Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ajay Tejasvi's Story

About myself:
I was born and raised in Bangalore, India. I went to Sri Aurobindo Memorial School. I graduated as an Engineer in Computer Science from Bangalore University. Since then I have earned two master’s degrees (Computer Science and International Relations) and am presently working towards my PhD in Political Science and Economics. Over the past six years, my work at the World Bank, including the Africa Capacity Building Task Force, has focused on the central task of building capacity of national governments across countries. This experience has convinced me of the need to move beyond supply-side reforms and promote the demand for governance from civil society, media and parliaments in an holistic manner. On a personal note, my parents live in Bangalore along with my brother Arvind. Madhushri (my better half) and I currently live in Washington DC.

My Art of Living Experience:
Being born into a family involved in community development for over 100 years, I learnt about the importance of service as a very young child. As the Prime Minister (Diwan) of the Mysore kingdom, my great great grandfather helped bring electricity to South Asia; my parents lead initiatives on women’s empowerment and rural education. My greatest source of inspiration is my uncle, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader, who founded the Art of Living Foundation, with community service projects in more than 150 countries. Having Guruji (as Sri Sri is fondly called by many) in my life, no doubt, has shaped the way I live my life but has also influenced how my family as raised me as well.
My grandfather used to tell us stories with morals from all religions – and we were always encouraged to ask questions and be interactive. My great-grandfather used to be with Mahatma Gandhi and my grandfather used to tell me of his experiences with Gandhiji. He would tell me that his father used to serve in Sevagram along with the other freedom-fighters and that they always fought for social justice and human rights. He would tell me of times when he would run away from school and go and attend rallies for India’s freedom movement. This really helped me cultivate a multi-cultural, multi-religious mindset and I feel very happy for this gift from my grandfather.

My family always placed a lot of emphasis on education and literacy.To promote education for rural children, Guruji started a school for primary education in the Ashram in 1986. My grandfather used to say that we had a special responsibility to help the first generation learners in our Ashram school – as we had educated parents who could help us with our doubts and questions – we had to help the children who came to our school. I would go along with my mother and help the children learn English and mathematics. The school now has over 2000 students, many of whom are still the first in their family to get an education.

I fondly remember traveling with my grandparents to rural Karnataka, encouraging parents to send their children to school. I would also go with my grandfather to important meetings and functions at the Chief Minister’s office and the Governor’s residence. My grandfather always attached a great degree of importance to our country’s progress and fought against corruption and other social evils. I remember he instituted awards for the best government servant – the best postman, the best policeman, the safest driver in public transport and so on – to honor diligence and excellence in public service.

Looking back, it is really amazing – the responsibility I felt as a young child – being entrusted to help with the education of another. Even now my interest continues – I am still a student and I continue to encourage those around me to seek education.
The trust that my family had in me was so total – it was truly empowering. My grandfather is 87 today, and he still only thinks of how best to serve others. I once asked him to rest for a little and told him that he had done a lot of service in his life. His response really reflects his character – “When I pass, I would like to go vertically – serving our people – and not horizontally – lying on a bed,” he said. It is this sense of caring and service that inspires me everyday.

My father instilled a sense of discipline and fairness in my life. He always treated me and my friends in the same way – he would expect them to work hard and do well in their exams – just like me. He always encouraged me to keep my belongings in the best way possible and share them with others. He would teach us to wrap our textbooks in brown paper and they would look like new – even at the end of the school year. I would then give my textbooks (which still looked like new!) to the children at our school. During a school year, most of us go through many pens (the nib breaks, you lose it, etc.). My father would buy me four fountain pens – I would keep one for myself, give one to my younger brother (who was still too young to write with fountain pens ;) ), and give the other two to students in our Ashram school – with the promise that they would treat it well and use it for the whole year! Even though we always had abundance at home, we learned to appreciate everything that we had – and also share what we had with others. As a result of my interactions with the children in our schools, I have seen both sides of life – and am grateful for this experience as it has inculcated practical values in my life.

