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.
In our World Cultural Festival, there were many challenges, many things seemed impossible. One was the seven acre stage that had to seat 8,500 artists. All the artists had to sit at different levels, else nobody would be able to see them. And then 36,000 artists were to perform a dance on it. We had to have this 60 feet high and seven acre large stage, and the venue was a river bed. It was the only place from where commuting was easy; train stations were close-by, and many roads led to the venue. When we decided to build a stage there, I put a lot of conditions to it, I was totally against doing anything that could harm the environment. We used no cement and no bricks because we couldn’t go deep (given that we were on a river bed). I told them that the stage should just be on scaffolding. Everyone thought it was impossible. When the stage came up, some environmentalists got so nervous. They thought it would disturb the environment because we were building a stadium-like structure. And when the architects and engineers came, they said that this was so dangerous, and that nobody can stand on this stage. But the stage withstood a lot; we had 40,000 people on a floating stage! When the stage was removed after a month, there was still grass underneath it.
When the Prime Minister’s security team came, they said that they can’t let the Prime Minister go on the stage as it had too many people on it. Security guidelines do not permit more than eight to ten people. Also, the stage had no foundation. So, eight hours before the event, we built a separate stage for the Prime Minister.
There was also a high terror threat, so the security teams were screening almost every corner, since 15 terrorists had entered Delhi. I am saying all this now (laughter). One of our teachers who was issuing passes said that five people came in plain clothes saying that they needed 50 passes. They said, "We are from the Intelligence Agency. We need 50 all-access passes". Since teachers and volunteers are meditators, something stuck this teacher and he called the Intelligence Bureau and asked them if they had asked for passes, as some people had come to collect them. They responded saying, "No, we have not sent anybody from the Intelligence Agency". By that time, the five people who had come ran away. They fled the moment they realized we were talking to the Intelligence Agency. They were some communists who wanted to sabotage the event.
Every volunteer was so enthusiastic, there was not an iota of distress or lack of conviction. On the first day, it rained a little bit, On the second day, it became very slushy and some of the buses got stuck at the venue. Our whole organizing committee came to me and said, "Gurudev, shall we shift the venue to a smaller place, which can hold about 15,000 people?" We had all the religious dignitaries coming, and there was a weather forecast for thunder storm and 96% probability of rain, which is very high! They said, "Gurudev, it will become a mess, there could be a short-circuit; what do we do?" I heard them out. Usually, whatever the committee says, I agree with them, I don’t put my foot down. This was one occasion when I heard them and said, "No, I am going to go there only, whether it is a thunder storm or hurricane, I am going to go and sit there! If you want to come, you come!" Finally what happened? All the clouds withered away. We had a great time. And on the third day, the weather was perfect.
The program was watched by 1.8 billion people live on the internet, which means, one-third of the humanity on this planet watched it. What is the one message that we brought to this big population? We are one family! Our languages, dance, culture, eating habits, may be different, but we are part of one great world family. This is the purpose of any celebration - to bring everyone together, to unite the hearts and minds of people. This can also be the mission of our life - to unite everyone’s heart and mind. Our job is to bring everyone together because it is in our nature. We are not doing a great act or a favor to anybody, it is in our nature. If we have just this one conviction in us, then backbiting will disappear from our life.
For good or bad, fortunately or unfortunately, backbiting is one thing that has entered the human psyche, through our education or lack of it. It may be a strand of ego, or ignorance, or insecurity. This person talks bad about that person, that person talks bad about this person or about another person. We keep these things going in an ignorant society. In an enlightened society or a happy society, you tell other person of the mistakes they are making knowing that they are part of you. I am not saying that you have to be all goody-goody in a world that is not all good. If you have terrible pain and yet you say, "I am fine, everything is fine!"that is not correct. If there is pain, you say that you have pain. You have to be authentic, at the same time, you should have no bitterness.