The Candid Eye

March 14, 2012

Sri Sri in Pakistan: I’m ready to hold talks with Taliban

Filed under: Art of Living,Hinduism,India,Islam,Pakistan,Spirituality,Yoga — Abhay @ 10:48 PM
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From Rediff.

Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Tuesday offered to hold talks with the Taliban to usher in peace in the region, saying it would help foster understanding among people with divergent views.

“I am ready to go and talk to the Taliban. I want to talk to them, understand them and give them my opinion. So we can definitely make a difference. We should try it again and again even if we have to try it 100 times,” Ravi Shankar said during an interaction with the public and media in Islamabad.

Responding to a question on what leaders could do to usher in peace in the region, the spiritual guru said, “Most of the trouble is created by rhetoric” and people should instead work for a future filled with hope.

“People find importance in creating such dangerous situations. They should stop and give more hope to people,” he said.

Ravi Shankar, currently on a three-day private visit to Pakistan, inaugurated a centre for his Art of Living movement at Bani Gala on the outskirts of Islamabad.

He also met with a group of Muslim clerics and some political leaders.

Answering questions from the media and the public, Ravi Shankar said decision-makers should be “calm and collective” while tackling serious issues.

Life becomes worth living, he said, when people are able to be of help to others.

“When decision-makers are in high tension or angry, they will project the same thing in their decisions. They should do some meditation and relax, especially when they have to make a serious decision that will impact a lot of people,” he said.

He said he was happy to see the enthusiasm with which the Pakistani people had welcomed him.

Highlighting the transformation in Pakistan, Ravi Shankar said, “On my last visit, I was surrounded by security personnel and holed up in the hotel. On this visit, I interacted more with people and met the youth at Forman Christian College (in Lahore)”.

“It was amazing to see the enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and willingness to know,” he said.

Though some “government people” in India had asked him not to visit Pakistan, he had decided to go ahead with his trip, he added.

Ravi Shankar identified corruption as one of the biggest problems confronting countries around the world, including Pakistan.

“The civil society should rise up and say no to corruption. Law and legislation alone won’t solve the problem, it can happen only if there is spiritual transformation,” he remarked.

He also called for inter-faith harmony and “allowing diversity to exist”.

Pakistan could earn revenues by promoting and developing tourist sites like Taxila that could attract Buddhist and Hindu visitors, he said.

“Love, peace, tolerance” is what Pakistani students shouted for when asked by visiting spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar what he should speak about. Ravi Shankar regaled the audience at the famous Forman Christian College in Lahore as he spoke about love, religion and answered number of questions.

“You better find another one from about seven billion living souls in the world. Move ahead,” was Ravi Shankar’s advice to a Pakistani student who sought his view on him being unable to forget his ex-girlfriend.

The answer led to a round of thunderous applause from the audience in Lahore.

Hundreds of students accorded a warm welcome to Ravi Shankar, who began a three-day private visit to Pakistan with an address at the college in Lahore.

The hall was jam-packed an hour before the arrival of Shankar as both students and teachers were eager to listen to him.

“I am glad to see your enthusiasm. You can do wonders in life with this energy. Do not lose this enthusiasm,” Shankar said after walking onto the stage.

He asked the students what they wanted him to speak about and the hall echoed with shouts of “Love, peace, tolerance”.

Shankar involved the students in demonstrations to make them understand the power of truth. “You tell a lie and lose power over yourself,” he said.

He told them how to control anger and mood swings and to concentrate on studies.

A student asked Shankar to comment on the “worshipping of idols”, as it is a common belief in Pakistan that Hindus worship hundreds of gods.

“Like Allah has 99 names, there are over 1,000 idols but God is not in them. God is one. Hindus also worship one God,” Ravi Shankar explained, drawing applause from senior members of the faculty.

Ravi Shankar asked the audience to make space in their lives for meditation, yoga and breathing techniques and see how this would bring about a change.Referring to India-Pakistan relations, Ravi Shankar cited the example of France, Germany and Britain living in peace after centuries of enmity and questioned why the South Asian neighbours could not do the same.

“Both countries can make progress and overcome poverty if we are united. We need to wipe away every tear…I have a dream in my life and that is about a world free of violence, anxiety and corruption,” he said.

