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Spirituality is not self-centric; it is seeing the self in everybody: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains what spirituality really means, the relationship between spirituality and religion, and what it means to be a world citizen.

Updated: February 25, 2016 8:17:38 pm

A February 2016 edition of the Express Adda held at Indigo, One Golden Mile, New Delhi, hosted spiritual leader and Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. In a discussion moderated by Vandita Mishra, National Opinion Editor, The Indian Express, and Prasoon Joshi, lyricist and Chairman, Asia Pacific, CEO and COO, India, McCann Worldgroup, Sri Sri spoke at length on what spirituality really means and the relationship between spirituality and religion, expounding on the concepts of destiny, choice and the ‘self’. He also spoke at length about the ongoing intolerance debate that has gripped the country as well as nationalism.

Here’s the full text of the Express Adda.

Vandita Mishra: How do you look at what’s happening, for instance, the latest eruption of unrest in our country, what’s happening in JNU – the confrontation between students and the government? You often say that nindak ko apne paas rakhna chahiye (keep your critics close)…you should keep your enemy by your side because he keeps you clean and he keeps you honest. In this situation, what many would say is that the government is criminalising dissent in a way, slapping sedition charges on students. Since Narendra Modi, our Prime Minister, listens to you, and you talk to him, what would you say to him as his government takes on students in JNU?

Sri Sri: It’s important that freedom of speech should be honoured at all costs. Everybody has freedom of expression, but this tendency of sedition, when someone says ‘Bharat ko barbaad karke rahenge (We will destroy India), this will not be tolerated by any democracy, any civilised society. We can’t leave such seeds unattended which will further grow and criminalise the whole atmosphere. We need to nip the criminal tendencies in the very beginning. It’s not done with vengeance, it is only done with more compassion. If a child is going with a criminal tendency, what will the parent do? Would they say, freedom of expression? They will say, no, put your foot down and say, this is not acceptable. Such punitive action needs to be taken so that the kid doesn’t go off-track. Because, today, we have the threat of terrorism from around the world. It’s not a situation that things are peaceful and relaxed. We need to be watchful and alert. Of course, I have always preferred moderation and mediation and talking and having a dialogue. But action needs to be taken and we cannot ignore such provocative things.

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Vandita Mishra: You have also said that hatred and fear are actually love upside down, that repulsion is actually attraction from the other side. Would you say that the government possibly could have shown greater compassion in taking on students who may have been wavered?

Sri Sri: They could have done much more. They could have included some mediators, some people who could give them more sense. That could have been done, of course.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Express Adda in New Delhi on Feb 15th 2016. Express photo by Ravi Kanojia. “Spirituality shapes society in the sense that it develops self-esteem in a person and it broadens one’s awareness and vision,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

Prasoon Joshi: Does spirituality reflect society or shapes society?

Sri Sri: Both. Spirituality shapes society in the sense that it develops self-esteem in a person and it broadens one’s awareness and vision. It gives you that much-needed patience when things are going bad around you. On the other side, the society’s seen by the behaviour of the people in the society…definitely that civilised behaviour is a reflection of the spirituality in the society.

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Prasoon Joshi: Then, why does spirituality look for contextuality? We often find that there is a challenge for contextuality which spirituality in every era struggles with. If spirituality is an eternal truth, why does it have to reach out to people or simplify itself or look for context?

Sri Sri: We have to speak the language of today — and today’s language is of science. Language is just a medium and spirituality does need that medium. Let me make clarity between spirituality and religion. Religion you are born with, your name, all rituals how you’re buried or burned, basically what happens when you die – from birth to death, all the rituals – they’re all religion. But spirituality is something very personal — we are made up of both matter and spirit. Like we need amino acids, carbohydrates, minerals for body, a spirit is made up of compassion, love, values, greater understanding. All these human qualities…this is the core essence of all religions. Unfortunately, world over, we have thrown out the essence and are holding on to dry skin. Spirituality always unites people from across religion, race, and gives you much needed self-esteem, confidence and fearlessness.

Prasoon Joshi: Isn’t religion about God and spirituality about the self? Is it ‘God helps people who help themselves’ versus ‘God does not help people who help themselves’?

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Sri Sri: There are religions that don’t believe in god — like Buddhism, Jainism. Basically, religion talks about rituals, symbols, a style of life, whereas spirituality attends to the core values, to empowering oneself, and realising many faculties — many dimensions are there which we are not using. For example, we all have 10 fingers, but not everyone knows how to play the sitar. Little training and music comes out of the fingers. Same way, a little training of our minds and talents come out. Confidence level rises, honesty, integrity – qualities that we expect from others start coming from within us.

