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.
People tell me, 'Gurudev, it is election time now, why are you going to Maharashtra?' I told them that be it election time or not, it is all the same for me. All times are the same.
In this election season, it is even more important for me to come here and make people aware to step forward and do something for the nation.
As you saw today, I met the volunteers of 'Volunteer for a Better India'. It felt good seeing the great work that the volunteers have done. They have added fifty four thousand new people in the voters’ list in Pune itself. Our youth is coming forward and taking the responsibility of the country. This is a matter of great happiness.
Natural calamities give us a warning that we are doing something to the environment which is not right. We are not paying attention to the environment.
Last month, there was a great setback for the farmers. There was a a natural calamity here, in Maharashtra. No one had ever heard of such a disaster before. There were strong hailstorms because of which all the crops were destroyed. When I saw the pictures, Maharashtra looked like Kashmir (referring to the layer of snow). This natural calamity gave us a warning that we are doing something to the environment which is not right. We are not paying attention to the environment.
We are burning plastics at many places. The toxins produced by burning one plastic bag is sufficient to cause cancer in a 1000 people. We need to take a lot of care.
We are putting poisonous pesticides in the fields, and the land is getting spoiled. Even the water table is getting affected.
Today the Indian soil is suffering from anemia. Do you know what anemia is? Deficiency of iron content in the blood causes anemia in the human body. Similarly the land is getting anemic because of the dearth of hydrocarbons. On an average, the Indian soil has just 0.3 to 0.4 percent of hydrocarbons. In foreign countries, the hydrocarbon content in the soil is as high as 5 to 6 percent. It means our land is suffering from anemia.
We all need to make efforts to change this situation. We need to change the circumstances. We need to attend to our environment and care for it. This is the first important thing.
The second problem we have been facing is corruption. Corruption needs to be eliminated from the country. The voices of the good people should be heard.
Corruption will not end just by passing a few laws. The laws against corruption are certainly important, but when most people become spiritual and when we firmly decide that we shall neither give nor take any kind of bribe, only then will the situation change in this country.
Corruption starts where belongingness ends. So for ending corruption, we need to bring a wave of spirituality in the country. This is required.
Today there is so much of violence in our country. Why do people get these violent tendencies? It is when the spirit of service disappears, that the tendency of violence takes hold. When one gets involved in serving others, or in any social service, then waves of happiness and bliss comes into their life.
This is necessary for the youth. You should give one hour each day towards serving the nation. If we give seven hours in a week, we can do such good work for the society. So give one hour daily for the nation.
We need to bring this awareness in the people around us. Are we all ready to do this? How many are ready? (Many in the audience raise hands)
Corruption needs to be eliminated from the country. Corruption will not end just by passing a few laws. When most people become spiritual and when we firmly decide that we shall neither give nor take any kind of bribe, only then will the situation change in this country.
Today I will give you a mantra which you need to chant every day. The mantra is, 'Annadaata Sukhi Bhavah'. It means, 'May the one who has given me this food be happy and content'.
So before you begin your meals, chant, 'Annadaata Sukhi bhavah'.
By this mantra, we pray for the well-being of the farmers. If the farmer is unhappy, then the crop he produces won’t be healthy. Then those who eat the food will also become unhealthy. So we should say, 'Annadaata Sukhi bhavah'. May the farmers of this country be happy and prosperous!
The next thing I want to tell you is regarding business and finance in our country. You know, when the businessmen of the country are unhappy, only then do they resort to corruption and other wrong deeds.
Why do businessmen indulge in adulteration? There is so much adulteration nowadays. We should pray to the Divine to bless our businessmen with ‘Sadbuddhi’ (a righteous intellect). They should understand the harm caused by adulteration and not resort to such wrong practices.
The situation is still better in Maharashtra. If you go to Delhi, the adulteration problem is so widespread. There is so much adulteration of food that you will be fearful of even eating sweets. They are adulterating sweets with urea and artificial chemicals because there is so much shortage of milk.
So our businessmen and traders should be happy. If they are happy they won’t do anything wrong. A person who is happy doesn’t quarrel with others. The one who is unhappy and not content tends to harm both himself and others around him.
