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.
Below is a transcript of an online interaction with Sri Sri as part of the 6th International Women's Conference - 'Dialogue with Sri Sri'. From trauma relief, women safety, human rights, environmental care to fashion, media and film-making, the discussion is between women who have dedicated themselves to that field and a spiritual master venerated world over for his wisdom. (Part 1 of 3)
How can we end crime against Women, particularly in metropolitan
cities of India?
(Mary Kom: World Boxing Champion from India (Recipient of the Padmabhushan))
Sri Sri: How did you catch my thought? I was also thinking the same thing,
how can we help women in the metropolitan cities of India.
As I said, first of all we need to create more support groups and women watch.
We have taken up one thing now, i.e., conducting happiness surveys. In this
survey, volunteers go door to door and find out the main cause of problems in
each home. Why people are not happy? If families are not happy, if communities
are not happy, then violence increases in the society. That kind of social
interaction, perhaps, will help.
Stringent laws and courts are needed to punish the guilty, but that happens
only after a crime has happened. Before that we need to create a big wave of
awareness campaigns to stop crime against women.
I already mentioned, intoxicants are one of the main reasons. People who are
addicts create problems in society. And addiction is because they are not
happy. A happy person doesn’t go in for addiction. Addiction is because they
are not happy inside. We need to bring that sense of comfort and care in the
hearts of people, for the people around them.
think we can think about a million such plans of how we can change our society,
and how we can bring more togetherness, because we had this in this country,
not too long ago. When we were kids, we grew up with ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.
If someone gets aggressive in the classroom, everyone would look at him, 'Hey,
you have lost it. You better get back to yourself'. This was the idea.
Today if you are aggressive, you are a hero. Those days, if you were
compassionate, then you were a hero, then you would be appreciated.
the ego or pride getting attached to violence and aggression is one of the
causes of violence in society. And I would say, these violent movies our kids
see, in this country and elsewhere in the world, also desensitizes them against
If you are shooting in your videogames every day, you are shooting the ships,
you are shooting the planes and you are shooting people, then taking a real gun
and shooting doesn’t hurt them; it doesn’t even register as a crime in the
mind. They become so thick skinned.
That is why I would say, all these violent games should be done away with. How
many of you agree with me on this?Violent games that the kids play should
be done away with. They should be given more sensitivity towards life, towards
animals, and towards people. Education and awareness can play a
laws on the political level are required. But also communities working
together, and not just putting all the load on the government, will make a big
The question that I would like to ask on behalf of the many women
of the world is: People go to Church, they know that there is a God, they know
that there is a higher calling, yet they are not able to access infinity and
I believe that we have enough for all of us in the world, yet there is poverty.
Where are we going wrong in our day to day teachings?”
(Criselda Kananda: Radio Jockey from South Africa)
Sri Sri: I would like to bring your attention to one point: Greed
is the result of insecurity. When you feel that there is not
enough love, or not enough care on the planet, you become greedy, because the
only security that you can think of is money. If you don’t know that there are
people to take care of you, you think by holding on to something, or possessing
more things can help you.
I tell you, it is the greed of a few people that is responsible for
the poverty of many in this world. I’m sure many of you would
agree with me.
Just a few greedy people and corruption can destroy nations. And this has been
happening, whether it is in the African continent, or in many Asian countries
here. I don’t know about Europe. In Europe there is some corruption but not to
this extent, perhaps. But this corruption is the greed of few people who do not
care for the population, and that is one of the main reasons for poverty.
reason for poverty is, laziness; like what is happening with Ethiopia. For
seven years Ethiopia was under famine and they got food from all over the
world. In the seventh year, even though there was abundant rainfall, nobody
wanted to work!
Freebies are not a solution for prosperity; you need to empower
people. Empowering the poor, instilling self confidence in them
would help them out of poverty. And at the same time, we need to bring
magnanimity and compassion in all those who have, so that they can go out and
serve. If that was happening, the government would not have to bring a law that
every company should engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity.
