HIS HOLINESS SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
An icon of non-violence, human values and universal brotherhood, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian. His mission of uniting the world into a violence-free global family continues to inspire millions the world over. He seeks global peace through service and fostering human values.
Born in 1956 in southern India, Sri Sri’s appeal cuts across all barriers of class, race, religion and nationality. Millions of Hindus revere Sri Sri as their religious and spiritual leader, while people of other faiths look up to him for promoting inter-faith harmony. After Mahatma Gandhi, it’s Sri Sri who has been uniting people of different traditions into a spiritual communion throughout the length and breadth of India.
Even as a young child, Sri Sri was often found in deep meditation and at the age of four, he surprised his parents by reciting the Bhagavad Gita. By the age of 17, he had obtained advanced degree in Modern Physics and later received an Honorary Doctorate from Kuvempu University, India.
In 1981, he founded the Art of Living Foundation, which today is one of the world’s largest volunteer-based educational and humanitarian organisation. In 1997, he founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV).
Through his personal interactions, teachings and humanitarian initiatives, Sri Sri has reached out to an estimated 300 million people worldwide. From over 25,000 villages in India to the ghettos of South Africa to more than 150,000 prisoners incarcerated around the world, Sri Sri is transforming lives. His wisdom, his legendary charisma and his selfless service have inspired farmers, students, housewives, professionals, social workers and thinkers alike.Touching upon every section of society and addressing every aspect required to build a violence-free, crime free and stress-free society, Sri Sri’s work covers the areas of conflict resolution, trauma relief and disaster management, stress elimination, prisoner rehabilitation, youth & women empowerment, education, community development, empowering individuals and the revival of ancient wisdom.
Unarguably the most multi-faceted activist in the world today, Sri Sri’s range of social work encompasses conflict resolution, disaster relief, women empowerment, prison reform, campaign against female infanticide and eradication of child labour. He is engaged in peace talks and counselling in conflicts zones around the world. His expertise in bringing people to the negotiating table in Sri Lanka, Kashmir and other places is widely acknowledged.
Sri Sri has brought to the masses ancient techniques which were traditionally kept exclusive. He has designed many self-development modules which people can take back home and use to calm their minds and heighten enthusiasm. Through these programmes, thousands have come out of depression, suicidal tendencies and aggressive behaviour.
Sri Sri’s simple message that love and wisdom prevail over hatred and distress has reverberated in the lives of people in all continents of the world. Travelling throughout the year to around 40 countries, Sri Sri has been calling for globalisation of wisdom. Governments and organisations across the world have honoured Sri Sri in recognition of his tireless service to humanity. Over the years, he has been invited to address several global forums, including the UN Millennium Peace Summit (2000), NASA scientists (2004) and several parliaments across the globe.
Conflicts, rising fundamentalism and erosion of human values in different corners of the world have been key areas of concern for Sri Sri. Respected as a neutral entity with unquestionable integrity, he has successfully managed to bring together antagonistic groups in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Bihar (India), the Balkans and Israel and Palestine.
Through the Art of Living programs and personal interventions, he has encouraged and enabled many conflicting groups to adopt peaceful means of resolving their issues. Espousing the Gandhian principle of non-violence, Sri Sri calms the minds of aggressors, provides solace and emotional strength to victims and works towards developing long-lasting solutions to achieving peace.
Sri Sri has been actively involved in peace negotiations in Sri Lanka. In September 2006, he ventured to Kilonichchi for peace talks with LTTE leaders. His peace initiatives began in early 2005 when he sent emissaries for negotiations with the Sri Lankan President and the Tamil leaders. His visit in April 2006 came at a time of tremendous civil unrest. However, his interactions with locals as well as the country’s top brass have been instrumental in changing mindsets. He remains actively involved in brokering peace between the government and the LTTE.