In response to a question, he said no religion is responsible for terrorism. “What we need to do is teach a child about 10 religions. He would develop understanding about them, leading towards tolerance”.

He added, “A person who thinks he will go to heaven and the rest to hell, in fact creates hell for the rest”.After he concluded his speech, students rushed up to the spiritual leader to take photographs with him.Shankar arrived in Lahore on Monday via the Wagah land border crossing. He visited the historic Badshahi Mosque and held some private meetings with followers of his Art of Living movement.

He will travel to Islamabad tomorrow and open a new Art of Living centre.From the federal capital, he will travel to the southern port city of Karachi, from where he will leave for India on March 14.

 

July 12, 2011

The World Culture Festival

Filed under: Art of Living,Europe,Festivals,India,Music,Spirituality,Yoga — Abhay @ 12:41 PM
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    smile …its free

 



































 

October 28, 2010

Parents learn to know their kids at Art of Living session

KOLKATA(Jul 19, 2009): More than a hundred parents came with the intention to get some ideas about transforming their errant kids. But at the end of the Art of Living workshop called Know your child’, they returned with the conviction that they had never looked at the world as a child looks at it and have been wrong in handling their child.

“The most important thing is allowing a child to be comfortable with himself or herself in a child-friendly environment so that he or she can develop into a happy adulthood with a sense of belonging,” said Muralidhar Koteshwar, one of the trustees of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidyamandir (SSRSV) Trust.

The workshop helps worried parents see things from a child’s perspective and it makes all the difference. For instance, fighting between two siblings is actually good for training the child to be a warrior in life. “A child lives in the present, never in the past or the future. So give the child attention when he or she needs it, not when your time permits. It creates magic,” said Murali (as he is better known in the circle). His simple tips enthralled parents who hitherto thought parenting means a lot of disciplining and whipping. “Punishment robs a child of confidence,” he said.

The workshop actually gives a glimpse into how the Trust sensitizes the teachers of the Trust-run schools across the country on child-friendliness. “In fact, the training of teachers enables them to get a deep insight into the mind of a child. The focus is always on encouraging children to excel without compromising on human values. Children will excel when they are in a stress-free environment. Our curriculum includes daily yoga, asana and breathing exercises, which enable a calm and focused mind. This helps discover the inner potential of every child,” said Murali.

The Trust’s first school in Kolkata is coming up in Alipore. “The academy aims to provide value education in a friendly and stress-free environment. Innovative teaching-learning facilities have been provided to bring out the best in each child and give him or her wings to fly high while remaining rooted in Indian values. The admission will start from September,” said Suvina Shunglu, educational coordinator and junior school headmistress of the academy.

The philosophy of the school is to bring about development of every child in all the three aspects body, mind and spirit. It lays great emphasis on sports, performing and visual arts. Varied interests of the child will be nurtured through activities like creative writing, quizzing, debating, computer programming, out-of-the box arts, martial arts, said Shunglu.

Provision has been made in infrastructure facilities for indoor and outdoor games with a mini gym for toddlers, table tennis, a unique outdoor play station, fields for soccer, cricket and hockey, basketball and badminton courts with experienced coaches. The U-shaped building has been designed to avoid excess heat. Airy corridors and moderate temperature-controlled classrooms are being provided .The latest digital touch screen with overhead projector is being provided in each classroom, said Manish Poddar, the man behind the project.

From: Parents learn to know their kids at Art of Living session – The Times of India

October 2, 2010

Need of cow preservation

Imagine a day without a cup of tea or coffee. Or children not getting to drink milk. Or a pongal without Ghee. Or the prices of ghee souring so much as to be unaffordable to the middle class which is in majority.

The National Dairy Development Board gives following statistics for Cattle in India:-

As you can see,there has been a decreasing trend in the number of cattle, in the recent decades. An approximately 2 million cattle are lost per year in the country. The statistics indicate that the current unknown population of cattle in India could be near about 165-170 million only.

The Karnataka government has passed the cow slaughter ban bill in both the assemblies.

