Friday, December 26, 2008

Baba....

Baba...
His greatgrandfather was a saint
;
his grandfather was one of the most success
ful businessmen of his taluka;
his father was a bhajan singer and a harmonium player...


and Baba, thats how we (my two brothers and me) address him, our father, has been an inspiration for me in several ways, and am sure for my brothers too.

Born and brought up in Murud Janj
ira a taluka in Raigad district, now famous as a tourist attraction, he fought in the Hindu-Muslim riots when in school and topped the entire taluka in Matriculation (now SSC, earlier it was 11th std). Scored 97/100 in Maths. Mr. Dattatraya Balkrishna Pulekar wanted to be a mathematician. But the village kid didnt even know that something like IIT exists. He had to take up an early job to help clear the debt and losses his father had incurred. He worked himself and sponsored the higher education of his two younger brothers and a sister.

He wanted to get into politics and devot
e his life for spirituality. But finally ended up being a 'sansari'. He was destined to bring three divine souls in the physical form, and so he had to be our father (Rashmin, Harshal and myself)!!!

Baba has played an instrumental role in the three of us (Pu brothers as we are known, thx to Bau ;-)) getting into spirituality. It was he who ignited the spark in us and aai (our mother) complemented it very well. I would love to share a few stories of how they did it....I feel so
grateful to have been born of and brought up by such wonderful parents. More about them in the next few posts.

Baba celebrated his 66th birthday on 22nd Dec'08. And here are some snaps which give a glimpse of the undying, childlike and innocent enthusiasm that Baba is infused with!!!





On the bench..God knows what he is doing up there!! Its the park on the beach in Murud




Thats the fort in the background, the Murud beach



In Rishikesh...playing in Ganga waters.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Working or Serving?

I am sure the one page reading below will make some difference in your mind set.......

One evening a scholar was addressing the participants on the concept of work culture.

One of the participants asked the following question:

"I am a senior manager of Materials Department and I joined an organization 25 years ago as an Engineer Trainee and over the last 25 years I have gone through every experience in the organization.

During the initial part of my career, the job was very challenging and interesting.

However, all those exciting days are gone since I do not find my joy any more interesting because there is nothing new in my job. I am now feeling bored because I am doing a routine job.

However, Sir, I am living in the same house for over forty years, I am the son for the same parents for over forty five years, I am the father for the same children for the past ten years and the husband for the same lady for the past twenty years! (the toughest job!)

In these personal roles I do not feel bored Please tell me why I am bored of the routine in the office and not in the house?"

The response from Scholar was very interesting and convincing. He asked the executive the question: "Please tell me for whom does your Mother cook?"

The executive replied that obviously the mother cooks for others.

Then the Scholar said that the mother "Serves" others and because of this service mindedness, she is not feeling tired or bored. But in an office, we "Work" and not "Serve". Anything we consider, as service will not make us feel bored. That is difference between Serving and Working.

He asked the executive to consider his work as service and not merely a work!! This was a very interesting analysis!! Whenever you put a larger context around your work and see a broader meaning for your work, you will take interest in your work and it will make a very big difference in your internal energy.

Attitude Matters!!!

If you think you are working for the organization you will get frustrated. If you feel you are doing a service and getting some service charges you will feel happy. After all -doing what you like is freedom but liking what you do is happiness! It is just a paradigm shift that is required!

"What I do today is important, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Entrepreneur's Inspiration: A crorepati who lives in a hut!





A crorepati who lives in a hut! His story is an inspiration for millions. A self-made entrepreneur, his mission is to help the poor through job creation.











My inspiration: My mother, who sold idlis and worked as an ayah in aanganwadis to educate me. (-:



My dream: To buy a house and car for my mother. :-)




My source of energy: The hut where I still live!!!



E Sarathababu hit the headlines after he rejected several high profile job offers from various MNCs after he passed out of IIM, Ahmedabad two years ago.





