Achieving Inner Calm

It happens very seldom that we see numerous people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, converge to enjoy an evening of peace and inner quiet, while contemplating on the many challenges life bestows upon us.

I experienced such an evening at Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s ashram in Banglore. The ashram is built on a vast expanse of land. It is always teeming with life. The place is full of many different people trying to find peace in their existence. The ashram has a sense of calm about it. The air reverberates with peace and tranquility. It seems there is a spell in the air which calms and soothes.

There were many people who had gathered in the amphitheatre of the ashram on a quiet Saturday evening to be a part of the satsang and witness the presence of Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, affably called guruji. It was a clear night, the moon played hide and seek with the clouds. Everything seemed to be at peace.

The open air amphitheater was teeming with people of different faiths, believes, ideologies yet they were bound by the common desire to find inner peace and solace. Some were there out of mere curiosity trying to find out what drew so many people to leave all their work and want to spend their Saturday evening in such a contemplative mood. While there were some who wanted to know what pearls of wisdom would the guru himself share which they had no idea about. To sum up the place was occupied by believers, non believer who would soon turn into ardent followers of the gurus and those who merely wished to see what was it that had drawn thousands around the world to revere the guru.

It began with some people singing odes to our various gods. What was surprising was the fact that most of the bhajans rendered in the ashram in Banglore were in Bengali. As the evening progressed the mood was set. It seemed everyone present had vowed to simply live the moment and leave all their worldly worries behind. While the bhajans were being sung a large part of the audience joined in the renditions. That was not all some people started dancing, simply swaying to the music mindless of the fact that their performance was being witnessed by hundreds of people present. It seemed their unbound joy was spreading in the crowd like an epidemic because more and more people got to their feet and joined in. Soon most of the people were on their feet and swaying to the music. After some time the congregation was joined by the guru himself. He sat on an elevated stage while people sang hymns and danced.

This was followed by an interactive session in which the guru answered questions that were put to him. The questions spawned over various themes ranging from the eternal quest for salvation, to how a person can make perfect use of his present life. All the questions were answered by the guru affably in clear layman’s terms which drove the point home.

Amidst the sea of all the questions that were put to the guru there was one which stood out. A disciple asked “ I once heard that Swami Vivekananda asked a man to play a sport like football instead of reading the Geeta to get salvation. Is it true that playing football serves the same purpose as reading the Geeta?” The crowd burst out laughing while many wondered how can anyone compare playing football to reading the Geeta. The Geeta is deemed to be the scared text of the Hindus how can it be put on the same front as a rowdy game like football? The crowd waited to hear what the guru had to say to this completely insane query. He laughed and said “I haven’t read much of Swami Vivekananda. In fact I do not know what context he said this in. Maybe there was a man who was reading the Geeta and at the same time carping about how much noise people in his vicinity were making. Maybe he was shouting at his children to stay quiet and not make noise. He might have been absolutely annoyed by everyone who was disturbing him and in turn might have annoyed everyone. Maybe on witnessing this madness Swami Vivekananda would have advised him to go out, get some air , play football, enjoy with everyone. His playing and mingling with everyone would certainly have been better than his shouting and fretting over the amount of disturbance that he had to endure. He and his world would have been more at peace if he would have let people enjoy and enjoyed with them.” This answer seemed to satisfy all those present. More questions followed. The question answer session saw people ask questions which were always there in a corner of their mind but they never knew who to ask.

It seemed everyone had some doubt, some nagging worry that they wanted to voice and hear someone give them wise advice. The people present were not confined to any one religious faith, diversity was at play nor were they the same cultural backgrounds, now were all nationals of the same country. Yet everyone sat mesmerized on the soft green grass of the open air amphitheatre. It seemed as if in this era of cut throat, break neck competition everyone was looking for some respite, a bit of peace, a bit of order, reassurance which they found here.

Apurva Joshi

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