A dynamic Art of Living teacher who has spent the last 15 years teaching the Art of Living courses in South Africa, as well as a stalwart teacher, travelling and setting up Art of Living centers in different parts of Africa. This same dynamic teacher has now initiated a global peace initiative for Africa, by Africa, and on Africa Day (May 25th).
Q: "I Meditate Africa" is going to be a big campaign and this is the first time that the African continent is going to come together to meditate. So, what is the vision of this campaign?
Vanishree: Well, I was born and continue to live in South Africa; a beautiful country, but a country with one of the highest statistics in terms of crime and violence. Every country in Africa has got its challenges, from war, poverty, social fragmentation of the family unit, unemployment, corruption, and violence.
Now, to address those challenges are not easy and nor do I have the solutions or means to affect change at that level; but I thought it would be good to start with a tool that I know of for a peace initiative. A tool that has brought peace to me at the individual level and has worked for me for 15 years can most certainly be used for this campaign, so we decided to use meditation as a peace-building tool to unify people. That’s where the idea of this campaign took birth. I was inspired by Art of Living's global peace initiatives and wanted to do something for my continent as well.
If you Google "meditation", there are about 500 studies from over 200 universities worldwide that scientifically prove the benefits of individual as well as group meditation. There is ample research on the power of group meditation. Meditation is proven to lead toward the achievement of individual peace. If something works and has research behind it, it should be given more serious consideration as a building block for collective peace.
I Meditate Africa is really about encouraging more individuals to experience peace. Peace starts at the individual level and then filters on to the family unit, community, the country, or the continent. You have to start at the individual level to make any collective change.
Africa has 54 countries, so I thought it would be better to start somewhere, even if it was one country. I thought let’s just put our feelers out and see which African countries want to participate. We have 21 African countries participating.
Q: This campaign is clearly connected to a cause, so how inspired is Africa to be a part of this?
Vanishree: When we approached people, through email, phone, Skype, and Facebook, we got such a positive response! People really want to be a part of this effort, as a means of starting somewhere and doing something positive.
Often, as ordinary citizens, you feel powerless to address the bigger challenges of the world, due to work, family commitments, lack of time, lack of resources, and so forth; but the campaign allows people an opportunity to serve and come together in a simple manner to create a shift in the vibration level of the continent, and that is significant. A lot of them are not even a part of the organization that is powering the campaign (The Art of Living), but they just want to be a part of the meditation.
About 21 countries are participating and that is a clear indication that Africa is embracing this campaign. Africa is a melting pot of religions, culture, and traditions, and all of those differences are coming together in peace through meditation. Hats off to the volunteers from all the countries who have spearheaded the organizing; they have been so open and willing and displayed great enthusiasm and vision. I feel so very happy to work with such amazing people; they are the true examples of the phrase “teamwork can achieve anything”.
Q: So, what is the idea behind keeping this campaign on Africa Day?
Vanishree: Africa Day is the day the African Union was formed. The African Union is the body of countries that unites Africa in its causes.
What better day to celebrate Africa and come together in peace to honor Mother Africa than on Africa Day! Coming together in itself will create a feeling of belongingness and togetherness. In countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where rape is used as a tool of war, if even one person will meditate on this day, it is something special.
Q: How do you think this campaign can add to the social development of the continent?
Vanishree: Since this is going to involve mass meditation encompassing several countries in the continent, the impact is going to be significant in terms of creating more peace and harmony collectively. The more the harmony among people, the more it influences social cohesion. We really want to encourage people to make meditation a part of their daily life. In fact, this campaign has a three-year plan.