Amidst rousing welcome in foreign countries since last month, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation which began its mission on May 2nd in Miami, Florida announced to hold a global movement for peace and togetherness across cities and countries including 24 cities of the US till May 19.
The Bollywood entertainment industry has joined Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to promote the global peace movement titled #IStandWithPeace movement on May 2 in Miami, the USA in presence of thousands of people and his followers.
Personalities like Karan Johar, Kapil Sharma, Badshah, Shilpa Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Aanand L Rai, Rajkummar Rao, Imtiaz Ali, musician Pritam, Bhumi Pednekar, Ekta Kapoor, Rohini Iyer, Gulshan Grover, Varun Sharma, and Mukesh Chhabra, amongst many others, posted to their social media pages with the hashtag #IStandForPeace. Producer Neetu Mahaveer Jain is actively involved in this initiative from Mumbai. Speaking about the movement, Gurudev Shankar said, “Launched the #IStandForPeace campaign in the US from Miami, Florida. Our intention is the basis of all action and if we put our intention and the collective intention towards standing for peace, I am sure peace will prevail”. “Everyone is feeling helpless. Let us do something. Let us all stand for peace and give hope! It is time to have a meaningful dialogue on peace, co-existence, and collaboration. Join us as we embark on this journey for positive change in the international community. Let us come together and stand for peace”, he was quoted in Geneva, Switzerland.
Thousands of people also gathered at the COS Torwar Stadium, Warsaw, Poland for a peace mediation and pledged to #IStandForPeace on April 24. He who has also met Nagma Mohamed Mallick, Ambassador to Poland and Lithuania from India, said, ” India had always stood for peace and dialogue”.
He had a series of meetings with foreign dignitaries including Gillis Carbonnier, Vice-President of the Red Cross a Red Cross Headquarters in Geneva, and Jagan Chapagain, the Secretary-General of the International Federation of the Red Cross. Hundreds of his followers stood up for peace in Interlaken, Switzerland with Gurudev on April 22, 2022. In his number of foreign visits, Gurudev received an Honorary Doctorate for Peacekeeping from the Popular University of Milan by Professor Adolfo Panfini on April 17, 2022.
Last month on April 19, 2022, interacting with the media at the Press Club in Geneva in Geneva Gurudev also announced the launch of the global movement for peace. In Miami, he received the key to the city of Miami from Commissioner Kionne McGhee on May 1, 2022. He has conferred the Global Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine on May 1. On the subject of “Building Emotional Resilience in Turbulent Times”, he held a discussion with noted author Susan David, Ph.D. about emotional resilience at Harvard University on May 2. At the United Church of Christ in New Haven, people from all walks of life took a pledge on May 3 and hundreds joined Gurudev at St. Paul and St Andrew United Methodist Church in New York on May 4.
Hundreds did participate in the #IStandForPeace event in Berlin on April 24, where he was quoted saying, ” Despondency can be done away when you have a strong resolution”.
The entertainment industry joins Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s global peace movement
Recently, Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s global peace movement took the world by storm with the who’s who of the film industry joining him to promote peace.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched the #IStandWithPeace movement on May 2nd in Miami USA in the presence of thousands of people.
Speaking about the movement, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “Launched the #IStandForPeace campaign in the United States from Miami, Florida. Our intention is the basis of all action and if we put our intention and the collective intention towards standing for peace, I am sure peace will prevail.”
Personalities like Karan Johar, Kapil Sharma, Badshah, Shilpa Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Aanand L Rai, Rajkummar Rao, Imtiaz Ali, musician Pritam, Bhumi Pednekar, Ekta Kapoor, Rohini Iyer, Gulshan Grover, Varun Sharma, and Mukesh Chhabra, amongst many others, posted to their social media pages with the hashtag #IStandForPeace.
Producer Neetu Mahaveer Jain is actively involved in this initiative from Mumbai.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation will hold events worldwide across cities and countries. Between 3rd and 19th May, global peace movement events will be held in 24 cities of the USA in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Making peace mainstream and enlightenment tenable
Ibrahim was playing in the backyard of his house when ISIS shot point-blank and killed two of his brothers right in front of him. Ibrahim escaped ISIS. But the recurring memory of the horrific moment left him deeply traumatized. Sleep has since evaded the 12-year-old Syrian boy. But he does look forward to a few minutes of meditative silence. The fateful irony was that Ibrahim learned lessons of peace in the heart of the century’s deadliest conflict.
“Every time he closed his eyes, he would see them,” shares Ibrahim’s meditation teacher who did not want to be named, “One day he tells me-‘Those ten minutes I can meditate here, is worth a night’s sleep for me because I am finally able to rest.” The teacher shares another incident of an 11-year-old child, who was entrusted with the job of carrying weapons during an armed conflict. “He would draw Kalashnikovs when asked to remember favourite things and happy moments. On the penultimate day of the workshop, he said-I feel like nothing has happened.” What does Ibrahim have to do with an Indian spiritual leader though?
