Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, our leaders have advised girls and ladies to carry pepper sprays and chilli powder to keep themselves safe. Will the girls be safe by keeping chilli powder or by learning Karate? Isn't the government’s responsibility to provide safety. What can girls do for their safety?
Sri Sri: First believe that you are safe. If you move about in fear and believe that everywhere or every person you meet is wrong, then you will be trapped in this fear like some sort of disease. There are many good and noble people in our society even today.
See, there have been demons (referring to wrong doers or criminals) in every age. We need to protect ourselves from them. So my advice would be to not roam around alone. Whenever you go out, go in groups of two to four people. Even in the daytime, you can judge what places are safe and what are not.
See, this insecurity is present not only in India but in every country of the world.
There is an area in Washington DC which is called as the Safe Zone. And just a few meters away from that area is considered as an unsafe zone. There is no safety. There, the property rates are about one third of that in the safe zone. Why is it so? It is because in every country there are some safe places and some unsafe ones. In every country there are people who carry guns. There are different kinds of mentally sick people.
By God’s Grace such extreme and terrible situations have not come in our country yet. But the situation has definitely worsened compared to what it was earlier. That is why if you get any advice regarding your safety from anywhere, just follow that.
In addition to this, women need to rise in strong protest against alcoholism. These liquor shops should be closed.
Mahatma Gandhi had three dreams for establishing Rama-Rajya (a just and moral society). The first step in achieving this was to have a society free of alcohol and intoxicants, a free society where there is no liquor consumption.
The second step he advised was to have a society that refrains from eating meat and other non-vegetarian food. He laid great emphasis on proper diet.
You know, today India has become the largest exporter of beef and non-vegetarian food in the world. Cows are slaughtered in the highest numbers in India and the meat is then exported to foreign countries. It is a matter of great shame and insult for our country. It is an insult of our country’s culture and traditions.
This situation has arisen in the recent 10-15 years. When people’s eating habits are proper and refined, then violent tendencies will not arise in their minds. But if people continue to drink alcohol and consume non-vegetarian food, then such disturbances will continue to be there in society.
Leave the world aside and just look at what is happening in our own country, in our own homes. Recently there was a report in the news about a father who molested his own daughter. It is a matter of shame and worry. We need to have a huge wave of spirituality in the society.
Some people do many wrong things even in the name of religion. Recently there was a spiritual leader who was found guilty of committing wrong deeds under the garb of being a spiritual person. A person who commits such wrong deeds cannot be a spiritual leader. The field of spirituality has been really misused by people for their own personal greed and gains.
There are fake doctors at some places today who do not have a valid medical degree or a certificate, yet they start medical practice and prescribing medicines to people to make money. Similarly there are people who falsely present themselves as spiritual masters also. There is no set system of rules or control in spirituality, which is why anybody simply enters this field and misuses it for their own petty gains, rather than doing good for people.
Q: Gurudev, what is the meaning of Upvaas (fasting)? What food should we eat during these days? In different parts, people eat different things.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When we eat too
Sri Sri: When we eat too much then we feel sleepy. We get this feeling of inertia. Upvaas means to live near (up – near, vaas – live). Live near whom? Near the Divinity. It means sitting near the Divinity. And when will you be able to sit near the Divine? When your stomach is not over filled.
Fasting is also done to give the stomach some rest.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, 'Naty-asnatas 'tu yogo ‘sti na caikantam anasnatah'.
This means, remaining hungry is also not good. It is prohibited in the scriptures. Krishna says that yoga is not for one who doesn’t eat at all, and it is also not for one who overeats. So then how should one fast? By having a fruit diet.
You can have fruits. They get digested in 20-25 minutes. So take light food which you can digest easily. Take less than what you have normally and do it only for as many days as you can do. You should listen to your body.
You are not fasting for God. Fasting is for the self, for the purification of one’s own body. If you think that you will make God happy by fasting, then you are mistaken.
Fasting is not for pleasing God but for the purification of one’s mind, body and subconscious.
Q: When I see beauty and talent in others, my mind either starts putting them down or feels jealous. I am complete in myself then why does mind reel in lack?
Sri Sri: Perhaps you don’t realize that someday everybody is going to die. All those beautiful people, they are also going to die. All those living in the past were beautiful, and wars were fought and they all died. Those who you are jealous about, they are also going to die. Wake up and look, where is the jealousy? What is beauty? The so-called beauty that we think is only skin deep, is not beauty.
