Javed Akhtar, Ravishankar lock horns over spiritualism

Press Trust of India/February 26, 2005

Is spiritualism a means to attain what religious leaders dub as 'super-consciousness' or a "smoke screen" for cult gurus to attract the rich into their coterie?

Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar, known for his pragmatic views, locked horns with renowned spiritual leader and 'Art of Living' proponent Sri Sri Ravishankar in a battle of wits at Delhi on Saturday, each debating on the central theme 'Spiritualism - a Halo or Hoax?'

"To say that spiritualism is hoax would not be right. Similarly, to claim that the over two lakh religious gurus in this country have attained halo will be equally erroneous," a smiling Ravishankar said.

Drawing the lines between religious fanaticism and spiritualism, the proponent of the patented Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique said "studies have shown violence is highest where spirituality is the lowest."

Akhtar, quick as ever with his sharp witticisms drew laughter from the audience when he said "the difference between us in the make-believe world of film industry and the gurus is - at the end of the film we put up the card 'The End' for the audiences to come back to reality, which the spiritualists unfortunately don't."

Signing off, Akhtar said, "simply teaching the rich how to breathe is not enough," a hardly veiled dig at Ravishankar, to which the religious figure promptly replied that there was nothing wrong in including the rich in popular spiritual practices.

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