Ravi Valluri is an officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service and has worked at several places on different zonal railways. He has also served in Mil Rail (Army Headquarters), where he was decorated with the Chief of Army Staff award. Currently, he is posted at Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh, India) as the Principal Chief Operations Manager, North Central Railway.
The author is also a faculty of the Art of Living Foundation. He conducts the Happiness Programme, yoga and meditation sessions of the foundation, besides helping counsel addicts and undertaking courses for those dependent on alcohol and drugs. Ravi Valluri has had a penchant for theatre, public speaking and writing since his school days and continues to fuel these interests. He is a regular blogger at Word Press and Speaking Tree besides writing for the Free Press Journal, Mumbai. His book, Divine Whispers, recently published by Leadstart publishing.
TBE: Tell us about your book, what brought about the idea for Divine Whispers and why did you want to write it?
Ravi Valluri: Divine Whispers 365 Spiritual Quotes by H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was unveiled by Pujya Gurudev a few days back. It was indeed an honor and privilege that the Master had himself released the book.
The idea germinated in collating positive thoughts / quotes during the troubled times of Lockdown imposed following the onslaught of Novel Corona virus.
Though I compiled 365 positive quotes and the manuscript is ready that book is still to be published. Meanwhile I changed gears and decided to compile quotes of H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from the vast corpus of literature he has written and uttered and zeroed on 31 topics.
The fundamental idea behind the book is to mull / regurgitate over one quote per day, unfailingly everyday for a year and allow the vibrations of his thoughts to permeate the inner core of our being. The process would be particularly efficacious for those who have done various courses of Art of Living.
It came to mind that this quote be read and recalled after doing Sudarshan Kriya in the morning and once again after meditating in the evening.
I had likened this to the song celestial – The Bhagvad Gita which Lord Krishna narrated to a confused and distraught Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. After listening to Shri Krishna, all fears and Sisyphean thoughts were expatriated from the ace archer’s mind and he gathered courage to wield his weapons against forces of adharma.
Similarly during the times of pandemic and lockdown, the quotes of H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar embolden a person to face various challenges in life.
Incidentally, my fourth book was NaMo 303 Words to Victory a compilation of thoughts and quotes of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi tracing the period 2014 to 2019. The number 303 signified the number of seats won by BJP.
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Ravi Valluri: There were innumerable doubts in the minds of people whether Guruji would approve the book. I had written a couple of mails to him and also the Secretariat about the project. The fact His Holiness had unveiled the book is indicative of the fact that he was supportive of the idea.
The real challenge was to identify the topics and select the quotes from the humungous corpus of knowledge and literature of Pujya Guru Dev and to ensure the authenticity and context of the quotes do not get lost.
For instance the 31 topics include- God/ Almighty, Meditation, Guru, Sadhana, Silence, Sudarshan Kriya, Organisation, Anger, Breath, Karma, Death, Compassion, Consciousness among others and I had to select the quotes with precision.
My wife Lakshmi Valluri who edited the book a couple of times and Ms Cora Bhatia the official editor of the book helped me immensely to fashion the thought process to reach the reader.
The quote had to capture the spirit, maintain the originality and fit perfectly in the entire context of the book. I had collected the quotations from various books written by Guruji like Celebrating Silence, Celebrating Love, Notes to an Intimate Seeker, his articles in New Indian Express, the Internet, books written by other teacher’s of Art of Living and Guruji’s sister Bhanumati Narasimhanji.
It was paramount that he quotes chosen were succinct and pointed and attract the attention of the reader.
TBE: What are some of the learning / values that we can take and apply from H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s teachings towards creating peaceful societies?
Ravi Valluri: Today Art of Living has spread to 160 countries and H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a global ambassador of peace.
The Master says, “Make your smile cheaper and anger expensive.” Guruji acknowledges that strife continues in the world and the trouble spots keep changing. It could be India, Bosnia, China, and Russia, US or any other part of the world.
But through continuous practice of Yoga, Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, Meditation, Service and maintaining Silence humans can become humane and look at resolving conflicts and thrash out resolutions. Art of Living has programmes for prisoners, ultras, addicts and others afflicted by various psychological problems which helps them to eschew violence and create peaceful societies.
Meanwhile Art of Living volunteers rush to all spots of strife to apply the balm of healing. When I was posted in North East Frontier Railway, I was to conduct workshops for terror affected widows and their children. And I could see stoned individuals subsumed in emotions upon completion of the course. Similarly it was gratifying conducting courses for alcoholics and drug addicts at rehabilitation centres. Those afflicted with the pestilence of addictions felt immensely relieved after undergoing Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique. These are some creative and therapeutic steps to obliterate anger, denial and deprivation from the lives of people.
