Category Archives: H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

WHY I AM A HINDU

I was a born and brought-up as a catholic and knew absolutely nothing about India, Hinduism and Hindus. When I was a young Frenchman of 19, I had the privilege to hear about the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, through a friend, whose father was the last Governor of Pondichery. My friend told me that a caravan of 5 cars was about to drive from Paris to Pondichery. On a hunch, I joined this caravan.
Upon arriving in Delhi after driving trough nine countries, I felt I had come home and that this country was a very special place.

I lived in the Pondichery Sri Aurobindo ashram for seven years. These were wonderful times: the Mother was still alive and everything looked new, everything seemed possible. One read Sri Aurobindo, of course, as he was the Master and the inspiration of the place, but one either did not understand or felt disconnected to his political writings.

Then, having done some journalism and photography in France, I started freelancing in South India and I discovered the Hindus. What I chanced upon was that their religion was not in their heads, as it is for us Christians – “I must pray, I must be good, I must not sin” – but that it was rather something they lived: they seemed, for instance, to accept me, a Westerner, a non Hindu, as they seemed to accept all other religions. This discovery would never leave me, even when I became a political journalist in Delhi for major French newspapers.

Thus slowly, I became acquainted with the eternal principles of Hinduism:
• A Hindu is one who searches for the Ultimate Truth.
• Unlike other religions, Hinduism refuses to sanction the monopoly of one God, or one Scripture as the only way to salvation.
• Hinduism is the eternal faith, Sanataana Dharma, or the universal law by which all humans are governed.
• Hindus believe that the soul takes birth in a physical body, dies, gets reborn, until it has attained Perfect Divinity.
• Hindus believe that one can cleanse oneself from karmas through yoga practices, such as pranayama, meditation or asanas.
• One can be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, or from any other religion and still practice Hinduism. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has shown the way: breath has no religion and pranayama can be practiced by anybody, whatever their creed.

In that sense, I consider myself a Hindu

Advertisements

Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

UNPUBLISHED

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic Circle … I spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”.  Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?).

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in  Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at  best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Will Sri Sri Ravi Shankar get the Nobel Peace Prize?

September 28, 2005

Is there still a prejudice in Western society against Hindus?

Amongst the front runners for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Guruji, as he is known amongst his disciples, truly deserves the Nobel Prize because he is a universal man of peace. His Art of Living courses taught in 144 countries provide tools that improve over-all health, wellness and increase enthusiasm and mental focus.

His Prison SMART programme (Prison Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training), has helped prisoners throughout the world in rehabilitation and in reducing violence and drug dependency. It also teaches the inmates skills that enable them to accept responsibility for their past actions and handle future conflict and stressful situations successfully.

His post-traumatic stress alleviation courses have helped to bring peace to victims of war in Kosovo (80 per cent of Kosovo’s population suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Harvard Medical Group), in Israel, the Balkans, Sudan, Afghanistan, the United States, Iraq and Pakistan.

Yet, it is an uphill task for a Hindu leader to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, Mother Teresa got it, but she was a Christian and not a natural born Indian. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s teachers and volunteers are from all religions — Hindus, also Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs etc.

He himself teaches that breath, the main vehicle of his practices, has no religion or nationality and hence his disciples come from all countries. And though he is a Hindu leader, he could be truly called a universal soldier of peace.

When Vivekananda went to the West and addressed ‘my brothers and sisters of America’, at the Chicago Parliament of world religions, the West suddenly took note of this spirituality beyond religion which is true Hinduism and its acceptance of all other religions and all other spiritual leaders.

But since then there has been a relapse. As a Frenchman and a Westerner, I have been privileged to have met the Mother of Pondicherry, herself a French by birth. Her association with Sri Aurobindo and her deep knowledge of Indian spirituality helped bring a certain understanding of Hinduism, but that was only limited to France.

It is true that there is untouchability in India, and that it has harmed her image. For instance, by refusing access to Westerners in certain temples, such as in Banaras, Hindus have not created the right picture.

