Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

The sacred river Ganges flows through the doorsteps of Rishikesh, one of the ancient holy places in India. And when she sees man violating nature, she gives a polite but firm reminder, raising her flow with fury. I happened to be there in 2008 to prepare for a Yoga Teachers’ Training Program. I reached very late that August night to the gushing sounds of Ganges and the light rain was picking up. There was no one on the streets. And streets had no names. I had lost my way and found myself standing in front of an ashram when a young man came to shut the gate for the night.

I suddenly recognized this man to be the disciple of the now late Pragyanand ji Maharaj Swamiji (a revered holy man) who was a great friend of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji and used to often visit the Art of Living ashram headquarters in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). “Narayanji” I called out. I told him that I was from the Bengaluru ashram. He instantly ushered me in and said “Stay with us tonight. Maharaj is here”. I was given a simple comfortable room and told that I can meet Maharaj the following morning. He was also gracious in serving me some hot rotis (Indian bread) with rajma beans curry and a sweet to close the night and celebrate my newly discovered lodging.

The following morning I woke up early and eagerly to meet with the Swamiji who was known for his popular discourses on the Upanishads (Scriptures). He was known for his metaphor-filled stories to bring to life the finer aspects of the scriptures. I went up to his room to pay my respects when he had just about started a discourse on the Mandukya Upanishad scripture. There were about ten of us in that room. And a man seated in the front stood up and asked “Why do we behave, the way we behave?” After a pause he continued “…Why do people commit mistakes or crimes?”

The elderly Swamiji had a very child-like aura and smile. He was like a compassionate and loving grandfather. He gracefully signalled the man to sit down and closed his eyes. I waited with abated breath for the answer. He said “Souls who have passed away are hovering all over space. And some souls have unfulfilled wishes and desires. Good or wicked. So they sometimes choose a living person through whom they can fulfil those desires.” He continued after a silent pause “They simply get into the living person, get that person to perform the desired action and quickly exit after their job is done!” Some people in the room broke into a smile. Many were amazed.

And I was left with the lingering thought that ‘Soul play‘ is perhaps true. They don’t need to buy tickets to enter whether it’s a morning, matinee, evening or night show! They simply enter you, make you a hero/heroine or the villain and flee!

One doubting Thomas seated there asked Swami ji curiously “How can this be true?”. Swami ji replied “Go and ask any criminal in the prison, how and why he did the crime. Most of them will tell you that they did not intend to do it at all, that it just happened or they may insist that they simply didn’t do it”.

Doubting Thomas pressed for further explanation. And Swami ji retorted with a smile “When your prana (subtle energy) is very low. Awareness is also low. These souls find it very easy to sneak into your consciousness. This is your moment of weakness”. He added “That is why it is said that when you do chanting, prayers, yoga, breathing techniques and meditation every single day, a subtle shield of protection envelops you. Your prana and Sattva (harmony) is high. This makes it very difficult for the souls to enter and create havoc”.

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Swamiji then looked at me and said “Last night my disciple Narayan must have been sent by some good soul to receive you at the gate so late in the night, when you just needed help. It is not a coincidence. Even good souls do seek entry into living persons to perform good deeds”.

Swamiji closed his eyes and said a beautiful Sanskrit prayer while tears rolled down his soft sparkling face. After a few minutes he opened his eyes and said “The play and display of souls is very mysterious. But when you are with a Guru like Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji you are protected, you pass the final exam easily”.

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So the next time you wonder why someone is behaving in a particular way, whether good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Understand that he or she is simply broadcasting ‘Soul play’ to an audience called ‘You’! And feel reassured that you know the remedies now.

I must mention here that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has given such simple and practical wisdom on the ‘body-mind-soul’ aspect through his various books and discourses specifically in Kena Upanishad, Ishavasya Upanishad, Ashtavakra Geeta, Yogasara Upanishad, Patanjali Yoga Sutras and Mind Matters.

With knowledge and understanding ‘Soul play’ becomes a game of joy.

Jai Gurudeva !

Vidyut Udiaver

Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

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.

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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.

Jai Gurudev

Surya Tej Borra

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

” Grace has the ability to change anything at anytime”.
” Have faith that the Divine loves me so much that only the best will happen to me”.

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Such powerful words from Sri Sri Ravishankar Guruji, my Master, rang true in an unexpected, out of the blue turn of events. I was going through some emotional turmoil and needed the attention of my Master.

My heart prayed ” Anyata sharanam nasti” ( I have no one but You).

In a disturbed state of mind, after a week of my return from the U.S., in August this year, I signed up for a week long Silence Course with Swami Brahmatej ji along with Bhagavad Gita discourse by Sri Sri Ravishankar, my Master. It was a spur of the moment decision. I can only attribute it to the divine plan.

The experience of listening to Gita by Gurudev in silence is something that cannot be expressed in words. A mesmerising transformation took place and my fluttering mind rested in tranquility!

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says in Ashtavakra Gita that, the entire existence is a futile attempt to express the inexpressible. Yet I am attempting to express my experience knowing fully well it is a futile exercise. There is an urgent urge to share, a calling, a divine plan perhaps. I am letting my fingers to flow on the keyboard. I am not the writer!

Life is a jungle, full of wild animals, both within and without. The importance of Sadhana, Knowledge and Service without expecting anything in return to be at peace with myself came into sharp focus during the course. This awareness can only happen with the loving and compassionate guidance from our Master.

