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The Parable of becoming extraordinary


There is a difference between education and experience. Education is what you get from reading the small print. Experience is what you get from not reading it! But isn’t it true that great learning comes from both education and experience?

Here is a parable:

A young school teacher had a dream that an angel appeared to him and said, “You will be given a child who will grow up to become a world leader. How will you prepare her so that she will realize her intelligence, grow in confidence, develop both her assertiveness and sensitivity, be open—minded, yet strong in character? In short, what kind of education will you provide that she can become one of the world’s truly GREAT leaders?”

The young teacher awoke in a cold sweat. It had never occurred to him before —any ONE of his present or future students could be the person described in his dream. Was he preparing them to rise to ANY POSITION to which they may aspire? He thought, ‘How might my teaching change if I KNEW that one of my students were this person?’ He gradually began to formulate a plan in his mind:

This student would need experience as well as instruction.
  She would need to know how to solve problems of various kinds.
  She would need to grow in character as well as knowledge.
  She would need self assurance as well as the ability to listen well and work with others.
  She would need to understand and appreciate the past, yet feel optimistic about the future.
  She would need to know the value of lifelong learning in order to keep a curious and active mind.
  She would need to grow in understanding of others and become a student of the spirit.
  She would need to set high standards for herself and learn self discipline, yet she would also need love and encouragement, that she might be filled with love and goodness.

After many years, a woman he knew rose to a position of world prominence. He realized that she must surely have been the girl described in his dream. Only she was not one of his students, but rather his daughter. For of all the various teachers in her life, her father was the best. It’s been said that “Children are living messages we send to a time and place we will never see.”

But this isn’t simply a parable about an unnamed school teacher. It is a parable about you and me —whether or not we are parents or even teachers. And the story, OUR story, actually begins like this:

The teachings that can change every person who walk on this planet because, In ART OF LIVING we see, a future world leader. We see each one, not as they were, but as they could be. We teach each one as if the future of the world depends on our instruction.

“You will be given a child who will grow up to become….” You finish the sentence. If not a world leader, then a superb father? An excellent teacher? A gifted healer? An innovative problem solver? An inspiring artist? A generous philanthropist? Where and how you will encounter this child is a mystery. But believe that one child’s future may depend upon influence only you can provide, and something remarkable will happen. For no person will ever be ordinary again. And you will never be the same.

We at Art Of Livinghave made it most important part of our agenda, come experience the miraculous journey from ordinary to stupendous.

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Assam is on a time bomb


And the clock has been ticking for a long time.

Assam was originally home to a number of indigenous tribes, who had been living there for centuries.  A few years after independence, the government of India, while giving Scheduled Tribe status to these indigenous inhabitants had divided the region in tribal belts and blocks.

That land was marked to be held only by tribals. However, due to occupation of land by the ever increasing stream of immigrants, the number of tribal belts and blocks has reduced to nearly half the original number now. Besides, non-tribals continue to occupy more and more land in these areas. Furthermore, many of these tribes were given unequal ST status, creating divisions among them, even though they have the same cultural background.

The Dimasa people, for instance, who are one of the earliest settlers in the region have been divided into areas that fall under Assam and Nagaland. The administrative classification is such that they are a minority in both states. Moreover, due to use of weapons and threats during elections, they are not politically represented. In some places, their historic monuments were removed by bulldozers and the areas turned into markets.

On the other side, the government has turned a blind eye to decades of unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh. The infiltration has been so unchallenged and undocumented that the muslim refugee camps themselves have been housing over double the total muslim population on record in those areas. The immigrants initially came and started settling with Indian muslims and married into their families.

On one hand, the aborigines were divided by the ST classification while on the other, the Bangladeshi immigrants joined the Indian muslim inhabitants with familial bonds, and began laying claim to rights and privileges.

The Central government turned a blind eye to these developments allowing minority to turn into majority and threatening the identity of these indigenous tribes in their own land. The Assam assembly has about 20 representatives of Bangladeshi origin.

Due to government apathy, the issue, which was originally about land occupation, today has unfortunately assumed a distinctly political and communal colour. And the ripples of this communal conflict are being felt all over India now. It is the short sighted and narrow minded strategy of vote bank politics that is now threatening the security of the whole country. This should be a lesson for all of us not to elect any candidate or party indulging in vote bank politics.