Watch: Express Adda with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Prasoon Joshi: The only way most of the people have experienced spirituality is through religion and I would say that religion at the core also has spirituality, otherwise don’t you think spirituality has become a sort of luxury, today, for people who can seek out that much? How does it make sense for the common man who only practices a religion and accesses spirituality through religion? If you trash religion, then what is his…

Sri Sri: No, no, no. We should not trash religion. Religion does have some spirituality, but somewhere it’s going in the background, especially in urban areas. We need to make the distinction so that practices like compassion, meditation…or yoga, for example, is trans-religious. People from all different religions, faiths practice meditation, silence, yoga. They are involved in charitable work. This is all part of spirituality.

Prasoon Joshi: But is the common man getting the benefit of it? I feel that what was taught in institutions — religious institutions — today is taught in universities. And universities are obsessed with skill development. So where do you come in as Art of Living? I think that even at management institutes and science institutes, they don’t teach you Art of Living…

Sri Sri: I fit every where. Tomorrow I am going for the south Indian Kumbh Mela. It happens once in 12 years…I will be among all religious people, and I will be with the university students — with the management students…

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Prasoon Joshi: Shouldn’t it be part of the curriculum? I used to feel this way about poetry as a young boy. Our politicians, business leaders have to finally quote from poetry – even in the Parliament, there is poetry. Why don’t we teach poetry more seriously in our institutions?

Sri Sri: They should.

Sri sri adda_759_NP15ADDA16 “I love challenges. I feel that one of the characteristics of youth is to take challenges,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (Source: Express Photo)

Vandita Mishra: You said you fit everywhere, and you do. Do you find it a challenge in these times when people are trying to slot you in categories? How difficult is it to be all that you are – which is a spiritual seeker and Guru, you are also a conflict mediator and you also speak up on social issues, you have also spoken up on corruption. Does it make it challenging to maintain a certain political neutrality, and reach out to everyone?

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Sri Sri: I love challenges. I feel that one of the characteristics of youth is to take challenges. Thirty-five years ago — when we began this programme — spirituality or mediation was a taboo. Yoga was a taboo. People thought yoga was for people with long, matted hair, ashes all over, standing on one leg somewhere on the bank of the Ganges. That was the perception world over. People thought it was a weird thing to do. Called it Art of Living and they came. It created some curiosity — people thought there is something in it. With changing time paradigm, the prejudice has gone down. There has been a lot of prejudice in the world, even today it exists — religion, gender, class, caste, racial prejudice. I think the intelligent one will see through the prejudice, or get over the prejudice.

Prasoon Joshi: How will you do that in case of spirituality that you represent? It will get branded with a certain religion. If I come from a completely different faith, how I make myself faith-agnostic to be benefited by what you are saying? How is it possible, and how do you cross that barrier?

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Sri Sri: It’s quite challenging. Fortunately, these days the young minds are very scientific in their temper. So, when spirituality is not contradicting science, it’s easy to access to young people. Eastern philosophy — or eastern science of spirituality — goes very well with the science. That’s one reason. No dogmas attached, no beliefs to be…Basically there are two types of spirituality in the world. One is the occidental — it says that you believe and then one day you will get the experience. The Orient is completely different. It says you experience; and if you find it experiential, then you believe. Since the Oriental philosophies are akin to science…science also says first experience then believe. Since science and spirituality in the East have the same parameters — or the same modus operandi — there has never been a conflict here.

Prasoon Joshi: I see the conflict here when you believe that there is something beyond the five senses — I am feeling it, sensing it, feeling elevated. Science somehow feels that it is like psychologically being in a state and I can’t do anything with that. So, I see the conflict when science and spirituality or the Eastern versus the Western linear way of looking at life, I think there is… that’s the reason there is…another religion, which is atheism, which will not believe in spirituality.

Sri Sri: No, no. Today, science has acknowledged the effect of meditation. They say if you meditate for two months — that is, eight weeks — the structure of the brain changes, grey matter increases in your brain, and all the 16 impulses in your cerebral cortex meet at 30 seconds per cycle. That precision of thought process — the effect that meditation has on the brain — has already been proven.

