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Shri Shri Ravishankar

A Profile
Art of Living Foundation
LESSONS IN LIVING
Getting Back To Innocence
THE HEART OF LOVING
Quotes
Related Links
Shri Shri Ravishankar : A Profile

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When an admirer asked Sri Sri Ravishankar: " How do you make everyone happy?"

Guruji said: " Become me."

Admirer: " How do we become you?"

Guruji: " What stands between you and me is your self image. Your self-image restricts you from being me. Self image whether good or bad causes misery. When you think good about yourself in a very subtle manner you think bad about others. Then anger, jealousy, hatred—everything follows."


The very sight of Guruji is enchanting. With a long and spotless white robe encircling his slender frame, flowing hair and a trademark disarming smile, the Guruji is as simple and natural as his prescription for the art of living one's life to the fullest. Addressed as 'Guruji' by millions of his devotees the world over; Sri Sri Ravishankar presented the world with his sudarshan kriya technique and the organization—The Art of Living.

Guruji's ability to connect with people is perfectly effortless and his spiritual appeal irresistible. To use the words of one of his ardent followers, Sri Sri is as compassionate as Jesus, as playful as Lord Krishna and as erudite as Adi Shankara. He has this uncanny ability of helping people unburden their stress-filled minds. His invaluable sayings act as balms for wounded souls. Here's a sample: " Life is a ball in your hands to play with. Don't hold on to the ball."

Sri Sri Ravishankar is a unique combination of wit and wisdom, seriousness and playfulness, who would provoke you to "celebrate while you are alone, celebrate when you are with people, celebrate the silence and celebrate the noise. Celebrate life and celebrate death." It is not surprising then that, the Art of Living is all about accepting life in its totality and its motto is to "only connect". To connect people across all communities and countries with love, to turn the tides of time by reviving human values and strengthening it to make our times special. A South African member of the Art of Living teaching program says, "After the Art of Living course, racial tolerance is no longer an issue. We've moved beyond tolerance to unconditional acceptance and love. Love has no dislikes, no boundaries."

Sparks of the spiritual master's striking personality caught peoples' attention right from his childhood, which was an extraordinary one by all accounts. Ravishankar was born on May 13, 1956, in a spiritual family in Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India. His father R. S. V. Ratnam who is well versed in Sanskrit, Tamil and English, is also a devout social worker besides being very spiritually oriented. It is an interesting coincidence that Ravishankar was born in a place named 'Papanasam', for it means—the removal of all sins. To add to it all, he was born on Shankara Jayanti, the birthday of Adi Shankara (the 8th century Vedantic philosopher and founder of the Advaita theory of Truth) and was christened on the 11th day of his birth, which also happened to be the birthday of Ramanuja the renowned preacher of bhakti or devotion. Certainly, an interesting combination of knowledge and devotion, in the consciousness of the newborn!

At the age of four, little Ravishankar was discovered chanting the shlokas of The Bhagavad Gita, and by the age of 17 he had completed his graduation in science as well as his mastery over the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). His extreme spiritual bent of mind also caught the attention of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, under whose tutelage Ravishankar blossomed into the spiritual figure we know so well.

In fact, soon after his college days, he came into contact with many renowned spiritual teachers and leading intellectuals. The decision to embark on an ascetic path instead of regular materialistic life was taken at this point of his life. He remained in Rishikesh, India, with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for several years, however, before going abroad to complete his doctoral degree in the science of the Vedas.

Having completed his research, Sri Sri Ravishankar presented the world with the sudarshan kriya technique—a unique breathing process, which removes stress and negative toxins from the body by rejuvenating each and every cell. The technique is said to have been revealed to him during a spell of silent meditation that he had gone into for 10 long days in 1982. It was the same year that he started the Art of Living Foundation, which propagates his programs in over a 100 countries. The Foundation aims at fostering health at every conceivable human level-mental, physical, emotional as well as spiritual. Sri Sri Ravishankar, also, started off a number of educational and humanitarian organizations for the service and all-round upliftment of society. Besides the Art of Living Foundation, the Prison SMART Foundation, Inc., Dollar-a-Day, Art Excel and 5H Program are all the outcome of this selfsame and wholehearted commitment towards humanity. But modest soul that he is, Guruji perceives these programs to be nothing more than, seva or services for fellow human beings who are merely reflections of our own 'selves'.

According to Sri Sri Ravishankar, even though the world is a mixture of happiness and sorrow, it shouldn't deter any one from seeking enjoyment in whatever one does. He elucidates, "It is written in the Upanishads, the Atman, soul, is Satchidanandamaya (complete bliss). Spirituality is not boring. It is the Rasa (flavor) of life."

This blissful state can only be attained when one follows the religion of humanity, or in Guruji's term—Manav Dharma, by spreading love in each human soul. Beloved Guruji has even unfolded the path to this state, simply follow it: "How far to Heaven? Just open your eyes and look. You are in Heaven."

Source : http://www.lifepositive.com/artofliving/bio.asp
 

Art of Living Foundation

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Established in 1982, The Art of Living Foundation is an educational and humanitarian foundation, registered in the US as a tax-exempt and nonprofit organization. It is not a religious organization, but as one adhering to the basic spiritual principles of love, kindness and unconditional service to the world. It carries out numerous charitable, educational and humanitarian programs throughout the world on the basis of donations.

All the activities of the foundation are based on the saying of its founder teacher Sri Sri Ravishankar—"a truly religious person will be secular in nature. Secular means one who thinks all human beings are his or her own."