He instead started a catering business of his own, inspired by his mother who once sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai, worked as an ayah in an Anganvadi to educate him and his siblings. As a child, he also sold idlis in the slum where he lived. "We talk about India shining and India growing, but we should ensure that people do not die of hunger. We can be a developed country but we should not leave the poor people behind. I am worried for them because I know what hunger is and I still remember the days I was hungry," says Sarathbabu.



In August 2006, Sarathbabu's entrepreneurial dream came true with Foodking. He had no personal ambition but wanted to buy a house and a car for his mother. He has bought a car but is yet to buy a house for his mother. The "foodking" still lives in the same hut in Madipakkam in Chennai. Today, Foodking has six units and 200 employees, and the turnover of the company is Rs.32 lakh a month.






But it has not been a bed of roses for Sarathbabu. After struggling and making losses in the first year, he managed a turnaround in 2007. How has his experience as a 'Foodking' been in the last two years?





Sarathbabu shares the trial and tribulations of an exciting and challenging job in an interview with Shobha Warrier.





A tough beginning...
As I am a first generation entrepreneur, the first year was very challenging. I had a loan of Rs 20 lakh by the end of first year. I had no experience in handling people in business, and it was difficult to identify the right people. Though I made losses in the first year, not even once did I regret my decision of not accepting the offers from MNCs and starting an enterprise of my own. I looked at my losses as a learning experience. I was confident that I would be successful one day.



My first unit was at IIM, Ahmedabad. When we started our second unit in October 2006, I thought now I would start making money. But I made losses of around Rs 2000 a day. A first generation entrepreneur cannot afford such a loss. But I worked really hard, working till 3 a.m. in the morning. What reduced my losses were the birthday party offers. I started the third unit again in Ahmedabad but it also made losses. All my units were cafeteria and I understood then that the small cafeterias do not work; I needed huge volumes to work. My friends who were extremely supportive in the first year when things were difficult for me. I had taken loans from my IIM-A friends. They were earning very well.






In December 2006, an IIM Ahmedabad alumni event took place in Mumbai and I decided to go there mainly to get a contract. I was hopeful of getting it. I also knew that if I got the huge contract, I would come out of all the losses I had been incurring.




I booked my train ticket from Ahmedabad to Mumbai for Rs 300 and I had Rs 200 in my hand. As the meet went on till late at night, I could reach the station only at midnight. I missed the train. I decided to sit on the platform till the morning and travel by the next train in the morning.. I didn't have the money to check into a hotel. I didn't want to disturb any of my friends so late at night. It was an unforgettable night as I was even shoved off by policemen from the platform. It was quite insulting and embarrassing. After two hours, people started moving in, I also went in. A man who sat next to me on the platform gave me a newspaper so that I could sleep. I spread the newspaper and slept on the platform! I slept well.






I got my ticket refund in the morning and went back to Ahmedabad. And, luck did not favour me, I didn't get the contract.






In March 2007, I got an offer to start a unit at BITS, Pilani (Sarathbabu was an alumnus of BITS, Pilani). That was the first medium break for me. For the first time, I started making profits there though the other units continued to make losses. The reason for our success at BITS, Pilani was the volume; there were more students and there was a need for a unit like ours while in Ahmedabad, they have at least a hundred options.




If I made Rs 5000 a day at Ahmedabad in two shifts, here I made Rs 15,000 a day. BITS, Pilani unit gave me the confidence to move on. Unless you make money, you can't be confident in business.




What changed my fortune ...




When all my friends who worked for various MNCs made good money every month and I made losses with my venture. But I kept telling myself, I am moving in the right direction to reach my ambition and vision. My dream was to provide employment and I was doing just that. I continued to work till 3 a.m. but I never felt tired. Through BITS, Pilani, I got the BITS, Goa contract and that was the biggest break for me. It was not a cafeteria like the earlier ones but the dining hall that we got. We had to feed 1300 students. We started our operations in July 2007. At Rs 50, for 1300 students, our sales was Rs 65,000 per day. We soon started making a profit of Rs 10 to 15,000 a day. Around 60 to 70 people work there. I gave the charge of the Ahmedabad operations to one of my managers and moved to Goa.




