Exclusive | Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-My guru and my Best Friend: Michael Fischman

Posted on: Thursday, March 7, 2013 | Posted by: Art of Living Universe


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Men might try and be however materialistic, the end of it all is nothing, for you are born of dust and you will return to dust. But does this reality mean that you stop living life and become an ascetic. There are many theories and many philosophers and numerous gurus who are looking for answers, some say it’s the middle path, some say its moksha, whatever it might be known as spirituality and solace is what every soul seeks. So when Oxford Bookstore came up with the launch of Michael Fischaman’s ‘Stumbling into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment’, we took an opportunity to know about the spiritual and remarkable experience of Michael in his inner struggle and search for meaning.

Below are the excerpts of the conversation with Michael Fischman.

What events triggered the writing of this book?

I was a witness to the beginning of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, and many people asked me through the years what Sri Sri and that world was like in those days. People also wanted a glimpse of what an enlightened master or spiritual leader is like behind closed doors. And Sri Sri, for some reason, would periodically say I would write about some of those amazing experiences and inspire others. The project expanded as I started writing, and I started seeing the bigger picture of what had unfolded and how it related to my life. So those were some of the triggers.

There are many holy men in India. What brought you to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar? What part of his teaching inspired and healed you?

I had explored other methods for growth and experienced other holy men. I had an instant connection to him…once when I didn’t even know who he was. My heart opened and tears started rolling down my cheeks. And later when I went to a talk, the whole room became silent and the hair on my arms stood on end. He not only became a spiritual teacher and guru but also my best friend. He is alike a normal person, loving and funny, but I have never stopped being surprised by instances or experiences where his tremendous depth, awareness, and compassion are revealed. The techniques and principles he teaches are tremendously healing, but I think the interactions with him and the way he empowered me and revealed my own love and ability to contribute were major contributors. It seems like just interacting with him has its own healing and nurturing effect. I think that’s a common experience.

India and spirituality go hand in hand but a lot of people are duped in India on the pretext of spirituality. What do you think of that?

I am grateful to have Sri Sri as my teacher and in my long experience; I have seen that he lives with the highest integrity. But what you are asking about definitely happens in this world. People are duped in all fields and in all kinds of relationships and just not in spirituality. It seems like a greater disappointment for people who put their trust in someone at such personal level. But even those who were duped often say they learned a lot. The devotee is the one who makes a guru and that growth can never be taken away. For me, it has been amazing to see Sri Sri, decade after decade, in public, with dignitaries, in private, with just me, in small groups, and interacting in all kinds of situations and settings. He is always the same, and I have never seen or experienced anything that was any kind of a red flag. I feel fortunate.

You are associated with the cause of Genetically Modified Food. Why do you feel so passionately about this cause?

Science has found a way to put the genes of one plant or organism into the DNA of another. It is a fairly new technique and the insertion of genes in the DNA affects other genes, causing unknown and unforeseen mutations. Most of the plants that use this technique are attempting to make the plants resistant to insects. In the U.S., genetically modified corn is regulated as an insecticide. Research has shown that animals who were fed modified food developed pre-cancerous cells, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, false pregnancies, higher death rates--many things. Crop yield from these engineered seeds is abundant for a couple of seasons and then starts getting worse and worse, and the soil gets depleted from a lack of crop variety. This has contributed to farmer suicides in India, and the Art of Living has been very active in addressing that problem, and actively promotes organic and sustainable farming. Many local seed varieties are also disappearing. And the GMO damage can’t be controlled or isolated for long, since seeds are carried in the wind. You can see why I think it’s an important issue. It is an ecological disaster in the making.

You have had an experience with death in your early childhood. How do you feel when you realize that your words help people to deal with death and live life on better terms?

That is one great thing about all the social media, email, and instant communications. So many write to me to say how much my book has meant to them. I don’t hear so much specifically related to gaining a perspective on death, though naturally, realizing that everything is changing makes people focus on the quality of their lives; that the important thing is the intensity with which we are living right now. But more people tell me that they feel re-inspired or newly inspired to be on a spiritual path. And many have said they feel closer to Sri Sri after getting to know him through this book.

As a founding member and former President of the U.S. Art of Living Foundation, what is your role in the organization?

Everyone who is in the Art of Living is dedicated to creating a stress-free, violence-free society, whether they are volunteers or in any of the various leadership positions. We are all inspired by Sri Sri’s vision and I continue to teach various programs and help realize that vision however I can. Lately, I have also been sharing my book, which ends up giving a glimpse of that vision in a very personal way.

What are you working on next? Will we see more of spirituality in your writing or will it be completely different from your current book?

I have been sharing some things on my blog, and I am working on another book that focuses more specifically on relationships and Sri Sri’s practical wisdom. But right now, I am more focused on introducing people to “Stumbling into Infinity.”

The West is turning towards the East in terms of finding solace and peace of the soul. Why do you think is it so?

Peace is our nature, so it can be found in both the West and the East. But somehow, the West has specialized in the so-called objective means of improving life and expanding knowledge, technology and science. And the East has specialized more in the subjective means of gaining knowledge and deepening life through consciousness and expanded awareness. India, in particular, has such an ancient tradition, with so much knowledge cognized by the ancient rishis about the Self, how to contact it, how to remove the stress, karma, and habits that limit its full expression in the world, and which limit a person’s contact with their own deepest Self. That contact is experienced as peace, pure consciousness, and bliss. I would say that it just happens that this knowledge came from the East, just as Einstein’s theory of relativity came from the West. People don’t think of relativity or quantum mechanics as Eastern or Western, it is just knowledge about nature, and people go to wherever that knowledge is. The various techniques and ways to find peace and expand awareness are well-traveled paths in the East, so in a hectic and troubled world where technology have improved only some aspects of our lives, more people are looking to the East to help with the other parts.

Would you say that you are looking for answers to our existence as the existential philosophers did?

I am not as philosophical and intellectual as some. But early on, I asked Sri Sri about the meaning of life. He told me that I should feel lucky that I have this question. But that I shouldn’t be in a hurry to answer it. The very question meant that I had started on a journey that would take me deeper and put me more in touch with my Self. I think we all are ultimately interested in the peace, awareness, and love that arise from that inner contact and in the ability to live it and share it in daily life.


Source: Adgully

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