Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, what is the purpose of the mind? I only see bondage and sadness associated with it. Do we really need that layer of existence?
Sri Sri: Just let it be! That is the secret to handle the mind.
If you try to get rid of the mind, it becomes a monster. If you just let the mind be, it will vanish!
When you are not aware of the tricks and the mumbo-jumbo going on in the mind, then life is misery. This is because life is based on the mind.
When you recognize that all this is in my mind (judging people and situations, holding concepts about the self and others); you recognize that you are making a mess of everything in your mind.
'This is how it should be', or, 'It should not be like this', whenever such thoughts come, it means the mind is coming into play; this is all part of the world. This is where you need to latch onto that non-changing, abstract, invisible energy or power. When you latch onto it, you are no longer caught in the grip of the mind.
When we are in the grip of the mind, we make ourselves and others miserable.
Look back at your mind, not at others, and see what drama and pain has been caused by it. When you do that, it is no longer pain, it is entertainment. It is like a multi-channel television, a movie channel that has caused so much comedy, suspense, drama, and misery in your life.
This is the reason why all the great saints and poets always addressed their own mind, ‘Oh, my dear mind, how fascinating you are, why do you get caught up in so many things! Why do you not recognize that which is so magnanimous, and so beautiful?’ Rumi, Kabir, all the great saints, have sung about their own mind.
In The Bhagavad Gita also, it is said that the mind is responsible for your freedom and bondage.
The mind is a friend and an enemy. When the mind is your enemy, it ties you down to your past impressions and experiences, because it does not let you see things with a fresh new eye. This is because everything we perceive is through the mind; even knowledge is perceived through the mind. When the mind is your enemy, it makes you judgmental, brings misery, stiffness and unhappiness.
When the mind is your friend, it makes you relax, smile, brings happiness, freedom, and liberation. So, the mind can be our greatest enemy or our best friend.
Q: Gurudev, does a person receive the Guru’s love as per his paatrata (capacity to receive Grace or blessings)? Or is it that the more deserving or capable ones reach you faster?
Sri Sri: There is nothing like it. You have already come to me. Those who have not reached are waiting for you to bring them here.
Q: Gurudev, as a meditator, I know that meditation has an impact on the people around me. So then is mediation the biggest Seva (Service)?
Sri Sri: Does it mean that you should just sit and meditate and don’t do any seva at all? No, I don’t accept that. You should do seva also, and meditation is also essential.
Q: Gurudev, you have talked about Solah Kalas (referring to the sixteen extraordinary abilities or Divine qualities). Which are these and what is their importance?
Sri Sri: The word Kala usually refers to the extent by which the moon waxes (or wanes) in one day. So by this understanding, the Moon possesses 16 different Kalas (different phases of the Moon). You can observe this from one Amavasya (No-moon day) to the next Purnima (Full moon day).
So if you count the number of days from one Amavasya to the next Purnima, it turns out to be 16. And the transition from No-Moon to the Full Moon also symbolizes moving from Zero (nothingness) to Fullness.
On the no-moon day you don’t see the moon at all, and on the full moon day you see the complete moon. This does not mean that the Moon is not there on the day of Amavasya. No, it is still there. So by this understanding, these are called the Solah Kalas. On the day of solar eclipse, for example, the Moon is there but it cannot be seen, that’s all.
So the word Kala is a unit of measure of one’s power, or by what degree one has blossomed or progressed. So, someone may be like a half-moon, someone else may have reached to three quarters of the moon and so on. This was a means of measurement in the ancient days.
In those days, it was said that the life or Prana in a stone is equal to one Kala, the water element is said to have two Kalas. Fire has three Kalas, Vayu (Air element) has four, and the Space or Akash has five. Plants and trees are said to have six Kalas. Animals have seven Kalas. Human beings have eight Kalas.
If it is an extraordinary human being then he is said to have nine Kalas. It is said that Lord Parashurama (one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu) had nine Kalas. They say Lord Rama has 12 Kalas. Lord Hanuman is greater than Him in this regard and is said to have 14 Kalas. That is why he could help Lord Rama. Only a person who is stronger than us can help us.
The Devi (Mother Divine) is called Shodashakala (The One with all 16 Divine qualities or attributes). It means that she possess all divine and noble qualities, and lacks nothing.
