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Dear Sri Sri, in Germany and some other parts of Europe we have had very recently experienced devastating floods. What is your message towards our environmental duty and how can social media support us in that?
Sri Sri: Natural calamities occur and human mistakes add to it. In terrains where we know that such calamities can happen, our preparedness is very low. That is something that bothers me a lot.
In Kedarnath thousands of people have lost their lives in the most devastating flood. It is partly because of our negligence towards the environment. We do not care for the environment as we should. Deforestation is a big problem in the Himalayas. We have been cutting trees in the name of development. In the name of getting more power we have done many things that could have been done in a different way.
Secondly, the pilgrims in India are neglected even when thousands of people go there every year. I would say that they should have made better roads and alternative roads in these areas so that evacuation could be faster. Floods do come, devastations do happen, but at least we can save the lives of people.
In Calgary and Europe not so much harm has been done to people’s lives. We haven’t lost these many lives in the recent years since the tsunami. This is a Himalayan tsunami. Our Art of Living volunteers are there and are providing relief material to the people. Our Volunteers are working in Germany and Calgary as well. I have not told any of these volunteer that they should go and do relief work. This is what happens when our consciousness rises. Our heart feels the human values. It spontaneously responds to such situations and people just jump in and do their best for fellow human beings.
These are the situations that really test our humanness; whether you are really a human being or a robot. In these situations we have to extend our hands to those unfortunate ones and those who need us. So people should come in big numbers and contribute wherever and whenever calamities happen.
The government should take care. The metrological department is there to predict such calamities in advance and to take care so that people’s lives are saved. A lot can be done in this direction. Disaster management is a science by itself. Well-meaning people should contribute and rise to help in such situations; and they are doing it. I really thank all those who are putting their effort to make the lives of the victims better.
Here also I would thank the Indian Army and the jawans (soldiers) who have risked their lives to help the people. Their dedication and help is invaluable and we must thank them for their efforts.
An unprecedented calamity hit Kedarnath and thousands of people lost their lives and have been misplaced. All of them went to the pilgrim to pray and have faced this calamity. The faith of many people may be shaken at this stage. How do we deal with this?
Sri Sri: First of all, let us understand that God is impartial. Nature is impartial. It does not see what is mine and what is yours. God is not living only in Kedarnath. He is all over. He is in your heart. He is everywhere.
The pilgrim spots where many tourists have been going, do not have enough amenities to handle the crowd and there has been a lot of negligence at all our pilgrim places around the country. They need better facilities, better roads, better communication systems, and this has not been attended to as it should have been.
Many incidents come where faith is shaken, but come what may we should hold on to our faith that truth will triumph, and good will find its rightful place. This is the time for prayer.
When disasters happen, when fear overtakes our mind, prayer helps. Do not lose your heart. Every place belongs to the Lord. Calamities happen and in times of calamity your faith is tested. Hold on to your faith and see what you can do for people around you.
So many lives have been saved. Be thankful for those lives. And for those who have lost their lives, pray for the peace of their souls and their families. Let their families come out of this great tragedy. Let God give them the strength to overcome this tragedy. This is what we must pray. Pray for those who are saved and thank God for saving them in this horrible situation that they have gone through.
There are no words to describe the human tragedy. We must now wake up and make proper alternative arrangements knowing very well that the terrain is so hard and so difficult. We should place proper roads and proper communication and transport systems. This is an urgency. People have been going there since ages and this tragedy will not stop them from going back there.
Let us learn from this tragedy. Let this tragedy not repeat itself anywhere else in the planet due to human negligence. Beyond that we cannot predict or say anything. So we should reduce our human negligence as much as we can.
The recent demonstrations in Brazil has impacted all aspects of life here. How does one deal with it?
Sri Sri: When people do not get justice, or when they are tired of corruption in the society, it’s natural that they get agitated. People gather to demonstrate, they agitate. It’s a good sign that the people are waking up.
One way is to take everything as it comes, not be bothered about it and be a part of a corrupt system. The other way is to wake up and stand up against corruption, stand up against injustice, stand up against that which you think is not right. This is a welcome attitude. We must really appreciate that. One thing that we need to really attend to is that the mob should not turn anti-social and violent. We need to see that the demonstrations are peaceful, that they are for a cause and not against a person, because people change and everyone has the ability to transform himself or herself. We must recognize that people do change. So we must maintain the decorum of such agitations and demonstrations with peace and purposefulness..
When we are not peaceful we also lose the purpose and target. I would say that non-violence should be the guiding force of any agitation. It should be for the cause and not directed against a person. No damage should be caused either to people or to properties. That is what should be the guiding line.
Well-meaning people start an agitation and then it becomes hard to keep it focused on the goal because some anti-social elements enter and create violence. This is where people should be aware of the harmful effects of violence and destruction.
If nonviolence is kept on the forefront of agitations and demonstrations, it should be welcomed. If violence happens then there is no other way but to quell it by using force. It becomes very difficult. I again emphasize that we should have a peaceful revolution, a non-violent revolution. This is much needed in today’s scenario.
