Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
If an occasion can inspire so many people to do so much seva, and bring so much joy, I don't mind cutting a cake four times a year.
I am glad I was not born on February 29th, as it comes only once in four years.
Any occasion or any excuse is good enough to celebrate life. The whole essence is to celebrate life. There is an ancient saying, 'Anandad dhy eva khalv imani bhutani jayante', which mean, the entire creation is filled with bliss; everything is born out of bliss, sustained by bliss and the final goal of life is also bliss. So any excuse to celebrate is good enough, as it brings joy and bliss to our life.
What you need to remember at all times is Mein Tera (I am yours). And tell everyone the same thing, 'I am yours; I belong to you'. Whoever you meet, say this to them, 'I belong to you'. Then you will see that everyone in the world will feel like your own.
So keep smiling and keeping spreading the happiness. This is a sign of intelligence! The intelligent ones always spread happiness and joy, and all of us here are intelligent, isn't it? Yes!
Audience: 'Gurudev, I love you'.
You have no choice. We are all one. All these artificial barriers we have created among ourselves is just an illusion. If you go a little deeper, you will see that we are all one. There is only one consciousness, and we are all made up of this. Everything has come out of this, and everything dissolves into this. This is the essence of life.
This time a lot of work has happened, and may it continue. But what is more important is that you all must be happy. And keep your attention inward, that is why it is said, 'Antar Mukhi Sada Sukhi'.
The one who keep his attention on himself, is the one who moves ahead.
How many have birthdays today?
All in the audience raise their hands (roars of laughter)!
There are four sources of energy:
1. Food. In ancient India, if someone is behaving funny, people will ask, ‘What did you feed him?’ or ‘What did you eat?’ Instead of asking, ‘Why are you behaving like this?’ This is true in some way. Attending to food is the first source of energy.
2. Sleep. Any sane person, if you do not let him sleep for two days, he will not be normal. There will be a drastic change in his or her behavior. So sleep or proper rest is important.
3. Breath is the third source of energy. A few minutes of breathing, and some yoga can energize the body and the mind, and uplift the spirit.
4. A happy mind, a comfortable mind is much more calm and collected. A few minutes of meditation makes the mind happy and comfortable.
So, these are the four sources of energy. People know of the first two to some extent, though they may not have paid much attention to it. The other two need to be known or told to people. They should be part of our education system.
Now, there is one more aspect that needs our attention. When it comes to interfaith, inter-religious or intercultural dialogue in the world, I would say that there are ten major religions in the world and 600 and so branches of all the religion. If our children know a little bit about all these other religions and they grow up seeing all these are part of one divinity, don’t you think the world will be such a better place? It is not through elimination that we can make a better world. It is through assimilation that we can make a better world.
I once heard a nice story from a Catholic priest. He told me that God needed some ideas. When Ireland was burning, he did not know how to settle it. So he asked a Catholic priest, ‘What should we do?’
The priest said, ‘Oh, it is very easy, remove all Protestants from Ireland and Ireland will be peaceful’.
God did not find it a very good idea, so he came to a Protestant priest and asked, ‘What do you say? What idea do you want to give?’
He said, ‘Oh, it is very simple, remove all Catholics from Ireland'.
Then God said, ‘Let me go to a Jewish rabbi.’
He went to a Jewish rabbi and said, ‘Tell me, what is the solution?’ and he said, ‘Remove both of them from there, then Ireland will be peaceful’.
God became very upset, he said, ‘What should we do now?’
Of course, he then put good thoughts in the minds of people to come together.
So the process of elimination should stop. Whatever is the belief system that is prevalent in the world (except if it is a superstitious thing which is harmful for society) have got their own beauty and their own uniqueness. We need to celebrate the multicultural, multi-religious events more and more.
Every child, if he learns a little bit about all these ten different religions, even a couple of pages from each one, then they will know that we live in a very diverse world, and we should honor, love and appreciate these differences. If children grow up with this tendency, I think we can put an end to terrorism, which is taking over the world today. Don’t you think so? This has been my dream from long time. I would like the UNESCO to take up this one subject of multi-religious education to the whole population of the world, so that every kid learns a little bit about all the traditions in the world and appreciates and celebrates them.
