During his recent visit to London, Prem was interviewed
by Tony Wrighton, host of Zestology, about the
launch of his new book, Peace Is Possible.
Zestology is a popular podcast focused on
wellbeing and life optimization.
The show features some of the world’s most
respected and well-known experts in health,
medicine, science, and wellness.
Prem, great to see you. We are recording. How are you? [Prem: I’m good; how are you, Tony?] Very good thanks, yeah. Your schedule is pretty mad over the next few days, isn’t it? I know you’re doing an event in Manchester, and you’re doing loads of interviews today.
I thought that one of the interesting things that we could do is to start off by kind of introducing you to Zestology listeners a little bit, for people who have heard about you, but also people who haven’t. [Prem: Sure.] And then, go with some of the work that you’ve done in your life.
And then I’m reading the book at the moment and I’m really enjoying it, and I thought we could look at a couple of the stories in the book. And I need to ask you some questions about the stories as well. [Prem: Yeah, yeah, sure.]
So, let’s start with you, then. When you meet someone at a dinner party and they say, “What do you do,” how do you answer?
Well, “I talk about peace.” And that’s been my endeavor since I was nine years of age; I’ve been talking to people about peace, because I think that’s an important ingredient that we’re missing.
You know, there’s nothing in the world that sets us up to really recognize ourselves, who we are. Socrates talked about this: “Know thyself.” And yet, what is there in this world—once in a while you might come across Socrates, and only by mistake.
And then, what is the value of that, you know? What reflects in our social media; what reflects in our world that we go about every single day that says, “Oh, by the way, you—did you, today, know yourself; do you know yourself today? Do you understand who you are?”
“Do you”—you see the whole world in a way that you have been trained to see: “Yeah, I’ve got to wear clothes; I’ve got to wear this kind of clothing; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to do that; I’ve got to take this with me; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to contact this person.” But what about contacting you, you as a human being?
And a lot of times we say, “Okay, why is my world so strange sometimes?” Well, but could it be that you’re looking at a map, and you’re saying, “Well, the map is good. [Tony: Hmmm!] I love the map. And I’ve got where I want to be on this map marked in a big X!”
But the big question is, “Where are you on the map?” Because if you don’t know where you are in the map, that map is useless to you. Because how are you going to plan your navigation to where you want to be? So, everybody is going around on their map marking the X’s, “I want to be here; I want to be here; I want to be here!” But where are you? And who are you?
And so this is the message, because I think that that can profoundly change the world. Because I see that change happen in peoples’ lives, people who are in prisons, people who are in a job like a police officer, where they are just, every minute, really getting hammered by people who are not behaving themselves.
And just imagine the viewpoint that they have. They’re seeing the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst—and every day, every day.
And yet, there is some goodness in this humanity—and each one of us. And we have to do something to bring it out. We have created a society in which, literally, the worst of us comes out without a problem, but we haven’t really created a society in which the best of us comes out.
I wonder—I’m interested in knowing your perspective on distraction, and distraction in this particular moment in time. Obviously, your beginnings and your upbringing were of a very different culture and a different time as well.
And I feel like distraction is—it’s just worse than ever at the moment, isn’t it? And the technology has a lot to blame for that. And because of that, it’s actually harder to get those reminders—because you’re not with that, kind of, peace and quiet around you. [Prem: And, yeah.]
What’s your perspective on distraction, technology, and how we, kind of, almost take our minds away from those natural reminders that might bring us back to the straight and narrow?
Yeah, that was a great question—because I was asked this question about four months ago, five months ago: “With all this social media and all these crazy things in this world, you know, people are more distracted now than ever,” and da-da-da-da.
So I started thinking about it. At first I agreed with it, and it was, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you know, we, we need to be centered in ourselves.”
Then I started thinking, “Wait a minute! Buddha talks about ‘Don’t be distracted! Your mind wanders.’ Kabir—incredible poet—he goes, ‘We are constantly wandering with our mind in the three worlds. Sometimes we think about the gods; sometimes we think about people who are on the same level as us, and sometimes we are wondering about all the demons and everything else.’”
Ah, but, why are they talking about that we are distracted? They didn’t have cell phones then. [Tony: Umm-hmm.] They didn’t have all this technology then. Then I realized it is the human nature to get distracted. And what is distraction? Distraction is not distraction; it is being attracted to something else.
So, because it’s about attraction to something else, we get attracted very easily. You know, we are monkeys—somewhere in there—and so something shiny starts to shine, and we start looking at that instead of the road. And, you know, I see that all the time! People are driving, and their one hand is not eating a hamburger, but doing their text message.
Oh, that’s terrifying, yeah.
It’s terrifying. But they do it. And if you were to stop that person, pull them out, and say, “You know what you were doing is really dangerous?” they will agree with you. But they’ll do it again.
So, to me, it really becomes important to understand that we are going to be distracted, and it is not just the technology that’s doing it. This has been going on since the time of Buddha; this has been going on since the time of Kabir. And it’s the same situation—and this is history, by the way, and it’ll repeat itself again and again and again.
And even though there are a lot of people who are saying, “You know, these things are really not very good!”
And we really need to tone down the technology in a way where human beings can function as a human being, because human beings are being changed in that way. But that’s history too! We’ve been changed; we’ve been changed; we have been changed.
There was a time when the first car started to be on the streets, and people said, “That will never work. It’ll never happen, because the horses are so much better.” Well, it changed; it changed; it changed. Now we can’t even imagine it.
