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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Religion is one of the biggest divisive forces in the world

Last updated on: March 12, 2013 09:46 IST

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Religion is one of the biggest divisive forces in the world

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'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,' says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

A nation's most powerful weapon is the will of the common man.

It is this will, says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, buttressed by action, that will draw an agenda for a better India.

In this interview with Rediff.com's Savera R Someshwar, the founder of the Art of Living foundation shares his dreams for a rejuvenated India.

If you were asked to draw up an agenda for a New India, what would your agenda be?

  • Justice for farmers.
  • An easy working atmosphere for industrialists.
  • Creating a more tolerant and cooperative society among all religious leaders.
  • Clean politics; people with character and humility should be in politics.

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  • Image: Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believes change lies in the hands of India's people.
    Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters
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    'Get over your lethargy and be inspired for a brighter future'

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    If there were three ills in India that you would prioritise and tackle, what would they be?

    What are the three things you would ask people to fight against and change?

    The first is corruption.

    The second is communalism.

    The third is to get over your lethargy and be inspired for a brighter future.

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    Image: Corruption is one of the biggest ills that ails India, says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, seen here with Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor.
    Photographs: Saab Pictures
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    'The unfortunate incident is not a very unique thing. Many, many crimes against women are happening'

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    Have Indians in urban areas become more selfish?

    That's correct, in some ways.

    I think alcohol is also a big problem. It is one of the biggest culprits for many of the malaises in both rural and urban areas.

    It is a matter of concern that drugs and alcohol are available so freely.

    What about the way in which we view women in Indian society today... the violence against women, the acts of rape -- does that come down from our scriptures?

    Absolutely not!

    Women have been given such a great position in our scriptures. In fact, more than the father, more than men, women have a bigger stature.

    But the unfortunate incident... (the Delhi gang-rape) I would say it is not a very unique thing that has never happened before.

    In our society, many, many, many such crimes against women are happening in rural and urban areas.

    It's just that they are not reported as it happened with the recent incident.

    We have a long way to go in instilling moral and spiritual values in society and ethics in business.

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    Image: We have a long way to go in instilling moral and spiritual values in society, feels Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
    Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
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    'Asaramji commands respect; he commands reverence'

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    I'd like to ask you about Asaram Bapu and what he said about the young girl who was raped so brutally in Delhi.

    He said she should have called these rapists her brothers and held their hands and begged them to spare her...

    Should someone with such influence over people make such irresponsible statements?

    I don't agree about those things.

    We forget one thing -- when these people are drunk, they are not in their senses. You can't talk any sense to people who are drunk, number one.

    As far as what he (Asaram Bapu) said, I don't know... it could even be a slip of the tongue. So I wouldn't give it much importance.

    Asaramji has engaged in many good works.

    He has relieved thousands and thousands of people, specially the lower class, from addictions like alcohol and drugs and violence. He has helped many people in some way or the other.

    Leaving that particular statement or his opinion about women aside, I feel the good things he has done should be appreciated.

    At his age -- he must be 70 years old now -- he is doing some good work and is constantly moving around people.

    He commands some respect; he commands some reverence.

    Do you believe religion is a divisive force today?

    Religion has, no doubt, become one of the biggest divisive forces in the world. Even the sects within a religion have become divisive forces.

    First, the fights will be between Hindus and Muslims. Then it will be between Muslims and Muslims. Within Hindus, there can be upper caste, lower caste... all these fights can happen.

    Basically, 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.

    If a person is taught how to address his aggression, the whole scenario will be different.

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    Image: Asaram Bapu at the Kumbh Mela.
    Photographs: Courtesy Rajim Kumbh 2013
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    'The law should take its course and severely punish terrorists'

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    The fabric of the country is being torn by acts of terrorism.

    What would you say to people who think of committing such crimes and to the people who have suffered these crimes?

    The people who are committing these crimes are deaf. They don't listen to anybody.

    If they had even a little bit of sense, they would not commit such acts.

    Talking to them (terrorists) or advising them is useless. They only understand severe punishment.

    We need to think about what kind of severe punishment we can give them.

    We also need to look at the political elements who try to shield such people who cause distress in society.

    I would tell such political elements that they are doing the most dangerous kind of work; they should stop shielding such tendencies and such people.

    They should expose such people and the law should take its course and severely punish them.

    Part 2 of the interview with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: 'We should do away with capital punishment'


    Image: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says those behind acts of terrorism, like the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, should be severely punished.
    Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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