On Saturday I met and spoke to Sri Sri Ravishankar. An incredible experience on so so many levels!
Sri Sri (Guruji) is founder of the Art Of Living movement which is a volunteer based, educational and humanitarian, non-governmental organization. It transcends all divides, government, race and religion.
It also runs stress relief courses, which follow Guruji's philosophy of non violent resolution.
"Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace”
Back in the US I took my Part 1 Art of Living (AOL) course, at the encouragement of some of my San Jose friends. The course was run by one of the wisest people I have ever met and who remains a role model/mentor to me today. I learnt my breathing exercises and became familiar with Guruji's 'knowledge' - the simple truths of life. His book ' Celebrating Silence' is well worth a perusal.
On arriving in India, especially Bangalore (Sri Sri's Ashram is on the outskirts) there are posters extolling the great man and his achievements (of which there are many) and advertising his courses everywhere. I have to confess that this turned me off the whole AOL thing. A movement that preaches humility, equality and the power of a greater force putting forth a human idol. Didn't hang well. A man that has met with lots of the big players on the world stage with all that pageantry, paparazzi, and power - can't live the life of the human values he extolls, or so I concluded.
But last Saturday I had the chance to go and see him in the flesh. Promoted as an intimate session with Sri Sri. Yep, me and 1999 other folks!!! I got to the venue early and was seated in the first row behind the VIPs. Hi-tech world we live in, on the screen was an email address and mobile number to email/text questions for Guruji to answer.
The guy twinkles big time! He is funny and fun, not serious and solemn. He is wise beyond belief but humble, warm and absolutely adorable, almost childlike in his sincerity, and apparently innocent charm! Not intimidating at all and yes it did feel intimate, even with 1999 other folks.
"Life is nothing to be very serious about. Life is a ball in your hands to play with. Don’t hold on to the ball"
Having soaked up his words (hopefully - I did take notes), having sat through a meditation - felt like 3 minutes but was apparently 18, and no I didn't nod off, it was over.
Nearly everyone else was pushing and shoving Indian Style to get near the man. I meanwhile had no urge or expectation to actually meet him so I headed to the exit. The exit though was firmly shut to allow Sri Sri to leave un-disturbed and make a quick getaway through a different escape hatch. Some folks were by now anxious to leave post haste and pushed and shoved and tried to persuade the poor volunteers on the door why they were so important they needed priority treatment to get to their next engagement. I just stood and waited, British style. There was then a flurry of activity as it transpired Guruji was coming out through THIS door after all. Marshalls pushed people aside to make a pathway for him to walk. As he reached me he looked right at me and offered his hand through the human barricade and we held hands and chatted.
That such a powerful wise man can be so unassuming, so unprepossessing and so much fun is a lesson for our times!