With Swami Brahmatej ji’s guidance, I became Arjuna as I proceeded towards the New Meditation Hall for the discourse. Mind was caught up in the multitude of worldly affairs waiting for the solace that only my Master could give. I prayed ” Please, do not ever let me go. Help me do my duty keeping You with me”.

The silence and chanting in the hall while we awaited Gurudev ‘s arrival was electrifying. As He entered the hall, I felt His gaze on me and I folded my hands in reverence. I remembered a verse from Gita I had read years ago. ‘ Consider yourself blessed if the gaze of the Lord rests on you even for a split of a second’. I held on to the gaze and closed my eyes. Discourse began. I dozed off! Suddenly I felt someone tapping on my right shoulder, three times, to wake me up. I opened my eyes and looked to my right. There was no one! I was overcome with His attention, compassion and care for me.

I was wide awake and fresh. He was saying “Gita was given in a battle field , but here, you are all listening sitting comfortably in this beautiful hall. But haan, if there is a war going on inside you, it is a different story. Keep me with you and fight the war. It is the test of your faith”. Just what I needed! He woke me up so I don’t miss these vital words. He gave me all the answers to the duality in my mind in just two or three sentences. It was a moment of instant peace, contentment, faith, discrimination, valor and surrender, all at once!

Ever since like Arjun, whenever I am disturbed, I have learnt to bring my chariot to the middle to get an impartial, non judgemental view of the situation. From this space I find peace.

I also ask myself ‘ what could be the reason behind God creating this situation for me ? What lesson does He want me to learn from this?’ Stepping aside and be a witness helps me detach from the situation and to rest at the core of my being. From this space one can fight any war within or without. This space is Krishna, the absolute joy! One foot on the ground, firmly rooted to play in the world, to do one’s calling and the other in the air, untouched by Worldly affairs , just a witness. When I was ten years old, some one had asked me ” Do you know the meaning of your name? Leela means Play. You are the Play of the Divine.” I had laughed not knowing what it means to be a Divine Play.

Going back to the source again and again helps me get established in peace more and more. I am grateful to have a living Master to guide me lovingly. I wish the entire world to come in to the fold of the Art of Living to find the peace with in. I wish the butterfly effect of my Sadhana to reach far and wide to make a difference. My Sadhana is not just for me anymore. What a feeling of expansion!

As a young girl I was very fond of a picture of Vishwarupa that was kept in the puja room of my grandmother. ” Can I have it when I grow up? ” I used to plead to her. However, when I grew up and had my own home, I could not locate the picture as she kept moving from house to house of her four children. Desolate, I gave up. Years later Gita has taught me ‘ Whatever I am, you are That too’. I don’t need the picture anymore!

Gita is the source of peace. International day of Peace is celebrated on September 21 every year. Why do we need to celebrate peace only one day in a year when peace is our very nature?! I wonder! I am Peace, I am Joy, I am Love. The presence of a Master in ones life keeps one kindled. Listening to Gita by my Master has filled me with the longing to see Bhagavad Gita put on the world map as a blueprint for a life of peace and pure bliss.

OM shanti shanti shanti hi!
Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Recipes, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Navaratri is a period of nine days. It is a joyful period, strolling in the moonlight to one’s heart’s content and dancing in rings, to the accompaniment of songs and drums.

During these days, the old and the young alike, soak in the good things of life. Fasting and chanting hymns certainly give good health. The fasting and proper diet bring the body’s Pitta to its normal state. This bestows coolness and health in the body constituents. The body having been made healthy and strong thus, is ready for embarking on enterprises of any kind.

 

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Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has always been making us aware of the nature of food and its effect on our body and mind.

Food plays a major role in the way we think. We all have experienced it. Negative thoughts cloud the mind when we consume stale, Tamasik food. Lot of useless activity in the mind happens when we consume high calorie Rajasik food sometimes translating into action that we regret later. Whereas, consuming Satvik food elevates our consciousness to a higher plane giving rise to noble thoughts and actions.

We all know humble Lauki (Bottle Gourd) is a vegetable of high Prana. Yet, it is quite boring to consume on a regular basis.

I make this Lauki (Bottle Gourd) soup which is so perfect for a Navratri diet.

Recipe for Bottle Gourd soup

Ingredients:

Tender lauki,

Medium potato cleaned ,skin peeled and cut into thin roundrels 1 no.each.

Butter 1 TBS

Indian Bay leaf or TEJ patta 1 no

Saindhava salt (rock salt) Milk 1/2 cup

Preparation

In a thick bottom pot heat butter and add TEJ patta. Then add lauki and potato roundrels. Saute till tender but crunchy. Cool. Remove TEJ patta. Process in a grinder with very little water till smooth. Add hot milk and heat the soup. Add salt and slurp. Have this on 4 5 and 6th days of Navratri.
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Jai Gurudev !

Leela Ramesh

About Art of Living, Art of Living Experiences, World Culture Festival.

The best half of the year 2016, is going to be in March when the world comes visiting India. People from around the world will be marching miles with loads of smiles and celebrations to look forward to, at the World Culture Festival (WCF) to be hosted by the Art of Living in New Delhi.

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Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, Founder of The Art of Living, the WCF is sure to be a rich confluence of world cultures. Each country, culture and its people will be raising a toast to the others` song, music, dance, cultural nuances and style. All in one venue. And for three days in India`s national capital. All this to strengthen and celebrate our shared human values. A refreshingly new creative peace-building initiative if I may add. To make life a celebration.

