Gurudev, Buddhists say they do not believe in God. Even Lord Buddha said that we must not worship idols. Now He too was an enlightened being, so what did he mean by that?
Sri Sri: Lord Buddha never talked about God. He never really entertained any discussion on God. What He said was – the first thing is to realize that there is misery. People keep denying there is misery, many don’t even recognize it. Many a time if you talk to a sick person, he will say “I’m perfectly healthy and fine”. The more egoistic the person, the greater is the denial.
Many times people are very miserable from within, but they wear a mask of cheerfulness or even act confident and dominating on the outside. They will keep pretending as if everything is fine, yet you can see the misery drip from their faces. Every part of their body reflects anger, bitterness, hatred and misery. This is what Lord Buddha has said – that there is misery. Recognize it, and then there are remedies for it. If someone says being miserable is my nature, then nobody can do anything about it, not even God Himself. So misery is not our nature, it comes because of samskaras (past life impressions) or karma. And this can be removed by other samskaras. One remedy for this is Pratyahara (one of the eight limbs of Yoga which means to exercise control or restraint over the senses and withdraw them inwards). Another remedy to this is meditation. So through meditation, pranayama, and Satsang we can be liberated from the miseries. It is then that we come to realize that our nature is happiness, bliss. Just as light dispels darkness, our Atma-shakti (the powerful soul as consciousness within) removes misery. On the path of Sadhana, all negativity and distortions such as fear, anger etc. fall away. The goal of Sadhana is get immersed in that indescribable bliss which is part of our very nature.
Lord Buddha said the same things that are said in the Upanishads. There is a verse:
Na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrta tvamanasuh |
Parena nakam nihitam guhayam vibhrajate yadyatayo visanti ||
(- Sanyasa Sukta, Maha Narayano Upanishad, 4.12)
It means: Neither through one’s actions (Karma), nor by begetting noble progeny (referred to by ‘Praja’ in the verse above), nor through wealth (Dhana) can one attain the Supreme Lord. Only through sacrifice and renunciation (Tyaga) can one attain immortality (Amruta). This is what Lord Buddha has said as well. If you read the Upanishads carefully and then read that Lord Buddha has said, you will find they are the same. There is no difference at all.
That is why Shri Adi Shankaracharya is often called Prachanna Baudha (a hidden or unproclaimed Buddha, meaning an enlightened one), because whatever he said seemed to be so similar to what is mentioned in Buddhism. So there is no difference between the Sanatana Dharma (another name for Hinduism) and Buddhism. The principles are nearly the same. I won’t say that they are exactly the same, but they are very close indeed. Buddhism advocates Shoonyavaad (the realization that “everything is nothing”; Shunya meaning Zero or nothing in Sanskrit), while Vedanta advocates Poornavaad (the central belief that “Everything is One and whole”). In Buddhism the first important step is the realization of misery, while in Vedanta they say that there is no misery. They say – ‘Wake up and see! You are full of joy (the Self as bliss)’.
So in Buddhism when misery disappears, joy is seen and in Vedanta when joy (of the Self) is realized, misery disappears automatically. So going from bottom to top and top to bottom, these are two different approaches. But the goal is the same. Even in Vedanta, it is not said that one should necessarily worship idols. It is said that worshipping the Atma-deva (referring to the Self as the Divine deity housed within the temple of the physical body) is the highest form of worship. But to begin with, one needs an environment, an atmosphere for reaching that stage of worship. This is why there is Puja. Ultimately at one point you see everything as the expansion of yourself, everything appears as a manifestation of that one Self. When one realizes that there is no difference between the world and the Self (Brahman) - which is present everywhere, in the trees, in the idols, in the earth, in water, in the blue sky; then one can worship anything and anywhere (meaning: to reach a stage where one sees everything as the manifestation of the one divine Self).
Even in the Rudra Puja, there is a rule that ‘Na Rudram Rudram Archayeti’’ which means until you become Lord Shiva yourself (realize your own true divine nature), you cannot worship the Lord. So you should first become God and then worship Him. It means to be firmly established in the Self. So it is said to worship God after becoming God, being established in your Self. Puja is just a play, it is a leela (a game), a way of expressing this deep feeling of worship.
Gurudev, you say that ‘Sukhasya dukhasya nakopi daata’ (No one gives us pain or pleasure except our own mind). So is there no effect of our actions on others at all then?
Sri Sri: What we do affects others only to the extent that they take it (i.e. choose to accept or be affected by it). If they do not take it, then no matter what you do, it won’t affect them at all, be it good or bad. There lived a saint named Diogenes, who was enslaved by Alexander. Alexander had him tied up in chains and handcuffed. When he was being sold at the slave market, he looked so strong and confident that the person trying to sell him looked like a slave. Diogenes wasn’t looking like a slave at all. So whatever we do affects people only as much as they take it inside them.
