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

What does Art of Living’s World Culture Festival seek to celebrate? Among many things, it seeks to celebrate 35 years of healing through love and knowledge. Here is a poignant story of healing from a deep and personal loss.

60-year old, Jawahar Lal Gupta runs a small paint business in Muradabad, Uttar Pradesh. Some time back, an incident occurred that shook his life.

”About a year and half back my son passed away,” Gupta said. ”He was 40 years old. I and my wife went into a state of massive depression.”

Gupta’s son also used to run the family business. “His passing was a huge setback for us. We were so depressed that I did not feel like going to the shop. I felt like doing nothing, I had his children to take care of too. But I could not feel a thing.” Gupta said. The void created by the incident was hard to fill.

But then, he found help. An Art of Living teacher from Muradabad sent her volunteers to get him enrolled for an Art of Living program. After much persuasion, he agreed to attend the program.

“I benefited greatly. By the end of the course, I came to a situation, when the mind was ready to accept the loss. I said, what has happened has happened. I was able to collect myself and realized that now I needed to take care of my grand children. Slowly a lot of transformation happened within me and the negativity that had grasped my existence, slowly started waning away.”

Gupta remembers his friends and family asking him, why he looked so happy and at peace. “My depression is over.”

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Gupta, like the 370 million people who have benefited from the program, saw a clear shift in his quality of life. “I gave up drinking tea and liquor after my very first experience of Sudarshan Kriya,” Gupta said, “During the first Sudarshan Kriya that I went through, I felt all my strength came to my forehead. Suddenly I experienced so much strength, like I had never before.”

Now Gupta says, he cannot wait to be one of the 3.5 million people gathering from world over at New Delhi between 11th and 13th March for the World Cultural Festival which will commemorate 35 years of the Art of Living.  “The most important point is, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has raised this feeling of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkum in so many countries, which is the need of the day. Look at all the violence in the world. This is the only way to end all this violence in the world. Such an effort has never been made before,” Gupta said.

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Very often in our chat, the conversation veers towards his loss and the spiritual journey that started after his son’s passing’.  “I think there is more control on the mind. The mind, which would earlier get entangled in small issues and irredeemable situations, is more centered now.  The mind, which used to be perpetually sad, is not so anymore. We do remember him (his son). It is hard to forget, but that sadness attached to it has diminished.”

Jai Gurudev

Ruchira Roy

Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The year 2016 arrived with hundreds of people from over 46 countries doing the silence course in the beautiful Art of Living retreat centre in Black Forest, Germany. On the morning of Jan 1st;  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whom we fondly call Gurudev; left the ashram to conduct a Happiness Program in Berlin. Some of us were fortunate to get to travel with him on the flight from Stuttgart to Berlin. It was a typical day at the Stuttgart airport – holiday travellers hustling and bustling around their friends and family either starting or completing a journey.

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Against this backdrop, scenes of followers and devotees eager to meet him, get a selfie or a picture with him; dominated the departure lounge.  As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ‘s co-travellers scrambled to have their exclusive moment with him, other travellers at the Stuttgart airport paused to take in this amusing sight 🙂

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar walked briskly and purposefully, acknowledging photo requests from his followers and yet at the same time, proceeding to complete all the airport /security formalities required for boarding. Leading the group of devotees travelling with him, He placed his bag on the security scan belt. As he walked through the metal detector, something remarkable happened. The metal detectors went berserk and started beeping continuously. The very professional airport security personnel requested Gurudev to allow them to scan him – which Gurudev agreed to enthusiastically.
The security personnel ran the metal detector all over Gurudev, from head to toe and the beeps were unmistakable. The detectors beeped at every point of contact they made with Gurudev. The security personnel were a bit confused as the beeps also occurred at contact points that were uncovered by clothes. They didn’t know what to scrutinize further, yet they couldn’t wave him off to board the flight either. Could their detectors have failed? Maybe the New Year changed something in the inherent ability of the devices? They looked a bit alarmed and visibly confused.
At this brief moment Gurudev closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was a deep moment. As he opened his eyes Gurudev instructed the same security staff member to scan him again. This time there was no beep. Not a whisper. Not a whimper.
Just to be sure, the security personnel ran the metal detector once more.  The device that beeped at every point of contact with Gurudev just a few seconds ago didn’t beep any more!
It was probably that Gurudev ’s energy was so high that it was making the metal detectors beep. It was amazing see him regulate it at will, to put the security team at ease!

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What followed was smooth take off and landing, like every journey undertaken to spread the Art of Living. Lucky were those who got a glimpse of this divine power on the first day of the New Year. Lucky are also those who read it later and shared the goose-bumps.

 

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Jai Gurudev

Swami Jyothirmayah

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

SEVA was part of my life even before the Art of Living happened to me. The  vital difference is, there was an expectation and a desire for recognition. Whatever honorary post I served in, although I saw the nobility of purpose, there was an element of selfish desire to be somebody!

When I heard Sri Sri Ravishankar saying ‘ SEVA is its own reward. It is an expression of joy’ , a shift happened in my perspective and I was ready to lose my identity as a drop to become an ocean by merging into the huge volunteer force, all guided by One!

Back in Abu Dhabi, in early 2000 , when Art of Living was fairly new, I would engage in SEVA during landmark days such as Guru Purnima, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s birthday, Shivratri and so on along with the team. Raising donation for ‘Gift a Smile’ was an on going project. I remember initiating joining hands with a local group for a walkathon on Corniche beach in support of cancer patients which got good reports in local press as well as a certificate of participation to the Art of Living.

