Every woman has within her the right blend of strength with grace, courage with compassion, abundance with values and wisdom with vision. In her lies the seed for the most profound social transformation. Bhanumathi Narasimhan ( Bhanu Didi ) firmly believes this.
Q:You are the Director of Child and Women Welfare activities of the Art of Living Foundation, meditation teacher to thousands worldwide, a gifted singer with albums heard by people beyond boundaries of faith and culture, you have authored books, you run 119 schools for the under-privileged, you have institutes for training rural women and so many come to you for guidance and counsel and are married with two children and playing the perfect homemaker. How do you manage all this and continue to smile continuously?
Bhanu Didi: Spirituality is what makes this harmony possible.
Q: How do you find time for so many diverse activities?
Bhanu Didi: Time moves very slowly when you are waiting, sad or bored. Time seems to fly when you are happy or celebrating. Only in meditation, you are with time and events happen within you. Established in that space, you are able to manage many tasks skillfully and cheerfully.
Q: You have taught meditation around the world for over 15 years. What do you see as the benefit this has brought to people? Further what are the differences you perceive while teaching people of various nationalities or backgrounds?
Wherever you go, people want peace. People want happiness. This search is common and meditation can bring you that peace and help you recognize that you are the source. Wherever I go, when I see the smile on people’s faces and the gratitude in their eyes, I know that the power of meditation has touched and transformed their lives for the better and that is enough for me.
Q: You have sung many albums of bhajans and verse which are primarily part of the Indian tradition. Yet how is it that they are appreciated globally?
Music transcends boundaries of language. Further, the songs I have sung are in Sanskrit, an ancient language, and the words used work like mantras, bringing relaxation to the listener even if they do not understand the meaning.
Q: You have authored two books, Lalitha and Tejasvini. Can you tell us a little about these books?
Bhanu Didi: The Hindu way of life guides the seeker step by step from the outer world to the inner Self, from idol worship to a state of Samadhi (a profound state of your being). However, the idols also bear significance knowing which the seeker can go beyond the form more easily. Tejasvini guides the seeker on this journey inward. Lalitha takes this journey deeper.
Q: You are the chairperson of the International Women’s conference. What is your vision behind bringing these women together? What is unique about these conferences and what value addition do the participants get from attending them?
Bhanu Didi: An ancient Sanskrit adage, ‘Sanghe Shakti Kaliyuge’ says that in this age, there is strength in the union of the hearts and minds of people. The collective energy of thousands, with the intention of reviving human values, can bring about a far greater transformation in society than individual effort.
The conferences do just this. Women from over 70 countries have come together to share and learn from each another. These conferences are unique in their capacity to tap the source of energy and enthusiasm in the speakers and delegates. They are vibrant and inspire the delegates to serve and catalyze change in their respective countries. The first conference was titled ‘Strength of a woman’ with an intention to recognize this very strength in her.
The moral values that a woman imparts to her children, the support she provides to her family – all these really matter. They say women are emotional. I accept this as a compliment. This is the aspect that makes her soft, gentle and feminine. The delicate and sensitive nature of a woman allows her to create an environment of peace and harmony wherever she goes.
The consecutive conferences have explored themes such as ‘Celebrating Women’, ‘The Light of Leadership’ and ‘Waves of Beauty’ and have all resulted in dynamism and a resounding resolve for greater harmony, peace and service.
Q: All these conferences have supported girl child education as one of the primary outcomes. Can you tell us a little bit about your passion for education?
Bhanu Didi: During the past three decades, I have been committed to bringing education to the rural and underprivileged children in India.
The parents of these children send them to the farms or as domestic help. They are illiterate and do not dream of an education for their daughters. They are mostly under-nourished and hardly ever get to eat more than one meal a day. Initially, the mid-day meals provided at the school enthuses the parents to send the children to the school. We give them new uniforms, books, schoolbags and also send school buses to the villages to transport them. When you see the children, how clean and bright they are in comparison to the condition of their homes, it is really amazing! They meditate everyday and practice some yoga and breathing techniques meant for children. This keeps them free from the stresses of poverty and domestic violence they are faced with when they return home everyday. These free schools, 119 in various remote locations across India, provide holistic value-based education and have been successful in shaping the lives of these children into successful pillars of society un-affected nor limited by their backgrounds of poverty, illiteracy or domestic violence.
