Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, you said that love cannot be limited. Is marriage the end of love?
Sri Sri: (Laughter) Well, I don’t know that. I have never been married. If you are asking in the sense that marriage is the end of love, then that is not how it should be. But if marriage begins with love for each other, it is okay. Even if it blossoms during the course of one’s married life, that too is fine.
Q: Gurudev, Devi Chandika’s vaahana (chariot) is shown to be a shava (dead body). What is its significance?
Sri Sri: The one you consider as a dead body is also not completely inert. There also is a vibration, a consciousness, a power. We can say that there is no consciousness to a certain degree, but to say that there is no power at all is not correct. There is power even in stone. So to convey this idea, the vaahana of Chandika is shown to be a dead body.
When one thing subsides, the other rises. When tamoguna is destroyed, satvaguna blossoms. We can also look it like this. Inertia (symbolized by the dead body) is subsided and consciousness (symbolized by Divine Mother) blossoms.
Q: Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says 'Anityam asukham lokam imam prapya bhajasva mam'. We can understand the anityam (temporary) aspect of this world, but why is it called as asukham (sorrowful)?
Sri Sri: That which is temporary is sorrowful. Anityam means which does not exist permanently.
See, before getting a position, a person is worried about getting the position. After he gets the position, he keeps worrying about holding on to it. And when the position is about to go away from him, then he is sorrowful.
So there is misery before getting a position and while holding the position. The fear of its loss gives you sorrow. When it is gone, then also its remembrance gives misery. That is why it is called as asukham. There is no sukha (happiness) in temporary things. Sukha is inside you.
Don’t look for happiness in that which is temporary, that which is fleeting and changing. Joy and happiness is only in that which does not change.
Q: Gurudev, could you please elaborate on the eleven principles that Mahatma Gandhi gave to the nation.
Sri Sri: The first is Ahimsa, which is Non-violence.
Then comes Satya, which is Truth.
Then is Asteya, i.e., Non-stealing.
Then Brahmacharya or Celibacy.
Then Aparigraha, i.e., Non possession.
Then comes Sharirshrama, which is Physical Effort (labor).
Aswada, which is, not interested in taste. Mahatma Gandhi said your taste buds are responsible for your cravings. Eat the food not for taste but for living. See what is good for you and not the taste. Many times the taste is so good but the food is not good for you. Many times food is good for you but the taste is not good.
Then there is Sarvatra Bhayavarjana, i.e., fearlessness. Not to be afraid of anything.
Sarva Dharma Samantva, which is, considering people of all religions as equal. Some religions say, if you believe in our prophet, then you will go to heaven. Others say, if you believe in my religion then God will reward you. But Vedic religion says to consider everybody as equal, whatever mode or form of worship they may have.
Then there is Swadeshi, i.e., use of locally made goods. We should think global and buy local. Then he said Sparshbhavana, i.e., drop untouchability. There was so much practice of untouchability at that time. These are the eleven rules.
Q: Gurudev, what are the signs of true love? What is its form and how can we recognize it?
Sri Sri: True love is like what was between Lord Rama and Bharat. That which existed between Radha and Lord Krishna, and between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It is pure, like the love between a mother and her child, between a husband and a wife.
The love here exists due to some relationship between two people. But there is one kind of Love which is above all, and we all are the very embodiment of that love. This is what we need to know. We are made up of a substance called love.
To know this fact is called Parambhakti (supreme transcendental love or devotion). It means having a deep feeling from within ‘Nothing belongs to me. Whatever I have is yours (Divine's) and whatever is yours is mine’.
Now that does not mean that you simply take someone else’s purse and tell them that what is yours is mine (Laughter). Do not do this.
Q: Gurudev, what is the cause of ignorance? How to remove it?
Sri Sri: Ignorance is dispelled by knowledge.
Now what is the cause of ignorance? It is just a vidhaan (ordinance). You might ask me, 'But why did it arise in the first place'. That is just how it is.
It is like asking, 'Why the sky is so vast?' The sky is vast, that is how it is. Or, 'Why does the sun shine?' It shines, it is like that.