Prasoon Joshi: So, you don’t see any conflict in today’s world, especially with spirituality? Especially in a consumerist society where you are supposed to derive pleasure of something that is outside you.. jaise ghar, gaadi. There is something to consume and you will derive pleasure from that. My little understanding of spirituality is that you don’t derive pleasure from a thing, but yourself. And also, there is a certain balance to that, a certain stillness to that. So, consumerism is asking you to look out, spirituality is asking you to look inside. Is spirituality in conflict with the current economic model?

Sri Sri: I don’t think so. The conflict is only in the mind — not in the matter actually, when you see that your physical comfort and mental attitude need not be in conflict. Here, in India, we never thought that they are in conflict actually.

Prasoon Joshi: So bhog is not in conflict with spirituality?

Sri Sri: Why we do anything we do? We get joy, we want happiness. When you get it within you…

Prasoon Joshi: Why will you buy anything then?

Sri Sri: It does not matter to you much. It doesn’t negate you. (There is) sunlight, but if you light a candle somewhere, there’s no harm…you can keep a candle. But you are not logging on to it because of light, there is enough light already. The greed will disappear. The greed — or all that one does to gain some things — that might disappear.

Prasoon Joshi: But that would be in conflict because you might be happy with a flickering candle and the current economic model may want you to have a chandelier.

Sri Sri: We often think contentment means sort of lethargy. You think that you should have some discontent to make progress in life. If discontentment and stress are the driving factors, then why not Afghanistan has been one of the most creative places on earth? There is enough discontentment there. For the last 40 years, Lebanon is drowned in stress, conflict, consumerism, frustration. Is frustration basis for progress? I would say certainly not. Yes, short period of time pressure and frustration might help to move faster, but not in the long run. Contentment is not complacency, and getting stressed is not a sign of creativity. This distinction we need to make.

Vandita Misra: You have spoken about the power of yoga and meditation to weed out prejudices. You have also spoken of reaching out to ISIS. Have you done that and how did that go?

Sri Sri: I reached out to FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and that was very interesting…to meet them in Colombia. After they gave me the highest civilian award in Colombia, I had a formal meeting with the President. But that formal meeting turned out to be something else. The meeting went on for an hour. The press was very worried. He said military option was the only option…

Vandita Mishra: And this is a six-decade old insurgency…

Sri Sri: Yeah, 50-year-old insurgency. He said they were bombing every day, the water resources, bringing down telephone towers, and people are so upset. Seventy lakh people have lost their homes, 20 lakh people have lost their lives, and we have to go for military option. And I’ve taken permission from America also. He said ‘but my only worry is we will lose 40,000 lives’. I said, ‘let me try. Why not give it a try?’ So, I went to Columbia. He said, ‘Please do what you can do to help us.’ But, I don’t think these people will listen to anyone. So, I went there and spent three days to talk to them.

First, they were very reluctant because, of course, I am from an alien culture speaking an alien language…from an alien religion. They were quite reluctant. But on the last day, they came along with me for a press conference and accepted my proposal of a non-violent way of pursuing their pursuit. They declared unilateral ceasefire. Neither the press, nor the government believed. They thought it must be a gimmick. They do such gimmicks in order to gain more power. But it stayed, and a month later the government declared ceasefire. Bilateral talks began, peace agreements were signed over five matters — one matter will happen in March. So, in March this whole conflict will be sealed forever.

Vandita Mishra: And the Colombian government has given you their highest civilian award…

Sri Sri: They gave it to me before this. When you accept some award, you become more obliged to do something there for that country — luckily, for our effort that was successful. So, I thought maybe let us do something with ISIS and ask, ‘what is your problem, why are you all killing people? I would like to have a dialogue with you.’

Vandita Mishra: Whom did you speak to?

Sri Sri: I sent a message to them. They sent me instead death threats, showing some beheaded bodies and faces. ‘You want to talk to us, this is how you can talk to us,’ they told me. I said there is no point in any further discussion if they think that people with other points of view — and those who are different — have no right to exist. So, I left it at that.

Prasoon Joshi: Spirituality is about oneness, humanity. What is your point of view of a nation-state? Do you think we should have borders at all? Or have national identity, which we talk about a lot?

Sri Sri: I have a question for you. Are you a good neighbour?

Prasoon Joshi: I don’t know.

Sri Sri: You think so or you don’t know? Are you friendly with your neighbour? Do you care for your neighbour?

Prasoon Joshi: I would. I do.

