Q: How do you define Spirituality? Do we have a good spirituality and a bad spirituality?
Spirituality to me, is very basic to life.
We are made of both matter and spirit. Our body is made up of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, etc., but our consciousness or spirit is made of joy, energy, enthusiasm, peace, happiness and all these beautiful qualities. Anything that uplifts the spirit, anything that brings more happiness, love, joy, creativity, compassion and enthusiasm in life is spirituality.
Now, is there a good spirituality and a bad spirituality?
I would like to ask you a question, is there a good doctor and a bad doctor? No! But some doctors do some bad things. So, in every field, there are some people who blemish that field. Similarly, if some people have brought a bad name to spirituality, it is not because of spirituality, but it is because of their individual greed.
From thousands of years, spirituality has been the guiding force behind humanity. Spirituality brings enthusiasm and energy to life.
Spirituality should always stand the test of science. If spirituality doesn’t stand the test of science, then it is not going to appeal to the people of this generation. So, we need spirituality which goes along with science. In the Orient, unlike the Occident, science and spirituality never came into conflict. Scientists were never prosecuted in the far East. Only in the West and in the Middle East and beyond that, scientists were prosecuted.
In the East, we say, first experience and then believe. But in the West, it says first you believe then one day in the future you will get the experience, which is not the mode of science.
Q: I am interested in finding the common grounds in diversity and I am doing this by bringing diverse people together. I have come across people who are physically challenging and people who are simply not interested in it. They don’t understand the value of it. Can you please advise on how to bring more people to spirituality?
That is very good. When you are working in society, you should know that you have to deal with all types of people. It is the tough people who bring out the talent within you. It’s people who have less sense and less understanding, they demand better communication from your side. Intelligent people are easy to communication with. Less intelligent challenge your communication skills. So, a tough boss is always good.
Q: When you speak with people who have never had any exposure to spirituality, what do you speak of? Have you ever been misunderstood?
If people have misunderstood me, then I don’t know. You have to ask them. It is possible. There are many, not just one. Many would have misunderstood me.
From my childhood, I have three principles:
1. Clarity in mind
2. Purity in heart
3. Sincerity in action
I have never spoken any bad word in all these years. I can count on my fingers the number of times I have gotten angry. The only bad word which has come from me is stupid. That's all. It may be my weakness, but I could never ever say any bad word to anybody.
Q: Three years ago, I converted to Islam. Of course, Islamic culture is very different from western culture, but I would like to show people that there may be value in it. How can people with such a different culture, a different belief and religion live together in same society? Can you share the experience where you have dealt with such people?
I am glad you brought up this question. This is very relevant today. Today we need to move from religion to spirituality. Religion is like the banana skin and spirituality is the banana inside.
While in the name of religion there has been so many wars and division, spirituality unites people of all religion.
There was only one Buddha, yet today there are 32 sects of Buddhism. There was only one Jesus Christ, but there are 72 sects of Christianity. There was only one Prophet Mohammed, but there are so many sects of Islam with each claiming they are the real one. And Hinduism, you can’t even count the number of sects. There are so many because it is coming from a tradition of thousands of years. So as many saints came that many schools of philosophy developed.
I want to tell you an incident. The personal secretary of Ayatollah Khomeini (the supreme religious leader of Iran) who was 78 years old came to meet me in Bangalore quite some time back. He said, “I have one burning question. People told me to come to you. My question is, if the truth is only one, is the right answer only one and the path only one. Like for a question, there can be only one right answer.”
I said, “Yes, this logic is very good. But you know, truth is multidimensional. There could be many answers which could be correct for a question. For example, to come to this place, there is one direction which says, ‘Go straight and turn left.’ And there is another direction which says, ‘Go straight and turn right.’ Then there is a third direction which says, ‘Don't turn left or right. Just go straight.’ And all these three could be correct, because it depends from where you are coming. If you are coming from the east, you have to go straight and turn left. If you are coming from the west, you have to go straight and turn right. All these different paths lead to the same truth.”
He was relieved and so happy. He thanked me so much, and he left.
Today, terrorism is because some people think that only they have the right to go to heaven, and so they create hell for everybody else. If people practice spirituality, compassion, and love, then extremism will not be there.
I feel every child should know all a little bit about the 10 major religions of the world, then life becomes richer. Otherwise, they think only their way is the right way, and they get stuck which causes so many problems to happen.
Q: Japan has a problem of high suicide rate. I lost a friend to suicide when I was high school. Japan may be peaceful, but individual happiness is lacking.
