As an American visiting India to participate in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s WCF, I have been shocked at the way the media has covered the controversy over the event. I find it deplorable that in the reporting of the alleged Yamuna flood plain degradation and NGT response – the media continues to consistently take a position of condemning the Art of Living Foundation.
The condemnation is simply based on limited information and reports presented to NGT. One would have hoped that the media would be a little more impartial in its reporting and give Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and AOLF the benefit of the doubt, or at the very least, acknowledge his decades worth of work in protecting the environment.
I have been with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar since 1988. He has been under my microscope and careful scrutiny, especially in his role as a spiritual teacher and I have only seen him conduct himself with the highest level of integrity. I have witnessed first hand his tireless commitment to the environment. Under his guidance, the AOLF has rejuvenated several rivers in Karnataka (Kumudvathi, Arkavati, Vedavati and Palar rivers), Naganadi in Tamil Nadu and Gharni, Terna, Benitura and Tavarja rivers and Babhalgaon lake in Maharashtra many of which had dried up or were severely contaminated by urban development. In Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s own words, “Reviving rivers is like reviving life.”
And yet despite all of the above accomplishments, the media seems to have negated Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s role as an environmentalist. Sri Sri teaches that it is the nature of the mind to identify with the negative. If someone pays you ten compliments and says one negative thing – what do you focus on? Of course - the negative. This seems to be the way the Indian media is conducting itself. Besides Sri Sri’s work on river rehabilitation and water rejuvenation, he has championed the cause of sustainable farming and worked closely with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to plant nearly 10 million trees in two years all over the world. This has been barely mentioned while reporting the recent story.
As a visitor to India, I wonder how the media covered previous structures built on the Yamuna riverbed. What actions did the media take in the past to bring to light the extent of pollution of the Yamuna river - numerous unauthorised constructions, the entire Commonwealth Games Village and the Askshardham temple were built on the riverbed. So why now? Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar being singled out? Can it be that this seemingly one-sided coverage is a bias against spirituality, a bias against a Hindu Guru? Only the media can answer that question.
Days before an amazing event which puts India in the limelight for championing cultural diversity and world peace on an unprecedented scale, the media is tearing the event apart and seems to only have the objective of embarrassing Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organisation. Thus far, there is no substantial proof that the festival will cause any permanent damage to the river bed. Yet the media appears to have made a judgement and condemned Sri Sri's event even before impartial investigation into the allegations.
Sri Sri is a national treasure – he is a human being that has worked tirelessly, time and time again – to uplift the human spirit. His efforts in India are monumental. It is shocking to me that the media is condemning Sri Sri’s commitment to the environment. But more than that – it’s the one-sided portrayal of the issue that leads me to question the media’s position and intention.
I am shocked that instead of supporting an event that brings together people from all walks of life – from all over the world – together on one platform – who have gained tremendous benefit from the ancient Vedic teachings that Sri Sri is preserving and bringing to the global community – that he faces negativity and hurdles.
Questions have been asked as to what is the purpose of WCF and why has so much money been spent on this event? Sri Sri is simply dedicated to uplifting human values through meditation and ancient wisdom in the Vedic tradition.
At this time when violence has reared it’s ugly head and terrorism is at our doorsteps as the attack on the Bataclan in Paris just months ago showed - he has created a platform to demonstrate that people from diverse backgrounds can celebrate their differences and recognise the oneness in each human being and spread a message of peace. That is his message. It has always been his message – of oneness.