Here are some of the photos from the International Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore during the navaratri celebrations!
All images are courtesy of my good friend Ch Sai Kalyan Chakravarthi
Navaratri is composed of two words – “Nav” and “Ratri“. Nav means nine and ratri means nights. It is the festival dedicated to the worship of the Divine mother or Shakti. This is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India. I came across this passage where Bhanumathi, Sri Sri ravi Shankar’s sister explains the Divine Mother.
We are all floating in the effulgence of one scintillating unseen cosmic energy called the ‘Devi’. The Devi or the Divine Mother is the womb of all creation. She is the seed of all dynamism, radiance, beauty, equanimity, peace and nourishment. She is the life force energy. A mother has total love for her child. The Divine Mother has unconditional and unquantifiable love for Her children which includes every being in this entire creation.
During the nine nights of the festival, the Devi is worshipped in all her nine name and forms. The name and form of each of the Devi have a specific quality or attribute and by chanting the name we enliven that particular quality in us. In her first three days, Divine mother is worshipped as Durga. In the next three days, she is worshipped as Lakshmi and in the last three days as Saraswati.
Durga means “Invincible”. She is a fierce Hindu Godess seen riding a Lion which symbolizes as alluding the aspect of courage and valor. She gives courage and strength to her devotees and destroys all the negative forces with in us. In her presence, the negative forces can not exists. Especially in the case of people suffering from anxiety, doubting oneself, doubting one’s ability, ‘lack’ consciousness, feeling threatened by enmity and negativity – simply by chanting the names of the Devis, it is like mantras that elevate your consciousness and you can become more centered, courageous and composed. This is the significance of the aspect of the Divine as Devi Durga.
Devi Durga is mostly seen killing a demon by the name Mahisasura. Mahisasura means the “Buffalo demon”. Buffalo is a symbol of laziness, lethargy or inertia. Devi Durga gives us the strength and energy to destroy the laziness in us.
The second set of three days is for worshipping the Devi in the form of Lakshmi. Wealth is a vital ingredient bestowed upon us for the maintenance and progress in our life. It is much more than just having money. It means abundance in knowledge, skills and talents. Lakshmi is the energy that manifests as the complete spiritual and material well-being of a person. She is the consort of Lord Vishnu. She is said to bring in good luck and protect her devotees from all kind of miseries and finance related sorrows.
Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full-bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility. Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma or righteousness, “kama” or desires, “artha” or wealth, and “moksha” or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
The final three days are dedicated to Saraswati. Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge- the one who gives the essence(sara) of the Self (swa). The name also means Saras – flow and wati – one who has got the flow. She is often depicted as being seated on a rock. Knowledge, like a rock, is a steadfast support. It stays with us at all times. She plays the veena, a musical instrument whose mellifluous notes bring harmony and peace to the mind. Similarly, spiritual knowledge brings relaxation and celebration into ones’ life.
Goddess Saraswati is the ocean of understanding and the consciousness which vibrates with different types of learning. She is the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and the source of knowledge. Saraswati is strongly associated with flowing water in her role as a goddess of knowledge. She is depicted as a beautiful woman to embody the concept of knowledge as supremely alluring. She possesses four arms, and is usually shown wearing a spotless white saree and seated on a white lotus or riding a white swan.
When many people get together and do something collectively, that is called ‘yagya‘ or ‘yagna‘. There are many types of ‘yagya’.
These bring purity, prosperity, peace and harmony to all. The whole environment becomes lively. There are three types of miseries: one from outside world, other one from deep inside you, due to karma and the third one is due to the subtle mind. So Navratri is that which gives you rest from all three types of miseries. Mind works in action. When you sleep, what happens? You get relief from the world, relief from the mind, and relief from everything. That is why Navratri is called, the nine nights of complete self-referral activity. Tenth day of the ‘yagya‘ is the Victory Day, also known as ‘Dussera’.
The navaratri for 2012 starts this October 16th and goes on for the next 9 days. During these 9 days, Tte seeker gets back to the true Source through fasting, prayer, silence and meditation. Night is also called ratri because it brings rejuvenation. It gives relief at the three levels of our existence – physical, subtle and causal. While fasting detoxifies the body, silence purifies the speech and brings rest to the chattering mind, and meditation takes one deep into one’s own being.
Let us all have an intention this navaratri to do good to all the people around us!
Jai Maa Durga! (Victory to the Divine Mother)
The mind acts like a pendulum. It vacillates between the past and future. Happiness is in the Present moment. This is what the Art of Living course, devised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, all about. The course teaches you techniques on how to be in the Present moment!