Even though the idea was we would get to places quicker, it doesn’t quite pan out in cities. And the traffic jam is worse; you can watch people on foot walking much faster than you, and arriving at their destination before you do. [Tony: Ummm!]
So, we never ever look at these things and say, “Is this actually working for me? Or not working for me?” We don’t do that. And we need to be reminded, “Hey! What does your report card say for today?” You’ve come home—say it’s seven o’clock in the evening. Do you have a report card? “What happened today?” We don’t! And yet we want a fulfilled life!
Well, unless you’re taking some cognizance of what really happened today, it’s like a car without a speedometer. Well, you will never know how fast you are going. A car with no temperature gauge; you don’t know how hot it’s running.
What is your gauge—at seven o’clock in the evening that says, “You did well”—or, “No, you didn’t do so well”?
Is that something you’d encourage people to do? Actually, maybe not write a report card at the end of every day, but perhaps sit down and take a couple of moments to say, “Oh, okay, well, what have I done well, which I know normally works?”
Exactly! “Did I—did I spend time with my family? Did I listen to them?” What happened to our listening power; do we listen to each other? No! You have something to say? That’s it! So far you get to say it, you don’t have to listen. And it’s the other person’s problem if they don’t listen, you know? And, that can’t be.
“What did I do—what did I do for me? What did I do for this humanity; what did I do for my family? What did I do that I would love to do again tomorrow? What did I do today that I can wholeheartedly look forward to doing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that?”
So, where is the gauge? We don’t have a gauge. And then it’s like, okay, you’re—you know, at the end of the day, “Oh my God, I am bushed; I’m tired; I just need to go to sleep.” And then hopefully we’ve got our alarm clock set, and then pull the cover over our head and it’s like, “Yeah, off I go.” But life can’t be like that.
I mean, you talk about reminders. And it’s occurred to me, reading your book, actually, it’s like a series of little vignettes, little small little stories, and kind of tasters of your life and thoughts. And they are like little reminders; you could pick it up when you want that little bit of inspiration. And some of the stories, some of the chapters are very short.
What is perhaps one of your favorite parts of the book? I mean that I mentioned the parrot story which I liked, and I really liked the chapter about coconuts. [Prem: And, yeah?] I really like coconut, and I eat “coconut everything,” so that’s why I liked that. [Prem: Yeah.]
But, what is something that kind of stands out to you in the book? That kind of resonates with people and resonates with you?
“Whatever you practice most, you get good at it.” And if that’s the way things are—because that’s how it happens! We, whatever we practice the most, we get good at it.
And so, look around in your life: how long does it take you to get upset? So, is that what you’re practicing, getting upset? You know? And how long does it take you to just relax? Well, it’s like, “Huh-uh, breathe deeply; sit down....”
But getting angry? Getting mad? You don’t need to sit down to get mad. You don’t need to breathe deeply to get mad. You can get mad just like that. So we’re practicing that. You’ve got to break the bad habits. If you don’t break the bad habits in your life, those will perpetuate, and they will shape your life and your future.
Yeah. I mean, I feel very zen in your company. But do you have any bad habits?
Oh, everybody has bad habits. Everybody has bad habits, and that’s why we need to live our lives consciously.
I didn’t call home yesterday. I was busy; I was coming here. I have an excuse. [Tony: Umm-hmm!] I have an excuse. And so sometimes we get really good at making excuses, and we practice that more than doing what we should have done.
This is what’s important. And I’ve been working on another book. And so, reading that book started to change me—I mean, for the good. I mean, it was like, “Wait a minute; wait a minute, you know, you’ve got to take charge of your life. This is your life!”
Why have you relegated who you are, and what you have to do, to everybody else? Your life is dependent on all these people, but not on you. So where is your strength? Well, is this pillar just shaking with everything, or is it standing firm? Because if it doesn’t, whatever is dependent on this pillar is also going to fall down when this pillar falls down.
And we know that. But in my life, I need, I need to be reminded. And I need to perpetuate good things.
You know, if I was to come onstage—and I make this point very clear—if I say “I’ve already done all of this,” at that point you’re talking to a gorilla. But, because I have to understand that I too have to make the same effort that I am asking other people to make, it makes me relevant. [Tony: Umm!]
There are people who come and who say that “Yes, I have attained the supreme state of being.” [Tony: Yeah.] Well, very hard to talk to—and very hard. And yeah, well, they haven’t, but they’re very hard to talk to. [Tony: Yeah.]
Because there’s a curtain drawn: “It’s done; it’s over! You are not like me and I’m not like you, and so don’t talk to me.” [Tony: Yeah.] No, for me, it’s the other way. I’m just like you, and you’re just like me. And so what I say can be relevant to you, and what you say can be relevant to me.
Yeah, there’s a great charm in listening to people and following people who kind of admit their frailties. I think Brits are often quite good at doing that. We’re good at putting ourselves down—but in a very self-deprecating way.
So this podcast is about energy and vitality, and there are a couple of questions that I ask people every time. And one is, “What is one recommendation that you would have for people to live their lives with more energy and more vitality?”
For energy and vitality, as long as you’re doing what you were made to do, your body will take care of you. You see, and this we forget: the first doctor is our body. The first lab is our body. It’s constantly performing chemical tests saying, “This is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is not right.”
So, even before you see another doctor, you’ve got a doctor built in. And if this doctor is not working right, you’ve got a big problem, because the other doctors have to work with this doctor. This is the doctor that’s going to do all the healing for you. [Tony: Ummm!]
