Indian guru wants Taliban to de-stress
Bani Gala: An Indian Hindu guru may be the last emissary the Taliban expect, but Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would love to teach inner peace to the world`s most notorious Islamist insurgents.
Visiting Pakistan for the first time in eight years, he basks in the diplomatic rapprochement that made the trip possible but his dreams of harmony couldn`t be further removed from the suffering of millions worldwide.
Spry for a man in his mid-50s, dressed in pristine white robes and his hair still ebony, he began the second leg of his three-city Pakistan tour by tossing rose petals into the air cheered on by some of Islamabad`s most elegant women.
Nominated for the Nobel peace prize and described by Forbes magazine in 2009 as the fifth most powerful person in India, Shankar established the Art of Living Foundation in 1981. It estimates it has 300 million followers.
He travels widely and in 2007 took his message of peace and meditation to Iraq, where he urged Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to give peace a chance and was invited to introduce his Art of Living rehabilitation programme in prisons.
His centres teach breathing practices and techniques to help people from all religious backgrounds overcome the stresses, jealousies and insecurities of modern life to become more focused, happier and healthier.
He first visited Pakistan in 2004 and organisers say there are now 5,000 followers a tiny number in the Muslim country of 174 million known more for sheltering Osama bin Laden and harbouring the Taliban than meditation.
So does "Guruji", as he`s known, think Taliban fighters are ripe for inner peace after battling the Americans for 10 years in Afghanistan and bombing their way through Pakistani cities since 2007.
"Definitely! I would love to stretch my hands to Talibans because I would like them to see from a broader perspective the universe," he said at the Art of Living centre in Bani Gala, an upmarket village near Islamabad.
"I would like to educate them. There must be something wrong in their way of thinking that says `only I am going to heaven, everyone else is going to hell.`
"I would say that is not possible, you know. So I would like to give them the experience of inner connectivity," Shankar said.
He claims to find parallels among extremists jailed in India, but hastens to add that Pakistanis, and not he as an Indian Hindu, would have to be responsible for any similar outreach programme in Pakistan.
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