The Tree of knowledge
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar- The Guru of Joy
“My vision is a world which is violence free, crime free and stress free”
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
He is a renowned humanitarian, acts as spiritual leader whose mission is to unite the world into a violence-free global family through service and by fostering human values. Sri Sri’s work covers the areas of conflict resolution, trauma relief and disaster management, stress elimination, prisoner rehabilitation, youth and women empowerment, education, community development and the revival of ancient wisdom. He is the most multi-faceted activist unarguably in the world today. He is engaged in peace talks and counseling in conflicts zones around the world. His expertise in bringing people to the negotiating table in Sri Lanka, Kashmir and other places is widely acknowledged. On Friday 13 May we will be celebrating Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s birthday (popularly known as Sri Sri and lovingly called Guruji). Guruji was born on 13 May 1956 to a scholar of language father Venkat Ratnam and mother Vishalaksh in Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India. He was named ‘Shankar’ after that of the 9th century Hindu Saint Adi Shankara as his birthday (9 May) matches with him. Ravi Shankar could recite the verses of ‘Bhagavad Gita’ at the age of four and he was often found in deep meditation at a very young age. By the age of 17, he had obtained an advanced degree in Modern Physics.
In 1982, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said to an interviewer that while he was on the banks of the Tunga river in Shimoga in Karnataka, India, “Sudarshan Kriya came like a poem, an inspiration. I learnt it and I started teaching it.” After a 10-day retreat into silence during 1982, Shankar emerged with the technique of “Sudarshan Kriya”, a rhythmic breathing exercise, and constitutes the core component of the Art of Living course. Sudarshan Kriya harmonizes the natural rhythms of the body, mind and emotions.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded the Art of Living Foundation — an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization – in 1982 to spread this breathing technique. Its educational and self-development programs offer powerful tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being. Appealing not only to a specific population, these practices have proven effective globally and at all levels of society.
In 1997, he co-founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to coordinate sustainable development projects, nurture human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with the Art of Living Foundation. In India, Africa and South America, the two sister organizations’ volunteers are promoting sustainable growth among the rural communities, and have already reached out to over 36,000 villages. IAHV’s work today ranges from comprehensive rural development, education and tribal welfare, organic farming, micro financing, vocational training, disaster relief and rehabilitation programs for prisoners.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also designed a special program for jail inmates. The program enables prisoners to release stress and anger, breaking the cycle of violence and helping them to go back to society as productive individuals. Over 155,000 prisoners in countries such as the USA, Russia, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa and India have participated. In India alone, over 50,000 prisoners have followed the program, including over 24,000 prisoners and 600 prison staff at the Delhi-based Asia’s largest prison Tihar Jail.
One such project, SRIJAN in Tihar Jail, has employed prison inmates to make paper bags, diaries, etc., that are sold across the Art of Living Centers across India. The unit also provides ex-prisoners with an opportunity to earn a livelihood outside jail premises. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar states: “Inside every culprit, there is a victim crying for help. That person is also a victim of ignorance, small-mindedness and lack of awareness. It’s the stress, lack of broad vision about life, lack of understanding, and bad communication that leads to violence in society.”
Another key aspect of Sri Sri’s humanitarian initiatives has been to provide swift and timely relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters. Under his direction and close supervision, volunteers not only collect and disburse immediate relief supplies, but also help survivors overcome the post-traumatic stresses that haunt them. Relief and rehabilitation works in the tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, after the earthquake trauma relief camps in Kashmir and Pakistan, intervention in war-torn Iraq and in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in New-York have become one of the most vital links in any disaster rehabilitation programs the world over.
Sri Sri has established around 50 primary, secondary and high schools in the tribal, rural belts and semi urban belts of India where child labor and poverty are widespread. These schools are providing free, quality and value based education to the children of the poorest of the poor, the underprivileged, the tribal and the marginalized sections of society.
Sri Sri has designed several program and techniques for self-development and stress elimination. These unique programs are based on ancient breathing techniques, meditation and modern group dynamics and cater to every age group and section of society. One of the highlights of the program is the revitalizing breathing process of Sudarshan Kriya which releases stress and toxins at the physical, mental and emotional level, promoting overall health. The Art of Living courses give participants the practical knowledge and techniques to unlock their deepest potential and bring fullness to life. Whether happy and successful or feeling the stress of poor health, disappointments, or fear, every participant is cared for and comes away lighter, with effective techniques for releasing mental and physical stress and increasing his or her health, energy, peace, self-knowledge, awareness, and joy. The ideology behind the programs is that every individual has the right to live a fully expanded life, and develop his full potential, no matter what his social or economic status. Participants are able to re-discover the present moment, not as a concept but as a direct experience. Participants leave with simple but powerful techniques that they can practice every day. The Art of Living Course has been enjoyed by people of all traditions, religions, and walks of life, in universities, churches, governments, businesses, prisons, and war zones.
The Art of Living Foundation as an international non-profit educational, charitable and humanitarian organization offers programs in over 140 countries. As an NGO, Art of Living Foundation works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Apart from the Art of Living Foundation, Guruji has also founded other organizations/educational institutions, some of which deal with specialized issues such as rural development, agriculture and ayurveda. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir and Sri Sri Rural Development are two of them. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was among the 166 candidates who were shortlisted for ‘Nobel Prize’ in the year 2007.
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