Below is a transcript of an online interaction with Sri Sri as part of the 6th International Women's Conference - 'Dialogue with Sri Sri'. From trauma relief, women safety, human rights, environmental care to fashion, media and film-making, the discussion is between women who have dedicated themselves to that field and a spiritual master venerated world over for his wisdom.
(Part 1 of 3)
Questions & Answers
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How can we end crime against Women, particularly in metropolitan cities of India? (Mary Kom: World Boxing Champion from India (Recipient of the Padmabhushan))
Sri Sri: How did you catch my thought? I was also thinking the same thing, how can we help women in the metropolitan cities of India.
As I said, first of all we need to create more support groups and women watch.
We have taken up one thing now, i.e., conducting happiness surveys. In this survey, volunteers go door to door and find out the main cause of problems in each home. Why people are not happy? If families are not happy, if communities are not happy, then violence increases in the society. That kind of social interaction, perhaps, will help.
Stringent laws and courts are needed to punish the guilty, but that happens only after a crime has happened. Before that we need to create a big wave of awareness campaigns to stop crime against women.
As I already mentioned, intoxicants are one of the main reasons. People who are addicts create problems in society. And addiction is because they are not happy. A happy person doesn’t go in for addiction. Addiction is because they are not happy inside.
We need to bring that sense of comfort and care in the hearts of people, for the people around them.
I think we can think about a million such plans of how we can change our society, and how we can bring more togetherness, because we had this in this country, not too long ago.
When we were kids, we grew up with ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. If someone gets aggressive in the classroom, everyone would look at him, 'Hey, you have lost it. You better get back to yourself'. This was the idea. Today if you are aggressive, you are a hero. Those days, if you were compassionate, then you were a hero, then you would be appreciated.
So, the ego or pride getting attached to violence and aggression is one of the causes of violence in society. And I would say, these violent movies our kids see, in this country and elsewhere in the world, also desensitizes them against crime.
If you are shooting in your videogames every day, you are shooting the ships, you are shooting the planes and you are shooting people, then taking a real gun and shooting doesn’t hurt them; it doesn’t even register as a crime in the mind. They become so thick skinned.
That is why I would say, all these violent games should be done away with. How many of you agree with me on this? Violent games that the kids play should be done away with. They should be given more sensitivity towards life, towards animals, and towards people. Education and awareness can play a big role.
Stringent laws on the political level are required. But also communities working together, and not just putting all the load on the government, will make a big difference.
The question that I would like to ask on behalf of the many women of the world is: People go to Church, they know that there is a God, they know that there is a higher calling, yet they are not able to access infinity and abundance.
I believe that we have enough for all of us in the world, yet there is poverty. Where are we going wrong in our day to day teachings?” (Criselda Kananda: Radio Jockey from South Africa)
Sri Sri: I would like to bring your attention to one point: Greed is the result of insecurity. When you feel that there is not enough love, or not enough care on the planet, you become greedy, because the only security that you can think of is money.
If you don’t know that there are people to take care of you, you think by holding on to something, or possessing more things can help you.
I tell you, it is the greed of a few people that is responsible for the poverty of many in this world. I’m sure many of you would agree with me.
Just a few greedy people and corruption can destroy nations. And this has been happening, whether it is in the African continent, or in many Asian countries here. I don’t know about Europe. In Europe there is some corruption but not to this extent, perhaps. But this corruption is the greed of few people who do not care for the population, and that is one of the main reasons for poverty.
Second reason for poverty is, laziness; like what is happening with Ethiopia. For seven years Ethiopia was under famine and they got food from all over the world. In the seventh year, even though there was abundant rainfall, nobody wanted to work!
Freebies are not a solution for prosperity; you need to empower people. Empowering the poor, instilling self confidence in them would help them out of poverty. And at the same time, we need to bring magnanimity and compassion in all those who have, so that they can go out and serve. If that was happening, the government would not have to bring a law that every company should engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity. There is a lot to work to be done. Just see, there is so much work in so many fields. But here I must say, many religious and spiritual organizations, many churches and faith based organizations around the world are doing commendable work for the poor people of the world. They are doing good work, but I would say, not enough.
