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TED2008 – Breathe.

His holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual teacher from Tamil Nadu, takes the stage to explain the importance of breathing. “The first thing we do is breathe in and start crying. The last thing we do is breathe out, which makes others cry. If not, we have not lived a very good life.”

His teacher, he tells us, was a man who had been a warrior in the Indo-Pakistan War. After the war, he was a different person, someone who learned to care about and listen to his breath. “It turned a warrior into a spiritual man.” His teacher was known in the community as someone who could answer questions for local authorities – find a man who’d stolen something, or locate lost items.

Shankar is pleased that Indian policemen are now learning the breathing techniques he began studying years ago. “They lower alcoholism, help with depression, reduce suicidal tendencies.” He’s now leading mass breathing workshops, hosted at airfields in India where thousands of students are learning at the same time. “Breath can clease our presence.”

(I’m not sure that talks about the benefit of breathing are particularly interesting on stage. Perhaps the workshops he’s offering the next two mornings are going to be easier for the crowd to connect with.)

I don’t how Kaki King’s breathing is, but her guitar playing is pretty kick ass. She closes the afternoon with a set of guitar compositions performed on an amplified acoustic, furious and beautiful flurries of stapping on the neck and body of the instrument. Rolling Stone named her a guitar god in 2006, and that seems like an apt description – her playing is expressive, beautiful and unlike almost everything else I’ve ever heard.

4 thoughts on “TED2008 – Breathe.”

  1. “His holiness”? How does one get that sort of honorific? Is there a “holiness” meter on which if you get a certain score you get “his holiness” attached to your name? Something like getting a thesis accepted and then adding a “Dr” to your name?

    Or is it merely based on how many people call you “his holiness” or how frequently you publish your own picture with the subtitle “His Holiness”?

    His followers (dare I say his “worshipers”) call him “His Most Exalted Supreme Highest Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Gurudevji” when they are in a hurry and don’t want to address him with his full title which would take a few minutes. The “sri” it a honorific that means “respected sir” and doubled the “sri” puts one in the demi-god status. But that is not enough. For real impact, they add “gurudev” — it will take too long to translate it fully, so I will just let it go.

    SSRS (as I refer to him) is a very interesting study in how gullible humans are. I have wondered for a few years whether Mr Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a conman?

  2. No matter what you call the man, the breathing techniques are amazing. I have personally experienced (and seen in many others) transformations of a degree otherwise not easily imaginable in such a short amount of time.

  3. Let us not get too critical of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji’s followers but see them through the eyes of compassion. Imagine a substantial bulk of our country’s Youth getting drawn towards , spending substantial amount of their time ,their effort and money to bring up the Art of living Organization .
    Can we imagine the risk if something unreal / pseudo might have become a movement in the name of Spirituality / Religion ?

    Allow me to quote an often mentioned Art of Living Slogan “ Fake it till you make it ”

    A foundation whose USP normally seems to be “ Work for Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji and they will be taken care of .” which could mean, working on the emotions/ aspirations of people. Innocence might understand this as an act of creating usefulness ( the question is to whom ). Some might not consider playing with people’s aspirations corrupt but the belief when subtly changed to
    “ Strengthen the weak by weakening the Strong ” might not really be appreciated.
    ( Interesting thus to find a certain section as permanent followers )

    It is understandable that people due to everyday stress and growing needs / pollution would love to be in the beautiful Art of living Ashram ( which is built like a Palace ) and be a part of the enjoyable Glamorous Art of living Events / Conferences that too in the name of Religion / Spirituality . Quite something for an NGO considering the amount required for it all. We must acknowledge these achievements.

    I think the requirement of the day is to understand what really lures the youth to Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji …. Is it selfishness , greed , the young environment or really spiritual upliftment?

    And if it is really Spiritual Upliftment it surprises to see large number of Indians running behind a Very Publicity, Power Conscious Guru leaving the Gurus like the Mahavatar Babaji ( believed to be still alive after 2000 years in the Himalayas ) / his lineage . This is even mentioned in the Geeta as the one who originally passed on Kriya Yoga to his disciples and the world . Similarly , there are many more divine souls / Gurus from various lineages still alive doing their job.
    Please note this is just an observation on spirituality / divinity and not a propagation/degradation for anyone .

    Secondly , if it is the thirst of service- it further surprises that most people in need are left unaided where a substantial bulk is busy propagating Art of living Courses with targets on them and are recognized when huge numbered courses organized.
    Is this really the thirst for service or the thirst for self recognition / ego ? One cannot help but wonder!!!

    Undoubtedly there are certain services done by the Art of living foundation for the benefit of the poor so what of it is not in direct proportion to the requirements . We recognize those.

    Let us not get judgmental . But I think the government should look into this matter very seriously in the interest of the nation and humanity so that we individuals get some guidance.

    Yes , the breathing techniques / meditations have been with us and our Indian Culture and have definitely helped people – now again everything does not have to be created new in the Kalyug. But , we should be careful that it is not MISUSED in this day.

  4. I agree… at least by going to these spiritual courses… they stay away from drugs and violance… breathing and yoga are totally natural… and in the process if they start idolizing sri sri – nothing wrong in it… its better than youth idolizing osama bin laden…

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