Social media is an empowering tool of free speech that keeps the media in check, says one of India’s most powerful spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, ahead of an online forum he will lead on Twitter on Sunday.
“I think social media has empowered people who were otherwise heavily dependent on the visual and print media. Real freedom of expression and speech have dawned only through the social media”, said Shankar in an email interview with the South China Morning Post.
Shankar described the modern day as “a time of despair and depression” and appealed to people to broaden their outlook.
Teacher and founder of non-profit humanitarian organisations The Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values, Shankar travels the world conducting speaking tours and fundraising for his organisations.
Shankar makes heavy use of social media to promote his work and spread his teachings. His accounts on Twitter , Facebook  and Google+  have hundreds of thousands of followers each and he contributes a regular blog to the online news portal, The Huffington Post.
Social media is becoming more important as a news source, which is improving the quality of journalism, said Shankar. “The news media can no longer totally distort any news with Twitter and Facebook so active”, he said.
He championed a new age of citizen journalism using social media, “It has given the chance for everyone to be a journalist and air his or her opinions”, he said.
Shankar’s teachings focus on stress management, meditation and nonviolence. His work has become popular among India’s urban elite and his trademarked rhythmic breathing technique has followers in over 150 countries. He is described by The Guardian as having “updated India’s image of the guru for the corporate age”.
He was named the fifth most influential person in India by Forbes magazine in 2009.
According to his website, he was able to recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit scripture by the age of four.
Shankar’s “Twitter Town Hall” takes place on Sunday at 10.30pm IST (Monday at 1am Hong Kong time).