Hold on to Humanity, Urges Guru; Blasts US as ‘Soulless’

SANUR ~ One of India’s most popular spiritual leaders has hit out at the United States’ policy of unilateral military intervention in other countries and urged the world’s “stressed-out” population not to lose sight of their humanity.

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With staff reporters

“I don’t believe the United States government is in a good spiritual state. Absolutely no good can come from violence,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told The Bali Times prior to an event for world peace at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana cultural park in southern Bali early last Saturday morning.

The US-led war in Iraq, now into its fourth year, and its ongoing mission in Afghanistan to root out Taliban militants following the September 11, 2001, attacks set a dangerous precedent for peace and stability on the planet, according to Sri Sri, who is commonly known as Guruji and has legions of followers at his ashram on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

“We all have to follow the Gandhian principle” of peaceful protest, he said.

An estimated 4,000 people from around the world turned up at the cultural park at 7am last Saturday to hear Sri Sri speak and take part in meditation and a breathing technique that is said to balance the body and mind, the organizers said.

“I chose Bali for our Light of Peace Celebration because it’s an exceptionally spiritual place. People are very calm here,” the spiritual guru said, adding that as part of a global tour, “We are here to support the Balinese people.”

The famed island renowned for its centuries-old, colorful culture was being threatened by Western-oriented values and lifestyles, however.

“I think the biggest problem facing Bali today is the struggle to keep their heritage,” said Sri Sri. “We would like help with that.”

Sri Sri, now 51, says he received enlightenment during a 10-day meditation in 1982, and during which he claims to have received wisdom to devise a stress-busting breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya.

Little is known about the technique because those learning about it during organized courses must first sign a confidentiality agreement saying they will not disclose its details.

The soft-spoken Sri Sri says only that the method is rhythm-based and puts people who are out of spiritual sync back on track.

Some 750 people from 27 countries, mostly from Singapore but also from as far away as Russia, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia, shelled out up to US$600 learn Sudarshan Kriya at the Inna Grand Bali Beach hotel in Sanur at the weekend, including a four-night stay at the five-star, beachfront hotel.

With those figures, the foundation took in $450,000, minus hotel charges, from its Bali event.

According to promotional material about the course, participants learned “To jumpstart” their day; “numerous dynamic meditations”; and the “power of silence.”

Sri Sri defended the high charges for attending his courses.

“We charge people money because they don’t take it seriously if it’s free. When people pay they are more committed.”

He also said an organization he established, the Art of Living Foundation, uses income from the courses for disaster relief efforts – including recent tragedies in Indonesia – humanitarian events and to pay its teachers.

And the courses work for stressed people in this fast-paced world, insists Sri Sri.

“Looking at today’s busy world, people need something quicker when it comes to spiritual exercises,” said Ravi Shankar.

Today, the biggest problem facing mankind is stress, according to Sri Sri, who disapproves of the approach the US takes in its so-called War on Terror.

“Stress is the main problem facing the world right now. Terrorism, religious strife, war – it all comes down to one thing: stress,” he said.

“With our Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique, we reduce the level of stress in people.”

Since the September 11 attacks, the Tamil Nadu-born Sri Sri has been working with his foundation to abolish global terrorism, he said, adding that terrorism stemmed from a misunderstanding of religions.

“The problem is how people interpret religion. Some people think that they will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell,” he said.

“However, when confronted with terrorism, we should not fight violence with violence. I don’t believe in any form of violence.

“In this era of science and technology, we can be creative and productive, and at the same time not lose the humanness that we are all born with,” said Sri Sri, who supports an independent Tibet.

“In treating people, in order to resolve conflicts, dialogue is the only obstacle; the rest is easy.”

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