The third thing I would say is about the women in our country. When the women of our country are unhappy, the whole nation will be unhappy. If the lady of the household is unhappy, the whole family would be disturbed. So we should all pray that the lady who cooks and serves us food at home should be happy. So you must chant, 'Annadaata sukhi bhavah', and bless the women.
We all need to take a firm resolve in our mind for strengthening of our country. There should be hundred percent voting in our country. It is our responsibility to elect and bring good people to power. Those who are honest should be elected.
There are good people even today, so elect them. Don’t vote for criminal elements and corrupt people. If you take care of this, our country can get rid of the problems it is facing today.
A person who is happy doesn’t quarrel with others. The one who is unhappy and not content tends to harm both himself and others around him.
The economy of our nation is in grave danger. If we want to come out of it, then a strong government should come in power. That would help reduce inflation. So we all should work for this.
Spiritual people don’t belong to any particular political party. They belong to everybody. Does a supreme court judge belong to a party? Does a doctor treat people who support only one particular party? If a doctor belongs to one party then how will people from the other parties go to him for treatment (laughter)? Similarly spiritual people are for everybody.
Often people approach me and ask, ‘Gurudev, your job is to teach spirituality. Why do you discuss corruption and other social problems so much?’
So many people ask this question. I tell them, love for one’s country and love for the Divine are two sides of the same coin.
If it was not so, why would Samarth Ramdasji urge Shivaji Maharaj to fight for righteousness? Did Ramdasji not inspire Shivaji Maharaj? This has been our tradition since ages.
Whenever there were problems in society and morality began to fall, people from the spiritual field came forward and took charge.
So this is my duty and I will do it.
Whenever there is a fall of Dharma (righteousness), the spiritual leaders will stand up against it and raise their voice. They have done this in the past, and will continue to do this in the future too. They will stand and speak whenever such social problems arise.
(Note: The discourse was given in Hindi. Above is a translation of the original talk.)
How can I gain the determination to face a situation? Or should I change my path? How can I know what is my dharma (duty)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, we ask such questions many times. There is no dearth of knowledge about anything we want to know about. Nowadays, knowledge is available at a click of a button. Type your query on Google and you will get everything. But that is not the actual thing. There is something else. What is that? You need to just wake up and realize that everything is going to end one day.
Everything that has ever happened till this day, till this very moment, does not exist anymore. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad. No matter what happened till now, no longer exists. It is all finished.
As we go ahead in life, we will realize that everything is going to end. Nothing will remain. And yet, we still sit and go on thinking over it, worrying about this and that.
Shake everything off yourself, just wake up and see – there is nothing. Everything is nothing, that’s it. This very realization is enough for wisdom to dawn within you. The nothing that remains is what everything truly is. You need to remind yourself of this again and again, so that it gets instilled in your memory.
After listening to the entire Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna says, 'I remember now'.
What does he remember? That all this is nothing! I am not this. If I was this then I would have ended. I have surpassed all this and moved on, this hasn’t even touched me. This we must remember again and again.
See, you go to school or college and somebody curses you - hasn’t it happened to you?
In college, there is nobody who hasn’t heard curses from someone, whether friend or enemy. At that moment, we might have felt so heavy, but is that heaviness still present? It is not there, it has passed away. Just see how you have surpassed all that and moved ahead.
So, Everything is Nothing - this is called the Hridaya Sutra (aphorism of heart) as was told by Lord Buddha. This is also what Adi Shankaracharya called as the philosophy ofAdvaita. All the five elements are nothing. The five senses are nothing. I am nothing. You are nothing.
In the language of the knowledgeable, this translates to, 'All this is nothing'.
Devotees say the same thing in a different way – they say, 'I am akinchan' (I am nothing). If you just understand this, great awareness dawns within you.
So whenever something worries you, awaken yourself. Remind yourself that one day we all have to die. No matter how much you decorate and adorn this body, one day it will burn on the funeral pyre.
See every problem as a challenge. Take it as a challenge and see. Then there is no power in this world that can wipe the smile off your face.
To know this, how many books will you have to read? What all will you do, where will you go? You don’t have to do anything. This is what you are learning - the art of doing nothing!
People have gotten so tired asking again and again, 'What do I do?' And the gurus who keep saying, 'Do this, do that, do this', have grown tired of saying it. So you have to do nothing - just know that all this is nothing.
