Art of Living Foundation

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The Art of Living Foundation
Art of Living official logo.png
Founder Ravi Shankar
Headquarters 21st Km, Udaypura, Kanakapura Road, Bengaluru

The Art of Living Foundation is a volunteer-based, humanitarian and educational non-governmental organization (NGO).[1] It was founded in 1981 by Ravi Shankar.[2] The Art of Living Foundation has centers in more than 156 countries.[3]

The Foundation is working in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)[4] of the United Nations. The International Association for Human Values[5] is a partner NGO that Shankar founded, that focuses on the upliftment of human values at the grassroots level.


Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru

Art of Living Foundation (AOL) has its international headquarters in Bangalore, India at Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth or VVM campus (usually referred to as The Art of Living International Center or the Bangalore Ashram) and has regional centers in more than 150 countries. In Europe, the organization is known as the Association for Inner Growth. The Foundation was founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and offers a variety of personal-development and trauma-relief programs around the world.

AOL has been an educational and humanitarian organization in the U.S. since 1989. Accredited as a United Nations non-governmental organization in 1996, it works in special consultative status with the UN's Economic and Social Council, participating in a variety of committees and activities relating to health, education, sustainable development, conflict resolution, and disaster relief.[6] The Art of Living is a DPI NGO (Department of Public Information), which means it plays an active role in communicating and contributing to various United Nations goals (such as the UN Millennium Goals and the Stand Up initiative).[citation needed]

The majority of the officers of the organization, along with most of its teachers and staff, are volunteers. Many humanitarian programs, disaster relief efforts, and training programs are conducted through, or in conjunction with partner organization, the International Association for Human Values (IAHV).[7][better source needed] Some of the key worldwide chapters include the Art of Living Foundation (U.S.A.), Vyakti Vikas Kendra (India), Die Kunst des Lebens (Germany), Art of Living Center (Canada), Art of Living South Africa, Art of Living Israel, Art of Living Brazil, and Art of Living Argentina.

The Foundation operates as a charitable organization actively conducting "Art of Living" stress-relief courses, based on yoga, breathing, and meditation.[8]

Guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy of peace, "Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace", the Art of Living offers several stress-elimination and self-development programmes based mainly on breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. Art of living hopeline, a telephonic hotline available 24/7, is a dedicated program to reduce suicidal tendencies.[9]

The organization is involved in community service through its centres, and programs are taken by people of many traditions and religious backgrounds. Its underlying principles are compatible with Vedic philosophy.[10]

In March 2014, the organization's yoga center in Islamabad, Pakistan was burned down[11][12] followed by reports of threats issued to the organization by Taliban.[13]

According to the tax return filed by the American chapter, AOL Foundation had total revenues of $US5.5 million mainly $US3.5 million from course fees and $US1.7 million from public support ) and expenditure of $US3.6 million from July 2006 to June 2007. Net assets at the beginning of July 2007 amounted to $US7.7 million.[14] EIN for the American chapter of AOL Foundation is 77-0240101.[15]

Social service[edit]

Art of Living is engaged in many social services globally. Its areas of work covers conflict resolution,[16] disaster and trauma relief,[17][18] poverty alleviation, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation,[19] education for all, campaigns against female foeticide[20] and child labour and environment sustainability.[21][22]

In 2007, the foundation initiated the 'Project Vidarbha - 'Swavalamban programme'. The aim was to support, train and encourage farmers in severe drought hit regions to roll back their lives. Over 1000 volunteers provided training in organic farming, zero-budget farming, rainwater harvesting, hygiene, construction of toilets, etc. in addition to the Art of Living course. The program received official backing as a result of its success and was initiated in other areas as well.[23] The foundation received Rs 1.4 million funding from the state Government compared with its total expenditure of nearly Rs 7.5 million, some of which was self-financed, most of it was raised from its corporate donors.[24] A similar initiative was started to educate farmers in Andhra Pradesh to implement 'zero budget farming' to end suicides.[25]

In partnership with United Nations Millennium Campaign and United Nations Environment Programme the 'Mission Green Earth Stand Up Take Action' campaign was launched in 2008 with a goal to plant 100 million trees across the world to help reduce global warming and protect the environment. Art of Living had already started tree plantations across India as part of its Mission Green Earth campaign to support the Millennium Development Goals of the UN.[22][26][27] In 2010, in Bangladesh the foundation participated in the 'Billion Tree Campaign' started by United Nations Environment Programme.[28][29]

