Relation between Spirituality and Religion – Talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Spirituality is like a banana and religion is like the banana skin. People today have thrown away the fruit and are left holding tightly to the skin. – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 Ambassador of Peace Sri Sri Ravi Shankar goes on to clarify:

“Religion has it’s place, I am not a communist or an atheist who says religion should be done away with. Let it be there but what is the point of having the skin without a banana inside?! If there is no substance, no human values, no compassion, no love, no sense of belongingness, holding on to the rituals and just the outer identity of religion, which has becomes the cause of more and more conflicts in the world today, is what I was talking about.”

“Religion has it’s place, let it be there. It does have a place. Your weddings are done according to religion, your naming ceremonies, even your cremation. From birth to cremation, your name is all indicated by religion. Let it be there. But let it not swallow or eat up, the basics of spirituality that is love, compassion, sense of belongingness, humility. These values are what you call spirituality.”

Symbolic Love

Commenting on Religious Fundamentalism Sri Sri Ravi Shankar states:

“It is the distress and mistrust in people which causes them to take religion as an excuse to express their frustration and display aggressive, violent behaviour.”

Art of Living Founder and world spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar adds:

“Every child should study a little bit about different religions and cultures. If people knew just a little bit about what Jesus said, what the Upanishads say, what the Vedas say, what Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam say, there would not be a single terrorist in the world.”

“Today’s terrorism is a result of Puritanism: i.e. when people say, “Only my religion is pure. I should keep away from other religious books or I should not be educated in those things. Only this is the way.” That type of religious indoctrination in children has given rise to Taliban sort of movements in the world. We have lost so many people to terrorism.”

Emphasizing that Spirituality is a way of life, a personalized attitude of relating with the world, one based on unity rather than diversity, on love and a sense of belongingness to everyone rather than anger and alienation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar advises:

“Bang on your inner door. See that there is no lack of love in you, there is no lack of anything whatsoever inside you.”

“You can experience God in the depth of your heart. Do not delay a moment. Bang on the door. All the wealth is within you.”

Spiritual Shopping Comes to Halt

I was born and brought up in Hindu family and my bed time stories were the about Our Hindu Deities primarily Lord Rama or Krishna. They were like my refuge and I wondered what was like being so immensely self sacrificing? I went to Convent school and there I was introduced to Lord Jesus, my inquisition had no bounds and started searching more and more about Christianity and soon I was introduced to Sikhism, as most of my friends were Sikh. My faith kept on changing from our countless deities, their fables and moral values behind them to deities of different religion. I couldn’t ever come to a conclusion which one exactly I liked or followed. I was a shopaholic that was sure, but spiritual shopaholic.

I was a blend of all the concepts that I had learned till the age twenty and was sure, I don’t like idol worship and my tolerance with dogmatic superstitions was taking its last breath. I read various holy books, philosophy and spiritual books but I could not really connect with any, may be because it all concluded with living in present and being satisfied with whatever you have. I always questioned what if I want more? Why am I stuck with present, what if I want to plan my future? Thankfully I was never a past person, it was impossible for me to see life rhetorically. Anyways my struggle with these concepts of being satisfied with whatever made me search more and more. As they say, when the disciple is ready the teacher finds him. So was my case. I received a call from my friend about the YES!+ workshop by The Art of Living which he promised would mark a change in me.I  went on to do my first Yes Plus course and there was no turning back. After that, more deep I went more clarity I got. My spiritual shopping came to a halt. Sri Sri believes in moving on and not getting stuck and that’s what I wanted to hear .I often used to question on the futility of rituals and he answered in his velvety yet humorous tone,” Ah! It’s all about making the atmosphere, setting the mood for Meditation.” Sri Sri always says,” There is no end to wishes and desires, you climb one mountain yet there is another mountain; you cross one threshold, you will find another threshold calling you. That’s how a human is always running not settling down. But you know it’s good to sit for a while and enjoy the acquisition.” Now that made sense to me, very subtly he explained the value and completeness of present moment. The present moment which is complete and cherishing in itself but it becomes more memorable and worthy when you persevere.

Setting a Goal and aspiring for it was one thing but setting a goal and getting feverish was another. It’s not the goal which doesn’t let you sleep but the feverishness and uncertainty of the future that makes a person’s life a living hell and drags the person away from its present moment. These little yet enlightening words of wisdom finally made me settle. It’s true a person never settle’s, it’s the mind of the person that settle’s. There is no such place called past, present or future but every moment in it wholeness is present with the possibility of future with the experience of past. Still I can’t say I am a Hindu,a Sikh or a Christian but one thing I can definitely say that I am spiritual. I don’t have to make a never ending list of books to be learned but just set the mood and slip into meditation which will take me to the realms beyond past, present or future and definitely much beyond religion. I am still not self sacrificing but I understood the depth of one random act of kindness that not only stretches the curve of your lips but also strengthen others faith in humanity.

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Sri Sri as a World Leader

What can one human being do? Can he change the world, help millions who are clueless about life, be a friend and guide, and also teach them to see life in a new perspective? Impossible isn’t it?  Who will ever have such patience leave alone love and compassion for people of the world.Sri Sri has been doing it relentlessly for the past four decades. He has brought together people of varied background into one fold.There are many who are doing commendable work in the field of social service, so what  makes Sri Sri different?On first sight you may not find anything extraordinary in this frail short man but what is it that moves millions to follow him with such love and devotion? The first thing that strikes about him is his super cool and calm demeanor. I have not seen him show any sort of disapproval even when followers swarm all around him he meets each and every one listening to each one of them with rapt attention and having a reassuring word for all.There are many saints, yogis’,  gurus, healers but Sri Sri is one who has taken upon the task of teaching people on how to live life, he empowers every individual to raise themselves spiritually and ever so patiently lead them towards a better understanding of themselves, their purpose of life and how to be a human being. It does not do justice to describe Sri Sri Ravi Shankar merely as a spiritual head. In today’s world we see religion being distorted to suit individual thinking and perspective.  So moving beyond this restricted definition I see Sri Sri as a world leader who can rise above regionalism, politics and religion and think from a higher plane for humankind. At a time when world leaders are perturbed with challenges of ISIS, Sri Sri spearheaded a peace process in Iraq to support and protect the Yezidi and Kurdish population from persecution by ISIS against ethnic groups in the region. He met  various heads of state in Iraq to facilitate a peace process and to bring about a dialog and create awareness of compassion, accepting mutual differences and living in peace and harmony.  How many spiritual leaders from anywhere in the world have done that? This is clearly living by what he preaches compassion and love for all and that we are all one and the same of a cosmic whole.