If you swear at someone and he doesn’t listen to you at all; and instead he thinks you’re talking in another language or he thinks you’re praising him, then what effect would your words have on him? Say you are talking about something very wise, maybe you are giving knowledgeable advice but the other person is not listening to you at all and just sits like a stone, then what influence will your talk have on him? Unless the person decides to absorb what you are saying and take it inside him, he will neither be positively nor negatively affected by it.
This does not mean you should try to give people grief and misery. This saying - ‘Sukhasya dukhasya nakopi daata’ does not mean that you keep giving as much grief as you can to others. No! You must be sensitive. What you do not like for yourself, why should you do unto others? This is Dharma. So if someone swears at us, we feel sad about it. Then we too should not swear at others. And if we do not like people stealing things from us, we should also not steal from others. So whatever we don’t like being done to us, we should not do to others. This simple notion is the essence of Dharma – the knowledge of one’s duty.
Gurudev, what was the relationship between Radha and Krishna. What was so special about their relationship that even Krishna’s wife did not get the same place as Radha?
Sri Sri: Though I have never read the Srimad Bhagavatam but I have heard that it is mentioned that Radha is not mentioned anywhere. The very meaning of the word ‘Radha’ means to return to your source. ‘Dhara’ means that which comes from the source, while ‘Radha’ means that which goes back to the source. So Radha is a Shakti (divine power). Until we go to the source we cannot experience Lord Krishna. Why is it so? It is because Lord Krishna is the source and Radha is the way or path to the source. So even if you are Rukmini or Satyabhama (the main wives of Lord Krishna), till you become Radha, till you return to the source, you cannot attain Lord Krishna. This is the hidden meaning behind this symbolism.
Gurudev, sometimes on the path of yoga one gains Siddhis, and these Siddhis can sometimes become a distraction. How can one handle these Siddhis without running away from them?
Sri Sri: Don’t pay too much attention to it. Don’t run after them. Many such things will come to you on the path. Many of you must’ve experienced this also. Don’t give it too much importance. When you go to some place, if someone asks you for a visiting card, you give them one, but you are not the visiting card. So remain established in your Self. That is the goal.
Gurudev, I fear the death of my near and dear ones. Please tell me how I can overcome my fear.
Sri Sri: Is there anyone who in this world who does not belong to you? Who is a stranger to you? Just observe. This is where your faith in God becomes important. Just believe in God, know that He is there and He will take care of everything for you. He will protect you at all times. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says:
Ananyas chintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate |
Tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-kshemam vahamy-aham || (9.22)
Lord Krishna says that once you are surrendered to God, once you take His refuge, then He takes on the responsibility to provide you with all that you need, and also protect that which you already have. This is why Lord Krishna says: ‘Yogakshemam Vahamyaham’. Here Yog- means to give you what you have yet to receive and kshema- means to take care of and protect what you have already received. Both are His responsibility. Lord Krishna says this very clearly. So just know this and relax.
Gurudev, you consider everyone as the same, but when someone says that you are his/her Guru, I get very jealous. You belong to all of us, right? So how do I make this mind understand this? I can share everything with everyone, but how do I share you with others?
Sri Sri: If someone says ‘Guruji is mine’, you say that he is mine also! Who stopped you from doing that? If they say it once, you say it twice (Laughter). See, when you open the window of your house, the light of the sun enters your house through your window completely, doesn’t it? And if someone else opens the window of their house, the sunlight completely appears there also. Has it ever happened that the sun has shone less through your window and more in your neighbour’s window? The same is with air. Does air ever discriminate and go flow more in house and less in the other? When there is heat outside, has it happened that this house receives more heat than the other? No, Nature treats everyone the same way. Suppose you look at the full moon, the moon appears full to other people in other cities as well. It does not appear more or less in one place or the other. The full moon will appear as the full moon, no matter where you go. Suppose you are a mother of four children. Nowadays two children are more common. So, no matter what anyone may say, don’t you see all your children as the same? Will you feed only one and keep the other hungry? A mother can never do this.
So as we rise higher, an expanded sense of belongingness and a broad vision effortlessly and naturally becomes a part of our lives. Feelings of anger or jealousy do come sometimes. It is okay. So, even if these feelings of jealousy etc. come, they come and then they go away also. Only with knowledge you can deal with all these negativities and distortions.
Gurudev, how do I know if I am deeply in love with a person or if it is just an attachment?
Sri Sri: Time will tell (Laughter). Always know that there is a sense of sacrifice in love, while attachment only brings misery. In the name of love, if you fall in an infatuation or attachment, then you will only get misery. But in true love, even sacrifice brings contentment. Love brings sacrifice and contentment, while attachment and feverishness can only bring misery.
Gurudev, our conscience knows what is right and wrong. In spite of knowing that, we often do not listen to our inner voice. What is it that prevents us from listening to our conscience and how can we overcome this?
Sri Sri: It could be old habits, or the illusion that doing something else will give you pleasure. These are the only two things.
Gurudev, it has only been a few months since I got connected to you, and you have already made me crazily in love with you. Can I get all the love I lost over these past years? I wish to cover up the backlog.
