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Category Archives: Art of Living Experiences

Beautiful experiences of Art of Living volunteers, teachers and enthusiasts — an inspiration to become happy, healthy and wise!

Sri Sri and Mr Cobra


Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji loves going out for morning walks. Back in 2006, it was a regular feature. Everyday during the walk a snake used to cross his path; As if it was a daily ritual, the glimmering reptile  would wait for Sri Sri and slither away after seeing him walk by. He was a majestic cobra with a mark of 1o on his hood. His mud abode glorified the lawns of the garden outside Sri Sri’s kutir.

One fine day during his morning walk, Sri Sri found that the movement of Mr cobra was unusual. The cobra was seen on one side of the path, but it did not endeavour to cross the path like it would do everyday. Sri Sri mentioned to Dilip, who was with him that morning, that something was amiss and the cobra needed to be attended to.

By the time we came in to check, the long, glimmering and majestic creature was lying on the ground almost motion less, though it was still breathing. When we touched him to find whether he had any movement, he would just widen its hood laying flat on the ground signifying life. What a plight it was to see this, for in its full glory, it is almost impossible to find a live agile cobra allowing anyone to be near (snakes are solitary reptiles with their territory clearly marked).

The cobra exudes the beauty and grandeur of the king of snakes when it raises the hood to show off its handsome mark. And now it was struggling to raise the hood, breathing very slowly. Something had to be done immediately! Very often, the animal world depends upon humans for help. When animals come near humans, seeking  help, do nut shoo them off. Many organisations ready to help are just at a phone’s length away.  Snakes are very shy creatures. At the faintest sound they rush to hide in crevices in stone.

So our cobra surely needed medical help immediately. I got in touch with Dr Salem of Banerghatta Rescue Centre. He sent trained volunteers to pick our critical patient, who was carefully picked up and packed for a comfortable and safe journey to the Hospital. He was admitted in the intensive care unit and monitored for about one and half months. There, by series of injections in his tail, the cobra was cured of the poisoning and the lung infection.

Probably he had eaten an infected frog who had consumed some pesticide used by the farmers on the neighbouring farm.  The lung infection was due to the chemicals used in the detergent as the cobra used to stay in a water pipe. Humans have created a havoc by heavily using chemicals and pesticides. Sri Sri had once warned us that even if one species is wiped off from the planet, we are inviting a catastrophe. Let us refuse to use products in our daily life which may be harmful to the Earth.

A few weeks later Sri Sri asked how our fellow being of the gardens was doing. I went to see the cobra.  By now he was very strong, though still confined to a glass chamber. When injection was given in his tail he would promptly raise the hood in resistance to the prick and almost would (may be just on impulse) want to turn and attack. It was a delight to see his natural glory restored!

I wondered whether he ever understood that he survived due to the treatment he received due to Gurudev’s attention. Sri Sri wanted him back in his home on the farm, where he belonged to.

After two months, when he was strong and fit to be released, the authorities decided to release him deep in the forest where the conditions would be very natural. As for me, I believe that he would be much more happier to come back to his land where his master trod.

Posted by Meenal Moray, trained architect from J J School of Arts, who cares for the animal world. She lives and teaches yoga and meditation at the Art of Living International Ashram, Bangalore.

 

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Music, Navratri & Sri Sri


Music, to put in a gross way, is a group of musical notes of different frequencies or pitch arranged in a particular pattern and rhythm. However, this gross description is incomplete as it is limited only to the subjective aspect of music. In reality, music is a means of finding the Self.

The purpose of music is to transport the listener (and the musician) beyond the mechanical sound of the notes to the inner silence, another realm of one’s being. That’s why music is also known as nadyoga. Through music one can attain the transcendental. It is an important aspect of life like bhakti, gnana and karma. A nadayogi focuses on nada as the absolute brahman of which this entire creation springs out.

The finest aspect of music comes alive every year during the annual Navratri celebrations with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore.

The evening before the day of Maha Chandi Homa a musical bliss dawns when Sri Sri plays Veena, the instrument of Goddess Saraswati. It is an out-of-the-world experience by itself. One can literally feel that the strings in one’s heart are being played that resonates throughout one’s life. Sri Sri’s Veena rendering is followed by the offerings of devotees in the form of dance, music (instrumental and vocal), Vedas, ancient scriptures,stotras in praise of the Mother Divine!

It’s not just a divine rendition of Veena, but elevating music as a form of worship. Goddess Sarawati is worshipped on the last three days of Navratri as the sattvic expression of Devi, known to bring self knowledge.

The Goddess, who is worshiped as the deity of music, is depicted to have a veena, the symbol of music, in one hand and a book, the symbol of knowledge, in the other. Knowledge is the subject of the left brain. Knowledge is not complete without music, which is the subject of the right brain. Music balances knowledge. For the journey of life to be complete, both music and knowledge are essential.

