Q: Gurudev, though customs and symbols are different among religions, the core values are the same. Then why is there feverishness to convert people to another religion? And also if they do convert, why should we be feverish about it, if the core values are same?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes; the core values are the same, but customs and traditions are different. A change of demography and beliefs happens from place to place, country to country. If the conversion is only religious, it is a different issue. Unfortunately, it is political also. Religious conversions are happening not just for the cause of religion, or saving somebody, but there is a sinister design behind it of wanting some sort political dominance or power. This is not good at all for survival of different civilizations or cultures on the planet. All the wars are fought today in the name of religion or religious sects, resulting in extremism. The extremists say – ‘Everyone should be like me! Everyone should follow the same religion as I’. Their whole idea is to see that nothing else exists other than their school of thought. This is dangerous for the world. For the world is diverse. And it is our responsibility to protect the diversity.
It is like what the multinational companies do nowadays. Sometimes they come and they burn all other seeds (meaning the existing local or indigenous craft and trade unique to a country and culture). They only want their own seeds (referring to products or traditions) to flourish and go on. For example the Monsanto type of companies. So if this happens, then only one seed will exist. They cannot tolerate the diversity. And this is because of their own ulterior motives.
This beautiful earth has so many diverse schools of thought, so many beautiful philosophies, ways of life, various ways of worship and wonderful cultures. These need to be protected. Whenever a person converts, he disregards one religion and goes to another. He cannot convert to another religion without denigrating or degrading his own religion. And this is what is not good. We should not denigrate. If you are denigrating your own religion, then you have not learnt about it in deep, it shows you have not known about it. That is why we say we must resist this sort of proselytization (conversion). Such people or parties convert people by giving them different sorts of allurement, such as offering them seats in the good schools, or giving them food, money, job, or motorbikes etc. and then trying to convert them. Do you know how much suffering and problems it creates within a family? We really have no idea. So, suddenly the children of the family don’t want to participate in the traditional festivals the parents have been following and doing for a long time. They don’t mix with their own relatives. They want everything to be different. These issues come up and they create such disharmony within a family as well in the societies and communities.
That’s why I say that we should honour and respect all religions. But we must also become more spiritual rather than fanatically religious.