December 26th, 2009. It was a cold and a beautiful morning as the train whistled into the Bangalore City Railway Station. I was all set to stay for 10 days in the Art of Living International Ashram popularly known as Ravi Shankar Ashrama by the cab drivers and bus conductors. I was attending the YES!+ Winter Break program. The real reason was that I wanted to see and meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Cut to August 2009. I came to know about an introductory talk on YES!+ happening in my college BITS Pilani through a friend and decided to attend it. I loved the conviction of the organisers at the talk and enrolled for the course straight away. A week later, I was sitting at the YES!+ workshop happening in my campus facilitated by Shilpa Rau and Venkatesh (Venki). The course started with simple little things like Ujjayi breathing and art of questions and moved to powerful techniques like Sudarshan Kriya. I could see a sea change around in people after the 1st Sudarshan Kriya. Settled eyes, calm speech and a certain home coming in everybody around me. The Sudarshan Kriya surely did a great calming effect on my mind too.
All through the workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed, the only question to me was: “Who is this person who designed Sudarshan Kriya which works magically on everybody irrespective of their personality and nature?” And obviously I could decipher that such a person should definitely be a super cool person and an iconic personality who intends to do good to people around him. As I was rejoicing my fan boy moments, I made up my mind to meet him. I walked up to my teacher and asked him – “Where can I meet this guy?” pointing to the photo right behind them. My teacher gently smiled and replied – “For this you need to travel to Bangalore and do another course. A course with more fun!” As we were nearing the Ashram, I was mentally making a list of what to ask him, a picture with him (selfies weren’t a rage then) and to actually do something under his aegis.
Probably that was what a 19 year old could think then! As soon as I walked into the ashram which was a world in itself, the first shock met me at the reception. The volunteer checking us in patiently answered my questions and told – “Gurudev (that’s how we all refer to him) is out of country. He is in Germany currently for the New Year and would be here on the 3rd of Jan. You can meet him post your silence course.” “Oh! One more week of waiting!” I mentally consoled myself and started my Winter Break.
Winter Break is a perfect wholesome package specially designed for youth from 18 to 30 years of age which includes a challenge, youth forum and a silence program (the advanced course) by renowned Art of Living faculty Bawa and Dinesh. This plus lot of music, dance and unlimited fun. True to its name, Winter Break was perfect break. The meditations were deep and relaxing. The knowledge on the course was strikingly relevant. I felt like a car going in for a service where it is scrubbed and cleaned with 17 kinds of shampoos and oil. In middle of the course, we moved to the New Year 2010. It was possibly a beautiful experience where everyone was in silence and yet the celebration and joy was so palpable. The course concluded the following morning. It was surely a new beginning for me as I felt much lighter, much stronger and much peaceful from within. The course was followed by a youth forum and a series of talks by some renowned personalities on entrepreneurship, contemporary art and judiciary.
Of course, there was a magnificent evening with a music concert by Vikram Hazra. That night I was told by one of my dorm mates that Gurudev will arrive next morning from Europe wrapping up his foreign schedule. All through this week, there were countless experiences and stories about Gurudev from how he setup this organisation from scratch in this very own campus, how he went around the world teaching this knowledge to people, how he created various wings of this organisation, brought people to work with him and later evolved Art of Living as a committed force for transformation and social change. Then there were these chilling experiences of how he travelled to Iraq when nobody could dare to amidst the warring factions and shared peace and how he went into the no man’s land in Srilanka to put an end to a 40 year long ethnic crisis.
Hearing all this, the eagerness to meet him only mounted. The following morning at around 11am we gathered in the Visalakshi Mantap, a 5 storey gem of a meditation hall named after Gurudev’s late mother. There were close to 2000 (people) packed in the ground floor of the hall. An asana with aqua blue cushions arrived out of nowhere. I could slowly feel the silence setting in amidst the noise. May be the nature was preparing for the meeting. The clock was nearing the 12 noon mark. I instinctively turned back. A figure around 5 and half feet tall totally clad in white slowly started coming in. I still remember how he walked in. He neither walked nor did he run. It was as though he floated. Like how a deer walks in the forest effortlessly. He patiently met people on both sides of the walkway accepting all that they brought for him. There was an unmistakable depth in his smile and genuine warmth for everyone. He slowly walked onto the stage and took the asana. He greeted everybody walking around the stage receiving thunderous applause and cheer. Did I mention the countless – “Love you Gurujis”? Much like what he was projected, he wasn’t. There wasn’t a single inch of hype around him. Not a single feeling of build-up or artificiality. Here was a man who spread the recipe of yoga, meditation and ancient Indian knowledge around the world in 150+ countries sitting in the front clad in a simple kurta and veshti and a million dollar smile.
It started then! The feeling of immense love and respect! He was looking all around the hall and he looked at me too. I still remember how he looked at me. I still remember that look. My mind simply read a note: “Were you that magic beyond the realms of the dreams which I waited all this while to meet.” Then it gently struck me. “Who is this person? What is his role in my life?” And then, Gurudev first led us into a meditation which was about 25 minutes long. Then he took a few questions from the audience.
Somebody from the back asked him – “Gurudev, what is my relationship with you?” To which Gurudev smiled and replied – “What is the relationship with yourself. Did you ever wonder about it.” Ahaan! That was an answer I was looking for. Did he just read my mind? Do I need to give this relationship a name? Do I need to call him something? It was something more than what I could describe and much more than what I could feel about it. It was an experience and only it had to be experienced.” By then I was almost feeling like a champagne ready to burst out and had already the craziness of 19 year old rooted right in me.
And also I was a fan boy! Out of the box, I sprung up like a bed spring and shouted – “Guruji, do you believe in love at first sight ?” He looked at me almost instantly. I continued – “I believe in it. I saw you here for the first time and I am in love with you.” To which he smirked and replied – “Oh! You Love me? Very Good! Then Keep up that Love”. After this brief encounter and a full heart of gratitude, happiness and joy I started back to Hyderabad.
Surya Tej Borra