When I moved back to India for good, my mind was already cultured. I had tasted the sweet nectar of SEVA for the sake of SEVA.

Soon an opportunity to get involved in Prison SMART project presented itself. Conducting  courses for lady inmates of Bangalore Central Jail and engaging them in rehabilitation programme by vocational training was a truly satisfying experience. The transformation was tangible. Their written testimonials are safe with me to go back and relive those fulfilling days. The Jail almost turned into an ashram. Lot of work needs to be done in that area. Sri Sri Ravishankar ji’s words ‘ inside every culprit, there is a victim crying for help. Help him’ keeps ringing in ears.

Integrating human values in the main stream of education has been one of my passions.  How I wish I could revamp the whole of our so called education system that only prepares individuals to earn a livelihood but not to live life that only gives degrees but not the quality of altruism, the true purpose of education. With Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji’s vision for education perfectly in sync with altruism, I strove to bring human values in our students of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar PU college. The positive response and enthusiasm the teenagers showed is a promise that we can and will integrate human values in the main stream of education.

The expansion of Art of Living activities in Karnataka is the current project I am associated with. I am madly in love with my home state Karnataka and the vernacular, Kannada. More so now, because, my Master belongs to Karnataka and speaks Kannada! How lucky can I get?! Travelling in Karnataka, building a tryst of love and belonging with our people, inspiring and gearing them up to ‘ Wake up and Shake up’ has been a very fulfilling experience. With all the districts in Karnataka participating in the historic event WCF2016 , I am sure the flag of Art of Living Karnataka will fly high. The diversity of Karnataka is mind boggling. The same language Kannada spoken in different dialects, cuisine varying from region to region, variety and style of costumes worn, musical instruments played, local festivals, wedding procedure….the whole panorama is spell binding! I am proud Karnataka fiber is woven bright and strong in the fabric of the forthcoming phenomenon called the World Culture Festival in Delhi, March 2016. Speaks volumes about the energy, enthusiasm and devotion of our volunteer force in Karnataka which is growing from strength to strength day by day! Tears of gratitude keeps flowing to touch the lotus feet of my Master.

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How has SEVA changed my life?

I can only say it is a shift from ‘ what about me?’ to ‘ what about others?’

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar has said ” You do my work. I will do yours” .

It is an effortless effort, immense joy and privilege to do His work.

In return, a big relief to surrender the burden of running my life to my Master.

It is a deal. I bet, there isn’t a better deal anywhere, in any place or field in this whole world!

Jai Gurudev!

In Service

Leela Ramesh

About Art of Living, Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sudarshan Kriya, World Culture Festival, Yoga and Meditation.

Bangalore: In 2013, when Alman Timofeev won the World Karate Championship again, he achieved a feat very few sportsmen in the world had. He became a World Champion at the age of 35.

 

So what gave the Russian sportsman the edge over competitors half his age, given that the sport of Karate demands high speed and agility?

 

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Timofeev says it was ‘Sudarshan Kriya‘ and meditation which helped him clinch the World title in a no-holds-barred chat with us at the International Art of Living Center in Bangalore.

 

“It was a huge challenge for me,” Timofeev says. “Breaking through that first stage of preparations for the fight, with the help of Sudarshan Kriya and meditation, was the spiritual turning point of my life.”

 

“I can say for sure, without the practices, it would not have happened,” he says.

The two-time World Karate champion says, “Now I am confident that whatever happens, everything will be ok and is taken care of”.

 

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Timofeev’s journey as a professional martial artist has been one full of dizzying highs and scary lows. In 1997, he won the World Karate Champion title at the age of 19, one of the youngest Russians to win it, Timofeev says.

 

But in 2000, he was suddenly dropped from the championships.”After that, I stopped competing professionally and got fully involved in training youngsters,” he says. But after 13 years, he would fight back and his decision came from a spiritual encounter.

 

In 2013, his mother asked him to attend the Art of Living Happiness workshop, hoping that he might find peace and stability to help him strengthen his professional game.

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“The practices had a very profound effect on me. Actually, it was only during the course, that I decided to fight for the championship again. Before that, I was not even sure about going to the championship,” says Timofeev, who is in Bangalore to train the judges of the Asian Karate Championships.

 

Calling his second win a “miracle”, Timofeev says, it was far more difficult for him to prepare for a professional title again, versus someone who had been fighting professionally, especially because he was not getting any younger.

 

“It is difficult to describe, how I became a champion for the second time, but that for me was a miracle. I was training a lot- three times a week, I would run 10 km, swim 2 km10 and skii a lot. I would spend time in the gym too, while practicing Karate daily at least 3 hours a day without fail.” In addition, “I would do my home practices of Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and meditation which supported me tremendously,” he says.

 

Timofeev believes, it is very important for sportsmen and athletes to adopt spiritual practices like Sudarshan Kriya and meditation into their daily routine.

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“It gives you peace of mind and calmness inside. If you have fear (of losing) for example, there is a rush of adrenaline and sportsmen burn out quickly. The fire rises quickly and it dies quickly.

