Official Website of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar https://www.srisriravishankar.org My Vision is a Stress-Free, Violence-Free World Sun, 14 Jan 2018 04:54:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 114467343 It’s That Time Again https://www.srisriravishankar.org/its-that-time-again/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/its-that-time-again/#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 07:25:43 +0000 http://www.srisriravishankar.org/?p=3476 Time is one of the great mysteries of life. It is the best storyteller and there is no witness like time. It is an objective truth in the outside world, running uniformly for everyone but depending on one’s state of mind, it can fly or drag on. Time is the distance between two happenings. At […]

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Time is one of the great mysteries of life. It is the best storyteller and there is no witness like time. It is an objective truth in the outside world, running uniformly for everyone but depending on one’s state of mind, it can fly or drag on. Time is the distance between two happenings. At one level, everything is changing every moment and at another, nothing really changes. Linear logic dictates that only one of these two contradicting views must hold good but the reality is that they are both undeniably true.

 

There is a very intricate connection between time, the mind and events. Like events, time too impacts the mind.  Liberation is freeing the mind from time and events. While you cannot ignore  all that is happening around you, you cannot afford to get consumed by it either.

 

Often it is past events and mistakes that occupy the mind, causing pain and regret. Reviewing events in time with the right perspective frees your mind from them and also provides valuable lessons to learn. The New Year is a good time to contemplate the events of the past year, learn from them and move on with celebration.

 

When the new year turns, there is hype about what the latest trends and fashion are. While fashion changes every year, wisdom will never go out of fashion; qualities like genuineness, depth and sensitivity will always remain trendy. Wisdom is recognising the timeless in the unceasing movement of time, the changeless amidst the changing events and the space of no-mind that pervades all the mindless chatter. This recognition adds a context to everything that you see happening around you which would otherwise seem to be random events. You cannot separate time from an event, but you can separate the mind from both, events and time, and the way to do that is meditation.

 

There is one kind of joy and thrill in getting engrossed in events and activities and there is another kind of joy in reposing within one’s Self. Life is not complete until you savour both and this requires one to be totally centered. Who says spirituality is boring? Spirituality is a dance on the edge of a sword between the opposites of life. If you can comprehend this space where both yes and no can simultaneously be right, a new dimension opens up within, a field of infinite possibilities.

 

Billions of years have come and gone. Countless events and innumerable people have come and gone and you who have come now, will also be gone. Wake up! One who is asleep cannot celebrate. It is said that time does not stop for anyone but for one who has woken up to Eternity, time does not move at all.

 

Wish you a timeless New Year this time!

 

 

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Yoga- the best app for life https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yoga-best-app-life/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yoga-best-app-life/#comments Wed, 21 Jun 2017 06:43:05 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=3136 Yoga is the way to realize the ultimate truth referred to in Vedanta and universal energy field in Quantum physics. The sublime and imperceptible truth of Vedanta is made more concrete through Yoga. It is the launching pad for one’s journey into inner space.   Yoga is the key that opens the floodgates of happiness ‑‑ for […]

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Yoga is the way to realize the ultimate truth referred to in Vedanta and universal energy field in Quantum physics. The sublime and imperceptible truth of Vedanta is made more concrete through Yoga. It is the launching pad for one’s journey into inner space.

 

Yoga is the key that opens the floodgates of happiness ‑‑ for an individual as well as the community. It annihilates the personal and collective misery that comes through individualistic and egoistic tendencies.

Yoga not only brings mundane benefits such as health and vibrance, but also uplifts the spirit and enhances intuitive ability which is much needed for governance. It brings skill in action, helping one manage challenging situations without getting stressed.

 

Every child is a born yogi. Till the age of three children all over the world naturally perform many yoga postures and mudras. The baby’s state of mind and breathing patterns are very similar to that of a yogi. Yoga brings up that child-like beauty and innocence in us.

 

It is a very well known fact that yoga has helped countless people recover from many illnesses. It can instantly bring about complete balance in one’s personality; it corrects extreme complexes and tendencies. In fact, yoga holds out the promise of many solutions that today’s behavior sciences are looking for.

 

When people have a glimpse of the meditative experience their life gets totally transformed. We have seen this in prisons also- when the inmates start with basic pranayama, they move into meditation easily and their character starts reflecting the yamas and niyamas (the social and personal codes of conduct as enunciated by Maharishi Patanjali). From militants and prisoners to monks and poets, yoga can radically transform the lives of people in ways inconceivable. It softens the heart, sharpens the intellect and clears confusion.

 

In this century, when depression is one of the biggest challenges the world faces, yoga is undoubtedly the best app that everyone must download in their life.

 

Like science, sports and culture, the philosophy & discipline of yoga also need state patronage to flourish. After so many years of being denied its true place in the guise of secularism, it is highly refreshing to see yoga receiving a big push from our Hon. Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi.

 

When people at the helm of affairs practise yoga, it brings greater harmony and less of one-upmanship and rhetoric. If heads of all nations start adhering to the wisdom of yoga, true world peace would soon be attainable.

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Adding ‘value’ to environment care https://www.srisriravishankar.org/3115-2/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/3115-2/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 04:39:00 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=3115 Every year as the World Environment Day approaches, a clamor for stricter green laws and regulations is heard across the globe. While laws are important, they are not enough to ensure environmental sustainability. We need to make care for environment a part of our value system.   All the ancient cultures around the world have […]

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Every year as the World Environment Day approaches, a clamor for stricter green laws and regulations is heard across the globe. While laws are important, they are not enough to ensure environmental sustainability. We need to make care for environment a part of our value system.

 

All the ancient cultures around the world have honored Nature – plants, rivers, mountain and nature have always been revered. In India it was a part of the tradition to plant five trees for every tree that was cut. Water was an integral part of all important rituals and ceremonies. Rivers were worshipped as mothers and the Earth was regarded as a goddess. This attitude of treating Nature as sacred needs to be revived in modern times. People also need to be educated in innovative ways to save water and use natural and chemical-free ways of farming.

 

Mechanisms need be created for participation of civil society, especially the youth, for revival of water bodies, planting saplings and a life style geared towards zero waste. The 27 river rejuvenation projects being spearheaded by Art of Living have been made possible with participation from civil society and other stakeholders.

 

In reality, human greed and callousness are the root cause of pollution. The greed for quick and large profits severely disrupts the ecological balance, and not only pollute the physical environment, but also stimulate negative emotions on a subtle level. We need to attend to the human psyche, which is the root cause of pollution.

 

Ecological degradation need not be an inevitable by-product of technology and development. It is not technology and science that pose a hazard, but the waste material generated by technological and scientific processes. We need to find methods to consume the waste and develop non-polluting processes, such as harnessing of solar energy or natural farming.

 

The purpose of technology is to harness nature, to bring information and comfort to human beings. When spiritual and human values are ignored, technology brings pollution and destruction, instead of comfort. Kindling compassion and care within ourselves kindles deeper connection to, and care for the environment. That is why I consider spiritual awakening as a vital part of any environment care campaign.

 

Ancient spiritual wisdom considers our connection with the environment as the first level of human experience. The belief is that if our environment is clean and positive, it will have a positive impact on all the other layers of our existence. Historically, an intimate relationship with the environment was built into the human psyche. It’s only when we start moving away from our connection to nature and ourselves that we begin polluting and destroying the environment.

 

We need to revive these attitudes and traditional practices that foster our connection with nature. People should be encouraged to have reverence for the planet, to revere trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in Nature. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can’t but care for nature and nurture the environment.

 

Above all, we need to be able to experience our world with an open mind that is free from stress, and from that place we need to create the means of protecting our beautiful planet Earth. For this to happen, human consciousness must rise above greed and exploitation. Spirituality, the experience of one’s own nature deep within, provides the key to this vital relationship with oneself, with others and with our environment. Spirituality elevates one’s consciousness and checks that greed which leads to environmental degradation. It promotes a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet.

 

The challenge of the present century is to maintain harmony in the environment even while allowing technology and science to grow. Spiritual values alone can help strike that balance.

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The Wow Factor in Life https://www.srisriravishankar.org/wow-factor-life/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/wow-factor-life/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:26:21 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=3068 The fear of the unknown is a very common human tendency. Most people are constantly engaged in making sure that their world plays out just like how their mind would imagine. However, the reality is that there is no possibility for growth without embracing the unknown.When we shut off the mystery or awe factor in […]

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The fear of the unknown is a very common human tendency. Most people are constantly engaged in making sure that their world plays out just like how their mind would imagine. However, the reality is that there is no possibility for growth without embracing the unknown.

When we shut off the mystery or awe factor in life, we not only curtail growth, but also unknowingly make life mechanical. Just like there is no fun in watching a game whose result is already known, life will also be very boring and mechanical if everything were to be predestined.

Life is a combination of what is certain and what is unknown. Though they appear to be opposite, life is incomplete if either of them is missing. Within the sphere of limited perception there is a part in us that is certain about some things. There is another part that is always probing into the unknown, triggering wonderment about many mysteries.

The wise are the ones who acquire the skills to face and handle uncertainty. If one can become comfortable with the world of constant change, then he or she will be able to proactively respond to and capitalize the vast possibilities that life offers.

The way of the wise is to see uncertainty with a sense of wonderment. Wonderment is the beginning of new knowledge. Creativity dawns by stretching the wonder. The attitude of ‘I know’ makes one closed and limited. ‘I don’t know’ makes way for new possibilities. When one moves with ‘I know it all’, he or she gets stuck with a fixed concept.

Often one says ‘I don’t know’ out of frustration. Turning that ugly ‘I don’t know’ to an ‘I don’t know!’ that is marked by wonderment arising out of knowing the endless possibilities is the path of growth. The more one knows, the ​more wonderment dawns ​about the unknown. It is beautifully said in the Upanishads, “One who says, I don’t know, knows it, and the one who says, I know, doesn’t know!” It’s said that what is known is not even the tip of the iceberg of the unknown.

Wonderment is not about something which is old. Certainty is about something which is not new. Life is a combination of old and new. The person who only wonders looks lost and confused. And the one who is certain about everything, takes things for granted and tends to become inert and dull. Knowing to embrace both adds spark and charm in life. The ability to strike the perfect balance of surety with a sense of awe is a sign of growth in life.

Wonderment dawns when the mind encounters something it perceives as vast. It brings a feeling of expansion. When we are in awe, we see things differently and our powers of observation become sharp. The feeling of awe expands our sense of time and we become alive and engaged in the present regardless of the past and future.

A sense of astonishment brings wakefulness, and when we are awakened, we see

​that ​the whole creation is full of wonders. If one doesn’t get awed by the magnificence of this creation, his or her eyes are yet to open. In an awakened state, when the eyes close with a sense of awe, that is meditation!
 
Our perception of the world does not really matter to What Is. This creation is an unfathomable secret and when we become sure about it, its mysteries deepen. Deepening the mystery of creation is science and deepening the mystery of the Self is spirituality. If neither science nor spirituality can create wonder in you, then you are in a deep slumber.

Wonderment creates the desire to probe deeper. Without this intense quest of man to know more about life, all the progress made by humanity wouldn’t have been possible. Though we are born curious, we tend to lose the probing nature when we disconnect ourselves from the real awe factor of life. Regaining our sense of curiosity is important to our success.

A focused and calm mind brings up innocence and non-judgmental state which is the beginning point of any knowledge. That’s why regular meditation is vital for creating a clean slate of knowing! When we begin to ask lots of questions without judgment, unknown facets of life start unfolding.

Ask what is relevant and about something that you really want to know. Probe beyond the questions that can be answered in either yes or no. Wonder is a question for which we don’t seek an answer. Drop the sense of being right and known. Wonder about the world that you don’t know yet. There is charm beyond the mundane. The unknown world is beyond what is seen and imagined. Close your eyes, meditate, quieten the mind and deepen the wonder!

Wonderment is said to be the preface to yoga, the union. Be the wonder that you are!

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Shivaratri – Enlivening the Shiva Tattva https://www.srisriravishankar.org/shivaratri2017/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/shivaratri2017/#respond Fri, 24 Feb 2017 04:27:24 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2976 The auspicious night of Shivaratri represents the enlivening of the Shiva tattva – the most beautiful aspect of Consciousness.   Lord Shiva is not a person or a figure. Shiva is the eternal tattva (principle) that is the essence of everything. It is the principle from which everything has come, which sustains everything and in […]

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The auspicious night of Shivaratri represents the enlivening of the Shiva tattva – the most beautiful aspect of Consciousness.

 

Lord Shiva is not a person or a figure. Shiva is the eternal tattva (principle) that is the essence of everything. It is the principle from which everything has come, which sustains everything and in which everything dissolves. How does one capture and express this tattva that is so subtle yet palpable?

 

One of the expressions that encapsulates this most exquisite and unfathomable substratum of existence in its near totality, is the depiction of Shiva as Nataraja or the Cosmic Dancer. Nataraja is a fascinating symbol of the interplay between the material and the spiritual realms of creation. Of the 108 postures of the Nataraja the most adored and beautiful is the Ananda Tandava – the dance of bliss. The beauty, elegance and grace with which the Shiva Tandava is represented here is unparalleled.

 

When one has access to mystical realms through deep sadhana and detachment to the material world, one is able to experience the Ananda Tandava. There are multiple dimensions of existence. One who has gained entry to the subtle realms of creation, will find that the dance of Shiva is happening in a ceaseless continuum. This blissful dance of the cosmic rhythm can be enjoyed only after transcending the body, mind, intellect and ego complex.

 

Though it is mistakenly believed that Shiva took a human form and walked this planet, Shiva is Anadi –birthless, and Ananta – deathless. To limit Shiva to a form confined to time and space would be undermining the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of this Eternal Principle.

 

The damaru in the upper right hand of the Dancing Shiva is in the shape of infinity (∞). It signifies sound and space and symbolizes the expanding and collapsing nature of the Universe. Through finite sound one can behold the infinite.

The fire in the upper left hand of Nataraja represents the primordial energy of the cosmos. Ananda upholds energy while pleasure depletes it. The lower right hand, which is in abhaya mudra represents protection and assurance of orderliness. The other hand pointing to the feet is indicative of infinite possibilities.

 

Underneath the feet is Apasmara, the demon that symbolizes ignorance and denotes the epileptic state in which there is absolutely no control over the body and the life force.

When human consciousness is able to free itself from the shackles of ignorance and gains mastery over the body-mind complex, the dance of ecstasy starts dawning in life.

The Ananda Tandava of Nataraja symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction. The whole world is nothing but a rhythm of energy, rising and contracting again and again.

 

Devas can only be perceived in the subtle realms or the sukshma jagat. Those who have gone deep in meditation have discovered this phenomenon. It is said that Deva Apraakrata Divya Manusha Rupa meaning the devas have non-material bodies of light which are perceived in human form by human beings. The different forms of divinity that we see are the outer projections of what the sages observed in deep meditation. These inner experiences of the sages have found beautiful expressions in temples and artistic landscape of India.

 

The Chidambaram temple in Tamil Nadu is a magnificent representation of the cosmic stage of Nataraja. Chidambaram – ‘Chit’ meaning Consciousness and ‘Ambar’ meaning space – refers to the scintillating consciousness. The eternal dance of Shiva never occurred on earth. It is happening perpetually on the stage of consciousness. The central roof of the Chidambaram temple is adorned with 21,600 gold tiles, denoting the number of breaths taken by a human being in a day.

 

The scriptures extol the Shiva Principle as being all pervasive – Sarvam Shivamayam Jagat – everything in this world is an expression of Shiva.

 

Shivaratri is the most unique time to rise above the mundane and bask in the supreme glory of the infinite, innocent and blissful Shiva tattva. Though the external worship to Shiva seems elaborate with numerous offerings, it is said the finest flowers used in Shiva’s worship are knowledge, equanimity and peace. Celebrating the Shiva tattva in oneself is real Shivaratri.

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Jallikattu – Lessons from the stir https://www.srisriravishankar.org/lessons-jallikattu-stir/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/lessons-jallikattu-stir/#comments Sun, 05 Feb 2017 13:38:51 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2940 It’s unfortunate that a spontaneous and genuine public movement for Jallikattu like the "Marina Springs" ended with individuals and organizations with ulterior motives infiltrating the movement and hijacking it. What happened in Chennai must awaken us and serve as a lesson in constructive management of public sentiments.

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Jallikattu – It is vital to shepherd the bullish energy!

It’s unfortunate that a spontaneous and genuine public movement for Jallikattu like the “Marina Springs” ended with individuals and organizations with ulterior motives infiltrating the movement and hijacking it. What happened in Chennai must awaken us and serve as a lesson in constructive management of public sentiments.

Grand Finale matters

Most of the protestors were left not knowing how to handle the joy of successfully compelling the authorities to find ways of getting around the court ban on Jallikattu. Even protests and uprisings need a proper valedictory. In the absence of it, the high energy and bullish tempo of the public can be easily misled to wrong directions.

Had there been a grand celebration to mark the success of a peaceful movement, the protestors would have moved on before unscrupulous people could move in to exploit the restlessness of the youth. A grand event with cultural performances, mass celebrations, community feasts and satsangs could have easily provided a positive avenue for soft-closing the restive energy!

Tradition is in

The Jallikattu campaign was a landmark in itself. It was a well-meaning protest started mostly by students to stand up peacefully for self-pride and preserving the ancient sport of Jallikattu. It was heartening to see their numbers rise to over a lakh in just a few days without any organized mobilization. Such sense of pride in their culture is a very positive indicator that our youth still value the country’s traditions. I am told that a song linking Jallikattu with Tamil pride went viral on YouTube clocking millions of views. When the youth take pride in their ancient traditions and make it a part of their identity, it not only adds depth to their life, but also instills the much needed valour and vigour to perform better.

Beware of anti social elements

When thousands of people come together charged with strong emotions, it becomes an irresistible and euphoric force subtly feeding one with a sense of heroism. In this almost addictive surge of energy and euphoric state, there is all the possibility of sense taking a backseat making it easy for vested interests to exploit the mass sentiments. I could see this coming and was repeatedly urging the public to stay alert.

The Chennai episode has shown that it needs wisdom, patience and perseverance to guard movements for social justice from destructive elements.

Taming the Bull

Fortunately all the stakeholders of the movement distanced from and foiled the nefarious designs of anti social elements. Though the police action could have been avoided it became necessary.

With the passing of a new law by Tamil Nadu government permitting Jallikattu, we must now focus on ensuring that the traditional bull-taming game is conducted safely and in its true spirits. The government has already issued a set of stringent guidelines, which includes CCTV surveillance and medical examination of bulls before the start. Precautions must be taken to prevent injuries.

The key lies in striking a balance between tradition, human safety and animal care. Jallikattu is a very ancient and cherished part of the Pongal celebrations in many parts of Tamil Nadu. Ours is an agrarian culture. Bulls which help in cultivating the land are considered the lifeline of farmers. They are treated as a part of the family and worshipped. Jallikattu as a source of pride and honor provides farmers the incentive to retain and rear the native bulls whose numbers have diminished significantly over the past few decades.

Test of Talents

Although there have been a few incidences where people violated the laws and showed cruelty to animals, games like Jallikattu are neither meant to be cruel to animals nor cause injuries to people. Instead, they are a test of skills demanding a great degree of talent, focus, physical capability and patience. In a similar sport of Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada, Kambala, players cover 145 metres in just 13.5 seconds, barefoot and holding onto a rope tied to the yoke of a buffalo! It means they ran 100 metres in 9.31 seconds, much faster than the Olympics record of 9.58 seconds. Banning such sports will amount to curbing the talents of rural youth.

Beyond Jallikattu

Unfortunately, these dimensions of tradition weren’t presented appropriately to the courts, resulting in a ban on such games on the charges of cruelty to animals. If animal activists genuinely want to show love for animals, they must focus on banning slaughter houses and abattoirs.

