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.
There is a temple on the southern end of India, it is called Thanumalayan Temple, and it is in a town called Suchindram. That is where Indra (leader of the mind) became pure. Now, the concept of Indra is very astonishing. Indra has 1000 eyes, that means, 500 people together create a collective consciousness (something like a mob). That is the minimum, then it can go on in multiples of 500, but 500 is the minimum to create a collective consciousness. If you see the mob psychology, all the crime on the planet is due to it. Individual people are not creating a crime, it is the mob that is creating havoc on planet Earth. One person can be changed, but to change a mob is difficult.
Our senses are called Indriya, our mind is called Indra, and the collective mind is called Indra. So when the collective mind does a lot of sin, and the sin has to be relieved from the collective mind, then a wise person was needed.
The mythological story goes that -- Indra had committed many sins and then he met with a Guru at Suchindram. Shiva came in the form of Dakshinamurthy and relieved Indra of all his sins, and so Indra became pure. This is the story, and the message of the story is so apt -- if a wise person’s instructions are followed, it purifies the mob, then the mob can be stopped from engaging in violent or unruly activity.
So in the temple they have a 5000 year old tree, and it was under this tree that Indra was purified. This is not a phenomena that has happened once, it is happening all the time. In a purer atmosphere, with wise people around, people’s minds change and become more and more humane in their behavior. This is a symbolic story, but most people don’t know its significance.
If you see the TV serials, Indra is always doing wrong things and you wonder how he can be doing such things. Indra means collective consciousness and collective consciousness always indulges in sin and to cleanse the sin, a wise person is needed. That is why it is said, "Guru ke bina gati nahi", without a Guru, there is no liberation.
Gurudev, on the political situation in our country, if you look at the political parties and how they function, the basic flaw is how they get their funding because of which all the corruption happens. You have established this organization in so many countries, is there any near perfect system that may have existed in the past which we can learn from and implement?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Every system has some good things and some bad things in it. So we should take the good things and leave the bad things. Hong Kong and Singapore have some very good systems by which they combat corruption. Similarly Switzerland has an excellent system, but there are flaws in all these systems. So the process is in evolving a system. And one system may not be good for all countries because each area and demography may be different and each country needs to come up with their own system. In India, the Panchayat system was great.
In the past, in India, they said that every village should have 5 people in the Panchayat (an assembly of 5 people) of which one should be a woman. In those days it was said that even Gods are in a Panchayat. Ganapati represents humor, and means someone in the village Panchayat should be humorous because without humor life becomes miserable and problems don’t get solved. So Ganapati is representative of humor.
Then Goddess Devi means that women representation should be there. In this country, gender equality has been there for so many centuries. In fact, women are given one step higher in Kerala, Tripura, Meghalaya and some other parts of India where it is the matriarchal society, where the boy goes and stays with the girl’s parents or her family, and not the girl going away into the boy’s family. So women are part of the system.
Then Vishnu represents the manager who manages properly what is already there, or the maintenance person. And Shiva, one who brings transformation whenever it is needed, and who makes drastic changes. And then Surya, the one who represents dynamism.
So, in the olden days the Panchayat had someone who is dynamic, someone who is creative, someone who is a good manager, someone who brings change, ,someone who resolves conflicts and creates harmony. So the Panchayat system should become stronger in this country. Unfortunately, the political parties have entered into villages and have become very nasty. In fact, villages should be kept away from any political parties, that is best for them. At the village level it should be just normal people coming together to manage. At the city level, district level, let there be parties. What do you think? That’s how the parties should function. So a lot of reforms need to happen in this country, and I think it will happen with more and more people, especially with the youth getting interested in this. If the youth feel that all politicians are corrupt and there is nothing good, etc., this sort of mindset is detrimental to our country or any country in the world . Active engagement of the youth with a humanitarian approach for change is necessary. The way Russia changed, not considering humanitarian approach from a feudal society to communism should never happen again on the planet. Just for a few people to remain in power, millions lost their lives.
Similarly, in religious conversion we lost a lot of human lives. There are many things you can learn from the past. India is swinging from being in a sort of inactive mode to change and more dynamism.
Gurudev, with the migration crisis happening in Europe, how do people like us who live there, contribute or help?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, just giving the migrants food, or shelter, or money is not good enough. We need to infuse values in them. Educate them because they come from an area where there is only trauma. There is so much trauma in their minds that they will feel everyone is their enemy. They will behave with their hosts and their friends like they would behave with the enemies back home. If there was no mental trauma, why would they run away from their countries? So their psyche is filled with aggression, fear, anger, anxiety and trauma, and just giving them food and shelter is not enough and is not going to make them grateful for it.
We need to get them out of their trauma and the psychological distress that they are in. The distress needs to be attended to. I don’t know if countries are attending to this other than giving them shelter. Here, we need to teach them how to be calm and yoga and meditation will do magic there.
It will make them integrate well with their host country, it will soften their behavior and will bring a big turnaround in the whole situation. They will not be a burden to the society that they are in, and will in fact be a boon to the society that they are in. That type of education is important.
Gurudev, in the mythological story, Ganapati went around his parents and was considered to have gone round the world. Should we also keep our parents as our top priority?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, these are okay in stories, but if you actually start only listening to your parents and doing only what they say, soon you will land up frustrated. And if you get very frustrated, you will land up turning all your frustration on them. So in life, a balance is needed in everything. You should listen to them also, and should follow your heart also. Even if they don’t understand immediately, over time they will understand your point of view.