Official Website of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Sat, 19 Apr 2014 05:54:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Varying Hues Of Human Perception Sat, 19 Apr 2014 05:39:32 +0000 Human race is diverse, so too its cultures and belief systems. Though religion is born in a particular race and nation, today it has cut across boundaries of race and nationality. Although religion has maintained its own identity, it could not remain immune to the cultural influence of host countries. It is interesting to note that what is considered blasphemy in one religion is considered a matter of pride in another. For example, in Hinduism, playing the role of prophets and saints is considered a privilege. Every year Ram Lila and Krishna Lila are played across India and innumerable people dress themselves up to play the parts of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Hanuman and others. In the Christian tradition as well, Nativity tableaus are performed and watched as a respectful tribute to Jesus. Many actors abstain from personal bad habits for the period of these roles. People even carry big crosses and retrace the steps of Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem to relive the crucifixion themselves. The basic concept is that when you imitate somebody, you imbibe their qualities. 

By contrast, in Islam, imitating or playing such a role is considered blasphemy and an insult to the Prophet. In fact, music, sculpture, dance and painting were banned in puritanical Islam. 

“The Prophet said that Allah commanded him to destroy all the musical instruments, idols, crosses and all the trappings of ignorance.” Hadith Qudsi 19:5

“Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings….” (Musnad Ahmad & Abu Dawud Tayalisi)

Man cannot be without these expressions of art. Slowly, the influence of Hinduism gave birth to Sufism. Although it was banned in strictly orthodox Islam, music slowly found it way back into society, though the puritans object to this even today.

Interestingly, a parallel of this can be found in the Bhagwad Gita as well.

buddhya visuddhaya yukto 
dhrtyatmanam niyamya ca 
sabdadin visayams tyaktva
raga-dvesau vyudasya ca  [Chapter 18, verse 51]

In the above verse and the few following it, Lord Krishna says that a seeker of Divinity should transcend all sensory objects like sound and sight. However, this is a practice for yogis for a period of time and not a lifestyle as such. While Hinduism, on the one hand, encourages music by calling it Naada Brahmn, on the other hand, it says that one has to transcend sound to reach Para Brahmn, the Ultimate Reality. These opposite values in Hinduism gave it a broad spectrum and they bring in a lot of tolerance.

While criticising, mimicking or accusing a politician is legal in some countries, in some others, it is an offence. The west takes pride in freedom of speech and allows people to express extreme opinions. However, in other places, such expressions can be an emotional assault on the sentiments of people. The outrage and violence that we have seen due to films like Innocence of Muslims says it all. What is appalling is that in the protests against the film, a large number of innocent muslims were killed.

In the end, it is we who attach meaning to an expression. Somewhere those who are very sensitive seem to lack sensibility and somewhere else people who are very sensible seem to lack sensitivity. What is needed is the perfect balance between sensitivity and sensibility in today’s globalised society.

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Layers of Democracy Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:39:41 +0000 India with Her billion plus people is the largest democracy in the world. We have elections at various levels – village panchayat, zila parishad, block level, then state and finally, the national level elections. Unfortunately, many people have one yardstick for all of them and elect the same party for everything. But the issues and their scope is different at every level and one cannot have the same yardstick for all these elections. In fact, the strength of democracy is that every sphere can tackle its own issues autonomously. On the contrary, when the priorities at these levels mix, chaos reigns. Regional parties who try to play a national role create havoc and more hurdles for good governance because their vision remains limited. I would suggest people to clearly see the various issues facing the country at various levels.

At the village and taluka level, voters should focus not on the party but the capability of the locality’s candidate and his/her connectedness with the people. For the national level, the perspective should be to look for strong leadership at the top. State level requires a balanced approach. In all these cases, the character and conduct of a person plays is very important, although at the national level, if the choice is between the national party and a candidate of good character, the party should be given more preference. At the same time, I appeal to all political parties not to give tickets to people with a criminal background. They do this because such people have a vote bank. Therefore, we must have a vote bank of good people as well.

To have the maximum youth participate in this election, we launched a drive to register new voters in several places. I asked our enthusiastic volunteers to do a Happiness Survey and find out how many people have voter IDs. We were shocked to find out that in the slums of Delhi, many people had more than one voter ID. They can vote in Delhi and then go back and vote in their native constituency in other states. This seems to go with vested political interest. The audacity with which a well known politician has openly asked people to erase the voting mark on their fingers and go back to vote again is alarming. It is time the public wakes up and shows the door to this kind of unethical and corrupt elements.

People also tend to vote out of a blind sense of loyalty in this country – “My grandfather and father voted for a party, I will also vote for them.” Blind faith in parties should be done away with. We must choose based on the situation of the country rather than on past political affiliations of the family. The current situation is such that in terms of economy and industrial growth, the country is on a ventilator. The extent of corruption has breached all limits and a weak coalition government is the root of corruption. The need of the hour is a strong and stable government at the center that can boost the economy.

There is also an impulse to get swayed by emotions in making a choice, especially in the youth. Often people with good intentions end up making wrong decisions because their vision gets clouded by emotions. The situation of an intelligent voter today is similar to that of Arjuna. He was overwhelmed by feelings and unable to see clearly. Lord Krishna told him to set aside his emotions and fulfill his dharma in the interest of greater good. Our dharma as citizens in the upcoming national election is to make a choice for a firm, decisive and experienced leadership at the top that leads the country on a path of progress and prosperity.

I urge people to take responsibility to ensure that everybody among their friends and family cast their vote this time and vote wisely. Let voting be like a picnic celebration where the whole family or a group of families goes together without being daunted by the weather or the traffic. Let us do this as our sacred duty. This election is like an examination for all of us but I’m sure that after passing through this phase, our country will truly blossom.

[Note: This article was published in Times of India on April 7, 2014:]

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Let the race begin… but early! Sun, 06 Apr 2014 06:45:10 +0000 Every time elections happen in India, the country is thrown into a cauldron of corruption with party-hopping, rebellion, chaos, crime and confusion reigning supreme. Often nominations are announced at the last moment and many voters don’t even get an opportunity to see the faces of their future leaders let alone interact with them.

