Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Conversations That Matter
(Whether it’s spirituality or secularism, issues concerning our society or our everyday lives, we seek solutions.
Combining a keen understanding of social issues with the depth of spirituality, Sri Sri offers a refreshingly practical perspective.)
Q: Gurudev today is army day, can you please talk about our army or defence forces?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Indian army has been one of the best armies of the world; very well managed.
Their discipline, their commitment, their equality and justice is an example to follow. The army men have cultivated discipline so well! I wish that the youths of this country also imbibe the discipline of the men in the army.
In their personalities, you can see there is integrity, commitment and dynamism. Fortunately the army training has instilled such qualities of endurance, dignity and commitment. They have strong commitment to work and discipline.
Many nations in the world have a compulsory military training for a year or two years for the youths and the male members of the society. India should also have some sort of such training for the youth. More numbers of youth should participate in such initiatives.
The Jawans (In India common name given to the youth in the army) and their families really deserve to be congratulated. On this occasion, we also give our condolences to the two Jawans who were recently beheaded by Pakistan. These brave soldiers have been decapitated in such a lousy and cowardly manner by the Pakistani army, and it is a shame upon them for having done such a thing.
The families of these two warriors are still on hunger strike. They want the head back. Our sympathies and our prayers are with those families.
Q: Dear Gurudev, how should we answer those who say, ‘What is the problem if people convert when they get better education and healthcare?'
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Mahatma Gandhi has said that it is a crime to convert people by giving them education and some money. This is a big crime and we should never do that.
Every individual has got the right to make his own decision, and you cannot lure someone to change their religion.
Why do you want to convert others and change their religion? It is because you want your numbers to increase. And why do you want your number to increase? This is because you want to have political power.
You are converting people for politics, and to gain power; this is a nasty thing to do. God will not pardon you.
By converting, you are destroying a culture, you are destroying the demography of society. This should not happen, and we must put an end to this.
Saying, ‘My God is better than your God’, is actually another form of terrorism. In fact, it is the seed of terrorism. So, people who are trying to convert others, I would say that they are also doing the same job as a terrorist, but in disguise.
Q: If the religions institutions and Masters give us practical knowledge which can be implemented in our day to day lives, just like how you have given us, then people would cultivate better understanding, and experience change in their lives. I think, if this could be made possible, then most of the problems that society is facing today will disappear.
I do Sudarshan Kriya and I follow you, but I have respect for all other Masters and religious traditions. I go to temples and I go to mosques as well.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Very good! That is indeed how it should be.
Misleading people by coaxing them to go to temples, or forcing them to offer Namaz is no good. What people need is to experience spirituality; to experience that there is only one God. We are all children of One God and we must spread the love that we have and not hatred.
This is what I have repeatedly been telling the people of Pakistan also. The people there are so nice. Just today I had a talk with them. We have three of our centres running there. People have experienced such happiness after doing the Sudarshan Kriya. All their sorrow and misery has been washed away. Also, there are so many people who share that they met me in their dreams!
Now Pakistan is our neighbouring country, but even if you go Iran, there also people have similar experiences.
Do you know, we have around 60 to 65 of our Art of Living teachers working there, in Iran. The environment there is very rigid and strict, they do not allow the practice of Yoga there. But when the religious police saw my pictures in the homes of our teachers there who also happen to be Muslims, then they said, ‘Oh, Gurudev looks like our grandsire, from whom we have learnt everything! He resembles our own spiritual leader who has educated and initiated us.' So they too did not object to our work there and simply allowed it to happen without any hassles.
So many youths are attending The Art of Living workshops there, and they have come back saying, ‘Oh, we have really been missing something big in life! If we had had such experiences much earlier in our lives, today we would have been far happier and prosperous. Conflicts and fights between neighbours would have come to an end, for good. All hatred would have ended.'
There are some religious leaders, pontiffs and heads, not only Muslims, but Hindus as well, who do not want to let this transformation happen. These leaders fear that they would have to shut their business if people go for such experiences. Yes, it is true!
Among the Hindus too there are some spiritual leaders who actually criticize the Sudarshan Kriya and mislead people by comparing the effects of it to drugs like Opium. They forbid others to go for Art of Living altogether.
Similarly, the Imams (religious leaders among the Muslims) among the Muslims forbid their people to learn or attend the Art of Living courses by telling them that it is practiced by members of another religion. They tell them that you will be misled and deceived in The Art of Living.
We have to tackle and fight against such people who hinder and obstruct the progress and upliftment of an individual.