Now this doesn’t mean you sit and keep chanting this. Then it will become a kind of a disease.
They have caught a new kind of disease overseas - they call it 'affirmations'. Think a particular though within you repeatedly.
In Switzerland, we had a workshop once. And after the workshop we went to a nearby hotel to have some tea and snacks. There, a couple was sitting and they asked me, what do I do. I said that I teach meditation.
I asked them what they do. They said that they practice and teach affirmations.
A husband wakes up at 3am, sits on the bed and says, 'I love myself, I love myself, I love myself' to himself repeatedly. Does one have to do all that to understand such a simple fact?
Our devotees and seekers, who were there at that time, said 'We don’t have to do anything like that. We do Sudarshan Kriya and we automatically feel that ‘I love myself’. We don’t have to say it again and again.'
Now you are here in Rishikesh, do you have to remind yourself that you are in Rishikesh? You know where you are. If you say this repeatedly then sometimes doubt comes. Then one may think, 'Am I really here?' (Laughter)
Can an atheist attain enlightenment?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Definitely! But he won’t remain an atheist after that.
Look, an atheist can attain knowledge but he will not be able to remain an atheist forever after attaining knowledge. That is why communists run away from us, because they feel scared.
If you are a man of principles, then what is the problem in meeting someone else? When we are not convinced about our own principles, when we don’t trust ourselves, then we worry that we might lose our principles by shaking hands with someone else!
In other countries, when people greet each other, they greet with one hand, saying, ‘Salaam’, or offer a handshake using the left or right hand. But here in India we greet with both hands and say, ‘Namaste’. It becomes a greeting when both, the left and the right hands join. When the right hand is not so ‘right’ and the left hand is not so ‘left’, then it becomes a greeting (meaning the coming together of two opposites in harmony).
But in other countries, the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ don’t meet at all. They speak ill of each other at a distance.
Even here, the people aligned to the ‘right’ (here referring to the right wing politicians), and the people aligned to the ‘left’ (referring to the Leftist or Communist political parties in India) don’t even meet. Why? It is because they fear that doing so will destroy what they have established so far.
Gurudev, are you God or are you a great human being?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Listen, whoever I am, first you should find out who you are.
I am far but you are very near to yourself. So first know that which is near to you, then try to know that which is far!
First contemplate upon, 'Who am I?' and then think about me. When you truly realize who you are, then you don’t need to understand anything else, and then you will automatically understand who I am also.
There must have been a similar question in Arjuna’s mind also. But before he could even ask that question to Lord Krishna, the Lord answered, saying 'In whichever way one perceives and worships Me, I reveal myself to them in that very form'.
Why did Lord Krishna say so? Lord Krishna says, 'This is because I am hollow and empty, I am nothing. When I am nothing then whoever sees Me in whichever form that is dear to them, I appear to them in that way'.
Many of our saints have said the same thing. They have said that one should be as simple and easy as water. Just like water takes the form of a vessel in which it is poured, in the same way, our consciousness should also have the same quality.
Should social organizations be a part of politics? Will it not weaken its own strength?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There is a table with four legs. Even if one leg gets broken, then the table still remains upright by the support of the other three legs, isn't it?
In the same way, in society, if politics (or any other aspect of society) becomes corrupted and loses its effectiveness, then society has to be supported by those aspects which is morally upright.
So, if the social organizations remain silent, or feel dejected and helpless, then it is not good for the society.
See, Nirbhaya died in Delhi (referring to the case of a young girl who was abused and killed in New Delhi). Why did all the social organizations come out in support for her; seeking justice for her? They could have said that it is a criminal case, so it is the duty of police only. What do we have to do with it?
If they would have thought in this way and remained silent about what is going on, then will it be good for our society? No, not at all. need to stand up and intervene sometimes.
In the same way, if there is some wrongdoing in a social organization, then shouldn’t the government intervene? If there is some wrongdoing in the domain of religion, then the government has to intervene, and it does.
A society is a composite community, consisting of many individual entities. We cannot build walls between the different parts of the society. They support and complement each other. This is how it has been since time immemorial.