Having said this, regulations for safety and protection during Jallikattu must be strictly enforced and the ​violators who must be punished​.​

Other related articles:

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Let’s make Kashmir a Paradise Again https://www.srisriravishankar.org/lets-make-kashmir-paradise/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/lets-make-kashmir-paradise/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:49:08 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2855 A holistic and multi-dimensional approach is imperative to establish peace and stability in Kashmir. Real peace can prevail in Kashmir only with the participation of all the stakeholders. They have to start conversing with each other, among themselves, with a vision based on human values.   It’s with the view of facilitating such engagements that […]

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A holistic and multi-dimensional approach is imperative to establish peace and stability in Kashmir. Real peace can prevail in Kashmir only with the participation of all the stakeholders. They have to start conversing with each other, among themselves, with a vision based on human values.

 

It’s with the view of facilitating such engagements that the Art of Living hosted the ‘Kashmir: Back to Paradise’ Conference in Jammu last week.

 

Ninety per cent of Kashmir is longing for peace. Over past few months I have been in constant touch with people from all the sections of the Kashmiri society. Everyone wants peace and relief from militancy.

Caught between hartal and curfew, people are desperate for normalcy to be restored, they want education for their children but are afraid of armed militants and their promoters. The small minority that continues to bleed the valley is kept instigated by vested interests who don’t want the resolution of Kashmir problem as the conflict has become a cash cow for them.

 

We need to usher in a paradigm shift from instigation to inspiration. Old strategies will no longer work. For Kashmir to move ahead on the path of progress out-of-the-box initiatives are required.

 

From imams to sufi saints, from intellectuals to bureaucrats, from elderly folks to youth, there is a vast population, which wants to work for peace. Though they have a great role to play in the peace-building exercise, so far they have been totally ignored and sidelined.

 

Keeping this in mind, we have launched the South Asian Forum for Peace to bring together sane voices from all walks of life.

 

The forum will provide a platform for the unheard voices to come forward and work for peace. Many far reaching constructive programs and pursuits can take shape when we have a critical mass of inspired people.

 

In any conflict we find that there is a serious deficit of trust. In Kashmir people don’t trust the government, the system or even social organisations. We will work towards removing this deficit and bridging the gap among various sections of society.

 

My vision is to create an atmosphere of trust and reconciliation in which all stakeholders can come to the table with shared values of peace, fairness, social equity, harmony and brotherhood. Rhetoric and sloganeering have ruled the roost for too long without improving the lot of the masses. We must not become prisoners of any ideology; instead we must create a new ideology that can propel everyone forward in the direction of peace.

 

We must understand that there is no readymade solution. It cannot be found in the streets, nor with stones and guns. The solution of the Kashmir problem has to come from the people of Kashmir only, notwithstanding their ideologies and allegiances.

 

De-radicalization and de-addiction trainings for the youth, along with confidence-building measures and goodwill initiatives, can go a long way in creating a sustainable agenda for peacemaking. Terrorism is against the ethos of humanity, spirit of Kashmiriyat and teachings of Sufism. Over the years, the Art of Living has been working to heal the trauma of the people and the psychological wounds that the violence has caused.

 

The tremendous response to the ‘Kashmir: Back to Paradise’ conference gives me the confidence that human values will prevail over politics. We received an overwhelming response from sufi leaders and youth many of whom came from remote villages, travelling for 10-12 hours, to participate in the Conference. Women and elders also participated with amazing enthusiasm. Many groups had to be turned away from the overfilled venue.

 

We will soon hold such a conference in the Valley itself to take the peace agenda forward.

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Being Judicious Judicially https://www.srisriravishankar.org/being-judicious-judicially/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/being-judicious-judicially/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 05:50:00 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2728 There was a time when the Judiciary was a place of solace for the troubled, hope for the despaired, a place of fear for wrongdoers and of respite for the law-abiding, home for the wise and sensible; a refuge where rich or poor equally had easy access to justice and a seat of pride, of […]

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There was a time when the Judiciary was a place of solace for the troubled, hope for the despaired, a place of fear for wrongdoers and of respite for the law-abiding, home for the wise and sensible; a refuge where rich or poor equally had easy access to justice and a seat of pride, of respect for those who executed it. Today the poor have little access to the Judiciary, the wicked do not care for it, the cunning have made it a joke and the law-abiding are scared of it. The situation is such that courts are easily being used by the devious as a weapon against respectable people of society. All it takes is for a case to be filed, whether right or wrong, and the defendant keeps struggling to prove their innocence. In the past, you were innocent until proven guilty. Today you are guilty till proved innocent and the whole process of proving one’s innocence has become extremely long and very expensive.

Whether you have done something or not, mere accusation is enough to tarnish your name. Take the example of Kanchi Shankaracharya. The news of his arrest on the day of Diwali was portrayed quite sensationally. Though acquitted after nine long years, his side of the story has remained unheard to this day. This is how the justice system is being used as a weapon to destroy people’s reputation. Another frivolous misuse of this legal mechanism is by people who file a case on a well-known figure so that their own name becomes known in the media.

According to a former Chief Justice of India, there are several judgments by the Supreme Court that have not been implemented by state and central governments. When governments themselves are not able to honor judgments of the Supreme Court, how can the common man be inspired to honor them?

On top of that there is a fear of favoritism. Instead of merits of the case, these days the discussion centers on the personalities of judges. The most shocking thing is the open discussion of the proximity of judges and lawyers – who is close to whom. This unfortunate situation has caused corruption in the Judiciary and an erosion of faith in the system. At the same time, India has produced some of the greatest judges in the world – men of integrity, wisdom, clarity of thought and perception with a compassionate heart. The Art of Living has been fortunate to have on its board of founding trustees eminent judges like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Justice PN Bhagwati and others.

However, today, just the fact that a huge number of cases are pending in courts is causing a lot of heartburn in people. Justice served after a ridiculous delay amounts to injustice only. As a result, good people are afraid of getting involved with courts in any way. Looking at the hefty legal fees they have to pay and the long-drawn legal process they have to go through, they prefer to get rid of the issue by other means even if they have to forfeit their rightful claims sometimes.

Today, our justice system, to some degree, is being exploited to halt progress and bring blemish to the character of sincere people. One reason for this, as the Honorable Chief Justice of India has pointed out, is the paucity of judges. The government must take steps to address this need and strengthen the Judiciary. At the same time, the Judiciary also has to evaluate if it maintains its image as an incorruptible place in the minds of the people. For society to function harmoniously, the house of Justice must be a place of honor, that honest people regard as sacred, where they feel secured instead of scared.

While India takes pride in its Judiciary and media being very free, there are instances when the Judiciary is concerned about public perception more than the facts of the case. The media ends up indirectly influencing the judicial system. What is factually correct can be very different from how it is made to be perceived and nobody wants to be seen going against public perception. Similarly, other factors also influence the Judiciary as judicial appointments, recommendations and promotions can all be done with a political angle. It is a very complex situation between politics, economy, Judiciary, the media and the public. Solutions will not be easy to find in such a complex situation as it will need reforms on many fronts but most importantly, it will need an awakened society.

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Could Indian spirituality have helped Mother Teresa? https://www.srisriravishankar.org/mother-teresa/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/mother-teresa/#comments Sun, 04 Sep 2016 10:51:52 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2701 Mother Teresa has done unparalleled service to India. Could she also have benefited from the unparalleled spiritual wealth of India? Yes, definitely! Although Mother Teresa lived in this ancient land of rich spiritual heritage, she stayed away from Indian spirituality and remained an island unto herself. It is not uncommon for spiritual seekers to lose […]

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Mother Teresa has done unparalleled service to India. Could she also have benefited from the unparalleled spiritual wealth of India? Yes, definitely!

Although Mother Teresa lived in this ancient land of rich spiritual heritage, she stayed away from Indian spirituality and remained an island unto herself. It is not uncommon for spiritual seekers to lose sight of what is happening inside them when they get involved in serving others.

Whether many so-called religious people are really on the spiritual path itself is questionable. They neither acknowledge nor recognise the conflicts and agony that one faces on the spiritual path. Mother Teresa has been so sincere and honest to herself that she expressed what she was experiencing. On the spiritual path, what is most important is to be honest with yourself and recognise what is happening within you.

Serving others uplifts one’s energy, but it does not alleviate one from the inner torment. For that, one has to understand the mechanics of consciousness and their relation with pleasure or pain. This knowledge is found in many Indian scriptures such as the Upanishads, Yoga Vashistha, Ashtavakra Geeta and Tripura Rahasya.

The knowledge of Vedanta could have helped Mother Teresa get over her doubts and quench her intense seeking. All the states described in her letters are mentioned in the nine obstacles of yoga enunciated by Maharshi Patanjali.

Mother Teresa would have benefited immensely from Maharshi’s enunciations on how to face the obstacles of Vyadhi (ill-health), Styana (procrastination), Samshaya (doubt), Pramada (carelessness), Aalasya (laziness), Avirati (craving), Bhranti-darshana (confusion), Alabdha Bhumikatva (lack of any spiritual attainment) and Anavasthitva (emptiness or agonising state of mind).

Mother Teresa seemed to have gone through the agony of these states of consciousness without the knowledge of spiritual science. This is akin to a person suffering from malaria, not knowing what medicines to take.

What Mother Teresa experienced is not different from what many saints and enlightened ones from different religions, including Sri Ram, went through. Sri Ram found his guidance from Maharshi Vashishtha in the form of Yoga Vashishta. In the scriptures it is said that only one who is well versed in some practice of samadhi can help one to overcome spiritual torment and misery.

When orthodox beliefs limit us from looking beyond, it becomes an impediment on our spiritual journey.

One on the spiritual path should have an open mind and, at the same time, honour orthodoxy. Spirituality beyond the boundaries of a religion can help one to cope with loneliness, isolation and emptiness. It need not be seen as a betrayal of one’s own religion or philosophy.

Spiritual practices like yoga and meditation do not in any way conflict with one’s religious beliefs. Take the example of Father Bede Griffith who came to India and studied yoga and Vedanta philosophy in Trichy. These teachings helped him to overcome obstacles on the spiritual path while remaining true to his faith as a devout Christian monk.

Being orthodox, Mother Teresa perhaps thought she would be betraying Jesus if she searched for answers to her dilemma in Indian spirituality. A seeker has to keep the goal in front and if there is a block on the path, he or she has to find an alternative route to the goal.

When we see God as an object of perception, that is when we are totally lost and misery follows. From the scene to the seer, from the object of perception to the perceiver… that shift of consciousness makes all the difference on the spiritual journey. This is how the real joy, which is the nature of consciousness, gets kindled. And all the barriers, mental blocks and intellectual inhibitions that our understanding imposes can be transcended by experiencing the precepts of Vedanta.

It is unfortunate that people are not open in their thinking. I am sure that just a few sessions of pranayama and meditation would have helped Mother Teresa to overcome those days of darkness and inner torment. Thousands of seekers on the spiritual path experience this state, but they overcome it once they practise dhyana.

The Indian philosophy talks of three types of misery – physical, mental and spiritual. Spiritual torment is the worst. The agony and torment that one experiences is at the level of the mind and to go beyond the mind, go beyond thoughts, is the very purpose of samadhi. Mind is the cause of both bondage and liberation. Unless one knows how to quieten the mind, it is impossible to achieve inner peace.

The mind can be transcended through yoga sadhana. Yoga is not asanas alone; pranayama and meditation are an integral part of it. Patanjali Yoga Darshan, Adi Shankara’s Drig Drishya Viveka, Vigyan Bhairav Tantra of Kashmir Shaivism, Thirumandiram of Saint Thirumula all offer different techniques that help one overcome spiritual torment and misery.

Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta respectively are the three remedies to eliminate mala (impurities in the body) vikshepa (disturbances in mind) and avarana (veil that covers the light within). While ayurveda helps people to calm their thoughts, pranayama and meditation help one become happy from the core of their Being.

Happiness is only a sign of connection with the divinity deep within. Through these Vedantic practices, you can experience the scintillating consciousness that you are. It is a simple recognition of what is and has always been in us, and with us, as our self.

The basic principle of Vedanta is that what you are seeking is already there, like the air around you. You don’t have to go somewhere searching; you only need to become aware. In the same way divinity, or the consciousness, bliss, love, is already present in you; it is only a matter of recognising it.

Scientific temper and Vedantic knowledge together make one whole and bring inner stillness. And that is the essence of Indian spirituality. Critics often ask what use is spirituality if the underprivileged are not taken care of. What they fail to see is that wherever there is genuine spirituality, a component of seva or service has always been attached to it.

In the realm of consciousness, as you sow so shall you reap. If you think suffering is an important tool for uniting with God, then you are bound to attract it. If you sow a seed of suffering, that multiplies. The lack of experience of dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (equanimity) can keep a seeker morose and dull. To overcome this, one needs a shift in understanding about heaven and hell, and about the consciousness that is all pervading. Spirituality alone can bring that shift.

In the Eastern philosophy, experience comes first and then faith follows. In the occidental way of thinking, belief comes first and then experience. Mother Teresa had faith but was struggling for an experience. And it was experience which turned atheist Vivekananda into a swami. Ironically, Kolkata witnessed both in the same century!

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Strange Are the Ways of Karma https://www.srisriravishankar.org/strange-are-the-ways-of-karma/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/strange-are-the-ways-of-karma/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 09:48:58 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2424 One of the path-breaking highlights of the recent World Culture Festival in Delhi was the unwavering commitment of the artistes. Usually, artistes would refuse to perform on a wet or unsuitable floor. In this case, they stood committed to their performance despite being fully drenched and having to perform on soaking carpets on the opening day of the festival. They did it as […]

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One of the path-breaking highlights of the recent World Culture Festival in Delhi was the unwavering commitment of the artistes. Usually, artistes would refuse to perform on a wet or unsuitable floor. In this case, they stood committed to their performance despite being fully drenched and having to perform on soaking carpets on the opening day of the festival. They did it as a tapasya. The artistes who came from across the globe spending their own money waited hours to perform for the few minutes allotted to each country. With overwhelming requests from celebrity artists and groups, the team in-charge of the cultural programs had a tough time juggling to accommodate each country’s rendition.

 

The Cosmic Rhythm dance drama got over 4,600 dancers to perform 30 dance types in perfect synchronization with just one physical rehearsal! The beautiful performance was pulled off only through virtual rehearsals for months over video conference.

 

 

 

Unique Challenges

Managing to accommodate all the performances, dignitaries and over 2500 religious leaders with unique requirements was not an easy task. A senior cleric of a religious sect insisted that he could not be on the stage while there was music playing. So, we had to set aside one hour for talks only with no music!

 

The people’s eagerness to be part of the festival was tremendous. We had to organize a Veena ensemble in Bangalore on 19th March 2016 to accommodate 2000-odd artists who were eager to join the Grand Symphony of over 50 instruments, but couldn’t do so owing to the logistical difficulties.

 

Since the conclusion of the festival, requests to organize the next edition have been pouring in from several governments around the world.

 

Reports of possible terror attacks kept everyone on their toes. Five unidentified people came to our office posing as intelligence officers and wanted 50 all-access passes for themselves. Intuitively our person in charge, called the Intelligence office only to be told they have not sent anybody. By then, these people had escaped!

 

There were also rumours of some politicians trying to create disturbance by bringing rowdy elements to the ground, which gained credence as the politicians had got a few tutored farmers who owned no land in the area to come on camera and sit on a so-called dharna.

 

Some people also made a lot of noise about the Indian Army constructing pontoon bridges to facilitate easy movement of the public. The Army steps in even when a child falls into a well. It’s the duty of the governments to ensure the safety of the public and the Delhi government did the right thing by approaching the Defence Ministry to construct the bridges. The Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments also constructed bridges.

 

Contrary to the perception created by few activists that the event was harmful to the area, it actually brought multiple benefits to the city. Many people from remote places in North East and South India saw Delhi for the first time and so did many of the 20,000 international visitors. The live webcast which was simultaneously translated in English and other languages was watched by 1.8 billion people in 7 lakh locations.

 

An Engineering Marvel

Amidst all this, we also pulled off an engineering marvel by building such a gigantic stage without a foundation. To meet the guidelines of not digging the ground, we came up with a design to hold up a 40-feet high stage on just long tubular structures that were fitted onto large metal plates on the ground!

 

The idea of a floating stage was initially met with skepticism from engineers and authorities who all thought it was simply a joke. Even the court didn’t believe that we had erected such a stage without digging the ground. We had to even create a separate stage for the Prime Minister in just eight hours as his office would not let him take the stage due to safety considerations. It’s understandable that innovative ideas usually attract initial resistance.

 

An event with many lessons

On the morning of the second day of the festival, the main organizers came to me urging to shift the venue to Yamuna Sports Complex as the forecast predicted further thunderstorm. They reasoned that rainwater would have seeped into the LED screens, there were chances of short-circuits and the place had become very wet and muddy as we had not done any compaction. I could see a shadow of worry on the faces of these people trying to convince me to shift the venue to a place which could hold only 15,000 people.

 

I just smiled and said the program will go on at the same venue. Usually we are very democratic and take the opinions of everyone but in this case I put my foot down.

 

In seconds, all the concerns disappeared and they said they were ready to take on the challenge. From then on, it was a great show and Nature fully cooperated. It was a historic mega event with many lessons! We hope people who were expecting the program to fail also got the lesson that truth will always prevail and anything done with a clean heart will always be successful.

 

Beyond Matter

The event was full of interesting anecdotes regarding the venue, housing, security, transportation, passes, parking, food and most of all, seating arrangements. A fortnight later, when Dr Rakesh Ranjan, an environmentalist and a scholar, met with me, he mentioned that the place where the WCF was held is where Adi Shankaracharya  wrote the Yamunastakam and that the char dham yatras used to begin from there. It’s no coincidence that the area is still called Ashram.

 

Everything that is material has an ethereal component. While the physical phenomena focus on the immediate cause and effect, the ethereal component which is ruled by subtle and sublime karma needs a deeper insight and understanding. Once you understand this, nothing can shake you.

 

Postscript

What would have happened in the worst-case scenario? The NGT could have stopped our event and we would have probably marched down the Rajpath with the thousands of artists who had already arrived from all around the globe. Our message of a One World Family would have gone out anyway.

 

Though the Art of Living is a victim of conspiracy even now, it would have become very apparent then and probably the whole media would have been on our side.

 

All the way what shone through was the undying smile and the confidence on the faces of the thousands of volunteers.

On one hand it was stunning and on the other, it was expected.

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A Part of the Whole https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-part-of-the-whole/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-part-of-the-whole/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 09:44:20 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2422 “Behind every event, there is knowledge. Behind every person, there is love. Behind every object, there is infinity.”   Just a month before the World Culture Festival (WCF) while returning from an event in Pune, the young organizer who was driving me said, “Everything went so smooth.” I joked, “I thought I was being driven by a young man who would love challenges, not by a senior citizen.” I casually remarked that in […]

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“Behind every event, there is knowledge.

Behind every person, there is love.

Behind every object, there is infinity.”

 

Just a month before the World Culture Festival (WCF) while returning from an event in Pune, the young organizer who was driving me said, “Everything went so smooth.” I joked, “I thought I was being driven by a young man who would love challenges, not by a senior citizen.” I casually remarked that in the absence of challenges, it must have been very boring. Everyone in the car had a good laugh!

 

And then came WCF, full of challenges!

 

Finding an appropriate place in Delhi to accommodate the huge gathering that was expected from around the world was a real challenge as most of the options were either too far from the amenities or did not have easy access. The previous edition of the WCF in Germany had no such problem as it was held in the heart of Berlin.

 

The response to the festival from around the world and India was so huge that any stadium would have fallen short of holding even our volunteers just from Delhi. So, we approached Delhi Development Authority (DDA), who gave us permission to use the land on the banks of the Yamuna. The place was full of filth, rubble and stench. Though we knew that it would be an uphill task to make the place fit for the event, we opted for it as we felt it would prompt both the Central and Delhi governments to clean up the river. In India, things work better under pressure.

