Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - Celebrating Life with Silence
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
(A ‘Peace Conference’ was help at the European Parliament at Oslo, Norway on the 25 October 2015. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addressed the gathering with his wisdom and ideas on making a more peaceful world through multi-religious and multi-cultural education. Below is the transcript of what Gurudev said).
I am a very simple person who believes in the oneness of mankind. When we see our life from a broader perspective, we realize that we are on this planet for such a short time of 60-70 years. There is not enough time to get to know each other and love each other, and getting in conflicts appears to me to be absolutely foolish. Having said this, I want to talk about practical things that we need to do.
What is the root of conflict? If we analyze this, we see that stress is one of the causes of conflict. A stressful individual creates stress all around him or her. Whether it is a family situation, or in a community, or in a nation, it is the stressed individual who creates conflict.
Peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is a positive state of human life.
This being a ‘Peace Conference’, I would like to speak a few words on peace before we get into the topic of ‘conflict’. To me, peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is a positive state of human life. Peace is a state where you are creative, happy and joyful. Peace is a state from where you think of innovative and creative ideas. So, peace should be seen as a positive state of one’s existence, and not as just absence of conflict.
We all know that a baby smile around 400 times a day. By the time the child reaches college, we see that the smile disappears.
If you ask a child, “How many friends do you have?” You will see them count on their fingers. I have a question, “If a child can’t be friendly with 50 kids in his or her classroom, how are they going to be friendly with the whole world?”
So somewhere we need to inculcate an attitude of friendliness and open a channel of communication with each other though we are from diverse groups.
Coming back to the topic of ‘conflict’. Conflicts arise because of 5 reasons.
1. Lack of communication.
2. Lack of trust towards the other, with whom there is a communication break-down.
3. High levels of stress, and an inability of perceive or listen to the other’s point of view.
4. Religious indoctrination. If a child grows up believing that only he is going to heaven, and everybody else is going to hell, he is going is create hell for everyone around him or her. We need a de-radicalization. Radicalization is one of the main issues in conflict zones.
5. Vested interests of certain people. When conflicts become a cash cow because of the vested interests of certain people, then any amount of sense or wisdom does not work because all that appears to such a person is ‘There is a conflict, and I am getting money from this conflict, so I want to keep the conflict going on’.
Non-violence is a principle which is most needed today. Sometimes it appears to be a utopia. We are all here in Norway which is so peaceful and non-violence. Human rights and acceptance of diversity is so high over here. We need to see what we can do to bring these principles to the rest of the world; how we can promote and establish them! This is something that the intellectuals and decision makers of the world have to come up with.
Children should know a little about all the religions of the world, so that they grow up with a broad perspective.
Coming to the topic of Terrorism. We need to educate all those children who have been wrongly indoctrinated with the idea that ‘Only I will go to heaven, everybody else is going to go to hell’. We need to give them multi-cultural and multi-religious education. This is essential! UNESCO must take up this project of providing all children with multi-religious education. Children should know a little bit about all the religions of the world so that they grow up with a broad perspective and with wisdom, rather than having a narrow mind-set.
India has been a victim of terrorism for several years. The same is the case with Pakistan. Unless we all unite and fight against terrorism and poverty, there is no hope for the world. On this note, people all over the world, anyone who is sensible, who believes in justice and freedom, has to raise his voice against terrorism and fight terrorism.
The reformers and rulers have to move together. Being a reformer is the role of spiritual leaders, religious leaders and NGOs. There are a lot of NGOs in the world who can play a big role in all the conflict zones. We can go and meet people in these areas and speak to them; they are all part of us, they are not a different species, but just victims of misunderstanding, with lack of a proper understanding of the others and ridden with fear. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. If we can reach out to them, we can have a better world.
A two-way approach is needed – humanitarian approach along with political dialogue. The humanitarian approach is needed to help them get rid of stress and tension, look at life from a broader perspective and realize that the peace you are looking for is deep within you.
Meditation is not concentration. How many of you think meditation is concentration? (Many in the audience raise their hands) You'll be disappointed because Meditation is not concentration. Meditation is a deep relaxation, and it is happening to us many times but we don't realize it. Little meditations have happened to all of us here and there, now and then when we felt some happiness. Every time you felt a deep sense of happiness, fulfillment or satisfaction, know that you have somewhere touched that level of meditation.
With the culture and education system of today, how do we nature that childlike quality in us?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
They are not contradictory, in fact they are complimentary. If you talk to any accomplished scientist, you'll find in them this quality of innocence, like a child. Any genius in any field for that matter, if you sit and talk to them, you will feel that there's a genuineness and a childlike simplicity in them.
Somewhere people think that childlike simplicity is contrary to being intelligent. I usually say that intelligence which is accompanied with cunningness is good for nothing, and child-likeness which is full of ignorance is good for nothing. We need that perfect combination of innocence and intelligence. A pure heart and a clear mind is a part of intelligence.
