- Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The year 2011 has seen an unprecedented number of social revolutions, military conflicts, natural calamities. These along with the economic slowdown make the world’s challenges appear more complex than ever. However, we are also more interconnected today, than at any point in history. The ongoing European-debt crisis demonstrates the impact that one country’s economy can have on the world as a whole. Issues like climate change, increasing food scarcity and shortages of water, among others, require a collective response – we need the whole world to tackle these problems together. In order to address these challenging issues, one needs to have broad vision and a calm mind.
In order to achieve harmony, one needs to be able to deal effectively with conflict – both within and outside. You might have observed, that your emotions have a certain impact on your breath. When you are angry, your breathing is fast and short. When you are relaxed, your breath is long and deep. Just as your mind has an impact on the breath, you can influence the state of your mind, through the breath. Using the breath as a tool, one can achieve a calm and clear mind. When your state of mind is calm, you are able to perceive situations with more clarity. Based on this improved perception, you are then able to take better decisions, as the situation warrants.
When conflict arises in the mind of an individual, perception, observation and expression are impacted. This, in turn, impacts communication with the other party. In a conflict zone, the first thing that is needed for resolution is an improvement in the communication between the parties. This can only happen when the mind is calm and able to respond, rather than be reactive. In order for the mind to be calm, mental traumas need to be relieved. The rhythmic breathing and meditation techniques of conflict resolution that the volunteers of The Art of Living use in conflict zones have been quite effective at relieving mental trauma. Another important thing that can help improve communication is for one to be able to broaden one’s vision to see that inside every culprit is also a victim crying for help. When the victim is addressed, the culprit disappears. We need to help people come out of trauma and build trust between the conflicting parties. When somebody with a balanced mind, wisdom and a holistic approach towards life intervenes, progress toward conflict resolution can take place. Whether it is an ideological difference between parties or a politically motivated game between groups, there is always scope for improvement in communication. The Art of Living has been involved in helping build trust between communities in Cote d’Ivoire, Kosovo, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Iraq, and Sri Lanka. For instance, we trained 50 youth leaders identified by the Iraqi government to become ambassadors of peace. Iraqi women were also part of this training. One of the greatest challenges that India is facing is Maoist violence (Red Terror). The Art of Living has worked extensively in the affected areas of India. Our volunteers have set up a retreat center in the heartland of Maoism in Jharkhand, India in a village called Patamda.
A Shift in Education
Terrorism has its roots in religious indoctrination, poverty or ethnic identity. Terrorists perpetuate hatred towards other cultures in the name of God.
As mentioned earlier, terrorism also has its roots in poverty. The Art of Living in an effort to eliminate poverty and bring education has started 185 schools across India with a special focus on the economically backward regions: thousands of children receive a free education imbibing the ethics of non-violence. They also receive free nutritious meals and school uniforms and supplies.
There is a mindset among a very small section of people in this world that since they follow a set of beliefs, the whole world should follow the same. The way to combat such a narrow mindset is by making our education multi-cultural and multi-religious. A sincere acceptance of the diversity in this world has to be cultivated in individuals at a very young age.
Spirituality can help broaden our vision and improve our acceptance. When attention is given to the spiritual aspect of one’s life, it brings responsibility and a sense of belongingness. Spirit upholds and sustains life. It makes one strong and solid. It breaks down the narrow boundaries of caste, creed, religion and nationality and gives one awareness, this uplifting of consciousness with which wars can be eliminated and human rights restored. Whenever there is separation, whenever we see somebody as other, as “enemy”, violence is possible. Where there is connection, there you will find only kindness, love and compassion. It is not possible to see the humanity in other person and commit a violent act against him.
Today, on the occasion of World Peace Day, I urge all countries of the world to come together - to come forward - to allocate a small fraction of their defense budget towards peace education. It is only through education that we can create an atmosphere where people are free of hatred and can come together with understanding, compassion and love. I envision a world without violence and stress, and we are making our effort in creating a peaceful and stress-free world. I urge more people to step forward and take an active role in bringing peace to every nook and corner of the world. Unless every member of the global family is peaceful, our peace is incomplete.
Peace is needed at three levels: The first is inner peace, which we should all have in our mind so that we can be dynamic in action and our thoughts are more powerful. The second is peace in our immediate environment, our family, friends and workplaces. The third is peace between nations and continents, which is most important. It is time to tear down the walls between cultures and celebrate diversity. It is now time to encourage our young people, our children to see beyond limited identities and to associate with the common humanity that we are all part of. This is how we can create a violence-free, stress-free society.