Rajshree Patel is one of the most senior teachers and leaders within The Art of Living Foundation, International Association for Human Values and Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth. These charitable organizations were founded by humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to bring joy, ease suffering and improve the well-being of individuals worldwide.
Rajshree’s remarkable 25 years within The Art of Living began through an improbable set of circumstances. Born in Uganda, her family escaped the Idi Amin regime, initially to a small town in India where she spent five years before coming to America at the age of ten with her family under a political asylum program.
In Rajshree’s words, "When I was about 5 or 6, my father happened to hear about a vision that there was going to be a coup in the country. So for that one reason and for education we, the kids and our mother, were moved to a small village in Gujarat and he was to follow. He stayed back to bring our money but unfortunately got caught in the coup. They kicked him out of Uganda and he lost everything."
Speaking no English and with a family that had lost all their possessions, Rajshree prospered in her new environment in America. She worked her way through college and graduated from St. Johns University Law School in 1987. She worked for a few years as a full-time attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s office and was a Deputy District Attorney in the City of Los Angeles DA office.
Rajshree says “I liked my job - it was a people oriented profession. You don't have time to think. You walk into office and they give you a lot of files. On the way to court you are reading the case files. Then the witnesses come, police come, witnesses keep changing their story. A lot of violent cases come - drugs, abuse, and murder. I often considered their circumstances before recommending any punishment. Depending on the situation I would push or pull my argument. I would at times, let them go. It is a very’ for the moment’ profession. It requires a lot of clarity.”
She left the law to begin a career of service to humanity when she met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Her experience with the Art of Living Course was deeply transformative, and also translated into greater efficiency at work. In her experience, "After the course I would process files much faster. Files which took 4 hours earlier, maybe I would do it in an hour. After the course, in 3 weeks’ time - what happened was - there were 4 lawyers - I would do 30 files by myself - others would do maybe 10 or 11."
The skills Rajshree developed in her legal career as well as her strong international perspective have made her a highly sought-after teacher. She has lectured and taught courses at the World Bank, Shell Oil, Morgan Stanley, Texas Instruments, Harvard University, The Pentagon, The United Nations and India’s renowned IITs amongst many others. These courses have had a remarkable range, including stress management, leadership, diversity management, conflict resolution, relationships, raising children, communication, social responsibility, and of course yoga, meditation, and breathing. Rajshree’s work has taken her to over 35 different nations and she has directly instructed over 25,000 students. Her attention has not just been given to the elite: she has organized and taught large programs in prisons, community schools with at-risk youth, and on college campuses.
Beyond instruction of individuals, Rajshree has long been responsible for the training of other Art of Living teachers. Her emphasis on deep personal knowledge as the foundation of self-sufficiency has resulted in dozens of cities where groups brought together by Rajshree have become their own centers of brightness, with new teachers carrying on the tradition and expanding without the need for high levels of external supervision. Rajshree’s base of operations is Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Scott Barsotti, the owner of an international machine tool company.