By RUME OYITSO
Indian born world acclaimed peace ambassador and founder, Art of Living, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, recently led over 50,000 people across Africa to meditate for the peace and prosperity of the African continent.
The event which took place in Victoria Island, Lagos, was at the instance of the Art of Living Nigeria which made a call for guidance to the founder, Shankar.
Shankar, known popularly as Sri Sri, through a live webcast tagged “Voice of Africa” and was broadcast across 25 African countries, led participants to meditate and find inner peace.
Shankar, also an acclaimed spiritual and humanitarian leader, emphasised that “outer peace can only come from inner peace”.
“We only give what we have. A rich man has money so he can give money. You can’t ask a poor guy to give you money. A man who has knowledge, he gives knowledge. Similarly a person who has peace can bring peace to others. So we need to find peace within. Inner peace is the key to world peace. And meditation leads to inner peace”, he said.
He noted that breathing exercises and Yoga play important roles in inculcating a sense of well being and happiness in an individual. He noted that when an individual is happy, such individual will not resort to violence. But on the other hand, when the individual is not happy, he becomes a problem to the society.
“If individuals are not at peace they will bring disturbance to their families. And if one member of a family is disturbed, the entire family is disturbed and many such families make a colony. In a colony, if one family is disturbed they go crazy, they go violent.
“It disturbs their neighbours, it disturbs everyone around. That one disturbed family causes fear among others living in the same colony and you want to move away. Then the same people get into power and they are afraid of one another. And when they are not at peace, they are not happy and they make their neighbors also unhappy.
“The countries also suffer, their economy goes down because you are ruling a country out of fear and anything based on fear can only bring more disaster and more fear” he said.
Shankar stated further that: “Peace between the nations is possible when communities are peaceful, religions are at peace, each other families are at peace and the root of all these is individual peace, inner peace.”
Since its inception in 1981, the Art of Living has reached out to people in over 155 countries, spreading message of love and peace. Shankar was involved in the mediation between the government and Farc rebel group in Colombia which led to a peace pact that brought to an end 50 years of crisis in the South American nation.
Shankar is a multi-faceted social activist whose initiatives include conflict resolution, disaster and trauma relief, poverty alleviation, empowerment of women, prisoners’ rehabilitation, education for all and campaigns against female foeticide and child labour.
He said Africa is blessed with natural resources and beautiful people, but expressed sadness that the continent has suffered a lot of oppression and infighting. He appealed for peace and understanding as, according to him, it was the way to achieve progress.
“On this occasion, I appeal to the people in Sudan, Congo, Mali and all other nations where there is conflict between religion and communities, to drop the past and move on with the great spirit of oneness and with the great vision for a more prosperous and happy Africa.
“Inner strength can come through meditation. Let us hope for a very prosperous forward-thinking and peaceful African continent.
“Africa is covered by different continent on all the three sides and ocean on the other side, so there is technology and science from West, and there is wisdom and human values from the East and North. So, African continent can really benefit from its neighbours.
In his remark, Art of Living Programme Director in Nigeria, Akshay Jain, said the organisation had been teaching happiness and youth leadership in the country for more than 10 years.
“We have reached out to different strata of the society. For example, we have conducted courses in Prisons in Nigeria. We have also conducted these programmes in Enugu, Delta State and Lekki in Lagos.
Relating how meditation affects mental health, he said “There are evidences that the health of the people improved because when you do these types of exercises which calm your mind, your health is improved and you become better in whatever you are doing, be it in your profession or relationships because ultimately, you are calm and quiet inside.”
Jain said he has been in the organisation for the past 21 years, noting that in one of the trainings they held in a Nigerian prison, an inmate informed him that if he had had access to this kind of programme earlier in his life, he would not have been in prison.