 

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“Kriya and meditation are very powerful tools for being very relaxed and for calming oneself and performing well for a sustainable period of time,” he adds. His message to all those who want to take up rigorous sports like martial arts professionally, which requires immense mental strength and centeredness, is-“Just meditate”.

 

“You definitely have to try and meditate. You need your own experience. Then you will observe the difference before and after you have learned the practices. This is something that words cannot fully describe,” Timofeev says.

 

Even though Timofeev’s association with the Art of Living and its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not very old, he believes he shares a deep connection with him on a spiritual level.  “Since I was 15, I have been training others and I realized an important thing- it is impossible to become a champion if you just want to become a champion. But if you come to the training and enjoy it, then this is the way to be a champion.

 

“And when I heard that from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as well, it resonated so deeply with me. From that moment, I feel that connection with him. I understand his teaching of not being attached to the goal from my point of view,” he says.

 

Timofeev will be back in India in March to be a part of the 3.5 million-strong gathering at the World Cultural Festival as part of the Russian contingent, of the 155 countries participating in the historic event.

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“Yes, I am coming. I think, such a huge event will bring about a change in the world for sure. We all wish peace in the world and that is what this event stands for and of course I will come to be a part of it.”

 

3.5 million people like Timofeev, who believe in the power of meditation and peace in transforming the world, will meet in New Delhi between 11 and 13 March for the world’s largest peace meditation and cultural extravaganza.

Jai Gurudev

Ruchira Roy

 

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

In the age of digital connectivity where everyone is connected to everyone else with the push of a button, the initial reaction to a world culture festival that brings millions of people together in one place to celebrate different cultures was ambivalent to me. A television broadcast would reach millions more with lesser effort, was my first thought. Why all this fuss? Why fly people from the Far East, far west, places in between and then herd them all into one place in India?

Then the probing and analytical side of my mind took over and surprised me. Here’s what I found: I Googled the phrase ‘celebration of diversity’ with a few key word variations. I learnt that the United Nation has sanctioned a day to celebrate and honour the world’s cultural diversity. I was impressed with the goals and ambitions set out by this great organization but found that the magnitude and reach of their programs were rather local, scanty and scattered. The United Nation’s programs were global in intention but lacked a global stage to present the differences it aimed to unite and celebrate. And then I searched for events that brought large numbers of people together in celebration. The search results ranged from the world renowned Kumbh Mela to large musical concerts to political rallies to papal parades. These congregations were huge, no doubt they brought over a million denizens of our planet together in one single place, but they were either religious, political or purely musical in nature – far from diverse – far from celebrating diversity.

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We celebrate the earth, we celebrate seasons, we celebrate love, new year, harvest, graduation, art and even food and drinks, but we have no significant way to commemorate and celebrate the different cultures of our world! This eye opening fact was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. We don’t have a unified forum or a global stage to present the colourful melange of world cultures. Like a mosaic that is created by assembling small and different pieces together, we could present a unified world by assembling a variety of people and culture in one place.

The Republic Day Parade in India is an example of national diversity. Similarly, the opening ceremony of the Olympics offers a stage for different countries and its people in one place – although the predominant competitive mood soon leads only the winning countries into celebration and leaves the rest a bit paler in comparison. Most global events induce a nationalistic feeling or a fierce sense of competition. Somehow, intentionally or unintentionally, they are inherently designed to divide us over our differences. They leave us with a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘the-rest-of-the-world sentiment’. In addition, political issues that make daily headlines reinforce our differences and further polarize us.

No wonder our religious, national and racial identities are stronger than our alliance as humans. We are ingrained to unite over superficial human attributes like colour of hair, eyes, place of birth, mother tongue and so on, while we overlook human emotions and values that are universal. You would agree that the basis of most regional and global conflicts is this very parochial sense of belonging.

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Just like language, culture can bind or divide. That is why the world needs an event like the World Culture Festival 2016 – to unite our cultural differences. When 155 countries, a hundred or more languages and cultural performances take the same stage, it instils a sense of belonging and oneness that would transcend national borders, languages, religions and physical appearances. Diverse congregations like the World Cultural Festival could potentially soften inter-religious strife that has over the last few decades led to the loss of innumerable human lives.

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Beyond all of the above reasons, why the world needs the world cultural festival, the fact that World Culture Festival 2016 will be hosted in the capital city of India seems befitting in many ways. India is a land of many colours and diversity. The world cultural festival gives India a chance to demonstrate its key essence – unity in diversity. The world culture festival is organized and managed by the Art of Living and its volunteers to mark the organization’s thirty five years of service to humanity. As the founder of the organization, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar quoted, ‘ …harmony in diversity makes life colourful, vibrant and joyful. The world cultural festival will be the largest interfaith gathering for peace!’

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Jai Gurudev !

Uma Muthuraaman

For More details Do check The World Culture Festival

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

In a humorous yet profound way, Rishi Vidyadharji gave numerous precious tips to walk on the path of happiness and freedom.

Some of the things told by Rishiji were so subtle that those might be bit difficult to understand for someone who is a novice to ‘Art of living’ or has no exposure to Ayurveda and Patanjali Yoga Sutras’. However if these precious knowledge bits are not shared here, this series of articles will be incomplete.

Ayurveda, Patanjali Yoga Sutras & Sadhana

Rishiji revealed the underlying connection between the ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’, ‘Ayurveda’ and the daily practices (Sadhana ) as taught in the Art of Living’s ‘Happiness Course’.

The ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’ deal with the mind, different modulations of the mind (Chitta-vritti), and the ways to overcome these modulations (Chitta-vritti nirodah).  ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’ tell that Yoga is nothing but overcoming the different modulations of the mind – Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah.

Maharshi Patanjali has enumerated five different modulations of mind. These five modulations are:

  1. Pramana (Proof): Mind wants proof for everything. Proof is connected to logic. Logic is very limited in its purview. Logic is applicable only in the field of known. All profound things in life are beyond logic. Love is beyond logic. Existence is beyond logic. The ‘Self’ is beyond any logic or proof.
  2. Viparyaya (Wrong knowledge): Vipryaya is looking at situations/ people through colored glasses of past experiences, concepts, ideas and feelings. Thinking that a rope lying on the road is a snake is Vipryaya. Vipryaya gives wrong understanding of the truth (Mithya Gyana).
  3. Vikalpa (Mere words having no reality): It is a sort of hallucination or fantasy. These are only words in mind with no associated reality. All our imagination is nothing but Vikalpa.
  4. Smruti (Memory): Smruti means remembering the past experiences.
  5. Nidra (Sleep): Nidra is deep sleep.

Mind is caught up any one of the above five modulations or a combination of these modulations. There is no sixth modulation. A mind devoid of any of above modulations is a mind which is dissolved in the ‘Self’. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means to unite or to integrate. ‘Yoga’ means to unite with the ‘Self’.

 

As explained by Rishiji, “Happiness is a result of moving towards the ‘Self’ and unhappiness is result of moving away from the ‘Self”. So, Yoga or uniting with the ‘Self’ results in unblemished pure happiness.

 

The literal translation of word ‘Ayurveda’ means ‘the science of life’. It is an ancient Indian system of natural and holistic way of healthy living. Ayurveda says that overall health depends upon balance of the tri-doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) in the body. Ayurveda also tells that the root cause of many diseases lies in toxins created in the body due to undigested food. These toxins are called as ‘Aama’. ‘Aama’ is a result of low digestive fire (Agni-mandya).

 

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Rishi Vidyadharji beautifully explained how the Vata, Pitta, Kapha and Aama affect the different modulations of mind (Chitta-Vritti) and vice versa. Food we eat directly affects the balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha as well as creation of Aama. Thus food, body and the mind all are related to each other.

 

Rishiji also revealed the subtle connection between Sadhana, modulations of the mind and Vata, Pitta, Kapha & Aama.

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Warm-up, stretching exercises and Asanas: These help to overcome the inertia, dullness and lethargy (Tamao-guna ).

 

Three Stage Pranayama: Three stage Pranayama helps to overcome Rajo-guna or excessive activity of the mind. It helps to balance the tri-doshas. (Balancing of Vata, Pitta & Kapha )

 

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  • First stage of Pranayama – First stage of Pranayama directs the subtle life force energy (Prana) to lower parts of body below naval region. First stage Pranayama balances the Vata-dosha. Even though Vata affects all the body parts, the primary seat or domain of the Vata is in the lower part of the body. Vata is responsible for movement on a gross as well as subtle level in the body. On subtle level Vata is associated with movement of the mind in the past and future. During first stage of pranayama, if you are able to observe your mind (without interference) you will see that, during this period the mind is mostly concerned about security related issues (i.e. future) or otherwise brooding over some past incidence. When the mind gets caught up in the past or future, it is looking at the reality through colored glasses of past experiences or future anxieties. This is nothing but the modulation of mind called as ‘Viparyaya’. First stage of Pranayama is helpful for bringing the mind in present moment and for overcoming the vritti of ‘Viparyaya’.
  • Second stage of Pranayama – Second stage pranayama directs Prana to the abdomen and lungs. Second stage of Pranayama balances the Pittadosha. The primary seat or location of Pitta in the body is in the middle portion of body.  On a subtle level Pitta is associated with anger, thirst, jealousy, hatred or in-short all our cravings and aversions. During second stage of Pranayama, you will see that your mind is busy either thinking about some person or situation you like or dislike. This is the time when mind gets caught up in thinking about matters close to the heart. Cravings, aversions, likes & dislikes are mere words in mind and have no physical existence as such. Being caught up in cravings and aversions, likes and dislikes is nothing but modulation of mind called as ‘Vikalpa’. Second stage pranayama is useful for overcoming ‘Vikalpa’.
  • Third stage of Pranayama – The third stage of Pranayama directs Prana to throat and head. Third stage balances the Kapha-dosha. The primary seat of Kapha in the body is in the throat, head and sinuses or upper part of body. On gross level Kapha is associated with inertia or heaviness. On subtle level Kapha is associated with attachment, greed, possessiveness and the tendency of the memory to hold on to negativity. Third stage of Pranayama reduces this attachment and tendency of mind to hold on to negativity. It helps us to overcome the modulation of mind called ‘Smruti’.

Bhastrika Pranayama: Prana flows through the subtle energy channels (or Nadis) in the body. These channels get clogged due to ‘Aama’ or the toxins created by undigested food. Accumulation of ‘Aama’ reduces the natural energy flow in the body leading to many diseases. Bhastrika Pranayama clears these subtle energy channels to increase the flow of Prana. On the level of mind, ‘Aama’ is responsible for creation of doubts (Samshaya). A doubting mind wants proofs for everything. Doubting mind gets caught up in the modulation of mind called as ‘Pramana’. Bhastrika Pranayama helps to liberate the mind from clutches of doubts (Samshaya). Bhastrika Pranayama increases Prana level and helps us to get established in Satava guna.

