Communal tension and fundamentalism has produced a fertile breeding ground for terrorism in the world today. But Puja Handa has seen the transformation that meditation brings even in terrorists. She has taught meditation to an undercover terrorist who has had a huge transformational experience
This young, intelligent, benevolent, and confident woman strongly believes that meditation can act as an antidote to terrorism and can lead to world peace.
In conversation with Puja …
Q 1. Terrorism is one of the biggest challenges in the world today, so doing something about it is really the need of the hour. The cause of terrorism is fundamentalism, so how do spiritual practices like meditation act as an antidote to terrorism?
Well, I feel it all comes down to the level of the mind. If you have a healthy mind, if you are happy within, you cannot go and actually harm a human being. It’s only a dissatisfied mind, a mind that is stressed, that can actually go and harm others. And meditation heals the mind and heals the emotions, and when that happens, everything around you becomes peaceful.
Q 2. Could you elaborate a little on how meditation heals the mind?
We often say I am not good enough, I cannot do this, or that challenge is too big for me, but who is actually saying that? It’s the mind that is saying it! And it’s the mind that thinks negative or positive. And your actions are based on your positive or negative thoughts.
When you meditate, your stressed mind calms down, which naturally starts to think positive. Meditation heals the mind by silencing it. A healed, positive mind does not go hurt anyone.
Q 3. Do you think it would be right to say meditation can play an important role in world peace?
Absolutely. I think meditation is the key to world peace.
There are two things we can do. Firstly, we must ensure the leaders in our society have a peaceful mind. Only then can they uplift the rest of the society. I am talking about leaders such as Oprah Winfrey; she is a meditator.
Secondly, everyone needs to be meditator, because when every mind is calm, there can only be world peace. In fact, it is said that, "world peace starts from me".
Q 4. Talking about transformation, you have actually taught meditation to an undercover terrorist, who has had a life-transforming experience; could you share how meditation changed him so much?
He shared that he has killed many people and has gone to prison quite a few times. But when he experienced the Sudarshan Kriya and learned how to meditate, all the guilt that he was holding back actually got released.
He said that all the guilt that he was holding on to was what was still leading him to negative emotions and having all the bitterness. Meditation changed him so much that today he is an asset to the government of one of the European countries and works to eradicate terrorism.
Q 5. It is said that when you meditate, your inner calm and your presence really speaks out and affects people around you. You were once kidnapped by terrorists and then they let go; could you share with us what happened?
It’s true, your presence really speaks much more than you can imagine. And it’s in situations like these, like the one I was in, that really makes you realize how strong meditation makes you.
There were six men with guns surrounding me; one of them had his gun on my head and was threatening me in all possible ways. In spite of all this, it was unbelievable how calm I was. I was addressing them as brothers, and although right through the journey they were shouting at me, they kept addressing back to me as sister. I knew a sense of belongingness had been created somewhere. I knew my calm presence had some effect on them and so in the end they let me go.
Just like fire catches fire, when you are calm, people around you catch your calm. Your calm presence can actually uplift a person’s energy and that’s what I seem to have done even in a situation like that.
Something like this is unheard of in Africa. Even I was amazed how I handled the situation. And I definitely owe this to meditation, because I realize that it was my regular practice that let me be so calm. I was actually able to follow my instinct.
Another interesting thing was that despite what happened, I felt absolutely normal the very next day. I mean normally if someone had gone through something like this, they would probably require some counseling. But surprisingly, I was so calm the very next day.
Q 5. Do you think mediation can really help one develop qualities that are required to be non-violent, which is the need of the hour?
Absolutely. I actually think mediation is the key to developing non-violent qualities in the world today. And a perfect example is our (Art of Living Foundation's) prison programs. The prisoners who are going through the Prison SMART program learn to meditate and so many of them come and share that if they had learned this earlier, they would never have killed or broken the law and would have had more control over their actions.
They realized that their violent actions were because they did not know how to control their mind. And once they learned how to do that with meditation, they learned how to control their actions.
Q 6. Sri Sri says, "violence ends where love begins"; do you think meditation can bring more love in people's lives?
Absolutely! And I can say that from my own experience. I have taught meditation in a lot of slum areas in Africa, where there is so much crime. So, as I would drive into the slum areas and if 10 people would come to attack me, 20 people would come to protect me simply because they knew that I had been coming there just to share joy. Love is so powerful that it overtakes and overcomes violence.
Q 7. To eradicate terrorism from the world, each one of us will have to stand up and take initiative. And there are many people out there who want to do something, so could you give our readers some tips on what they can do as an individual?
There are so many things you can do. The first definitely is to meditate, because only when you are peaceful can you spread peace. Then you can do so much service, whatever is within your capacity. You can spread love and peace by doing simple random acts of kindness to people. I feel acts of kindness do not always have to be huge; small deeds have the most impact. Just start making a difference to one person at a time and you’ll be amazed how much difference you can make.
If you are young and media savvy, you can spread so much goodness and positivity through social media. And if nothing else works, just go and smile unconditionally at people.
For those who want to make a difference, it’s very important you meditate. You feel the peace within and then you keep passing it on like a chain reaction.
Q 8. Would you like to leave our readers with a message?
I’d say always remember world peace starts from me. So meditate and see the difference for yourself—just give it a shot.
The only thing you will lose is the chatter in your mind, which we all want to lose anyways. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from—every single person benefits from meditation, so just do it.
In fact, I’d say, why wait, why not do an Online Meditation now?
Interview taken by Divya Sachdev