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Meditation in Pittsburgh

Art of Living Foundation teaches sudarshan kriya meaning proper vision of oneself.

india Updated: Apr 23, 2003 17:55 IST

Many a spiritual and religious leader has come from India to preach in the United States - Swami Vivekananda, Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to name a few.

And the latest to reach here with his spiritual healing techniques is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

It was an evening of wisdom, music and deep meditation as Ravi Shankar, internationally known for his stress-relieving rhythmic breathing techniques and teachings of human values, hosted his famous "One World Family Tour" at the Sheraton Station Square ballroom in Pittsburgh.

Worldwide over a million people in 130 countries have been following his adapted version of the 'sudarshan kriya', an ancient stress-relieving breathing technique.

Through his Art of Living Foundation, a non-profit organisation, courses are taught on "sudarshan kriya ... meaning 'proper vision of oneself.'

"According to Karlene Powell, an interior designer and Art of Living course instructor in Pittsburgh, the technique involves "aligning your breath with the rhythm that he teaches, you align yourself with your highest self or your soul. The result is that people become very, very happy and seem to develop increased resistance to common diseases."

Over 300 people in the Pittsburgh area have learned the technique during the past decade, and over 50,000 nationwide have taken courses during the past 15 years, according to Powell.

With his long, dark hair and beard, and flowing, white robes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, 46, is the very picture of a spiritual teacher. And his following is growing here.

Powell, who has practised this meditative method for 10 years, says: "He is a charming, charismatic, simple man, and just being in his presence can trigger an awakening in you."

"When you meet him, there's just this energy about him," says Michelle King, 50, an interior designer from Sewickley, was quoted as saying by a local daily, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"He lives what he preaches -- absolute love, absolute goodness. It's like a Hindu, male version of Mother Teresa."

Ravi Shankar is known for being a proponent of international humanitarian causes. He has been invited to speak at United Nations World Economic Summits in Switzerland and New York as well as world conferences on conflict resolution, human values and human rights, and racism and discrimination.

The Art of Living Foundation has four retreat centres worldwide and also sponsors service projects and schools in underdeveloped countries. Ravi Shankar's techniques have been used to calm juvenile offenders in Los Angeles County as well as court employees in Detroit. He offered the course free in New York City for three months after September 11.

The U.S. headquarters for the Art of Living Foundation are in Santa Barbara, California.

The first Art of Living Course runs for six consecutive days and costs $250 for adults and $125 for students and senior citizens. "There are lectures from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar about life and about living life in the best way you can as a member of humanity," said a follower here.

"It's a sort of universal law, no matter what your religion or your background, you have to live from the heart and be an asset to humanity no matter where you are."