Sri Sri: Any educated, civilised person will care for their neighbour. Being a good neighbour in no way contradicts being a good father. Does it? So, you can be a universal person — you can be a world citizen — yet be a good subject of your state, a good citizen of your country too. I don’t see any conflicts between these identities. We all have several identities. First and foremost, we must know we are part of one light, one divinity – Jeev, Brahm, Ishwar, Avinash. We are part of one divine being. Second identity is that we are part of the human race of the planet. Then we belong to this country. Then gender identity – male or female – then this religion or that religion, this country or that country, this language or that language. All these identities are there. We need to prioritise. But first, we must remember we are part of one light — one human race. When this identity is sacrificed for smaller identities, then we have conflicts.

Prasoon Joshi: That is the kind of conflict we have every day.

Sri Sri: We don’t even realise we have these many identities. If I think I am a Tamilian or a Kannadiga, I don’t move beyond that. If I have not seen the world beyond Tamil Nadu, then even coming to Delhi is like coming to an alien place.

Prasoon Joshi: So, by that logic, if you are a father and a neighbour, and for being a good father you have to sacrifice your neighbour, then will being a good father take precedence over being a good neighbour?

Sri Sri: It need not. I don’t see any conflict if you are a good neighbour and a good father.

Prasoon Joshi: If your son did something that hurt the neighbour…

Sri Sri: You will punish the son, not the neighbour.

Vandita Mishra: We are talking about conflict and identity, there’s also discrimination and identity. You have been involved recently in the Shanishingnapur controversy. You proposed two models – one is the Kashi Vishwanath — where everybody is allowed — and the Tirupati Balaji, where only the priest goes to the sanctum sanctorum and nobody else. You suggested that it could be the Tirupati Balaji model. Why not the Kashi Vishwanath model?

Sri Sri: No, they picked up the Tirupati Balaji model. I had a detailed conversation with both the groups – the Bhumata brigade separately, and the Shanishingnapur…all the stakeholders. When it comes to religion, there is a lot of fear among people. To change, fear is a big obstacle. Some custom which has been followed for the last so many years, if they want to change suddenly, there is a fear. Intellectually, they say, okay I will do it. But emotionally, there is a block…if I do this, maybe something wrong will happen to my village, maybe somebody will die in my family. It’s a psychological impulse — an impetus that it has to bring a change so fast. I gave them the assurance that nowhere in the scriptures there is any discrimination…now these are the two models.

They said 1 lakh people visit that temple on Saturdays, and it is only ’20X20 square’ place and there is a lot of oil pouring. Many times people have fallen down, broken their knees because it’s oily. They said the second model may be more practical at this moment. I agree that it made all sense, because for a lakh people to go all around, it is easier than getting up on that platform and then getting down. Then the Bhumata brigade said that there should also be women priests. I totally agreed with them, but you can’t train women priests overnight. To train priests it take 6-12 years. So, I said, ‘Yes, when women priests are trained, they can also go in there.’ The solutions are not difficult to find, we can find them. But, if there are vested interests or political ambitions, then things become difficult.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Express Adda in New Delhi on Feb 15th 2016. Express photo by Ravi Kanojia. “We think life is destiny or free will. I will tell you that it is a combination of both,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

Vandita Mishra: When we are on discrimination and identity, you have also spoken for gay rights. You have actually spoken about decriminalising section 377 — about their right to be equal. At the moment, the case is in front of a constitution bench in the court. Do you think it should have been resolved by political leadership — by Parliament — instead of leaving it to the courts to do this?

Sri Sri: You know politicians want to play safe. They are more concerned about the vote bank in their constituency. Well, sense should prevail. We cannot be blind to the progressive thinking that is happening around the world. Around the world, it is decriminalised. We cannot hold on to a law which is obsolete — which has been there since the colonial era — which was not even found in this country. We do not find it in any of our shastras — like Manusmriti — or any old laws and rules of kings and queens in this country. Why should we hang on to it? We must be progressive.

Prasoon Joshi: I keep thinking about if everything is predetermined.

Sri Sri: You know we think life is destiny or free will. I will tell you that it is a combination of both. For example, after 21 you cannot increase your height. That is destiny. That is written. But your weight is in your hands. The number of rotis you have can be decreased or increased. Don’t tell me that you are weighing 150kg and say this is written on my head. I will tell you that it is written on the food that you eat, not on the head. So you can reduce your weight, that is free will. But, you can’t increase your height — that is destiny. Baarish aana vidhi hai, bheegna ya sookhe rehna apki marzi hai. Chhaata leke chaliye, baarish mein bhi nahi bheegega, sir (Rain is fate, but getting wet or staying dry depends on you. Take an umbrella with you, and you won’t get wet, sir).

