A gentle couple, Krishi and Ghazal view the world through the lens of love and hope. They speak about the service activities, challenges, and aspiration in an interview at The Art of Living International Center in Bangalore.
The Autobiography of a Yogi introduced the concept of a guru to a 20-something Krishi Koellner and from then on, began his quest to find his guru. Two years later, he met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and within a few months, he packed up and moved to The Art of Living International Center in Germany for four years. Those years have been the most challenging (read: fruitful) for 28-year-old Krishi.
Presently, he’s fresh from a Vedic wedding ceremony with Ghazal at The Art of Living International Center, Bangalore and the Upanayana ceremony (which explains his new bald look). “You know, when a butterfly is coming out of the cocoon, it has to put in all its strength and no one can help, else the blood won’t reach its wings and won’t be able to fly. So, I think of that when I think of my experience in the ashram (The Art of Living International Center, Germany),” he says, sharing it was a period of growth and discovery.
What’s been your biggest project?
“We moved to Berlin for The World Culture Festival. And we did everything from cleaning and moving stuff to inviting people and making people aware of the event. I did so many things during The World Culture Festival that I’d never done before. I had no clue how to do them but learnt along the way.”
Ghazal: Our biggest project so far has been The World Culture Festival (July 2 & 3, 2011, Berlin). I found out about The Art of Living through a friend while I was studying Naturopath in school. And Krishi was my Art of Living teacher. Soon after, my plan was to go to the US and continue with my studies. But then Krishi and I decided to get married and there was a big change in destiny. We moved to Berlin for The World Culture Festival. And did everything from cleaning and moving stuff to inviting people and making people aware of the event. I did so many things during The World Culture Festival that I’d never done before. I had no clue how to do them but learnt along the way.
Krishi: Once in 2008, we (Ghazal and I) were taking a course in one of the toughest schools in Hamburg. There, youngsters are alcoholics and into drugs. I had to scream so much because we didn’t have a mike system at that time. I didn’t see any change in them during the first few days. And was feeling hopeless and didn’t know what to do. On the next day, some of the naughtier boys came to me and said, ‘We did the breathing exercises at home and they were so good.’ And the main troublemaker was sitting next to me and showing everybody how it’s done. It was such a big shift. It was just amazing.
There’s another incident as well. In Germany, you know, kids take a lot of drugs. Most of them are sitting in because of drugs. So, the kriya (Sudarshan Kriya) is great help for them. And after that, they are so chilled. During the kriya, when they did it for the first time, they were screaming all the bad words you can think of. It was like a zoo. And after the course, one guy was sharing that, ‘I was so peaceful that someone could have come and slit my throat’. It was an amazing experience because you have to go through these thick doors and empty all your pockets.
What other things have you done?
"Once in Hamburg, under the Stand Up Speak Out campaign, we planted 9,000 trees in three months. For Stand Up, 86,000 people lent their support to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. We went to schools, gave talks and encouraged others to plant more trees."
Ghazal:The Yes! We Can (a youth leadership training program).
Krishi: Yes! We Can was very crazy. First the members of the group got training and then, they got out and organized courses and other events. I was involved with Yes! We Can program in Germany, we organized YES+ courses and I was helped train them. For three months, we had 10 people in Hamburg. Once we organized a wave of friendliness and we were just gifting a flower to people on the street with one small card, ‘We gift you a smile, www.artofliving.org’. Like this, we gave it to people and asked them to give it to someone else. In a way, creating a wave. One flower shop donated 400 flowers. It was really amazing.
What inspires you?
Krishi: As a six-year-old, I saw many people in Africa dying for lack of food and this really touched me. My goal has been to build 100 schools in Africa. I feel I had a lot of inspiration through my life. Now, it is Guruji (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar). And I also want to play my part in changing something.
Anyway, anytime, anything can happen. So, before that happens, I want to do my part. That thought comes to me very often – what am I, who am I, what is life?
“We organized a wave of friendliness and we were just gifting a flower to people on the street with one small card, ‘We gift you a smile, www.artofliving.org’. Like this, we gave it to people and asked them to give it to someone else.”
Do you think you are getting close to the answer now?
Krishi: No (and we all laugh)… further away, but it gives me the drive and it’s amazing to have family all over the world. You learn to give your 100 percent but also to relax. Like I did when I was in Tunisia and I didn’t speak French or Arabic then. And it was quite challenging as it was summer and 50 degrees. I was there for two months and did everything (talking to people and ministries) to organize courses. Finally, the week before I was leaving, I organized a course for 12 people.
Just before we leave, Krishi leaves me with an interesting anecdote:
“Once in the German Ashram, we went for a walk with Guruji and he pointed out ripe apples which were ready to eat and then, he looked at the plums which weren’t ready yet. He looked at me and said, ‘Everything in nature has its season’. Right then, I knew that I need time to get grounded and get ready. The following year, we were again taking a walk with Sri Sri. And he looked at a cherry tree and said, ‘Look at this cherry tree. You plant it once and get thousands and thousands of fruits every year’.”