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 are four sources of energy:
1. Food. In ancient India, if someone is behaving funny, people will ask, ‘What did you feed him?’ or ‘What did you eat?’ Instead of asking, ‘Why are you behaving like this?’ This is true in some way. Attending to food is the first source of energy.
2. Sleep. Any sane person, if you do not let him sleep for two days, he will not be normal. There will be a drastic change in his or her behavior. So sleep or proper rest is important.
3. Breath is the third source of energy. A few minutes of breathing, and some yoga can energize the body and the mind, and uplift the spirit.
4. A happy mind, a comfortable mind is much more calm and collected. A few minutes of meditation makes the mind happy and comfortable.
So, these are the four sources of energy. People know of the first two to some extent, though they may not have paid much attention to it. The other two need to be known or told to people. They should be part of our education system.
Now, there is one more aspect that needs our attention. When it comes to interfaith, inter-religious or intercultural dialogue in the world, I would say that there are ten major religions in the world and 600 and so branches of all the religion. If our children know a little bit about all these other religions and they grow up seeing all these are part of one divinity, don’t you think the world will be such a better place? It is not through elimination that we can make a better world. It is through assimilation that we can make a better world.
I once heard a nice story from a Catholic priest. He told me that God needed some ideas. When Ireland was burning, he did not know how to settle it. So he asked a Catholic priest, ‘What should we do?’
The priest said, ‘Oh, it is very easy, remove all Protestants from Ireland and Ireland will be peaceful’.
God did not find it a very good idea, so he came to a Protestant priest and asked, ‘What do you say? What idea do you want to give?’
He said, ‘Oh, it is very simple, remove all Catholics from Ireland'.
Then God said, ‘Let me go to a Jewish rabbi.’
He went to a Jewish rabbi and said, ‘Tell me, what is the solution?’ and he said, ‘Remove both of them from there, then Ireland will be peaceful’.
God became very upset, he said, ‘What should we do now?’
Of course, he then put good thoughts in the minds of people to come together.
So the process of elimination should stop. Whatever is the belief system that is prevalent in the world (except if it is a superstitious thing which is harmful for society) have got their own beauty and their own uniqueness. We need to celebrate the multicultural, multi-religious events more and more.
Every child, if he learns a little bit about all these ten different religions, even a couple of pages from each one, then they will know that we live in a very diverse world, and we should honor, love and appreciate these differences. If children grow up with this tendency, I think we can put an end to terrorism, which is taking over the world today. Don’t you think so? This has been my dream from long time. I would like the UNESCO to take up this one subject of multi-religious education to the whole population of the world, so that every kid learns a little bit about all the traditions in the world and appreciates and celebrates them.
Similarly, we should have more multicultural festivals. In India, we have this ancient saying 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam', which means the world is one family. When you are well-educated, when your heart is larger, the world becomes your family. Technology has shrunk this globe into a village. Distance is no longer a matter of concern. I think it is the humanness and human values that should be the spirit of human education, and that alone is what can make this world into a family.
In today’s advanced technological world, with the help of latest gadgets, our life has become more efficient but at the same time more stressful. These gadgets may be useful but they also increase our stress levels, as we are always glued to check emails, catch up with news, etc. What is your advice in dealing with these stress levels. Should we simply throw away the mobiles, or there is a more practical way to handle this situation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
On the mobile there is a switch-off button, we should be kind enough to press it sometimes, that is all. Technology is no impediments at all. It is we who make it an impediment. The purpose of technology is to give us comfort, at the same time, our sleep, or our meditation, or other activities also give us comfort; in fact it gives us absolute comfort. So when a higher comfort is available, you have to leave the lower comfort and rest for some time.
So, for few minutes, I would recommend you to use that switch-off button so that you can have sound sleep. And when you do good exercise, or when you are with family having a dinner, I think you can put it on silent mode.
Who will take up the role of educating the population and the children? How can UNESCO find the way to bring spirituality as a real component and not as a luxurious thought to our agenda?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Any big transformation in society depends on the four pillars of society:
1. The government
2. The civil societies; the NGOs
3. The media
4. The faith-based organizations, they also have a role to play
When all these four avenues or pillars of society work in unison, only then any project can be successful. Whether it is this one, or child education, or whatever. Any project in a society need cooperation from these four corners.
UNESCO can play a very important role in influencing all these four aspects of the society. The faith-based organization can influence the government, it can produce a system and tell all the governments to make multicultural, multi-faith education a part of the curriculum for children.
I would say, even if every country in the West put one percent of their defense budget in peace education, this world would be a better place to live.
The feeling of ego leads us to dominate others, or be disrespectful. What is the message of The Art of Living that would help bring us together, and be more respectful of each other?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
One of the biggest crisis on the planet is the identity crisis. We identify ourselves as somebody, and those who do not belong to the same identity, we think that they are against us and we become afraid of them, or we want to dominate them and so we show aggression towards them.
So what we need to change is: our identity.
There are several layers of identity:
1. We are part of one divinity
2. We are one humanity
3. Then comes male or female
4. The religion we belong to
5. The country we belong to
When these identity reverses, we forget the basic identity, i.e., we are all human beings.
Those who we feel do not belong to us, we are not happy with them. We want to dominate them. The tendency to dominate is because of the ego, and the antidote for this is having a sense of belongingness to everybody.
For me, wherever I go, I feel totally at home. Not once have I felt that I am in a foreign land. I have traveled from North Pole to South Pole, everywhere I feel absolutely at home. We can cultivate this feeling within us, we just need to see life from a broader perspective.
We must remember these three Cs:
See life from a bigger context. What is ego? You think you have achieved something? What are you? Who are you? You are nothing! You are not even a speck in this creation! Billions of years have passed, and billions will come in the future, in this great span of time we are nowhere! So when we give a bigger context to life, the ego simply starts dissolving or just smiles – it is not an angry ego, but a smiling ego.
Then commitment; when life has commitment towards human values such as compassion and nonviolence, then life flows in a proper direction.
Then compassion, which is a natural thing. We all have compassion. In fact I would say there is not one person who does not have compassion on the planet; in some it is only not expressed, it is covered and needs uncovering.