The rules of engagement for our security forces on the Bangladesh border are very different from those on the Pakistan border. On noticing any suspicious activity at the Bangladesh border, all that the patrolling soldiers can do is blow a whistle or flash a light, which in turn makes them a vulnerable target. Due to administrative callousness and reduced security, the region is functionally very conducive for anti-India agencies. As a result, a number of terrorist organizations have sprouted in the region. Weapons and anti-India links are found regularly in arrests, encounters and surrender of militants in the region. Let us not forget the 2008 multiple bomb blasts in Guwahati.

There is already talk of Greater Bangladesh, which hopes to include Assam, West Bengal and other north eastern states of India. A large number of immigrants and have even trickled down to Bihar and Orissa. This is a step-by-step repeat of what happened in Kashmir. The demography of the region was changed by driving Kashmiri Hindus out by force and the region made volatile by spreading violence and terror. There is a clear lack of political will even to address grave security issues in our country. Corruption and greed has blinded us to such a degree that we do not mind conceding pieces of our own motherland – the same motherland for which, just a few generations ago, our forefathers sacrificed everything, including lives.

A democracy functions in its true essence when its people are awake and aware. When narrow and selfish mindsets take over, it loses all direction and becomes distorted. We have been a ‘sleeping giant’ for too long. We need to wake ourselves because the explosions we’ve been hearing all around us are not merely alarm bells but battle cries.

– Nakul Dhawan

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects

 

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N E Exodus: Art of Living Ashram turns a safe haven


The mass exodus of thousands of north-eastern people from various parts of India, coming on the heels of Assam riots and consequent displacement of hundreds of thousands of families, is a huge blot on the country.

It is time to rally around our North Eastern brethren and open up our hearts and homes to assure them that they have a million homes in India. They are not alone and don’t have to flee.

This was the message taken by Art of Livingteachers Sanjay Babu, Neelam Kochchar, Deepa Dave and their team of volunteers to the thousands of panic- stricken North Eastern people at Bangalore Raliway station ready to leave in the next train to the North East.

Sanjay Babu explained, “There were many distributing food and water at the railway station to the insecure north eastern crowd. But none could assure security to them. We were sent by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji to assure them that they are safe and there was no need to panic and flee from Bangalore.”

The Art of Living teachers reached out to thousands of fearful north eastern workers and students of Bangalore and persuaded them to stay back instead of fleeing. Those who were fearful of going back to their residences in Bangalore were offered a home in the Art of Living Ashram. Around 200 north eastern people are now safely living in the Ashram premises till they feel safe to go back to their homes. In fact, thanks to the feeling of security given to them by Gurudev, many of them are already feeling confident of returning to their jobs in Bangalore.

Over 33,0000 people are reported to have left Bangalore because of direct and indirect threats to leave the city before August 20. Many also left because they were being called back by family members in Assam so that they could, “protect their house together or die together!”

Sri Sri and a few of the N E people at Ashram

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has encouraged the north eastern students in Bangalore to continue their studies. If they need help, Sri Sri University would come forward to enable their education. The workers have been assured that Art of Living would help them find jobs. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has been engaging the people of North East since many years through personal interactions and many service initiatives. 121 children from Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam are staying & getting education at Art of Living Ashram since six years.

Only a genuine peace maker like Sri Sri can remove the mistrust and fear that has engulfed Assam in recent times.

During his recent visit to Assam (watch video) in the aftermath of ethnic clashes, Sri Sri was heard with eager anticipation by the people from the both sides of the divide.He effortlessly got the Bodos and Muslims to see reason and talk in conciliatory tones thus sowing the seed for reconciliation. But the question remains whether the rulers of the day will be interested in watering the seed?

 

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The story of Humanity Hospital


Sharing this truly wonderful story sent to me by an Art of Living volunteer on e-mail:

On 13th April 1971 Shri Sadhan Chandra Mistry, aged 35 years a vegetable vendor in the obscure village of Hanspukur, District South 24-Parganas, West Bengal, died of a very common and minor ailment, only because he could not get access to any medical attention whatsoever.

