It was one of those cold nights in the month of December. After taking a walk in the Sumeru Mantap, couple of us were sitting with Gurudev in his kutir. Gurudev got a call from from Mehul, our main teacher coordinator from Ahmedabad. Along with his wife, he had taken up the mission of teaching Art of Living programs to bureaucrats and lawmakers in Gujarat. After meeting Gurudev, Mehul’s life had seen a huge transformation – from being rebellious and wayward to becoming a gentle and committed social worker.
Usually very happy and jovial, Mehul had concern and worry in his voice, as he conveyed to Gurudev a conversation he had with one of his contacts (a businessman who since then has moved to the US). He was informed that there had been a meeting of few Congress party members. There were discussions to create some trouble along communal lines for the newly formed Narendra Modi Government. This conversation shook him. He thought frantically, “Are big riots in the works here?” What should he do next? Would it better to relocate to Bangalore with his family? Would that be a right thing to do?
He asked Gurudev for guidance. For a moment, all the laughter in the kutir turned into silence. Gurudev closed his eyes for a few moments. His smiling face assumed a serious look one has not often seen. He told Mehul to be strong and continue working in Ahmedabad. After the call, Gurudev said that we needed to write a book that highlighted the common thread between Hinduism and Islam. Gurudev previously had authored a book on Christianity and Hinduism. Usually, writing a book of this nature would take its own sweet time but it was different this time and the book was published shortly per Gurudev’s instructions.
There was a big international course happening at the Bangalore ashram the following week, and we all got tied up with responsibilities and totally forgot about this whole incident.
During those days, the Ayodhya issue was simmering and Gurudev wanted to find an amicable solution that would bring the two communities closer. He held several talks with VHP and Muslim organizations in and around Delhi. He met several leaders from both sides including Ashok Singhal, Kamal Farooqi and Javed Akhtar among others. The whole idea was to have intercommunity dialog and keep it apolitical. There was positive response from both sides but progress was halted when Sudheendra Kulkarni got involved with Kanchi Shankaracharya and completely sidelined Gurudev’s efforts.
It was during this time that the Godhra carnage took place followed by the riots across Gujarat. Ahmedabad was under curfew for several days. Thousands of people were displaced and living in relief camps. Per Gurudev’s guidance, Art of Living Foundation started redeploying volunteers from 2001 earthquake relief efforts to provide trauma relief workshops for riot victims. Gurudev visited Gujarat early April, about a month after the riots, to meet the victims, conduct peace marches to redouble our efforts to bring communities back together. AOL organized nine different interfaith events across the riot-affected area. Gurudev personally met hundreds of Muslim and Hindu community leaders, spent hours together in meeting riot victims, hearing their plight and consoling them. Many Art of Living teachers and volunteers were working day and night in various relief camps providing much needed trauma care.
Shabana Azmi and others alleged that it was the Sangh Pariwar who had set their own people on fire in the train to create a reason to attack minorities. On hearing this conspiracy theory, Gurudev shook his head and said that such a thing was hard to believe and quite impossible. (Interesting to know that one of the Congress office bearers from Godhra was later indicted in inciting the riots.)
On his subsequent trip to Gujarat, Gurudev met with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and pointedly asked him “Did you do all that was in your capacity to stop these riots?” With moist eyes, Mr. Modi replied “Guruji, kya aap bhi aaisa sochate hai? (Guruji, do you also think this way?)” There was a lot of pain and sorrow in his eyes. An intelligent person at the helm of affairs would not smear their own face with tar.
Later on, Gurudev went to visit a prison in Ahmedabad. In the prison, there were many innocent women and men locked up. Gurudev spent several hours listening to them. I remember thinking that these trips were very different. Most often when Gurudev visits any place, people are joyous and happy. But during these trips, people would come and tell horror stories of those dark days. When you heard their stories, whether Muslim or Hindu, one’s hair would stand on end in pain and disbelief. One’s heart would cry, “Sabko sanmati de bhagwan.” (Bless everyone with good thoughts). How could we as a human society move so far away from the values that we have cherished over the centuries. This experience increased my resolve to continue the work of Gurudev to bring harmony in diversity and communities together.
