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Feb 20, 2013 at 12:23pm IST

Mindset and law should change if India is to become a better place: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

While speaking to CNN-IBN's Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said that alcohol is the root cause of crime against women.

Below is the full transcript of the show:

Sagarika Ghose: Hi there and welcome to the CNN-IBN special, after the brutal Delhi gangrape and subsequent protests, as part of our CNN-IBN 'Agenda for Change' we have been talking to various leaders to find ways to bring meaningful change in our society. Today we are joined by spiritual leader and founder of the 'Art and Living Foundation' Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Thank you so much Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for joining us. You have started the volunteer for better India movement, was this initiative anyway sparked off by the Delhi gangrape and the huge protests that happened after that?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: In a way you are right, you know, when I saw the victim telling how they were lying on the street and people passed by without doing anything about it. So I thought if these people had little bit awareness, or committed to help people in the society, they wouldn't have done what they did. Though we had this voluntarism a long time, but it gave a bigger dimension after the incident.

Sagarika Ghose: Sri Sri you are talking about how people must come forward, how civil society must come forward, have you in that sense lost faith in government. Do you believe it is only citizens now, people themselves who can bring change.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Of course it is people who can bring change. You know, government has a role to play, they do have to play that role, and police has to play their role, but you have equal responsibility on civil society, people will have to take responsibility for instances like this. Identifying people with violent tendencies is another think we need to focus on. You know there are people with violent tendencies, how to help them to come out of such tendencies. Keeping all this in view, we started this volunteer for better India, where 1 lakh people gathered in Ramlila Maidan and they all took oath to create this team in their own neighborhood.

Sagarika Ghose: And what is your suggestion for 'Agenda For Change'. What should change, should the laws change? Should the mindset change?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Everything, law should change, mindset should change, and the way people look at the problems, issues, rather being part of the problem, how we can be part of the solution. This whole attitude needs to change. You know anger is essential to spread awareness, but beyond that it is going to burn your own finger. So that is why I felt it is very much needed in our society to create this Volunteer for better India.

Sagarika Ghose: What role should spiritual leaders play, because when I put up on our website that I was going to be talking to you, one of our viewers sent in this particular comment, I will read it, "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar must convince spiritual leaders like Asaram Bapu, and few others that their utterances on women are regressive and they should come out of this mindset. Since these leaders have a huge following they should come out of the conservative mindset, so that the followers are not adversely affected." What would you say about the comments made by Asaram Bapu, when he made those controversial remarks that 'if the girl had said brother she should have prevented the rape'?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, I want to bring to the notice here, all of them were drunk. People who are drunk, any appeal goes unheard, you know, they have no sense at all. We forget that alcohol is the main culprit. This is not the Delhi incident; it is a routine thing in villages, men drink during the night, beat up the wife in the night and in the morning they fall at their feet and ask forgiveness. This sought of abuse is going on even in rural India.

Sagarika Ghose: So you think alcohol is the root cause?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Alcohol is the root cause of all this problem.

Sagarika Ghose: So what is your solution, banning of alcohol?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Tell people to come out of addiction, and help them to come out of addiction.

Sagarika Ghose: But do you think Asaram Bapu should have made those remarks?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, it is unfortunate that such remarks have come out. I wish it is slip of tongue, you know, sometimes we say things which we don't mean. I feel it could have been that way. But, you know, dignity of women has equal stature, in fact a higher stature in the Indian society. So we need to respect that and security and safety of women is... I also came across men asking that we are abused, and that there is a club of tormented and abused men's club, and there is a man committing suicide in every six minutes in this country because of wife problem. So you have multiple issues which you need to look into.

Sagarika Ghose: But what role should spirituals leaders play?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Spiritual leaders really need to take active role in creating a violence free society, because spiritual leaders have a say over people. They have to take vows on violence free society, stress free society. They can also help in combating stress and alcoholism, and drug abuse. In fact when people are not into spirituality they go into addictions more.

Sagarika Ghose: But Sri Sri the feeling is sometimes the spiritual leaders who are leading society, lot of them are just big business empires and a lot of rich people go there.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yeah, many are fraud. There is a lot of prejudice about spiritual leaders today, in certain sections of society. Without even going into it and seeing how service projects spiritual leaders are taking over. These people are not paying attention to it. See the two months of 'volunteer for better India' - 1000 projects were taken in Delhi slums by our own volunteers. There are many NGOs, many spiritual leaders doing enormous good work. But with prejudice people don't see it, they simply say it is all empire, fraud, without even defining what is fraud.