Questions also have a limit (iti). Beyond a certain point there is no answer, even if you keep on asking.
Q: Gurudev, our leaders have advised girls and ladies to carry pepper sprays and chilli powder to keep themselves safe. Will the girls be safe by keeping chilli powder or by learning Karate? Isn't the government’s responsibility to provide safety. What can girls do for their safety?
Sri Sri: First believe that you are safe. If you move about in fear and believe that everywhere or every person you meet is wrong, then you will be trapped in this fear like some sort of disease. There are many good and noble people in our society even today.
See, there have been demons (referring to wrong doers or criminals) in every age. We need to protect ourselves from them. So my advice would be to not roam around alone. Whenever you go out, go in groups of two to four people. Even in the daytime, you can judge what places are safe and what are not.
See, this insecurity is present not only in India but in every country of the world.
There is an area in Washington DC which is called as the Safe Zone. And just a few meters away from that area is considered as an unsafe zone. There is no safety. There, the property rates are about one third of that in the safe zone. Why is it so? It is because in every country there are some safe places and some unsafe ones. In every country there are people who carry guns. There are different kinds of mentally sick people.
By God’s Grace such extreme and terrible situations have not come in our country yet. But the situation has definitely worsened compared to what it was earlier. That is why if you get any advice regarding your safety from anywhere, just follow that.
In addition to this, women need to rise in strong protest against alcoholism. These liquor shops should be closed.
Mahatma Gandhi had three dreams for establishing Rama-Rajya (a just and moral society). The first step in achieving this was to have a society free of alcohol and intoxicants, a free society where there is no liquor consumption.
The second step he advised was to have a society that refrains from eating meat and other non-vegetarian food. He laid great emphasis on proper diet.
You know, today India has become the largest exporter of beef and non-vegetarian food in the world. Cows are slaughtered in the highest numbers in India and the meat is then exported to foreign countries. It is a matter of great shame and insult for our country. It is an insult of our country’s culture and traditions.
This situation has arisen in the recent 10-15 years. When people’s eating habits are proper and refined, then violent tendencies will not arise in their minds. But if people continue to drink alcohol and consume non-vegetarian food, then such disturbances will continue to be there in society.
Leave the world aside and just look at what is happening in our own country, in our own homes. Recently there was a report in the news about a father who molested his own daughter. It is a matter of shame and worry. We need to have a huge wave of spirituality in the society.
Some people do many wrong things even in the name of religion. Recently there was a spiritual leader who was found guilty of committing wrong deeds under the garb of being a spiritual person. A person who commits such wrong deeds cannot be a spiritual leader. The field of spirituality has been really misused by people for their own personal greed and gains.
There are fake doctors at some places today who do not have a valid medical degree or a certificate, yet they start medical practice and prescribing medicines to people to make money. Similarly there are people who falsely present themselves as spiritual masters also. There is no set system of rules or control in spirituality, which is why anybody simply enters this field and misuses it for their own petty gains, rather than doing good for people.
Q: Gurudev, what is the meaning of Upvaas (fasting)? What food should we eat during these days? In different parts, people eat different things.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When we eat too
Sri Sri: When we eat too much then we feel sleepy. We get this feeling of inertia. Upvaas means to live near (up – near, vaas – live). Live near whom? Near the Divinity. It means sitting near the Divinity. And when will you be able to sit near the Divine? When your stomach is not over filled.
Fasting is also done to give the stomach some rest.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, 'Naty-asnatas 'tu yogo ‘sti na caikantam anasnatah'.
This means, remaining hungry is also not good. It is prohibited in the scriptures. Krishna says that yoga is not for one who doesn’t eat at all, and it is also not for one who overeats. So then how should one fast? By having a fruit diet.
You can have fruits. They get digested in 20-25 minutes. So take light food which you can digest easily. Take less than what you have normally and do it only for as many days as you can do. You should listen to your body.
You are not fasting for God. Fasting is for the self, for the purification of one’s own body. If you think that you will make God happy by fasting, then you are mistaken.
