H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar key note address - Verbatim - WHO Conference , Oct 6 th, Sri Lanka:
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti ! Honorable Minister, His Excellencies and Dignitaries on the dais, friends and distinguish guests.
As I was listening to our Honorable Minster of Health speak about mental well being, it came to my mind, you know the word for health in Sanskrit is SWASTHA that means one who is established in oneself, SWA means self STHA means one who is established in self, If you go to Bali island in Indonesia they greet you with OM SWASTHI RASTU – (may you have health), meaning well being, mental, physical, emotional, it includes everything, total well being.
In the east, as it was being earlier mentioned that 2500 years ago we have had this education, common masses, I would take it even further back 5110 years it was in Bhagvat Gita concept of well being, social well being is mentioned and even earlier Maharishi Patanjali made this whole treatise on yoga and how you can be happy physically, mentally and socially. If someone is obsessed with hatred, anger and jealousy they are not considered to be socially well, of course it is an ancient concept to have this mind which is a container of all knowledge, which is a container of intelligence, emotion and life force as such cleansed to keep it healthy and to get rid of this jealousy, hatred etc.
If you analyze today's problem there is hatred in society, there is greed, there is fear and because of this, depression sets. It was appalling to hear that depression will be the Number 1 disease in the coming decades in the world. In Europe nearly 30% of the population suffers from mental depression, 30% of the population!!! I was invited to address the psychiatrists in Europe and they said you know "we expect this rate of mental depression to go up to 48% in the coming decade'' and you can't feed half the population Prozac or other anti depressant, you need other ways, you have to change life styles, bring certain changes in our life styles and educate our self, what I would call as mental hygiene, you know dental hygiene, oral hygiene we teach people how to keep their teeth intact but we are not teaching how to keep our mind SANE or behavior pattern SANE.
I am happy that the World Health Organization has taken up this project now. It should have been taken a few decades before. We could have saved our planet from so much of this terrorism, hatred, ethnic conflicts, religious strives and emotional upheavals, traumas, but never the less we are now taking action. It has to take a fast track -educative and preventive programs throughout the world, even if one small pocket of the planet is left uneducated about mental well being you are not in a safe world. Terrorism is one such example of extreme mental sickness. So, in this august meeting, we will all have to sit and think of how we can reach sanity to every nook and corner of the planet. One idea is to bring the spiritual knowledge, ancient knowledge we have in this part of the world, bring a more secular, scientific attitude or temperament so that spirituality is accepted by all sections of society. It has to be free from dogmas. Scientific and secular spirituality is what we need, that would give to the world a mind which is healthy which can take any stress or pressure that the modern society is posing in front of us.
It is unfortunate that in some countries yoga is banned. Yoga is a very simple way to keep your system free from stress, to keep happy, to keep contented. I think it is just because of lack of education. If the World Health Organization takes such a role to convey to the people, countries, and the health ministers of the various countries where they are trying to ban or partially ban yoga and yogic practices, to realize the importance of it. And usually we say there are 4 sources of energy, 1st source is food that everybody agrees and we all know and there is lot of education on nutrition today and the 2nd source of energy is sleep, you give someone enough food and you don't let them sleep they go mad, they go insane. A good amount of sleep, not too much and not too little, someone sleeps 10hrs everyday they get duller and duller day by day. So the right amount of sleep 6 to 8hrs of sleep would give you enough energy not less. 3rd source of energy is breathing as our honorable guest from Thailand emphasized on the breathing. I would say most of the illness can be handled through breathing exercises, proper breathing can improve the blood circulation, neurological health, physical health and mental health - breathing is very important for energising our system. 4th source of energy I would say is a happy mind, meditative mind.
A meditative mind gives you so much energy. You might have experienced in your own life you know, when there is a function at home and you have to work 16-18hours a wedding or housewarming ceremony or any new project which is very emotionally dear to you, you work 18hours, 20hrs you don't get tired but in the office you are asked to take 2 more hours to work you feel exhausted, so the mind plays an important role. The commitment in the mind, the focus in the mind brings lots of energy too. So meditation is the 4th source of energy. So you need to educate the population on this, and all the 4 different sources of energy so that they can benefit by attending to them.
