Everyone has the right to be ignorant – Sri Sri Ravishankar’s reply to Javed Akhtar

published on March 29, 2009

It is funny that in a country like India spirituality is talked
about as a hoax. How can something which is so obvious, which is part
of millions of people, be taken as a hoax? Spirituality
is not a halo of the few, it is the breath of every human being. Have
people forgotten that freedom was achieved through spirituality as the
prime means by Mahatma Gandhi?

It has become a fashion with journalists to blindly continue the colonial tradition of calling Hindu spiritual leaders a hoax. They called Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo godmen and hoaxes, and their contemporaries continue to do so. Would they say this to Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama? No! Only Indian spiritual leaders are singled out.

The India Today Conclave offered a basis for a discussion on
spirituality, “Halo or Hoax?” Javed Akhtar joked, “In movies we create
an illusion and then after three hours we put up a sign, The End, and
make people step back into reality, whereas spiritual people also
create an illusion but they do not put an end to it.” The audience
applauded. I smiled within and thought, yes, what this man says is
correct, all that is created comes to an end. If something does not end
then it is not created! Perhaps he didn’t even realise the profound
truth of what he was saying.

So in some way he tacitly accepted that the love and drama he
creates in the movies does end, but the love and transformation created
by spiritual people never end. Yes, this whole world is an illusion
that never ends. I drew Adi Shankara from his sarcasm. What an enigma: the perception and the reality. So Mr Akhtar is actually saying that his reel love songs
are false. If only he knew the reality: that his lyrics express the
genuine feelings of thousands of youth when they come and sing his
marvelous songs before me, with that spark of love in their eyes.
Real-life love never ends; it moves from life to lifetimes.

Spirituality is intoxicating. Only those who step into it will
know. Before criticising we need to do our homework. Has one visited
ashrams, like the Ramakrishna Ashram, Ananda Mayi Ma Mutt, Brahma Kumaris’, Gayatri Parivar, Pandurang Shastri, Sri Aurobindo Ashram
or Art of Living? Has one spent time with saints? Only then does one’s
views carry weight, else they remain simple accusations only, a
distorted perception, not reality.

Mr Akhtar thundered again: “All modern-day spiritualists are
hypocrites”. Many people froze as he dismissed the present-day gurus.
Today there are millions of people who follow spirituality: are they
all hypocrites? I appreciated that he could express his feelings
boldly, without pretension. But the contempt that was exhibited for
gurus was alarming. The hatred and frustration were obvious from his
body language. It’s not just Mr Akhtar. Many journalists, communists,
atheists and naxalites live in that state of mind, of being
anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business.

Should I argue and put him down? No! I have never put anyone down.
I can’t deviate from my nature. So I simply said, everyone has the
right to be ignorant.

A flash of Aurangzeb, who butchered
thousands of gurus and would not listen to any reason or logic, came to
mind. An intelligent man would look into all the avenues
before he makes a comment or accusation. It is necessary to stand up
for justice and expose the misdeeds of the world. Instead the so-called
activists only engage in accusations. Blaming the entire modern-day
spiritual guru and sadhu community is as foolish as branding the entire
Muslim community as terrorists.

It is the medieval brahmanical mindset to always put down business
and politics and the colonial mindset to denounce gurus. As a result we
never expanded our political influence nor globalised our business
until very recently.

Then came his next statement that Buddha
went from the palace to the forest and today the gurus come from the
forest to the palace. I said to myself, ‘Come on! Buddha went to the
forest when he was unhappy and miserable, and he came right back when
he became a guru’. Any high school student knows this. Besides, every
palace had a rajguru. Last year hundreds of sadhus were evicted from
the caves and hermitages of the Himalayan region, near Haridwar,
by the forest department. People generally think sadhus should live in
forests with torn clothes but the forest department wanted to send them
to the city!

The atheists have always fought with spiritual people. In those
situations we should know how to act. It is pointless to argue with
them. What do you say to a man who has never stepped into the realm of
spirituality yet calls it a hoax? One cannot make a blind man see the
light through his nose.

Unfortunately atheists are just fearful and good dramatists. A man
who equates arms, drugs and spirituality is not going to change his
opinion immediately and anyway his opinion is not going to matter for
what is and what will be. Come on, I thought, sing a new song. My
compassion grew.

Often activists seem to create rage and revenge in the victims;
they cannot bring solace and creative action. In the name of justice
they fume with hatred. This can lead to acts of violence like the
recent killings of 19 sadhus in Uttar Pradesh.
It has been an old tradition to glorify the dead, and call the living a
hoax. Kabir had to put up with this as did Meera, Buddha, Jesus, Adi
Shankara and many more… the wise do not mind the outburst of a few.

Spirituality is not a matter of the head, it is a matter of the
heart. I had two choices: to argue and turn the conclave into a
conflict or to keep silence. I chose the latter.

(H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living)

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

18 − 17 =


Latest Articles from Dharma Smriti

Did You Know?