Similarly, we should have more multicultural festivals. In India, we have this ancient saying 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam', which means the world is one family. When you are well-educated, when your heart is larger, the world becomes your family. Technology has shrunk this globe into a village. Distance is no longer a matter of concern. I think it is the humanness and human values that should be the spirit of human education, and that alone is what can make this world into a family.
In today’s advanced technological world, with the help of latest gadgets, our life has become more efficient but at the same time more stressful. These gadgets may be useful but they also increase our stress levels, as we are always glued to check emails, catch up with news, etc. What is your advice in dealing with these stress levels. Should we simply throw away the mobiles, or there is a more practical way to handle this situation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
On the mobile there is a switch-off button, we should be kind enough to press it sometimes, that is all. Technology is no impediments at all. It is we who make it an impediment. The purpose of technology is to give us comfort, at the same time, our sleep, or our meditation, or other activities also give us comfort; in fact it gives us absolute comfort. So when a higher comfort is available, you have to leave the lower comfort and rest for some time.
So, for few minutes, I would recommend you to use that switch-off button so that you can have sound sleep. And when you do good exercise, or when you are with family having a dinner, I think you can put it on silent mode.
Who will take up the role of educating the population and the children? How can UNESCO find the way to bring spirituality as a real component and not as a luxurious thought to our agenda?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Any big transformation in society depends on the four pillars of society:
1. The government
2. The civil societies; the NGOs
3. The media
4. The faith-based organizations, they also have a role to play
When all these four avenues or pillars of society work in unison, only then any project can be successful. Whether it is this one, or child education, or whatever. Any project in a society need cooperation from these four corners.
UNESCO can play a very important role in influencing all these four aspects of the society. The faith-based organization can influence the government, it can produce a system and tell all the governments to make multicultural, multi-faith education a part of the curriculum for children.
I would say, even if every country in the West put one percent of their defense budget in peace education, this world would be a better place to live.
The feeling of ego leads us to dominate others, or be disrespectful. What is the message of The Art of Living that would help bring us together, and be more respectful of each other?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
One of the biggest crisis on the planet is the identity crisis. We identify ourselves as somebody, and those who do not belong to the same identity, we think that they are against us and we become afraid of them, or we want to dominate them and so we show aggression towards them.
So what we need to change is: our identity.
There are several layers of identity:
1. We are part of one divinity
2. We are one humanity
3. Then comes male or female
4. The religion we belong to
5. The country we belong to
When these identity reverses, we forget the basic identity, i.e., we are all human beings.
Those who we feel do not belong to us, we are not happy with them. We want to dominate them. The tendency to dominate is because of the ego, and the antidote for this is having a sense of belongingness to everybody.
For me, wherever I go, I feel totally at home. Not once have I felt that I am in a foreign land. I have traveled from North Pole to South Pole, everywhere I feel absolutely at home. We can cultivate this feeling within us, we just need to see life from a broader perspective.
We must remember these three Cs:
See life from a bigger context. What is ego? You think you have achieved something? What are you? Who are you? You are nothing! You are not even a speck in this creation! Billions of years have passed, and billions will come in the future, in this great span of time we are nowhere! So when we give a bigger context to life, the ego simply starts dissolving or just smiles – it is not an angry ego, but a smiling ego.
Then commitment; when life has commitment towards human values such as compassion and nonviolence, then life flows in a proper direction.
Then compassion, which is a natural thing. We all have compassion. In fact I would say there is not one person who does not have compassion on the planet; in some it is only not expressed, it is covered and needs uncovering.
(Sri Sri addresses delegates on 'Inter-faith and Inter-Cultural Harmony' at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris on April 24. Below is the transcripts of his address.)
I think three things are important in life: Education, Education, and Education. Education is what makes a big difference in anyone’s life. Now education should not be confused for collecting information. To me, education is developing holistic personalities.
We live in a diverse world. If God wanted the world to be without diversity, there would be just one type of fish, one type of flower, one type of fruit and vegetable. This universe, this world has so many varieties. It is a bouquet of flowers. The fauna and flora of this beautiful universe give us the message that we live in a multi-verse, in a planet where there are differences, and these differences make life beautiful.