Does the largest democracy of the world need this chaos? Or can we bring in some reforms? Here we cannot forget the revolutionary changes ushered in by the tenth election commissioner T N Seshan. He put checks on the spending in elections and indiscriminate use of posters and vehicles for promotion.

As elections approach, there is a spurt in illegal activities such as horse trading and money laundering. During ticket distribution, crores of rupees change hands. Either the candidates are looking to make money or the parties are looking for moneyed candidates!

The process can be cleaned up to a large extent if candidates are announced 6 months in advance. On average, a Lok Sabha candidate has to cover 12000 to 14000 villages in his constituency. He/she has to connect with anywhere from 10 to 15 lakh voters. The candidates would need time to at least shake hands with 10% of them, if not all. How can one reach out to so many people in just three to four weeks?

A sustained exposure will also give enough time for people to figure out the character and attitude of the leaders they are going to elect. The one who connects with them well will end up leading them. It helps the political parties as well. If the candidate is found inefficient or unacceptable by the people or if there are complaints about him/her, the party has time to rethink and nominate a different candidate. It gives people time to understand their differences, sort them out or agree to live with them.

A leader should rise from the bottom winning the hearts of people rather than being imposed by the party high command. In a democracy, it is very important that the representatives understand who they represent and vice versa.

Often ticket distribution is done without understanding the ground reality. Many party workers are upset with the final list of candidates and turn rebellious as despite having worked hard, their voices are not heard. It is not that the candidate has to be a local always but even if someone from outside is nominated, they have to stay in the constituency, work, connect with people and prove themselves. This needs time.

Currently, the situation is that party election committees select candidates looking at caste equations, financial muscle or even due to whims and fancies of the members. Many times weak candidates are fielded so that the opponent can win. This unholy nexus between the parties can be exposed and avoided with a long lead time. It would be ideal if every party decentralized the selection process to involve the panchayats and zila parishads also.

Many times ticket distribution is a money-making racket. Sometimes, even opposition candidates are bought out by rival parties. If the ticket distribution system is streamlined and conducted well in advance, the election process will become simpler and a lot of election-related crimes and violence can be avoided. Indonesia is also going to elections this month like India and the list of contesting candidates was out as early as August last year.

If the candidates know their opponents well in advance, there will be a spirit of positive competition among them to serve the people in their electorate.

It takes a whole nation, with all its civil, legislative and judicial bodies, to make a healthy democracy. The question is do we really deserve a better government? Are we really serious about it?  Can we ever get out of caste and religion based politics? We have more questions than answers. Nevertheless we should keep asking ourselves these questions.

[Note: This article was published in DNA on April 6, 2014:]

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Hope quashed, Opportunity missed Fri, 04 Apr 2014 05:06:37 +0000 When the Aaam Admi Party emerged on the Indian political horizon, the country was stirred by the prospect of young and dynamic leaders serious about cleansing the system. Although it began as an apolitical movement, I concurred with Arvind Kejriwal’s view that to cleanse politics, one must move into politics. For this reason, I have been telling the Naxals to move from bullets to ballot. I was happy to see many young people participate in the last Assembly elections in Jharkhand.

The coterie culture of established political parties has left the common man with little scope for participation in the system other than casting votes. The new party created high hopes in millions of Indians who were tired of corruption and criminalization of politics.

Many signed up for membership of the new party, yearning to see a better India. Its people-to-people connection and sincerity of purpose made Delhi vote for it in a big way. It was good that, subsequently, they formed the government with Congress’ support. People expected the new government to take on the corrupt leaders. If the AAP government had fallen because of its positive action against corruption, it would have scored high on integrity. But they were ill-advised to resign so that they could get out of Delhi and sweep the nation. By doing this, Arvind showed himself to be no different from other politicians – the hidden ambition and agenda came to the forefront.

Cheap publicity stunts, self contradiction, over-ambition and autocracy tarnished the positive image of AAP and soon many respectable people became disillusioned and left. Now Arvind says that he is okay with a fractured mandate in this election and mid-term polls in two years’ time. This indicates a very callous attitude towards the nation’s economy and security.

He visited Gujarat for four days and hurled loose criticism at the state’s development. I have travelled through the length and breadth of Gujarat over the years. In the 90s and early 2000, to see a tree in Saurashtra was a rarity. It was so drought-prone that people had to sell their cattle often. But today there is greenery everywhere. Electricity supply was scarce – hardly two hours a day. Today there is water and electricity in almost every village and the per capita income has risen. While Gujarat may not be 100 per cent corruption free, I have no hesitation in saying that it is much better than what it used to be. Instead of being honest with facts, Arvind has chosen to put down Modi on flimsy grounds. One who hasn’t learnt to stand up has no right to criticize that someone’s dance is off rhythm.

If AAP is voted for a role in national politics and if Arvind does what he did in Delhi, it will be an absolute disaster for the country. India cannot afford to take such a risk when the country is on a ventilator with most economic parameters vulnerably placed. We need a stable government with a strong leadership at the Center for our economy to come back on track and spur development.

In a hurry to jump on the national scene, the party has compromised all principles that gave birth to it. AAP should have proved its mettle in Delhi and taken time to build up its cadre in other parts of the country. It should have gone to villages and contested panchayat and municipality elections and taken time to build a strong and committed cadre trained in governance. It could have forced the other parties to rethink their strategy of giving tickets to criminals and corrupt people. With a strong foundation, it would have been a boon to the nation. But with so many contradictions, AAP has squandered its agenda of political reform.

When Arvind captured people’s imagination with his sharp activism during the anti-corruption movement, he was primed to give an alternative to Indian politics. But after his recent antics, there is a sense of being let down even among those who were once his staunch supporters. HE CAME TO GIVE THE COUNTRY A CHOICE, BUT HAS LEFT THE COUNTRY CHOICELESS.

