The Tiger’s Pause is the fascinating tale of a spiritual and wellness guru’s efforts to end one of Asia’s bloodiest wars.
Reams and reams of documents have been written on the bloody LTTE war in Sri Lanka, many have penned tomes on one of the worst wars in Asia. One fact remained hidden, the journey of a genial spiritual and wellness guru who walked through the killing fields to usher peace. It is the story of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who visited the strife torn island to ensure peace for the Tamils and Sinhalese population.
Swami Virupaksha, a senior member of the Art of Living who has worked extensively in Sri Lanka has just penned a bare-all book, “The Tiger’s Pause”, to narrate the hitherto unknown story of the genial guru.
Let’s delve a bit into the history first. A section of the Sinhala speaking Buddhist minority, the Sinhalese, resented the colonial era British favouritism towards the Tamil minority. The Sinhalese felt they were treated unfairly, getting the short end of the stick, thus reducing their socio-economic opportunities. The resentment was just one of the seeds of the ethnic tension between the Sinhalese and Tamils that culminated in one of Asia’s longest civil wars from July 1983 to May 2009. A young Vellupillai Prabhakaran started an armed movement in 1976 and formed a group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE.
Over the years, the LTTE eclipsed other radical Tamil organisations in Sri Lanka and emerged as the most powerful organisation demanding an independent homeland in the north and east Sri Lanka. Prabhakar’s LTTE was one of the deadliest guerrilla groups in Asia, it had huge support from India’s Tamil population residing in coastal Tamil Nadu and also Tamils living across the world.
The first dustup happened on the night of 23 July 1983 when LTTE guerrillas killed 13 soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army. This led to a bloody outburst, hundreds of Tamils were killed by Sinhalese mobs, houses were burned, shops looted and commercial establishments of Tamils destructed.
In the middle of this heat and blood in the island nation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar walked into the minefields to solve the crisis for the war-ravaged people of Sri Lanka. The book details how Sri Sri Ravi Shankar helped the citizens of Sri Lanka find peace amidst bloodshed and violence. The book reminded me that an estimated 140,000 people died in the bloody war.
Interestingly, the seeds of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s peace initiative were planted in faraway Canada, home to many Tamils. During one of his visits to Canada, the India guru was told how Tamils were suffering, along with Sinhalese, in Sri Lanka. The meeting happened in Toronto where veteran Tamils asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar if he could help solve the crisis, and stop the bloodshed. The room where the meeting was being held had two generations of Tamils. One wanted an intervention from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the other, the younger generation, made it clear that they were not bothered about the war in Sri Lanka and that they were happy doing great jobs in Canada.
Screamed an elderly woman: “We left everything there as we ran out of our homes into boats and run away to India. They robbed all my jewellery, snatched away my wedding ring, and necklace and burnt my house in Point Pedro right in front of my eyes. Will we ever get back our homes, our peace?”
Next morning, more Tamil representatives landed up in Toronto from across the world. They sang Arohara, Arohara, the sacred, traditional Tamil chant and sat around the Indian guru who slipped into deep meditation in the hall, overlooking the expansive Black Forest.
It was an unforgettable night, writes the author.
And then he explains the day when Sri Sri led a delegation to meet the LTTE big boss Prabhakaran. Permission to meet the guerrilla leader came late as the delegation waited in blistering heat. And when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar got ready to walk into the war zone, someone reminded him the huge stretch was full of land mines.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar walked calmly.
One incident needs a mention here. Before he went to meet the LTTE, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar met up with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and sat with him for an hour doing breathing techniques and meditation. Rajapaksa had loads of complaints but he looked convinced that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar could talk peace with LTTE guerrillas.
Sri Sri went to Omanthai that bordered Kilinochchi.
I found this gripping: “The 700 metre distance took a little longer than it should have. One by one they walked behind Gurudev, setting their feet on footprints he left in the soil.
“There was an eerie silence and no sign of life, expect for a few crows crowing. Suddenly, there was a loud boom. Three of them froze in fear, Gurudev continued walking. As they reached the massive iron gates, it was like walking into eternity.
“A lanky boy in his teens, who was struggling to hold a large gun in his hands, opened the heavy gates with lot of effort.”
But Prabhakaran was not there, the LTTE guerrillas refused to get Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talk to the Indian guru. The LTTE top brass called it a big mistake.
After all the talks, Sri Sri visited the refugee camps and wanted to talk to the refugees who were living in inhuman conditions, surrounded by Sri Lankan soldiers. The soldiers were arrogant and wanted to know who was this white robed person.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar asked them to lower their guns and started taking with the refugees. Each one narrated a tale of total horror, unmitigated disaster.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar asked his team to conduct breathing technique camps for an estimated 300,000 refugees. It was a Herculean task.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar left Sri Lanka on 23 April 2009. He met in Chennai the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, who asked Sri Sri what was the point of “being good”. She gave examples of Yudhishthir from Mahabharata and Ram from Ramayana and said they both suffered despite being good.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar merely smiled and encouraged Jayalalithaa to watch a video that showed the plight of Tamil refugees.
I will stop here, why bot grab a copy of this book, published by Penguin, to read the fascinating tale of a spiritual and wellness guru’s efforts to end one of Asia’s bloodiest wars? A superlative read, a fascinating book.