Somehow, I don’t like this word ‘tolerance’. Do you know why? It has a negative connotation to it. Usually we have world-over interfaith programs where we say, ‘We should have tolerance’. I think it is a word of bygone error. You tolerate something which you do not like. Now the time has come to appreciate and celebrate diversity, not tolerate it. This is something that we need to really look into. Our universe has so many varieties and we must appreciate it, enjoy it and celebrate it.
I usually tell people: 'We accept food from every part of the world, we accept music from every part of the world, we accept technology from every part of the world. We do not ask, 'Where was this technology discovered?’ But when it comes to wisdom, there seems to be some sort of resistance. We put up a wall and say, 'This is Jewish, or this is Hindu, or this is Buddhist.’ We bring in prejudice and we stay away from it'.
As long as this strain continues, the world cannot be a peaceful place. Even if a small part of the world thinks that only they have the key to heaven and everybody else is going to hell, they are bound to create hell for everyone else.
So here comes our collective responsibility to educate our people with a multi-cultural and multi-religious education. Thanks to the technology today of the internet, this has been made possible; but still there is a big number of people that remain ignorant, thinking that only they have the key to heaven.
So we can categorize the problem in the world into two major issues:
Today, there is racial prejudice, gender prejudice, religious prejudice, and class prejudice. Certain sections of society think that the rich people are always oppressors; rich countries are always oppressors. These prejudices have to be done away with, then only I would say that we have reached a level of education, and we are well-cultured and civilized people.
The other aspect of human life is stress. In such a busy society, in this busy world, we all have a lot to do; too much to do in fact, with too little time and energy. And this is the definition of stress. I would say that the formula of stress is: too much to do, too little time, and not enough energy.
See, everybody has only 24 hours of time. Whether it is a clerk or the Prime Minister, everyone has only 24 hours. So time is one factor that cannot be changed. When it comes to your tasks, for most you, it is almost impossible to reduce all that you need to do. So you are left with only one option, and that is, to increase your energy level.
To increase your energy level, there are techniques from different parts of the world from the ancient times which was more or less a highly guarded secret. These techniques were only given to royalty; the princes and the high caliber people who would in turn bring more development. But now we thought that these techniques of meditation, and the breathing techniques, should be open to everyone.
See, neither in school nor at home does anyone teach us how to get rid of stress. No one teaches us how to handle our emotions. It is normal to get upset, but to carry that emotion all through the day, or all through the week, and sometimes all through the month is not an intelligent thing to do. It is like, your garments got dirty and you do not know how to remove them, and so you keep walking around with the same garments throughout. So we need to teach people techniques to relieve stress. This I would call mental hygiene. We teach dental hygiene to our kids but we have not taught them mental hygiene – how not to carry hatred against anybody, and other negative emotions.
Mahatma Gandhi used to have eleven vows that he used to give people in his ashram. One of those vows was to have control over anger and to be compassionate and non-violent.
The importance of non-violence in life needs to be stressed. Don’t you think so? With our world becoming more and more violent, we are sort of getting immune to violence. When I was growing up, if any student in the class got upset or threw any tantrum, everyone would look down upon that student, ‘Oh what is wrong with this guy? He has lost his balance’. So on losing the balance or the equanimity of our mind, we were put to shame. Today, pride got itself attached with aggression, not with peace. We need to change this, we need to start attaching pride with compassion and non-violence, rather than with aggression and violence.
The next things that the breath also helps you do is to relieve stress. Stress is one cause of tension in the society which makes our communication break down; it affects our perception and our expression.
Our social dealings can be broadly classified as two things:
1. How you perceive, and
2. How you express yourself Both our perception and expression gets affected with our stress levels.
Our body is an illusion, it doesn’t stay the same, it keeps changing. Our emotions also keep changing. So, in that sense, it is all an illusion.
Have you read my tweet about happiness? When you look at somebody`s face, if they don’t look happy, it is because there is a thorn of desire in their heart.
