He is acknowledged as a Guru by millions, not just in India but world over. His spiritual discourses and breathing techniques find resonance across gender, race, nationality, bringing many a transformation at not just the individual level, but in the society and its myriad practices. Be it mending prisoners, militants, bringing about conflict resolution or addressing the environment, reviving our fast disappearing traditional knowledge and practices, or focusing on creating that ever elusive inner peace and happiness in every individual, his reach has been multi-faceted and immeasurable, only the altered scenario bearing silent testimony to his presence. We are talking about none other than the Art of Living Founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, capturing his life and work within the thin folds of a book spanning a couple of hundred pages. The question then spontaneously arises; is that even possible? Perhaps not. But an attempt has been made to do just that by none other than his own sister, Bhanumathi Narasimhan.
What strikes you when you meet Bhanumathi for the first time is not her diminutive figure but her ever cheerful face, the unwavering smile, the unmistakable warmth. Her book, Plateau on the Peak, exudes the same warmth, speaking about her life with her brother, with minute details recalled, packing in hitherto untold stories that promise to give the reader an insight into the Guru from the perspective of his doting sister.
“Capturing him in entirety is akin to packing an ocean in a tea cup” smiles Bhanumathi, warning the reader that her endeavour merely touches the tip of the iceberg, the depths left unexplored continuing to remain unfathomable. So what does it feel like to be the sister of not just a famous personality, but one considered divine by many, a Guru to millions? “He continues to protect the sibling part of the relationship, the Guru coming in only when he is teaching. I have been following him since birth, just as any sister does. What I have gained in his presence is the capacity to express the inexpressible, where many a time, I have forged ahead with not a clue of what I need to speak or do, merely following his instructions to go ahead and address, clinging on to the few lines he would have given me to do his bidding. What would unfold thence would be incredible, with no clue where the knowledge or words came from as I went ahead with my address. Those are the times I would physically experience the Guru, beyond the brother”, recounts Bhanumathi.
She recalls the mention in her book of Sri Sri’s return from a two year sojourn in Switzerland, where his physical transformation into a Guru became evident, the flowing hair and beard complementing the white robes that had become his attire in contrast to the clean shaven face and trouser and shirt he had adorned when he had embarked on his trip. “He had given ample clue about his altered appearance in the letters he had penned, so it was not a shock. But what stood apart was the saintly aura that pervaded him when he returned, his inner transformation much more pronounced and reaching out than his outer alteration.”
She further adds, “Everyone in our extended family could sense this saintly aura but none wanted to bell the cat and acknowledge he was taking the uncharacteristic path.” A factor that is very unique in Sri Sri’s preaching is the practical wisdom that is universally appealing, prodding even the cynic to lend the ears and test it out. “His approach is very unique. While he will insist on going into the root of any issue and finding a solution, invariably the reason for giving a specific instruction is never explained. But when the solution is reached, the individual automatically understands the purpose of the instruction”, she avers. Interestingly, the brother and sister grew up in an extended family where the culture was totally traditional, their father being in many ways a yogi himself, besides his earnest engagement with astrology. “Based on astrology, my father already knew the path would be extraordinary. This was further strengthened by the meditative state and strong spiritual leanings that Gurudev displayed even as a young boy.” Referring to Sri Sri’s knack of handling queries on any topic with ingenuity, many a time laced with humour, Bhanumathi states, “It can be any subject, even a conflict, and he can bring in a positive angle to it, make the listener catch this positive aspect. His key focus is on making one realise the inner self, discovering the true meaning of life which in reality is what education should be.”
She sums up, “The Guru in essence is a guiding light and the light does not proclaim it is going to remove darkness but the darkness automatically gets dispelled in its presence.” As for the finer details of this Guru’s life, she points to the book. “It is all in the copy for you to read.”
– By Nandhini Sundar.