Sri Sri Ravi Shankar calls depression the next Big Crisis

Wellness guru says time to handle mind and body, they form a two-way street.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has alerted millions of his followers not to neglect mental illness, explaining why mind and body form a two-way street. To his near 400 million followers across the world, India’s wellness and spiritual guru said depression and anxiety is impacting the body faster than before. And it could be worse than some of the most dreaded diseases.

“Having a broad perspective on life gives you the strength to move forward through painful times. And you, as a person, must focus on one most important thing in your life: Mental Health,” Sri Sri told his followers at his expansive commune on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said Today, mental health is a global concern. In the UK they have initiated a Loneliness Ministry. Among young people, the idea that Instagram can hurt someone’s self-image is widely discussed. Many are seeking pacemakers for the brain.

Sri Sri Ravishankar addressing his followers at his ashram in Bangalore

“Remember 40 percent of the planet is afflicted with some form of mental illness. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has also acknowledged depression is a big worry. This is a concern I have tried to draw attention to for the last 20 years at various forums. We have to take care of the mental health of the planet.”

The wellness guru said he was worried that many found their lives have no meaning. “When you find life is meaningless, a sense of emptiness comes within you and then you get depressed. But this same state of mind, with some wisdom can take you to a higher state of consciousness, to self knowledge. And this is what one must look forward to, one must aspire for in life.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said Prana or Chi, the subtle life force energy, is directly related with the state of mind. “When the prana (your energy level) is high, you will notice there is a feeling of expansion and well-being. When the prana level becomes low, for example, when someone has insulted you or you are depressed, there is a feeling of contraction or shrinkage. 

Sri Sri Ravishankar addressing his followers at the Bangalore ashram

“Prana can be increased through meditation. Exercise also increases the prana and brings about a sense of well-being, but it also tires the body. Music, dancing and spending time with a happy group of people also increase Prana. Meditation and Yoga are the easiest ways to increase and sustain the level of Parna.”

The wellness guru also said it was important to develop an attitude of service that keeps the mind happy. He further said getting involved in a bigger cause shifts the whole focus of life and can take one out of the rut of ‘what about me’. “Societies where values of service, sacrifice and community participation are ingrained have fewer instances of depression and suicides. The Sikh community is a great example of this. You have to know that you are very much needed in this world,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

He said it was important for the world to practice what is now becoming popular as mental hygiene. “Just like we brush our teeth twice daily, mental hygiene should also be practiced daily. Love gets kindled in you when you meditate. You just need a little commitment. That is where most people falter. This is just like the gardener who gets fruit from a tree, but as he is enjoying the fruit, he forgets to water the roots. Soon, the fruits will dwindle.”

Global institutions like Harvard and Yale have carried out important research on the mental health benefits of practices like Sudarshan Kriya. Research has shown that a whopping 87 percent of students had a sense of well being and happiness after doing these practices. 

“The governments around the world also have a role in promoting meditation among the masses to make it more mainstream and reducing the spate of mental health- related suicides,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, fondly called Gurudev by his followers in India and across the world. 

“Sometimes we get depressed from hanging onto the past or are over-ambitious and anxious about the future. Life, however, is a continuous process of learning how to let go. We must see our life from a bigger perspective, and not get stuck in events, objects or situations of the past, said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. 

“Just look at your own life, suppose you live on this planet for 80 years, 40 years you spend sleeping; 10 years is spent in the washroom; 10 years in eating and snacking; and some years stuck in traffic jams maybe. Life is passing us by very quickly. You wake up and see, it’s all like a dream. Don’t think, another 20-30 years is very far away. They will pass too, in a snap, like the previous 30-40 years have. We are not even conscious of it. But when we wake up and see the whole life appears like a dream! You are lucky if you even have a glimpse of this realization. Then, you can see life from a broader perspective.”

“That gives rise to vivek, wisdom or discrimination from inside of you. Then you know what is important, and what is not important. Unimportant things will not bother you then. Perty worries and concerns simply fall off. This, actually, changes your life.”

It is time to live and think for others and it is time to check undue depression which can foster the development of a serious physical disease due to the ongoing stress and disruptions of the pandemic that continue to take a severe toll on mental health.

Shantanu Guha Ray
Shantanu Guha Ray
Shantanu Guha Ray is India Editor, Central European News (CEN), Vienna and the Consulting Editor, News Intervention. His much-acclaimed and award-winning book, Target, takes a close look at the NSEL crisis.

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