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Stress-relief, the Vedic Way
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Interviewed by Hemamalini Raghunathan

Our breath plays a very important role in our life. The breath is the connecting link between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of the body and environment. Sudarshan Kriya is a rhythmic breathing process, using three different cycles of breath. The breath sorts out the imbalances in the mind and the body.

Your emotions as well as your thoughts move in a particular rhythm. All these rhythms arise from your Being, which has its own rhythm. In Sudarshan Kriya, we get into the rhythm of our Being and see how Being is permeating our emotions, our thoughts, our breath, and our bodies. Every cell of the body becomes so alive and releases all the toxins and negative emotions it has stored from times past. Once again, we will be able to smile from our hearts.

By teaching people how to unlock the secrets of life through breath, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has created an ever-expanding family of happy individuals, who are inspired by his message of compassion, commitment to society and a universal understanding of life.

Through simple breathing techniques and practical stress-elimination programmes, Sri Sri has touched the lives of over 45 million people, cutting across all barriers of caste, creed, race, nationality and religion. Through the regeneration of human values, he is promoting global peace and development by inspiring individuals towards self-awareness, joyful living and selfless service.

Born in 1956 in Papanasam, India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar studied under many renowned spiritual masters and became a scholar of Vedic literature. In 1982, Sri Sri founded the Art of Living Foundation, which is now one of the worlds largest volunteer NGOs, active in 146 countries.

Sri Sri travels to more than 35 countries every year, to reinforce the message that all religions and spiritual traditions share common goals and values. In his presence, one experiences a profound silence that is beyond words. People have found peace of mind, vibrant health and a deep understanding of their own nature. His followers include the crème de la crème of high society as well as the poorest of the poor. In spite of his hectic schedule, he meets everyone untiringly listening, guiding and blessing. He brings a child-like innocence to wisdom and effortlessness in activity. Sri Sri is known as much for his profound wisdom as his zeal for service.


Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview:

How can one become more loving and compassionate, in spite of antagonistic behaviour from others?  
It is a general attitude that one has to inculcate in life. You cannot try to be compassionate at a particular moment, if you dont practise it in your life throughout. You cannot learn archery in the war-field.

It is easy to say control your anger, forgive the mistakes of others, etc. But how can one handle a subordinate or an acquaintance, who does not perform satisfactorily?
When someone doesnt perform, you need to take action. Anger is not bad; it is part of life. There is nothing wrong in showing anger or being upset in life. Only thing is, it should not linger for too long. You cannot be goody goody all the time. It is not practical; you have to be stern, when you need to be stern.

Can dispassion and success co-exist in ones life?
Definitely. In fact, it is dispassion that brings more success. In a state of dispassion, you can enjoy success. Excitement and feverishness kill the joy of success.

What to do when one faces failures, despite putting in 100 percent efforts?
Every failure is a step towards success. See that your failure is not due to lack of initiatives. If it is so, then improve your style of functioning and be steadfast in pursuing your goal.

Is money not important? How can one balance material pursuits and spiritual discipline?
Money is important. But money is not everything in life. You should have a balance between values and wealth.

How can we console someone, when he or she loses his or her near and dear one, by fate of death?
Silence consoles a person more than words. Just blabbering and showing sympathy do not really console anybody. A quiet and compassionate mind has its own vibration that brings solace to the bereaved.

Many mystics talk about out-of -body experiences, astral travel, etc. Are these true?
Certainly. The manifest world as we know is only a tip of the iceberg. The vast subtle world has many secrets to offer.

What spiritual inputs are necessary to create a universal platform for solving global problems, such as nuclear disarmament?
Spiritual awareness can bring understanding between people and nations. It breeds mutual trust and co-operation, which are absolutely essential for disarmament. Spirituality allows people to think with a calm mind.

What is the secret behind the immense popularity of Sudarshan Kriya?
Its effectiveness and usefulness have made it very popular. It is a simple, but powerful breathing technique, taught exclusively through the Art of Living courses designed by me. It was revealed to me during a period of silence in 1982.

It is a rhythmic breathing practice that harmonizes the rhythms of the body and emotions, and brings them in tune with the rhythms of nature.

The subtle and specific rhythm of Sudarshan Kriya, floods every cell of the body with oxygen and prana and eliminates physical and emotional toxins at the cellular level.

Sudarshan means right vision and kriya means purifying action. This Eastern approach to emotional purification is different from the approach of Western psychology. Generally psychologists are able to help us to identify our emotions, but fail to get us to the very core of our nature.