“My Guru (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) says, innocence is our very nature,” Ibrahim’s teacher shares, “When they see so much conflict and violence, they start losing their innocence. These techniques help bring back their innocence. Our job is to mend whatever we can, so they can get back to their nature and it is only possible by employing spiritual tools.”
Trauma comes with different faces. In a workshop for the female soldiers in Iraq, the participants could not stop laughing after undergoing their first day of the Sudarshan KriyaTM, powerful rhythmic breathing cognized by global spiritual leader Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who founded The Art of Living. It was found out that these fighter women did not have the permission to laugh or display emotion in their profession, and for the laughter was cathartic.
War and peace
Look at Russia-Ukraine, or Africa, or Asia, the need for peace has never been more urgent. According to The World Bank about a fifth of people are affected by violence in some form. The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies says, the number of conflicts may have dwindled since 2008, but they are deadlier with the number of casualties having jumped three times due to ‘inexorable intensification of violence’.
In Colombia, a bloody civil war had raged on for 50 years, having left behind many questions and scars claiming 250,000 lives and affecting 7 million people. The Syrian war has displaced 5.4 million people and cost 400,000 lives. Plenty of organizations have pledged financial support for medical aid, homes and clothing. But the humanitarian medical response has lagged in providing healing on a spiritual level and eliminating trauma from the root. Closer home, in India, Kashmir continues to encounter incidences of militancy and radicalization, while northeast deals with a different kind of insurgency problem that has a complicated dynamic in terms of identities and rights. So what holds the key to eliminating violence and extremism? With the unhinged proliferation of arms, and open threats of nuclear war, who can help us secure a peaceful future?
“In any long-drawn conflict, the victim tends to turn an oppressor and the oppressor becomes a victim,” says global spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “A broader vision and spiritual understanding alone can break this vicious cycle. What is needed is a fine balance of inner peace and outer dynamism, only peaceful individuals make a peaceful world,” Gurudev says.
Making dialogue happen
From addressing 12,000 Kashmiris members from all walks of life during a state-wide shut down; to bringing members of 67 major insurgent groups from seven states of the northeast on a single platform, or convincing the FARC rebels about the strategic need to adapt Gandhian principles of non-violence, Gurudev has created space for dialogue, at times even on the political hotbeds.
When it comes to resolving longstanding deadlocks, Gurudev is seen as having a caregiver approach-neutral, just, and considered trustworthy by both sides. People across social strata and backgrounds feel welcomed and heard in his presence.
Gurudev’s approach addresses both, individual and collective, the spiritual and the material concerns. On the ground, his organization provides stress relief and trauma management workshops to those affected by violence while also empowering people through vocational training, education, and a plethora of service initiatives like Rural Development Program, River Rejuvenation Projects, Youth Leadership Training Programs, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Training, Skills Development Workshops among others.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has engaged with communities, countries, and groups involved in long-drawn conflicts and violence for over four decades now. Here is a glimpse of some of the significant interventions he has been a part of.
Peace initiatives in North East and Central India
On 7 September 2017, a day-long conference ‘Strength in Diversity – North East Indigenous People’s Conference’ was held in Guwahati which had in attendance, for the first time, leaders from 67 insurgent groups. Observers of the region hailed this as a beginning of a new effort to reconnect and bring back the focus on development.
Over decades, Gurudev has painstakingly worked to rebuild the trust between the government and the various separatist groups from Manipur, Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. As a result of the tireless efforts of the volunteers, a diverse group of 700 guerrilla fighters gave up the path of violence and were given a month-long rehabilitation training in Bangalore in 2013. Of these, 231 trainees belonged to the dreaded United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) outfit. These ex-militia never went back to the camps. All of them are settled back with the mainstream society with a purpose to serve through peace and sustainability. Some have taken up farming, others have started sandalwood cooperatives, and few of them became Art of Living teachers.
On 14 August 2017, 68 armed militants from Manipur surrendered their weapons. The Art of Living actively helped in their rehabilitation efforts.
In 2009, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar appealed to ‘shun the bullet and take to the ballot’ in Jharkhand. Later, two ex-Maoist leaders, Ranjan Keshwar Yadav and Kameshwar Bhaita contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand.
On November 10, 2017, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar hosted Paigam-e-Mohabbat, an unprecedented reconciliation program for 200 families that had lost their loved ones to violence, from both sides in the Valley on one platform to give peace and forgiveness a chance. The stories of courage filled the room.
The morning of 10th November was witness to many solemn moments of common grief and uncommon courage. Mothers of slain militants, fighting back tears, listened to the tales of wives of martyred soldiers.
Ajaz Ahmad Mir from Ganderbal added, “We didn’t expect that we would have the chance to come to a space like this. We have lost a lot. Now we want to spread a message of love to the nation.”
The Guru and the FARC
In October 2014, a Colombian delegation met Gurudev and asked him to help out in the Colombian peace process. “When the conflict is between justice and peace it is a humongous task to reconcile the two. Only a spiritual dimension can ease the situation,” said Gurudev.
