Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Will you sing with us today?
Sri Sri: Well, we will do meditation of course.
Q: An India specific question - Can business and ethics in contemporary India be reconciled?
Sri Sri: You know, this notion that ‘only by doing wrong things you can prosper’ is wrong. It is not true. You see there are so many businesses in this country where they are flourishing doing ethical business. But they have to be highlighted. Many people don’t know.
The small businesses don’t understand that some of the big businesses are doing totally ethical work like the Tatas, Infosys or Wipro...they are all doing totally ethical business to the core. They are not cheating or doing things which are not ethical. We have to highlight this to the public. That work needs to be done. There are so many small business people who are so value based. Unfortunately they don’t make news. Only Satyam made news (laughter). It is so interesting to see that media captures those news more than the good ones.
Q: We have a small group of youth belonging to a church. We have social work going on. We find our youth group lacks leaders. We find we lack leaders among youth. Nobody is coming forward to take responsibility. So what is your idea about how a leader should be and what could be done to take the youth forward towards leadership?
Sri Sri: First of all, I feel that leaders should create leaders. And also leaders should not be imposing, they should be in the background, and they should be caring and compassionate. Why someone is not doing some service activity? Maybe they are stressed, they are tensed. So, if you are unhappy yourself, you won’t be motivated to do something for someone else. So, first you have to find the peace.
That’s why I would say smile and then serve. If there is no smile in your service, it will be short-lived. You may do it 2-3 days, 5 days and then you can’t do anymore because you don’t have energy. So, that inner peace and a sense of belonging in people. When that dawns in you then you can’t but serve. Service becomes your natural..your second nature.
Q: In one's spiritual pursuit, if he goes after form, is it possible that in the long run he might learn that he went on the wrong track and miss the formless? For example in meditation, if one goes for mantra based meditation or form based meditation, is it possible that he might get the essence which might come through Vipassana or something else? He may waste his time or spend more time reaching there.
Sri Sri: See, there are all possibilities. It is not that people who go in through form never attain. We have instances of millions of people. Thousands of saints in this country, who went through form to formless. If you see Tulsi Ramayana, what Tulsidas says..he wouldn’t have written that without experience. 'Rama niranjan, arupa,' he said all that.
First he sees Rama as an individual person. But then he saw that the spirit behind Rama is formless. Same way Saint Francis of Assissi, he went through form and he became formless. Meera went into form and got to the formless. Guru Nanak Dev. We have many many examples in this country that when there is true seeking, you will never go wrong. That’s my contention. Because nature will guide you. Because, see the Intelligence, the Cosmic Being is such, it doesn’t let you down. So, it guides you into the right path. I don’t think it would be a waste of time or it is wrong. But you have to do that with proper viveka, wisdom.
So, should we do a short meditation now. How many of you think meditation is concentration? Nobody thinks it's concentration? That’s very good. So, you’ve passed the first thing. Often people think meditation is concentration, focusing the mind or controlling the thoughts. It is not. Meditation is deep relaxation. OK.
Three things are important for meditation. First is that for the next 10 minutes, we will be mediating. You have to know that we want nothing for the next ten minutes. Is it ok with everyone of you? Can you say I want nothing for the next 10 minutes. No you don’t have to say it loud (laughter). See, if you say, 'Oh! I have to drink a cup of water, I’m thirsty,' then your mind is stuck. Next 10 minutes I want nothing. Shall we take all our mobiles and press the red button. This is an essential ritual for meditation. So, you’ll all be here for next 10mins. You can’t get up in the middle and go and disturb others. So, first thing is I want nothing for next 10 minutes.
Second important thing that we need to do is ‘I do nothing’. We will say Om 3 times. Om is vibration. Om means love, unconditional love that is eternal. We’ll say Om 3 times. All the eastern religions, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Hinduism - they all have taken Om as sound that they’ve heard in the meditation. So, it is very much connected with yoga. So we say 3 times Om.
