Every so often, finding myself in need of reflection and spiritual refreshment of a different kind, I like to examine talks concerning Eastern Wisdom. So it was that I found myself watching Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talking about Karma. This is not his first visit to these pages.
I thought Karma was simply a spiritual judgmental philosophy: behave yourself or else! How wrong I apparently was.
Mr rhetor hat is never far away. My passion for my work is such that though intending merely to soak up what he is saying I can’t help but register how he is saying it. Look at the way he lays out his stall so clearly in the first minute and a half. And look at how it leads like silk into the next section where he makes the distinction between good Karma and bad Karma, how the one can be used to drive out the other, but how even the good Karma must then be rinsed away.
“Rinsed.” I had to use that verb – he made me. He weaves a vey clever parallel, beginning at 5:55, to explain why even good Karma must be evicted from your mind for you to be completely at rest.
His pace seems almost glacially slow, made slower by huge pauses, yet he explains more in twenty quiet minutes than I have often seen imparted in twice as many frenetic ones.
I love his final message. Having led us through a labyrinth of what Karma is, is not, and how best to cope with it, he finishes by saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
It is a little like my training. I very often say to my trainees that when you boil it all down this is just talking. And so it is. Don’t worry about it.
The most popular article so far on this blog I posted on 5 April this year. It was a rave review of a speech by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. When therefore I happened upon talks made by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar I was eager to explore them, though nervous of doing a critique lest I fall into the trap of odious comparisons. There was something else that stayed my hand: though there are numerous examples on line of Sri Sri sitting and applying his spiritual wisdom to questions from the audience, and a few examples of his pacing a stage and liberating a stream of consciousness, it took a great deal of searching to find anything that could be described as a formal speech. Here he is, addressing an audience at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel on 19 November, 2009, and the speech is entitled Spirituality and Money.
I have been unable to find the name of the man who does the introduction; but he speaks for four minutes, taking care of Sri Sri’s ethos. Sri Sri therefore doesn’t have to worry himself with that, but he does work on decorum. The introducer has a firm, decisive manner of delivery and Sri Sri immediately takes away the stridency and pace, in order that a quieter, calmer, almost somnolent atmosphere might prevail. Within a short while you could hear a pin drop.
I mentioned earlier the prevalence of his Q&A sessions to be found on line, and it quickly becomes evident that that is his favoured form of communication with audiences. He is not altogether happy in this speech environment. He meanders around with no real structure, or even message except the Peace and Brotherhood stuff that you might expect. He congratulates Israel on the success of its struggle for survival in the face of constant terrorism, indicating that India and Israel suffer more terrorism than all other countries. He talks about gaining inner peace through good breathing habits.
Then, apparently becoming suddenly mindful of the title of his talk – Spirituality and Money – he starts talking about the economic crash which, at the time, was a very recent memory. He claims that it took less than ten months for capitalism to collapse. I can hear in my mind those who would stoutly maintain that it wasn’t capitalism that collapsed but corporatism.
For more than ten minutes he wanders in this vein; and then suddenly, as if from a hat, he produces at 14:45 a neat little tricolon. We need, he says, to …
secularise the religion
socialise the business
spiritualise the politics.
Not only I, but the audience are pleasantly startled at this sudden appearance of an emerging structure. They show it with a ripple of applause. For two and three quarter minutes he delivers a coherent tripartite message, fleshing out that tricolon. It’s the strongest part of the speech and concludes it. At 17:30 he invites questions, and thereafter for 8 minutes he is in his element.
So if I go where angels fear to tread, odiously comparing him with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the latter unquestionably delivers a better speech. In terms of the relative wisdoms of their respective spiritual messages, delivered in whatever genre suits them, that is a completely different matter and light years beyond my competence.