The Art of Living works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN, and as such it has accredited representatives at the UN in New York, Geneva and Vienna. It also works in formal consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO).

DOLLAR-A-DAY PROGRAM
From 1985, the Art of Living started supporting the Dollar-a-Day service program, for rural children of India, which provides them with the basic amenities of life and much more. This innovative activity is pursued under Care for Children program where children learn, other than the traditional courses, the fine art of living, the skill of making friends, handling negative emotions and value of service to the fellow beings. The children are taught to take the studies as an enjoyable challenge, pick up the habit of hygienic living and most importantly, develop the skill of community living, a sense of belonging to each one of it.

THE 5H PROGRAM
One of its many commendable programs is the 5H Program, which focuses on—Home, Health, Hygiene, Harmony in Diversity and Human Values. It aims at bringing about a social transformation so that the complete potential of each individual is expressed. Sri Sri Ravishankar is the inspiration behind the program.

ART EXCEL
The Art Excel program is perhaps the most popular program, which offers courses for all round development of children and youth (8 to 21 years old). Through simple play-way techniques and awareness games the participants learn how to develop their personal potential and manage stress in their life. This highly admired program is currently offered in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, and in countries like Canada and the USA. The Art of Living program is working closely with UNICEF to make this program available to the world community at large.

PRISON SMART

Prison SMART is another laudable program providing training on stress management and rehabilitation for juvenile and adult prisoners, prisoners on parole and probation, victims of crime, at-risk youths, and even the law enforcement officers and probation staff. The Prison SMART Foundation Inc. that carries out these services was established in 1992. This unique foundation is the first of its kind in the USA and now has gained national recognition to offer services in the prisons and juvenile halls across the country. The foundation provides vision, resources and a committed corps of talented volunteers.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR HUMAN VALUES
The International Association for Human Values is another nonprofit outfit of the Foundation, which works for cultivating and supporting basic human values in societies all over the world. The association boasts of a network of well-trained and motivated personnel to carry out its activities.

YOUTH TRAINING PROGRAM
The Youth Training Program (YTP) in India focuses on the education of the rural youth and encourages them to work for the betterment of their community. Arranging medical camps, distributing clothes to the poor, creating sanitation facilities and setting up local cooperative groups.

Working on the principles of love and essential human connectedness as delineated by their founder member, Sri Sri Ravishankar, the Art of Living tries to follow a holistic way of living coupled with humanitarian values. It teaches a wide variety of courses including a meditation course called sahaja samadhi, a natural and effortless meditative technique. It admits that all its self-development courses and programs are a form of yoga, which is nothing but a "union with the Self." The sudarshan kriya and other related techniques, propounded by the Foundation, are all based on the ancient yogic science of breathing, which explores the connection between mind, body, the emotions and rhythms of breath. Over a million people in more than 100 countries have taken Art of Living courses.

The Foundation has Vyakti Vikas Kendras all over India, to teach people how to revive love among themselves, improve their interpersonal interactions and to reach out to the world in a positive manner. Corporate courses are offered to executives and all, to enhance their efficiency and team spirit.

When Sri Sri Ravishankar addressed the August 2000 UN Millennium World Peace Committee of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, his speech was widely received as a path breaking one. The Art of Living, as the instrument of Guruji's ideals, promotes the idea of preventive diplomacy in the case of conflict situations in the global arena. An idea that was proposed to the UN in its 1995 World Social Summit.

Above all, the Foundation endeavors to drive home Sri Sri Ravishankar's message that—even though practices remain different, all great religious traditions share the same common goals and values, and mankind would do well to cut across these barriers and anomalies to connect with each other through love.

The Art of Living Foundation is an international nonprofit educational, charitable, and humanitarian foundation, dedicated to serving society by strengthening the individual.

Art of Living's educational and self development programs offer techniques to eliminate stress, improve health, expand awareness and resolve conflict and have been enjoyed by millions of people in over 140 countries.

As a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the foundation works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, participating in a variety of committees and activities relating to health and conflict resolution.

The Art of Living foundation is active in over 140 countries, run almost exclusively by dedicated volunteers cutting across all religious and cultural boundaries. To take an Art of Living Course or participate in any of our service projects contact a center in your corner of the world.

Art of Living International
Headquaters - Asia

21st km, Kanakapura Road
Udayapura
Bangalore - 560 062
India
91-80-8432274
ashram@artofliving.org

Fondation L'Art de Vivre -
North America

13 Chemin de l'Infinite
St. Mathieu du Parc
Quebec - G0X 1N0
Canada
819- 532-3328
artdevivre@artofliving.org

Akademie Bad Antogast -
Europe

Bad Antogast 1
77728 - Oppenau
Germay
49-7804-91 09 23
ArtOfLiving.Germany@t-online.de

 

LESSONS IN LIVING

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By Suma Varughese

True laughter is true prayer, teaches Sri Sri Ravishankar—the guru whose Art of Living courses gives lessons in living, which concentrate on breathwork and self-awareness


"The language of the head is words. The language of the heart is love. The language of the soul is silence."

Starting his discourse in a Delhi auditorium with these words, this man with soft eyes, jet black flowing hair and beard and an artist's relaxed hands disarms his audience by asking: "So, in which language do you want me to speak?"

It's a rhetorical question. The tongue he continues to use is in words, of course, but in a language that goes straight to the heart. The precepts he speaks of run close to the soul.