 

And the fun begins!

With just a month left for the event, the stage almost up and invitations out, a few activists wanted us to shift the venue and filed a complaint with the National Green Tribunal (NGT), alleging the event would harm the Yamuna floodplains. The attitude of the complainant is as if he is a messiah and the The Art of Living is a criminal. This attitude can easily mislead. We need to see through it and correct it. An organization which has been continuously working for environment protection was made to appear like a culprit while the people who had complained against us had no track record in environment care.

 

An NGT committee hypothetically concluded without any scientific evaluation that the event would cause a Rs 120-crore damage to the Yamuna floodplains. The committee arrived at this enormous figure after just going around the ground for about an hour while the stage was under construction.

 

Later an NGT bench slapped a compensation of Rs 5 crore on us, (which the media interpreted as fine) despite our having obtained all the required permissions and having followed the guidelines. It’s totally unjust. It is like giving a challan to someone for driving through a green light. What damage a three-day event could have caused compared to that from the countless sewerage drains which are freely let into the Ganga, Yamuna and other rivers? What are these activists doing about others who are openly polluting the environment? The NGT’s interim order coming on the eve of the World Culture Festival left us in a tight spot.

 

The same activists who have turned a blind eye to the several permanent constructions in the floodplains, got hyperactive to create obstacles for the event. It was obvious that they were singling out the Art of Living and targeting it. What were their intentions?

 

I have been exhorting people to stand up against injustice and I couldn’t just bow and take the unjust verdict. It’s not about the money, but about standing up for justice. We will contest this till the end.

 

Trial by Media

Some sections of the media also tried their level best to nail us. Despite casting a microscopic eye, they could find no fault, exposing their allegations to be hollow and frivolous.

 

One English newspaper aligned to a particular political party got so desperate to vilify the Art of Living that it screamed there was a dead man on the reception committee of the festival, referring to co-chair former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who had passed away less than a month before the event. It lost all sense of decency and decorum towards one of most respectable statesmen of the world. The same paper even portrayed a pile of garbage being collected by volunteers and waiting to be picked up by the disposal truck as the ‘art of littering’ by the Art of Living!

 

The bias and negative agenda became too obvious for the people to believe in them. A senior journalist even remarked that the Art of Living got caught in the political crossfire of Delhi, hinting that the actual target was the government.

 

Skill in Action

All these challenges demanded skillful handling from our volunteers and teachers which they did with aplomb. While many were hurt by the lies being spread, they put into practice the knowledge they have learnt. They remained calm despite provocations and saved themselves from getting sucked into negativity and anger. Though some of them out of sheer righteousness might have appeared  a little arrogant.

 

After the conclusion of the event on 13th March 2016, I told the volunteers to take a day’s rest and start the clean-up from the next day. Such was their commitment that they were on the ground by 8 am on the 14th itself! Instead of dampening the spirit, the challenges infused more enthusiasm among our volunteers.

 

Some people say that I have taken favors from the government as Modi Ji is close to me. That means those people don’t know either Modi Ji or me. I have traveled around the world and in 35 years, I have never asked anyone for favours. At the same time, Modi Ji is known not to oblige anybody.

 

When I met the Prime Minister in December last year, I requested him to inaugurate the festival and asked if the 17 nallahs that drain into the Yamuna could be stopped to fix the foul smell. He shared the difficulty as the matter was under the Delhi government. I asked Delhi Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal for the same. While confirming his attendance, he said it would take at least two years to stop the drains.

 

The Art of Living is an apolitical organization and has always welcomed people from all parties. However, some parties seem to have a prejudice against us. When we wanted to invite Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Shri Rahul Gandhi, it proved impossible to meet them in person. Finally, our trustees had to drop the invitations in their offices. While ruling and opposition members of several countries attended the festival, some parties in India showed small-mindedness by not attending and also missed an opportunity to connect with the world. Little did they realize that they gave the benefit of the program entirely to the government. Even a well-known religious leader is reported to have worked behind the scenes dissuading others from attending the event.

 

A Blessing in Disguise

As the saying goes, everything is a blessing in disguise! If there was no controversy, the event may have passed quietly without any debate. Though it was for the first time the Art of Living got embroiled in a controversy, it not only helped in letting people know about the festival, but also opened the doors for people to express their sentiments which were in favour of the event. When TV channels polled people’s opinion on whether the program should be allowed to go ahead, an overwhelming majority responded positively.

 

As part of our vision to unite the world, everyone including all the embassies and the heads of states were invited. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a country with a large number of Art of Living members, accepted the invitation and was expected to attend the event with 37 members of his Cabinet.

 

When his office issued a press release in Harare to announce his plan to participate on all the three days of the festival, it created a storm. Our organizers in Europe and America started frantically calling us as many reputed people who were committed to take part in the event were furious and started withdrawing themselves. Nearly one hundred eminent leaders who were to take part in the WCF started expressing their discomfort. There was a risk of the World Culture Festival being reduced to be only an Indo African summit! I was even advised against sharing the stage with President Mugabe, which I don’t subscribe to. Though we wanted everyone to come, the protest from Europe and America was too much to handle for our organizers.  We were in a catch 22 situation as it was not possible to withdraw the invitation to a head of a country at the eleventh hour.

 

When the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee sent a congratulatory message while expressing his inability to attend the event, it came like the biggest boon! We called President Mugabe’s office and informed them that it would not be appropriate for him to come as we would not be able to accord the right protocol since the President of the host country was not attending. They decided to cancel the trip. The Indian High Commission in Harare and the Zimbabwean High Commission in New Delhi supported the view.

 

The delegates who had either cancelled or were in the process of cancelling rebooked their tickets! Our organizers in 50 countries in Europe and America heaved a sigh of relief!

 

To be continued…

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Think global, talk global https://www.srisriravishankar.org/think-global-talk-global/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/think-global-talk-global/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:30:19 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2420 In a globalised era, Indian leaders are increasingly being called upon to speak at International fora. This makes it imperative for our politicians to orient themselves and articulate their views with a global perspective. While addressing international fora, it is a good practice to speak on subjects of global relevance. Tactless display of nationalism could […]

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In a globalised era, Indian leaders are increasingly being called upon to speak at International fora. This makes it imperative for our politicians to orient themselves and articulate their views with a global perspective.

While addressing international fora, it is a good practice to speak on subjects of global relevance. Tactless display of nationalism could end up alienating the audience and obliging leaders from other countries to do the same. That way, everybody will end up blowing his or her own trumpet rather than allowing others to appreciate. For example, if an Indian leader keeps harping on how great and rich the Indian culture is, it might trigger a competitive nationalism and pre-empt others from genuinely praising India.

Say for example, a German leader or a British leader comes to India and talks only about greatness of their country, the Indian audience will feel a disconnect and wouldn’t be able to appreciate the leader’s point of view. In the same way, if an Indian leader goes abroad and talks only about Bharatiyata, it will alienate the audience there. Instead of endearing them to India, such overt display of nationalism can prove to be counterproductive.

As much as a leader needs to have a pan-India agenda to be nationally relevant, our leaders need to take a global perspective while addressing an international audience. There is a vital need for creating a sense of connectedness with people of other nationalities and culture, which is seriously lacking. We have seen how a leader who talks only about his or her state often fails to make an impact at the national scene. Even while highlighting the “ideas of India”, it should be placed in a global perspective. This calls for an expanded consciousness where one feels he or she is a truly global citizen. Expressing the spirit of nationalism was in order when colonisation and oppression were prevalent. While patriotism and nationalism are positive qualities, its overt expression portrays one’s life in a limited context and limits the opportunities for connecting to the ancient and universal ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

Often people ask whether patriotism contradicts universalism. I feel it does not. Though the excessive display of patriotism will definitely obscure one’s universality, the concepts of ekatmata, vishwatmata are not in conflict with rashtreeyata. Rashtrabhakti and Vishwaprem do not contradict each other but their skilful expression is required.

It is strange but true that when the consciousness expands, the bonding with the world grows and dispassion dawns at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yamuna and the World Culture Festival https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yamuna-and-the-world-culture-festival/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yamuna-and-the-world-culture-festival/#comments Sun, 06 Mar 2016 15:26:57 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2349 The Art of Living is an organisation that has been at the forefront of rejuvenating and cleaning rivers. Over the last few years, our volunteers have been working on reviving 16 rivers across India. Before the Commonwealth Games over 5000 volunteers worked everyday for 6 weeks, as part of the ‘Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna’ initiative, […]

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The Art of Living is an organisation that has been at the forefront of rejuvenating and cleaning rivers. Over the last few years, our volunteers have been working on reviving 16 rivers across India. Before the Commonwealth Games over 5000 volunteers worked everyday for 6 weeks, as part of the ‘Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna’ initiative, removing 512 tons of garbage from the Yamuna. To now say we are damaging the Yamuna Flood Plains by hosting the World Culture Festival there, is ridiculous. The Art of Living was officially granted permission by the Delhi Development Authority to host the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna Flood plains. If permission had not been granted the event would have been held else where.

 

malwadebrisbef

malwadebrisafter

 

Now, over the years the flood plains have been used as an illegal dumping ground of construction debris, ‘Malba’. The images below show large amounts of Malba strewn all across the area. To prepare the grounds for the event the Art of Living cleaned up all the Malba from the area. Some wild grass and weeds were removed but not a single tree was cut. The stage and all other structures are temporary and will be dismantled and removed after the event, returning the area to it’s original, but debris free, state. The flood plain grounds were level to begin with, which is attested by the fact that farming, which requires level land, was being done in the area. With permission from the Environmental Ministry, the grounds were levelled just enough to allow for people to sit and walk.

With 17 drains dumping toxic waste in the Yamuna and creating a thick stench, it would be hard for anyone to stand next to the river for 3 minutes, let alone host a 3 day cultural event. With Heads of States from multiple countries, including the President and Prime Minister of our country, present and attendees from 155 countries, the Art of Living wanted to take this as an opportunity to bring the awareness of the international and national community to the importance of conserving our rivers and keeping the Yamuna clean. Months before the event, over a hundred thousand households began preparing enzymes to rid the river of its toxicity and foul smell. The enzyme is made from raw kitchen waste like fruit and vegetable peels and takes three months to get ready. It is completely natural and organic in its cleansing action.

 

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After two weeks of introducing the enzyme into the Yamuna, the amount of pollutants in the water has decreased visibly. Toxicity has reduced enough that locals have reported a significant reduction in foul smell, to the extent that birds and buffaloes that never ventured near the water, are now entering it.

The Art of Living took it as a challenge to go into a very inhospitable and borderline uninhabitable area to conduct an event of this magnitude and to transform to make it cleaner, greener and healthier. Even the buffaloes have begun to recognise the change!

 

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Impact of enzyme on the Yamuna.

  • Over a 100,000 of our volunteer households in Delhi have prepared the eco-enzyme to clean the Yamuna. It is completely natural and is prepared from organic kitchen waste like fruit and vegetable peels. It takes three months to prepare it for use.
  • The condition of the Yamuna a few weeks ago was that there was unbearable stench all over the area. A few days after we started using the enzyme in the Barapullah drain, locals reported that they are able to sleep much better because the stench has significantly reduced.
  • They have also pointed out that they have never seen cattle venture into the Yamuna. But over the last few days, they are surprised to see buffaloes and birds in the water. This shows that the toxicity has reduced to a great extent due to the enzyme.
  • We have also taken samples of water from the Yamuna before and after a few days of enzyme treatment. There is a marked difference in the quality of water.

We have also found uses of this enzyme in other areas, notably agriculture.

  • Without any other change in the farming methodology, just spraying the enzyme increased crop yield by a minimum of 10%.
  • The quality of the grains produced improved after using the enzyme. The grains were more uniform and healthier. The crops also looked greener and well-developed. The dried up wheat plants turned from yellow to green within 10 days.
  • The increase in the quality of the paddy yield fetched a higher selling price.
  • Lab analysis showed that wheat crop sprayed with the enzyme contained a higher percentage of moisture, protein, starch and gluten as compared to the regular wheat crop.
  • With the use of enzymes the SAME crop of cattle feed resulted in 4 rounds of harvest, which is unheard of, as usually 1 crop yields only one round of harvest.
  • Potato yield usually has all sizes: small, medium and large. After spraying the enzyme, small sized potatoes disappeared from the yield and all potatoes were of a larger and more uniform size. Green potatoes, which do not cook, disappeared completely from the yield. 10 quintals of extra output per acre was observed.

Other observations related to the enzyme

  • Marked improvement in the water quality of a polluted water body in Malaysia in just four days.
  • Keeping a jar of the enzyme next to appliances that emit radiation, reduced measured radiation in the surrounding area by more than a fourth.
  • A dishwasher with several wounds on the hands found their wounds healing within a couple of days after using the enzyme to wash dishes.
  • Usage of the enzyme transformed an unfertilised piece of land into a prosperous healthy farm.
  • Usage of enzyme also improved water retention in water bodies and revived the surrounding eco system.

Other environmental service initiatives by the Art of Living

  • We did a massive campaign in 2010 – Meri Dilli, Meri Yamuna, in which our volunteers fished out 512 tons of waste from the river, aside from spreading awareness throughout Delhi.
  • Our people are working on reviving 16 rivers that have been dry for several years across the country:
    • Maharashtra
      • Latur:                         Gharni, Tavarja, Rena, Jana, Mudgul
      • Osmanabad:             Terna, Rajegavi, Benitura
      • Jalna:                         Narola
      • Nagpur:                      Vena
      • Jalgaon:                      Waghur
      • Sangali- Satara:         Mann
    • Karnataka
      • Bengaluru:                 Kumudavati
      • Chikamangalur:        Vedavati
      • Kolar:                           Palar
    • Tamil Nadu
      • Vellore:                        Naganadi
  • In 2014, Lok Adalat, High Court of Karnataka recognised the good work done by the Art of Living for river rejuvenation and instructed all the District Administrations of the state to replicate the project to rejuvenate water bodies.
  • Art of Living volunteers removed 600 ton’s of garbage that was accumulated in the river Pampa in Kerala because of pilgrims leaving their clothes after taking a dip. The pilgrims were further sensitised to keep the river clean through direct interaction.
  • We planted millions of trees all over the world as part of the United Nations ‘Stand Up and Take Action’ initiative.
  • This is apart from several environmental service initiatives at the regional level across the world.

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Same yet Different https://www.srisriravishankar.org/same-yet-different/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/same-yet-different/#comments Fri, 01 Jan 2016 07:35:29 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2273 There is infinite spontaneity and creativity unfolding every moment in Nature. Every day the sun rises but every sunrise is uniquely beautiful. This is true for our experiences as we go through life as well – everything is the same and yet everything is different. Another year comes to an end and another begins. Though […]

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There is infinite spontaneity and creativity unfolding every moment in Nature. Every day the sun rises but every sunrise is uniquely beautiful. This is true for our experiences as we go through life as well – everything is the same and yet everything is different. Another year comes to an end and another begins.

Though change is a constant factor in the universe, certain changes leave a permanent impression on the human psyche. Whether positive or negative, these impressions rule our life. To be free from them and act from there is true awakening. These moments of awakening have not left anyone’s life untouched, although they occur frequently for some and rarely for others.

Revisiting events of the past every once in a while has two benefits – One, it reinforces your understanding and wisdom and second, it releases unwanted traits, which influence your thinking and behavior sub-consciously. Looking back, the fear and anxiety that has gripped our world in the past few months is due to terrorism. Asia, Africa, Europe and even America have suffered on this account to a great extent. Under the circumstances, it is imperative for us not to let these memories color our thinking and lead us down the path of paranoia and prejudice.

Often when a challenge or crisis arises in society, we have a tendency to slip into a cave and say, “It is not my problem. Someone else should solve it.” In the current global scenario, we are left with no choice but to take responsibility for the whole planet. In the middle ages, when a problem in one part of the world, the other part did not even know about it. Today, with technology the comfort zone and conflict zone are not very far apart.

Our part of the world also is not unaffected by developments there. The last year saw a huge boogieman created out of the issue of intolerance. I would say India is too complacent and does need more intolerance but towards inequality, injustice and corruption. Both tolerance and intolerance when misplaced are equally bad. Tolerance need not be complacency and intolerance need not be aggression.

Any issue or conflict becomes much easier to deal with and solve, when we are willing to stretch our hand first. Earlier this year, we were able to reach out to Colombia’s biggest rebel group, which resulted in a ceasefire, ending a 50-year old conflict with their government. This is the era of unprecedented interdependence. We need to come out of our isolated shells and become a part of something bigger and more beautiful, both individually and globally. The love and warmth that everybody carries within just needs the right environment to be brought out. Coming together in spirit itself creates an atmosphere of celebration.

Life is a very fine balance of learning and unlearning, of being involved and being detached. Finding this delicate balance keeps the freshness alive and that is the Art of Living. When you move in life with a big vision, your connection with Nature is re-established. Though situations are the same, you are ever fresh and different. You no longer watch Nature’s spontaneity unfolding from a distance, you become an expression of it.

Wish you all lots of happiness and enthusiasm in this New Year!

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La véritable coupable est la programmation à la haine au nom de l’éducation https://www.srisriravishankar.org/la-veritable-coupable-est-la-programmation-a-la-haine-au-nom-de-leducation/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/la-veritable-coupable-est-la-programmation-a-la-haine-au-nom-de-leducation/#respond Sun, 15 Nov 2015 12:11:02 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2229 L’attentat de Paris est choquant et horrifiant pour le monde entier. C’est une agression directe, non seulement pour le mode de vie européen mais aussi pour les valeurs qui sont communes à toutes les sociétés libérales. L’Inde a elle aussi grandement souffert du terrorisme pendant plusieurs années – les attentats du 26/11 à Bombay ont […]

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L’attentat de Paris est choquant et horrifiant pour le monde entier. C’est une agression directe, non seulement pour le mode de vie européen mais aussi pour les valeurs qui sont communes à toutes les sociétés libérales. L’Inde a elle aussi grandement souffert du terrorisme pendant plusieurs années – les attentats du 26/11 à Bombay ont été menés de façon très similaire.

Aujourd’hui, nous voyons deux types de terrorisme dans le monde: l’un qui nait pour des raisons idéologiques et l’autre qui provient du fanatisme religieux.

Souvent, les personnes qui se passionnent pour une cause trouvent justifié d’adopter des moyens violents pour avoir gain de cause. Ce ne sont pas des mauvaises personnes mais ils finissent par faire ce type de choix à cause des circonstances ou d’une mauvaise compréhension.

Ils sont guidés par un sentiment de justice, bien que celui-ci soit mal orienté et que leur engagement devienne condamnable. Ils sont prêts à résoudre les différends par le dialogue s’il est introduit de la bonne manière. Nous avons été capables de sortir plusieurs extrémistes d’une vie de violence et de les réinsérer dans la sociétéavec succès. En réalité, plusieurs de nos écoles tribales gratuites, présentes dans des régions touchées par le terrorisme en Inde, sont tenues par d’anciens extrémistes.

Ils étaient hostiles au départ, menaçant nos volontaires mais lorsqu’ils ont vu que ces efforts étaient bénéfiques à leurs propres communautés, ils sont devenus volontaires eux-mêmes. Plus tôt cette année, nous avons rencontré à plusieurs reprises le groupe rebelle des FARC colombiens. Ils furent surpris de réaliser que, lors du conflit avec leur gouvernement vieux de cinq décennies, les deux parties étaient victimes au final et que la non-violence était la seule voie qui servait la justice sociale. Ils répondirent positivement, annonçant immédiatement qu’ils adopteraient la voie de Gandhi et ont vite déclaré le cessez-le-feu. Le gouvernement Colombien a lui aussi répondu avec un cessez-le-feu.