Gurudev, what do we have to do to make the stubborn mind shift from a mechanistic reductionist fragmented thought that is leading to so much violence against the Earth, between people, and against women. The violence against women is so intimately connected to this division and separation. (Vandana Shiva: Author and Environmentalist from India)
Sri Sri: I would say, if people become scientists, if they all become physicists, they can see life from a bigger context. Then there is no way they will indulge in violence. It is lack of education, lack of scientific and spiritual education that makes people so hard.
Also I see that stress is the main cause of all crime. This is the first cause.
The second cause of crime is alcohol. If you see in India, the violence against women has all happened under the influence of intoxicants.
When I was visiting Tihar Jail, the biggest jail in this country, and I was talking to people there, you know what I found out there? 93% of the crime against women were done under the influence of alcohol, or drugs. So what needs to change is that lifestyle.
We see this here as well, every day in the small villages, men drink in the evening and they beat up their wives. In the morning they fall at their feet and ask them pardon. And women being naturally compassionate, pardon them. And again the same story continues. One or two days they are okay, then the third day again they start abusing the womenfolk.
So, women cannot be safe in the country when the sale of intoxicants in the country has gone up three times in just one year. How can you expect them to be safe? That is why we need to put an end to this, and change that whole attitude, only then we can have a safe society.
What is your message to the leadership of the world, and especially to the leadership of the Middle east to get people to live in harmony and peace? What is your vision for the Kurdish nation which is divided into four countries to live in peace and harmony? (Dr. Akrawi: An active member of the Women Union working with UNICEF from Kurdistan)
Sri Sri: You know, the problem there is enormous. It is centuries old; not one century but many centuries old. There is not one solution. I think we will all have to collectively put our thoughts and our mind and see, whatever works wherever, we should apply that.
Basically, I would say, keep connecting people. If all of us here start connecting with more people, and wherever you find there is a spark of misunderstanding or there is some tension coming up, if we can do something to cool down the tension, then we would be contributing quite a bit.
I remember, a few ladies from Israel and Palestine came to our German ashram once. In the beginning they would not sit with each other, they would not look at each other. But just a few days of sitting together, playing some games and singing, brought them together and they became very good friends.
I will give you another example. I am narrating this story which happened in 2007.
We had 50 youth who had come here from Baghdad, Iraq and 150 youth from the rest of the Arab countries – Lebanon, etc. It was not planned, but it so happened that at the same time there were 22 people from Israel as well.
The first day there were big fireworks because the Iraqis felt cheated, saying that if they had known there were Israelis they would have never come at that time. Yet they couldn’t take the next flight and go, obviously.
It so happened that by the time they left on the seventh day, there were tears in everyone’s eyes. So, there’s an artificial fear psychosis which has been created, unfortunately, by either the political setup, or vested interests which need to be broken down. We need to bring this message, 'Hey, come on, wake up! We are all human beings! Let’s shake hands, let’s do something together'. That would make a difference.
Annika Dopping: I recently interviewed Dr. Fahri Saatcioglu from the University of Oslo, who is conducting research on what happens with the yogic breathing – The Sudarshan Kriya – at the genetic level. He has discovered some very exciting things, and has said that Sudarshan Kriya can actually affect the DNA.
Previously we used to think that we are static beings and not at all plastic. Do you think that this might even convince the most skeptical, resistant people to see that we are affecting the very core of life? Is that a way to open up and reach out to people? (Annika Dopping: Swedish TV Presenter and Host)
Sri Sri: Yes. You know, I’ve been seeing transformation happening in millions of people all these 32 years who have been doing this program. It is a very welcoming thing to see that science has proved what we see physically. Science is documenting logically and systematically what is really happening. So, Dr. Fahri’s research work is really very interesting.