Another time, you attend a satsang (communion) the guru has graced in a devotee's home in north
Delhi, India, expecting to sit through one more edifying discourse. But all you do is wait as he sits on the dais with eyes shut, opening them periodically but only to indicate to the singers to continue with yet another bhajan (devotional song). Then, suddenly, he gets up and starts to dance, with the ecstasy of a Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

You wait some more for the discourse to begin. He stops dancing, takes an unhurried look at the expectant faces, smiles almost mirthfully. He's done it again: not a word is spoken, but much is communicated by the eyes. The satsang comes to an end.

This is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a new age guru with a mystique of his own. Slipping in a moment from singing and showering rose petals on his congregation to the deepest meditation, or from bantering with his devotees to discussing eternal verities, he defies easy slotting. One of his disciples has to summon three personages to convey what he is all about: "Guruji has the compassion of Jesus Christ, the playfulness of Krishna and the erudition of Adi Sankara."

But what also attracts a growing number of people in India and other countries to Ravi Shankar is that he is a thoroughly modern man speaking ancient truths. In his person, Vedic precepts become contemporary, eastern mystique sheds its mystery. For the Indian generation alienated from its roots by relentless westernization, he represents the acceptable face of tradition. Not surprisingly, his following is, by and large, from the urban middle class. In Mumbai, western India, his devotees include many young professionals, IIT students, even socialites and film stars.

Their first introduction to the guru usually is the 14-hour Art of Living course, which has so far drawn over half a million participants the world over. Basic to this course is Sudarshan Kriya that Ravi Shankar discovered in 1982, after emerging from a 10-day retreat into silence, an event that marked his ascendance into enlightenment.

Sudarshan Kriya is a cycle of breaths—long, medium and short. Since the mind oscillates wildly between the past and the future, the breath, which is by definition necessarily in the present, is used to "rope in the wandering mind". Like Zen masters who teach that the present moment is a chink opening into eternity, Ravi Shankar also hauls his audience back to the here and now with posers like, "Where are you?"

The Art of Living course combines the kriya with meditation and teaches how to observe the mind, to live in gratitude and to discard expectations. The workshop also provides a value-based framework to life and tools with which to build the superstructure. The benefits of the workshop include stress reduction, a resurgence of vitality, mental clarity and joy of living. Those who attend the course routinely report relief in respiratory and spinal disorders, diabetes and heart problems. The program has been acclaimed by the World Health Organization. The workshops are organized under the aegis of the Vyakti Vikas Kendra (VVK), which has over 200 centers in
India. The centers are managed by 70-odd teachers trained by Ravi Shankar, most working on an honorary basis.

Arun Madhavan quit his job as area manager with Standard Chartered Bank to join VVK as chairman. The Art of Living workshop, Madhavan says, brought him greater awareness, a deep sense of joy and virtually obliterated his medical bills. His mission is to promote it in the corporate world, where its benefits as a stress-reliever have already led to wide acceptance. So far in
India, the workshop has been attended by over 15,000 professional managers. One of them is S.B. Ganguly, the chairman and managing director of Exide Industries. Says he: "I suddenly find myself a friend to everyone; my attitude towards my family has improved. The rat race has ended and my mind is at peace."

But how does Ravi Shankar view his mission? "We are trying to bring back human values," replies the 40-year-old guru, attired in his trademark off-white silk lungi-kurta, while lounging in the home of one of his meditation teachers in Mumbai. "The purpose of The Art of Living course is to retain innocence while increasing intelligence. The innocence of the ignorant is not as precious as that of those who have gone through knowledge to arrive at another level of 'I don't know'."

That is a beautiful 'I don't know'."
Ravi Shankar's philosophy is Advaitic, stressing the essential oneness of the Self and the Absolute. But he has his own unique way of driving home the eternal truths. Invited to speak at the United Nations' 50th anniversary celebrations, he surprised those present by repudiating the possibility of world unity, before adding that the word implied a duality.

 When asked about his idea of God, he says: "You believe what you don't know; I don't believe in God. God is the very core of your being, it is like peeling an onion and reaching that central nothingness, which is God. The whole is God."

With a good measure of irony, Ravi Shankar employs the general belief in God's omnipresence to resolve the free will versus determinism debate: "When your thought is in alliance with what is happening, you call it free will; when it is in opposition, you call it destiny. " Non-duality presupposes non-doing, which is the understanding that life lives itself, we don't live it; that feelings, thoughts, states of mind happen, we don't create them. When a disciple asks him how to be detached, he answers: "Don't try to do it. You are already that." Answering another question about the value of celibacy, the master replies: "Celibacy is not a practice. If it's a happening, then it's authentic. Trying to stop yourself from having sex is unnatural and only makes you think of it even more."

Simplicity, naturalness, effortlessness and spontaneity are spiritual precepts for him. The ego, which is considered the chief foe of seekers of enlightenment, simply arises from a short supply of "naturalness", says Ravi Shankar. It is more difficult to be an atheist than a believer. "Don't try to develop unconditional love," he advises, "because you are love."

As for himself, he appears to be running his worldwide organization absolutely effortlessly. Born in a prosperous business family in
Bangalore, southern India, Ravi Shankar's spiritual destiny manifested itself in his infancy, when as a child of four, he recited the entire Bhagavad Gita. The atmosphere at home was deeply religious. His father, a medical astrologer, divined his son's unusual powers early, and has always supported his decisions. At eight, in addition to conventional schooling, Ravi Shankar started studying Vedic literature. By 18, he had earned a degree in science. His background in science and the Vedas is what brought him to the notice of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the transcendental meditation movement. Ravi Shankar rose in the movement to become a close associate of Maharishi before deciding to forge out on his own.

