Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Sir, I have very few desires, but what next, in the path of spirituality?
Sri Sri: : In the path of spirituality, what is next is contentment. When you have contentment, you are not burning with some small desire. If at all you have a desire, you have a very big desire, like, I want everyone to be happy, I want the whole world to be peaceful. These are the desires you should have!
Small desires should become bigger desires, and bigger desires don’t bring you tension. Only small things bring you tension.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Naalpe sukham asti yo vai bhumaa tat sukham’.
The mind always goes for something that is bigger; some bigger joy, bigger bliss. It is its nature, you cannot avoid it. The mind wants to have something bigger, and spirituality gives you that bigger joy, bigger happiness.
There is one kind of happiness that you get by taking; as children we all have it. However, a grown up person has happiness in giving; like a mother at home. She enjoys cooking for everybody, but when she is all by herself she doesn’t make five or ten different varieties of food and eat. She never does that. She will have a cup of tea or coffee and munch something. So there is the joy in giving. Authors and literary giants have this joy that I gave something to society, I wrote something. There is a joy in it; go for that.
Q: Gurudev, is it necessary to eat a healthy, low fat diet?
Sri Sri: You know, there are so many theories nowadays. At first people used to say that you should eat only low-fat, or no fat diet. Now they say that our body converts anything we eat into fat if we do not eat fat at all. So they say you must eat a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet.
There are so many different theories now. But the elderly Ayurveda doctors say that you should eat fat. They will often advise you to have a lot of butter! So there is a lot of confusion about what one must eat and what one must not eat. You should listen to your body, and have that which suits your body.
Q: Gurudev, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
Sri Sri: Knowledge is what is up in your head, and wisdom is what is in your life; that which has come as your experience is wisdom. Knowledge is what you have heard and acquired by reading and listening. Knowledge is like reading the menu, and wisdom is having eaten that!
Q: Spirituality is the need of our country. The reality is that it is limited to the rich, and the ones who can afford it. What should be done so that every common person who may not financially be able afford it, gets to experience it?
Sri Sri: Spirituality has nothing to do with money; absolutely not! Poor people can benefit from spirituality as much as the rich people. In fact, we are doing programs in so many villages, nearly 40,000 villages in the country, and in slum areas.
When poor people take to spirituality, they really take it sincerely. They get out of the habits of drinking alcohol, and drug abuse.
We have also conducted programs in jails. So, I do not agree that spirituality is only for the elite or rich people, it is for everybody. However, if something is free, rich people don’t go towards it. If they have to pay something, then rich people go. Then they think there is something to get out of it. This is the psychology of the rich people.
Q: Gurudev, is there any limit to forgiving or asking for forgiveness? Is there any governing principle for this?
Sri Sri: Forgiving someone shows one’s compassion. Asking for forgiveness shows that you recognize your mistakes, and that you resolve not to repeat them in the future.
Now to say, 'Only if he/she asks me for forgiveness will I forgive them', this is of a lower form of forgiveness. The highest form of forgiveness is to realize that the other committed a mistake out to ignorance, and having a sense of compassion for them. Forgiving others with a sense of compassion is the best for of forgiveness.
Cultivating this sense of forgiveness in oneself is a mark of being noble in character.
Q: Gurudev, there is a constant struggle between responsibilities and my personal desires. How do I create a balance?
Sri Sri: Well, when you say that is a constant struggle, then just let it be. When anything becomes constant, you get used to it. Then it is no longer a struggle. But anything is a struggle if you are not used to it.
If you are used to something, then you cannot be without it. Got it? So first of all, you need to take back your words that it is a constant struggle. If it is a constant struggle, then you do not even feel it is a struggle.
Q: If appreciating a work of art or literature is emotional, i.e., it moves a person, then isn’t it more emotional than cerebral?
Sri Sri: Literature cannot be emotional only. If it is only mushy-mushy, then people will not like to read it. Reading is an intellectual job, it can’t be too dry, like reading a technical book, then it will be very boring. Literature should be a combination of a little bit of emotions and a little bit of intellectual sharpness; like modern poetry, which has an intellectual angle. It stimulates your intellect, and kindles and sparks the much needed emotion.
I think all successful literature has both these aspects.
Q: Sir, I have read many times that desire is the root cause of evil. I tried to conquer my desires, but I don’t know what to do next!
Sri Sri: This is another desire! To conquer desire is another desire, right?
Q: Gurudev, over a period of time, there have been various emotions that have brought forth great literature, but those have been of negative emotions, like pain and longing and it does not feel apt. I feel one can go into greater levels of the positive side. How can I use both?
Sri Sri: You must remember that people are very different. We are not in a homogenous society, we are in a very heterogeneous society. Even within an individual, he is not the same throughout; his moods change, his feelings change.
For example, when someone wants to listen to music, sometimes they listen to music that is very jarring, sometimes they listen to music that has longing or melancholy. People’s moods change; when the moods change, the type of literature they pick up at that time also changes. Personalities are different, and they enjoy different things.
In India, in the ancient days, there was a concept of navarasa, nine moods. A literature is said to be complete when it has all the nine moods; anger, valor, a sort of desperation, sadness. All these different moods attract people at different times. Some people like humor a lot. Some others would not like to read humor all the time, but they would like to read, as you said, literature that touches your heart, or makes you cry, or makes you a little more emotional. You need to cater to all sections of society, and genuinely, what you feel at that time, you must express it.
You can’t force yourself to be humorous; you can’t force yourself to write a love story, or a love song. If it is not coming from within, then your efforts, I think, may not be as fruitful, as they should be.
Q: I am a professional writer. Should I write stories for the commercial market or should I stay faithful to my own art, write what I deeply feel about, which possibly may not sell?
Sri Sri: Why do you have to choose between these two? Why don’t you do both? Write for commercial purposes, and write something that is very immortal, to go for times to come.
(Ans: But Gurudev, I have an identity. Either I hold on to my identity, or have two identities.)
You can have more than one identity. Why do you want to be stuck with one identity? You can do this and that. I feel there is no conflict.