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: 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: 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: Dearest Gurudev, what types of life exist on other planets? Is their spiritual world the same as ours?
Sri Sri: Yes, there are so many planets like our Earth. Actually, our old scriptures say that there are five of your same kind in the universe; in different worlds.
Q: Gurudev, I wonder what we have done in our past life that you are giving us so much in this life. Even before wishing, it is given. Thank you so much for everything.
Sri Sri: Very good. The more grateful we are, the more gifts come our way. How many of you have experienced this? Whatever you desire, it all comes true. You want something, and it all manifests. That’s it! What you want comes to you; that is the beauty on our path.
Sometimes, we should do some mischief also; not get too serious. This beautiful knowledge is so deep, yet it has to be taken playfully; means not too seriously. This is why it is called Leela, which means game or play, it is called the play of the Divine; Rama Leela, Krishna Leela.
So, the whole universe is a play and display of consciousness, play of God.
Life is also a game; it is a play, not a war or struggle. You should remember that. However, finally, the game will end and everybody will die. Everybody is going to die. Everybody will merge with the Light, one day or another; going round and round a few times.
So, life is both, deep and at the same time, fun, joy and playfulness.
Q: Dear Gurudev, what are your views on organ donation, gay marriages, blood donations and abortion?
Sri Sri: Organ donation is okay, you can do it; there is nothing wrong in it.
All these issues are very relative. You don’t need to label it as good, bad, I want it, and I don’t want it. Whatever choice you make, never mind, it is okay. However, you should not forget that life is much more than these smaller happenings, that is important. A few moments of something beyond the material world, even one percent belief in this, is good enough for you to rise above.
When you are in the water, in the ocean, all that you need is a rubber float; that is good enough. That is how you learn to swim, right? Similarly, a little bit of faith in something beyond is good enough.
In Sanskrit, there is a word called shraadh, means that which is with shraddha, with faith.
When someone has passed away, you remember them, you don’t doubt whether they were there or not. You know they were there with you, and they have gone. When they have gone, on the day you remember them, that is called shraaddha, means faith.
You have the faith that they are still there. And what do you do? You take a few sesame seeds, pour water onto it, and give them the message, ‘Be content, be content, be content. If you have any desires in your mind, it is all as small as a sesame seed, just drop it. I am here to fulfill your desires. You move on, be happy, and be content.’
This is what children tell their parents, who have passed on to the other side. It need not be children only; anybody, any friend, any relative can do that. It is a ceremony that is done here in Bali also; it is very prevalent.
In this ceremony, all the five senses are satisfied; there is food for taste, incense sticks for smell, singing for sound, and a lamp or light for sight. It is a way of expressing one’s gratefulness to people who have passed across to the other side. This is also done to make you remember that there is another world, there is another realm, and there is another plane of existence, not just this one. So, life gains a bigger dimension. Your eyes lift up.
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: 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: Dear Gurudev, can you tell us about God’s mother and father? And how many brothers and sisters does God have?
Sri Sri: My goodness! I will tell you who God’s mother and father are, if you tell me where a tennis ball begins.
My dear, you don’t call God something that is born or that dies. God is the Light, the Consciousness, which has no birth.
Three things in the universe are eternal.
One is the universe which has always been there. Second is the soul; the individual soul is eternal. Third, the Big Mind, or God, is always there, otherwise it won’t be called God.
If God was there only 2,000 years ago and it is not there now, then it is no God. Or if God is going to come in the future, it is no God. God is something which was there, is there, and will be there; that which is omnipresent. God is not a person. It is energy, it is the space.
In the Upanishads, there is a beautiful story.
A young boy of eight years asks his father, ‘Dad, what is God like?’
So, the father takes the boy by the hand outside the home, and he asks, ‘What was there in this place before the building was built?’
The boy said, ‘Empty space.’
The father asks, ‘And where does this building stand?’
The boy says, ‘In the space.’
‘And when the building is demolished, what will be here?’
The boy said, ‘Space'.
The father said, ‘So, space is something which is always there, right?’
The boy said, ‘Yes.’
The father said, ‘That is what God is like.’
God is like the space in which everything comes, in which everything stays, into which everything dissolves. That can never be destroyed. And it is always there. You have no escape. You cannot go away from God at all. Impossible!
The question then comes, ‘How can bad people be God, if God is all good? There are good people, and there are bad people, how can you call them all God?’
I want to give you another example, of a movie. How is a movie played?
It is played by a ray of light from behind the film, yes? Have you seen on the projector, how the reel is going on and there is light behind it? It is because of this light that the movie gets projected on the screen. So, it doesn’t matter what film it is, whether the hero comes or the villain comes, the light will be the same, isn’t it? The light is God, and the hero, villain, and whatever good or bad you see; all that is happening is just a phenomenon. It has nothing to do with the light. It is because of the light that you can even see them. Do you understand this?
So, if you really need to know what God and what nature is, you need to be a scientist. If you are a physicist, you can understand. If you understand Quantum Physics, you can understand spirituality, you can understand God better.
Now, if God is everywhere, is He here? Yes.
If God belongs to everyone, does He belong to you? Yes.
If God is everywhere, He is here also? He has always been there, so He is here now! He belongs to everybody, so He belongs to me.
He is the field of all possibilities; He is capable of everything, so He will fulfill whatever I need.
If you know these four points, that is good enough. You don’t need anything else.
So what is it you need to remember?
God is omnipresent, so He is present here, now. He belongs to me, He is in me, and He is there to fulfill whatever I lack. That’s it!
In meditation, when the ‘I’ dissolves, knowledge dissolves. (Do you know whatever knowledge you are having is very limited? So, knowledge should dissolve. What happens in deep sleep? Knowledge dissolves.)
When knowledge dissolves, when the I consciousness dissolves, then what exists, only exists! That is what the real truth is, that is what Shiva is, and that is Bhairava.
Bhairava is where you become one with Shiva, with Shivoham, where I has dissolved, knowledge has dissolved, yet everything is there.
How do you get it? You can get it through passion, dispassion and compassion. Passion for sadhana, dispassion for everything else, and compassion towards yourself and others. Sometimes, we are compassionate to others and we are too hard on ourselves; that is also no good.
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.