As Sri Sri Turns 63

 In Hinduism, Saints and Service

As Sri Sri Turns 63

 Building Bridges And Mending Hearts

 “I heard the speech of the Colombian official at The World Culture Festival and he was talking about the civil war” says Lika Gavrish, a filmmaker from Azerbaijan, “And it is so close to me because me and my partner made ads about the war going to the troubled areas of Colombia and I know from close quarters how hard it was for them and when I heard that ‘Guruji’ helped them a lot in this war, I was very touched and I cried. They had a lot of people to provide material relief. They needed his healing.”

On the spiritual level, the founder of The Art of Living is bringing peace and mental well-being to millions (450 million so far) through his spiritual techniques- the blue-collar corporate guy who is burning out fast or the farmer who is dealing with the anxiety of debt, erratic rains, and crop worries or even the statesmen and policymakers.

On the outer and more manifest level, his scope of work entails everything from river rejuvenation to prison rehabilitation to trauma relief and education.

·       Reviving 41 dried rivers across the country benefiting 50 million people in over 5055 villages.

·       Over 8,00,000 inmates in 65 countries have undergone prisoner rehabilitation programs. “This program has made me feel free from inside. And isn’t that a wonderful feeling for a prisoner?” says an inmate from a Belgian prison.

·       Started in the wake of farmers’ crisis in 2012, the organization’s zero cost farming training has reached 22 lakh Indian farmers in 19 states.

·       His organization runs projects to raise awareness about hygiene, and build community leaders in rural areas, having trained over 2,49,408 rural youth with a reach of 40,212 villages in India.

•        Planted over 81 million trees in 36 countries and 26 Indian states

•        Built 3,819 homes, 62,000 + toilets, 1200 bore-wells and 1592 biogas plants built

•        90,200 hygiene camps and 27,427 medical camps conducted benefiting 12 million people.

·       618 Free Schools are giving education to over 70,000 children in far-flung areas, 90% of whom are first generation learners.

·       Sri Sri launched the national Drug-Free India campaign witnessing the participation of over 1 crore students apart from the support of 90 eminent personalities from the field of entertainment, politics, sports and academics.

Power of Connection

There is a kaleidoscope of paths available to spiritual seekers today. But simplicity and universality of his message based on spiritual humanism draws people across identities, religious and cultural lines to him. His teachings can be experientially integrated into life, working through exploration instead of imposition. This explains why they work well especially for those in the heart of a conflict. They have benefitted the genocide facing the Yezidi community in Syria, eased inter-communal tensions in Iraq, and stopped gang wars in Ivory Coast.

Sri Sri, who turns 63 this May, has found global acceptance across the wide political spectrum, working continuously with people on all sides of a conflict, the victim and the perpetrator, the law enforcer and the outlawed, sometimes drawing flak for it from vested interests, but seldom hindered by it. In Kashmir, Northeast India, Ivory-coast, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Colombia, Middle-east among other places-Sri Sri has created safe spaces for dialogue to flourish, in spite of stiff uncomfortable resistance. He is known for his caregiver approach to mediation which finds trust among stakeholders.

When tension in Iraq soared in 2008, Sri Sri met leaders on all sides (Shia, Sunni and Kurds among others). Peace observers say, he is one of the very few world leaders to have been able to do this at the time of conflict.

Colombian rebel leader Ivan Marquez had said, “His teachings are essential to achieve stable and long-lasting peace.” As peace evolves, Sri Sri’s organization continues to work for building trust and compassion on both sides in Colombia.  In September 2016, his volunteers facilitated a forgiveness meeting between FARC leaders and the families of 12 deputies who were kidnapped, held captive and finally killed by the FARC (only one survived). The meeting ended with a group prayer.

“In any long-drawn conflict, the victim tends to turn an oppressor and the oppressor becomes a victim,” says Sri Sri, “A broader vision and spiritual understanding alone can break this vicious cycle.” 

In 2014, Sri Sri was one of the very few global leaders to draw attention to the Yezidi genocide and send help, rescuing and rehabilitating almost 2500 Yezidi women captured by the ISIS.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki says about Sri Sri, “There are big powers who have big might, but they are not able to unite the hearts and minds of people. This work can be done only by a spiritual leader.

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