Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Inaugural Address at the International Women’s Conference 2012:
Wow! Surrounded by powerful women on the stage and in the audience! It is very difficult to speak. It is said that it is wise to keep quiet when women are in power.
Trade, technology, truth and traditions need revival again and again. If trade fallacies are not attended to again and again, if it is not revived or revisited and if we continue with the old trade policies, then trade can never progress. Many business women here will understand what I am saying. It is the same with technology.
Today, in the age of mobile phones you cannot still hang on to the phones with the cords; the land-line phones.
The present generation does not even know how difficult it was to make a phone call thirty to forty years ago. We had to book a call and wait for the operator to call us back and connect us. One could possibly go to that place and even come back by the time the operator called back! It could be a city fifty kilometers away but we had to wait for two hours to get a connection.
However, technology has improved today. We now have mobile phones. At the tip of our fingers, we can connect to anywhere in the world. As one of our speakers just said, we are advancing in technology because we are updating it every day. Technology needs to be updated. Similarly, the truth about ourselves and our lives need to be updated. We need to revisit them and ask ourselves these questions again and again, ‘What do I want?’ ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Am I happy?’
Spirituality is not just some mumbo jumbo, sitting somewhere and doing something. It is revisiting the truth about ourselves. Are we just? Is the society just? Are the rules and regulations that we have formulated just? Is there gender equality? Are our children being given right education, values and care? Where is our society going, where am I going?
Pondering on these questions or these truths and revisiting them again and again is what I call as spirituality.
Anything that uplifts your spirit is spirituality. Music, dance, discussions, service projects, all these form part of activities that uplift the spirit. This is essential. We need to revisit truth and we need to revisit our traditions. They need to be updated. If it is meaningful, we should take it and if it is not meaningful, if it is harmful, we should drop it. You can’t hang on to a tradition which is harmful. And women play a big role because women are the keepers of traditions.
At some point of time, some traditions develop but we continue that blindly, without questioning it and without asking, ‘why am I doing this? Why it should be?’
That is where women can play an important role.
There is a story, an elderly gentleman had dentures. So after having his food, he would go to the washroom and wash his dentures and put it in a box and keep it on a shelf. So this was a tradition that he formed. The children just saw him going to the bathroom, putting something in a box and keeping it on a shelf. So, even after his passing away, the children started doing the same thing. They didn’t need dentures but they started going to the bathroom, taking a box, washing that box and keeping it on an altar. It became a tradition. Why? They had to do this because their grandfather did it.
We cannot just do things which carry no meaning for us. Superstitions develop when reasoning or questioning a tradition is lost. We need to question our tradition and see how useful it is. If it is useful, we must definitely continue, not just discard it.
So, there are four aspects that need to be updated: truth, technology, tradition and trade. Updating means fashion. And women are into fashion. I don’t think there is a woman in this world who is not fashionable or who does not love fashion. One of the qualifications for womanhood is they love fashion. Fashion means updating. It can never be old. It is an oxymoron to say ‘old-fashioned’. Either it is old or it is fashion.
So, you need to update these four aspects and I am glad you have chosen a very good topic: ‘Women and Technology’. Because of technology there is comfort but there is harm also. As said by others who spoke earlier, technology is meant for giving comfort, but many times it causes such huge problems. It is disconnecting people, making our children into machines on one hand. And then, there are also harmful radiations.
Just yesterday, a minister of this state visited me and complained that his head was hurting so much that no doctor could help. They say it is all because of the mobile phone. The mobile radiations have done something to the neurons in the brain that no doctor could put a finger and find out what is wrong. I have seen a number of IT (Information Technology) workers who have this problem. They sit in front of the computer and something happens to them. The radiations affect the brain, the neurons and the nervous system. The late nights, lack of sleep, lack of any exercise, proper nutrition and meditation has all caused a number of health hazards. And this is the gift of technology, so to say.
Today, people feel happy to live in a place where there are no telephones and no televisions, where there are no towers and no radiation. So, we are going into that sort of era, where we don’t want even electricity.
I know of certain health camps that don’t want to use this high power energy. All that they use is green energy, solar energy, solar lighting. So, here again we need to update. We can’t dispense technology. We can’t get rid of technology. At the same time, we need to nurture the human values.
We need to keep in mind the health of the family, health of our body, health of our children, their behavior patterns and health of our society in general.
Another aspect I would like to touch today is the topic of corruption. You have seen what has happened in the country. Yesterday, you must have heard what the Supreme Court came up with. Corruption begins where the sense of belongingness ends.
This continent is ruled by women all around, whether it is Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or India. Women have to do a lot. They have to see this continent free from corruption. I am just talking about this continent free from corruption, that doesn’t mean corruption doesn’t exist in other continents. I was told by one of the members of the European Parliament that in Europe alone, 600 billion dollar corruption is happening. So, corruption begins where the sense of belongingness ends. Violence begins where the sense of belongingness ends.
As women delegates, all of you think about it and come up with programs that can counter this menace in our country and in our planet. I am sure, when you take up something, you will see it through and you will see that it is successful. I am very certain that whatever women take up, they are really successful in it, whatever it is, small or big.