Sagarika Ghose: But what is the role for example that spiritual leaders should play in public life. For example the issue of Dharma Sansad in the Kumbh where there were some of the sadhu samaj who voiced their support for Narendra Modi, for the BJP. Do you think Kumbh is the place to have political deliberations, is the Kumbh the place to play politics?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, Kumbh is a spiritual gathering, it is a place where people go for a spiritual dip. And also it becomes a socioeconomic issue... so I'm not aware, I was not there in that particular deliberation, so some people have preferred some particular politician over others, it is their choice. Sanyasi has no rules, you know, which area he should go, which he shouldn't go. A Sanyasi can go to a king and can go to a poor person. He is a common link between the high and the low in the society, from the wicked and from the good. So Sanyasi has been bestowed with this responsibility of doing good to the society from every end. But if you would ask me personally, I would say we should not take away the free choice of people by dictating them that you should do this.

Sagarika Ghose: So you don't think you should have political discussions in a Kumbh Mela?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I wouldn't have it myself but I have no right to say the others can't have it, it is their choice.

Sagarika Ghose: Let's talk about corruption, you yourself were part of raising your voice against corruption, you were part of the anti-corruption campaign of Anna Hazare - why did you feel it was important for someone like you the lend your support to the anti-corruption movement.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, we are in tough with common people on day to day bases. Thousands of people come here and we listen to all their problems and issues. And you know we are more in touch with the people than politicians. They just come during the election, they get the vote and they go. Not everybody is in touch with the common man. So we have to address the issues of the common people. We have to give a voice to them.

Sagarika Ghose: So do you also feel that you have to give voice to the forces of harmony in society, the intolerance in the society. Do you feel you also need to raise your voice against those forces?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Absolutely. You know, every individual has a responsibility to spread harmony not disturbance. And saint will work towards harmony.

Sagarika Ghose: So as a Hindu spiritual leader, someone who is within the Hindu fold, doe the rise of certain kind of aggressive Hinduism, a certain what they call militant Hinduism - does that worry you?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Of course. In any religion the aggrieves is something that is not desired for because it disturbs, it creates ripple effect on everybody. But we are not living in an isolated society, so any impact in the Islam with impact back on Hinduism and vice versa. So these fringe elements will always exist, what I would say is, we must be happy that majority of people are peace loving in any community, in any religion. Majority of the people want harmony, so if they are united fringe elements always exited and they will continue to exist.

Sagarika Ghose: But you know the kind of attacks say artists, on filmmakers, on the film 'Vishwaroopam', on Salman Rushdie, on paintings - is that kind of intolerance very bad for society?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Very bad, especially in India we never had this. India was such a free society. I mean, Hinduism was free, it just opened its arms and embraced everybody.

Sagarika Ghose: So what is the relationship between Hinduism and Hindutva?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That you can define better. I would say ancient way of life where we accumulated from thousands of years, the wisdom, and tolerance, and non-violence, that has been our role model from ages.

Sagarika Ghose: But is something going wrong with that ancient wisdom? Are people interpreting it in a political way?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Perhaps, and perhaps they may find that it is needed at that time. But I would say this ancient country has never faced such intolerance, what we faced with films and artists, this is unfortunate. I have appealed to people that similar criticism has come up in so many movies on Hindus as well. You know, there is a tendency in this country, we just ignore, if there is something worth we take it, and if is just useless criticism we just ignore. And that tolerance somewhere is going down. If it goes down in one community, it is bound to have an impact on the other community as well.

Sagarika Ghose: So the intolerance grows in one community, it also grows in the other. Let's talk a little bit about Kashmir, you were part of the dialogue process in Kashmir you went there in 2004. You launched a dialogue with different sections of community there. This execution of Afzal Guru and the kind of aggressive nationalism perhaps that a number of people have voiced - what do you make of this?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, you know, personally I'm not for capital punishment. In many countries around the world capital punishment is being abolished. We should give severe punishment, the highest punishment possible for people who have done such heinous crime. But capital punishment should be done away with. Once the punishment is given it is executed, I don't think we should make it another political issue of Kashmir vs rest of India. And you know, Chief Minister saying something partial impartial, it is only creating more distance among people rather than making people understand that they are part of one country.