How do we find balance?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Through Meditation. Today scientists say, if you meditate even for eight weeks at least once a day, the grey matter in the brain increases and the structure of the brain changes. That's what I have been saying for the last 35-40 years. Today scientists have said the same thing, they have authenticated it in some way – that meditation does so much good to your nervous system and it does so much good to your brain. It creates a positive energy around you, it uplifts your spirit and alters your behavior pattern.
World Health Organization says that the biggest challenge that mankind is facing today is depression, and by the year 2020 depression is going to be much more prevalent. If half the population are on anti-depressants, then that is going to be terrible. Even anti-depressants work for some time and then they stop working. So, we need to bring a lifestyle change in people by making them understand how they can handle their own mind, their energy and their vibrations.
We live in era of quantum physics and today quantum physics says this is all about vibration. The whole world is nothing but vibrations, and this is what spirituality also says – it's all vibration. So, we need to teach people how they can shake off all the stress that accumulates on a day-to-day basis.
30 years ago, when I would talk about yoga or meditation, people would say, “Wow, that's not the normal thing to do. Someone who is crazy would go for all this”. That was the paradigm, that was the assumption people had. Today it has changed. Today, big companies like Daimler Chrysler, Benz, etc., show someone in a meditative pose to depict happiness in their advertising. Relaxation and happiness has become synonymous to meditation. I feel there's a big change in the mindset of the people.
A lot of people still hide and go for meditation and yoga practices in Norway. How do we work around this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There are different types of prejudices in different places in the world. A progressive society should just do away with prejudice.
In Norway, I am sure many people meditated. The others (who are not for meditation) are either misinformed or not well-informed about meditation. When doctors are telling you that with meditation your BP becomes normal, your blood sugar becomes normal, your heart rate becomes lower, then it must be good for you. Paradigms keep changing in the world and the intelligent people take to it faster than the others.
You travel all around the world. What do you see when you travel? Is there progress, and is there peace of mind?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
More and more people today want peace of mind. They want conflicts to be resolved. There are other people who are just struggling to make their ends meet.
There are two different aspects:
1. The physical requirements of people.
2. The mental requirement. Many people want solace.
People continue to feel lonely, after 40-50 a sense of depression dawns in them, and they feel they're not wanted by their family, people and society. This sort of anxiety has taken over some parts of the world.
We need to work on both levels. We need to give opportunities to people who are struggling to make ends meet. The Art of living is making some efforts in this direction by educating children, bringing education to unskilled people and unemployed people and giving them some hope to live. At the same time, those who have enough, we give them inner solace and make them see what life is all about. And we tell them that there is no point in crying and being worried all the time.
What do you think about Donald Trump?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I know Americans are very intelligent people. I will let them decide what they want. I shouldn't be imposing or influencing them directly or indirectly about my opinion. There are very different people on this planet with different mindsets and ideas, and you never know what works, when and where.
What do your teaching hold for me as an atheist? I really struggle with this concept of God.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I would like you to be a sincere seeker of truth. Don't label yourself as a theist or an atheist. It's very difficult to be an atheist, do you know why? You say that something is not existing. When you say that something doesn't exist, you should know everything about the universe to be able to say that, and it is impossible to know everything in the universe. The same is with a theist also. Believers or non-believers, they are on the same boat because both of them think they know it all. I would say, it is better to be a seeker of truth. If you are a seeker of truth, you don't have to believe things that you don't know.
You know you exist and you believe you exist, then explore who you are, forget about God, keep God aside. Let's just go with this self-inquiry ‘Who am I?’
I am very happy to be with all of you this evening!
So what shall we do now? Let’s do something different today, shall we? Let’s not discuss stress relief, relationships, peace and all the usual topics. Let’s think of something bigger and something beyond. Are you ready for this?
What I want to tell you today, I can’t only tell you in words. That’s my difficulty. Life has a new and much bigger dimension that what we think. Eating, sleeping, talking to people, being happy one day and unhappy on another day, going out, etc., is all nothing. There is much more to life. There is a mystic aspect to life.
Do you know who you are? I tell you, you have no idea. We have to keep aside all our identities and take a look at life. You are consciousness; scintillating, sparkling light. Just for a moment, think you are nothing but fire, you are a glow attached to the body. A whole new perspective comes up in you. And you find everybody here is nothing but light, and that light is part of you.
The goal of the human race is to find a peace that can never be shaken, a joy that can never diminish, and a love that can never die.
See, in our body, there are millions of cells. Many are being born every day and many are dying. But in some sense, those cells don’t know you. Like that, the light that you are is what is enveloping the whole planet, but you don’t see this. When you begin to see this, that is the first step towards another dimension (that we can peep into). When you see that you are light, and when you peep into that other dimension – you find that there is no death of anything. You find that all those people who lived in the past, your relatives, friends are all there. And those who are going to come back into the body, they are also there. It is like people who are exiting the periphery and people who are getting into the periphery. You know, when you are in a traffic jam, you see people coming in and you see people going out. It is like that!