Mental well being to me is improved perception, improved observation and improved expression. Like, the body grows from the time you are born to the age 21, 22 and then the body starts deteriorating, our mental age, our mental well being should grow simultaneously from childhood we need to keep improving our perception, observation and our expression this has no age, usually psychologists say 50 or 40 it stops, middle age our mental observation, expression starts deteriorating. I say if you are practicing yoga or meditation this doesn't happen. There is no decay of your mental well being. You know the other day a psychologist came to me, he has opened a clinic and says ''Guruji, please give me blessings ''. I said ''what?!!’’, I don't get patients, please bless me so that I get at least 3-4patients, I can break even, I can make some money”. Asking me to give blessing so that patients come to them, probably the psychologist would be happy to hear that there is one suicide every 40second so that there is dearth for patients.
There is a taboo about mental well being, it is not that there no mentally sick people but unlike going to a doctor if you have some other illness, if you are mentally not well you go to a doctor then that is taboo, there is stigma attached to it, so you feel very down, the family and the society looks down upon you. We need to correct this through education, educating people you know it is ok to go and see psychiatrist / psychologist and it is normal. In some countries it is a fashion, at least one member in a family goes to a counselor in Argentina, if you go to Buenos Aires you find lot of people go to psychologist even though they are well, they have no mental illness. It is a sort of fashion to go to a psychologist / psychiatrist / counselor, to talk about how you feel and what's your problem in your life, but in South Asian countries you have big taboo about it. We have to get rid of this stigma , we have to get rid of the stigma no doubt, also, we have to educate people in our own ways of meditation, of yoga, breathing techniques, of spirituality of community living, community service, singing, dancing, participating in social activities, games, all these can help in the mental well being.
You know, I heard that a very well known industrialist in India, he would call all doctors at his house, anyone says he is a doctor he would invite him / her and give them the fees, take the prescription whatever they give and then get all the medicines as well ! So his attendant asked him,'' why do you call all these doctors?'' , he replied,'' so that they will live, make a living'' Then the attendant asked, ‘why do you buy all the medicines they prescribe - Unani, ayurveda, alopathy, homeopathy- why do you buy all the medicines sir ???''. He replied,'' so that the pharmaceutical companies can live''. ''But sir, you don't take any of these medicines??''...he replied,'' So that I could live myself!''(laughter). You know the irony is medicine is not the answer for all this, placebo effect has demonstrated to the world over and over that it is not just swallowing pills that you can get well or taking more and more of these vitamins and minerals that you are going to be better. You need to attend to lifestyle, you need to attend to your food habits, you need to attend to how you interact with people, what are you taking from every interaction.
As I am speaking, see if you observe the mind, mind is saying ''yes or no'', mind is accepting that which it already agrees and knows, or every few minutes mentally we go for a cappuccino or a cup of tea, or presence of mind is not there! And this is a problem in our schools and colleges, children say we study for whole day but nothing remains in our mind, retention power has become so less, you ask today's youth to narrate one movie or story he has seen, you know he can't do it completely he will mix it up with 2/3 movies that he has seen, because the stimulus bombardment to our mind is so high we are not recuperating that energy, that mental energy, a sense of well being. We are not attending to the container; we are simply dumping things into the container. Information is being pumped into the container; we are not expanding the capacity of the container or attending to its cleanliness.
Mind is our container, container of our life, we need to expand it and this happens through a few moments of silence, few moments of meditation, few moments of deep relaxation and I am so glad that this breakthrough has happened in the world today through the World Health Organization recognizing this mental well being. Recognizing that the people's behavioral pattern had to be attended to, otherwise they are not healthy. You know in many meetings people sit and talk for hours together and argue and counter argue really not being aware of what they are saying. I would like you to ponder on this, - come up with practical solutions, and create teams, combined efforts of NGOs, governmental agencies, civil society, everyone together, religious bodies, religious institutions should get on to this project, a combined effort of all of us, of this different aspect of society, to make society, the world, a better place, a better human being for the coming generations. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Celebrate Life : 'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.'