Prasoon Joshi: A lot of people think I should be asking one of the questions that strike my mind. Spirituality talks about balance in life. You say that there is a stillness and calmness. On the other hand, I have found people who excel in their craft. They are obsessive, obsessed — and some are possessed. Is spirituality against creativity? Because, I feel people who are obsessive — who make paintings throughout the night, raise pillars and write grants — there is a certain sense of extremism in them.

Sri Sri: We need three things in life. One is passion. Without passion, it does not implement that there is life. Passion is the sign of life. Dispassion is also essential. If you have only passion, you will land up in mental hospital. You will become schizophrenic. You will get into many other psychological illnesses which we are seeing world over — like bipolar (disorder). Had you heard this word when you were a child? Almost 15-20 years ago, I had not heard about this word. Today, at every nook and corner, we can find someone with bipolar and schizophrenia. This is because we only have passion — and no dispassion to balance it. Passion and dispassion are like breathing in and breathing out. You can’t always keep breathing in. You have to have the ability to let go to relax and sleep. Nature has devised you that way. You are active throughout the day and are still for 6-8 hours. Stillness is essential for dynamic activity. They are completely opposite. Jaise teer ko aage chalna ho toh peeche kheechte hain, aise vishram, tripti, androon maun aawashyak hai agar kisi bhi aadmi ko aage badna ho (Just like for an arrow to move forward, you need to pull it back first, the same way, rest, satisfaction, tranquility within are all important for a person to move ahead in life). Passion, dispassion and compassion…You need to have compassion in you. And passion robs you of your compassion. If your passion has robbed you of your compassion, neither you are happy, nor can you make anybody happy. You can make great paintings, but that is not going to fix anything.

Prasoon Joshi: When you talk about spirituality and focusing on yourself, is it selfish? Are you becoming very self-centred?

Sri Sri: See, in this self, you include everybody. Spirituality is not self-centric. It is seeing the self in everybody.

Vandita Mishra: Is the World Culture Festival premised on the idea of yagya of everybody coming together and then meditating and reaching within.

Sri Sri: We have Olympics for sports, we have economic forums of different kinds for business and industry, we have UN summits of leaders of political parties getting together. I don’t find anything like this in the field of religion, spirituality or arts. So, I thought we should bring art and culture from around the world on one platform. Now 35,973 artistes are going to come on one platform and play musical instruments and sing and dance in New Delhi. We have to create a stage of 7 acres — that is six football grounds — for them to perform. So, it’s one of its kind that is going to happen in Delhi.

Prasoon Joshi: Why is it that there is a difference when a government organisation does something like this and when spiritual gurus do something like this. Why do think there is a certain kind of flavour which comes to such events?

Sri Sri: When voluntary organisations do such things, people come with their whole hearts. There is participation.

Prasoon Joshi: Is it possible that our governments could be more spiritual?

Sri Sri: I think why not. I say we need to spiritualise that. We had that in Mahatma Gandhi’s time — this country got freedom by satsangs of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was less of a political person and more of a spiritual person. So, root of our freedom movement has been spirituality, which we have forgotten in the past 60 years or so. We need to spiritualise politics and socialise business. Every business industry should take up some social projects. Now they are doing. See 20-25 years ago, this wasn’t there so much in the air — the CSR which has been made mandatory of being carried out. Socialise business and secularise religion. It is very close to my heart and very important in today’s situation.

Prasoon Joshi: When our government spiritualises itself, what would be the manifestation of it for you?

Sri Sri: Put an end to corruption. And politics is not for making money and getting into a position — you go with an attitude of serving the people.

The Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Express Adda on Monday. Express photo by Oinam Anand.17 February 2016 “There need not be one way. This question we need to keep asking ourselves to find many ways of tackling the issue” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

Q: You have worked on so many world peace initiatives. So, what do you think unites people, and what is the role of culture in uniting people? In that context, what is your idea of India?

Sri Sri: There are many things that unite people. Sports, entertainment, language and culture unite people. What divides people is what we need to look into. What divides people is ignorance, mistrust, fear of the other and unknown. India has always been a multi-religious and multicultural society — so, I don’t believe per se — because enjoying diversity is ingrained in our DNA. In that sense, India has a welcoming attitude for everyone and human values.