Your sadness is because of the thorn of desire in your heart. If you don`t take notice of it, it will turn into sarcasm, cynicism, frustration, and anger.
You need to pull it out and throw it, then you will feel uplifted and happy.
These are the four stages:
3. Frustration, and
Many times we don`t notice why we are sarcastic, or cynical, or frustrated and angry. Why does this happen? It is because of this thorn of desire.
If you are angry, either you hurt yourself or you hurt others. If you get angry at others, you become sad and if you are angry at yourself, then also you become sad. In either case you become sad.
Many a times people don`t notice this at all. Even if one notices this, he doesn`t have the courage or willingness to remove it and throw it. If you manage to pull it out, you will find joy, enthusiasm, and contentment, and this is a siddhi (special ability).
This requires both self effort and grace. You need to put some self effort and then grace follows.
How to remove this thorn?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Self effort. First we should notice the cause of sadness. Why are you upset? You are upset because things are not perfect, or people are not perfect, or you are not perfect. Only these three things can make you upset. You should keep some space for imperfection in things, people and in yourself.
See, you are either worried about your job, your relationships, or your health. Know that all these things, whether you have them or you don`t , you are going to die. The drama will be over. Whether you are a villain or a hero, the play will be over. The moment you realise this, what happens? You are able to see things from a bigger context. Your consciousness which was limited, which was being crushed, suddenly expands.
Look back and see how many of your desires got fulfilled and how many have not been fulfilled. Isn’t life still is going on? Can you see how you had been upset for nothing?
As a baby you were upset about so many things, right? As a school boy you were upset for stupid things. One friend did not talk to you and you got so upset, isn't it? So now, wake up and see, it is all so silly. This realization is wisdom.
You know, when we were young, if we told our teachers of our desires, they would never let our desires get fulfilled. They completely destroyed our desires. We all grew up with this kind of training. Our teacher made sure to destroy even our small desires. If you find something is not perfect and if you mention it, they would say, 'No, that is perfect. You are not right'.
In the olden days, people had this way of completely smashing your desires, so that you are happy and centered. In those days there was only one choice, either you have your desire or you have your Guru; you couldn’t have both.
Is it possible not to have any expectations or desires?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Life runs on desires. I'm not telling you that you shouldn`t have any desire. It is desire that has brought you here; you wanted to come to satsang and that is what has brought you here. It is desire which makes you eat food, it`s desire which makes you travel; it is desires that makes you do everything.
Since there are so many desires that arise, some get fulfilled, and some don`t. If you remain happy whether the desire is fulfilled or not, then it does not become a thorn.
For example, suppose you want to watch a movie and you go to the cinema hall, but there are no tickets available,will you get upset? If you get upset then that desire has gone into your heart. If it has not gone into your heart, you will say, 'Oh, I didnt`get the ticket, never mind. I’ll watch another movie, or go for shopping, or do some sightseeing'.
There are two types of desires:
1. The desire of the universe, by which everything runs. It is an instinct
2. The desire that you take into your heart and nurture
I am not classifying desires as good or bad. However, there are some superficial desires which come and go that do not achieve anything great.
When a desire gets into your heart, that can make some big thing happen. Mahatma Gandhi had the desire to free the country. That desire got into his heart and when that did not get fulfilled, he got upset.
Then, what did he do? He went into silence, prayer and fasting. He nurtured that desire in a very different way. He did not get cynical, sad, or frustrated because he had realized that it was a desire in his heart and so you would never find frustration in the face of that old man. The same with Nelson Mandela. So that desire did not turn into a thorn.
Lately, I feel a lot of distance towards my family and my friends. Is it the right thing to contact them directly again and speak to them?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Just be spontaneous. Don`t put a concept in your mind saying 'I need to be this way or that way.' Just be spontaneous. You can`t force yourself to love someone, nor can you force yourself to stop loving someone. Just be natural. When you grow up, you find all those conversations appear to be meaningless because your consciousness is expanding and you are able to see a bigger dimension.
