Monday, 18 February 2013

The saint who never sells his smile

Rajaque Rahman

The story of the monk who sold his Ferrari made it to the list of Best Sellers! The story of the saint who never sells his smile touches the hearts of millions and beckons as the hope for the humanity! Here’s a moving chapter from the book yet to be written!

The occasion was momentous. It was an event that will change the destiny of India. The turnout was more than what was expected. The mood was upbeat! Expectations were high! Tens of thousands of eyes were set on him, looking up to him for inspiration. Yet the man — I call him that for lack of more acceptable description – who was the source of it all remained his natural Self, completely untouched by the occasion. Not losing his trademark smile even for a moment!

That Sri Sri didn’t play to the gallery and incite people to go on sloganeering at the Ram Leela Maidan during the Volunteer for A Better India (VBI) launch on 3rd February isn’t probably big deal. But that he didn’t lose his sense of humour even for a moment in such a charged environment speaks a lot about the depth of the movement. This is what will make it a milestone in the history of India.

Sample this. The serious point of alcohol being the main culprit of majority of the crimes in the country was hammered home with a humorous story. It goes like this. A man who comes to attend a public gathering gets a headache after listening to speech after speech and goes to a friend seeking a treatment to get rid of his headache. The friend promptly advises him to have a glass of alcohol. The bewildered friend asks how alcohol would help. “My land, job, wife and everything else left me after I started taking alcohol. Why wouldn’t it take away your headache too, when it has capacity to rob of you of everything you possess?”

Only a mind that is free of a personal agenda and has no feverishness for achievements can handle such a serious topic in such a light manner without diluting the essence of the message he wants to communicate.

His sense of humour isn’t momentary! It is in the spirit! He could sense a few egos were getting hurt as their speeches were cut short because of paucity of time. Then just to lighten them up, he came up with the hilarious story of a speaker taking off and giving away his kurta when it was repeatedly pulled from behind by the prompter as signal to end his speech! This combination of sensitivity and supreme awareness is what makes Sri Sri stand out.

Even the authorities’ attitude towards previous confluences in Ram Leela Maidan was dealt with wittily when Gurudev commented that he visited Tihar Jail the previous day to pre-empt the bad omen of being sent to Tihar after the agitation! For the record, Gurudev went to Tihar Jail to inaugurate a skill training centre!

What moves me the most about Sri Sri is the way he looks at everything from a space of wisdom and with compassion, even at the height of adversities. I recall a live event Gurudev attended in Bangalore some years ago! It was billed as a debate between Sri Sri and Zakir Naik to establish the unity of God. But it turned out to be a pre-planned conspiracy to indulge in Sri Sri-bashing.

I could see blood boiling among Gurudev’s devotees in the crowd as the self-styled Islamic evangelist went on belittling Hinduism and Sri Sri with blinkered logic (kutark), parroting verses he has memorised from the scriptures. Everybody expected Gurudev to give a fitting reply and waited with bathed breath for his rejoinder! Nothing of that short happened. He stood up with his trademark smile and demolished Zakir Naik’s hard-laboured (il)logic in a sentence. “Pothi Padh Padh Kar Jag Mua, Pandit Bhayo Na Koye Dhai Aakhar Prem Ke, Jo Padhe so Pandit Hoye.” His opening couplet of Kabir was enough to make everybody including Zakir’s hardcore fans realise who is the real wise man!

The story repeated at the India Today Conclave of 2009 where Javed Akhtar mocked Indian spirituality and called spiritual gurus hypocrites. Instead of joining issue with him, Gurudev delivered profound knowledge through a beautifully written article titled, ‘Everyone has the right to be ignorant’. He wrote, “Should I argue and put him down? No! I have never put anyone down. I can’t deviate from my nature. So I simply said, everyone has the right to be ignorant.

“A flash of Aurangzeb, who butchered thousands of gurus and would not listen to any reason or logic, came to mind. An intelligent man would look into all the avenues before he makes a comment or accusation. It is necessary to stand up for justice and expose the misdeeds of the world. Instead the so-called activists only engage in accusations. Blaming the entire modern-day spiritual guru and sadhu community is as foolish as branding the entire Muslim community as terrorists.”

Only an enlightened sage can see such mockery through an eye of wisdom. How blessed to have found such a master, who doesn’t have to perform a miracle of manifesting a golden ring from from thin air to tell of his status! His fully blossomed being is the biggest miracle and blessing!

