I have always been intrigued and inquiring about the life and works Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar after my first interaction with him in 2012, when I was invited as a journalist to listen to his views during his official visit to Goa.
That was a mere fleeting interaction but I could sense that this spiritual leader had a unique charisma about him and a gentle demeanor in his wise conversations.
I had hoped then, that we had a more delved conversation focusing on spiritual matters but it was not to be.
I have over the years met many wonderful people who have narrated to me about their experiences being a part of Art of Living. Friends who have experienced the Art of Living programs had often invited me to be a part of the Art of Living initiatives. But, in the past I never found the time visit the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ashram, even though I must admit that I have been very fascinated about the Sudarshan Kriya technique, when I read about it in some reading material.
It is often written and also stated that most of life’s friendships and relationships are preordained for a predestined time and place.
I believe that my meeting and conversation at the Art of Living Ashram in Bengaluru this week with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was an act of Providence for a purpose known only to Providence. In time, the plan of Providence will unfold, desirously, I am certain.
My purpose of visiting the Ashram was my intent to understand a business initiative graced and inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I saw a global potential in the idea that a team under his spiritual guidance had put together in the media and communication space. Therefore, on invitation by one of the team members who is also a friend of mine Sunila Muzawar from Goa, I decided to accept the invitation to meet with the team at Ashram and also meet with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, if it was planned by Providence.
I must confess I was planning to reschedule my visit to the Ashram because I was exhausted from my travels in Kolkata, researching and analyzing the political grind there but something in me told me it would not be a professional thing to do after committing to a meeting and I pride myself in being a professional. So I decided to travel to Bengaluru and visit the Ashram.
Even before the business meeting with the team members of this new idea I was meeting at the Ashram, I had the grace to meet with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This discussion was more official in nature because by habit, I will always interact like I am a journalist. It was certainly an informative discussion and I got a glimpse into some of his views to critical political issues in India and globally. It was a professional conversation, until we briefly spoke about his understanding of Santan Dharma and mine.
The business meeting was as any business meeting, I question, analyze and formulate my thoughts on the way forward to that business discussion. These thoughts are then discussed with my partners and team; and then relayed with the team I met. Their idea I believe is revolutionary and will create milestones for India, if planned and executed with stealth precision, because technology is its cornerstone. The fact that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had the vision to see the benefit of the technology for India and a tool to position India globally in this space, opened my mind to the thoughts that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is more than a spiritual leader, he is also a visionary and he is enterprising in his vision to assist this young team.
It was then that I decided to visit the works around the Ashram initiated by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. In my learning, understanding, and visit to the warehouse of Sri Sri Tattva. I witnessed an operational marvel compared to some of the most professional corporate houses in the FMCG space and I have visited many factories and warehouses. Under the leadership of its young, dynamic and down-to-earth managing director Arvind Varchaswi, I saw a business operation in the Ayurveda space that has the potential to take global an Indian Ayurveda brand. Actually, some its products do phenomenally in the international markets, my research on their brand and products later revealed. In fact, they a fashion brand BYOGI, that I believe will scale globally in a matter of time in the fashion space and their team is working towards it.
The most endearing fact of the business operations under the leadership of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is that the businesses and its growth is purely a reward for the purity of the intent of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his team to help people find livelihoods and empower them. Whether it is the Sri Sri Tattva products or even the BYOGI Ethnic Wear fashion brand. It is the entrepreneurship and jobs that their products create for society, that touched me the most. They have reached out to the downtrodden of society and given them an opportunity to exhale when they were suffocating under the burden of social relevance.
One of the most beautiful moments at the Ashram was my visit to the Goushala. It melted my heart and soul to see the cows at the Goushala in their real splendor. I would call them and they would come like obedient little children. I even fed them. I enjoyed speaking them and watched at they attentively listened. Such a blessed creation of the Almighty.
I visited the Ved Agama Pathshala. I was piqued to see our ancient Indian form of education being imparted to students. I witnessed their focused dedication to learning, especially the young boys reciting certain Vedic verses in unison. They were dressed in the traditional attire of a Gurukul student, a picture that you would have seen in old Indian historic movies or serials like Chandragupta. I looked at the time-table of the students and was pleasantly surprised to know that they have to wakeup at 4.30 am everyday and retire to bed at 9.30 pm. Even the way the students kept their hair had a purpose and tradition. The most memorable moment was to see a student prostrate on the ground before his Guru with respect and reverence. The aura around the Pathshala was one of knowledge and wisdom. It was a living experience of ancient Bharat in modern India.
