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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!