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.
Dear Gurudev, congratulations for the meeting with the FARC in Cuba and their resolution to adopt non-violence. Is there a way that you can also approach Hamas leaders from Gaza to inspire them to do the same, as well as Israeli government members?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Yes. You know, when politics gets involved, somewhere sincerity disappears and ambition steps in. In some places, people are happy that there are conflicts, because conflict is a cash cow for them.
Many people don’t want world peace! Or else what will happen to their arms market? Developed countries have a lot of arms and ammunitions, if there is world peace, they will have to shut down the huge factories! For them, it is necessary that some conflicts happen so that they can sell their weapons. This is the bitter truth. You must know this.
It’s like the toddy business in India. The government encourages people to drink and get addicted to alcohol because it is a source of revenue for them. And what happens? People drink and drink and they become addicts to alcohol and their families suffer. Who suffers? The women folk suffers.
Peace is not that easy. It is very complicated. That’s why I say that leaders and decision-makers should start meditating.
This time on World Yoga Day when I taught world leaders meditation, you know what the United Nation people, including our Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said? He said, "We need to do this every day before going to negotiations. We feel so good after meditation".
It was the first time that many of them had meditated. They said, "We feel completely different. So fresh. We should do this regularly". Meditation is essential when you want to make an important decision which affects millions of people.
A journalist from Colombia asked me, "How come the FARC listened to you and agreed to ceasefire? Big powers such as America, Norway, failed to get them to declare ceasefire. What did you say?"
I said, "It is not what I say but what I am that made a difference!"
So, if you are sincere, people recognize that and that makes all the difference. It is not the strategy but sincerity that makes a difference because the world moves with energy, and it is this positive spiritual energy (of sincerity) that uplifts the other. When you have positive and loving energy in you, that brings a difference to the world. Do you see what I am saying?
There are peace conferences where people keep on talking and talking till you get headache from listening to them. So exhausting! I have visited many of these conferences, and now I decided - no more such conferences! If I go to a conference, I am going to give my talk and get out of there, I am not going to stay and listen! It is so tiring. People only talk. How many of you have experienced this in conferences? (Many in the audience raise their hands)
The conferences that The Art of Living organizes are much different, whether it is our International Women’s Conference, or our Corporate Culture & Spirituality Conference. People say it is different. Why? We ensure that it is done with positive, sincere energy, and meditation is part of our program. That makes the difference.
(A member of the audience asked a question relating to terrorism, but it was inaudible)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The horrible crimes that people are doing today, is very unfortunate. We need to have pity on these people. They have not gotten proper education. They are victims of the education system.
Just imagine, you were born in that place and you were told that you had to do God’s work and God doesn’t want these other infidels to live in the planet, and that it is your duty, what would you do? You would do the same thing as they are doing.
They are like soldiers. If you are a soldier working in the military or army, what are you taught? If an enemy comes, see them not as a human being but as an object and shoot at them, isn’t it? This is proper army training! Every military man is taught not to see humanness in the person with whom they are fighting. ‘See them as a dangerous object which is coming to attack you. See them as an animal, shoot them!’ This is their education.
That’s why I say, every child in the planet should be educated a little bit on all the diverse cultures and religions of the world, and are made to understand that the world is one global family - you should respect, honor and love all human beings. If this education is given, will anybody take a gun and shoot another? Impossible! When you are educated in the principle of non-violence, you can’t kill people! Horrible crimes happen because this education is lacking.
If you tell growing-up children that cruelty to animals is bad, and they grow up with this concept that ‘cruelty to animals is bad’, they wouldn’t want to hurt animals! But you know that in some places in the Far East, they have pet dogs in their home, and one day it comes on their dining table! Do you know this?
An American told me that he was in the Far East and was a guest in somebody’s house. There was a nice dog there. Next time, after a month or two, he went back and asked, "What happened to your dog?" It was already on the dining table!
That is the culturing of the mind, that is how the mind is being cultured – it is okay to do that. If it is okay to shoot a dog which has been a pet at your own home, then it is okay to shoot somebody who is your neighbor too!
Today, crime is increasing in the world because of the virtual video games of gunmen shooting people. Kids keep shooting and they don’t find it bad. You can shoot in the virtual world. But then kids get confused and don’t find any difference between the virtual world and the real world. In the real world also, they take the gun and shoot!
In America, there are more gun stores than grocery stores. Gun stores are almost twice as much as the grocery stores. So kids have access to guns. They take the guns to school and they shoot people, and they don’t find anything wrong in it because they have grown up playing video games with guns! They don’t see that in the video game, you shoot them down, they come back again, but in real life they don’t! You shoot somebody and they are finished forever!
Classroom and campus crimes are increasing in the world. Street crimes are increasing, family disputes are increasing. Yesterday I was told that 50% of the family disputes end up in divorces. It has become a very big issue. And that is why what we are doing (The Happiness Program) is so relevant. Our vision is a stress-free and violence-free society, and we need to make our voice heard loud and clear.
This morning, a very big terrorist had called me on the phone. He has been fighting in the jungles, and has been wanted for the last 35 years. I told him, "Look! What are you doing? You are 65 years old now. How long are you going to run around in the forest? Some countries will give you weapon, they will give you money to de-stabilize another country, but they can never give you honor. You want to die with such disgrace and dishonor? No country will give you asylum. I know you want to help your people, you want social justice. That is your cause. You are fighting against injustice. Correct, I agree with you. But gun is not the way. It won’t lead you anywhere. 35 years you have been fighting, where has it lead you? It is better that you return to your homeland and have an honorable life. I will stand with you. We will create a peaceful situation".
You know what he said? He said, "You are the first person who understood me. I trust you. I don’t think anybody else had this understanding".
I told him, "I understand what you want. You are not having a party in the forest. Your children and wife are suffering somewhere, and you are stuck with an ideology which has become almost obsolete today. Today, the world is interdependent".
He agreed to have a meeting with me. At first, he said, "I am very busy for three months".
I said, "Look, you are busy, I am busier than you (laughter)! It is even difficult for me to give you a date, I have all dates booked".
He called back again and said, "Yes, we will meet". He also gave me a date. We need to put this sense in people’s heads.
I see serious flaw in our education system. We have not given spiritual education to our children. We have not made them realize that the whole world is one family. We have not given them the vision or a mission in their life that unites people. So they take up missions and visions which divide, or which they perceive as God’s wish, that is sheer nonsense!
There are people who are fighting on the Communist ideology or for social justice, this is one side. And there are people who are fighting on religious ideology. We have to get them to the central goal of human civilization. Don’t you think so? And what is the central goal of human civilization? It is love, compassion and joy. It is realizing that for the short time that we live on this planet, we need to make life a celebration! This is what The Art of Living is all about.
So there is this consciousness of 'Injustice has been done to me, so I want to do things right in the world’.
All these people who want to set things right in the world, for example the terrorists, what do they want? They think that everybody has spoiled the planet and the civilization and so they ruin societies and families, and think that they are going to bring God’s order or law on this planet; social justice and peace for everybody, and that’s why they fight. They want to remove all the rotten apples. In their eyes, everyone who doesn’t belong to their ideology is a rotten apple. Right? They want to get rid of all this. People who create havoc in the society, they think everybody else is bad. This is their understanding. That’s why yoga, meditation, and this spiritual knowledge what we are espousing today has so much relevance because the basis of this is non-violence and harmony in diversity.
Multi-cultural and multi-religious education, education in non-violence, and education in spiritual values is essential in the world. If this education is given, we can avoid many future disasters.
The world cannot be a safe place even if you leave one small country thinking that only they have the truth, everybody else is going to hell and only they are going to heaven. They are going to create hell for everybody! They will become terrorists. That’s why we all have a great job to do. We have to bring this knowledge to every doorstep. We have to tell people about meditation because when you go inward, you find peace within and you will not harm others. Who harms others? One who is disturbed inside, one who has not found peace.
So if someone has cheated, that man is not a happy man. If that man or woman is happy inside, content inside, why would they cheat somebody?