I totally agree. This is one of the reasons why we started Art of Living centers here a few years back. When energy (prana) is low, then suicidal tendencies come. With the help of breathing techniques and yoga, you can overcome this in no time.
Around 48 universities in America have adopted our techniques of breathing and meditation. These breathing techniques enhance happiness, intuition, innovation and self-worthiness among students. This course which we specially designed for youth is very useful and will help people to come out of suicidal tendencies.
If any of you have found anyone who has shown signs of suicidal tendencies, I would like you to bring them into contact with one of-of our teachers. I would like more of you to become teachers and instructor so that we can help people of this country.
Q: You have spoken about yoga and its benefits. My understanding is that yoga is something personal which you do as an individual. How does it help enhance relationships?
Relationship depends on how you feel. If you are stressed, your behavior changes. If you are unhappy, you behave differently. If you have fear and uncertainty, it affects your relationship.
Q: I am meditating but it is not helping me.
Are you meditating every day? If you are meditating once every few days, then that is not proper meditation. If you learn proper meditation, then you will find yourself free from stress. It does not matter if you are Sikh, or Hindu, or Buddhist, anyone can do meditation. It doesn’t conflict any religion.
Q: In Japan, we have the problem of discrimination against the minorities. For a very long time, victims of discrimination have suffered in silence. When we are faced with adversity, it makes us more aggressive. Of course, we don’t want to be violent, but sometime it becomes very difficult to stick to non-violent ways. Sometimes it becomes necessary for us to resolve to anger. Anger gives us power, it strengthens us. Are anger and the ways you speak of opposite?
This is a very valid question. Anger is not bad if it is under your control, and if you sparingly use it, it works. But if you are under the control of anger, and it comes very often, it is self-destructive.
Healthy anger should stay only as long as a line drawn on the surface of the water. Another thing is, you don’t always need to resolve to anger to stand for justice. When you stand for justice with firmness and with a feeling that I want to work for this section of minority, or for gender equality, you can do that without disturbing your emotion. And yoga can help you in this.
If you see, in the world, there are times when this sort of minority bashing happens. But in a healthy nation, minorities are happy and are well protected. I feel India and Japan have a very vibrant democracy. And there is so much honesty in Japan, people simply have to come forward and take an active role. That’s all. Sometimes, it is the lack of leadership in the minority which causes the problem more than the rights. But Japan has a very broad minded and deep-rooted democracy. I am sure every voice will be heard!
Q: Taiwan does not see the Chinese government in favorable light, and the relationship between the two countries are very strained. With a situation like this, even if you have two groups of people with good intentions trying to move forward, the bitter history comes in-between. How do you move on in this case when there are atrocities of the past that are extremely difficult to overcome?
I would like to remind you of the 1000 years of enmity between France and Germany. Today they are friends. So, there is always hope.
Today, borders have disappeared. All countries have come together. Not very long ago, Italy and Germany had big conflicts. Today, they have one single currency. Things change!
Remember one thing, change is constant. Friends becomes enemies and enemies becomes friends. These changes keep happening. What is needed is people who are peace makers; people who don’t take sides. They can bridge those gaps.
In the early 80’s, I would say, ‘East and West Germany should become one’, and people thought I am naïve and I didn’t know what I was talking about. At that time, East Germany and the West Germany were bitter enemies, but today they are one. So, we must not lose hope. From this, I would like the students to know that – dream bigger. Hold on to your hopes, and I tell you that nothing is impossible.
There is one thing which is the enemy of all – and that is stress. Stress destroys everything! So, we must destroy stress.
I invite youths from here to travel around the world. Learn from everywhere and keep stress out. I invite you to visit India. We have a university there upholding both the ancient and modern traditions. I invite students to come there.
I would like to narrate one small incident to all of you. A few decades ago, President Nixon from America visited Japan. He wanted to meet with the religious leaders here and so the Prime Minister of Japan organized that. President Nixon was sitting with Buddhist monks on one side and with the Shinto priest on the other side. So, the President turned to the Buddhist Monk and asked, “What is the percentage of Japanese who follow Buddhism?” The Buddhist monk said, “80%.”
Then President turned to Shinto priest and asked the same questions, “What is the percentage of people following Shintoism?” The priest said “80%”.
President Nixon got confused. How is it possible? Both of them looked at each other and said that it is possible. This is Japan!
This is a very big lesson for the Middle East where there is so much anger and conflict between communities. Japan and India have given examples of harmony in diversity. We should preserve this harmony in diversity all over the world.