This doesn`t mean that you have stopped having fun. Sometimes you want to have fun, go ahead, have fun. You don`t have to be serious. And if you feel that you’re losing the connection, don’t worry, underneath there is connectivity. Before you were living only with your emotions, but now you are living with your being,which is much bigger, and much more powerful than your emotions. Before you used to get upset quickly, or get emotionally entangled, now you find yourself on a more stable and equanimous state of mind. Before people kept pushing your buttons, now you feel it doesn`t matter, and that`s a very good sign of growth.
I have never done yoga in my life? What is yoga? Is it a meditation? Is it different postures of the body? If that is so, what are the scientific linkages between those things and what happens inside which leads to such dynamic effects in the form of resolution of conflict and giving us peace of mind?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
First, I would like to refute your first statement that you have never done yoga in your whole life. You have done it as a baby, but you don’t know it. Not a single child on this planet has grown up without doing yoga.
Babies, when they sleep, they are in the Chin Mudra while sleeping. In any part of the world you see, when babies are lying down they lift their legs first, and then they go on their belly and try to lift their shoulders. To some extent every child has done asanas on this planet.
Then coming to the breathing pattern - the way we breathe is different from the way a baby breathes. A baby has a stress-free mind, a happy mind. All the science of yoga is already there in a baby and as babies, we have all been yogis. We are just going back to our roots.
Yoga has eight limbs; there are eight steps to it and one among them is physical postures. But, the central teaching is maintaining an equanimous state of mind.
'Samatvam yoga uchayate' - yoga brings equilibrium in the mind. When you can do any action with mindfulness, you are aware of what you are saying or doing, this makes you a yogi.
See, science is a systematic logical understanding of what is. In that sense, yoga is a science; it is a systematic understanding of the subject. Knowing ‘What this is’ is science. Knowing ‘Who am I’ is spirituality.
I have never practiced yoga, but I have always been impressed by the relaxed state of Gurus and yogis. Speaking as a Catholic, what do you say to those leaders of monotheistic religions, senior clerics in my own faith who say that yoga has its origin in Hinduism and Pantheism and being focused entirely on the physical aspect of the body can undermine Christian prayer. Therefore, it is not necessarily the right approach to spirituality for Christians. Is being a devout Christian compatible with the practice of yoga?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
By eating Chinese food, we do not become Chinese. Listening to Beethoven, does not turn you into a German. When we can accept food from every part of the world, music from every part of the world, technology from every part of the world, why to single out wisdom that can bring you inner peace, without interfering with your own faith or belief system? This is my question.
No doubt, yoga has its root in Hinduism. Actually, Hinduism is a way of life. Patanjali never talks about many Gods or pantheism. Patanjali simply says - there is the body, the mind, the breath, and the life-force; attend to all of this. We should welcome wisdom, irrespective of its source, as long as it does not conflict with our traditions.
The whole commercialization of yoga is making it lose its original purpose, which is spirituality.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Commercialization has to do with people and not with yoga. Wherever there are people and there are arrangements to be done, commerce becomes a part of it. But if yoga is denied to people because they do not have money, I would say that is wrong.
My yoga teacher told me that, things that happen to you always reflect your inner state. My question is, can you transmit the same philosophy to the level of a group? Things that are happening to certain countries would reflect what’s inside of them?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Yes, we reflect the society and society reflects what we are. In a broader sense, yes. But when the tension is building up, the group fear begins there. Mob psychology is very much comparable to an individual reflection of what people are feeling. I am sure that could be addressed through right education.
When a child is between 3-months and 3-years, he is not conditioned by any societal systems because he is natural. How do we get rid of conditioning?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When you go to the root cause of conflicts, you will find that it is stress, mistrust, and fear of the other. Yoga helps you get over all the three. Fear of the other vanishes, because you have broadened awareness, broadened consciousness. You feel everyone is part of you and you are part of them. Fear of losing one’s identity or fear of losing existence, being extinct, is something that is very deep-rooted. Yoga, I feel, is the best thing to remove these fears from the minds of people.
Which are the qualities that yoga can help you develop in order to become a more responsible person towards yourself and others?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I just explained it. Yoga can definitely make you more responsible, because it creates more energy and enthusiasm in you.
