Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, when you are present before me, it all looks surreal like a dream. And when you are not there before me, then too everything appears like a dream. Why is it so?
Sri Sri: It is good that you understand all of it to be a dream. And you should wake up (to the reality) from this dream.
Q: Gurudev, what is the purpose behind this Creation, Maya (the grand illusion), and the cycle of life and death?
Sri Sri: Do you play cricket?
Now why do you play it? It is so pointless to run with a bat in your hand from one end of the pitch to the other! Why waste so many hours on that? All you do is throw the ball from one place to another on the field. What do you really get by doing this?
(Ans: Gurudev, it is a source of entertainment.)
Yes! Just as you play with the bat and the ball for your entertainment, this entire Creation too is for God’s entertainment. This is why the entire Creation and everything in it is said to be God’s Leela (a game or a pastime of the Divine).
Q: Gurudev, what is the significance of taking Sankalpa (an earnest wish or firm resolve) during Mahashivaratri?
Sri Sri: Sankalpa means taking our consciousness to the universe, to the infinite; and then bringing the mind to the present moment, and making a wish for something that you long for in your mind. That is what Sankalpa is.
In taking Sankalpa, you keep something and then you pray for something. All the Yagnas and Poojas start with the taking of the Sankalpa.
Yagna means that which is performed by everyone together. So everybody is a part of it. Whoever does any Seva naturally becomes a part of it.
When anyone does any service for the yagna, they become part of the yagna. Even if they are serving in the kitchen or taking care of the devotees, then also they become a part of the yagna.
But if you have some wish for somebody in your mind; a friend or family member, and if you want some of the merits (of the yagna) to go to them, then you can take a Sankalpa.
When you take the Sankalpa, you take your name and mentally remember your wish, or the person for whom you want some merit, and then there are little rituals that they (the priests) do for you. So that is also possible.
This custom has been there for many years. It is not that someone will get a special benefit by doing this. Everyone who participates in the Yagna and has faith will be benefited. But if you want to do it with a special Sankalpa, a provision for that is also given.
Q: Gurudev, please explain how the relationship between Guru and disciple begins and how should it develop?
Sri Sri: What is your relationship with yourself? Do you hide anything from your own self? No, so the same is the relationship between the Guru and the disciple.
Who are you to yourself? Are you a son, father, brother? What are you to yourself?
(Ans: I am everything)
Yes, so the same is with the Guru also.
Q: Gurudev, why do Muslims refer to God as Allah and the Hindus call Him as ‘Bhagwaan’?
Sri Sri: See, different people in different languages use different names for the same one God. In different religions they understand Him differently. Did you understand this?
There is only one God that is what we always say.
There is a saying that goes, ‘Ekam vipra bahuda vadanti’ (meaning, that which is One is called by many names by the learned and the wise). This is what our understanding has always been. This is why whichever race came to India was welcomed, for we knew that whatever be the name, it is the same One God.
We never discriminated amongst people. We never said that only our God is true, and those whom others worship are false. Those who say this and convert other people into their religion are doing the wrong thing. Such people mislead others by saying that, ‘Only my God is the real true God, all other Gods are false and you should remove their pictures from your homes.’ This is very wrong.
Q: Gurudev, for how long will this leela continue?
Sri Sri: Now that is hard to tell. No one knows for certain when it started, and so no one knows when it will end. As long as you are a part of this leela, just enjoy yourself.
When we land up in a problem that is when we ask, ‘When will this end?’ But when we are having fun or enjoying ourselves, we never question, ‘When will the enjoyment end?’
Do we do that? No. So when life appears burdensome and a bondage, only then do we think to ourselves, ‘When will we be free from this?’
Do not think that you will become free sometime in the future. You are free this very moment. Just take this for granted and move ahead.
All this is just a game and events keep happening. Many thoughts come and go in the mind. You would be surprised at the kind of thoughts that come to your mind. You become so nervous due to some thoughts of your mind. But you should know that thoughts come and go. So it does not carry any meaning. We are far greater than our thoughts. So just know this and relax.
Q: Gurudev, What is the technique to be followed daily so that impressions don't remain in the mind, intellect or the memory?
Sri Sri: Just relax, be natural. If you say that I do not want this impression to remain in my mind, then you are making that impression even stronger. If it is there it is there, and if it is not there it is not there. So just relax.
You will see that whatever is the right thing will stay on.
Q: Gurudev, the Bhagavad Gita says that we are not the doer. Somebody else is acting through us, we are the medium. We say that the future is free will and the past is destiny. I feel this is a little contradictory. Can you please clarify?
Sri Sri: There are two things: one is the doer, and the other is the enjoyer, and they both go together. If you are a doer, then you are also the enjoyer. If you're not the doer, then you are also not enjoying.
So, when you say, ‘I have not done it’, there is one aspect in you that remains untouched by the consequences as well as the actions. And there is another aspect in you that is doing everything, and also suffering or enjoying the consequences. So, there are two things inside you.
There is a beautiful analogy in the Upanishad.
On this tree of the universe, two birds are sitting. One is enjoying the fruits of action, and the other is just witnessing it. This is the depth of the philosophy.
As you go deep in meditation and understand more and more, you will find these things happening. Whether it is very good work, or the worst job ever done, somewhere inside, you will feel that I didn’t do it, it has just happened.
Have you felt that? It has happened to me, I didn't do it. That is what it is. That is one thing which makes it happen. And the other thing is, feeling that I am not the doer. This ‘not-doing’ one, is the director.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I have read about the Sankhya Yoga but have not been able to understand it. Please explain. Also, can we follow it while being involved in worldly affairs?
Sri Sri: Yes, of course you can. Sankhya Yoga is to wake up and see that all this does not exist. There is only One, and everything works through that. See that even thoughts are nothing, everything is just vibrations.
Sankhya Yoga means the soul is eternal. Knowing that there is an element in me, which does not perish, diminish, or age. Relax knowing that I am not the body.
Just knowing this, and relaxing within the Self is called Sankhya Yoga.
Q: When one is with the Guru, and following the path, is it necessary even then to participate or conduct rituals?
Sri Sri: If you have unshakeable faith on the Guru Tattva, then there is no need for anything else. But if you feel that you should perform certain rites and rituals, then that is fine too.
Also, doing anything without faith in the Guru Tattva, does not bring any benefits. Without the presence of the Guru, there will be no use of practicing any Tantra (an ancient school of spiritual practices) or mantras. And if you have surrendered yourself completely to the Guru, then there is little need for all these methods. But if you wish to practice that too, there is no problem in that.
For this, you have to find someone who can perform these rites and rituals correctly (as prescribed by the scriptures). And sometimes you should actually engage in some Karma Kaand (rituals and holy practices as mentioned in the scriptures) also; maybe once or twice a year. You need not over do them.
Do some puja, light a lamp before the deity at home once in a while, and sit silently in meditation sometimes. Meditation is the best among all practices.
If there is love, meditation and a sense of surrender, then everything else simply follows.
Sometimes, you may place a Toran (a traditional Indian door ornament believed to be auspicious and ward off ill omens) to decorate your doors in the house. That is the significance of the Toran. But if there are no doors, what is the point in placing a Toran then?