Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Is there an advantage that Art of Living techniques have versus Transcendental Meditation (TM) or other techniques?
Sri Sri: I am not a good salesman! I don’t know how to tell you how to compare techniques. There are a number of meditation techniques; you should choose whatever suits you best.
Some techniques, like Buddhist mediation techniques – Vipassana, long silent meditation courses, require several hours of practice for long periods of time.
The advantage that The Art of Living techniques have, from what I have heard from people, is that it is not as time-consuming. You get results very quickly, because you are changing the rhythm of the breath. The technique is highly suitable for people who are very busy in their lives. It is like a power nap. It quickly gives you the experience of a deep meditation.
Even TM brings you that inner calm and peace. People who have done TM also, find it even more beneficial when they do Sudarshan Kriya and the breathing techniques. They find it very complementary to their practice, and it helps them go deeper in their meditation.
In The Art of Living techniques, there is not much effort involved. It suits the modern day lifestyle. Some yogic practices need a much disciplined lifestyle; you have to wake up and meditate at 5 in the morning, have proper food (there is a whole guideline about food, rest and meditation time). The Art of Living technique has very few restrictions, making it easier for people with busy life-styles in urban cities. They also find it easy to practice them.
Q: How you would like to see Allopathic medicine and professionals in that field collaborate with Ayurvedic professionals?
Sri Sri: The Government of India has setup an institution called Ayush, which is working towards this collaboration. Of course, if we have a tie-up between the two disciplines of medicine, there is a lot that can be done. The world will be greatly benefitted
Q: In the Japanese society, there is a thought usually that women have less commitment than men, especially if they get married and have a family. What is the best way to go about empowering them here?
Sri Sri: Women have a very important role. One is to keep the institution of family. She is the central focus of the family. Like Japan, India is also women centric.
Women play a very important role in keeping the family and culture intact. That does not mean women should not be empowered. Women need to be empowered. Women can multi-task. Women will do very well in politics and would be very good business leaders. They should come forward and not wait for men to give them the power.
Nobody is going to give you power because you already have it.
As an old English saying goes, behind every successful man, there is a woman. Women empowerment should be the tune of the music of today. One thing they could do is, in the legislation, they can reserve half of the seats for women; especially in the assemblies and parliament. Then because of reservation, men would make their women stand up for the votes and work from behind.
Q: My work includes building maintenance. I have a few 100 people working for me as staff. This kind of work it is not appreciated by the society. So when the economy goes down, we can’t pay much to the employees. I try to motivate these people, other than money. However, there are some who keep complaining or are unhappy. How can I maintain peace and happiness?
Sri Sri: Money alone cannot bring success or happiness. You need to do something different. Teach people how they can handle their own negative emotions.
Our teachers are here and we can have a program for your employees, especially for those who are always negative. All we need is a couple of hours for three days. You will find a difference for sure.
Q: Is ethics different for different countries, or is it universal?
Sri Sri: Ethics are universal. Ethics is that which you want others to follow as well. For example, ethics are exactly those things which you expect from others who are working under you, or are working above you. You don’t want your boss to be unethical or those below you to be unethical towards you.
When you expect a certain standard of behavior, an etiquette, integrity from people working around you, you too will not do the same things to someone else. This is common.
You don’t want your employee to lie to you. Do you like them to lie to you? No. You too follow this in your life. This is ethics. As simple as that.
Ethics is universal. There is no Japanese lie, Indian lie, or American lie. A lie is a lie. Integrity is integrity. In this sense, ethics is universal.
Q: There are many smart people in my company. Now when I introduce a spiritual course to these smart souls, I fear they would get awakened and may start feeling a dispassion for business, and the true meaning of life would attract them elsewhere.
I would like to bring this program to the corporate world. So what is the best way to introduce them to something like this without having this fear?
Sri Sri: Actually, what The Art of Living gives in this course is something to develop their personalities. Their sharpness of intellect, calmness of their mind, and to bring an inspiration from within. That is what we focus on. So, you can be assured that they won’t run away, or become dispassionate.
Millions of people have done this course, we have not seen anyone run away. Otherwise World Bank would not have taken this program as a part of their leadership seminars.
It all depends on how you present the inner calmness. I understand when you say your inner calmness or liberation is important, and people may tend to go to in that direction, but here, it is all about finding the inner creativity and peace, and to be able to manage any adverse situation with a smile.
Q: Your program and organization seems like a religious organization for people who don’t know you. How can I introduce this to my company people, without any feeling of religion?