He left behind his illiterate wife Subhasini (23 years then) with two sons and two daughters four to eight years in age. Naturally, the family plunged into utter poverty and Subhasini was forced out of her home within one month of her husband’s death, to sell vegetables in that hamlet market. That day, while she sat under the scorching sun selling vegetables and worrying about her children, she took a vow that one day she will build a hospital in that very village so that no poor villager would die for want of medical attention.

Her fellow vendors and every person who heard of her vow laughed and made fun of her. How can she build a hospital, they jeered, when she cannot even mend her own thatched hut? She had to feed a family of five and marry two daughters. The village elders concluded her vow was all humbug and pure day dreaming out of having lost her mind.

However, day in and out, Subhasini continued selling vegetables silently and looked after her children never allowing the fire in her frail body to douse even for a moment. After persevering for twenty full years, ultimately she could start a clinic at her home for poor people. She managed to coax a doctor into coming to her village every week. And week after week, while tens of poor patients got medical attention from this lone clinic in the region, Subhasini became the most popular household name in her village. Now her fellow vendors and all others started respecting her. That was enough of a support for her.

In the meantime, her children grew up. The two daughters were married off. The eldest son chose to be a labourer in the farm. Her other son, the youngest of the lot, Ajoy Mistry was chosen by Subhasini to carry on her mission. He successfully completed his secondary education and passed the All India Medical Entrance Test. Aided by the German Scholarship, he joined Calcutta Medical College where he completed his medical course. He worked hard as he studied, ran around from friends to well wishers to any person/organization he had access and managed to raise Rs.50,000 for his mothers mission.

In 1993, Ajoy Mistry authored the trust deed of Humanity Trust with his mother Subhasini Mistry as the co-founder trustee. On 5th February 1995, the foundation stone for the Hospital was laid and on 9th March 1996, the Humanity Hospital was inaugurated and opened to public. The Hospital is a testimony of the will and spirit of a woman who defied social norms and a long series of obstacles to establish the first hospital in her backward village. Within one year, the trust could raise ten times the initial money to complete the first structure of the hospital. Soon, more donations followed and today, Subhasini Mistry can say with pride that she has fulfilled her pledge made to her husband two and half decades earlier.

Humanity Hospital is certified and registered as a Hospital under the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Act. of 1950, managed by Humanity Trust formed on 4th March 1993. In the year 2000, Subhasini Mistry and Ajoy Mistry were honoured and named as the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary International, in appreciation of their service to humanity and poor people in particular. Today, despite the financial crunch to meet recurring expenses, the Hospital provides best services to poor and underprivileged sections of the society.

Subhasini Mistry still sells vegetables in Kolkata market to sustain her family.

 

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29 Gift Ideas : Random acts of kindness


Some books have a longlasting impact on us. ’29 gifts’ is one such book.I read the book almost six months back and was deeply moved by the autobiographical account of the author.29 Gifts shows how a simple, daily practice of altruism can dramatically alter your outlook on the world and make you a master of the Art of Living.

At age thirty-three, Cami Walker was burdened by an intensified struggle with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease that left her depressed and she was barely able to walk.This happened just a month after her marriage.Then she received an uncommon “prescription” from South African healer Mbali Creazzo: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.“By giving,” Mbali told her, “you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.”

29 Gifts is the insightful story of the author’s life change as she embraces and reflects on the naturally reciprocal process of giving. The gifts were simple—a phone call, spare change, a Kleenex. Yet the acts were transformative. By Day 29, not only had Walker’s health and happiness improved, but she had created a worldwide giving movement.

By the time I finished reading the book, I signed up for the 29 Days Giving Challenge and have been on the giving journey since then.It’s great to be a part of this wonderful community and have met some amazing people there: Deb,Lois,Ann,Michelle…It’s inspiring to read the amazing stories about the power of giving.This small community is working towards reviving the giving spirit in the world.

I had written the following post on my personal blog some time back…Am sharing this here as a tribute to Cami Walker- a living inspiration for people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Random Acts of Kindness

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.  ~Cleveland Amory

What is it that brightens up your day when you are feeling a little low ? A gentle smile , a kind word or a friendly hug ? You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if everyone is kind to others.

Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. Giving begins the receiving process.Whatever you want in your life,give it to others.If you want joy then give joy to others.If you want happiness,spread happiness wherever you go.If you want love, give love. You will see how abundance increases in every aspect of your life if only you learn to be kind and generous.

A random act of kindness is a gift that costs nothing but is always appreciated.And the giver too receives the return gift of joy and happiness and a sense of fullfilment.So how to get started ?

Here I have listed a few ideas.Put them into practice and also create your own:

  1. Smile Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.  It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.
  2. A word of appreciation Sometimes all we need is a little appreciation. At the same time, let us not forget to appreciate others around us.
  3. Hugs There’s something in a simple hug That always warms the heart, It welcomes us back home And makes it easier to part…. ~Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr., “A Simple Hug”
  4. Donate old clothes or toys to a charity or an orphanage
  5. Feed the hungry While eating out or when you see someone hungry,don’t forget to share a slice with the less fortunate.
  6. Flower power A bunch of flowers is the sweetest gift that can be given on all occasions.Try the flower power by giving out rose buds to strangers.
  7. Volunteer for a cause Find a cause that interests you and be a volunteer by devoting some hours from your busy schedule.
  8. Spend time with the elderly The elderly have so much to offer, not the least of which is valuable life experience. Visit old age home or spend time with the elders of your family.They will love it  and this is certainly a time well spent.
  9. Kindness to animals Feed a stray animal or keep an earthern bowl filled with water outside for the birds.
  10. Online donations You can donate online for some NGO. There are so many organisations who are doing amazing work for different causes and they are constantly in need of money to support them.
  11. Thank You Cards Put your creativity to use ,make some beautiful thank you cards at home and send them to the ones who have helped you in the past.
  12. Books Gift a book to a friend or donate your old books to a library or old textbooks of your child to someone needy.
  13. Be anonymous Send someone a small gift anonymously.
  14. Surprise treat Treat a friend to the movies for no reason or pay for the drinks on the next table at a café or buy chocolates to a kid in the departmental store.
  15. Domestic chores Help your mother in the kitchen or walk your friend’s dog.
  16. Cleanliness drive Pick up some rubbish in the road which would otherwise be lying around.
  17. Giving up Give up your seat for someone, not just an elderly person.Give another driver your parking spot.Let someone jump the queue at the bank or ticket counter.
  18. Stretch your hand first Stretch the hand of friendship to someone new or if you have fallen out with an old friend, be the first to set things right.
  19. Sharing your talents If you are good at cooking,painting,dancing,public speaking or any other creative form then you can teach it to others for free.
  20. Drop boxes We find donation boxes placed at departmental stores or hospitals etc.Make sure to put in some change in the drop box.

Keep doing the random acts of kindness.Don’t think what difference it will make.Just remember that no matter how big or small, every act of kindness makes a difference!

 

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Ex guerillas get a new life with Art of Living


The 250 calm faces, deeply immersed in meditation, belie the fact that everyone in this group belonged to armed militancy that has claimed thousands of lives in the North East of India.  An amazing transformation is unfolding currently at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore where over 250 surrendered militants from Assam, belonging to various outfits, are undergoing a month-long rehabilitation training programme.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with former ultras in rehabilitation training at Art of Living International Centre

“It’s a new life for me. I find a lot of enthusiasm and determination to lead a new life,” these simple words coming straight from the heart of Shyamanta Handique, 45, met with instant applause and nods of approval from the group of former insurgents during an exclusive session with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. The words echoed the sentiments of almost everyone present.

Former insurgent groups from Assam receiving arms training in jungles of Myanmar and Bhutan

The quick and definite transformation of these men, whose major expression of life was laced with violence, into higher versions of themselves — happy, sensitive, respectful and responsible has been quite dramatic. Surely, the group hadn’t anticipated this kind of turnaround when the government sent them to Art of Living Ashram for a training. A senior intelligence officer, assigned to keep a tab on the trainees, was so touched by the change in former rebels that he has decided to join the Art of Living after retiring from paid service in two years and further this work of inner transformation.

A majority of the former rebels had been baptized into guerrilla warfare in the Kachin jungles  of Myanmar and Bhutan. A couple of them received their training in China. The former militants now feel comfortable dropping the guns and explore non-violent ways of resolving the problems of life.