[This article appeared in Hindustan Times on April 4, 2014:]

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Telangana – Divide and Rule? Fri, 21 Feb 2014 10:04:53 +0000 India is a phenomenon – the largest democracy on Earth, with a plethora of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It is simply a miracle that It still exists united, unlike the former Yugoslavian and Soviet countries. Though our forefathers had wisely divided the nation on linguistic basis for ease of administration and communication, the huge population and distances have forced many states to be further divided. One such crisis in the current scenario is Telangana. The situation of Telangana is very peculiar unlike Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand had to be carved out of UP as people in the hilly terrain of Tehri and Garhwal would take almost two days to reach the capital city, where most of the bureaucracy is situated. So it was justified that people of Uttarakhand wanted a separate state so that governance could be more efficient and communication more effective, giving a boost to economy and development in the region. The farther cities and towns are from the capital, the more they tend to get neglected with almost non-existent governance in some cases.

It was a similar case in Bihar where far flung areas, now in the state of Jharkhand, were considered a punishment posting for officers.  For the sake of good governance and prosperity, the carving of Jharkhand was totally justified. The same applies to the case of Chhattisgarh. It is the people of Chhattisgarh who wanted to separate and the Madhya Pradesh government accepted that demand for it was that much less burden on Bhopal. Due to lack of infrastructure the border districts of many states are not accessible and welfare is ignored, though not intentionally. To prevent disgruntlement in the far away districts due to this, Karnataka even shifted its capital for a few months to Belgaon, which had a tendency to join Maharashtra.


Coming to the Telangana issue, it is completely opposite. Here the capital city – Hyderabad is in Telangana, and all the investment and development has poured into it. Over a third of the economy of the entire state is based in the capital. This being the condition, it is the coastal Andhra or Rayal Seema people who should have demanded a separate state for self governance. While these two regions do not want to separate, there is no logic for people in the capital not wanting to have their association with Andhra. It doesn’t make much sense why a government would want to abdicate parts of its own state while states like Nagaland are demanding inclusion of more districts from other states for Greater Nagaland. It appears completely unfair to push away people when they want to be a part of united Andhra Pradesh. If the Nizam was alive, he would have loved to have more area in his state rather than shrink it. Usually it is the children who want to separate from the joint family but in this case it is the father who is pushing them away. For what benefit? The basis of separation is not very clear other than for vote bank politics.

One of the main grievances of Telangana is that the people of Seemandhra dominate almost every aspect of the state. No one from Telangana was ever stopped from getting involved in the political or economic arena of the state. The talented and hardworking will always capture attention wherever they are, just like Gujaratis, Parsis, Jains and Marwadis are dominant almost everywhere.

There are pockets of underdeveloped areas everywhere. There are slums even in Hyderabad, though equal opportunities are available to everyone. Time bound reservation packages for the upliftment of the community could also have addressed any such grievances. All in all, to an onlooker, the reason for separation remains a puzzle. The language and culture being the same across Andhra Pradesh, it remains to be seen how the bifurcation will work out because there has been such an intermixing of people from one area to another.

There is an ancient Sanskrit saying,

“Yo vai bhuma tat sukham, na alpe sukham asti”

That which is big and great is joyful; there is no joy in being small.

Just because the people of a region are dominating, pushing them away does not solve everything. The long term development of any region will only happen through education and empowerment, not through division.

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Looking back, looking ahead Fri, 27 Dec 2013 05:44:24 +0000 Any reason is a good reason to celebrate for celebration is the nature of our Spirit. New year is a time when the spirit of celebration engulfs the whole world. This is also an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and take stock of what lessons we learnt. In life, things are to be learnt and forgotten – learnt so that you do not repeat the same mistakes and forgotten so that they do not leave you traumatized.

We began the year on a very sad note with the Nirbhaya incident. The whole atmosphere in the country was that of disbelief and anger. Although this year too had its share of tragedies – both natural and man-made, there were many positives as well. Many thought that the wave against corruption that arose in the country two years ago ended as a lost cause. But that wave has sustained and become a genuine collective resolve to build a better India. The credit for this goes to the youth of our country. The Lokpal Bill that has been passed, although not perfect, is a step in the right direction. The high voter turnout in state assembly polls last month is also a very encouraging sign and shows that we have woken up as a nation. At the same time, a lot needs to be done. The most immediate task at hand is ensuring that everybody around us is registered for voting before the general elections in 2014.

People ask me very often how I see the future. And I say that the future is for them to build, however they want it. The unwise regret the past, think the future is destiny and are miserable in present. The wise see their past as destiny, the future as free will and are happy in the present.

However significant the events of the past year were at the time, looking back, you cannot see them all as anything but a dream. Reflecting on these events, what stands out is the impermanent nature of all things. Events are like stones and pebbles in the great river of time which keeps flowing unabated.

Just like we live in the outer world of events and circumstances, we also live in the inner world of emotions and feelings, which we are not always aware of. Meditation is the best tool to wipe your mind clean off all past impressions that weigh you down. The distance between the outer and the inner worlds is just the blink of an eye.

Yoga is the skill of keeping attention on the inner world while acting in the outer. When you are lost in the outside world, there is disharmony in the inner and life is like a war. When you are established in the inner world, there is clarity in the outer and life becomes a game.

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Remembering Mahatma Gandhi Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:48:15 +0000 Mahatma Gandhi had a significant influence on our family and my childhood. My paternal grandfather stayed at Sabarmati Ashram and served Mahatma Gandhi there for twenty years. My grandmother took her children to her parents’ home and willingly gave away all ten and a half kilos of her gold jewelry saying, “I will take care of the children. You go and serve the country.”

My teacher Pt. Sudhakar Chaturvedi was also a teacher to Mahatma Gandhi whom he taught the Bhagavad Gita. He is still alive and is a 116 years old. Gandhi used to call him Bangalori, since he is from Bangalore. Once, they was lodged in Yerawada jail in Pune and Kasturba was on her deathbed. When Gandhi realized that she may not survive the day, he asked Pt. Chaturvedi to read the second chapter of the Gita. There is a verse in it that describes the qualities of one who is established and centered in knowledge – Sthitapragna. Gandhi said, “Bangalori, today is the test of your Bapu. Let us see if I can maintain equanimity of mind today. My wife and partner for over 50 years is leaving her body. I have done such injustice to this woman. I always forced her to do things she did not want to do. I’ve been so cruel to her and her children. But she stayed with me till her last breath. She is the real saint, not me.” He made this admission during her last moments as she died in his arms.