Third is ‘I am nothing’. If you think you are very intelligent forget about it, you can’t meditate. If you think you are a fool then also, impossible. If you think you are very rich, remember that quote in Bible? Rich men cannot pass..What is it? So, if you think you are rich, no way you will have meditation. If you think you are very poor then also no. If you think you are a sinner, impossible to meditate. If you think you are the holiest person then also no meditation. So, what you should be. I am nothing.
I want nothing. I do nothing. I am nothing. Can we take these 3 things? I’m not very intelligent nor I’m stupid person. I am neither rich nor poor. Not sinner nor holy saint. So, I am nothing. Nobody. OK. So we will have these 3 ideas. We don’t have to go on repeating these in our mind. Just an idea. Right? Idea is like that.
Q: What do you find a source of inspiration?
Sri Sri: I see every child is inspiring.
Q: People in India are getting more and more inspired to do ethical business and take on responsibility for the society. Can you talk about this?
Sri Sri: I think this is also true in US, everywhere. Today in the globalized world, how we can turn back to the ethics? In European parliament, every year ‘Art of living’ conducts a seminar – ‘Corporate culture and spirituality’. Business people from around the world come. And those who are doing ethical business present how they are doing, what all corporate responsibility they have undertaken, and how we can inculcate spirituality in the business. This happens every year somewhere in October or November.
Q: How would you make Indian political leadership honest?
Sri Sri: You know a question has got a single answer. But certain questions should not be answered. It should be made as a path. A road can be tread many a times. Like this question, we will have to ask again and again in various circumstances. Why someone is not honest? Basically, it is lack of sense of belonging. You know what; corruption begins outside the purview of sense of belonging. No one can be corrupt with their own family, and if you extend it a little bit, to the near and dear ones. They’re not corrupt with their friend circle, but when they put a boundary beyond that friend circle, when one thinks that only these people belong to me, then the people are no longer mine. Then the corruption begins. We have to educate people to expand a sense of belonging. Second aspect of corruption is insecurity. People who don’t have friends try to find the security in money. Gosh, they don’t know money is not going to bring them security. It’s the company of right people who will bring more security in their life. You know if you go and ask a school boy or a girl how many friends he/she has, they will count on their fingers - 2,3,4,5. And I ask them, “hey, look you are spending 5 - 8 hours every day in a classroom of 50 - 100 kids, and you can’t be friendly with everybody? And how are you going to live your life when you come out of the schools and colleges with the billion people, 6 billion people in the world? So, the basic quality of being friendly is sort of foreign, sort of alien to our kids. Then what happens? Insecurity creeps in. And to manage this insecurity, the only idea one gets is ok I should have more money. So, then by somehow you amass money, be corrupt. So, first of all we have to spiritualize the politics, socialize the business and secularize the religions. If we can do these three things, society will be a better place to live in.
Every leader should see beyond his/her community and people. They should have a vision for the entire human race. You know, the Hindu priest, he should not only pray for Hindus. He should pray for every human being. Similarly a Muslim or Christian priest, he should feel for the entire humanity then we have achieved the purpose of religion.
So, I would say secularize the religion, socialize the business. If every business undertakes corporate social responsibility of investing 1, 2, 3, 10 or whatever 10 percent of their profit in developing rural areas, I tell you this planet will have no hunger, will have no disease, will have no illiteracy. Because governments alone cannot do this, it is a social partnership with the NGOs and business organizations. They can do much more. So, socialize the business, bring social corporate responsibility and then spiritualize the politics. Now politicians, they had such integrity in the time of Mahatma Gandhi, they were respected highly.Today the situation is completely opposite.