TBE: What are some of the key values / skills and competencies individuals need to be equipped with to deal with the pressures of an external environment?
Ravi Valluri: I had to find symphony as the mind is cannonaded by cacophony. We need to discover purity, pristine and unalloyed love and compassion and forsake hatred, anger and arrogance. This can be achieved by maintaining silence, continuous Sadhana, meditation and undertaking service, practising Yoga, Pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya.
These techniques become an integral part of our nature and we discover our true self’s.
“Mind without agitation is meditation. Mind in the present moment is meditation. Mind that has no hesitation, no anticipation is meditation. Mind that has come back home, to the source, is meditation. Mind that becomes “no mind” is meditation,” says Guruji.
We calm our minds by practising the techniques I have mentioned. This enhances our skills and competency level to combat external environment which is usually hostile. The art and practice of letting go is makes the mind flexible, agile and our bodies energetic. But this should be through the practice of active acceptance and not passive acceptance.
By practising Yoga, Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, Meditation and maintaining silence, we certainly blossom and flower.
The external environment may feel that the person will be bludgeoned, but on the contrary through these practices we emerge solid, triumphant and compassionate.
TBE: How can inner transformation help achieve happiness in individuals?
Ravi Valluri: I was an alcoholic for almost 14 years, but through these practices, I could transfigure my life. I have already mentioned about my interaction with addicts and terror affected people and how their lives were metamorphosed.
I had similar experiences when conducting courses for loco pilots, station masters, guards and our frontline staff on Indian Railways. They found immense change in their lives from the desultory Ho-hum to more meaningful existence.
But it is paramount to keep continuing the practice and do more courses to really reap the benefits of Art of Living. It is a combination of Dhyan, Gyan and Gaan (Meditate, Knowledge and Singing soulfully).
TBE: According to you what is mythology? And why it is important in shaping the society of the world today or in the future?
Ravi Valluri: Mythology is a collection of myth, especially one belonging to particular religious or cultural traditions. The study of myths according to me is the exploration by human mind, as mankind moves from paganism, folklore to a structured and organised denomination in both the oriental and occidental worlds.
We need do differentiate Mythology from History. The world has been a witness say to Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Hindu, Indic among other mythologies. These are set of stories where invariably Good triumphs over Evil. Mythology acts a guiding light to humanity to follow a righteous path.
There is a primordial sound of creation – say OM, SHALOM, AMEN, AMEN, which perhaps a bearing on the Big Bang theory.
Then there is rich reference to elements. Human’s were initially scared of the elements, that is why light, fire, rain, storm, sun, moon and other celestial objects were revered in most mythologies and find a prominent place. This is true of all mythologies – be it Rig Veda, ancient Greeks, Romans among others.
As Hinduism took shape in India sacred texts of the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Aryankas, Ramayana and Mahabharata were revealed and written.
During this period the creator (Brahma), the preserver (Vishnu) and the destructor (Shiva) emerged in the Indian pantheon.
And their consorts in Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati also formulated. This phenomenon indicates the growth and maturing of the human mind.
The bedrock or the undercurrent of mythology is man grappling with the elements, the maturity of the mind, shaping of ideologies and focussing on righteousness and triumph of positivity over negativity.
But when religion, politics and statehood got intertwined it lead to expansionist policies and concepts of nationalism and resulted in tremendous bloodshed.
But religion was also required to lay down rules and regulations in the society.
However, spirituality unites while religiosity divides.
TBE: Do you think, for both children and adults, understanding the mythology associated with one’s culture is important? Why?
Ravi Valluri: I have already mentioned in the earlier question that mythology is a collection of myth, especially one belonging to a particular religious or cultural traditions. And study of myths includes archaeology, comparative mythology and folklore.
But the larger picture is that religiosity should not divide people instead elevate consciousness of mankind and spread universal brotherhood.
TBE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Ravi Valluri: Well I belong to the Indian Railway Traffic Service and am currently posted as the Principal Chief Operations Manager, North Central Railway. This occupies plenty of time.
I am also associated with Art of Living work as I am a faculty of Art of Living. And I do like reading and listening to music and these days watching web series on OTT. And I also like to work out. Unfortunately the gym is shut, I am unable to sweat it out.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Ravi Valluri: A book should have a purpose – whether it is to entertain, pass on information and it should not just fill up pages.
TBE: What was one of the most surprising things you learned during creation of your book?
Ravi Valluri: I realised that to identify 365 quotes of H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was indeed a tough task. Guruji has written and spoken on so many subjects. It was well nigh impossible to identify the subjects and quotations. It was indeed a challenging task to select the quotes.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Ravi Valluri: Presently, I am writing a reality fiction. This is about a tale of a Chinese Tech (a woman) who is travelling India in search of filling a void in her life.