During the sacred Navratri celebrations at Bangalore Ashram, music is intricately intertwined with the invocation and worship of Shakti – the pure energy.

The ancient scriptures say, ‘Shruti is the mother, and laya is the father of music.’ Shruti is translated as pitch and laya is translated as rhythm. But they are much more than pitch and rhythm.

Shruti and laya are not separate. They merge into each other and have to remain indivisible throughout for music to exist. Laya, the rhythm, is in the soul of the universe. Everything in this creation changes, and this change follows a very precise rhythm. The universe itself revolves in a rhythm.

Laya is the attribute of music that is beyond the tangible rhythm of the music. Laya means to let go, to unite. Laya is complete cessation. It is the merger of all the different rhythms at the levels of one’s body, senses, mind, intellect, memory and ego to the one consciousness, the non-dual brahman. It is through this laya that the notes in the music are absorbed into the ‘swara’.

Music ‘happens’ when swara takes over! There the music, the musician and the listener, if any, with all the instruments cease to exist as individual entities, and dissolve into the one brahman, the nada!Swara is subtler than and far beyond the subjective sensation of the musical notes. Swara translates the subjective ‘anubhava’ to the objective ‘anubhooti’.

‘Swa-ra’ in Sanskrit means, ‘that which illumines itself’. It cannot be obtained through mere practice or penance, nor can one be trained to get it. It has to dawn by itself! And when it dawns in the musician, it shines forth itself through his music.

It is the swara and not just the technical correctness of the pitch or the quality of tones or the voice of the musician that makes music transcend and transport one to its destination.The sound that is beyond the finest vibration, the seed form of all the sounds is the state of absolute stillness, the nada, which can only be attained, not perceived through the physical ears.

Posted by Dr Manikantan Menon; Dr Mani promotes ‘Holistic well-being’ thru a blend of Ayurveda, Music and Indian Spiritual Knowledge & Yogic Practices

 
 

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Navratri: The Sri Sri connection


As a kid, Navratri  was a welcome relief to the reluctant student in me, it being the only day in the calendar, when even parents encouraged us to not study! Beyond that heavenly relief, I never understood or even cared to figure out, what the celebrations were about! To confess, for a long time, I even believed that people celebrated Navratri  because it was a welcome escape from their regular routine!

But in the years to come I was destined to realize that my childhood perceptions were true, but from a very different angle! Navratri was indeed a celebration of breaking patterns!

“So who scripted this change?” is a very inevitable question. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the wonder beyond my imagination, is the answer! Years ago when I first came to the heavenly Art of Living ashram for Navratri , I was initiated to this beautiful experience. Since then Navratri  became the most anticipated event in the year. As I progressed through my teens, I started realizing the depth and meaning of the wonderful celebrations! I slowly started realizing that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is silently taking us through that most divine experience, often unreachable for the common man.

I remember distinctly going to temples during the Navratri  and waiting with folded hands for the abode to open for arathi! But since the day, I chose to walk the Master’s path; the differences in my Navratris earlier and now have been starkingly evident! Those meaningless folded hands transformed into tears of gratitude; the memorized mantra chants often gave way to prayful silence! Instead of waiting for the abode of Devi to open for darshan, I searched for the divine’s presence inside my heart. This inward journey was beyond comparison and explanation!

I remember Sri Sri explaining the science and philosophy of Navratri  in a Satsang before the start of the nine nights! I sat amazed realizing the meanings behind many of those symbols! A few days before, I had heard a scientist explaining to a crowd, the science behind the poojas. As I sat hearing and loving every bit of the talk, he chose to spoil my party!  He concluded his talk with this strange remark that meant the divinity of the pooja, is nothing more than a psychosis factor to motivate people to participate in them. The debate on religion and science is a never ending one and almost all intellectuals who have graced the Earth have spoken volumes about it. I am no one to question the scientist’s remark.

But I guess I have a genuine doubt! If these poojas were a mere scientific procedure, then we could recreate them in any controlled laboratory setup by combining a few chemicals. But will such experiments succeed in stimulating the positive vibes which uplifts your being! Will such chemical reactions help to stimulate a person to move towards the higher goal? Will those mechanisms transform negativity to positivity the way poojas do? I do not know the answer. Perhaps my limited knowledge shuns my understanding!

I believe there must have been a million scientific phenomenona that our ancient Rishis would have mastered, before giving shape to these powerful rituals. But should we bank on a few scientific theories, which can be proved wrong any other minute from now, to prove the significance of these rituals?  Don’t we have a bigger and deeper spiritual and philosophical significance to highlight? The lines of science and spirituality are at times blurred and at times distinct! So every individual reading this blog can interpret or introspect on this question to the best of his\her knowledge!