I was still in debt by Rs 15-20 lakhs but I knew BITS, Goa would keep my dream alive. Within six months of starting our operations in Goa, I repaid all my debt. I was called to give a speech at the SRM Deemed University.. After the speech, I asked the Chancellor, can you give me an opportunity to serve in your campus? He said, "If not you, to whom will I give such an opportunity?" It's a food court but a big one, similar to the one at BITS, Pilani. There are around 17,000 students there.






Now, I have the BITS, Hyderabad contract, ready to start in July 2008. Other than the six units, I have approached a few more universities and corporate houses too. In the first year, I had made a loss of Rs 25 lakh. Right now, we have a turnover of Rs 32 lakh every month, which works out to 3.5 crore (Rs 35 million) a year. I have hired about 200 people. Indirectly, we touch the lives of around 1000 people. By this year end, we will have 500 people working for us.






Only 10% of my workers are educated, the rest are uneducated. I want to make a change in their lives. If they have any problem, I will take care of it. We support the marriages and education of poor families. We are paying more to the employees as the company is doing well. Now that the foundation is strong, I plan to have ten units and a turnover of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) turnover by next year.




His advice ...


When I thought of starting a company, I felt India needed 100 people like Narayana Murthy and Ambani. If 100 such people support 2 lakh people each, imagine how many Indians get supported. Entrepreneurship is needed to uplift the poor. It is not easy to be an entrepreneur, especially a first generation entrepreneur. There will be lots of challenges in the beginning but you should learn to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up even if there are hurdles. There are many who give up within a week. You need determination and a tough mind to cross the initial hurdles.




Value of food and value for morals...




He still lives in the same hut As I am in the food business, I know how much the price of every food item has gone up. We can be a developed country but we should not leave the poor people behind. I am worried for them because I know what hunger is and I still remember the days I was hungry. That is why I feel it is our responsibility to take care of them.




Simply touching and humbly inspiring ...




"I still live in the same house, the same hut. I can build a house right now but I want my business to grow a little more. I feel good in the hut; that's where I get my energy, that's where I lived 25 years of my life. I want to remind myself that the money and fame should not take me away from what I want to achieve. But within six months, I will build a good house for my mother. Her only advice to me is, don't waste money. Till I was in the 10th, there was no electricity in my house. I had to sit near the kerosene lamp and concentrate hard. That's how I learnt to concentrate.
The two year journey has been very enriching. It seems like a 20-year journey for me. I was living every moment of the two years, from sleeping on the Mumbai railway station platform to this level."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Guru bina gati nahin"


MORE EXCERPTS OF GURUJI'S INTERVIEW :


SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR (AOL) WITH ANURADHA SENGUPTA (CNN-IBN), FEB 2006



1. I was reading what you have said, there are different points. Some of the things that you say are so lucid and yet they are like motherhoods, they are like axioms, they are like home truths. Why is it that we need to find a Guru before we can understand any of this?


Sri Sri : Why do you want the answer for this question? You want the answer, right? When you want the answer, whoever gives the answer and you accept it, they become a Guru. If there is no need, then the question does not arise at all.



2. I mentioned that when I came into Bangalore, at the airport, I saw delegates waiting. You reminded me that it is at the train stations, at the bus stops. Why is it that the Art of Living is only for the elite or the upper strata?


Sri Sri : I think that it is a wrong perception. If there are 25 lakh people, who were only the rich and famous in this country, the shape of this country would have been very different. It is not so. We have so much more in villages, in every nook and corner, in tribal areas. It is a perception of the media. Perhaps they think that only celebrities come here. In fact, media follows celebrities. Of all the funds that we have received, we have not taken any donation from any industries. It is all coming from the grass root levels. All our finances are taken care of by the local chapters. I think when we kindle the spirit in them, the true spirit in them, the people are able to take responsibility for their own lives and they make things work.



