Photo credit: LadyDragonflyCC - >;< / Foter / CC BY
Today is Rakshabandhan so I will speak something about that. It is often believed that on this day, the sister ties the sacred thread or band on the brother’s wrist and asks him to protect her at all times. This is what is commonly heard and told, isn’t it? But this is not the essence and spirit of Rakshabandhan at all! The true secret of Rakshabandhan is that when a sister ties the thread on her brother’s wrist, it is a gesture of saying that “I will protect you at all times”. So it is the sisters who pray and wish for the protection and well-being of their brothers. This is what Rakshabandhan truly means.
Similarly, the Shravani Upakarma (a ceremony during the holy month of Shravan of changing one’s sacred thread called Janeu that one wears originally at the time of Upanayanam ceremony) is the act of regularly changing the sacred thread that one wears, by removing the old one and wearing a new one, by observing all the prescribed rituals. At the time of changing the thread, one chants the Gayatri Mantra. Gayatri is not a goddess having five faces and seated on a lotus. This was made a traditional belief much later by people. The Gayatri Mantra is a Samuhik Mantra (i.e a Mantra as a prayer for the benefit of everyone and not oneself alone). In the last part of the Mantra it is said – “Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayat”. So it means to pray to the Divine by saying – ‘May everyone’s intellect be illumined with the light of the Divine’. It is not praying for one person’s intellect alone to be illumined. No, it is to pray for the collective intellect, the intellect of every person to be freed from negativity and be illumined with the light of Divine. The Mantra spells this out in plural and not in singular form. That is why it is said – “Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi” . It means – “May your Divine Light destroy all the sins of my limited mind into ashes; and May all our intellects be illumined with Your Divine Light”. This is the prayer that is made through the Gayatri Mantra. It is regarded as the most supreme prayer offered to God, and it truly is. It encompasses all the worlds of the subtle creation also. Within our own body there are so many worlds. There are seven Lokas (referring to the Seven heavenly realms of Creation: Bhuu, Bhuvas, Svar, Mahas, Janas, Tapas and Satya Loka) and there are seven energy Chakras within our own body, each Chakra being associated with a particular Loka. There are also seven levels of our existence. There are seven levels of (maturity or ripening) of knowledge. So through the Gayatri Mantra, we pray that we progress and rise through the seven levels of existence to the Light of the Divine, and that we experience fulfilment and contentment in each of these seven levels of our existence. It is a prayer to be able to accept and become one with the Eternal.
See, for example, air is always present. When you take a deep breath in, you accept the air so totally. In the same way, the Chaitanya Shakti (the powerful Consciousness) is present around you everywhere and at all times. Through the Gayatri Mantra, you accept and become one with this wonderful Consciousness around you with a deep sense of honour and total awareness. What happens as a result of this? All your sins are burnt to ashes, and you are cleansed. The word ‘Bhargo’ in the mantra means to cleanse all sins. So through the Gayatri Mantra, we pray that “May I uphold and contain the Light of the Divine in my intellect, and May it illumine all our minds and intellects and inspire us towards noble thoughts and actions’. This is the essence of the Gayatri Mantra, and this is the Gayatri Upasana also. Do not sit with the picture of Gayatri as a goddess in mind. When you sit, remember and become aware of your Self as the Divine light of the Consciousness that glows forever within you. The Sun is usually regarded as a deity but it is not really so. In the mantra we say ‘Tat Savitur-varenyam’. The word Savitur here refers to the Savitra Devta (a solar deity mentioned in the Rig-Veda and one of the twelve Adityas) considered to responsible for the light of the Sun. But here it means: One who illumines everything, who purifies everyone and washes away all sins, the Paramatma (Supreme Soul or Consciousness), and that is what is meant by Savitra. So when we say ‘Savitur-’ we are offering this prayer to God Himself, the Para-Brahman who is here referred to as Savitra. This is the deeper meaning here.
Questions & Answers
Expand all Q&A
Gurudev, how can we go from the Saguna (Form) to the Nirguna (Formless)?
Sri Sri: Every form is a manifestation of the formless Divinity. The body is characterized by the Guna (meaning has form or attributes; also meaning the is influenced by the three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas); but the Atma (soul) is Nirguna or formless. Meditation is the answer for this. The Saguna has form, shape, name etc. but it comes from the formless.
Gurudev, Lord Shiva never took a body (physical form), and possibly even goddesses such as Goddess Durga, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Gayatri etc. also did not. So are all these different forms of the same energy? What is the difference among them?
