2 July 2012 - QA 15

Dear Guruji, can you please comment on religious extremism? Why are people drawn to these narrow and dogmatic positions? How should we discuss with them, if at all?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

Lack of spirituality, lack of experience. That is why we need to encourage broad thinking and reasoning.

In the Bhagavad Gita, after giving all the verses, in the end Lord Krishna says, ‘Now you reason out all what I have said. Take it only if it appeals to you.’

He never said, I am saying, so you just take it and do it. No. If this appeals to your reasoning, then you absorb it.

So, when reason is clouded, fanaticism happens. When reason is dismissed, fanatics are born. So, intellectual stimulation is essential, and at the same time an experiential understanding of the knowledge, of the wisdom also is needed. Broad mindedness is essential. That is why kids should be brought up with a multi-cultural, multi-religious education. In lack of that, they will become fanatics.

Many times, I feel sorry for all those people who are in those countries that are war torn. They never got an opportunity to see beyond their own little religion, their own religious beliefs. They could never expand their views, because they never got an opportunity. So, they should be given an opportunity. Thanks to the IT (information technology) today, people everywhere in the world can access any information through Google, Wikipedia and all that. This was not available ten years ago, even with our generation. Most of our generation had to go to the library and search for things. You don’t need to go to the library. At the press of a button you get all the information. So, I feel that this current generation is more fortunate.

But again, in many places it is not so. Afghanistan immediately comes to my mind as I speak this. So many youth, so many kids there have no idea about the world outside. So, even if a small portion of the world remains ignorant, the world cannot be a safe place. See what one Osama Bin Laden could do to the whole world – make everyone remove their shoes at the airports!

On the other hand, he gave jobs to so many people. I remember when we used to come to the US we would have to go through a very simple security check, that is all. Sometimes even that was not there in smaller airports. You could directly go and just get into the flight. Now there are so many security checks! Billions have been spent on just security, isn’t it? This is all the gift of these fanatic extremists in the world.

And how many youths we have lost! How many young lives we have lost! It is really painful. All this is because of lack of broadminded education; multi-cultural and multi-religious education. The fanatic think only he goes to heaven and everybody else goes to hell. And he creates hell for everybody. We need to bring about a change. People of any religion can become fanatics if they don’t have spiritual experiences.