3. I have heard from people who have been to the courses say that sudarshan kriya has changed my life. What I cannot connect with is the satsangs, bowing to the portrait of Guruji. Do you see this as your thoughts getting corrupted by people as it gets disseminated?


Sri Sri : Everywhere in the world, hero worship is a common thing. However, you tell them that you don't have to do that. In fact, you simply have to go deep into your meditation. It is a big problem for me when I go somewhere and everyone wants to come and touch the feet and bow down. People who are behind them cannot see them and then they fall and it becomes to manage. But this reverence to elders, for the Gurus has been in our tradition. Whether it is a veena Guru or a violin Guru, this tradition has its value and beauty. I remember I used to touch the feet of my mother everyday. Sometimes I used to fight with her, argue with her, then also I used to do pranam and run to schoool. So, there is a sense of connection, same they do for any other religious leader anywhere else in the world. But unfortunately, our journalists only question only when it is done to Indian teachers or Indian Gurus. Because, you call Indian Gurus as godman and you put a tag and look at them as something fishy. In every area, there are some who are not genuine and there are some who are authentically working and who are people have great reverance for their work. But this prejudice against India spirituality has become much less now. Ten, twenty years ago, there was a lot of prejudice about Indian spirituality around the world.



4. Even with the Indian middle class, isn't it?


Sri Sri : The only so called educated people.



5. You have changed that?


Sri Sri : I hope so. The lack of spirituality brings two extreme types of problems. One is domestic and societal violence, other side is the suicidal tendencies. Anyone who has a Guru, there is no way they can get into suicidal tendencies. That shift happens. That is why they say - Guru bina gati nahin hai. (There is no speed without the Guru) That is a common saying throughout India. More so in the North - Punjab, Haryana - than in the South.


The Strengths & Science of Spirituality

MORE EXCERPTS OF GURUJI'S INTERVIEW :
SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR (AOL) WITH ANURADHA SENGUPTA (CNN-IBN), FEB 2006

1. You have studied Christianity deeply. Today, if you pick up any newspaper, you can't miss the fact that there is all this factual information as well as analysis and this great debate about - If and is Islam on a collision course with the rest of the world i.e the Western world. What are your thoughts on this?

Sri Sri : India can stand as an example. In India, we have lived with many religious traditions for centuries in peace.

2. But not without moments of tumult?

Sri Sri : That is very minimal when you compare it to the conflicts that the world has faced. We have always lived together and this the world needs to understand. In the rest of the world there is this conflict - only I will go to heaven and the rest of us will go to hell. Only my way is the correct way and if you believe in this set of principles, only then will you go to heaven, otherwise you will go to hell. This sort of philosophy or indoctrinisation has caused intolerance in the world. And they always think that when I am good, then there must be somebody who is evil. In India we say - tat tu samanvayat - coordinate them all. Find the common thread in between different philosophy, different ways of thinking, practices. That is why we have so many sampradayas. Hinduism is also not one religion. It is an amalgamation of many philosophies, many schools of thoughts and yet it is moving. It is the same with Buddhism, Jainism. It is the tolerance, I would say, the harmony in diversity that India can teach the rest of the world. And that can happen only when we find a common thread, which I would say is spirituality. Spirituality gives you an experience first, there are mainly two streams of thought in the world. First you believe and then you will experience and come to know the truth, this is the 'oxidental' way of thinking. The 'orient' is the other way around - first you experience and then comes the belief system. The second, orient type is very akin to science. Science also says, let me first know it, experience it and then I will believe it. So, that is why science and spirituality were never in conflict in the East. Their modes and methodology have been the same all the time. The yoga , the meditation and breathing is a step further, beyond the rituals. There it can unite. Not only that, your understanding of the religion that you are following becomes deeper and better.

3. There is a science conference coming up later in a couple of months. You have always stressed on giving spirituality a rational basis, isn't it?