Sri Sri: Yes, they are essentially one. All of them are different powers, and are different by virtue of their names, their forms and appearance; yet they are all one in essence.
Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that ‘everyone is equally dear to Me’. But then a little later He tells Arjuna, ‘you are most dear to Me’. How is this contradiction possible?
Sri Sri: There is a lot of contradiction throughout the Bhagavad Gita at every step, in every chapter. That is why Arjuna at one point tells Lord Krishna, ‘O Lord! Tell me one way only (towards freedom from misery). Sometimes you suggest that Bhakti Yoga (the path of Devotional service) is the best; sometimes you say that Karma Yoga (the path of doing one’s action or duty) is supreme, and at other times you say that Jnana Yoga (the path of knowledge of the Absolute) is the only way. I am very confused with all this, so please suggest one out of all these’.
So Arjuna too says the same thing in the Gita. But that is how the Truth is. Truth is multi-dimensional, and not just one-dimensional or one-faceted. This is why different ways and expressions are needed to say or express that multi-dimensional Truth. So, Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to step on one ladder, and then asks him to set foot on a different ladder and so on. He never tells Arjuna to stay fixed or rooted onto one ladder alone. The Bhagavad Gita reveals the unique art (of the Lord) of leading a person step by step from one ladder through another to the Divine. Now you might be tempted to ask, ‘If you wanted me to step onto some other ladder, why did you ask me to set foot on this one in the first place?’ This is exactly what Arjuna also tells Lord Krishna. But that is not the way. So Lord Krishna makes him step on one ladder, then move to another one.
This is the speciality of the Bhagavad Gita. This is how a mature and profound scripture should ideally be. It is only through one contradiction after another that the final Truth gets unveiled. Though wherever there is no contradiction or conflicting thought to be found, that is also fine; it is knowledge at a primary (basic) level only. In primary education one does not find any complexity or contradictions. For example, you will not find anything confusing or contradicting when you learn the alphabets A B C D etc. But you are sure to find confusion and contradictions in a profound scripture. Why is it so? It is because this world is multi-dimensional. The world is round, like a sphere.
Many years ago, a gentleman from Iran had come here. This must have been some 10-15 years ago. He was an Imam, and a close confidante of the Ayatollah Khomeini (a religious head of Iran), and was second-in-command to him. He was quite old, some 75-80 years in age. In those days I used to stay in the Shakti Kutir in the old Ashram. So, one has to climb the stairs to come up to the Kutir. When the gentleman climbed the stairs and came to me, he said, ‘Gurudev, you are known to be most merciful. You know that there is a question that has been troubling me since many years now. I want to ask you – ‘If there is but One Truth, then there should also be one and only one way to know it, isn’t it? There is only one right answer to a question. There cannot be four or five different correct answers to the same question. So if there is One Truth, then there should also be only one true religion for it. Why are there so many religions in the world? All the other religions should be false. There can be only one true way to the Truth’. I immediately understood what he was trying to convey. He was basically trying to say that Islam is the only true religion and the way to God, while all other religions are fake or false. So basically this is the question that he had in mind, but he was asking me in a different way. He said, ‘Gurudev, people often say that all religions are good and worth honouring, but that is just not possible. It is a common saying that there is One God, but there are different ways to reach Him. But that is not possible. There is only one genuine religion, the rest are all devised by man and are false’. I smiled to him and said, ‘Please have a seat first. Then I told him that to come to the Ashram, there can be different routes or directions. One direction can be to come straight from the Ashram gate and turn right at the end. Then, another way can be to go straight and then turn left and reach the Ashram. Yet another way can be to not turn anywhere but follow a straight road and come straight to the Ashram. Now what do you think? Are all these routes not correct in their own way? They are all correct. When someone is coming from the Bangalore city area towards the Ashram, they would be told to come straight and turn right for the Ashram. But if someone is coming from Kanakpura area, then they would be told to go straight and take a final left turn for the Ashram. So that route is also correct. And if someone is coming from the Bannerghatta area, they would be told to keep coming straight without taking turns anywhere. And that route is also true. So all routes are true. One has to see the way from where one stands in life. In the world, man has been at different stages in life, and different regions or cultures at different points in time. So, according to the position or place one was in, different ways have been shown to reach the Divine. That is what it is’.
