September 20, 2014

Living with the Master - My experiences with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

It was the year 1995, my classmate at IIT-Bombay – Ramnik Bansal – woke me up from my siesta on a Friday afternoon. He had been asking me to attend a course to learn some breathing techniques for a year. Priding on my scientific/ analytical background, I did not find it an interesting proposition. But, that afternoon in March was something different – I still do not know why I agreed to go with him to the Art of Living course.

The intense experience of the Sudarshan Kriya and the calmness after that was something beyond my comprehension. It was an instant liking – as if I was waiting for it in my life.

Couple of months later, Bawa (the instructor) told us that the founder of the Art of Living courses – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – was visiting Bombay and that we could meet him at the evening satsang. There was a heavy downpour that day – I remember carrying my shoes in the hands, wading through knee deep water in Juhu, walking towards this temple. I reached there to find around 150-200 people in a hall, mostly dressed in white. I had only seen a small postcard size photo of Sri Sri once till then. I was looking around for him. A few minutes later, when he walked into the hall, I knew it was him.

It was an amazing state of mind. After some singing, we were allowed to meet him one-by-one and greet him. After greeting him, he gave me a hug – and it was like getting exposed an enormous energy field. The energy blast was as intense as the Sudarshan Kriya – I had to sit down immediately and it was instant meditation for 10-15 minutes.

That was the defining moment for me – all I knew was that I am not letting him go :-)

(Contd… In the next part, he will not let me go:-))

Part - 2

I still remember my first experience with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The intensity of experience continued and life changed course. It was like the train that took a small shift on the tracks and life changed forever. There was no way I was getting back on the old one… I was not the one who liked rushing into things – however, things did start changing quite fast.

I remember one of the initial benefits I got was getting through my CAT exams into IIM-A. I experimented with the time gap that should be between the Kriya/ meditation and starting to write the exams. It is like giving your mind deep rest and it would take a little while to accelerate and zoom… The improved intuition and faster processing of information were benefits that just came along. I was very impressed that how a breathing technique can make so much of a difference.

Over a period of time, I got to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Guruji) multiple times. We conducted many courses on campus with Bawa in the two years that I spent at IIM-A. It was towards the end of my stay, I had an experience of the most powerful life changing moments – a direct glimpse into the spiritual knowledge that is infinite.



The time was the placement week in 1998. Having specialized in Finance and Operations Management, I had naturally applied to many financial institutions. I had a good resume (grades and other achievements) – but I did not even get shortlisted for many of the jobs based out of Mumbai (the financial capital of India). The others where I got an interview were a disaster – not because I was not prepared. During these interviews, I experienced the delinking of the words coming out of my mouth and what I was thinking/ wanting to talk. I was sitting there, listening to myself speak some irrelevant things.

I was quite surprised at how this could happen. I am fully there, wanting to say something and something else coming out of my mouth and I am not able to stop that.

Then on the 3rd day, came this company – recruiting for the first time in India and only from IIM-A. Job location: USA – A side note, some openings in Bangalore. Something got into my mind – made 2 copies of the resume and posted it for both these openings. Finished one round of the US interview and before the second one, the Bangalore guys called me in and in 2 minutes flat, I had a job offer on hand. I was not keen on the role that was offered in Bangalore. The recruiters were more than happy to put me into consulting and the whole process lasted less than 10 minutes. All my other friends got into the same role in US and I was destined to move to Bangalore!



I moved to Bangalore in the summer of 1998 – did my Art of Living Teachers Training program and joined this new job. It did not take much time after that for me to realize what I was blessed with! Being in Bangalore comes with so many benefits – I am sure all of us know. This was the time when some days there would be less than 50 devotees for satsangs in ashram with Guruji and big satsangs would have 200. The walks, the drives, the flights – it was an amazing time.

I realized there was not much in my control – so there is no question of me not letting Him go. I was sure that He will not let me go anywhere… and it is better this way :-)


Part - 3

From the head to the heart

I could have never imagined that life can change so much. And, the best part of this journey has been that there were no turning points - it was a gentle curve under the loving guidance of Guruji. Having done my education from the premier institutes in India, I was a bit intellectual. I was not ready to accept the existence of the Divine. Yet, the irony was that I used to do all the chanting in the pujas at my home. I was looking for something more - link that could put all my understanding together. And, then I met the Divine itself.

I remember fighting against torrential rains and wading through knee-deep water on my way to the temple where Guruji was to come. That was my first meeting with Him and there was something that just pulled me towards Him. I can still feel the vibrations in my body when I first hugged Him that evening. After that there has been no looking back.

I continued on my intellectual quest of understanding the scriptures and meanings behind it for quite some time. By Guruji's grace I used to get good insights into my questions during my sadhana. Then one day, a realization dawned upon me - "You may know everything in this world - So what? You may know the entire secret of this creation - So what? Till there is no love, no devotion in your heart, till you do not share this joy and happiness with others - it is of no use!" That was the actual beginning of my journey - from the head to the heart.

Always be with me

On a flight to Ahmedabad, I was seated next to Guruji. I asked him if there was something that I need to do. He said, "Just be with me, always." It was like receiving a blessing in the form of a command. He is always there for all of us. By keeping our focus, it reduces the overtime He has to do.

A couple of months later, when He was leaving Bangalore, I asked Him when we would meet next. He paused for a moment and said, "Come with me to Paris and German ashram. You anyway have work in at your German office". I replied that I would surely come, but I did not know of any work at my office. He started talking about something else and in the afternoon, He again asked me, "So, Vinod, what do you say - the Paris and Germany plan is good, isn't it?" I was more puzzled than ever. My confusion increased when He again reminded me about it in the evening.

I found out if there was some work at Germany - there was none. But, I was I was mentally prepared for anything now. Two days before Guruji was to leave, I got a call from my manager that I had to go to Germany immediately - And I could be there with Guruji! When I told Guruji about this, He pretended as if He did not know anything - He's got the style!

And, I must admit, He has done this many times after that!!! - rather, I became aware of it only after this incident.





You are the best

What would you say when Guruji asks you, "Can you pack these bags? Do you know how to do it?" I said, "Yes, I can do it. I know it a little bit" - wanting to be a bit modest. And then, there was a stern voice, "What do you mean little bit. Say you know it the best. No one can do it better than you. Stop this, something, little bit..." It was a lesson well learnt. That single incident has put in so much of confidence and fearlessness in me. It is amazing how Guruji transforms you with each sentence He says.

Doing things 100%

I had this wish that He should scold me in a satsang - a crazy wish maybe. But, He is there to fulfill even that. One evening, He asked me to type out the knowledge sheet. I just typed out the content and did not bother to get the continuous flow into it. I thought it would be edited later. And, to my surprise, He asked me to read it in the satsang. I did - and got nicely reprimanded for doing such a shoddy job, for not being 100%.

It really takes a Master like Sri Sri to make sure that each and every one devotee is able to totally integrate the knowledge in his/ her life.


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