Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, with the growing pressure on children, so many schools are aware that their students abuse substances. Yet, they prevent the learning of yoga and meditation.
Sri Sri: That is foolish. They should stop the children from drugs, alcohol and other abuse. I was so shocked to read that one school became free from this. We have 14 schools, I am sure none of our schools are anywhere close to alcohol or drugs.
Today, it has become a matter of pride that our school has become free from alcohol and drugs; which means it has become so common! People should fight against alcohol and drugs, and not against yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation make people good human beings.
Q: Is there anything common between communism and spirituality?
Sri Sri: Yes. What is Communism? The essence of communism is all are equal and spirituality says the same thing.
Lord Krishna was the first communist. He said, ‘Yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati tasyaham na pranasyami sa ca me na pranasyati’.
The one who sees me in everybody and everybody in me, he is the intelligent one.
‘Saman sarveshu bhuteshu tishthantam paramesvaram parishati’, means the one who sees everyone as equal.
Shuni chaive shavpakech pandita sam darshina. Who is a yogi? Sam darshina, one who sees everything with equanimity is a yogi.
If you open the Bhagavad-Gita, you will realize it is full of this knowledge. See everybody as equal; that is the essence of communism. Spirituality also teaches the same thing. In fact, in spirituality, it becomes practical, otherwise it simply remains intellectual.
This question arises, ‘Why should you see everybody as equal?’ A spiritual person knows the answer, because it is one divinity which is present in everybody. So, if you are hurting anybody, you are hurting God. If you love God, then you should not hurt anybody. So, you see equality in everybody.
Values find their true strength only with spiritual knowledge. Otherwise, we only talk of values, but it really does not go in. Our heart should open up.
It is spirituality which makes you sincere, makes your heart open up. It is lack of spirituality that makes people go to drugs or alcohol or other vices.
Q: How do I get rid of my ego, which is so strong?
Sri Sri: Oh, for heaven’s sake, don’t do that! Don’t try to get rid of your ego.
If you find that your ego is your biggest problem; keep it in your pocket, or in the purse. Let it be.
If your ego is bothering you, allow yourself to be humiliated thoroughly. Will you do that? That is it!
The biggest problem is that you don’t want to be humiliated. Get humiliated, and you will see that the ego disappears.
In life, if anyone anywhere humiliates you, know that it is only a plan to soften you. It is a blessing; you should walk away or through the situation with a smile.
To begin with, you may feel very uncomfortable, but there will be a shift in you, with which you will be so amazed. Then, nobody will ever be able to take the smile, the love and the compassion from within you.
We should never be shy of humiliation, or of being criticized. If criticism comes, take it.
Do you know, many times we hold our hands so tight; this is what I am, this is mine, mine, mine! And the moment someone criticizes us, we withdraw. We are so paranoid about the criticism of others. These are the weakest people, I tell you.
If someone criticizes you, welcome it! If there is something in it, take it. They are taking the risk of losing your friendship, and giving you a comment, or criticism.
You should know that people are there to help you in the world. Don’t see people as enemies. The foolish will look at the world as filled with enemies and hostile people. The wise will look at the world as filled with friends, and think that people are there to help.
From a wise persons’ angle, see that anyone who criticizes you is doing something good to you. They are showing you your mistake, taking the risk of losing their friendship with you.
Otherwise, the common man would just say, ‘Okay, why should we lose the friendship of such and such a person? Just say good things, and bye. There is no need to point out your weaknesses.’
So, whenever someone criticizes you, listen to it. If the criticism has some substance, take it. If it is coming out of jealously, be compassionate towards them. That is their problem; they are working out their own jealously. They are pouring out their frustration on you. And in some sense, you are just helping them to empty their mind of frustration.
If they are saying it out of compassion, out of friendship and love, then you take it in that sense. So, you should be able to give constructive criticism from a happy calm mind, and be able to take criticism from the same mind. This will transform your ego.
Q: The beginning of a task or a relationship is always fantastic; sustaining it is difficult. I tend to detach myself from the person or the situation right when it is about to end. How do I sustain my energy throughout?
Sri Sri: Drop that whole past, wake up now! Don’t label yourself, ‘Oh, I am weak, I cannot do this, I could not do that.’ That was all the past!
Accept that you don’t know what you are, or who you are. You don’t know how much energy you have; you don’t know what you can do, and that’s it! You will see a new wave of energy gush through you, and your whole attitude, your behavior, your perception and your expression, all will change.
You must simply remove all the labels that you have, voluntarily or involuntarily, put on yourself. Got it?
Q: Gurudev, it is said that speech is of four types: Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. What is their significance in Sadhana (spiritual practices)?
Sri Sri: This conversation that we are having now is what Vaikhari is.
Human beings are capable of interacting only by using this Vaikhari mode of speech.
It is said, ‘Chatvaari vaak parimitaa padaani taani vidur braahmaanaa ye manishinaah. Guhaa trini nihitaa neaengayanti turiyam vaacho manushyaa vadanti.’ (Rigveda Samhita (1.164.45))
So human beings speak to each other using the fourth type of speech. The other three: Para, Madhyama and Pashyanti are used in communications which are at a much deeper level, where no language is used.
A state in which no language is used, yet the entire essence is understood completely is called the Para Vaani.
After death, when a person leaves his body, he also drops his ability to communicate using language. At that state, he simply observes all that happens, and by observation he gains knowledge. This is called Pashyanti (derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Pashya’ meaning to see or observe).
The Madhyama mode of speech is in-between the states of Para and Pashyanti.
Many times it happens that someone is speaking in a language that you do not know, yet you are able to understand what they are trying to say. Madhyama is such a state.
