Media missed the grandeur of this great event and later repented, realizing that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s charisma always depended on the relief experienced by millions of people across the globe because of his sayings (and never on the feeble support that normally gets generated through media coverage).

Delhi has been the host to the best global event of this century, that has enabled a new spiritual high in the multitude of population everywhere (name any country).

The said World Culture Festival 11,12,13 March 2016, was a celebration of The Art of Living’s 35 years of service to humanity, spirituality and human values. The festival celebrated the diversity in cultures from across the world while simultaneously highlighting our unity as a human family. An estimated 3.5 million people took part in this celebration to make it a grand success.

Below is the talk given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Founder of The Art of Living) on the 11 March 2016:

There are five main things that unite us all, they are:

  1. Sports – A child begins playing soon after it is born. Sports aspire a universal appeal with everyone at all times, and bring everyone together.
  2. Art and Culture
  3. Business and Economy
  4. Spirituality
  5. Intellectual Debate

These five areas unite humanity everywhere in one thread. Today is such a wonderful occasion – that people from so many countries have all gathered here to send out the message to the world that – “We are all One!”

We are a One World family. The Art of Living is more of a principle; a philosophy of living life to its fullest. It is a movement, and not really much of an organization. Its core value is to find peace within oneself, and to unite people of different cultures, traditions, religions, nationalities; thus reminding us all, that we have one goal to uplift human life everywhere.

It is a collective effort to bring together Bhakti (devotion), Shakti (inner strength and resolve), Yukti (awakened intelligence) and Mukti (sense of freedom) in one’s life.

It is an art of uniting minds, and hearts in a unique harmony.

In India, we have always dreamt of the world as one family. Today that dream seems to be taking shape into reality – “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – we are all one.

There should be no difference between our speech and our actions, no difference between what we are inside or outside, and our actions should be such that they bring peace and comfort to us, and to everyone around us.

Spirituality helps one to reflect within oneself, and to realize that what lies within oneself is what is present everywhere too. This wave of spirituality, this wave of happiness is what we need to spread across every nook and corner of the world. This is the one aim, with which we all have gathered here today.

I would say one thing to you all – whatever love and belongingness you give to the society, and to the world; you get 100 times of that back in return. It is indeed difficult to express this in words, but if there is a name to the art of experiencing and recognizing the infinity within oneself, that is spirituality. We have to take this wave of spirituality to the entire world.

Someone said that “The World Culture Festival 2016 is Gurudev’s private party!” (Laughter)

I said, “Well, yes! It is indeed, because the whole world is my family and belongs to me”.

This is what Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam means, and as such, it is really a private party for the entire family. When we do not desire anything for ourselves, then in that very moment everything and everyone belongs to us, so totally. Then the entire world belongs to us. Usually we feel that there is something or the other that is lacking in our personal life, or that our personal life and public life are two different things entirely. But when there is no gap, no distance or difference between our personal and public life, when there is total oneness and belongingness with everyone and everything in this world, then at once you see a light – a light of the Divine – which is the basis of this entire creation, and on which this entire universe is upheld.

One world family

Silence and celebration go hand in hand. We have always thought of life as a continual struggle. But it is an art to be able to transform that struggle into a grand celebration. And you all have given this festival so many unique colors of celebration today, by gathering here. So many youth have gathered here today.

Some visually challenged children also have come to attend this festival from Bijapur (Karnataka – India), which is so far away. Despite being visually impaired, they have traveled that long distance, to be a part of this musical celebration. It is such a beautiful occasion.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Shreyansi Bahu-Vighnani” (many obstacles appear for a great and noble deed). It means, when you want to do something great, something wonderful, then you will find that many obstacles come in the way.

I would not speak much now. All I would say is, just have this deep and unshakable faith, that which is universal and timeless, that which belongs to everyone is also yours and belongs to you. This Divine knowledge, this truth which is so universal, unbound by space and time, which belongs to everyone, and that which we have imbibed in our lives, are required to be spread to everyone. People have come from far and wide, right from Argentina, Mongolia, Pakistan, Nepal, etc., and I welcome you all here, and I would say that you have all come to your home. This is a spiritual home for you all.

Today we are giving out a very strong message of oneness to the whole world when it is so much needed, when there is so much gap between communities, nations, between ideologies, etc. To everyone we are giving this message today, that we can all co-exist with our differences, we can love each other with our differences. Diversity is the nature of this planet, so let us love this diversity. Let us all care for the environment and let us care for each other. This is the message we need to spread far and wide. We need to convey to everyone that we love Nature, it is in our very DNA.