Similar work has been done by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, and by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. They have found that meditation and breathing exercises, especially, can take people out of depression, and out of all these negative thought patterns that we tend to get into.
It generates more positivity, and one feels happier and more relaxed from within. This is definitely happening.
In recent years, the body-mind medicine, how the thought influences the biochemistry, and how the biochemistry influences the behavior, is proved beyond any question now by the scientific community.
Namaste Gurudev! In recent years, the Maltese women have been put under a lot pressure by the EU because we have the least women in the workforce. So now women have a lot of pressure. We not only raise the family and be good wives, but also work. This is causing a lot of pressure and stress to the Maltese women.
I would like to ask for an empowering message from you to all these women who are balancing these many roles. (Claire Agius: TV presenter from Malta)
Sri Sri: Stress to me is, too much to do, too little time and too little energy.
Now, either you increase your energy level or reduce your workload. Reducing the workload doesn’t seem to be possible these days. All that you have to do is increase your energy level. And that is possible when you see your life from a broader perspective.
You are faced with a stressful situations every day. This is nothing new to you. Look back, last year, or 6 months back, you had a situation where you were very tensed, but you had the power to overcome it. So you need to have that faith in yourself, that you can overcome any stressful situation that you find yourself in right now.
So looking back at your own experience, at your own life, you can draw the power to handle the present situation.
Second thing is do some breathing exercises. Do little bit of meditation, and know for sure it is going to change.
The third thing I would say, just take a good walk and watch nature. Nature will provide you with the strength and the courage to overcome your crisis.
I am from Bahrain and I have been in The Art of Living for 8 years. Usually when I talk about The Art of Living to non Art of living members, they tell me that this is against our religion. The minute they hear the word Yoga or Meditation, immediately they relate it to religion. How do you advise me to answer these people?
Sri Sri: Unfortunately, in the world, there is no distinction between religion and spirituality. I would say, spirituality is the value system which unites people of all religions. Only education will help.
Yoga is simple exercises, it doesn’t conflict anyone’s religious beliefs. But unfortunately, many parts of the world still don’t think so. They think Yoga means it may be related to Hinduism. No doubt it has come from a way of life, from Hinduism, but it has universal benefit. Like Ayurveda, the science of herbs, it is universal.
So universal values, wherever they come from, whichever tradition or religion it comes from, we need to accept it for human betterment. If it does some good, we must accept it.
I know there is lot of prejudice about this, but I see that it is fading away.
You know, in the beginning years, thirty years ago, when I started teaching breathing exercises, I had to face a lot of prejudice, but later on people started seeing the benefit of it.
Anyway someone will object for something, even if what you say is good.
Many people used to think that men and women should not even sit in the same room and talk. But now these are all obsolete ideas. So we need to be progressive and intelligent.
Is there progress without prayers?
Sri Sri: See, a prayer happens on two occasions, when you are very grateful then you thank God, 'Oh, thank God I got this, thank you so much! That is one aspect of prayer.
The second aspect of prayer, I would say is when you are helpless. When you are utterly helpless, when you cannot manage something, when things are out of your hands, then either you get frustrated or you just pray to god, 'Please see that this thing happens'.
So prayer is a very good tool to save our minds and our hearts.
People who know how to pray will not have a nervous breakdown, perhaps. I would add perhaps there. So progress comes not just by prayer, but by your dynamic action.
My question to you, your holiness is: At what stage of the nine month pregnancy does the soul enter the baby? (Naida Glavish: Māori Party president from New Zealand)
Sri Sri: Well, I don’t know! But I can tell you, the ancient scriptures say there are three occasions when the soul enters the body; during conception, or in the fifth month of pregnancy, or at the time of birth.
Among scholars there are differences in opinions; sometimes it also happens that at the time of birth, when the child starts breathing, the soul enters the body. This is what I can tell you.