Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: What is Prana? I only know that it is subtler than the breath. Has science discovered something in this field? Are there other dimensions of our life that science also agrees to?
Sri Sri: : Yes.
I was recently reading this book called The Proof of Heaven, written by a neurologist. He writes about his experiences when he went into coma. He died clinically and had an out of body experience, and so he has written about his experience, and it is exactly what we have been saying.
He saw a big light and said that the name of this light is Om. He has no idea of Indian spirituality, but out of his own experience he said, it is known by a sound called Om. And it is so peaceful and so loving.
He describes exactly what the Gita says, ‘Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham’. The roots are above and the branches are below (to signify that your origin is the Divinity; the consciousness. That is your roots).
He had this experience of going into the roots, and then going beyond the roots into the dark space, and then beyond the dark space into the Hiranyagarbha (the source of the creation of the Universe, or the manifested cosmos in Indian philosophy), what has been said in the Upanishads to be The Golden Egg; it is like a womb of shining gold.
People who have NDEs (Near Death Experiences), they have all experienced what has been said by people in this country for thousands of years. This is so interesting.
Also, the author is an atheist; he never believed in any religion or anything. He was a hard core scientist, and the book talks about how he found through his experience that the other world is so much more real than this one that we see.
This is what we have heard in all the Darshanas (Hindu philosophy is traditionally divided into six schools of thought, or Darshanas, which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures). It begins like that.
See, the knowledge that we gain through the five senses is inferior to the knowledge that we gain through the intellect. You see the sun setting and the sun rising, but the intellect knows that the sun is neither setting, nor rising.
So like this, knowledge of the senses is inferior to the knowledge of the intellect. But knowledge of something beyond the intellect; intuitive knowledge, knowledge from the pure consciousness is even superior to intellectual knowledge.
Intellectual knowledge can be proved and disproved, but a discovery which is beyond the intellectual calculation is something very different.
Q: I am presently a yoga teacher. My biggest problem is how to inspire people? People are not inspired. What is the best advice you could give a teacher to inspire people.
Sri Sri: Ask them these three things: Do you want to be happy? Do you want to be healthy? Do you want to have more time in your day-to-day life? If yes, come do yoga.
You give me 10 minutes, I will give you two hours. If you do 10 minutes of yoga, you get energy which is equivalent to two hours or more.
One can sleep lesser and deeper, feel energetic, happier, and so much love for everybody with the practice of yoga. What more do you want?
First of all, remove this idea from your mind, ‘Oh, nobody is motivated, nobody comes’, you should not have this thought in your mind. You must know you have something that everybody wants and needs, and they will come.
In our mind if we think, ‘Oh, nobody is motivated, nobody wants to come’, then nobody comes. Every day new yoga centers are opening in Tokyo that means people want it.
Q: Is there an advantage that Art of Living techniques have versus Transcendental Meditation (TM) or other techniques?
Sri Sri: I am not a good salesman! I don’t know how to tell you how to compare techniques. There are a number of meditation techniques; you should choose whatever suits you best.
Some techniques, like Buddhist mediation techniques – Vipassana, long silent meditation courses, require several hours of practice for long periods of time.
The advantage that The Art of Living techniques have, from what I have heard from people, is that it is not as time-consuming. You get results very quickly, because you are changing the rhythm of the breath. The technique is highly suitable for people who are very busy in their lives. It is like a power nap. It quickly gives you the experience of a deep meditation.
Even TM brings you that inner calm and peace. People who have done TM also, find it even more beneficial when they do Sudarshan Kriya and the breathing techniques. They find it very complementary to their practice, and it helps them go deeper in their meditation.
In The Art of Living techniques, there is not much effort involved. It suits the modern day lifestyle. Some yogic practices need a much disciplined lifestyle; you have to wake up and meditate at 5 in the morning, have proper food (there is a whole guideline about food, rest and meditation time). The Art of Living technique has very few restrictions, making it easier for people with busy life-styles in urban cities. They also find it easy to practice them.
Q: Gurudev, you often say that ‘Sahaj miley avinashi’ (meaning: By being natural, one can effortlessly attain the Divine). Along with being natural, we also need a broad vision. How do we broaden our vision of life?
Sri Sri: You have desire to know more, that itself is good enough.
Q: Gurudev, my name is Akram and I have come after completing my sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment. I saw my life as an abyss of total darkness. I used to wish that there would be a time when I would see myself as so fortunate as to love myself again. I was depressed and had become an alcoholic in the prison. One day I met Mr. Sharma who was conducting a course and he took me along and asked me to do the course too. He had me do the course and after that I came to know what life was in its true essence. I truly learnt the true art of living that day and I did several courses consecutively. Today I am happy that I have had the opportunity to see a real Guru in person. May God bless you!