Today, we are also going to honor all the farmers who are preserving this country, this land and this very earth. We need to promote techniques of Organic Farming, and we must all put aside the myth that you can only grow good vegetables with pesticides and chemicals. Our farmers have put an end to this myth with Organic Farming, they have grown food organically, and have become wealthy.

One farmer said that he was making only Rs 40,000/- a year, earlier. Now the same farmer is making Rs. 4,00,000/- a year by following Organic Farming techniques, and he is able to cultivate so much more food. So let us all grow more food, let us all care for our environment, for the people around us, and let us spread the message of peace and harmony through knowledge, culture, art, music and social service.

Below is talk given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 12 March 2016:

Param Pujya Sri Sri Shankaracharya Ji Maharaj, all the great revered saints, spiritual leaders assembled here today, and the esteemed religious leaders,

There are people here from all religions, all nationalities to give this message, we are one world family. From regional consciousness to national and then to universal consciousness, this is the growth that the human race is looking for. So we are here from so many nations, so many different languages, following different faiths, with one intention to bring love and harmony in the world. Isn’t it so?

When there is tension between different communities, conflict between different religions, then man becomes disturbed and lost. In such an environment, a person tries this and that, wanders here and there, but is not able to get any comfort, any relief or sense of peace. When millions of people across the world are stressed and disturbed by such situations, then a single cry arises from the hearts of everyone – Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu (may everyone be happy and at peace).

Let everyone be happy — this pure intention is already in every heart, it only needs to unfold a little bit more.

Bearing the weather and all the inconveniences, see how we have all gathered here. This itself is a message that we are all determined to bring the positivism in the society, where people from all the different ideology come onto one platform, to agree on the common shared principles that the world today really needs.

There are many international people who are listening to this today from all over the world. Yesterday I was told that we had people from 161 countries watching us over the webcast. So we are not alone, we are not just a few people here. As I said, my family is of seven billion people. So remember, if you want to invite me for anything, you are inviting seven billion people. So an estimated 1.8 billion people from around the world have been with us.

It is so heartening to see people from Pakistan here, and our neighbors from Nepal and Bhutan. Here today, we also have a chief guest from Syria, Grand Mufti of Syria is here. When he met me yesterday, he said, “Gurudev, India has the oldest philosophy of the planet and I very much would love to see this, and be a part of this beautiful festival that you are having. We need this peace in Syria today”

I replied, “Of course yes, we are with you”.

We have people from Iraq here, we have people from Lebanon and Jordan. We all need to wake up to the Human Values that all religions have been talking about all through the ages. Since time immemorial through the ages, all religions have always said one thing – and that is to uplift humanity.

The meaning of Dharma is exactly this: Dharma is that which upholds us, uplifts us, and prevents us from going astray or falling into negativity. But we have somehow forgotten these deeper truths. As I said yesterday, there are five things that unite us all:

  1. Sports:
  2. Art & Culture:
  3. Business and Economy
  4. Spirituality
  5. Intellectual Debate or Science

Spirituality is the essence of all religions, and today is a confluence of spirituality, that we are witnessing here.

Many Sufi saints from Deobandh have graced us today to bless us all and bless this festival. We are also honored to have many Imams from Pakistan; many Jain Munis (Saints) such as Tarun Sagar Ji.

From the Southern Baptist Church in America we have with us Revered Durley and Dr Carter. They have come all the way from America to participate in The World Cultural Festival.

We also have a 100-year old Marthoma Saint from Kerala who has come all the way to attend this festival and bless us all. This is such a great thing. He just addressed us all and spoke so beautifully. The thoughts of all the saints are the same, and so aligned with each other.

The path of spirituality is what we all must walk on. We should help and inspire others too, to come to this path.

In such a huge event, there may be small slips in honouring and observing the formalities of reception of guests when there are so many things and people to attend to. You all have a big heart, and I sincerely believe you will forgive us and overlook the same. For a saint it is said, “Hridaya Navaneeta Samana”(a saint’s heart is like the butter, which melts easily). So I know that you will bless everyone. I am sure about it!

In the same way we also received a fond message from Dadi Janki Ji from the Brahmakumaris. So many religious leaders from different states and provinces in India have come here today. The number of saints here is truly beyond count. We also have dignitaries and senior politicians from different countries of the world, attending here today.

This is truly a unique confluence of people through the medium of Art, culture, music: we have politicians, businessmen, farmers and people from all walks of life.