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A riot of color, fashion at its best, great legends of song and music, waves of musical instruments and thousands of dance steps are all going to joyfully lash the mind`s shores on that beach called WCF. Soak it all up, is all I can say. Because the scintillating performances are only going to leave you thirsty and hungry for more of it. Now I don`t wish to spoil your surprise buffet by telling you what`s going to be there on the menu for those three days.

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The music, song, dance and yoga menu card is going to be as varied, vast, rich, colorful and celebrative as the food menu.

Italy`s Tiramisu will smile over Kerala`s sweet Payasam, while Sushi and vegetable biryani do the rice dance in your belly. The French Meringue will make you plead for that Irish coffee thereafter. India`s Idly and Dosa will rub shoulders with Italy`s Pizza. Russian salad will be quietly nestled beside that Chinese Schezwan noodle overflowing into the south China seas. And don`t see red if someone jumps the long food billing queue like a bull in a China shop! Because several thousand people are expected to dine there just like you and me.

And you may get much of that beautiful Sri Lankan island food on a silver spoon. While Pakistan and India make friendly claims over that tasty Kashmiri pulao and Navratan korma! I will not spill more beans now on that mile-long menu that you are going to possibly have there.

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But for now do just one thing. Go tell it on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere. That the World Culture Festival 2016 is happening from March 11th -13th. And you will be there. Because the world is coming home to visit India. Roll out the red carpet now.

Art of Living and the new New Delhi is simply waiting to host you.

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Jai Gurudev !

Vidyut Udiaver

Art of Living Experiences.

When the time is ripe, your Guru walks into your life. He works miracles without your knowledge and your life is transformed. Long pending issues get resolved and desires get fulfilled. This has also been my personal experience. One such incident happened in my life which I attribute to the grace of my Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji.

 

My tryst with destiny happened in the year 2009, when I read about an organisation called The Art of Living which had its headquarters in Bangalore, India. The group was active in 152 countries around the world. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, the founder of Art of Living organisation, I read, was striving for the last 35 years for the well-being of mankind. His vision was for a stress-free and violence- free society and world at large. He travelled to remote corners of the world, even to conflict-ridden zones to offer peace and succour to the traumatised. I was impressed by what I read and resolved to do a course offered by them. Finally, I got a chance to take up Happiness Program in April 2012. I learnt the Sudarshan Kriya, yoga and meditation. This helped me to get relieved of the stress in my life and make me calm and composed.

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In March 2013, during Shivaratri (festival celebrated every year to revere Lord Shiva), I took up a Sankalpa (intention) and the biggest miracle then happened to my mother.

 

My mother is from Pontianak, a town on the island of Borneo, Indonesia. She met my father in the 70s and they moved to Malaysia. My mother last saw her family nearly 40 years ago. She couldn’t go back to her homeland due to financial constraints and also transportation was not as advanced in those days. Her eldest brother visited her three times during the period but after we shifted to a new place we lost contact with him as well. However, she had a deep desire to connect with her family although she never expressed her wishes.

 

My mother helps in volunteering at a local Buddhist association. She has a small set of friends there with whom she shares a warm relationship. One day her fellow volunteer friends decided to organize a leisure trip to Pontianak, Indonesia. I had a strong intuition that her friends wanted to take her back to her hometown to connect with her family.

 

My mother was also very excited to see her childhood home. She prayed hard during the trip that she should be able to visit her relatives at the old house which is located on the old road. My mother asked the tour guide whether the bus would go via the old road to Pontianak town. However, the tour guide replied they would be using the new road which is so much more convenient. After a few moments, the tour guide announced that they had to use the old road because the new road was under maintenance!

 

My mother was thrilled with the news. Now she would be able to catch up with her siblings. When the entourage halted for rest on the outskirts of the town, my mother rushed to the nearby stalls and asked the shop owners anxiously about her relatives. She had forgotten her mother tongue due to the fact that she had been away from home for so long. Even the younger generation in Pontianak couldn’t speak that language as well.

 

However, using the few words that she remembered and a few gestures, my mother inquired from one shop owner. He shook his head from side to side indicating that he didn’t know and pointed to the next door. The young boy there directed her to the next shop. My mother was getting frustrated and disappointed. She was beginning to wonder if she would be able to meet her siblings at all.

 

The next shop was a mobile phone shop, and when my mother mentioned her relatives’ names again, the youngster went behind the shop for a moment and asked an elderly man to come out. This elderly man turned out to be my mother’s uncle! The man shed tears of joy and asked my mother why she had gone off and not returned for so long. They exchanged contact numbers and he also gave my mother’s siblings’ phone numbers.

 

After they bid good bye, my mother and her group continued on their journey to Pontianak town. By then the news of her arrival had spread and on the way many of her relatives called her up. When they reached the hotel, her two sisters and family were already waiting for her there. They hugged each other and were ecstatic to meet after so many years. Even my mother’s friends, who went with her on the trip, were so touched that they cried.
During the short visit, my mother’s sisters told her all the news about the other family members and about the incidents that happened in the past 40 years. They even showed her the locality in which their old house had been and which was now demolished.

 

After her return my mother didn’t say much about her personal feelings but I know she is extremely happy and we too are very happy for her.

