Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, every sip of knowledge given by you is very juicy. It is easy to digest too. Could you please talk a little on Yoga Vasishta in a simple manner?
Sri Sri: This is like asking to contain the ocean in a pot. Next to impossible.
Yoga Vasistha is like the sky, like the ocean, you know. Time and again you should explore it yourself. It is self explanatory. It is more mystical and very symbolic too.
Self is like the sky, so empty, and it is also like the ocean, so full.
What the scientists say today is that in the universe, all the planets and stars are spherical because of the pressure of the space all around them. The space around the Sun is so thick, so full of energy, it keeps the Sun in the round shape.
What you see as an empty space is filled with energy. And a million times more energy than the Sun. Can you imagine this? The dark space around, i.e., this empty sky is filled with much more energy than the stars. And this is exactly what is said in the vedas: the darkness was enveloped by the darkness in the beginning. It is all energy, what the scientists today call the dark matter and dark energy.
There is a sutra in Rigveda, the sutra of creation. People never understood this: darkness covered by darkness. They thought it might be some poet's imagination, or that the poet is trying to say something but doesn't make any sense. This is what people interpreted for a long time. But today, when scientists speak the same language, there is resonance there. That is why science and spirituality are so close! The more you go into physics and quantum mechanics, the more you go into the ancient vedic knowledge, you see that at no point in time people were deprived of knowledge. It was available, whether people understood it or not, is a different thing.
Q: Gurudev, you are the witness and so are we. Then what is the difference?
Sri Sri: I do not see any difference at all. You should tell me where it is that you see the difference. I am what you are, and you are what I am. I am in you and you are in me. So I do not see any difference at all.
May be you see a difference of qualities. That is, you think that Gurudev has different qualities, and I have different qualities. We are beyond qualities and virtues. Our true nature transcends qualities and attributes.
Q: Gurudev, it is said that sattva (purity) is needed for the attainment of karma (action). But is rajas not required for karma? In my case if I do a lot of sadhana then I don't feel like doing anything.
Sri Sri: There is another meaning of sattva – purity of intellect. Intellect is also called Sattva. But, to do any action rajoguna is required.
The body cannot be stable without the three gunas (Rajoguna, Tamoguna and Satoguna). There is a necessity for all three gunas in the body. Sattva will remain prominent in these. The rajoguna and tamoguna will stay suppressed, but they will be there for sure.
Once, a nuclear scientist had come here. He made a design and got it here. There were three spokes in his design, and he was saying – this world is held in balance by these three forces, which is why it has continued to exist all this time. Like the blades of a windmill, there are three spokes – they go up and down in sync. So with these three being present it will keep spinning again and again and again. In the same way, the world has always existed, and will always exist, till infinity, due to these three gunas.
Don't become lazy in the name of satoguna. Many times we think that due to sadhana there is abundance of satoguna, but if tamoguna increases then laziness comes. Be wary of this. So, along with satoguna, there should also be steadfastness in action.
When old age strikes, say you are 70 to 80 years old, then the quantities of rajoguna and tamoguna automatically decrease. Then sleep also abandons you. Then you sit and read, you engage in thinking, then also keep yourself busy.
Q: Gurudev, when we are very happy in seva, sadhana and satsang, then why do we desire enlightenment? Is there something beyond birth and death?
Sri Sri: One who doesn't want happiness, he attains moksha. One who doesn't want moksha he attains love. When there is no longing for happiness then there is moksha.
Why do people commit suicide? Because they are longing for happiness. When the fear of misery and longing for happiness doesn't end, then one becomes suicidal.
Q: Gurudev, could you please talk about the way prana prathistha is done? I have heard they put the idol into grains and water? Could you talk about the significance?
Sri Sri: Yes, the aagama literature has a lot of knowledge about it, how the prana (energy) is induced into a statue or an idol.
In a temple, there are statues all over, everywhere, but they are not really worshipped. The one which is worshiped is in the center chamber, and they do a lot of ceremonies. First they chant mantras, keep the idol in the water for x number of days, then the grains. And the place where they build the temple, first they will cultivate something on the land. It should sprout with some seeds. So there are a number of steps to do this.
It's a whole ritual, and then from air, ether, fire, water, and sound the energy is instilled in a statue. That's how it is done.
The statue is not important. Underneath it is a diagram on a copper plate called mandalas or yantra. That is the most important thing. It is like the circuit diagram. If you open any transistor or TV, there's a circuit diagram. It doesn't mean anything to you, the lines on copper or aluminum, are going this way and that way in some diagrammatic manner.
