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In Conversation With Sri Sir Ravi Shankar

Ranjani Saigal

(This article is sponsored by Tanna Insurance)

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, a spiritual teacher, and an ambassador of peace. His vision of a stress-free, violence-free society has united millions of people the world over through service projects and the courses of The Art of Living.

Numerous honors have been bestowed upon Gurudev, including the highest civilian awards of Colombia, Mongolia and Paraguay. He is the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award and has also been conferred with 15 honorary doctorates from around the world.

Gurudev is the Chancellor of Sri Sri University and the Chairman of the Quality Control of India Yoga Certification Committee. He is also a member of the Amarnath Shrine Board (appointed by Government of Jammu and Kashmir, India). Gurudev was the Chairman of Reception Committee for the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Coronation of Krishnadevaraya (by Government of Karnataka, India).

He was visiting Boston on weekend of June 25 and held several programs all around the country. He passionately believes in spreading the message of Sanathana Dharma around the world. He has spent considerable time in several areas of the world including eastern Europe and South America. “I have seen the tremendous impact meditation has on people. Recently I met with the members of FARC. I spent a few days  and  held a meditation. I also met with the leadership in Columbia. They are now negotiating a peace treaty” says Gurudev. 

Gurudev believes there is much work to do be done to spread the message of  Sanathana Dharma. “Buddhists have done a good job reaching out and explaining Buddhism.  Hindus have much work to do. At the World Economic Forum I was the religious leader representing not just Hinduism, but Sikhism and Jainism as well while so many leaders from multiple denomination of Christianity were present” says Gurudev. “We worked to bring several Baptist ministers to Banglore . We did meditation and the ministers were amazed to see the impact. I urge all of you to work to send religious leaders to India so that we can work with them to share Sanathana Dharma with them and have a conversation.”

Can the diverse set of Hindu groups unite? “We are doing a lot on this front in India”, says Gurudev. “There is a need for a Hindu voice”

Gurudev is pleased to see Yoga spread the world around. “ It is great to see the practice of Yoga world over. However I do not like attempts by some people for removing the Om in the practice of Yoga and Meditation. I tell people , it is okay if it takes longer to spread the message. We must do it right and never remove Om from the practice”. 

Yet when it comes to rituals, he believes in making the rituals suit the times and the place without sacrificing the core values. “ There is a great ancient verse that says, in your house you must follow all rituals, in another person’s home half the rituals, in another village a quarter and while travelling you can do away with them.  It is important that we look at the rituals rationally and perform them appropriately.”

“A great example is a handshake. Today people understand Namasthe. Thirty-five years ago people were not that used to it and used to want to shake my hand. I felt it was important to shake their hand. It made them feel respected and for me it earned their trust. That helped me hold a conversation with them and share thoughts easily” says Gurudev.

Speaking of keeping with the times, what about the role of women in Hindu leadership? Can women be priests? “Absolutely. There is no evidence anywhere in the scriptures that says women cannot be priests. In Bali we see women serve as priests”, says Gurudev.

Hindus often talk about tolerance. Should we tolerate corruption and violence. “ We should have zero tolerance for corruption and violence” said Gurdev emphatically. 

When one meets Gurudev one is struck by his simplicity and abilty to explain complex concepts in a simple manner. His passion to spread the message of Sanathana Dharma far a wide is clear and we look forward to seeing his efforts bear fruits in terms of bringing peace to the world around. 

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