How do you stay non-violent when others get violent? My 3 Take Aways from Spiritual Leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Talk on Non-Violence

Monish SubherwalResolving ConflictLeave a Comment

The audience was silent as the little girl gave her speech, while sobbing, on how she was bullied and beat up in school and how teachers looked on and did nothing.

Finally, gaining composure, she concluded her speech on how she pledged to be non-violent for life.  Everyone gave her a standing ovation.

India’s 5th Most Powerful Man Speaks on Non-Violence

Who is was this little girl?  Well, she was from a high school in Los Angeles asked to speak today at the Art of Living Center Los Angeles.

What is the Art of Living and who is Sri Sri?

The Art of Living is a non-profit organization that promotes human values.  It’s founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar AKA “Sri Sri” was there talking about Non-Violence.  He is one of India’s famous Spiritual Leaders and named by Forbes magazines as the 5th most powerful man in India in 2009.

I had seen Sri Sri before give a talk and he was amazing.  To me, he represents a very spiritually elevated person and thus, very very empowered. Even if you’ve never heard of him before, his words of wisdom can lift your spirit.

Why does Non-Violence Matter?

Who hasn’t felt like a victim to someone else?  When some gets angry and hurts our feeling – that is a form of emotional violence.

There are books on Non-Violent communication, because fights with others turn nasty.  Understanding non-violence, is to understand how to have peaceful relationships.

Sri Sri gave an hour long talk and there were golden nuggets of wisdom everywhere.

Here are my 3 key take aways from this event that lifted my spirits and can lift yours too.

Take Away 1:  Forgive Others Through Compassion

The same little girl I mentioned in the beginning, came up to the mic during the Q&A session later and asked Sri Sri how to forgive others who have done bad things to you.  

What was Sri Sri’s response?


It is hard to forgive someone if they are a culprit.  Every time you see their face, the feelings and emotions come up.  But when you realize that that person may not have had the same privileges as us – they may have had a different environment, someone may have been rough with them when they were a child, or they did not learn healthy values — then we see that person as someone who himself is acting out, and being a victim.  They are no longer a culprit.  Then compassion sets in.  It is hard to have compassion and not forgive – so it is a step in the right direction.

Oftentimes, people who get hurt are left with an attitude of “I will forgive, but never forget.”  This is a catch 22, since the past still brings up pain.  

Seeing the person who hurt them (“the culprit”) as a victim themselves – takes away the label that they did something wrong to us — and can also take away the resentment, hate, and anger that one may feel.

Take Away 2:  Violence is Intentional Rage or Unconscious Revenge

Also during Q&A session, someone came up to the mic and mentioned how he felt bad for all the mosquitos that had died on his drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles (!).  He asked how can one make sense of the destruction that we do all the time?

The crowd laughed a bit hearing this, but to this, Sri Sri mentioned, again paraphrasing:

It is hard to live without destroying something.  Our body is full of cells that are fighting off bacteria and destroying them.  We shed many many dead skin cells all the time.  Moths come towards a flame and end up dying, but we don’t end up blaming the candle stick.  When there is intentional rage or unconscious revenge, that is what we consider violence.

Sri Sri’s response is that, violence is an unconscious reaction  to rage or anger inside.  I thought that summed things up nicely.

Those who don’t have a conscious intention to to hurt others should be at peace.

 Take Away 3:  Compassion Can Stop Violence

One of the big themes Sri Sri discussed was how to deal with violence.  A person asked, how do we not react to the violence of others (in this context, meaning, how do we stay composed when someone else causes verbal violence – how do we not react and become violent ourselves)?

To this, Sri Sri smiled and told the person, just smile.  Simple enough?  🙂

Sri Sri went on to explain, that when one has a lot of compassion, the energy is so intense that the violent person doesn’t know how to respond.  He even gave a few personal examples:

  • Once in his past, an angry person came to his talk, shouting and screaming that Sri Sri was the devil and immoral and cursing him – Sri Sri just looked at him and the man stopped.  The man was waiting for a reaction, but got nothing.  He then apologized to Sri Sri.

  • Another example was a man who tried to strangle Sri Sri.  Sri sri turned to him and said, “hey, what are you doing?” (or something to that extent) and the man got shocked and start crying.  Sri Sri later said he ended up being a teacher at one of the Art of Living Centers.  😀

I think Sri Sri implied from this, that you shouldn’t react to the violence of others.  That adds more fire to the flames.

Instead, act with compassion towards that person.  In my opinion, this requires a lot of inner work – but can be as simple as smiling.

Stay Empowered!  What are your thoughts?

Overall, another great talk by Sri Sri.  I look forward to his next visit to Los Angeles.

I hope my report on the event brings you some more insights and ideas as well.  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.  Here’s wishing you a great week.

Stay Empowered,



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