So, if things are correct—you know where you are on that map; you know where you want to go on that map; there’s a routing that’s clear—vitality will be there; enthusiasm will be there. You don’t need the alarm clock; you’ll wake up. Because you’re just so excited about the day.
You know, remember when you were young? It was your birthday or it was Christmas, or something special? And you just couldn’t fall asleep, much less anything else. And you woke up, bam! And there it was.
Well, start collecting things that make sense to you, start collecting things that you’re enthusiastic about, start collecting things that you like in your life—and vitality will follow.
Yeah. Well, Prem, look, it’s been a real privilege and a pleasure to talk to you. I feel like I’ve had a load of little reminders. [Prem: Good to meet you.] And good luck with the book, and good luck with the bigger global message for peace, which is obviously such an important one. [Prem: Thank you, Tony. Thank you.]
And yeah, thanks for all you do. [Prem: Thank you.]
Good afternoon, Mr. Rawat, and a very warm welcome.
Thank you for having me, and it’s great to be here.
Lovely. So, you are an international speaker who presents a practical perspective about the business of life. Why the business of life?
Because we’re involved in so many other businesses—businesses of raising a family, businesses of going around doing whatever we do. And why don’t we focus on the business of life? Because we are alive, and that is the most, absolutely the most important thing.
And when the life isn’t right, nothing else falls into place. When life isn’t happening, when you don’t feel alive, then everything else just seems so static. And so, yes, the business of life—understanding the business of life, getting that business of life perfected—for having everything, everything, in this time that we have on this precious earth.
And so, how important is it for one to have a balanced life, and what would you say that is?
Well, the question is, life will be balanced if those forces that throw it out of balance are removed. Because life wants the balance. There is a joy; there is a want for joy; there is a want for happiness.
You know, nobody goes to a church or a temple to pray and saying, “Well, I’m too happy.” You know, “Remove some of this happiness.” Because we don't have a limit for how happy we can be. But for sadness, for fear, for anger, for pain, we definitely have very low tolerance.
And so that, right there, is telling us something: go ahead and let that joy of being alive, being here, being now, being happy, being satisfied, being successful, let it all come! Let it all come! Make it happen! And that’s the business of life.
So, well, happiness is just but for a while, but joy is what you want to achieve. How do we get to that point?
Well, this is a very, very beautiful question, because I think that’s at the crux of so many things. What…what is happiness? A lot of people think that being prosperous, that’s happiness. And they look at prosperity as just one thing, which is, make a lot of money.
But that’s not actually prosperity. Prosperity also includes good health, and also includes that you are happy with what is happening in your life. To be happy, we need hope. To be happy, we need gratitude in our life. To be happy, we need self-reliance—not always thinking of what other people are thinking of us, but what we think of ourselves.
And to be happy, we also need to know ourselves—the very thing, many thousands of years ago, that Socrates said, “Know thyself.” It’s still true today, and maybe even more true today than at any given time.
Because we need to know who we are, what our needs are—what we really, really need—and we are so confused about our wants and our needs. We think that our wants are our needs! That’s not true! There are things that we need, and without those things we wouldn’t even be alive.
But, you know, we go on the tangent of, “Oh, yeah, this would be nice to have; this would be nice to do; this would be nice to have in my life.” That’s okay! But really, you have to understand what is important. And important is you, you being fulfilled.
An unlit candle cannot light another candle. It doesn’t matter what happens. So, you are a lit candle, then you can light other unlit candles.
So, would you say that living a purposeful life would then result to one living a joyful life?
The joy will come from within you. You cannot create the joy. You cannot invite the joy, to say, “Okay, now I’m ready for you.” When all is right, it is like a flower blooming. When all is right.... You sow the seed, fine. You water it, fine. But then, when the season comes, that seed will germinate.
And all the things have to be right for that seed, regardless of the time. But if everything is right, it will happen. And joy is the same way; happiness is the same way.
You know, there is the happiness that we get that is so temporary. But then there is the happiness that really comes from our heart. A smile because we met a stranger—and a smile when there’s nobody around, and that smile is still there. And that, to me, is the important smile—not the smile of manners, not the smile of external gestures.
All right. And so, for any of you charged on prosperity—what would you say is true prosperity?
True prosperity is where there is a balance for fulfillment of your dreams, balanced with the fulfillment of your needs—and, at the same time, good health. I mean, look at what’s happening to people today. You know, they work, work, work, work, work, work, work to become rich.
And then they retire and all the money they have earned, they literally give to the hospital, so that they can be cured of the disease that they have accrued trying to make all this money. And that’s no prosperity at the end of the day. Prosperity is a full heart—not just a full pocket, but a full heart. And you will never feel prosperous unless your heart is full too.
And it also requires that you be in peace, that you are stable, that you are good. You know, if you’re sitting in a train and the train is jockeying back and forth, and you’re trying to hold a pot full of water…the thing is, it’s going to be very difficult because you are shaking—so is the train, so is the pot, so is the water.
And if you really want that stability, something has to go stable. In your life, you are the base of your existence, and you have to become stable if you want that pot full of water to be stable. But if everything is just jockeying and jockeying and jockeying, it’s going to be difficult; it’s going to be impossible.
So, you do mention that, in order for one to understand the business of life, there has to be some storytelling that happens somewhere there. Can you just take me through this? And how do you link the two?
No, the thing is, not just ideas, not just beliefs—but this has to be about knowing, knowing yourself—not believing you could do this, not believing that this exists, not believing—because…You know, one example I give is like, you’re sitting somewhere and you make believe there is a cow.