The great Rishi Vishwamitra used to stay at his ashram. But when there were misdeeds happening in the society, he went to King Dashratha for help, and Lord Rama accompanied him to help restore order and peace. It was their duty to protect Rishi Vishwamitra and set right the elements that were creating a nuisance and disturbing him.
So it is the duty of each part of society to remind the other about its duties and responsibilities. Especially, the good people should come forward and enter politics. If good people just sit back and do nothing, then the wicked elements and criminals get encouragement to create more nuisances in society.
(Below is a continuation of the post The Spirituality Of Nature)
Spirituality alone has the power to stop suicides, and to stop crime.
Our country has become home to crime today. Political parties feel compelled to give election tickets to criminal elements only because they have a hold over public vote banks, and because there is no large vote bank of all the righteous and upright people in the country. We need a vote bank of all the righteous and good people today? Don't you all agree with me? (Yes).
India has such profound knowledge of spirituality that is capable of permanently transforming the lives of people. Yet we have not valued and honored our own spiritual legacy.
In the Dwapara Yuga (referring to the age in which Lord Krishna took birth), the Pandavas were only five, while their cousins - the Kauravas were 100 in number. But today, in the Kali Yuga, this arithmetic has been reversed. Today there are a 100 Pandavas (here meaning noble people) are only five Kauravas (here meaning wicked people). If our society is suffering today, I believe it is because of the silence of these 100 noble people, rather than the five wicked ones.
Today all you must take a Sankalpa (firm resolve) to work for the society. Go from door to door and make people aware of their rights, and what is happening. Do not let the good people just stay indoors and do nothing for the society. You must awaken the people. They should all step out of the comforts of their homes and become active volunteers for a better India. Will you all do this?
I have a dream for India, to bring about a wave of spirituality, a wave of happiness everywhere. Wherever possible, whether it be the villages or the cities, people’s faces should glow with happiness. This will not happen by acquiring wealth alone.
Countries across the world today have acknowledged this. That is why even in the Soviet Union have dedicated a day to celebrate World Happiness Day.
They have come up with an indicator called Gross Domestic Happiness to measure how happy and content the people of a country are. So having a lot of money alone is of no use. It is also important for the people to be happy and content.
More than 2000 youth commit suicide every year in Japan, and more than two lakh youth are diagnosed with some or the other mental disorder there.
In Europe, around 40% of the schoolteachers are affected with some mental illness, and 38% of the people there fall prey to suicide and other problems.
The Prime Minister of England asked me, 'Gurudev, why do the people here commit suicide when the government provides them all possible amenities, such as homes, cars, etc.?'
When the people there adopted Yoga, pranayama and meditation, they experienced a profound transformation in their lives. India has such profound knowledge of spirituality that is capable of transforming lives permanently. Yet we have not valued and honored our own heritage and the spiritual legacy that we have in our country.
We are sitting on top of a golden treasure, yet we have been ignorant about it. We look down upon in rather than upholding it with honor, and promoting it.
No one gives or takes bribe from their own brother, cousin, or family members. People behave in a corrupt way with those who they do not consider as their own.
So a corruption-free society cannot be achieved by laws alone. We need to expand our sense of belongingness with everyone around us.
India is home to many kinds of wealth.
In the west, we have our neighbors like the Middle East who have a lot of oil, and then we have countries like Indonesia and Malaysia who are rich in oil deposits too. We are in the centre and we also have a lot of oil wealth, but still we are importing oil from other countries at high prices.
We have huge coal deposits, yet we are importing coal from outside. We have huge deposits of bauxite in our country, but still we are importing Aluminum from outside.
We are exporting crude iron ore at small prices, and importing steel at high prices. By doing all this, we have done great damage to our economy. This misfortune has been our own doing.
Otherwise if you really look at it, India is still The Golden bird today. We want to see our country as The Golden Bird once again. How many people here have this same dream? Raise your hands. We all have to unite for this.
India is not a weak, or a poor country in any way. But we have brought ourselves to this pitiable state.
Do you know, around 1.4 trillion dollars worth of Indian money is deposited in foreign banks in the form of black money. Don't you think that we need to bring it back to our own country? Are you not tired and sad to see one horrifying scam after another in a land that is the home to the noblest of kings.