He was a great advocate of non-violence and compassion towards animals. Once he saw a cow being milked so hard that her udders started bleeding. From that day, he left having cow’s milk and would only have goat’s milk. He said the right to the cow’s milk goes to the calf first. He was so sensitive towards the cow and today, India has become the #1 exporter of beef. Millions of cows have been slaughtered in this country over the last few years. He was a strong proponent of prohibition against alcohol but nobody says that. He stood firmly against religious conversion but nobody talks about that. It is so sad to see that all that Mahatma Gandhi stood for has been totally demolished in his own country.

The youth of our country should wake up and follow these values, which have tremendous strength in them. He used to do satsang everyday. In fact, this is the reason that his movement reached the masses and was successful. His satsangs brought hundreds and thousands of people together who united with his mission.

Today, the situation is as critical as it was in Gandhi’s time. We are again passing through a phase of transformation and we need to stand united with the larger vision of a better future for our country. Let us take responsibility for a better India and create a wave of enthusiasm and hope like Mahatma Gandhi did.

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The deeper meaning of Janamashtami Sat, 31 Aug 2013 05:04:20 +0000 The beauty in our ancient stories is that they were never made location-specific or time-specific. Ramayana or Mahabharata are not just events that happened a long time ago, they are happening everyday in our lives. The essence of these stories is eternal.

There is a deeper meaning to the story of Krishna’s birth too. Devaki symbolizes the body and Vasudev symbolizes the life force (prana). When prana rises in the body, joy (Krishna) is born. But the ego (Kamsa) tries to eliminate joy. Kamsa is Devaki’s brother which indicates that ego is born along with the body. A person who is happy and joyful does not create trouble for anyone. It is the one who is unhappy and emotionally wounded who ends up causing disruption. Those who feel injustice has been done to them end up being unjust to others out of their hurt ego.

The biggest adversary of ego is joy. Ego cannot survive and has to bow down where there is joy and love. A person can hold a very high position in society, but he melts in front of his own little child. When the child falls ill, however strong the person is, they feel a little helpless. Ego simply melts when confronted with love, simplicity and joy. Krishna is the epitome of joy, the quintessence of simplicity and the very source of love.

Devaki’s and Vasudev’s imprisonment by Kamsa signifies that when the ego takes over, the body feels like a prison. When Krishna was born, the prison guards fell asleep. The guards here are the senses which protect the ego because they are turned outward when awake. Inner joy sprouts in us when the senses turn inwards.

Krishna is also known as the butter thief. Milk is the essence of nourishment and curd is a cultured form of milk. When curd is churned, butter comes up and floats on top. It is nourishing and yet light, not heavy. When our intelligence is churned, it becomes like butter. When knowledge dawns in the mind, one gets established in one’s Self. Such a person remains unattached to this world and his mind does not sink in it. Krishna stealing butter is a symbolism depicting the glory of love. So attractive is Krishna’s charm and skill that he steals the minds of even the most dispassionate.

Why does Krishna have the peacock feather on his head? A king is responsible for the whole society and that responsibility can become a burden, which sits on the head as the crown. But Krishna fulfills all his responsibility effortlessly, like a game. A mother never feels taking care of her children is a burden. Similarly, Krishna wears his responsibility lightly and plays his roles colorfully, just like the peacock feather on his crown.

Krishna is the most attractive, joyful space within all of us. When there is no restlessness, worry or desire in the mind, you are able to get deep rest. And it is in deep rest that Krishna is born.

The message of Janamashtami is that it is time to bring a wave of joy in society. Become seriously joyful!

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The strange ways of Gurus Wed, 24 Jul 2013 07:58:36 +0000 Once upon a time, a Guru was giving darshan to a congregation. People were coming and bowing down, seeking blessings. Gurudev was silent most of the time and when somebody would come and share their troubles, looking for a response, he would say only one thing – “You are very lucky”. One person came to him and said, “I failed in my exam.” Gurudev said, “Well, you are very lucky.” Another came and said,

“My wife has left me.”

“You are very lucky.”

No matter what problems people shared – “None of my friends are talking to me” or “I lost my job”, Gurudev kept telling them that they were very lucky. Even though it was the same response, strangely, those people would walk away happily, as though they received the right advice for their situation. After a while, one person came forward and shared, “Gurudev, I feel very lucky and I am so grateful that I have you in my life.” When Gurudev heard this, he got annoyed and gave this person a tight slap. Even more strangely, this man, with tears in his eyes, started dancing in gratitude.

Another person who was watching all this, got totally confused at everybody’s behavior. But he could not gather enough courage to ask Gurudev directly. So he went to a senior disciple and confided, “I can’t make any sense out of what I saw. Could you please explain to me the meaning of all this?” On being asked to give an interpretation of the Guru’s actions (which devotees love to do anyway), this person replied, “It was perfect what Gurudev did! The first person realized he was lucky because when you fail in an exam, you end up studying it more thoroughly. The person who lost his job and the one whose friends left him are lucky because they now have some time to introspect. People in jobs never have any time and one has to be really lucky to get some time in life to reflect on the Truth, on ‘who am I’. The person whose wife ran away is lucky because now he can learn what mistakes he made in his relationship. He now has an opportunity to become sensitive to his wife’s welfare and that’s why Gurudev’s words made him happy.

There are three levels of human consciousness. The first and the lowest is pure inertia, when one does not feel anything. The second is when one realizes that there is misery in life. Buddha took people from inertia to awareness of misery. Every misery wakes you up and that is when dispassion and discrimination dawn in you. That is why many people become spiritual when they see sorrow in life. The third step is realizing that life is all blissful. This is where the Guru Tattva (Principle) is needed. In the presence of the Guru, misery gets transformed into bliss.”

“But why did the last person who was grateful get a slap?”

“Because when he said, ‘I am grateful’, he was still centered around the ‘I’. When he got that slap, he realized that even to be grateful, there need to be two. The Master told him, ‘Me and you? Two? Come on, wake up. There is only One Brahman.’ When you realize this, misery vanishes from life.

Usually people exist, they don’t live. Existing without life is ignorance. Living as if you don’t exist is enlightenment.