Sri Sri : That has been our path of the vedanta, of the ancient darshanas. They were always rational and they always went step by step. Whether your knowledge is erroneous or correct, there is a whole shashtra about it. You see the sun setting, but is it really setting or not? Is your eye deceiving you? Is it an optical illusion or is it a reality? What is real? What is unreal? This whole thing is dealt in our scriptures, in our vedanta. So, it is free from dogma, it is a scientific, logical understanding of what truth is. And that scientific temper or enquiry must be encouraged. Unfortunately, that is not done as much as it should in our country. When they make movies like Matrix, based on the same principle of yoga vashishtha, people are watching them. But they need to know that all this knowledge is present in the ancient books. One of the most amazing books is yoga vashistha and people read that book and understand it with a certain silence, withmeditation. That broad avenue of understanding will open rightaway.

4. You have said that we need not be afraid of death because sleep and death are very similar. Like sleep energises you, invigourates you and gives you another day that starts again, death does the same thing. So, do you believe and accept rebirth?

Sri Sri : It is not just me, today it is proved beyond doubt and almost all psychiatrists use regression as a therapy. Past life regression is used all over the world. I think that time has gone when people used to wonder whether it is true or not, whether it is there or not there? For West it is a new discovery, but in the East it has always been there.

5. While you do believe in this, you do not subscribe to the fact that you do poonya (good deeds) in this life, in the next life, you evolve to a higher caste. That is notconnected to the way you see the concept of rebirth?

Sri Sri : No. Rebirth simply depends on the strongest impression on the mind. Even here, in the aashram, there is a boy who is just eight years old and he speaks four languages. He has never gone to school. He is a boy of a farmer. He speaks Sanskrit, Hindi, Oriya and English. He just closes his eyes and he starts talking. He talks deep knowledge and philosophy. I myself had this experience. I know Gita from when I was very young.

6. And you graduated in Physics?

Sri Sri : Yeah. Physics is very fascinating. In our Vashishta Priyadarshana, it said, Padarthanand moksha. Even if you know one particle thoroughly in the creation, you are liberated. The wealth we have is amazing. But unfortunately, we have ignored it and nobody knows it, nobody studies that. They are more interested in following the ritual without even understanding the ritual properly. But understanding them makes your life so much richer.

Related Links:

1. Guruji's Interview - CNN Video on Quest for Spirituality

2. Guruji's Talk on Science of Spirituality

The MASS is silent. Good people need to be more proactive, more dynamic...Sri Sri

MORE EXCERPTS OF GURUJI'S INTERVIEW :


SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR (AOL) WITH ANURADHA SENGUPTA (CNN-IBN), FEB 2006



1. You have said that relegion is like the skin of the bannana, spirituality is like the banana and we all left holding the skin. Why does that happen, why do we get so caught in the trappings of customs, rituals and symbols? As human beings, we seem to be, it is like a manufacturing defect.


Sri Sri : I don't think that it is a manufacturing defect. The nature has manufactured us perfectly. I think the maintainence department needs to take care.



2. There is this conflict of not being able to grasp what you have said - the values that all the religions preach are the same. And yet we do not seem to grasp this and civilisations seem to an end?


Sri Sri : You know, there are many people who do understand this. The thing is that they are very passive and the few who do not understand are very aggressive. That's how it all appears that the entire mass is not understanding and they are all fighting, everybody is in conflict. I don't see it that way. You speak to anybody from any religious background and they are all peace-loving, wonderful, good people. But it is just that there are fringe elements in every religion.



3. I feel that what you have just said is very interesting - the mass is silent. So, do you think that the mass is sort of shirking it's responsibility?


Sri Sri : It needs to be a little more proactive. The so-called 'good people'. I don't think that there are any bad people. I think that everybody is good. But the so called pious or good people need to be more dynamic. They are, there are people who are doing good work in the society, but they need to be more involved in bringing people together, bringing communities together. And the basic problem is stress and the lack of spirituality. It is because of the stress and the lack of spirituality that even the families are breaking up. Tension between husband and wife, tension between brothers; in a household if there are so many problems and court cases, what do you talk about communities who don't meet and keep themselves so apart. I feel that it is quite natural.

