Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: My mind keeps having conversations with me, how can I deal with that?
Sri Sri: At last you became aware of this; it was happening the entire time but now you have achieved the first step by becoming aware of it. That’s why in these courses you don’t have just knowledge, you have singing as well. Sing, dance and do all these techniques just like a child. As these techniques are taught, just keep doing them and you know in between there are moments the mind has become quiet. That’s why what you are doing now, this advanced course, and this silence program is so valuable, you know; it won’t happen in the very first sitting, I know all sorts of thoughts will come up.
It’s like suppose you are cleaning this room after a long gap, there is so much dust and the dust will rise, similarly you have to continue doing advanced courses many times. Those of you who are doing the course for the second time, third time, fourth time, did you notice it is becoming quieter quickly. So it takes quite a while to gain mastery over the silence, right! So we have to keep doing, keep doing it and you will achieve that, no doubt.
Q: Dear Guruji, I would love to ask you why is the song ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ so special and intense and how does it help in situations like you explained this morning? I remember that last year we had a very rare combination of some bhajans and you advised us to sing this song there also. Thank you so much.
Sri Sri: Yes! ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ is one of the very powerful mantras. Mantras are those energizing sounds which help to uplift the consciousness, which help to uplift the subtle. So ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, these words are very important because ‘Na’, ‘Ma’, ‘Shi’, ‘Va’, ‘Ya’, these five letters represent the five elements Earth, water, fire, air and ether. ‘OM’ is the sound of the universe; ‘OM’ is the symbol of life force. ‘OM’ means peace and love, so when there is peace, love and harmony in all the five elements, there is bliss, there is joy. yeah! So, ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ indicates the transcendental universal one consciousness and energizes that subtle aspect of the universe.
Q: I have wasted so many years of my life. I want to do something good and to be successful now. My age is about sixty now, is it too late?
Sri Sri: No! Nothing is ever too late, no not at all, don’t worry. Don’t regret the past. Even now it’s not late. Keep smiling; be happy hmm… you are on the right track, right path, and right place. Move on! There are so many things to be done and I need so much help. So many hands I need to do this big mission, right! Bringing the whole world as one family, so we all play a very important role, let’s all do it!
Q: Dearest Guruji, I heard about some people they are preparing themselves for living without food unlike you and me. Is this practically possible?
Sri Sri: There are some people who are living without food but you know they don’t have so much strength, they don’t do much. If you want to be like a delicate doll sitting somewhere doing nothing, you don’t need to eat much, you don’t need to eat at all. Some people have practiced it for a long time. I know one gentleman who had come here to our ashram, said since the last thirty years he has not eaten anything.
Fine, how long did it take you to practice that? He said seventeen years. Seventeen years just watching the sun, slowly, slowly reducing the food, one time comes you don’t need to eat anything; but he hasn’t accomplished or achieved anything other than doing this. So if you want to take that as your life’s mission - not to eat anything and practice that, well good! That you can do, no doubt. See for some people it has come to them naturally. Some people, nature has made their body, their system such that they don’t have to eat, when they are happy and in meditation naturally food intake goes down, but it should not be done as a practice. I am reminded of the two great beings in India who were contemporaries, one is Lord Buddha and the other is Lord Mahavira.
Lord Mahavira did not eat at all, it is said he ate once in a year or three times a year or something like that. He didn’t feel the need to eat. He was a prince just like Gautama Buddha or Buddha. As a prince he went out to find the meaning of life, to find the self. He won’t eat for a long time. Very few times he ate, when someone brought food and offered him, he ate.
So Lord Buddha also tried this experiment; he also said okay I will also not eat and find out. Buddha forced on himself not to eat and his body became so weak and he could not even sit or walk or meditate, he became so dependant. At that time a lady came and brought him some rice pudding, he ate that and he got his prana back. Then Lord Buddha declared it is useless to fast too much! He said just by fasting you don’t get enlightened.Lord Krishna has said very clearly in Bhagavad Gita; Lord Krishna has said Yoga is not for one who eats too much or for one who doesn’t eat at all. It is not for one who doesn’t do any activity or not for one who does too much activity, ‘Yuktahara Viharasya’. Similarly not for one who does not sleep at all or one who sleeps all the time.
Yoga is for one who is in moderation and takes them out of misery, out of suffering, out of sorrow. Life is all about getting out of sorrow and how we can do this? ‘Yuktahara Viharasya Yukta Cheshtasya Karmasu Yukt Swapnavabodhasya, Yogo Bhavati Dukhha’. One who has moderation in eating, one who has moderation in activity, one who has moderation in sleep and rest, for that person, Yoga brings them to enlightenment. Yoga brings them to the state where they become free from misery.
Moderation means what? Three meals a day is moderation, two meals a day is moderation, one meal a day?...Moderation? What is moderation that you have to see!
When you are hungry then you eat, eat only as much as is required, little bit. Not stuffing yourself when you are not hungry and also not stuffing too much, just gently little bit, little bit as much as is necessary, and activity is necessary along with it. So when you don’t do activity and want to be in silence one or two or three days, okay then drop those days, take only water, some juice and then sit, you know; but you don’t need to do all that, you don’t need to do all those strenuous things at all.