When do you not like to take responsibility? When you are tired and stressed. If you have taken care of these two issues and you have enough enthusiasm and energy, you will definitely take more responsibility, and with a sense of lightness. Do you think people in this room would make better decisions if they had a yoga class every morning? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That is the first right decision.
(As a curtain raiser event to celebrate the International Day of Yoga on June 21, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was invited to speak on yoga and conduct a meditation session. The event titled "The Yoga Way" was organised by the Indian embassy in Brussels in cooperation with the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with India. Below is the transcript and video of Sri Sri's discourse at the event)
If there is a competitor for God in the world today, I would say that it is stress. Stress has become almost synonymous to God - it is so omnipresent!
What really is stress? Stress is too much to do, too little time, and no energy, Do you agree with me? In a short time, we have to do a lot, but there is no energy, and this causes stress.
How to get rid of stress?
* By reducing the workload - This does not appear to be a possibility these days.
* By increasing the time - This is which we cannot do. It is fixed, unless we go to another planet.
* By increasing the energy level within us - And this is the only option we are left with.
When we have enough energy and enthusiasm, we are able to handle any challenge.
One aspect of the yoga way is to provide us with tools and techniques to lead a stress-free life and a tension-free life. On the other hand, I would say, yoga is also the greatest wealth of humankind. What is wealth? Wealth is that which brings us comfort. The purpose of wealth is to bring happiness and comfort, isn’t it? If wealth doesn't succeed in achieving this goal of bringing comfort to the human psyche, to human life, I would not call it wealth. And yoga is wealth, in the sense that it brings absolute comfort.
A violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory, and a sorrow-free soul is the birthright of every individual. Parliaments world over are striving to achieve this goal of human existence - happiness! We all want happiness, and yoga is the way for that much needed happiness factor in life.
Here again, we think yoga is some sort of exercise. In 80’s and 90’s when I would tour Europe, yoga was not easily accepted in the mainstream society. Yoga was considered to be some very hard exercises: like standing on the toes, or standing on one leg. The whole concept of yoga was very weird. It was the stuff that weird people do. Today, I am glad that there is an awakening and people have recognized the importance of yoga. The world over, yoga has become synonymous with relaxation, happiness, and a creative mind. Even big companies, in their advertisements put people sitting in a yoga position, or in a meditation pose to depict the inner peace one has. That is a very welcome move.
I would like to remind you, whether we like it or not, we are all born yogis.
You do not need a yoga teacher if you observe a baby anywhere in the world. From the age of 3 months to the age of 3 years, a baby does all the yoga postures. Their breathing, the way they sleep, the way they smile, everything is yoga. Babies are yoga teachers, they are yogis and that is how a baby is stress-free and happy.
A baby smiles 400 times in a day. The purpose of yoga is to put a smile on our face in spite of all the stress and tensions, or situations that we are put through in our day-to-day life.
Yoga provides us tools and techniques to lead a stress-free and a tension-free life.
The benefits of yoga are multifold.
1. It has many health benefits
2. It changes the behavior of a personbecause behavior depends on the stress levels in a person. It creates a friendly disposition and a very pleasant atmosphere in people
3. More than words we convey a lot through our presence; our vibrations. Yoga helps to improve our vibes.
I would like to give an example:
When someone close to you says, 'Have a nice day', and when an airhostess greets you saying, 'Have a nice day!', just observe and see, you can notice a clear difference When the air hostess greets you saying, 'Have a nice day', she really does not mean it. But the same words, when it comes to you from a close friend, it carries certain vibes
4. Speaking in terms of Quantum Physics, we are all emitting vibes or wavelengths. When communication breaks down, we often say, 'Our wavelengths don't match'.
This is because our ability to communicate depends on our ability to receive communications from others. Here, yoga helps us to have that clear mind
5. Another issue that we face in society today is prejudice. All types of prejudice: prejudice of religion, race, gender, class, educational status, financial status, etc.
All these different types of prejudice have clogged the mind of men and that is how conflicts arise in society. Yoga helps us to reach out and resolve this conflict created by prejudice. Spontaneously and naturally, yoga makes our mind free from prejudice.