His younger sister Bhanu recalls him as the perfect brother, "very friendly, very humorous, a guiding spirit. I copied him in everything". Each of his disciples has his own favorite guru story. Khursheed Batliwala, a VVK instructor from Mumbai, remembers the time "Guruji" came running barefoot to him, clutching a wad of notes because he was told that Batliwala didn't have any money for a journey he was about to undertake.

Nitin Limaye, from
Baroda, western India, relates how a group of them were out walking with the guru one sunny day. Suddenly, the guru stopped and advised them to run for cover because it would rain shortly. There was no evidence to support this sudden bit of meteorology, but they obeyed him and watched the rain cascading down half-an-hour later from the safety of their ashram.

Accomplished at the veena (an Indian musical instrument) and the piano,
Ravi Shankar's musical inclination filters down to his devotees. Their satsangs are riotously joyous affairs, bhajans sung with the gusto of school students at a picnic.

Starting with The Art of Living workshops (which are now available for children, too), VVK's activities have been expanding. They include a four-day advance course, taught by the guru himself, usually in his sprawling
Bangalore ashram, and teaching the mantra-based Sahaj Samadhi Meditation. VVK has also set up the Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth, dedicated to the revival of Vedic wisdom in education. The institute is working closely with 240 schools in Bangalore. A research body it has set up has been commissioned by the government to reappraise the siddha and ayurvedic systems of medicine.

All this is a creditable achievement for somebody who took up the mantle of a preceptor only 10 years ago, but for Ravi Shankar "it is all fun. Life is a game, a play. There is nothing worth taking so seriously".

Life Positive, December 1996

http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/new-age-catalysts/ravishankar/lessons-in-living.asp
 

Getting Back To Innocence

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A talk with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a spiritual master of extraordinary simplicity, wisdom and unconditional love. As a boy resplendent with radiance, he was recognized by the enlightened saints of the time as crowned with the divine.

During a lecture in Los Angeles, someone asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to describe enlightenment. The following was his reply:

Enlightenment is like a joke! It’s like a fish searching for the ocean. Once upon a time, there was a congregation of fish who got    together to discuss who had seen the ocean. None of them could  actually say they had seen the ocean. Then, one fish said, “I think my great-grandfather had seen the ocean!” A second fish said, “Yes, yes. I also heard about this.” A third fish said, “Yes, certainly, his great-grandfather had seen the ocean.” So they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great-grand father of that particular fish. They said, “He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.”

Enlightenment is the very core of our being; going into the core of our self and living our life from there. We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually, as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence, and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts, and as time passed, we moved into our heads. Now the reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from head back to the heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement. Knowledge should lead you to that beautiful point of “I don’t know.”

The purpose of knowledge is ignorance. The completion of knowledge will lead you to amazement and wonder. It makes you aware of this existence. Mysteries are to be lived, not understood. One can live life so fully in its completeness, in its totality. Enlightenment is that state of being so mature and unshakable by any circumstance. Come what may, nothing can rob the smile from your heart. Not identifying with limited boundaries and feeling “all that  exists in this universe belongs to me,” this is enlightenment. Enlightenment is that state of being so mature and unshakable by any circumstance. Come what may, nothing can rob the smile from your heart.

Unenlightenment is easy to define. It is limiting yourself by saying, “I  belong to this particular place,” or “I am from that culture.” It’s like children saying, “My dad is better than your dad,” or “My toy is better than your toy.” I think most people around the world are stuck in that mental age group. Just the toys have changed. Adults say, “My  country is better than your country.” A Christian will say, “The Bible is truth,” and a Hindu will say, “The Vedas are truth. They are very ancient.” Muslims will say, “The Koran is the last word of God.” We attribute glory to something just because we are from that culture, not for what it is. If one could take credit for all that exists throughout the ages and feel as though “it belongs to me,” then that is maturity. “This is my wealth because I belong to the Divine.”

The Divine, according to time and space, gave different knowledge in  different places. One becomes the knower of the whole universe and sees that, “all the beautiful flowers are all from my garden.” The whole evolution of man is from being somebody to being nobody, and from being nobody to being everybody. Have you observed that young children have that sense of belonging, that oneness, that innocence? As we grew up we lost that innocence and became more cunning. The innocence of an ignorant man has no value, and the cunningness of an intelligent man also has no value. Enlightenment is a rare combination of innocence and intelligence, with words to express and, at the same time, being very silent. In that state, the mind is fully in the present moment. Whatever is necessary is revealed to you in such a natural and spontaneous way. You just sit and the song flows through you.

Is enlightenment really possible for the average person?                  
The answer is “Yes, a big YES.” Enlightenment is very possible for the ordinary individual. Actually, it is easier than for someone who thinks that they are special. You see, when someone thinks they are special, their ego becomes involved. “I am a great teacher or I am a great writer,” that is only ego. The ego wants to be special and this may cause someone to get stuck for a long time.

Whenever someone is ordinary, simple, innocent and natural; that is enlightenment. Enlightenment is your very nature. It is in you  already, as seed form. When you drop all the tensions and hang-ups and become natural, then it is right in your hand. We simply need to let go of the old patterns that are in the mind, just drop them. Then you see that something in you flowers and dawns. It is so beautiful.