Effortless, natural, spontaneous, easy-flowing and yet so lucid and profound

EXCERPTS OF GURUJI'S INTERVIEW :
SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR (AOL) WITH ANURADHA SENGUPTA (CNN-IBN), FEB 2006





The Art of Living turns 25 this week and followers are trickling from all aver the world. There is a sense of expectation in the air and a sense of belonging. We are going to try and cut through this haze of feel good and find out what is like being Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Who is the man behind the Guru?



1. I know we are doing a longer interview, but on the eve of the Silver Jubilee celebrations, the three days, all the world leaders, 2.5 million people, to what purpose?
Sri Sri : What purpose? To reinstate the faith in human values and to dedicate our self to doing good in the society.

2. You have explained why people need a Guru and why they need to look up to somebody, to the philosophy. How do you keep the philosophy going when the charisma and the personality of the Guru have passed?
Sri Sri : You should go beyond the personality and charisma and go deep within to the silent corner of your heart, that's the main purpose.

3. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, this is such a wonderful week to be meeting you. 25 years of the Art of Living foundation, everything, the entire philosophy that you have given to so many people all over the world, how are you feeling right now?
Sri Sri : Before I used to feel very shy when people used to compliment me and adore me but now I don't, that's the only difference.

4. Is the man we know today as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is he still there an individual or is he sort of completely subsumed or consumed by the Guruji?
Sri Sri : No Guruji is a relationship that others have. For me, it doesn't have any sense. I am just what I am. Like the tree, the stones, the nature is there, like that I am here. To me, I am not playing a role all the time or any time. Are you understanding what I am saying?

5. I think so.
Sri Sri : It is very difficult to put in words and make you understand. It is like you know you have a pain in your leg and you can't tell others what the pain is. You can't make them understand what the pain is, so it is very personal. Knowledge, that's why I say the knowledge takes you from being some body to being nobody, and from being nobody to being every body.

6. When you gave us the sudarshan kriya, did you come into your own as a spiritual leader or do this things not cross your mind at all? Because my questions are there where I am.
Sri Sri : I didn't intend to become a leader or to do something. I just let the nature take its course. I never had any ambition that I had to make organisation or build something. Not at all. Everything just simply kept happening. I am quite satisfied and fulfilled in myself.


7. I was talking to a few people who have had an opportunity to hear you and all of them say that when you speak, then they feel that you are speaking only to them, no matter how large the audience. So, you are a master communicator, isn't it? Isn't that the key skill? I want the key skill to propound your philosophy.

Sri Sri : I don't know whether it is a skill, I think that it is just my nature. I can't do any othe way.



8. You are just being very modest.

Sri Sri : No. I think that I am just myself. I'll never do anything that is not in my nature.



9. When you hold discourses, is it completely free flowing like water?

Sri Sri : Absolutely, I never prepare my speech. I don't prepare at all and I don't read at all. I just sit and sometimes I feel that there is nothing big in talking of what you have read and known. To talk something that you don't know is really beautiful. If you are talking from that intutive level of yourself, your speak own mind. Speaking from your memories is one thing, but when you speak from that nowhereness, it is where you are.



10. So, you are saying that acquired knowledge is nowhere close to where experience is?

Sri Sri : This is a secondary thing. But that which comes from your soul, from your heart, you also learn. It is spontaneous and it is invigourating.



11. When I came here, I saw all the preparations, I have been hearing about all the variety of people who are going to be there over the next few days. I asked one of yuor volunteers that it must be very stressful, isn't the Guruji stressful? And he started laughing and he could not relate to it at all. How could you not be stressed?

Sri Sri : Yeah, I understand that it is difficult to understand the situation. When you know that the power behind all that is happening in the world and you know that it is taking care of everything, there is no stress.



12. Stress of all these interviews, all the people, of the organisation, of time?

Sri Sri : Nothing stays.