Back then, when we were still discussing how to organize this huge event, a small farmer youth approached us one day. He must have been less than 30 years old and he came with one of our volunteers. The volunteers told me, “Gurudev, this boy wants to give you something”. I asked him what it was. The boy handed over an envelope to me. Usually the envelopes that come to me contain letters from people writing about their problems and difficulties. But when I opened this boy’s envelope, I found there was a cheque in it for Rs 20,00,000/-.

The boy said to me, “Gurudev, you have undertaken such a grand event for the well being of everyone on earth. You must accept this small token from my side”.

I asked him what he did for a living. He said, “I have a farmland of four acres, a little ahead of Gurgaon”.

I asked him how much money he had earned so far, and he said “Gurudev, I have earned one crore rupees till now. Myself and my mother live together in the farm”.

I told him, “My dear, this pure feeling of contribution that you have is enough for me. I will not take this hard-earned money of yours”.

He felt surprised and asked, “Gurudev, is it less? Shall I contribute more?”

I told him, “No”.

Then the boy started crying. I hesitatingly told him, “Alight my dear, I shall take only one percent of this amount, since you want to contribute so sincerely. This feeling you have itself is good enough”.

Similarly, a school teacher also came to me one day to contribute. I asked her what she did.

She said, “Gurudev, I teach in a school”.

Just see the feeling, the purity of her intention. I told her the same thing, “Relax my dear, your intention to contribute itself is good enough. I will only accept Rs 500/- from you, and not more”.

When we have a large and generous heart, then we can achieve anything in this world.

God himself descends on Earth. God is not someone sitting far away in the skies, he resides within us all. This is the essence of all religions – be it Vedanta, Sufism, Islam, Christianity, etc. It is said in Christianity, “The Kingdom of God is within you”.

So do not go looking for God here and there. Just relax and repose within yourself in silence, and you will experience waves of deep bliss arising within you, that very moment.

Many many years ago, Lord Krishna danced upon many hoods of the Kalia, the demon snake. The snake Kalia had polluted and destroyed the River Yamuna so much because of his venom. Lord Krishna then destroyed the demon and brought relief and Moksha (liberation) to the River Yamuna.

Today, that same Krishna is present within you all, He is present in the form of all the saints who are here today. And that Krishna today will say to the River Yamuna through you all, “O dear Mother Yamuna, now we will rescue you. We will bathe you and make you clean and pure once again”.

Usually it is the mother who bathes and cleanses the children. Unfortunately the situation today is that we have to clean our very mother (River Yamuna). It is everyone’s wish here that the cleaning of River Yamuna should happen immediately and at the earliest.

Is it not so? Do you all not want this?

The environment is our Prana. When we think of ourselves as composed of five layers or Panchakosha, the very first sheath or layer – Annarasamaya Kosha – is the environment. This entire environment is the Annarasamaya Kosha (literally referring to the layer nourished and sustained by food). The entire world is full of Anna (nourishing food) and Rasa.

Then the next layer is the physical body, which I would compare to the Pranamaya Kosha (the layer sustained or inhabited by Prana). We can progress in life only when we keep the environment, the Annarasamaya Kosha pure and clean. We must always strive to leave this world in a much better state than the one we came into, for our own children and coming generations. Do you all agree to this or not?

A violence-free society, disease-free body, conflict-free mind, and the prejudice-free intellect are the rights and need of every individual today.

People sit with prejudice in their minds and this is a big problem in the world today. People who don’t even know you start talking about you. Hasn’t this happened to you? When you don’t even know someone and you talk about them, it has no value. We are wasting our energy doing this. Like this, we hold so many prejudices in our minds against different religions, castes, communities, genders, etc. Gender equality should be respected. When it comes to Art and Culture, you see that there is gender equality.

There is one more thing I would want to say. This stage is the stage for the World’s Cultures. People from so many different countries and different provinces have come here today. We honor and revere not just Indian Culture, but the culture of every country in the world today. The culture and heritage of every country is just as great and glorified as is ours today. So for a few moments, we must all remind ourselves that though we may belong to different countries, we are all Vishwa-Maanav: we are World Citizens first. This idea should reside in our hearts and we should remember that for all the cultures of the world. The World Culture Festival is the Olympics of culture, so let us bear in mind that what we are talking here is about universal brotherhood; not just one’s nationality but universality.

