Q: What are the goals of the Art of Living Foundation?

A stress-free and violence-free society; to encourage people from all backgrounds, religions, and cultural traditions to come together in celebration, meditation and service. To achieve these goals, we offer courses and humanitarian projects to eliminate stress from the mind and violence from society. Prevention is easier than cure: peaceful individuals do not contribute to conflict on an individual nor on a societal level. If people are materially poor or suffering from the effects of a natural disaster or war, their stress will be related to that. The International Art of Living Foundation offers material assistance or trauma relief. Take a look at some brief reports on our humanitarian activities, following the Tsunami and Kosovo conflicts. We offer education and empowerment programs so people can break the poverty cycle. On the other hand, those who are affluent may nevertheless be frustrated, depressed or simply wanting to grow spiritually in life. In the latter case, it is not material support that is needed but training programs like the Art of Living Part 1 course. These are for anyone who would like to learn some breathing techniques to release tension, and enable the individual to handle any challenge.


Q: What is the significance of the breath? Why is it so important?

Breathing is normally an unconscious process. The breath is the link between the body, mind and spirit. When the mind is free of fear, guilt and anger, and is more centred, then it can heal the system of any ailment. Through the practice of our breathing techniques, you will learn to consciously govern the breath so that it brings harmony into your body, mind and spirit.


Q: How long has the Art of Living Part I course been taught?
Since the early 1980's. Since then millions of people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures have done the course globally.


Q: What is a satsang? I noticed The Art of Living organizes events called satsangs where there is a lot of singing and dancing, like a party. It looks like a lot of fun, but what has that to do with stress relief or promoting human values?
As we all know today, the human brain has two hemispheres - the right half which is more connected to art and intuition, and the left half which is more connected to logic and reasoning. Some people are more logical and perhaps do not like music and dance. Others are more spontaneous and like dancing, but avoid logic or more intellectual activities.  It’s important to develop both aspects for either of them to fully flourish, and this is what satsang is all about. It’s well known that geniuses like Einstein did not think only logically, but also very intuitively; with pictures. It doesn’t matter if right now you dance well or sing well – and don’t be surprised if not every satsang is a professional concert! Whether you sing well or not - it’s very beneficial to participate anyway. So at a satsang, there is some singing and dancing – in all languages from Sanskrit to Hebrew, from English to Polish, emphasizing the universality of our message. There is also some discussion on spiritual wisdom, i.e. there is a balance of intellectual activity and music. To find out more, take the first step or join a program near you and ask the trainer!


Q: Is it a self development program or something spiritual?
It's both! The basis of spirituality is simply knowing ourselves better. You will find that the Art of Living Course releases layers of stress without effort. You will discover the hidden laws that govern the mind, as well as skills to effectively deal with negative emotions. In addition you will enjoy the ancient practices of yoga, meditation and rhythms of breath, as these are combined in new ways to nourish all levels of the body, mind and spirit.


Q: So, can anyone take part in a program?
Yes! The courses are open to people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and traditions from across the world. They do not conflict with any person’s existing religious or spiritual practices. "We identify ourselves as somebody - I belong to this religion, this culture, this tradition; but we forget the basic identity that we are human beings." - Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


Q: Where do the techniques come from? India? Yoga?
Many of the techniques used in our programs are indeed based on yoga, and it is also true to say that ‘the East’ in general has a long tradition of ways of dealing with stress. You might say that eastern cultures in some way have specialized in knowledge about stress, personal development and handling various emotions. And the founder of the International Art of Living Foundation, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is from India as well. However, the techniques taught and the human values we promote are completely universal. For example, breathing techniques are a key to stress release - and we all breathe, whether we were born in the so-called ‘West’ or so-called ‘East’!


Q: How can I become a member of your organization?
There is no formal membership process. A member could be anyone who would like to come for a course, volunteer (see previous FAQ, No. 13) or donate. If you would like to participate in a free-of-charge introduction to our courses, contact your local center. If you would like to come for regular sessions, you should first take a course: Art of Living Part 1 for adults, ART Excel for children, YES! for teens, and YES!+ for students and young professionals.


Q: You often cooperate with the International Association for Human Values. What is the connection between the two organizations?
The Art of Living closely cooperates with the International Association for Human Values; both organizations being founded by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. As a sister organization, co-operation often takes the practical form of supporting one another in a country where for example, the Art of Living has established a larger organization or vice-versa. The International Association for Human Values works in five main areas: Rural development and socio-economic progress Human values-based education Conflict management through dialogue Humanitarian relief and post-disaster rehabilitation/reconstruction Ethics in business Since providing training courses is a large part of the Art of Living’s activities, co-operation on humanitarian projects frequently takes the form of providing volunteer trainers for trauma relief programs or social rehabilitation programs. For more information on the co-operation of our organizations, click here.


Q: How can I volunteer with your organization?
If you are a course graduate, simply login to the login area on this site, using the code given to you by your local organisation and fill out the form there.   If you have not taken an Art of Living course yet, please contact your nearest teacher or organiser, letting them know how you might be interested in helping. You might also want to sign up for a course!


Q: In your press releases it is mentioned that your activities are ‘volunteer-based’? Why do so many people want to join in? What do they get out of it?
The vast majority of the people who contribute to our activities are indeed volunteers. In each country, there are a few administrative staff who are employed, sometimes as few as 10 for a country with quite a sizeable organisation. Why do people want to volunteer? The satisfaction from doing something for others is very great. It’s a natural impulse to help others - something which young children exhibit, but sometimes stress, fear and other negative emotions block. Part of being more relaxed and content is a sense of belongingness to others, and from this sense of belongingness service activity becomes spontaneous!


