[Via Finacial Express], Sri Sri RaviShankar’ address to Indian Express staff. Reproduced below.
Sri Sri Ravishankar has been winning over ever diverse adherents to his Art of Living mode to spiritualism. He dropped by for tea with the Indian Express Group reporters and editors – with the promise of a special 15-minute meditation at the end – took an array of questions to explain his vision for morality in the 21st century. Sportingly addressing both sceptics and believers, he emphasised on the need to come to terms with guilt and to be physically enabled to embrace spiritual understanding
ON HIMSELF: The first sign of intelligence is not to talk. The second sign of intelligence is not to talk if a question is not asked. The first kind of intelligence is of course that of God. I don’t pay any attention to popularity. Whatever I say is from my own experience. My strength is that I don’t speak anything not in my experience. I’m just natural. You can’t make me feel not at home anywhere. I’m never shy of criticism – either giving it or taking it.
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: There were times when Indian spirituality was not considered respectable. There was a prejudice against it everywhere. When I went to Davos during the World Economic Forum we had a discussion on how spirituality and business were interrelated. Then when I went to speak to Naxalites I felt equally at home. In Kashmir I had an amazing welcome, with youths on a hundred bikes to receive me. It was the same in Siberia, Kosovo, Chechnya. When you have a sense of belonging it gets resonated back to you. What blocks this sense of belonging is your own fear, your own judgement about people. If you have fear that someone might criticise you, that blocks your communication. I usually say I am a child who refuses to grow up.
THE MEDIA: The media should not align with any political party because then they will not show the mistakes of that party. So information will not be disseminated properly. The media should be completely neutral.
DE-TOX, DE-STRESS: When you work for more than five hours your eyes need circulation. Do you know the size of your thumb and the space under your eyebrow is the same? You simply have to scoop your finger under your eyes and rub it gently three-four times. Put your index finger on top of your eyebrow and with a little pressure stretch the
muscles underneath once or twice. I work 20 hours in a day. Do I look tired? Four hours sleep is plenty for me. I’m not saying you should work for 20 hours, not at all. Have six hours of sleep. And take a few deep breaths on and off when you are working.
SPIRITUALITY: The problem among the youth today is attention deficiency and retention problem. Our spirit is made up of enthusiasm, love, honesty, integrity, sharpness of intellect. If all these qualities start blossoming inside us that is what I call spirituality.
MEDITATION: Gyanagni or knowledge fire – it always goes up. Love is like water. When you are in love you forget everything, become gumsum (lost) But knowledge is awareness. Our Vigyan Bhairav – book of Kashmiri Shaivism – says be alert whatever you are doing. If you are 100% alert that is also meditation. But that shouldn’t become an excuse not to meditate. Meditation brings deep relaxation, and that brings creativity.
WHAT DOES MEDITATION ACHIEVE: Violence-free environment, disease-free body, quiver-free breath, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory, and sorrow-free soul: that is what meditation achieves. It is conscious relaxation. Sleep doesn’t give sufficient rest to the body. Concentration and meditation are two opposite things. When you do any work you need concentration. When you meditate, you don’t need concentration. You de-concentrate, in fact. You can’t learn meditation through books. You need an instructor. Afterwards you can do it yourself but in the beginning
you need an instructor.
THE NECESSITY OF MEDITATION: Have you observed there’s a rhythm in nature? Fall, followed by spring…Have you observed there’s a rhythm in your body? A bio-rhythm – at a particular time you answer nature’s call, you feel hungry, you feel sleepy. Have you observed there’s a rhythm in your breath, in your thought pattern, in your emotional
pattern? The same kinds of doubts come around the same kinds of periods, times of year. There’s a rhythm in our emotions which is very original to us. When the rhythm of your body is in tune with the rhythm of the environment you become harmonious with nature.
Our rhythms are haywire, they are not in harmony. AIIMS has done a research which shows your resistance levels go up three times by doing Sudarshan Kriya. People stopped taking medicines for cold, cough, fever, after doing the Sudarshan Kriya. Many people haven’t touched medicines for 8-10 years when they were taking them regularly before. There are many other such benefits but it is for scientists to talk about them. It wouldn’t be authentic for me to talk about them. Twenty-five years ago I took a 10-day silence “maun” then I started talking to people, and that was when Sudarshan Kriya was born.
