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After reading various blogs discussing the values of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation, I was looking for a forum to share my personal experiences of being involved with the Foundation. As one of the founding members of the organization, I have worked closely with Sri Sri for more then 22 years. Having spent countless hours in his presence, I have seen him in many diverse situations that have shown me again and again that his is a total commitment to a mission of eliminating human suffering on this planet. Besides sleeping just a few hours a day and taking meals, all of his time is spent in teaching, serving and uplifting others. He doesn’t seem to have any personal agenda or a separate personal life.
Yet in spite of Sri Sri’s dedication, he has received criticism from a few individuals who want to portray him as a fraud.
As the current president of his organization in the US for the last 5 years, I see where every dollar goes. The finances of all of his organizations reflect this emphasis on service. Because all of our organizations are registered 501c3 non-profits, all of the foundation’s 990 financial information is available to the general public to view on the Guidestar website after taxes are filed each year.
Sri Sri has a very Gandhiesque approach to running his foundation. He is more concerned about the future growth and expansion of the organization rather than in any personal gain. He refuses to take any of the honorariums he receives for his personal use and insists that all donations that have been given to him are to be used to support the numerous social service projects he has inspired in India and abroad. In fact, if his staff did not look after his personal needs, I’m sure Sri Sri would still be living in his original hut-like room at his ashram in Bangalore. His life is an open book. When he is not flying across the globe meeting political, religious and business leaders, sharing wisdom and collaborating on ways to improve the quality of life on the planet, he is either sharing knowledge, answering the plethora of emails he receives form Art of Living members and volunteers from 154 countries or spending personal time attending to all the individuals who come to meet him and receive his guidance.
At all hours of the day and night there is a sea of people waiting outside his room eager for a few moments to meet with him. And inside his room or hotel suite there are numerous volunteers assisting him in whatever way they can. Besides the few hours he sleeps or meditates, Sri Sri doesn’t have any alone time. I’ve often played the roll of being his secretary and spent more then 16 hours a day with him. There are so many interruptions, that getting work done is always a challenge. Getting a few moments alone with him is very rare. There is a constant revolving door to his room with someone entering and grabbing his attention at almost every moment.
Many times I’ve questioned Sri Sri’s motives for adhering to a daily schedule that is so grueling and physically demanding. No matter how many demands and challenges he faces, Sri Sri remains exuberant, posed and attentive to all who came to meet him. He is clearly there for one purpose, to ignite a spark of self-awareness and compassion that can help people lead a more fulfilling and productive life.

Michael Fischman

President of Art of Living Foundation , USA

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Denver and Milwaukee have declared Apr 20 and 23 as ‘Sri Sri Ravi Shankar day’ in honor of the spiritual leader’s humanitarian and spiritual contributions worldwide.
The press release of Art of Living foundation said that the two cities are the latest addition to the 12 other US cities that had already made similar announcement.
John Hickenlooper, the Mayor of Denver and Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee signed the declaration.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar  is on 21-day US tour.

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IANS, 16th March, 2010

New Delhi, India: Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar announced here Tuesday a seven-month long campaign to clean the Yamuna river and have a clean and green Delhi before the Commonwealth Games.

The campaign – ‘My Yamuna, My Dilli’ – was launched by the spiritual guru here at Purana Qila Tuesday evening.

‘The responsibility for cleaning up the Yamuna lies with us – the people she nurtures,’ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said.

‘This movement is a call to remind us what this river has given to generations before us, and to allow her to nourish generations after us. It is a platform for our individual voices that will become a collective echo and an unstoppable force,’ the founder of the Art of Living movement told reporters at the launch of the campaign here.

‘I know thousands of crores have been spent over the years but the condition of the Yamuna has not improved… Let us go and clean the banks of the Yamuna from tomorrow (Wednesday),’ he added.

A recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) revealed that the faecal content in the water of the Yamuna is so high that the river resembles a drain.

According to the CPCB’s 10-month-long monitoring of the Yamuna river at Nizamuddin, the water is unfit not just for drinking but even for bathing or washing.

According to stipulated standards, water can be made potable with treatment if faecal coliform is less than 500 per 100 ml. It is fit for bathing if the number is less than 5,000 per 100ml. However, the lowest level of faecal coliform in the Yamuna, measured May 4, 2009, was 4.4 lakh per 100ml — almost 100 times above the level considered safe for bathing.

Originating in the lower Himalayas, the Yamuna is 1,376 km long. The 22-km-long stretch that passes through Delhi is one of the most polluted.

Hundreds of NGOs, organisations and corporates are part of the initiative.

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Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar celebrated Holi with revered Saints and over five thousand devotees at the Art of Living Maha Kumbh Camp in Haridwar.

Source : Amar Ujala, 3rd March, 2010

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When emotions are a fountain of colours, they add charm to your life. In knowledge, emotions add colour

Holi is a festival of colours. This whole world is so colourful. Just like nature there are different colours associated with our feelings and emotions: anger with red, jealousy with green, vibrancy and happiness with yellow, love with pink, vastness with blue, peace with white, sacrifice with saffron and knowledge with violet. Each person is a fountain of colours which keep changing.

Puranas are full of colourful illustrations and stories and there is a story related to Holi. An asura king, Hiranyakashyap, wanted everyone to worship him. But his son Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Narayana, the kings sworn enemy. Angry, the king wanted Holika, his sister, to get rid of Prahlad. Empowered to withstand fire, Holika sat on a burning pyre holding Prahlad on her lap. But it was Holika who was burnt, Prahlad came out unharmed.

Hiranyakashyap symbolises one who is gross. Prahlad embodies innocence, faith and bliss. Hiranyakashyap wanted all joy to come from the material world. It did not happen that way. The individual jivatma cannot be bound to the material forever. Its natural to eventually move towards Narayana, ones higher Self.

Holika symbolises past burdens that try to burn Prahlads innocence. But Prahlad, so deeply rooted in Narayana bhakti (devotion), could burn all past impressions (sanskaras).

For one who is deep in bhakti, joy springs up with new colours and life becomes a celebration. Burning the past, you gear up for a new beginning. Your emotions, like fire, burn you. But when they are a fountain of colours, they add charm to your life. In ignorance, emotions are a bother; in knowledge, the same emotions add colour.

Like Holi, life should be colourful, not boring. When each colour is seen clearly, it is colourful. When all the colours get mixed, you end up with black. So also in life, we play different roles. Each role and emotion needs to be clearly defined. Emotional confusion creates problems. When you are a father, you have to play the part of a father. You cant be a father at office. When you mix the roles in your life, you start making mistakes. Whatever role you play in life, give yourself fully to it. Harmony in diversity makes life vibrant, joyful and more colourful.

Celebration is the nature of the spirit and the celebration that comes out from within is real. If sacredness is attached to a celebration, it becomes total, complete. Then, its not just body and mind but also the spirit that celebrates.

In a state of celebration, the mind often forgets the divine. We should experience the divines presence, the divines light around us. You should have a desire to experience something by which the whole world is running. To experience this, you should be in a total prayerful state of mind, there should be total involvement. If the mind is preoccupied elsewhere, then that is no prayer at all. The feeling that “I am blessed” can help you overcome any crisis in life. Once you realise that you are blessed, then all the complaints disappear, all the grumbling disappears, all the insecurities disappear.

Only then you will be able to understand the uplifted state of the being and see that the whole world is all spirit or consciousness. And in that state of being, celebration dawns spontaneously and life becomes colourful.

By Gurudev His Holiness  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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