The ‘Art of Living’ has given you such a nice package, such a nice path that suits today’s active life, that suits our body, that suits our environment, our social cultural environment that we are in.
Q: Can I ask you something? I was also thinking about all that has happened in Pakistan and this was the region which was also most affected by terrorism. Is there any relation how the karma is of the people’s action and the nature’s response?
Sri Sri: Yeah, at this time it is not wise to say, ‘it is because of your bad karma you are suffering’. It is not a wise thing to say, people are suffering from natural calamity. That is why they always categorize three types of calamities affecting people.
Three categories, one is Adi Bhautik means natural calamities, nature’s response brings you into misery. And then Adi Daivik - a calamity that is manmade. You can say through one’s own wrong doings. And then the third calamity that comes in life Adhyatmik, What is it called in Christianity? Something like the dark age of the soul… what is it called? (Audience - The dark night of the soul). Yeah,that is you have everything but then depression sets in. You have money, all that you could have achieved in society you have achieved but you find there is darkness and you don’t know how to go in, how to cut the darkness. Your spirit is longing, missing something but it does not know what. There is type of inner vacuum. That inner vacuum where there is no joy, everything appears completely dead and meaningless.
This is called Taap Athreya. Taap means anguish, three types of anguish. Human life is faced with three types of anguish and how it can be overcome? Through Tapas!
Tapas means endurance, knowledge, wisdom, meditation, yoga, pranayama, all this comes under Tapas, from Tapas the three Taaps can be overcome, okay!
Q: Sometimes I feel I have no importance in this huge universe, among millions of people and other species. What is the point in living? Why should I not commit suicide?
Sri Sri: You want to commit suicide? Never! It is the most unintelligent thing to do. Committing suicide is like saying I am feeling so cold and taking off your jacket. It is like saying I am feeling so hot and taking five blankets on you. My dear, problems are there in life but you are bigger than the problem. Remember you will always have enough to survive, you will always be protected. You are cared and loved by this universe; you have no right to take your life. You didn’t give birth to yourself; even those who have given birth to you do not have the right to take your life.
How can you even dare think that you could kill yourself, NO! The body belongs to the universe and the universe will take care of your body; your spirit belongs to divinity and divinity will take care of your spirit. Have this confidence and move on. Move through the difficult times. Who doesn’t have difficult times tell me? Who didn’t have difficult times in the past? Everybody gets some difficult time, the wise people smile and move through it, the foolish ones keep crying, yelling, shouting, being miserable and making others miserable. Never do that! Never ever, ever, ever think; that too having an exposure to this knowledge you should not think about suicide. If such feelings come, do Sudarshan Kriya and come and sit in an advanced course, okay! You will be fine!!
Q: But how to have people to get out from their anger because sometimes it is so difficult to be with them because of their anger?
Sri Sri: Yeah, how to help people come out of anger? Only through WISDOM! Knowledge, wisdom and meditation.
Q: What if one of our levels of existence has been affected by shock or something, like memory, is it necessary to transcend and reach the self or how does that impact?
Sri Sri: >Meditation! Just exactly what you are doing - yoga, pranayama, meditation, it heals everything. See, we have given so much shock to our body, used it and misused it that it needs this kind of attention. Similarly, we have used and misused our breath, our mind and our intellect that our whole system has been in Topsy turvy, in turmoil and all this gets stored in the memory but remember they all can be easily handled through the practice of meditation. Once you go to the SELF, it heals the memory also. Once you are aware what you are worried about, a shock or an experience, you find you are so much bigger than any experience, and see, in the world how many millions of people are there and how many experiences they all have. Do you see what I am saying?
See what is happening now in Pakistan, flood, how people are traumatized. What happened in India in Leh Ladakh! Suddenly a cloud burst and everything is gone, people’s homes are gone, and see how the terrorists or the Taliban, and these other groups are terrorizing people. If you see the Time magazine’s cover page, it’s so horrifying. In Afghanistan, women, their noses are being cut by Taliban. With all these experiences in the world, people are still living alive. What are we worried about, we are worried about our little unpleasant experience. See, life has both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Everybody gets a little unpleasant experience, but when you open your eyes, you see our unpleasant experience is nothing, it is minuscule when compared to the other things. So your problem is almost nothing when you look at the big problems in the world, yeah!
Q: Jai Gurudev! How to educate someone about vegetarianism? I have tried educating and have been ignored!
Sri Sri: More and more people are becoming aware of vegetarianism. Here, I heard last week that a major newspaper in Germany carried three full pages on the benefits of vegetarianism. Vegetarianism has many benefits. It helps your body’s digestion; it helps the environment as well. You know, even if ten percent of the people in the world become vegetarians, the green house gas effect problem is gone. We are done with it; we will have no more problems of global warming. That’s what the scientists say. So we need to promote more and more vegetarianism. People change a little slowly and we need to have patience, Okay!
Q: Dear Guruji please help with your advice. My husband is obsessed with computer games. He can play all night. How can he get rid of this craving and how can I help in this situation? Thank you very much!
Sri Sri: Computer games all night!
Do one thing if you can, lock him up in the room and tell him to play the whole day and not just at night. If he can lock himself in a room and play day and night, the whole day; three days later… the fourth day he will say good bye to the computer games.