I am a spiritual seeker. In my search for spiritual fulfilment, I have come across many people and institutions and one among them was the Art of Living foundation. In fact I have done both the ''basic'' and the ''advanced"' courses of AOL and regularly practice the Sudarshan kriya, the controlled breathing technique which is proved to be a panacea to a plethora of psycho somatic illnesses .
Guruji as we call Sri Sri Ravishankar is an enlighten soul with an enchanting personality who has attracted best of the talent in spreading his principles of universal love. I have come across graduates from the best Engineering and Business schools working passionately for him with rigour and enthusiasm. Observing the energy and dedication of each karyakarta of AOL, I used to feel , that if this level of motivation is embalmed to our private , public government sectors, India can cross the threshold of basic socio economic development in just few years. Yes AOL is a great organization and its contribution to global society is commendable. However the recent cultural festival held on the plains of Yamuna which attracted a fine of Ra 5 Crore for AOL from the Green tribunal and resultant outcry from the so called liberal left intellectuals needs thinking;
Spiritual Gurus of the yesteryears went to the Himalayas or other secluded places and attained enlightenment but they were not known to the outside world. However it was the efforts of few yogis of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have resulted in ensuring the flow of Indian- Hindu knowledge system of Yogic practises to the developed world. First to mention among them was Swami Vivekananda himself whose speech in the parliament of religion opened up the ‘’Hindu view of life’’ ( as Dr S Radhakrishnan named it ) to the western world . Swami Vivekananda was followed by Shri Paramahamsa yogananda and later by Swami Chinmayanda in propagation of this knowledge of Vedanta into the modern times . Chinmaya mission and the Vivekananda mission, are providing yeomen service to society, be it in social sector or in education . Having said that what makes AOL, which is also involved in a similar exercise being looked with scepticism? Can it be just levelled as cynicism of an atheist liberal left media?
The fundamental basis of spiritual teaching in India in a social context was egalitarian in nature and endowed with simplicity. That is why Swamy Vivekananda’s principles were labelled as Vedantic Socialism where the monks travelled bare foot and built up trust and rapport with the subaltern but not with the affluent. A globalized growing India with its burgeoning middle class lives in a web of expectations and runs into a baggage of disappointments, uncertainty and stress. Spiritual solutions or KRIYAs are handy capsules and are nothing but controlled breathing techniques derived from the practices of Gurus of the yesteryears and codified in various texts. Yog Vashistam by Sage Vashista and Patangili’s Yogasootran are two main texts which gives a scientific and logical reasoning on Yogic practices .
Modern spiritual gurus have ''corporatized'' this knowledge into a model of service delivery riding on the evolving demand supply gap of spirituality, thereby taking it away from the personal realms of individual prayer rooms. ''Corporatization'' results in corporate characters and behaviourism creating a jet set, lap top dashing culture of spiritual power point presentations:
I don’t believe this as a retrograde development as it is only the adaptation to a newer technologically driven social reality. The successful case in point is Swami Ramdev Baba whose’’ Patanjali products ’’ have made the popular FMCG brands run for their money. Patanjali has since evolved as a success story of innovative thinking popularising the Indian Yogic practices as well as traditional medicinal knowledge.
Coming back to AOL, if it is involved in a Guru based branding exercise and spreading peace in the process what is wrong. The Salesians , Jocobites or the Jamat Ulema –e -hind had always their brand of socio- spiritual engineering , so what makes the difference?
The difference comes when there is state patronage and when the revenue and expenditure of such spiritual extravaganzas are not available in the public domain making it as Rajdeep Sardesai says ‘’Crony Spiritualism’’ .
Till that time we can always say Swaham Swaham. No problem: