Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: How do we get rid of the caste system? I am not been able to get married because my parents and his parents think they will be out casted from society. We just belong to two separate castes. What has to be done Gurudev?
Sri Sri: Patience, and education.
I think it is much, much, much less now. People, are much more open. Only thing that bothers people sometimes is food habits; vegetarian and non-vegetarian. That becomes a big barrier you see? But, don’t worry.
You should have the convincing power, to convince them, to make your parents agree.
First make them do Art of Living. That is a better thing to do first.
Q: Dear Gurudev, if consciousness is one, then are we as we think we are. Can one experience anyone else’s body, or experience? Can one transfer their soul or dislodge and lodge at will?
Sri Sri: Do you see how many bulbs are there in this room? Are these bulbs different? Yes, they are all different bulbs, but the electricity that runs through them, is it different? No.
So, on one level it is all different, and at another level, all are the same. Like that, there are many levels of understanding, and many levels of reality. There are as many levels of reality as there are levels of understanding. You should not mix them all up.
There is a story of Adi Shankara.
Once, Adi Shankara was sharing, ‘This whole world, that is everything, is nothing.’ So, he was saying, ‘This is all nothing.’ Like the modern day scientists say, ‘All this matter is nothing because it is all just waves.’
As he was saying, ‘Everything is nothing’, just then a mad elephant started running towards him. So Shankara ran to take cover.
Then someone said, ‘Oh, that elephant is nothing. Why are you running?’
Shankara then said, ‘The elephant is nothing and my running is also nothing.’
So don’t confuse the reality.
Someone dreamt of a tiger and in a half asleep state, he started looking for his gun to shoot the tiger. But next to him was his wife. She shook him and said, ‘I am your wife, not the tiger!’ He had to wake up and see.
To shoot a dream tiger, you need a dream gun. You can’t shoot the dream tiger with a real gun. Correct? So there are different levels of reality and we need to understand each of them, and that enriches life.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I am always afraid of displeasing God. I am unsure if my actions please God. How do I resolve this?
Sri Sri: No, don’t worry. I will advocate on your behalf. You relax. But don’t do anything that pricks your own conscience.
Many times, your own conscience pricks you. It tells you, ‘No, you should not do this’, or, ‘Why do you have to do that?’
Do only what you feel comfortable with.
Q: Gurudev, is there any advice on how a woman should prepare herself spiritually before and after the conception of her child?
Sri Sri: No, you should simply remember that you are spiritual.
See, what are the qualities of God, or what is Divinity?
That which is there; that which is omnipresent. It is present everywhere. If it is not present in you, will it be God? What is the first characteristic of God? Omnipresence! So can God be present in some places, and not be present in some places? No!
Omnipresent means, present everywhere. And so it is present inside you; in you, yes!
One thing is settled, God is present in you.
The next quality is, He is eternal. He was there, he is there, and he will always be there. So, if God is present in the present moment, is He present now? Yes! He is present in you, and He is present now.
Then, He belongs to everyone. So does He belong to you? Yes, He belongs to you!
And He is capable.
Just taking these four points, and relaxing, that is what it is.
Many times, when we speak of God, we say He. But God is neither He nor She. So the ancient Rishis coined a word called Brahman. Brahman is neither He nor She, nor It, but everything.
You can call it He, She or It. That Brahman is present everywhere; ever so present in you, and present all the time. The Brahman belongs to everybody, belongs to you, and it is capable. This is good enough for you to think, and relax.
God is in me, God is present now, God belongs to me, and is capable.
Q: Dear Gurudev, this world is so selfish. People only value money. How to find true love?
Sri Sri: Come on, don’t say that. In the world there are all kinds of people. Don’t blame or label the whole world as selfish. That is not fair.
You know, there are good people on the planet. In fact, in big numbers. The cheats are only a small number.
Suppose if you are also branded as one of those unkind, ruthless, and selfish persons, would you like to accept that label?
Ask yourself; ask your heart, your mind. No! You find that you are very good, you are very kind, but everybody else is bad? That is not correct. Got it?
In this world, there are good people and there are people who do not express goodness. That is all. But even they are good. There is no bad creature on this planet. Everyone, intrinsically is good.
If you go talk to the worst criminals in the prison, you will see in their eyes that they are also good human beings. Somewhere they erred, somewhere they made a mistake. Even the worst terrorist, if you go and meet them, you will see, inside of them, a good human being is hiding.
If you see through my eyes, there are no bad people on the planet. There are people who express goodness and there are people whose goodness is covered, and is not being expressed. That is all. You can help them uncover their goodness. You can help them express their goodness. That is how you should see the world.
Never label the world as bad people. Then your attitude towards the world will also be very bad.
Q: Jai Gurudev, can you talk about Chaitra Navratri and its significance?
Sri Sri: Navratri means the nine nights. In the nine nights you turn inwards. It is a time for meditation, for you turn inwards, and then come out with creativity. That is the significance.
Chaitra means the beginning of a New Year. So the New Year beings with nine days of turning inwards; prayer, meditation, and chanting. Recognizing the Divinity in the whole creation, and enlivening that aspect.
Q: It often feels and appears that yoga and Hinduism exclude women, and this makes me think that we are not yet ready for a spiritual revolution. What can you tell us about this, and the role women play? Why are mostly men around you, while women cook and clean?
Sri Sri: Listen, there is no such thing. In Yoga, Hinduism, and Vedic wisdom, they don’t exclude women at all. Men and women are given equal status.
In India, the tradition is, mother comes first and then comes father. They say, ‘Matri Devo Bhava’ (Mother is God).
Also, if you see in writing, they don’t write Mr. and Mrs. in India, it is Shreemati (Mrs.) and then Shree (Mr.).
The Hindu religion says Radhey Shyam, not Shyam and then Radhey.
The name is Sita Ram, first Sita and then Ram. Similarly, Lakshmi and then Narayan. So always women are first.
Have you seen Ardhnarishwar? Do you know the story?
There was this one sage who was averse to women. Usually many people who become recluse, run away from women. Some woman must have ditched him, or something must have happened. I don’t know. But he was so averse to women. He would not look towards women. Even toward deities. He would say, ‘Shiva, Shiva, Shiva’, only and not worship Shakti. So then Shiva appeared in front of him as half woman and half man. And that is called Ardhnarishwar.
This is to indicate, inside everyone, half of you is man and half of you is woman.
Whatever you are physically, man or woman, inside you are both, because you are made up of both, the egg and sperm. You are made up of both, mother’s and father’s DNA. Both are inside you and both are equal.
So, when Shiva appeared as half man, half woman, his prejudice against women dropped, and he attained liberation. That is the story. It is a long story but to make it short, he finally attained liberation when he dropped his prejudice against women. Now, this is the case.
Sometimes, in the Middle Ages, when India was under the influence of Islam, that is when it changed. Women priest were abolished.
If you go to Bali, in Indonesia, today there are women priests there. That is original Hinduism. But in India, after some time, in the middle ages, Islam had women in the parda (covering), and this influence had come on to India. The women were asked to stay indoors, at that time.
In the Vedic times, the women would have all rights. You would see them being priests and all that. So these are changes that have happened, and once a change happens it stays for quite long time. But do not think women are underestimated.
See, there are these nine days only for the worship of Mother Divine. And women do a lot of work for me here. We have many women teachers and male teachers. They are all in our trust. So there is nothing like that.
In fact, our president of the Canadian Ashram is a woman (Debra). For the longest time, we had women ruling in the Canadian Ashram. It is a queen’s territory, maybe.
Q: Dear Gurudev, sometimes I cry because of the inability to see who I am? This question has almost shut my life down. How can I be able to act from the place of knowing?
Sri Sri: You can’t make yourself an object of knowing. You are the knower.
A baby does not make the mother an object of knowledge, does he? As soon as a baby wakes up, it does not say, ‘Mummy, where did you come from? Which school did you go to? Who is your mother? Who is your father? What is your name?’
Does a baby ask anyone of these questions? No, baby just falls in love with the mother. He doesn’t care who the mother is, where she was born, or brought up, or what her name is. It does not make the mother an object of knowledge, or knowing.
A baby just falls in love with the mother. Same way you cannot make God an object of knowing. Or the Higher Self, an object of knowing. You can just be with that.
And you are in the right place for that. The meditation and these practices that you are doing, is really the answer to it. Just be at home.
Q: Why is it that when one becomes closer to the spiritual master, he is faced with more difficulties in life, and why does he not give up?
Sri Sri: Yes, there are some who like challenges, they love challenges. Otherwise why would people go on a sailboat around the world? Why would they go and start climbing Mount Everest? Because people like challenges.
It is the ego which wants some big challenges. So, some people may want to do that, and they’ve chosen those difficult routes.
Never mind, when you are on this path, you will do everything with a smile. That is the strength of the path.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I am in a comfortable job that pays me well. But these days, I get strong thoughts at times like, ‘What am I doing here? Am I supposed to be doing something more worthwhile?’ What do I do?
Sri Sri: Yes, devote your free time to doing some good service, sadhana (spiritual practices) and satsang. All these are very precious to one’s life. Don’t keep sitting and watching movies every day, or TV serials every day.
This is what we do. Come back home, put on the television and keep watching day after day after day. This is all we do, and it is such a waste!
I am not against you watching TV, watch it, but once in a while; once a week or twice a week is good enough, but not every day. It is wasting time. Or keep one or two hours a day for service to the society. If not that, then keep one hour aside and write some knowledge; or go onto Facebook, or the social media and do that seva; spread the knowledge. What do you say? Good idea? It is creative and you will feel satisfied doing it.
Instead of just being a spectator, be a participant in this phenomenon called the universe. You should be a participant, or agent of change in society, rather than just watching television every day and looking at what is happening. Got it?
You can watch television, but not for two-three hours. Instead, dedicate one hour to doing some creative work.