As per the law, the cow slaughter offense is punishable with imprisonment not less than one year which may extend up to seven years or fined between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 or both; second and subsequent offense would attract a fine of not less than Rs 50,000 up to Rs one lakh along with imprisonment penalty.

The bill was intended to replace the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves of she-buffaloes, bull, buffalo male or female.It is also aimed at preservation and improvement of the breeds of cattle and to endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry in terms of Article 48 of the Constitution.

The bill provides for stringent punishment for violation of the act, and also provides for powers to search and seizure of any premises including vessel or vehicle.

The opposition gave considerable resistance for it, so the Governor forwarded the matter to the President of India. The law is anyways implemented in several other states, so the objection of Governor was not necessary. But he forwarded it considering ‘inter-state’ implications. It will in fact be good to have it as a nationwide law.

It is not only important to constitutionalize the cow slaughter ban, but also to give encouragement for public participation in preservation of cows. For example, can the government create mechanism for public to give donations/ fundings/ investments in government run goshalas? Could there be tax free support for milk production on small scale. Can the government give funding for opening new Goshalas?

July 13, 2010

Kathewadi – A village from another time !

From Rediff.com
Sangeeta Anand visits Kathewadi village in Maharashtra’s Nanded district to see an amazing transformation.

Image: Radha Bai and Anjan Bai, residents of the village


We are finally in view of Kathewadi, a tiny village in the back of the beyond in Nanded district in Maharashtra. It’s been a six-hour journey from Hyderabad across two states to satisfy our curiosity about this village and its people having turned their lives around. I wonder if things can change. Is it possible in today’s times to run a shop unmanned by a shop keeper? To believe that goods bought would be paid for, without supervision ?

When we reach Kathewadi, I pass a woman sitting in the tiny portico of her gaily painted hut and as I make eye contact she smiles and motions me to come in. Smiling, she offers me water and shows me around her home. With gestures I convey that we are here to visit their village and take pictures. She offers to accompany us and we head off through the main street. We walk through a surprisingly clean village with clusters of homes neatly painted in a uniform shade of soft pink, soothing our eyes under the hot glare of the sun.

The Art of Living Foundation has adtoped this village and converted it into a model of village life. It founder, Sri Sri Ravishankar’s teachings arer painted on the walls of every home in the village. Says writer Babu Patil Biradar, who has now joined us. “We live by Guruji’s teachings.”

Radha Bai my guide tells me in Marathi, “All our homes have a toilet. We have all collected money and built one outside each house.” The pride is evident in her face.

We come to the main temple of the village alongside which is the famous shop. Men and women have come out of their homes to gather for the satsang that they all participate in every evening.

I am introduced to the village elders and after a series of greetings, I ask them about the inspiration behind the shop, unmanned by a shopkeeper, where all the goods are labelled and left for the people to pick up and pay for, unsupervised. I am invited to see for myself.

The linoleum lined floor and the neatly stacked shelves impress me with their quiet dignity. Each product is labelled and marked with the prices. There is a large box in which the villagers put in the money for the items they pick up and another little one marked Daan Peti (donation box) in which they collect money for development work in the village.

Sangeeta Suryavanshi is another surprise. She is the 25-year-old is the sarpanch of this village. She says, “One member of every family in this village has done an Art of Living course: The Nav Chetna shivirs, youth leadership training programme and the basic course.”

“It has brought such a change in our society that we have become totally addiction free. There is amity and harmony amongst all of us, which did not exist before. We have learnt about hygiene and cleanliness and all the money that was spent on vices like alcohol and tobacco is now used constructively. This has happened due to Guruji’s inspiration,” she says proudly.


Image: A villager makes a payment at the shop in Kathewadi

Now we have self help groups of ten people each and these groups solve any issues and implement solutions.” An old man is being helped across the street to our side and I rise to wish him. Allauddin Sheikh heads the only Muslim family in this village of 700 people.

“My family has lived here for generations. My son has done the Art of Living Course and he is very happy with all that he has learnt. In all my 80 years I have never seen such a transformation in our village. We live in complete harmony and help each other in times of need.”

The music has risen to a crescendo and men and women are dancing in devotion, each face alight with joy, as I take my leave, children reach out to wish me as I wave to them from the bus. Babu Patil’s shared confidence echoes through my head all through the journey back to Hyderabad.

