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.
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.
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.
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.