(At an impressive ceremony at the prestigious Nyenrode University, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was conferred with an honorary doctorate today.
Addressing the gathering , the Rector of Nyenrode, Dr. Maurits van Rooijen FRSA, said that it was a great privilege for the university that Sri Sri has accepted this doctorate. In its 65 years since inception, the university has conferred this doctorate on very few individuals, some of whom include Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr A P J Abdul Kalam and Mr Bill Gates.
He added that the work and life of Sri Sri is a true representation of Leadership, Entreprenuership and Stewardship, the three core values of the University.
Sri Sri then address the gathering with the following words)
Honorable Rector, Honorable Dean, Honorable Board of Trustees, and all the dignitaries present here. I am so honored to receive this doctorate degree from NyenrodeUniversity. I really appreciate and feel grateful to you for choosing me to be part of this university. Even without studying in this university I have become an Alumnus of the University today.
I feel there are three important aspects to education; first is information, second is observation and third is intuition. I am so happy to hear that this university has all these aspects.
Often when we think of education, we think it is only gathering of information; that is not sufficient. You need keenness of mind, a mind which is alert and sharp enough to absorb what is happening around, and what is happening within. Ethics is listening to the consciousness that is deep within, and acting according to it when it comes to social interactions.
We need to take responsibility
for the atmosphere that we
are in. That attitude of taking
responsibility for our own
environment makes all the
difference. It can make you
very happy, and motivate you
to take up more work.
Observation is a very important aspect of education, which has not been given much attention by many of the educational institutions.
The third thing is the intuitive ability. If you turn back and look at the past, there have been great scientists who have not gone to college and obtained a degree. They had developed an intuitive ability, whether it is Thomas Alva Edison or even Albert Einstein. They all had that intuitive ability, which they nurtured within themselves. To me, spirituality begins here. Spirituality is that which enables you to get in touch with your observation, your perceptual ability, and enhance your intuitive faculty. When the mind is calm it is able to perceive things better. When the mind is disturbed, our perception is also totally disturbed. So the mind needs to be calm then perception becomes better, observation becomes much clearer, and expression becomes more understandable.
So perception, observation and expression are three ways to communicate with the world around us.
Business depends a lot on communication. When communication breaks down, business breaks down. Communication can be better only when there is an element of spiritual awakening, or spiritual power, or force within each one of us.
Again, when we say spirituality, we simply think it is someone sitting and doing something out there - no, that is not the case. We are all made up of matter and spirit. Our bodies are made up of carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids. Our spirit, our mind is made up of truth, integrity, honesty, beauty, compassion, love, cooperation and creativity. All these qualities are considered as spirituality, they are part of our spirit.
Today in the world this huge menace of depression is arising - mental depression, lack of trust or trust being broken down. Fear and insecurity about financial aspects and relationship aspects of life is also increasing. So, it is all the more vital that we place more emphasis on spirituality, i.e., building inner strength, bringing back confidence in the humanness of our society, turning our mind back to compassion and love which is the very breath of our existence. From being a mechanically driven life, we need to turn into a life full of enthusiasm, cooperation and humanness.
I am glad that Nyenrode University has already taken this step and is working towards this.
I was so happy to hear that there is a whole Department on Business and Ethics; this would give hope to our society. If there is Narayana there should be Lakshmi; means when there is spirituality, there should be wealth as well.
Today the mess that we are facing in Europe and in other parts of the world also, is because of the greed of a few. Isn't it so? We hear about scam after scam after scam because corruption has in some way been accepted, socially and politically. Though there are some voices that come up, but again they subside, and things continue the way they were. That is where a big wave of awakening has to happen against corruption.
According to me, corruption begins where a sense of belongingness ends. When you have a sense of belongingness, you will never be corrupt with those people. You will never take or give bribe from those who you feel belong to you. When that sense of belongingness ends, that is exactly when corruption begins.
In today’s world, technology has shrunk the world into a global village; we cannot afford to have a sectarian mindset where you think, ‘This belongs to me and this does not.’
We need to have a broad vision that the whole world is one human family. The lack of this has created so much strife. Otherwise we will go back to the Middle-Ages when we used to fight in the name of race, religion, language, with war after war. significantly destroying ourselves.
As I was saying, India was at the peak of its economic growth when the spiritual awakening was very high. It contributed to 33% of the world's GDP. When Lord Macaulay traveled the length and breadth of the country, he did not find one poor or sick person. That was the state of affairs when there was so much of heart, so much of service, and so much of a sense of belongingness. When this started declining, greed, anger, jealousy and hatred overtook the society, and economic downturn came very fast.
This is the lesson we need to learn from history. We need to connect people from that inner core of our existence. To say it simply, we have to become like children again.
From acting as grown-up-robots, we need to come back to a position where we maintain our innocence and still be very intelligent. In short, a violence-free society, a stress-free mind, a disease-free body, an inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory and a sorrow-free soul is the birthright of every human being. We should dream of this big dream, and make it possible.
