Dan Shilon: You must be very disappointed with this age.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Do I look disappointed?
Dan Shilon: The world is not going your way.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I have patience and perseverance and I know it will come right.
Dan Shilon: How old are you?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I am a little over half a century but I still have a few more years.
You know everybody wants peace. Peace is the innate need of people but they don’t know how to get rid of the negative emotions, tendencies, anger and frustrations. Education is needed in the world today to teach people how to let go of the negativity, let go of the past and move on to the future.
Dan Shilon: Your quote on how to measure your success by your smile, how does that relate to the world. The world is not smiling anymore?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I know there is a lot of work that needs to be done. There is work for the reformers, work for the doctors. The doctor’s job is to treat the patient but if the doctor falls sick there is no hope for patient! So if we lose our smile we cannot bring a smile onto the face of others. We need to be centered; we need to work hard to bring the smile back onto the faces of the people.
Dan Shilon: When you say lets stop the world for an hour, for 10 days. What do you mean by that?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Stopping our mind, stopping the racing mind. It is always thinking about the past or it is always thinking about the future. We are angry about the past or anxious about the future. To take a fresh look at the world, the situation, you need to wake up and see, - as Mahatma Gandhi used to say never look back. He would say lets see what we should do now and for the future. That gives a lot of energy, encouragement, enthusiasm, and lifts you up from the ashes even though there are ashes around you.
Dan Shilon: And all this starts in India?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Exactly, perhaps it may be in other parts of the world as well.
Dan Shilon: I wonder why so many of our children are going to India. Why are they so fascinated with this place?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: India has a long history of spiritual upliftment. When you see that everything is collapsing, all doors are shut, and there is no hope and depression sets in, India gives a vision of something higher. The power of your thought and mind can create your reality, your world and allow you to move in that direction. You may not be successful immediately or tomorrow but the vision and the mission will always take you forward.
Dan Shilon: You are the one who tries to form a bridge between the business world and political world. Is it bridgeable at all?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Basically we are all human beings. There is humanness in everybody and I feel the reformers, the rulers and the providers they all have to work together only then can society really come together.
Dan Shilon: Are you a little concerned about this mixture between politicians and business leaders? Sometimes it brings corruption. We know it is in this country and in other western countries?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is everywhere; even in India there is corruption. Corruption begins when the sense of belongingness ends. If you draw a circle of belongingness around you corruption only begins after that. Politicians need to be more spiritual. By spiritual I mean, have a sense of belongingness towards people. Mahatma Gandhi is an example of this, in this century. He was a spiritual person and at the same time he was a politician too. He had the sense of sacrifice. ‘I want nothing for myself but I want it for my people’. That spirit is going down somewhere along the line. That is why there is corruption and all sorts of unethical businesses have sprung up. We need to inculcate those value systems again, both in politics and in business. Trust is the backbone of business. From what we’ve seen in last 10 months, it took 10 years for communism to collapse, it took less than 10 months for capitalism to collapse, and the reason is that we have ignored our value system and ethics in business.
We have ignored the human values of caring and sharing, of dedication and devotion. If we can somehow re-inculcate these values in our youth, I tell you the youth are ready for it. They want this because they have seen the older generation just running. It is like running on the treadmill that is going nowhere.
Dan Shilon: What is wrong with the current leadership in the world and perhaps our visionary leadership?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I would say that the sense of belongingness is shrinking. There is a more self-centered, self-serving attitude rather than a sense of sacrifice for the cause. The vision and mission is really lacking.
Dan Shilon: You once said that forgiveness is a cure. Is forgiveness the formula to make peace between Israelis and Arabs?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Let go of the past and find a new future. From independence to inter-dependence. That is what we have to understand. Independence was a slogan of the past era. Everyone wanted to be independent so that they could be prosperous, but today prosperity does not come from independence it comes from understanding the inter-dependence. This needs to be educated to people. There is also an identity crisis. A person thinks ‘I am a Muslim’ or ‘I am a Christian’ or ‘I am a Hindu’ or ‘ I am Buddhist’ and those who are not, do not belong to me. They look like an enemy.
They need to shift this type of thinking to: - first and foremost, our identity is that we are all human beings. Then, we belong to a certain gender of either male or female. The third identity is that of religion and then finally to a particular nation. If the priority of identity is in the right place I think conflicts can be resolved very quickly.
Dan Shilon: How would you like to see the stereotype of the future leader?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I feel through education we can change and unite the hearts and minds of people. This cannot be done by the people who are in power. People who are in authority cannot unite the hearts and minds of the people. It is the voluntary organizations, social workers and reformers that have to bring about this change in the mindset and bring the hearts and minds of people together.
Dan Shilon: Are you optimistic like Jimmy Wales?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I am realistic. Optimism is just hope but when you see it is possible it is practical then I think I am realistic. It is going to happen. People cannot stand tension or stress for too long, somewhere one has to give up. You cannot hold a fist for so long at some point you have to relax and when you relax you see the whole sky is in your hands. This has already begun in the world. Take a look at France and Germany, and in Western Europe. There were so many conflicts in the previous era but now the borders are gone. It has become one currency yet it was unthinkable in the 19th Century. So in the same way I am sure the Middle East crisis could be solved through educating people with a multicultural, multi-religious and broader spectrum of knowledge.
The above is an unedited transcript taken at an event and maybe updated.
© The Art of Living Foundation