Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has quietly sent taped messages to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to establish direct contact with the separatist guerrillas in the latest bid to bring peace to Sri Lanka.
"We have established contact with the LTTE. We have sent taped messages to their leaders. We will bring peace to Sri Lanka soon. There is a bit of stagnation now in thrashing out issues," the spiritual guru said.
"We have already spoken with the government of Sri Lanka. I was there recently. There is a general feeling on all sides that Tamils need to lead a life of self respect," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told the agency in an interview at his 'ashram', or hermitage.
According to him, volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation have worked in many strife-ridden nations like Iraq, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bosnia and know well the reason for conflict in such places, which should be useful in Sri Lanka as well.
Volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation - which claims more than 20 million followers in some 146 countries - say the peace and reconciliation mission was taken up in Sri Lanka as well as the country was once again heading towards war.
"The main reason for conflict in Sri Lanka is lack of communication between the two sides, a narrow understanding of issues - some basic mistrust and fear. In fact, there it is a lack of values," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said.
"Art of living is about peace. We will train the youth, speak to them. They will become role models in removing misconceptions and prejudices among the people of Sri Lanka. I speak Tamil. The pride of Tamils has to be restored."
"We are also holding talks with the Norwegians and Germans. But our channel of communication with the Sri Lankan government and the Tamils will be direct," he said, referring to the international peace initiatives in the country.
Earlier this month, former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had visited Sri Sri Ravi Shankar here and had urged him to help to bring peace to Sri Lanka - a request, which was also made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Art of Living project has been active in Sri Lanka's Tamil and Sinhala-dominated areas since the December 2004 tsunami that killed over 30,000 people there.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself went to Sri Lanka in January - where the idea of conciliation first struck him and he decided to send Swami Sadyojathah, the Art of Living representative in the country - to Jaffna.
Since then, Swami Sadyojathah and his team have been working not only in Colombo but in Tamil dominated areas - in close association with pro-LTTE outfits like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, hermitage volunteers here said.
The Art of Living founder visited Sri Lanka again in April and met with a wide section of the people, both Sinhalese and Tamils, political leaders, Buddhist monks and diplomats.
"The visits were really eye openers. I was the first spiritual person from India to visit there in 22 years. There was both gratitude and frustration in the eyes of the people there. Over 80,000 people turned up."