But is also true that Hindus have been made untouchables by a certain section of Western intellectuals (with the help of Indian academic residing in the West), whereas Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalaï Lama, who practice a religion which is derived from Hinduism, are fashionable in the West.

Take for instance, the special issue Time magazine did on meditation and another one on yoga, the word ‘Hindu’ was not even pronounced once. But are not mediation, yoga and pranayama Hinduism’s gift to the world?

Yet, compared to Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has done more work and his peace movement is phenomenal, from Argentina to Siberia, from South Africa to Fiji.

His efforts, for instance, for those that have been traumatised by natural calamities, such as the recent tsunami in Asia, are outstanding. About 5,000 Art of Living volunteers have been involved in tsunami relief efforts and courses to help people overcome post-traumatic stress disorders were conducted for over 3,500 people.

Hurricane Katrina has blazed a trail of devastation throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Victims are not only in need of immediate medical care, food and water, but also of the most urgent trauma care, which the Art of Living Trauma course is providing.

Mother Teresa mostly catered to Calcutta, but Sri Sri’s social programmes in India are making a difference everywhere through service and spirituality. The aim of this program is to uplift individuals and communities so that they become self-reliant socially and economically.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s soldiers of peace have adopted 25,300 Indian villages in 25 states, trained 25,710 village youth in youth leadership training programme and conducted over 75,000 villages courses benefiting more than 2.3 million people.

I was watching Bono, another front runner for the Nobel Peace Prize on CNN the other day, along with Bill Clinton and Klaus Schwab, chairman of the Davos Economic Forum. True, Bono has done good work raising money for poor countries through concerts, but I thought that it pales when compared to the scope, universality and breadth of Sri Sri Ravi.

There has also been talk of a thousand women getting the Nobel Peace Prize. But this is would only be a face-saving gesture, which would dilute the dignity of the Nobel Peace Prize

And this again raises the question: Will His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, an apostle of peace for all, not get the Nobel Peace Prize, just because he is a Hindu? That would be a sad day for India and for the world.

Francois Gautier is the South Asia correspondent for Marianne, the largest selling French magazine and the editor of La Revue de l’Inde, a Paris-based magazine solely devoted to India.

Francois Gautier

Relink science to spirit

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 1, 2001

Will science and spirituality ever meet? This was the topic of a recent seminar at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Indian scientists, one after the other, expounded, on how reason, rigour, logic and the spirit of inquiry are the most important parameters of scientific discovery. None of them, except for Abdul Kalam, made references to ancient Indian science. All of them spoke of science from a western point of view.

Truly western science, because of its immense material resources, has come to dominate the world. Billions of dollars is required these days for research which India can not afford. Since it is unable to remunerate honorably its scientists and engineers many of them have migrated to the West.

Western science is like a blind man, because it dissociated itself from the spirit in the 17th century. Reasons are several: First, because the powerful Christian church interfered in government matters. Thus it was very rigid and backward in scientific topics, believing until very late that the earth was flat or that the world started in 4003 BC. And whoever disagreed with these views was burnt at the stake!

Many thinkers of the 17th century, particularly French philosophers such as Descartes or Pascal, had unilaterally decreed that the only valid scientific and philosophical tools of inquiry were reason and logic. A third factor came in the 20th century with the advent of Marxism and Communism, which decreed that spirituality poisoned people minds and hence had to be eradicated.

Was this divorce of science from the spirit beneficial to the West? Well, western scientists have been able to devise the most sophisticated weapons to kill man; but man is still not capable of killing his own ego. The West, in spite of its huge prosperity based on its tremendous technological and scientific achievements, is becoming a sick society, where children go on rampage killings; where every other person in the US is under psychiatric treatment for depression or insomnia. Where out of five marriages, three end up in divorce.

