“I want to do more. I want to share more.
I want to create more. I want to give more.”
A role model in many respects, Kiran Bedi is the most admired woman of India. She broke new ground by joining the élite Indian Police Service in 1972, the first woman in India to do so. Her accomplishments as India’s first & highest ranking woman police officer and a philanthropist have established her as one of the most respected public figures today. Her humane and fearless approach has contributed greatly to innumerable innovative policing and prison reforms. She not only introduced a “Godly approach to jail inmates” with the introduction of yoga, meditation and discourses by various sections of religious groups to inculcate spirituality and human values amongst the under trials and convicts, men and women but also empowered them with education. Vanshika Gaba from Soul Curry spoke to Kiran Bedi about her approach to life.
- Soul Curry: How do you define spirituality? What changes has it brought into your life as a person and as a police officer?
- Kiran Bedi: Spirituality is our whole being. Clean thoughts are spirituality. For me, spirituality is clean thoughts, clean mind, clean action, and clean human being. In my life, it has been a growth and not a new learning. This is the way I believed as a student and as a person. When I was growing up, this has been my education, my training, the nurturing from my parents, and environment i.e. clean mind, clean thoughts, clean hands, clean human being which is a spiritual human being.
I have been growing in this belief, that’s why I am in Indian police because this service is meant entirely for that; to help people stay clean. And this is the reason why this service attracted me as it has the power and potential to help people stay clean. So, for me it was not to pick up dirty people or people with dirty hands but the people to be kept clean. I look at the glass half full and not half empty.
When I was small, my parents used to say, “If you want to know how others feel about what you do, get into the others shoe, you will see where it pinches”. And at that time 40-50 yrs ago when I was in my early school days it was this which mattered, this has the philosophy of spirituality.
“I have teachers, books, scriptures, and discourses but there’s not yet that stage come in my life where I could say that this is the end…this person is my Guru.”
- SC: You introduced Vipasanna Meditation in Tihar Jail. Why did you choose vipassana?
- KB: In prison, I was looking for solutions, all possible strategies, all possible options and this came as an option. I didn’t choose this out of many, as I haven’t experienced all. The most significant thing was that it got accepted by everyone because it did not have any form of religion. Vipassana was one which was more of internal understanding, more of internal reflection than external formation. So, with no external formation you can sit and meditate anywhere in any form. It was not any formal religion of praying to a name, or a mantra; Muslims could accept it, Hindus could accept it, Sikhs could accept it because it did not have any form. There was no jaap, no prayer, and no form, only understanding yourself that anyone would be willing to do. In prison, where there are people of every denomination and they have very rigid views, very strong views, like the Sikh would say Guru Granth Sahib is my last word, the Hindu will say Geeta is my last word, the Muslim may say Quran is my last word, the Christian might say Bible is my last word, but Vipassana emphasized on understanding the meaning behind all of them. In fact not only understanding, but imbibing and living those values. Therefore, it is rising above; it is like living those teachings, which is why Vipassana worked very well as it was not about limiting but expanding.
- SC: In every walk of life, one needs the right guidance and training. Do you have a mentor? Do you listen to a Guru?
- KB: I listen to a lot of discourses. I do pray. I have a temple in my house but I don’t limit myself. I have teachers, books, scriptures, and discourses but there’s not yet that stage come in my life where I could say that this is the end…this person is my Guru. But I have many many teachers in my life.
“For me, spirituality is clean thoughts, clean mind, clean action, and clean human being.”
- SC: How do you deal with your problems in life?
- KB: Life is a challenge. My problems in life are not different from any other. In fact they are same for everyone but I think the challenges are different. When you are in the profession like mine then the challenges ought to be different. If you are in some other profession then there are some other kinds of challenges.
Challenges are like stepping stones. Either you make them as a step to climb up or you make them as a blockage. In my approach I recognised that whenever you have a challenge, there is an opposite reaction. So, the need is to understand the concept of opposite reaction. I don’t look at the reaction as something to block my way, rather I take it as something in a way that I have to climb over and look at the next hill. So, my whole approach has been – not to expect nothing but to expect anything and to look for which is my next step to climb and convert it into a stepping stone to step over it. Now this comes with grace. It cannot come with the ‘I’; it’s something within the ‘I’ that is also giving you the energy. While you have the energy, there is something that is sparking the energy to face the challenges. To me, that’s the hidden invisible grace and nothing comes without grace. Even being healthy is by grace. Why I must eat the right thing and live the right way, there is something that is protecting the rightness. Many people do feel differently, even the feeling of that invisible grace is a grace by itself. I feel the hands of protection around me. When I am in awkward situations, I feel there is some hand that is protecting me and I remain grateful. It is invisible. You can just feel it in circumstances like when you could have been killed, you could have been injured, you could have been hurt, and then you feel that something protected you; so what protected you is the invisible grace which stays with you. To me, that’s the special spiritual grace.
- SC: According to you what steps should be taken to improve the situation of women in this society?
- KB: It is to educate her and to set her free. Let her seek her needs as much as a man’s needs. Just as man needs to be free and work for himself and be a provider, so should woman be allowed to educate herself to the maximum she wants and choose her own course of life and to be her own provider. Why should others dictate what she should do, as they don’t decide for men what they should do. So, women should be free enough to decide for themselves. Set them free and let them choose there own righteous path, walk on those paths and be the source of strength and energy for themselves. They are as good as men and in fact if they can do better. Allow them to grow and be on their own, so that they can be the providers in more than one way; they are already providers to the society, but let them be the providers in many more ways like men; man is a provider in every aspect, so should a woman be a provider in every aspect and let her choose the aspect.
“Just as man needs to be free and work for himself and be a provider, so should woman be allowed to educate herself to the maximum she wants and choose her own course of life and to be her own provider.”
- SC: Even in today’s 21st century, female foeticide is widely practiced. What do you think are the reasons of such brutal acts and what steps should be taken to eradicate them from grass root level?
- KB: This is happening because somebody else is deciding for her that she should deliver a boy or a girl. Somebody else is controlling her all the time and she allows herself to be controlled because she has been conditioned that she is weak. But if she is strong, she will not let anybody control. On the contrary, she will stop others from being victims. So, she allows herself to be a victim. The more she becomes a victim, the more others victimize her. The day she says I stop being a victim and I will not be a victim, she stops others from being a victim. She can do this by educating herself, but first somebody has to allow her to be educated so that she gets empowered.
- SC: You have started many projects. What do you foresee for society?
- KB: A lot of sharing and giving; a lot of doing and creating. I want to do more. I want to share more. I want to create more. I want to give more.
- SC: In this highly demanding schedule of yours, how do you de-stress yourself?
- KB: A good sound sleep at night. To me, sound sleep with a morning meditative walk is the nutrition of the day. It gives you energy enough for the day and still leaves a reservoir.
Live a simple life. Live a life of
giving, simplicity, moderation,
giving and remain happy during
Message for Youngsters…
I have always said, “youngsters have two big assets: health and time, the great combination. If you have good health & time and you use it well. Then you will be the king or the queen and if you loose them, you will be the beggar for the rest of your life. So, build it for the first 20-22 yrs. of your life, you are the king all your life.”