Guruji today is among the most respected spiritual and humanitarian leaders in the world and travels to over 40 countries each year. He is honored by heads of states and welcomed by universities and parliaments. Even though he is so busy and famous, Guruji's humility and simplicity continue to touch my heart. One other aspect of Guruji's wisdom that really resonates with me is his concept of “Practical Wisdom.” Guruji doesn’t just preach – he walks the talk. Even as kids, we observed him do everything himself and guide us by example. For instance, he would always ask us to keep our home neat and tidy. He would even take a cloth and a bucket and clean the window, when we had forgotten to do it and show us how to do it meticulously. Even now, I have seen him open doors for elderly women and regularly refusing to jump ahead of the line when offered. He respects social norms and never asks for favors. He never asked anyone to do anything that he would not do himself. He is my greatest source of inspiration and he continues to amaze me (for over thirty years now!). He is both my venerable Guru and my beloved uncle. I feel really blessed! I am so amazed by the multitude of people and the different types of people that come to him and find solace – from leaders of nations to simple village folk – Guruji is available to everyone. What blows my mind is how much he cares – for all of us and how much attention he gives each devotee.

Guruji always encouraged my interest in knowledge and education. As a young child, I remember going to Guruji’s Kutir and seeing many nice toy cars and planes – both of which I loved – but I also remember seeing a book of Indian folklore and at that moment I really wanted nothing else but that book. Without even asking, Guruji called me and asked me “You want this book right?” and gave it to me. I was sooo happy! Guruji has always supported my interest in education - I found myself going through engineering school, two Master’s programs and a PhD in political science and economics – with fellowships and scholarships and Guruji’s grace! Guruji always emphasizes the importance of inculcating a scientific temper and an open minded approach to learning – and I find this helps me in grappling with different subjects and themes with ease. As I move towards completing my PhD, I feel a renewed passion for helping promote literacy around the world – as education can really help people climb out of poverty. Guruji says that it is of no use to speak high knowledge to a hungry man. Thus, in our Foundation’s schools, students learn modern science and other skills to help them make a living and are also schooled in the human values of friendliness, caring and sharing – thus facilitating the development of a well-rounded individual.

Belongingness and togetherness are two important lessons I have learnt in my life so far. We grew up in an environment of friendliness – my grandmother and mother would ensure that everyone felt welcome in our home and no one left hungry. Such an atmosphere imbibed a sense of caring and helped me realize the feeling of a one world family. This practice continues in our homes even today. Wherever I go, Guruji has given me so many brothers and sisters – he has shown me how to create my own environment of friendliness – where others feel welcome. When you feel the belongingness with those around, you have a deep sense of caring and wanting to serve those in need. But you realize that it is difficult to do it alone – and this is where togetherness can help – together we can make an impact on the issues that the world faces. I was fortunate to be blessed as an Art Excel and Yes! Teacher when I was in my teens. Over a period of five years from 1997 - 2002, I traveled around India and was able to bring thousands of young people into the knowledge. I strongly feel that if more young people can realize the spiritual dimension of their lives, they can live fuller lives and be of service to society and the world at large. One of my most fulfilling experiences has been my work with the Foundation’s Youth Leadership Training program, which has reached more than 30,000 villages in India to provide basic services and foster communal harmony. There is a focus on leadership, teamwork, and communication skills to help the youth leaders form teams of local youth with an emphasis on service within their own communities.

Guruji has shown us that life can be lived skillfully through spiritual awareness. There is no conflict between spirituality and life in the world. In fact, it nourishes and enriches your skills and ability to appreciate life in its fullness. I find that I have time to appreciate and play music, read books, study for my PhD exams, work at the World Bank and remain engaged in service activities – and keep my wife happy as well :) - all this due to my daily Sadhana ( Sudarshan Kriya, Yoga, and Meditation). Guruji’s knowledge and wisdom have shown me that we are capable of doing so much. My experience with Art of Living cannot be compartmentalized – my whole life is The Art of Living!


  1. Dear Ajay - i have known you as a friend & consider you as a silent mentor. I can truly attribute your intelligence & your care with which you guide so many people in many ways must have had a lot of influence from your powerful upbringing with such great teachers - thanks for sharing your life experiences here. And thanks for being my guide as a buddy

  2. Dear Ajay,

    Its so lovely that you shared this ....very simple and yet very authentic.....

    jai gurudev!!!

  3. Dear Ajay bhaiya...
    Ever since i met you many years ago , I knew i have an elder brother, a friend and a guide in you. This awesome piece of simple yet very touching experience only re-iterates what i felt many years ago. I have always looked up to you for the way you have guided me over various issues, and i remember almost all that you have told me thoroughly. I am thankful and grateful to you for being there in my life. I am your student and so shall i be always.
    regards and love

  4. Dear Ajay Bhaiya,

    I was so happy I stumbled across this page.

    I can never thank you enough for helping me with text books, notes and timely advice all through college.

    To all the readers out there, I was one of the beneficiaries of Ajay's brown paper bound textbooks and can testify they looked new indeed.

    Thanks Ajay Bhaiya!



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