But I believe the real success of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar comes here! He gave a new dimension to these age old traditions and made them accessible to many parts of the world with the perfect blend of scientific reasoning. He attracted the seekers craving for scientific rationale to the Yagnashala without diluting its spiritual quotient! Many intellectuals have bitten the bullet, failing to strike this balance. Today when thousands are celebrating and rejoicing the poojas of Navratri in the  Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru, similar kinds of poojas are happening around the world under his direct guidance.

Millions of people caught up in the hassles of daily life, are now coming to these celebrations where subtle energies are invoked through mantras and yagnas and are experiencing deep and authentic joy! Sri Sri, has undoubtedly revolutionized this spiritual wave which is bringing together people from all age groups and cross sections to participate in the Navratri celebrations as enjoined by the Vedas.

Every year, I see more and more youth, taking up the responsibilities of the festival and turning out in large numbers for participating in these poojas! Isn’t this the revival that Swami Vivekananda spoke off? If we can sustain this spring in our footstep, then many of our social dogmas and evils will not have a place in our society in the years to come! I was travelling across USA, when the Christopher Nolan movie “The Dark Knight Rises” hit the cinemas. I witnessed the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth those days! It was an absolute frenzy! But today, when I see the excitement of the youth in the Navratri Yagnashalas in organizing the pooja celebrations, I doubt if “The Dark Knight Rises” can even come close! Of course, the comparison itself is very unfair and illogical! After all, these nine nights are undoubtedly the “brightest”, spreading the light of love & knowledge!

Perhaps the time is ripe to ensure that this precious and ancient knowledge is passed on to the next generation.  In this auspicious moment I pray that we realize the significance of these poojas in elevating us to become better individuals. Let us all celebrate with true spirit, the victory of the good over the evil, the victory of unconditional love over hatred! Let us get drenched in this amazing eternal bliss & devotion! I Happy Navratri!

Posted by Rahul Riji Nair –  Noted Film Maker,Columnist, Business Analyst, Social Entrepreneur, Founder Director of Save My Ten Foundation and Active volunteer of The Art of Living Foundation. 

 
 

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About The Art of Living And Behind The Scenes


On any given day, thousands are present in satsang at the Bangalore Ashram. Many years ago, it was just a few hundreds.On one such day after the satsang, Sri Sri began moving through the crowd and distributing sweets.

A little boy crept through the crowd and made it all the way to Sri Sri and held out his hand. Sri Sri smiled at him and lovingly placed a sweet in his little palm. Bubbling with excitement, he turned back and vanished into the crowd. Sri Sri continued distributing sweets and had moved just a few steps ahead when the little boy appeared again through the crowd and stretched out his hand. He was given another sweet and he rushed back again. When this happened a few times, the volunteer holding the packet of sweets pointed out to Sri Sri, “He has come for the fourth time.”Without stopping for a moment, Sri Sri replied, “Jab tak ye baant-ta rahega, main ise deta rahunga.”(As long as he keeps distributing them further, I will continue to give him.)

Anybody who has ever come forward to take any initiative with even a trace of sincerity has only received encouragement, appreciation and compassionate guidance from Sri Sri. If not forced by circumstances, most people would spend their lives within the small pond of their limited experiences. What he had to offer opened them so much that in profound gratitude, they disregarded all shortcoming they believed they had and stepped forward with the sentiment, “What can I do for you?”  It is very tender and delicate inside the person who feels it but when it acts, it moves with a tremendous force.It is this force which has  driven the mammoth expanse of  the Art of Living movement all around the world.

For these people, stepping out of their shells and taking responsibility has caused enormous growth in them. Most people who are teachers now had no prior experience of speaking in a group; most people who lead satsangs are not trained singers; people who have done massive construction projects started with hardly any knowledge of construction. “If God has really made me in His own image, what is it that I cannot do?” This conviction comes to them and they are able to do phenomenal things. They don’t do it for their ambition or a sense of achievement. They do it in gratitude for the person who unlocked something profound in them.

Art of Living may give off the appearance of an organization but this whole movement is not run by any management strategy or policy. It is run by an authentic personal experience that deep within, you are love and it is the same love that you are made up of, that moves this world.This realization, because of its purity and universality, has brought so many different people together. Love is the force that binds these people and looking at the magnitude of this phenomenon, it can only be a force of Nature.

Posted by Nakul Dhawan

 

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Story Of The Starfish


A story for everyone, that I remembered suddenly which I had read during my childhood (which is still ON) 😉

A teacher of repute was walking on the beach soon after a storm. The storm had washed up thousands of starfish on the shore, and they were beginning to dry up.

Source: The Telegraph

Soon all of them would be dead. The Teacher was picking up starfish and throwing them into the sea.

The fisherman caught up with the teacher and said, “Surely, you cannot hope to throw all these starfish back into the sea? They will die in their thousands here. I’ve seen it happen before.  Your effort will make no difference.”