 

Since,Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji walked into my life, miracles have happened in so many ways. Our lives have become richer. I have no words to express my gratitude to him.

 

We are all blessed with Guruji’s grace.

Jai Gurudev!
Siew Woan.

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Projects.

Few seconds before the earthquake hit, we had just closed our eyes for meditation in the Art of Living centre in Kathmandu. Having experienced it 2-3 times earlier, I immediately realised that it was back! We gathered everyone and ran outside in the open.  Some devotees took time to comprehend what they were feeling. They even thought it was probably a deep swaying experience of meditation that they we experiencing. As soon as we found sanity and realised what was happening, we sat down and started chanting for relief from the massive tremors. Never before had I experienced tremor after tremor. Every now and then that the land would shake we would look at each other gesturing – ‘Oh! It’s here again’. But somehow I didn’t realise it was such a big hit. After some time some of us decided to resume the session, but others said ‘No we are very scared and won’t be able to grasp anything ‘. So we cancelled the class. Some young boys decided to leave for the hospital and help the victims. And some of us walked back home, as there was no way we could take out our vehicles with tremors coming every few minutes, with roads and buildings damaged & crumbled.

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My family was on the first floor at home when the earth shook. I could not get to them. Their phones were ringing but no one answered. Evacuating the building and making sure no one was left behind, must have been too stressful for them. No communication with them kept me little worried. They later told me that the staircase of the building was almost falling apart, when they were getting down. Petrified, my mom for some moments stood still in the middle of the staircase. My brother went and got her down. The chandelier was moving profusely. It felt as if the whole house is going to collapse. Everybody in house – my two sister in laws with their kids ( 7 yr and 4  months)  were traumatised and literally in tears.

That night we slept on the ground floor but most of the people slept outside in the open in public places for days to come. When in the middle of the night, anyone of us felt the earth shaking we would jump out of the bed, wake everyone and run out. It happened a number of times on the first night. We cooked food the next day and went out to help people who’d probably lost their everything in the tremors.  We heard that there would be another major quake at 12 pm. So 2 people who had come to help pulled back saying they needed to return home before that. That left 7 of us only. My mother, sister in law, my driver, myself and 3 others (a couple and their 13 years old child). We went ahead to distribute the food in a big ground in the city were many had taken shelter. AS soon as we reached their and sat in a corner with whatever food we had brought for distribution, many started coming forward for food. Some said that since there was no place in the hospital they were waiting there for their turn. On our way back home, another tremor hit the lad and we could see boundary walls shake & roads tear. It was a scary sight. We didn’t know what to expect next, or what was going to be the repercussion. Luckily we were safe and reached home.

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Next day again we cooked food and went to a hospital to serve food to the needy. Many patients and their families were waiting outside the hospital, who had come from nearby districts. After serving them food we sat down in the hospital lawns and started our satsang with chanting & bhajans. Suddenly there was pin-drop silence and everybody’s attention was on us,  and they were amazed to see this phenomenon –  where only youth, around 20 of us were chanting joyfully. This gave them lot of peace and strength. And they looked at us with gratitude and appreciation. We felt deep satisfaction, as at such a challenging time in the country we could share what we have – materially and spiritually, due to inspiration from our Master – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji.

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As the days went by we started getting used to the tremors. At night all the family members slept together on the ground floor but we weren’t any more popping up and rush out at the slightest shake until it was more than few seconds and we felt it was dangerous. But I loved the fact that all of us were together since we spent more time this way than we could earlier. With time our Relief activities were increasing and we were reaching out to far off districts, where there were no pitched roads too. We also started our trauma relief activities full-fledged. At one remote village I recall one youth came up to us and mentioned that after long he had taken God’s name and felt happy that we came all the way to his remote village and conducted the trauma relief sessions for them. So hope and faith in God was being reinstalled, where perhaps many had lost it.

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At yet another place an old woman shared that her chest pain had reduced drastically after meditation, breathing techniques and chanting of mantras that we conducted for them, and she felt so happy that she and her friends came up and asked us with so much of love if we could stay there itself in the school grounds with them where they had taken refuge. This showed the profound effect the trauma relief activities were having on everyone.

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One day a person called me up who had done the Art of Living course saying that he lost his 7 year old son during the earthquake and he would like some help from us for his community. Hearing the tragedy, at once I resolved to help his community, at-least. He took us to 3-4 affected areas where we distributed tents, food, water and conducted trauma relief sessions. He also showed us his 4 floored new building which he was getting constructed. It had tilted due to the earthquake and could fall any time. There was immense damage everywhere. We saw so many houses had just collapsed. He shared that instead of drowning in grief staying indoors, he preferred to come out and serve his community. I silently admired the strength he portrayed.

This situation in the country got everyone to think- ‘How can I contribute for my Country?’ Instead of ‘getting’ people started to think of ‘giving’.  Lots shared that they hadn’t interacted with their neighbours much, but the new challenges got them closer, and some others forgot their fights and reunited with their closed ones in this predicament.

Bitter experiences make one spiritually stronger. Through our Trauma Relief activities people have started grasping the essence of breath, meditation and the effect of mantras in having a positive impact on our minds, and understanding that the quality of our life, depends upon the state of our minds, irrespective of the situation we are in.

In service ,

Jai Gurudev

Ritika Lohia

Art of Living Experiences.

