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.

 

What-to-do-in-Navratri

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

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga and Meditation.

Activity of mind is necessary for existence. In our day-to-day life cannot move with an inactive mind. However the mind gets so engrossed in the activity that it forgets the very purpose of this activity and blindly gets caught-up in the unceasing cycle of mental activity. Mind gets tired with this unending mental activity.

Secondly every moment the mind perceives the world around it through the five senses. Every perception gives rise to some thoughts and emotions. Some are pleasant and some unpleasant. These perceptions along with associated thoughts and emotions get stored in memory as impressions. Stronger the associated emotions stronger are these impressions. Thus we collect millions of impressions with passage of time. Some impressions are strong, some are not so strong. These past impressions in the mind colour our perception of present moment. Unless the mind is free from all past impressions it will never be able to perceive the present moment ‘as it is’. Unless the mind is free from all past impressions it will never be able to perceive the Truth ‘as it is’.

Tired mind and too many impressions in the mind cause:

  • Loss of enthusiasm & energy
  • Excessive stress
  • Confusion
  • Distraction
  • Lack of focus
  • and finally, derangement of the mind.

Nature has given some inbuilt mechanisms like sleep and dreams to erase or dilute some of the impressions. However present day hectic and stressful life demands something more. Meditation is the solution for all these problems of the mind.

Meditation is a delicate art of doing ‘nothing’ on the level of thoughts and yet having completely restful and alert mind. A meditative mind is silent and at the same time an alert mind. Meditation gives mind the deep rest it yearns for and at the same time it cleanses the mind of unhealthy impressions. It improves perception as well as improves communication and expression. It energizes and rejuvenates the mind in all aspects. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Meditation brings inner peace, gives energy to cope up with difficult situations and unites the hearts and minds of people.”

Meditation is a skill which needs to be mastered. The easiest and most effective way to learn meditation is to learn it from a Guru who has mastered the art of meditation. In a very subtle way the meditative mind of a Guru gently guides the mind of a disciple on the path of meditation. On this path the communication between a Guru and disciple is almost non-verbal. The few words the Guru utters, to guide the disciple into meditation, are there only to communicate something which is beyond words.

8th AUGUST 2015 is a special day for meditation and all the meditators. It is a golden opportunity for the uninitiated ones to learn meditation. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji will be conducting online guided meditation for the whole world from Russia. This event “The Planet Meditates” aims to bring together over 100,000 people meditating at the same time all over the world, and also setting a Guiness Record! It is an opportunity to experience meditation with the Master as well as opportunity to participate in a World Record event. It is said that when 1000’s of minds meditate together it has leaves a positive impact on the whole planet.

Don’t forget to become a part of this historic opportunity by registering on http://planetmeditates.org/ .The event is scheduled on 8th August 2015 at 2:00pm GMT / 7:30pm IST.  Log on to http://artofliving.org/webcast or the Sri Sri App on your mobile to join the LIVE online meditation with Sri Sri.

PlanetMeditates

Sanjay Sabnis

About Art of Living, Others.

Powerful were his missiles

More powerful were his words

Most powerful were his thoughts and dreams…. to transform India into a prosperous nation

Avul Pakeer Jainulbadeen Abdul Kalam.

Former President, eminent scientist, researcher, author and humanitarian Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam breathed his last on 27th July’15 bringing an end to a selfless life dedicated to empowering his fellow countrymen especially youth and children.

Dr. Kalam is mainly credited for the vision 2020 roadmap to enable India to be an economic and intellectual superpower and put an end to poverty and illiteracy.  Dr. Kalam has been conferred upon with many awards and honor including Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration along with India’s highest civilian honor Bharata Ratna along with 43 honorary doctorates. He has also received international honors and PhDs from USA, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada. As many as 6 biographies have been written on him while he authored as many as 17 books meshing serious thought ideology with his experiences as a scientist, researcher, teacher and a political leader with a strong undercurrent of humanism and patriotism.

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Born into a fisherman’s house in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu in 1931, He had a strong spiritual and interfaith influence courtesy to his three close friends in his childhood — Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. Dr. Kalam’s deep interest in ancient Indian wisdom, heritage and spirituality had its seeds sown in childhood.

