On the same day as the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader spoke in Regina.Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was in the Queen City to deliver a message of peace and to make a plea for non-violence. A crowd of several hundred gathered at the Conexus Arts Centre on April 15 for what was billed as “an evening of wisdom and meditation with Gurudev.” Just hours earlier, people had been shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic events unfolding in Boston.
Shankar is on a global mission to promote his campaign for a “violence-free stress-free society.” He has travelled the world, promoting peace, for years but after the December shootings in Newton, Conn., he decided to launch a new campaign.
His goal is to create social change through non-violence. He asks people to commit an act of non-violence for every violent act they witness. He also shared ways people can reduce the stress in their lives, because, according to Shankar, stress is one of the leading forces behind violence.
“I could use a lesson how to reduce my stress,” laughed Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, who welcomed Shankar to Regina at the event.
People are invited to take a pledge on the website Nonviolence No Higher Calling (www.nonvio.org). Shankar’s goal is to reach a billion acts of non-violence. Supporters are asked to create their own act of non-violence on the web page or commit to one of the suggestions, like honouring women or standing up to abuse.
Shankar said there are three types of violence: Religious or racist terrorists, people acting out of stress and people who do it for entertainment without realizing the seriousness of their actions.
“To combat these three types (of violence) we need to make the society, the general population and the kids more aware of it.”
Shankar’s idea for eliminating violence in the world is simple. He believes that if more people can eliminate stress through their lives through meditation and other methods, they will be less inclined to act out violently.
“Today the world is in bad shape, not because of a few bad guys but because many good people are not acting. My idea was to have all those good people take a proactive stance against violence.”
He said non-violence begins at home with your loved ones and by creating harmony in your family.
“Don’t get upset immediately. Take your turn to get upset,” he said with a laugh. “Don’t be so quick to get mad when you feel you’ve been wronged.
“If someone is not good to you or a little nasty to you, you don’t need to repeat that. You can reply with an act of kindness.”
Shankar founded the Art of Living Foundation in 1981 in Bangalore, India. It is now the world’s largest volunteer-based non-governmental organization in the world, with locations in 150 countries. Programs on meditation, stress elimination and yoga, along with traditional Ayurvedic medicine are offered to people from all religious and cultural backgrounds.
Bangalore’s Art of Living international headquarters is a sprawling oasis of manicured gardens, traditionally-crafted buildings and animal sanctuaries, separated from the bustling city by a high wall and innumerable trees. Underprivileged youth study their lessons in one area (the foundation supports 25,000 students and has founded 220 schools). People flock to a huge lotus-shaped meditation hall in another area.
Before his 10-day Canadian tour, the 56-year-old visited Europe and the United States, and is headed for Japan, Indonesia and China in May. He spends between 150 to 200 days every year spreading his peace message and meeting with global leaders.
Joy is what drives Shankar to travel the world and speak to crowds that number in the hundreds of thousands.
“When you see a nice movie, you have a tendency to call your friends and say ‘see it. It’s so good.’ Why (do) we do that? The nature of happiness is to spread it. The nature of joy is to share. You don’t say when you’re happy ‘leave me alone, I’m so happy.’ When you’re happy you simply want to share it with everybody.”