It is a great blessing to be an Art of Living Blesser. During the course of a decade of being a Blesser, I have been blessing personally and sending distance blessings to many upon request. I am also registered in the community of Art of Living Online Blessers. Many come back to me with gratitude and report their issues being resolved after receiving Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s blessings through me. I take it in a matter of fact way because I know how powerful He is and how He lovingly takes care of everyone who comes to Him with total faith.

I would like to share one such Guru Blessing Story with you all. Please do read till the end. There is a climax to the story. Surprise!

I reproduce the following FB messenger message from Neha Anand Vohra.

1/8/2014 5:28 pm

Jai Gurudev Leela Ma’am

I finally found you on FB. I had done a Silence Course with you in Jan 2014 and I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to another one in November.

smileys

 

 

Just had a fabulous time with Gurudev in Canada two weeks ago

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Jai Guru Dev…..
Regards
Neha

Me: Great! Happy for you. Jai Guru Dev.
You can see I had no personal bonding with Neha. I do not remember the face and name of all my participants who come to ashram to do the course. That does not mean we are not connected though!

 

Then another message follows from Neha.
10/12/2014  6:45 pm

Jai Gurudev Leela Aunty

Please send Gurudev’s blessings to me and my husband Ankur Vohra. It is our 5th Wedding Anniversary. An extra blessing so that we can complete our family soon. Right now, it is just the two of us. Trying for a baby these days. I need His blessings so that a good soul enters our family..a spiritual soul

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Much love

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Me: Blessed  abundantly. Close your eyes and receive. Jai Gurudev.

Neha: Much love and gratitude.

18/12/2014  6:01 am
Neha:
Dear Aunty,
Exactly one week ago, I asked you for Gurudev’s blessings and what grace! Today I found out I have conceived.

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It is just three weeks along but I wanted to tell you and thank you.

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You won’t believe, it has happened a week after Silence Course finished! 5 years, no child. In the Silence Course I released something during Hollow and Empty meditation in between the chest and navel chakras.

I just hope Gurudev has sent a good soul and all is normal. Just scared till first ultra sound test. I pray for normal pregnancy, not ectopic.

With lots of love
Jai Guru Dev.

I warmed up to her. Her persistence in seeking His blessings, faith and a feeling of belonging captured my heart.

Me: So, so very happy for you. All will be well. Do not be tense. Sending blessings along again. Close your eyes and receive. Jgd

 

Neha:  Jai Gurudev . Thank you so much

 

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9/1/2015  9:35 pm
Neha: JGD. Blessings worked! Ultra sound was normal. Baby is growing in the uterus, not in the Fallopian tube.
All His grace.
Much love and affection.
Neha

Me: nice! Your faith has worked. I am sending distance blessings to many people every morning and you are in from now on. Jgd.

Neha: WOW! That is such a nice feeling Thank you for sending me blessings every morning.
I am due in August. I will bring the baby to Bangalore in December. Hopefully we can meet
Much love and gratitude.

smileys

 

 

Me: yes sure….

6/5/2015  5:05 pm
Hi Aunty,
Saw your message on Blessings site today. Tons of gratitude for sending blessings daily. Everything is going very smoothly by His grace. I am due in August. 25th is the date.

I am attaching some ultrasound pictures. 2 D pictures in black and white and 3 D pictures in colour which are more clear.
In the  picture, you can see the baby’s face slightly 

Much love and gratitude
Jgd

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Me: Oh good. All is well. Jgd

18/8/2015. 7:51 pm
Neha: hello Aunty,
Hope this reaches you in good health and high  spirits. It is my final week. Baby can come anytime between now and 25 th.
I just hope I don’t go overdue else they will do C section. Right now, they are trying for natural delivery.
Shall keep you posted.
Much love and gratitude.

Me: sending you special blessings for normal delivery

Blessings were special because I was  doing a 7 day Silence Course with Swami Brahmatej ji along with Bhagavad Gita discourse by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

I am sure the merit was shared with Neha and her baby because the very next message I see  carried  good news!

Neha:
Dear Aunty,

Gurudev has been extremely kind. He has blessed me and my husband with a little angel. She came on 22nd, natural delivery, not even a tear or any stitches.

We have named her Aahna Vohra.

I could feel His presence throughout. There are no words to express gratitude to my Master.

Thank you for being with me and blessing me daily during this journey, from conception to birth.

I have attached some pictures of our angel Neha.

Sending you Tons of love and best wishes

Affectionately
Neha
Jgd

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The pictures of Aahna and her enraptured parents uplifted my spirits. For the nth time, my throat got choked at the compassion, love and care of our Master. I called Neha to congratulate her but naturally she could not pick up the call.

The story of Neha’s faith, persistence in seeking blessings and experiencing grace is remarkable. Her Bhakti made God helpless and He had to come running to her every time she called Him. What God would not do for such a devotee!

The thought of sharing her story of faith on the Art of Living blogs occurred to me just that  so many can be touched and inspired. I wanted to use her real name, photographs and the actual conversations that took place between us on FaceBook Messenger. I sought her permission.

Here is one more hair raising account of Gurudev’s Grace as experienced and shared by Neha to me. Be ready to get mesmerised!

Neha : Jgd Aunty

No, I don’t mind at all about sharing this Guru story on the blog. 