Nobody in the conference, except Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who was a guest of honour, also bothered to ask this question: has Indian science kept in touch with the spirit? Well, major discoveries in Indian science, such as the position of the stars, the calculation of solar eclipses, or the concept of the zero, were made at the time when there were no instruments. How were they made? Because of a profound and everlasting quest for the spirit in India. It is in this manner that Buddha, was able to say, long before western science, that everything in our Universe is constituted of atoms, constantly changing, dying and being reborn at each moment. And this is the first theorem that any scientist should apply: Know Thyself, Know Thy mind. Because If you know your own mind, then you can fathom all other minds; if you know one particle of the world you know all the particles of the world. This is the truth that India has been practicing for millenniums.

Finally, nobody in the symposium cared to mention that western science owesa lot to India. Pythagoras, pioneer of modern geometry, was inspired byIndian mathematics; Egyptians built their pyramids by means of Indianarithmetic; 18th century French astronomers were using Hindu calculationsof the positions of the stars and the solar eclipses.

But unfortunately, Indian science today is very westernized, because the scientific knowledge taught in the universities lacks a connection with the spiritual, and never mentions India’s ancient tradition of scientific inquiry.

The British colonials imparted through education a certain western bent of mind. Additionally, many of India’s top scientists today have a strong connection with the West. The ultimate achievement for them is to have a chair in a foreign university, where some of them brand India as a backward, fundamentalist country. Isn’ it so Mr Amartya Sen? But the real issue is: how can Indian science re-link itself again with the spiritual? There is no question that the Spirit is very much present in India: everywhere you go, you find ashrams, yogis, sadhus, ordinary people practicing meditation or pranayama.

The natural tendency here is to understand the levels of consciousness beyond the surface materiality. Other than Indian Nobel laureates there have been geniuses like Ramanujan, who, with no sophisticated means, were able to devise stupendous mathematical theorems. But Indian science has to look within and delve in its scientific past. The secrets of the Vedas, for instance, both spiritual and scientific, have never been fully deciphered; Sanskrit too has never been analyzed in a modern manner. Indian science mustshow the West how to reestablish the spiritual link and at last unite matter and spirit.

Toughness pays

Toughness pays
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 29, 2003
Have you ever taken an El Al flight from Mumbai? The security is drastic: You are asked a hundred questions by young men and women, Indians, but of Jewish origin, whose parents emigrated from the first century onwards after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, to find refuge in India where they prospered and lived in peace till many of them went back to Israel in 1948 (indeed, India is probably the only country in the world where Jews have not been persecuted).

Why did I visit Israel? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the 144 countries-wide Art of Living movement, had been invited by the Government of Israel, thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Cooper and Dr Balitzer from Wisenthal, US-based foundation. All along our trip Rabbi Cooper and Dr Balitzer proved invaluable. I was tagging along because I have always believed that India and Israel have to come together. For 40 years after Independence, India did not have relations with Israel. Yet, India and Israel have much in common – both can learn a lot from each other. Like Indians, Israelis are one of those “elected people of God” – of whom Sri Aurobindo speaks in his book the Hour of God – who have managed to keep their spirituality alive in spite of oppressions, invasions and genocides.

Indians and Israelis also share a serious problem with Muslim fundamentalists. And India could learn a few lessons from the way Israel handles this problem, however much it is criticised by the Western media. Unlike India, which since Independence has chosen to deal with this problem in the Gandhian spirit, that is, by compromising most of the time with Islamic intransigence (if not giving in); Israel has showed that toughness first, followed by negotiations, pays better. Basically, the concept of “land for money” is something that India could learn from: In 1967, Israel was under threat of getting engulfed by its fanatical neighbours, so it stole the initiative by crushing them in a lightning Six-Day War and kept some land which it used later as bargaining chips with Egypt and Syria.

FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism), which I launched this year, was taking to Israel an exhibition on Kashmiri Pandits, one of the biggest genocides of the 20th century at the hands of Islamic terrorism, to see how it could be put up at different places in Israel to create public awareness there. Because of the hostility of Arab countries to Israel, El Al cannot overfly any of them and a journey which should take four hours takes, instead, seven hours, nearly the same time as a flight to Europe. We landed in Tel Aviv early in the morning. Tel Aviv is a modern city on the Mediterranean coast. It is much more relaxed than Jerusalem, as it is less subject than the capital to suicide attacks. People there speak several languages, girls look gorgeous and the affable Indian ambassador, Mr Raminder Jassal, who has done so much to improve Israeli-relations, hosted for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a gracious meeting with the Indian community in Israel.

The drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is short, but the impressions are striking: The landscape is dry, rocky and arid and one wonders whether this land is worth fighting for. But Jerusalem is a beautiful city, perched on a hill, all constructed in white stone. As we arrived, the city was shining against the setting sun of a cool November evening. The King David Hotel, whe-re we stayed, is probably one of the most beautiful hotels in West Asia: Old world, stately and entirely furnished in mahogany. It also has a history of violence, as it once housed British troops and was bombed by Jewish activists. The rooms offer a view of the old city of Jerusalem and everything looked so peaceful.

Peaceful? Not really: As soon as you step out, you can feel fear: Suicide bombers can strike any time, anywhere and our security would not even allow our car to stop near a bus, for fear of it being blown up! It is Friday evening and we went to the Wailing Wall on this most holy Shabbat day. It is an impressive sight: Hundreds of young men and women, in ancient velvet black coats and funny fur hats, locks falling one each side, face the wall swaying back and forth while chanting an age old prayer that their forefathers have repeated for centuries. Sri Sri too touched the wall reverentially and concentrated for a few minutes: Two very ancient spiritualities met.

As in Ayodhya, Muslims have placed their mosque on the most sacred space of the Jews, exactly where their ancient temple was built. The golden mosque stands there as a perpetual taunt, as an unending expression of aggression. After the Seven-Day War, the Israelis control the entire area. But it remains very tense: As a mark of respect to Islam, we want to meditate in the mosque, but we are facing the wrong direction and the imam takes objection when he sees the rishi from India in a dhoti and kurta with long flowing beard and tells our security men that “Infidels” are not allowed to worship there. Luckily there are not many faithful at this time and an incident is avoided.

We met a number of dignitaries. The President of Israel, a soft-spoken gentleman, who is very worried about the Palestinians suicide bombers – “No religion condones that kind of barbaric act,” he told us; the mayor of Jerusalem, who proudly showed us the magnificent view of Jerusalem from his office terrace; Mr Shimon Peres, Nobel Prize winner and Israel’s best known face, who preaches tolerance – but even he condemns the suicide bombers; or the deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Sherenzki, a well-known dissenter from the erstwhile Soviet Union who is seen as a hawk by observers, but appears very gentle to us.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talked about all the marvellous work his volunteers are doing amongst India’s poor villages: Bringing housing, hygiene, human values, and harmony in diversity. He also speaks about the stress and post-trauma Art of Living courses – a combination of pranayama, meditation and relaxing techniques – done to great success in Iraq and Bosnia, and how they could also be taught in Palestine and Israel. When asked about terrorism, Sri Sri said: “The problem is that children should be taught a little about each religion, so that they develop a broader perspective.” If the Taliban had known even a little about the Buddha, he added, they would not have destroyed the Bamian statues.

I was surprised to note that whenever I mentioned Kashmir, neither of our interlocutors blinked: Kashmir did not mean anything to them, although it faces more or less the same problem that Israel does at the hands of the Arabs. Even, Mr Sherenzki, the Deputy Prime Minister, looked blank. That is when I realised that an exhibition on Kashmiri Pandits had to come up and we arranged for two venues, one in Tel Aviv, with the possibility of it coming up also at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. We thus left with a sense that so much more has to be done so that Indian and Israel, two ancient people sharing some of the same spiritual, cultural and contemporary problems, really start understanding each other.

