Inner Peace and Global Harmony: Individual Wellbeing and Global Solutions in the Art of Living


  • Stephen Jacobs Media, Religion and Culture, University of Wolverhampton, UK



Art of Living, spirituality, theodicy, Hinduism, meditation


his paper explores the discourse in the Art of Living (AOL), a Hindu derived transnational meditation movement, which suggests that solutions to global problems are best addressed at the individual level. Ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative interviews and an analysis of published material suggest that the primary concern of the AOL is the reduction of stress and anxiety for the individual practitioner. This reduction of stress not only means that the individual practitioner develops ‘inner peace’, but also contributes to global harmony. AOL is an exemplar of ‘therapeutic solutions’, which are characterized by disillusionment with established institutions and a quest for inner meaning. AOL articulates this therapeutic solution, not only in terms of narcissistic needs, but links this quest for inner meaning to wider social and global concerns.


Art of Living (2013a) ‘Overview’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013b) ‘The New International Centre for Mediation and Well Being’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013c): ‘What is Rudra Puja?’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013d): ‘Art of Living Courses’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013e): ‘The Art of Silence: Part Two Course’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013f): ‘The Art of Meditation Course’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living (2013g): ‘Frequently asked Questions on Meditation’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Art of Living Universe (2010): ‘Sudarshan Kriya’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Bauman, Zygmunt (2000): Liquid Modernity,Cambridge: Polity Press.

Beck, Ulrich & Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2001): Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and its Social and Political Consequences, London: Sage.

Beckerlegge, Gwilym (2006): Swami Vivekananda’s Legacy of Service: A Study of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission,New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Beckerlegge, Gwilym (2008): ‘Sevā’, Denise Cush, Catherine Robinson & Michael York (eds): Encyclopedia of Hinduism, London: Routledge.

Bruce, Steve (2006): ‘Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion’, Hedgehog Review, 8:1-2, 35-45.

Campbell, Colin (2007): The Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural Change in the Modern Era,Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

Carrette, Jeremy & Richard King (2005): Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, London: Routledge.

Cox, Harvey (1979): Turning East: The Promise and Peril of the New Orientalism, London: Allen Lane.

Eck, Diana (1985): Darśan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Chambersburg: Anima.

Fischman, Michael (2011): Stumbling into Infinity, New York: Morgan and James.

Gautier, François (2007): The Guru of Joy: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living, London: Hay House.

Flanagan, Kieran (2007): ‘Introduction’, Kieran Flanagan & Peter C. Jupp (eds): A Sociology of Spirituality,Aldershot: Ashgate.

Heelas, Paul (1996): The New Age Movement: The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity, Oxford: Blackwell.

Heelas, Paul (2008): Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism, Oxford: Blackwell. DOI: 10.1002/9781444301106

Heelas, Paul & Linda Woodhead (2005): The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way To Spirituality,Oxford: Blackwell.

Illouz, Eva (2008): Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help, Berkeley: University of California Press.

International Association for Human Values (IAHV) (2012): ‘About Us’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Jacobs, Stephen (2010): Hinduism Today, London: Continuum.

Lasch, Christopher (1991): The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,2nd Edition. New York: W.W. Norton.

Moskowitz, Eva (2001): In Therapy We Trust: America’s Obsession with Self- Fulfillment,Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

Nambiar, Rajeev (2011): ‘Editorial’, Rishimukh: The Art of Living Magazine, 12:8, 3.

Network of Engaged Buddhists (2013): (accessed 27 March 2013).

Partridge, Christopher (2004 & 2005): The Re-Enchantment of the West: Volumes 1 and 2,London T & T Clarke.

Rieff, Philip (1966): The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Rose, Nikolas (1998): Inventing Ourselves: Psychology Power, and Personhood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smart, Ninian (1995): Worldviews: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (1999): Bang on the Door: A Collection of Talks, Santa Barbara: Art of Living Foundation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (2006): Celebrating Love, Bangalore: Vyakti Vikas Kendra Publications.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (2012): ‘Disaster Relief’, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Official Website: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (2013): Sri Sri on Sudarshan Kriya: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Warrier, Maya (2005): Hindu Selves in a Modern World: Guru Faith in the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission, London: Routledge. DOI: 10.4324/9780203462065

Williamson, Lola (2010): Transcendent America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements
as New Religion, New York: New York University Press.

Yes for Schools (2011): ‘What We Do’: (accessed 27 March 2013).

Yoga Rave (no date): ‘Our Vision’: (accessed 21 August 2012).

Videos and Music

Jagtiani, Sahil (2009): Cosmic Trance: Bhajans for the Youth,Bangalore: Art of Living.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1990): Mustt Mustt, Real World Records.

Sri Sri Yoga: Inspired by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,2009. Bangalore: Art of Living.




How to Cite

Jacobs, S. (2014) “Inner Peace and Global Harmony: Individual Wellbeing and Global Solutions in the Art of Living”, Culture Unbound, 6(4), pp. 873–889. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146873.



Theme: Therapeutic Cultures