What do you find inside a radio? The same thing, they put diagrams. These diagrams are the most important thing, and not the shape of whichever idol there is. The diagram is kept underneath that so that it retains the positive energy. Whatever the energy, it is retained there. And so the people go and pray that they get those vibrations.
It's an ancient system, but unfortunately a lot of it is lost. Only very few people here and there have this knowledge.
Q: Dear Gurudev, whose concept, design and architecture is the Visalakshi Mantap? It is like a vanilla strawberry cake and it looks yummy. It gives me so much peace just by looking at it.
Sri Sri: Yes, we used to have a thatched roof for all our programs and courses. When it rained people had to shift their seats and cushions and sit where it was not wet.
If it rained really hard then you had to wind up everything. This is what it used to be like in the old campus. Then one gentleman from Hong Kong came and said, 'Gurudev, we need to build a hall. People from all over the world are coming and you don't want them to get wet, or be uncomfortable'. Then I just drew a picture and said let's do it like this. And then they built it.
Then I said, for every pillar we build we must give a free home for the poor people around the village.
In those days we built one home for every pillar for the poor people in the surrounding villages. It (Visalakshi Mantap) is about 12 years old now, and still if you look at it, it feels so nice! The shape is soothing to the eyes, so something is there!
One gentleman came from Dubai, he said, 'I am going to do the lighting for this'.
I said, 'Fine, do it'.
Today everyone does the modern type of building with aluminum frames, glass roofs, glass panels and not this type of architecture. The masons who were doing this sort of architecture, they never had work for so many years. Because seldom people build buildings like this. So 7000 workers worked on this at different times to complete this.
It took almost two and half to three years, and it was work for them. They were very happy. They were out of work and nobody does this type of masonry. They used to do this kind of work in ancient India and temples. Nobody is building all those big temples or homes in this fashion.
Since then we have put almost all the buildings in the petal style like this, so that these masons get some employment.
It is a skill, isn't it, making what they know about this type of architecture.
Q: Gurudev, what is the significance of using water in all our rituals?
Sri Sri: Well, more than sixty percent of your body is the water element. And water resonates with feelings and sounds. The mantras get absorbed in water.
There is a beautiful slideshow on it, maybe someone can show it, it may be on our website as well, how water responds to the different emotions.
You keep a bottle of water and say, 'I hate you. I dislike you', then the crystals of water become very different. And similarly, when a positive vibration, chanting is done and focused on the water, it produces such a harmonious, beautiful diagram. Someone from Japan has taken the pain to conduct these experiments and it is available to you online. It is amazing!
Q: Gurudev, from the past 10 years I've been facing only 2 problems. When will I be relieved of them? At least there can be some change in the problems in life.
Sri Sri: If the problems are halved then there will be restlessness without problems! Okay, do some prayer and things will happen. One who asks with a pure heart, God will definitely give him what he wants. If you ask in this way, 'I want this', and if it arises from the depth of your heart, then there is no delay in the work getting done.
Q: Gurudev, when is war justifiable?
Sri Sri: When all options of bringing peace and justice has failed, then war becomes the last option. When every negotiation fails and when (righteous) sense does not prevail; when disaster in unavoidable, then war becomes necessary to avoid a greater disaster from happening.
It also becomes necessary to keep in check those forces that can bring injustice and devastation.
Q: Gurudev, do you really know what is going on in everyone’s heart and mind? If that is the case, then what do you do when someone lies to you, or makes lame excuses despite you knowing it all?
Sri Sri: See, I give everyone a very long rope (a good amount of margin or freedom to act). So you do what you wish to do, we will see later what to do about it.
When someone lies to me, I do feel bad about it, but then such people soon improve and become better in life.
Once or twice they may lie to me, but then they soon realize their mistake and come running to me and fall at my feet saying, 'Oh Gurudev, I am so sorry that I lied to you'.
So you should realize by yourself whether what you are doing is right or wrong.
Once upon a time, there was a very old saint, he had a habit of always praising people, no matter what. People would be surprised on seeing this and would ask him, 'Why do you always praise people, even when they are no good? Why do you only speak about someone’s good qualities? Please tell them their flaws also'.
To this, the saint replied, 'Your miseries will speak out loud about your flaws and bad qualities by themselves. Why do I need to say that?'