Q: Guruji, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says, ‘My birth (janam) and actions (karm) are both Divine.’ Please elaborate on this. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, when you acquire self-knowledge, then you feel that your birth and your actions are both Divine. This understanding comes to you.
Once discipline and morals are established in you, then you just cannot commit mistakes. Not a single bad word comes out from your mouth. There is no hate or ill feelings in your heart towards anyone. It just cannot happen because everyone feels part of you; like your very own. This is the pinnacle of Love.
It is a state of love where you have no negative thoughts in your heart for anybody. When this knowledge, this consciousness gets firmly established in you, then you experience the self in time.
This is what is said in the Gita, ‘Tat Swayam Yoga Samsiddhaha Kalen Atmani Vindathi.’
See, in life, you need to understand just this much – whatever I am doing and whatever I have done has been inspired by the Divine. And these acts are surrendered to the Divine.
First of all, you must feel that you are surrendered to the Divine then you can see effortlessness even in your wrong doings.
This does not mean that you overlook your wrong doings or shortcomings. If we have done something wrong, committed some mistake due to some craving or desire, then you will also have to find a solution for that and take some corrective measures. As you keep doing this, a stage will come when you will achieve that state of love, and you feel that everything is inspired by the Divine.
The sign by which you identify both the male and female forms, combining them both to form one single symbol to identify the Lord who has no form or identity, who is all pervading in this entire Brahmanda (Creation), is Shiva Lingam.
Q: Guruji, how do I know you – the Guru, beyond the body? How do I understand the Guru? My understanding feels very small for this. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you realize that your understanding is beginning to fall short that itself is enough. Just relax and repose in yourself.
This is what love is. Love means what? Abheda - I am not different from him and he is not different me.
See, when someone abuses a child, what does the father say? ‘If you have abused my child, it means you have abused me.’
Or if you abuse someone’s mother or father, what will the child say? They will say, ‘Abusing my parents is the same as abusing me.’ They will protest, isn’t it? That means there is unity. Where there is belongingness, a feeling of unity, that is a sign of love.
Q: Guruji, in the Garuda Purana, there is a very frightening description of what happens after death, but you say death is like a beautiful deep sleep. Please throw some light on this. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, we will talk about death later; right now let us talk about Life. In this life time itself if we become contented and depart with a sense of fulfillment, then everything will be alright. But during our last moments also if we are sad, or we curse or abuse people, or are angry then it is a problem. So until the last moment of life – in fact in the last moment especially, we must leave this body feeling contented and happy.
But then you never know when this last moment will come, so be happy and cheerful all your life!
Q: Is the soul beyond time or not? Why do we say that 100 years on Earth (Prithvi Loka) is equal to one day in the world of our ancestors (Pitru Loka)? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That is how it is. One year of our life is equal to one day for them (ancestors). This is what is written in the scriptures. We have all gone to Pitru Loka and have returned back but we don’t remember that time. You do not have realization of the time spent there. It is written in the scriptures and so we believe it.
Q: Guruji, you have spoken a lot about Lord Shiva. Why do we see and worship Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Lingam? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:Lingam means identification, a symbol through which you can identify what the truth is, what the reality is. What is not visible but yet can be identified by one thing that is Lingam. When a baby is born, how do you know whether the baby is a male or female? Only through one part of the body can you identify whether this baby is a boy or a girl. Otherwise babies look alike until a certain age. But one part tells you what the future is. And that is the reason the genital is also called Lingam. Similarly how do you identify the Lord of this Creation? He has no form. So then they said that there should be a sign to identify Him. So the sign, by which you identify both the male and female forms, combining them both to form one single symbol to identify the Lord who has no form or identity, who is all pervading in this entire Brahmanda (Creation), is Shiva Lingam.
That is why it is said, Namamishamishana Nirvanarupam Vibhum Vyapakam Brahmavedasvarupam. Nirvanarupam – He has no form or body; Vibhum – He is present everywhere; Brahmavedasvarupam – He is the personification of Supreme Knowledge.
See, how does internet work, how do telephones work? How do all these things work? In the space (Aaakasha), there is knowledge present in every particle. Here, right now, where we all are sitting, so many channels of the world are running, so many vibrations are present, so many e-mails are present right here. That is why when you open your computer and open your e-mail all those e-mails get downloaded into your computer.
All the characters that you type and send via SMS are present in this space! If you get angry at someone, that too stays in the space. If you congratulate someone, that too stays in the space. That is how all this gets transferred in another cell phone, and that is why in this space element (Akash tattva), knowledge is inherently present. And not just of today but knowledge even from thousands of years back is present here. This very moment you can see what had happened thousands of years back and what is going to happen in the next thousand years; you can see all that because it is all written, all recorded in the space, and it is all present right here.
So how does one recognize that space element (Aakash tattva)? The ancient people kept a round stone and through it we remember the Creator.