Beauty is the nature of our own spirit. When you are happy and content, the quality of consciousness or life that dawn inside you is the real beauty, not the outer appearance.
Q: Gurudev, Devi Chandika’s vaahana (chariot) is shown to be a shava (dead body). What is its significance?
Sri Sri: The one you consider as a dead body is also not completely inert. There also is a vibration, a consciousness, a power. We can say that there is no consciousness to a certain degree, but to say that there is no power at all is not correct. There is power even in stone. So to convey this idea, the vaahana of Chandika is shown to be a dead body.
When one thing subsides, the other rises. When tamoguna is destroyed, satvaguna blossoms. We can also look it like this. Inertia (symbolized by the dead body) is subsided and consciousness (symbolized by Divine Mother) blossoms.
Q: Gurudev, what is the cause of ignorance? How to remove it?
Sri Sri: Ignorance is dispelled by knowledge.
Now what is the cause of ignorance? It is just a vidhaan (ordinance). You might ask me, 'But why did it arise in the first place'. That is just how it is.
It is like asking, 'Why the sky is so vast?' The sky is vast, that is how it is. Or, 'Why does the sun shine?' It shines, it is like that.
Questions also have a limit (iti). Beyond a certain point there is no answer, even if you keep on asking.
Q: What is the best way to dissolve our karma?
Sri Sri: Just keep acting. Don’t worry, karma is past. Knowledge, awareness, meditation and good action, these things erase the past karma.
Being aware and knowing that the past is past, that it happened for whatever reason; the awareness of this knowledge itself erases the past karma. Do good actions, do something good.
Q: Gurudev, could you please elaborate on the eleven principles that Mahatma Gandhi gave to the nation.
Sri Sri: The first is Ahimsa, which is Non-violence.
Then comes Satya, which is Truth.
Then is Asteya, i.e., Non-stealing.
Then Brahmacharya or Celibacy.
Then Aparigraha, i.e., Non possession.
Then comes Sharirshrama, which is Physical Effort (labor).
Aswada, which is, not interested in taste. Mahatma Gandhi said your taste buds are responsible for your cravings. Eat the food not for taste but for living. See what is good for you and not the taste. Many times the taste is so good but the food is not good for you. Many times food is good for you but the taste is not good.
Then there is Sarvatra Bhayavarjana, i.e., fearlessness. Not to be afraid of anything.
Sarva Dharma Samantva, which is, considering people of all religions as equal. Some religions say, if you believe in our prophet, then you will go to heaven. Others say, if you believe in my religion then God will reward you. But Vedic religion says to consider everybody as equal, whatever mode or form of worship they may have.
Then there is Swadeshi, i.e., use of locally made goods. We should think global and buy local. Then he said Sparshbhavana, i.e., drop untouchability. There was so much practice of untouchability at that time. These are the eleven rules.
Q: You say when we are scared of something, we should face our fears. My question is where do I get the courage to face these fears?
Sri Sri: Know that you are not alone, and there is a universal power that loves you, and is with you. When you remember that you are being loved very dearly, fear vanishes. All your troubles begin because you don’t believe you are being loved very dearly. That is where the whole problem starts, and you start behaving in ways that pushes everybody away. You create a misery for yourself, because you doubt yourself; Am I good enough? Am I being loved? Does God love me or not? Do people love me or not? These sort of doubts.
Just take it for granted that you are loved and liked, even if you’re a buffoon. Even if you are a clown, you are loved and enjoyed. People like you however you are.
Just move on, don’t sit and spend too much time worrying about yourself, examining yourself, and re-examining. Just take up a commitment and do what you need to do, and take deep rest with dispassion.
Three things are essential, Passion, Dispassion and Compassion.
When you have passion, you don’t worry. When you don’t have passion, that is when you sit and worry. Hesitation comes when you lack passion. Without passion life loses all its charm and you slip into depression. Passion is essential; invoke the passion.
Not only passion, dispassion is also essential. People tell you that you should be passionate, but I say you should also have dispassion. Dispassion is often thought to be a depressed state of affairs. People look very depressed and think this is dispassion. This is a completely wrong understanding.
Dispassion makes you centered. It keeps your smile and equanimity. It keeps the intellect sane and emotions balanced. When you have dispassion you will stop complaining about anything to anybody. The world is the way it is, you won’t complain about people or situations, and you won’t complain about yourself. This is dispassion.
