Gearing Towards a Violence Free America

Media’s focus on America’s gun culture increased after the Sandy school shootings. A twenty year old killed 20 children and injured six others. The shooting was the second deadliest in U.S history, behind the 2007 shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute that claimed 32 people. Then there were two more in January adding fresh color to the new year fireworks. Places of entertainment such as movie theaters and malls were transformed into death traps Next time one hears sound and sees light simultaneously, he might wonder if its a celebration or a shooting! .
US government is busy enforcing stricter weapon control laws to curb gun violence. USA is one among several nations where purchasing firearms is quite easy. While some states require that you have a license before purchasing a gun others require that you have a license to carry it in public. These laws although elaborate and well defined aren’t restrictive in many states. The lobby comprising of gun dealers and manufacturers have exploited the loopholes to advance their self-interests.
However, after the recent spate of attacks, Obama administration has laid growing emphasis on banning assault weapons, initiating thorough background checks for all the applicants, stepping up the security on the streets and closely collaborating health care providers. One such executive action is ‘starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership’ campaign. There is huge awareness in the media on creating a violence free stress free society especially among the youths. The burgeoning candle light vigils, mourning gatherings, protests and peace marches are testimony to the sense of kinship and caring that keeps us united. This is still a country where an individual freedom and safety are upheld to a very high degree.
Laws alone are not sufficient to ensure an orderly safe society. The more the regulations and the more stringent they are, people who want to rebel, cause chaos, engineer loopholes and escape routes and manipulate the laws will only increase. Majority of the shooting suspects were either teenagers or young adults. Some even had a traumatized childhood filled with abuse and neglect. They knew what they were about to do was illegal, that they would be punished severely if caught and yet they went ahead and committed these gruesome acts. Some placed their desire to kill well above their own survival. So stricter laws can decrease gun violence marginally only. Also, statistics show that the overall gun violence and possession of fire arms has decreased considerably in the past decade. So the problem is not just in possession of arms or loose laws. It lies hidden elsewhere.
The real challenge is tacking the violence within us. It is the rage inside us that seeks expression and attention. Unless we learn how to regulate these violent tendencies inside us we cannot curb the violence outside. Incidents of hatred and rejection in childhood often leave indeliable impressions in one’s memory. When we build our life and its future around these impressions we slowly reflect the very same negative feelings. The pent up anger and frustration seeks vent through such violent acts. Painting a broader vision of life to the youth and involving them in progressive activities can be a solution to rekindle human values amongst youth. Spiritual education has gained prominence in this regard. Dalai Lama says that if every 8 year old kid is taught how to meditate violence can be wiped out f this planet in one generation. Thousands of Maoist rebels surrendered their arms and joined mainstream society after taking these workshops on breathing techniques and meditation. Scientific research on breathing techniques like Sudharshan Kriya and meditation have indicated decreased stress levels and increased mental calmness and clarity. ‘Project welcome home troops’ is one such initiative that has gained recognition among war veterans and soldiers. Many veterans who suffered from PTS after repeatedly being exposed to near-death situations have regained their peace of mind through this project. When soldiers who have to shoot and kill as a part of their job as well as survival almost everyday can benefit from spiritual education in leaving behind their traumatic past and looking forward for a prosperous future, everybody else can! Excess energy in kids can be streamlined through yoga. These habits and practices are healthy alternatives to playing violent video games all day. If the current generation of school kids cultivate these habits then they would have already paved way for a ever-happy peaceful planet.
With just a little more thought on this subject, we can generate many more ideas. We have a platform where everyone can discuss and share their thoughts on how to create a violence free stress free society. An effective start would be to join Google+ hangout with Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living foundation, a not-for-profit international humanitarian and spiritual organization whose very mission statement resonates with the theme of this article. Several of the world’s prominent personalities including politicians, actors and sportsperson will share their views during the hangout. you can accept the invitation on https://plus.google.com/+SriSriRaviShankar/posts.
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References:
1. http://www.aolresearch.org/
2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/
3. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/01/07/gabby-giffords-mark-kelly-tucson-shooting-gun-control/1816383/
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_by_state
5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/21/us-shooting-deaths-sandy-hook_n_2348466.html
6. http://www.projectwelcomehometroops.org/veterans-and-trauma/

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In Their Presence

In Their Presence

What can be more delightful-
Than being with a bunch of kids,
Talking to their toys,
Riding in their trains,
Living their silly fantasies,
Playing their super heroes,
Hiding in plastic homes,
Peeping out to watch them wobble,
Picking up their ever-growing verbage,

And when these hideouts get discovered,
and I seek refuge behind their teddy,
They shall hunt me down,
Then frisk me to their dark dungeons,
Behind the leathery couch,
One shouting ‘Spiderman caught you!’
Other playing his clever comrade,
The third crouches behind the couch –
Once a grown man – now too small,
Playing innocent in front of his heroes.

