(Sri Sri addresses delegates on 'Inter-faith and Inter-Cultural Harmony' at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris on April 24. Below is the transcripts of his address.)
I think three things are important in life: Education, Education, and Education. Education is what makes a big difference in anyone’s life. Now education should not be confused for collecting information. To me, education is developing holistic personalities.
We live in a diverse world. If God wanted the world to be without diversity, there would be just one type of fish, one type of flower, one type of fruit and vegetable. This universe, this world has so many varieties. It is a bouquet of flowers.
The fauna and flora of this beautiful universe give us the message that we live in a multi-verse, in a planet where there are differences, and these differences make life beautiful.
Somehow, I don’t like this word ‘tolerance’. Do you know why? It has a negative connotation to it. Usually we have world-over interfaith programs where we say, ‘We should have tolerance’. I think it is a word of bygone error. You tolerate something which you do not like. Now the time has come to appreciate and celebrate diversity, not tolerate it. This is something that we need to really look into. Our universe has so many varieties and we must appreciate it, enjoy it and celebrate it.
I usually tell people: 'We accept food from every part of the world, we accept music from every part of the world, we accept technology from every part of the world. We do not ask, 'Where was this technology discovered?’ But when it comes to wisdom, there seems to be some sort of resistance. We put up a wall and say, 'This is Jewish, or this is Hindu, or this is Buddhist.’ We bring in prejudice and we stay away from it'.
As long as this strain continues, the world cannot be a peaceful place. Even if a small part of the world thinks that only they have the key to heaven and everybody else is going to hell, they are bound to create hell for everyone else.
So here comes our collective responsibility to educate our people with a multi-cultural and multi-religious education. Thanks to the technology today of the internet, this has been made possible; but still there is a big number of people that remain ignorant, thinking that only they have the key to heaven.
So we can categorize the problem in the world into two major issues:
Today, there is racial prejudice, gender prejudice, religious prejudice, and class prejudice. Certain sections of society think that the rich people are always oppressors; rich countries are always oppressors. These prejudices have to be done away with, then only I would say that we have reached a level of education, and we are well-cultured and civilized people.
The other aspect of human life is stress. In such a busy society, in this busy world, we all have a lot to do; too much to do in fact, with too little time and energy. And this is the definition of stress. I would say that the formula of stress is: too much to do, too little time, and not enough energy.
See, everybody has only 24 hours of time. Whether it is a clerk or the Prime Minister, everyone has only 24 hours. So time is one factor that cannot be changed. When it comes to your tasks, for most you, it is almost impossible to reduce all that you need to do. So you are left with only one option, and that is, to increase your energy level.
To increase your energy level, there are techniques from different parts of the world from the ancient times which was more or less a highly guarded secret. These techniques were only given to royalty; the princes and the high caliber people who would in turn bring more development. But now we thought that these techniques of meditation, and the breathing techniques, should be open to everyone.
See, neither in school nor at home does anyone teach us how to get rid of stress. No one teaches us how to handle our emotions. It is normal to get upset, but to carry that emotion all through the day, or all through the week, and sometimes all through the month is not an intelligent thing to do. It is like, your garments got dirty and you do not know how to remove them, and so you keep walking around with the same garments throughout. So we need to teach people techniques to relieve stress. This I would call mental hygiene. We teach dental hygiene to our kids but we have not taught them mental hygiene – how not to carry hatred against anybody, and other negative emotions.
Mahatma Gandhi used to have eleven vows that he used to give people in his ashram. One of those vows was to have control over anger and to be compassionate and non-violent.
The importance of non-violence in life needs to be stressed. Don’t you think so? With our world becoming more and more violent, we are sort of getting immune to violence.
When I was growing up, if any student in the class got upset or threw any tantrum, everyone would look down upon that student, ‘Oh what is wrong with this guy? He has lost his balance’.
So on losing the balance or the equanimity of our mind, we were put to shame. Today, pride got itself attached with aggression, not with peace. We need to change this, we need to start attaching pride with compassion and non-violence, rather than with aggression and violence.
The next things that the breath also helps you do is to relieve stress. Stress is one cause of tension in the society which makes our communication break down; it affects our perception and our expression.
Our social dealings can be broadly classified as two things:
1. How you perceive, and
2. How you express yourself
Both our perception and expression gets affected with our stress levels.