Q: You once said the body is in the mind, not the other way around. Please explain what you mean by this. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I give a very simple example to a layman. When you light a candle and keep it inside a glass, the flame remains only as long as there is oxygen inside the glass. In the same way, if you put a man or a woman in a room and lock them up, they will be alive only as long as there is oxygen in that room. So we are akin to the flame, we live on oxygen. Our consciousness, our life, our mind lives on oxygen, just like a flame. The body is like the wick of a flame, the mind is like the glow all around; though we don't see the mind.
When we take a picture through Kirlian photography, the aura of a person can be measured; the energy field around a man or woman can be measured. This is what I would say is mind. Mind is nothing but a mass of energy and intelligence. It is the wave function, the wave of vibrations around you.
When the body is relaxed, the mind expands. This is our feeling generally. When you are happy, what is the feeling you get? You feel that something in you is expanding, isn’t it? And when you are upset, you find that something in you is shrinking; the energy in you shrinks and that is when you feel uncomfortable. When the energy expands, you feel happy, elevated and comfortable. And this particular phenomenon indicates that our body is inside the mind, and not the other way around.
Again through medical science, there is other evidence. Have you heard about Phantom Limbs? When somebody's arm has been amputated, still they feel itching and pain in that area where there is no arm, and they find it even bigger than the arm. This also indicates that our body is inside the glow called the mind.
You know spirituality is so abstract, and business is such a concrete thing, isn't it? They are very contrasting, yet very complimentary.
Everyone has the right to be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is not the property of a few people. Everyone can be enthusiastic, unique and creative in their own way. And spirituality is that which supports this - the growth of every human being.
Q: You have mentioned that the ABC of life is awareness, belongingness and commitment. What is the ABC for our management students? As a graduate of Vedic Literature and Science, you may be aware of the holistic approach to education. Please tell us something about it. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: ABC, i.e., Awareness, Belongingness and Commitment are universal. I think you can apply this in any field, not just spirituality, business or politics; it cuts across different fields of human relevance. These three aspects can be applied anywhere.
Without commitment nothing works in the world. If it works, then it is just God’s grace. It is just God who is working through you.
Once somebody said, ‘God is in control but He should make it more obvious to us.’ It is not very obvious when we think we are in control. A sense of belongingness makes a big difference in the way we function, and in the way we perceive our atmosphere. We need to take responsibility for the atmosphere that we are in. So, that empowerment, that attitude of taking responsibility for our own environment makes all the difference. It can make you very happy, and motivate you to take up more work. But if you lack the attitude, then you simply slip into a corner and get more depressed.
We have started Sri Sri University in Orrisa with the idea of bringing the East and the West together. The best of the East and the best of the West will be married there. The idea is to give the best form of education in all the different fields - in the traditional field of Ayurveda (herbal medicines) and in the field of business.
We have already started one business school in Goa, and it is running for the last five years. The objective is to give an idea of how the ancient and the modern can be married and brought together, and the best of each world can be provided to our new generation.
Along with this, I have this dream of creating a stress-free and violence free society; a just society where everyone smiles more. Today, you must have already heard about the focus moving away from GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness); it is very important. About 30% of the European population is in depression. There is no point in having a higher GDP and having no smiles on the faces of people. We need to have people appreciate GDH, i.e., become happier.
Happiness has nothing to do with the prosperity of the country, and this is another theory that we have seen in the recent years. Countries like Bhutan and Bangladesh are much happier than countries like India or China, or the USA. What is in these countries that we are missing? We need to explore that now, and bring this wave of happiness in society, to see not just a prosperous but a happier society.
Q: Intuition is important for entrepreneurs as it creates unique resources for gaining competitive advantages. From a management context, we are saying that companies that are investing in resources with unique capabilities are at an advantage. If we spread spirituality everywhere, what will be the uniqueness then, and how will we still gain the competitive advantage? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: We all sleep; we all have a good meal and a good nap. If everyone takes very good and deep sleep, will they all become the same? No! If everyone has a good meal, will they all express themselves in the same way? No! But everyone is entitled to have a good sleep, and everyone is entitled to listen to good music, be relaxed and be happy.
Being happy does not bar you from being unique. It is not that if the sun comes through one window, it comes in any way less from another window. Spirituality is like that - everyone is entitled to enjoy the full sunshine without having to worry that if someone else is enjoying the sunshine as well then they will get less of it. Nature is abundant, and spirituality is something basic to our life.
So everyone can learn how to manage their anger. Everyone can learn how to feel uplifted and elevated. Everyone has the right to be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is not the property of just a few people, and others should be unenthusiastic about things, no! Everyone can be enthusiastic, unique and creative in their own way. And spirituality is that which supports this - the growth of every human being.