Day 1

Spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living, India

My dear ones on the stage and on the dais; Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi Ji; Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, Kamal Thapa; and other esteemed dignitaries, I welcome you all.

You know, there are five primary things that unite us all:

  1. Sports – A child begins to start playing even when it is born. Sports find universal appeal with everyone at all time and bring everyone together.
  2. Artand Culture
  3. Business andEconomy
  4. Spirituality
  5. IntellectualDebate

These five areas unite humanity everywhere in one thread. Today is such a wonderful occasion – people from so many countries have all gathered here to send out a message to the world that we all are one! We are all a One World Family. The Art of Living is more of a principle, a philosophy of living life to its fullest.

It is a movement and not really much of an organization. Its core valuesare to find peace within oneself and to unite people in our society – of different cultures, traditions, religions, and nationalities, thus reminding us all that we have one goal – to uplift human life everywhere. It is a collective effort to bring together Bhakti (devotion), Shakti (inner strength and resolve), Yukti (awakened intelligence), and Mukti (freedom) in one’s life. It is the art of uniting minds and hearts in a unique harmony.

In India, we have always dreamed of the world as one family. Today, that dream seems to be taking shape – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – we are all one. There should be no difference between our speech and our actions, no difference between what we are on the inside and outside, and our actions should be such that they bring peace and comfort to us and to everyone around us. This is why there is spirituality – it is to help one reflect within oneself and to realize that what lies within oneself is what is present everywhere else too. This wave of spirituality—this wave of happiness—is what we need to spread across to every nook and corner of the world. This is the one aim with which we all have gathered here today.

I would say one thing to you all – whatever love and belongingness you give to the society, and to the world, you get 100 times that love back in return. It is indeed difficult to express this in words, but if there is a name to the art of experiencing and recognizing the infinity within oneself, then that is spirituality. We have to take this wave of spirituality everywhere in the world.

Some people said that the World Culture Festival 2016 is Gurudev’s private party(laughter). I said, well, yes, it is indeed, because the whole world is my family and belongs to me! This is what Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam means, so then it is really a private party for the entire family.

We always welcome the truth. And when we do not desire anything for ourselves, then in that very moment, everything and everyone belongs to us totally. Then the entire world belongs to us. Usually, we feel that there is something or the other that is lacking in our personal life, or that our personal life and public life are two different things entirely. But when there is no gap, no distance, no difference between our personal and public life – when there is total oneness and belongingness with everyone and everything in this world, then at once you see a light, the light of the Divine, which is the basis of this entire creation and on which this entire universe rests and is upheld.

Silence and celebration go hand in hand. We have always thought of life as a continual struggle. But it is an art to be able to transform that (struggle) into a grand celebration. And you all have given this festival so many unique colors of celebration today by gathering here. So many youths have gathered here today.

Some visually challenged children have also come to attend this festival from Bijapur, which is so far away. Despite being visually impaired, they have travelled so far to be a part of this musical celebration. It is such a beautiful occasion.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, shreyansi bahu vighnani (many obstacles appear for a great and noble deed). It means that when you want to do something great, something wonderful, then you will find that many obstacles come in front of you. If you wish to do some wrong or wicked deed, then you do not encounter any obstacles. But that only indicates that we have truly undertaken a very significant and beneficial work. And the fruit that one gets after overcoming those obstacles is really very sweet.

I will not speak much now. Anyway, I usually do not speak much. All I would say is just have this deep and unshakeable faith that that which is universal and timeless, that which belongs to everyone is also yours and belongs to you. This divine knowledge—this truth which is so universal, unbound by space and time, which belongs to everyone and that which we have imbibed in our lives—we have to spread the sweet fragrance of this truth and knowledge to everyone. People have come from far and wide – right from Argentina, Mongolia, Pakistan, Nepal, and so on, and I welcome you all here, and I would say that you have all come to your home. This is a spiritual home for you all.

Today, we are giving out a very strong message of oneness to the whole world when it is so badly needed, when there is so much gap between communities, nations, between ideologies, and so on. We are giving this message today that we can all co-exist with our differences, we can love each other with our differences. Diversity is the nature of this planet, so let us love this diversity.

Let’s all care for the environment and let’s care for each other. This is the message we need to spread far and wide. We need to convey to everyone that we love nature – it is in our very DNA. And today, we are also going to honor all the farmers who are preserving this country, this land, and this very Earth.