Cependant, le terrorisme provenant du fanatisme religieux est assez différent. Lorsque les gens deviennent totalement aveuglés par leurs croyances, alors, au lieu de proposer ou de chercher des solutions, ils voient la destruction comme étant le seul moyen. Pour eux, la violence n’est pas un moyen mais une fin, la violence est le moyen et la fin. Dans leur doctrine, les gens qui pensent différemment ou ne croient pas en leurs écritures n’ont même pas le droit d’exister. Lors de ma visite en Iraq en Novembre 2014, j’ai proposé un dialogue avec l’Etat Islamique ; ils ont répondu par une lettre de mort ! Si ne serait-ce qu’une petite partie du monde vie dans une telle obscurité, le monde ne peut pas être en sécurité.

Lavéritable coupable est la programmation à la haine au nom de l’éducation. Nous avons constaté à de nombreuses reprises,a traversle monde, que ces attentats sont menés par des jeunes qui ont subi un lavage de cerveau avec cette idéologie de haine. Pour contrer cela, les leaders religieux peuvent jouer un grand rôle pour communiquer une éducation multi-religieuse et une éducation pour la paix. Il est nécessaire de renverser cette idée que “je suis le seul détenteur du paradis” pour une idéologie de “plusieurs chemins vers Un seul But”. La diversité est une caractéristique essentielle de notre planète et c’est au travers d’une éducation qui honore la diversité que les enfants peuvent grandir pour devenir des citoyens responsables du monde.

Nos pensées et prières sont avec ceux affectés par ces attentats. De tels incidents déclenchent de la colère qui peut mener à des divisions basées sur l’appartenance ethnique ou la religion, mais la véritable division est entre l’ouverture et l’étroitesse d’esprit. Une vision fanatique fermée ne peut que nous diviser, et cela demande de la sagesse et une vision élargie pour la dépasser et pour aller vers des valeurs qui nous unissent. Le monde a bien plus besoin de ces dernières que de la première.

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Responding to terror https://www.srisriravishankar.org/responding-to-terror/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/responding-to-terror/#comments Sun, 15 Nov 2015 05:50:02 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2227 The horrendous attacks in Paris have sent shivers down the spine everywhere in the world. This is a direct assault not only on the European way of life but on values that are common to all liberal societies. India has also suffered greatly due to terrorism over many years. Repeated attacks have caused a certain […]

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The horrendous attacks in Paris have sent shivers down the spine everywhere in the world. This is a direct assault not only on the European way of life but on values that are common to all liberal societies. India has also suffered greatly due to terrorism over many years. Repeated attacks have caused a certain numbness in the human psyche in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places.

When such incidents happen, we hear a lot of cosmetic condemnation and diplomatic sympathy. We need to go into the root cause of the mind-set – the source of funding and the arms supply. When an inhuman act is committed with a misplaced religious sanctity and pride, then common sense, reason and dialogue do not find place at all. Any military action only makes things worse and results in the regrouping of the ideology. We have seen this over and over again.

If a society has to live in fear all the time, it does not speak well of the century we are in. Where have we gone wrong? Who can take action? Many such questions arise and remain unanswered.

Are the religious leaders, at least, at this point ready to take up responsibility?

Can they risk their position and lives to speak up against such ideologies that do not respect life?

Will the government ban the arms lobby and check the funding that goes into terror groups?

Will the world ever move towards a common goal where there is justice, where compassion and brotherhood reign as life’s central philosophy?

Can diversity be celebrated instead of tolerated?

Can our education system promote reason over blind faith?

A zillion such questions float only to leave the common man more frustrated and depressed. There are some who turn a blind eye towards any such happening and switch over to entertainment channels while others are numb watching violent movies. In this world we do see many heroes amongst commoners who come along to help and bring a ray of hope, and are also committed to uplift the mood of the society. Theses common heroes are a boon; they are the real Spiritual Beings. The media should highlight such acts of bravery and sometimes does too!

Educationists will have to wake up and bring an education in peace so that the coming generations are both sensible and sensitive to life. Religious leaders will have to come together to promote the common good of mankind and reform the misguided. I strongly believe this is all doable in our generation.

Many times people who feel very passionately for a cause feel justified in adopting violent means in its pursuit. They are driven by a sense of righteousness, though misplaced, and their commitment to their cause is commendable. They are willing to resolve differences through dialogue if approached in the right way.

We have been able to successfully bring back many extremists from a life of violence and rehabilitate them in mainstream society. In fact, many of our free tribal schools in terrorist-affected regions in India are being run by former extremists. They were hostile in the beginning, threatening our volunteers but when they saw that these efforts were benefiting their own communities, they became volunteers themselves.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the attacks. Such incidents cause anger which can lead to polarisation based on ethnicity and religion, but the real polarisation is between open and narrow-mindedness. While a narrow fanatic outlook can only lead to differences that divide us, it requires wisdom and a broad vision to go past them and arrive at values that unite us. The world needs the latter and not the former!

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Unknown Lessons from the Mahatma https://www.srisriravishankar.org/unknown-lessons-from-the-mahatma/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/unknown-lessons-from-the-mahatma/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 06:09:10 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2129 Gandhi Jayanti is an occasion to reflect on what we can learn from Gandhiji. Everyone’s life teaches us both what to do and what not to do. The ideals that Gandhiji set are an inspiration for generations – a sense of sacrifice, acceptance for everyone, an unbroken faith in satsang and dedication to the higher […]

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Gandhi Jayanti is an occasion to reflect on what we can learn from Gandhiji. Everyone’s life teaches us both what to do and what not to do. The ideals that Gandhiji set are an inspiration for generations – a sense of sacrifice, acceptance for everyone, an unbroken faith in satsang and dedication to the higher cause of the country and the welfare of people. But there were aspects of his life that teach us what not to do as well.

My teacher, Pt. Sudhakar Chaturvedi, who is still alive at 118 years stayed with Gandhiji for a long time. Bangalori, as Gandhiji would call him since he hailed from Bangalore, used to teach him the Bhagavad Gita. They were together on the day Kasturba passed away in Yerawada Jail. Watching her in the throes of death, Gandhiji said, “Bangalori, your Bapu has to face the test of fire (agni-pariksha) today.” Panditji saw tears in Bapu’s eyes for the first time. As he read the second chapter of the Gita for Kasturba, she breathed her last. Gandhiji remarked, “I realize that I gave her a lot of pain and no happiness.” Kasturba supported him in his mission till the end. Perhaps he would not have been so remorseful had he honored and agreed to some of her wishes once in a while.

Gandhiji was also deeply pained when his son converted to another religion. He spoke a lot against conversion and admitted his regret that he could not give his children an education of values and respect for their own religion. He came to be regarded as the Father of the Nation but could not be a good father to his own sons. While aspiring to bring freedom to an entire country, he gave none to his own wife. Due to his rigidity, Gandhiji put his family through a lot of distress and his own children rebelled against him. Approaching every aspect of life with a fixed attitude is not practical. One needs to have different yardsticks for dealing with different people and situations.

During the partition, Gandhiji received news of riots, but refused to believe such violence was going on there. To take stock of the situation, he sent Bangalori who was attacked no less than seven times with knives. On one occasion, he was captured and buried in sand up to the neck. The mullah was to come and strike him with the first stone before the mob finished him. Somehow the army reached on time and he was able to escape. When he shared his experience showing his wounds, Gandhiji accused him, “You are saying all this because you are a Hindu yourself. My Muslim brothers can never do anything like this.” Bangalori was taken aback on being suspected and left Gandhiji in dismay. The Mahatma was assassinated three days later. Panditji used to tell me, “I left that old man in the last three days of his life”, a fact that always pained him.

My grandfather also spent twenty years with Gandhiji in Sevashram. One of the rules observed there was to have bitter neem chutney with everything, even sweets like kheer. On one hand, such an austere practice, though strange, can help people overcome their small attachments like taste etc. and is good for a sannyasi, but it is undue to force everyone, including children, to follow it.

Gandhiji was quite uncompromising about his opinions often compelling everyone to accept his verdict. Considering everyone’s viewpoint and weighing the pros and cons of a situation did not feature in his style of functioning. On several occasions, he would unreasonably go on a fast to put pressure and prevail over others. When the issue of who the first Prime Minister of India was going to be was put to vote in the Congress, all the votes favoured Sardar Patel, except one. Disregarding this outcome, Mahatma Gandhi declared that Nehru would be Prime Minister. The man who laid the foundation of our democracy was very undemocratic in his ways.

Mahatma Gandhi had an indelible impact on the world. He remained committed to non-violence at a time when world wars were raging and rose to command a nation while living as a renunciant. His life will remain a lesson for all in more ways than one.

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Overcoming Challenges to Peace https://www.srisriravishankar.org/overcoming-challenges-to-peace/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/overcoming-challenges-to-peace/#comments Sat, 19 Sep 2015 11:28:24 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2104 There are usually two sides to a civil conflict and no matter who strikes first, eventually both sides are wounded. Conflict arises in the first place because both sides stick to their stand, yet to resolve the issue, both need to be made to rise above and look at the larger picture. Breakdown of communication […]

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There are usually two sides to a civil conflict and no matter who strikes first, eventually both sides are wounded. Conflict arises in the first place because both sides stick to their stand, yet to resolve the issue, both need to be made to rise above and look at the larger picture. Breakdown of communication is a major cause in escalating the dispute and thus, dialogue is an important tool in resolving it.

When I visited Latin America in June this year, we sent a message to meet with the leaders of the Colombian rebel group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). They responded positively and we had a very fruitful meeting in Cuba. The armed conflict between the Colombian government and FARC has been going on for five decades, claiming more than 220,000 lives and displacing over 7 million people. Though they engage in violent acts on the outside, yet inside every culprit, there is a victim crying for help. When the victim is healed, the culprit disappears. I told them that I understood their plight but non-violence was the only way towards social justice. They adopted the Gandhian way immediately and soon declared a unilateral ceasefire. The government also reciprocated with a ceasefire a few days later.

People who take to violent means due to a sense of injustice, can be engaged in dialogue if approached the right way. From their perspective, they are fighting for a cause out of righteousness. In a way, their passion, commitment and the spirit of sacrifice is commendable. When outer dynamism, which they have in abundance, is complemented with inner peace, they can prove to be a boon to the society. Many of our free tribal schools in terrorist-affected regions are being run by former extremists. In fact, in the beginning, they threatened our volunteers to close them down. But when they saw that these efforts were benefiting their own communities, they became volunteers themselves.

Yet terrorism arising out of religious fanaticism is very different. It is blinded by a doctrine that is not open to any discussion or dialogue. For them, people who disagree with their scripture or think differently have no right to even exist. On my visit to Iraq in November, 2014, I offered to have a dialogue with the Islamic State group; they responded with a death threat! If even a small part of the world lives in such darkness, the world cannot be a safe place. So far, the horrible atrocities that they were committing were limited to the region under their influence but the mass exodus of millions of refugees that they have now caused affects the whole world. If the neighbour’s house is on fire, it is only a matter of time before the fire reaches your own doorstep. To prevent the spread of this fanatical mindset, religious leaders can play a big role in imparting a multi-religious education and an education in peace. There is a need to bring a shift from the idea of “sole ownership of heaven” to an ideology of “many paths to One Goal”. Honouring diversity as an essential characteristic of our planet can help us move from merely being tolerant of our differences to celebrating them.


FARC Leader Ivan Marquez at a press conference with Sri Sri in Cuba where FARC announced their adoption of Gandhian principle of Non-violence

Turbulence is a part of this world whereas making peace is the nature of our spirit. If with a strong resolve and skill, we are able to remain centered in peace, it does not remain limited to just us, it begins to calm down the turbulence around us as well. On this International Day of Peace, let us resolve to be established in peace inside and be dynamic in action to bring it to the world outside.

[This article appeared in Huffington Post on September 18, 2015: http://huff.to/1KoxGMm]

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Fanaticism: Rational or Irrational https://www.srisriravishankar.org/fanaticism-rational-or-irrational/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/fanaticism-rational-or-irrational/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2015 11:29:35 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=2096 Life is unfathomable but people attempt to fathom it through diverse perspectives. Owing to its broad social, cultural and economic spectrum, nowhere is this diversity of beliefs as pronounced as it is in India.   When everyone is granted freedom of expression by the constitution, dissent is inevitable but violence is no way to express […]

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Life is unfathomable but people attempt to fathom it through diverse perspectives. Owing to its broad social, cultural and economic spectrum, nowhere is this diversity of beliefs as pronounced as it is in India.

 

When everyone is granted freedom of expression by the constitution, dissent is inevitable but violence is no way to express it. Anyone who responds to a dissenting view with violence only shows his cowardice. Noted scholar Prof. M.M Kalburgi from Dharwad was recently assassinated apparently for his views against idol worship. His assassination is condemnable and the loss is not just for the state of Karnataka, but for the whole world of philosophy. The people who have killed him are no different from barbaric terror groups like IS.

 

In our country, differing perspectives have always been welcomed and have brought a unique richness to our culture. The Bhakti Sutras present the views of different sages while revering all of them. The way disagreements and conflicts are dealt with also shows the refinement of a society. The famous debate between Adi Shankara and Mandan Mishra was settled by a very novel criterion to decide the winner involving a pair of garlands. What a contrast with the debates we see on TV these days!

 

Truth is so vast that one perspective alone cannot contain it. It might even appear to be composed of ideas which seem to be in conflict with each other. That is why the Bhagavad Gita is full of contradictions. Therefore, the wise ones, even though they might have differing views, converge on one point – “Perhaps…” The more you know, the more you realize you do not know.

 

While everyone can choose to express themselves however they wish to, it is also not appropriate to hurt people’s sentiments under the garb of freedom of expression. There is an old sanskrit saying,

 

“Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat na bruyat satyam apriyam

priyam cha nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah”

 

which means “Speak the truth with a pleasant speech. Let it neither be a truth that is unpleasing to others nor a lie that is pleasing. Such is the eternal code of conduct.”

 

While God is formless, there is no harm in attaching a form to God if it makes one happy. What matters is feeling connected to Divinity and if someone feels that connection through a particular form or idol, criticizing them for doing so is unfair. From a rational perspective, idols and rituals have no meaning but for many, they do uplift the spirit. If not in the idol itself, Divinity does reside in the feeling that the idol evokes in the heart of a devotee. There are people at every level of understanding and realization and the magnanimity of our ancient culture is that it includes everyone, whichever level they are at.

 

Fanaticism is having a closed mindset over what is right and what is wrong. Even rational views, if closeted hard, can lead to fanaticism. Even irrational views, if open and sincere, can lead to the Truth.

[This article appeared on the IBNLive online portal on September 7, 2015: http://tinyurl.com/obca28e]

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Nepal Earthquake Relief Efforts https://www.srisriravishankar.org/nepal-earthquake-relief/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/nepal-earthquake-relief/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 12:37:38 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1881 Nepal Earthquake Relief update - Day 11 & 12

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Trauma Relief Effort

Day 11

The first dispatch left for Sindhupalchowk District early at 3 am with a team of volunteers and sacks of rice, blankets, medicines and sanitary products and later another team went to a different area in Sindhupalchowk. They distributed tents and food and conducted trauma relief sessions. A volunteer also left early morning for Kavre with tents.

A truck load of tents, blankets and medicines were dispatched to Dhading District to the Art of Living team stationed there. Upon request from a local person, another team of volunteers headed off to Dhading to deliver rice sacks and conduct trauma relief. However, the team could not distribute the rice themselves nor could they conduct trauma relief there as the person who came with request kept the rice in a godown saying he would distribute it himself. He also said that people are not available for the trauma relief session. The man ran off and our team could do nothing. This is the first case of such a kind in our relief effort.

A lady from an orphanage visited the Art of Living Center and requested for 2 tents and some blankets for the children there. The requested materials were provided right away.

A team headed off to Kirtipur in Kathmandu Valley with water bottles, blankets, tents and medicines and conducted trauma relief there. Likewise, separate teams went to Balaju, Budhanilkantha and Thankot in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur in Kathmandu Valley with food and medical assistance.

A truck load of blankets, tents and food for children were dispatched to Art of Living Pokhara who will be distributing them in Gorkha District.

trauma relief at Kalika, Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

food and tent distrubution at Sindupalchowk, Nepal

tent distribution at Kalika, Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

trauma relief at katunje bhaktapur, Nepal

trauma relief at katunje bhaktapur1, Nepal

trauma relief at kritipur, Nepal

trauma relief at kritipur1, Nepal

trauma relief at kritipur2, Nepal

trauma relief at Sindhupalchowk

trauma relief at thankot

Day 12

The Prince of Bahrain was in Nepal on a special visit to provide relief materials himself. He has deep respect for Sri Sri and came to dispatch the relief materials through the Art of Living. He visited the Maternity Hospital, Patan Hospital and Basantapur in Kathmandu and provided tents, food, water and blankets. Trauma relief sessions were also conducted in the areas by the Director, IAHV.

Byom Kusom Sanstha, Kathmandu came requesting for food for the relief camp they were organizing, which was provided right away.

A member of Art of Living volunteer team based in Dolakha District was in Kathmandu to collect relief materials. He took with him 300 tents and 800 blankets to be distributed in 5 VDCs there. They have been conducting trauma relief programs in every site they visited. Tents and beaten rice was dispatched to a different area in Dolakha.

Upreti Samaj organized relief distribution at Nuwakot District. A team of our volunteers went with them for trauma relief.

The team of organizations who had visited Kavre District on Day 9 with IAHV Director are revisiting the same area again tomorrow with the same team as a nearby villagers requested them on the last trip for relief materials. The Art of Living provided them with tents and sacks of rice along with trauma relief programs.

Another team of volunteers from Art of Living-Birgunj are stationed in Dhading to distribute relief materials and conduct trauma relief.

baharain prince at Maternity Hospital, Nepal

tents for dolakha, Nepal

trauma relief at Dhading by Birgunj team, Nepal

trauma relief at Dhading by Birjung team 2, Nepal

trauma relief at Maternity Hospital, Nepal

trauma relief at Maternity Hospital 2, Nepal

trauma relief at Nuwakot, Nepal

trauma relief at Nuwakot 2, Nepal

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A Capital Lesson https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-capital-lesson/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-capital-lesson/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 05:34:46 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1711 The Delhi assembly election has shown that nobody can take people for granted in a democracy. It is refreshing to see a record voting turnout and a near unanimous result. AAP did a commendable job of getting rid of the baggage from last year and reconnecting with the voters. BJP, on the other hand, was […]

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The Delhi assembly election has shown that nobody can take people for granted in a democracy. It is refreshing to see a record voting turnout and a near unanimous result.

AAP did a commendable job of getting rid of the baggage from last year and reconnecting with the voters. BJP, on the other hand, was complacent from a string of victories and paid the price. Congress, with this performance, has shown once again that it continues to live in its own world, completely unwilling to make any effort to learn from the past.

This was BJP’s first shock after a dream run last year in both national and state elections. They have been humbled right under their nose, fair and square. With the decimation of Congress one election after another, BJP was marching unchallenged. AAP has proven to be an able contender and this result will keep the BJP grounded. While people want a leader who speaks from the heart in their language, mere words and hype alone will not do. One can never afford to forget that egotism leads to downfall, as also pointed out by Arvind Kejriwal in his speech at the oath-taking ceremony. The BJP top leadership is astute enough to learn what it did or did not do right.

People’s trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. AAP has learnt from its mistakes and made an honest effort to work on its shortcomings. They would certainly not want to lose people’s trust again by resorting to theatrics. In order to deliver on their promises, they will need to cooperate with different departments and agencies instead rather than antagonize them. I wish them well in their efforts.

This election shows that India’s diversity serves as a political safety cover. With different areas having different social nuances, no single formula works everywhere and this uncertainty keeps political parties on their toes.