Shoonyata and Poornata – meditation and celebration go together and today, Guru Poornima, is the day for both.

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Uttarakhand Relief Work Mon, 08 Jul 2013 09:43:40 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=181 I have been receiving reports of what our volunteers have been doing to bring relief to the tragedy-struck region of Uttarakhand. I wanted to share an overview of the tremendous work being done.

  • 100 trucks of relief material from various parts of the country have been sent to Uttarakhand
  • A team of about 300 volunteers has been working in different areas of the region.
  • They have been working with the para-military forces and the Disaster Management Team assisting them in rescue operations.
  • Apart from gathering and distributing food material, medicines and other essentials, they are also engaged in conducting trauma-relief camps for survivors. Conditions have been tough to carry out operations due to the scale of the calamity and difficult weather.
  • Volunteers have also helped bridge the communication gap where stranded survivors don’t understand the reasons behind the delay in their rescue, allaying fears and keeping spirits high.

Swami Divyanand and Swami Vishwachaitanya are coordinating relief operations in Uttarakhand.


Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun was the transit point where survivors were brought after rescue via choppers. Volunteers helped the IAF and Disaster Management Team in dispatching supplies and counselling the survivors.


Loading relief material in the helicopters


Teams of doctors put up medical camps assisted by volunteers


Supporting survivors who need care and attention


Many youngsters have come forward and carried food supplies and other relief material to disconnected villages. The survivors in these villages were families of tour guides waiting for them to come back. All their belongings, including livestock had been washed away. These youngsters formed teams and reached many such inaccessible villages and gathered groups of villagers to come and take supplies from these makeshift supply points.


There is a shortage of covered storage area for the supplies.


Helping clear out the debris from houses


De-stressing session for BRO GREF personnel, who are involved in rebuilding damaged roads.


Non-stop rescue work caused stress and fatigue in the armed forces personnel. Meditation sessions helped rejuvenate them continue their work with more energy.

ME Negotiating a landslide...

The terrain to reach villages in the upper terrain is extremely tough as roads have been entirely destroyed.

So far, relief camps have been setup in Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Dharasu, Saigul (Tehri), Chinyali, Guptkashi, Srinagar, Harsil, Kharabi, Gochar, Chandrapuri, Hanumanchetti, Uttarkashi, Rana Chetti, Srikot, Agastyamuni, Ukhimath, Kund, Arkhund, Kotma, Sonprayag, Triyugi Narayan, Athali, Tilwara and Mathali. After the evacuation, roads are being cleared up to reach places that have been cut-off all these days. The challenge is to reach supplies to these places and also to reassure the survivors to come and fetch supplies from camps because the distance is several kilometers and accessibility is hard even with mules.

Everybody involved – the armed forces, NGOs and volunteers, overcome many challenges on a daily basis in this operation. Their efforts and spirit remind us that there is a lot of goodness in society. Those of you who would like to go to Uttarakand and volunteer may contact

Shweta Golani - 9837246264

Bhartendu Sethi – 9896790734

Vijay Radadia – 9327387873.

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Keeping the Faith Sun, 07 Jul 2013 18:36:35 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=174 To move towards growth in life, we require faith in three things – in oneself, in the goodness in society and in God. However, looking at the recent incident in Kedarnath, where so many innocent lives were lost, one wonders if God exists. If He does, why would He do such things to His own devotees? It is on these occasions that faith becomes fragile and one tends to lose it. However, it is also on these occasions that faith is most needed too. We must remember that God is impartial; He is present everywhere and not confined to particular location, although pilgrimage centers are centers of high energy bringing solace and touching the innermost chord of faith. When disaster happen in such places those who die anyway attain Him, those who are saved thank Him and retain their faith but it is the relatives of the departed, whose faith goes through a testing time. They reel with the question, “Why? Why? Why?” and it is quite natural that they turn negative. When your near and dear ones leave suddenly, your faith is shaken but faith is what helps pull you through the tragedy.  We do not get anything by losing our faith. In fact, faith holds our mind together in times of crisis and prevents it from falling even more in despair and blame. This is a time for prayer. When fear takes over our mind, prayer helps keep it steady. Let us pray for peace to those whom we have lost and for strength to their families to overcome this grave tragedy.

Let us also be grateful for all the lives that have been saved. The passion with which volunteers have come forward to help out in this calamity stands to show that there is a lot of humaneness in people. Stories of crime and corruption in the news may cloud it, but we must not lose our faith in the goodness in society. If we start believing it is full of thugs and thieves, we cannot function at all. Having faith in the people and the world around us is essential to move ahead.

Finally, having faith in ourselves, we must do what is within our capability as well. For example, millions of people visit our pilgrimage places, but we do not have arrangements to handle that kind of crowd there. Except a few, all of them are in bad shape due to neglect. We cannot totally stop natural disasters from happening but we can certainly be prepared for them. Many such places, including Kedarnath, don’t even have proper roads. The passage to Amarnath is just a few feet wide and caters to lakhs of pilgrims going up and coming down at the same time. Even the shortest way, through Baltal, is a 14km long one way trek through hilly terrain without a place to rest or any arrangement to carry someone in an emergency or a blockage. When these places attract people in such large numbers, they need to be developed accordingly with better facilities, medical support, transport and communication systems.

At the same time, the paranoia in the minds of people about going on pilgrimages due to the Kedarnath flash floods must be addressed. We do not stop flying because of air crashes or going on the road because of accidents. Without faith, we are frightened by events, feeling lost and anchorless. Difficult times can bring out our hidden courage and potential in more ways than one and unshakable faith gives us the strength to smile even through catastrophes.

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Leadership: From mob to movement Sun, 30 Jun 2013 11:03:14 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=172 Leadership is a manifestation of strong love and compassion for people. It represents a commitment to principles. In that sense, a certain degree of leadership is dormant in every individual. The challenge comes when one has to nurture it.

A true leader—whether political, religious or social—has many challenges to face. The capacity to express one’s commitment varies from individual to individual. It is often clogged by one’s likes and dislikes. Yet, a leader has to view everyone with the same outlook, appraise everyone with the same yardstick. He has to find discrimination as well as the much-needed wisdom to act at the right time.