Those people who obstruct or prohibit learning of such practices or knowledge that can bring such happiness and fulfilment to people are the ones who need to be tackled. They are not doing the right thing, and need to be stopped.
Do not be misled into thinking that such things are happening only among the Muslims or the Christians alone. Even some religious Hindu leaders are also doing the very same thing. This is sheer ignorance. In the Art of Living, we offer our love generously to everybody and pray to God to grant such people a pure and righteous intellect.
Q: Gurudev, can the feeling of nationality and spirituality move together? Do you not think that the love for our country limits our expanse?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No, not at all. Both can go together, and there is no need for any conflict between the two.
See, you are a part of a democracy. You are a stakeholder in a particular country and its democracy, so you do have a say in that country’s affairs, and you have to stand up and express that. Doing this in no way obstructs your sense of universal brotherhood, or your universal oneness.
Let us say, for example, you are a social worker. Now if there is garbage in your own home, your first duty is to clean your own home.
Now if you ask me, 'If I clean my home, will it not conflict with my cleaning the streets, or cleaning other public places?'
I would say, 'No! If you are going to clean the world, you need to clean your home as well.'
A little bigger extension of your home is your country, and then of course peace in the entire world.
If you do not belong to a particular country, you cannot go and talk about the corruption present in that particular country. The people there would tell you, ‘It is our internal affair. Who are you to come and ask us?’
You have the right and the authority to clean up your own home, but you cannot tell your neighbour, ‘I am going to come and clean your home. I feel a sense of belongingness with you too.’ They would tell you, ‘Thank you, but you are not welcome. Please do so in your own home, that will be good enough.'
In your own home you have the authority to do what you like. But you cannot use the same authority on the neighbour.
Now if your neighbour invites you by saying, ‘Please come, I need your help. Let us clean my home too’, then you should just jump and do that.
If you are a tourist in a country and not its resident, then you cannot meddle with the affairs of that country. It is not the right thing to do by law.
So this is where the abstract and the concrete levels come into conflict.
At an abstract level, you have a sense of belongingness with everyone. At the level of feelings, you feel, ‘Oh, what is the difference between India, or Pakistan, or America or Europe? Wherever I go, I feel like it is my own place. I feel totally at home.'
At the same time, you cannot behave the same in all the places. Every place has its own code of conduct which we have to follow.
If you need to fight against some injustice, you can do so only within your own country. So in this sense, it is not contrary.
Q: What is the feeling of nationality and is it contrary to the idea of universal brotherhood? How can the feeling of nationality be expanded to include universal brotherhood?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: A sense of universal brotherhood comes first and foremost. Now, though you may not be a stakeholder in the entire universe, but you are definitely a voter in your own country. And when you are a voter in your own country, you have some responsibility towards the country. You can express your needs and opinions through the local press and you can take some action.
Globally, you can spread human awareness, You can do good and also wish good for everybody out of a spirit of friendliness and compassion.
Q: Gurudev, how do I recognize the line between spirituality and religion?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Listen, when you are on this path, spirituality is already there with you. You do not need to draw or erase any line. Just be natural. That should be the way of life.
You belong to a particular religion by birth, but spirituality is by choice.
Q: Gurudev, the youth in Himachal Pradesh are getting addicted to drugs which is a huge problem today. Please explain why does material prosperity also brings vices along with it. Is it worth having prosperity at the cost of human values?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No, certainly not. Such prosperity is good for nothing. If human values are not there, then it is meaningless to say that you are prosperous. For example, if you have insomnia, then no matter how good a bed you may have, it is of no use.
Similarly, if you have stomach ulcers and you cannot eat, then having great food kept in front of you is also of no meaning. So in the absence of human values, life is worth nothing. That prosperity has no meaning.
Q: Gurudev, is obesity something that is given by God; or is it a fruit of one’s actions?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: God gives you some work or the other. So if he gives you obesity, then he also gives you work so as to make you reduce your weight.
You seem to ask very clever questions! When you seem to remain or maintain your obesity, you very conveniently say that it is God who gave it to you.
This is why I said that if you think that God has given you obesity, then he has also laid out ways to make you reduce your weight.
Q: Gurudev, what should one do when one experiences sorrow and suffering?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Have patience!
When you have come here to the Ashram, drop all your sorrow and miseries here, and just walk ahead. There is no misery or suffering that cannot be gotten rid of. Have you ever seen a cloud that never moves and stays in one place permanently? It is impossible. In the same way, your misery and suffering are like clouds. Some clouds disappear in an instant, while some take a little longer to go away. But they do pass away and that is inevitable.