Source: shootingstaaarr.co.cc

“It will to this one,” said the Teacher, throwing back another starfish into the sea.

Does it ring any bell? Do you know someone who indeed made a difference to over 30 million people, holding their hands (figuratively) and guiding each one of them towards happiness and made a big difference to this entire world. For each individual thus saved is World itself.

Can we now resolve to make a difference to at least one person around us, however small or silly it may appear? Like they say, every drop of water in the ocean is what made it an ocean.

If One Person can make a difference to over 30 million people, imagine if each of these 30 million made a difference to a minimum of 1 person, then Paradise on Earth or should I say, Earth is a Paradise – would become a reality and a fitting tribute to beloved Gurudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who gave much more than what He received from this world.

 

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The Sound of Silence



I am just back, rejuvenated and refreshed from my favorite Meditation Retreat at the Art of Living International Center in Bangalore.

The experience of deep silence and stillness is not easy to capture in words, and yet not wanting to give up easily, I am trying to share it here.

As the flute flowed melodiously during the evening satsang, it seemed no different from the human body. Air was being blown through the hollow and empty flute and beautiful music was flowing out. Three things came together to create this music: Knowledge of the music, the mastery over the blowing of air and the knowledge of the apertures to be opened and closed. The manner in which the air is blown, its smoothness, force, transition, intensity, the practice and the knowledge all come together to create the music.

 The human body, made up of the five elements and five senses, is also like a beautiful flute with its five apertures. It is a much more complex system than the flute; however the fundamental principles to create music remain the same. A mastery of the body and mind are needed to bring out the harmonious and melodious music, inherent in us.

Every time I do The Advanced Meditation Course of the Art of Living, I find myself acquiring greater skills to gain this mastery. These skills help us to wade through life’s transient events and give us the experience that in its essence Life is indeed Celebration, Joy and Love.

The same message was echoed as I watched Nature and its hollow and emptiness. Hollow and Empty and yet playing the most beautiful music in the chirping of the birds, the distant sound of the children, the chanting of the Vedas, the flow of the water, the sound of the trees swaying… A silent symphony played by sounds of silence and wonder.

 As I became one with the swaying of the trees, the blueness of the water, the vastness of the sky, the heat of the Sun, the solidity of the Earth underneath my feet, a silence dawned. The moment stood still and I was alive like never before.

A deep impact has been made. There is a playfulness in me that is enlivened, a calmness and an understanding that does not allow the situations to overwhelm me. There is also a new dawn of creativity and an enthusiasm to live every moment in its fullness. Living has become exhilarating after I heard the Sound of Silence.

 

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Learning Art of Living at Railway Station


Do you remember the first time you went to the railway station?

I still remember the day when I went to a small railway station with a friend who said it was fun to just hang around at a station.

Unbelievable now, but then I was crazy enough to nod my agreement, remembering all the goodies I could munch on while we hung around there!

Crowded station? That surely is the understatement of the century. I wondered how such a small Begumpet Station (a small station in Hyderabad) could hold so many people. All that I could see was a sea of people, without an inch of place. As my friend bought the platform tickets for us, I entered the station, feeling excited with the newness of the whole experience.

We sat on a cemented bench, looking at the train that was standing in front of us, both lost in thoughts. I wonder what she was thinking; but for me it was an eye opener and my thoughts went thus…

Some people getting on the train
Some disembarking
Some laughing as their dear one alighted
Some crying seeing their dear one go

One lost in thoughts….
One looking for adventure
One wanting it all to stop….

What an amazing sight …. Different people, different destinations.

Then with a sudden flash an insight was revealed, “LIFE IS LIKE THIS”

Like a train, while Life is moving towards its destination, some people come into it while others move away; situations come up and dissolve on their own. Everything from love to business is there…taking us up and down like a roller coaster ride, and in all this….We FORGET… where we came from or where we are headed to.

We also forget that this journey will come to an end and we have to get off the train at some point. We think we are here to stay. Everything we own is ours forever.  FOREVER?

During this journey of life what is it that we achieved? How many friends did we make on this train called life? How many people did we help? How many smiles did we share? How many tears did we wipe?

Is there anything we did at all? Did we make a difference???

Or did we just take the free ride on the train…….

All these thoughts were spinning in my head and making me dizzy. My first thought was, “How come I am living such a hollow life? Is it worth living like this? Is there anything I can do to enrich my life?”

This was the start of my journey for seeking the truly worthwhile in Life and I found ‘The Art of Living” or rather The Art of Living landed on my lap. Thanks to the Art of Living, I started doing what I wanted to – Making a difference in my life.

And what a difference I made!

What about you? Are you waiting for something to land in your lap? Well, we can’t be lucky all the time. Just go beyond the outer façade and start living life totally and completely.

~~ Author Mallika Krishna co-ordinates the free schools project of the Art of Living

 

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