Enlightenment is a state where one is totally at ease with oneself. It is a state of relaxed awareness; an inner state transcending limited identities of faith, nationality or gender and beyond outer behavior. All spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, Sudarshan kriya experiences facilitate the journey to enlightenment. Adi Shankara beautifully describes this in the verses of the atmashtakam: “I am not the body, breath, mind, intellect, ego or memory – I am the ever pure consciousness whose nature is bliss, I am that innocence and benevolence.” Friendliness, compassion, contentment, an attitude of sharing and caring – all these are the qualities of one who is in their nature, centered. When we think ‘women’, soft, gentle, emotional, caring and sharing are the qualities that usually come to our mind. The emotional tendency of women allows them to be naturally more sensitive, a quality that plays a great role in understanding oneself and others. For example, a mother is sensitive to the child’s needs. A newborn child has no communication skills. It is dependant on the mother’s sensitivity. She is capable of an understanding beyond words, a mastery of the language of the heart. Enlightenment is also a realm where words have no access, but sensitivity has. The innate sensitivity of women, when combined with sensibility and wisdom, facilitates moving into the space of the Self. Enlightenment is a state of being where we are balanced. Women, playing so many roles, are constantly engaged in this balancing act. However, what is the difference between a woman who is spiritual and one who has not experienced that silent space yet? In the balancing game, one gets stress while the other gets bliss. The choice is ours. A mother, from the time of pregnancy, to child- birth, undergoes considerable discomfort physically, yet is unmindful and full of care and unconditional love for the child. When this sense of belongingness extends to the universal family, that enlightened state of the seers becomes visible in her. There are many women who have attained this state. Like flowers in the forest that go unnoticed, these women blossom not for recognition, but because it is in their nature. They lead contented and happy lives and spread it too. There are also the seers who have come with a purpose to uplift humanity from the crisis of values faced from time to time. Gargi, Maitreyi, Akka Mahadevi, Meera, Andal are all such women seers who have created waves of transformation`. Through wisdom and devotion, they helped people to connect to their higher Self. Enlightenment is all about this connectedness. In meditation, we experience this connection, or enlightenment for a few moments. Enlightened masters are connected 24X7. Once you have tasted this bliss, through self-effort and the grace of the master, these few moments can be extended. This is where the guidance of the master is required. Once Uddhava, Krishna’s cousin and gyani, went to the gopis to offer guidance and teach them meditation. They did as he said because they thought that Krishna wanted them to do so. He asked them to close their eyes, take deep relaxing breaths, take their attention to their heart, imagine that their heart is like a fully blossomed lotus and in the centre of the lotus is the lotus feet of the master, Lord Krishna. The gopis, at this point, could follow him no more. Why should Krishna be only in their heart? Every cell of their being was only Krishna. There was no existence for them outside Krishna. This meditation was not for them. This was the love of the gopis for Krishna. It is said, that a devotee, immersed in divine love, does not even care for enlightenment. Buddha’s disciple, Sariputra, upon enlightenment was asked to travel and spread the knowledge. Instead, he was lost in tears. When Buddha asked him, He simply replied, “Who wants to be enlightened? I was so happy serving you! Do not send me away!” He valued love and service above enlightenment. Sri Sri says,” When you don’t even care for enlightenment, you attain Divine Love.” Attaining a spiritual level is simply recognizing that there is life everywhere. This whole world is a combination of spirit and matter. The finest aspect of matter is spirit and the grossest aspect of spirit is matter. So, spiritual practices are not any different from you being spirited, happy, contented, and compassionate and in love. As women, these qualities are natural to us. So we should just learn to be happy, smile from the heart, stop worrying, meditate, serve and celebrate life. – Bhanumathi Narsimhan ( Bhanu didi )
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.
A beautiful Jaya Jaya Durge Maa bhajan in the melodious voice of Bhanumathi Narasimhan.
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.
‘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 adibhautik. Traya 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.
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.
A unique dialogue between Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and leaders from around the world on creating a stress free and violence free society. First online global meet of concerned citizens for stress free violence free society from across 60 countries.
Join Google+ Hangout with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on 26th January 2013 at 8:00PM IST, 10:00am GST, 3.00pm GMT.
Theme : What can we do to make a stress free and violence free society?
To register visit : Hangout with Sri Sri