Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Is levitation something abstract or is it something that actually happens? What are the benefits of levitation?
Sri Sri: To be honest, I have not seen anyone floating. Definitely, there can be jerks in the body, and the body can jump off the ground. It can happen after a little longer practice of meditation. You suddenly feel the body is very light. This happens in every meditation.
Q: From what you are saying, meditation is a state of mind. How do I know if I have been in that state of mind?
Sri Sri: It is similar to having a good nap. You know when you have had a good nap, right? And when you have had food, you know you have had food. It is as obvious as that. You feel so relaxed from within; it is hard to explain. You feel very good and pleasant. There is a sense of pleasantness that comes from within, and one is totally at ease.
Q: Can people with epilepsy do pranayamas?
Sri Sri: I would be a little careful with pranayama for epileptic patients, though it has benefitted many of them. First, we ask people if they have any history of epilepsy. If so, then they are asked to go slow, start with some simple pranayama and breathing exercises before leading them into the regular ones.
As far as simple meditation is concerned, it is like relaxation, it does not do any harm. However, you need more stamina to do the Advanced Meditation. It involves stimulating different energy centers or Chakras.
I have not come across anybody who has done our programs and become psychotic. However, there are possibilities, if they are already bi-polar or schizophrenic. Thus, we tell them to avoid doing the Advanced Course programs. We ask them to stick to the basics; simple meditation, yoga asanas and simple pranayama. That should be alright.
We ask people not to overdo the practices. Since people feel so good doing them, they find it so enjoyable and stimulating; sometimes, they tend to overdo it. They may start meditating for 6 hours to 8 hours. This is where the problem occurs; which is why you need proper training, and a good trainer to guide you to do it within limits. We need to do only as much as is prescribed. Overdoing anything is no good. It is like consuming a lot of vitamins at one time. It throws one off balance.
It is absolutely safe to meditate for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or up to an hour. Then, people become a little spacey, or lose touch with reality. Such sort of things can happen to people if they overdo it.
Q: How can one make meditation a regular practice?
Sri Sri: I have made a number of meditation CDs. You could use these CDs for a couple of days or weeks to begin with, and get into the habit of meditation. Once you get into practicing it regularly, you won’t need a CD, you will be able to do it by yourself. All you need is a little bit of practice of meditating, of letting go. It is all about letting go.
Q: Should we always meditate in sitting posture or can it be done in any other posture?
Sri Sri: The sitting posture is better to meditate. You could lie down and do it too, but the risk is that you may fall asleep. You may think you are in meditation, but actually you could be in deep slumber.
Q: Does the body need sleep? Can sleep be substituted with meditation?
Sri Sri: Your body needs certain amount of sleep. If you have deprived the body of sleep, it will take it. After certain amount of sleep, meditation becomes deeper. First, you have to fulfill the body of deprived sleep. Profit is only counted after the debt is cleared!
Q: Are you saying we should all do yoga and not any other form of exercise such as aerobics or walking on the treadmill?
Sri Sri: I’m not saying that you should only do yoga. I am saying that yoga is a natural phenomenon, which occurs in creation all over the world. We all have done it as children. As you grow up, you may need aerobics; and if you eat too much, you may need to get on a treadmill to burn those calories.
Q: How would you compare the Art of Living techniques with Paramahansa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga?
Sri Sri: Yes, that technique has more meditation on different chakras.
Q: I try really hard, but I can't seem to get rid of negative thoughts?
Sri Sri: That is the problem. When negative thoughts come, don’t chase them. If you chase them, then they come back with a big army. Just shake hands with them, say, ‘Come on, sit with me.’ Then they will disappear.
These are the reasons we need to learn to meditate. When we meditate, we learn how to handle negative thoughts; or any thoughts for that matter.
How to distinguish meditation from sleep or day dreaming? These are the things covered in the three day Art of Living Meditation program.
Q: Can meditation make people non-violent? Can it help people who are incarcerated?
Sri Sri: We have been doing our program in prisons around the world. If you can take some time to visit the website and read the experience of the prisoners, you will see the impact it has had on them. Nearly 400,000 prisoners around the world have done the program, and their negative mindset has completely changed from a criminal mindset to a compassionate mindset.
We have also been doing this program in schools; where there are challenged children and many incidences of violence, it has helped there too. In a Chicago school district where there were 260 incidences of violence, after the program was taught to all the children, it came down to 62 incidents, within a short period of time. So, the impact is very clear. It is obvious that meditation can make people non-violent, from within.