Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I want to give you an example. You know when there is a crowd there always are thefts, especially in countries like India. When there is big crowd, there are thefts. But, when the Kumbh Mela (mass Hindu pilgrimage at the river Ganges) happens, where 30 million people assemble in one place, not a single theft is reported. Why? Because there is some sacredness, some religiosity, and there is some feeling, ‘Oh! I have come for a pilgrimage!’ People just keep their things, keep their laptops and just move or walk around, and nobody would steal them, which is unthinkable otherwise.
Otherwise, even if you keep an old spectacle somewhere unattended, that would be stolen; your slippers would be stolen. And in a Kumbh Mela your laptop is also not stolen, it is an amazement!
Sense of giving, contributing to others, reigns more.
I would like to tell you of an incident. It was a very cold winter day in January in Allahabad; it was very cold, nearly zero or minus one degrees. So, at the night I set out with fifty of my volunteers to distribute blankets. There were some very poor people, who had come from far off to take a pilgrimage there and to take a dip in the Ganges there. They didn't have enough amenities. So we were giving out blankets to very poor people.
A boy was standing under the bridge and he was shivering. He was about 20 or 22, something like that. When we offered a blanket to him, he said, ‘No, I don't need it tonight. I will manage tonight. But you know there are those old ladies under the bridge, some elderly people. They would make better use of this blanket. Please give them.’ He pointed towards them, ‘You see, 500 meters away, there are these elderly people, please give there. They deserve it more, I can manage. I am young.’
You know this sense of caring for others, really touched me. This boy is also with the T-shirt, he is shivering there, but, he says, ’No! Care for them first. If anything is left, I shall take it.’
That sense of caring for each other is amazing and especially in poor people this is already there.
So, ethics, or spirituality, brings out the good qualities, the humane qualities that we all have. It just needs to be brought to the surface.
Three months ago the Police Commissioner of North West Delhi invited one of our teachers. He told him that he has about 350 rowdy-sheeters.
Do you know what rowdy-sheeters are? They are the anti-social elements who do robberies and other mischief. You cannot really put them behind the bars, but they are a nuisance to society. You call them goons in the society.
So the Commissioner put them all together, around 350 of them and he called our teacher and asked him if he could do something about them. He wanted to bring about some ethics or spirituality in them.
It was very tough to deal with these people, but in 6 days what a big transformation happened in them. We spent two or three hours each day with them, and we took a few minutes of meditation, some breathing exercise, a few talks, and after 6 days they were totally transformed. The same anti-social elements started doing cleaning campaign, health awareness campaigns, and the crime rate in North West Delhi fell by 90%.
Of course the Police Commissioner was extremely thrilled and said, ‘Why don’t we do this all over.’
We said, ‘Yes, we are all the more ready to do it.’
See nobody teaches one how to get rid of stress. It does not go away by talking or advising. You need to teach them some techniques, some tools or mechanisms to get rid of stress and calm the mind. You need make them think from a calm and collected mind, this is essential.
So we did the same thing in Panama also.
In Chicago, in many schools where the incidents of violence were very high, we taught them the breathing exercises and meditation. After we taught them, the number of violence incidents in class rooms reduced from 268 to just 60.
The education department was very thrilled. So finally we could do something about violence and something about stress. Bringing people back to themselves.
I think our education system should inculcate ways to release stress. Stress is such a common thing. I usually call it a mental hygiene. We teach dental hygiene, but forget to teach them mental hygiene. We need to teach children right from school and college days on how to keep their mind sane and not go insane due to stress and anxiety.
30% of Europe is reeling under depression today; I don’t know what the percentage of depression in Singapore is. May not be that high, about 20% people are depressed. This was not the case a few years ago, right. The stronger we are growing economically,we shouldn’t be facing these problems. But in fact we are. That is why we need to educate our people in spiritual values, what do you think?
Don’t you think so? Spirituality is something that helps you to be centered in all occasions; spirituality is not just sitting and following a religious practice, but to see life from a broader perspective. Of course religion is part of one’s life but spirituality is a little different. It is to see one’s own life with values and with a broader vision.