After undergoing special programs designed by him, hundreds of Tamil youth in Jaffna work hand in hand with Art of Living volunteers to bring relief to the people of North Eastern Sri Lanka traumatized by over two decades of ethnic violence.
He was been responsible for the formation of a Committee for Peace comprising Hindu and Buddhist leaders including the Dalai Lama to take the peace agenda forward.
In the last four years, Sri Sri has been quietly paving the road to peace by bringing together all sections of the Kashmiri population. His inspiring vision is altering perspectives among the Kashmiri youth so much so that over 1,500 youth have averted from violence and work towards peace.
In June 2005, when he visited the Kashmir Valley, Sri Sri was warmly received at Srinagar airport by a rally of 500 Muslim youth. The visit culminated in a rare gathering of leaders representing different factions of the Kashmiri people. For the first time, leaders including both the factions of the All Party Hurriyat Conference and representatives of Kashmiri Pandits came face to face in his presence for a dialogue.
Sri Sri recently established an orphanage for children who are victims of militancy in the state as well as those that have been orphaned after the devastating earthquake. The orphanage currently houses 150 children who are provided food, clothes, books and formal education. Sri Sri has also adopted 30 children from Kashmir and is taking care of their education and upbringing.
Under hostile circumstances, Sri Sri made a lasting impact in helping resolve ethnic conflict in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. Sri Sri’s programs helped trauma victims in Kosovo to live peacefully within a multi-ethnic society by providing them with tools to reawaken tolerance, reconciliation and acceptance. He also inspired dialogue between Albanians and Macedonians by widening the circle of belongingness from the narrow identities defined by ethnic or national boundaries.
Sri Sri’s clarion call for peace during his visit to the Naxal- infested villages of Bihar in 2002 resulted in an unprecedented gathering of 100,000 youth from the warring groups of Ranvir Sena and Naxalite groups such as CPI-ML, People’s War Group and Maoist Communist Centre. Subsequent to their meeting with him, both sides publicly took a vow to spread the message of non-violence. It isn’t a mere co-incidence therefore that Naxalite violence has virtually stopped in Central Bihar, India since the year 2000. Remarkably, in the aftermath the 2006 Jehanabad killings, there was no retaliatory massacre which would have been a natural consequence under earlier circumstances. Instead, soon after the incident, the warring groups came together for a community gathering organised by the Art of Living in Ekwari, the nerve centre of Naxal violence in Bihar.
Despite imminent threats from Islamic fundamentalists, Communist Maoists and other extremist groups from time to time, Sri Sri continues to work tirelessly to galvanise people towards peaceful co-existence in different corners of the globe. Not only has he motivated thousands of volunteers to work for global peace, but has himself traveled intensively to strife-torn areas to heal the wounds of victims and calm the aggressors.
DISASTER MANAGEMENT & TRAUMA RELIEF
Another key aspect of Sri Sri’s humanitarian initiatives has been to provide swift and timely relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters. Under his direction and close supervision, volunteers not only collect and disburse immediate relief supplies, but also help survivors overcome the post-traumatic stresses that haunt them.
Extensive relief and rehabilitation work in the tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, trauma relief camps in Kashmir and Pakistan after the earthquake, interventions in war-torn Iraq and in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in New York – Sri Sri’s initiatives have become one of the most vital links in any disaster rehabilitation programs the world over.
Risking their own lives, Sri Sri’s volunteers have tended to the mental and emotional needs of victims of the disasters. Attending to the trauma of the survivors is the target apart from supplying immediate material needs. Almost two years after the tsunami, Sri Sri’s volunteers are still engaged in trauma relief and long-term rehabilitation of the victims of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and Nagapattinam, India. Over 50,000 victims have overcome the trauma of the disaster thanks to Sri Sri’s specially designed stress elimination techniques. Recent initiatives include the conflict between Israel and Lebanon where Sri Sri immediately dispatched trained volunteers to provide trauma relief to the victims of the war. Such program are also continuing in Afghanistan to reduce trauma levels and stress caused by wars that have plagued the country for decades.