Q: Gurudev, what is the relation between knowledge and devotion? Can devotion be fruitful without knowledge? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Now suppose you are fond of Rasgullas (a sweet) only then you will have a desire to eat it, right? How can you desire for something that you do not know anything about? How will you even desire or like it? So liking it is Bhakti.
And what will you love or desire? That which you already know a little about; so that knowing is knowledge. And once you like something or someone, then you make an effort to know more about them.
This is generally what happens between husband and wife. They fall in love before they get married and after getting married, they try to know each other better. They try to know what is the other is doing, where they are going. Even when they are in two different cities, they will ask each other on the phone, ‘What are you doing now? What did you eat?’
Even a mother does this when her children go away to a different city. ‘What did you eat today? Where did you go and what did you wear?’
When someone you love stays far away, there is an eagerness to know what they are doing, what they are wearing. This is because when you are in love with someone you will put an effort to know everything about that person. That is why sometimes in marriages the husband and wife feel that one is spying on the other. This is simple and happens naturally.
Where knowledge is present, automatically love also starts to blossom. Like an astronomer, as he keeps on reading about the Universe his interest increases so much that he gets completely engrossed in it, and falls in love with it. So you cannot separate knowledge and devotion. In the beginning, if there is knowledge, love (devotion) will soon follow. And if there is love (devotion) in the beginning then knowledge will soon follow. So never think of them as two separate paths.
In this life time itself if we become contented and depart with a sense of fulfillment, then everything will be alright. But during our last moments also if we are sad, or we curse or abuse people, or are angry then it is a problem.
Q: Gurudev, you have often spoken about the role of the husband and wife to have a successful married life. Today please tell us about the role of in-laws in having a happy married life. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, your mother and your father have scolded you so many times, isn’t it? When your mother scolds you, you easily accept it. But if the same thing is said by your mother-in-law, then it hurts and disturbs you, like as if something is stuck in your throat.
In fact, a mother-in-law or father-in-law will hesitate a little before they say something to you. They will not scold you as much as your parents, they scold you much less. The authority with which they scold their own children is not the same with their daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
And when one exercise and acts with a feeling of authority over the other person then sometimes they will scold or say some unpleasant things. But it hurts you more because you don’t think of them as your own, you think of them as strangers. If you think of your mother-in-law as your mother, then you will go and hug her ever after an argument. But if you think of them as strangers, then after a fight you will expect them to make the effort to come and hug you, or apologize to you.
In fact, if your mother-in-law or father-in-law scolds you, it is a good thing! You have to understand it like this. It means they do not see any difference between you and their own children.
Have you never fought with your mother? Just make a comparison once. See these two sides once!
You have fought with your mother so many times. Many times she also has scolded you. But did that ever hurt you in your heart? No, it does not hurt even a little bit. You just shrug it off.
You fight with your mother today and the very same day you will go patch up and sit and talk with her as if nothing happened. So do the same thing with your mother-in-law! After a fight, go and sit with her and talk in the same way you would do with your mother. And don’t take it to heart at all.
Slowly they too will change their ways towards you. They too undergo a change of heart.
With Love you can win over anyone and everyone. With a sankalpa you can win over them. If both love and sankalpa (commitment) fail, then just pray, with grace you will surely overcome it.
Q: Guruji, in the Bhagavad Gita it is said that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Soul and He alone is everything. And in Shiva Tattva, Shiva is said to be everything. So which of these is the truth? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Both, because there is no difference between the two. That which is Shiva is Krishna, and the same thing is God and everything else. They are no two, there is only one.
There was a Rishi (sage) who believed that Lord Krishna (Hari) and Lord Shiva (Hara) were different. And some people would chant only ‘Hari’ and some people would chant only ‘Hara’. So what Lord did, he showed the saint a vision of himself in which he was half Hari (Krishna) and half Hara (Shiva), and told him that there is no difference between Hari and Hara. They are no different from each other.
In this same way, some people feel that Shakti and Shiva are different. There was a great sage, Rishi Bhringi who also believed this. He was one of those who thought of the masculine form to be superior to the feminine form.
In many religions, women have not been given their rightful place. They are treated as second class and the men are treated to be superior.
So, Rishi Bhringi used to worship Lord Shiva and he would disregard the female aspect. He would not worship Shakti. So then God thought that he should be taught the right knowledge. Sometimes even the most righteous persons go astray. They are good but they hold wrong perceptions; their intellect is clouded.
So to bring the right knowledge to Rishi Bhringi, God showed him a form in which he is both man and woman; half Shiva and half Shakti (Ardhanarishvara).
After seeing this, Rishi Bhringi did pradakshina (circumambulation) around the form of Shiva and Shakti. He could not just worship or go around the half that was Shiva as he was seeing both the forms in one. So he had to go around both and worship Shakti.
