Sri Sri Ravishankar, the exponent of Advaita Vedanta and the spiritual leader of the Art of Living Foundation (founded in 1982), in an exclusive interview with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on her chat show ‘Kahiye Janab’, expressed his opinions on cleaning Yamuna, Indian politics, Mayawati, Maoists and much more.
Swati: Everyone is focusing on cleaning of Ganga for publicity. So why did you emphasize on cleaning Yamuna rather than Ganga?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: Six months ago, I saw on Zee News that people were taking bath in Yamuna near Vrindavan and at the same time were drinking contaminated water.
People have a lot of faith in the holy river. So something needs to be done. Yamuna, which flows through the heart of Delhi, has to be saved. A lot of sewage is dumped into the river. So it needs to be cleaned and the government is doing nothing.
Swati: What’s your say on the scandals involving spiritual gurus?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: Some people have indulged in such activities. But that doesn’t mean everyone is corrupt. In every profession whether one is a doctor, banker, police official or politician, there are some corrupt individuals. So it’s not right to pin-point any one specific.
Swati: Do you think such individuals have taken advantage of people’s faith?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: It’s nothing new. Ravana too came disguised as a saint and kidnapped Sita. So paakhandis(deceits) have been there since ages. But at the same time there were gurus like Vashisht and Vishwamitra. So it’s not correct to say everyone is a paakhandi.
Swati: Were you distressed when you heard about the involvement of spiritual gurus in scandals?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: I am thankful to the media that they highlighted such ill doings. The role of media in the society is to inform and educate, thus, it should bring into light such incidents so that people become aware.
Swati: Some yoga gurus are becoming rajgurus. What do you have to say in this regard?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: (Laughs) Politics has become so dirty and corrupt that people have lost faith in it. Spirituality needs to be brought in. People have asked me so many times to cleanse the political system of the country.
Swati: Why don’t you do it then?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: I will not go behind politicians. People should elect those who have regard for values. They should elect those individuals, who have broad vision, belief in transparency and equality. People say that good people run away from politics, but I’ll ask them not to do so.
Swati: What’s your reaction to Baba Ramdev joining politics?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: He is doing it on public demand. He must have taken the decision for our country’s good.
Swati: Will you ever join politics?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: No, but I will request politicians to broaden their vision and do away with vote bank politics as well as self interest. 1,157 drains are dumping sewage into the Yamuna. Thousands of crores has been spent to clean it, but nothing positive has been achieved. I would request all the politicians to come forward leaving behind all personal interests and help in cleaning the river.
Swati: Do you believe that anyone will come forward?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: (Laughs) Everyone has something special in them. One just needs to identify it. So, I just want to say that no one is wrong. A criminal can become a good person as in the case of Saint Valmiki.
Those who govern and social workers, if they work together, can bring about great improvement. I would request the Delhiites to come forward once in a week and help in cleaning Yamuna. If we do so for a year, then certainly its water will become clean.
Swati: How have you kept yourself away from controversies?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: I speak from my heart. I teach people to be simple and easy-going.
Swati: What’s your say on currency garlands? Is it corruption or faith?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: People who believe in Mayawati have presented her with currency garlands. But Mayawati should understand the situation herself. I cannot comment on whether it is corruption or faith. But I believe that if a certain party has enough money it should do social service.
It’s good that Mayawati has done quite well in leading and integrating people of all castes and religions. Crime rate has declined to a great extent in her rule. But there’s lot more that she can do.
Swati: Do you agree with the Government’s strategy towards Maoists?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: Maoists are not bad people. They are not partying in jungles. Maoists have stood up for a cause. If people like them join mainstream and handle the government affairs, then a revolution is certain in the country.
But I don’t agree with the violent path followed by Maoists. I request them to lay down arms and choose the ballot rather than the bullet. I would like to tell them that all of us are affected by corruption. We are also fed up of dirty politics. But killing police officials, organizing blasts and laying down mines is not justified.
Swati: If the government requests, will you act as a mediator?
Sri Sri Ravishankar: Yes, if the government gives me an opportunity, then I am ready to act as a mediator between Government and Maoists.
Adapted by Biplob Ghosal