This story actually started in 2013. Many miracles have taken place since. On my 32nd birthday, I had sent an email to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was the most ridiculous email. I was really hurting inside out. I had mentioned not being able to have a baby. He replied, to my surprise, saying He was sending His blessings! The very next Long Kriya session was very powerful. As I got up from the floor, a note fell from my shawl from nowhere! The note gave me goose bumps! ” It is a girl!” .

 

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At that moment I was not even pregnant. I got pregnant a year later.

I was worried whether I will be able to conceive or not. I had bought very expensive ovulation monitors in preparation to start trying for a family. But His grace was such that I did not have to even open the package. have Aahana today!
Please go ahead and use this story for the blog.

There are myriad ways for the Master to come to our help. All we need is awareness, alertness, gratitude to receive the grace and the unshakable faith that “The divine loves me so much, only the best will happen to me”.

For, as HE has said “Grace has the ability to change anything anytime”.

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Here is a personal message from Neha to all our readers…

 

What is Grace? When all our efforts fail, and perhaps we are not deserving by our karma, yet our Guru takes such mercy on our soul and grants us what we long for the most-that is Grace!!! When you have unshakable faith in God/Guru despite all the challenges and circumstances and when the time is right, not only does the Guru grant our wish but he grants it in ABUNDANCE!!!

With HIS Grace I had a very smooth pregnancy and delivery!!! Aahana is everything and more than I had desired for. Blessings work miracles! I have seen it many times for the most simplest desires to the most important desire- the next most important ingredient after blessing is faith,love and surrender on the part of the seeker.

Jai Gurudev ️​

Leela Ramesh

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

The perfect gift for Gurudev on his 60th birthday

All birthdays are birthdays but then 18th, 21st 50th are all special. And if you are in the South India, the sixtieth birthday is exceptional. For us his disciples, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whom we fondly call Gurudev, his Sixtieth Birthday, which falls on May 13th 2016, is very special and calls for an extraordinary gift.

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That is where the dilemma begins for the options are many. A gift has to be something that the receiver needs. Well, what would our GOD ‘need’!!  He actually takes care of all our needs more than we could ever do ourselves. Once when asked by a devotee, “Gurudev what can we give you?” Gurudev had said “What I don’t have is problems and worries and pains of life. Give me all of yours. That is why I have come in the first place”.  So I followed the easy path. But I realized that though Gurudev’s birthday came only once a year, my ‘gifts’ to him were far more often in the year!  I felt guilty that I was burdening my Guru with my problems?  Gurudev has given us so much knowledge so that we don’t get into the usual tangles of life but he is always there to resolve our problems if we get into them due to ignorance.

A devotee once commented in a Satsang, “Gurudev, I keep giving you all my problems and they get solved. The world over all the devotees must be doing the same. You must be solving them throughout the day like you do mine. Now I don’t feel good giving you my problems.”

Gurudev replied “My dear one, one drop of problem added to the ocean doesn’t burden the ocean. So don’t worry about that.  Anyway I have come to this only for that purpose. Make maximum use of it. Just know that no amount of problems can bother me “

Aah! No more guilt now. I observed that people gave him a variety of nice gifts like beautifully embroidered dhotis. I too did that a couple of times. Then realized that the dhoti has to be liked by Gurudev and my choice need not match his.  I would only be creating one more irritant for Gurudev. He would be left with so many Dhotis that he doesn’t need.

I thought sweets would be a nice gift. Again how much could he eat? And also would it be right to give him sweets which might take days to reach him and become stale in the process? So I dropped that option as well.

Cash?  It is so convenient but would that really be a good gift for my god on his 60th birthday? My choice became clear when I was travelling and wanted to invite the president of that country to our World Culture Festival 2016.

We met some important people so that we could reach the invitation to the president. I was surprised by their response. All of them had the same answer, “Our president will not come”. It was not a rude answer when we heard their explanation. They said “Our president is a visionary and a great leader. He is already 75. We want to preserve him longer. So we do not strain his calendar in any way except under unavoidable circumstances. He guides us and shows us the path. We work so that he rests.”  Ring Ring !!  I realized they not only loved and respected their president but were very practical.

Here I was just thinking of myself? I remember since the first day I came to the ashram, Gurudev would say “give knowledge to a lot of people and fast. There is no time.” These words were prophetic.  Perhaps never in the history has the world deteriorated so fast the way it has done in the last twenty years. The Art of Living also grew at a phenomenal pace. The more it grew the more busy Gurudev became.  He is active and working for at least 19 hours every day without a break save for the Navratri and the ‘Agyatvaas ‘ which lasts for two or three days in the whole year.

A typical day for Gurudev at the ashram is somewhat like this.  Calls start coming early in the morning and go on till late night from all over the world. These are not only from devotees asking for blessings for the beautiful projects they undertake to spread joy, good  health and self  reliance or dates for visits, but from all sorts people including government officials of different countries, rebels and lay people, all call for assistance and help.  And they call at their convenience and their office hours.

Gurudev comes to office around 9.30 – 10-00 A M. Till lunch time the schedule is packed with meetings for the myriad agendas that people have –some of them similar to Gurudev’s agenda.  After a few reminders, the secretaries have to extricate him from people so that he can have lunch. (Gurudev typically does not have breakfast).  After lunch there are more meetings. Around 3.00pm Gurudev is extricated again so that he can rest.  The rest is usually with a couple of people reading out letters that are written to Gurudev from around the world while Gurudev is lying down and commenting “this is taken care of “ or “this must be an old letter. It has already been handled” or “Remind me about this” etc.