In my teachings there is a lot of focus on the breath because our breath plays a very important role. The breath is the connecting link between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of body and environment. You see, there are seven levels of existence: body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego and Being. Meditation works by bringing an effect from the level of Being to the mind. With the breath we bring this effect to the physical level as well.

You see, there is a rhythm in nature. Seasons come and go. Everything in life has a particular pattern and order. In your own body, there is a rhythm, too. You feel hungry at a certain time and sleepy at a certain time. The body has a particular rhythm. Life has a particular rhythm. Similarly, your breath also goes in a particular pattern. Your emotions move in a particular rhythm, as well as your thoughts. All these rhythms arise from your Being, which has its own rhythm.

In Sudarshan Kriya, a breath technique I teach,  we get into the rhythm of our Being and see how Being is permeating our emotions, our thoughts, our breath and our bodies. In a very short amount of time, every cell of the body becomes so alive and releases all the toxins and negative emotions it has stored from times past. Once again, we are able to smile from our hearts. It is very precious knowledge.

People who are trying to be what they are not become unnatural and create much more tension and stress. That is why one must go deep into the source of their nature, their Being, and come from there. You see, I don’t say that you will never get upset again in life. If someone promises you that you will never get upset . . . it just is not true. You may still get upset, but the quality of your life will not be the same. You will not get so caught up in your emotions for long periods of time. People have found that after they do Sudarshan Kriya, that they are able to come back to themselves very quickly. Whatever mood comes up, they are able to let go and come back and enjoy much, much more.

 What is the true meaning of life?
Ah . . . this you better find out for yourself. Don’t ask the meaning from me. It’s like asking me to chew your candy for you. It is not possible. I can put candy in your mouth, but I can’t chew it for you. You have to chew your own candy.

Be with this question. I can tell you one thing, you are very fortunate that this question arises in your mind. One in a million people will get this question. It is a very sincere question. it means you have started your journey toward the light. You stopped just existing and started on to the beautiful path. Be with this question, and don’t be in such a hurry for a ready-made answer from somebody. Go deep into yourself and you will find out.”

http://www.indigosun.com/Jan2000/Innocence.htm
 

THE HEART OF LOVING

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By Sanjiv Kakar

For him, creation is an infusion of love, love and only love. And he tries to instill love in all hearts with his specially designed Art of Living course. Meet Sri Sri Ravishankar, guru with a global appeal

Make the divine your Valentine.
Just be…and know that you are loved.
That is Beloved.
God Loves Fun by Sri Sri Ravishankar

When I first met Sri Sri Ravishankar, or Guruji, as he is popularly known, I was impressed with the slender figure dressed in simple white robes, a long black rosary around his neck. Engaged in a question and answer session with a large congregation, there was a Vedic purity about him. Dignified and refined, he smiled, his eyes twinkled, as he replied to questions, in Hindi, in English, in Tamil, whatever the need of the questioner. He was at ease sharing his knowledge of the shastras (ancient Hindu texts), as well as answering personal questions on relationships, marriage, birth, death, or karma. Nothing was trivial; no one was outside his reach.

Witty, he did not take offence even to the most offensive questions or when somebody took him lightly. A chit in the question box said: "Can I recommend to you a good barber?" Spontaneously Ravishankar pointed to his flowing tresses and beard and smiled: "I don't need a barber, because my hair is not entangled. Hair is like thoughts. Neither my hair nor my thoughts are entangled, because I have the comb of knowledge." The audience broke out into an appreciative applause, but it left me perplexed. I was not used to this unique combination of wit and wisdom, of seriousness and frolic. Much later I learned that this is the Art of Living: to accept creation in its totality.

As he got up (to leave, I imagined) there was an explosion of jostling as the crowd surged forward. There was a smile on every face, some tears, mostly laughter. What was going on? I asked my motherly neighbor, who was using her elbow to maneuver herself towards the stage. She barely had time to reply: "Divya Milan is about to begin." And then, you had to witness the scene to believe it! Ravishankar hugged everyone. Some touched his feet, others asked more questions. Four hours later, a new lot arrived and Ravishankar waved and smiled to the newcomers also.

That was my introduction to the famous Art of Living course by Sri Sri Ravishankar. It has traveled to 106 countries till date. An educational, nonprofit charitable foundation, accredited as an NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), Art of Living has representatives at the UN in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

Ravishankar's wide appeal cuts across religion, gender and class to make Art of Living a global name. Moreover, people of all faiths practice it. There are also specially designed courses for children, youth, prisoners, corporates and social activists. And new courses are regularly introduced, the most recent being Nav Chetna Shivirs, which has been designed keeping the weaker sections of society in mind.

As one South African participant comments: "We are constantly trying to forget the divisions in our country. But after the Art of Living course, racial tolerance is no longer an issue. We've moved beyond tolerance to unconditional acceptance and love." Another one pipes in: "Tolerance is a dirty word in Art of Living. Tolerance means putting up with something you don't like. But love has no dislikes, no boundaries."

Are social schisms really being healed? I questioned Stanislav, a Russian whose mother is an Art of Living teacher in Moscow. He answers: "We have a lot of pain in our society, so a lot of healing is needed. The Art of Living cleanses the mind, heals the emotions, and the trauma just vanishes. It helps you to forgive and begin life anew. Come to Irkutz in Siberia, and see for yourself how the courses are helping the prisoners."

