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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addresses various groups in Atlanta as part of his IstandforPeace campaign

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, November 15, 2022: “You need to rebuild trust. Common factors between clashing ideologies based on religious or political differences must be recognized. People who are neutral will need to take a big part in the initiative – especially the person/s who both parties trust most must be brought in. This is a lengthy process and will not resolve immediately. But the efforts must be relentless. Only through effective and meaningful ongoing conversations and communication, we will be able to bridge the gaps,” Sri Sri Ravishankar said in response to NRI Pulse’s question addressing the growing divide among people based on politics and religion.

Sri Sri was in Atlanta November 9-11, 2023, addressing various groups across the city as part of his worldwide IStandforPeace campaign. Sri Sri heads the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association of Human Values, which has its presence in over 156 countries.

Launched at the UN Headquarters in Geneva in April 2022, the IStandforPeace campaign was premised on intentions of being the driving force behind purposeful actions and a belief that resolve to stand for peace will empower those overwhelmed by the rising global aggression, to channel their energies into peaceful outcomes. In the months that followed, the campaign made its way to 25 cities across the United States and Europe. Sri Sri is back in the USA, and Atlanta was one of the first cities on his agenda.

On November 9, The Art of Living Foundation-Atlanta hosted “I Stand for Peace” at Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia. Newly elected Congressman Rich McCormick, Honorable Consul General of India, Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, founder of National Monuments Foundation, Rodney Cook, and former pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley joined Sri Sri in lighting the ceremonial lamp to kick off the evening’s proceedings.

“We must make our smiles cheaper and anger more expensive. We are doing the other way around,” Sri Sri said, addressing the crowd of over a thousand people. The peace envoy deems that peace begins within, at the level of the individual. He does not believe that anyone is inherently bad or born as a mean individual but is simply unaware of ways to handle their negative emotions and manage their minds. Highlighting the rise in suicides and depression, Sri Sri urged the need for meditation and simple breathing exercises, even if it is only for 10 minutes early in the morning. Emotions, he believes have definite patterns and by changing the breathing pattern with some breathing exercises, he said, people can change the way they feel. Mediation, he said is “Mental Hygiene.”

“It is a great pleasure and delight to have you visit Atlanta. And you are making an important announcement (World Culture Festival 2023), the same year we are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,” Dr. Kulkarni said in her address.

“The ties between our two great nations could never be stronger. There is no more strategically important country than India in the world to us right now…..We should never ever punish your success because you come here for the American dream and live it better than anyone,” Dr. Rich McCormick, said in his address.

The evening also set the audience an immersive meditation session that calmed the senses, yet energized the mind, body and soul. With spiritual musical renditions, Gurdev walked amidst the crowd across all rows of the packed hall. Sri Sri spoke with NRI Pulse and few other community leaders and prominent members at a meet and greet session held earlier.

“Sri Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji shares the peace that he experiences with all whom he comes in contact with whether it is in person, virtually, through his teachings or through the work of his volunteers. It was an honor to be in his presence, receive his blessings and guidance, introspect, meditate and be with his dedicated happy volunteers who shared their happiness with all those that were present,” Ritesh Desai, Founder Vanitywala, present at the event said.

Sri Sri extended an invitation to the World Culture Festival, a global event planned for September 2023, hosted by the Art of Living. This event aims to bring together 250,000 people for the largest group meditation in the country, and to create a platform for leaders, visionaries, artists, educators, philanthropists, etc. to come together in a celebration of what promises to be the “Olympics” of world culture. Sri Sri envisions the World Culture Festival as a global event that celebrates diversity in all forms, and sends a powerful message of peace, from the United States to the rest of the world.

“I am honored to be invited to serve on the Word Culture Festival (WCF) Host Committee. Sri Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s recent visit to Atlanta most definitely invigorated attendees and sent a wave of excitement amongst the supporters to see this mega event come to fruition in bringing the entire World together as one family to promote love, peace, & Harmony!!,” Neera Bahl, Judge, Director and Appellete Division Judge at Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, remarked.

“World Cultural Festival appears to be novel concept of celebration of global unity with diversity,” Dr. Anu Bhat noted.

“It was a great opportunity for me to be on an enchanting spiritual journey with Sri Sri and honored to be on the WCF host committee,” Rina Gupta, said.

