Apart from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the Heartfulness Institute has also worked with the National Police Academy, state police departments, and central armed paramilitary forces like BSF, CISF, CRPF and SSB. (Photo courtesy: Kanha Shantivanam)
Did you know that just outside Hyderabad lies a huge meditation centre, teaching a form of meditative practice that President Ram Nath Kovind and ace shuttler PV Sindhu have endorsed?
The Kanha Shantivanam is located about 11 km from the Hyderabad-Bangalore national highway, or about 50 km away from the city. It was inaugurated on January 28 in the presence of President Kovind.
On a campus spread across 1,400 acres, the Heartfulness meditation centre occupies 30 acres, making it what Shantivanam authorities claim the "world's largest meditation centre". Comprising a central hall and eight secondary halls, the centre can accommodate over one lakh meditative practitioners at a time.
Kamlesh D Patel, fondly called Daaji, who is the fourth guide of Heartfulness, told indianexpress.com: "There is nothing about religion here. You can close your eyes and meditate. It is to calm the restless mind, to start with." (Photo courtesy: Kanha Shantivanam)
"It is a different world out here. Heartfulness meditation is focussed on nothing but the divine presence in our hearts. One has to just allow the goodness in their heart to be reflected in their actions. And imagine the special atmosphere that is created when over a lakh people meditate together," said one of the practitioners.
But what is Heartfulness meditation? "Heartfulness is a raja yoga system of meditation which is also known as ‘Sahaj Marg’ or the ‘Natural Path’. It originated at the turn of the 20th century and was formalised with the founding of Sri Rama Chandra Mission in 1945 in India," said a statement by the Kanha Shantivanam.
With over 4 million practitioners in 160 countries and over 13,000 trainers across 132 countries, Heartfulness movement offers meditative practices and training for free. Kamlesh D Patel, fondly called Daaji, who is the fourth guide of Heartfulness, told indianexpress.com: "There is nothing about religion here. You can close your eyes and meditate. It is to calm the restless mind, to start with."
The centre near Hyderabad goes beyond just offering a space to meditate, though. Of its massive area, while 350 acres are dedicated to the ashram itself, the rest is being developed as a 'Heartful community', which would house 1,500 flats and 3,000 plots eventually.
To rejuvenate the much-depleted water table, given that the ashram is located on barren land devoid of sufficient rainfall, seven artificial ponds have been created. (Photo courtesy: Kanha Shantivanam)
In an attempt to create a sustainable community that "can be a model for future generations", work on the ashram land started in 2017. Apart from building infrastructure on arid and barren plots, the Kanha Shantivanam is also about reforestation, rainwater harvesting and utilising sustainable energy, said ashram authorities.
According to the organisation, 5 lakh trees have already been planted here in three years, with the drive still on. The meditation hall is spread across 1.4 million sqft, and the floor has pipes underneath carrying running water for a cooling effect.
Omid Khani and friends, from Iran, cooking 'Bameih Khoresht'(ladies finger sabzi) for the thousands of practitioners. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)
There is a central kitchen equipped to prepare meals for one lakh people at a time thrice a day, all of it cooked in steam using solar energy. The ashram authorities have put in place accommodation and dining facilities for 40,000 people at the moment, free of charge.
Understanding the need for rejuvenating the much-depleted water table, given that the ashram is located on barren land devoid of sufficient rainfall, seven artificial ponds have been created. All the roof-tops and canopies are connected to water pipes that lead to these ponds. A major part of the campus uses solar energy, said ashram authorities.
A school with 180 students between Class 1 and 8 is operational on campus. The school, called Heartfulness Learning Centre, is being expanded to accommodate 5,000 students, said the ashram. An Ayush hospital and a 502-bed wellness center are also coming up on the campus.
President Kovind has been associated with Heartfulness and the Sri Ramchandra Mission since 2001. PV Sindhu, who has been practicing Heartfulness for a year now, has said this form of meditation has helped her bounce back better after every loss.
Since 2015, the institute has been working with several government bodies and agencies. (Photo courtesy: Kanha Shantivanam)
So what makes Heartfulness different from other spiritual hubs? Sanjay Sehgal, trustee, Heartfulness Education Trust, and a trainer himself, said in a world where everything comes with a price tag, Heartfulness training is free, thanks to generous donations of committed practitioners.
"Apart from being free, the meditative training is not just technique-based, but also backed by the transmission of energy, which we call 'Pranahuti'. Then, it involves a process of cleaning one's insides, as all abilities are present inside one, though clouded. Lastly, we always have a living master who modifies the teachings according to the requirement of the times," Sehgal said. "All the trainers and practitioners, including Daaji, have their regular family responsibilities and jobs or businesses," he added.
Watch LIVE as President Kovind inaugurates the new global headquarters ‘Kanha Shanti Vanam’ of Shri Ram Chandra Mission https://t.co/7jVHqRUF9r
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) February 2, 2020
The website 'heartspot.heartfulness.org' helps one locate the nearest training centre and trainer available. The mobile app 'heartsapp' helps one request for a session digitally and a trainer from anywhere across the world can offer the session at any given time. One can also take three introductory classes offered via Youtube channel 'Heartfulness meditation', and become a practitioner. The idea, practitioners including Sehgal believe, is to train a person to take care of himself and become a better human being. Heartfulness, they say, is nothing but a practice to better oneself.
The Yatra garden with the statue of Babuji, the second guide of Heartfulness and founder of Sri Ramchandra Mission. (Express photo: Rahul V Pisharody)
Since 2015, the institute has been working with several government bodies and agencies. "We started with the Armed Forces. The stress levels among personnel are very high. Reasons for it can be harsh weather, loneliness, family issues, or imminent threat from the enemy. But they are required to maintain their cool at all times and take decisions in split seconds. Through our sessions, we help them focus on their inner strength," said Satbir Bakshi, National Coordinator for Government-outreach.
Apart from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the Heartfulness Institute has also worked with the National Police Academy, state police departments, and central armed paramilitary forces like BSF, CISF, CRPF and SSB.