Testimonials are aplenty. But what is this unconditional love that every Art of Living student talks about? Says Rahul Nathan, an executive in
Delhi, India: "Love is our nature. It is infused in every particle of creation. Just drop the stress and you experience it for yourself. Then you reach out to the whole world. This is what seva (unconditional service) is and the Art of Living is all about seva." What is it about Ravishankar that draws so many people into this course? His enigmatic charisma, his wit or is it his song to a joyful life? Perhaps its the zest for life, the encompassing of opposites, to move beyond duality to wholeness, to express the inexpressible, to be both in time and outside it, to be in the world and yet not in it.

Spirituality flows through Ravishankar's veins. Born on
May 13, 1956, in a spiritual family in Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India, little Ravishankar showed devotional powers from a very young age. I travel to Uragapura, a remote village in the Indian state of Karnataka to meet his father, R.S.V. Ratnam, who works for the uplift of poor girls through his Vista India Charitable trust. This includes a school and a vocational training unit. Well versed in Sanskrit, Tamil and English, he has passed on his extensive knowledge to his son.

FIVEFOLD SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE

Sri Sri Ravishankar's mission for the future is the 5H Program. This means health, hygiene, housing, harmony in diversity and human values. The aim: to bring about a social transformation so that the complete potential of each individual is expressed. Ravishankar personally supervises this program. He is also a founder member of the International Association for Human Values, a nonprofit educational organization committed to nurturing human values in society.

For this purpose, he has a network of highly motivated, well-trained personnel. The Youth Training Program (YTP) is perhaps the most ambitious program to educate the rural community. There are specially trained yuvacharyas (young teachers) for it. Most are volunteers, inspired by Ravishankar to do service where it is most needed. Sarvodaya Vidyalayas have already been started in some rural areas and more are being set up in tribal areas. Another charitable trust, Sri Sri Vidya Mandir, has also been founded to spread education.

Besides education, other activities include distribution of clothes to the poor, setting up medical camps, formation of local cooperative groups, and even creating sanitation facilities.

Pitaji, as Ratnam is popularly known with the Art of Living clan, recounts: "It is such a beautiful thing that Ravishankar was born where all sins are being removed." Papnasam means the removal of all sins. There is a full spiritual legend to his name also.

Ravishankar was born on Shankara Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Adi Shankara, the great Indian philosopher. He was named on the 11th day of his birth, which was Ramanuja Jayanti, the day Ramanuja (another important theologian and Hindu philosopher) was born. And as the village was famous for its Shiva and Vishnu temples "we named him as Ravi Shankar Narayana (Shankar and Narayana are respectively other names for Lords" (It is only recently that '
Ravi' and 'Shankar' have been clubbed together into one word. Someone once asked, why Sri Sri comes twice; he is reported to have twinkled, and replied, because 108 Sris would make it too long!).

From his early years, Pitaji tells, there were events, which indicated that the child was special. As a baby, he was rocking on a large swing, hanging from four iron chains.

"When I went to see the boy, all the chains which were holding the cot fell down. Normally the chains would have fallen in the center of the swing. But miraculously the chains fell outwards, not in the center."

At the age of three, he was sent to a teacher, who wanted to begin her lessons with a shloka (passage) from the Bhagvad Gita, 'Praasthayam Pratiboditaam'. Incredibly, the young Ravishankar completed it for her by adding 'Bhagavatam Narayanena Svayum'.

One day he watched his father doing puja (praying), and wanted to know all about it. Pitaji gave him a photo of Meenakshi, consort of Shiva, and with an unquestionable faith he accepted her as his personal God. He would not eat anything before offering it to his personal God. Unable to pronounce 'Meenakshi', he called it 'Vicchini'.

Reminiscing about his childhood, Ravishankar says: "I would bunk the sports class and come home early. I would go to play football, and looking at my feet, I would say, these feet cannot kick anybody, let alone an inanimate ball."

By the time he was nine years old, he had mastered the Rig-Veda. After completing his college in English medium, he came into contact with many renowned masters and leading intellectuals. One such was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who wanted to take the budding seeker and scholar to Rishikesh, India. But there was a tug of war within the extended family as he was offered a manager's post with a bank. The spiritual quest won, amidst a barrage of protests.

Ratnam was resolute. Ravishankar first went to Rishikesh, then overseas, where he completed his Ph.D. in Vedas and science. The young master traveled widely and finally, Ravishankar was all prepared to start on his own. In 1982 he went into ten days of silence. When questioned about this, he is reported to have said that he knew something was "coming up". It is said that the Sudarshan Kriya was reveal to him around this time. Others claim that this is the definitive period of Sri Sri Ravishankar's enlightenment. And so Art of Living was born. The first course was held in Shimoga, India, a unique experience, in which Ravishankar communicated with the participants through silence. When he began to speak, many felt that they had already heard what he had to say.

With time, these courses became more structured, and teachers were groomed to carry the knowledge all over the world. Now many more courses have been added. But the message of love remains. It stems from a non-dualistic notion of creation, where everything is part of one divinity. Our true nature is love, and love infuses this whole creation. Once we drop the tensions and stress, we realize our true nature. Knowledge is the means to become 'hollow and empty', to get rid of all the impressions we have accumulated over lifetimes. These cloud our minds, which are currently like a photographic plate over laden with multiple exposures (hence the confusion and lack of clarity). Once we attain this state of inner emptiness (our natural self), we experience for ourselves the dynamic oneness of creation, whose very nature, like out own, is love. Responsibility to our fellow human beings is not to be taught, it is an intrinsic part of universal love. This appears to be the core of Ravishankar's teachings.