Dear Gurudev, how do we defend our civil and democratic rights without using violence? How to create a sense of belongingness in the society where the government is reinforcing polarization and using a divide and rule policy?
Sri Sri: A great cause has many obstacles and many challenges. When the challenges are bigger that is when we have to hold on to our values. I know that it is difficult to be peaceful when there is injustice, and especially when there is violence. We have to take that extra care and keep our spirits alive. We have to say that come what may we will hold on to our goal of our democratic rights. When you are strong in your resolution I tell you the small setbacks that you face will be nothing. You will still march ahead.
To want justice and want your human rights and human values is not that easy. It is a long way. There are vested interests in the society and there are people who just want to hold on to power. There are people who act without thinking and the only l language they know is of violence. When this is the scenario we have to take that extra caution to continue our pursuit peacefully and in a nonviolent manner.
Our people should be are given that moral support that truth will always win. When you believe that truth will triumph you will be able to move through the challenges with confidence and the much needed courage.
When we get upset, stressed and angry, somewhere inside we are shaken and we lose energy. To take any big task we need enormous energy and this enormous energy comes with certain calmness within us.
Second is always be open to dialogue.
Third is, do not label a person or a set up as bad. Once you label, you close the door for communication. Mahatma Gandhi never labeled the British as the bad guys. He always had that line of communication open with them.Even after many atrocities he kept approaching them for dialogue. We should not think that the other people or the government is anti people. It will make us even angrier, and when we are angry we lose our energy even more.
The best thing is to keep of the line of communication open, be steadfast in your approach towards justice, towards democratic rights, towards peace, prosperity and progress. Be resolute and encourage people to be resolute and peaceful in there demonstrations. I know that it is easier said than done, but nevertheless we should move in this direction, for victory will be ours.
Dear Gurudev, Muslims in Pakistan are peace loving people, so how can we eliminate terrorism from Pakistan?
Sri Sri: To prevent terrorism, we need to see how we can establish communication and bring some sense into the minds of terrorists.
Second is, we need to accept diversity and enjoy diversity. Diversity is not a matter of conflict or contention, it is a matter of celebration
Everybody is different. Everybody is wearing different dresses, and everybody has their own lifestyle. One should accept diversity and have the vision of a global family. We are all one world family with different languages, different religions, different cultures, and different nationalities. This celebration of diversity needs to be inculcated in young minds. Once they know this, there is no way they can become extremists or terrorists.
Terrorism comes when they think that only they have the key to the heaven. This is a misnomer or misconception that has put them in that position.
I have dealt with people who are in the terrorist and extremist mindset. There are two types of extremists, one is religious extremists and the other is ideological.
The Maoists in India have a cause and they are ready to put their life for that cause. The only thing they do not understand is that bringing pain and suffering to others is not going to help them reach their goal or bring them any happiness. We need to bring this education of diversity to people, have an open communication with them and prevent people from falling into this trap of ‘I am only right and everybody else is wrong’ attitude.
If these people do a little bit of breathing, relax a little, and see the beauty in creation, the beauty in diversity, I am sure they will change. And I have seen many of them change their way of thinking. They have some wrong indoctrination, some unknown fear, or have been victims of some sort of violence. This could be cause of them taking up such extreme ideology which is self destructive.
How can we make the political class of Argentina understand that the best way to build society is through peace?
Sri Sri: We have to spiritualize politics, socialize business and secularize religion. This is the answer. Being secular means that religious people should think about the whole globe, not just their own religion or their own community. Usually a religious head feels belongingness only to people who follow his religion. He should come out of that barrier and pray for the whole world.
Similarly, every businessman should do a little bit of social engineering, or take up some social responsibility. They must be part of it.
Politicians should first think about the country, then about their party and then about themselves. Today what is happening is that most often they first think about themselves, then about the party, and if there is anything left, about the nation. This trend has to be reversed right away.
When they care for the higher good, for a large number of people in the society, then naturally they will be spiritual, naturally they will love peace and the shortsighted vision that is creating havoc in the society around the world will disappear.
Power and money comes and goes but the goodness that we generate by our attitude, by our actions stay forever. This is what a politician should understand. They should not have a shortsighted vision but long term benefit for maximum number of people. That is what they should keep as their agenda. That is the most ideal thing.
So peace is absolutely essential. When we are peaceful we are able to come up with such ideas. When we are not peaceful, we are very disturbed and we only can bring about actions and thoughts which would bring in more disturbances and not peace. So everyone should meditate!
What is peace and how can we implement the principles of peace in our life through our religion, culture and family and in our education system starting from kindergarten?
Sri Sri: We need to learn a lot from children. We need to make them understand that they should make one new friend every day.
If you ask forty fifty kids in a classroom how many friends they have, they can usually count them on their fingers, and they stay with only those friends for the entire year. We need to bring out their friendly nature. And to do this we should tell them to make one new friend every day. Don’t mind if you are being insulted. Laugh and let go. Have humor and be sportive. Adore diversity.
If someone is dressed differently or is looking different or doing something different, don’t feel that they are alien but make them feel a part of you. These are some of the values which we can inculcate in children.
