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Bush receives Sri Sri in White House

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | May 17, 2004 16:23 IST

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association of Human Values, was on May 7 received by US President George W Bush in the Oval Office of the White House and implored to "please keep us in your prayers."

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the first Indian spiritual leader to be received in the Oval Office by a president of the United States.

The seer was visiting the White House for discussions with senior officials of the Bush Administration's Faith-Based Initiative, when officials asked him if he would like to meet with Bush. Almost immediately they arranged for an Oval Office meeting between the two.

Bush embraced Sri Sri Ravi Shankar soon as he entered the Oval Office, and said, 'I am very glad you are here and please keep us in your prayers." He then asked the guru if he could take a picture with him, and called for the White House photographer to do the needful.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar later participated in a prayer meeting presided over by Bush, at the White House East, which was followed by a reception for several participants belonging to various faiths.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who as part of his world tour has just returned from Mexico and is scheduled to go to Brazil to address that country's Parliament, told rediff.com this was his first visit to the US Congress and the White House.

"My message to them has been the uplifting of human values," he said. He said he had briefed lawmakers and the White House about "our stress relief program with prisoners and the people in Iraq. The prison program is one of the main programs were are doing.

"I have already sent some doctors from India to Iraq, with ayurvedic medicines, and they are helping the people to overcome the trauma because the people there cannot sleep, are in constant anxiety and the conditions are terrible and women and children are suffering. So we are doing a big campaign for them."

"I am also working with Kashmiri migrants," Ravi Shankar told rediff.com. "We have about a three-and-a-half lakh Kashmir Pandits still in refugee camps for 14 years, and nobody has cared for them. Now, I am taking up their cause and trying to rehabilitate them, trying to put them back in Kashmir."

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was also feted on Capitol Hill at a reception hosted by influential Republican Representative David Dreier of California, who chairs the powerful House Rules Committee. Among lawmakers present were the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian American Representatives Joseph Crowley (New York Democrat) and Joe Wilson (South Carolina Republican); founder and former co-chair of the India Caucus Frank Pallone (New Jersey Democrat); unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; Earl Blumenauer (Oregon Democrat); James Walsh (New York Republican); and Diane Watson (California Democrat), among others.

Dreier, who recently made his first visit to India along with Staff Director of the Rules Committee Billy Pitts, said, "He is obviously a great spiritual leader and we are all so pleased that we can welcome him. We've had some wonderful meetings, it's a great honor and privilege for me to be here and to welcome him to the US Capitol."

"This is something we need to pursue so that there is in this world that is shrinking, an understanding of differences that exist," he said.

Several influential Jewish Americans, including the hierarchy of the American Jewish Committee, were presented at the reception as were several Indian-American community leaders and senior Indian embassy officials.

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