Our ancestors, ancient seers and sages knew this very well and so they told all the possible ways (religions) one could take to reach the Divine. The Sanatan Dharma (another term for Hinduism) is so vast and elaborate that it confuses you a lot, but it also shows the way to the Truth. According to the Sanatan Dharma, this is right and that is also right. If there is a religion in which all ways of realizing the Divine are accommodated, it is this ancient tradition (of Sanatan Dharma). That is because it was not created or given by any one particular Rishi (wise sage or seer) or any person in particular. Thousands of wise sages and seers have contributed to this tradition and enriched it with their knowledge and experiences. So all their wisdom and knowledge has come together in this ancient tradition of the Sanatan Dharma. The Imam was very happy upon hearing this and liked it very much. He said, ‘Gurudev, today I have found my answer and I am very content’. Saying this, he took leave and left.
The point I want to say here is that wherever one finds contradiction or apparently conflicting thoughts and approaches, one also surely finds the light of Truth there as well.
Gurudev, Kshama (mercy or forgiveness) has also been called as Daan (charity). Why is this so? It is called as Kshama-Daan (meaning to see forgiveness as an act of charity or altruism).
Sri Sri: Do not get entangled in this web of words. It is just a play of words. Different people use different words or different languages to convey the same thing. Forgiveness is simply forgiveness, that’s it.
Gurudev, do Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva switch their roles from time to time? Do they not get bored doing the same role again and again over time?
Sri Sri: Well, this is why at one point in time they all came together as one and became Lord Dattatreya (a form or incarnation of the Divine shown as having all three aspects of Divinity together). All three of them are Gurus.
Gurudev, many people’s religions do not believe in reincarnation. Do such people attain liberation?
Sri Sri: Whether one believes or does not believe, does that ever change the Truth? The Truth is always as it is. If someone does not believe, then that is it! They just don’t believe it. That does not diminish the Truth in any way.
The scientists today have proved that reincarnation exists. What else remains to be said then? In some religions, it used to be believed that the Earth is not round but a square. Some religions believed that the Earth is stationary and it is the Sun that revolves around the Earth. When scientists stood up against this (religious) belief, they were hunted down and burnt alive. Some were hanged to death. This happened in what is called as the Spanish Inquisition. In Spain, at the time of the Middle Ages, each and every scientist was hunted down and was considered to be a form or messenger of the Devil, and they were murdered. It is not too long ago, it happened some 100-200 years ago. Today those same religions have become more scientific in outlook.
India always maintained a scientific and practical outlook from the very beginning. No scientist or researcher was ever killed here. In fact, even an atheist school of thought like Charvaka was honoured in our country. Its followers were allowed to follow and propagate their principles and philosophy here. The ancient Indians would think that if the limited intellect of the Charvaka school of thought is only this much, then that too was alright and accepted by them. They would often say, ‘if this is what your limited intellect can grasp and understand about God and the Creation, then that is fine as well. As your intellect matures, you will gain more knowledge and understanding in time’. India is the only country in the world that has never attacked another country. It has never plundered or conquered any other country in history. Yet India was looted and plundered so many times in history by foreign invaders. It was attacked many times in history, and we remained slaves (to foreign rule) for 1000 years. Despite all this, we have continued to rise higher and progress.
However, our country is currently in a very dangerous situation. Product prices are rising, and the Dollar is rising against the Indian Rupee, which is falling every day. There is such rampant corruption everywhere. People today are shamelessly indulging in corruption. It is so shocking. In the earlier days, if some place was found to be corrupt, people would resign and leave that organization or post. But today so many malpractices are happening in our country. During the organization of the Commonwealth Games in India, a few ministers were charged with bribe and corruption and were put behind bars. But after some time, they were released on bail and allowed to sit in Parliament. In the 2G scam that happened recently, a few government officers were jailed on charges of corruption. But they were let go after a few days and they went back to the Parliament. Though they were put in jail, they became healthier during their stay before leaving. Probably they went there to digest whatever (money) they had consumed earlier (Laughter). After that they were freed to go out once again. Files of these accused people get ‘mysteriously’ burnt in natural disasters in Maharashtra (meaning that actual evidence is destroyed on false accounts of natural disasters). A government office where such files and evidence is stored catches fire and is burnt completely. The people’s hearts are burning on seeing such incidents. You know, some files are kept in an area where there is actually no chance of fire at all. Yet files go missing or get burnt in such places. Close to 175 files related to the Coal-gate scam suddenly went missing one fine day. This is shocking indeed. Such incidents never used to happen at all in our country. Nowadays people freely steal and then destroy all evidence that can prove them guilty of crime. It is finished. This is truly a downfall in our country and is a serious cause of concern. Whenever such downfall happens, people of the country unite and rise together against corruption. The time for that has come. Is it not so? What do you all say?
Gurudev, how can I overcome laziness? It took me one month to even come up and ask this question!