The society he lives in and the groups he represents are not homogeneous and one cannot satisfy everybody. Yet, a leader has to carry everyone along and do justice to everybody. A leader has to withstand criticism and not react emotionally to situations. Often leaders are surrounded by sycophants who try to boost their egos for their own personal agenda. A leader does need hands and feet and has to depend on people around him. At the same time, he should not find himself in a position where he gets confined in a fortress of his close aides or becomes a captive of his admirers.

One of the most desired qualities of a true leader is the courage to stretch his hands toward his critics and have the patience to listen to them. A true leader takes failures with as much equanimity as he would successes that come to his doorstep. These days leaders are defensive all the time, explaining their shortcomings or justifying their wrong actions. A true leader will neither complain nor explain, and is open to learning all the time. Admitting a past mistake and creating space for others with completely diverse viewpoints can make a leader more acceptable, universal. A leader does not pass the buck.

A true leader balances ideology and practicality, long-term goals with short-term needs. Those who stick only to idealism cannot become leaders and those who think they are very practical and without any ideology also bite the dust.

A leader cannot be either generic or specific. He has to strike the balance between personal attention to people and the generic vision for the group, community or country he leads.

A leader should have the courage to accept his weak moments. He should understand that people are magnanimous. They would appreciate his straightforwardness and accept his shortcomings rather than him trying to hide them.

Some leaders are too diplomatic while others are too straightforward in their approach. While people do not trust those who are very diplomatic, they do not want anything to do with those who are very blunt and justify their rudeness in the garb of straightforwardness. People who are very straightforward and blunt in their approach often don’t find followers. It is like tuning a guitar. If the strings are stretched too tight you cannot play it, and if the strings are too loose you cannot create music either. A leader has to strike the balance between diplomacy and straightforwardness.

While self-righteous people create distaste in others, those who take credit for every good action are equally distanced. A leader should acknowledge others’ contributions and at the same time see that these contributions don’t get to their heads.

A leader can create a mob but he should know that a mob is short lived. A shortsighted leader creates a mob; a leader with wisdom creates a movement. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are examples of inspirational leaders who created movements.

All this may sound utopian, but in reality, if you look keenly into the lives of the most successful leaders, you will find all these qualities naturally manifest at some time or the other. You don’t have to do much to inculcate these qualities; just their awareness is good enough to make a good leader.

Be one. The world needs you.

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Five types of questions Mon, 29 Apr 2013 14:21:01 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=159 The spark behind every great discovery that has taken place on this planet has been the spirit of inquiry  When that inquiry is directed outwards – “What is this? How does it happen?” it is science and when it is directed inwards – “Who am I? What am I here for? What do I really want?” it is spirituality.

We have a daily informal gathering every evening and after some group singing, I take questions from those present. Over so many years, I must have been asked hundreds of thousands of questions on various topics. Even though the number of possible questions that can be asked is huge, there are really only five types of questions.

  1. Out of misery: Many times people ask questions when they are feeling miserable. They are usually of the nature “Why did this happen to me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?” etc. When you see someone asking a question out of pain, just listen to them. They just want somebody to hear them out. They are not really looking for an answer.
  2. Out of anger: “I did nothing wrong. I was right. Why am I being blamed? Why is this happening?” This is the kind of questions that arise out of anger. Here also, the person is caught in the whirlpool of their feelings and emotions and they want to justify them by asking such questions. When somebody is in such a volatile state of mind, no matter what answer you give, it doesn’t go in. On the contrary, it gives rise to more questions and justifications.
  3. To draw attention: Some people ask questions just to show everyone that they are also there. Their satisfaction lies in asking the question so that everybody notices them rather than finding the answer.
  4. To test: There are some who ask questions to test if the other person knows. They already have an answer in their mind and want to compare if the other’s answer matches with theirs.
  5. With sincerity: The fifth type of questions is asked by people who sincerely want to know something and have faith that the person they are asking knows and will tell them. It is only this type of question that should be answered.

Most of the ancient scriptures – whether it is the Bhagvad Gita, Yoga Vasishtha, Ashtavakra Gita, Tripura Rahasya or the Upanishads, begin with a question. The questions that have been asked here are not merely out of curiosity but also with a sense of closeness. Upanishad itself means sitting close to the Master, not just physically but feeling close to the Master. Knowledge needs an atmosphere of belongingness to flourish. The closer you feel to the Master, the more knowledge unfolds by itself.

Every particle of this Existence is brimming with intelligence – the seed knows when to sprout and the flower knows when to bloom. All of life that is happening in this Creation is expressing that Infinite Intelligence. When you begin to behold this breathtaking phenomenon taking place all around you, all your questions start dissolving into an overwhelming sense of wonder. And that is the Art of Living.

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Different faces of life Fri, 19 Apr 2013 12:25:42 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=150 The ancient scriptures say that we are all floating like shells in a vast ocean of life. Even though everybody is born out of the same Consciousness, no two lives are the same. As diverse as our lives are, they are inter-dependent on each other and there is something to learn from everyone.

To get an all-round exposure to life, take out five days – not too many, just five days.

Spend one day – morning to evening, with a farmer. Go with him to the farm early morning and see whatever he does all day. You will become sensitive towards the environment, towards food. A third of the food in the world is wasted and thrown. Spending the day watching the farmer will let us know the hard work and resources that go into producing food and we will think twice before wasting it.

Spend one day in jail (but without committing a crime). You will realize that the people we label as criminals and put in prisons landed there due to circumstances, due to ignorance. When anger grips a person, they are not in control of their actions. If you ask the most hardened criminal, they will say, “I didn’t do it. Something came over me and it just happened.” It will become evident that inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. Compassion will arise in your heart. If you have hatred in your heart towards anybody, that hatred will vanish.

On the third day, become a school teacher. You will understand why a guru is needed. Wherever you are in life, there are so many that you can help and guide. It brings a deep satisfaction within. It’s not that only those with long hair and beard can be gurus. Everybody can play the role for at least some people. You don’t really need a special skill to be a guru, you need compassion. Being a teacher, you can channel that compassion to people. “I want nothing but my student should progress.” Such unconditional love comes to our life.

