Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is an honourable man, honourable Guru, honourable Bhagwan – take your pick.
This piece is not about his much-hyped Sudarshana Kriya, schools (named knowledge temples) that collect donation from parents, or about his Geneva-based NGO IAHV ) whose aims are laudable enough.
This is about his claim that he rejected the Nobel Prize and that he was asked to do ‘some things’ before getting them.
This is also about his statement that an eighteen-year old girl got the prize for ‘doing nothing’.
Rules for awarding a Nobel Prize are as follows:
- The aspirant cannot apply for one. He need not even know that there is a nomination on his/her name.
- Nominations are accepted only from Government and government agents, Universities, Professors of merit and past recipients, members of legislative bodies, eminent scientists or from members of the Norwegian committee itself.
- Nobody, not even the committee members know till the final selection is made. When it is done, the names are immediately announced.
- Nomination can be submitted year after year if at the first attempt the nominee did not win the prize. Among the few who won the prize in a single nomination are Rabindranath Tagore and Pear S. Buck.
- The prize is not awarded for a ‘body of work’ but for an achievement in the preceding year. The will of Alfred Nobel states thus:
6. There is little scope for an awardee rejecting the Nobel Prize. If one does, the prize simply lapses for the year or is kept pending as it happened in the case of author Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. He later gratefully accepted the prize after he was expelled from the Soviet Union.
7. Prizes are seldom awarded for a “Body of Work”. Though there are instances where a body of work was mentioned, the prize is usually awarded for a single Invention, work of literature, theory or an act of charity. Tagore, for instance, did not win the prize for a ‘body of work’. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913 was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore“because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”. The reference is to a single work that the poet himself translated into English – Gitanjali.
8. Nobody would be asked to do “things” for the prize. Nobel Prize comes as a surprise to the awardee. There are instances when an awardee expressed surprise and stated than another person merited the prize more than himself. Even if he rejects the prize on that ground, the prize will not necessarily go to the person he recommended.
The peace prize is awarded by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting (the supreme legislature of Norway)
Finally, Nobel Prize might be close to a million dollars depending on the funds available in the given year. I do not see why a man of charity, who collects hefty fees and donations from parents of school children for “educating poor children” shouldn’t accept that money and use it for one of his much hyped charity work and for raising human values.
It is possible that some of his millions of admirers nominated Mr. Ravi Shankar. They can do it again. If one day the Nobel Committee feels that his sending a letter to the Islamic State and getting the photo of a headless body in return had contributed to world peace, they might decide to award him a Nobel Prize for Peace. On the other hand, the committee might think that Mr. Kalyana Sundaram from Tamil Nadu or Abdul Sattar Edhi of Karachi or Late Baba Amte’s Anandwan – none of whom franchises their services for money and whose schools do not demand donation and hefty fees – are more deserving candidates, the godman will have to grin and bear it or spin a story that he ’rejected’ the Nobel Prize or that he refused to do certain things (like paying a bribe, for instance). Unfortunately for the Guru, such claims won’t wash in the public domain
Malala Yusufzai was not 18 when she won the Nobel Prize, but only 15.
On October 2012 when gunmen stopped a school bus in the Swat Valley and asked for Malala Yusafzai by name, it was not because she had not done anything, but because she had done much while living under the primitive Taliban laws in Pakistan. She had been promoting – writing and setting an example – the cause of education for girls in a district in Pakistan where such a thing is believed to be haram, a grave sin against the religion of Islam. She worked and wrote enthusiastically in that cause, supporting her father who ran schools for girl children.
Malala was shot three times – one of the bullets travelled from her forehead and travelled all the way to her shoulder. Malala’s willpower that enabled her to survive the shots fired at close range, and continued determination to work for her cause earned her the prize. This is one instance when Taliban was defeated in their pursuit of a heinous cause; more girls go to school today in Swat Valley in the face of the possibility of another attack as it happened with Malala. One grouse I hear from young Pakistani women friends is that her father should have been included in the prize. Some complain that there are so many other girls who follow Malala’s example and that their efforts are not recognized,
There was nothing political about the teenager’s mission. The cause for the attempt to murder was not political, but social – the view of a young girl and her father vis-à-vis the regressive dogma of a set of people. Like a brave soldier, she came through the ordeal. Whether her activities till the date of the shooting and her setting an example to the oppressed and denied women of the world can be called a “body of work” I cannot say. What Malala did and said before the shooting and after her recovery did, to the mind of the Nobel Committee, was a contribution towards the cause of world peace. There cannot be peace where half the population of the world live in ignorance, perpetual humiliation and fear of domestic violence.
Sri Sri’ Guruji’s slip is showing while he bares his rancour at not being considered for a Nobel Prize. Though nudism is common enough in Norway, I do not believe they appreciate intellectual nudity there and I think he has closed the door to any possibility of a future prize.
Which is not a bad thing. There are so many deserving candidates who do not expect a Nobel Prize for hard-selling a breathing exercise and vent venom when they do not get one.