HE is the guru who gave himself a double prefix and was named one of the “Seven Most Powerful People in India” by Forbes magazine in 2009. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar commands a mighty financial and spiritual empire—The Art of Living (AOL) —that has grown and continues to grow exponentially ever since he founded it, rather quietly, on Bengaluru’s outskirts, circa 1981. The name of the organisation he started was perhaps inspired by the title of a book called The Science of Being and Art of Living written in 1963 by his guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whom he abruptly left in 1980.
Today, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a global presence: there are over 10,000 centres across 156 countries and more than 370 million people have been “touched” by any one of his many programmes that “provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life”. He has a following that can rival any godman’s, although it is restricted to the middle- and upper-class educated sections of society.
His Bangalore International Centre on Kanakapura Road alone is spread over 100 acres (40 hectares), he runs a 244-bed ayurveda hospital, and his Sri Sri Tattva facility manufactures ayurvedic and proprietary medicines, cosmetics and food products. AOL’s India budget alone is around Rs 8 crore a month, which, a spokesperson said, “is mostly allocated for the running of the 425 free schools in tribal and rural areas and the 25,000 full-time staff and instructors”.
There is also a maze of sister organisations such as the International Association for Human Values, Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir, Vyakti Vikas Kendra India, Sri Sri Rural Development Program and the Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Trust, among others, all of which have been established to “promote and support courses promulgated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the AOL organisation worldwide”.
Source web page:Frontline