While there were several NGOs working on either side, most of them tended to be biased and hateful of others. There was hardly anyone who was balanced, unbiased, and apolitical toward the whole scenario. The victims of either side were often controlled by these NGOs, who prevented them from having an open dialogue with others. We were in a precarious position. While some thought that the Art of Living is pro-Congress, others thought that the Art of Living was pro-Hindutva. It was a very challenging situation for us to work. Thanks to the inspiration of Gurudev, in all these tough scenarios, our volunteers managed to keep themselves focused and moved on forward.
This whole journey with Gurudev was such a learning experience for me. By just being around Gurudev, I learned how not be biased, hear both sides of the issue, and remain poised in the face of challenges. I was so inspired by Gurudev’s unwavering commitment, equanimity, farsightedness, and on top of it all – patience.
When asked about Modi, Gurudev once said, “Truth will prevail, he will come clean of these allegations.”
It is around the same time that war clouds were looming over Iraq. Deeply concerned, Gurudev sent a team of teachers to Iraq on a peace mission. More to follow in a later post!
… is a fantastic movie!
It’s the second part in the second series of the Lord of the Rings which is actually the first… Because the events in this set of movies occur before what happens in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s the story of Bilbo Baggins and how he managed to lay his hands on the one ring… and all the other events in Middle Earth which caused the war of the ring to happen.
It is a brilliantly made film, with all the fantasy elements perfectly in place … Orcs who die in spectacularly gruesome ways, Legolas the warrior elf makes his stunning entry into the story with Tauriel his equally adept warrior elf companion, the dwarves are as solemn and funny as ever, a friendly (?!) werewolf, a fire breathing egotistical dragon guarding a hoard of gold unlike any seen in films of recent times, Bilbo being cheeky with the dragon, giant spiders, tumbling over rapids in barrels while fighting off hoards of orcs, Sauron’s grand entry, and I did mention the gold right?
The music is spot on. The pace relentless. The setting perfect. The acting superb and the fights spectacular… And the dragon a show stealer!
“Come now… Don’t be shy, Step into the LIGHT!”
Do watch it in 3D on as big a screen as possible!
10 slices of any good bread … I use the bread we make in Cafe Vishala
1/2 Litre of milk
2 tsps of cinnamon powder
1 tsp of agar agar powder
a few glugs of maple syrup, more if you want it sweeter
1 tsp good vanilla essence
Blend all the above (don’t blend the bread please) in a mixie until ummm… blended 20-30 seconds. Pour out the mixture into a biggish bowl.
Dunk the bread slices 2-3 at a time depending on size of your frying pan into the mixture and let them soak for about 5 minutes.
Heat butter and some oil in a pan. When hot, add in the soaked bread and fry for a few minutes. then turn over and fry again to golden brown.
Serve scalding hot with some fresh cream if you really want to add on to the cholesterol!
Come September, Dinesh and I both celebrate our birthday … Preferably we would love to celebrate our birthdays with Gurudev and this year He was in the ashram for both the days, but only in the morning. He had a fairly early morning flight to catch on both the days.
So breaking away from tradition, we didn’t cut a cake with Him. You can’t eat cake at 7:30 in the morning (shows I am growing old) so, we cut bread. Fresh, still hot from the oven, Cafe Vishala made bread studded with sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, fresh basil from our garden, black olives and oregano…
We even packed some for Gurudev to take on His flight. Everyone going with Him was most thrilled!
We both had a fantastic day and we both want to thank all of you who called, emailed, snail mailed, facebooked, tweeted, —ed (fill in the blanks appropriately) to wish us.
It’s your blessings and good wishes that make yet another trip around the sun so much more fruitful and enjoyable.
Thanks a lot!
bawa n dinesh
A new Superman movie!!
I grew up with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (and comics) and had throughly enjoyed them, and was quite looking forward to seeing this movie… and unfortunately it didn’t live up to what it could have been.
Superman is a fairly happy, funny, upbeat super hero. Not like batman who was basically a nutcase who got over his nuttiness and in the process saved the world.