After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology, Dr. Kalam joined DRDO as a scientist and designed a small helicopter for Indian Army.  He later moved on to ISRO to give wings to the space aspirations of India. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam spent four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the “Missile Man of India” for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. Nurtured the mentorship of Satish Dhawan, Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Brahm Prakash, Kalam and his team went on to design many satellites and launch vehicles starting with SLV-II (Rohini). He also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. Despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these aerospace projects through her discretionary powers under his directorship. He played an integral role convincing the Union Cabinet to conceal the true nature of these classified aerospace projects. He went on to make many special ballistic missiles for India, which included Prithvi, Agni.  India owes its development as a nuclear nation to his organizational and technical support for Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.

Every mission of him wasn’t a success. There were poking failures which stuck sore thumb out. Every time he failed, the media and the scientific groups criticized him. But Dr. Kalam came back strongly. During the Agni and Prithvi missile, the projects have been criticised for mismanagement and cost and time overruns, he gave a fitting reply by proving them wrong with successful completions. In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. Dr. Kalam, strongly believed as a scientist and thinker about using science and technology to take inventions to people across the social and economic barriers of people and bring across difference in the lifestyle and perception.

Dr. Kalam set a target of interacting with 100,000 students during the two years after his resignation from the post of scientific adviser in 1999. He mainly identified himself with the youth and the teenagers of the country and strongly believed in the power of knowledge empowerment and intellectual thinking.  He would insist on the power of dreaming and innovation and the ability to bring out the transformation – both in the self and society. His words came in with a remarkable sense of power often sprinkled with witty humor and unmistakable commitment to bring about a transformation and change in the status quo. Post his thumping victory and assuming his office as the 11th President of India, He travelled across the length and breadth of India and interacted with lakhs of students. He would often take ideas and align their thoughts about becoming responsible, innovative, committed to make India a knowledge superpower and a developed nation by 2020. He strongly urged the student fraternity to think, read, question, work towards a new beginning. Probably no youth leader have inspired the youngsters in the country so much as He did at his age.

Dr. Kalam took an active interest in other developments in the field of science and technology, including a research programme for developing bio-implants. He also supported Open Source technology over proprietary solutions, predicting that the use of free software on a large scale would bring the benefits of information technology to more people. He had the knack of making the impossible look possible and he actually made it possible for ordinary people to dream they could be anybody. And he believed in making India an in-house superpower. The designer of state of the art technologies and path breaking innovations never pursued a PHD from the abroad.

Often when we talk about winner not doing different things but doing things differently, Dr. Kalam is a striking example.

Once, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam rejected the suggestion to put broken glass on the wall of a building that needed protection. Dr. Kalam refused broken glass on walls of DRDO in view of bird safety highlighting his deep rooted sensitivity. Be it a young kid from the corner of India or a scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, He listened with precious attention and unmistakable submission and conviction. Always known to have carried minimal security and changing the status quo, Dr. Kalam sessions were filled with dynamism. He is reported to have rushed into the crowd to stop power cuts from disturbing his interactions and refused to have sit on Presidential chairs on his interactions with kids.

President Kalam has given up all his life savings and salaries to a trust he founded named PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) walking the talk of keeping rural development close to his heart. And when he led, he led by example. He was patient for his autographs and clicking pictures. He was known to have written Thank You cards by himself and also dialed and congratulated people himself reflecting his humility and his simple nature. A famous story on the internet reports that –“ When a subordinate of President Kalam at DRDO couldn’t take his children to an exhibition due to work pressure, He surprised his subordinate and took the children instead” reflecting his care and concern for his subordinates and people.  He never preached belongingness, sensitivity and innocence but lived it in every moment of life.

Dr. Kalam was deeply spiritual. He took interest in Tamil poetry and played the veena. Kamal endorsed Carnatic devotional music and a strong advocator of ancient Hindu culture. He used to read Bhagavad Gita and was a strict vegetarian. Many of his speeches quoted remarkable quotes from the Gita, Vedas, Upanishads and other Indian texts.  A strong advocate of Indian soul with a global outlook, Kalam represented a true Indian at his heart.

 

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has lauded Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as a man of humor and his deep care for society.

“He led a remarkable life: a scientist, artist and philosopher. Holding the highest office, he was still approachable by one and all” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar added.  On hearing that  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was traveling to Sri Lanka to meet Prabhakaran, President Kalam offered to join him in resolving the conflict, going beyond protocol. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also recollects that he was an avid lover and proponent of Indian classical music.

He said that Dr. Kalam once suggested that he and Sri Sri play the Veena together and his favorite song was “Endaro Mahanubhavulu” which means “there are many great souls and I adore them all”.

