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An Interview with Bhanu Didi

20 May

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.

Bhanu Didi - Bhanumathi Narasimhan

Bhanu Didi

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?
Bhanu Didi:
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?

Bhanu Didi:
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.

Guru Om CD by Bhanu Didi

Guru Om CD by Bhanu Didi

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.

Bhanu didi at International Women's Conference

Bhanu didi at International Women’s Conference

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.

Bhanu didi with the children

Bhanu didi with the children

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.

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What successful women do right!

20 Mar

As a woman on the path to success we expect to feel a sense of achievement when we see that we have reached the top, where we wanted to be. How does it look from there? Will the world and people around you look beautiful? Will the journey to the top be pleasant and memorable? For so many women whom I have met this journey has certainly not been easy. It is not always a journey of mutual support, upliftment and friendliness. Instead, you have to be careful about who is conspiring to push you down. There are many challenges, not just due to gender bias, but also due to an unhealthy competition and jealousy from other women themselves! This kind of journey can be very stressful and takes its toll on our body and mind.

Sri Sri says that one who manages all challenges that life gives is successful. However, what are the skills that we need to be able to do this and succeed?

  • Commitment – One failure can lead to another success later. We should not be deterred by failures.
  • Time – It is not sufficient to invest money to nurture or develop anything. We have to giveour personal time and attention.
  • Setting an Example – A successful woman doesn’t just show you the way; She walks the talk.
  • Team work – Make others feel involved – inspire participation and contribution.
  • Silence – Nurture quietude and calmness.
  • Reflection – Sit quietly at the end of the day, looking back at all the day’s activities, seeing where we made a difference. Reminding ourselves of the successes, it can inspire us to do more.

A woman has to balance her family, relationships, work, interests – all of these and more on the road to success. When you realize that you are multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, you can multi-task. This realization comes when you are in a calm and serene state of mind, which is achieved through meditation.

When you meditate, the task that took you four hours to complete earlier gets done in two hours. It is necessary that you give prime time to yourself, to relax yourself, to realize your potential to do better. Otherwise you limit your capabilities. When you meditate, you realize the expansion within you, that limitlessness within you.

The meditative woman is successful.Belongingness, commitment, connectedness  – all these qualities are a byproduct of meditation. Sri Sri often says, “success means strength, an unshakeable smile that nobody can take away and a courage that does not diminish. It does not mean having a big bank balance. There are some very rich people who do not have the strength of character. They don’t have a sense of belongingness or love. They are unable to appreciate the subtleness of life.”

True success is when it extends to both the material and inner realms. Are you enjoying the little things in your life? Have you lately observed the glistening dewdrops in the grass? The birds chirping, the sparrows drinking water, the blue jay feeding, the eagles circling overhead, the beautiful flowers, have you cleaned your window pane, have you watered the small little plants in your garden? Have you observed the lucky bamboo with two more leaves, enjoyed the design on your carpet and the craftsmanship – the beautiful colors, made a new salad dressing, experimented with your sandwich – this is the sign of a successful woman – living every moment to the fullest.

I have always believed that a woman is the heart of the family – she keeps everyone together. A woman is the heart of society – when you empower women to succeed, you are enabling society to prosper.

– Bhanumathi Narasimhan

The article source is from http://artofliving.org.

About Gayatri Mantra

1 Mar

 

gayatri mantra by bhanumathi narasimhan

 

‘Let my mind and the whole existence

be illumined and purified by your radiance’

Gayatri is the one who glides through the three states of consciousness joyfully, playfully, effortlessly and lightly, as though it were a song. When we ‘sing through’ something, it means it is not a burden for us. ‘Gayanti traayate iti gayatri’. The Gayatri mantra affects all the three states of consciousness, jagrut(waking), sushupt (deep sleep), swapna(dream) and the three layers of existence adhyatmik, adidhaivik and adibhautikTraya also refers to the taapatraya or the ailments(taapa) that adversely affect the body, mind and soul: the body by physical ailments, the mind by negativity and restlessness in the soul. The Gayatri Shakti (energy or field of vibration) enables one to transcend and be unaffected by the tapatraya’s.

The Gayatri mantra sharpens the intellect and brightens the memory. A new mirror reflects clearly, but over time, dust gathers and it needs cleaning. Similarly our mind becomes tainted with time, the company that we keep, the knowledge we receive and our latent tendencies. When we chant the Gayatri mantra, it is like deep cleansing, so that the mirror (the mind) reflects in a better way. Through the mantra, the inner glow is kindled, the inner plane is kept alive. One gains brilliance in both the inner and outer worlds.

