As a new government begins functioning at the Centre, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke with Narayani Ganesh on the swearing-in ceremony, managing political complexities — and steps towards good governance:
How did being at the swearing-in of the new PM and his cabinet at Rashtrapati Bhavan feel?
In ancient days, the gurus used to do the rajyabhishek to the raja, administering the oath. Today, it is the president. Still, in many countries, it is the bishop or cardinal who places the crown on the head of the king or queen. That is because wisdom is given first place. The wise have no personal agenda; they work for the welfare of humanity and so, they occupy first position. They practise what they preach.
But today, we're a secular democracy with multiple faiths, cultures and beliefs — wouldn't a guru administering the oath smack of Hindu nationalism?
I only told you what it used to be. Today, you saw leaders of different Saarc countries as invitees. So many religious leaders too were present. So, there's no question of any one religion dominating others.
We spiritual leaders are not there to give Narendra Modi any advice but to give moral and ethical support and ask him to be accountable for moral and ethical wrongs. Black money and corruption were our main concerns — and on the very first day of office, he addressed those issues. We've talked about promoting good governance.
How can the new government ensure good governance?
See, Arvind Kejriwal too had the same intention but his methods have not paid off. How does a leader take everybody along, without causing disturbance? That's the question. Conflict is unavoidable — that Modi invited all Saarc heads was a very wise thing to do. It got us international mileage and boosted good neighbourly relations.
But there are protests against Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa and Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif being invited. Sometimes, we have to overlook these. We have to progress to step two.
But can we ignore firing at the border while Sharif was here and human rights violations against Tamils in Sri Lanka?
The situation is complex. Modi has inherited huge baggage, so we need patience and perseverance — overnight, no one can expect that everything will turn rosy. We have to deal with the thorns.
We definitely need a stable government with a majority mandate — no more khichdi government. Secondly, we need a person of good experience and with no selfish motives to lead the country.
We need to also promote soft diplomacy — encourage people-to-people contact rather than expect governments to step in every time. We need to have a vision of a global family beyond borders. The Art of Living has conducted courses in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We have two orphanages in Sri Lanka and work there in many villages, camps, etc — we have good relations with Sri Lankans.
Modi did the right thing by inviting Rajapaksa. At the same time, you cannot blame Jayalalithaa and others for protesting as they have to respect sentiments of their people.
Nations are very complex entities — good leaders have to navigate these complexities with dexterity.
But there's the shadow of Godhra?
These accusations are all made up. Read Madhu Kishwar's writing on this. She has done good research. It calls the bluff of all Modi-bashers — he has been bashed unjustly for years and years.
He withstood all that and has come out with flying colours.