Fasting is not for pleasing God but for the purification of one’s mind, body and subconscious.
Q: Gurudev, Sri Rama sent Devi Sita to exile just by listening to the false gossip of a washer man. Not only this, he also made her prove her purity by walking through fire. Even though he knew fully well that Sita was very pure, why did he not take her side when this happened?
Sri Sri: Now, I am not going to be Lord Rama’s lawyer today and answer for what he did back then. Whatever Lord Rama did, he surely must have known why he did that.
See, we are not supposed to follow everything that Lord Rama did. Lord Rama said so many good things, you must follow and imbibe them in your life.
Now why Lord Rama made Sita go through the test of walking through fire? I too have this question (Laughter).
He might not have known the principles of the Art of Living! (Laughter) Maybe no one told him not to become a football of other people’s opinions. Perhaps because of this, Lord Rama is considered to be Baarah Kala Sampurna (having 12 divine qualities or extraordinary attributes).
It is only Lord Krishna who is considered Solah Kala Sampurna (having the entire set of 16 divine qualities or extraordinary attributes associated with an Avatar or a Divine incarnation).
Yet Lord Rama’s life was very magnificent and his character was exemplary.
You should read the discourse between Lord Rama and Sage Vashishtha, which is now called as the Yoga Vashishtha Maharamayana. You all should read that. Through his life, Lord Rama showed all the troubles that a common man goes through in his mortal life. If you see Lord Rama’s life from this perspective, you will feel that this is truly what every person goes through in their life sometime or the other.
A common man takes others’ opinions very seriously, he thinks a lot about insult and admiration. He cares a lot about his limitations. We find this common in everyone’s lives. So this is what has been portrayed through Lord Rama’s story.
If you go deeper into the Ramayana, you will understand that Lord Rama represents the Divine light within us all, the Atma Tattva (the Soul or the all-pervading light of Consciousness).
So if you see Lord Rama as your own self, then you will see a lot of things differently. This is the message of the Adhyatma Ramayana (a version of the Ramayana narrated by Sage Veda Vyasa).
So do not see Lord Rama as only a king. Depending on what level or perspective you view Lord Rama, you will find some unique quality about him.
Once Lord Rama asked Lord Hanuman, 'How do you see me?'
Lord Hanuman replied, 'Deha-buddhaya tav-daaso'. It means, ‘If I see myself as a (physical) body (meaning to limit the intellect to the physical body), then I see myself as your servant'.
Then Lord Hanuman says further, 'Jeeva-buddhya tvam-amsha'. It means, ‘When I see myself at the level of a Jeeva (elevating the intellect to the Soul), I see myself as a part of you'.
And then Lord Hanuman says, 'Atma buddhya tvameva-cha'. It means, ‘When I see myself as the Self or Consciousness, I see that there is no difference at all between You and me. You are what I am, and I am what you are’.
So there are three different levels of perceiving Lord Rama.
In the same way, if you look at Lord Rama as a historical figure of India, then you will see that not only in India, but in other foreign countries, He is revered and worshipped as Maryada Purshottama (the Supreme and most virtuous among mortals).
If you see him through the eyes of a devotee, you will see Him as God Himself. You will find that He embodies the Divinity so totally. And if you see him as your Self, then there is no difference between you and him.
Lord Rama is not just a historical figure. Everything is made up of that one light, the Para Brahman, which we call as the Rama Tattva. (Supreme all-pervading Consciousness). Then you see your soul as Lord Rama. Then you do not see Lord Rama as just a human being, but you see him as a symbol of the Divine light which everything in creation is made of, including you and me.
So from whichever perspective you see Lord Rama, you will find something unique about him and imbibe and acquire those very qualities.
Q: Gurudev, is destiny bigger than determination? For example, if someone is destined to become a manager, can he become an actor?
Sri Sri: Hold on to your dreams, one day, it will come true.
I was also a student in this same city. I thought I should go around the world and unite people of all countries as one family. People thought I was crazy! When you have some vision like that, people definitely think that you have lost it! However, if you hold onto your dream, one day it will come true.