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar signing the Faith in Action Declaration along with other religious leaders.
Faith in Action 2010 is a high level religious leader’s summit on reducing stigma and discrimination about HIV and AIDS. Over 500 religious leaders will come together in a united campaign against AIDS.They will deliberate on the issue of HIV/AIDS and will delve into a specific action plan to address the problems across all states in India.
A Hindu Leaders Caucus on HIV AIDS was hosted in the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. A joint initiative of the Art of Living alongwith UNAIDS and AINA, the Caucus marked the presence of 72 Hindu leaders from all states across India. All the leaders unanimously pledged to work against stigma and create more awareness, especially amongst the youth.
You can see Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,founder of Art of Living Foundation, signing the declaration along with the Muslim leaders and Chidanand Muniji!
CNN’s Richard Quest goes to Bangalore, INDIA to soak into the Spiritual bliss and vibes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at his ashram. An interesting video from the program on the man they call “Guruji” and about the Art of Living Foundation. Here Sri Sri talks about the secrets of breath, how the breath is linked to the mind based on the rhythms and emotions. Richard Quest takes the Basic Art of Living course and I think he likes it 🙂 He says that he is positively sure that he was floating when he was taking the Ayurveda treatment! Ha ha!
I love the part where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talks about how even though the knowledge in the Art of Living has got its roots in Hinduism but he has made it secular in a sense that people from all religions have no problem understanding or following it. He also says that only secular spiritualism can unite people from all over the world. This is awesome!
Richard takes part in the silver jubilee celebration of the Art of Living foundation. He sits with Sri Sri on the stage with 3800 more other dignitaries and enjoys the satsang – music and dance.
The last words of Richard is really touching. He says – “As human beings, we are driven to explore;explain the inexplicable. Our intelligence means that at times we are doomed to suffer in a turmoil, despair, disillusionment but answers are forth coming. Whatever our religious beliefs are, spirituality is rooted in ideals of human nature. Being a better person. Breathing exercises, meditation and breath – they all help us open our mind;take stock of who we are. Put Life back into perspective. And lets face it, most of us could do a little but of that! Between you and me, it has just begun!”
Are you ready for the journey? Then buckle up! Fasten your seat belt!
Do you know what the real seat belt for meditation is? Feeling at home, being natural! If you feel very formal, you can’t meditate. Meditation requires being informal and feeling at home.
I suppose you all feel at home, right? Of course, it is California, everyone always feels at home. We are very casual, isn’t it? That’s the great thing about California, very at home, easy!
So, we will explore the need of meditation. Why do we need to meditate and what are the ways to meditate. I won’t go into the benefits; I assume you all know the benefits of meditation. But the need and the methods, and how we can have a successful meditation, we will explore all these avenues; the different types of meditations.
Now, what is the need for meditation, why should you meditate?
The need is there in every human being because it is a natural tendency of human life to look for a joy that doesn’t diminish, a love that doesn’t distort or turn into negative emotions. This is very natural, isn’t it?
Is meditation foreign to us? Absolutely not! This is because you have been in meditation for a couple of months before your birth. You were in your mother’s womb doing nothing. You didn’t even have to chew your food, it was fed directly into your belly and you were there happily floating in the fluid, turning and kicking, sometimes here and something there, but most of the time happily floating there. That is meditation. You did nothing, everything was done for you. So there is a natural tendency in every human being, in every soul to crave for that state when you are in absolute comfort.
You know why you want comfort? It is because you were comfortable at one point. So that wanting comfort is again natural because you have experienced a state of comfort that is called meditation. Meditation is absolute comfort. So getting back to that state which you have had a taste of just before coming into the hustle, bustle of this universe, of this world, is very natural because in this universe everything is cyclic, everything wants to go back to its source, and that is the nature of the world. Everything goes back and everything is cyclic; except plastic if you don’t use it properly.
See, when the autumn season comes, the leaves fall and go back to the soil and nature has its own way to re-cycle them. The natural tendency to re-cycle all that we have collected in day to day life as impressions, getting rid of them and getting back to the original state that we were when we dawned on this planet is what meditation is. Becoming fresh again, alive again is what mediation is. Getting back to that serenity which is your original nature is meditation. Absolute joy and happiness is meditation.
A pleasure minus excitement is meditation. A thrill without anxiety is meditation. A love without hatred or any of the opposite values is meditation. Meditation is food for the soul, so there is a natural craving for food, isn’t it? When you are hungry, spontaneously you go to eat something. If you are thirsty you want to drink some water. In the same way, the soul yearns for meditation and this tendency is in everyone. That is why I say, there is not a single individual on this planet who is not a seeker. Just that they don’t know it. They don’t recognize it. We try to look for that food where it is not available, that is the problem.