I request and appeal to everyone today to use more and more Solar Power. You can see that the people residing in nearby villages do not get electricity. The day before yesterday evening, we ensured that all those villagers got Solar-powered lights in their homes. Our intention was that there should be no darkness any more for anyone – neither darkness within, nor in the world outside.

When we dispel the darkness of ignorance from within, we realize we are pure, unblemished and untouched by anything. I have been honest and untainted all my entire life. Not once did I ever go late to school, and I have never paid a fine of even ten rupees in my life. So, this time also, I said that we will not pay any fine.

Then I was told that the amount requested by the Indian Green Tribunal is not a fine, or a penalty of any kind. The money asked from The Art of Living Foundation was for the purpose of restoration, rejuvenation and development of the River Yamuna and this area (referring to the flood-plain area which is also the venue of the World Culture Festival 2016).

We will put in every possible effort for this noble purpose, but we will not pay any penalty when we have not committed anything wrong.

We should all know this, that as much as people around the world are troubled with terrorism and violence. Pakistan too is equally in turmoil and disturbed due to terrorism. Pakistan and India and all other countries of the world need to remember that we are all One world citizens, we all belong to one another, and we are a part of the world. We are all children of God. We need to spread this message of love and peace everywhere, regardless of the political and geographical boundaries that exist. India and Pakistan should coexist in peace and walk ahead together for progress.

See, when one person wins it does not necessarily mean that the other person has to lose. It has to be a win-win situation for both. So you win and also help others win. This is true Dharma. Be victorious yourself and also help others to victory. This is the essence and message of love. So many of our beloved friends and well-wishers from Pakistan have arrived here and there are many who would be watching us live on TV and Webcast. May the message of love and peace resonate louder and louder from this platform of the World Culture Festival today!

 Below is talk given by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 13 March 2016:

A year back, when the thought came to me to organize A World Culture Festival,at that time when we visited this area (the venue), there was such bad odor in the area.

People told me that, when we can’t stand in this area for more than five minutes, then how can we hold a 3-day event?

I told them, “It is our job to remove bad odors and spread fragrance everywhere”. 

You all heard that voice, and took up the challenge and the job to organize this event. All the volunteers in Delhi worked so hard, and despite many challenges, they never stopped working for the event.

There is one more thing I want to share with you all. This stage on which we are all seated is unique in itself. There has never been a stage of this kind anywhere in the world for which the foundation was not dug deep into the ground. This stage of the World Culture Festival is a floating stage, there is no ground foundation laid for it. Many people fail to understand this, as they cannot conceive of such a stage. They often reason, that if you have built a 40-feet high stage, then the foundation for such a stage would have had to be deep into the ground. I tell them that this Mother Earth has blessed and supported us, as if by supporting and upholding the stage in Her own hands!

Then people said, “Gurudev, it is very unsafe”.

I replied, “Do not worry my dear. There is a power that is looking after everyone’s safety”.

When we are strong and established from within, then we can provide safety and security to the whole world. When we are shaky inside, then we cannot do so. Our job is to unite the hearts and minds of everyone, and this, we will continue doing with a smile. When nature posed some challenges in this process, then also it could not deter anyone from their enthusiasm.

Yesterday I told the organizers that we will close the event at 9 pm, but people continued to dance even in the drizzling rain. This shows that our hearts are in the right place and nothing can shake us. Our job is to move the world through love, compassion, dedication and service.

We had formed a reception committee which was honored by Boutros Boutros-Ghali by accepting to be its chairman. Our Chief Justice R C Lahoti became co-chair in the committee. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the sixth Secretary General of the United Nations. On 16th February he passed away from this world. Today, he is not with us in physical form but his spirit is with us. Looking upon this grand event, I am sure he must be feeling very happy and pleased. We thank his family; we appreciate them and extend our warm greetings to them.

Late Boutros Boutros-Ghali

It is unfortunate that some people in the media commented on Boutros Boutros-Ghali, because a man of his stature should be honored. I request our journalists and media to be more sensitive to such issues. You may choose to throw a 100 stones my way and I am ready to receive them all, for every stone will become a stepping stone to success.

But when it comes to such eminent personalities who are respected all over the world, we should extend great respect to them instead of addressing them with unfortunate titles and names such as ‘Dead man’. This was pinching my heart for quite some time now, so I thought I should give this message through this platform, so that his family members get a sense of relief and peace. Some people may commit such mistakes, but India, and so many countries in the world have very high respect for great personalities like Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

We should all move forward with enthusiasm, and take everyone together. We must thank all the committee members and all the volunteers, who have worked so hard for the success of this event.