It is an all-white setting on the 42nd floor of Shangri La Hotel, Dubai. Gurudev, as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is addressed, walks in his dhoti kurta and lights up the room with his easy smile. When he was merely three years old, he told his parents that the world was his family. Stirred by spiritual awakenings early in his life, he initiated the ‘Art of Living’ programme for emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being, which got hugely popular in 150 countries in the world. The spiritual guru who is in Dubai for COP28, addressed a huge audience at the Al Nasr Leisureland on Thursday, at an event supported by Khaleej Times. Excerpts from an interview he gave on the sidelines of the event:
Do you feel the world has learnt the ‘art of living’?
Oh yes! And whoever has learnt it has certainly learnt the finer joys of life. It is like an oasis in the desert. The programme has a profound effect on your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Is kindness the new cool?
It is beginning to be the new cool and I am glad that this feeling is slowly spreading. We are getting to that change but there is still a huge craze for violent movies and games. People who have not yet been taught how to get rid of stress and loneliness need to be educated. Some simple techniques and lifestyle changes can help them see the world with compassion, empathy and kindness.
Among the many people who come to you, how do you see the ones who resist you or are hesitant to grow?
I have infinite patience and I give them their space to grow, flower and evolve. Every individual has the quality of connectivity and wisdom. We aren’t tapping into it, that’s all. The infinity is within us but we haven’t tuned into it. Once we do, there is bliss and purpose in life.
Have you ever felt that you are out of the ordinary?
Everyone feels that they are special and not ordinary and that is the most ordinary thing in the world. But I genuinely feel that I am very ordinary and that to many seems extraordinary to some. Somewhere, we are all unique and somewhere we are all the same. I just do what is in my nature. Water flows but it doesn’t know that it is flowing. It is just following what is in its nature. Similarly, I flow as per my nature.
How do you see the world 10 years from now?
I see a lot of young people extremely concerned about the environment. Many youngsters today are demanding a healthier world to live in and they are aware of what they buy and consume. This is a conscious generation that cares and let us celebrate them. They are in sync with what the world is facing and are growing to be responsible citizens. It is a good sign.
With your wealth of knowledge, wisdom and influence, you still vouch for returning to innocence?
There is joy in childhood, isn’t it? A sense of unbridled, unadulterated joy. You lose your childhood for some time when you are growing up and dealing with the world, but when you age, you go back to your childhood emotionally. It is like children go out to play but they always return home. Similarly, we come back to innocence after we have played our games in the world arena. The important thing is to return home, return to innocence. And I wish more people return to the joys they experienced in childhood, and in that way, return to their innocence.
Do you see the future as collaborative or competitive?
They both have their unique places. Competition makes the business grow and collaboration brings more harmony and faster growth.
You have addressed mental health often in your talks?
We need to know our mind. Our purpose in life is to find happiness and joy within. Not that the material world doesn’t give us joy. Technology is meant to bring you joy, but does it? Money is ideally meant to bring you happiness and comfort, but does it? One in three persons in the world suffers from mental health issues. It is due to our lifestyles and stress that we face daily.
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