There is a lot to work to be done. Just see, there is so much work in so many
fields. But here I must say, many religious and spiritual organizations, many
churches and faith based organizations around the world are doing commendable
work for the poor people of the world. They are doing good work, but I would
say, not enough.
Gurudev, what do we have to do to make the stubborn mind shift
from a mechanistic reductionist fragmented thought that is leading to so much
violence against the Earth, between people, and against women. The violence
against women is so intimately connected to this division and separation.
(Vandana Shiva: Author and Environmentalist from India)
Sri Sri: I would say, if people become scientists, if they all become
physicists, they can see life from a bigger context. Then there is no way they
will indulge in violence. It is lack of education, lack of scientific and
spiritual education that makes people so hard. Also I see that stress is the
main cause of all crime. This is the first cause.
second cause of crime is alcohol. If you see in India, the violence against
women has all happened under the influence of intoxicants.
When I was visiting Tihar Jail, the biggest jail in this country, and I was
talking to people there, you know what I found out there? 93% of the crime
against women were done under the influence of alcohol, or drugs. So what needs
to change is that lifestyle.
We see this here as well, every day in the small villages, men drink in the
evening and they beat up their wives. In the morning they fall at their feet
and ask them pardon. And women being naturally compassionate, pardon them. And
again the same story continues. One or two days they are okay, then the third
day again they start abusing the womenfolk.
So, women cannot be safe in the country when the sale of intoxicants in the
country has gone up three times in just one year. How can you expect them to be
safe? That is why we need to put an end to this, and change that whole
attitude, only then we can have a safe society.
What is your message to the leadership of the world, and
especially to the leadership of the Middle east to get people to live in
harmony and peace? What is your vision for the Kurdish nation which is divided
into four countries to live in peace and harmony?
(Dr. Akrawi: An active member of the Women Union working with UNICEF from
Sri Sri: You know, the problem there is enormous. It is centuries old; not
one century but many centuries old. There is not one solution. I think we will
all have to collectively put our thoughts and our mind and see, whatever works
wherever, we should apply that.
I would say, keep connecting people. If all of us here start connecting with
more people, and wherever you find there is a spark of misunderstanding or
there is some tension coming up, if we can do something to cool down the
tension, then we would be contributing quite a bit.
remember, a few ladies from Israel and Palestine came to our German ashram
once. In the beginning they would not sit with each other, they would not look
at each other. But just a few days of sitting together, playing some games and
singing, brought them together and they became very good friends.
will give you another example. I am narrating this story which happened in
2007. We had 50 youth who had come here from Baghdad, Iraq and 150 youth from
the rest of the Arab countries – Lebanon, etc. It was not planned, but it so
happened that at the same time there were 22 people from Israel as well.
The first day there were big fireworks because the Iraqis felt cheated, saying
that if they had known there were Israelis they would have never come at that
time. Yet they couldn’t take the next flight and go, obviously.
It so happened that by the time they left on the seventh day, there were tears
in everyone’s eyes. So, there’s an artificial fear psychosis which has been
created, unfortunately, by either the political setup, or vested interests
which need to be broken down. We need to bring this message, 'Hey, come on,
wake up! We are all human beings! Let’s shake hands, let’s do something
together'. That would make a difference.
Annika Dopping: I recently interviewed Dr. Fahri Saatcioglu from
the University of Oslo, who is conducting research on what happens with the
yogic breathing – The Sudarshan Kriya – at the genetic level. He has discovered
some very exciting things, and has said that Sudarshan Kriya can actually affect
Previously we used to think that we are static beings and not at all plastic.
Do you think that this might even convince the most skeptical, resistant people
to see that we are affecting the very core of life? Is that a way to open up
and reach out to people?
(Annika Dopping: Swedish TV Presenter and Host)
Sri Sri: Yes. You know, I’ve been seeing transformation happening in
millions of people all these 32 years who have been doing this program. It is a
very welcoming thing to see that science has proved what we see physically.
Science is documenting logically and systematically what is really happening.
