Today, the main purpose of my coming to Calcutta is to inaugurate Swami Vivekananda's one hundred and fiftieth birth anniversary celebrations.
Swami Vivekananda left behind a dream in the hearts of India's youth - the dream that India should walk with her head held high, in every field, whether it pertains to trade, religion, social justice, economics or politics. In every field, Indians should walk with their head held high; and to bring this dream to reality is the responsibility of the Indian youth.
A hundred and fifty years ago Swamiji came at a time when people did not give any importance to India's knowledge and religion. Our religion was considered to be a superstition. Swami Vivekananda presented our religion from a scientific standpoint and accorded it its rightful place in the world.
Art of Living has taken this inspiration forward and spread the light of our Indian culture and spirituality in one hundred fifty two countries of the world. Many volunteers have rendered service, whether in Iraq or Sri Lanka. Wherever seva (service) was needed, people got involved and are continuing to get involved in large numbers. Before I arrived here, I visited our de-addiction center where thousands of young men and women have been infused with the strength of freedom from addiction. The smile on the faces of those men and women gave me immense satisfaction.
It is said that if we can wipe the tears of even one person, we should consider our life worthwhile. But here, seeing that the tears of hundreds of thousands of people are being transformed into smiles, my joy is increasing even more. I want that all those who are gathered here should reaffirm the sankalpa in their minds that we want to see a beautiful, clean, secure India and a strong society and we will all work for it together.
Government keeps changing, but the government alone cannot do this work. If corruption is to be abolished, the common man will have to take the sankalpa, and listen to the hidden call of Swami Vivekananda within you, and propel it forward.
We want to strengthen this country and establish our connection with God. So there are two things we need to have: one is inner purity - we keep our life so pure that it remains unstained. I have kept it so, and I want that every youth should keep it so as well. India taught the world the art of belongingness.
Today, if you visit the last city of Argentina, or the Southern hemisphere, you will find people practicing yoga, meditation and pranayama. Similarly, if you go to the last city of the northern hemisphere, you will find people doing bhajans and meditation there. You may even go to Pakistan; our centre is being run there as well, and people are benefiting from yoga and pranayama camps.
At a time when our country had not gained freedom, Swami Vivekananda went to America with the knowledge of Advaita - we all know that. Before this, Paramahamsa Yogananda, and many saints especially from Bengal went there.
It is a noteworthy fact that the winds of spirituality blowing across the country started in Bengal; whether it is the Bramho Samaj or the Theosophical society, many streams originated in Bengal. However, it seems that this stream stopped at some point after India gained independence.
Whether it is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Sri Aurobindo, the streams of knowledge and bhakti (devotion) originated in Bengal in the previous centuries. I hope that the youth of Bengal will not disappoint the present era; from Bengal such youth will once again emerge who will present an ideal to the nation and the world.
Many of you kept saying, 'Guruji, come to Howrah.' I also wanted to come to Howrah, go across to the other side of the Ganga. The satsangs always happened on one side of the Ganga. And this time so many people on this side of the Ganga are welcoming me with enthusiasm and I am here, with you!
There is another purpose for my coming here, to assure you that God exists, and is listening to your pain! Have this confidence. Whatever you ask for, you will get, but you will have to do God's work; only then will you get. And what is God's work? - Serving the society.
God's work is not just doing prayers in temples, mosques and churches. The Divine resides in every person’s heart. So if you serve people, your work will automatically get done.
How many of you are finding that whatever you desire is being fulfilled? In Hindi there is a couplet, 'Jo ichcha kariho man maahi, prabhu pratap kachu durlabh naahin.'
They are not impossible, our desires will be fulfilled for sure; some instantly and some are fulfilled a bit later.
Whatever your troubles, your problems, the rule of the satsang is that you have to leave them behind. Leave all your problems here, and go with confidence and a smile. Wherever you see tears, speak to them, 'Oh, drop all your troubles, just smile! Come on, get up! Life is precious. Don't waste it like this.'
We also need to take an oath today. The biggest disease our country is suffering from today is corruption. So if we take the sankalpa that we will neither give bribes nor accept them, it will solve this issue. Only this will bring about reform. I do not believe that just drawing up a legislation will bring about reform in the entire country. Legislation is necessary, but reformation will happen only when there is spiritual awakening within us.
So we should wake up and embrace everyone. Where sense of belongingness ends, there corruption begins. Instead of limiting ourselves, we should expand our sense of belongingness.
Life lasts only a few years. We should live our lives such that not only are we joyful, but also the generations to come.
So many of you are gathered here. I would suggest that you create groups of five to six people and devote just two hours every Sunday to cleaning your community. Your roads will become clean. The plastics that are thrown around will be removed; a new wave of seva will arise. Are you all ready? So many people are willing; all we needed was an inspiration. Do seva, and see how the Divine will make all your work successful.
