when he visited Abu dhabi for DSN. I learnt to link all romantic bollywood old numbers to the divine from him..To hear it again after 17 years with more depth in his voice simply transported me to another level where there was fullness of emptiness, or is it vice versa?!

Then it happened! I watched a line of Veda boys marching towards Gurudev and I knew my prayers had reached Him. At the end of  satsang, I stood at the gate and gifted each Veda boy a notebook with a smile and Jai Gurudev! What a Master would not do for a devotee? Faith and grace go hand in hand.

Gurudev was calling out for people with birthdays and anniversaries to stand up and greet each other. Some had made their way to the stage for His blessings. Ankush Dada who was sitting beside me suggested ‘You could have gone too’. I smiled and said “I am content. No more desires left to be fulfilled”.

The way back home was filled with music and dance reverberating throughout my being. The full moon smiled at me as though it represented our Gurudev and I hummed ‘Tum gagan ke chandrama ….’

Still in euphoria….

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

How does one express the inexpressible?! Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has already stated in Ashtavakra Gita that the ‘ entire life is a futile exercise to express the inexpressible’. Yet, here I am longing to unleash the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.

 

On this auspicious day of Durgashtami, I settled myself in Yagyashala, ready to dissolve in the chantings, puja and bhajans of the Shatha Chandi Homa, the culmination of moving through trigunas.  A week of passing through tamas (inertia) and rajas (restlessness) by soaking in daily pujas and satsang, I could distinctly feel the lightness, softness and joy surfacing my being. By the time Jago Jago Maa was sung, my throat got choked with gratitude for the millionth time!

 

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A bit overwhelmed, I walked to the kitchen for Prasad. My ecstatic husband was sharing his experience but I was only half heeding. Mind was totally inward. Oh, the blissful state! Nothing existed but Shakti.

 

Evening Satsang saw everyone tapping their feet to the mesmerizing bhajans.

 

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It is not the rajasik dancing of the world of maya. Dancing with oneself, with the divine, totally lost to the outside world is real. Enraptured devotees swaying their arms up, with a contented smile, to the bhajan ‘Hari sundara nand mukunda’ resembled the newly installed ‘Dancing Fountains’ in the Gurupaduka vanam. I did not want the bhajan to end.

 

Then He spoke!

 

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“When you dance out of love, the divine dances with you. But when you dance behind your desires, you suffer hunger and thirst. It tires you. So, make your desires bigger.”

 

On the day of Durgashtami, everyone should dance. Mother Divine will be pleased.

 

The entire exercise of navaratri rituals was to awaken the energy of the Mother divine in each one of you.

 

Looking majestic in His attire and inimitable twinkle in the eye, Gurudev stood up and started to sway which sent a new surge of energy in the body of the inebriate devotees. His exit to the car did not put a break to the flow of the body of the devotees, scintillating with divine energy.

 

The dancing fountains of joy danced their way to their destinations humming ‘Hari Sundara nand mukunda’ with the satsang singers.

 

The desire to go deeper is becoming more pronounced and I wait ‘patiently and in love’ for Navaratri 2017.

 

Jai Gurudev

 

Leela Ramesh