A vibrant and exhilarating narrative that portrays the life and times (and achievements) of one of the
most unconventional gurus today
This is the definitive biography of one of the most magnetic men in the world today-a
man who has an ever-growing following (which runs into millions) across the globe. From Bangalore
to Bosnia and from Tamil Nadu to Trinidad, his very presence, his grace, and his technique have
touched and transformed numerous lives. a tireless traveler and a constant seeker of knowledge, he
has addressed the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and bright young minds at Harvard
University. In a world torn apart by strife and hostility, he has carried the eternal message of love and
compassion and has sought to revive basic human values.
Wherever he goes, people from all walks of life - housewives, students, working people,
and celebrities-seek his blessings and advice. Amazingly, he makes each one of them feel special and
cherished. Each gesture of his exudes love, innocence, and joy. At the same time, he comes up with
practical solutions for all the problems plaguing us today; terrorism, war, political dysfunction,
personal conflicts, and psychological complications.
Who is this playfully profound, child-like, ever-smiling guru whose avowed mission is to
‘put a smile on the face of every person he meets”? He is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the
Art of Living Foundation, with centres in over 130 countries.
This timely and insightful volume presents a fascinating look into Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s
childhood, adolescence, formative years, and his subsequent growth that catapulted him onto the
international stage. The author describes in graphic detail how he set up his foundation how he
developed, after meditating deeply, the Sudarshan Kriya (a transformative process that has
miraculous healing powers), and how he strives ceaselessly to spread his simple but remarkable
philosophy: celebrate life!
Francois Gautier, born in Paris in 1950, is a French journalist and writer, who, initially,
for fifteen years, was the political correspondent in India and South Asia for Le Journal de Geneve
and, subsequently, for Le Figaro (France’s largest circulated newspaper) for eight years. He is the
author of several books: Un autre Regard sur L’Inde, Arise O India, A Western Journalist on India,
and India’s Self-Denial.
He is married to Namrita and has lived in India for more than three decades.
At a time when many people feel that modern knowledge and ancient traditions tend to contradict
each other, it is refreshing to come across someone like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who has been able to
reconcile his scientific education with his Vedic training to find a path relevant to contemporary
needs. As a result, he has established the Art of Living Foundation, whose avowed aim of
encouraging people from all backgrounds, religions, and cultural traditions to join together in
celebration and service is highly admirable. I have had the pleasure of meeting him several times as
well as visiting his ashram.
Francois Gautier’s long-standing personal and professional interest in India has found expression in
this book about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I am sure readers who are concerned to find ways to
reawaken human values in their own lives today will find much here to inspire them.
Peace has many more meanings than we may think, and its absence in our lives produces more
problems than we know No one in the twenty-first century has probably worked more towards the
promotion of peace than His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. In recognition of his extraordinary
achievements in this field, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
Who doesn’t want a little peace of mind? In today’s scenario, this entity appears to be something of
a rarity. The daily stresses of modern living are taking a heavy toll physically and mentally, leading to
conflict and friction at the workplace, nervous disorders, disease, and even suicide. The Art of Living
course, created by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, provides tools that help in bringing back peace
to our lives. Techniques in breathing, sound relaxation, and meditation, among many others, are used
to eliminate stress from the system, so that the mind gains the clarity to look within and the body is
able to calm and strengthen itself.
Today, even our children are subjected to a host of stresses, from broken homes and pressures at
school to increasing exposure to violence and sex. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar thus came up with ART
Excel (All Round Training in Excellence), a programme specifically designed for young people. This
unique course promotes the understanding of human values and encourages the overall well-being of
children and young adults through a variety of empowering techniques that foster mental clarity and
focus, physical relaxation and health, and emotional stability.
We need peace in our society. Many of those who disturb that peace end up in jail, where they are
meant to be reformed. But we know that, in reality, what happens is quite different: jails more often
breed bitterness and anger towards society rather than bring about change. In view of this serious
drawback, the Art of Living Foundation developed a programme called Prison SMART — Prison
Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training. Aside from helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves,
the programme teaches them life skills that enable inmates to accept responsibility for their past
actions and to handle future conflicts successfully. In India, more than 120,000 prisoners from across
the country have undergone Prison SMART with spectacular results. Now, it is being used in many
jails around the world.
Terrorism is possibly the biggest threat to world peace today. Many political leaders believe they can
counter terrorism only through war or other violent measures. But Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has
understood that spirituality alone can vanquish terrorism. His special programmes have won over an
Al-Qaeda terrorist from Bombay, Naxalites (leftist militants) from southern India, and over 50
terrorists from Kashmir prisons.
What about those who have been terrorized in different countries of the world? Eighty per cent of
Kosovo’s (a part of the former Yugoslavia that witnessed a great deal of violence from the 1980s
onwards) population, for instance, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the
Harvard Medical Group. Art of Living volunteers have spent ten years working in Kosovo; later,
they have been active in Israel, other Balkan regions, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan and,
most recently, in war-ravaged Iraq, where people are beginning to successfully use yoga, meditation,
and breathing techniques to overcome emotional and physical trauma.
Next, we come across those who have been affected by natural calamities, such as the 26 December
2004 tsunami that devastated many regions of Asia, apart from taking a heavy toll. About 5000 Art
of Living volunteers were involved in tsunami relief efforts worldwide. Over 3500 people were
treated for post-traumatic stress disorders by using a range of Art of Living methods. Hurricane
Katrina, in August 2005, left a trail of destruction through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in the
US. Victims immediately needed not only medical treatment, food, and water, but also the most
urgent trauma care, which the Art of Living trauma relief programmes provided post-haste.
Finally, how will we ever attain peace if the poor and the downtrodden around the world are not
looked after (and their agonies alleviated) and the divide between the haves and the have-nots isr1’t
addressed? The 5H prograrnme — home, health, hygiene, harmony in diversity, and human values
— is helping to make a difference to the world through service and spirituality. The aim of this
programme is to uplift individuals and communities so that they become self-reliant, socially and
economically. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘soldiers of peace’ have adopted 25,300 Indian villages in 25
states, trained 25,710 village youngsters in youth leadership training programmes, and conducted
over 75,000 village—oriented courses that have benefited more than 2.3 million people. Sri Sri Ravi
Shankar has touched the lives of numerous people across the globe. In February 2006, 3.5 million
people from 145 countries, including heads of state, religious leaders, and dignitaries, graced the
silver jubilee celebrations of the Art of Living Foundation held in Bangalore. People from every race,
religion, and creed came together to celebrate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s message of peace, unity, and
The Gum of Joy recounts the story of the true Apostle of Peace of the twenty-first century.
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