I had dreamt of a village like this, after reading about it in a book. It has actually happened. Cleanliness, harmony, trust, human values, bonding, this village with a vision surely belongs to another time.



Image: food packets labelled and on display at the shop in Kathewadi

June 19, 2010

The art of healing

The art of healing

SUHEL SETH, Jun 8, 2010, 03.43pm IST

I was in Chandigarh watching television on May 30 when the news of an assassination attempt on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar flashed across all screens and then began, in typical Indian fashion, the analysis of this near-fatal event without an iota of accuracy or on the basis of an informed decision. I have to confess, while I am neither a member of the Art of Living Foundation nor have I ever done a course, I have, for many years admired the manner in which Sri Sri has galvanized millions of people across the world to believe in a simple set of values: all of which revolve around human character and happiness. I wanted to call him and check how he was but in the interim, I was disappointed at the positions that everyone began taking. It was no rocket science to understand the silence of the state Government of Karnataka: no one in their right minds would have wanted to say anything on the subject when they were preparing to host their first Global Investor’s meet barely four days later. But it was P Chidambaram who surprised me the most and this was a very different Chidambaram. Not the one I had seen address the press admirably early in the morning of February 14, 2010 when the German Bakery in Pune had been the target of a vicious bomb attack the night before. At that time, Chidambaram was measured and was clear that he would offer a view only after thorough investigations were done.

But this time round, when the attack on Sri Sri took place, Chidambaram alluded to some dangerous theories; one that Sri Sri was not the real target and second that this could have been an inner-ashram feud. Yes, comments made without even a whiff of an investigation: made perhaps in passing but ones that, in hindsight have proven to be more damning than Chidambaram can imagine. This then triggered off a wave of theories: something that only we in India are brilliant at: commenting on things that are in circulation but have no roots.

I finally called up Sri Sri to enquire about his well-being and he was more amused than angered. He was more concerned about his assailant and anguished at the allegations that were circulating. But not once did I hint even a dash of anger or for that matter frustration. He talked about the calmness at the ashram and the happiness quotient therein. He talked about forgiveness and moving on and then said, he couldn’t understand why things were being said when there was no truth in them. This article will hopefully help him understand an India that is not so calm and not so happy. This is an attempt to awaken Sri Sri from the oasis of peace he resides in and fosters. And something that reflects on the general malaise that has come about in our society.

Television has made many of us instant commentators: silence is no longer a virtue nor is smiling away your troubles: you are either seen as guilty or as one who has something to hide. So Sri Sri should have never been silent or for that matter happy that his followers, one of whom was shot, were alive and more importantly happy. He should have given a dozen television interviews and made it to the front pages and prime time headlines: that would have kept him in currency not for peace but for violence: exactly what the terrorists and now the Maoists feed off.

But before we march into the next crisis, let’s pause and think what all of this has really done: it has created an impression of an inner feud which doesn’t exist; it has made Sri Sri come across as publicity-hungry which he clearly isn’t: he was as well-known before May 30; but the damage it has done is considerable: we have almost, without unsettling Sri Sri, created a level of cynicism and anguish amongst his followers in this country’s rule of law; in our ability to forget and forgive and most importantly to move on. With all the utterances around, we have confused and confounded some very happy people living in that ashram and who are helping the poor and the distraught. So while we may serve the cause of TRPs and individual one upmanship, have we really addressed the larger malaise of unhappiness and anger? Of desolateness and isolation? Of social stigmatization and separatism?