Spend the fourth day in a mental institution. Whatever anybody in a mental hospital says to you, whatever names they call you, you won’t take it to heart. After spending a day when anybody can say anything to you, you will develop the strength to face criticism without being shaken. Not only will you be strong enough to accept all criticism, you will have compassion for those who criticize you. We get anxious over small matters. “What does he/she think about me?” We are shaken and then we react to these things. You should have the courage to give criticism and the courage to receive criticism as well. If we teach our children this, they will grow into strong and stable members of society.

Spend one day in the cemetery or funeral home. You will have a very close and intense experience of the impermanence of life. Whatever complaints you have will vanish. Having the experience that death can come anytime will change your perspective on life for good.

Just a formal education is not enough. It is important to explore different dimensions of life to get a holistic education. When we keenly see the different facets of life unfolding around us, it makes us centered and established in our Self.

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A ban doesn’t always work Tue, 29 Jan 2013 16:22:06 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=140 A lot is being said about the controversy over Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroopam and its ban in Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly, there was another movie a few months ago, that labeled all Hindu customs and symbols as hoaxes and all spiritual leaders as frauds. There were many Hindu organizations who were ready to protest, but my advice to them was not to give undue publicity and promote the movie by protesting against it. And that’s what happened – it ran for a few weeks and people forgot about it. If you want to make a movie popular, ban it and protest against it. It will only benefit the moviemaker and once they get a taste of this, they continue making similar movies.

People know movies are fiction and need not be taken seriously. In spite of all that was said in this movie, the actors themselves go to temples. It has not been able to put an end to idol worship or people visiting ashrams. In this sense, the movie has not made a big dent in the culture or an impact on the people. Similarly, ‘Da Vinci Code’ was a movie on Jesus’s life that came out a few years ago. It ran all over the world, even in Italy, but it was banned in Tamil Nadu.

In this world, you cannot legally ban everything everywhere. Many such things that have been banned are available anyway, including Salman Rushdie’s books and DVDs of ‘Da Vinci Code’. I would appeal to the Muslim community not to insist on keeping the ban on Vishwaroopam when it may not be possible legally. By banning such things, not only people from other communities but Muslims themselves become curious to see what wrong things have been written or shown.

Even after a ban, people find ways to get these things. Already, there are copies of the movie on the internet. People are so active and expressive over social media that anybody can write anything about anyone. There is no control. This being the situation, it may not do any good by simply protesting. Rather, the result might be contrary to what you intend and more people might end up watching the movie. A ban would also earn a bad name for the Muslim community that it is extremist or intolerant or promotes cultural terrorism. We don’t want such tags on our Muslim brethren. For several centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived with such kinship. I want to assure our Muslim brethren that the mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims in Tamil Nadu is so good that nobody will be able to tear this fabric. I don’t think a movie will make any difference to the bond between the two communities.

If anyone insults a prophet or saint or customs of any community, it can only be laughed at. There are a number of such videos insulting every single religion in the world. There are hundreds of movies, even in Tamil Nadu, that show Hinduism in a bad light. But Hinduism has not taken a beating. I would say that the best thing to do is to ignore such things and move forward. Kamal Haasan has said that his intention is not to hurt anybody’s sentiment. We should give him the benefit of doubt and move on. This would be my submission to the leaders of the Muslim community.

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Social media for social transformation Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:43:31 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=135 Media has always been a significant pillar of society. Media doesn’t just report happenings, they build public opinion. This puts the media in a powerful position in a democracy and wherever there is power there is a chance of misuse of that power. In some countries, powerful media houses are said to have influenced election results by portraying people and events a certain way. In India too, some time back a connection between prominent people in the media and some politicians came to light.

The media space has changed a lot with the emergence of social media ( SM ). With SM, the public has eyes and ears everywhere. They are not limited to camera crews of a few TV channels. SM is a platform that showcases public opinion such that it cannot be easily doctored. It reflects the pulse of the society. Even conventional media channels also keep an eye on ongoing SM trends.

In recent past, we have seen so many top news stories originate from SM. Apart from highlighting issues that are socially relevant and crucial, SM has also exposed the disconnect between the government and the population. People are more aware of what our leaders are up to and exchange notes on how laws and policies affecting them are being made. Gone are the days when the government could pass laws behind closed doors without the public realizing it for months. Thanks to SM, discussion on political issues and implications is widespread and immediate.

Some politicians thrive on keeping communities apart and playing one’s interests over the other to secure their vote banks. As boundaries between people blur over SM, and they become more aware and better informed, this will no longer be easy to do. One needs to be more aware and alert while making speeches or statements. People see through any gimmick done with an ulterior motive and any sign of a narrow mindset comes in for severe criticism.

Like all powerful tools, SM should also be used with utmost care and responsibility failing which it can cause damage to the society. In the London riots of 2011, arsonists used SM widely to plan and execute their attacks. More recently, in India, SM was used to spread panic causing a massive exodus of people from North-eastern states living in Bangalore and Hyderabad to their native places.

However, with its potential to bring people together, SM also holds immense promise as a tool for social change. We have recently seen many successfully executed protests organized over SM that have made the right impact. Another application of SM could be to effectively utilize the vast diversity of human resource that India has which is still lying untapped. For instance, in Volunteer for a Better India, somebody announces a medical camp in a locality on a date and others join in. Likewise, somebody announces a tree plantation or a cleaning drive and people support the initiative with their time or resources.

We are clearly passing through a phase of transformation. India is a nation of youth who have a big role to play in that transformation. SM is a medium that connects them and gives them voice. This voice is growing louder. It is a welcome sign.

[Watch Sri Sri answer key questions from activists, actors, filmmakers, cricketers, other celebrities and general public on "What can we do to create a violence-free, stress-free society?” Hangout on Sri Sri's Google+ page, January 26th, 8.30pm IST.]

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The 13th Doctorate Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:17:10 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=127 19-01-2013-GOVERNOR-K-6doctorate


Man without education,

Education without skills,

Skills without character,

Character without action,

Action without direction,

are signs of failed nation.