A woman should be given the same respect as a man is given. We must not discriminate between a man and a woman. What we keep speaking of even today, Woman Empowerment, this has been discussed hundreds of years back in this country. So in the Ardhanarishvara form, God gave this knowledge to Rishi Bhringi.
The word Bhringi means – like a bumblebee. The devotion to God constantly resonated in the heart of Rishi Bhringi, like the constant buzzing sound that a bumblebee makes. Just like a bumblebee goes to every flower to collect only nectar, so also Rishi Bhringi would see and collect only Shiva Tattva in each and every person. In the entire world, Rishi Bhringi would seek and collect only the Shiva Tattva. Such a great devotee he was. But just because he did not respect women as much, God corrected him by showing his form as both male and female.
This is mythology or maybe it is real; but the essence is that this is how he came to know that Hari and Hara are not different.
Krishna was a great person in history. But Shiva was never born, that is why he is called Swayambhu. He was never born.
In Islam also, they say Allah was never born and the same thing is said for Shiva. He appeared or manifested by Himself. He is the ruler of time and so death cannot touch Him. The same thing is said in Sikhism also that God is beyond time – Ek Onkar Satnam Karta Purakh Nirbhau Nirvair Akal Murat.
All religions have spoken of the same tattva and this is what Lord Krishna has said in the Gita.
‘Avajananti Mam Mudha Manusim Tanum Asritam; Param Bhavam Ajananto Mama Bhuta-Maheshvaram.’ Fools think of me as this body. Not knowing that transcendental nature of mine, people think I am just a human body and mind. The foolish ones are not able to recognize it. I am in a human body but the consciousness inside me is that supreme consciousness, O Arjuna! You should see only that Divine element in Me.
That is why it is also said that do not see human intelligence or psyche in God because the way you see it, that is how it will appear to you. If you think of a statue as just a stone, then it will only appear to you as a stone. But if you see the Divinity in the statue then you will find God there as well.
So in the same way, in every person if we see the element of Divinity and love then we will see the oneness in everybody around us, for they have come from the same God. Manushya Budhhi(human intelligence) means seeing only the limited external form, whereas we should see the Divine pervading everywhere and in everyone.
You fight with your mother today and the very same day you will go patch up and sit and talk with her as if nothing happened. So do the same thing with your mother-in-law! After a fight, go and sit with her and talk in the same way you would do with your mother.
Q: Gurudev, do we lose knowledge just like how we gather and understand it? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Knowledge cannot be lost completely. On acquiring total knowledge, it is impossible to lose it. But when someone gains only partial knowledge then they may go back and forth in their understanding.
Q: Whenever I sit for Sadhana, my mind wanders here and there. What should I do to control the mind? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Listen, consider your life itself as your Sadhana. Think of your whole life as your Sadhana.
Where does the mind wander? It goes wherever it finds fulfillment. So observe the next time this happens, ‘Is my mind wandering to where I find fulfillment?’
In this way, when you observe and reason using knowledge, you will find the mind is neither there, nor there, nor there, and then the mind becomes quiet and settles down. Then it reposes in the Self.
That is why there are so many CDs on meditation and techniques given. Keep doing these. But meditation alone will not help. Knowledge along with mediation will help settle the mind.
Q: Gurudev, when a beloved or someone very close leaves us and goes away, how can we bring them back into our life especially when we are on the path? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Whoever has left has gone to their rightful place. Whenever some loved one goes away, it is to remind you that life is temporary and will end. Do you understand?
I will also have to leave one day. You too are going to leave everything and go. Yes in those moments you feel sad. That is why there is meditation, sadhana and satsang. Doing all these will help you to overcome the grief and sorrow of separation.
Q: Guruji, I want to be in the Ashram. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, talk to the Ashram administration. As I said, the whole world is my Ashram. Wherever you are, give knowledge to people and be kind and helpful to others. Then that is an Ashram.
Every home is an Ashram. Ashram is what? Ashram is where the mind finds deep rest without effort, the body gets energized, the intellect finds some wisdom, the soul gets some peace, and life becomes a celebration.
Q: If the soul never dies then how is the population on this planet increasing? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Many animal species are disappearing from the Earth. Snakes, insects, lions, etc., are disappearing from the Earth. The population of donkeys is also reducing! You don’t see as many monkeys around as there were earlier. The forests are being uprooted and cities are coming up everywhere. Where will the monkeys go? So they get inside the houses and apartments!
Q: Whenever I hear of a bomb blast, or some sudden airplane crash in which small kids die, I feel so sad the entire day and hope they will be fine after death. Do you take care of them too? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, don’t worry; it is natural to feel so. When you feel pain for someone else’s pain it means you are human. What good is a heart that cannot feel the pain of others? But you must not get stuck such that you are not able to do anything else. Put that feeling into service and do some service,okay.