'When you go to the root cause of any strife or violence, you find an agitated mind. If this agitation is not dealt with, then any other solution will be temporary and not as effective.'
'This is where meditation and the breathing techniques play a crucial role in creating a crime-free, violence-free society.'
Bhanumathi Narasimhan, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's sister, spoke to Rediff.com about the World Culture Festival 2016 in New Delhi, celebrating 35 years of service by the Art of Living Foundation.
In these times of strife and violence, what role can organisations like yours play in bringing about a sense of belongingness and peace?
The Art of Living has been doing just this for 35 years in so many countries. Trauma relief in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Israel, Palestine, Cuba, also for Syrian refugees; Prisoner rehabilitation in Tihar, in Denmark, the US, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand, Venezuela, Taiwan, Australia and several other countries; Mainstreaming Naxals in India, uniting warring tribes in the Ivory Coast -- all these peace-keeping efforts at societal, national and global levels are constantly underway.
When you go to the root cause of any strife or violence, you find an agitated mind. If this agitation is not dealt with, then any other solution will be temporary and not as effective.
This is where meditation and the breathing techniques play a crucial role in creating a crime-free, violence-free society.
The basis of all our efforts is spirituality and human values. We address the root cause and restore calmness in the mind, peace in the heart and a smile on the face.
Volunteers who have seen the transformation through meditation and Sudarshan Kriya are inspired to take it to every corner of this planet.
Spirituality, in its true sense, is the need of the hour.
The Art of Living is turning 35. How has this journey been for the organisation and you personally? What are some of the highlights for you?
This is a journey where every step has been the goal. It continues from perfection to perfection. It is a journey from the head to the heart, from a small circle of belongingness to a one world family. It is a journey of caring and sharing, of wisdom and love for life.
It has been a mystical and magical journey for me and for many others on this path. Inner peace and outer dynamism has been characteristic of our organisation.
Keeping a calm and joyful mind, the intention has always been service to humanity.
Ten years ago, we celebrated the silver jubilee of the Art of Living with 2.5 million people in Bangalore. The experience of 2.5 million meditating together is unforgettable.
Being a part of the Art of Living family is like the drop that feels a part of the ocean. It feels the strength of the ocean. Our volunteers are there wherever there is a call for help carrying Sri Sri in their heart, as their inspiration.
I have seen time and again how ordinary people come together for a service project and achieve extraordinary results. A recent example is the rejuvenation of an entire river (the Kumudavati) by a group of enthusiastic volunteers in Karnataka. The result is always much more than the sum of individual efforts.
There is a beautiful synergy. When you ask them their experience, they will always share how amazing it was to see the way things just 'happened'.
Sri Sri is our role model and he models all our roles. He has led us by example. Today there are millions of people in over 152 countries who have benefitted from the techniques and the knowledge.
When you enjoy something and feel that it has helped you, you naturally share it with others. This is precisely how this organisation has grown -- just by being useful to every individual.
For as long as I remember, I have seen how whatever is needed for the moment is always there. We started with taking responsibility for a Vedic school that was closing down. We had 150 children to take care of who lived with us and had their classes in our home for several months.
Not once did I see Sri Sri worried about how to manage. Whatever was needed would simply come. It is still the same.
Our motto has been to make life a celebration. Real celebration happens only when there is peace: Peace in your mind, in the environment, in society and the world. Our efforts have helped achieve peace at multiple levels and bring much needed harmony in our world today.
Personal highlights for me have been the 423 free schools that we have in 19 states across India providing holistic education to over 45,000 children.
I feel proud to see that a child from our school is the first woman metro driver in Bangalore. We started with just 30 children from the nearby villages who were not going to school at all.
In those days we had to go from house to house explaining the importance of education for these children, especially girls. Most of the children in our schools are first generation literates.
It is heartening to see an equal ratio of boys and girls in the schools. Girl child education has been a passion for me.
The International Women's conferences are another milestone. They have brought together eminent women leaders from all walks of life from 88 countries on a single platform to discuss, deliberate and take responsibility for a more peaceful and harmonious society for our future generations.
A speaker once shared with me that after attending so many conferences in a formal atmosphere where people are just focussed on finding someone to blame for the issue, here participants come together in a cordial atmosphere to actually find solutions to the largest and most serious issues faced by society.
The innumerable women welfare initiatives that have been undertaken to empower and bring inner strength and confidence to the lady of the house, the tens of thousands to whom I had the opportunity to teach meditation and see how their stresses dissolved as they had profound experiences of their inner self.
Sharing the vision of my master in bringing this world together as a one world family -- this is the highlight of my journey.
What is the World Culture Festival? What outcomes do you expect from it? Can festivals such as these bring the world closer together?
The World Culture Festival celebrates the diversity of cultures and the refinement of consciousness. Only a refined mind finds interest in music, dance, poetry and the arts.
Meditation, yoga and breathing techniques help you to have a calm mind, free from agitations. The Art of Living has helped millions around the world to have a peaceful mind and a more caring, sensitive approach towards society.
A broad-minded, all-inclusive vision that honours and celebrates the richness and the diversity of every culture is essential today. The World Culture Festival is a coming together of these cultured minds from all around the world.
3.5 million people from all over the world are expected to join us between March 11 and 13 in New Delhi as we celebrate 35 years of service. Each country is coming with a presentation representing the cultural wealth of their country. Thousands of musicians and other artists will share the stage on these days.
Millions will meditate together for peace in our world. I invite each and every one of you to join us in making this world a more humane, all-inclusive, safer and beautiful place for our children.
You have been a champion of empowering women. Do you think the world would be a better place if women would take on more leading roles in global politics?
Women have the innate ability to bring together people of diverse perspectives harmoniously. The finer softer aspect, the sensitivity gives her the natural ability to find a more peaceful solution effectively.
Women should come forward in every sphere, not just politics, and bring in their expertise and magic touch in creating a more positive and progressive world.