13. I think we are going to let ypu go into the satsang, just one second. In the week of the 25th anniversary, I want you to leave us with something really special.

Sri Sri : Know that you are very special and be a very ordinary person.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Guruji on Terrorism - Interview to TOI







Anger is Energy... says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urging Mumbaiites to channelise this energy after 26/11MARK MANUEL Times News Network (Times of India, Bombay Times, 08 Dec 2008, page 1.



This time, the smile of welcome didn’t quite reach Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s dark and mischievous eyes. The face was troubled, the mind still burdened by the pain of the hundred thousand people he had addressed the previous evening at Priyadarshini Park.

Some survivors of 26/11, others bereaved family members of victims, everyone a Mumbaiite let down by the state — all looking for a shoulder to cry on, a spiritual hand to apply the healing touch. That Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had already done. “I told Mumbai, if you stay with anger too long it will take a toll on your health, your mind, your thinking,” the Art of Living guru explained to me at the bungalow of Yash and Avanti Birla yesterday morning. “We need to channelise our energy,” he added. Energy or anger, I asked. “Anger is energy in a more proactive way,” he corrected, “and how to channelise it, is in itself a skill. There’s no point doing the extreme thing in anger and then regretting it. Or being passive and not doing anything at all. Find the inbetween path.”

He’s gone beyond the Art of Living and is into trauma relief around the world now. Like a healing wind with the spiritual touch, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has gone from Ivory Coast to Iraq and Kosovo to Kashmir, reawakening human values in people, making them violence-free, teaching them Gandhian principles, yoga, meditation. His lessons in spirituality are not just for victims of terrorist attacks, but also for survivors of earthquakes, floods, tsunamis.

But in Mumbai on Saturday, he was addressing terrorism. “Terrorists are ill-educated people with distorted, poisoned mindsets,” he said derisively. “It’s not true that the uneducated become tools of terrorism, or the poorest of the poor, but ill-educated people with hateful motivation. And they have to be addressed with words. Not guns. You just cannot quell violence with violence. But through dialogue, and spiritual education, I’ve seen this in Iraq.”

And what were politicians, I asked. “Politicians are narrow-minded people who, for the smallest gains of position and money, do things which later harm themselves and also the people,” he said in ill-concealed disgust and some anger.

What would he have done in Mumbai last week, I asked. Would he have been able to make the difference during the siege by engaging the terrorists in dialogue, by negotiating with them for the lives of the hostages, or convincing them to lay down the gun? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar regretfully shook his head. “You cannot learn archery on the battlefield,” he replied. “At that moment, the terrorist is not in the mood to talk, he is only in the mood to destroy.”

I asked what was the difference between spiritual education and religious, because the terrorists are Islamic jehaadis, boys indoctrined to become men with mindsets that believe the Quran okays mindless killings of innocents. “Spiritual education is different,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “it makes you a soft, gentle, caring person, it teaches you the principles of ahimsa... of nonviolence. We must teach these principles, the Indian ethos of peaceful coexistence, of inclusiveness, to our neightbours and the rest of the world.”

At this point of time when Mumbai was at the crossroads of change, when emotions were still ragged and the wounds of 26/11 yet festering, did we need spiritual education or an aggressive movement against violence? “Not just Mumbai, the whole of India needs an overhauling,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar answered. “In Mumbai’s case, just changing the Chief Minister will not help, the new man will take six, eight months to settle in and then make change. But, immediately, there must be a change in values — of the police, especially; a change in vision — of the people responsible for the city; a change in self — people must be true to the country and themselves; a change in sensitivity — people have woken up, but the spate of violence doesn’t touch all, we feel the heat only when the shoe pinches; and, a change in direction — let go of the past and go forward. Move on. Yes — the heart is heavy, but the healing touch will be complete only when hands unite and reconcile with the past.”

When I left him, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was smiling in welcome at his next visitors — Bollywood stars Kunal Kapoor, Dino Morea and the lovely Lara Dutta, but the smile still didn’t reach his eyes.