From H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s (Founder of Art of Living) address at the 2009 Israeli Presidential Conference
Families have become smaller today, and values are eroding. We don’t have the same system as we had a few years ago where grandparents used to take care of the children. Grandparents never used to get depressed because they had children to play with them every day, and they had something to do at home. Today the situation is very different: there are small nuclear families and the biggest challenge today is depression. By 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) says the second biggest killer in the world will be depression. Can you imagine 92% of Palestine is depressed? 26% of the population in the USA have some sort of mental illness and depressed. 30% of Europe is suffering from depression. The estimation for the next 10 years is that it may be up to 48%. That means every other person you would meet on the street would be depressed. 40% of school teachers are depressed. We don’t want to go into tomorrow, it is so depressing!
Unfortunately, people don’t even acknowledge when they are depressed, and two-thirds don’t go for any sort of treatment. They suffer, they sit behind closed doors and they undergo so much pain and suffering because there is a taboo about mental illnesses.
We need to remove this taboo about mental illnesses and have people look at a healthy way of living. A change in lifestyle is necessary. If you look at our mind, we are angry about the past and anxious about the future. The only time we are at peace is the eight hours when we are sleeping and we are not active. Two thirds of our time on the planet earth we are on a treadmill running faster, but reaching nowhere.
We need to do something drastic. We need to take care of our health. A baby smiles 400 times a day, an adolescent smiles 17 times and an adult hardly smiles at all. A smile that comes from the heart of an individual is a sign of health, and to do that, a little wisdom is essential. We need to develop a vision for tomorrow and live in the present. Half our health we spend in gaining our wealth and we spend half that wealth in gaining our health back! 118 billion Euros are spent in trying to restore mental health in Europe alone. This is a shocking revelation for anyone. So we need to take care of the mental health of the people. I would say that we need to stop and think a little bit: What do I want? Am I happy? What race am I running? How can I have a sense of belongingness with everybody? How can I improve my surroundings and myself
As I was listening to Raheel Raza, I totally agree with what she says. We need to educate women. Happiness and freedom are not contrary. Freedom is not just waywardness. You know young people, teenagers; they just want to be free, not to be imposed under any restriction. I don’t call this freedom. Freedom is that which brings wisdom in life and educates people. If you are educated then you know what is good, what is right and you choose.
Pluralism and embracing people of all cultures should be part of our education. When an individual thinks that he belongs to this religion or that religion and gets closed up and doesn’t allow others to be part of his life. That’s when fanaticism begins. When I identify that only I belong to this and that and all others are no longer mine, that sense of narrow belongingness is the root cause of all problems. We need to bring about that multi-cultural and multi-ethnic approach. No community has ever been persecuted in India, including Jewish and Persian communities when they came from Iran. Even today Parsis are a big part of India. They are managing one of the biggest empires in India. Wealth and industries are with them. This sense of being in a multi-cultural society has been there for a long time. In Sanskrit we call it ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family. This value of one family is preached by yoga. Sciences like breathing techniques and yoga can calm a person down and make him or her think from a level that gives a long-term vision. When I was coming to Israel they first asked me, “Do you want the Israeli stamp on your passport?” I said yes. People said, “No, don’t get it stamped on your passport. Take a separate sheet. Even at the embassy they do this. They allow you to get a visa on a separate piece of paper. If it’s stamped in your passport, tomorrow you will have a problem in going to all the Arab countries.” I said, “No way, I want it in my passport.” Even when I landed here, I said I want the stamp in my passport twice, one for coming in and one for coming out.
The world is my family. I am committed to Israel. I am connected to Jewish people. I am connected to Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, everybody. So we need to break this narrow-mindedness and make people realize that we are all part of one world family. As minorities we are talking. I would like to say one thing: we have not learnt the lessons from the holocaust. Today, what is happening in Sri Lanka, Burma, Pakistan, and Bangladesh is really appalling. In Pakistan there was a minority of only 18% Hindus. Today there is less than 1%. What happened to them? Where did they go? We need to wake up. As my predecessor in her speech said, a multi-cultural approach and tolerance have to be promoted. We all have to join hands to promote tolerance. Thank you very much.