Sri Sri: I understand, that is why me or Swamijis, don’t teach these courses. Our very appearance and whatever we say appears religious. The ones who teach this course are in suits.
The course is all about breathing. Breathing and yoga have its origin in the ancient Vedic philosophy, but it has no religious component. We have kept it so secular that people anywhere in the world, even people who follow other religions, can take benefit from this.
That is the beauty of The Art of Living. The religious component is completely separate. So, if there are Buddhist monks who want to do the course, and who want to learn about breathing, they are not going to learn it from someone who is in a suit and tie. For them, it would be me and Swamiji who would go.
So, in The Art of Living, we have made it so universal, that for each section of society, we speak in their respective language. We do not mix up one another. People should feel comfortable, whether they are Muslim or Christian, or whatever religion they follow, they can follow.
Learning some techniques on how to calm the mind, and how to make oneself more energetic, is very important. Then you can work for 20 hours a day and still keep a smile. This is very important. That is why for the benefit of people, we have made different programs, so that religious people may learn separately, common people may learn separately, and business people and politicians may learn separately.
For different language, there are different faculty to teach these courses.
Q: How can one improve the presence of the mind? One has such long hours and so much travel these days.
Sri Sri: Some breathing techniques, pranayama, and meditation would help you improve your presence of mind. Doing pranayama in the morning and evening keeps you really fresh. I work for about 19 hours every day, and I keep travelling quite a lot, also. Do I look tired? It definitely helps!
Q: In India, what is ethics to them? Is it that once you become a politician, you lose your ethics?
Sri Sri: Politicians, especially in India, the situation today is very pathetic. From top to bottom corruption has ruined our country, and ethics is completely dead.
Is it possible to revive it? I say, ‘Yes’, because people at large are honest, loving, and have a lot of integrity. A large percentage of people in India still have integrity, and they all want the change.
I would give you one example. There was a two month Kumbh Mela (a mass Hindu pilgrimage) in Allahabad and 100 million people visited that place. There was no crime or stealing registered.
Just imagine, with 100,000 people for two months, there wasn’t a single crime. This shows that people love to be ethical and honest. They just need some leadership in that. There is lack of such leadership and we must admit that. There is lack of good governance.
You need to go to college if you want to be a good businessman, or an engineer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or for any profession, but for politicians, there are no qualifications. That is why we (The Art of Living) have started a college of good governance where we are training the village panchayats for 1-3 months, so that they can go back and exhibit good governance.
Change is needed whenever ethics gets eroded. Politicians needs to be spiritual like in Mahatma Gandhi’s time, then they will gain the respect.
I would say, spiritualize politics and socialize business. Every business should have corporate social responsibility, and they should give something back to the society, and secularize religion.
Religious people become so fanatic, close minded and they cause terrorism, extremism and fanaticism in the world. Religious people shouldn’t only pray for those following their religion, but for humanity.
So, secularize religion, socialize business and spiritualize politics.
Q: Gurudev I need your guidance. I am a mother and a wife, and I run a small school. There are times when things go wrong entirely, and I can’t concentrate or be myself at my workplace. How do I manage that?
Sri Sri: It is okay if it is only sometimes. But if it is often then we need to attend to it.
First of all, know that as an individual, you have the capacity to multi-task.
If you think, ‘Oh, I am a mother, I cannot be good at the office. It is not possible for me’; or, ‘I am an office goer, so I am not doing justice to my children’, these sorts of conflicts weighs very heavy on your emotions and your mind.
First you should know that you have the capacity to be a mother, a good wife, and a good officer or a good businesswomen. Resolve the conflict right at the root, instilling confidence in your capabilities.
The second is that, it is the quality of time and not the quantity of time that is important in whatever you are doing. You don’t have to spend 10 hours with your kids. Even one hour that you spend with your kids, if you are there with them a 100%, that makes them more satisfied.
The root cause of all this is stress. If you don’t relax and relieve stress, at least for a few minutes every day, whatever concepts you may have in your head, will be blown away by your emotions because our emotions are much stronger than our thoughts.
Many times we remain determined, but the surge of emotions, anger, frustration, desires, when they come, it just blows everything away.
The intellect, or all our concepts, are like the gatekeeper of the house. Emotions are like the owner of the house. When the owner of the house comes in, the gatekeeper has no-way to stop him. You just have to let him in.
We have to set right the emotions inside. That is where meditation, Sudarshan Kriya, pranayama, come very handy.