He held several preliminary discussions for the next few months. In June of 2015, Gurudev was awarded the highest civilian honour, the Simon Bolivar Order of Merit. In Bogota, he held meetings with Former Colombian President Juan Manual Santos and the families of the victims of the conflict. During his meetings, Sri Sri expressed how the path to peace cannot be paved by violence.
With the consent of the Colombian President, he next headed to meet the negotiators from FARC in Cuba, Havana.
Three days and several rounds of discussions later he convinced the FARC leadership to adopt the Gandhian principle of non-violence before it was too late. FARC leaders announced their willingness to give up the path to armed struggle after the meeting with Gurudev. A week later, they declared a unilateral ceasefire much to the surprise of the international community. The ceasefire continued for one year and transformed into a bilateral and definitive ceasefire in August 2016, when the FARC and the Colombian Government agreed upon a peace deal.
“Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living are heroes of peace,” President Juan Manuel Santos later said.
When the world reeled under the diabolical times of COVID-19, Gurudev set out a plan to provide immediate relief through meal distribution, medical aid, and trauma relief. Under his leadership, volunteers provided meals for 2.5 million families and distributed 500 tons of essential relief material to affected families. In the US, volunteers distributed 25,000 PPEs and led trauma relief workshops for frontline workers and healthcare professionals. Under the ‘iStandwithHumanity’ campaign, the organization reached out to over a million and a half daily wage workers and migrant labourers stuck in different parts of the country with food material, medical supplies and sanitizers. The organization opened a national helpline to help people tackle anxiety and grief.
Helping the distressed in the Russia-Ukrainian conflict
When the war started, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was one of the first humanitarian leaders to get into action, along with his sizable team of volunteers across Asia and Europe. Under his guidance and inspiration, Art of Living volunteers started relief work in 9 countries around Ukraine. The teams helped to evacuate, host people, find shelter for them, and provide medicine, food, transport, and assistance to cross the border. More than 5975 people were given shelters. 32617 meals were provided, and a 24×7 helpline was started to connect with people stranded in the war-torn regions. More than 22,342 people were given mental health counselling.
Inspired action on the ground
On the outer and more manifest level, Gurudev’s scope of work entails everything from river rejuvenation to prison rehabilitation to trauma relief and education.
49 dried rivers were revived across the country benefiting 34.5 million people in 12077 villages.
Over 8,00,000 inmates in 65 countries have undergone prisoner rehabilitation programs.
Starting in the wake of the farmers’ crisis in 2012, the organization’s zero cost farming training has reached 22 lakh Indian farmers in all the states of India
His organization runs projects to raise awareness about hygiene, and build community leaders in rural areas, having trained over 2,30,921 rural youth with a reach of 40,212 villages in India.
81 million trees were planted in 36 countries and 26 Indian states
Developed over 1000 model Gram Panchayats, 62,000 + toilets and 1592 bio-gas plants built 90,200 hygiene camps and 27,427 medical camps were conducted benefiting 12 million people.
702 Free Schools are giving education to over 70,000 children in far-flung areas, 90% of whom are first-generation learners.
He launched the national Drug-Free India campaign witnessing the participation of over 1 crore students apart from the support of 90 eminent personalities from the field of entertainment, politics, sports and academics.
The breath is universal
Gurudev has seamlessly woven research-backed breathing techniques, meditation, practical wisdom and physical exercises into a unique, comprehensive program that helps individuals handle life’s curveballs. The workshops are widely popular with 450 million practitioners the world over.
First Indian Spiritual Leader to address both US’s state Senate and House of Representatives of Delaware
The pandemic has made many people realize the worthlessness of material pursuits exclusively. When what they thought they needed to operate on a daily basis got taken away from them, they came to terms with real questions arising from within them. People world over today, particularly after the pandemic, are looking for something authentic to guide their inner life, to help them with their mental health concerns, and the west has turned to spiritual masters like Gurudev for urgent and practical answers. Gurudev became the first Indian spiritual leader to be invited to address both US’s state Senate and House of Representatives of Delaware in May 2022.
Interestingly, Delaware is the first state to ratify the US constitution and is the electoral constituency of the Hon’ble US President Joe Biden. His address was focused on dealing with mental health challenges and establishing peace. Gurudev in his address emphasized the importance of building communities where human values are cherished and nurtured. He also encouraged all the stakeholders to join forces and be a part of the ‘I Stand for Peace’ campaign, a movement to bring the focus back to peaceful progress, unity, and harmony.
During the meeting, each chamber presented a tribute acknowledging the extensive work of The Art of Living globally towards peace, trauma relief, conflict resolution, women empowerment, and community development. The tributes also recognized Gurudev’s long-standing role in mediation and conflict resolution in countries like Iraq, Sri Lanka, Columbia, and Cameroon, among others. Gurudev’s appeal lies in his ability to unite beyond barriers of identities. Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki says about Gurudev, “There are big powers who have big might, but they are not able to unite the hearts and minds of people. This work can be done only by a spiritual leader.”