Dr. Kalam was present on the prestigious occasion of the Silver Jubilee where he addressed the gathering. Here’s his speech from the occasion of Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 2006 

 

 

-Surya Tej Borra

Surya Tej Borra is a volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation. A graduate from the prestigious BITS Pilani, he works with Google. His interests include Cinema, writing, travelling, cooking & music.

Yoga and Meditation.

Human race, knowingly or unknowingly, is practicing ‘Yoga’ since time immemorial. The primitive man while hunting for his pray with his bow outstretched, arrow pointed at the heart of the pray, body and breath still and mind totally focused was ‘Yogasth’ (centred in Yoga). The ‘eureka’ moment of the great scientist Archimedes was a ‘Yoga’ moment. The ‘wow!’ moment we experience when we see an extraordinarily beautiful sunrise at a hill station is a ‘Yoga’ moment. A five year old, when he eats his favourite ice-cream, forgetting the whole world outside is experiencing ‘Yoga’ moment.

With time, the original meaning of the term ‘Yoga’ got distorted. The techniques practised to achieve the state of ‘Yoga’ itself came to be recognized as ‘Yoga’.

The word ‘Yoga’ has been derived from Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means “to join”, “to integrate” or “to unite”.

In simple terms ‘Yoga’ is the state of harmony or union of body, mind and the spirit.

On an individual level our existence has two distinct aspects. First is the gross aspect (visible) i.e. our physical body. The other is the subtle aspect (invisible) which includes our breath, thoughts (mind), intelligence, memories, ego and the Self. Most of the times there is no harmony between these different layers of our existence due to reasons like health conditions, surroundings, past memories, expectations, ego, emotions etc. Only when all the layers of our existence are in harmony, we can give our 100% in whatever we are doing, we can work to our fullest potential, we can enjoy our life to the fullest, and this is the purpose of ‘Yoga’.

Thousands of years ago in ancient India the enlightened Masters realized that ‘Yoga’ is the way to remove misery from human life and it is also path to realize the full potential of human life. They realized that by practising certain techniques and ways any ordinary person can achieve perfection in ‘Yoga’.

Maharshi Patanjali perfected the art and science of ‘Yoga’ as a discipline. Maharshi Patanjali knew that irrespective of race, religion and culture the human mind works on the same principles. He knew all the tendencies of human mind and knew the ways to overcome these tendencies.  He compiled the essence of his teachings in a systematic way in “Patanjali Yoga Sutras”.

With practice of ‘Yoga techniques’ the vacillations of mind in past and future reduce. Mind stays more in present moment. The tendency of mind to hold-on to negativity reduces. Misery reduces and joy increases in life. Our skills of perception, observation as well as expression increase. ‘Yoga’ gives us more clarity in thinking and better communication skills. Slowly the mind gets trained to remain centred even in adverse conditions.

During day-to-day activities we are partially aware of our physical body and usually not at all aware of the subtle layers of our existence. At a physical level we are doing something and at the same time we are doing different things at thought, intellect, memory and ego levels. Our total energy is dissipated in different directions without our awareness. With regular practice of ‘Yoga techniques’, our fragmented existence gets integrated, different layers of our existence come in harmony with each other and we can achieve single pointed focus of our energy in any activity we undertake. With the help of ‘Yoga’ we can achieve excellence in any activity.

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The verse “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam” means “Yoga is skill in action”. Practice of ‘Yoga’ bestows us with skill in action and conversely when we are doing any action with total perfection at that time we are centred in Yoga.

Modern man has to face so many challenges in his day-to-day life. He/she has to play many different and contradictory roles throughout the day. In office he/ she has to be a boss for subordinates, a good friend for colleagues; at home a loving husband/wife/son/daughter; in kitchen a good cook; for children a good father/mother/teacher and so on. All these roles and expectations create lot of stress and tensions in life. With a regular practice of ‘Yoga’ techniques one can skilfully play all these roles perfectly without getting stressed.

On physical level ‘Yoga’ bestows us with many benefits like increase in energy level and stamina, improved body posture and flexibility, increase in immunity level and hormonal balance, improved digestion and elimination etc.

With increased awareness through practice of ‘Yoga,’ one slowly realizes that at some level the whole universe is inter-dependent and inter-connected. It is the same energy or consciousness which manifests in millions of forms. With this realization, belongingness and love increases, hatred and violence reduces, the whole world becomes a better place to live.

Life starts flowing in a direction to ‘unite’ with its very Source!

Jai Gurudev !

Sanjay Sabnis