Ravi Shankar (spiritual leader)

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Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - new.jpg
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Born Ravishankar
(1956-05-13) 13 May 1956 (age 58)
Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India
Nationality Indian
Philosophy Advaita Vedanta
Literary works Celebrating Silence, An Intimate Guide to Sincere Seeker, God Loves Fun, Ashtavarka Gita, Patanjali Yoga Sutras etc.
Quotation My Vision is a violence free, stress free world.[1]

Ravi Shankar, commonly known as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was born on 13 May, 1956. He is also frequently referred to simply as "Sri Sri" (honorific) or as Guru ji or Gurudev.[2] He is a spiritual leader and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, which aims to relieve individual stress, societal problems, and violence. In 1997, he established a Geneva-based charity, the International Association for Human Values, an NGO that engages in relief work and rural development and aims to foster shared global values. In 2009, Shankar was named by Forbes Magazine as the fifth most powerful leader in India.[3]


Ravi Shankar was born in Papanasam, Tamil Nadu to Visalakshi Ratnam and R. S. Venkat Ratnam, who was then active in the automobile business.[4] He was named "Ravi" (a common Indian name meaning "sun") because his birth was on a Sunday, and "Shankar" after the eighth-century Hindu saint, Adi Shankara.[5] By age 4, he is said to have been able to recite verses from the Bhagavad Gita.[5][6] Ravi Shankar's first teacher was Sudhakar Chaturvedi, an Indian Vedic Scholar and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi.[6][7] He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Bangalore University[8] (St. Joseph's College[9]). After graduation, Shankar travelled with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi[10] giving talks and arranging conferences on Vedic science, and setting up meditation and Ayurveda centres.[11][12]

In the 1980s, Shankar initiated a series of practical and experiential courses in spirituality around the globe. He says that his rhythmic breathing exercise, Sudarshan Kriya, came to him in 1982 "like a poem, an inspiration" after a ten-day period of silence on the banks of the Bhadra River in Shimoga, state of Karnataka, adding, "I learned it and started teaching it".[13]

Shankar says that every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath and regulating breath could help relieve personal suffering.[14]

In 1983, Shankar held the first Art of Living course in Europe in Switzerland. In 1986, he travelled to Apple Valley, California in the US to conduct the first course to be held in North America.[15]

Philosophy and teachings[edit]


Shankar teaches that spirituality is that which enhances human values such as love, compassion and enthusiasm. It is not limited to any one religion or culture. Hence it is open to all people. He feels the spiritual bond we share as part of the human family is more prominent than nationality, gender, religion, profession, or other identities that separate us.[16]

In Shankar's view, "Violence-free society, disease-free body, quiver-free breath, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory, and sorrow-free soul is the birthright of every human being."[17]

According to him, science and spirituality are linked and compatible, both springing from the urge to know. The question, "Who am I?" leads to spirituality; the question, "What is this?" leads to science. Emphasizing that joy is only available in the present moment, his stated vision is to create a world free of stress and violence. His programs are said to offer practical tools to help accomplish this. He sees breath as the link between body and mind, and a tool to relax the mind, emphasising the importance of both meditation/spiritual practice and service to others. In his view, "Truth is spherical rather than linear; so it has to be contradictory."[18]

Sudarshan Kriya[edit]

Sudarshan Kriya (Sanskrit: सुदर्शन क्रिया sudarśana-kriyā) is a "breathing-based technique"[19] that is a core component of the Art of Living courses and "the cornerstone of . . . Art of Living Foundation's trauma relief programs".[19] It involves "Ujjayi breathing" and "Bhastrika" in "Vajrasana" followed by rhythmic breathing in "Sukhasana".[20]

A number of medical studies on its preparatory practices have been published in international peer-reviewed journals.[21] A range of mental and physical benefits are reported in these studies, including reduced levels of stress (reduced cortisol—the "stress" hormone), improved immune system, relief from anxiety and depression (mild, moderate, and severe),[22] increased antioxidant protection, and enhanced brain function (increased mental focus, calmness and recovery from stressful stimuli), among other findings.[23] Persons enrolling for the courses sign a non-disclosure agreement with an undertaking not to teach the learned techniques (including Sudarshan Kriya) to other people without taking Teacher's Training.[citation needed]

According to Bharti Verma, M.D., in The Way of Grace, by David Lucas Burge and Gary Boucherle, "Sudarshan Kriya is not hyperventilation. The process is unlike hyperventilation and seems much more complex in its nature. A person hyperventilating will often experience lightheadedness, blurred vision, muscle spasms of hands and feet, a general feeling of being unwell, fainting and loss of consciousness. In contrast, course participants learning Sudarshan Kriya report a state of deep relaxation while feeling rejuvenated and re-energized. Clearly the experiences of persons practicing Sudarshan Kriya are exactly the opposite of what a hyperventilating exercise would be expected to produce."[24]

Peace and humanitarian work[edit]

In the 1990s, Shankar initiated a number of humanitarian projects, which continue to this date under the auspices of the Art of Living Foundation and its numerous national organisations.