Sagarika Ghose: So if you have to give a message to the Kashmiris - what would you say?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I would say forget that he (Afzal Guru) is a Kashmiri, think he is an Indian who got death penalty. It is not because he is a Kashmiri, a different law was framed for him, it is wrong to say that. Any injustice done because of his Kashmiri identity is absurd. Don't take this an issue about they verses me, or Kashmir verses the rest of India. This is complete nonsense.

Sagarika Ghose: Do you feel society is becoming more violent?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: We have not been paying attention to education and human values. We need to educate children; we need to educate our youths. And take pride in non-violent behaviour. Today unfortunately pride got attached itself to violent and aggressive behaviour. Of course celluloid, movies all contributes to society.

Sagarika Ghose: So the first thing that can be done for example in your opinion, this aggressive violent tendency that is in society to combat how this is affecting crimes against women. What would you say your first suggestion is to tackling crime against women?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just this awareness itself will do. Men and women should become free from stress. They should be taught how they can relax. How they can volunteer themselves from any service project in the society. You know our society needs a lot of help, there are lot of people out there who need us. If people just commit one hour each day to volunteer their whole attitude with change. Seven hours a week, half a day in a week, if they commit to any social service, and service in the society that is the path to salvation.

Sagarika Ghose: That is the path to salvation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That is the path and one has to look within and see how I can get out of this aggression, anger, greed and keep myself free and calm. In short I would say a disease free body and a prejudges free mind.

Sagarika Ghose: A disease free body and a prejudges free mind. You know, a number of people say when these incidents happen, their faith in God is shaken, they say why should we believe in God when so much violence is happening in society - why should people believe in God?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, if you don't believe, who asked you to believe. Believe is something that happens within you, not by someone telling you, you believe in God. You know five types of people ask question - one when they are very miserable people, they are not ready to listen to anybody for any solution. People who are angry, they ask questions, they also will not listen. And why should I believe in God is one such question, they ask when they are miserable. So we tell them. Ok don't believe in it. That doesn't mean that God doesn't exist. First of all what is your idea of God. God is that substratum in which everything exists. If you think there is no universal love you are mistaken. If you think there is no universal energy, which is the bases of the entire creation, you are unscientific.

Sagarika Ghose: Would you ever consider going into politics?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I think it is too small field for me to put my foot into.

Sagarika Ghose: And the big question now, everyone is asking - Rahul Gandhi or Narendar Modi?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I will leave it to the people to decide. You know spiritual leaders have a lot of say, many people follow them and its better they leave the choice to the people instead of giving them their choice.

Sagarika Ghose: Do you believe that there is something going wrong with government, that government is not being able to perform and there is something wrong with democracy itself today?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You see, while passing any bill, the parties or the high command of the parties issue a whip, that means everybody has go and vote. This is taking the democratic right of the members of Parliament. There is voting because each one has to express their opinion about it. Instead of that a whole party votes on a particular bill, then you don't need so many members sitting in Parliament.

Sagarika Ghose: So you think this whole practice of a whip is in fact anti-people?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is anti-democratic, it is an insult to an individual. Whip is an insult to an individual's ability to think and act.

Sagarika Ghose: Is there something going wrong with democracy itself? The way big money is there in elections, liquor is given out in election time. You have seen the kind of corruption, and scams that are going on in democracy. Is democracy itself being destroyed?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There is so much money poured into elections, liquor, and violence and so many criminal elements get to Parliament, it is stunning. It happens because good people don't come forward; many times they don't even go to vote. This is where I say to volunteers that you all should go and vote and elect the right people. If the good people become proactive in the society, when I say good people, people who take responsibility, or who care for the society. No party will give ticket to these criminal and corrupt elements.

Sagarika Ghose: And you think that spiritual leaders should now really work very hard towards changing the mindsets?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Absolutely. I would say they are doing day and night, as far as I know. If they are real spiritual leaders, they don't sit for a minute wasting their time. Other than meditation, even in meditation they wish good for the entire world. A genuine spiritual leader has a pure heart and clear intensions of doing service to society. And I am telling you there are many, many people.

Sagarika Ghose: Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji that you very much indeed for joining us. That was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar giving us his agenda for change, saying meaningful change in society can only come if you takeout just about an hour everyday and do something for someone else. That is the path to salvation. Thank you for watching.