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The Rediff Interview/Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
'An eye for an eye is against our culture'

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December 29, 2008
Terrorism has definitely emerged as the most contentious issue of 2008, with India reeling under a relentless wave of terror strikes and Indians seething with anger at the loss of innocent lives and the incompetent government.

Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been outspoken in condemning both the terror strikes and communal fanaticism, which many feel gives rise to terrorism.

In an interview with Vicky Nanjappa, he spoke about tacking the menace of terrorism though education and persuasion. He also discusses the controversial issue of Malegaon blast accused Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit attending AoL sessions.

What, according to you, is the solution to the menace of terrorism? If everyone follows the 'eye for an eye' principle, what will happen to this country?

I am very concerned about what is happening. 'An eye for an eye' is not our culture at all. Yet, we cannot take things lying down. We cannot stop educating people about our values. The message of Indian ethos and spirituality, which emphasise on ahimsa (non-violence) and the truth, will have to be conveyed across the board.

What do you think about Hindu terrorism?

Fringe elements in Hindu society, who think they can avenge terrorism by perpetuating terror themselves, have brought disgrace to Indian culture. Milking political mileage and giving undue publicity to such cases have only strengthened the jihadis. Let our media and politicians know that sensationalising, politicising and giving undue publicity to this case, even before the accused is proven guilty, has proved to be a shot in the arm for jihadis.

Our late Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare [Images] had mentioned that in the last two months, 90 per cent of the time and manpower of the agency had been spent on this case. All this has cost the nation heavily.

Lieutenant Colonel Purohit reportedly attended some Art of Living meetings. Will there be a screening process in the Art of Living courses to ensure that such elements do not attend meetings in the future?

No. In fact, we welcome everybody to the Art of Living. Our mission is to work with fundamentalists and extremists to transform them into loving human beings. People from all backgrounds come here and so do ex-army people. We have programmes for army personnel and many of them visit our ashram to seek blessings. Naxalites [Images], Maoists, jihadis have all attended our programmes.

We don't discriminate and we don't ban anybody from attending the AoL sessions. I wish they had come here much earlier and participated in our training programme. Perhaps they came here to find some peace and solace.

What can spiritual gurus do to ensure that terrorism is wiped out? What plans does AoL have in this regard?

Some religions have a dogmatic and untouchable attitude, and that should be removed. For example, what happened to author Taslima Nasreen [Images] is a shame on the democratic and liberal image of the country (Nasreen was forced to leave India after violent protests broke out against her writings in Kolkata). The government should shift its focus from the minority-majority culture and should give multi-cultural, multi-dimensional education to all.

Religious and spiritual institutions need to come together and pledge to work towards protecting our country. We need social leaders who are satya-darshi (truthful), sam-darshi (equanimous), and door-darshi (farsighted). Let us also resolve to first examine the qualifications of those whom we elect. We need to protect our country from those who manipulate issues for their personal gains and lead by playing vote-bank politics.

Art of Living has been conducting various rehabilitation programmes for prisoners and convicts. The results are so positive that one has to witness it to believe it.

Can terrorism be wiped out through the message of peace?

Any action that is undertaken without inner peace only leads to regret. And peace does not mean inaction. One has to use all methodologies to curb terrorism. We have to do it through education and persuasion. Force should be used only when nothing else works.

What is your message to all those practising terrorism?

Meditation and Sudarshan Kriya have transformed the aggression and violence inside people into compassion, love and care.

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