And so, five people are there or whatever, and they go, “Yeah, yeah, okay, there is a cow”—because it’s all make-believe, there’s no harm done. But if you want milk for your tea, the only kind of milk the make-believe cow can give is make-believe milk. Now, if you want real milk, it’ll have to be a real cow, not a make-believe cow.
And that’s the same thing in life—that we believe in so many things! People say, “Believe in yourself.” I say, no, that isn’t going to help. What you really need to do is know yourself.
How do you get to that point of knowing yourself?
It begins with a simple introspection. And then, there is a very beautiful way to be able to do this introspection—which is a program that I have. It’s actually called the Peace Education Program. And it has benefited so many people, so many people. It is in prisons; it is in hospice, police, military....
And everybody is discovering that there is such a dimension to themselves, that they are not limited by their own imagination—but there is a whole dimension to understand. That there is a courage in you. And you get in touch with that courage; you get in touch with the joy that is in you; you get in touch with that understanding that is in you.
And when you start to actually, not just believe in these things, but feel every day, the courage that you have, you start to understand who you are. That the components that bring you together, that make up what you are, are powerful, powerful. Kindness is in you, all the time!
Of course, anger and hate, and all these things, are in you all the time—but so is kindness, so is joy, so is understanding, so is love, so is forgiveness. And we have only used one spectrum of ourselves, and the spectrum has been the hate, the non-understanding, the non-believing....
You know, look at me. For fifty years I’ve been talking about peace. And everywhere I go, people go, “Oh, it’s not possible. It’s not possible.” And I just ask them one question—“Okay, so it’s not possible. What is our choice?” Without peace, the fabric of society is going to fall apart. We are falling apart. Nothing is gluing us together.
And this falling apart is getting worse every day. We’re killing people who have done nothing wrong. [Interviewer: Umm-hmm!] And we are fueling the fire of revenge. Little children who are orphaned have hate—hate and hopelessness—in their eyes, when those little eyes should be full of hope, should be full of joy. And so, we have no choice but to court peace in our lives.
So, the message of peace that you are spreading, how has it been received?
Well, people who understand it... and believe me, I respect this in people, because it requires a change in thinking…people have been thinking a certain way, “It’s not possible.” And, you know, the thing is, I actually respect them for that. Because, yes, you have looked at the horizon and there is no ship out there. And so you feel alone and you feel desolate.
But one of the things that we have not done is look at ourselves. We have looked at the world; we have looked outside, but we have not looked on the inside. And when we start to look on the inside.... And this is the message—that it’s not just my message—this is the message that has echoed through the years, through the ages, from one civilization to the other civilization.
You know, and another way to just look at this is that, a long time ago we came out of the jungle. We were all in the jungle, and we came out of the jungle and we started the practice of farming. Farming not only brought us all kinds of different things, but it brought us the very thing we called civilization.
And as civilization came to be, we said, “We don’t want to practice the law of the jungle.” The law of the jungle is very simple: big fish eats little fish. And that’s it! And we said, “No! We don’t want that. We don’t want that. We don’t want that in our civilization—because that won’t work in this civilization. It works in the jungle—but it won’t work in civilization.”
So we built a wall around us, and the wall separated the laws of the jungle and the law of civilization. Well, unfortunately, this wall that uses the mortar of peace, the bricks of kindness, understanding—this wall has been breached. It hasn’t been maintained. And it is falling apart. And the laws of the jungle are permeating our civilization. [Interviewer: Hmm.]
Pretty soon there is going to be no difference between civilization and the jungle. And all that transformation of going from the jungle to civilization would have been for nothing. And this is what’s happening everywhere you look. Little fish are trying to be big fish.
You look at bullying—which is such a crucial problem starting to appear in this world—and what is that bullying? Bullying is, just for a very short period of a little time, the little fish wants to experience what it is like to be the big fish. [Interviewer: Hmm!] And yet, the rule of the jungle is, you do that and you will get eaten.
So now, tell me, you are on the 16 Days of Activism tour to South Africa. Why this tour? Can you just talk us through this initiative?
Well, I have been coming to South Africa for quite a long time, and I have felt.... And the first time that I came to South Africa, it was—I was shocked. I was really shocked. I was a teenager—and I was shocked. I had not experienced this. I had heard about apartheid, but when I came, it was like, “Oh my God, this is…this is terrible!”
And I was actually asked that, you know, “You cannot have mixed meetings…that you have to have separate meetings, you know, for separate color.” And I said, “Sorry, I’m not going to do that.” And the consequence of that was that I was blacklisted!
Of course, they didn’t want to do anything to me because it would have caused a major incident—because, arresting a teenager....So I was followed everywhere I went. I was blacklisted. When I applied for my visa to come back to South Africa, it was denied. And it was only after the apartheid started to dissipate that I could start coming back to South Africa.
So, I see what was happening here. And this is horrible; this is terrible. And there’s so much that needs to be made up for because of this. [Interviewer: Hmm!] But I also see that it’s not going to happen just by lectures and talks—that people need to really understand what kindness is. That revenge is one thing—and forgiveness.... Because one of the things that I talk about is, “What is forgiveness?” [Interviewer: Mmm!]
A lot of people think forgiveness is to forgive a person’s mistake. Well, you can’t. There are things that have been done to those people that they cannot forgive. They cannot say, “Oh, okay, fine, I accept what you did.”
But forgiveness is for you to make a decision that you don’t want to still continue being hurt by the actions of that person, and you want to move on; you want to go on. You are exercising your power to move forward, rather than to try to accept the mistakes of another person.