The trend of clear majority results in so many elections of late is also a very healthy sign. This means that our electorate is no longer divided over frivolous issues but united over real ones. People are rising above identity-based interests and voting over concerns that affect the whole society. It is heartening to see that topics like development and removing corruption are more prominent in political discussions now replacing the ugly phenomenon of vote-bank politics. Today voters are much more mindful of how leaders conduct themselves and who makes an effort to reach out to them. Social media has had a big role to play in uniting the population as a collective mind and when this collective mind speaks, everybody has to listen. This high level of awareness seen in our voters, particularly the youth, is what makes a democracy work. Our country is safe under the watch of its awakened people.

Someone said that the wish of every party came true with this result : The BJP wanted a Congress-mukt Bharat, the Aam Aadmi Party wanted clear majority and Congress wanted to keep BJP out of power. All that one can say is “Beware what you wish for!”

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A spiritual angle to the Republic Day https://www.srisriravishankar.org/spiritual-angle-republic-day/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/spiritual-angle-republic-day/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:38:34 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1670 You spend 9 months in your mother's womb in privacy. The day you are born you become public. By the time you are 3 years old, you start getting...

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You spend 9 months in your mother’s womb in privacy. The day you are born you become public. By the time you are 3 years old, you start getting enveloped in a sense of individuality and becoming a private person. You limit yourself with your likes and dislikes, draw boundaries between mine and others, start making a distinction of personal and public, and cling on to some identities. Most people live like that all their lives, in a dual world – one private and one public. You are something inside and something else on the outside.

When your outlook towards life broadens, you become like an open book. That is to say that your inner and outer worlds merge. When the distinction between me and others disappears, it is then that you become public. You have a sense of belonging with everyone and share all that you have. You have really become like a child again and that is when you have become re-public.

In a spiritual sense, Republic Day is an individual phenomenon, the ultimate blossoming.

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Yoga: Stilling the mind https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yoga-stilling-the-mind/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/yoga-stilling-the-mind/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 04:01:49 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1589 There is a new icebreaker in the international diplomatic circuit. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call at the UN General Assembly for declaring an International Yoga Day has gained support from several quarters - many representatives from Congress and President Obama as well have shown keen interest in yoga.

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There is a new icebreaker in the international diplomatic circuit. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call at the UN General Assembly for declaring an International Yoga Day has gained support from several quarters – many representatives from Congress and President Obama as well have shown keen interest in yoga.

From being an ancient spiritual pursuit for those seeking enlightenment, yoga has been absorbed into mainstream lifestyle by people from all cultures and backgrounds across the globe. And now it has also arrived in the global political arena. Good governance and administration require multi-faceted skills and yoga brings skill in action. In fact, it was called Raja Yoga because it was practiced by kings and princes in the ancient days.

Yoga became popular in the west as a solution to lose weight or as a physical exercise and people also found relief from many ills such as stress, anxiety, professional burnout, addictions and insomnia. In additions to its remedial properties, yoga is also a path to realize and harness your deepest potential.

It has a profound impact on multiple levels of our existence. While stretches and postures make the body supple, pranayama and meditation take the mind deep within. An unknown dimension opens up within our being that enriches the experience of life in many ways. There are several benefits of yoga – it enhances health, improves memory and concentration, sharpens the intellect, de-stresses the system and increases energy levels. It also unveils an intuitive ability within us which is much needed for creative pursuits and in overcoming obstacles like the writers’ block.

According to Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the oldest known text on the subject, yoga is freedom from all the distortions of the mind. If we observe the mind, we will realise that it is always engaged in one of five things

  1. Seeking proof or answers
  2. Forming conclusions
  3. Imagining or fantasising
  4. Remembering past events or memories
  5. Dreaming

Yoga or union with the Higher Self happens when the mind is not engaged in any of the above. You usually identify with the activity in the mind. In the waking state, you are caught up in all that you see, smell, hear, touch, taste. If not, you return to sleep or to the state of dreaming where you are completely cut off from the world. None of these really give that deep rest that the system needs to totally recover from the stress that it gathers.

In the physical realm, it takes effort to get results. In the realm of the mind, what is needed is effortlessness. For instance, you cannot relax or go to sleep by putting effort; in fact, putting effort is counterproductive. It takes a certain kind of skill to become effortless. The ability to deeply relax renews your ability to be dynamic in action. Passion is like the in-breath but you cannot just breath in; you need to breath out as well and that is dispassion. Life becomes a harmony when we have all three – passion, dispassion and compassion.

Often one has to sacrifice personal freedom to some degree to observe discipline. But yoga is a discipline that opens the door to inner freedom, contradictory as it seems. With practice, you acquire the knack of switching between different modes of the mind, from engaging with the outside world to withdrawing from it and going within; between passion and dispassion. This skill of moving outward or inward at will makes you the master of your own mind, and when you win over the mind, you win over the world.

World Yogathon Challenge 2014.Yogathon 2014

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From depression to deep happiness https://www.srisriravishankar.org/from-depression-to-deep-happiness/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/from-depression-to-deep-happiness/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:11:03 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1464 Once a gentleman came to a doctor complaining that there was something severely wrong with him. He was hurting all over and was very sad but all the tests came out normal. The doctor said, “There is nothing wrong with you. Go to the circus and watch the clown there. He will make you laugh.” […]

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Once a gentleman came to a doctor complaining that there was something severely wrong with him. He was hurting all over and was very sad but all the tests came out normal. The doctor said, “There is nothing wrong with you. Go to the circus and watch the clown there. He will make you laugh.” The gentleman said, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

It is one thing to entertain others and be humorous, but quite another to be happy yourself. Happiness does not come by a talent or skills that you develop. Unless you realize who you are, what the nature of consciousness is through your own introspection, happiness remains a far-fetched reality. The spirit of self enquiry in the true sense which leads to meditation is absolutely essential in this quest for happiness. The 6th century Indian philosopher and thinker Adi Shankaracharya has said that it is dispassion towards the ephemeral and connection with the eternal that brings true joy. In fact, he goes further and asks, ”What joy does detachment not bring?” The word for solitude in Sanskrit is ‘ekant’, meaning ‘the end of loneliness’. Loneliness cannot end by changing company, even if it is more sympathetic and understanding. It can only end when you discover your real nature for yourself.

Robin Williams, though he made millions of people laugh, could not end the deep seated loneliness inside him. This shows clearly that only spiritual solace can take you out of despair and misery. External pomp and show, wealth, admiration and adulation are not helpful in dealing with inner discontent. While alive, he made people laugh and in his death, he gave people a message to lift their eyes above the mundane towards something higher. You can bid goodbye to misery by connecting with an altogether different dimension, that I would say is solidified silence, a bolt of bliss and a glimpse of eternity, which is in you as you. You simply have to tap into it.

There is little use in having a machine which you cannot operate without a manual. Spiritual knowledge is like the manual for life. Just like to drive a car, we have to learn how to operate the steering wheel, the clutch, the brake and so on, to move towards stability of the mind, we must know the basic principles about our life force energy. This is the whole science of pranayama. When our prana or life force keeps fluctuating, our mind also goes up and down through the roller coaster of emotions.

One cannot handle the mind from the level of the mind. It is for this reason that although counseling or psychiatry seems to help in the beginning, it is not able to provide a complete cure in the longer term. Just forcing positive thoughts on oneself is not enough and more often than not leads to a relapse. Medication like anti-depressants also seem to help only in the beginning and eventually make the person dependent on them rather than free him/her from the tendency.

This is where knowing the secret of breath can really transform lives. Breathing techniques like Sudarshan Kriya stabilize our life force and consequently the mind. The inner dimension unveiled by the practice of meditation deeply enriches us and its impact slowly spills over to all aspects of life. As prana rises in the body, one starts to feel a transformation as direct experience and not as a forced mental exercise. One starts becoming happier, creative and more in command of their mind and emotions.

Another thing that can be really helpful in coming out of depression is developing an attitude of service. Thinking ‘what can I do for society’, getting involved in a bigger cause shifts the whole focus of life and can take one out of the rut of ‘what about me’. Societies where values of service, sacrifice and community participation are ingrained do not have these issues of depression and suicides. The Sikh community is a great example of this.

Life is a combination of happiness and pain. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Having a broad perspective on life gives you the strength to move forward through painful times. Know that you are very much needed in this world. With all its infinite possibilities, this life is a gift for it can become a fountain of joy and happiness not just for oneself but for many others as well.

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Iraqis experience peace amidst turmoil https://www.srisriravishankar.org/iraqis-experience-peace-amidst-turmoil/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/iraqis-experience-peace-amidst-turmoil/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 05:34:03 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1399 It’s hard to imagine the severity of suffering that people of Iraq have gone through over the years. The present uncertainty has only added to it. With current sectarian divides, the future looks precarious. Nobody feels safe in Iraq today. I am happy that since 2003 Art of Living is doing its bit to bring […]

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It’s hard to imagine the severity of suffering that people of Iraq have gone through over the years. The present uncertainty has only added to it. With current sectarian divides, the future looks precarious. Nobody feels safe in Iraq today.

I am happy that since 2003 Art of Living is doing its bit to bring solace to Iraq. Last week, two of our volunteers Christoph Glaser and Mawahib al Shaibani ventured into Kurdistan and imparted training in leadership and peace building to 35 Members of Parliament.

Parlimentarians along with Art of Living faculty members at the leadership program by Art of Living in Kurdistan-Iraq

The Parliamentarians had a deep experience of peace through the breathing exercises and meditations. They mingled, shared and empathized with one another irrespective of their political and ideological differences. Many of them felt if more people could connect like this, they would be able to bring peace to Iraq.

Art of Living Course for Kurdistan, Iraq politicians

Some of them talked about how the workshop helped them move from “knowing” to “trusting”. This is what is actually needed to end long-drawn conflicts like the one Iraq is going through. Many admitted, the workshop helped them realize that beneath the differences, there is a common desire, a common goal to serve the people of Iraq. During my interaction with them over Skype, I felt we have a great opportunity for peace and progress if we could nurture this common thread.

All of them wanted the whole Parliament and all the ministers to do the Art of Living program. It’s heartwarming to hear these voices of solace from a country which has suffered so much conflict and destruction in the recent past.

Here are some of their experiences:

“The whole Parliament has to do this course and the Ministers should do it”

“If everybody in Iraq could do this, we would live in peace!”

“Before we did not know each other, did not want to know each other personally. Now we trust each other”!

“For the first time in 10 years I have been able to sleep properly. I want all my family to learn this. I want to practice this with my family!”

“We had seen so much trauma. And we were not able to sleep. Here we got much rest. I feel very comfortable and sleep very well now.”

“We are from four different parties but if we can talk together like we are one, then the problems will be solved.”

“We thought that we have leadership capacities from birth or not at all. But now we realized than we can learn them.”

“We feel like a family now!”

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Reflections on Prime Minister Modi’s swearing in ceremony https://www.srisriravishankar.org/pm-swearing-in-ceremony/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/pm-swearing-in-ceremony/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 09:20:06 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1345 Rituals and ceremonies are inevitable in any public function. Man cannot live without ceremonies nor society can survive without one. Whether religious or secular, ceremonies are vital to human society. Having said that, India needs to move past the types of official ceremonies that are simply the lackluster, regimental remnants of the colonial era. One such event was Prime Minister Modi’s oath taking ceremony.

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Rituals and ceremonies are inevitable in any public function. Man cannot live without ceremonies nor society can survive without them. Whether religious or secular, ceremonies are vital to human society. Having said that, India needs to move past the types of official ceremonies that are simply the lackluster, regimental remnants of the colonial era. One such event was Prime Minister Modi’s oath taking ceremony.

Although the occasion was historic, and there was a lot of enthusiasm among all the participants (except the ones who lost!), the ceremony was long and boring. I felt sorry for the dignitaries who came all the way from the SAARC countries – they had to sit there in the sweltering weather for 3 hours, listening to the same oath repeated 48 times. One does not invite guests only to bore them to tears. There was so much seriousness in everyone’s face. There was no music, no sense of celebration, and nothing colorful other than the president walking down many steps, which he may not have walked before.

In contrast, a traditional Indian coronation ceremony is much more colorful, and filled with music and dance. It would have been more appropriate to limit the numbers of individuals taking oaths to just the Prime Minister and half a dozen other cabinet member as a symbolic gesture. This could have been followed by speeches or words of appreciation from the visiting dignitaries, who would enrich the ceremony by bringing greetings from the people of their country. The Prime Minister would then acknowledge their presence, and reaffirm his commitment with a short speech, followed by music and traditional chanting.

Traditionally, in India when a King or Prime Minister is sworn in, he or she is sprinkled with waters from all the rivers and oceans of the land, reminding the leader of all that he or she needs to protect. In this manner, the leader takes an oath with the five elements bearing witness. Women then perform an aarti, and the Guru applies a tilak to the leader. Shehnai and nadaswarams, conches and drums play, and the youth dance in joy. With music and dance, the celebration concludes, followed by a grand feast. A ceremonial program should be such that there is something happening every moment that is interesting, keeping the guests engaged.

President Obama’s swearing in was much more captivating than the Indian swearing-in ceremony, where a few people even fainted. Compared to Prime Minister Modi’s ceremony, the swearing-in ceremony of Chandra Babu Naidu in AP was somewhat better, in the sense that there was a lot of pomp and show, and loud music to keep the 600,000 strong crowd engaged and involved.

Ceremonies, whether secular or religious, will capture the attention of the people if they are brief and engaging. If they are long, it creates boredom. Their purpose is to create a sense of sacredness and celebration. If boredom sets in, the very purpose of the ceremony is defeated.

Can we not make our ceremonies more charming?

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Reviving rivers, Reviving life https://www.srisriravishankar.org/reviving-rivers-reviving-life/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/reviving-rivers-reviving-life/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 06:14:11 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1316 In February 2013, a small group of volunteers from the Art of Living took up a project to revive the Kumudavati river on the outskirts of Bangalore, which had been dry for over four decades. I am very pleased to inform that the Lok Adalat of Karnataka High Court has recognized their good work and […]

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In February 2013, a small group of volunteers from the Art of Living took up a project to revive the Kumudavati river on the outskirts of Bangalore, which had been dry for over four decades. I am very pleased to inform that the Lok Adalat of Karnataka High Court has recognized their good work and has instructed all the District Administrations of the state to replicate the project to rejuvenate water bodies.

Deforestation, sand mafia and unplanned development activities have polluted the rivers and wreaked havoc with our bio-diversity. It is time to wake up to protect the environment. The Kumudavati River Rejuvenation Project has yielded noticeable results with very little expenditure. This project will impact 281 villages and enhance the water supply to Bangalore city.

Before cleaning

The small group of volunteers who started the project had to face a lot of scepticism and cynicism both from the government and the local population. But they went ahead and conducted awareness programs for villagers and various levels of government to make them realize its need. As the project progressed, hundreds of volunteers joined in. It was a sight to see urban youth in bright T-shirts digging with shovels side-by-side with the rural youth. It became a pleasant and rare urban-rural connect.

After cleaning

Building check dams

A large number of Nilgiri trees, which consume a lot of groundwater, had grown on the river bed. These trees were uprooted and thousands of saplings like peepal, banyan, neem, jackfruit and pongemia were planted in the surroundings. Boulder checks were constructed to control soil erosion and improve soil moisture retention. These and a variety of other measures taken soon resulted in raised ground water levels and revival of surface water. The river which existed only on maps for the last 40 years came back to life on land. The whole bio-diversity of the area is on the path to recovery.

After cleaning

Similar projects have been taken up for Arkavati, Vedavati and Palar rivers in Karnataka, Naganadi in Tamil Nadu and Gharni, Terna, Benitura and Tavarja rivers and Babhalgaon lake in Maharashtra many of which have seen completion.

It is the tireless effort and undying enthusiasm of thousands of volunteers that has made this possible. I encourage many more volunteers to take up similar projects in other parts of the country and world. This is true service to God and humanity.

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Time to rethink : Saffron surge and the secular debacle https://www.srisriravishankar.org/time-to-rethink-saffron-surge-and-the-secular-debacle/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/time-to-rethink-saffron-surge-and-the-secular-debacle/#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 09:00:15 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1294 “What appears is not and what does not, is” This ancient saying aptly describes the Indian political scenario. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) claims to be secular but just peel a few layers and you will find that it is steeped deep in communalism. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), on the other hand, […]

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“What appears is not and what does not, is” This ancient saying aptly describes the Indian political scenario. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) claims to be secular but just peel a few layers and you will find that it is steeped deep in communalism. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), on the other hand, which is accused of communalism, does all that it can to get rid of this label and walk that extra mile. No doubt scams, price rise, all pervading corruption, negative industrial growth (from +10% to -2.5%) and unemployment played a major role, but above all it was the communal attitude of the party and its overt tilt towards the Muslim minority that derailed the UPA.

India in general and Hindus in particular are largely secular, yet in this election they voted out all those parties who espoused secularism. People did not buy into repeated fear psychosis of the communal bogey. Perhaps, the Congress did not expect the Hindu majority to join together as one voice since they have always been divided on linguistic and caste-based lines.

Soon after assuming the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr. Manmohan Singh openly declared that minorities had the first right on India’s resources, driving a dagger through the hearts of Hindus, who had stood by him. Not once, during his entire tenure did the Prime Minister even acknowledge the magnanimity of the majority community. While many complained that they were not treated with dignity, sops were doled out for minorities to the tune of thousands of crores.

Principals were asked to identify minority students and open bank accounts through which scholarships were given. In some states ruled by UPA allies, a child gets Rs. 30,000 just for being from the minority community. This created a wedge in the classroom psyche and caused heartburn to other poor students from the majority. However, no such facilities were extended to the Hindu minority in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East. Poverty and illiteracy have no religion – every religion has poor people. Giving benefits based on religion is unconstitutional and such practises by political parties angered people. ‘The Majority Report’ a thorough research document written by two retired IPS officers (Shri Ram Kumar Ohri and Shri Jai Prakash Sharma) makes an interesting read on the subject.

Many decisions by the UPA proved destructive for institutions that are the foundations for the country’s democracy. Pranab Mukherjee who was the rightful choice for the post of PM was overlooked. PJ Thomas was appointed as Chief Vigilance Commissioner in spite of his bad record. The ruling alliance showed little respect towards the Supreme Court. The government machinery through agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate was made a tool for vindictive politics. The first family was quick to take credit at every possible opportunity but ended up denigrating the Office of the Prime Minister, which was shocking for the population. There are a lot of honest and well-intentioned people in the Congress but they felt suffocated, sad and disheartened at the state of affairs, as everything was controlled by a small coterie of people.

The proposed Communal Violence Bill presumed that the majority community was always the culprit and its members could be arrested with a non-bailable warrant. UPA came up with several such discriminatory laws. The government also directed public sector banks to be liberal while sanctioning and writing off loans to religious minorities.

The excesses in corruption under UPA kept becoming more and more embarrassing to explain and difficult to hide. Never before have so many files gone missing from important offices. It seems fire had a great affinity for the files of Congress government – the last fire accident happened in its last days while leaving office.

The UPA also showed utter disregard for Indian ethos. India, where the cow has been considered sacred since time immemorial, silently became the number one exporter of beef. This notorious development came as a big jolt. Subsidies were liberally given to beef exporters while farmers were committing suicide.

While minority religious leaders could be seen often with UPA leaders, Hindu saints were disregarded, if not hounded. Moreover, the minorities had full freedom to run their places of worship, but all major Hindu temples were controlled by the government.

The nation witnessed such discrimination under the garb of secularism. There were more communal clashes in states ruled by the secular UPA and its allies. People were fed up of leaders who read out scripted speeches containing the same old rhetoric without delivering on any promises. Rahul Gandhi barely attended the parliament and was never available during any national crisis. In sharp contrast, the conviction and confidence with which Narendra Modi spoke about development was just the change people were looking for. He proudly proclaimed his faith and expressed his commitment to the entire nation. While Congress tried its best to portray him as the perpetrator of the 2002 Gujarat riots, it became clear 10 years later that the Congress head of Godhrawas convicted for the train carnage triggering the violent episode.

Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi feature prominently on Congress hoardings all over the country, but two of his most important ideas – prohibition and banning cow slaughter, have been implemented only in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership. With a solid record in good governance, what further endeared him to the masses was that he spoke from the heart and thus became the natural choice for the people. Coming from a very poor background where his mother was a domestic help, his rise to the highest office of the world’s largest democracy has instilled hope in the poor people of the country.

In Indian society, one often finds a lot of adulation for religious leaders, cricketers and film stars. But the fawning around the Gandhi family in Congress goes way beyond. It is not that Congress has not done any good at all – they took some very progressive initiatives but the volume of wrongdoings washed it all away. It is time for the grand old party to rethink its strategy, get rid of sycophancy and be true to democracy.

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My first meeting with Narendra Modi https://www.srisriravishankar.org/my-first-meeting-with-narendra-modi/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/my-first-meeting-with-narendra-modi/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 19:43:01 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1283 As the new millennium approached, the buzz about the end of the world and impending catastrophe raised great panic in the West. People had gone paranoid selling their homes and hoarding groceries and I was travelling from coast to coast assuring them that no such thing would happen. Thankfully the World did not disappear and […]

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As the new millennium approached, the buzz about the end of the world and impending catastrophe raised great panic in the West. People had gone paranoid selling their homes and hoarding groceries and I was travelling from coast to coast assuring them that no such thing would happen. Thankfully the World did not disappear and it was business as usual!

In August, 2000, I was in New York City to address the UN Millennium World Peace Summit, which opened with an address by the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan. A huge contingent from the Indian subcontinent was present. Perhaps for the first time a large number of saffron clad swamis had come to a UN summit.

The speeches had been live translated in many languages, but not Hindi. Many of the swamis and acharyas could hardly understand the proceedings. There was palpable frustration and disappointment in the group. At that moment, I felt that we had far better organizational skills and the potential to do much bigger events.

The speakers were given five minutes each. I finished my speech within the stipulated time. Satyanarayan Goenkaji was to speak after me. He went on speaking beyond the stipulated time. The warning bell rang – once, twice, thrice, yet he continued. Eventually, he had to be stopped and taken away from the podium, causing an embarrassment to the Indian contingent.

After the summit, we were sitting in the lobby. A man in a blue Safari suit was sitting right across me. Goenkaji was seated next to him, complaining that he flew all the way for 18 hours, and was not even given half an hour to speak.  After a while, Dr B K Modi, the Coordinator for the Indian subcontinent for the Millennium World Peace Summit, introduced the man in blue safari as Sri Narendra Modi, an RSS pracharak. Narendra Modi greeted me and said, “Your speech was short and to the point and everyone appreciated it.” I was not sure if he was complimenting me or giving a subtle message about what had happened earlier in the day. I smiled and moved away.  This was my first encounter with Narendra Modi.

In December, 2001, a few months after Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, I received a phone call from Mehul, one of our coordinators in Ahmedabad. He told me that a reliable source had informed him of a riot being planned to create trouble for the new Modi government. The riots broke out in February, 2002 and numbed the nation into grief, sorrow and distrust. Nobody could and should condone the scale of violence that took place following the burning of karsevaks in a train.

Soon after the riots, the Art of Living volunteers started trauma care activities in relief camps. I visited many camps in Ahmedabad including the Shah Alam Camp. I listened to the plight of the victims from both the communities. It was a horror story laced with overflowing emotions and victim-hood. I came back to Bangalore without meeting the Chief Minister and we continued our relief efforts for many months.

I met prominent people on both sides to keep the interfaith dialogue going. A few people alleged that Sangh Pariwar had set their own people on fire in the train to create an excuse to attack the minorities. I disagreed.

It was in these sombre settings that I met Narendra Modi for the second time. I visited Gujarat again in 2004. By then, the battle lines were clearly drawn. Modi had become a pariah. Bashing him had become a fashion. People who differed even slightly with this trend were branded communal or belonging to RSS and VHP.

I decided to confront him directly. As soon as we settled down for our meeting, I looked into his eyes and asked him, “Did you do all that was in your capacity to stop these riots?” The directness of my question surprised him. After regaining his composure, he replied with moist eyes, “Guruji, do you also believe in this propaganda?”

Nothing much was spoken after that. I knew he could not have played a role in the riots. Why would a chief minister paint his face black and destroy his own reputation? It didn’t make any sense. We sat in silence for few minutes. I assured him that the truth was on his side and one day the whole nation would recognize him.

In the years that followed, whenever I would visit Gujarat, he would come and sit with me in meditation for a few minutes. Often he shared what work he had done in villages, knowing that rural development is dear to me. Sometimes, he would also participate in our satsangs. He is a staunch devotee of Ma Durga and has a very strong spiritual side that is not widely known.

I first met him in the US, where he has not been welcomed for several years. The last time he went there was in 2000 as a devout social worker. Much water has flown under the bridge in the last 14 years. His next visit might be as the head of the world’s largest democracy.

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Varying Hues Of Human Perception https://www.srisriravishankar.org/varying-hues-of-human-perception/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/varying-hues-of-human-perception/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 05:39:32 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1256 Human race is diverse, so too its cultures and belief systems. Though religion is born in a particular race and nation, today it has cut across boundaries of race and nationality. Although religion has maintained its own identity, it could not remain immune to the cultural influence of host countries. It is interesting to note […]

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Human race is diverse, so too its cultures and belief systems. Though religion is born in a particular race and nation, today it has cut across boundaries of race and nationality. Although religion has maintained its own identity, it could not remain immune to the cultural influence of host countries. It is interesting to note that what is considered blasphemy in one religion is considered a matter of pride in another. For example, in Hinduism, playing the role of prophets and saints is considered a privilege. Every year Ram Lila and Krishna Lila are played across India and innumerable people dress themselves up to play the parts of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Hanuman and others. In the Christian tradition as well, Nativity tableaus are performed and watched as a respectful tribute to Jesus. Many actors abstain from personal bad habits for the period of these roles. People even carry big crosses and retrace the steps of Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem to relive the crucifixion themselves. The basic concept is that when you imitate somebody, you imbibe their qualities. 

By contrast, in Islam, imitating or playing such a role is considered blasphemy and an insult to the Prophet. In fact, music, sculpture, dance and painting were banned in puritanical Islam. 

“The Prophet said that Allah commanded him to destroy all the musical instruments, idols, crosses and all the trappings of ignorance.” Hadith Qudsi 19:5

“Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings….” (Musnad Ahmad & Abu Dawud Tayalisi)

Man cannot be without these expressions of art. Slowly, the influence of Hinduism gave birth to Sufism. Although it was banned in strictly orthodox Islam, music slowly found it way back into society, though the puritans object to this even today.

Interestingly, a parallel of this can be found in the Bhagwad Gita as well.

buddhya visuddhaya yukto 
dhrtyatmanam niyamya ca 
sabdadin visayams tyaktva
raga-dvesau vyudasya ca  [Chapter 18, verse 51]

In the above verse and the few following it, Lord Krishna says that a seeker of Divinity should transcend all sensory objects like sound and sight. However, this is a practice for yogis for a period of time and not a lifestyle as such. While Hinduism, on the one hand, encourages music by calling it Naada Brahmn, on the other hand, it says that one has to transcend sound to reach Para Brahmn, the Ultimate Reality. These opposite values in Hinduism gave it a broad spectrum and they bring in a lot of tolerance.

While criticising, mimicking or accusing a politician is legal in some countries, in some others, it is an offence. The west takes pride in freedom of speech and allows people to express extreme opinions. However, in other places, such expressions can be an emotional assault on the sentiments of people. The outrage and violence that we have seen due to films like Innocence of Muslims says it all. What is appalling is that in the protests against the film, a large number of innocent muslims were killed.

In the end, it is we who attach meaning to an expression. Somewhere those who are very sensitive seem to lack sensibility and somewhere else people who are very sensible seem to lack sensitivity. What is needed is the perfect balance between sensitivity and sensibility in today’s globalised society.

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Layers of Democracy https://www.srisriravishankar.org/layers-of-democracy/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/layers-of-democracy/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:39:41 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1222 India with Her billion plus people is the largest democracy in the world. We have elections at various levels – village panchayat, zila parishad, block level, then state and finally, the national level elections. Unfortunately, many people have one yardstick for all of them and elect the same party for everything. But the issues and […]

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India with Her billion plus people is the largest democracy in the world. We have elections at various levels – village panchayat, zila parishad, block level, then state and finally, the national level elections. Unfortunately, many people have one yardstick for all of them and elect the same party for everything. But the issues and their scope is different at every level and one cannot have the same yardstick for all these elections. In fact, the strength of democracy is that every sphere can tackle its own issues autonomously. On the contrary, when the priorities at these levels mix, chaos reigns. Regional parties who try to play a national role create havoc and more hurdles for good governance because their vision remains limited. I would suggest people to clearly see the various issues facing the country at various levels.

At the village and taluka level, voters should focus not on the party but the capability of the locality’s candidate and his/her connectedness with the people. For the national level, the perspective should be to look for strong leadership at the top. State level requires a balanced approach. In all these cases, the character and conduct of a person plays is very important, although at the national level, if the choice is between the national party and a candidate of good character, the party should be given more preference. At the same time, I appeal to all political parties not to give tickets to people with a criminal background. They do this because such people have a vote bank. Therefore, we must have a vote bank of good people as well.

To have the maximum youth participate in this election, we launched a drive to register new voters in several places. I asked our enthusiastic volunteers to do a Happiness Survey and find out how many people have voter IDs. We were shocked to find out that in the slums of Delhi, many people had more than one voter ID. They can vote in Delhi and then go back and vote in their native constituency in other states. This seems to go with vested political interest. The audacity with which a well known politician has openly asked people to erase the voting mark on their fingers and go back to vote again is alarming. It is time the public wakes up and shows the door to this kind of unethical and corrupt elements.

People also tend to vote out of a blind sense of loyalty in this country – “My grandfather and father voted for a party, I will also vote for them.” Blind faith in parties should be done away with. We must choose based on the situation of the country rather than on past political affiliations of the family. The current situation is such that in terms of economy and industrial growth, the country is on a ventilator. The extent of corruption has breached all limits and a weak coalition government is the root of corruption. The need of the hour is a strong and stable government at the center that can boost the economy.

There is also an impulse to get swayed by emotions in making a choice, especially in the youth. Often people with good intentions end up making wrong decisions because their vision gets clouded by emotions. The situation of an intelligent voter today is similar to that of Arjuna. He was overwhelmed by feelings and unable to see clearly. Lord Krishna told him to set aside his emotions and fulfill his dharma in the interest of greater good. Our dharma as citizens in the upcoming national election is to make a choice for a firm, decisive and experienced leadership at the top that leads the country on a path of progress and prosperity.

I urge people to take responsibility to ensure that everybody among their friends and family cast their vote this time and vote wisely. Let voting be like a picnic celebration where the whole family or a group of families goes together without being daunted by the weather or the traffic. Let us do this as our sacred duty. This election is like an examination for all of us but I’m sure that after passing through this phase, our country will truly blossom.

[Note: This article was published in Times of India on April 7, 2014: http://bit.ly/PDtyT9]

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Let the race begin… but early! https://www.srisriravishankar.org/let-the-race-begin-but-early/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/let-the-race-begin-but-early/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 06:45:10 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1218 Every time elections happen in India, the country is thrown into a cauldron of corruption with party-hopping, rebellion, chaos, crime and confusion reigning supreme. Often nominations are announced at the last moment and many voters don’t even get an opportunity to see the faces of their future leaders let alone interact with them. Does the […]

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Every time elections happen in India, the country is thrown into a cauldron of corruption with party-hopping, rebellion, chaos, crime and confusion reigning supreme. Often nominations are announced at the last moment and many voters don’t even get an opportunity to see the faces of their future leaders let alone interact with them.

Does the largest democracy of the world need this chaos? Or can we bring in some reforms? Here we cannot forget the revolutionary changes ushered in by the tenth election commissioner T N Seshan. He put checks on the spending in elections and indiscriminate use of posters and vehicles for promotion.

As elections approach, there is a spurt in illegal activities such as horse trading and money laundering. During ticket distribution, crores of rupees change hands. Either the candidates are looking to make money or the parties are looking for moneyed candidates!

The process can be cleaned up to a large extent if candidates are announced 6 months in advance. On average, a Lok Sabha candidate has to cover 12000 to 14000 villages in his constituency. He/she has to connect with anywhere from 10 to 15 lakh voters. The candidates would need time to at least shake hands with 10% of them, if not all. How can one reach out to so many people in just three to four weeks?

A sustained exposure will also give enough time for people to figure out the character and attitude of the leaders they are going to elect. The one who connects with them well will end up leading them. It helps the political parties as well. If the candidate is found inefficient or unacceptable by the people or if there are complaints about him/her, the party has time to rethink and nominate a different candidate. It gives people time to understand their differences, sort them out or agree to live with them.

A leader should rise from the bottom winning the hearts of people rather than being imposed by the party high command. In a democracy, it is very important that the representatives understand who they represent and vice versa.

Often ticket distribution is done without understanding the ground reality. Many party workers are upset with the final list of candidates and turn rebellious as despite having worked hard, their voices are not heard. It is not that the candidate has to be a local always but even if someone from outside is nominated, they have to stay in the constituency, work, connect with people and prove themselves. This needs time.

Currently, the situation is that party election committees select candidates looking at caste equations, financial muscle or even due to whims and fancies of the members. Many times weak candidates are fielded so that the opponent can win. This unholy nexus between the parties can be exposed and avoided with a long lead time. It would be ideal if every party decentralized the selection process to involve the panchayats and zila parishads also.

Many times ticket distribution is a money-making racket. Sometimes, even opposition candidates are bought out by rival parties. If the ticket distribution system is streamlined and conducted well in advance, the election process will become simpler and a lot of election-related crimes and violence can be avoided. Indonesia is also going to elections this month like India and the list of contesting candidates was out as early as August last year.

If the candidates know their opponents well in advance, there will be a spirit of positive competition among them to serve the people in their electorate.

It takes a whole nation, with all its civil, legislative and judicial bodies, to make a healthy democracy. The question is do we really deserve a better government? Are we really serious about it?  Can we ever get out of caste and religion based politics? We have more questions than answers. Nevertheless we should keep asking ourselves these questions.

[Note: This article was published in DNA on April 6, 2014: http://bit.ly/1eikDMQ]

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Hope quashed, Opportunity missed https://www.srisriravishankar.org/hope-quashed-opportunity-missed/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/hope-quashed-opportunity-missed/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 05:06:37 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1211 When the Aaam Admi Party emerged on the Indian political horizon, the country was stirred by the prospect of young and dynamic leaders serious about cleansing the system. Although it began as an apolitical movement, I concurred with Arvind Kejriwal’s view that to cleanse politics, one must move into politics. For this reason, I have […]

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When the Aaam Admi Party emerged on the Indian political horizon, the country was stirred by the prospect of young and dynamic leaders serious about cleansing the system. Although it began as an apolitical movement, I concurred with Arvind Kejriwal’s view that to cleanse politics, one must move into politics. For this reason, I have been telling the Naxals to move from bullets to ballot. I was happy to see many young people participate in the last Assembly elections in Jharkhand.

The coterie culture of established political parties has left the common man with little scope for participation in the system other than casting votes. The new party created high hopes in millions of Indians who were tired of corruption and criminalization of politics.

Many signed up for membership of the new party, yearning to see a better India. Its people-to-people connection and sincerity of purpose made Delhi vote for it in a big way. It was good that, subsequently, they formed the government with Congress’ support. People expected the new government to take on the corrupt leaders. If the AAP government had fallen because of its positive action against corruption, it would have scored high on integrity. But they were ill-advised to resign so that they could get out of Delhi and sweep the nation. By doing this, Arvind showed himself to be no different from other politicians – the hidden ambition and agenda came to the forefront.

Cheap publicity stunts, self contradiction, over-ambition and autocracy tarnished the positive image of AAP and soon many respectable people became disillusioned and left. Now Arvind says that he is okay with a fractured mandate in this election and mid-term polls in two years’ time. This indicates a very callous attitude towards the nation’s economy and security.

He visited Gujarat for four days and hurled loose criticism at the state’s development. I have travelled through the length and breadth of Gujarat over the years. In the 90s and early 2000, to see a tree in Saurashtra was a rarity. It was so drought-prone that people had to sell their cattle often. But today there is greenery everywhere. Electricity supply was scarce – hardly two hours a day. Today there is water and electricity in almost every village and the per capita income has risen. While Gujarat may not be 100 per cent corruption free, I have no hesitation in saying that it is much better than what it used to be. Instead of being honest with facts, Arvind has chosen to put down Modi on flimsy grounds. One who hasn’t learnt to stand up has no right to criticize that someone’s dance is off rhythm.

If AAP is voted for a role in national politics and if Arvind does what he did in Delhi, it will be an absolute disaster for the country. India cannot afford to take such a risk when the country is on a ventilator with most economic parameters vulnerably placed. We need a stable government with a strong leadership at the Center for our economy to come back on track and spur development.

In a hurry to jump on the national scene, the party has compromised all principles that gave birth to it. AAP should have proved its mettle in Delhi and taken time to build up its cadre in other parts of the country. It should have gone to villages and contested panchayat and municipality elections and taken time to build a strong and committed cadre trained in governance. It could have forced the other parties to rethink their strategy of giving tickets to criminals and corrupt people. With a strong foundation, it would have been a boon to the nation. But with so many contradictions, AAP has squandered its agenda of political reform.

When Arvind captured people’s imagination with his sharp activism during the anti-corruption movement, he was primed to give an alternative to Indian politics. But after his recent antics, there is a sense of being let down even among those who were once his staunch supporters. HE CAME TO GIVE THE COUNTRY A CHOICE, BUT HAS LEFT THE COUNTRY CHOICELESS.

[This article appeared in Hindustan Times on April 4, 2014: http://bit.ly/1fDZDnx]

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Telangana – Divide and Rule? https://www.srisriravishankar.org/telangana-divide-and-rule/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/telangana-divide-and-rule/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 10:04:53 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1106 India is a phenomenon – the largest democracy on Earth, with a plethora of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It is simply a miracle that It still exists united, unlike the former Yugoslavian and Soviet countries. Though our forefathers had wisely divided the nation on linguistic basis for ease of administration and communication, the huge […]

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India is a phenomenon – the largest democracy on Earth, with a plethora of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It is simply a miracle that It still exists united, unlike the former Yugoslavian and Soviet countries. Though our forefathers had wisely divided the nation on linguistic basis for ease of administration and communication, the huge population and distances have forced many states to be further divided. One such crisis in the current scenario is Telangana. The situation of Telangana is very peculiar unlike Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand had to be carved out of UP as people in the hilly terrain of Tehri and Garhwal would take almost two days to reach the capital city, where most of the bureaucracy is situated. So it was justified that people of Uttarakhand wanted a separate state so that governance could be more efficient and communication more effective, giving a boost to economy and development in the region. The farther cities and towns are from the capital, the more they tend to get neglected with almost non-existent governance in some cases.

It was a similar case in Bihar where far flung areas, now in the state of Jharkhand, were considered a punishment posting for officers.  For the sake of good governance and prosperity, the carving of Jharkhand was totally justified. The same applies to the case of Chhattisgarh. It is the people of Chhattisgarh who wanted to separate and the Madhya Pradesh government accepted that demand for it was that much less burden on Bhopal. Due to lack of infrastructure the border districts of many states are not accessible and welfare is ignored, though not intentionally. To prevent disgruntlement in the far away districts due to this, Karnataka even shifted its capital for a few months to Belgaon, which had a tendency to join Maharashtra.