And while they open their book,
Holding a cup of chocolate in one hand,
And their priced crayons with the other,
Thus pointing to some cartoons,
Accompanied by their scribblings-
This universe is whispering to me –
Gods have come down in guise,
Boy – Its time to look, listen and learn,
Again and again and again……….
Vashisht and Srujan

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The king, saint and upanishads

There once lived a king who heard of an enlightened man living up in the mountains. The curious king wanted to know the secret of the saint’s popularity. He decided to climb up incognito and observe the old man from a distance. Hiding behind the trees, the king observed the saint’s daily activities. The latter woke up early in the morning, exercised, then did his routine chores, perhaps he practiced Sudharshan Kriya too, then listened to his devotees’ concerns, gave advice, then he had his dinner and went to bed. Now the king became suspicious. He expected something extraordinary from the saint – some magic, some miracle or breathtaking materialization out of thin air but the saint was engaged with the mundane. The king approached the latter and questioned: ‘Instead of reporting to the king, men of this land have started coming to you to redress their grievances! What is so special about you? Show me your power?’ To which the saint replied: ‘I don’t do anything that you may consider special but whatever I do is very special to me. When I sleep I only sleep, when I eat I only eat, when I walk I only do that and nothing else but that. My life seems great for others because every moment is great for me. My speech is of immense value for others because every syllable that I utter is of immense value to me because that moment, that is all I have.’ The king realized the saint’s true greatness and left with wisdom.
What is the significance of this story? Well, we have a mountain and we definitely have an enlightened being amidst us. The mountain is located at Boone, North Carolina and the special person will be there on 5th of April visiting the Art of Living International center for peace and well-being. As expected, thousands will arrive there to get a glimpse of him and more. Again as expected, thousands will sit close to their master and listen to his enchanting discourse on the Upanishads.The Upanishads are a collection of texts that provide insights many of existence’s mysteries and is explained in a conversational style. So where is the king here in this scenario? You are the king- if you come there curious and leave with wisdom. This particular series is unique because you get to learn the Shakti Kriya from Sri Sri Ravishankar himself. To learn more about the previous Upanishad discourse visit http://on.fb.me/154uIKU
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Midnight’s Angel

As a kid, whenever I was rejected by a group or by someone I automatically visualized myself in the opposite scenario, just to bring myself comfort. These visuals would appear in my dreams too. The images flashed across my mind as I would sit in a corner and gaze at the sky dreamily. Or they would appear after I curled up in my bed and got ready to sleep. The dream had two parts. First as I lay in bed turned to a side an angel would glide down from the back and stroke my hair. As a young kid I thought angels are females. Later as I grew up I was informed that they could be male too. The angel was very understanding and consoling. It was someone I could confide in and reveal my darkest regrets and deepest fears. The second part of the dream was even more interesting. A man walks out of a building to an open space. There are people sitting below a shed in one corner. As he is walking waves would recede from the center to sideways to make way for his footsteps. A red carpet would roll down from nowhere and cushion his feet. As he is nearing the end of the carpet children would come running from all directions and hug him. He would give away nuts, sweets and other goodies and chit chat with the innocent simple minded children. Where was I in this scenario? I would either be one of the kids or I would be a passive spectator leaning against a pole that is holding the shed. I could only see the backside of this man. There were commonalities in both parts of the dream. Both angel and the man were dressed in white. They had flowing robes that swayed as they moved. There was radiance emanating from their beings. And for sure, they were soft-spoken, had a soothing flowing voice that brought peace to me. I thought its silly for a boy like me to have such dreams. Although, I had alternative ways to pacify myself, such as watching tv, doing homework, playing something I could never shoo away these picturizations. I always wished such an angel existed, if not on this earth atleast in the subtler strata of existence. After almost 10-15 years what I thought was a fictious chapter in my life has turned into a reality. My dream has become a reality not just for me but for millions around the world. Whereever Sri Sri goes he is surrounded by people just like the children. His hands stretch out in compassion. Never underestimate your dreams. Dont pooh pooh them as baseless imagination. It may be true that events just happen and the mind fabricates reason to justify or explain the event. Opposite values being complimentary, the reverse is also true. All events can happen for a reason. I dreamed a dream for a reason. The person in my dream was glowing, soft and surreal for a reason. I visualized these repeatedly for a reason. And today, all these reasons have become the reason for me meeting my master.
Midnight’s Angel

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When Sri Sri visits bay area in March

Oh year! march to March,

hopping on clouds gliding south,

bearing hope to lands parched,

As good tides cool the bay’s mouth.

 

Oh spring! spring forth north,

Carry from tropics to lands temperate,

temper the wind with subtle smells,

That swell from flowers laid to soften his way.

 

Oh time! prepare me for travel,

Beyond seasons to an age of enlightenment,

Trespassing to eternity where all is well,

So that when I meet him, I’m already there!

 

As tides unite and ascend in worship,

And rains pour down in unbridled joy,

As scents depart to announce his presence,

He swiftly moves in his white robe….