Rajeev Menon, Founder, Board Member of Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA)

Echoed similar sentiments. “Sri Sri, who has been preaching about peace in our mind, our environment and between nations and continents, is the need of the hour when there is so much of conflict in the world over religions, ideologies, territories, and resources. Since peace outside starts from the peace within, his teachings and discourses are extremely beneficial to remove despondency, anxiety, and depression from daily life. I wish him and his volunteers the best on all their peace initiatives and the upcoming World Cultural Festival in Washington DC,” he said.

Mental Wellness in Campus Life

Titled “Mental Wellness in Campus Life,” on November 10, Sri Sri addressed a packed hall of six hundred curious students and thirty-five faculty members at a session hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology. Student leaders posed questions to Sri Sri on a variety of topics, including managing stress of academics, dealing with anger and anxiety, developing emotional resilience, even style and fashion! The audience was enthralled by Sri Sri’s inimitable combination of wit and wisdom. He led the assembly through a deep meditation session. Sri Sri also met with Tech faculty members who shared their ideas and thoughts about developing sustainable and holistic solutions to the mental health crisis among young people, especially students.

Art of Living’s Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) programs are regularly conducted at Georgia Tech, and discussions have begun about a collaboration with Sri Sri University to expand the reach of these workshops.

Gandhi Peace Pilgrim award

 The Gandhi Foundation USA presented Sri Sri with the prestigious Gandhi Peace Pilgrim award on November 10, fittingly, by the statue of the Mahatma at Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Sri Sri was awarded the distinction “to honor his outstanding service and contribution to humanity “to being the change we want to see in the world, “through his wisdom, insight, and inspiration in the spirit Gandhi-King teaching of peace and Ahimsa, as we have it inscribed on the award, Subash Razdan, Founder, Gandhi Foundation USA, said. Isaac Farris, nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Honorable Consul General of India, graced the occasion. Dalai Lama was one among previous recipients of this recognition.

“Certain messages are timeless messages. In this category, Martin Luther King’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s messages are very relevant. They are fresh to every age in every generation. Sometimes it becomes even more relevant. In today’s world where we are facing such polarization and tension, the message of peace must be heard loud and clear,” Sri Sri said during his award acceptance.

Sri Sri later led the community in peace walk up-to King crypts and laid wreaths at King Crypts.

Highlighting the fact that the place was special to him, Farris noted that his aunt (Coretta Scott King,) wanted to ensure that the first thing people saw when they entered the park was the statue of the statue of the Mahatma.”Having you (Sri Sri) here today is one of the greatest joys of our life and highlight of the King’s Center,” he said.

Following Gandhian values of non-violence, Sri Sri is often referred to as the Master of Love. He has worked with governments and civil society leaders to progress peace in conflict-stricken areas of Sri Lanka, Iraq, Venezuela, and Colombia, among others. He has also been actively involved in efforts to promote peace and sustainable development in countries including India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Haiti. Recently, he proposed the settlement adopted by the Supreme Court in Indian to settle the age-old Ayodhya dispute.

Talk with Ambassador Andrew Young

On the morning of November 11, Sri Sri joined Ambassador Andrew Young at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel for an illuminating conversation on creating a peaceful society. The talk was moderated by Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., Professor of Religion and Founding Dean of the Chapel and Dr. Reverend Gerald Durley, Pastor Emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Sri Sri reminded the audience of the power present in each individual to create a world free from violence and racial discrimination.

On the morning of November 11, Sri Sri joined Ambassador Andrew Young at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel for a conversation on creating a peaceful society. The talk was moderated by Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., Professor of Religion and Founding Dean of the Chapel and Dr. Reverend Gerald Durley, Pastor Emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Sri Sri reminded the audience of the power present in each individual to create a world free from violence and racial discrimination.

Burnout in Academia and Healthcare

In the afternoon, Sri Sri addressed an audience of two hundred and fifty people at the Goodrich White Hall at Emory University speaking about “Burnout in Academia and Healthcare.” Sri Sri shared tips to maintain perfect health at all levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual— and overcome depression and aggression through the use of meditation and breathing techniques. Underscoring the importance of mediation, Sri Sri said it is the way to increase memory power, intuitive abilities, and create a calm and collected mind. He answered several questions from students about creating work-life balance, improving focus and concentration, dealing with failures, and the impact of social media on mental health.

For more information about the Art of Living programs in Atlanta, you may contact atlanta@us.artofliving.org or 1-877-265-4846.

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