In 1992, he started a prison program[25] to rehabilitate prison inmates and help them reintegrate into the mainstream.[26]

In 1997, he began the International Association for Human Values, a humanitarian organisation, and its 5H program, which aims to bring sustainable development to rural areas and revive human values.[27]

He visited Pakistan in 2004[28] and in 2012.[29] During his visits to Iraq (at the invitation of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki) in 2007[30] and again in 2008[31] he met with political and religious leaders to promote global peace.

He is involved in interfaith dialogue and currently sits on the Board of World Religious Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute.[32]

His volunteers assisted the 2004 tsunami victims, Hurricane Katrina victims, in Haiti, and many other regions of conflict and natural disaster.[33]

Through interfaith summits in 2008 and 2010, he has been engaging faith-based leaders for collective action against HIV.[34] In July 2013 at a meeting in UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva, issues including HIV prevention, gender based violence, stigma and discrimination were discussed.[35]

Social initiatives[edit]

Volunteer For a Better India[edit]

Inspired by its founder, the Art of Living along with UN Agencies, NGOs and civil society, launched Volunteer For a Better India (VFABI) on 5 December 2012. "Give one hour to the nation. The country has problems because good people are apathetic. Youth must take charge and Volunteer for a Better India", Shankar appealed.[36] VFABI is involved in many activities, including protest against the 2012 Delhi gang rape case,[37] free health camps,[38] and voter awareness and registrations in India.[39][40][41]

"NONVIO" Movement[edit]

NONVIO was launched as a nation-wide movement by Shankar's foundation in March 2013 with the aim of eliminating violence. It encourages individuals to pledge one act of non-violence through different social and online media[42] and adopt nonviolent principles in government, public health, and media.[43]

He was involved in the movement demanding a strong lokpal bill.[44][45]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Gandhi, King, Ikeda Community Builders Prize[46]
  • Highest civilian award 'National Order of Merito de Comuneros, Paraguay, 13 September 2012[47][48]
  • Illustrious citizen by the Paraguayan Municipality, 12 September 2012[49]
  • Illustrious guest of the city of Asuncion, Paraguay, 12 September 2012[49]
  • Tiradentes Medal, the highest honour from Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil, 3 September 2012[50]
  • The Sivananda World Peace award, Sivananda Foundation, South Africa, 26 August 2012[51]
  • Crans Montana Forum Award, Brussels, 24 June 2011[52][53]
  • Culture in Balance Award, World Culture Forum, Dresden Germany, 10 October 2009[54]
  • Phoenix Award, Atlanta, USA, 2008[55]
  • Honorary Citizenship and Goodwill Ambassador, Houston, USA, 2008[55]
  • Proclamation of Commendation, New Jersey, 2008[56]
  • Sant Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prize, Pune, India, 11 January 2007[57]
  • Order of the Pole Star, Mongolia, 2006[58]
  • Bharat Shiromani Award, New Delhi, India, 2005[59]
  • Doctorate – Universidad Autónoma de Asunción of Paraguay,[47] Buenos Aires University, Argentina; Siglo XXI University Campus, Cordoba, Argentina; Nyenrode University,[60] Netherlands; Gyan Vihar University, Jaipur;[61] Kuvempu University, India


In 2012, Ravi Shankar, while attending a function in Jaipur, claimed that Indian government schools are breeding grounds for Naxalism, a movement of militant communist groups in India declared to be terrorist organisations. His comments were condemned by educators and ministers as "unfortunate and illogical." Later, Shankar issued a clarification that he didn't mean that all government schools breed Naxalism.[62][63]


Ravi Shankar has authored the following books:


  1. ^ The header note of the website
  2. ^ A. Salkin, Emperor of Air, Yoga Journal, 2002.
  3. ^ Editor's Picks: The Seven Most Powerful People In India – No. 5: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Forbes.com (9 November 2009). Retrieved on 21 March 2013.
  4. ^ Guru Cool, HarmonyIndia.org
  5. ^ a b "Seeking Bliss Among the Honks and Hisses". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). APRIL 11, 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Spreading Awareness Over the World". Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Pandit gifted wheelchair on birthday". The Times of India (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd). The Times of India. Mar 15, 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Scan of Degree Certificate". 
  9. ^ Distinguished Alumni of St.Joseph's College
  10. ^ "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi cremated in Allahabad – The Times of India". The Times of India. 
  11. ^ Gautier, Francois. The Guru of Joy. New York: Hay House, 2008. p. 36.
  12. ^ Fischman, Michael (2010). Stumbling into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment. Morgan James Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60037-648-1. 
  13. ^ Mahadevan, Ashok (February 2007). "Face to face". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  14. ^ MacGregor, Hillary E (31 October 2004). "Breathe deeply to relieve stress, depression". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  15. ^ History. artofliving.eu. Retrieved on 7 September 2011.
  16. ^ Shankar, Sri Sri Ravi. Bang on the Door. Santa Barbara, CA: Art of Living Foundation. 1995. ISBN 1-885289-31-6
  17. ^ "Wisdom Is The Best Shock Absorber". Artofliving.org. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Washington Post interview. Washingtonpost.com (5 July 2007). Retrieved on 7 September 2011.
  19. ^ a b Sudarshan Kriya page on Art of Living Foundation's website. Srisri.org. Retrieved on 7 September 2011.
  20. ^ "Sudarshan Kriya, a stress buster". The Times of India. 9 September 2003. 
  21. ^ List of Art of Living research articles published in international peer reviewed journals Aolresearch.org.
  22. ^ Janakiramaiah, N; Gangadhar, BN; Naga Venkatesha Murthy, PJ; Harish, MG; Subbakrishna, DK; Vedamurthachar, A (2000). "Antidepressant efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in melancholia: A randomized comparison with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and imipramine". Journal of Affective Disorders 57 (1–3): 255–9. doi:10.1016/s0165-0327(99)00079-8. PMID 10708840. 
  23. ^ Gautier, Francois. The Guru of Joy. New York: Hay House, 2008. p. 155-164.
  24. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace". June 2012. 
  25. ^ Walker, Andrew (24 December 2008). "South African prisoners embrace yoga". BBC News. 
  26. ^ "Pravin Mahajan 'n D's brother sing together". The Indian Express. 30 April 2007. 
  27. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar", The Huffington Post, 12 August 2010. Retrieved on 12 August 2010.
  28. ^ 'There's dignity of religion in Pakistan', The Times of India
  29. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tells Lahore about his 'Art of Living'". The Express Tribune News Network. March 12, 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  30. ^ Art of Living guru in Iraq to talk peace. Ibnlive.com. Retrieved on 7 September 2011.
  31. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar visits Iraq". Rediff.com. December 22, 2008. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  32. ^ "Leaders of Religions of India". Elijah Interfaith Institute. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  33. ^ Nouvelle Vie Haiti Youth Corps Haiti Program
  34. ^ "Spiritual healing for HIV-infected in Bangalore". DNA. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  35. ^ "Science, spirituality and health in the AIDS response". UNAIDS. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  36. ^ IBTL (30 December 2012). "Corruption begins where sense of belongingness ends : Volunteer for a Better India #VFABI – IBTL". Ibtl.in. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  37. ^ "Mumbaikars hold public vigils to condemn Delhi horror; seek security for citizens, not VIPs – The Times of India". The Times of India. 
  38. ^ "Free health camps for slum dwellers by Art of Living". Business Standard. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  39. ^ "Foundation urges citizens to vote". The Times of India. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  40. ^ "NGO volunteers enrol 35,000 people in voters' list". Sakal Times. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  41. ^ "YCCE Supports "I Vote For Better India" Campaign". Nagpur Today. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  42. ^ "No Higher Calling: His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Challenges The World To Commit One Billion Acts of Non-Violence". Los Angeles Magazine. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  43. ^ "Nonviolence brings about change". Los Angeles County. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  44. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in UP on anti-graft drive". DNA. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  45. ^ "IAC founder Sri Sri says asked for BJP's help on Jan Lokpal". The Indian Express. 9 October 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  46. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Speak at Morehouse's Martin Luther King International Chapel". Atlanta Daily World. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  47. ^ a b "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gets Paraguay's highest civilian award". The Economic Times. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  48. ^ http://www.lanacion.com.py/articulo/89279-condecoraran-al-dr-sri-sri-ravi-shankar.html%7Caccessdate=22 March 2013
  49. ^ a b "Sri Sri gets Paraguays Highest Civilian Award". The Times of India. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  50. ^ "Projeto de Resoluусo". Alerjln1.alerj.rj.gov.br. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  51. ^ "Sivananda Peace Pillar presented to Ravi Shankar". BLOG of www.sivanandapeacepillars.com. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  52. ^ Recipients list
  53. ^ "Ravi Shankar 1st Indian to get Crans Montana award". The Indian Express. 28 June 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  54. ^ "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar conferred award by German organisation". Deccan Herald. 11 October 2009. 
  55. ^ a b "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar honoured by three US cities". DNA India. 
  56. ^ "Sri Sri teaches Art of Living to New Jersey". rediff.com. 
  57. ^ "Give me your worries". The Times of India. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  58. ^ "Mongolia's top civilian honour for Sri Sri Ravishankar". Rediff.com. 24 August 2006. 
  59. ^ "Of oneness, spirituality and unity". Times of India. 21 April 2005. 
  60. ^ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar receives Honorary Doctorate from Nyenrode Business Universiteit
  61. ^ "Gyan Vihar convocation". Gyan Vihar University. 
  62. ^ "Ravishankar courts controversy on remarks on govt schools". The Economic Times. 21 March 2012. 
  63. ^ "Didn't say all govt schools breed Naxalism: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar". NDTV. 


External links[edit]