And when we look at that forgiveness as the power to move on that you bestow upon yourself, then the forgiveness takes on a doable meaning…that, “Yes, I want to move on. I don’t want to be a victim of this any more. And I am alive; the breath comes into me—and this is an incredible blessing, and a call for me to keep going. And I will do that bidding.”
That’s lovely. And so you started on the 6th, and it’s ending on the 15th, the tour, right? [PR: Yes.] How has it been so far, from the day that you’ve covered?
I…I have to tell you, you know—I love it; I love it. Because when I tell people these things.... And what I’m really bringing to the people is fifty years of my experience. You know, I started speaking about peace when I was four years old—at nine years old I actually had to shoulder the responsibility—my father passed away.
And, whatever he was doing fell on my shoulders to carry on. [Interviewer: Hmm, mmm.] And when I bring that experience, and the “aha moment” happens for people, you have no idea how amazing that “aha moment” is. Because it’s like, I have helped light another candle. And that person now has the capability of lighting another candle.
And I…I really see that South Africa can be a shining beacon in these stormy waters, for the whole world! I mean, South Africa has something incredible—if they could do it, they have something incredible to teach the whole world. That it is not just about money; that it is not just about fame; that it is not about those things, but it is about the humanity of human beings.
The most separated come together. The most hated join hands for a better future for all of us, and our children, and our grandchildren, and the ages yet to come on this earth.
Yeah, indeed. So, you are one of three leaders to receive the International BrandLaureate Lifetime Achievement Award—of course, alongside our former president elect, President Nelson Mandela, and Hillary Clinton of the U.S. How did this come about?
Well, this person in Malaysia recognized what I had been doing. He had come, and he had heard what I had to say. And he also saw that the influence of what I was saying and the influence of what I was doing through my Peace Education Program was so powerful that he invited me to come. And, I mean, it was a surprise for me. I didn’t know I was going to get it.
But, he invited me. And he’s a wonderful person, and a great friend now, of course—we have met many times now. And he wanted to present me with this award. And so I very gladly accepted.
Lovely! And you are a man of many talents, eh? Even a successful pilot, I’m told. So, what do you enjoy doing the most? Is it music, photography? Is it art?
Well, what I enjoy doing the most is what I am doing right now—[Interviewer: Mmm!] hopefully, lighting candles. I fly because I have to get around the world—and so that’s one thing that I have to do. So wherever I go, I end up flying there. [Interviewer: Umm-hmm?] And, places like....
When do you get to sing?
I…I get to sing from my heart a song of life, [Interviewer: Uh-huh?] a song of joy, a song of certainty, a song of hope. [Interviewer: Mmm!] And, that is an incredible song.
In my spare time I really like photography; I like cooking, and I like doing art. It’s just an expression of what I sometimes feel.
So, you know, there’s many, many things but, really, what I enjoy doing is talking to people.
Thank you so much Prem, for your time. It was really lovely chatting with you. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
You are welcome, and bye!
Host: The Lite Breakfast with Steve and Shaz and your Relaxing Favorites. Joining us this morning is the founder of the Prem Rawat Foundation, the author of a brand new book called Splitting the Arrow – Understanding the Business of Life, is Peace Ambassador, Prem Rawat.
Prem Rawat:Thank you. Thank you for having me today.
Hostess:Now Prem, what compelled you as a 4 year old to speak out about peace at your father’s meetings? Did you expect to make a difference or to matter in front of an audience of adults who might be dismissive of what a child that young would have to say?
Or read the transcript:
This is the Independent Republic of Mike Graham; Daisy McAndrew is here with me; coming up, (she’s going to try and shoe-horn in to talk about Love Island, which I’m going to try and resist). But out of fear, the resistance is futile!
Going to bring the tone down.
Exactly. But, but more of that later, because we’ve got two very special guests with us today—Prem Rawat is here with us, and so is Pastor Lorraine Jones—and welcome to both of you. [PR: Thank you.] Thank you very much for [PLJ: Thank you!] coming in, all this way...
We’re talking now about a very serious problem, though—so we’re going to have to be slightly more serious about what we, what we’re doing. For the whole of this week, (I think you’d be right to say), the headlines have been horrendously bad, in terms of the crime that’s happening, not just in London, but all over the country...
The youth of today, or certain sections of the youth, as they seem to be, completely and utterly kind of carefree about the types of violence that they’re inflicting. We’ve seen people with these horrendously huge knives stabbing each other, people being shot...
You guys are on a bit of a crusade—about trying to fix this problem. I mean, Pastor Lorraine, you, you’ve lost your son [PLJ: Yeah.] some years ago. And it must have been a most horrendous thing for you to have experienced—but, but tell us a little bit about what you’re here for, and what you’re planning to do.
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
Well, being a mother that’s lost her son to this violent problem that [MG: Umm!] we have of youth violence, I can say today that I’m, I’ve got a lot of hope. I, I’m very optimistic about what’s going to take place in terms of a positive turn, turnaround.
We’re going to be rolling out a campaign, “Peace is Possible.” And I’m happy that Prem has honored the invitation which I’ve—I’ve asked for help.... [MG: Right.] Because I work closely with the police and the government, and there’s a lot of initiatives that we are doing—we’re working tirelessly.
But what I’ve found is that there is a loss of hope in organization leaders, the community, and families. And we want to restore that hope, [MG: Yeah.] so we can solve this problem.