So, Dr. Fahri’s research work is really very interesting.
work has been done by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences
in Bangalore, India, and by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences
(AIIMS), New Delhi. They have found that meditation and breathing exercises,
especially, can take people out of depression, and out of all these negative
thought patterns that we tend to get into. It generates more positivity, and
one feels happier and more relaxed from within. This is definitely happening.
In recent years, the body-mind medicine, how the thought influences the
biochemistry, and how the biochemistry influences the behavior, is proved
beyond any question now by the scientific community.
Namaste Gurudev! In recent years, the Maltese women have been put
under a lot pressure by the EU because we have the least women in the
workforce. So now women have a lot of pressure. We not only raise the family
and be good wives, but also work. This is causing a lot of pressure and stress
to the Maltese women.
I would like to ask for an empowering message from you to all these women who
are balancing these many roles.
(Claire Agius: TV presenter from Malta)
Sri Sri: Stress to me is, too much to do, too little time and too little
energy. Now, either you increase your energy level or reduce your workload.
Reducing the workload doesn’t seem to be possible these days. All that you have
to do is increase your energy level. And that is possible when you see your
life from a broader perspective.
are faced with a stressful situations every day. This is nothing new to you.
Look back, last year, or 6 months back, you had a situation where you were very
tensed, but you had the power to overcome it. So you need to have that faith in
yourself, that you can overcome any stressful situation that you find yourself
in right now.
So looking back at your own experience, at your own life, you can draw the
power to handle the present situation.
thing is do some breathing exercises. Do little bit of meditation, and know for
sure it is going to change.
third thing I would say, just take a good walk and watch nature. Nature will
provide you with the strength and the courage to overcome your crisis.
I am from Bahrain and I have been in The Art of Living for 8
years. Usually when I talk about The Art of Living to non Art of living
members, they tell me that this is against our religion. The minute they hear
the wordYoga or Meditation, immediately they relate it
to religion. How do you advise me to answer these people?
Sri Sri: Unfortunately, in the world, there is no distinction between
religion and spirituality. I would say, spirituality is the value system which
unites people of all religions. Only education will help.
Yoga is simple exercises, it doesn’t conflict anyone’s religious beliefs. But
unfortunately, many parts of the world still don’t think so. They think Yoga
means it may be related to Hinduism. No doubt it has come from a way of life,
from Hinduism, but it has universal benefit. Like Ayurveda, the science of herbs,
it is universal.
So universal values, wherever they come from, whichever tradition or religion
it comes from, we need to accept it for human betterment. If it does some good,
we must accept it. I know there is lot of prejudice about this, but I see that it
is fading away.
know, in the beginning years, thirty years ago, when I started teaching
breathing exercises, I had to face a lot of prejudice, but later on people
started seeing the benefit of it. Anyway someone will object for something,
even if what you say is good.
Many people used to think that men and women should not even sit in the same
room and talk. But now these are all obsolete ideas. So we need to be
progressive and intelligent.
Is there progress without prayers?
Sri Sri: See, a prayer happens on two occasions, when you are very grateful
then you thank God, 'Oh, thank God I got this, thank you so much! That is one
aspect of prayer. The second aspect of prayer, I would say is when you are
helpless. When you are utterly helpless, when you cannot manage something, when
things are out of your hands, then either you get frustrated or you just pray
to god, 'Please see that this thing happens'.
prayer is a very good tool to save our minds and our hearts.
People who know how to pray will not have a nervous breakdown, perhaps. I would
add perhaps there. So progress comes not just by prayer, but
by your dynamic action.
My question to you, your holiness is: At what stage of the nine
month pregnancy does the soul enter the baby?
(Naida Glavish: Māori Party president from New Zealand)
Sri Sri: Well, I don’t know! But I can tell you, the ancient scriptures say
there are three occasions when the soul enters the body; during conception, or
in the fifth month of pregnancy, or at the time of birth.
Among scholars there are differences in opinions; sometimes it also happens
that at the time of birth, when the child starts breathing, the soul enters the
body. This is what I can tell you.