Reblogged from

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Ham Ungli Nahin, Kadam Uthayenge

Here is how Sri Sri turned the negativity and cynicism that’s drowning the country into an unstoppable urge to make India better with a high-energy event at Ram Leela Maidan

Rajaque Rahman

The venue was the same. The mission almost identical. Even the crowd was quite similar. Going by the fates of recent confluences at Ram Leela Maidan, it is tempting to dismiss Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s clarion call for a better India as a mere show of strength which is doomed to fizzle out. But doing so will be akin to committing the hara-kiri of attempting a suicidal single off the first ball of an Indo-Pak Test match. For one not-so-obvious reason, the destiny of this movement is written differently.

I say this not because Sri Sri is my spiritual guru. Nor because his movement is backed UN agencies! Not even because he has got the youth of India on his side. The fate of Sri Sri’s Volunteer For A Better India (VFABI) will be different only because the movement is anchored in spirituality. Just because its approach is holistic! From what we saw at Ram Leela Maidan last week, I can vouch that this pan-India mobilisation has the depth to see things as they exist. It’s not clouded by prejudices of any kind; for or against any person, any party, any ideology, and, for that matter, any thing. As an IIT alumnus emphasised from the dais, seemingly there are no adversaries in spirituality!

It is really heartening that there wasn’t slightest hint of rabble-rousing during the gathering that lasted over three hours and attended a diverse crowd of nearly 200,000 people. Sri Sri didn’t play to the gallery. Instead, he gave a passionate and compelling appeal to the masses. “Keep the fire in the belly for a better India burning, but don’t allow it to burn India!” He extended the hand of communion and made a fervent appeal to the government to join in the movement.

The tone was distinctly different from what Ram Leela Maidan has echoed ever since it became the forced destination for an awaken Indians to express their frustrations against a failed system. Like Sri Sri, everyone present was totally focussed on the objective and the job on hand. Nobody wasted time or energy in anti-government sloganeering or finger-pointing. Instead, everybody was busy committing what they can do to better India instead of blaming others for what they didn’t do or what they did! The resolve was simple and palpable. “Ham ungli nahin, kadam uthayenge.”

The whole atmosphere of negativity and cynicism that’s drowning India of late was replaced by a positively charged platform for making India better! The ‘Cow Culture’ as eulogised by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was on full display. The octogenarian Islamic scholar and peace activist must have felt the pulse of the gathering when he talked about living like a cow which churns dry (negativity) grass into nutritious milk (positivity).

The hope for a better India undoubtedly lies in making her people embrace this ‘Cow Culture’. And its promise to deliver on this front makes Sri Sri’s Ram Leela pledge revolutionary. More than anything, VFABI will make public participation in nation-building accessible and easier. It will open up ways in which one can take responsibility and contribute to creating an India that is clean, safe and strong. And much isn’t demanded. Just one hour a day will do. There is a wide range of issues one can get involved with. From women safety to corruption to child rights to literacy to de-addication to environment protection, there will be something that’s close to one’s heart. The idea is to make all Indians think and act about their nation at least for an hour a day. As Sri Sri said, if that spirit of volunteerism and patriotism were alive, no passerby would have ignored Nirbhaya when she was gasping for life after being thrown out of the bus on that fateful evening.

The idea is clicking on the ground. More than 1000 projects have already been taken up in schools, colleges, slums, villages, through workshops, nukkad nataks, medical camps, education camps, awareness drives, etc in NCR alone. On the big stage itself, a series of far-reaching partnerships and alliances were announced. Fifteen thousand Doctors of Delhi Medical Association (DMA) have already pledged to dedicate two Sundays a year for free consultation under the program “Do Ravivar Desh Ke Naam.

This energy of Desh Bhakti is going to reverberate across India as thousands of Sri Sri’s devotees join in. Already several cities have lined up Ram Leela Maidan-like events. From Mumbai to Bangalore to Siliguri, the call for action will only get lauder. Surely, nobody is going to complain about the rising decibel. As we saw in Delhi, the noise is going to be very satvic and uplifting. As it happened to all those who were present Ram Leela Maidan and those who show it live on television, VFABI is primed to make all Indians irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, region, etc forget about the barriers and think only as an Indian. That is the key. As Sri Sri said, “It is not just the work of an organization but the whole country.”

I hope our political class will also join in. May God bless them with the vision to see this initiative as a spirit(ual) revolution and not as a divisive political mobilisation! Amen, Aameen, Tathastu!