Sri Sri: Our bond of love is ancient. The heart takes pride in the old. It runs towards the old, the ancient, while the mind on the other hand is attracted towards the new. For example our mind gets attracted towards the latest clothes, latest scientific discoveries etc. This is why science also runs towards making new discoveries and inventions. So our mind, our intellect always gets charmed by what is new. But it is not so with the heart. When we love someone, we don’t say we’ve loved them for two days or two weeks, we feel as if we have loved them for ages, even lifetimes! This is the quality of the heart, to long for that which is old and familiar. Our life is a combination of the ancient and the modern. We must take them together.
When you are in delusion, or when the heart and head are in conflict, then all kinds of quarrels are over old things. All our craving and aversions pertain to things and events from the past. One says things like – ‘When I attended your marriage 20 years ago, you didn’t wish me properly. You didn’t give me enough sweets and gifts. You did not treat me well. Your mother and father did this and that’. People keep nurturing that bitterness in their minds, even after 20 years. So people get entangled into all this because of Aviveka (lack of Viveka or right discrimination). So you should become aware of all this using your Viveka. Let go of the past. Why? When your mind or intellect keeps chewing and hankering about the past, it gets stuck in negativity and begins to rot. And when the heart runs towards (the attraction) of the new it becomes unstable. So keeping everything in its right place is Viveka. One needs both intellect and emotions to function well. Both intellect and feelings are important in a person’s life. Do business with the intellect and live life with feeling (heart). If you use your head at home and heart in the business then both will be in trouble.
Gurudev, the value of the rupee is falling; I am being alienated from my religion in the name of secularism. Will we improve only we also go through what has been happening in Egypt (referring to the recent events of civil war and public unrest)?
Sri Sri: By God’s grace, may that never happen here to our country. What is happening in Egypt and in Syria should not happen to any country. Here in India, if there is any injustice being done in the name of secularism, then you alone are responsible for it, no one else. It is because all of us do not stand united against these things. We do not respect our own religion, then how will someone else respect it? Do not blame others and point fingers. We must introspect upon ourselves. There is so much communalism and casteism happening today. We are so sharply divided in the name of caste. We need to rise above this and unite everyone together with love and compassion. We need to become active and responsible citizens. If nothing else, at least once in a month or so make the effort to have everyone gather together, say in a temple or any other place. We need to do this even in villages. When we celebrate festivals, we do not make efforts to organize and celebrate together in a united way. Everyone wants their own separate celebration. When we have festivals like the Ganesha Chaturthi or Janmashtami, we do not gather together at one place and celebrate. Instead we hold separate individual celebrations in our own colonies or streets. It is all a play of the ego – everybody only thinks ‘Me’, ‘Mine’, ‘Myself’. This is the great misfortune of India. It is our bad luck that we are so divided and do not stand together as one people. We are divided on the basis of language, race, caste, state, region; even on the basis of political party etc. When all of us unite and become one, Dharma (righteous conduct) will rise and be uplifted. Then who will hurt you or bring you down? That is why it is said – “Sangha Shakti Kaliyuge” (The company or Sangha of good and virtuous people is the only source of strength in dark and evil times).
Today many people are saying they are suffering from injustice. People in Jammu and Kashmir, in Kerala often complain that they feel as if they have become second-class citizens in their own country and state. People from North-East and even in Andhra say that there is so much apathy and injustice, no one cares for them. I have heard many such things and many people come and tell me this often. In West Bengal, there is such grave injustice and malpractice happening with the majority communities. People come and cry in the front of me about this. I tell them, ‘you all should unite against injustice and stand as one. Stand on your feet. As long as you are divided and scattered among yourselves, someone else will take advantage of it’. Instead of doing so, we put the blame on others. See, everyone has a right to form their own union and have the right to make progress. So if someone is making progress, then why should we pull them down? Let them also succeed and let us also make efforts to succeed. This thought should arise within us. When I went to Punjab, the people there said the same thing – that they are treated as second-class citizens there. It is a very unfortunate thing. The same is happening in the economic scenario of our country also.
Today even in a small town there are ten different temples constructed. Now having ten temples is not a bad thing at all. But what happens is that there is a sense of competition among them all. And then there are arguments between management committee members of the same temple over petty matters. All this is Aviveka. Then they keep complaining that “We are not being treated properly; what we want is not happening”. In every sphere of life, be it religious or political or economic, Viveka is needed. All this needs a transformation and I am confident that our youth with come out of all this narrow-mindedness and bring about this transformation. They should come together and do good work.
Gurudev, what is a ‘Blue Star’? I have heard a lot about it. Please explain.
Sri Sri: Why don’t you ask somebody else? You can see the stars in the sky and not on land. But when someone walks as if they’re walking on the sky without their feet on the ground (meaning: being foolish or impractical), then the person is called a ‘blue star’ (Laughter). That is its meaning. Okay? In the Ashram, when a person diverges from the practical point of view, then people say he has become a blue star. No one knows what he says or does. But there is a cure for that too!