Breathing, an unconscious bodily process, is not usually associated with inspiring international change. But spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believes this basic life practice is the first and most important step to establishing worldwide unification and peace.
“We have one message,” Shankar said. “We want to create a stress-free, violence-free society … and bring a more harmonious, beautiful society.”
Shankar spoke about the power of breathing within the Ithaca community and internationally yesterday in Cornell University’s Statler Auditorium. The speech, “Becoming Tomorrow’s Leaders with a Global Vision,” was the fourth in Shankar’s U.S. tour of the lecture, which began last week in Washington, D.C.
Sathyanarayana Ayyalasomayajula, who recently received his Ph.D. from Cornell, said he invited Shankar to come to the university after witnessing his international impact first-hand during the 25th anniversary of the Art of Living Foundation in India last year.
“It’s surprising how accessible he is for a figure of that stature,” Ayyalasomayajula said in an interview before the event. “The Cornell community will change. I think he will inspire the rest of the community who is going to come, too.”
Shankar formed the Arts of Living Foundation in 1986 to spread his message of creating a “violence-free global family” through service and the fostering of human values. The foundation seeks to educate societies on the importance of nonviolence and inner peace, according to its Web site. The group’s initiatives include disaster relief, conflict resolution, prison reform, female empowerment and the eradication of child labor in more than 34 countries, including Iraq, Kosovo, Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
Radhika Prabhu, youth program director for the Washington, D.C. Art of Living chapter, said Shankar’s message is spread through the teaching of his personal breathing technique, known as Sudarshan Kriya. Sudarshan Kriya is a series of rhythmic breathing processes that “brings the mind to the present moment,” Prabhu said.
“Sri Sri’s coming here to Ithaca is to provide [the] opportunity to see how whatever it is you want to do and however you want to make an impact in the world, that it can be enhanced,” Prabhu said.
“We want to teach sorrow-free breathing … it is the birthright of every child,” Shankar said.
On March 24, Shankar received the Leadership Award for Extraordinary Promotion of World Harmony from Amity University in New Delhi, India for his international humanitarian work. Prabhu said Shankar has earned numerous awards and spoken in front of the U.N. and EU in order to decrease stress and anxiety of government leaders.
“He’s reached over 300 million people,” Prabhu said. “He’s here to take care of the planet and that’s something you see in his every action, every word. He shows you what you can do and how you can do it happily.”
In Ithaca, Art of Living courses are offered monthly, Ayyalasomayajula said, and feature Sudarshan Kriya meditation and yoga. The next two sessions are April 12 to 17 and May 31 to June 5. Further information about the seminars can be found on the Art of Living Web site.