Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (H H) had recently visited Chennai. Having taken The Art of Living classes in school, I decided to attend his classes (three evenings) which were going to be held in the University grounds in spite of End Semester exams.
For a man who could recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita at the age of four, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was very different from what I had expected. He has the voice of a small child and yet, when one listened to him it was as though it was as if he was speaking to each one of us in particular. Being born in Tamil Nadu and brought up in Karnataka, he was familiar with Tamil. However his Tamil did prove to be quite a cause for smiles. He was in loss for a few words. Also there was this one time when he said “All of you shout like a lion. Ellarum puli (tiger) mathiri kathunga”.
Yet the image of the man with long hair and intermittently muttering “good good” into the mike is what I’ll never forget in my life. Those three days were really nice (apart from the fact that this was the only real life celebrity I had met after coming to Chennai). A few hundred people had come and the sports ground was filled with people for as far as the eye could see in the dark. This is not much, I hear, when compared to the last time he visited Chennai. Last time there had been no entry fee. The whole of Chennai had turned up to see the Guru who had brought along with him five terrorists. I don’t know what happened then, but I hear that they gave up their arms. Hey, this time he had brought along village women. Well, that was to demonstrate, how come village woman don’t grow obese unlike their counterparts in the cities. But let me move on to the more thought provoking things he said.
“ When the Art of Living volunteers were helping with the relief operations following the Gujarat earthquake, an old lady came up to one of the volunteers and unfolding a notch in her sari, gave him the only money left with her. Ten rupees. The volunteer politely rejected the money saying that he was not there for money, and that serving those in need itself contented him. The lady in turn replied, “The Earth has taken away all I have. Please don’t take away my Dharma as well.”
Tears well in my eyes as I write these lines. He continued:
“There are such people in the country. There always has been. Do any of you know of Lord McCauley’s address to the British parliament? Good. McCauley had visited India during the early 1800s and when he went back to his country he told the parliament that he had toured the entire country and had seen not one beggar. The people are brimming with spiritual energy. He told them that colonising the country would be impossible without breaking her backbone, her spiritual strength…….. Before they came, Chennai had over a 1000 colleges of Medicine. The first thing they did when they came here was to shut down all of them………”
I have at your service the excerpt from his speech which Guruji was referring to:
“I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them to be, a truly dominated nation“.-Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament.
And that is what the British have done. They have stripped us of our pride, our heritage, our ancient education system, and our culture. And we remain today, with our compasses steadily pointing west. In two hundred years, we have forgotten ourselves. Swami Vivekananda alerted us “O ye modern Hindus, de-hypnotize yourselves!”
What remains to be done now, Guruji hinted “India needs a spiritual regeneration. We need to remember our culture ”. Yes, I realise, we need to remember who we are. If the auto driver, who throws cigarette butts out of the window and onto the pavement where people are standing, is spiritually in touch with himself, or at least with the moral values our people adhered to two hundred years ago, would he do it? Would a person knowing the glory of this great nation dare to spit on the road? The knowledge of the life that our forefathers lived alone would make us think twice before urinating on the streets. And this will result in a nation infinitely more stronger and integrated than we already are.
Most text books note that of all the ancient civilizations, India’s culture is one that has not been broken through history. Today, on looking at the ancient way of life that is rarely followed nowadays I realise the blissful ignorance we all have been immersed in.