KOCHI: During a visit to the Art of Living headquarters in Bengaluru, recently, when a devotee, on knowing that I am a journalist arranged for me to meet the globe-trotting founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who had just celebrated his 62nd birthday on May 13. As I entered the air-conditioned hall, Ganga Kutir, there were several people sitting around. Many of them were devotees who were wearing white clothes. As for Sri Sri, he sat at the centre, in his trademark white shawl and dhoti, with a smile constantly on his face.
In front of him on a small table, there was an I-Pad, as well as boxes of prasadam, a bouquet of flowers, and garlands, while at one side, in a basket there were several apples and oranges.
A woman sat on the floor next to Sri Sri. She showed him an album. The guru went through it. Then he murmured his appreciation. Then they exchanged a few words.Later, he wrapped a scarf around her shoulders, presented her with an apple and a box of prasadam. She smiled, said thank you and got up.
Soon, I was allowed to go up. As we were about to converse, Sri Sri looked up at two women, sitting on chairs at the opposite side and said, “Do you have a plane to catch? Are you in a hurry?”
They smiled and one of them said, “Gurudev, we have time.”So, he nodded, looked at me and I said, “How is it that you have achieved so much, while many people are unable to do anything in life?”
Sri Sri smiled impishly and said, “Wonders should be left as wonders.” But then he became serious and said, “There are no explanations. I am not an extraordinary person. But to achieve anything in life, you need to channel the divine force.”“But then, not many people have the capacity to become a conduit for the divine energy,” I said.
“Everybody can do it, but why they are unable to do it is a different matter altogether,” said Sri Sri. “But the capacity, as well as the divine nature, are within everyone.”Thank to an abundance of energy, Sri Sri is an incessant globe-trotter: he travels to over 100 cities annually and meets all types of people. Asked whether they are happy, he said, “There are people who are happy, there are some who are unhappy, there are people in need, and there are others who are willing to help those in need. There are all types of people on the planet. But the one thing that is needed now is a wave of happiness. People need a spiritual upliftment.”
The spiritual leader feels an urgency because too many shocking events are taking place all the time. Asked why this is so, even though people are inherently good, Sri Sri said, “The goodness is sleeping in some people. And that needs to be awakened. Even a murderer has goodness within him. We see this because we are working with seven lakh convicts all over the world. They are nice people.”
Some prisoners crack a joke saying that the Art Of Living is responsible for them being in jail. “They tell me that if they had known about the teaching earlier, they would not have landed in prison,” says Sri Sri. “So they all have an inherent goodness but there is a moment in their life when they could not summon it, and so they did something for which they feel a regret.”
Finally, on being asked whether technology dehumanises man, Sri Sri says, “It is man who is driving technology. If I am not operating this I-Pad (pointing at the device in front of him), it will simply be still. As to whether it will overwhelm us, it is an instrument. It is up to us how we use it. But we need to be alert all the time.”