The spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar engaged in a spirited discussion with CNBC-TV18 managing editor Shereen Bhan in an interview that aired on Thursday night. Firstpost has reproduced a lightly edited transcript below:
On the Shani Shinganapur controversy, religious reforms and freedom
I am meeting with the board of trustees on 7 February. I have offered them two models: Kasi Vishawanath and Tirupati Balaji, where there is no gender discrimination and that should be followed.
In this country, especially in the Hindu religion, scripturally there is no gender discrimination; though there has been some off late.
Gender equality is one of the fundamental rights. In all fields there should be gender equality. In Hindu philosophy, tradition believes in gender equality.
Some tradition has been followed for centuries. There is a psychological fear that if you break it, may be something bad will happen.
[People] Cannot come with agitation, demonstration and force. Convincing and persuasion is the way. And this, religious leaders can do. It's a deep rooted fear of changing any centuries’ old tradition.
Message for religious leaders: Don't be afraid, God won’t be angry. Religion and spirituality shouldn't be based on fear unfortunately we find in all religion in the world.
On the LGBT community
It’s [an] individual preference and the world over people are waking up and if we hold on to these obsolete laws then we will be in the 15th century.
Are you disappointed that parliamentarians are not taking the step forward and once again the matter is in court and it’s expected of the court to intervene to provide equality?
See any such reforms need certain courage, certain conviction.
Which the political class lacks, you believe?
Well that you need to ask them. I wouldn’t put all of them in one basket, of course. There are many who are brave and others very much depend on their vote bank politics. So they need to worry about their position.
But doesn’t it worry you - because I am glad that you raised the issue of vote bank politics and the need for courage in the political system. Does it worry you that politics in India continues to be about appeasement? Continues to be about vote bank, not really about national good?
This is where education is essential. The ruler cannot be reformer, often a reformer and ruler have different roles to play, so reformers or social workers will have to raise the consciousness of the people. They have to come and educate people, they have to do padyatras, walk village to village, make them aware of the social ills. A ruler cannot impose but they both have to work together, this is very important.
Shaasak (ruler) [and] sudhaarak (reformer) both are different.
But are you seeing that marriage of shaasak and sudhaarak?
It should happen. It has to happen.
But the [gap] between the two is fairly large, isn’t it?
It has to happen otherwise progress will be hampered.
There is nothing wrong you know. To keep a photo, you need a frame. If the frame is bigger than the picture, then there is an issue. But frame is needed to hold a picture. I would say a little bit of commerce is essential to hold a picture. The picture is spirituality, but if the frame is bigger and the picture is too small then there is an issue definitely. It’s seen more as commerce and less as faith.
So is there an issue? Which is bigger? The frame or the picture?
I would say our frame is much smaller than the picture.
Do you intend taking that route? Or do you think that’s not the way that you would like to go? Because you have your own product line, if I could call it that.
Definitely, everybody has their different routes. We are already on our route, on our highway. And it’s quite successful, I tell you.
This article has been modified to correct an error: Sri Sri Ravishankar has offered two models of worship to the trustees of Shani Shinganapur temple, not the shrine in Sabarimala.