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.
Dearest Gurudev, please can you talk about domestic violence and give some knowledge on this. What is the role of acceptance and responsibility when a spouse feels that their actions are in proportion to their hurt?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Listen, when two people are living together, there will definitely be arguments. However compatible, no two people can think the same things all the time. There will be difference of opinions. If both have sweet talks all the time, both will land up having diabetes (laughter). Sometimes, misunderstandings do crop it and it should come. When one gets upset the other should be quiet; take turns to get upset. If both get upset at the same time, it is a problem. And if you compete by saying, 'You got upset, now I will get more upset than you', then there is a bigger problem. If one is getting annoyed, the other keeps quiet. The other can take their turn the next time. If you want, you can give back twice as much, but not at the same time and the same place. To one bad day, you can add another bad day, but don’t make the days so horrible that you can’t continue anymore. One should take turns in getting annoyed or upset. This should be the basic ground rule. If someone is upset, support them.
Now, domestic violence happens because of anger, and alcohol. It happens many times that there is no argument, but a person comes back home drunk and hits the spouse. If someone is drunk, they don’t know what they are doing. This is a big problem all over the world, especially in developing countries. Men come home drunk and beat their wives. Next day they say, 'Oh, please forgive me, it’s not me, it’s the drink'. This is no good.
Marriage is give and take, or compromise. You cannot say, 'I want it this way only', no! You have to let go of your wishes and desires and listen to what the other person wants. You have to compromise somewhere in between. If there is no compromise, then there are arguments. When there are arguments, then the fight happens.
Stress is another cause of domestic violence. If people are stressed, sometime or the other, it is going to erupt. So people should know how to get rid of stress.
Then, everyone should have some purpose or goal in life. If both husband and wife, direct their energy into something useful or bigger, they will not police each other, or sit on each other’s head and blame each other. They won’t go on bickering about each other’s mistakes. So if they have a bigger goal in life and are busy doing that work, then things go smoothly.
When two lines run parallel with a goal in front, they are together all through like the railway tracks. But if they are just focused on each other, then they cross at some intersection. So it is important that two people living together should not bore each other so much that both want to run away from each other.
To keep the relationship alive and charming, spirituality and knowledge is a must. Big heartedness is a must, a greater vision is a must and leave space for each other. Then domestic violence will not happen.
Dear Gurudev, I am really worried about my family. They are caught up in a dark world of lies, manipulation and money. I have had to completely break contact with them and it breaks my heart. They do not listen to me and I see bad consequences in store for them. It is hard to watch all this. Do you have any advice?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
First of all, don’t cut-off from them. At least don’t give them the feeling that you don’t care about them and are cut-off from them. That is not going to help them. It is your innate nature to help and you want to help them. For some reason you are born into this family. There is some karma together, so you do what you can to help them, if at all.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be there every day, listen to them and be involved totally. You can have a very friendly relationship. Cordiality will not come in the way of what you want to do. You have your life and they have theirs, but you can be cordial with them and politely refuse what you don’t want to do and help whenever you can help them. This is the skill that we need to learn in our communication and in our actions.
This world is full of people who are so absurd, crazy and mindless. See what they did in Ukraine, they shot down an airplane with so many passengers. What are they doing in Iraq? Gaza? Israel? Can we run away, renounce and go to another planet? No! We have to live on this planet with these people.
Recently, a very famous medical surgeon came to our Bangalore ashram. He gave a talk which was an eye opener. He said how many clinical trials of many medicines are done because of the pressure from the pharmaceutical lobby. He was telling me about a particular medicine, where the chief medical officer manipulated the research and passed the drug saying it is good for health. When he was dying, he confessed that he had committed a great sin and passed a medicine that actually had adverse effects and wanted to repent for his sins. That medicine is still being given to people and freely used all over the world. There are dozens of such cases.
We will invite him here some day to give a talk. Most of the surgeons today in USA and in Johns Hopkins are his students. He is an elderly retired man and is against these pharmaceutical lobbies. He says that when you are working they will come after you and ruin your career. But now that I am retired, I can speak my heart out and feel free to speak what I want.
These pharmaceutical lobbies are destroying the health of people. A whole generation spends their time thinking butter is bad for health and leads to cholesterol and heart problems. We had an elderly Swamiji in our ashram who was 78 years old and had a slight heart problem. His cholesterol was high and the allopathic doctor said, 'You should not have butter', but the Ayurveda doctor said, 'You should have butter. It is good'.
Today in the Time magazine, the research shows that butter is good for you and not margarine. Margarine was used to substitute butter but the research was all wrong.
Similarly, in India they used to have coconut oil. But then a whole research lobby said palm oil should be used and not coconut oil. Now they say, cold pressed coconut oil is better than palm oil.
The chemicals that were used in the last century are proving to be hazardous to health. Now they are using Genetically Modified seeds and products (GMO). And the employees of the company where these seeds are being made say, 'We don’t want to eat it', what does it mean? The employees of Monsanto refuse to eat GMO food in their canteen.
These people are only concerned about money, money and money. Even if people die, they are not bothered. These types of pharmaceutical lobbies, recreational drug lobby, gun lobby is huge in North America. I don’t think you have much in Europe. There are more gun stores than grocery stores in America. Two gun stores to one grocery store and there is a big lobby working for it. All these lobbies are destroying the health of society and they think yoga and meditation are rubbish. We must see that more and more people know of these practices (yoga and meditation) and become happier in their lives. A whole generation thought butter is bad and missed out on eating butter.
How do I see God in the face of a stranger?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is actually the other way around, you can’t see God in people you are familiar with. In a stranger, you might think that maybe God is like this because you don’t know their bad qualities or good qualities. If you don’t know their bad qualities, it is easy for you to see God in them. People whom you are familiar with, you know their bad qualities and weaknesses, and you will ask me, 'How do I see God in them?'
If I say, 'Forget seeing God in anybody, see God in yourself', you will say, 'I can’t see God in myself'.
Then I would say, 'Never mind, be a communist and don’t see God anywhere'. So it is your choice!
What do you mean by God? God means love. Can’t you see the other person as made up of love?
One would find it easier to see God in a stranger than in someone familiar. Have you heard the saying, familiarity breeds contempt? But I don’t agree with that. There are many cases where people are very centered. The more close you go to them, the more charming and loving you will find them. But familiarity breeds contempt is also true to some extent.