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Around 4 pm another set of meetings start. After which Gurudev gives darshan to hundreds of devotees who have come from many cities and countries. His pet elephants eagerly await the tryst which is scheduled around this time and become restless to meet Gurudev.  Then it is Satsang time at 6.30 pm. Hundreds and sometimes thousands experience bliss with the soulful singing and the master’s knowledge. Gurudev usually has a light supper after Satsang followed by a string of meetings. On full moon nights, (rarely) some select singers sing Gurudev’s favorite songs. The secretaries then get busy with Gurudev on various subjects, including concretizing Gurudev‘s schedule (which is usually booked 10 months to a year in advance).  Phone calls continue.  Around 1.00 am Gurudev says “Jai Guru Dev” to everyone present indicating that they have to go and sleep. Many times people find Gurudev walking in the middle of the night checking the storage tanks, to see if they are full for the next day.

Even in this busy schedule, Gurudev manages to visit different projects and developments happening in the ashram almost daily. He also walks to the Gaushala to meet the cows, and other animals. Some mornings, Gurudev walks the whole campus. It is not surprising that He always knows the minutest details of everything happening around him. He makes many visits to the city and the nearby places where people have invited him.  This is what He achieves on a physical level in a single day.

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Wherever Gurudev goes we pack up his schedule so tight. I have also heard of instances where our organizers in their enthusiasm have not only forgotten to eat but also forgotten to serve Gurudev lunch. From the bhakta’s point of view, it is understandable that Gurudev comes to a chapter rarely and the opportunity to serve him is a rare privilege. For one does not know when He will give the next dates to the chapter again. But we tend to forget that for Gurudev each day of the year is the same packed. I do not think there must be another human on this planet who travels so much, crossing so many time zones so often continuously for such a long time.

Sometimes I think Gurudev travels so much because we haven’t done our job as volunteers very well. From His side Gurudev has given us so many tools each more effective than the other. We have also seen and experienced the results thereof. Are they any short of a miracle?

Many questions come up in my mind:

  • Have we as Art of Living volunteers and teachers reached our potential?
  • Has Art of Living reached its potential as an organization?
  • Have we as teachers and volunteers used all the tools effectively to spread happiness and good health to our full potential?

When I ask myself this, the answer that comes from within is NO. I could have done so much more, especially when I hear of the wonderful stories of our teachers, yuvacharyas and volunteers.  If so few of these people could achieve so much of which the whole ART OF LIVING is proud of, what would happen to this country if all of us could do our bit before the World Culture Festival and Gurudev’s birthday?

What if Gurudev works only for 30- 40 minutes a day rather than resting only for 30-40 minutes?

What if we took the load off his shoulder so that Gurudev need not travel so much?

That would be the PERFECT gift for Gurudev’s 60th birthday. The best part is that it is doable.

Swami Bramhatej

Art of Living Courses, Art of Living Experiences, Yoga and Meditation.

Being a full time sevak with the Art of Living Foundation, coordinating its Rural Development Programs, my travel schedule is very hectic. My recent trips have been to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh & Uttranchal, all in a span of 40 days. As I was finally taking my early morning flight from Delhi to Bangalore Ashram (my home and workplace), I opened my laptop to review the long list of proposals that I had to review, my pending office appointments and the 300 odd unanswered mails I had in my outbox. As the flight took off, I looked outside to draw inspiration from the clear blue skies emitting the first rays of the morning sun (one of the reasons why I take the early morning flights),  but could not see anything but clouds. I then tried to close my eyes to meditate, but could not think of anything but the tasks that I needed to complete once I reach my office.

On reaching Bangalore Airport, I booked a cab to the Ashram. As I reached Ashram, it was little past breakfast time. I left my bags in my room and called up office saying that I will reach office after in an hours time. My mind was bogged down by the continuous pressure of work. I thought to myself, let me do my sadhna before breakfast, but the mind completely rejected the thought saying, “BOSS you have a lot of work to do and your team expects you in office after such a long gap. As I sat on the breakfast table, Suresh Babu, a divine angel sent by Gurudev came by my table and asked me “ Have you also come for the Week Iong Guru Poornima Art of Silence Program that has started today”. I replied to Suresh Babu “Wish I could join”, to which he replied back “ You have just missed the Long Kriya and that there is another long kriya happening in the evening for some people who came late”.  I took this as a divine call and quickly went to the admin office to register for the course. A part of me was saying, “You fool, you have so much work” but another part of me was persistently saying “Work will happen, first clear the clutter in your mind”. You are a Sadhak first, and if your mind starts finding excuses for not doing your sadhna, then its time to tame it, and what better tool then a 7 days Art of Silence Program at the ashram.

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I was 20 minutes late for the first session. The first words I heard of Vasanti Ji, our Silence program teacher was “ We all are Fakirs who have come here to meet our beloved  & fakirs don’t carry mobiles and fancy bags. They just carry a cloth on which they sit or lie down & a bottle of water. Luckily for you fakirs, food and stay will not be an issue here in the ashram”.

In the evening we were supposed to inform every one that we will not be reachable for the next 7 days. When I told my family and team about my plans they could not understand the rational behind being in silence for 7 days. I think my mother was the only one who could understand me. I did not bother to explain any one and was eagerly waiting to become void, to let my mind and thoughts turn into ashes, to once again experience the bliss within me.