 

All gathered under his red cover,

Yet drenched deep in dazed wonder,

At the one wielding great power,

Forging peace with hearts gone asunder. 

 

 

Tides then recede back to their source,

As earth sees the sun in annual motion,

As rains still thirst for the mighty ocean,

Let this world gravitate to the one in his center.   

 

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The worthy one

Up in the mountains, on the tallest peak stood the chosen four. They stood there on this silent night and remembered how far they had traveled. It was a new year and the journey ahead remained uncertain. They looked across the landscape with longing. This was the only fuel that had sustained the fire inside for so many lifetimes. The chosen four were four disciples who had drifted far away from their homes. The first one stood for success, the second one was highly knowledgeable, the third disciple was the popular one and the fourth one was perhaps an amalgamation of the first three. He was an inspiration to many. They begun this journey with one common goal- to look for the lost one. They battled rough climate and traversed dangerous routes. Yet, they had no choice but to proceed further.
The one that was successful always had a smile. He remembered his master tell him once ‘The first sign of success is an unshakable Smile’. Once this seed was ingrained into his mind it never left. Whenever there were conflicts among the others his lips would remain curved. Other three had to tip toe around his diplomacy and most often lost their enthusiasm to continue unnecessary baseless arguments. He was successful in maintaining the unity of the group. The second disciple was a very knowledgeable one. His spirit of inquiry had led them all this far and would lead them further. Their journey was full of obstacles and many of them could be solved only through deep thought. Here was a scholar who could foresee the dangers that lay in front, an expert who could connect events of the past and learn lessons for the future. His mastery over the sciences and scholarly rendition of the ancient texts were proof enough of his brilliance. The popular member of the team did not have to do much to get there. He only had to remain in his elements, very natural. We shall see how he could effortlessly manipulate the forces of nature to his advantage. But the fourth one was the most powerful of all. He is the one who walked the talk. He was a true leader – one that lives by example and not mere promises. His stature exuded courage and determination. He remembered his master’s intimate notes to his sincere seekers ‘There are six qualities to a seeker and the sixth quality is patience and perseverance. Some people are not swayed by pleasures and are committed and one-pointed, but if they lack patience and perseverance, they become restless and dejected’. It was his perseverance that had lead brought them a little closer everyday – closer to their master.
The mountain peak was a suitable spot to inspect the landscape and today was the day to turn around and observe the years that had passed. To look ahead and resolve to march ahead efficiently. This was the best spot to obtain a panoramic view of their entire journey and pause for some respite. So they sat on a rock and gazed at the misty moon. They remembered the age of enlightenment when one could walk freely upon unpolluted earth, could bear love without fear or shame. They remembered the time long gone when all of nature’s bounties in their highest of glory could dance in ecstasy – under the same moonlight. They remembered their master hop on the red carpet while people stood in lines clapping hands, joyous for no reason and jumping to the rhythm of his feet.
Inspiration spoke “The one worthy of introspection was resting thousands of miles away. His eyes remained closed and hair twisted through strong knots. His hands waves to acknowledge millions as the waves return to the ocean. His eyes will shift here and there but none can escape his gaze. It is only wise that our focus is only on him – the one worthy of thought. While the whole nation celebrates his return he hasn’t moved an inch from where he was born. Isn’t he the one who cruised across the seas and yet remained at home. Where is the magician who toured around the world and yet rejoices in his center? Where is the innocent trickster who gave away little treats for free but kept the greatest pleasure to himself? I have drifted so far in search of fame and fortune that my best times have decayed into a mere memory. Where have you vanished, Oh! dear one! Where have your long white drapes disappeared? We have been looking for them for so long. Summon the wind and hurl them to us so that they can lead us to you. We will cut a thousand sandalwood trees and bring you the finest of paste, will you show us your scented trail? We have crossed dark dungeons and survived long travails and are you still in hiding? We have left our suffocating sand castles and gazing at the blue expanse for freedom. And some day we will find you! We will discover you through the flutter of a wing or the stillness of a boulder. When we do, we will bring you gifts from beyond. Events have come and passed like waves that strike the shore and yet we are soaked with longing. What are the challenges ahead of them? Will they ever find their master. Lets wait and see what happens…

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A gentle reminder

The songs have been sung,
The candles have been lit,
The path has been laid,
Its time to go home.

The journey has begun already,
Riding through dark and deep,
Sailing foggy waters – soaked,
Fighting fiery thoughts – ablaze.

While you’re minding the moon,
My mind caught your white-
Your white in its pristine,
Confluence of many lights.

But my mind is still a prism-
It divides and separates-
It turns white to many – pretty but petty,
But will the prism point to you?

As I gallop across the rainbow,
And observe the foggy clouds,
My gaze shall always return,
To the one who minds the moon.

And as the moon rounds the sun,
Mighty ocean reflects the blue,
Might I see those drapes again-
A gentle reminder that I mirror you.
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