And what do you think has changed? I mean, obviously, we’ve had this problem for a while, but it really seems to have escalated in recent months, somehow—I don’t know why there are more incidents; there seems to be, as you say, you know, less confidence in the police solving the problem. Communities are kind of just shaking their heads, and not knowing what to do!
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
There is a great increase of hopelessness—hopelessness! And where there’s no hope, people make the wrong decisions. And that’s why the crimes have increased, and—the way in which they’re killing the young people [MG: Mmm.] now, it’s brutal.
I lost my son; he got one stab wound through the heart. But I work with other families as a pastor, where their children have been stabbed multiple times, and even shot in the face. It’s, it’s gruesome, [MG: Mmm!] and we need to restore back that love for humanity, back...
Mike Graham: [simultaneously]
Okay, Prem, tell us what, what your role in this is going to be.
I, I have seen both sides of the fence. I have seen the perpetrators, and I have worked with them, because I do visit prisons—and I have seen the victims, and I help them too.
I have an incredible program—it’s called the Peace Education Program—that has proven itself. Right now it’s in eighty countries! And people are taking advantage of this. And I want to make that available in London, [MG: Right.] to, to the people. Because it really, really helps.
Because what it brings to people is hope. When the hope is gone, a deafening silence of boredom takes over.
Prem, just to explain to our listeners a bit more about who you are and what you do—because, I mean, you’re a—you’re a, you’re a guru—that’s just sort of your title. I, I, I haven’t given you that, that title—but you have a lot of followers around the world.
But what is it that you tell these huge audiences that you do address, and what is it that this, this campaign is specifically trying to do?
Yes, and people have labeled me many, many things. But from my perspective, who I am—is, I am a human being who has an appreciation for peace in my life, and I want to share that with, with...
Daisy McAndrew: [simultaneously]
You have a lot of followers. Why do they follow you; what is it they’re following?
They’re following their own quest for peace in their lives. Because this is what makes the Peace Education Program what it is today.
So, is it like a religion? Or is it—and, and what, and what relevance does it have to youth crime?
Well, it is not a religion. Because it is about human beings. We are in this world. We can have tons of beliefs. But it is not about beliefs; it is what is real, every day, that happens, that really affects us.
You know, what happened thirty years ago is one thing. We can’t just say, “Look, and why don’t we just roll back the clock, and everything will be okay!” We can’t do that. And today, this is our problem, and we have to grab this problem by the horns—and the only way we can do that is if we give peace a chance! We’re not giving peace a chance.
What do you mean by that, on a practical level?
On the practical level, what is the value of the human being; where is the hope; where is, where is the community coming together, everybody...?
You see, the problem we see, (that I see), is that the people of one community, one society say, “Well, you know what we should do?—is, leave the responsibility to the police, leave the responsibility to the politicians, leave the responsibility to the religion.”
But, no! Society has to come together and says, “No, we’re all going to partake in this. Whoever we are, whatever our beliefs are, whatever we think it is, we are all going to come together, and we’re going to participate, and we’re going to make a difference. And if this is the crime that we want to stop, we can stop it.”
But it is all of us coming together. That is what is fundamentally missing.
And when you say “all of us,” do you mean, [word] know, and, “parents, politicians, governments...?”
Even the kids! Even the little kids...
Mike Graham: [simultaneously]
Well, especially the kids, really. [DM: Yeah.] Because I was going ask you, [DM: Absolutely!] Lorraine, in—it must be very, very difficult to imagine the mindset of somebody who is willing to stab somebody else. [PR: Ah....]
You know, as to [PLJ: Yeah....] what—I mean, you must have asked yourself that question so many times, you know? “Why did it happen to my son? Who would do something like this?”
And now, when you see the kinds of violence that we’re seeing on the streets every day—and we’re talking about sixty or seventy, you know, Moped attacks every day now in London—you just wonder to yourself, “Why would somebody ever even think of doing that?”
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
Umm! I mean, it’s clear that they’re in a, a terrible, traumatic state. [MG: Mmm.] It’s insane, what they do, and, and it’s...
Mike Graham: [simultaneously]
It really is.
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
...and that shows the the level of their thinking. [MG: Ummm.] And they haven’t got peace! Because when you have peace, you make the best choices.
And that’s why, you know, I’m very happy that we’re, we’re rolling out this first event, which is called, “Seeds of Peace.” [MG: Okay.] And Prem Rawat will be speaking to a the, masses of people.
But, what I wanted to really inject here is, right now, the young people and the families are living in fear. There’s very little hope—literally, there’s very little hope, because every day we’re hearing of another stabbing.
Is that an economic thing—or is it not about money? Is it not about poverty? What’s it about?
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
It’s an accumulation of different things. Poverty, money, people, they’re all part of the jigsaw puzzle. [MG: Mmm.] But if you have all these things, and you yourself don’t have peace, how are you going to utilize what you have?
And that’s what we’re bringing to the table; that’s what we want to spread across London—more peace in individuals so that they can utilize what they already have.
The cuts to the police do affect the police! We forget that they’re human beings! [MG: Sure.] I speak with them. And they—it affects them. So, what we want to do is restore back that peace, that hope, so that they can get on with the job that they can do.
And if people want to come to this event, tell us a bit more about when it is, and where it is?
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
Well, it’s—the tickets are sold out, so.... [MG: Oh, are they?] Yeah, there’s, [MG: Oh, okay.] in fact, we’ve like, a long waiting list. So, I’m, I’m sorry about that, but it will be filmed, and it [MG: Okay.] will be rolled out.
