Bridging East and West
Swami Purnachaitanya has become a public figure traveling extensively in Asia, Africa and Europe, conducting a wide range of self-development programs for The Art of Living in over 20 countries. His relevance stems from his ability to bridge the philosophies of the East and the West and his skill in simplifying arcane concepts. He plays the role of spiritual guide, peace builder, story teller, author, healer and teacher, as he triggers dramatic change is the lives of his audience.
Even from the moment of his birth in the Netherlands, a unifying strand can be seen throughout his life that would signify his destiny to serve humanity. On his mother’s side he inherited an Indian legacy, which played a significant role in kindling a keen interest in the spiritual practices, cultures and philosophies of the East. Even as a child, he was raised on a vegetarian diet and was taught to meditate on a regular basis.
When he was six years old, he had an opportunity to visit the land of his mother’s birth to meet with his maternal grandfather. He spent over a month with the endlessly fascinating culture of India, complete with snake charmers and mourners on their way to the cremation site situated near their home. The chants of the funeral procession, that would wake him up at night, served as an introduction to the practices inscribed in the Vedas, that he would later come to master.
From his early life, Swami Purnachaitanya displayed an acute sensitivity to others, prompting his mother to make him stay home from school every so often, to create space for him to remain centered. This remarkable woman would later enroll him in Judo, the first of a string of martial arts that Swami Purnachaitanya would come to excel at. For her, it was the way to teach him not so much to fight back, but rather, that it was okay for him to stand his ground.
When he was thirteen years old, he became so enamored with a big statue of the Buddha, that he saved up on his allowance for months to be able to purchase it. He then proceeded to create a mini shrine in his little attic room. Unbeknownst by him, he would end up spending countless hours performing ceremonies in shrines across the world.
The Fateful Meeting
In his adolescence, although he was quite popular among his peers, he instinctively distanced himself from engaging in worldly pursuits, simply because he had a sense that he was bound for something else, something beyond the activities of those his age.
This would come earlier than anticipated, because at the age of sixteen, he met Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and in a moment, his fate was sealed. He recognized in the founder of The Art of Living his Master. He actively participated in programs of The Art of Living whenever he could, and every summer holiday he spent time in the German Center of the organization as well.
After graduating from High School, Swami Purnachaitanya took a gap year to earn money, with the original intention of traveling across India for three months, but ended spending most of his trip in the International Art of Living Center in Bengaluru.
He went back to the Netherlands, where he completed his degree in Indology with a specialization in Sanskrit from Leiden University. He would spend countless hours browsing through old books and Sanskrit manuscripts within the library of the university. This would prove providential, as it served as a basis for elucidating the content of ancient Vedic literature once he became a teacher
A Life of Service
In one of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s visits to the German Center, Swami Purnachaitanya expressed his desire to be of maximum service to his Master and the world. This became a reality, for after graduating, he moved to India. His abilities, just as he wished, got amplified by his Master, and led to him traveling to the most rural areas of the country to represent the Art of Living and contribute to preserving local heritage, cultures and traditions.
This also served as a fertile training ground to be a monk, since he was exposed to meetings with many religious and indigenous leaders, performing rituals and bringing communities together.
He received his title as a swami, as an acknowledgement of his high state of consciousness and commitment to dedicating his life to serving others. His Master gave him the name Purnachaitanya, meaning one, whose consciousness (chaitanya) has fully blossomed (purna).
Swami Purnachaitanya is currently a Director of Programs for the Art of Living, conducting trainings and overseeing various service projects in India and Africa. He is involved in a vast array of programs, such as rural development, prisoner rehabilitation, and educational initiatives.
He is also a senior teacher trainer with the Sri Sri School of Yoga. He has addressed various educational, corporate and government institutions, and conducted special workshops and masterclasses for leading companies such as Microsoft and Barclays.
Swami Purnachaitanya is a remarkable human being, who continues not just to transform the lives of individuals, but societies as well.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a world-renowned humanitarian, spiritual leader and an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, he has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world. He has designed various programs that provide practical techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and has also established nonprofit organizations that recognize the human identity beyond the boundaries of gender, race, nationality, and religion.
In 1981 Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded The Art of Living as an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization. Its educational and self-development programs offer powerful tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being. Appealing not only to a specific population, these practices have proven effective globally and at all levels of society.
Around fifteen years later, in 1997, he also founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to coordinate sustainable development projects, nurture human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with The Art of Living. In India, Africa and South America, the two sister organizations’ volunteers are spearheading sustainable growth in rural communities, and have already reached out to 40,212 villages.
Born in 1956 in Southern India, Sri Sri was a gifted child. By the age of four, he was able to recite the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit scripture, and was often found in meditation. He holds degrees in, both, Vedic literature and Physics.
In 1982, Sri Sri entered a ten-day period of silence in Shimoga located in the Indian state of Karnataka. The Sudarshan Kriya® was born, a powerful breathing technique that facilitates physical, mental, emotional and social well‐being. It incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath, harmonizing the body, mind and emotions. With time, the Sudarshan Kriya became the center-piece of the Art of Living courses and one of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s unique contributions to the process of self-development.
The Art of Living
The Art of Living foundation, or Art of Living, is an educational and humanitarian movement that has been serving humanity through stress-management programs and service initiatives for the last 35 years. The organization was founded by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981, and it has since then spread across the world through the efforts of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and a growing team of inspired and dedicated volunteers. The organization mainly consists of people who volunteer in whatever capacity they can, as they share Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision of working for a violence-free, stress-free world where people from all cultures and backgrounds live together as a One World Family, respecting each other and celebrating diversity. The organization is actively working in more than 150 countries and has touched the lives and reached out to over 370 million people already globally.
One of the main ideas behind the Art of Living courses is Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s philosophy of peace: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.” The Art of Living courses and stress-elimination programs include breathing techniques, meditation and yoga, and help people to get rid of stress, overcome depression and experience inner peace. Through the Art of Living courses millions of people around the world have been able to overcome stress, depression, negative emotions and violent tendencies, and experience peace and a sense of well being in their daily lives.
Over the years, the Art of Living has spread peace and a sense of belongingness across communities through a wide range of humanitarian initiatives, including disaster relief, conflict resolution, sustainable rural development, women empowerment, education for all, prisoner rehabilitation, and environmental sustainability. For more information and details, please visit www.artofliving.org.