Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Do not try to love. You cannot force yourself to love, that is simply impossible. Just let go and be natural. Know that there are limitations in this world. People have their own limitations, their own prejudices. We have to live in this world with all types of people. That is one of the principles of The Art of Living: Accept people and situations as they are.
You should always remember that people’s ideas, emotions and opinions keeps on changing. Everything changes. Many friends become enemies and enemies become friends.
See, you are friends with somebody and suddenly for no obvious reason they become your enemy. You have not done anything wrong to anyone, yet they turn out to be unfriendly towards you. How many of you have had this experience?
Sometimes people whom you do not even know will come to you help. You have not done them any great favor, yet they help you. On the other hand, people for whom you cared a lot and helped a lot suddenly become your enemy.
Has this not happened to you? (Many in the audience raise hands).
This friendship and animosity works on some deeper principle called karma. If your time is good, your worst enemies also start behaving like your friends. And if your time is not good, then your closest friends too will misunderstand you and start behaving like your enemies. When you see all this from a bigger perspective, then great inner strength dawns within you and you are able to smile through any situation, whatever it may be.
See, 35 years ago when we conducted yoga and meditation sessions in countries abroad, they would not respect it much. They would think that the people who practiced these techniques were crazy.
Seeing people with ash smeared all over their body and standing on one leg, or doing a head stand, etc., would seem unnatural to them. There was so much prejudice back then, I tell you. Yoga was thought as not to be for the common person. Respected people in society would not do yoga.
In those days, yoga did not get public and political acceptance. No religion or spiritual tradition can survive for long if it does not gain public and political acceptance of the land. So, for many years people thought that only those who are crazy would do yoga. People used to be scared of yoga and spiritual practices. It took many years to overturn this trend of thought. We have so many teachers who have gone from place to place to spread the message of yoga and meditation. Thousands of Art of Living teachers worked throughout the world for this.
Swami Paramhamsa Yoganandaji began the trend towards meditation and spiritual practices in those days. After him, Shri Maharishi Mahesh Yogiji also contributed immensely to the growth of spirituality. He took great initiative to save the people from drug addiction which had become popular because of the Hippy Wave at that time, especially in the Western countries. He slowly encouraged more and more people to turn towards yoga and meditation to find relief and happiness. But when he began to speak about levitation and other phenomena, people again got scared and wary about these practices. Then around 1980 or so, people’s mindset changed and they began to take interest in yoga. Many schools of yoga developed during this time.
So over a period of time, this outlook slowly began to change.
The scenario today is so different, with people across 152 nations actively practicing yoga and meditation. More and more people are finding joy and happiness through these practices. Today, in all big advertisements, you will see someone sitting in a yoga posture, or sitting as if in meditation with eyes closed. People’s opinions have changed.
In earlier days, yoga and meditation was thought as not to be for normal people. That is why I had to keep the name of the foundation as The Art of Living, and that was more acceptable. We could never simply just say 'Yoga Sessions'. Yoga is one part of the entire program here at The Art of Living. The whole process is for you to come to know your own self. That was more acceptable than just yoga alone.
Prejudice is a big issue, but time takes care of it. That is why I used to tell our teachers, 'Educate and ignore'.
It is also a great development that happened, when our own Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji took great efforts to popularize and establish yoga. It is because of his efforts, the United Nations declared 21st of June, which is the longest day of the year as The International Yoga Day. I feel this is a great honor that has been conferred upon yoga, but I feel this alone is not enough. It is more important that it reaches every doorstep in the country and more and more people benefit from it.