Sudarshan Kriya takes us beyond our thoughts and emotions, and allows us to totally experience our feelings. One does not experience an emotional seminar high. Instead, there is a feeling of being more even and natural, centered in one´s Self. Practitioners report that they feel renewed physically, emotionally and elevated spiritually.

Sudarshan Kriya is a rhythmic breathing process, using three different cycles of breath. The breath and mind are linked, just like the body and the mind. The breath sorts out the imbalances in the mind and the body. The breath holds the secret of life that we have forgotten.

Sudharshan Kriya
Research conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) of India, (the premiere institute for the study of neuroscience and mental health in India), has documented the Art of Living programmes efficacy as a stress-management tool. Levels of Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, decreased significantly in people who practised the Sudarshan Kriya technique, within 21 days. Stress is known to be a major contributing factor to violence. It is also known to diminish an individuals ability to execute non-violent conflict-resolution strategies.

The findings of study conducted by AIIMS, New Delhi suggest that regular practice of the Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayama invokes positive emotions, replacing anger, frustration and jealousy.

EEG, blood cortisol and blood lactate levels reflect a state of relaxation, of course with necessary alertness. Increase in killer cells and anti-oxidant enzymes suggest that regular practice may prevent many diseases, including infectious ones and possibly even Cancer. Fall in Cholesterol level may prevent cardiac diseases. Positive results have been noticed in 70 per cent of cases of depression.

The Sudarshan Kriya benefits every individual in an unique way. Its benefits are infinite and deepen over time, with regular practice. Below are some benefits that have been commonly experienced from various perspectives:

Physical Level: Increased lung capacity; reduced levels of stress (reduces the stress hormone Cortisol); improved anti-oxidant defence; greater energy and sense of well being; many report relief from common ailments such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes and insomnia.

Spiritual Level: Broader vision of life; clearer vision of ones true nature; blossoming of positivity through an experience of love; deeper sense of belongingness, enthusiasm and joy.

What is the Art of Living?
The Art of Living Foundation is dedicated to creating peace from the level of an individual and fostering human values within the global community. It is working to bring about a transformation that will free every individual from stress and other negative emotions, and help experience the true pleasure of joy. This can be achieved just by attending to our breathing pattern for a few minutes everyday. What keeps us from experiencing a relaxed state of mind is stress. The various courses taught by Art of Living release the stress of modern life effortlessly.

The introductory Art of Living course combines ancient breathing and relaxation techniques with knowledge and skills to handle the mind, emotions, relationships and life in general. The 18-20 hour workshop is open to everyone, who is above 21 years of age. Spread over six days, the course is regularly conducted in 146 countries. Also the International Centre of the Art of Living on Kanakapura Road, near Bangalore offers the course on a three-day residential format.

There are courses for kids, teenagers and specialized programmes for the corporate sector, where busy executives can learn very powerful tools to de-stress themselves. The foundation also conduct rehabilitation programmes in prisons across the globe.

The foundation is basically a service organisation run by volunteers and it is currently engaged in providing material and trauma relief to the victims of recent earthquake in Kashmir and Pakistan. It continues to provide trauma relief camps in the tsunamiaffected areas in India and Sri Lanka. It conducted major relief operations in the aftermath of earthquakes in Gujarat and Bam; floods in Mumbai and Indonesia; Orissa cyclone and 9/11 World Trade Centre attack. Its trauma relief initiative in war-torn Iraq is just one example of its unceasing commitment to service.

The Art of Living Foundation is channelling the same spirituality as a strong catalyst for making a difference to the world through service. Its social intervention initiative is called 5H Program. 5H stands for Home, Hygiene, Health, Harmony in Diversity, and Human Values.

What is enlightenment?
Seekers on the spiritual path are very curious about enlightenment. Enlightenment is like a joke! It is like a fish in the ocean, searching for the ocean. Enlightenment is the very core of our being, going to the core of our Self and living our life from there.

We all came into this world gifted with innocence; but gradually as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts and as time passed, we moved into our heads. The reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from the head back to the heart, from words back to silence, getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although it seems very simple, this is a great achievement.

Enlightenment is that state of Being, mature and unshakeable under any circumstance. Come what may, nothing can rob the smile from our heart. Going beyond the limited boundaries, and feeling all that exists in this universe belongs to me, is enlightenment.

What is your message to EST readers?
Attend to your breathing pattern; develop clarity of mind and focus on the present. Control your negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear and jealousy. Pave way for a peaceful atmosphere in the New Year!

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