Marxism and the Saffron wave

Marxism and the Saffron wave

The other day I visited a tribal village, which was only 20 kms away from Bhubaneswar. The poverty I witnessed there was appalling: no drinking water, no proper housing, the children to whom we distributed food packets were sickly looking, undernourished, dirty and badly clothed.

The whole village was in a kind of wasteland, where one could not see a single tree, or any newly planted sapling. Paresh Nayak of Odisha International told me that thousands of crores had been sanctioned by the government in this area, for housing, development, or afforestation, but every single paisa goes in the pockets of corrupt officials, from top to bottom.

In fact the only organisation which is trying to do something — and which was responsible for the food distribution as well as the sole tribal school in the whole area — is the much maligned Washington-based IDRF, which is supposed, according to the Western and Indian press, to only ‘fund Hindu fundamentalism.’

Nevertheless, when one witnesses such awful and unfair poverty just a few minutes away from the nouveau riche glitter of Indian arrogant cities, one cannot but think that all the Arundhati Roys, Praful Bidwais, N Rams, Shabana Azmis, Prannoy Roys and other die hard Marxists are right: only a revolution will bring fairness and justice to the poor and downtrodden of India.

In fact, one can even go further: when people like myself, who keep defending a certain spiritual idea of India, the greatness of Hindu culture and ethos, are suddenly confronted by that ‘other’ reality of this country, our lofty drawing-room idealism is blown away by what we see, whether in Bhubaneswar, in Uttar Pradesh, or Tamil Nadu. If I were born an untouchable or a downtrodden, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have become a Naxalite — given my militant propensities!

And if tomorrow missionaries descend upon the village I just visited in Orissa and open a dispensary, a school, then a church, why shouldn’t these poor tribals convert to Christianity, when their own more fortunate Hindu brothers and sisters not only never cared after them for centuries, but stole the money which was meant for them?

Yet, all my years in India have taught me that there is a third way, which is neither of capitalism nor of communism. One could call it ‘spiritualised socialism,’ as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and today practiced by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. A Hindu temple or a Hindu organisation has no meaning unless it also acts as a social centre, helps the poor, gives away money, houses, imparts education and hygiene.

Indeed the Art of Living foundation does just that with its volunteers going in thousands of villages all over India and selflessly bringing hygiene, housing, harmony and human values. It is true that there are countless NGOs all over India doing the same job, but unless they pass on along with their material help some spiritual values pertaining to India’s ancient culture, they are failing in their task.

Finally, I would like to tell my Marxist friends that instead of crying themselves hoarse over the BJP’s victory in Gujarat, of screaming about the ‘saffronisation of India,’ or the ‘fascist trend set by these results,’ they should look at it in a different manner. If this is a Nazi trend, then the millions of Gujarati Hindus: upper and middle class, low castes and tribals, who voted for Narendra Modi, are all Nazis.

Yet the Indian voter has always shown that he is smart and that he usually casts his ballot in a certain way because he wants to put across a message. What if Gujarat was the first sign that tolerant, peace-loving Hindus who for centuries have accepted other religions and ethnicities and allowed them to practice and prosper in peace (UNESCO recently released a report saying that out of 128 countries where the Jews lived up to 1948, in only one — India — were they not persecuted), are fed-up of being made fun off, sullied, harassed, killed, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades, their train burnt, their Parliament attacked, their markets blown up, their women raped?

What if it was a warning to the Muslims of India that the majority community of this country will no more allow the burning of innocent children and women, for the only crime that they are Hindus? What, however reprehensible their acts was, if peace-loving Hindus have shown, for the first time, that they can retaliate in kind and that Islam doesn’t have a copyright on hatred, bloodshed and mad violence? At a time when India’s government is the laughing stock of the world — as shown by the contempt that much smaller countries such as Malaysia, Portugal or Saudi Arabia have shown to India by refusing to extradite criminals — the common Hindu is telling his government, his countrymen, whether they are Hindus, Christians or Muslims, and the world, that he has had it…

It was all in our stars

Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 23, 2000

Today, because of the vulgarisation of astrology, people tend to think that it Ls not a science and that the planets are so far away that they cannot have a definite influence on human life. But it is not so, contends Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Bangalore-based Art of Living, an International Foundation which cuts across all barriers of nationality and religion and brings enlightenment to millions of people all over the world.