My visit to the Sri Sri Institute of Advanced Learning, Ayurveda Hospital and the Ayurveda Therapy Spa had its own unique learning, magic and memory. I had my Aura read. It was quite a revelation. I even had the opportunity to experience Nadi Pariksha; the Ayurvedic doctor in a matter of few minutes and the feeling of my pulse on both hands, accurately diagnosed the ailments I have and also advised me about ailments I could develop due to my hectic lifestyle and poor eating habits. He has put me on a diet and a very strict one. I made a mistake of informing my wife about the diet, he advised, now my wife is going to supervise the strict diet along with my daughters.
The most beautiful experience I had was when I interacted with two gifted children Nithya and Bhavna from the Intuition Program at the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ashram – this revolutionary two-day program teaches children and teenagers from 5 – 17 years of age, simple and powerful techniques which enable them to access, cultivate and maintain their inherent intuitive capacity. I witnessed these young girls performing incredible mind-related exercises that had me in awe. These girls harnessed their intuitive ability enough to describe my family in a photograph on my phone, when blind-folded, to give me and others with me an accurate description, right down to the color of the clothes worn by each member in my family. The fact that they could rewrite blindfolded words on what I wrote on one paper on to another paper was incredible. I learned from a teacher who was with the students I met, that so far over 1 lac young children have participated in this Intuition program from all over India. This is phenomenal.
I also had the opportunity to meet President of the Sri Sri University Rajita Kulkarni. I am confident that we would do incredible work in the space of startups and innovation from Orissa and across India.
It was pleasure to meet with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s sister, such a humble and warm soul. We spoke about the education initiatives of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. 700 free schools to those in dire need of education is just one of the numerous initiatives and much needed effort.
At the end of my second day at the Ashram and also my last night, I had a surreal experience during the Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘Satsang’. Being there was a blessing because I got to listen to his spiritual words, see with my own eyes his spiritual grace and also witness the adoration of him by many people who visited this Satsang at the Ashram and online too.
I must say it was wonderful; the simplicity and purity of the people, who put their utmost faith in the teachings and blessings of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I did not for a moment think their adoration for him came because he performed magic tricks to entertain or heal people by a wave of God power like in the Miracle Rallies; or like someone led into a trance at a prayer meeting. He spoke in simple words and offered simple logic solutions to life’s problem and then took the people into a simple meditation exercise. I can only describe what I say saw as a real expression of life to students by a Guru.
After the Satsang, I learned I had a meeting with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at 10.15 pm after dinner. I was certainly eager to meet him again to understand more about his spiritual views and also share my spiritual experiences with him, hoping to learn something new from him, also get some guidance in meditation. We decided to take a walk around his home and talk. We spoke about the technology of the team I came to meet at the Ashram, I shared my views of the good and that, what needed to be improved. The talk started with the purpose I had come to the Ashram but then it got deeper into India, need to protect the identity of India, need to understand our allies and our enemies, about his belief in deradicalization of radical Indians, using of dialogue and peace measures to deal with India and global issues. Then it further delved into me, my family and our interests in life and our journey of spirituality. We walked and we talked. It was just like a teacher instructing a student on the path of life through his experience. I listen as he talked, he listened as I talked. The most memorable advise Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave me in that walk of about 20-mins was ‘Be a Guide’ to help people, especially young talent in India. I spoke extensively to him about my interest to work in the startup space, encourage talent in India to take them global and also work in education. All he said to me and that stayed etched in me is ‘Be a guide’. That advise to me was profound and at a crucial time in my next life’s decision both as a citizen and as an entrepreneur.
I am certain this friendship with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will grow formidable and I will learn so much more about spirituality and life. Like I told Gurudev, I am here as a learner and I will always be a learner.
I am not known to be overly awed by spiritual leaders but I think Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not just a spiritual leader but a humanitarian. He believes that by tapping into the human strengths of the body and mind, humans can become physically, mentally and spiritually strong. He is a teacher that believes that inside most humans lies divinity to be good and do good. That is all he seeks to bring out in people whose lives he touches. He wants to bring out the good in you.