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Indian guru plans to reform Nepal’s Maoists

Indo-Asian News Service, India
Nov. 4, 2004
news.newkerala.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday November 6, 2004

[World News]: Kathmandu, Nov 4 : An Indian spiritual leader who has followers worldwide plans to reform Nepal’s Maoist insurgents with love and a breathing technique.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the 46-year-old founder of the Art of Living Foundation in India, who preaches conquering anger and other negative emotions through philanthropy and breathing practices, was in Nepal on a three-day visit to spread the “message of love and harmony”.

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“Nepal is hoping that the arrival of Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose Art of Living Foundation teaches how to deal with negative emotions through breathing control techniques, will reinforce the image of Nepal as a safe destination for tourists, especially from India.”
- Nepal courts Indian gurus to improve image abroad

The long-haired bearded guru, whose followers have been working with inmates in prisons in India, South America and Africa, met village heads from Nepal’s Terai region to discuss starting training camps in the plains to bring out leadership qualities in Nepalese youth and give them a “sense of direction”.

The guru said that among those he met in the southern district of Birgunj, his first port of call in the Himalayan kingdom, were young men associated with Maoist rebels.

People who join militant movements usually harbour great stress and fear, which impede thinking and forgiving, Ravi Shankar said. Revenge becomes the dominant theme in their lives.

“But inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help,” he told IANS. “So when the victim is helped, the culprit disappears.”

Teachers from the Art of Living Foundation, Ravi Shankar said, have been holding meditation courses for outlawed Maoist organisations in India that have close links with Nepal’s Maoists.

“These people have zeal, energy and courage,” he said. “If they are given a positive direction, they could do a lot. Stress, fear, anxiety and distress make them turn to violence and wrong ideology motivated by revenge.

“The breathing techniques help them calm down and think in a more productive manner. After undergoing the sessions, they tell me they were wrong to use violence.”

Ravi Shankar says his followers taught the Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique that improves physical and mental energy and creates harmony, in a prison in Mumbai where the inmates included people imprisoned for alleged links with Al Qaeda.

“After the course, they said ‘we were taught we will go to heaven after we die if we kill’,” the guru said. “‘But you have taught us we can get heaven here’.”

The Nepal chapter of the Art of Living Foundation was registered as a society in May 2004. Its followers have already been conducting courses for the inmates of Nakhu Prison in Kathmandu valley.

Ravi Shankar said he had spread the message that he would like to meet the rebels or hold courses for them on their home turf.

The Maoists, who have been waging an eight-year-old war to overthrow monarchy and establish a communist republic, broke away from peace talks with three different governments. They have rejected government calls to resume the dialogue.

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