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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TEHELKA'S Godfellas II - A series on gurus and their politics: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar!

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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 23, Dated 11 June 2011.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Peacemaker India has to address anger in Kashmir, says Sri Sri / Photos: Courtesy The Art Of Living.

WHAT DO you make of a man who conducts workshops for Gujarat riot victims on one hand and Narendra Modi on the other? Victims of the Iraq war on one hand and George Bush on the other? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says his Art of Living and meditation techniques are open to all. That only by contending with victims of violence and its perpetrators, can suffering in this world end. Sri Sri says he will never join active politics. But he does make his voice heard at political causes across the world. From Iraq and Afghanistan to wars closer home — Maoist insurgency and Kashmiri separatism. What is his political stance and how much does it matter to those who call him Gurudev?

When a guru is inaccessible as Sri Sri is, the only way to decode what he’s all about is to look at his following. “Sri Sri is like a mother and father to me,” says one disciple, explaining his significance. His meditation techniques — the Sudarshan Kriya and the focussed meditation worked into different packages for different age groups works brilliantly for the entire family, says another.

While the disciples come from all over the world and range from the mega rich to a clutch of reasonably poor, there’s only one way to understand the guru’s effect on them. Unquestioned faith and adoration. In a climate of such devotion, is there room for reason, for political dialogue, which requires people to sit at the same level and where is the room for dissent? Dissent among disciples seems fine. Dissent on the principles or on the greatness of Sri Sri is not an option. Dissent may not be required in the conventional guru-disciple relationship. But if Sri Sri is positioning himself as a leader for world peace, as someone who is trying to get people in conflict to see eye to eye, then the question must be asked — can he do the same? Is the aura around him only the handiwork of devoted followers? Are they actually doing the opposite of what he asks in putting him on a pedestal — in which case are his lessons in living better and using your critical mind falling on deaf or over-deferential ears?

Like many other Godmen of India, apart from trust/s, he also owns a Real Estate Company in Bangalore!

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