Prasoon Joshi: When we talk about accepting everyone, we also put a prerequisite to something which is very edgy about your personality or your belief system. I would keep that aside. Bring something placid and acceptable, and as a result let’s make a congregation of ideas. But, do you think that this congregation of ideas leaves edginess aside and says only bring in things that is acceptable to everyone. In my belief system, there is something very edgy and which actually pushes the human mind to extreme, and a lot to learn from. How do you bring those things forward, because those things will not be entertained and will be called very drastically different?

Sri Sri: There are things that people will say are very drastic, and that there are things impossible to achieve. But, you know we need to understand the basic human tendencies. I see that it’s so friendly — whether it is a rural or urban area.

Prasoon Joshi: Do you think there is enough tolerance and enough extreme acceptance that I am ready to accept diverse points of view, or are we always expecting the other person to do a very sweet posturing of his or her existence?

Sri Sri: I would say we are a little bit more complacent — ki sab kuch chalta hai. Take everything, don’t do anything about it. This type of laid back attitude is too much. Here you need to have a little bit of intolerance — intolerance for injustice and uncleanliness. All this we need to push more.

Vandita Mishra: Amartya Sen said recently that it is not that India is intolerant, it is that we are too tolerant to intolerance. Would you agree with that?

Sri Sri: I would put it differently. We are too complacent. Kuch karte hi nahi. Jo ho raha hai chalne do. Indifference is the word. I would say we are too indifferent to things. We need to take a proactive role and push ourselves in somewhat like intolerance.

Prasoon Joshi: In a country like ours, education and information is not uniformly distributed. How do you take the diverse point of view?

Sri Sri: There need not be one way. This question we need to keep asking ourselves to find many ways of tackling the issue.

Q: Why is there so much of suffering and pain in death? Whether you fall from a building, break your bones or undergo long treatments. Why so much of suffering. Death is universal; why not make it quick and easy?

Sri Sri: See pain in inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering is in your mind. Kahin dard ho raha hai, theek hai. Lekin usi ko leke din raat gun gaan gaate rahe (You are in pain, that’s understandable. But to keep talking about the pain all day) — that is something that you can avoid.

Q: You said contentment should be the driving force. I couldn’t understand that if there is discontentment, that is not good enough. If I want to do anything for my society, how can contentment be a force for me to work at a personal level?

Sri Sri: I did not say contentment is the driving force. What I am saying is, discontentment is not the only thing that would drive you. Discontentment can create more frustration, and frustrated people’s intentions, intuitions, perceptions and intelligence are blurred. Passion is not enough. You need to have proper perception and observation of things. When can you have that? When you are calm, isn’t it? Kya cheez karna chahiye, ye idea kab ayega (What should I do, when will this idea strike)? When you are frustrated and restless? No. For that, you need certain calmness in your mind. That’s what I meant.

Q: Whenever I go to the cremation ground, and see the pyre, I think what is the purpose of life. Is it to be a businessman?

Sri Sri: If you don’t have this thought even at the cremation ground, then believe that your brain is not working. Raising the question of what is your purpose of life is a pat on your back. You don’t have to stop there. Gyaan mein padiye. Gyaan, dhyaan aur gaan ko jeevan mei apnate hai. Fir laksh kya hai samajh mei aata hai (Look at knowledge. Adopt knowledge, meditation and music in your life, only then will you find your life’s purpose).

Q: Keeping in mind the very recent High Court judgment, where a female member was allowed to be a karta — head of the family — don’t you think this will lead to more conflicts in society, since Indian society is still a patriarchal one? Within family members of a family? Do you think Indian society is ready for this change?

Sri Sri: We already have this in Kerala — which is a matriarchal society — and even in Tripura and Meghalaya. We have it in our country already.

Prasoon Joshi: You see a lot of changes where man is actually tampering with nature…there are artificial sperms that are also there. Man will be outsourcing birth completely to another man, or not even a man. Where does spirituality stand? And where do you stand on ‘it is all a part of nature and is evolutionary’?

Sri Sri: Life is not so simple. Life is a very complex programme. Iss mein kayi tarah ki samasya aati hai. Jitni samasyaayein aati hain, utne samadhan nikal aate hain unke saath. Aur iss samasya aur samadhan ko samdrishti se dekhne ki kshamta jo dete, usi ko mai adhyaatma kehta hu (There are many complexities in life. There are as many solutions as there are problems in life. And those who can view problems and solutions with the same attitude, that is what I call self-awakening).