Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

With Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


Maurice Forest region: Today afternoon I went to a small village on a hillock called Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc. There is a centre of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living more popular as Ashram. There is no mobile or local area network connectivity at the Ashram.
I came to this village from Montreal on road via Louisvilla and St Paulin to meet guru ji. I had never met him before nor heard him or his teachings. In fact, in recent times I did have the opportunity to meet him on a couple of occasions in Kolkata when had stayed over at the Emami group's residence but somehow I never met him.
I am not much of a religious or spiritual person but when I heard that the he would be in the area I decided to come over and see him in person. First to see the overseas Ashram and second to see the remote countryside in this part of the world.
There was a snowstorm and it snowed last night. 
I had a tough time reaching the Ashram gate (picture) as the car in which I was travelling did not have snow tyres. It is common practice here to change over to the normal tyres in the first week of April.
I crossed villages located in the Maurice forest region that abounds in lakes and natural beauty. 
The lakes were frozen with snowdrops on tree leaves. It was all shrouded in a white cover, no brown or green, except for the cattle and birds. I have seen these snow-filled regions during winters. 
I don't know for sure, but I heard that it was the French-speaking Canadians in particular who helped spread Art of Living with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji when he got stared to set up centres across the world.
At present there are Art of Living centres spread across 151 countries in the world Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji personally told me. 
I had a light chitchat with him and presented him with a lily plant (picture).
While entering the Ashram I saw about 150 cars lined up. No wonder the news of his arrival attracted many of his followers. 
This Ashram, located halfway between Montreal and Quebec city 40 minutes drive north of Trois Rivieres, houses nine organic gardens.  
As I was preparing to return, guru ji gifted me various kinds of chocolates, goodies and laddos - all organic and produced in the Ashram. There is a meditation centre, ayurveda therapy, kitchen, cabins for staying, yoga rooms and many other things linked to the ashram life and Art of Living.
I discussed various issues with him. On learning about my UN activities, he told me that he recently had lunch with Ban ki Moon. He firmly believes that it is good that people in the Gulf region have stood up against the dictatorial regimes.
I asked him for his views on how far is it right for spiritual gurus to interfere in politics. Guru ji said that because of the high level of corruption, the spiritual leaders have to make efforts to clean the political system of the country. He said he believed that the society can be developed only with the joint efforts of the ruler and the social reformer.
During my half-an-hour meeting with him, he said that he was a firm believer in the principles of Swami Vivekananda and felt all gods are one. When I asked him that he is the supreme guru of the Art of Living but whom did he personally idolise or look up to. He mentioned about Sudhakar Chaturvedi his 113-year-old guru who lives in Bangalore.
While driving back I was thinking that whether it is Rajneesh, Ravi Shankar or Ramdev, there is no doubt that these spiritual gurus have played an important role in spreading Indian culture, yoga and ayurveda all over the world. It has connected many foreigners with India in ways like Bollywood music and films have connected the non-resident Indians to India for the past three decades.
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