However, Chris Nolan might have got confused about his super heroes and he almost managed to make Superman into a loony.
Superman has to come to terms with being a freak. He knows he is super strong and all that, but until he is a grown man, he has still not figured out that he can fly. There is actually a scene where he asks for a lift! He wears a pained expression almost throughout the movie – Like the one you would have if you were presented with a badly cooked lunch and had to eat it.
There are possibly 7 funny moments in the entire movie, none of them getting more than a polite smile on your face.
The first half of the movie is Clark Kent struggling to not be superman. The second half of the movie is coming to terms with being Superman and breaking up almost all of smallville in the process. Seriously, the second half is almost all action – like one of those action PS3 games, only you are not in control and you know for sure nothing is going to happen to Superman or absolutely anyone who matters. I don’t think any extras got injured in the movie either. The only things that got brutally smashed were buildings, mountains, cars, roads and windows PCs.
The music was almost a direct lift from batman, with no character whatsoever. Just loud. Everything in the orchestra playing as roaringly thunderously loud as they possibly could (almost) all the time.
So should you see it?
Yes, If you are turned on by Henry Cavill’s muscles.
Yes, if you are one of those who liked/loved batman.
Not really otherwise.
Please someone make a Superman movie that us grown up kids can watch!
PS He wears his undies inside!
Wealth or Money can bring laziness, misery, arrogance, disease, greed, insecurity, jealousy, anger, fear, indulgence, ego and enemies.
So, a more precise prayer to the Guru/God would be…
God give me Money;
Money that brings
Enterprise and not laziness,
Joy and not misery,
Confidence and not arrogance,
Good health and not disease,
Discrimination and not indulgence,
Generosity and not greed or insecurity,
Belongingness and not jealousy,
Peace and not anger,
Valor and not fear,
Compassion and not ego,
Friends and not enemies,
Give me money, that brings me closer to You.
PS: Spirituality is not anti-money, anti-fame or anti-power. If we use it for the good and for others, we will be blessed with more and more.
A cute story shared by Rashmin…
A little boy went on stage and asked for chocolates Gurudev had a box of, beside Him. Gurudev gave him a handful, which the kid promptly went down and distributed. He came back for more and Gurudev game him again, which repeated a few times. One volunteer near Gurudev’s seat prompted that the kid is coming again and again. Gurudev smiled, “I know. As long as he keeps sharing, I will keep giving him more”.
Wow! There is a learning of a lifetime in this…
The journey from head to heart is just a few inches, but it is quite a journey!
I was giving my entrance exams for IIT. I had studied enough, knew most things I needed to know, but the morning of the exam, I had a terrible headache.
Dad had learnt some touch healing, spiritual thingie and so far I had steered clear of it, but that morning I thought why not?! And asked him to help relax me.
He did. And my headache and tiredness vanished and I had a great exam, got into IIT for post graduate studies in maths… But more importantly, for a 20 year old who thought he knew everything – a certain faith in the Unknown and Unknowable was ignited.
I underwent a few courses and self development seminars, but always felt there was something missing, something not all there… Until a good friend of mine bulldozed me into an Art of Living course.
Shamal: Hey, what you doing over the weekend?
Me: Nothing much really…
Shamal: There is this course on breathing…
Me: C’mon Shamal, breathing is boring!
Shamal: Look, I don’t have time to talk to you, I have to call hundreds of other people. Just see to it that you are there or else…
Me: ok, ok, will come… How much does it cost?
Shamal: Tere ko kya farak padta hai, tera baap bharega!
And that was my introduction to the rest of my Life. I didn’t even know the name of the course I had enrolled for!
The Art of Living course was amazing. To experience a state of consciousness, a reality unlike any that I could even begin to dream about was a blessing and a gift. All concepts about what I thought life was all about were shattered. A serenity came that I never knew I had. Art of Living had given wings to my heart!
Very soon after my Basic course, I went to the Bangalore Ashram for my advance course. Only when I reached ashram did I get to know that the advance course was a silence program. I was the last one to leave the meditation hall that night the silence started and I think the last one to start speaking again when Silence opened.