The Gayatri mantra has 24 letters corresponding to the 24 vertebrae of the spine. The backbone is what provides support and stability to our body. Similarly, the Gayatri mantra brings stability in our intellect.

The Gayatri Shakti is the energy field which is a culmination of three energies: Tejas (radiance), Yashas (victory) andVarchas (brilliance). When you chant the Gayatri mantra, these energies manifest in you and you also gain the power to bless. These same energies are transmitted to the one receiving the blessings also.

Tejasvi Bhuyasau – May you be radiant

Varchaswi Bhuyasau – May you be brilliant

Yashasvi Bhuyasau – May you be victorious

All seeds have the potential to become a tree. Some are cognised and are available to us like the bija mantras. Some are fully expressed, where the fruit is also expressed, like the Gayatri mantra. A seed contains all the development of a sprawling tree. Similarly, these syllables of the Gayatri mantra contain within a nutshell all the possibilities of creation.

Before thought becomes a word, it is a subtle vibration, unexpressed, beyond the cognition of the mind. When the mind is unable to cognise, it dissolves and moves into the meditative space. This is how mantras enable one to transcend the mind and move into meditation. It is not necessary to understand the meaning of the mantras to experience its benefits. For e.g, even the sounds of laughter or crying can cause a shift in our consciousness. Similarly, the energy field created by the sound vibrations of the mantras elevate our consciousness and allow us to be established in that serene, pure, infinite state of our Being.

In the Vedic tradition, a child is first initiated to the highest knowledge – the Gayatri mantra. After that, all other forms of education are given. It is said in the scriptures that women are also eligible to learn the vedas and chant the Gayatrimantra. The ideal time to chant is the the transitory hours of dawn and dusk. The times when the sun has set but it is neither dark nor light and when the night has passed and the day is yet to begin. In these moments, the mind also enters an altered state of consciousness. The moments belong neither to the previous state nor the next. It is the right time to be focussed on the Self instead of being caught up in changes or movement. In these hours, the mind can easily be confused and slip into inertia, lethargy, negativity and so on or be elevated and move into a meditative state radiating positivity. Chanting the Gayatri mantra rejuvenates the mind and maintains it in an elevated and energized state.

Energizing from the source of radiance – that is the Gayatri mantra. The scintillating lively energy – that is the Gayatri Shakti.

Spirituality competes with Super glue: Bhanumathi Narasimhan ; TOI

7 Feb

Bhanumati Narsimhan interview times of india

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.

 

Shivoham Shivoham bhajan by Bhanumathis Narasimhan & its meaning

27 Dec

“Shivoham” means “I am Shiva”. Shiva is the pure unbounded all-pervading consciousness (the transcendental self, the Absolute). Here is an explanation of “Shivoham” bhajan.

”Shiva” here means that innocent, blissful, splendid, golden, beautiful.
“Shivoham” — I am Shiva. Splendid, the most innocent.
“Shiva Swarupoham” — my nature is Shiva. My form is Shiva. I am made up of a substance that is Shiva — innermost me.

“Nityoham” — I am ever present. I am always there. Body dies, disappears, but I am there.
“Nityoham Shuddhoham” — I am ever pure. Nothing can touch me. All these things come and go, but they cannot touch me, they cannot do anything to me.
“Buddhoham” — I am always enlightened.
“Shivoham Shivoham Shiva Swarupoham. Nityoham” — I am eternal. There is no end to me.

“Advaita Ananda Rupam Arupam. Shivoham Shivoham Shiva Swarupoham” — There is no two. It is me in all the forms, all over. It is me. My breath is flowing everywhere. I am the formless though I am inside a form. My spirit has no form. Though I am formless, I move in forms, in all forms in the whole world.

“Brahmoham Brahmoham Brahma Swarupoham” — I am the Brahman, the totality, the all.
“Chidoham Chidoham” — I am the consciousness. I am lively. I am full of life. I am pure energy and pure consciousness.”
~~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Spirituality and Creativity

10 Dec

creativity and spirituality by Bhanumathi Narasimhan

As I look out the window on this beautiful winter morning, I see one tree without a single leaf and right next to it is an evergreen on the verge of bursting with small ripe red fruit. What role does the weather have to play? Who chooses which leaves fall?

There are close to 7 billion people on this planet and an equal or greater number of thoughts and ideas born every moment. One can only wonder how the idea chooses the person!

