Response to a (known personality’s) dig at Shri Shri Ravi Shanker
Response to News Item
Sunday Asian Age dated February 27, 2005
My name is Deepa Kodikal. I have authored two books. “A Journey Within the Self ( A Diary of Yogic Experiences)’ published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, and “Teachings of the Inner Light ( A Blueprint for Right Living)” published by Viva Books Pvt Ltd, Delhi.
I am neither a follower of Shri Shri Ravi Shanker nor a practitioner of his Art of Living nor am I acquainted with him.
However, on reading the above news item, I strongly felt that a rejoinder to it is needed in all fairness to the person and what he and others advocate and practice.
News Item titled
… Laughs …. India Today Conclave, in Sunday Asian Age, dt February 27, 2005.
The very fact that someone can, with impunity, take a direct dig at a guru held in esteem by many, and get away with it, speaks highly of the technique the guru personally practices and teaches others, to remain calm, smiling and free of violence in the face of such a verbal assault. Under such unsubstantiated attack, if one can remain composed, in control of himself and totally at peace with the provoker, then full marks to that technique. This control shows strength, not weakness. Such supreme composure and tranquility comes through the practice of the breathing techniques, pranayama, known and practised since time immemorial in India and large parts of both the East and the West. These techniques, so condescendingly dismissed out of hand, are today endorsed for their wide-ranging benefits by the medical profession, scientists and all cross-sections of people the world over.
If the audience laughed and applauded, again kudos to that system with which Hinduism is widely associated: Inquiry, investigation, criticism, and open debate have always been a hall-mark of classical Hindu thought and its age-old wisdom. Nobody need accept a system or a dictate of any sage, prophet or a guru as final. One is free to, without fear of castigation of any sort, investigate and express his opinion, and only if fully satisfied, accept a concept. Does this not celebrate the nobility of freedom?
Living itself is possible only because of the vital breath and the act of breathing. If, so much attention is being paid to our food habits and physical fitness exercises, how much more care needs to be paid to breathing, the most fundamental basis of living?
It is not simply to breathe, as one might think in his ignorance, that is taught by the gurus. That even the plants and animals know how to. Various techniques of breathing, experientially established by the seers of yore, benefit both the body and mind variously and efficiently. These improve physical, mental and emotional health, and give vigour, dynamism and an increased zest for facing life. This highly developed and time-tested art and science of breathing, and the desire to reveal this knowledge to others, are the priceless wealth and glory of India. Anyone propagating this to the people is doing yeoman service to mankind.
Many a social worker, politician, thinker and doer have come and gone. Many have taken up the cause of the poor and the destitute, exerting to eliminate their hardship and misery. Disillusioned by the existing systems, they have even founded new social or political systems. Is the world any better for it, is it free of misery, poverty and allied suffering? Has the lot of the poor improved? Has violence disappeared? If not, should yogis, saints and prophets in all religions not have made an effort in their own way to help people? Many of them have led and are leading the struggle to reform society. Many of them were and are “modern age” gurus of their times, even risking ostracism and ridicule. Many have been revolutionaries in their own right. Should we condemn them all, wholesale, as failures and frauds, because of a percentage of them prove to be so? One may fail, but should not one make an effort, however feeble and limited in scope?
The poor have their faith and their simple love for God that sustains them through life’s vicissitudes. It is the rich, the westernized, that have to be reminded of their heritage. They are the ones who are floundering in spite of their better life conditions. The poor have their faith but lack material comforts. The rich are in comfort but lack faith. Taking spirituality to the rich serves a double purpose: They find solace in the time-tested ancient systems, and their donations, both in kind and in cash, help the disadvantaged.
Education, be it physical or mental, trickles down from the upper and the middle classes. Education should be holistic, including all beneficial knowledge and practices. This is the need of the hour. If peace, religious tranquility, tolerance and true brotherhood ensue from simple techniques, these must be propagated, so that these noble qualities are not just academic, but become one’s very nature and come into action when required, effortlessly and inspired. Simple yoga, meditation, and pranayama are known to give lasting effects. They mould one’s nature to peace and harmony without making one meek, lackluster or passive. In fact, in them the impulse for right action comes unforced. Let us not be foolish enough to side-step these simple, free, yet effective self-healing and self-improving techniques, which are applicable to all humanity without distinction of class, creed, faith, or age. Let us applaud the gurus that are working for peace, health and upliftment.
Any place where people meet becomes a venue for networking, be it a place of worship or entertainment. We all take our whole beings with us wherever we go, including our selfish motives and all our faults. Had we all been perfect and so one-pointed as to be able to keep at will our blemishes aside, we would all have been saints and there would not have been any need of a god, a place of worship or spirituality anywhere in the world. The need of the hour is inherent peace and well-being, not nirvana. If individuals work for and towards peace and universal brotherhood, nirvana will automatically follow. The experience and knowledge of cosmic consciousness alone makes for true brotherhood. Here alone is the experience of oneness and sameness of all, total peace, and freedom from hatred and violence. Let us not ignore this wisdom.
Each individual comes with his own mission in life, a different life, destiny and a role to play, all unique to himself. Down the ages, through all lands, this has happened. One need not repeat what others before him have done. Nature and man try different approaches and techniques. It is up to us to co-operate and make use of the precious knowledge these spiritual giants have left behind and continue to offer mankind.
In the riot-torn areas, the task of maintaining peace belongs to the Law-enforcement authorities. The unarmed and peaceful teachers of spirituality and well-being are effective before and after the riots, when the excited groups of both sides have settled down, to try and prevent recurrence and subsequently, to heal.
Just as hospitals depend upon charity and charge the higher income group extra to facilitate subsidized treatment for the lower-income group, ashrams too, with the services of and donations from the better-off, are engaged in a lot of social work. Let us emulate all those who smile and remain at peace.
In fact, people of different faiths should come forward and teach people of other faiths, tenets of wisdom of their faith, that can be universally applicable and acceptable to people of all faiths. Be these medicinal or peace-inducing.