– while being conferred an honorary Doctorate from Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad on January 19, 2013

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A Tune of Harmony Sun, 13 Jan 2013 09:48:45 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=118 There has been a huge uproar about the speech by Akbaruddin Owaisi. The hatred-filled content by itself is shocking enough but what is alarming is the applause that he got from his audience. This shows the danger of isolation of a community in our ever-expanding society. These misinformed and misguided mindsets are there because they remain in their own community. When they live in isolation, they promote only one mindset and there is no open mindedness. They may not have friends from other communities or participate in other festivals. Such thoughts that have been expressed by Owaisi are poisonous to the idea of India even in a drawing room, let alone a public platform.

Therefore, religion based universities must be shut down. Universities are the only place where people work and grow up with people from other communities. But the government starts promoting religion based institutions for their vote banks. Such institutions will only create more Owaisis who remain in their own island. They will never get integrated with the rest of society and this is not good for the country.

Now who can change this mindset? It’s certainly not the law. If he is put in jail, he becomes a hero for his own people. Hindus cannot say anything to him because it will further polarize the two communities. So who can correct the mindset that he stands for? Such elements can only be changed or addressed by liberal and successful people of their own community. And it is time for those liberals who spend their time in their drawing rooms to reach out to people, address the youth, change their mindset and make an impact.

When I made efforts in the Ayodhya negotiations meeting VHP, the Muslim Personal Law Board and Babri Masjid Action Committee, what I saw there was more a vested interest than a genuine care for each other’s communities. It was more stubbornness than a willingness to come to a solution. Therefore, people who are mature and have the interest of a larger good at heart must step forward and educate others for sense to prevail. Otherwise, people like Owaisi end up becoming people’s representatives by evoking anger and hatred.

In stark contrast to the walled city of Hyderabad, Kadapa, also in Andhra Pradesh, is a pole apart. Every year thousands of Muslim devotees celebrate the new year by offering prayers to Lord Venkateshwara on Ugadi. This has been a 300 year old tradition at this temple. Similarly, many Hindus visit the Ameen Peer Dargah on Thursdays and Fridays.

Over the centuries, India has absorbed many different faiths in her culture. It is some people blinded by political ambition, greed or just plain ignorance who claim to be the voice of the people and seek to make gains out of creating chaos. They need to be drowned out by voices that make sense and personalities that display character. We owe it to both our glorious past and promising future to maintain our harmony as a nation.

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A New Beginning Sun, 06 Jan 2013 11:03:06 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=77 It may appear that we are a part of this world, but actually, this world is a part of us. We carry our world within our mind and our mind cannot be at peace when the world around us is in turmoil. When mid-life crisis begins prematurely in teenage years; society is rattled with violence and drug abuse; humanism appears to be utopia; joy, love and compassion remain only in books and on celluloid; corruption and crime appear to be accepted as a way of life, then these are signals for us to rise to meet these challenges in society.

Today, we see a catastrophic decline in human values all over the world. A young  boy recently opened fire at little children in an elementary school  in Connecticut, US. In India, too, in the Capital recently, a young girl was subject to gross violation and aggression by a group of men. This incident provoked youth to come out on the streets and demonstrate in large numbers, demanding justice.

We have seen an unprecedented awareness and willingness in the youth over the last couple of years to cause a change in the state of this country but we should not allow this momentum to degrade into chaos and violence. The need is to channel these energies constructively. We need to create an atmosphere of support and contribution rather than of blame and accusation.

While the authorities are certainly accountable for law and order, diffusing stress in the environment and taking steps to bring out human values in society becomes our responsibility as well; otherwise, people to whom this message has not reached might harm us or our loved ones out of their resentment. All of us should take out some time – at least a few hours in a week, to volunteer for a better India. If we have just a few people with this magnanimous outlook, who can take responsibility for others’ emotional well-being, society has a very realistic chance of being peaceful and harmonious to a large extent.

There are little things we can all do to keep our environment stress-free. We need to develop the habit of sharing our joy with others. If you are happy, infect others with your happiness; don’t keep it to yourself. Any action done with this idea behind it is service and the best form of service is uplifting someone’s state of mind. Of course, we must be careful and sensitive so as not to upset anyone with our enthusiasm. When we decide to share what we have been given, the Divine showers more abundance on every one of us.

Being spiritual does not mean turning a blind eye to the world. On the contrary, as you learn more and more about yourself, you come to know more and more about the world as well and begin to infer things that are beyond the obvious. Somewhere within we all want to know who we are, why we are here and what the purpose of life is. Most people choose to push these questions aside as a waste of time. Being spiritual is about keeping this little fire of Self-inquiry alive and not extinguishing it; not giving up the pursuit. These questions serve as a compass and help you bring a sense of direction to your life.

Every end creates a sense of completion and relief and every new beginning brings with it a sense of hope and enthusiasm. Therefore there is celebration associated with both. The past has made you wiser, the future beckons you to act and it is in the present that you can plan and begin. Although bitter experiences of the past should not prevent you from taking risk and plunging into adventure, you should also not be foolish in repeating old mistakes. A few moments of reflection should become a daily routine to infuse inspiration, innovation and intuition, all of which are much needed for planning and action.

As you pass through events one after the other, become aware that life is like a river. There may be stones on the path but the river flows above or around them. No year passes by without a touch of joy or without posing challenges. You should plan to utilize every moment of joy to serve and see every challenge as opportunity for growth. The year 2012 has not brought on the end of the world, but the coming New Year, 2013, is certainly the start of a new beginning.

[This article appeared in Speaking Tree on December 29, 2012.]

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The New Year! Sat, 05 Jan 2013 22:24:21 +0000 http://localhost:8888/srisrispeaks/?p=66 As the clock ticked in the midnight,
Fireworks flashed through the sky.

Explosions heard everywhere,
Not to wake up but to put people into intoxicants.

Drums fell on deaf ears
For the lame to dance on the darkest hour.

The end relished, the beginning perished
Without a sense of ownership.

The lonely New Year Sun rose quietly
Only empty streets to watch its glory and beauty.

A deadly silence spoke in volumes
Of the time that we are in now.

A ray of hope pierced through the earth
Looked for the values deep hidden.

The majestic Eagle kept wondering
If man would ever learn new ways of celebration

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