A three-year program to rejuvenate the Kumudavathi river (in Bangalore) was initiated by the foundation under its 'Volunteer for Better India' campaign in collaboration with civic authorities and environmentalists in February 2013. "The project aims to address the water shortage problems through rainwater harvesting, increasing green cover and desilting existing step wells, among other methods." Volunteers join the villagers every Sunday to participate in these activities under guidance of a geological scientist.[30][31] To create awareness about this program, Art of Living founder, Ravi Shankar joined by other NGOs, prominent citizens, civic authorities along with many farmers and volunteers led a walkathon in Bangalore City.[32] Apart from reviving some water bodies used by birds and animals,[33] the project revived five water-recharge wells, constructed 74 boulder checks, cleaned up 18 step wells and planted 2,350 saplings in seven villages by June 2014.[34]

Volunteer For a Better India[edit]

The Art of Living, along with UN agencies, NGOs and civil society, launched Volunteer For a Better India (VFABI) on 5 December 2012. VFABI is involved in many activities, including protest against the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.[35]

In May 2013, through one hundred eight free health camps organized in collaboration with the Indian Medical Association, 1,634 volunteers distributed medicines worth Rs. 2.2 million under the guidance of 262 doctors to over 20,000 slum dwellers in Delhi.[36]

In September 2013, the 'I vote for better India' initiative was launched to bring about awareness about the importance of voting as a responsibility towards the nation.[37] In the city of Pune around 500 volunteers have covered more than 400 housing societies, 60 firms and 30 colleges enrolling over 35,000 people in the voters' list.[38] Students of the YCCE College in Nagpur initiated this campaign in their college and registered themselves along with their family and friends for voter identity cards.[39]

Sri Sri University[edit]

Sri Sri University in Odisha was established in 2009 on the initiative of Ravi Shankar.[40] The school won a Best Innovative University Award at the 2017 National Education Excellence Awards.[41]


Art of Living organizes courses based on breathing exercises and meditation. Sudarshan Kriya is the pivot of the majority of Art of Living courses,[42] which are conducted by instructors, most of whom do voluntary work.[43] These courses have also been conducted for students and faculty,[43] government officials,[44] firemen,[42] ex-militants,[45] and prisoners.[19]

Musical concerts and dance events[edit]

The Art of Living has entered the Guinness Book of Records for a Mohiniyattam dance organised in Cochin[46][47] The performance has been awarded the world record for the most people performing a Mohiniyattam dance, the traditional Kerala dance form. [48]

The organization organized a sitar concert "Brahm Naad" which also entered Guinness Book of Records.[49][50] The proceeds of the event went towards rehabilitation of the victims of the Bihar floods.[50]

"Taal Ninaad" held on 17 January 2012 at Solapur, which included 1230 tablas and 318 pakhavaj also entered the Guinness Book of Records.[51][52]

On 16 May 2012, The Art of Living Foundation, organized a cultural evening in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture, NDK, in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, where 333 Bulgarian bagpipers played a 9.13 minutes suite. The youngest player was 9 years old and the oldest player was 80 years old. [53]

Mass recital of Jnanappana, a devotional poem written by the 16th century Malayalam poet Poonthanam, organized by the foundation on 2 February 2014, has also found place in the Guinness Book of World Records.[54][55]

Legal issues[edit]

Settlement with anonymous bloggers[edit]

In 2010, Art of Living sued two anonymous bloggers, "Skywalker" and "Klim", accusing them of defamation, trade libel, copyright infringement and disclosing trade secrets. Claiming to be former teachers/followers in the organisation they created blogs critical of Art of Living. Art of Living's request to unmask Skywalker and Klim's identities was denied. Further, the judge allowed only the trade secrets claim to go to trial.[56]

In 2012, Art of Living and the bloggers reached a settlement under which the foundation dropped the lawsuit without prejudice, compensated the bloggers' attorneys fees, and agreed to never again prosecute Skywalker, Klim, or any of their contributors.[better source needed] Skywalker and Klim agreed to freeze their existing blogs with no restriction on starting up new blogs critical of Art of Living.[57][58]

Alleged land encroachment[edit]

In 2011 a public-interest litigation petition was filed in the high court alleging that Art of Living had constructed huge structures, encroaching upon the water spread area of Udipalya tank. The irrigation department of the state government of Karnataka inspected the area and found that the foundation had encroached[59] upon 6.53 hectares (16.1 acres) of the tank area.

A show cause notice was issued to the foundation by the state government.[60][61]

World Culture Festival on Yamuna flood plains[edit]

Art of Living Foundation organised World Culture Festival starting on 11 March 2016 held on the Yamuna Flood plains. A committee appointed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) recommended a fine of Rs 1,200 million on Art of Living Foundation for damaging ecology on Yamuna flood plains.[62] The fine was reduced to Rs 50 million, no such events will be allowed at the location in future.[63] The Foundation had initially refused to pay the fine. Sri Sri Ravishankar said he would rather go to prison than pay the fine.[64] The foundation gave in to the NGT directions and paid the amount on 3 June 2016.[65]


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