116 smiling faces :-)
24th Dec. 5.30am:
Nokia 73 hollers it’s time to wake up. I am breathing Zzzzzz…. into my wife’s unwilling ear.
After a ten minute struggle to freeze time, I give up.
The Art of Living Advanced course starts today and the reporting time is 6.30 am.
Half-asleep, I rustle up my favourite cup of tea and try to read the newspapers.
There is yet another rape somewhere, yet another corruption case and yawn, yet another box item on Mahendra Singh Dhoni. What will happen to the world if Dhoni is out of the team for two matches? Will the heavens fall? Will ESPN and NEO Cricket shut shop? What will Dhoni eat for breakfast when he is not in the team?
Dhoni matters even if he is not in the team.
I braved all hurdles to the venue: which was primarily crossing the indomitable main road in front of IIT main gate in one piece. After the registration formalities, I entered the hall. It was just what I had seen the last time I had been to Shetty school hall in Powai. A meticulously clean and well appointed hall, with clean mattresses laid out on the floor. The stage was tastefully designed: A big sofa for the teacher next to a huge photograph of Guruji Sri Sri Ravishankarji with beautiful orchids and a cute Christmas tree.
Then over the next three and a half days, we were transported to a new world. Our instructor Ms Sangeeta Jani and her team led us into a new world of peace, silence and laughter. It was a typographer’s equivalent of an absolute white page without any marks. Straight out of
We did so many things – some of them spiritual, some of them crazy and naughty!.
All of us went on “silent mode” for two-and-half days. (Switching off the mobile phone itself is half way to spiritual nirvana!). It was hilarious, to attempt to speak without words – to see everyone gesturing wildly to convey a simple message.
Everyday, we got breaks from the class to walk around and explored the place. In the evening, we were encouraged to go on a nature trail. I bumped into an old friend at the course and we went on a foodie expedition which mostly ended at the Naturals ice cream parlour. Their staff would look at us sideways wondering who are these “goonga log” virtually cleaning up the shelves!
Btw, their new flavour, Guava icecream is fabulous!
Back at the course, we danced, we laughed, we shared our experiences with each other, we played cricket, football and kabaddi, we became babies, lions, peacocks, rabbits and elephants, we were dead and reborn. We sang, screamed and roared.
And we meditated to our heart’s content.
Lessons were from the Guru himself, taking us to a wonderful world of absolute peace. ‘Hollow and empty’ was an extraordinary experience and the happiness grew as we continued practising it!
In one of the sessions he asked: Imagine that you are going to die in the next one week. What will you do?
At first, I started counting the long list of "things to do..." and then realised it is all rubbish. Then the realisation came that what I believe is in a way good for peace. Do not have any desires... Then you can die a happy man whenever the "call" comes!
And then guruji gave the most important lesson of my life: If you die now, nothing will happen to the world. Life will go on as usual.
Something I always believed in!
So, what was so special about this course? There were 116 participants, aged between 17 and 70, from diverse professions. By lunch time on the first day, the place was brimming with positive energy and everyone around was happy! It is a very, very rare treat to be in a place full of radiant, beaming faces!
Morale of the story: There is no word called Depression in our dictionary.
Sri Sri Ravishankar, The Art of Living Foundation,
Sangeeta Jani, Vinaya Hegde, Neha Ahuja, Prem and Preeti Nambiar, Chandrasekhar, Swati, Rama, Shweta, Prasanna, S.P. Singh and all volunteers ( I don't know all the names ) who worked so sincerely for this wonderful course.