... says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urging Mumbaiites to channelise this energy after 26/11
MARK MANUEL Times News Network (Times of India, Bombay Times, 08 Dec 2008, page 1.)
This time, the smile of welcome didn’t quite reach Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s dark and mischievous eyes. The face was troubled, the mind still burdened by the pain of the hundred thousand people he had addressed the previous evening at Priyadarshini Park. Some survivors of 26/11, others bereaved family members of victims, everyone a Mumbaiite let down by the state — all looking for a shoulder to cry on, a spiritual hand to apply the healing touch. That Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had already done. “I told Mumbai, if you stay with anger too long it will take a toll on your health, your mind, your thinking,” the Art of Living guru explained to me at the bungalow of Yash and Avanti Birla yesterday morning. “We need to channelise our energy,” he added. Energy or anger, I asked. “Anger is energy in a more proactive way,” he corrected, “and how to channelise it, is in itself a skill. There’s no point doing the extreme thing in anger and then regretting it. Or being passive and not doing anything at all. Find the inbetween path.”
He’s gone beyond the Art of Living and is into trauma relief around the world now. Like a healing wind with the spiritual touch, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has gone from Ivory Coast to Iraq and Kosovo to Kashmir, reawakening human values in people, making them violence-free, teaching them Gandhian principles, yoga, meditation. His lessons in spirituality are not just for victims of terrorist attacks, but also for survivors of earthquakes, floods, tsunamis. But in Mumbai on Saturday, he was addressing terrorism. “Terrorists are ill-educated people with distorted, poisoned mindsets,” he said derisively. “It’s not true that the uneducated become tools of terrorism, or the poorest of the poor, but ill-educated people with hateful motivation. And they have to be addressed with words. Not guns. You just cannot quell violence with violence. But through dialogue, and spiritual education, I’ve seen this in Iraq.” And what were politicians, I asked. “Politicians are narrow-minded people who, for the smallest gains of position and money, do things which later harm themselves and also the people,” he said in ill-concealed disgust and some anger.
What would he have done in Mumbai last week, I asked. Would he have been able to make the difference during the siege by engaging the terrorists in dialogue, by negotiating with them for the lives of the hostages, or convincing them to lay down the gun? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar regretfully shook his head. “You cannot learn archery on the battlefield,” he replied. “At that moment, the terrorist is not in the mood to talk, he is only in the mood to destroy.” I asked what was the difference between spiritual education and religious, because the terrorists are Islamic jehaadis, boys indoctrined to become men with mindsets that believe the Quran okays mindless killings of innocents. “Spiritual education is different,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “it makes you a soft, gentle, caring person, it teaches you the principles of ahimsa... of nonviolence. We must teach these principles, the Indian ethos of peaceful coexistence, of inclusiveness, to our neightbours and the rest of the world.”
At this point of time when Mumbai was at the crossroads of change, when emotions were still ragged and the wounds of 26/11 yet festering, did we need spiritual education or an aggressive movement against violence? “Not just Mumbai, the whole of India needs an overhauling,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar answered. “In Mumbai’s case, just changing the Chief Minister will not help, the new man will take six, eight months to settle in and then make change. But, immediately, there must be a change in values — of the police, especially; a change in vision — of the people responsible for the city; a change in self — people must be true to the country and themselves; a change in sensitivity — people have woken up, but the spate of violence doesn’t touch all, we feel the heat only when the shoe pinches; and, a change in direction — let go of the past and go forward. Move on. Yes — the heart is heavy, but the healing touch will be complete only when hands unite and reconcile with the past.” When I left him, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was smiling in welcome at his next visitors — Bollywood stars Kunal Kapoor, Dino Morea and the lovely Lara Dutta, but the smile still didn’t reach his eyes.