To Find Happiness, You Need To Have A Calm Mind: Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Digital technology has created a connected world, which is great for economics and creating wealth but has impacted the quality of life. We are always ‘on’. As a result, we constantly hear people say they are stressed, or are feeling bogged down. Over the last decade, the environment around us has changed dramatically, and has negatively impacted physical and mental wellbeing. People rely on their spiritual wealth to help them overcome stress and chaos. We can safely say that this generation is in the pursuit of wellness, and increasing our spiritual wealth is the most important task of the 21st century.
A renowned spiritual teacher, Gurudev has offered yoga and meditation techniques in formats that are suitable for the contemporary being. Sharing his vision of non-violence, he has played a central role in conflict resolution around the world. He has been credited for his attempts at fostering peace in Colombia, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Kashmir, and Bihar. He has consistently emphasised interfaith harmony and called for multi-cultural education as a remedy for fanaticism.
Read on for excerpts of the interview.
How did the name ‘Art of Living’ come to your mind?
Forty two years ago when we started, there was a lot prejudice about yoga, meditation and everything spiritual. In those days if you said Pranayama or Yoga, people would imagine someone standing at the Kumbh mela on one leg or someone lying on a bed of nails. So, I came up with the term ‘Art of Living’. The term managed to create curiosity in people, and they wanted to know what it was. When they started to practice the techniques they saw its benefits in day-to-day life.
The recent past has been full of conflicts globally. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has impacted all of us in different ways. How do we bring conflicts to an end? How do we reduce conflict between countries?
Conflicts arise in the minds of people. We have never paid attention to this aspect in our societies. Mental health crisis has become prevalent in the world today. On one side, there is aggression and on the other is depression. People go through this all the time. When leaders are surrounded by a small coterie and don’t look beyond that, their communication system breaks down. Their perception about things gets flawed. And that’s when you experience conflict. Better communication is important to avoid conflict. Second, commitment to a greater cause is essential. It’s important to see how a conflict is going to affect the population of the world. Third, when we see the context to life, we start thinking with much more clarity.
Is a ‘Selfless Leader’ an oxymoron? Or, do you see selfless leaders in today’s environment?
We can’t put all leaders in the same basket. There are leaders in the world who are large-hearted, and they have a greater vision for the world. No doubt, the reputation of politics has gone down in comparison to what it was earlier. When we were all growing up, politicians were a respected lot. However, that’s not the case today. Then again, let’s not put every leader in the same basket.
We want to be healthy, wealthy, wise, respected and have good relationships. How do you define wellbeing?
Wellbeing is obvious when you have an undying smile on your face and your communication has humour in it. Wellbeing can also be observed in people who take on challenges in life. Someone who is sick would not usually be energetic – they lack enthusiasm and would not be able to take on challenges. But if you are ready to take on challenges and you have a sense of humour, it shows that you are well.
How does a modern-day business executive, a CEO or a mid-level executive practice wellbeing in his life?
Work-life balance is important. People must take some time for themselves to reflect on their own mind and get rid of stress. They need to understand the different layers of our system – the body, the breath, the mind and then, see how their intellect is functioning.
By attending to the breath, their emotions can become stronger and subtler. It is also important to be aware of the type of prejudice they have. You develop prejudice due to your experiences or conditioning of the mind. Are you able to get out of your conditioning?
If the left-side of your brain is active due to work, which involves logic, numbers and thinking – your brain gets tired and you go out of balance. To balance your system, you need to listen to music for at least for half an hour. Especially lawyers, chartered accountants, and businessmen, who spend their day-and-night with numbers and logic. They also need to spend some time every week with the nature, planting a tree or just observing the nature, spending some time in the garden.
Everyone is chasing happiness today. How can we find happiness?
To find happiness, you need to have a calm mind. You must first get rid of the stress. How can you find happiness when you are messed up in your mind? You need keenness of observation and clarity in mind. But for that, you have to be free from stress. When you get rid of the stress, there will be purity in heart and your actions will be sincere. Life flows effortlessly once we pay a little attention to these aspects.
Wise people say that happiness is in finding your purpose. You found your purpose very early in life. Is there a playbook to finding purpose in life?
First of all, we must ask ourselves what our purpose in life is. Many people don’t even ask this question. There are some basic questions, which every intelligent person should ask themselves. And, this will help remove a lot of cobwebs from the mind. Clarity will dawn. When you start asking these questions or start your journey in the spirit of inquiry, you will get clarity.
There’s power in gratitude and grace. Can one develop a habit of being grateful, or is it a part of a person’s make-up?
Awareness is the key. If you are aware of all that you have received as a blessing, you will be grateful. We forget this and take many simple things for granted. That’s when our life energy starts dwindling. The more we are grateful in life, the more fulfilling life will be and more grace flows into life. There is no dearth of miracles but you need to be conscious about all that you have received in life. This won’t happen every day. But again, you must remember and be grateful. Then, life takes the right direction, right speed, and the right step.
About The Art of Living: Gurudev founded The Art of Living in 1981 as an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organisation. Its educational and self-development programmes offer tools to eliminate stress and promote a sense of wellbeing. The Art of
Living operates in 180 countries. In 1997, Gurudev co-founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), a sister organisation of The Art of Living. The IAHV coordinates sustainable development projects, nurtures human values and initiates conflict resolution.