The world has close to 2 billion Internet users but the first computer was born as an idea in the mind of one person. A nuclear bomb has the capacity to affect so many thousands of lives and was created in the mind of one person. When a sub-atomic particle can be the source of so much energy, the mind is much more finer, much more subtle and certainly much more powerful. The skill is in knowing how to tap this infinite source of energy and creativity.

For creativity, time is not a factor. The intention to be creative is important. At the same time, we cannot plan to be creative. Sometimes we look at a leaf, a tree, running water, the vastness of the sky and something happens! The solution is there in front of us. Being with nature has a calming effect on the mind. It brings the mind to the present moment, which is the field of all possibilities. It brings the mind to a space of wonderment and silence where creative ideas take shape. Spiritual practices like meditation have this same effect on the mind. They take us to our inner realm, which is the basis of creativity. When our mind is calm and relaxed, creativity wells up from within.

We all know that our brain has two hemispheres; the right and the left. Science says that the left-brain is associated with analysis, logic, whereas the right brain activity is connected to music, emotions, and creativity. In our normal day-to-day life, we tend to use our left-brain more often as we try to understand, question, judge the people and situations around us. This creates an imbalance in the way we perceive reality. Similarly, if we spend the entire day listening to music or singing songs, even that can make us dull and tired. Creativity cannot arise in a mind that is out of balance or tired. This is where meditation helps. Meditation restores the balance. It brings centeredness. It calms the agitated mind and refreshes and re-energizes the tired mind. It creates the perfect field for ideas to flow.

However, not all ideas that are born fructify. Even if they fructify, they are not all useful. How do we know which ideas to invest our effort and energies into? This is where intuition in combination with creativity is necessary. An intuitive intelligence can innovate for the benefit of human kind.

Intuition is often referred to as the sixth sense. When all thoughts are in harmony with nature, such a mind is intuitive. This alignment needs to be nurtured through meditation.  Even a ‘creative’ person will find that the quality of his or her ideas change and improve as they meditate.

Often, a person in love experiences a surge of creativity. They write poems, think-up special gifts, make paintings and so on. And, when the attachment towards the subject of love subsides, the creativity also takes a downward trend. The secret is to make our attachment bigger. Refining and expanding our love to include the entire cosmos, sustains and nourishes our creative abilities. Furthermore, the ideas that are born are beneficial for humanity.

Spirituality is living the values of caring and sharing. It is about connecting to the supreme intelligence that is the source of all wisdom and creativity. When this connection to the inner-net is firmly established, we become agents of peace with the ability to creatively find win-win solutions to the challenges that confront every individual and society.

Bhanumathi Narasimhan

Center of Energy

30 Nov

centers of energy by Bhanumathi narasimhan

 

There are seven centers of energy or Shakti in the body called Chakras. Different emotions are linked with each of these energy centers.

The first Chakra, Muladhara, is located in the base of the spine. Here, the energy manifests as inertia or enthusiasm.

The second Chakra, Swadhistana is the sex center just four inches above the base of the spine. Here energy manifests as pro-creativity or creativity.

The third Chakra, Manipura, is the navel center where energy manifests as four emotions: Generosity, joy, greed and jealousy (two positive emotions and two negative emotions)

The fourth Chakra, Anahata, is located in the chest region. Here, the energy manifests as three emotions- love, fear and hatred.

The fifth Chakra, Vishuddhi, is located in the throat region and is the center where energy manifests as two emotions – gratitude and grief.

The sixth Chakra, Ajna, is located between the eyebrows and is the center where energy manifests as anger and alertness.

The seventh Chakra, Sahasrara, is located in on the top of the head and is the center where energy manifests as bliss. The Sahasrara is also called Brahmarandhra.

When we lead a Sattvic (pure and disciplined) life, the Chakras are properly activated.

Divine intelligence is a combination of intelligence and intuition. Ojas is the intuitive power – the Sattvic field of energy which is present or developed only by Sadhana.

When the Kundalini Shakti is invoked, the Ojas travels through the Sushumna nadi (channel for energy flow) along the six chakras to the Brahmarandhra giving ride to Siddhi or a state of perfect equilibrium.

The upward and downward movement of energy through these Chakras give rise to the play and display of consciousness as the various positive and negative emotions. Sadhana, self-effort or practice, and Satsang, the company of the wise, facilitates the upward movement of the energy through the various Chakras and enables us to maintain a pleasant state of mind.

– Bhanumathi Narasimhan

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