We need a corruption-free society today. And I do not think that we can eliminate corruption just by passing a few laws. It is not possible.
To eradicate corruption, we need to bring about a wave of belongingness in the society. One will never behave in a corrupt or dishonest way with those who belong to them. No one gives or takes bribe from their own brother, cousin, or family members. People behave in a corrupt way with those who they do not consider as their own. So a corruption-free society cannot be achieved by making laws alone. We need to expand our sense of belongingness with everyone around us.
I have travelled the world over, but wherever I have gone, the people there felt as if they were my own, and I too felt that I belonged to them. I never felt like anyone is a stranger to me. This has been my nature since the beginning.
Everyone here are the flowers tended to by one gardener (God). Now if these flowers start wilting, then can we simply stay quiet and watch? No, that would be hypocrisy. This is why whatever I think is right and appropriate for the time, I voice that out.
We cannot afford to give the reins of the country’s governance to a new and inexperienced person. Our country is in a time of crisis. We need a strong and experienced person, who speaks and acts honestly to govern the country.
You know, a journalist, a President of a country, and spiritual leaders do not belong to any one particular party or section of the people. They belong to everybody. They are not allied to any one particular party. But if a politician or a political party engages in wrong doing, then they must definitely tell them that they have done wrong. So it is both the duty and the right of a spiritual leader to do that, which is why I will continue to do so.
The land of Maharashtra has given birth to great saints like Swami Ramdas. It is the land of great saints. Every village here is so deeply soaked in devotion and love for the country. We have to simply rekindle that feeling everywhere, and you will see that a great revolution will begin from here, and its fragrance will spread everywhere in the country.
I feel that day is not too far, it is just around the corner now.
Today, we cannot afford to give the reins of the country’s governance to a new and inexperienced person. Our country is in a time of crisis, it is literally on ventilator support. We cannot make a one year old child sit in the driver seat of the country. Neither will the child be able to hold the steering wheel, nor will his feet reach the brake and accelerator pedals.
We cannot hand over the reins of the country in the hands of an inexperienced person. We need a strong and experienced person, who speaks and acts honestly, to govern the country.
We all have to wake up. The youth have to come forward and work towards saving this country, her religion and spirituality, her culture and heritage.
Gurudev, we must all vote 100%. But if 100% of the candidates in the elections are not good, then what do we do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I understand your question. I am also in the same dilemma. There are many wrong candidates contesting the elections at different places in the country. But when it comes to electing people into the parliament at the center, then you should focus on the greater interests of the country. So if you see a candidate who has a few flaws, then also it is alright, as long as he is strong and morally upright. This is because a strong leader will be able to manage the issues of the country in a proper manner. When it comes to the elections in your own state, then your focus should be on the character and track record of the candidate. If he is very corrupt, then you should show him his rightful place. When it comes to electing your city’s Municipal Corporation, then you should only vote for a person of good character and a clean record, regardless of which party they may belong to. This is because the municipal corporation of the city has to work for the city day in and day out, for issues like your roads, water supply, electricity supply, etc. members of the parliament or state legislative assembly cannot look into issues of the city. It is the officials of the Municipal Corporation who will look into such matters. So you should use a different yardsticks to select and elect candidates of different platforms of governance.
Gurudev, why are people today becoming spiritual and political also?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
If people are becoming more spiritual, then that is a good thing.
When there are so many problems happening in the society today, then the good and spiritual people have to step in and take up political roles also. Both are needed.
Does acquiring power and authority - professionally and spiritually, give one the power to misbehave with one’s parents at home? Do you approve of such people?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
No, not at all. Both the parents and the children need to understand and be careful in this situation.
For parents, I would advise them not to be overly strict with children. Remember what has been said in our scriptures. In the Nitishastra and Dharmashastra, it is said, ‘Aprapti shodashe varshe putram mitram-vad archaret’.
When you child becomes 16 years old, you should be like a friend to them. So give some freedom to your children, and do not try to overly control them in everything that they do.
But do not give too much freedom also. If you give them too much freedom, then in the future they will only blame you for their own conditions.
It is like this, if you hold the reins of a horse too tight, the horse will not be able to run. And if you keep it totally loose, then the horse will run wherever it wants to. So adopt the middle path here.