Thursday, February 26, 2009


Misery is - well - a miserable thing. Sucked into its vortex, life takes many tumbles. Like clothes in a washing machine spin cycle, it turns me around and around. Like a whirlpool or quicksand, it sucks me into its fold. Like jeera or pepper just added to boiling oil in a cauldron it makes me jump, crackle and cry. Like freshly cut onions it makes me weep. OK enough analogies.......

More recently I've thinking a lot about misery. In those moments when I am not consumed by it just watching its ways provides some truly interesting perspectives into life.

What is Suffering ?

Guruji says that "Suffering is the product of ignorance". Ignorance of what ? Ignorance of myself. Ignorance of my purpose in this life and body. Not accepting people and situations (however horrible) as they are.

Now what prevents me from accepting situations and people as they are ? Lets see. Tough situations put life into a tailspin. My own plans for life have to be set aside. A lot of compromise is necessary. Sacrifice is necessary. I am forced to stop taking from life and start giving.

All the above are not easy. Why ? Desires Desires Desires Desires.

My own desires in the form of goals, ambitions, likes, dislikes, all subdued by the situation start a tug of war with the present moment. The situation demands I accept and be and do what is needed NOW, but desires pull me in the opposite direction. This tug of war tears my mind apart and results in my not being able to function fully in the NOW.

The Use Of Suffering

Suffering has been a great way for me to realize that pleasure is temporary and that more indulgence in pleasure will only bring more suffering. My own suffering also teaches me to look around and realize that there are others in deeper pain. By supporting them I see that my own pain is not that bad.

Why Suffering ?

Obviously karma has something to do with it :) Why would a benevolent God want to heap suffering on his children ? A good thing about thinking about karma is that is prevents the blame-game / self pity cycle from going on and on. I realize that I have dues to pay and that suffering is basically payback time.

But why does suffering even exist ?

This is a deep question. What if there were no suffering ? What would happen to this world ? Life would become one endless indulgence in the pleasures of life leaving no time or need to dwell into the true nature of who we really are. Nobody would have any problems and obviously removing the need for anyone to solve them. Would life have any meaning left ? Would it even exist ? The Yoga Vasishta chapter on Prahalada and Vishnu goes much deeper into this aspect.

Another Way ?

A baby struggles out of its womb causing pain to itself and its mother before that moment of bliss called birth. A butterfly struggles out of its cocoon before spreading its beautiful wings. Any achievement in life is preceded by a struggle of some sort. Just wondering, is this the only way life can evolve ? Chaos always preceding and resulting in bliss. Could it not have been easier ? Even possible ? Just wondering.

Jai Guru Dev,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My third visit to the remand home. This time it was different for a variety of reasons : more volunteers to control the kids, a warden to help us out - things flowed more smoothly. However I saw and learnt something this time that taught me to revere even more this precious knowledge I have and make me more committed to sharing it with others.

I was trying to gather a group of reluctant kids who refused to participate in the meditation and get them to join the rest of us. Among them sat this lean lanky kid who absolutely refused. I was intrigued and told him "Aao Aao bas kuch minton ke liye" (Come on it'll just be a few minutes). The other kids laughed and said "Ise kuch samajhta nahin" (He does not understand anything). The kid looked at me and gestured that he did not want to come. I thought he was being particularly difficult and was mocking me as some kids there do.

Then it struck me - He was mute.

I gestured to him to join the meditation and he agreed. Ah - i was finally talking his language - the language of silence. As the group sat down and closed their eyes, and the meditation started,I realized something else was going on. This kid was the butt of others ridicule. He was being pushed and prodded by others, some kids sat in front of him and imitated him. Small wonder he did not want to participate.

With the help of another volunteer I seperated him from the rest of the group. He finally settled down and closed his eyes. It was so touching - he could not chant "Ram Ram", but his eyes were closed throughout the meditation. Then he lay down. As the satsang started, he kept his eyes closed and began to clap. Even though he could not sing, he was totally immersed in the bhajans.

It was a touching experience for me as I realized how fortunate I was. Just having a place and environment to meditate is something to be so grateful for. I realized I had more than I actually deserved and comparing myself to people who have more would not get me anywhere. As a volunteer I realized I have to be more resourceful and tuned into the seva to be able to realize what is actually going on and how I can help.

Each time I go to the remand home, I learn something new - not just a new skill - but gain a new insight into life itself. Thanks Guruji for showing me the light !

Jai Guru Dev,

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Just came across this video of Guruji arriving at the AOL Toronto Center. Just watching it brought back beautiful memories of many such moments I've been privileged to witness and experience. The air is filled with love, expectation, happiness, fragrance, devotion, prayerfulness, gratitude - those moments a culmination of years - nay - lifetimes of merit and a touch of His grace. Moments to live for, Moments to die for.

On one such occasion, after Guruji had passed us, a volunteer in bliss said "If life ends this moment, it will have been worth it". Amen to that !

Jai Guru Dev,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why Should I Do This Course ?

If you have taken an Art Of Living Course or are a volunteer, then no doubt you've asked yourself this question from time to time. A course is announced, a senior teacher is visiting town, the volunteer team is formed and the phone calls begin .

A conversation from many years ago :

Caller : Hi Jai Guru Dev

Me : Jai Guru Dev

Caller : Hey did you know that ABC is coming to town to teach the XYZ course ?

Me : Yes

Caller : So you have to take it

Me : Why ?

Caller : Pause. Because it is the most wonderful course that has ever been offered by Art Of Living.

Me : Did you not say this the last time Course MNO was being offered ?