I would like to quote an incident that happened a few years ago in Ivory Coast. There was polarization between two villages, where the people of one village chased out the people from the other village. One of our volunteers went and talked to them, taught them some yoga and some meditation, and brought the people of both villages together. You can see from this experience, how the people could break that prejudice in their minds and shake hands with the people who were different. I think this is very much needed in the world today
Yoga empowers you to feel the way you want to feel at any time, instead of being a victim of your own feelings.
6. Now, coming to the aspect of developing skills within oneself. The propounder of yoga has said, ‘Yoga Karmasu Kaushalam’ (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2.50).
Lord Krishna has said, ‘Yoga is skill in action’. Yoga is not just an exercise, it is how skillfully you can communicate, and how skillfully you can act in any given situation. This again, is yoga.
I do not think anyone here would say they do not want skill, or anyone here would say they do not want innovation. Innovation, intuition, skills, and better communication, all these are the main effects of yoga
Having said all of this, does yoga conflict with any of our belief systems?
If I believe in a particular religion, or a particular philosophy, or if I follow a particular political line of thought, does that come in conflict with yoga?
I would say, not at all, as yoga always promotes harmony in diversity, it encourages diversity.The word ‘yoga’ itself means 'uniting' (uniting diverse aspects of existence, of life).
Whether you are a businessman, or a public figure, or a private individual, you want peace, you want to smile, you want to be happy, isn't it? This happiness can only happen when we look at the root cause of unhappiness, and unhappiness is because of lack of vision, stress, tension and worry.
Again, European Union, you have been talking quite a bit about GDH. I suppose from GDP we are moving towards Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH). Yoga is something that can aid that, it can be a very useful tool.
A large percentage of our population today is suffering from depression. Just popping a Prozac or anti-depressants will not help. We need something that is so natural, as natural as our breath, that we can use and elevate our spirit and feel that much needed happiness; that pursuit of happiness that everybody is after.
I just want to ask you, when you are happy, what is it that you feel? Have you noticed a sense of expansion within you? Suppose you are complemented, or you accomplished something you wanted to accomplish, you will find that there is something in you that is expanding. At the same time, when we face a failure or when someone insults you, what happens? There is something in you that shrinks. So, yoga is putting your attention on this something in you that seem to be expanding when you are happy, and crushing or contracting when you feel unhappy.
We all want happiness, and yoga is the way for that much needed happiness factor in life.
Often, we feel helpless about our negative emotions. Neither in school, nor at home does anyone teach us about how to handle our negative emotions. If you are upset, you remain upset, or wait for time to heal it. Yoga has a secret to turn around this state of mind. It empowers you to feel the way you want to feel at any time, instead of being a victim of your own feelings. It makes you so independent.
In our experience of teaching half a million people in prisons around the world, this is what we have found: every culprit says he is a victim of something. When we heal the victim in him, the culprit disappears. And something as simple as the breath can do this job for us. We just need to learn how to breathe in different rhythms, in different patterns, to eliminate those traumas, those strong impressions in the mind, the pain and suffering we have been carrying in our heart.
Patanjali, the profounder of yoga, in his Yoga Sutras, he enunciated the purpose of yoga. He said ‘Heyam Dukham Anagatham’. The purpose of yoga is to stop misery before it comes.
On many counts, this is very useful. When a conflict is boiling somewhere, ask people to breathe, sit together and communicate better, you will see that you can resolve the conflict right at the very root cause of it. Whether it is greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, or frustration, all these negative emotions can be healed or re-oriented through yoga, and this is my experience throughout the world.
Yoga also helps people to be more responsible, and to take more responsibility in their life. This is called Karma Yoga. A Karma Yogi is one who takes responsibility.
We all play many roles in our life. We have an option to play the role either as a yogi or as a non-yogi; one who is responsible or one who is not-so-responsible. You can have a responsible teacher, a responsible doctor, or a businessman who cares. Caring, sharing, and responsibility are the characters that yoga simply nurtures inside of us. We all have this inside us. The entire population has this, but it needs nurturing. I would say yoga is one of the best tools to nurture an individual to take responsibility.