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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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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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On the spiritual path there are three factors: Buddha – the Master or the presence of the Enlightened, Sangha – the commune or the group and Dharma – your true nature. Life blossoms naturally when there is a balance between these three.

The Buddha or Master is a doorway. When you are out in the street in hot sun or if you are stuck in rain and thunder, you feel the need for a shelter or a doorway.

Have you noticed that then the doorway is so inviting and charming? It is more joyful than anything else in the world? Similarly, the closer you go to the master, the more charm, more newness and more love you feel. Nothing in the world could give that peace, joy and pleasure. You will never be tired of the Enlightened. It’s like a depth without a bottom. This is a sign that you have come to the Master.

Once you come to the doorway and enter the door, the world looks so much more beautiful; it is a place filled with love, joy, co-operation, compassion and all virtues. Looking through the doorway there is no fear. From inside your home, you can look at the thunder, you can look at the storm and the bright sun too; yet be relaxed as you are in the shelter. Such a sense of security, fullness and joy comes. That is the purpose of having a Master.

The second factor is Sangha, the group. The group is very charming from a distance, but the closer you get, it brings out all the unwanted elements from within you. If you think a group is very good or very bad then that means you are not yet completely with the group. When you are totally part of that group, you will find that some bickering will come up. But you are the one who makes the group – so if you are good, your group will also be good.

Sangha has a reverse nature to Buddha. Buddha makes your mind one-pointed; Sangha, because it is of so many people, can scatter your mind, fragment it. Once you are used to it, it loses its charm. This is the nature of Sangha.

Still it is very supportive. If it were repulsive all the time, then nobody would be part of the Sangha. Do not crave or be averse. Often you crave for Buddha and are averse to the Sangha, and you try to change; but Sangha or Buddha, you are not going to change.

The main purpose is to come to the centre deep within you, which means to find your Dharma. This is the third factor. What is Dharma? The Dharma is to be in the middle. Not going to the extremes is your nature.

Your nature is to be in balance,to smile from the depth of your heart, to accept this entire existence totally as it is. Knowing that this moment is what has been offered to me, and that is how I take it. A sense of deep acceptance for this moment, for every moment, is Dharma.

(H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living)

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By H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

This whole creation is a play of Shiva, the dance of one consciousness, one seed, which has manifested into a million species in the world. The whole world moving in an auspicious rhythm of innocence and intelligence is Shiva. Shiva is the permanent and eternal source of energy, the only eternal state of Being.

Shivratri is when the Shiva tatva and Shakti become one.

There is a story related to Shivratri, about the union of Shiva and Shakti. The primordial and dynamic energy is wedded to the transcendental. Shiva is the silent witness, the chidakasha and Shakti is chitti or chidvilasa, the energy that plays and displays in the infinite space. Shiva is the formless Being; Shakti is the manifestation in the field. This is the recognition of the dual aspect of matter and energy, prakriti and purusha, the dravya and guna – substance and its qualities. Recognising the underlying non-dual nature of Brahman is Shivratri.

Shivratri is the night to celebrate the wakefulness of one universal consciousness without falling into the unconscious sleep state. It is an occasion to awaken the self from all sorts of slumber. The jagran in Shivratri is not just forcing oneself to be awake or singing bhajans aloud. It is about keeping awake and being inward and being consciously aware of the inner rest that sleep anyway brings everyday. When you surpass a certain layer of sleep, the rest in samadhi or Shiva sayujya happens.

Shiva is symbolically represented by the linga. The Divine is beyond any gender, so the Divine is called Ekalinga, or one gender. That one gender is the Self, the Atma. Beyond the body, mind and intellect, and beyond likes and dislikes, that Self is only one, it is Ekalinga.

Shiva has been associated with destruction. Transformation can only happen after destruction. Shiva is that factor of transformation.

Shiva is a very simple lord, he is innocent – Bholanath. One just needs to offer bel-patra to him. But in this simplicity is a deep message. Bel-patra offerings signify the surrender of all three aspects of ones nature – Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. You have to surrender the positives and negatives of your life to Shiva and become free. The greatest offering is yourself. To offer ones self is the key to happiness in life.

Kailasa is the legendary abode of Shiva. Kailasa means where there is celebration. So wherever there is happiness and celebration, Shiva is present. Whether in sanyasa or sansara, you cant escape Shiva. Feeling his presence all the time is the essence of Shivratri. Lord Shiva is always depicted with eyes closed with a snake around his neck. He may appear to be sleeping but this indicates his inner state which is fully awake, like a snake.

He is always painted blue in pictures. Blue signifies the vastness of the sky. The moon on his head depicts everything within him. So all the ghosts, dead, devil, everything is included in his gana. In Shivas procession all types of people are present. So also in this world, all belong to that supreme soul. Its said “Sarvam shivamayam jagat”. This whole world is Shivamaya.

Shivratri signifies being aware of everything you have and being grateful about it. Be grateful for the happiness which leads to growth, and also for sadness which gives depth to life. This is the right way of observing Shivratri.

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– Q: I Cannot find enough time to Meditate

Sri Sri : Meditation will give you more time.

– Deeper your rest more Dynamic your activity.

– Work must be like holiday, Holidays must give deep rest.

– Don’t peg your targets on other people’s achievements

–  Half the health we spend gaining wealth and then spend half the wealth trying to gain back the Health!

–  Confidence is competing with yourself; Arrogance is competing with others.

–  The more you give, the more strength will come to you.

–  Pain is inevitable …suffering is optional!

–  Good Communication: Speak in Bullet points. Listen as Bullet points.

–  From: Friendship to Friendliness

–  From: Concern to Care

–  From: Ambition to Aspiration

–  Your silence increases the voltage of your words!

–  A little silence before any work brings clarity of mind. A little silence after the work brings contentment. Without    Clarity of mind and contentment, no work is worth doing.

–  Industry is like the body. Society is like the mind

–  Having infinite patience is the fastest way to do things.

–  Padartha Gnane Mokshaha – Complete knowledge of even one particle can free you.

–  Crisis comes to one who takes challenges, and the one who takes challenges also prepares to face crisis!

–  Some people who are too comfort loving do not take challenges ad therefore are not prepared to manage crisis. To manage crisis we need trust and faith.

–  The more you frown, the faster you age.

–  The sign of a healthy society is that there are empty places in prison and empty beds in hospitals

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