World Culture Festival aims at unity for non-violence: Exclusive with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during an exclusive interview with News India Times on July 24, 2023, at The Art of Living Center in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Washington DC: Founder of The Art of Living, and globally renowned spiritual leader, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said that the Fourth World Culture Festival (WCF), scheduled from September 29 to October 1, 2023, at the National Mall in Washington DC, will foster unity among people from diverse backgrounds, with a strong emphasis on advocating an end to violence, promoting a violence free society, and shedding light on the ongoing mental health crises.

Gurudev told News India Times in an exclusive interview at The Art of Living Foundation in Washington DC on July 24, “There is a lot of enthusiasm and a positive response for WCF from everywhere. We have many events planned, and especially there will be Brazilian, Japanese, African, and India’s Chenda drummers playing at WCF.” Gurudev, who was in the DMV area to attend a few programs, emphasized that the Foundation aims to plant 42 million trees this year to promote an eco-friendly atmosphere, and support green energy initiatives.

When asked why Washington DC was chosen as the venue for WCF, Gurudev said, “This is the capital of this country, and the whole continent looks towards Washington DC. Also, the United Nations General Assembly will be happening in New York. So, world leaders will come at that time, and a message from here would resonate very well. Here, we see a lot of polarization, and the mental health crisis is at its peak. So, we want to address these issues.”

Welcoming everyone to WCF, Gurudev said, “The world is converging here to celebrate life, people of all different cultures, religion, race, gender, and age group are all going to be on one stage giving the message to the world that we are one world family. A celebration which no one can miss. It will be a historic event in the National Mall celebrating diversity, celebrating life.”

The Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, in a message said, “We are incredibly excited and proud to announce that Washington DC will host the Fourth World Culture Festival in 2023. From September 29 to October 1, we will come together on the National Mall for celebration of culture, diversity, and unity.” She extended an invitation to all global citizens to join her in the nation’s capital to honor Gurudev’s message that “diversity is the beauty of creation.”

The reception committee for WCF includes prominent leaders such as the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, former Vice-President of India, Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, current and former heads of state and government of various countries, US Members of Congress, and UN officials. Close to 200,000 people have already confirmed their attendance for WCF. The festival will showcase 17,000 global artists representing diverse cultures and will host yoga sessions promoting global unity, as well as a peace summit for youth.

In response to a question about the rise in gun violence, Gurudev citing the existing surveys pointed out, “One of the reasons for gun violence is these kids are in isolation – they don’t have social connectivity. The second is the fear of others. And thirdly, nobody has taught them how to relax and break free of negativity.”

He emphasized that this where The Art of Living plays a vital role, stating, “We are teaching in 108 Universities for credit in the US and also in the prisons. We have also taught 8,000 veterans who had post-traumatic stress disorder… in fact 27 veterans are killing themselves every day in this country.”

For those suffering from mental health crises, Gurudev suggested The Art of Living’s SKY breath meditation, yoga, and other practices that can be immensely helpful in relieving stress and anxiety.

According to Gurudev, people lack knowledge of these techniques or self-help programs that can effectively relieve stress. He pointed out, “This is where we come in. We have been doing these for the last 42 years, helping people to get out of aggression and depression in addition to helping them out to unite with people of other cultures. The division is caused due to ignorance since people don’t know or understand the other person. So, there is fear and that causes a lot of issues.”

When asked about envisioning a violence-free society and a war-free world, Gurudev responded, “We have to work towards it. That’s what we are doing. Just because it is not happening today or tomorrow, we can’t let it go,” adding “Like the environment, we can’t change it overnight, but we have to work towards to bring about a change. Similarly, this is something that when everyone puts their attention, it’s definitely possible.”

Gurudev emphasized that The Art of Living stands to “bring celebration in life, unite people’s minds and hearts, and give a message that we are all one world family.” He also discussed the positive aspects of spirituality and mediation, highlighting how these practices can improve energy levels, bring out enthusiasm, and help individuals face life’s challenges.

Gurudev said that it is important to have a violence free society, disease free body, confusion free mind, inhibition free intellect, trauma free memory, and sorrow free soul is the birth right of everybody.



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