Telangana2

Coming to the Telangana issue, it is completely opposite. Here the capital city – Hyderabad is in Telangana, and all the investment and development has poured into it. Over a third of the economy of the entire state is based in the capital. This being the condition, it is the coastal Andhra or Rayal Seema people who should have demanded a separate state for self governance. While these two regions do not want to separate, there is no logic for people in the capital not wanting to have their association with Andhra. It doesn’t make much sense why a government would want to abdicate parts of its own state while states like Nagaland are demanding inclusion of more districts from other states for Greater Nagaland. It appears completely unfair to push away people when they want to be a part of united Andhra Pradesh. If the Nizam was alive, he would have loved to have more area in his state rather than shrink it. Usually it is the children who want to separate from the joint family but in this case it is the father who is pushing them away. For what benefit? The basis of separation is not very clear other than for vote bank politics.

One of the main grievances of Telangana is that the people of Seemandhra dominate almost every aspect of the state. No one from Telangana was ever stopped from getting involved in the political or economic arena of the state. The talented and hardworking will always capture attention wherever they are, just like Gujaratis, Parsis, Jains and Marwadis are dominant almost everywhere.

There are pockets of underdeveloped areas everywhere. There are slums even in Hyderabad, though equal opportunities are available to everyone. Time bound reservation packages for the upliftment of the community could also have addressed any such grievances. All in all, to an onlooker, the reason for separation remains a puzzle. The language and culture being the same across Andhra Pradesh, it remains to be seen how the bifurcation will work out because there has been such an intermixing of people from one area to another.

There is an ancient Sanskrit saying,

“Yo vai bhuma tat sukham, na alpe sukham asti”

That which is big and great is joyful; there is no joy in being small.

Just because the people of a region are dominating, pushing them away does not solve everything. The long term development of any region will only happen through education and empowerment, not through division.

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Looking back, looking ahead https://www.srisriravishankar.org/looking-back-looking-ahead/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/looking-back-looking-ahead/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 05:44:24 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=1036 Any reason is a good reason to celebrate for celebration is the nature of our Spirit. New year is a time when the spirit of celebration engulfs the whole world. This is also an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and take stock of what lessons we learnt. In life, things are to […]

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Any reason is a good reason to celebrate for celebration is the nature of our Spirit. New year is a time when the spirit of celebration engulfs the whole world. This is also an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and take stock of what lessons we learnt. In life, things are to be learnt and forgotten – learnt so that you do not repeat the same mistakes and forgotten so that they do not leave you traumatized.

We began the year on a very sad note with the Nirbhaya incident. The whole atmosphere in the country was that of disbelief and anger. Although this year too had its share of tragedies – both natural and man-made, there were many positives as well. Many thought that the wave against corruption that arose in the country two years ago ended as a lost cause. But that wave has sustained and become a genuine collective resolve to build a better India. The credit for this goes to the youth of our country. The Lokpal Bill that has been passed, although not perfect, is a step in the right direction. The high voter turnout in state assembly polls last month is also a very encouraging sign and shows that we have woken up as a nation. At the same time, a lot needs to be done. The most immediate task at hand is ensuring that everybody around us is registered for voting before the general elections in 2014.

People ask me very often how I see the future. And I say that the future is for them to build, however they want it. The unwise regret the past, think the future is destiny and are miserable in present. The wise see their past as destiny, the future as free will and are happy in the present.

However significant the events of the past year were at the time, looking back, you cannot see them all as anything but a dream. Reflecting on these events, what stands out is the impermanent nature of all things. Events are like stones and pebbles in the great river of time which keeps flowing unabated.

Just like we live in the outer world of events and circumstances, we also live in the inner world of emotions and feelings, which we are not always aware of. Meditation is the best tool to wipe your mind clean off all past impressions that weigh you down. The distance between the outer and the inner worlds is just the blink of an eye.

Yoga is the skill of keeping attention on the inner world while acting in the outer. When you are lost in the outside world, there is disharmony in the inner and life is like a war. When you are established in the inner world, there is clarity in the outer and life becomes a game.

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Remembering Mahatma Gandhi https://www.srisriravishankar.org/remembering-mahatma-gandhi/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/remembering-mahatma-gandhi/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:48:15 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=962 Mahatma Gandhi had a significant influence on our family and my childhood. My paternal grandfather stayed at Sabarmati Ashram and served Mahatma Gandhi there for twenty years. My grandmother took her children to her parents’ home and willingly gave away all ten and a half kilos of her gold jewelry saying, “I will take care […]

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Mahatma Gandhi had a significant influence on our family and my childhood. My paternal grandfather stayed at Sabarmati Ashram and served Mahatma Gandhi there for twenty years. My grandmother took her children to her parents’ home and willingly gave away all ten and a half kilos of her gold jewelry saying, “I will take care of the children. You go and serve the country.”

My teacher Pt. Sudhakar Chaturvedi was also a teacher to Mahatma Gandhi whom he taught the Bhagavad Gita. He is still alive and is a 116 years old. Gandhi used to call him Bangalori, since he is from Bangalore. Once, they was lodged in Yerawada jail in Pune and Kasturba was on her deathbed. When Gandhi realized that she may not survive the day, he asked Pt. Chaturvedi to read the second chapter of the Gita. There is a verse in it that describes the qualities of one who is established and centered in knowledge – Sthitapragna. Gandhi said, “Bangalori, today is the test of your Bapu. Let us see if I can maintain equanimity of mind today. My wife and partner for over 50 years is leaving her body. I have done such injustice to this woman. I always forced her to do things she did not want to do. I’ve been so cruel to her and her children. But she stayed with me till her last breath. She is the real saint, not me.” He made this admission during her last moments as she died in his arms.

He was a great advocate of non-violence and compassion towards animals. Once he saw a cow being milked so hard that her udders started bleeding. From that day, he left having cow’s milk and would only have goat’s milk. He said the right to the cow’s milk goes to the calf first. He was so sensitive towards the cow and today, India has become the #1 exporter of beef. Millions of cows have been slaughtered in this country over the last few years. He was a strong proponent of prohibition against alcohol but nobody says that. He stood firmly against religious conversion but nobody talks about that. It is so sad to see that all that Mahatma Gandhi stood for has been totally demolished in his own country.

The youth of our country should wake up and follow these values, which have tremendous strength in them. He used to do satsang everyday. In fact, this is the reason that his movement reached the masses and was successful. His satsangs brought hundreds and thousands of people together who united with his mission.

Today, the situation is as critical as it was in Gandhi’s time. We are again passing through a phase of transformation and we need to stand united with the larger vision of a better future for our country. Let us take responsibility for a better India and create a wave of enthusiasm and hope like Mahatma Gandhi did.

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The deeper meaning of Janamashtami https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-deeper-meaning-of-janamashtami/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-deeper-meaning-of-janamashtami/#comments Sat, 31 Aug 2013 05:04:20 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=928 The beauty in our ancient stories is that they were never made location-specific or time-specific. Ramayana or Mahabharata are not just events that happened a long time ago, they are happening everyday in our lives. The essence of these stories is eternal. There is a deeper meaning to the story of Krishna’s birth too. Devaki […]

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The beauty in our ancient stories is that they were never made location-specific or time-specific. Ramayana or Mahabharata are not just events that happened a long time ago, they are happening everyday in our lives. The essence of these stories is eternal.

There is a deeper meaning to the story of Krishna’s birth too. Devaki symbolizes the body and Vasudev symbolizes the life force (prana). When prana rises in the body, joy (Krishna) is born. But the ego (Kamsa) tries to eliminate joy. Kamsa is Devaki’s brother which indicates that ego is born along with the body. A person who is happy and joyful does not create trouble for anyone. It is the one who is unhappy and emotionally wounded who ends up causing disruption. Those who feel injustice has been done to them end up being unjust to others out of their hurt ego.

The biggest adversary of ego is joy. Ego cannot survive and has to bow down where there is joy and love. A person can hold a very high position in society, but he melts in front of his own little child. When the child falls ill, however strong the person is, they feel a little helpless. Ego simply melts when confronted with love, simplicity and joy. Krishna is the epitome of joy, the quintessence of simplicity and the very source of love.

Devaki’s and Vasudev’s imprisonment by Kamsa signifies that when the ego takes over, the body feels like a prison. When Krishna was born, the prison guards fell asleep. The guards here are the senses which protect the ego because they are turned outward when awake. Inner joy sprouts in us when the senses turn inwards.

Krishna is also known as the butter thief. Milk is the essence of nourishment and curd is a cultured form of milk. When curd is churned, butter comes up and floats on top. It is nourishing and yet light, not heavy. When our intelligence is churned, it becomes like butter. When knowledge dawns in the mind, one gets established in one’s Self. Such a person remains unattached to this world and his mind does not sink in it. Krishna stealing butter is a symbolism depicting the glory of love. So attractive is Krishna’s charm and skill that he steals the minds of even the most dispassionate.

Why does Krishna have the peacock feather on his head? A king is responsible for the whole society and that responsibility can become a burden, which sits on the head as the crown. But Krishna fulfills all his responsibility effortlessly, like a game. A mother never feels taking care of her children is a burden. Similarly, Krishna wears his responsibility lightly and plays his roles colorfully, just like the peacock feather on his crown.

Krishna is the most attractive, joyful space within all of us. When there is no restlessness, worry or desire in the mind, you are able to get deep rest. And it is in deep rest that Krishna is born.

The message of Janamashtami is that it is time to bring a wave of joy in society. Become seriously joyful!

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The strange ways of Gurus https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-strange-ways-of-gurus/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-strange-ways-of-gurus/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 07:58:36 +0000 http://srisriravishankar.org/?p=844 Once upon a time, a Guru was giving darshan to a congregation. People were coming and bowing down, seeking blessings. Gurudev was silent most of the time and when somebody would come and share their troubles, looking for a response, he would say only one thing – “You are very lucky”. One person came to […]

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Once upon a time, a Guru was giving darshan to a congregation. People were coming and bowing down, seeking blessings. Gurudev was silent most of the time and when somebody would come and share their troubles, looking for a response, he would say only one thing – “You are very lucky”. One person came to him and said, “I failed in my exam.” Gurudev said, “Well, you are very lucky.” Another came and said,

“My wife has left me.”

“You are very lucky.”

No matter what problems people shared – “None of my friends are talking to me” or “I lost my job”, Gurudev kept telling them that they were very lucky. Even though it was the same response, strangely, those people would walk away happily, as though they received the right advice for their situation. After a while, one person came forward and shared, “Gurudev, I feel very lucky and I am so grateful that I have you in my life.” When Gurudev heard this, he got annoyed and gave this person a tight slap. Even more strangely, this man, with tears in his eyes, started dancing in gratitude.

Another person who was watching all this, got totally confused at everybody’s behavior. But he could not gather enough courage to ask Gurudev directly. So he went to a senior disciple and confided, “I can’t make any sense out of what I saw. Could you please explain to me the meaning of all this?” On being asked to give an interpretation of the Guru’s actions (which devotees love to do anyway), this person replied, “It was perfect what Gurudev did! The first person realized he was lucky because when you fail in an exam, you end up studying it more thoroughly. The person who lost his job and the one whose friends left him are lucky because they now have some time to introspect. People in jobs never have any time and one has to be really lucky to get some time in life to reflect on the Truth, on ‘who am I’. The person whose wife ran away is lucky because now he can learn what mistakes he made in his relationship. He now has an opportunity to become sensitive to his wife’s welfare and that’s why Gurudev’s words made him happy.

There are three levels of human consciousness. The first and the lowest is pure inertia, when one does not feel anything. The second is when one realizes that there is misery in life. Buddha took people from inertia to awareness of misery. Every misery wakes you up and that is when dispassion and discrimination dawn in you. That is why many people become spiritual when they see sorrow in life. The third step is realizing that life is all blissful. This is where the Guru Tattva (Principle) is needed. In the presence of the Guru, misery gets transformed into bliss.”

“But why did the last person who was grateful get a slap?”

“Because when he said, ‘I am grateful’, he was still centered around the ‘I’. When he got that slap, he realized that even to be grateful, there need to be two. The Master told him, ‘Me and you? Two? Come on, wake up. There is only One Brahman.’ When you realize this, misery vanishes from life.

Usually people exist, they don’t live. Existing without life is ignorance. Living as if you don’t exist is enlightenment.

Shoonyata and Poornata – meditation and celebration go together and today, Guru Poornima, is the day for both.

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Uttarakhand Relief Work https://www.srisriravishankar.org/uttarakhand-relief-work/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/uttarakhand-relief-work/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 09:43:40 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=181 I have been receiving reports of what our volunteers have been doing to bring relief to the tragedy-struck region of Uttarakhand. I wanted to share an overview of the tremendous work being done. 100 trucks of relief material from various parts of the country have been sent to Uttarakhand A team of about 300 volunteers […]

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I have been receiving reports of what our volunteers have been doing to bring relief to the tragedy-struck region of Uttarakhand. I wanted to share an overview of the tremendous work being done.

  • 100 trucks of relief material from various parts of the country have been sent to Uttarakhand
  • A team of about 300 volunteers has been working in different areas of the region.
  • They have been working with the para-military forces and the Disaster Management Team assisting them in rescue operations.
  • Apart from gathering and distributing food material, medicines and other essentials, they are also engaged in conducting trauma-relief camps for survivors. Conditions have been tough to carry out operations due to the scale of the calamity and difficult weather.
  • Volunteers have also helped bridge the communication gap where stranded survivors don’t understand the reasons behind the delay in their rescue, allaying fears and keeping spirits high.
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Swami Divyanand and Swami Vishwachaitanya are coordinating relief operations in Uttarakhand.

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Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun was the transit point where survivors were brought after rescue via choppers. Volunteers helped the IAF and Disaster Management Team in dispatching supplies and counselling the survivors.

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Loading relief material in the helicopters

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Teams of doctors put up medical camps assisted by volunteers

aid

Supporting survivors who need care and attention

supply

Many youngsters have come forward and carried food supplies and other relief material to disconnected villages. The survivors in these villages were families of tour guides waiting for them to come back. All their belongings, including livestock had been washed away. These youngsters formed teams and reached many such inaccessible villages and gathered groups of villagers to come and take supplies from these makeshift supply points.

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There is a shortage of covered storage area for the supplies.

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Helping clear out the debris from houses

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De-stressing session for BRO GREF personnel, who are involved in rebuilding damaged roads.

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Non-stop rescue work caused stress and fatigue in the armed forces personnel. Meditation sessions helped rejuvenate them continue their work with more energy.

ME Negotiating a landslide...

The terrain to reach villages in the upper terrain is extremely tough as roads have been entirely destroyed.

So far, relief camps have been setup in Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Dharasu, Saigul (Tehri), Chinyali, Guptkashi, Srinagar, Harsil, Kharabi, Gochar, Chandrapuri, Hanumanchetti, Uttarkashi, Rana Chetti, Srikot, Agastyamuni, Ukhimath, Kund, Arkhund, Kotma, Sonprayag, Triyugi Narayan, Athali, Tilwara and Mathali. After the evacuation, roads are being cleared up to reach places that have been cut-off all these days. The challenge is to reach supplies to these places and also to reassure the survivors to come and fetch supplies from camps because the distance is several kilometers and accessibility is hard even with mules.

Everybody involved – the armed forces, NGOs and volunteers, overcome many challenges on a daily basis in this operation. Their efforts and spirit remind us that there is a lot of goodness in society. Those of you who would like to go to Uttarakand and volunteer may contact

Shweta Golani – 9837246264

Bhartendu Sethi – 9896790734

Vijay Radadia – 9327387873.

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Keeping the Faith https://www.srisriravishankar.org/keeping-the-faith/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/keeping-the-faith/#comments Sun, 07 Jul 2013 18:36:35 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=174 To move towards growth in life, we require faith in three things – in oneself, in the goodness in society and in God. However, looking at the recent incident in Kedarnath, where so many innocent lives were lost, one wonders if God exists. If He does, why would He do such things to His own […]

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To move towards growth in life, we require faith in three things – in oneself, in the goodness in society and in God. However, looking at the recent incident in Kedarnath, where so many innocent lives were lost, one wonders if God exists. If He does, why would He do such things to His own devotees? It is on these occasions that faith becomes fragile and one tends to lose it. However, it is also on these occasions that faith is most needed too. We must remember that God is impartial; He is present everywhere and not confined to particular location, although pilgrimage centers are centers of high energy bringing solace and touching the innermost chord of faith. When disaster happen in such places those who die anyway attain Him, those who are saved thank Him and retain their faith but it is the relatives of the departed, whose faith goes through a testing time. They reel with the question, “Why? Why? Why?” and it is quite natural that they turn negative. When your near and dear ones leave suddenly, your faith is shaken but faith is what helps pull you through the tragedy.  We do not get anything by losing our faith. In fact, faith holds our mind together in times of crisis and prevents it from falling even more in despair and blame. This is a time for prayer. When fear takes over our mind, prayer helps keep it steady. Let us pray for peace to those whom we have lost and for strength to their families to overcome this grave tragedy.

Let us also be grateful for all the lives that have been saved. The passion with which volunteers have come forward to help out in this calamity stands to show that there is a lot of humaneness in people. Stories of crime and corruption in the news may cloud it, but we must not lose our faith in the goodness in society. If we start believing it is full of thugs and thieves, we cannot function at all. Having faith in the people and the world around us is essential to move ahead.

Finally, having faith in ourselves, we must do what is within our capability as well. For example, millions of people visit our pilgrimage places, but we do not have arrangements to handle that kind of crowd there. Except a few, all of them are in bad shape due to neglect. We cannot totally stop natural disasters from happening but we can certainly be prepared for them. Many such places, including Kedarnath, don’t even have proper roads. The passage to Amarnath is just a few feet wide and caters to lakhs of pilgrims going up and coming down at the same time. Even the shortest way, through Baltal, is a 14km long one way trek through hilly terrain without a place to rest or any arrangement to carry someone in an emergency or a blockage. When these places attract people in such large numbers, they need to be developed accordingly with better facilities, medical support, transport and communication systems.

At the same time, the paranoia in the minds of people about going on pilgrimages due to the Kedarnath flash floods must be addressed. We do not stop flying because of air crashes or going on the road because of accidents. Without faith, we are frightened by events, feeling lost and anchorless. Difficult times can bring out our hidden courage and potential in more ways than one and unshakable faith gives us the strength to smile even through catastrophes.

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Leadership: From mob to movement https://www.srisriravishankar.org/leadership-from-mob-to-movement/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/leadership-from-mob-to-movement/#comments Sun, 30 Jun 2013 11:03:14 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=172 Leadership is a manifestation of strong love and compassion for people. It represents a commitment to principles. In that sense, a certain degree of leadership is dormant in every individual. The challenge comes when one has to nurture it. A true leader—whether political, religious or social—has many challenges to face. The capacity to express one’s […]

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Leadership is a manifestation of strong love and compassion for people. It represents a commitment to principles. In that sense, a certain degree of leadership is dormant in every individual. The challenge comes when one has to nurture it.

A true leader—whether political, religious or social—has many challenges to face. The capacity to express one’s commitment varies from individual to individual. It is often clogged by one’s likes and dislikes. Yet, a leader has to view everyone with the same outlook, appraise everyone with the same yardstick. He has to find discrimination as well as the much-needed wisdom to act at the right time.

The society he lives in and the groups he represents are not homogeneous and one cannot satisfy everybody. Yet, a leader has to carry everyone along and do justice to everybody. A leader has to withstand criticism and not react emotionally to situations. Often leaders are surrounded by sycophants who try to boost their egos for their own personal agenda. A leader does need hands and feet and has to depend on people around him. At the same time, he should not find himself in a position where he gets confined in a fortress of his close aides or becomes a captive of his admirers.