There are various kinds of pranayamas and meditations. It cannot be said that one is right and the other is wrong. Whatever you find helpful, you can do that. The techniques that we teach are simple and effective in tackling today’s stressful situations at work.
Q: (A member of the audience spontaneously asked a question without speaking into the mike. The question was inaudible in the recording.) Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, there has been a significant transformation in the lives of many youths due to the de-addiction center, but the space is very limited for this work. Some of you come forward, take a bigger space with more facilities, so that many more youths may regain the lost sparkle in their lives and come out of the addiction that they are sunk in.
How many of you have come in contact with those who are wrestling with addiction? Bring them to the center. Let them do Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and sit in the de-addiction program at the center. Their lives will be reformed.
A revolution against corruption has begun in various parts of the country. It is necessary to pass a law, I agree, but not law alone. Law is only a remedy after the disease has set in; disease should not arise in the first place - this should be our effort in a spiritual manner.
To all sadhus, saints, mahatmas I would say, from all your temples, mosques and shrines, raise this voice that whoever gives or accepts bribes should not be allowed to enter the temples or mosques. They should be excommunicated from temples and mosques for at least one year. If we take such a step from a religious perspective, then too we can expect to eliminate corruption from the country.
Q: How do we balance spiritual and material life? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Spiritual and material life do not contradict each other. It is like the body and mind. The body needs materials and the mind needs spirituality. We are the combination of body and mind. One cannot exist without the other. Similarly, both spiritual and material progress is needed. It is a wrong notion that there is no material progress if one is spiritual.
Q: A lot of doubts come up in the mind. How do we come out of that? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Why are you afraid of doubts? Faith is like the Sun and doubts are like clouds. Never has the Sun been afraid of clouds. Never have the clouds been able to hide the Sun entirely. Similarly, doubts come and pass by, but they cannot touch you.
Q: not touch you.
Q. You just said that those who are corrupt must be stopped from entering temples and mosques. Valmiki (author of Ramayana) was a robber who, while uttering Ma-ra, Ma-ra started uttering the name of Rama. People who have corrupt have deviated from the path. If we stop them from entering temples or mosques, are we not sending them towards something wrong? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The corrupt people go to temples or mosques, offer their prayers and think their sins are washed away, so that they can continue doing it. I am not in opposition of reforms. Every person can be transformed.
There is a couplet in Hindi, which says, ‘I went in search of a bad person, but I couldn’t find any.’
In my view, there is no bad person. There is goodness hidden in every person. It needs to be awakened. If this could happen by just visiting temples or mosques, there would have been no corruption. However, it is not happening. That is the reason I suggested corrupt people to be prevented from entering temples or mosques. So, one who really has a longing to go to temples or mosques will stop being corrupt. That was the intention with which I said this.
I would say that such people are most welcome at our ashram. I’ll polish them in a week’s time!
Q: Today’s youth are into sense-pleasures and have a lot of western influence. What are your thoughts about it? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Once they get a taste of this beautiful knowledge, they will not find any juice in those small pleasures. We have not presented this knowledge in an interesting way to them. That is the reason they are drawn towards intoxication. They turned towards western ideas since they felt they are getting some joy out of it. The nature of the mind is to go towards joy. And if we present that joy to them in our own culture, they will definitely come to this path. See, there are so many youths here!
Transformation has already begun. In the west, hundreds and thousands of youths are turning towards this ancient Indian knowledge.
Q: Guruji, I get very angry. I expect a lot and when it doesn’t get fulfilled, it makes me very angry. I am not able to accept a few things. What should I do about this? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Good, at least you became aware of this behavior! And you have also decided that you have to overcome anger. That’s it! The reversal process has already started. Meditation will also help.
Q: Guruji, the whole system is very corrupt nowadays. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, you cannot say that the whole of Kolkata is dirty. Only a few areas are dirty. The rest are clean and green. Similarly, it is incorrect to say things like, ‘The whole city is sick’ or ‘I always think wrong’. We generalize and eternalize things.
We cannot say that the whole system is corrupt. There are good people as well and it is due to them that the country is surviving. Don’t think that all politicians are bad. Most of them, 80% of them are bad but there are also good ones. All officials are not bad; there are still many sincere and honest officials.
Q: While campaigning for the satsang, we had told everyone that rains would stop and it happened indeed! How did this miracle happen? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That is why it is called a miracle. You cannot explain it! Nature is with us and it listens to us.
Q: Guruji, people say that politicians are corrupt and need to be reformed first. However, there are corrupt people in the society as well. Who needs to be reformed first, the politicians or the corrupt people in the society? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Both. There isn’t much time to wait till one group gets reformed! First of all, politicians must consider themselves to be one among the common man. All youth get together to build a Divine society.
Q: Whatever I like is going away from me. What do I do? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If we follow joy, misery follows us. If we follow knowledge, joy follows us.