We need to promote techniques of organic farming, and we must all put aside the myth that you can only grow good vegetables with pesticides and chemicals. Our farmers have put an end to this myth with organic farming and they have grown food organically and become wealthy. One farmer said that he was making only Rs 40,000 a year earlier. Now the same farmer is making Rs 4 Lakhs a year.Our farmers have put an end to an old myth with organic farming and they have grown food using organic farming techniques.They are able to cultivate so much more food now. So let’s all grow more food; let’s all care for our environment; for the people around us; and let’s spread the message of peace and harmony through knowledge, culture, art, music, and social service.

Day 2

Rishikesh, India

“My humble pranaams to Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji and all the revered saints and sages seated on the dais. We also welcome all the holy saints and spiritual leaders at this momentous occasion who have graced this occasion from India and from many countries across the world. On behalf of The Art of Living family, we also welcome all the esteemed dignitaries and respected members seated on the stage of the World Culture Festival.

“Yesterday, Pujya Gurudev had said that sports is a medium to unite the world.Education is another medium that connects the world. Business is yet another medium that has brought together the entire world as one global market. In the same way, the world should also be united by the threads of spirituality, culture, and music.

“Today, advancements in science and technology have blurred the physical and geographical distances of the world. In the same way, we also need to strive to reduce the gap between people’s hearts. Religious and spiritual leaders can play a very big role to bridge the gap between the hearts and minds of people across the world.

“I was once traveling in Punjab for a Sadbhavana Yatra – an initiative for bringing about communal harmony. I happened to go to a tailor’s shop and asked for a pair of scissors. The tailor handed over the pair of scissors lying near his feet. The tailor was a Sardarji (Sardarjis are Indians from the Punjab region who wear turbans). When I asked him for a needle, he pulled one out from his turban and gave it to me. I asked him, ‘You have kept the needle on the turban and the pair of scissors at your feet. Why so?’ The tailor replied, ‘Sir, the pair of scissors cuts, divides,and breaks (cloth) away; whereas the needle stitches, connects, and brings everything together.’

“In the same way, those who strive to bring everyone together in peace and love are given the greatest respect and honor. This is why we have always respected and revered spiritual leaders, religious leaders, and saints from all communities. It is because they have always worked to bring the world together; they have strived to unite the hearts of people everywhere. They have never tried to divide or create differences among people.

“There are different kinds of flowers in a garden, and each flower has its own unique beauty. But when all these different flowers are strung together in a garland, then the garland looks so much more beautiful. In my childhood days, I had heard a song once that meant, ‘even though a lamp was lit only to create light, how can one blame just the lamp if everything around it catches fire?’ A lamp only burns to spread light. In the same way, the lamp of spirituality also was lit once upon a time to spread the light of love and peace. The apostles, sages, and wise spiritual heads who had lit this lamp too had lit it for the same purpose. But it is our duty and responsibility as followers of religion and spiritual traditions to see to it that the lamp of spirituality is never misused to set things on fire, but is rather used to spread light everywhere and to everyone.

“All the religious and spiritual scriptures in the world and all spiritual leaders that have been in the world have preached one thing only– love, compassion, service, tolerance, and cooperation. No scripture or spiritual leader has ever advocated violence, hatred, cruelty, or troubling others. They have never advocated exploiting anyone else. In today’s world, it is the duty of all the spiritual leaders in the world to ensure that this lamp of spirituality that is lit is not misused to set anything on fire.

“It is also everyone’s duty to speak and support the truth, and to oppose falsehood and ignorance. Unfortunately, today, we get carried away and support injustice or wrong doings, or we remain silent in the face of wrong deeds. And then the same silence becomes our acceptance toward this wrongdoing. We should not shy away from calling out a wrong act as wrong, and we must check the misuse of religion and spirituality wherever we see it. A lamp has no attachment or enmity with anyone – it burns to spread light equally to all everywhere. But the people who hold that lamp in their hands sometimes tend to misuse the lamp for wrong intentions and purposes. This is what I wish to express here today.

“Through this forum of the World Culture Festival, I once again welcome and congratulate Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji, all the revered saints, and spiritual leaders seated on the stage and wish them every success.

“My pranaams to one and all.”

Day 3

Chairman, SSRVM Trust, India

"Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's love and compassion is famous all over the world. "There’s no one except Gurudev who could have pulled off grand cultural extravaganza"