 

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Sudarshan Kriya®: Sudarshan Kriya is a powerful yet simple rhythmic breathing technique that incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath, harmonizing the body, mind and the emotions. Sudarshan Kriya cleanses the whole body-mind complex, releases deep rooted stresses and rejuvenates each and every cell of the body. It makes the person more natural, free and happy. Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya followed by Meditation helps us to get established easily in the fourth state of consciousness called as Turiya-avastha or the state of being one with the ‘Self’. This is the state of pure bliss and happiness.

 

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I realized that the ‘Sadhana’, as taught in Art of Living’s Happiness Course is designed so beautifully that it takes care of physical, mental and spiritual health of the individual. It pulls the individual out from ‘Tamo guna’ and ‘Rajo guna’ and helps him to get established in ‘Satva guna’. It balances the ‘tri-doshas’ in the body resulting in both physical and mental well-being. It cleanses the toxins (Aama) from the body thereby reducing the chances of future ailments. It increases the Prana level in body, making the individual more confident. It releases the mind from the clutches of five modulations (Chitta-Vritti) of the mind. Sudarshan Kriya releases the deep rooted stresses, rejuvenates each and every cell of the body and harmonizes the different levels of existence. Sudarshan Kriya with Meditation helps one to get established in the ‘Self’ and helps to realize one’s true potential. With this knowledge, my commitment towards my own ‘Sadhana’ grew manyfold. I once again realized that this is the most precious gift given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji to humanity. My heart was filled with love and gratitude for everything I received during these seven days of bliss with Rishi Vidyadharji

II Jai Guru Dev I|

Sanjay Sabnis

Pursuit of Happiness – 1

Pursuit of Happiness – 2 

Pursuit of Happiness – 3

 

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

What creates bondage?

Every living being naturally wants to move from bondage to freedom. On the physical or gross level ‘bondage’ is very easy to understand but on a subtle (mind) level it is a bit difficult to understand.

We can define ‘bondage’ simply as anything that restricts our freedom. On subtle level, freedom is lost when our mind gets torn between cravings and aversions, when it gets bogged down by past impressions and concepts, when it is troubled with fears and hatred, when it is burning with anger or withering in sorrow. All these things cloud our intention, attention, perception, observation as well as expression. We can’t function in a free & fair or natural way. This restriction of our mental freedom is ‘bondage’.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Freedom is your very nature. Only with freedom do joy, generosity and other human values blossom. Without freedom, attitudes become stifling, concepts become a burden, information is of no value and imagination becomes stagnant.”

It is strange but true that sometimes we get so much attached with our bondage that we try to nourish or strengthen the bondage. We do not want to abandon our sorrows, our fears, our cravings and aversions. We are afraid to move away from bondage even after knowing that it is the cause of our suffering. We identify ourself with the bondage. Bondage itself starts giving us a strange sort of security. But this is only a temporary phenomenon. With time (may be a few days or few years or few lifetimes) everyone has to move away from bondage to freedom. Natural direction of evolution of life is from bondage to freedom. Growth comes only when life moves from bondage to freedom. True happiness can come only with freedom.

If freedom is so precious, why do we lose our freedom in the first place? What are the reasons for our bondage?

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Rishi Vidyadharji categorically stated that there are only three reasons for bondage.  Actually these can be called as three great illusions which result in bondage (or ‘Karma bandhan’).

  1. Attributing our happiness (Sukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  2. Attributing our unhappiness (Dukh) to some ‘words or forms’ (‘Nama’ or ‘Rupa’)
  3. Thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav)

Rishiji explained that, happiness is a result of moving towards the ‘Self’ and unhappiness is result of moving away from the ‘Self’. However we usually fail to see this truth and due to ignorance attribute our happiness or unhappiness to some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ and this leads to bondage.

We perceive the whole world in our mind as nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ (Nama & Rupa). All the words we listen, all the books we read and all our thoughts are nothing but words in the mind. All the forms we see in outside world are in reality images in our own mind. All our memory and imagination is also nothing but ‘words’ and ‘forms’ in the mind.

Suppose I eat a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (form) and think (words) that ‘Gulab Jamun’ has given me happiness, the image of ‘Gulab Jamun’ along with the thought of its sweet taste and associated happiness gets stored in memory. Repetition of same experience a number of times results in deep impression of association of thought of eating a ‘Gulab Jamun’ (words and form) with happiness. Everyone wants nothing but happiness in life. Hence, repeated association of ‘happiness’ with ‘Gulab Jamun’ results in craving for ‘Gulab Jamun’. Craving restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Similarly repeatedly seeing ‘unhappiness’ in some ‘word’ and ‘form’ results in aversion for that person/object/situation/place. Aversion also restricts our mental freedom and hence it is bondage.

Thus, repeated association of experiences of happiness or unhappiness with some ‘words’ or ‘forms’ results in bondage.

The third cause of bondage is, thinking that I am the ‘doer’ (Karta bhav).

What is ‘doer ship’ (Karta bhav)?

If I perform a charitable act because I am righteous then I am doing it through ‘doer- ship’ because that action is born out of my identity (as a righteous person) in my mind. This will result in bondage. However, if I am performing the same action just because, That action is the right action to do at that time’, then I am not doing it through ‘doer ship’ and it will not result in any bondage for me.