For example, when the child is in the mother’s womb, neither has the child seen the mother, and nor has the mother seen the child. Yet they understand each other completely. There is no exchange of language in that state, then too, communication happens that is beyond language. This is Madhyama.
That is why this entire creation is called as the Hiranyagarbha (meaning the Golden Egg or Golden Womb). We are all present inside this Cosmic Womb and do not know what exists outside it.
Just like how the mother knows the child within her womb but the child does not know the mother; in the same way God knows us yet we do not know Him. That is why He is referred to as Agyeya (that which is ever-present but is unknown). You can never know the Divine, but you can experience it. And how can you experience it? By reposing in yourself.
So Para Vaani is that speech in which no language is used, and it is also beyond feelings. In Pashyanti we communicate using our feelings also.
When we go into deeper levels of Consciousness, every sense organ of our body becomes capable of performing all functions. That means the functions of all the five senses happen through one organ.
So in such a state, by a single touch you are able to feel, see, taste and also gain complete knowledge about the object.
So every organ becomes capable of performing all the functions of the five senses (see, smell, taste, hear, and feel). So when the Panchendriya (five senses) dissolve and become one (sense organ), then that state is the state of Para-Chetna (pure Consciousness). That is the speech of Para Vaani.
That is why it is said, ‘Jaanat tum hi tum hi ho jaaye’ (when the knower, knowledge and the known all become One). That is why we say, one who is deeply devoted to the Lord becomes the Lord himself.
Similarly, one who has attained the knowledge of the Brahman becomes the Brahman. In such a state, the lover, the beloved and the love are not separate from one another. They all dissolve and become one. This is the state of Para Vaani.
When you think of language, then there has to be one who speaks and another who listens. Two are needed for this (meaning a sense of duality). This is where you need Vaikhari. Vaikhari means the diversity that is present all around you. That is why there are so many languages in the world, and not just one. But there is only one Para Vaani, and everything is contained in that.
In Para Vaani, even before a word is formed you have instantly understood the meaning. So words are not needed at all.
All this appears very technical to understand. So when you have a scientific outlook, then it is easy to understand.
Q: Gurudev, what is Anugraha? How and when can we receive it?
Sri Sri: Anugraha means grace. Nothing is possible in life without anugraha.
When you receive a lot without making efforts for it, then it is said that you are blessed with anugraha. Do you understand what I am saying?
Usually you work hard at your job and then receive your salary. So you say, ‘I have earned my money’. But if someone gives you a gift, you do not say, ‘I have earned these gifts’.
Can something that is earned be called a gift? No. You receive gifts without any efforts.
So when you receive a great gift or an award that you feel you did not deserve, then that is called anugraha.
When we receive something that we are not deserving of, or which exceeds our capabilities, then that is what is called Grace. When we see that in our life, we have received far more than what we deserve or are capable of, then gratitude dawns in us. We become thankful, complaints disappear and abundance grows.
A person who is grateful never experiences lack of anything.
Who experiences a lack in life? One who thinks that ‘I am so capable yet I got nothing’.
Once there was a person who wanted to become the Prime Minister. He did not even have the capability to oversee a herd of donkeys, yet he wanted to become the Prime Minister. Now what do you say to such a person? His complaints will never reduce. He will be full of them.
Being grateful means all your complaints in life simply disappear.
When you have this feeling in your heart that you have always received more than what you asked for, or more than what you deserved, then deep gratitude arises in you. When there is gratitude, there will never be a lack of anything in life. For such a person, whatever he wishes for will keep getting fulfilled.
Now you might say that this is quite difficult. Yes, it is difficult. It is never easy to achieve something. But when you take one step towards this, you will find that it is very easy.
Q: At what point is life created? Is it at the time of birth or egg fertilization or at some stage in-between?
Sri Sri: All three are possible. A soul can come at the time of conception, or in the fifth month, and in some rare cases, at the time of birth also.
This is all called the secret of birth, and we are not supposed to speak on them. One of the five great secrets – the secret of birth, the secret of death, these are all not to be discussed too much. However, you can explore it; you can go deep in meditation to explore it.
Q: Gurudev, neither Mirabai (a great female saint of India and a devotee of Lord Krishna) nor Sant Tukaram (a great saint from Maharashtra in India) had learnt classical music. Yet they are remembered even today for their bhajans (devotional songs). I also do not know how to sing. Please tell me if I will ever get a chance to express my devotion.
Sri Sri: Yes, of course! It is already done.
A flower never asks or waits for a chance for its fragrance to spread. Where the flower is, its fragrance will spread, that is inevitable. So wherever there is love and devotion, it cannot be hidden from anyone.
See, love is something that cannot be hidden. You cannot hide love, nor can you express it fully. Every time we try to express our love, we feel we have not been able to express it fully, and this is the problem of every lover. No matter how much they try to express their love, they find it is incomplete.
Q: Dear Gurudev, how do we know if we are caught up in a Mahabharata? How do we come out of it?
Sri Sri: This is like asking, ‘How do I know when I am feeling cold?’ When you feel cold, you will feel the cold. So, when you are in the Mahabharata, which means you are in the midst of a big fight, it is so obvious, you lose your sleep.
In life, if you find there is a struggle, there is fight, and if it is for a good cause, just stand up and do it. If you feel it is not worth having a fight, it is not useful, then you should change your strategy; don’t be stuck, and move on.
Q: Gurudev, we have heard such beautiful knowledge from you over the years. But I am not able to implement it. What should I do?
Sri Sri: You are stuck in making efforts to implement the knowledge. Just relax. You do not need to do anything! Everything is happening by itself.