(A ‘Peace Conference’ was help at the European Parliament at Oslo, Norway on the 25 October 2015. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addressed the gathering with his wisdom and ideas on making a more peaceful world through multi-religious and multi-cultural education. Below is the transcript of what Gurudev said).
I am a very simple person who believes in the oneness of mankind. When we see our life from a broader perspective, we realize that we are on this planet for such a short time of 60-70 years. There is not enough time to get to know each other and love each other, and getting in conflicts appears to me to be absolutely foolish. Having said this, I want to talk about practical things that we need to do.
What is the root of conflict? If we analyze this, we see that stress is one of the causes of conflict. A stressful individual creates stress all around him or her. Whether it is a family situation, or in a community, or in a nation, it is the stressed individual who creates conflict.
Peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is a positive state of human life.
This being a ‘Peace Conference’, I would like to speak a few words on peace before we get into the topic of ‘conflict’. To me, peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is a positive state of human life. Peace is a state where you are creative, happy and joyful. Peace is a state from where you think of innovative and creative ideas. So, peace should be seen as a positive state of one’s existence, and not as just absence of conflict.
We all know that a baby smile around 400 times a day. By the time the child reaches college, we see that the smile disappears.
If you ask a child, “How many friends do you have?” You will see them count on their fingers. I have a question, “If a child can’t be friendly with 50 kids in his or her classroom, how are they going to be friendly with the whole world?”
So somewhere we need to inculcate an attitude of friendliness and open a channel of communication with each other though we are from diverse groups.
Coming back to the topic of ‘conflict’. Conflicts arise because of 5 reasons.
1. Lack of communication.
2. Lack of trust towards the other, with whom there is a communication break-down.
3. High levels of stress, and an inability of perceive or listen to the other’s point of view.
4. Religious indoctrination. If a child grows up believing that only he is going to heaven, and everybody else is going to hell, he is going is create hell for everyone around him or her. We need a de-radicalization. Radicalization is one of the main issues in conflict zones.
5. Vested interests of certain people. When conflicts become a cash cow because of the vested interests of certain people, then any amount of sense or wisdom does not work because all that appears to such a person is ‘There is a conflict, and I am getting money from this conflict, so I want to keep the conflict going on’.
Non-violence is a principle which is most needed today. Sometimes it appears to be a utopia. We are all here in Norway which is so peaceful and non-violence. Human rights and acceptance of diversity is so high over here. We need to see what we can do to bring these principles to the rest of the world; how we can promote and establish them! This is something that the intellectuals and decision makers of the world have to come up with.
Children should know a little about all the religions of the world, so that they grow up with a broad perspective.
Coming to the topic of Terrorism. We need to educate all those children who have been wrongly indoctrinated with the idea that ‘Only I will go to heaven, everybody else is going to go to hell’. We need to give them multi-cultural and multi-religious education. This is essential! UNESCO must take up this project of providing all children with multi-religious education. Children should know a little bit about all the religions of the world so that they grow up with a broad perspective and with wisdom, rather than having a narrow mind-set.
India has been a victim of terrorism for several years. The same is the case with Pakistan. Unless we all unite and fight against terrorism and poverty, there is no hope for the world. On this note, people all over the world, anyone who is sensible, who believes in justice and freedom, has to raise his voice against terrorism and fight terrorism.
The reformers and rulers have to move together. Being a reformer is the role of spiritual leaders, religious leaders and NGOs. There are a lot of NGOs in the world who can play a big role in all the conflict zones. We can go and meet people in these areas and speak to them; they are all part of us, they are not a different species, but just victims of misunderstanding, with lack of a proper understanding of the others and ridden with fear. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. If we can reach out to them, we can have a better world.
A two-way approach is needed – humanitarian approach along with political dialogue. The humanitarian approach is needed to help them get rid of stress and tension, look at life from a broader perspective and realize that the peace you are looking for is deep within you.