Suppose I am a doctor and I do not give medicine to a patient in need because he has insulted me in past then there is ‘doer ship’ in my not giving medicine to the patient (non-action) because my decision is result of my prejudice against the patient. Hence this non-action will lead to bondage.

So, any action (or non-action) which springs from the ‘ego sense’ or ‘prejudice’ has ‘doer ship’ attached with it.

The actions of a soldier shooting in war or a policeman using tear gas during riots does not create bondage for them. This is so, because here the soldier or the policeman are simply performing their duty without any ‘doer ship’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “You will realize that I am not the doer only when you put your 100% in self-effort, not before. If you have not done anything, you are only sitting there with your hands folded, you can never realize that I am not the doer.”

So when we have purity in the heart (no aversion or craving), clarity in the mind (mind free from doer-ship and prejudice) and sincerity in our action (being 100%) then there is no bondage.

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………to be continued…………….

In Pursuit for Happiness – I 

In Pursuit for Happiness – II

 

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

 

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

Rishi Vidyadharji beautifully revealed the mechanics of happiness. He told that, “Happiness (Sukh) is moving towards the ‘Self’ or uniting with your ‘Self’ and un-happiness (Dukh) is going away from the ‘Self’”.

Naturally question arises in the mind, why moving towards the ‘Self’ gives us happiness? What is the nature of this ‘Self’?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Self is the consciousness that everything is made up of. That is you, and everything around you.”

To understand the nature of this ‘Self’ one should understand the five aspects of the Universe.

 

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Five aspects of the Universe

According to the Vedanta, each object in this universe or the entire universe as such has five aspects:

  1. Asti : Asti is ‘is-ness’ or that it is.
  2. Bhati : Bhati means knowingness/expression – it knows and expresses.
  3. Preeti : Preeti means Love – it Loves.
  4. Nama : Nama is name or word or words.
  5. Rupa : Rupa refers to forms.

The first three aspects viz. Asti, Bhati and Preeti belong to this universal consciousness or the ‘Self’. The last two aspects viz. Nama and Rupa are said to be the gross aspects of this Universe.

Even though words have been used to explain the meanings of Asti (it exists), Bhati (it is self–effulgent) and Preeti (it loves); words fail to convey the actual truth. These three aspects of ‘Self’ are beyond explanation. Words can only create some concepts in mind but these aspects are beyond any concepts.

Sometimes during deep meditation you may be aware that you ‘exist’, but you don’t know who you are, where you are, what you are. This particular experience is the result of the aspect of consciousness called as ‘Asti’.

The ‘Self’ expresses itself through millions of ways. The whole Universe is organized and works according to certain rules because of the aspect of ‘Self’ known as ‘Bhati’. ‘Bhati’ is the basis of all the knowledge and expression in this world, it is the basis of all scientific discoveries and the basis of all understanding.

‘Preeti’ is unconditional, unblemished, infinite, divine Love. This aspect of ‘Self’ is the basis of all other distortions of love we experience in our daily life. It is love which moves the world.

Nama and Rupa are said to be the gross aspects (or the aspects of matter).

Mind gives labels to all that it perceives through its five senses. These labels are nothing but word(s). All our thoughts are also words. Almost all our memories are nothing but words. This particular aspect of the Universe is called as ‘Nama’.

Eyes perceive the world through so many forms or images. Whatever we perceive through our eyes gets recorded in memory as some image or form. All these forms and images we perceive is ‘Rupa’.

Usually Nama & Rupa go hand in hand. All our perceptions, thoughts, memories, imagination and all the mental garbage of the past, present & future is nothing but words and images or Nama and Rupa.

‘Self’ existed even before the creation, it is existing in the creation and will exist even after the end of this creation. ‘Self’ is not bound by space and time whereas Nama and Rupa  belong to the space-time continuum.  In the Nasadiya Sukta(also known as the Hymn of Creation – Rigveda 10:129), it is said that the first thing to manifest from the ‘Self’ was a ‘desire’ which was the primal seed of the whole manifest creation. That ‘desire’ is nothing but a vibration or Nama which was the root cause of manifestation of gross Universe (space-time continuum). Hence Nama and Rupa are said to be the aspects of the gross or the aspects of the matter.

The ‘Self’ is all pervading universal consciousness. Everything emerges from it, sustains inside it and gets dissolved in it. The world as we see it, is in fact existing inside this ‘Self’. ‘Self’ is the substratum of this world and much more than that. The entire Universe exists as one organism or one system because of this all-pervading ‘Self’. Everything and everyone in this Universe is connected with each other at some subtlest level because of this ‘Self’. As individual human beings, we exist in this ‘Self’ and are connected with each other through this ‘Self’. For every one of us, the ‘Self’ is very personal because it is at the core of our existence; and at the same time the ‘Self’ is Universal as it is the same for everyone.

Different Religions call this ‘Self’ by different names like ‘God’, ‘Divine’, ‘Bhagwan’, ‘Allah’ etc. However, all religions unanimously agree that, it is omnipresent (all pervading), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (almighty, supreme).

If the ‘Self’ or God is all pervading, then it must be present in you and me also. Then why don’t we get a direct experience of this ‘Self’ or God? Why don’t we display that supreme power, infinite knowledge and all pervasiveness of the ‘Self’?

