Below is a transcript of what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said at the Bangalore Literary Festival. The festival was designed to bring the focus onto the literary heritage of the city and to transform Bangalore into the hub of Indian Literature. The event honoured the creative spirit of the city while providing a common platform for interaction between the finest literary brains in the world of literature; both within and outside India.
It is nice to be here with you in this literary festival.
Literature and spirituality have a long relationship. If spirituality is alive today on this planet, it is because of literature. Most of the literature that is prevalent, read and practiced, at least in this country, has some spiritual connection.
Again, what is spirituality? Is it something out there, or is it something practical? I would say that anything that uplifts the spirit is spirituality. In the sense that, every literature that uplifts you, brings a smile on your face, gives you that much needed relaxation, or some confidence when things are crumbling, or some faith when all is shaken and lacking, I would call it spirituality.
In fact, I would say that all poems come from that space which I call spiritual. It all comes from an inner (spiritual) plane, or the intuitive awareness.
The book, An Intimate Note to the Sincere Seeker, is an outcome of dialogues that I would have with a group of youth, every Wednesday, for seven years. We would ask each other some questions, discuss some topics, churn an intellectual debate, and with whatever came up, we would make a knowledge sheet from it.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Vade vade jayate tattvabodhah’, every debate brings forth an understanding of principles. When we debate on our experiences, something very beautiful comes out of it. So, debate is definitely a part of literature, and spirituality.
A deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the sign of a spiritual experience.
In the Art of Living, we take the help of the breath (since the breath and mind are closely linked) to bring that much needed relaxation for the body and mind. This is helpful for people who face the writer’s block. So if you are a writer, when you sit to write, do some breathing exercises and relax. You will see that suddenly the Gyana Nadi, as it is called in Yogic Science, (i.e., a particular channel of energy), opens up. Then you are able to write, and the writer’s block just vanishes.
So, spirituality is very useful for writers to be innovative, intuitive and creative.
A few minutes of deep silence can enhance our ability to express ourselves much better.
Can you observe what is happening to you right now? Can you read in between the words? Can you feel something is settling down in the mind?
The rat race that is happening with our thoughts, when it slows down, something wonderful starts happening within ourselves.
Writers usually prefer to be with nature. Do you know what really happens when you are with nature; be it at the seaside, or the mountainside, or in the garden? Something slows down within. That is when your entropy goes down, and creativity comes up.
This is exactly how the writer’s block opens up for many people when they go on a retreat, or go to some quiet place.
When you sit and write something early in the morning, you feel much better because of the atmosphere or the ambience that is around you. We can create this ambience wherever we are, and at our own will, we don’t have to be somewhere. We can calm this mind just by attending to our breath.
When I started writing in 1972, I was 16 years old. One of my very close friend’s fathers, was a very famous writer called Gopal Krishna Adiga, and many times, we would just sit and chat with him. We were surrounded by people of eminence who inspired us to do something.; I would tell them that after reading their books or poems, I couldn’t write anything because whatever I felt, it was already written!
So, for young and budding writers, I would suggest that you don’t read many big books. Instead; you go and watch some paintings.
Painters should not go and see other’s paintings. I would suggest that they read books, so they can paint well.
Sometimes you feel someone has written so well that you can’t write better than them. Whatever it is that you want to say, has already been said and done. This is exactly the feeling I got when I used to read some of the works of Krishna, Adiga's, or Dr. D.V. Gundappa’s Mankuthimmana Kagga. They have written about things that many of us have experienced.
Literature plays such an important role in instilling common sense in people. It can also create prejudice and wrong notions, and it can also make someone’s mind very narrow. We have seen what has happened in China and many other parts of the world. It is all through literature that a set of ideology was imposed, and a large population has suffered; millions of people have died by adhering to those parts.
Chhattisgarh, a place I am to visit today, is an area afflicted by Naxalite activities. It also has its own literature. The Naxalites believe so strongly in it that they quote Napoleon, and say, ‘Violence is the way!’
I told them that Napoleon didn’t ask anyone to vote for him! He went and acquired the kingdom with his strength; so we have to work on our own strength.
This sort of brain-washing or infusing of an ideology towards violence has happened on the planet. On the contrary, the same has happened with peace also; the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others are based on peace, perseverance, patience and spreading love, which is far more essential today.
Literature can lead people astray from peace, and it can also bring them peace. It can create a sense of anger and frustration, or a sense of belongingness and love. We all know this.; I am not saying it should be one or the other.
Life is very complex and it can be complete only when it has all the aspects. Any literature should have a little bit of sarcasm, skepticism, thrill, something for people to ponder on rather than give them everything on a platter.
People should come up with their own ideas. Individuality should grow in literature. It is my opinion that literature should lead people to individuality rather than mass hysteria or an idea. It should allow people to think for themselves, to come up with creativity, to come up with their own ideas, and at the same time, honor the universal human values.
To the sincere seekers, I would like to give them a note, seek the highest!
Seek life beyond what it appears to be, beyond the perception of our five senses. Look into the mystical aspect of life, which is prevalent in every one of us. You don’t have to go somewhere, you can simply see life in a bigger context.
Ask yourself, who am I? What am I doing? What do I want? What is this universe about? What is all this about? This enquiry within you makes you a seeker. Every literate person, I feel, should be a seeker. Seeking should not end.
Seeking begins in life at a very early age. A three year old child starts asking questions, and this should continue our whole life, where we want to know, where we want to see what the truth is, and what life is; to understand this complex idea called human life; to understand the minds of others, and one’s own mind!
Putting attention on these faculties that we have been bestowed with - the mind, intellect, memory, ego, and something beyond, from where thoughts come will make our life so much richer. Prejudice should be done away with. An open minded approach to any field, I feel, is real common sense.