Sri Sri: I will answer this question next year! (Laughter) Why should I hurry in giving you the answer? Anyway there is no use of giving you the answer immediately. Stay lazy as long as you like to be. One day or the other you will get fed up of it. Man gets bored very easily; and a lazy person gets bored even faster. The moment you are fed up of it, new paths will open to you. Why should I say anything and strain my throat? I will also keep forwarding the time ahead for your answer.
Maharishi Ashtavakra says, ‘There is no one happier than a lazy person’. He makes such lofty praises about laziness. He says, ‘Become so lazy that you stop desiring for anything in your mind’. You will run towards the kitchen or a restaurant only when you feel hungry. I would say stop doing even that! (Laughter) Even if you feel hungry today, you (postpone) and eat food tomorrow, or may be even next month. If you feel thirsty now, what is the hurry to drink and quench it? You can drink water later. Relax and keep lying down. Water will come to your mouth by itself! (Laughter) Similarly, be lazy even in getting angry or cursing someone. If you feel like doing some wrong deed or a scandal out of greed, then be lazy about that. But you do not act lazily in such things. In fact you do such things so quickly. If you have to curse someone, you do not think even for a moment. You do it immediately. You do not feel lazy at all in such moments. Is it not so? So if you become 100% lazy (in all aspects of life), then you have truly become wise. Then you have become a Nishkaam-Karma Yogi (one who acts without getting attached to the action or its results). But I tell you, this is the most difficult thing to do. It is very difficult to become totally and 100% lazy. Just as you cannot become an atheist 100%, in the same way you cannot become 100% lazy. It is next to impossible.
Gurudev, I am a journalist. Please explain what should the qualities of a good journalist be?
Sri Sri: The first thing is to present the truth before the people. Sometimes the truth can be so bitter and terrifying that it can shatter the people’s hearts, and put an end to their enthusiasm. They may get totally gripped by fear and insecurity. So along with presenting the truth to the people, also ensure that you help keep up their faith and enthusiasm, and that you can keep their hopes alive for something better. So on one hand you have to present the truth as it is without distorting it, and on the other hand you also have to ensure that there is always a ray of hope that is kindled in the people at all times. Otherwise, people will fall prey to mental diseases and depression.
You know, there was no such thing such as depression in India. This is why there is no corresponding word for it in Hindi or in Sanskrit. Neither is there any disease by that name in the Indian system. This goes to show how highly evolved and rich our culture and heritage has been.
Gurudev, today the problem of Insomnia has become quite prevalent, especially in the developed countries. Is there some solution to this problem to be found through Yoga and meditation? I have started to experience this nowadays.
Sri Sri: Yes, of course there is a remedy to this through Yoga and meditation. You should practice Yoga Nidra and the Yogasanas (Yoga postures) regularly. It will definitely help. You also have Ayurvedic medicines such as Shankhapushpi and Medhya Rasayana that will help. Even Khus-Khus (Cous Cous) can help. It is called Adirasam in Tamil Nadu. So you can crush one or one-and-a-half table spoon of that and take it with milk or with water. You will get a sound sleep. If there is anything else you are suffering from, you can refer the medicine kit that is available in Ghar Ka Doctor (a medicinal kit containing Ayurvedic medicines for common ailments and disorders at home).
Gurudev, can too much knowledge make a person sad? I think that is what is happening to my father.
Sri Sri: No, that is not possible. First of all, there is no such thing as too much knowledge. For example, if it is raining, then that is knowledge. What is more knowledge or less knowledge about that? If it stops raining, does any person know more or any less about the rain having stopped? There is no such thing as excess knowledge. Yes, if you use your intellect too much (in over-analyzing everything that happens), then life becomes very dry and you become devoid of any emotions. Then you only work through your intellect and nothing else. This makes a person restless and insecure from within.
Gurudev, a few days back I saw you wearing glares. Then I thought that to shield us from the harsh sunlight of life, you have given us the goggle of Sudarshan Kriya. I want to know when I can wear the hat of enlightenment.
Sri Sri: Enlightenment is not like some hat, that you can wear when you like and take off when you like. Neither is it like the hair on your head that you can trim and cut off when it grows too long. It is the glow of the light within you which can never diminish or disappear. It neither grows nor diminishes. It simply ‘is’. You just have to become aware and recognize it. The moment you become still and repose within your Self, you will recognize it instantly.
That is why there is a saying in Sanskrit – ‘Pratya-bhigya Hridaya’. It means to recognize that inner light, to become aware of the light from within.