Caller : No No. You don't understand -this is the BEST course ever. You must take it. All strong volunteers must take this course.

Me (under pressure trying to figure out a way to end the call) : Yeah thanks for informing me, I'll check my schedule and call you back.

Caller : Yeah sure. Please sign up today ok ! JGD!

Me : Ok Thanks Byeeeeee JGD. (Thinking : Talk to you like NEVER again)

Whew !

Often times I have thought - Why so many courses, and Why do we have to take them all and Why is there so much pressure to take them ? Initially these thoughts irritated me to no end. But I have finally made my peace with them. There was a time when I could but refused to take courses. There was a time when I could and did. Now is a time when I yearn for an opportunity and am willing but cant. Interesting phases of life -huh ?

I thought I'd write a little FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to myself. These are questions my little mind brought up from time to time and the answers gleaned from interactions with helpful teachers and volunteers, introspection and experience. Whether you agree or disagree - hopefully you'll find them interesting.

Q> Why do you call it a course ? Isn't this knowledge available freely or in books or on the internet ?
A> Some things can't be read up in a book. Like learning to play the guitar or playing football. You need a teacher. The modern commercial mind understands 2 things - time and money. Isn't it ? When someone asks you to do something - what are your 2 questions ? How long does it take ? How much will it cost ? RIGHT ? So there you go - thats a course.

Q> Why are there so many courses in AOL ? Part I, Part II, Sahaj, DSN, Blessing, TTC1.....?
A> In the ancient days a student would go to the ashram of a master and serve and learn at his/her feet for about 8 years gaining all the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the choppy waters of life before returning to his/her worldly duties. Today this is not possible for most of us in our commercial modern world. Also our modern day education has no provision to teach valuable life skills that truly equip us to navigate the pressures of life. Hence Guruji (Sri Sri Ravishankar) has created these little courses (packets of Grace I call them), that can be taken one at a time with a limited time/money commitment. Once you take one and practice it, you will see the profound effect it has on some dimension of your life. If you want to grow, take the next one, if not - well !

Q> Why does the course cost so much ? You say it is priceless - why charge so much ?
A> The course is priceless - not worthless. Do you see the difference ?

Q> Last time the same volunteer said that the previous course was the most wonderful. Now he says this course is the most wonderful. What should I believe ?
A> There are 3 degrees of praising in the English Language : Good, Better, Best. All AOL courses are the BEST in their own way. What can the poor volunteer do ? The English language falls short of ways to describe one's experience and infinity.

Q> I am doing great on all fronts - health, friends, job, studies, fun. Why are you asking me to do this course ?
A> Do you buy home insurance after it has burnt down ? Health insurance after you've been admitted to hospital ? Start saving money after becoming bankrupt ? Life can be like the Titanic - icebergs in the form of karma lurk around unexpected blind corners. When the ship of life does hit one, what would you like to be holding in your hands - a life jacket or a violin :) ?

Q> No but seriously WHY should I take this course ? And for WHOM ?
A> You have to figure that out. Sometimes I took a course because a friend was going. Sometimes because my favorite teacher asked me to. Sometime just to see who this International Traveling teacher that everyone was raving about was . Sometimes for Guruji. Sometimes I was choice-less. No matter what the reason, I NEVER regretted my decision. All the skills I gained are applicable at every moment in my life these days.

If you asked me today - I would say that I want to take all that my dear Guru has to offer to me in this lifetime of mine. Not to please a teacher / volunteer - but for myself. After all who benefits after a course - it is me !

This post had to be written. Like it or not :) There - the years old itch has been scratched !

Jai Guru Dev.

Friday, February 6, 2009

For a Few

I accompanied E again to the remand home about a week ago and it was another amazing tryst with the lives of some young souls in search of peace. As we arrived, a bunch of kids ran up and said "Not today please...we want to play...these folks never let us play". Seeing us come, the warden rounded them all up and sent them to the hall that serves as their sleeping quarters, TV room, and meditation hall. As we entered, a few kids ran up and wanted to be picked up and hugged. Seeing them others ran up and for the first few minutes, all we did was to hug them and smile at them. Ah...all the world wants is love and how many are out there just looking for a kind smile and some affection !!

This time despite having another volunteer ,M help out with controlling the kids, things were pretty chaotic. The warden was busy helping another kriya session that was on below that involved convicted criminals and could not help us out. The result - CHAOS. Kids disturbing each other, refusing to co-operate, nudging each other, shouting out loud. I have to admire E's poise as she led them through the bhastrika, OM and Ram Meditation. M and I ran about trying to get them to sit up, close their eyes and stop troubling each other. As it got done, we were in despair.

Then a serene E pointed out to 2 kids sitting up front. Among 80 kids who were creating a ruckus after the meditation was over, 2 sat still in padmasana, their eyes shut, completely oblivious of the chaos around them. So beautiful..........

Just as I was to conclude that this session had not been a success, more touching events were to unfold. One kid walked up and took Guruji's picture and put it into his pocket. Another one took me aside and told me in real earnest "Can you please bring Sri Sri Ravishankar here next Monday". I told him to pray each night for Guruji to come, but he was not satisfied :). As I turned to leave, 2 more kids ran up, said Jai Gurudev, suddenly touched my feet and ran away. I thought of Guruji and asked Him to bless them...I felt an immense gratitude that moment - Guruji all this respect - do I deserve it ?

As we left, E remarked : Bas un dono ke liya hua aaj ka session". (Today's session happened just for those two). All the drama just to reach out to those who are ready. Wow Guruji, Amazing are your ways.....

Jai Guru Dev,