But you can find out more information on The Prem Rawat Foundation—that’s tprf.org. [MG; Okay.]
You’re talking about peace a lot—and yeah, but—a lot, today. But of course—and yeah, a lot of these problems are caused by gangs who are at war with each other. There is no peace if you’re at war with each other.
And if you feel that you belong within that family structure of a gang, (which is, my understanding, is so often why these kids, particularly young men, end up in a gang), how can you possibly compete with that feeling of belonging and family that they get from a gang, and start saying, “Peace is the answer,” when actually their answer is, being protected by their fellow gang members?
Actually, that’s really interesting because, in Ecuador, there was a whole gang. And this gang was having another—a fight with another gang! And people were dying left and right.
And they decided that “this is enough.” And the only thing that really turned the whole point for them was something that could bring hope for them.
Which was, what?
Which was, “find yourself; find that peace within you. Find what matters to you the most.” And when they started to look at, that, the possibility of peace lies within them, they started to look at themselves.
Daisy McAndrew: [simultaneously]
But surely, only if they want it—if they want to change.
But, it, it—and well, the thing is, the option isn’t even there for them. And this is what we are working on. [PLJ: Yeah.] Pastor Lorraine and I are working on this, and we want to take this across the world—not just in England! And we want to give this alternative to people, that there is an alternative to all of this violence and all of this senseless stuff that goes on!
So, you’re saying it worked in Ecuador? What sort of difference did it make in, in Ecuador?
Now, this gang is going and recruiting other gangs to find, through the Peace Education Program, that hope that they were missing!
And so, education is a part of it—and then, presumably, finding a route out of making your money from illegal means, into making money through legal means.
Mike Graham: [simultaneously]
Well, that’s the big problem, isn’t it—the drug, the drug business, that some of them are involved in—not all of them, but, [PLJ: Mmm.] but, many of them. And, it’s very hard to...
Because the drug problem in, in this country, I think, is far bigger than anybody is admitting! [Ind.: Yeah.] And it’s almost time to consider, I think, legalizing some part of it, in order to take it away from these gangs. [PR: But....]
Pastor Lorraine Jones: [simultaneously]
But I think.... [PR: Yeah....] Sorry. [PR: Go, go ahead.]
I think—I mean, the mayor has invested a lot of money, (I’m talking about millions), that’s going into young peoples’ projects and helping [MG: Umm-hmm.] those that come out of prison to go through that restorative justice system—so that they can then, get employ’, get training, get employment, and do the right things.
Now, I’ve spoken to lots of murderers, because I go into prisons as well. None of them are happy with what they have done. [MG: Umm-hmm.] Even those that commit a crime, they’re not happy with what they have done. Nobody’s born a killer or born a, a thief! [MG: Umm.] They’re not born that way. And they’re not happy with what they have done.
So, education, it, it’s a key. And what we’re going to do through the Peace Education Project is educate them about themselves. It’s like reprogramming them about who they truly are so that they can make those positive steps and have a more fulfilled life.
And if you believe in them, maybe they’ll see that somebody believes in them. And then, perhaps that will feed itself. [PLJ: Yeah!] That’s [words].
Prem Rawat: [simultaneously]
The most important thing is, they start believing in themselves. [MG: Yeah!] See, that, that, that’s so important, [MG: Ummm.] because once they start believing in themselves, there is hope for them. And it was the lack of hope, the pain of it....
We don’t realize how painful it is not to have hope; to wake up next day and next day, and you know [MG: Umm.] it’s going to be the same thing again and again and again, and nothing will change, and there is nothing on the horizon [MG: Yeah....] that’ll change....
And, having worked with these communities before in other countries, when will you know that it’s beginning to work? How, how will you see the kind of, the progress that you’re going to make?
I have been in Soweto; I went there the first time; there were a few people who had been through the Peace Education Program. The next time around, there were so much more.
But not only that. They are taking the message. I don’t have to keep doing it. They are taking the message to the, to their young folks in their community. And it’s spreading! It is spreading because it is like good news!
Look, the people can say, “Look, the, here’s something that makes a difference.”
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
And it’s already started in London. [PR: Yeah, umm-hmm.] I, I have to say that it was rolled out to me—[MG: Okay.] and, as a bereaved mother, when I first watched the film, Inside Peace, it had such a tremendous impact on me. (I’m a resilient woman anyway.)
But, dealing with the pains, the trauma of losing my son in such a brutal way, when I watched that film, and I saw other prisoners who had committed crime, how they walked away from that mindset, it gave me more hope that my....
I’ve got seven—I’ve got seven other children. [MG: Have you?] Yeah—that there’s going to be a better society for them. So, it’s started already, and we’re already seeing positive responses [DM: Yet....] from the Peace Education Program.
Lorraine, people often say that it’s when—it’s when women decide to, to take no more of something and change it, change happens, (and it’s a very sexist comment—but it is something, it’s something that people say), and takes a...
Mike Graham: [simultaneously]
I, I’m, I’ll allow that. It’s all right. [PR: Umm-hmm-hmm-hmm!]
But, do you—is there something—and have you talked to other mothers—what, sisters, grandmothers, about, about this issue, and how to change that, you know, what’s going on at the moment?
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
Yes, I have. I’ve spoken to a number of other mothers and fathers. And, some of them will be coming to our event on Sunday. But I would like to say that it’s—I mean, what you’re seeing from me, it’s, it’s, it’s a very unique thing, and—and I know the tools that I’m using, (which is a part of Prem Rawat)—but it’s not easy.