SCIENCE IN SUDARSHAN KRIYA

Dr Vinod Kochupillai, head of the Cancer Centre at AIIMS, the premiere medical institute of India, explains the scientific aspect of sudarshan kriya:

"In today's society,
psycho-neuroimmunology (PNI), often referred to as of mind-body importance, is becoming very popular. PNI shows how the mind and emotions influence both the nervous and immune systems. For instance, happy people produce chemical messengers, which travel from the nervous system to the immune system, resulting in better health.

Sudarshan kriya is a unique
breathing process, which removes stress from the body. Negative toxins are flushed out and each cell flooded with new life to energize body and mind. This experience of centeredness, freedom and fulfillment releases neuropeptides, which influence the immune system positively and hence, the whole physiology.

Both sudarshan kriya and pranayama have been researched in Nimhans, Bangalore, India, where it was found successful with 70-80 per cent patients suffering from severe depression. Abnormal brain wave patterns turned normal with regular practice.

Studies conducted at Harvard, USA, revealed that 70-80 per cent patients suffering from AIDS benefited from this process. Lymph node swellings decreased,
pain was reduced, breathing and digestion improved, energy levels increased. The Republic of Slovenia conducted a research on patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. With sudarshan kriya, significant improvement was found in the patient's mobility, endurance levels and lung capacity while anxiety levels came down.

Ongoing studies at AIIMS suggest that these processes help cancer patients also. It also helps in controlling the urge to consume tobacco."

In fact, the foreign followers seem to be most impressed with the Art of Living. John Osborne, Chairman of the USA Chapter of The Art of Living Foundation, comments on a transformed attitude on the part of the average American:

"Wherever I go people are asking me about meditation, stress management, what they can do to give themselves more energy and clarity of mind, more focus and harmonious relationships. So the time has clearly come for the Art of Living in
USA."

Involved with Art of Living for the last 12 years, Osborne does regular satsangs (communions), besides teaching basic and advanced courses. There are as many as 150 teachers across the USA. Art Excel courses for children are also gaining in popularity. Though the authorities were initially hesitant about the prison programs, Osborne says that now "there's a huge demand for our services".

According to Ravishankar, the organization should be the framework, the bare scaffolding to present the knowledge. For this reason, his headquarters nestle in an ashram on the outskirts of Bangalore. There you find his other charitable foundation, Ved Vigyan Mahavidyapeeth, which looks after rural education and development and seeks to revive Vedic knowledge. The ashram also provides free education to 600 children. A special attempt is made to locate absolutely illiterate families and a monthly stipend is paid to the girl's parents to encourage them to send her to school.

The ashram boasts of an ayurvedic clinic. Regular Art of Living courses are held, which draw participants from overseas as well. A large meditation hall is under construction. A hilltop amphitheater, Sumeru, makes a wonderful backdrop for moonlit satsangs with Sri Sri Ravishankar.

Visitors treat this ashram as the abode of the Divine. There are rumors that an ancient Shiva temple lies beneath the waters of the lake within the ashram. Others say that the ashram of the Vedic sage Vashistha was on this very site.

Ravishankar himself lodges in a modest kutir (hut) in the ashram premises. Visitors claim that merely entering the Shakti Kutir, as it is called, immediately stills the mind, and they have no questions to ask!


Other ashrams are located in Bad Antogast, Black Forest, Germany, and near Montreal, Canada.

During the Navratra festival of India, devotees from all over the world join their Indian brethren in celebration and worship at the Bangalore ashram. And the five S's prevail: sadhana (devoted practice), seva (unconditional service), satsang (communion), celebration and smile. During the Dussehra (a major festival of India) celebrations (Ravishankar maintains silence during this period), a yajna (a Vedic fire ritual) is performed to purify the environment. Another special occasion is Shivratri (an occasion special to Lord Shiva), in which Ravishankar spontaneously, almost without volition, performs tandav, the dance of Shiva. A devotee at this year's Dussehra celebration recounts:

"The kalash (urn) of water seems to have a life of its own when it is ceremoniously carried around at the end of the puja. Sri Sri Ravishankar glows with divine light, and the flow of Grace is so marked that none can miss it. But what touched me more than these miracles was Guruji's love for each one of us, his concern that we were happy and comfortable. Something flowered inside each one of us, we were in love."

 What endears him more to his devotees is the ever-joyful composure. At a farmhouse in Gurgaon, India, a satsang heralds the presence of Sri Sri Ravishankar. He is talking, answering questions, singing, leading the evening meditation. Few know that his mother, Vishalakshi or Amma as she was popularly known, passed away two days earlier. Only at the end of the program does he reminisce about it, briefly. He was installing the idol at the Vishalakshi temple in Varanasi, India, when he received news of his mother's demise. This was the very spot where his maternal grandfather had prayed for a child, and his mother was born to him. He was not physically present at his mother's funeral ceremony, though everyone claims that his presence was palpable.

Is this what enlightenment is all about?

In his own words: "Mysteries are there not to understand but to live. Living the mystery of life is joy. Enlightenment is that state of being mature and unshakable in any circumstance. Come what may, nothing can rob the smile from your heart. Enlightenment is a rare combination of innocence and intelligence, having words for expression and, at the same time, being very silent. In that state, the mind is fully in the present moment. You just sit and the song flows through you."

