Vedanta and Buddhism - Bringing Global Peace in the Current Scenario, Bangalore, India | The Art Of Living Global
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Vedanta and Buddhism - Bringing Global Peace in the Current Scenario, Bangalore, India

February 2008

Excerpt of the Inaugural address by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - Honoring Diversity

Om namah pranavaarthaaya shuddha gyaneka murtaye;
Nirmalaaya prashaantaaya dakshina murtaye namah.

One thing I noticed today, among all the dignitaries and monks present, is that the program has taken off with some silence. Do you notice that there is an underlying silence? Our words or thoughts are like seeds being sown in the field of silence. There is already an atmosphere that all you venerable masters, sanyasis have created right here, right now. What we talk is not that important but what we are is more important. I am so glad to be in the presence and company of all of you who exude that silence and wisdom.

The topic is similarities and differences between Vedanta and Buddhism. Let us first see the similarities. Vedanta has always been fighting against any form of discrimination, superstitions and ritualistic practices. It has always stood for uniting mankind. Today rituals have taken over the philosophies of all the religions in the world. The essence of spirituality, the real wisdom has taken a back seat.

I thought now is the time when we must bring the wisdom to the forefront. When there is wisdom, even though there are different view points, there will be no conflict. Wisdom always views reality from various different angles. Honoring the diversity, finding unity in it, is wisdom. Celebrating diversity in oneness and finding unity in diversity are the two main aspects of wisdom.

In today’s world, when we see so much conflict and violence, I thought that there cannot be any better solution than bringing Buddhist and Vedanta thoughts to the forefront in the world. The two great traditions which have come out of this land were never in conflict. They existed in such a beautiful cooperation that it is an example for the whole world to follow. I once heard that President Nixon from America went to Japan and he was sitting between a Shinto priest and a Zen monk.

There was an inter-faith conference and President Nixon asked the Shinto priest, “What is the percentage of Shintos in Japan?” The priest replied, “Shintos represent 80 percent of the population in Japan.” President Nixon then turned to the Zen monk and asked, “What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan?” The monk said “80 percent”. President Nixon was so confused. He asked, “How is it possible?” The priest and monk said it was possible because in every Shinto shrine, there was a statue of the Buddha and in every Buddhist shrine, the Shinto faith was honored.

The greatness of Buddhism is that it has always honored the Buddhas of the past, the present and the future. The Vedantic philosophy has also always honored the Gurus and Rishis of the past, present and the future. The second verse of the Rigveda says, “Rishih Purverbhirnutanedo Sadevamyeh”. Honoring wisdom which is timeless and which comes up from time to time with differences in interpretation is a specialty of this part of the world.

There are in all ten religions in the world – four are from the Middle East and six are from the Far East. If you look at history, there was never a war between the six religions of the Far East. There was never a war between Jainism and Buddhism or Sikhism or Shintoism or Taoism because we emphasize on wisdom. Why not share this specialty or this quality which we possess with the rest of the world? The world needs to know how to live amidst differences and celebrate those differences.

Within Hindusim, there are so many schools of thought. There is Bhakti Pant, Advaitya, Vishitha Advaita, Shakti Vishishta Advaita and many other schools of thought. There are some good things in every school of thought, something very practical. It is wisdom that focuses on those beneficial aspects, the unity amongst these things and moves forward. Look at the problems facing Myanmar, Sri Lanka or even in India where violence has taken a front seat. The land of the Buddha, the land of Adi Shankara, the land of Mahavira, today is facing Maoists problem, domestic violence, alcoholism and drugs. These issues are prevalent in the world and we have to jointly address them. Today, Japan tops the list of depressed people with 20 million people.

Young people are getting so depressed. Around 27 percent of Europe is living in depression. We, the Buddhist tradition and the Vedantic tradition, have the solution for these ills of society. Buddhism takes one inward to that meditative state, deep within one self from where one can combat the social ills of today – depression, discrimination, violence. I fully support the struggle of Buddhist monks in Myanmar to have a free society.

Usually it is thought that monks or vedantics should simply confine themselves to their meditation practices and not interfere with society. I think it is a wrong notion. The monks have to be agents of social change and only monks can do this because they do not have any personal or selfish interest. All that you need to say is “Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavantu”. Saying this chant daily in the morning and evening, will give direction to our action. Sri Lanka is facing the same problem of terrorism. Nepal is the only Hindu country in the world to face unspeakable amounts of violence. Peace has to exude from our being. This is where Vedanta plays an important role. It is Buddhism which has put so much stress on meditation and nirvana, not by simply sitting and imagining what the heart sutra says, “Nothing is everything”.

Buddhism, one system of philosophy, says, “Nothingness of everything” while Vedanta, the other, says, “Fullness of everything”. Vedanta says it’s all full and Buddhism says, “It is nothing.”A couplet in the Yoga Vashistha illustrates this by saying the self is so empty like the sky and so full like the ocean. These are two different ways of looking at the truth. Adi Shankracharya was against the Mimansa system because they were sacrificing souls in the name of religion. Buddhism also spoke against various Vedic sacrificial ceremonies which were prevalent in those days.