I was soaked in the Bliss of me. What a wondrous thing to be able to do!
I was in love. And there was no going back. The Art of Living series of courses introduced me to me. That sparkling enchanting quiet space which all of us have within us. Gurudev’s gift to the world.
I will not say that after the Art of Living courses and even becoming a teacher, problems went away and everything was always great. That I never got angry or never felt bad. Sometimes life did suck. Problems did come, but along with them came the quiet confidence that I could handle them. I was simply amazed at how my inward journey so positively affected my outward expression and ability to deal with the challenges that life threw at me.
So begun my journey from head to heart… There were many other adventures on the way and I am sure many more to come. Maybe I will write a book about it all someday
Meanwhile, if you have not yet embarked on this voyage inside of you, you have no idea what you are missing out on… Nothing on this planet outside you can even begin to compare with what you have inside of you. Please do yourself a favour and learn to meditate. And if you already know how to meditate – See that you practice every day. It is a glorious thing to blossom, to love, to smile and to be able to spread that to others.
Gurudev was so very patient with me. Totally accepting of who I was and gently moving me to who I could be. It’s one thing to force a rose open, its quite another to give it the time it requires to blossom – That is what Art of Living and Gurudev have done for me and countless others on the planet.
3 word review?
Go watch it!
Another 3 words?
It’s absolutely Brilliant!
In 3 sentences?
A writer has a chance meeting with Pi’s Mamaji who tells him to go meet Pi. Tells him that Pi has a story that will make him believe in God. Pi tells his story to the writer…
How Pi got the name Pi and about his childhood. Their family run a zoo. You will meet the tiger. Super charming, endearingly funny with one or two very scary (for me, the kids sitting around didn’t even flinch) moments thrown in. As the grown up Pi says, I am a Hindu Catholic, we get to feel guilty in front of 33 million Gods!
Set in Pondicherry in India, will make you want to go visit right now.
Father of Pi decides to move to Canada. Pi doesn’t want to go.
Father: We will sail forth like Columbus.
Pi: But Columbus was looking for India!
Storm and Shipwreck. And life on a boat with the tiger. Or rather how to have a life on a boat with a tiger… And a very strange island.
The most beautiful and stunning visuals I have seen in a movie for a very long time.
Scary and funny and sweet and innocent and wondrous… (add adjectives here after you see it), all at the very same time!
Land. And Rescue.
And one line said towards the very end by the grown up Pi. The line that will make you believe in God.
What a movie!!!
May not be suitable for kids below 13. There are some extremely scary, heart wrenching scenes, but i think everyone else will just throughly enjoy this absolute gem of a movie!
Fabulous acting by the entire cast, but especially by Suraj Sharma as the teenage Pi stranded in the Pacific on a life boat with a Tiger who would love to have him as a tasty snack… How both survived the sea and each other, is what the main part of the movie is all about.
There are many, many spiritual overtones and I will not discuss them here because they will be spoilers and i don’t want to spoil even a second of the movie for you… But, do watch out for them!
The song right in the beginning is a hauntingly beautiful tamil song called Pi’s Lullaby, sung by Bombay Jayshree. Made me want to learan Tamil, just to understand it. Gowri was sitting on my right and translated it for me in hushed tones. The music through out the movie is so perfect. Utterly spot on!
I will not be surprised if it bags all possible Oscars.
But don’t wait for the Oscar guys to make up your mind. Please go see it now! It’s one of the most perfect movies I have seen in a very, very long time. You leave the theater quite refreshed and rejuvenated… Belief in God is a powerful thing
bawa n dinesh
2000 BC: Here eat this root
1000 AD: That root is heathen. Here, say this Prayer…
1865 AD: That prayer is superstition. Here take this Potion.
1925 AD: That potion is snake oil. Here take this Pill.
1973 AD: That pill is ineffective. Here take this Antibiotic…
2012 AD: That anitbiotic is poison. Here eat this Root! … And say a Prayer
Om Namah Shivaya!