Bhanumathi Narasimhan, director of The Art of Living’s women and child welfare programmes, the Art of Living (AOL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s sister. She’s the woman behind the 175-odd rural schools run by the volunteer-based humanitarian NGO.
What’s more dear to you – religion or spirituality?
Spirituality (smiles). It leads to the wholesome development of an individual and touches the deepest core of your being. It’s all-inclusive, it encompasses religion and more. Spirituality unites at a time when religion is still dividing humanity.
Lakhs around the world look at your brother, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as a man of God, if not some sort of modern avatar. What do you see him as?
It is not a question of seeing; having experienced his divinity throughout my life, I fully agree with the lakhs of people who believe the same.
How often do you pray, and are your prayers answered?
Prayer is natural. When the heart is touched, prayer happens. I don’t count my prayers, and the blessings are in plenty.
Which gender is blessed with greater potential to seek spirituality?
Spirituality transcends gender. It is not about being a man or a woman. Science says that every person is made up of the feminine and masculine. You can identify yourself with one or another and be partial. But in spirituality, you rise above gender. When you meditate, you are not man or woman. You drop labels.
Rock satsangs are a big part of the AOL atmosphere. What’s music got to do with spirituality?
When the heart melts, music dawns, dance happens. Music is an essential part of the flowering of human potential. It brings refinement in our evolution. It is a significant part of spiritual growth. In the space of music, questions disappear, wonderment dawns.
The publicity AOL receives, the fees charged ( 1,500 for a basic course) and the hard-sell have lent it the image of an elite spiritual tuition class. What would you say in defence?
Spiritual practices free us from stress, bring enthusiasm, peace and joy. These are no longer luxuries. They are necessities. When a person benefits from something, they like to talk about it. So it is natural that AOL receives publicity. Further, the value that people attach to something is unfortunately measured in how much they pay for it. The fees then help a person stay committed to the practice. But once the benefits are experienced, perspectives change. The fees from our courses support our projects in rural areas. So indirectly, participants benefit from the merit of contributing to the betterment of society.