From the second day our silence with hollow and empty meditations began. This is when I realised that when the mouth shuts, the mind becomes double active. I was sitting in hollow and empty meditation and my mind was setting up a Food Processing & Ginger oil extraction unit for rural farmers in Assam. Our teacher told us to surrender all our thoughts & desires at the feet of the divine, and as I surrendered, one thought, a new thought of buying a piece of land to set up a model organic farm came up in my mind. My mind travelled the whole of India searching for a place to set up a model organic farm while my body was sitting in the meditation hall, in chin mudra, with eyes closed. Before I realised the game my mind was playing, the hollow and empty meditation in Poojya Gurudev’s voice got over and I felt completely hopeless for wasting a meditation session in thinking about things that did not even exist that very moment.

The third day was no better either. Its only that the mind graduated from setting up a model organic farm for rural farmers, to how good it will be to have such retreats closer to the Himalayas. My mind went on a spree of setting up a meditation and retreat centre with a 280 degree view of the Himalayas. I started travelling to Uttrakhand, Himachal, Gangtok, Bhutan in search for a land, with absolutely no ticket. It went to the extent of even designing the meditation room with glass windows overlooking the Himalayan ranges. My mind was running like a horse without reins and I was trying to ride the horse, to direct it this way or that. By the time I was over with my hallucinations, I realised that yet another hollow and empty meditation was over and I was feeling hollow and empty. My mind had fully substituted my mouth and was doing all the talking. I felt like a mad man. The only difference was that a mad person talks aloud to himself and I was talking to myself.  Every day in the night we used to have recorded knowledge sessions of Gurudev and  Gurudev on the first day said that “Have a tool gate in your mind and keep on checking the thoughts that are coming and going”. I started making tool gates in my mind but the moment I closed one , the other opened, then the other opened and after a certain point of time I couldn’t even count the number of tool gates I had in my mind.

As I look back I realised that we all are unconsciously doing this our whole life. We have completely forgotten that the process of talking can begin or end “at will”. We are so habituated to talking that we even talk in our sleep, all 24 hours of the day talking is automatic. We keep on talking and rehearsing. Before talking to someone we rehearse the dialogue internally and then after the conversation is over we repeat over and over all that happened- what I said and what you said and then what I said. We gradually forget what we are losing by talking unnecessarily. Externally we might be gaining something but internally we are losing contact with the self. We are getting closer to people but we are getting further away from the self. And the more adept we become in this game, the more difficult it becomes for us to go into silence.

 From the fourth day, I started understanding the tricks of our mind. I started to become a witness to my thoughts and was not trying to enforce any orders, as I started beginning to realise that one word was giving rise to another, to another and a thousand others, because all things were connected. On day 4 after the afternoon session, as I became truly helpless with my hopeless mind, I remember kneeling down before Gurudev’s photograph that was kept in the room. As I touched my head to the flowers kept near his picture, tears started rolling down my eyes. I was by then completely fed up of my chattering mind and prayed with all my heart requesting him to show me the way. I no more wanted to be in the valley of thoughts but on the lofty peaks where thoughts could not reach, in a space where there is only unbroken silence. On the fourth night, Gurudev said something that completely pierced my mind. He said “Thoughts are like clouds, they come and go. If your focus is on the clouds then you will never be able to see the infinite sky beyond it. Hold on to the blue sky you see between the clouds and after some time the clouds will automatically vanish”. That very moment I closed my eyes and was transported to a realm unknown to my mind. When I got up it was 11.15 pm and the night watchman was silently sitting outside the door. He was instructed by someone not to disturb me and to lock the room only after I left.

The next three days were one of the the most memorable days of my life. Gradually and very faintly I started to hear the footsteps of silence. I felt like a bird that had just been set free from the cage of the mind and now had nothing between its wings and the infinite sky. I can’t truly describe this experience as silence can only be felt and not explained. During my evening walks to the Ganpati Mandap at the Ved Agama, I began to listen to the winds stirring the trees. I begin to listen to the dry leaves fall. Sitting by the lake side I could hear the small waves in the water touching each other and could hear birds sing the glory of the sun set which they were witnessing. As I began to understand the silence within me, I began to realise that this silence is the principle of all the existence.  It is in this silence that everything in this creation exists. It is in this silence that a seed grows and becomes a tree, that sun rises and sets. It is in this silence that the 5 elements mix with each other in different permutations and combinations, creating everything we see around us. When we can learn how to listen to the silence, the void within, then there is nothing more to learn, because it is from that void where all the learning happens.

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I feel that all the Gurus and all religions aim at only one thing; and that is to break this chattering within. Whether we call it yoga or meditation or repetition of mantras, the aim is to break the constant internal flow of words so that we can truly listen to ourself. If the internal dialogue stops even for a moment, we find the whole expanse of space opening within us; all that was yet unknown begins to be known. He who was a total stranger, with whom we were not acquainted at all, becomes our very own. The last two days of the course I felt as if I was sitting at the feet of my Guru. In the presence of a Guru there is nothing to say and everything to hear. We just listen and sit quietly.

Its been 4 days since I have come out of my silence, but can feel that a part of me is still in silence. This was my 13th Art of Silence Program, but it felt like my first. I feel Like I am just beginning to understand the true glory of silence.

Jai Gurudev

Deepak Sharma

Full Time Faculty with Art of Living

Pic Courtesy : Buddha Doodles & Deepak Sharma