The two systems have, in fact, seen the same reality from two different sides and have presented them to the world which is full of conflicts today. The responsibility of bringing the two traditions in harmony, resolving conflicts, bringing peace lies with all of us, in whatever manner possible. In these two days of deliberation, I am sure we will have brilliant discussions on how to go about our planning. I am so happy to have you all and to be in your presence.

Let us make some concrete plans. Plans happen when all of us sit together and decide. If one person makes a plan and shares it, it is not everybody’s plan. So we all have to think. Conferences are meant for this. We need concrete plans for heightening our awareness, Jagrut Chetna. How can we enhance spirituality in religion and reach it to people from all corners of the planet so that the whole world lives in peace?

Sri Sri Tour Schedule  


Voices of World Leaders


"We need more than ever the contribution of men and women of faith who defend and promote the human values that bind us together.The values you (His Holiness) champion,including non-violence,compassion and the sanctity of all life,go to the heart of what the United Nations stands for."
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon

"Through its manifold activities, The Art of Living Foundation has made important contributions to transmit Human Values across the globe."
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Hon. Prime Minister of India

"There are big powers who have big might, but they are not able unite the hearts and minds of people. This work can be done only by a spiritual leader."
Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki

"The Art of Living Foundation is one of India's stars. It has an incredible -- actually incredible -- following that cuts through all religions, cultures and backgrounds, a very, very difficult thing to do in today's world."
Vice-President, United States of America,Joe Biden

"The teachings of His Holiness provide the world with a road-map for love, justice and harmony. His spiritual and humanitarian actions are worthy of praise since it is rare to find people so dedicated to the human cause. His knowledge, service and unwavering commitment to peace, drive thousands of volunteers towards community service."
President, Mauritius,His Excellency Sir Anerood Jugnauth

"His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is seen as an international figure who has been spreading the message of peace and harmony throughout the world."
Former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe

"We welcome the delegation with open arms and hearts. We welcome you as our brother and we are ready to work hand in hand with you."
Shia leader of Iraq, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Yaqubi

"Where ever The Art of Living Foundation builds- builds the world. With that simple message, if that’s something we can replicate in every community, in every country across the globe, this will be a peaceful and non-violent world to live in, for the benefit of all the future generations."
PA, United States, Congressman Jim Gerlac

"The Art of Living leads with an open mind to education, and that education leads to choice. It opened my eyes to how development could or would occur in the future."
Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences, Dr. Myron S. Scholes

"My NGO, Transparency International, is fighting corruption all over the world, and it has been energized, inspired, and strengthened by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar."
Founder & Chairman of Advisory Board, Transparency International, Germany, Prof. Dr. Peter Eigen

"It is indeed imperative to initiate programs for re-establishing human values in society and enhancing ideas for global harmony. I extend my deep admiration and appreciation for your work."
Former Prime Minister of Norway, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland

"I commend Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's emphasis on the inculcation of human values in all walks of life. Mere material progress, in the absence of concomitant development of the basic life-sustaining cultural and spiritual ideals, will not help our society in the long-run. The Art of Living Foundation is both an easy-to-understand philosophy and an easy-to-practice activity. "
Leader of Opposition & former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee

" I have met many NGOs - representatives of indigenous people - and they have made it clear that economic development alone does not suffice. The common future of our one world family is rooted in the awareness that we have only borrowed mother earth from the generations to come. The Art of Living is not the end, but it is the beginning for everybody and everything. It is the way to harmony."
~ Hon. Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minister, The Netherlands

" I am proud to be a part of that group that is helping to create important bonds, and look forward to working with the man of peace, man of vision, man of compassion and a man of action. We certainly need that in the world today.  "
Congresswoman, United States, Jan Schowski (IL)

"His Holiness’ initiatives consider human beings in their entirety, and heal the body, mind and spirit. The Art of Living is one of the rare NGOs which works at the grass root level, close to the population and goes to the core of the problem"
Djedje Dano Sebastien, Minister of National Reconciliation, Ivory Coast.

" H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’ projects that are being implemented in prisons in a far away country – my country – Croatia, are making life a little easier for our people there. You have made a mark, made a difference, and that is the greatest thing a human being can contribute in his lifetime"
Her Excellency Dr. Vesna Pusic, Vice-President, Republic of Croatia


International Honors

"I share this award with all those people who stand for a violence-free and stress-free society. This award is not for a person or personality, but for a principle that stands for the ideal of a 'one world family' and cultural plurality." Sri Sri on receiving the 2009 Culture in Balance Award


"Sri Sri's mission of uniting the world into a violence-free global family has inspired millions the world over." Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, (India), Dr Mrunalini Devi Puar when conferring Sri Sri with the Doctorate

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Days

October 29, 2008 was declared Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Day in Texas, United States of America.