Whatever events that happen in life, we generally think ‘Oh, this person is responsible for this’, or ‘That person is responsible for this’. This is all an illusion. It is true in one sense, but on a higher plane, it is all very different.
See, there are two levels of understanding. One is where I can say – everything is wood, the ceiling, the flooring, the doors, the chairs are all wood (and they are all the same). On another level, the door is not the ceiling, the ceiling is not the floor, and the floor is not the pillar (they are not the same). So I want you to look further – from thinking the floor is different, the ceiling is different, the door is different, to, it is all wood. This is the second step.
The first step is, you are light. The second step is, it is all made up of one substance.
Whenever an incident has happened, you made new friends, or friends became enemies, or enemies became friends; hasn’t this happened to you?
How many of you have had this experience, that you had only done good for your friend, but for no reason, your friend became your enemy? (Many in the audience raise their hands). The reverse of this situation is also true. Someone who you didn’t like, or who was your enemy, suddenly became very helpful towards you. And another situation is, you got help from someone whom you didn’t even know.
All these happenings, of friends becoming enemies and enemies becoming friends operate from a different law, and that is the law of karma. So instead of holding that person responsible, look up and realize that it is karma that made people react like that. When you realize this, your mind becomes peaceful, and then you are able to look at something beyond the apparent cause.
For every incident or event, you find a cause. If you are late, it is because of so and so reason. If have succeeded, it is because of so and so reason. And if there is failure, then too it is because of so and so reason. If you are a little knowledgeable, you will look at all this and laugh because all these apparent causes are not the real cause. If you go a little beyond, that cause is also an effect, and there is another cause. And if you explore every cause of an effect on this planet, it will lead you to another cause, and the ultimate cause leads you to that point where you are the light. And once you realize this, I tell you, you get so happy, so satisfied, so complete and feel so invincible. Nothing whatsoever can shake you, tempt you, disturb you or make you unhappy. This what is what the human race is looking for.
Move ahead with the confidence that I will get what I want. Challenges come in everyone’s life, but just move on and see, everything will fall into place.
The goal of the human race is to find a peace that can never be shaken, a joy that can never diminish, and a love that can never die. Isn’t this what everyone wants? This is what is spirituality. Every human seeking spirituality is because they want these three things, but they are looking for it where it is not to be found.
If you go and look for clothes in a restaurant, you will only find napkins. You have to go to Champs Elysse to look for clothes, and not to a restaurant. Can you go to a restaurant and ask for shoes? No! I can’t go to a shoe shop and ask for croissants. So we are looking for things where they are not.
I am not saying that you should renounce the world, leave everything and run to the Himalayas. Do whatever you are doing, and be successful. Do your business, have a family – do all that, but do not miss something that is your birthright (spirituality).
In fact, when your awareness is expanded (through spirituality) and when you have a higher goal (which includes service to society), you will find all the small things (desires) happen effortlessly. So it is not worth worrying about what you are worrying for. This is the summary. What do you say?
Give me all your worries. It is useless worrying about somebody, worrying about your job, or worrying about this and that. By worrying you are not going to get anything. Move ahead with the confidence that I will get what I want in my life. Challenges come in everyone’s life, but just move on and see, everything will fall into place.
Yesterday, making this program possible was a challenge; do you know this? Yesterday, we came to know that the hall where the program is to happen is flooded, and so they have closed down the hall. But the organizers did not have even a minute of doubt on whether they would get another hall, or what they would do… they did not worry.
And I too told them, “You will get a better place in the same area”. And we got this place, and we are all here.
So challenges come to everybody, but we must know that we have a higher power with us, and so we can get what we want, and we can do what we want, and whatever happens, happens for our highest good.
Challenges come, losses happen; things happen the way you don’t want them to happen, but ultimately, it makes you stronger, it uplifts your spirit and you become much wiser.
Love or reason?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Both are part of life. You should not choose between them. It is like asking someone ‘Should I watch or listen to television?’ You have to do both.
When you do business, do it with reason. When you relate to people don’t do it as business, do it with love. If you do business with your heart and live your life with your head, it will be a disaster.
How to go beyond physical suffering?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When you sleep, you go beyond the body and beyond pain. But if you meditate, you can consciously go beyond pain.
What is the way of life of Art of Living?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Art of Living is to live life with wisdom and with a broad vision. The Art of living is to create a violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory and sorrow-free soul.
Do you represent religion?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I represent spirituality which is the essence of all religions. I represent humanism which is the essence of all religions. I represent love and wisdom which is the goal of all religions, and I represent multi-religious dialogue and multi-cultural festivals. I feel at home wherever I go. Not once I have felt homesick or I felt I belong to only this place or this culture. I always feel the whole world is my family and everyone is part of me.