Direct experience of ‘Self’ is not possible because we are totally caught up in Nama and Rupa and the ‘Self’ is beyond all Nama and Rupa. A thick veil of illusion created by Nama and Rupa keeps us away from experiencing this universal consciousness. Maya or illusion is getting caught up in Nama (words) and Rupa (images). This thick veil of illusion is ever changing, but the ‘Divine’ underlying it is the unchanging truth. Even in deep meditation, when the veil of this illusion is very thin or non-existent, it is not possible to experience ‘God’ as a separate entity because the experiencer, the faculty of experience and the object of experience all are one only.

Preeti or the unconditional love is the basic nature of this ‘Self’. Hence the ‘Self’ can be experienced only as a fountain of divine love and joy deep inside us. However during our mundane existence we are not able to experience this pure Love because of the thick veil of ignorance around us. Whenever and wherever this thick veil of Nama and Rupa is lifted (or thinned down even for a moment) we experience that pure divine love emanating from the ‘Self’ and we become instantly happy. Love (Preeti) is the only reason for our happiness when we move towards the ‘Self’ and it is also the reason for our unhappiness when we move away from the ‘Self’.

Every living being longs for this love and happiness. Ignorance is seeing happiness in Nama and Rupa. Wisdom is knowing that love is our very existence and happiness is our birth right.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Love is not an emotion. It is your very existence.”

 

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…. To be continued……………

 In Pursuit of Happiness – Part-I

 

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

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

Finally the wait was over. After a couple of misses, I was able to join the much awaited Advance Meditation Course by Rishi Vidyadharji at Vasad Ashram and it was worth all the wait. Around 115 fortunate souls did the course along with me. For me, those seven days were like complete overhauling on Physical, Mental & Spiritual level. During the last couple of days of the course, I was smiling without any apparent reason. Bliss was in the air! I was feeling much lighter, younger and happier; as if, I had offloaded a huge unwanted burden from my shoulders.

I have no words for Rishi Vidyadharji.  He is simply amazing. Rishiji displays a unique blend of wit with wisdom, dedication with dispassion, knowledge with lightness and physical fitness defying age.

Here I am attempting to share some of the precious knowledge pearls shared by Rishiji. I wish to clarify at the onset that, I am not sharing the exact words of Rishiji. I am trying to share Rishiji’s wisdom through my limited power of perception and expression. It is a challenging task to express something which is beyond words. Some places analogies have been used to convey the truth but analogies have their own limitations. They can convey only certain aspects of truth and not the entire truth. I hope that whatever I am sharing here can at least serve the purpose of giving some pointers towards the reality.

Give highest priority to ‘Swadhrama’

I was a bit shocked when Rishiji told that “Don’t try to make anyone happy. Your first and foremost duty is to be happy yourself. That is your ‘Swadharma’. Give highest priority to your Swadharma.

I thought, “Is he teaching us to be selfish?”

But after a bit of introspection and little explanation by Rishiji, I realized that whatever he was telling was an irrefutable fact. I don’t even have control over my own mind. How can I have control over others mind? Isn’t it foolish to take responsibility of someone else’s state of mind?

Most of the times, I don’t even take responsibility for my own state of mind. I think that I am happy or sad because of some person, situation or place. I fail to realize that my own mental conditioning and attitude is responsible for the way I respond to outside situation. No person, situation or place can make me happy or sad. If my mind is bitter, I can’t find joy anywhere in the world. If my mind is sweet, I can find joy everywhere. My own internal mental environment is responsible for the way in which I act or react to outside influences. I realized that I am responsible for the state of my own mind and no one else.

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It is my duty to see that people near me are comfortable, but I can’t make them happy. If I think that I can make someone happy, it is an illusion. At the most, I can show someone the way to happiness. It is up to them to find their happiness. Usually we fall in this trap of trying to make others happy and in the process lose our own happiness and also fail miserably in our so called noble mission of making others happy.

Rishiji gave an apt example of safety instructions which the Air Hostess gives regarding wearing the Oxygen Mask during emergency. First one should wear his/her own Oxygen Mask and then help others to wear their Oxygen Mask. Same is the case with happiness.

Happiness is contagious. The company of a happy person makes others happy. So just be happy! Be happy, because it is our ‘Swadharma’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has given a beautiful definition of ‘Swadharma’. He says, “Any action that uplifts us is our Swadharma…..Growth comes when we follow our Swadharma.”

In the Bhagavad Geeta (3.35), Sri Krihna tells that: ‘Swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah’ – It is better to die following one’s own ‘Swadharama ‘ than to follow ‘Paradharma’. The path of ‘Paradharma’ is full of unknown dangers.  

To be happy in true sense, the first and foremost thing to do is to take responsibility of our own mind. But this is easier said than done. Taking responsibility of our own mind requires extraordinary level of awareness and self-effort.  Only with regular Sadhana, Seva & Satsang can one get that heightened level of awareness and energy which can help us to become a true master of our own mind.

What is Happiness?

‘Viveka’ is knowing what is happiness (Sukh) and what is un-happiness (Dukh).

Rishiji beautifully explained the mechanics of happiness. He explained that, “Happiness (Sukh) is moving towards the ‘Self’ or uniting with your ‘Self’ and un-happiness (Dukh) is going away from the ‘Self’”. 

