Temples, Caste and Sexuality: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Bares It All

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Speaks to The Quint on homosexuality, controversies around gurus and a religion-free society. 

Updated
India
4 min read
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke to The Quint about women being banned from temples and Rohith Vemula’s suicide. In the third part his interview series read about his life, the attempt to bring the world on a single stage, during the three-day World Culture Festival in Delhi, and his views on issues that affect our society.

Early Life

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

My teacher Sudhakar Chaturvedi was a very close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He lived with him for 40 years. We grew up in an atmosphere of satsang and meditation. I was already teaching meditation and yoga by the time I was 17 or 18. But in the year 1981, I thought something more must be done. It was then I went into a ten-day silence and Art of Living started with 30 doctors and engineers in a small south Indian town.

The Khalistan Movement in Punjab

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

In 1981, when Art of Living started, I was really very concerned about the violence in Punjab. I went to Longowal to meet two groups of Akalis. I couldn’t speak Punjabi, and I knew very little Hindi. But I was making my own efforts to reconcile. My obsession was to somehow unite people.

Conflict Between ‘Sashaks’ and ‘Sudhaaraks’

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

The role of the intellectual class, or the ‘reformers’, and the role of the ‘rulers’ are different. And its good to keep them apart. Very rarely you find a ruler who is also a reformer, and a reformer who wants to rule. To make things happen, both should work in harmony.

Decriminalising Homosexuality

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Image Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Image Altered by The Quint)

We should be progressive. We cannot keep all these colonial laws in existence. They have decriminalised homosexuality the world over. It is not a crime. We should wake up and see what the world is doing. This law is not Indian and was imposed on us by the colonials. Homosexuality is a personal choice and we cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual preference, how they dress, or their gender.

The Idea of a Religion-Free Society

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo:&nbsp;<b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

The idea of a religion-free society is not new to India. Atheism has been a part of Indian culture. Bu=ut Spirituality is what provokes you to go beyond your knowledge. Every religion has spirituality at its core. While religion these days has become more about rituals and symbols, spirituality emphasises on core values, and that is why it brings all religions together.

The Controversial Gurus of India

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

Among a large population of lakhs of people, there’s bound to be some bad apples. But you cannot renounce eating apples all at once. In this country, there are people who have brought disgrace to the field they belong to. But that should not become stoke paranoia. The media has sensationalised it. In India, anybody can declare themselves a spiritual leader. They neither have training, nor the education. In the past, we had people of exacting standards. Some people misuse the faith, and its a very big crime I would say.

Can Spirituality Bring Ethics in Business?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Photo: The Quint)

Every business man needs intuition and an innovative spirit. Patience and spirituality brings all these missing links to life. Young people today need a role model and the business leadership session at the World Culture festival is aimed at showing them examples that you don’t need to cheat people to grow and you can be honest and still make money.

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