Man of the moment

SPREADING HAPPINESS Sri Sri Ravishankar   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: SHAJU JOHN

Sri Sri Ravishankar's interactive programmes are drawing youngsters like never before. CHITRA SWAMINATHAN on what makes him tick

Call him Guru cool, if you would. From attending meetings and hanging out with friends, Gen Y is getting drawn to Sri Sri Ravishankar's most-talked about healing techniques - Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayama. Many are happily forgoing Saturday night boogeying for satsangs. And not without reason. These satsangs are far from preachy and dull. They are fun and interactive programmes. What's more, even rock satsangs are conducted in clubs and pubs to bring the swinging set into the spiritual fold. As for the guru, clad in a simple white dhoti with flowing hair and a permanent, serene smile on his face, he is a friendly guide to the young seekers of truth.

Spirituality and fun

Talking before leaving for the mega three-day (till December 8) Health and Happiness course he is conducting at the Anna University grounds in the city, Sri Sri Ravishankar says, "Today's youth know exactly what they want and how to get it. They want to pursue spirituality to understand themselves and the chaos around, without missing out on the fun. So our courses are a blend of fun and spiritual knowledge. Most important, there are no pretensions. We focus on real situations and problems. And the solutions too are practical."He doesn't like to bombard youngsters with mumbo-jumbo, "I tell everyone to be natural. Spirituality is about making people calm and confident. It's about instilling values common to all cultures such as non-violence, caring for the planet, enthusiasm for life and an attitude to serve. A lot of stress is also laid on developing communication skills."He pauses and continues, "With the frenetic pace of life today, the brain is assailed with too much information. It becomes so tired that nothing creative happens. Our programmes boost creativity because that's the best way to keep the youth from becoming frustrated."

Mantra of success

And on the mad race to excel, he says with a touch of humour, "One who has enough self-confidence does not bother about success. You don't need to be ruthless and aggressive to be an achiever."Not just the 20-somethings, farmers, scientists, executives and heads of State... millions across the globe hang on to every word that Sri Sri Ravishankar utters. Religion may be a source of contentment or confrontation in many societies, but it finds no place in the Art of Living Foundation. "Religion divides people while spirituality unites them," says Sri Sri Ravishankar with a smile that lights up his intense eyes. "When people come here, they don't cease to be religious. Instead they understand their religion better." If spirituality is a powerful tool that influences people and brings about change, why is there is so much strife? "Domestic and societal violence and suicides indicate increasing negativity and stress levels. The solution again lies in meditation as it can redeem the mind of all ills." Active in more than 140 countries, the Art of Living Foundation (located on the outskirts of Bangalore) works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, implements educational programmes in partnership with the International Association of Human Values, works for trauma relief (Kashmir earthquake, Surat floods, tsunami and the Iraq war), child care and women empowerment. Sri Sri Ravishankar was also invited to Pakistan and Sri Lanka on peace missions. And an American Congressman nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. But why call it the Art of Living? "Even if I had called it by any other name, you would have asked me the same question," he laughs.