It is like you going to a grocery shop when you want to fill gas in your car. It won’t work. You keep going round and round the grocery store saying, ‘I want gas for my car.’ It won’t work because you need to go to the petrol station. So that right direction needs to be found and that is what we are going to explore. What are the ways and how we can meditate, how we can experience that absolute comfort within our self.
So there are five ways:
So remember what I said, meditation is AC (absolute comfort). Who does not want comfort? Everyone wants it. Just that we don’t know how to be absolutely comfortable.
Meditation is the journey from movement to stillness, and from sound to silence. So let us grasp this one thing today and do some meditation.
See, you don’t have to be very serious in order to be in meditation. Meditation is being very natural, being at home. At home with yourself and at home with everything else in the universe, okay!
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Secrets of Meditation
If you have not heard about Yoga Rave yet, you must be in some other planet who just got out of hibernation! Or maybe underground. Yoga rave, is the new way to party! A rave party like no other. It is a substance free party for all ages with yoga and meditation infused in between the hard rock techno sanskrit bhajans! Wow, now that is unusual blend! It is a healthy and balanced fun alternative where you sing and dance to mantras to feel energy, joy and enthusiasm that comes from within rather from external substances. Isn’t that something wonderful to experience?
Yoga Rave is a party like none other in the world, a new concept in fun where the body responds only to the stimulation of music, yoga & meditation. The initiative sprang forth from the Art of Living Foundation, the largest volunteer-run NGO in the world. Just like the rest of the Foundation’s initiatives, the motive is non-profit. The money raised goes to bring yoga, meditation, and stress reduction to university campuses and young professionals in need through the YES plus workshop.
The So What! project is the creator band of the Yoga Rave. Nicolas Pucci and Rodrigo Bustos are the artistic producers and sound designers for the So What! Project and Yoga Rave parties. They are from Argentina and are volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation. They have released two albums – Smile and Blossom. They play the songs from their albums live in their Yoga Rave parties.
Recently there was a Yoga Rave party which was conducted for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s visit in Argentina. It was attended by more than 100,000 people. The pictures were just amazing to see so many people dancing and singing sanskrit bhajans. Here are some pictures from the event
The party is a blend of the opposites in harmony – Music and Silence! Here is how the party goes
Here is a glimpse of how that would look like
Oh yeah, you will have the trampoline, glow sticks, face artists and other crazy stuff too!
Here is the invitation to the Yoga Rave party in San Francisco from the Art of Living Foundation!
YOGA RAVE is coming to SF this OCT 12th at Herbst Pavilion @ Fort Mason Center! The ticket starts at 20 USD. It si 30$ at the door. You can get your tickets here http://yogaraveus.inticketing.com/events/251516
Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living Foundation is a not-for-profit, educational and humanitarian NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. The organisation operates globally in 152 countries.
The organisation’s programs are guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy of peace: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world Peace.” To help individuals get rid of stress and experience inner peace, The Art of Living offers stress-elimination programs which include breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. These programs have helped millions around the world to overcome stress, depression and violent tendencies.
The Art of Living Foundation has spread peace across communities through diverse humanitarian projects, including conflict resolution, disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation,education for all, and environmental sustainability.
The Art of Living has a few sister organisations which are also dedicated to the vision of a stress-free, violence-free world. The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth (VVMVP), Sri Sri RaviShankar Vidya Mandir (SSRVM) and Vyakti Vikas Kendra India (VVKI), among others, formulate and implement humanitarian projects of The Art of Living globally.
The Art of Living is a multi-faceted organisation with one of the largest volunteer bases in the world. The international headquarters is located in Bangalore, India. Globally, the organisation operates as The Art of Living Foundation formed in 1989 in the United States of America and in Germany. Since then, local centres have been established across the world. In the Art of Living’s organisational structure, there is a board of trustees with a term of two years. Two thirds of the trustees change every two years. All the Art of Living teachers and the previous trustees are allowed to nominate a new board. There is a provision for an advisory board that monitors and guides the organisation. All the accounts are regularly audited by an external auditor. Other than expenses, no trustee is entitled to benefits in terms of salary, etc.Art of Living programs directly help to fund its humanitarian projects. The proceeds from the sales of The Art of Living Publications and Ayurveda products are also directed to our social initiatives.
CONGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the United Nations), Geneva and New York
Stories untold and retold
frightfully wondrous things happen here.