Sri Sri’s disaster management & trauma relief initiatives include:
• Surat, India Floods, 2006
• Israel and Lebanon conflict, 2006
• Mumbai train blast, 2006
• Hurricane, Katrina, 2006
• Mumbai Floods, 2006
• Kashmir and Pakistan earthquake, 2006
• Tsunami relief operations, South Asia, 2005
• London subway blast, UK, 2005
• Madrid terror attack, Spain, 2004
• Beslan terror attack, Russia, 2004
• Post-war trauma relief, Iraq, 2003
• Post-war trauma relief, Afghanistan, 2003
• Bam earthquake, Iran, 2003
• Jakarta floods, Indonesia, 2002
• River Elbe floods, Germany, 2002
• Kosovo conflict, Kosovo, 2002
• 9/11 terror attack, USA, 2001
• Gujarat earthquake, India, 2001
• Orissa cyclone, India, 1999
Sri Sri initiated the 5 H Programme(1997) and the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP, 1999) to help alleviate the economic and social problems besetting rural areas and the urban poor. Both programs are based on the ideology that that every individual has the right to live a fully expanded life, and develop his full potential, no matter what his social or economic status. The long-term goal of this intervention is a far-reaching social transformation leading to elimination of poverty and disease.
The five main areas of focus are Health, Homes, Hygiene, Human Values, and Harmony in Diversity. Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) is revolutionary in that it inspires and empowers rural youth to take responsibility for their community. Some of the achievements include :
- Reached out to 32,822 villages
- Trained 52,988 rural youths under YLTP
- Engaged 2255 youths for implementing 5H program
- Conducted 112,920 Breath Water Sound Workshops (Nav Chetna Shivirs) benefiting4.1 million people
- Conducted 40,310 cleanliness campaigns
- Conducted 24,790 health camps benefiting 2.7 million People
- Constructed 2470 homes, 3140 toilets, 4678 soak pits, 1100 biogas plants
- Planted over 2.2 million trees
Several villages turning totally alcohol-free and tobacco-free is just one example of the far reaching transformation Sri Sri inspiring in the countryside of India. The 5H Program has empowered individuals in villages in India and brought about social transformation in underdeveloped and rural areas in other parts of the world including South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Western Africa. By addressing the critical rural issues such as water harvesting, wasteland development and so on several villages in India have become self-reliant and self-sufficient.
Sri Sri has established around 50 primary, secondary and high schools in the tribal, rural belts and semi urban belts of India where child-labour and poverty are widespread. This is a blessing for thousands of children as these schools are located in economically backward areas where the advantages of education are often perceived as low and beyond the reach of the people.
One such tribal school in West Bengal is located in an area where the nearest school was not only about 8KM away with no road to reach there. These schools are providing free, quality and value based education to the children of poorest of the poor, the underprivileged, the tribal and the marginalized sections of society. The children are provided with a free education, school materials uniforms and a meal.
Another example of this highly effective initiative is the rural school located in the vicinity of the international headquarters of the Art of Living in Bangalore. Over 2,000 first generation learners from over 45 surrounding villages are given free education, books, uniforms, transport and mid-day meals. Another highlight is that 46% of the student population is girls.
Sri Sri has also pioneered several institutions of learning in the urban areas to foster value integrated education and make the learning process easier and stress-free.
Sri Sri has also designed a special program for jail inmates. The program enables prisoners to release stress and anger, breaking the cycle of violence and helping them to re-enter into society as productive individuals. Over 155,000 prisoners in countries such as the USA, Russia, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa and India have participated. In India alone, over 50,000 prisoners have done the program.
In Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Asia’s largest prison, over 24,000 prisoners and 600 prison staff have done the course. To enable the successful reintegration of the prisoners into the mainstream, Sri Sri has initiated projects that impart vocational skills within the prison premises. One such project, SRIJAN in Tihar Jail, has employed prison inmates to make paper bags, diaries, etc. that are sold across the Art of Living Centres across India. The profits are deposited in a bank account for the prisoners and handed over to them upon their release. A SRIJAN unit outside the jail premises inducts ex-prisoners providing them with an opportunity to earn a livelihood.
SELF DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
Sri Sri has designed several program and techniques for self-development and stress elimination. These unique programs are based on ancient breathing techniques, meditation and modern group dynamics and cater to every age group and section of society.
One of the highlights of the program is a revitalising breathing process known as ‘Sudarshan Kriya’, a process that releases stress and toxins at the physical, mental and emotional level, promoting overall health. Various independent medical research have ratified the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya. Millions of people from all walks of life including doctors, lawyers, defence personnel, peasants, corporate executives, social workers, slum dwellers, drug addicts, militants and students, in over 140 countries have benefited from these programs.
REVIVAL OF THE ANCIENT WISDOM
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a revered authority in Vedic knowledge and literature and is credited with bringing ancient techniques such as pranayama and yoga to the masses. He has revived and presented wisdom from various texts of ancient Indian literature in the form of commentaries that are lucid, simple and applicable to daily life.
LOVE MOVES THE WORLD
Sri Sri has gone beyond the identity of religion, nationality race, caste and language by uniting various traditions of the world and has inspired humanity to identify one self as a member of a One World Family. He has turned around many hardliners from different communities and ideologies, encouraging and initiating dialogues among them. He has played a strong role in various inter-faith conferences across the globe exhorting people of all faiths to celebrate their differences and work towards a peaceful society where human values, rather than religious dogmas, flourish.
In February 2006, Sri Sri brought together around 1,000 leaders of all the ten main religious traditions as well as 750 key political figures from around the world to embrace non-violence, human values and brotherhood at the International Conference on Human Values. Over 3 million people from all backgrounds and over 100 nationalities gathered in Bangalore, India to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Art of Living.
Time and again, Sri Sri reiterates his message to the world to move from tolerance to love, self-centered success to selfless service and from exclusive to being all inclusive. The task is Herculean, but Sri Sri is fully committed to the cause.
Sri Sri has founded several organizations to provide humanitarian and educational services to different sections of society.
THE ART OF LIVING FOUNDATION
The Art of Living Foundation offers programs that eliminate stress, create a sense of belonging, restore human values and encourage people from all backgrounds, religions and cultural traditions to come together in celebration and service. The Art of Living Foundation, founded in 1981, is an international non profit educational, charitable and humanitarian organization offering programs in over 140 countries. As an NGO, Art of Living Foundation works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
International Association For Human Values (IAHV) is the sister organization of AOLF which was setup in 1997 to internationally co-ordinate the social development activities and disaster management including emergency and trauma relief work. IAHV’s work today ranges from comprehensive rural development, education and tribal welfare, organic farming, micro financing, vocational training, disaster relief and rehabilitation and programs for prisoners.
VED VIGNAN MAHA VIDYA PEETH
Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth is a charitable, educational and research organization established in 1981. One of the main objectives of the trust has been to aid rural development by means of providing education – both formal and vocational. Education at Ved Vignan Mahavidya Peeth is a healthy mix of literacy and human values, contributing to the growth of a well-rounded individual capable of contributing to society.
SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR VIDYA MANDIR
Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir (SSRVM) Trust is a charitable, spiritual and educational public institution involved in the advancement of knowledge and vocational guidance in various fields of human endeavor. SSRVM currently runs over 50 schools in India.
SRI SRI RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Sri Sri Rural Development Trust was founded in year 2001 to empower rural women and youth. Since then the trust has been running several programs that impart training in vocational skills, entrepreneurship and personality development. The trust has empowered thousands of rural women from impoverished families by providing not only economic support through income generation projects but also boosting their self esteem.