Lord Krishna too is said to have all 16 Kalas, which is why He is called as the Solah Kala sampurna or the Purna Avataar.
To have all 16 Kalas means to possess all the 16 qualities or signs attributed to the total blossoming and manifestation of Divinity.
If you see the Devi, on one side she is so beautiful and full of love and grace, but on the other side, she is also Maa Kali (one of her more terrifying and violent manifestations).
She is graceful and serene, but at the same time she also has a terrifying and violent aspect to Her as. Goddess Durga is very terrifying and awe-inspiring, while Goddess Lakshmi is very calm and graceful.
You can see all the opposite aspects of Divinity coming together in the Devi.
The all-bestowing Goddess Lakshmi rides the harmless owl (the mount), and the vanquisher of evil and ignorance, Goddess Durga rides the fierce lion. Just imagine, where would you see both the owl, and the lion!
In the same way Lord Krishna is also said to have possessed all the Solah Kalas. Why is this so? In Lord Krishna, you see the complete and total manifestation of Divinity in every way. He is so complete.
He is the King of thieves. He does not steal small things, he steals away your very mind. That is why He is called as Chita-Chora (the beautiful One who completely captures and steals away the mind).
He is also called as Ranchhodrai (meaning the cowardly one who flees the battlefield) in Gujarat. They say that He ran away from the battlefield in the middle of the war. But on the other side He lifted up the Sudarshan Chakra (the Lord’s divine discus) to defeat Bhishma pitamaha (the grandsire of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the Mahabharata) . So He is very brave and valiant too.
So, on one side he is very brave and on the other side he is like a coward. One cannot even imagine how complete he is. He is obedient as well, but He is also the one who breaks the rules.
In the Bhagawat, it is mentioned at many places that Lord Krishna is perfect and complete in every possible aspect. That is why it is said that one should not emulate Lord Krishna (Laughter). Follow the path of Lord Rama and listen to Lord Krishna. Don’t walk in the way that Lord Krishna did. If you go and steal the clothes of a lady, you will be in big trouble (jokingly referring to one of the pastimes of the Lord where He steals the clothes of some ladies bathing in the river and hides them on a tree).
Q: Gurudev, does the ego increases with self sufficiency?
Sri Sri: It is not necessary that the ego should increase with an increase in independence or with self- sufficiency. We should understand that in spite of being self sufficient, we are dependent on God; we are dependent on Paramatma, (referring to the Supreme Being or the all-pervading Divinity).
Q: Gurudev, there is a five faced (Panchamukhi) Ganapati idol in the temple of Gurukul. What is the meaning of Panchamukhi?
Sri Sri: We have five senses in our body: the sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, and there are five elements in the creation: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. There are five senses and five elements, so in this way there are five facets to God. So that form of Divinity which is capable of removing any obstacle in these five is called Panchamukhi Ganapati.
Everything in this creation is made up of the grouping (Gana) of these five elements. For example, the Water element has many diverse forms, like milk, curd, etc.
In the same way, the Air element is not of one kind alone. You can see that there are so many different gases like carbon-dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen, etc. So this group (Gana) of different gases collectively constitutes the Air element.
Similarly, different types of fluids (a group or Gana) collectively make the Water element. Water has one group, Air has one group, and in the same way the Earth element has a group of different metals and minerals within it, such as gold, silver, copper, stones, and soil etc.
The Space element too has its own group within it, like the inner space, and outer space, etc.
Lord Ganapati (another name for Lord Ganesha) is the lord of all these Ganas or groups. And since there are five principal groups, that is why this particular form is called the Panchamukhi Ganapati.
The main essence here is that God, who is Nirguna (one who transcends or is without attributes) and Nirakaar (the formless all-pervading Divinity) is worshipped by representing Him in this form by chanting sacred mantras.
Q: Gurudev, even after death, a man in the form of a soul keeps on looking for a body. Why there is so much attachment to the body?
Sri Sri: This is because the body is the instrument of carrying out one’s Dharma (one’s duties or karma). It is said, ‘Sharira madhyam Dharma-khalu sadhanam’. It means that if one has to carry out one’s duties or one’s karma, it can only be done through the means of the physical body. Those who are Asariri – meaning without the physical body - cannot do it.
That is the reason even the Demigods (Devtas) have to take a human form to carry out their Dharma for attaining liberation.