You Know, we need to spiritualize the politics. Politicians should care for people. I just want to share with you a particular story with my grandfather. You know, when my grandfather met Mahatma Gandhi, he went and stayed with him in sevagram for 20 years. My grandmother gave 10.5 kilos of gold. My grandmother was a beautiful lady. Those days the women used to don a lot of gold, dipped from head to toe is all gold. Except the mangalsutra and a set of bangles, she willingly gave all her gold and she said, “I will take care of the kids, you go and serve for the country”. So he went and stayed in Mahatma Gandhi ashram.
You know, that sense of contributing and giving, taking pride in giving is missing today. If that comes up, there will be a big difference. Pride in giving, pride in non-violence are two things which are missing in today’s education. If you see movies, one who is aggressive and loses his temper, is shown as hero. One who is calm, accepts everything and turns other cheek around, they are not considered heroes. This value shift has to happen. I’m just now coming from America where in Chicago we had a program for school district children.
That was the most notorious school, 268 crimes happened in the previous year. And when we introduced meditations, simple pranayama and simple values like making one new friend every day, and stand up and be compassionate, the crime incident rate this year dropped down to 60 from 268. They were amazed and the school district councilors came to thank me. 50 top officials of education said the techniques that we have introduced have brought real transformation. Otherwise, people there don’t feel safe, you don’t know what will happen there tomorrow, whether the child will come back with all the limbs intact. We need to bring this back. Sense of belonging, sense of caring and sharing, and pride in giving.
Q: You talked about the village. What changed them? What was done in that village practically?
Sri Sri: Meditation, breathing, just educating them and singing together. Everyone comes together in the evening and starts singing, everyday. Once a week they have this preeti bhoj when everybody eats together. An inspirational programme called Youth Leadership Training programme gave them the inspiration.
Q: I have one classical question. When we put lots of passion in our work, we develop attachment to the result. But same attachment and clinging of result gives stress when we do not achieve it, and happiness when we achieve it. Going by my limited understanding of Bhagwad Geeta, they say do your work with dispassion. But if we do that we see that results can go haywire. How do we resolve this?
Sri Sri: Ya, I think it’s little bit different understanding of Geeta. Actually the understanding of Geeta should be, ‘you work hard, you put your 100%, you look for the goals, you look to achieve the goals. But at the same time you should have that faith, that confidence and relax’.
You know to achieve anything you need 3 type of confidence. First is confidence in yourself, Then you have no anxiety. It’s very easy for me to handle this issue. I can do this. Second is confidence in the society around, people around. If you know that your team is good and they will achieve it, or if you have faith in the system that the system is continual and justice will be done to you. You know, if you have done well then you will definitely get well.
But if you don’t have trust or faith in the system, if it’s very corrupt then you will not pass it. So, we have to have faith and trust in system. Third is trust in a power which is compassionate, higher power, the higher self, and this faith that it will always do best to people. These 3 types of trust can take us out of anxiety. For this, I would say take out few minutes for yourself. Relax and Look back. How many times in the past you got stressed? You got some failures? You went through some failures and you achieved something. So, in the same way, now also you will achieve. That gives you that inner strength which is more needed at the time.
I would say it’s like the cell phone. You know, for a cell phone you need to have the sim card. Correct? And you need the battery to be charged and you should be close to a tower. (Laughter) Should be within the range. If any of this is missing then you can go on dialing, say hello and nothing, there’ll be no response
Q: What is the meaning of life? If we see in jungles, we see predators eating other animals. Birth and death seems so mechanical. No big meaning, whereas our pursuit of humanity is focused on stretching life and living longer. Is it really necessary?
Sri Sri: Ya, animals don’t violate their nature. They don’t violate the laws of nature. Their life is all programmed. They don’t have freedom. But human beings do have that freedom. It is because you have the intelligence that you have the freedom to violate.
That’s what makes us different from animals. Isn’t it? And so we have the ability to know more than what animals can grasp or comprehend. We know about the whole universe, we know about galaxies, the milky ways, we know about the atoms, we know about macrocosm. This ability to know, ability to create, ability to change is all embedded in our system. That is what is called as Viveka, the sense of discretion.