Sri Sri: Very good. Now you must become a teacher as well! Become a teacher and bring blessings to everyone.
Q: Gurudev, why do you suggest a Sharnagat (one who has surrendered everything and taken refuge in the Divine) to take a Sankalpa (firm resolve to take action)? How is this possible? We don’t need anything except you. Then why take a Sankalpa at all?
Sri Sri: We never compel anyone to take up a Sankalpa. And you are never asked to take a Sankalpa for small things. Your small wishes and desires anyway get fulfilled, is it not?
Everything does happen anyway. So when things are happening, instead of keeping small ambitions, you should aspire for something bigger. You should think for the nation and think of the betterment of the world. This is what it is.
Usually you just have small little desires for yourself. You should take up a bigger Sankalpa, one that is beneficial for everyone. This is what is said in the Sanatan Dharma (another name for Hinduism from the ancient days), ‘Tanme Manah Shiva Sankalpa Mastu’, which means, may my mind always have a Sankalpa that is beneficial for everyone.
Q: Your program and organization seems like a religious organization for people who don’t know you. How can I introduce this to my company people, without any feeling of religion?
Sri Sri: I understand, that is why me or Swamijis, don’t teach these courses. Our very appearance and whatever we say appears religious. The ones who teach this course are in suits.
The course is all about breathing. Breathing and yoga have its origin in the ancient Vedic philosophy, but it has no religious component. We have kept it so secular that people anywhere in the world, even people who follow other religions, can take benefit from this.
That is the beauty of The Art of Living. The religious component is completely separate. So, if there are Buddhist monks who want to do the course, and who want to learn about breathing, they are not going to learn it from someone who is in a suit and tie. For them, it would be me and Swamiji who would go.
So, in The Art of Living, we have made it so universal, that for each section of society, we speak in their respective language. We do not mix up one another. People should feel comfortable, whether they are Muslim or Christian, or whatever religion they follow, they can follow.
Learning some techniques on how to calm the mind, and how to make oneself more energetic, is very important. Then you can work for 20 hours a day and still keep a smile. This is very important. That is why for the benefit of people, we have made different programs, so that religious people may learn separately, common people may learn separately, and business people and politicians may learn separately.
For different language, there are different faculty to teach these courses.
Q: Dear Gurudev, in one of the knowledge sheets you have mentioned, the Guru is not a person but a presence. How do I see my Guru as a presence and not as a person?
Sri Sri: Every human being, what are they, the body or the mind? If they are the body, then when the spirit is gone, why it is that no one cares for the body. It is the spirit that we value. Try to see the spirit as separate from the body.
Q: Gurudev, is it necessary for two people to think alike to fall in love? Can there not be love along with differences of opinion?
Sri Sri: See, you have something else on your mind, and you are asking something else. If I give you an answer, you will use that answer in some other way. I am not going to get caught into these traps. If you are clever, even I am clever.
I will share an incident with you.
Once I was at Paris airport and was passing through airport security. There were a lot of people seeing me off, some 200-300 people. Now this one lady came; she must have been in her late 60’s. She came to me and showed me a ring on her finger, and asked me, ‘Is this necessary?’
I just saw the ring with a stone on it and said, ‘No, it is not necessary’. And then I left for New York.
Two days later her husband called me and asked me, ‘Gurudev, did you ask my wife to divorce me?’
I said, ‘No’.
The man was around 70 years, and the two had been married for around 40 years. Both of them are devotees. He said, ‘Gurudev, I know you will never say that, but my wife has sent me divorce papers, because you have said that there is no need to be married’.
Then I asked him, ‘Let me talk to you wife.’
She said, ‘Gurudev, I showed you my wedding ring and asked you, ‘Is it necessary?’ You said ‘no’.
So after that incident, even I have become very clever and cautious of what I say! (Laughter)
I will not just say anything in answer to your question, otherwise your mind will start thinking all sorts of things. Like in the story, the woman wanted to divorce the husband, but asked me for my consent by showing me her ring.
Nowadays, people wear all kinds of stones. I tell you, you don’t have to believe so much in stones and all that. More powerful than any stone is your consciousness. Do not give so much important to stones. You are much more powerful than any stone.
Q: What is subtle ego, and how does one overcome it?
Sri Sri: Subtle ego is when you have the feeling that ‘I have no ego’.
When you feel that ‘I am the most down-to-earth and humble person alive’, then that is the subtle ego.
See, if you find that there is some ego in you, never mind, just keep it in your pocket. If it is there, let it be there. It is alright. Why do you want to get rid of it?
If you try to get rid of the ego, then that will become another big problem for you. Because then you will say, ‘See, I have overcome my ego!’ Then that is the subtle ego.
You cannot overcome ego by destroying it. Just be natural. Ego dissolves in the naturalness of your being.