Q: Gurudev, please guide us. Nowadays the use of pan parag, ghutka, tobacco etc., has increased a lot in children, grownups as well as in ladies. How can we stop this?
Sri Sri: It is primarily the responsibility of the mothers. If from the beginning the mothers place restrictions on their children, then they will never resort to such wrong means.
What usually happens is that the mothers let the children go free these days. In childhood days itself, mothers and fathers should create such barriers in the minds of the children in the house. Children should be made to think that they should not even touch tobacco.
In vegetarian homes, the parents create a strict barrier in the minds of the children at the very beginning, not touch non-vegetarian food of any kind, eggs, meat or fish. When this becomes a strict habit in the minds of the children at an early age, then they never even go near non-vegetarian food.
So in the same way, parents need to enforce strict barriers in the minds of the children against chewing tobacco, smoking and drinking alcohol.
I want to ask all of you sitting here. Haven’t you all been warned against using drugs or smoking? Is it not so? How many people here have got this strict barrier at their homes by their parents against drugs and smoking? (Many raise hands in the audience).
See! So many people have been made to follow the right habits since their early days.
In childhood itself such barriers have been made for them not to touch or use such substances. Only mothers can do this and enforce these barriers on the children; otherwise bring the children here and make them attend the courses for seven to ten days. We will ensure that all their wrong habits get washed away with ‘Sohum’ (referring to the Sudarshan Kriya). And we will strengthen them by making them practice the Shakti Kriya also.
Q: Why are we here? When all this is not reality, why are we made to come back again and again to live our lives?
Sri Sri: First, (we are here) to ask this question, and second, to find an answer to it!
Many live their whole life without even asking the question, ‘Why am I here?’
Wake up, ask this question, and pursue to get an answer. Do not be in a hurry for the answer. The answer falls into your lap at the right time, so keep asking.
No books will answer this question, because this is the question of ‘life’. Your life itself is an answer.
Every day, if you ask, ‘Why am I here?’ then all the unnecessary things fall off, and the right things come up.
However, before asking the question (why am I here), ask, ‘What can I do for this world, before I exit? Anyway, I am here!’
This may be a better question to soothe you in those moments when you feel nothing is enjoyable, or everything is meaningless.
When you feel sad, depressed, suicidal or unhappy, at that moment you should say, ‘Let me stop thinking about myself. Let me see what I can do here. Anyway, one day I must go. Before I go, let me do something good here. Where am I needed? Who needs me? Where can I help out?’
These questions can bring some intermittent relief in between.
So do some service (seva). When you do some seva, you make others happy, that vibration of bringing comfort to others souls will bring you merit that will help you realize who you really are.
Q: Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita it is written that, 'Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja . Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah'.
Does the definition of Dharma (here meaning one’s religion) become different before a Guru?
Sri Sri: Yes, having said all that He had to, at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, 'Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja, Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah' (V 18.66)
Drop your religion or any other belief you have, and take total surrender in me. O Arjuna. I shall liberate you of all your sins and sufferings.
Dharma is like soap. But just because you have washed you clothes with an expensive soap worth 100 Rupees, you will not say that ‘Oh, I am going to keep the soap on my clothes because it is such an expensive soap’. You have to wash it off.
There comes a stage when one moves above such attachments and entanglements in life (here referring to religion), and becomes a Sharanagati; surrendering totally to the Lord, with this deep feeling of devotion that 'O Lord! I am yours and yours alone'. This is what has been explained in this verse.
Lord Krishna had to say this to Arjuna, otherwise, no matter what knowledge He gave to Arjuna, he would just get stuck with it and not let go.
If Lord Krishna would advise Arjuna by saying, ‘Do it this way’, then he would simply follow and do only that much. So that Arjuna does not get stuck, in the end, Lord Krishna said to him, ‘Drop every religion or belief and simply come take refuge in Me. You cannot liberate yourself from your sins. I shall free you from all your sins and sufferings, so simply come to Me’.
Suppose you commit a wrong deed and you go on repenting saying, ‘Oh! I have committed such a wrong deed. How can I be free from it? What do I do?’ You cannot liberate yourself from your sins by making efforts. This is why Lord Krishna says, ‘I am ready to bear all your sins and sufferings, so just drop everything and come and take refuge in Me’.