When you’ve got a broken heart, and you’re shattered—we’re dealing with trauma, shock and grief—it’s not easy to get up and start walking on in your life. And there’s a lot of families out there that are in this state.
But when they see me coming out, doing what I’m doing, I’m giving them more of a hope. So that’s why I do what I do, as well.
And Prem, what about the lack of, of male role models? Certainly, a lot of UK politicians, (David Lammy, particularly, one here in London), talked a lot about gangs and crimes. And he has spoken about the lack of, yeah, of the father figure, and the lack, absent dads in this area, and the detrimental impact.
Do you believe that that is one of the causes?
Well, there are many, many, many, many causes. You know, and the list would be almost too long. And everybody from different parts of the community would like to add their little part [DM: Mmm.] to that...
But to me, it’s like, you know, your house is on fire. Do you really want to stand in front of it and figure out how the fire got started—or put out the fire, first?
But if you figure out [PR: Hmm?] how it started, doesn’t that stop other fires starting?
Once you have, once you have saved your house, yes, then you will actually maybe even have better clues of what started it. But if all the evidence is burnt...? I mean, if there is no society left—if the very fabric of the society breaks down, we will have nothing.
You know, to talk about peace takes courage. [PLJ: Mmm-hmm.] To talk about everything else doesn’t take courage. You just sit down; you start talking about, “Oh, yeah, the problem is economics....”
How do you define “peace?” Now are you talking about inner peace; you’re talking about lack of fighting...?
No, it is the inner peace. Because it is the inner peace that causes the fighting—what, what the fighting on the outside is, is just a projection of what’s happening inside of you!
So, it’s a form of psychiatry?
It’s not a form of psychiatry; it’s a form of realization; [PLJ: Yes.] it’s a form of understanding; it’s a form of condensing your existence, giving it some meaning, giving it... Oh, it’s about you. It’s about you, your understanding of life, your appreciation of life.
Today I was reading something, and it was so beautiful, that, “Life is like a river. Don’t try to dam it; don’t try to change it. Understand it; enjoy it; partake in it; drink from it; bathe in it.” And we don’t do that anymore. We, we want to change that river; we want to, we want to change its course. We want to do this and be the...
But, life is a very beautiful thing, that we have been gifted.
Daisy McAndrew: [simultaneously]
But isn’t this what some of these kids feel—that they’re just being dragged down white-water rafting, and they, they, [PR: Yeah, well....] they have no control! [PLJ: Yeah.]
But they do! They do! Even in the time of the darkness, they have to have the courage—and this is what understanding yourself means—[PLJ: Mmm.] to have the courage to be able to say, “No. I don’t want that in my life.”
And this is the other side of the fence. When I work with those people who are the perpetrators of so much pain for other people, I see that they did not have the courage. But by having a better understanding of themselves, they now have the courage to say, “No. No, that’s not going to happen.”
Well, it’s a tremendous hope; it’s a tremendous idea—wait, I don’t want to, want to wish you luck, because you know what you’re doing, obviously. [PR: Umm-hmm.] And, we’ll look forward to, to the results of it all becoming—much more hope, and for everyone, really. [PLJ: Yeah.]
But, please, it’s not just us. I would like to congratulate any person who is listening to this radio show, and who wants to make that change in their life. [PLJ: Umm-hmm.] And because it is, the whole community has to come together—everybody has to come together to make this happen.
Right. Well, we’ll see you again, perhaps, after, maybe a couple of weeks, and see how it’s going—and, thank you very much again for coming in—it’s Prem Rawat, a Pastor Lorraine Jones...
Pastor Lorraine Jones: [simultaneously]
Thank you, guys.
Mike Graham: [cont.]
You’ve told us already where to go look and find more information, but tell us one more time?
Pastor Lorraine Jones:
Right, that’s The Prem Rawat Foundation, and that’s tprf.org.
There you go; thank you very much indeed. [PR: Thank you!] [PLJ: Thank you!] [PR: Thank you for having us.]
[end of the interview; radio station tag, followed by advertising and conversation]
For many years, Prem Rawat has been referred to as a “Peace Ambassador” by millions of people around the world – an impressive title for sure. But what does that title actually mean – especially since the word “peace” means different things to different people. And “ambassador?” That word also brings a lot of different images to mind.In this upbeat, far ranging interview by the very animated Bridget M
asinga, of Johannesburg’s most popular independent radio station, KAYA FM, Prem elaborates. And as he does, the listening audience of 1.8 million, gets an unexpected opportunity to think about the topic in a new way – that, in fact, we are all Peace Ambassadors – or could be – as long as our “lamp it lit” and we have a passion for it.
Although the systemized racial oppression of Apartheid was abolished in 1991, its legacy still haunts South Africa.
Rian van Heerden, host at Jacaranda radio in Johannesburg, South Africa, opens The Complimentary Breakfast Show with a provocative question, “Will South Africa ever truly experience peace?”
“Peace is not a luxury. And peace is not a word. In fact, peace is a feeling. And like we need to sleep, like we need to eat, like we need to drink water, like we need to breathe air, we actually need peace in our lives.”
Prem continues, “Without peace our functioning breaks down; our basic thinking breaks down. Our perceptions break down. And we no longer can function as a human being, properly.”
Jacaranda 94.2 FM is the largest independent radio station in South Africa and boasts a listening audience of 2 million people a week, and a digital community of more than 1.1 million people a month.
It’s the morning commute and Rian invites his audience to call in to speak with Prem.
Written by Francisca Matos