Q: What is meant by ‘seva’? You sometimes speak about it in your press releases.
‘Seva’ is a Sanskrit word meaning service. Sanskrit being the language of ancient yoga teachers, whose techniques have been adapted for modern life by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in The Art of Living courses.   One of the basic goals of the Art of Living is to provide a place where all people may come together for celebration and service (or ‘seva’), as an organisation which welcomes all as part of its peace-making initiatives. Even if we have very different cultures, languages, customs or religions, we may do some voluntary work together.


Q: In your websites you speak about ‘spiritual’ values. Doesn’t that mean The Art of Living is a religious organization?
No, it is not a religious organization. By ‘spiritual values’ we mean universal human values like friendship, generosity, compassion, care for the environment and service to humanity - values respected by all nationalities and traditions. In fact, one of our goals is to promote spiritual values, regardless of the religious, cultural or social background of people who participate, respecting and not questioning any religion our members may practice.


Q: How do the finances work? Some of your programs are paid, like the Part 1 course, and others like trauma relief support are sponsored by the organisation?
Part of the financing of our humanitarian efforts come from charitable donations – just like more traditional charities. On the other hand, we also run paid courses like the part 1 course for adults who may have good jobs, are not suffering from poverty, but may still want to learn more about handling negative emotions. The proceeds from our paid courses are used for our humanitarian programs. After all, everyone encounters challenges in their life, whether rich or poor. As every executive knows, stress management is a key even for the most successful!


Q: What is the profile of the organization? Is the organization a charity? A training organization?
It is both. We do provide a range of training courses as well as engage in small and large-scale charitable ventures. In fact, these apparently diverse activities are closely linked: income from paid courses goes to humanitarian activities to achieve our basic goals of a stress-free society and bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in voluntary activity and meditation. There is another connection between service activities and personal development courses. Many of those who graduate from our courses take up voluntary work of various kinds, seeing that to realize one’s full potential we need to take care of our society, our environment. For graduates of Part 1 and Part 2 programs, we have a special program called DSN, the goal of which is to make the individual stronger; thus able to take more responsibility – at work, in the family and in the society. Our youth programs - for children, teens and students/young professionals, encourage the young to engage in voluntary activities. The Universal Declaration of Human Values drawn up by the founder Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar includes the ‘right to lead a stress-free life’ - regardless of whether the stress is induced by a natural disaster, or by a difficult job, or by family situations. The stress-releasing techniques learnt in Art of Living programs are powerful enough to deal with the trauma involved in extreme situations of natural disasters, so definitely they can handle the everyday challenges of work and relationships! Sometimes stress results from a natural disaster, sometimes it is man-made, sometimes it is poverty-related, and sometimes even wealthy and successful people experience stress – but in every case, the Art of Living offers support.


Q: You are a charitable organization – so why do you have course contribution for your courses?
We do indeed contribution charges for our Art of Living Part 1 courses, courses for children, teenagers, students and so on. The income from these paid courses is then used for those programs, that are aimed at community development in impoverished areas and the free schools that the organization runs, among others. We also find that people get so much out of the courses – learning how to handle negative emotions, calmly taking on greater challenges in life – that they are happy that their course contribution are helping to educate a poor child, or put a roof over a family’s head. After all, charity cannot happen from an empty bowl. However, if you are a pensioner or unemployed, check with your local organization to find out about scholarships for our courses.


Q: Is the ashram wheelchair accessible?
There is ramp access to Vishalakshi Mantap, Canteen and Yagnashala, however that being said, there are still steps to the accommodations, to get inside Vishalakshi Mantap, etc. Please contact Housing and Administration offices at ashram before you make your registration. A full-time care assistant at an extra cost is subject to availability which administration may be able to book for your comfort during your stay at ashram. However we would like to stress the point that a care assistance is subject to availability, if we cannot provide you with an assistant, your mobility in the ashram will be your responsibility.


Q: Are there any rules and customs in the Ashram or on the program that I should be aware of?
Please wear clothing that covers your shoulders and ankles. Hot water for bathing is available from 4-6 am. If you have a button to turn on the Hot Water in your bathroom, please turn it on at least 15 mins before you intend to bathe. If your program requires you to be in silence, please refrain from talking, whispering, or communication with anyone in any way to reap full benefits of the program. Men and Women do not share accommodation. Men will be housed with other men, and women housed with other women. At Yagnashala and Vishalakshi Mantap, men and women sit separately. No shoes, food or drink, except for bottled water, is allowed inside Vishalakshi Mantap or Yagnashala Vishalakshi Mantap and Yagnashala are quiet zones, please refrain from talking loudly, bringing children inside and having your phone on, as people might be meditating. There will be group Sadhana (Padmasadhana, Pranayam, Bhastrika and Kriya) every morning during your program, please listen to announcements for timings the night before, at the end of Satsang. Rudrapuja will take place every Monday at Yagnashala (subject to change), please listen to announcements for timings the night before, at the end of Satsang. Lost and Found is located in the Housing Office Please do not wear any expensive footwear Please wear your nametags at ALL TIMES for security reasons Ladies are requested to tie their hair during any puja. Water that is safe to drink can be purchased at the divine shop, or filled in the Kitchen (Dining Hall) or the various taps, which indicate "Drinking Water" No alcohol, cigarettes or drugs are allowed in the ashram No meat is allowed in ashram (includes chicken, duck, fish, shrimp, prawn, egg, beef, pork, lamb, venison, etc) Please avoid eating cut fruit from the stalls on the road in front of the Kitchen (Dining Hall), as we cannot guarantee the cleanliness and hygiene of the stalls. Everyone should be in their own rooms at 11 pm If you are designated seva, please do it. If you missed group allocation for seva, then please perform seva on your own initiative. (e.g. wiping plates, serving food, cleaning Vishalakshi Mantap)