SRI SRI RAVISHANKAR


Sri Sri Ravishankar talks about his mission in an exclusive interview with Parveen Chopra


What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Hum chote thay, hum chote hain, hum bade huay kahan. (I was a child, I am a child, when did I grow up?)


What is your mission? What is most needed in today's world?
Human values. Bringing back the human values.


What is your blueprint for the future?
Nothing specific. We are always ready to do whatever the moment, the circumstances ask us to do.

What is your focus right now?
Presently our focus is on village development. For this we have the 5H (health, hygiene, housing, harmony in diversity and human values) Program

What is special about Indian spiritual knowledge considering there are many other spiritual traditions?
Every place has its own specialty. The Swiss have cheese.
Germany has marzipan. India has spirituality (laughter).

What is special about this present age, where we see signs of revival of spirituality and meditation everywhere?
Every period is special whenever values come up. Human values make the time special. Celebrations make a time special. What is special about celebration… it is celebration, which makes everything special.

So, are you optimistic about the upsurge of values?
Spread values, strengthen values, and the time automatically becomes better. We can turn the times by reviving values.

Are you happy with the world as it is now?
There are problems... but if you see the progress going on in human values, and people's interest in spirituality, you are happy. The world is a mixture.

Do you ever get depressed or angry? For example, if there is a problem in your organization?
(Laughter) We have kept the organization to the minimum, just what is needed to spread the knowledge. The organization is the frame to hold the picture. It has to be proper. If the frame eats away the picture, then it doesn't serve the purpose. At the same time, the picture cannot be hung without a frame.

Is it a conscious decision on your part to focus on youth? They are attracted to you in large numbers.
We are not trying to influence anyone, or to specifically attract youth, or anyone else. I am just what I am. If you get inspired by me, well and good. If you are not, then you inspire me! So either you get inspired or you inspire me. This is our attitude, and that of all those who come to us; they also catch on. Smile, or make me smile. Inspire, or get inspired.

Enjoyment and celebration are a part of your personality. Fun, joy of life…
It is written in the Upanishads, the atman, soul, is satchitanandmayi (complete bliss). Spirituality is not boring. It is the rasa (flavor) of life. Don't make it a serious topic, or it will become just another compartment. Spirituality should be like gossip—casual and intimate.

What is your message for Life Positive readers and for India?
A truly religious person will be secular in nature. Secular means one who thinks all human beings are his or her own. Each religion looks after its sect, not the whole of humanity. If a hundred people are killed in Kashmir, the Pope should also condemn that just like he condemns killings of Christians. This has not happened. All our religious leaders are compartmentalizing humanity, and taking responsibility on a limited scale. Spirituality is taking responsibility for all the people in the world. We need to create this awareness. All the maulvis, bishops, pandas, priests and mahants must come together and only then manav dharma, human values will be upheld.

source : http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/new-age-catalysts/ravishankar/art-of-loving.asp
 

Quotes

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Selected quotes from

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 On the current social crisis in the world:

"There are millions of young boys and girls who are misled and who are on the path of self-destruction.We have got to work very much now.Everybody has to go on their toes and teach people the very basis of living, how to live life.This we have not taught. We have not given them an anchor, a place to offer their devotion, to show their respect, to show their devotion.To be in love and to be loved - this they have not found.That's why we are here.We are here to make the whole world, everyone, aware of what could be the possibilities of life, where they can reach, how joyful they can be.It's not too late.Get on your feet and help people and you'll definitely find some success."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
From a 1994 open forum discussion with educators and parents in the United States

 On life:

"Life is sacred. Celebrate life. Care for others and share whatever you have with those less fortunate than you. Broaden your vision, for the whole world belongs to you."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
From an article in the New York Times 10/2001

On the spiritual life:

"Spiritual life is marked by effective and dynamic activity. It is not an escape from hard work or from taking sincere action."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Excerpted from the booklet, "You are the blue sky"
Published by Art of Living Foundation, 1998

On happiness:

"The values that enhance life are confidence, cooperation, compassion and love, enthusiasm, faith and knowledge. These values come only through spirit. We think we can find happiness or comfort through the material, yet we know that material comfort alone is not sufficient or complete. Happiness is a quality of consciousness. It does depend on matter, but to a far greater degree, it depends on attitude and understanding… Living the spiritual values makes your personality solid and strong."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Excerpted from the booklet, "You are the blue sky"
Published by Art of Living Foundation, 1998

On educating children:

“Basic human values need to be encouraged in the classroom. Basically, a child is born with these values, and the teacher needs to uncover them – children have these values within them. What are human values? Compassion, cooperation, friendliness, smiling, laughter, lightness, wanting to help, a sense of belonging and caring for each other – all of these qualities are there within the child and they need to be brought out.”

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
from the book, “Wisdom for the New Millennium”
published by the Art of Living Foundation

On stress and health:

"We need to do a cleansing process within ourselves. In sleep we get rid of fatigue,

but the deeper stresses remain in our body. Some meditation and Sudarshan Kriya cleanse the whole system. From inside, a flowering happens, and you become so centered. Otherwise, our peace is disturbed by small things."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

On what the world needs today:

"When intelligence and innocence go together, a beauty dawns - very profound, very essential. Today what our world needs is not intelligence. There is enough intelligence in this country, in every country. What the world is missing is innocence. The value of innocence is being destroyed. And that innocence is egolessness, naturalness. …That is what is needed today - innocence. And that is love."

– His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
From public talks given during his 1989 and 1990 USA tour

http://www.srisriravishankar.org/knowledge.html

 

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