He points out, for instance, the strong influence which the moon has on the huge oceans, whose tides rise and fall according to the lunar cycles. “In the same way,” he continues, “the moon has a sway on the human body, which is made-up of 60 per cent of fluids.” The moon has also a power on the mind: This is why on full moon days mental hospitals receive the maximum number of patients. People, in the past, knew this but it has been dismissed today as just another superstition.

What about the sun? It definitely also has an impact on people’s minds. Look at those who live in the Arctic Circle, where in winter the sun is so scarce that people tend to get depressed. The maximum number of suicides, in this region, takes place during the months of February and March.

The theory of relativity has proved that everything affects everything: A small atom exploding somewhere, has an impact for thousands of miles around and the effects of radiation continue for yeah. So the smaller the particle, the snore powerful the effect “In the same manner,” interjects the seer from Bangalore, “planetary positions affect us very closely, because of the cosmic rays coming out of certain planets and the particular position of the earth at a given moment, just as a small does of a homeopathic drug can have a repercussion on a body weighting 80 kg. or a drop of poison kill a huge animal.” Jupiter, for instance, affects the intellect, Saturn the hear, and so on. Each part of the human anatomy is connected to the cosmos: the nose is linked to Jupiter eyes to Saturn, Mars to the lower body…. The science, known as Samudrika Shastra, is almost lost today.

“The ancient sages,” declares Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “knew these facts. This is why they devised the mala (necklace) with 108 beads, which stand for the 12 constellations and the nine planets and the 108 different permutations which affect one’s life.” Everything is interconnected in this universe, like a radio transistor, which can catch certain stations or relay messages, or a computer chip, which is the pathway for the movement of electrical and magnetic energy. And it is the same electric and magnetic energy which is linked to different planetary positions.

But how can the malefic influence that the planets sometimes have on us, be countered? Replies Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “If the mind-body complex is affected by the planets, the Self, or Atman, remains untouched. And if you practice meditation, by going to the crore of your existence, you can escape the damaging influence of planets.” He continues, “When you are on a spiritual path, all the good luck that you gather through yogic practices will counterbalance your bad karma.”

What is the difference between Chinese/Western astrology and Indian astrology? According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Indian astrology is more moon-oriented, because in a tropical country the impact of the sun doesn’t vary greatly throughout the year. However, in the West and China, the role of the sun is much more important.” This is why, he says, a horoscope devised in India becomes invalid once you cross an ocean. Indian astrology stresses that for every effect there is a cause and that blaming the cause can trigger more stress and bring in negative emotions like anger and greed. He believes that one way to make them disappear, is to realise that these negative emotions may arise because of certain planetary positions. And, as you cannot get angry with planets, you stop blaming the person or situation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains that Hindu astrology has a very ancient lineage. Ten thousand years ago the Rig-Veda saw the earth as round. Until recently, the West had believed that all the planets gravitate around the earth but the ancient rishis, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reminds us, knew that the sun was at the centre and that all the planets revolved around it.

The West is thus committing an injustice by not giving Indian astronomy and astrology due credit. “Indian astronomers had calculated that life started 1 billion, 955 million, 818 thousand and 501 years ago and that 28 cycles of yugas have already happened,” smiles Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The present kaliyug, which is said to have begun the day Krishna left his body, has a length of 25,000 years and we are in the 5101st years. Hence we need to consider the science which gave the concept of zero to the world and which, without telescopes, had calculated long before Copernicus, the occurrence of solar eclipses and the number of moons around Jupiter- facts that were discovered only 256 years ago in the West!