So what is the secret of transformation? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living explains, “Most rebels are good human beings with a lot of dedication and commitment for the country. If they could do a little bit of understanding of spirituality, they could do what others cannot.”

The commitment was palpable, when a few of them shared with Sri Sri that they have renewed commitment for the betterment of their people after training at the Ashram. To quote one of them, “Earlier we were lions. Now we are bigger lions!” Realizing that vested interests used them by putting guns on their shoulders, they vowed to continue working for the betterment of Assamese people not through bullets but through the ballot!  22- year-old Ratul Boras said that he would join politics, win the hearts of people and bring about a development in his district. Amarendra had similar plans. Sri Sri blessed them saying Art of Living would provide full support to such self less endeavors.In the past, he has commended such youth for their strong commitment, which needs to be channelised appropriately to bring about a positive change in society.

It is remarkable that in a few weeks of the training, that ends of August 4th, the youth are ready to return to the mainstream society and are clear about what they want to do. Many of them, who own land back home, want to practise organic farming and dairy farming. A few are looking forward to further training and become yoga teachers to spread the inner peace they have experienced for the first time in their own life. As part of rehab training the group was taught yoga, pranayams, Sudarshan Kriya, meditations, various life skills and vocational training in mushroom cultivation, paper products and electrical maintenance.

Surrendered militants sell paper products made by them at Art of Living International Centre

Former Ulfa members Maqbool Hussain and Monuj Roy have made a common promise, “We will change our society for the better.” Well they have already started walking the talk. In a heart rending gesture, the group of surrendered militants donated the proceeds from their first sale of paper products to the victims of the current riots in Assam.

“The condition of our life and that of our state Assam, would have been better off had we received this kind of training and met Guruji 30 years ago, ” the group shared. Well as they say, better late than never. Once begun is half done!

Our very best wishes to the new members of the Art of Living family to start a new life back home in Assam 🙂

 

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Three villages shimmer in the gloom of Assam Riots


The recent spate of large-scale riots in Assam, according to conservative estimates, has claimed 58 lives and rendered 400,000 people homeless in various districts of the north eastern state. We, as members of the Art of Living Family, and believers in the principle of One World Family, extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims.

Relief work is the need of the hour after the violence

The primary aim of Art of Living volunteers right now is to provide help and assistance to the displaced people from 400 villages who are staying in relief camps in Assam. The 124 teachers of the Art of Living in Assam along with thousands of volunteers have jumped into relief and rehabilitation work for the lakhs of people taking shelter in 270 refugee camps.

Amid all this bloody carnage, a gleam of hope is emerging from three villages which have become islands of peace in riot-hit Assam. Two of these villages Borlao and Borpara, where Art of Living has been carrying out its community development programs, saw absolutely no incidence of violence. The folks in these villages took the initiative to guard their villages themselves. They did not allow any outside person to enter the village. The three villages are from Chirang and Kokrajhard – the worst riot affected districts. Considering that the village inhabitants are a mix of Bodos, Muslims, Asamese and Bengalis this is an exceptional display of solidarity against forces of division. 164 children from these villages receive free education in the Art of Living tribal schools in Chirang and Kokrajhar.

Tribal schools of The Art of Living in Chirang and Kokrajhar

164 children receive free education in Art of Living Tribal Schools of  Chirang and  Kokrajhar

The surrounding villages, where Art of Living has not yet started its work, succumbed to the fury of violence unleashed by escalating ethnic tensions between indigenous Bodo community and migrant  Muslims  from Bangladesh.

It has been proven repeatedly that spiritual education is the only long-lasting basis for a sustainable, peaceful and responsible living at individual and community level.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, founder of the Art of Living has appealed to all in Assam not to retaliate irrespective of your community and ethnic background. He said, “There are good people in every community. Art of Living will do the work of applying balm to the hearts and minds of traumatized riot victims.”

As fellow human beings and citizens of India it is our duty to reach out to the people of Assam and do our best to bring normalcy in the lives of displaced people. We hope the government takes speedy and definite steps to resolve the fundamental issues that led to the riots before they snowball to uncontrollable dimensions.

 

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