For the first 28 years of his life, Swami Paramtej, then a businessman, used to meditate twice a day.
“I had made up my mind at that time that I did not need a master. But after all those years, I realized that the meditation was not really taking me anywhere and that I needed a guide. That’s when I started looking for a master,” he says. “After a lot of spiritual shopping, it was only when I did the Art of Living course that I felt at home.”
Swamiji first did The Art of Living program in 2000, three-months after a long-term trip to Bangalore. “I saw an advertisement about a public gathering with Gurudev (His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) and the Dalai Lama. I liked the program and the crowd that had gathered there. I took part in the course a month later.”
Swamiji took up the Teacher’s Training Course and became an Art of Living Teacher in 2003. Though, he admits that he partly became a teacher so that he could get to spend more time with his Guru, he found that being a teacher enabled to be a direct instrument to help people in so many ways.
Swamiji has taken on many social projects since then, including rural development programs where villagers came to the ashram to be trained to become independent and socially adaptable, community harmonization in places like Orissa during the ethnic clashes and rural literacy projects for kindergarten kids in Uttar Pradesh. Swamiji and his team recently opened around 30 schools in the region.
“Right now I’m involved in so many village projects that are centered on bringing concrete change through education. For instance, the sanskaar kendras which provide education for kindergarten kids, help in creating leaders for social change by bringing human values in little kids who can them transform the villages,” he explains.
He also conducts pada yatras, where he meets villagers across the country in states like Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. “These yatras are mainly about listening to their needs and helping however we can.”
After serving in the Bangalore ashram for a few years, Swamiji began travelling and teaching in 2007. Since then he has widely reached out to over 40 countries spreading over Asia, South America, Europe and Africa including Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Columbia, Costa Rica, Surinam, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Germany, Belgium ,Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
“It is amazing to see how receptive people across the world. In today’s world they are all facing problems related to violence, depression and stress and they don’t know how to deal with that. But we have the solution for everybody.”
He has also been instrumental in organizing Sri Sri’s visits in different parts of India and the world, including his recent visit to South America.
Swamiji feels that Sri Sri has created leaders to reach out to people across different countries and guide them well. “He has given the freedom for them to decide what they want to do to contribute. I feel responsible for guiding countries to come up and create a social change which touches every section of the society.”
He feels that the techniques taught in courses also transcend every profession including medicine, law, architecture, even politics. Swamiji has also taken part in conferences across the world, even addressing parliamentarians in countries like the Dominican Republic and Columbia.
“Everybody wants a solution to issues like stress, corruption, health problems , even the lack of trust among people. We are so fortunate that all our techniques are giving them that,” he points out.
“But whatever everybody is dreaming of can happen only when the individual is transformed. And our techniques work and are working at the individual level. I am grateful and fortunate to be given this opportunity to be visiting so many countries and helping them, guiding them and sharing whatever I’ve learnt from being with Gurudev for so many years in the best way I can.”
He admits that Sri Sri’s tireless mission to bring the world together never fails to inspire him.
“He is doing something that is bringing such transformation around the world that you cannot but be a part of it. I am just playing my role in this divine mission.”
Almost all actions have their own share of hurdles, but for Swamiji, overcoming them has been almost effortless. “Sometimes hurdles come up when people don’t understand you or try to see if there is some hidden agenda behind the movement or what you are doing, when they are not able to understand each other’s point of view or there are different people each with their own ideas wanting to do things in a different way.But with sadhana, everything gets settled by itself.
According to him, sadhana or the practice of the techniques is one of the significant aspects of this path, is a life jacket. “Emotions keep changing and they can overtake anybody. But when one is strong with one’s sadhana, one’s energy remains high, and therefore one is able to handle many challenges.Sadhana provides the courage required to handle challenges.”
It is also important to remember, he says, that learning never stops.
“I find that everyday is a learning experience if one keeps one’s eyes and ears open. The day one feels one needn’t learn, that is when there is no more progress. On the path of spirituality or social service, even children have so much learning to offer.”
Swamiji shares Sri Sri’s vision of a ‘One-World Family’ where everybody lives together in peace and harmony.
“I hope to see his principles being lived in every country and every village in India. Gurudev has given every tool to reach out to make this dream possible it is slowly happening.”
Swamiji believes that one is here to contribute. He notes that contribution is what makes life worthwhile and so he finds his own life most fulfilling.
“Life cannot get more fulfilling than when one is on a path such as this. Whether one is doing sadhana and going deep into the self, learning about oneself while doing swadhyaya or while serving the society, every moment is fully utilized.”
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Writer: Harshini Vakkalanka, Graphics: Gurudatt Anveker