‘Yoga’ is a scientific way propounded by our ancient sages to unite with our true nature or the ‘Self’.

The word ‘Bhoga’ implies enjoyment derived through sensory pleasures. 

You can reach the state of happiness either through ‘Yoga’ or through ‘Bhoga’.

Happiness through ‘Bhoga’ will physically & mentally exhaust you in due course of time whereas happiness through ‘Yoga’ will rejuvenate and energize you.

Happiness through ‘Bhoga’ is limited by the power of senses while happiness through ‘Yoga’ is boundless.

The path of ‘Bhoga’ is the path of short term gain and long term pain whereas the path of ‘Yoga’ is that of short term pain and long term gain.

‘Bhoga’ leads us towards bondage whereas ‘Yoga’ leads us towards freedom.

‘Bhoga’ is seeing happiness in ‘words and forms’ and ‘Yoga’ is seeing it in the ‘formless’.

Seeing happiness in the ‘words and forms’ (‘Nama’ and ‘Rupa’) is an illusion and seeing it in the ‘formless’ is the reality.

Suppose you are a lover of sweets and you are served a delicious ‘Gulab Jamun’. The moment you start savoring the delicious sweet, your whole existence gets effortlessly focused on the sense of taste. Your mind, intellect, memory, ego, everything is almost dissolved in that moment. So you are very near to your true nature or your true ‘Self’ and hence you become happy. Your true ‘Self’ is the real source of love and happiness. As you go near your ‘Self’ naturally you become happy.

However, you may not be aware that this happiness has resulted because of your closeness with the ‘Self’. Usually you attribute your happiness to the ‘Gulab Jamun’ (name & form).  Your memory records that eating ‘Gulab Jamun’ has made you happy. After repeating this experience a couple of times, the impression that ‘Gulab Jamun’ gives happiness gets firmly established in the memory. Next time when you are unhappy, the memory will say, ‘If you eat Gulab Jamun, you will become happy’. Your mind starts craving for the ‘Gulab Jamun’. Now, if you don’t get ‘Gulab Jamun’ you become unhappy. The deep impression in mind that ‘Gulab Jamun’ will make you happy, has now become your bondage.

Here again, not getting the the ‘Gulab Jamun’ is not responsible for your unhappiness. It is your craving for the ‘Gulab Jamun’ which has taken you away from the ‘Self’ and this distance from your ‘Self’ has resulted in your unhappiness.

‘Bhoga’ can give only the glimpse of happiness which is radiating from the source of happiness inside (i.e. our true ‘Self’) but ‘Yoga’ unites us with this very source of happiness.

Now, what is this so called ‘Self’? Why uniting with this ‘Self’ gives us unbounded happiness?

……..To be continued ……………..

Jai Gurudev !

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji has said “ Prayer is talking to God and. Meditation is listening to God“. When we listen with total faith and alertness, meditation can truly offer solace to our inner turmoil. Such revelations can both make our hair stand stiff on our arms as well as melt our heart in gratitude, at once!

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This morning as I was getting ready to teach the last day of a course in the Bangalore ashram, I checked my bag to see whether my iPod that contained the course materials was in place. I could not locate it in the usual place. I checked again emptying the bag. No sign of iPod. Panic! Recollected the last time I used it. It was before lunch break the previous day. My God! How could I have been so irresponsible? I chanted ‘ Karthiveerarjuna’ , a mantra that has the ability to retrieve misplaced things. To no avail. Even though it was a bit early, I left the room in the hope that someone would have found it and I would be given my Ipod once I reached there. All the volunteers had already gathered at the course venue and a brisk enquiry followed about anyone finding the iPod the previous day. To my desolation, the answer was ‘No’. My mind went into a whirlpool of mixed emotions.

The strongest feeling was one of faith. I knew I would find my iPod.

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But the monkey mind went into all sorts of ‘ What ifs’. ‘  How will I conduct the sessions today’, I wondered, agitated. I felt worthless, not worthy of my Master’ s love. ‘ What kind of an instrument are you if you cannot take responsibility?’ My conscience poked me mercilessly. By now, I was feeling totally dejected and low. Volunteers around me were cheerful and recounted stories of ‘ Lost and Found’. My mind was torn apart, yet I was aware of holding on to my faith strongly. I prayed to the higher power, ‘ if I have integrity in my SEVA, Let me get my iPod before the session begins’.

I detached myself from the group and sat down to meditate with a single thought reverberating in my mind. IPod.

I prayed deeply. Fifteen minutes past , I heard a voice telling me ‘ Just  look inside your bag. It has not gone anywhere else’. With a smile I quickly completed three rounds of nadishodhan pranayama and eagerly put my hand inside the front pocket of my bag. Lo! There It was. There was no need to even search for a single second! My hands touched the gadget that contained infinity as naturally as one touches ones own skin, the moment my hand went in the pocket. How could I have missed checking the front pocket in the morning?

Or did I search for it and not find it? I frankly don’t know! It is a mystery and I am content to let it be a mystery.

Such miracles happen  when we connect with the source in meditation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s words ”  Faith is a great wealth that gives you immense strength. Hold on to it” is ambrosia in our life.

What will the divine not do for a devotee with a rock solid faith?! Tears of gratitude brimmed in my eyes.

Happily I walked into the course venue to start my session, on time, with my iPod!

Jai Gurudev.

Leela Ramesh