The goal of religion is to bring love and peace in one’s life. Getting connected with that one universal truth, universal spirit and universal love is the very purpose of religion, and also to be able to help the fellow human beings. So the essence of religion is the inner experience of Divinity, of light, of love and that is what we must aim and focus on.
Second thing is cultural diversity. Culture changes every few kilometers. You move a hundred kilometers and the dialect changes, the food habit changes and this diversity is the beauty of our creation. We must appreciate this. Instead of making this a point of contention we should turn it into an opportunity to celebrate. This is very important and to do all this we need energy.
When we are stressed how can we get energy? That’s where we need to do some breathing exercises, eat proper food and have some humor in life, and most important of all take those ten important minutes to relax or meditate every day. I would recommend this to everyone. For just ten to fifteen minutes, sit and relax, relax your mind, relax your intellect, go within, observe your breath, you will find that you are a fountain of energy, you are an ocean of love and you are a mountain of ideas.
The suicide rate in Korea is very high. The children of Korea are growing up in an environment where there is too much competition and very less culture and spirituality. Please send us your words of wisdom.
Sri Sri: When energy goes down you get depressed and when it goes further down suicidal tendencies arise. Through proper breathing exercises, some meditation and through good and loving company energy can go up.
Usually when we have some negative things in our minds we share it with somebody and our so called friends confirm our negativity rather than dissolving the negativity. They say, 'Yes what you say is correct and everything is hopeless'. Instead we should raise their level of enthusiasm and energy.
It is not only the poor people who commit suicide but those who are rich also commit suicide because it is the state of mind which is responsible for suicidal tendencies. It has nothing to do with material acquisition. I would say that anyone with suicidal tendencies should be led to someone who can teach them meditation, who can make them do some breathing exercises and raise their energy level. And this is possible.
Violence against oneself is as bad as violence against someone else. So the world is caught between societal violence on one side and suicidal tendencies on the other side. It is only spirituality which can bring them to the center and which can relieve them from these two extremities
If you find anyone with the slightest suicidal tendency please ask them to do some yoga. Get them around some good company, get them to sing and dance, and make them understand that life is much more than just a few material positions. Life is much more than blame or appreciation from someone. Life is much more than a relationship or a job. The reason for suicide is failure in relationship, failure in job and not being able to achieve what you want to achieve. Life is much more than the small desires that pop up in your consciousness, in your mind. See life from a bigger perspective and engage yourself in some sort of social activity; service activity.
Service or seva can keep people sane and keep them out of this mental depression. Mental depression is worse than an economic recession. One has to take responsibility to sail over this and help others around them. The Art of Living is very much involved in working with such people and I would like more people to join and work to eradicate this menace of depression and suicidal tendencies.
Addiction is the most serious problem in the society, how to come out of it? Also, what advice do you have for the children of addicted parents?
Sri Sri: Parents should create a barrier in the minds of children not to touch any substance which they can get addicted to and which are harmful to them. We should create a prejudice against it, a psychological barrier which will stop them from even looking in that direction. This is essential.
Like when a plant is being grown you put a fence around to protect the plant. In the same way we must protect the young minds, with certain mental barriers. This is essential. We have to give them certain concepts by which they do not move an inch in that direction.
For those who are already addicted, to bring them out, there are three ways: Love, Greed and Fear. If they love someone then ask them to take a vow or promise on their loved one that they will never touch it again. Or tell them that you will have so much more luck if you don’t touch these addictive substances.
Help them in whatever manner you can to come out of it. There are many remedies in Homeopathy and in Ayurveda. Yoga and meditation are also very good. I have seen millions of people come out of their addictions just by doing some yoga and meditation.
If somebody feels that if yoga, meditation and pranayama are non-secular, do you have any advice for them?
Sri Sri: People who think that yoga, meditation and pranayama are non-secular have not tried it and have a prejudice. An exercise or a technique is for everybody, it works on everyone. It helps to calm one’s mind and be more creative. So people should first try it and then they will find that it is so secular and so universal.
Yoga does not contradict anyone’s religion or their belief system at all. This misconception can easily be removed just by doing it once.
There are many religions in the world. Is religion the cause of division or does religion unite?
Sri Sri: Without knowledge, without wisdom religion appears to divide people. It becomes the core or the only way of one's identity.
First conflict arises between different religions, then inside the religion you will see inter religious conflicts arise and then groups are formed. All this happens due to lack of wisdom and lack of understanding.
A wise man would benefit from all religions. He will see that religion is adding more value to one’s life. Without this wisdom if you hold on to religion only for identity and not for your evolution then definitely it is divisive.
Our identity should first be that we are part of one light. The second identity is that we are part of one human society, one global family. And the third could be nationality or language. The fourth could be religion. And fifth could be the heritage or family.
You can keep the other identities, but when you forget that you are a part of one human society, one universal light, that is when religion is used to divide our society and destroy ourselves. With wisdom you would celebrate diversity and take the best from every religion so that you can evolve to be a good human being.
Sri Sri what is your message for everyone?
Sri Sri: Every face on this earth is the book of the universe, the book of God. Everybody is a fountain of love. Let this love be expressed, let this fountain flow, and enrich our planet at this time. Love and blessings to all of you.