Art of Living opens its first peace centre in Islamabad

Spiritual guru of the ‘Art of Living (AOL)' fame Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Tuesday offered to engage with the Taliban to help resolve the ongoing conflict. Speaking to his followers in the federal capital after opening the first AOL Peace Centre in Pakistan, he said: “I want to talk to the Taliban, understand them; give them my opinion, my piece of mind.”

This was his refrain through his interactions here; both with his followers and the media. Asked how AOL could be used to deal with the situation facing Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said: “AOL should engage in conflict resolution wherever possible. We can make a difference. We should keep trying and not give up.”

Earlier, while interacting with the media, ‘Guruji' said he was willing to meet the Taliban and have a dialogue with them. “Life is too short; we do not have enough time to love. Where is the time to fight?”

Asked what he would say to the Taliban, he said: “I don't have ready answers but when I meet them and talk to them, will find the answers.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar arrived here from Lahore in the morning and headed straight to the outskirts of Banigala where the Peace Centre is located along the edges of the Rawal dam. After a fleeting interaction with his followers, he spent the next hour giving interviews to the international media before addressing the gathering, taking a few questions and leading a short meditation.

Conscious of the Pakistani chattering classes' angst over corruption, he dwelt on the subject — claiming that AOL had managed to create a revolution in India by administering an oath against giving and taking bribes and pasting ‘I do not take bribe' stickers on the desks of officials.

He also met some religious leaders of Islamabad after which he visited the shrine of Bari Imam, the patron saint of the federal capital. He is set to open the second AOL Peace Centre in Karachi on Wednesday; thereby providing a base camp for his followers to keep up with the meditation and stem the tendency to ‘drop out.'

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar first came to Pakistan in 2004 and since then has had a following here with several trainers in meditation in the three main cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Though security was tight for him, the guru claimed he was able to move around more freely this time round as opposed to the last visit when he was surrounded by security men and holed up in a hotel.

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