One of the most desired qualities of a true leader is the courage to stretch his hands toward his critics and have the patience to listen to them. A true leader takes failures with as much equanimity as he would successes that come to his doorstep. These days leaders are defensive all the time, explaining their shortcomings or justifying their wrong actions. A true leader will neither complain nor explain, and is open to learning all the time. Admitting a past mistake and creating space for others with completely diverse viewpoints can make a leader more acceptable, universal. A leader does not pass the buck.

A true leader balances ideology and practicality, long-term goals with short-term needs. Those who stick only to idealism cannot become leaders and those who think they are very practical and without any ideology also bite the dust.

A leader cannot be either generic or specific. He has to strike the balance between personal attention to people and the generic vision for the group, community or country he leads.

A leader should have the courage to accept his weak moments. He should understand that people are magnanimous. They would appreciate his straightforwardness and accept his shortcomings rather than him trying to hide them.

Some leaders are too diplomatic while others are too straightforward in their approach. While people do not trust those who are very diplomatic, they do not want anything to do with those who are very blunt and justify their rudeness in the garb of straightforwardness. People who are very straightforward and blunt in their approach often don’t find followers. It is like tuning a guitar. If the strings are stretched too tight you cannot play it, and if the strings are too loose you cannot create music either. A leader has to strike the balance between diplomacy and straightforwardness.

While self-righteous people create distaste in others, those who take credit for every good action are equally distanced. A leader should acknowledge others’ contributions and at the same time see that these contributions don’t get to their heads.

A leader can create a mob but he should know that a mob is short lived. A shortsighted leader creates a mob; a leader with wisdom creates a movement. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are examples of inspirational leaders who created movements.

All this may sound utopian, but in reality, if you look keenly into the lives of the most successful leaders, you will find all these qualities naturally manifest at some time or the other. You don’t have to do much to inculcate these qualities; just their awareness is good enough to make a good leader.

Be one. The world needs you.

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Five types of questions https://www.srisriravishankar.org/five-types-of-questions/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/five-types-of-questions/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 14:21:01 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=159 The spark behind every great discovery that has taken place on this planet has been the spirit of inquiry  When that inquiry is directed outwards – “What is this? How does it happen?” it is science and when it is directed inwards – “Who am I? What am I here for? What do I really want?” it is […]

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The spark behind every great discovery that has taken place on this planet has been the spirit of inquiry  When that inquiry is directed outwards – “What is this? How does it happen?” it is science and when it is directed inwards – “Who am I? What am I here for? What do I really want?” it is spirituality.

We have a daily informal gathering every evening and after some group singing, I take questions from those present. Over so many years, I must have been asked hundreds of thousands of questions on various topics. Even though the number of possible questions that can be asked is huge, there are really only five types of questions.

  1. Out of misery: Many times people ask questions when they are feeling miserable. They are usually of the nature “Why did this happen to me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?” etc. When you see someone asking a question out of pain, just listen to them. They just want somebody to hear them out. They are not really looking for an answer.
  2. Out of anger: “I did nothing wrong. I was right. Why am I being blamed? Why is this happening?” This is the kind of questions that arise out of anger. Here also, the person is caught in the whirlpool of their feelings and emotions and they want to justify them by asking such questions. When somebody is in such a volatile state of mind, no matter what answer you give, it doesn’t go in. On the contrary, it gives rise to more questions and justifications.
  3. To draw attention: Some people ask questions just to show everyone that they are also there. Their satisfaction lies in asking the question so that everybody notices them rather than finding the answer.
  4. To test: There are some who ask questions to test if the other person knows. They already have an answer in their mind and want to compare if the other’s answer matches with theirs.
  5. With sincerity: The fifth type of questions is asked by people who sincerely want to know something and have faith that the person they are asking knows and will tell them. It is only this type of question that should be answered.

Most of the ancient scriptures – whether it is the Bhagvad Gita, Yoga Vasishtha, Ashtavakra Gita, Tripura Rahasya or the Upanishads, begin with a question. The questions that have been asked here are not merely out of curiosity but also with a sense of closeness. Upanishad itself means sitting close to the Master, not just physically but feeling close to the Master. Knowledge needs an atmosphere of belongingness to flourish. The closer you feel to the Master, the more knowledge unfolds by itself.

Every particle of this Existence is brimming with intelligence – the seed knows when to sprout and the flower knows when to bloom. All of life that is happening in this Creation is expressing that Infinite Intelligence. When you begin to behold this breathtaking phenomenon taking place all around you, all your questions start dissolving into an overwhelming sense of wonder. And that is the Art of Living.

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Different faces of life https://www.srisriravishankar.org/different-faces-of-life/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/different-faces-of-life/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 12:25:42 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=150 The ancient scriptures say that we are all floating like shells in a vast ocean of life. Even though everybody is born out of the same Consciousness, no two lives are the same. As diverse as our lives are, they are inter-dependent on each other and there is something to learn from everyone. To get […]

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The ancient scriptures say that we are all floating like shells in a vast ocean of life. Even though everybody is born out of the same Consciousness, no two lives are the same. As diverse as our lives are, they are inter-dependent on each other and there is something to learn from everyone.

To get an all-round exposure to life, take out five days – not too many, just five days.

Spend one day – morning to evening, with a farmer. Go with him to the farm early morning and see whatever he does all day. You will become sensitive towards the environment, towards food. A third of the food in the world is wasted and thrown. Spending the day watching the farmer will let us know the hard work and resources that go into producing food and we will think twice before wasting it.

Spend one day in jail (but without committing a crime). You will realize that the people we label as criminals and put in prisons landed there due to circumstances, due to ignorance. When anger grips a person, they are not in control of their actions. If you ask the most hardened criminal, they will say, “I didn’t do it. Something came over me and it just happened.” It will become evident that inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. Compassion will arise in your heart. If you have hatred in your heart towards anybody, that hatred will vanish.

On the third day, become a school teacher. You will understand why a guru is needed. Wherever you are in life, there are so many that you can help and guide. It brings a deep satisfaction within. It’s not that only those with long hair and beard can be gurus. Everybody can play the role for at least some people. You don’t really need a special skill to be a guru, you need compassion. Being a teacher, you can channel that compassion to people. “I want nothing but my student should progress.” Such unconditional love comes to our life.

Spend the fourth day in a mental institution. Whatever anybody in a mental hospital says to you, whatever names they call you, you won’t take it to heart. After spending a day when anybody can say anything to you, you will develop the strength to face criticism without being shaken. Not only will you be strong enough to accept all criticism, you will have compassion for those who criticize you. We get anxious over small matters. “What does he/she think about me?” We are shaken and then we react to these things. You should have the courage to give criticism and the courage to receive criticism as well. If we teach our children this, they will grow into strong and stable members of society.

Spend one day in the cemetery or funeral home. You will have a very close and intense experience of the impermanence of life. Whatever complaints you have will vanish. Having the experience that death can come anytime will change your perspective on life for good.

Just a formal education is not enough. It is important to explore different dimensions of life to get a holistic education. When we keenly see the different facets of life unfolding around us, it makes us centered and established in our Self.

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A ban doesn’t always work https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-ban-doesnt-always-work/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-ban-doesnt-always-work/#comments Tue, 29 Jan 2013 16:22:06 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=140 A lot is being said about the controversy over Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroopam and its ban in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, there was another movie a few months ago, that labeled all Hindu customs and symbols as hoaxes and all spiritual leaders as frauds. There were many Hindu organizations who were ready to protest, but my […]

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A lot is being said about the controversy over Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroopam and its ban in Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly, there was another movie a few months ago, that labeled all Hindu customs and symbols as hoaxes and all spiritual leaders as frauds. There were many Hindu organizations who were ready to protest, but my advice to them was not to give undue publicity and promote the movie by protesting against it. And that’s what happened – it ran for a few weeks and people forgot about it. If you want to make a movie popular, ban it and protest against it. It will only benefit the moviemaker and once they get a taste of this, they continue making similar movies.

People know movies are fiction and need not be taken seriously. In spite of all that was said in this movie, the actors themselves go to temples. It has not been able to put an end to idol worship or people visiting ashrams. In this sense, the movie has not made a big dent in the culture or an impact on the people. Similarly, ‘Da Vinci Code’ was a movie on Jesus’s life that came out a few years ago. It ran all over the world, even in Italy, but it was banned in Tamil Nadu.

In this world, you cannot legally ban everything everywhere. Many such things that have been banned are available anyway, including Salman Rushdie’s books and DVDs of ‘Da Vinci Code’. I would appeal to the Muslim community not to insist on keeping the ban on Vishwaroopam when it may not be possible legally. By banning such things, not only people from other communities but Muslims themselves become curious to see what wrong things have been written or shown.

Even after a ban, people find ways to get these things. Already, there are copies of the movie on the internet. People are so active and expressive over social media that anybody can write anything about anyone. There is no control. This being the situation, it may not do any good by simply protesting. Rather, the result might be contrary to what you intend and more people might end up watching the movie. A ban would also earn a bad name for the Muslim community that it is extremist or intolerant or promotes cultural terrorism. We don’t want such tags on our Muslim brethren. For several centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived with such kinship. I want to assure our Muslim brethren that the mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims in Tamil Nadu is so good that nobody will be able to tear this fabric. I don’t think a movie will make any difference to the bond between the two communities.

If anyone insults a prophet or saint or customs of any community, it can only be laughed at. There are a number of such videos insulting every single religion in the world. There are hundreds of movies, even in Tamil Nadu, that show Hinduism in a bad light. But Hinduism has not taken a beating. I would say that the best thing to do is to ignore such things and move forward. Kamal Haasan has said that his intention is not to hurt anybody’s sentiment. We should give him the benefit of doubt and move on. This would be my submission to the leaders of the Muslim community.

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Social media for social transformation https://www.srisriravishankar.org/social-media-for-social-transformation/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/social-media-for-social-transformation/#comments Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:43:31 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=135 Media has always been a significant pillar of society. Media doesn’t just report happenings, they build public opinion. This puts the media in a powerful position in a democracy and wherever there is power there is a chance of misuse of that power. In some countries, powerful media houses are said to have influenced election […]

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Media has always been a significant pillar of society. Media doesn’t just report happenings, they build public opinion. This puts the media in a powerful position in a democracy and wherever there is power there is a chance of misuse of that power. In some countries, powerful media houses are said to have influenced election results by portraying people and events a certain way. In India too, some time back a connection between prominent people in the media and some politicians came to light.

The media space has changed a lot with the emergence of social media ( SM ). With SM, the public has eyes and ears everywhere. They are not limited to camera crews of a few TV channels. SM is a platform that showcases public opinion such that it cannot be easily doctored. It reflects the pulse of the society. Even conventional media channels also keep an eye on ongoing SM trends.

In recent past, we have seen so many top news stories originate from SM. Apart from highlighting issues that are socially relevant and crucial, SM has also exposed the disconnect between the government and the population. People are more aware of what our leaders are up to and exchange notes on how laws and policies affecting them are being made. Gone are the days when the government could pass laws behind closed doors without the public realizing it for months. Thanks to SM, discussion on political issues and implications is widespread and immediate.

Some politicians thrive on keeping communities apart and playing one’s interests over the other to secure their vote banks. As boundaries between people blur over SM, and they become more aware and better informed, this will no longer be easy to do. One needs to be more aware and alert while making speeches or statements. People see through any gimmick done with an ulterior motive and any sign of a narrow mindset comes in for severe criticism.

Like all powerful tools, SM should also be used with utmost care and responsibility failing which it can cause damage to the society. In the London riots of 2011, arsonists used SM widely to plan and execute their attacks. More recently, in India, SM was used to spread panic causing a massive exodus of people from North-eastern states living in Bangalore and Hyderabad to their native places.

However, with its potential to bring people together, SM also holds immense promise as a tool for social change. We have recently seen many successfully executed protests organized over SM that have made the right impact. Another application of SM could be to effectively utilize the vast diversity of human resource that India has which is still lying untapped. For instance, in Volunteer for a Better India, somebody announces a medical camp in a locality on a date and others join in. Likewise, somebody announces a tree plantation or a cleaning drive and people support the initiative with their time or resources.

We are clearly passing through a phase of transformation. India is a nation of youth who have a big role to play in that transformation. SM is a medium that connects them and gives them voice. This voice is growing louder. It is a welcome sign.

[Watch Sri Sri answer key questions from activists, actors, filmmakers, cricketers, other celebrities and general public on “What can we do to create a violence-free, stress-free society?” Hangout on Sri Sri’s Google+ page, January 26th, 8.30pm IST. tiny.cc/srisrihangout]

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The 13th Doctorate https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-13th-doctorate/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-13th-doctorate/#comments Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:17:10 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=127   Man without education, Education without skills, Skills without character, Character without action, Action without direction, are signs of failed nation. — while being conferred an honorary Doctorate from Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad on January 19, 2013

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19-01-2013-GOVERNOR-K-6doctorate

 

Man without education,

Education without skills,

Skills without character,

Character without action,

Action without direction,

are signs of failed nation.

— while being conferred an honorary Doctorate from Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad on January 19, 2013

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A Tune of Harmony https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-tune-of-harmony/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-tune-of-harmony/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 09:48:45 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=118 There has been a huge uproar about the speech by Akbaruddin Owaisi. The hatred-filled content by itself is shocking enough but what is alarming is the applause that he got from his audience. This shows the danger of isolation of a community in our ever-expanding society. These misinformed and misguided mindsets are there because they […]

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There has been a huge uproar about the speech by Akbaruddin Owaisi. The hatred-filled content by itself is shocking enough but what is alarming is the applause that he got from his audience. This shows the danger of isolation of a community in our ever-expanding society. These misinformed and misguided mindsets are there because they remain in their own community. When they live in isolation, they promote only one mindset and there is no open mindedness. They may not have friends from other communities or participate in other festivals. Such thoughts that have been expressed by Owaisi are poisonous to the idea of India even in a drawing room, let alone a public platform.

Therefore, religion based universities must be shut down. Universities are the only place where people work and grow up with people from other communities. But the government starts promoting religion based institutions for their vote banks. Such institutions will only create more Owaisis who remain in their own island. They will never get integrated with the rest of society and this is not good for the country.

Now who can change this mindset? It’s certainly not the law. If he is put in jail, he becomes a hero for his own people. Hindus cannot say anything to him because it will further polarize the two communities. So who can correct the mindset that he stands for? Such elements can only be changed or addressed by liberal and successful people of their own community. And it is time for those liberals who spend their time in their drawing rooms to reach out to people, address the youth, change their mindset and make an impact.

When I made efforts in the Ayodhya negotiations meeting VHP, the Muslim Personal Law Board and Babri Masjid Action Committee, what I saw there was more a vested interest than a genuine care for each other’s communities. It was more stubbornness than a willingness to come to a solution. Therefore, people who are mature and have the interest of a larger good at heart must step forward and educate others for sense to prevail. Otherwise, people like Owaisi end up becoming people’s representatives by evoking anger and hatred.

In stark contrast to the walled city of Hyderabad, Kadapa, also in Andhra Pradesh, is a pole apart. Every year thousands of Muslim devotees celebrate the new year by offering prayers to Lord Venkateshwara on Ugadi. This has been a 300 year old tradition at this temple. Similarly, many Hindus visit the Ameen Peer Dargah on Thursdays and Fridays.

Over the centuries, India has absorbed many different faiths in her culture. It is some people blinded by political ambition, greed or just plain ignorance who claim to be the voice of the people and seek to make gains out of creating chaos. They need to be drowned out by voices that make sense and personalities that display character. We owe it to both our glorious past and promising future to maintain our harmony as a nation.

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A New Beginning https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-new-beginning/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/a-new-beginning/#comments Sun, 06 Jan 2013 11:03:06 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=77 It may appear that we are a part of this world, but actually, this world is a part of us. We carry our world within our mind and our mind cannot be at peace when the world around us is in turmoil. When mid-life crisis begins prematurely in teenage years; society is rattled with violence […]

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It may appear that we are a part of this world, but actually, this world is a part of us. We carry our world within our mind and our mind cannot be at peace when the world around us is in turmoil. When mid-life crisis begins prematurely in teenage years; society is rattled with violence and drug abuse; humanism appears to be utopia; joy, love and compassion remain only in books and on celluloid; corruption and crime appear to be accepted as a way of life, then these are signals for us to rise to meet these challenges in society.

Today, we see a catastrophic decline in human values all over the world. A young  boy recently opened fire at little children in an elementary school  in Connecticut, US. In India, too, in the Capital recently, a young girl was subject to gross violation and aggression by a group of men. This incident provoked youth to come out on the streets and demonstrate in large numbers, demanding justice.

We have seen an unprecedented awareness and willingness in the youth over the last couple of years to cause a change in the state of this country but we should not allow this momentum to degrade into chaos and violence. The need is to channel these energies constructively. We need to create an atmosphere of support and contribution rather than of blame and accusation.

While the authorities are certainly accountable for law and order, diffusing stress in the environment and taking steps to bring out human values in society becomes our responsibility as well; otherwise, people to whom this message has not reached might harm us or our loved ones out of their resentment. All of us should take out some time – at least a few hours in a week, to volunteer for a better India. If we have just a few people with this magnanimous outlook, who can take responsibility for others’ emotional well-being, society has a very realistic chance of being peaceful and harmonious to a large extent.

There are little things we can all do to keep our environment stress-free. We need to develop the habit of sharing our joy with others. If you are happy, infect others with your happiness; don’t keep it to yourself. Any action done with this idea behind it is service and the best form of service is uplifting someone’s state of mind. Of course, we must be careful and sensitive so as not to upset anyone with our enthusiasm. When we decide to share what we have been given, the Divine showers more abundance on every one of us.

Being spiritual does not mean turning a blind eye to the world. On the contrary, as you learn more and more about yourself, you come to know more and more about the world as well and begin to infer things that are beyond the obvious. Somewhere within we all want to know who we are, why we are here and what the purpose of life is. Most people choose to push these questions aside as a waste of time. Being spiritual is about keeping this little fire of Self-inquiry alive and not extinguishing it; not giving up the pursuit. These questions serve as a compass and help you bring a sense of direction to your life.

Every end creates a sense of completion and relief and every new beginning brings with it a sense of hope and enthusiasm. Therefore there is celebration associated with both. The past has made you wiser, the future beckons you to act and it is in the present that you can plan and begin. Although bitter experiences of the past should not prevent you from taking risk and plunging into adventure, you should also not be foolish in repeating old mistakes. A few moments of reflection should become a daily routine to infuse inspiration, innovation and intuition, all of which are much needed for planning and action.

As you pass through events one after the other, become aware that life is like a river. There may be stones on the path but the river flows above or around them. No year passes by without a touch of joy or without posing challenges. You should plan to utilize every moment of joy to serve and see every challenge as opportunity for growth. The year 2012 has not brought on the end of the world, but the coming New Year, 2013, is certainly the start of a new beginning.

[This article appeared in Speaking Tree on December 29, 2012.]

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The New Year! https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-new-year/ https://www.srisriravishankar.org/the-new-year/#comments Sun, 06 Jan 2013 03:54:21 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=66 As the clock ticked in the midnight, Fireworks flashed through the sky. Explosions heard everywhere, Not to wake up but to put people into intoxicants. Drums fell on deaf ears For the lame to dance on the darkest hour. The end relished, the beginning perished Without a sense of ownership. The lonely New Year Sun […]

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As the clock ticked in the midnight,
Fireworks flashed through the sky.

Explosions heard everywhere,
Not to wake up but to put people into intoxicants.

Drums fell on deaf ears
For the lame to dance on the darkest hour.

The end relished, the beginning perished
Without a sense of ownership.

The lonely New Year Sun rose quietly
Only empty streets to watch its glory and beauty.

A deadly silence spoke in volumes
Of the time that we are in now.

A ray of hope pierced through the earth
Looked for the values deep hidden.

The majestic Eagle kept wondering
If man would ever learn new ways of celebration

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