I genuinelybelieve we have many lessons to learn. Our media today is playing into the hands of vulgar sensationalism and our politicians are falling into this trap. We as a nation think it to be hip and cool if we knock the good that our fellow country-men are engaged in. We love to pull the ones that are doing good down with a ferocity that is seeped in negativism. Rather than praise the good work, we invest emotions mired in cynicism and disbelief. Are we increasingly becoming a nation that is suspicious and bitter? Or will we allow ourselves to be happy and optimistic. Many a time, each one of us that has the option to speak in public or write in newspapers want the easy way out. Criticism and not critique are the birthmarks of this India. But then this is a downward spiral. It will make us even more miserable than we need to be. It will make us despondent when we don’t need to be and more than anything else, our very attitude will deter people from pursuing the path of good and nobleness. Sri Sri runs the Art of Living program. But given what one sees around, there is a crying need for us to invest in an Art of Healing program. We need to placate and please; we need to progress and prosper and not be bitter and banal about every thing good around us. Perhaps May 30 was a lesson which we need to learn from; a signal to every Indian to be proud and not picky about everything good about our own people; our own values and our own culture. It is easy to cast stones at everything but very difficult to pick up the pieces of shattered souls. The time to stop this is now. The time to move on is now.Sri Sri has the ability to move on and he will; the happiness quotient will not see any dip or turbulence except that we will make every human being question his own integrity and his own belief system, the next time he wants to say what he really feels. Sri Sri was happy when I spoke to him. No words of rancour or remorse. But then, he is evolved. What if he wasn’t? Do we want soap operas in this country every time a tragedy occurs or do we actually have it in ourselves to let our silence heal us: from within and comprehensively?

June 18, 2010

How fruit trees in Indian village save girls’ lives

Bhagalpur, BiharSneha Surabhi (Photo: Prashant Ravi)Sneha, four, says she regularly waters the trees her father planted for herPhotos: Prashant Ravi

In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child.

In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.

And this practice is paying off.

Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh.

Mr Singh is a small-scale farmer with a meagre income, but he is not worried about the high expenses needed for the marriage ceremony.

For, in keeping with the village tradition, he had planted 10 mango trees the day Nikah was born.

The girl – and the trees – were nurtured over the years and today both are grown up.

Dowry deaths

“Today that day has come for which we had planted the trees. We’ve sold off the fruits of the trees for three years in advance and got the money to pay for my daughter’s wedding,” Mr Singh told the BBC.

“The trees are our fixed deposits,” he said.

Dharhara village in BiharThe village looks like a forest or a dense green patch

In Bihar, payment of dowry by the bride’s family is a common practice. The price tag of the bridegroom often depends on his caste, social status and job profile.

The state is also infamous for the maximum number of dowry deaths in the country.

But the mango trees have freed Nikah’s parents of undue worries. And their story is not unique in Dharhara village.

With a population of a little over 7,000, the village has more than 100,000 fully grown trees, mostly of mango and lychee.

From a distance, the village looks like a forest or a dense green patch amidst the parched and arid cluster of villages in the area.

‘Great value’

And most residents can be spotted sitting in the cool orchards outside their homes.

“Now, we’ve stopped doing traditional farming of wheat and paddy. We plant as many trees as we can since they are more profitable and dependable,” said villager Shyam Sunder Singh.

Shatrughan Prasad Singh (Photo: Prashant Ravi)The villagers have been planting trees for generations

Mr Singh paid for the weddings of his three daughters after selling fruits of trees he had planted at the time of their birth.

“One medium-size mango orchard is valued at around 200,000 rupees ($4,245; £2,900) every season. These trees have great commercial value and they are a big support for us at the time of our daughter’s marriage,” he says.

The villagers say they save a part of the money earned through the sale of fruits every year in a bank account opened in their daughter’s name.

The tree-planting has been going on in the village for generations now.

“We heard about it from our fathers and they from their fathers. It has been in the family and the village from ages,” says Subhendu Kumar Singh, a school teacher.

“This is our way of meeting the challenges of dowry, global warming and female foeticide. There has not been a single incident yet of female foeticide or dowry death in our village,” he says.

His cousin, Shankar Singh, planted 30 trees at the time of his daughter Sneha Surabhi’s birth.

Sneha, four, is aware that her father has planted trees in her name; the child says she regularly waters the saplings.

As yet she doesn’t know what dowry is, and says the trees will bear fruits for her “to eat”.

The village’s oldest resident, Shatrughan Prasad Singh, 86, has planted around 500 mango and lychee trees in his 25 acres of land.

His grand-daughters, Nishi and Ruchi, are confident the trees mean their family will have no problem paying for their weddings.

“The whole world should emulate us and plant more trees,” says their father Prabhu Dayal Singh.

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