Nurturing Peace Through
Yoga & Meditation

29 Apr 2015 Washington D.C., United States

(The Embassy of India in Washington, DC, organized a talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on ‘Nurturing peace through Yoga and Meditation’ at its premises on April 29. The talk is the beginning of a series of curtain-raiser yoga events to welcome the First International Day of Yoga, to be celebrated on June 21 this year. Below is the transcript of what Gurudev said:)

Now, today's topic of discussion, nurturing peace, is very broad. In order to understand peace, we first need to understand the problem? Why do we want peace? Is peace a natural state?

If you ask a baby, 'Do you want peace or a lollipop?'
He would go for lollipop!

I see Swami Vivekananda’s picture here and just remembered a story about him.
Once a professor in London asked Swami Vivekananda, 'If there is a book of wisdom and some money on the floor, what would you pick up?'
Swami Vivekananda said, 'I would pick up money'.
Then the professor really made a fun of him. He said, 'Look, you don’t value wisdom, you are picking up money! I would have picked up the book of wisdom'.
Swami Vivekananda said, 'Sir you only pick up what you don’t have'.

The founder of yoga has said that the purpose of yoga is, 'Heyam dukham anagatam', to prevent the misery even before it arrives.


Children have no value for peace, do you know why? It is because they already have it. They have peace in their heart. One moment they cry and the next moment they are smiling, they are able to laugh. The tears are still there, the tears have not yet dried, but they are able to put a smile on their face again. But we as adults have lost this elasticity.
Yoga is to bring that elasticity in our mind, not just in our body. Unfortunately today yoga means just making your body more elastic. It is considered as just a gymnastic, just a health thing. No!
The founder of yoga has said that the purpose of yoga is, 'Heyam dukham anagatam', i.e., to prevent the misery even before it arrives. Of course bodily ailments is one of them. So if you keep exercising then you can avoid many physical ailments that might make you land up at a doctor’s place.

The other aspect of yoga is to bring skill in action.
Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Geeta, 'Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam'.
Skill in action and skill in communication, i.e., to be able to communicate from your heart. A heart to heart, soul to soul talk.
Do you know, we communicate more through our presence than through our words? Have you thought about it? I am sure we all have experienced this, right? Someone may stand and talk on love for two hours, but a baby can communicate the same message with one glance. Or a dog will jump all around you communicate that which could not be communicated through words. Yoga is skill in communication. It is the skill to relate to people.

Just imagine if Saddam Husain had better skill to communicate with George Bush, and vise versa, wouldn’t the world have been a better place? If he had communicated that he really does not have any weapons of mass destructions, in the right proper manner, the scenario would have been much different. Where we have landed up today is much worse than where we were ten years ago. Do you all agree with me?
We may have different opinions, but nobody can deny that wars begin with a breakdown in communication. Am I correct? Any war anywhere in the world is the sign of breakdown of communication. War very clearly exhibits lack of communication skills. When words do not convince, then we try with weapons. When weapons don’t work, we try to come back to words, which really does not work. So we keep going round and round in this catch twenty situation. We get on to this roller coaster which gives rise to more and more conflicts. As a result of all of this, there are more gun stores in the world today, and there is increasing fear and lack of confidence in the planet everywhere.

Yoga is the cure for depression, not Prozac. You can pop in Prozac and it can give you a momentary relief. But it stops working in the long run.


We definitely don’t want such an atmosphere for our children. Do you all agree with me? There are many men and women here who agree with me, who want to give a better environment and a better world to our children; a safer, secure place for our coming generations. The way to this is by uniting people, uniting hearts and minds. Uniting cultures, uniting religions and civilizations. Uniting all age groups and uniting the generations. This is very important.
All over the world today we see that there is a big generation gap. The fathers and sons don’t agree, and the mothers and daughters don’t understand each other. There is a vast gap and this has landed up in a situation where people are depressed. If family values had been intact, depression would not have been such a big issue. The World Health Organization has declared now that depression is going to be one of the biggest killers in the coming decade. 40% percent of people in Europe are depressed. Can you imagine, every other person you meet could be depressed.

Yoga is the cure for depression, not Prozac. You can pop in Prozac and it can give you a momentary relief. But it stops working in the long run.
So again here the words of Maharishi Patanjali comes, 'Heyam dukham anagatam'. You stop the misery before it lands up at your doorsteps, and that is what yoga is, that is what meditation is all about, and that is exactly the purpose of pranayama. And it has worked, we have seen it working in 152 countries. Even in this country, almost everywhere it has helped people to come back to normal.

After 9/11, in New York, we started teaching yoga, pranayama and meditation to the fire fighters and the policemen. We just started a small center, and today the center is much bigger and so many people are getting benefitted on a daily basis.
Then we had the 'welcome home' troupes, for the troupes who have been fighting in Iraq war, Afghan war and Vietnam War. For them, when they learnt these breathing exercises, meditation and some asana, life became so different! A big change happened to them. I am going to address few of them tomorrow morning, here on Capitol Hill along with some Senators of course.

Yoga is to bring that elasticity in our mind, not just in our body.


I would like to share a very important story.
When Ethiopia became democratic republic, first people had to be taught what is the ruling party and what is the opposition, because they are very innocent people, and they did not know. The opposition would support the ruling party and the ruling people would oppose themselves. So they didn’t know the norms of democracy, they had no idea, and there was chaos within the parliament. But then the American embassy and the British embassy there taught them what is the ruling party and what is the opposition. So they had to educate them, when they educated, that gave rise to another problem. The other problem was that the two parties became so inimical to each other that they would not even look at each other. They would fight like anything, like cats and dogs. Then the American and British together sponsored an Art of living workshop, with the help of Indian Embassy. The Indian ambassador’s wife or the first lady there, is an Art of Living teacher. So she and some other teachers got together and taught them The Art of Living course.
I called it Art of Living 35 years ago because those days yoga was a taboo.

So when we did this, then there was a bonding in the whole parliament. They also invited me to address the parliament. A change had take place in the people from within. The corrupt people became more compassionate, and more committed to their work.
You know, corruption begins when the sense of belongingness ends. And yoga is something that brings that bonding and creates a sense of belongingness to everybody.

(Click Here to read Q&A)

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