Many times we complain about others, including the ones we love the most. We make the other person defensive, or make them give explanations. It is such a headache!
Initially I used to get swayed by this. People would say, ‘You don’t look at me’, or ‘You don’t talk to me’, or ‘Are you angry with me’, my goodness! These days I do not answer such questions. If you think so, let it be. So be it. Never mind! When you get beaten up a little bit by your own emotions, that makes you strong somewhere.
It’s all just a matter of wanting attention. You give attention and they are alright. Just like babies – if you don’t attend to them they throw tantrums just to draw your attention. Have you noticed this? When you have guests at home and you are busy talking to them, that is when the children want to show you their paintings. They have already shown it to you ten times. But when you are having an important discussion, they come and disturb you! You wonder that this child was quiet, what happened all of a sudden!
We have not grown up from that stage, we always want attention from people. And for this attention we create tension for the others.
So with dispassion, you neither have attention deficiency, nor do you have any tension. You won’t sit and crave for attention. Dispassion is essential.
One more thing that is really beneficial is compassion. When you have compassion it propels you, it motivates you. When you have compassion for those who do wrong, you don’t feel hatred or bitterness towards them. Compassion greases passion and dispassion, and balances them out.
Q: How can I become free from the sense of doership?
Sri Sri: Just keep doing, don’t worry about it.
I think you have too much time to sit and think, 'Am I the doer or not'. Just do what you are suppose to do.
Every action has a reward; pleasant, unpleasant, or mixed. There are only three types of rewards. When you act, that action brings you some positive reward, or some negative reward, or some positive and negative reward. The effect of all these rewards stay only for some time. So the wise will not worry about it.
In every action there is something positive and there is something that is negative. An action cannot be 100% perfect. Focus on the positive things that develop out of an action. And don’t worry about the effect of the action, just keep moving.
If you have done a wrong action, that has taught you a lesson not to repeat it next time. If you have done the right action, it encourages you to do many more of the same right actions.
If you find that in the action you did, there are some things that you could improve, then you can always improve on that.
Just move on, don’t say, 'I am the doer', or, 'I am not the doer'. Anyway no one is a doer in one sense, and in another sense, yes, you are the doer, because inside of you there are two.
There is a beautiful story in the Upanishads which says, 'On the tree of this universe, there are two birds sitting, one is enjoying the fruit, the other is just watching, like a witness'.
So, there is one aspect of you that is not doing anything, that is much bigger. And there is one aspect in you that is doing everything. Both are present in you.
Now you might ask, 'How?'
On one level, you find that you are changing. Your thoughts are changing, your emotions are changing, your body is changing. Yet at another deeper level, there is something in you that is not changing at all; it is the same. So it is not one or the other, it is both together simultaneously.
When guilt eats you up, or pride takes over your head, then you should understand that you are not the doer. Do you get it?
When you do something very good and you say, 'Oh I did it, I did it', that too makes you unhappy. Doing something good also make you unhappy because you do so much and then you say that nobody recognizes you, nobody listens to you.
So not being recognized for your good work makes you miserable, and if you do something wrong, that too eats up your spirit and creates a sense of guilt. When such things happen, know that you are not the doer. Be a witness then.
People who have committed the biggest crime on the planet, somewhere deep inside, they think, 'Hey, I didn’t do it, how did this happen'.
They feel surprised and shocked, and they feel that they are not the doer, it just happened.
If you talk to the biggest criminals on the planet, you will see that they find themselves being caught by an (criminal) act. Same way, someone who has done some excellent work, they also feel that it just happened; everything fell into place. That non-doership is an experience in itself.
When you have to do things, then don't say, 'Oh, I am not the doer'. Don’t go into that mode. It will only tear you apart. If you have to focus on some work, focus and just do it.
I am not a doer, is an experience, sometimes it just dawns on you. And it is also a reminder to you when you are reeling in guilt, or in arrogance.
Q: Dear Gurudev, all our lives we seek for love in our relationships and yet this love is so temporary. What is ultimate love or the love that never goes away?
Sri Sri: You are made up of the stuff called love. What you are seeking here and there is what you are. Turn inward and repose. When you find that you don’t need love from anybody and you are the source of it, then you start giving. When you start giving in abundance, it comes back to you in abundance.