I have this crazy idea... a world without violence. This might appear to be utopian thinking, but we need to dream and we will get there! If we instill pride in being non-violent, in being compassionate, in being helpful to others, our lives will take a new direction. And that should be our unwavering commitment.
Since the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, The Huffington Post has tracked and recorded more than 2,240 deaths across America as a result of gun-related homicides and accidental shootings. It is saddening to see the impact of gun violence on our families and society. An ABC news report indicates that there are more gun retail stores than grocery stores in the U.S. When we have not provided education in non-violence, or equipped people with tools to control their aggressive tendencies, we cannot afford to have so many gun stores making it easy to pursue deadly acts of violence.
Aggressive tendencies can occur in anybody; it is quite natural. But one should be taught how to handle that aggressive tendency in a healthy way. Each of us needs to know how to handle our negative emotions. We cannot leave it to the law and order officials to deal with various acts of violence seen in the society today. Diffusing stress in the environment and taking steps to bring out human values is our responsibility too. Each one of us should take out some time -- at least a few hours in a week -- to volunteer for a better community.
On March 24, I embarked on a nation-wide tour in the United States to launch a "violence-free, stress-free campaign" that seeks to bring together individuals from all walks of life to nurture human values of caring, sharing, compassion, peace, nonviolence, responsibility, friendliness and a sense of belongingness and connectedness. I have met many business, political and community leaders along with volunteers, and applaud their efforts as we collaborate and work collectively to nurture peaceful communities in the United States. If we are able to inspire a few people to see life with this magnanimous outlook, who can take responsibility for others' emotional well being, human society has a realistic chance of becoming more peaceful and harmonious.
When conflict arises in the mind of an individual, perception, observation and expression are impacted. This in turn impacts communication with the other party. In a conflict zone, the first thing that is needed for resolution is an improvement in the communication between the parties. This can happen only when the mind is calm and is able to respond, rather than react. In order for the mind to be calm, mental traumas need to be relieved. The rhythmic breathing and meditation techniques that the volunteers of the Art of Living use have been quite effective with relieving mental and emotional distress.
Another important thing that can help improve communication is for one to be able to broaden one's vision and see that inside every culprit, there is a victim crying for help. When the victim is addressed, the culprit disappears. We need to help people come out of trauma and build trust between the conflicting parties. When somebody with a balanced mind, wisdom and a holistic approach toward life intervenes, progress toward conflict resolution can take place.
I want to highlight that the media is a significant pillar of society. Media does not just report events -- it drives public opinion to a large extent. This puts the media in a powerful position to support a positive change in the society. The power of information technology has changed the way news, opinions, and ideas are shared. With social media, the public has eyes and ears everywhere. It reflects the pulse of th society as people share joy, grief and anger about world events. Today, social media holds immense promise as a tool for social change and is a great platform to promote the voice of nonviolence.
The ignorant are fanatically religious, the so called intelligentsia are fashionably atheist, and the wise are genuinely spiritual. It is time that we encourage our young people, our children, to see beyond limited identities and to associate with the common humanity that we are all part of. It is time to tear down the walls between cultures and celebrate diversity. It is time to connect at the heart to heart level and let go of the negative emotions. This is how we can create a violence-free, stress-free society.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian whose mission of uniting the world into a violence-free global family has inspired millions the world over to broaden their spheres of responsibility and work towards the betterment of the world. An icon of non-violence, he seeks global peace through service and fostering human values.
On March 30, Sri Sri will be New York to launch the "Non-Violence, No Higher Calling" campaign in the City. He will also be responding to questions in relation to the theme of how we can create a violence free community. You may ask a question @SriSrispeaks by using the hashtag #AskSriSri.