However, there are the innate values of caring and sharing that is abundant in the villages of India. These family values must be emulated and encouraged further. We have so much to learn from the rural women as well.
Q: Can you tell us something about what you have done for the mothers of these children and other women in the villages to empower them?
Bhanu Didi: Empowerment is not just economic independence. Real empowerment enables a woman to deal with any circumstance or situation with confidence and an unshakeable smile.
I started VISTA India 15-year ago old to bring self-esteem, confidence and inner strength in rural women along with providing them skills training to earn money.
These women who were very shy and used to cover their faces with a veil; they are seen giving talks and lectures today. They drive auto-rickshaws, run post-offices, design garments -they empowered themselves without rebelling, getting agitated or accusing someone else of robbing their power. Nobody told them to stand up. They just did it one day and knew that nobody would oppose them.
Q: You have with you a large team of women volunteers who work with you. In what direction does your guidance take them?
Bhanu Didi: I would like every woman to come to the forefront and take responsibility. I would like them to become the light of leadership with a passion to serve humanity.
Only a lit candle can light another and when the light is of inspiration, it spreads like wildfire. Being the sister and disciple of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, I am inspired and share his vision for creating a stress-free, violence-free society. I want every woman who works with me to share this same vision.
Q: You are a perfect homemaker in spite of your many roles. How did your family support you for this?
Bhanu Didi: My mother continues to be a great source of inspiration to me. She taught me by her example how to take responsibility for one’s own life. My grandmother taught me to see the smoother and happier side of life. My aunt taught me the value of independence. My husband taught me the value of freedom, my children, the value of innocence, my father, friendliness and my brother, love and compassion towards the whole of humanity. My guru has taught me to combine all these values appropriately and move on joyfully in the journey called life. When you have the right guidance, your life is an ocean of contentment.
Q: You are ever-smiling and gentle, your words are subtle and pleasing, you don’t seem to have a forceful or dominant attitude that is normally associated with dynamism and power. How do you inspire and lead hundreds of volunteers?
Bhanu Didi: The ability to be multi-faceted, dynamic and radiate positivity and peace is innate. However the blossoming of this potential happens through spirituality. I call it blossoming – not development or progress. This naturalness is the essence of all the effortlessness and skill.
There are three qualities that are very effective when imbibed. One is Aishwarya – wealth and lordship. One may seem to have lordship through fear or power due to position but they are not pleasant. Lordship that comes out of love and respect has a different dimension to it. It is the true wealth in the relationship. The second is Madhurya or sweetness – sweetness in thought, word and action. It is our nature to be in a pleasant of mind. When you are stress-free and centered, this comes naturally to you. When you are pleasant, you create the same atmosphere around you. Others feel relaxed, comfortable and ‘at home’ in your company even if they had come with a disturbed mind. The third is Saundarya or the beauty and attraction that comes from inner strength. This strength can be developed through meditation. These refined qualities of the consciousness enhance one’s life and beauty. The mind is attracted to that which is beautiful. The mind likes to follow, but the goal is towards the Self, the source of divinity within us. When we move towards the source, we cannot return empty-handed. The Self or inner Being is the true leader. The Self has complete Lordship, is full of sweetness and is the source of all inner beauty and strength and as we move towards the Self, we become true leaders.
Q: Speaking of beauty, you don’t even use any make-up and look so beautiful. How do you manage this?
Bhanu Didi: Isn’t it wonderful to not have to depend on make-up etc? When your life is full of wonder – that is the secret.
Q: Would you like to share a few words of wisdom with our readers?
Bhanu Didi: Smile, Serve, Meditate and Celebrate!
It is with such effortless grace that Bhanu Narasimhan lives her life. Every achievement crowns her passion to celebrate service and reinforce human values.
Here is the video of the welcome address given by Bhanu Didi (Bhanumathi Narsimhan) at the International Women’s conference.