NEW AGE YOGA: Our body is the basis for all activities of dharma. The word for health “swasthya”, swa means self, asthya means being established in self. Spirit and health were never two different things in our country. But in the past few decades yoga was ignored,
people went straight to Vedanta, which is only the final step, Yoga comes before it: Sankhya, Yoga, Mimansa and Vedanta. No puja, no ritual, no ceremony begins without Pranayaam. But Prananyaam was never taught. That was a big loss. Now people have realised we need to go back to the spiritual aspect rather than be stuck in the merely religious, the outer thing. Unless the mind is still and quiet, Parmaatma is just a concept in the head. The finest “Parmaatma” is beyond the aatma. When I haven’t understood myself, which is aatma, Parmaatma is just a concept in the head. The gurus of old ignored yoga.
YOGA FOR HEALTH: We should not restrict yoga to just de-stress, or to lose weight or lower the blood pressure. It’s very unfortunate if it is limited to that. But the common people first want health. Otherwise it’s just pravachan (talk). So health is the doorway to the higher spiritual plane. Exceptions are those who’ve already gone there. For them it doesn’t matter. Once you have a taste of the spirit nothing in the planet can distract you. However, one can be spiritual in spite of sickness. Spirit engulfs everything in creation.
Spirit is like space. You can’t say something is outside space. Good health is just one of the benefits you can derive from yoga. It is just the beginning.
YOGA AS A PASSION OF THE RICH: This conception that only rich people come to Art of Living is not true. We have millions of people in villages coming to us. We have adopted 25,300 villages, and all these villages are into it. India doesn’t have nearly three million rich people. We had our silver jubilee and not many rich people were there. It was all organised by the masses. Common people have more spirituality than the rich-definitely. Spirituality gives one self-confidence, that I can stand up on my feet and make my life. Dare dare aadmi to kuch nahi kar sakta (Someone who’s plagued with fear cannot do anything).
KARMA – WHAT I DO GETS BACK TO ME: You only believe what you don’t know, right? A little bit of guilt will stop you from doing the same mistake. But too much of guilt is like cancer, it eats you. That is why we have in our tradition the concept of praayashchit
(penitence). It renews your soul. To serve someone, to do good to someone, is praayashchit. Spirituality encompasses people of all faiths, it is beyond belief systems. Religion is bound by belief systems, the way you get cremated, the way you get married. That inner experience of being part of the universe, that’s spirituality.
SPIRITUAL INDIA: People ask me how can India have so much spirituality and yet be so poor. I have my own explanation to this. India has one-third the land of America and thrice its population. It has six major religions, many dialects and over a thousand years of foreign rule.
That India is still existing as a country is a miracle. We could have gone the Yugoslavia way a long ago. Yet, it’s because of spirituality that India still exists.
Tell me, today there are more hospitals, how come there are more diseases? The health of society has gone down in the last 40 years. Are the hospitals responsible for this? No, it is because of the lifestyle. You still feel the villages in this country have lots of ethics, human values are greater there. Do you know 27% of the European population suffers from depression? In another eight years they expect the figure to reach 48%. Do you know 50% of the students in Washington DC drop out of school? The crime rate in the US is unbelievable. 33% of college students there have gone to jail or done some crime one time or the other. In face of these statistics India seems a much better place. It could be much better I agree. But there is an air of spirituality in India. Even in the freedom movement Mahatma Gandhi could do what he did because he was such a spiritual person. There were many more intelligent people than him around. Motilal Nehru and others were more well-read people. I agree moral degradation is happening, but it is because of no spirituality. Nobody taught us in school how to manage our mind when we are upset. Nobody taught us that your breath and your emotions are connected. That we are surviving is a miracle, let’s accept that. Then we are progressing economically – it’s only you people who tell us this, that GDP is growing. On the happiness front I would say we can do better. If we do better in the moral plane we could do even better.
SUPERSTITION: There’s nothing wrong in chaos. Many times creativity, bliss comes out of chaos. We need to learn to live with chaos. You should not dismiss something as superstition without probing into it. We should accept that there are many things in the world we do not know, have no explanation for. Whether a phenomenon is valid, whether
it could be explained, we need to probe into it before we can pronounce judgement on it.
You should accept the possibility of something you don’t understand. We can’t view everything with a communal prism, something like sea water tasting sweet. As for me there are many things which have no logical explanation. So you have to accept there are things beyond logical explanation. You go to Kulu, Manali and there are these devtas (deities) who answer people’s questions. You think about something and they’ll come and touch you on the left or right. In Karnataka there’s this devi’s panchloha statue that bends down and writes on a table that is covered in flour. A Japanese came and the
devi wrote in Japanese for him – a multilingual devi! Instead of brushing away such incidents as superstition a scientific mind should probe into them. You should keep your mind open.
SPIRITUALISM IN TEXTBOOKS: Spiritualism should be taught at schools. We are confusing secular education as meaning the removal of spiritualism. Jawaharlal Nehru University needs it certainly.