Sri Sri Ravi Shankar completed a traditional education in Vedic literature and modern science when he was only seventeen. In 1982, he began to teach the Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique that cuts down stress and helps individuals focus on the present moment. Today this program is taught around the world as part of the Art of Living course. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded the Art of Living Foundation, a UN affiliated non-governmental agency, and is the inspiration behind many charitable organizations devoted to the service of others. This paperback, edited by Bill Hayden and Anne Elixhauser, contains excerpts from five years of talks given around the world. The material is arranged into three thematic sections: the first covers some of the bad habits and selfish ways that we want to change; the second zeroes in on what it means to be on a spiritual path with discussions of service, surrender, and freedom; and the third examines "You, God and Beyond."
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believes that vows are a helpful tool when it comes to working on bad habits. By making a conscious intention not to do something for a certain period of time, we begin to focus our energies and learn the spiritual art of patience. Another strategy he suggests comes out of the Hindu tradition: If you cannot eliminate vices, magnify them. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi used to be greedy for the poor. Wherever he went he raised money for them. Shankar says: "What is the point of getting angry about small events? Be angry about the infinite, about Brahma . . . If cravings gnaw at you, crave the truth. If jealousy haunts you, be jealous about seva (service)." He suggests that we learn to be tender with our flaws realizing that in time, they will wither away. And here's some good advice: "Make your smile cheaper and your anger expensive."
Contentment still eludes so many people living in the lap of luxury. This spiritual teacher offers the following counsel: "Though the river is vast, a little sip quenches your thirst. Though the earth has so much food, just a small bite satisfies your hunger. All that you need are tiny bits. Accept a tiny bit of everything in life that will bring you fulfillment." Contentment comes from the freedom that grows out of being satisfied with tiny blessings. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is especially cogent in his suggestions on how to deal with jealousy and handle rudeness. Handling the incivility of others is good training: "The next time someone is rude to you, make sure you do not get upset. Just return a broad smile. If you can digest rudeness, nothing whatsoever can shake you."
This paperback is a rich resource for anyone on a spiritual path since it contains so much wise advice on things of ultimate concern, such as love of God, service, longing, and seeing the Divine in others. Here's a final quotation on what we call the spiritual practice of you: "Service without attitude / Love without reason / Knowledge without intellect / Life beyond time and events / is what you are."