Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, you have said in the Satsang that the daughter-in-law should try to win the hearts of her in-laws by serving them. Does this not apply to the son-in-laws also? Why is it that while the daughter-in-law accepts and serves her in-laws as her own, the son-in-law does not do so?
Sri Sri: See, the son-in-law only visits his in-laws (the wife’s parents or family) during the festivals like Holi or Diwali. He does not go there every day, isn't it? But the daughter-in-law is at the home of the in-laws all the time.
Had this been a question from someone from Kerala, I would have given some suggestions to the son-in-law. In Kerala, it is the son-in-law who stays back at his wife’s house with her family, and not the other way around (referring to the matriarchal system of lifestyle in Kerala).
In Kerala, the son leaves his own home and not the daughter. It is also the case in Meghalaya and Tripura.
But this is right. The son-in-law should not stay like a guest in the house. He should have that belongingness with his in-laws and live harmoniously with everyone around.
I feel that the sons-in-laws today do not behave like this. Yes, this used to happen one generation back. In some families, the son-in-law used to stay a bit aloof from his wife’s family. Nowadays I don’t think that is the case.
See, as a daughter, your mother has scolded you so many times and you have also fought with her when you were growing up, but you never felt hurt. But if your mother-in-law does just 10% of that, you feel so hurt and start burning from the inside.
Your mother and mother-in-law are of the same age and belong to the same generation. So you should see them both as equals, and take whatever they tell you in your stride.
If you had a fight with your mother one day, the next day you would quickly patch up and sit with her as if nothing had happened, isn’t it? The same thing you should follow with your mother-in-law also. This is what I say, you should win everyone over with love and service. And be happy and full of enthusiasm always. What else do you need?
Did you get what I mean?
See, you will be able to grasp all this if your mind is free and open, and if you are willing to receive. If your feelings are positive, and if you are willing to receive, then there is so much for you to take. If your mind is closed and entangled in small petty things, then even if you take ten dips in the River Ganges, nothing will come out of it.
When you become hollow and empty, then you can receive so much more.
Q: Why do I attract people who hurt me?
Sri Sri: It is not people who hurt you. It is your own foolishness, your own mind, your own vulnerability and your own emotions that entangle you, and make you feel hurt.
Do you think people have no other business, that they want to come and hurt you? Do they get a lottery by hurting you?
What can hurt you? Somebody’s words, somebody’s selfishness, somebody not caring for you. You love somebody and you think they don’t care for you, or you have helped somebody a lot and they do not talk to you, and that hurts.
My dear, wake up and see, is there an intention in them to hurt you? You need to see things from the other side as well. Place yourself in their position.
-Many times it happens that you never intended to hurt someone, yet they felt hurt by your action. What do you tell these people who feel that you have hurt them?
You say, ‘I did not mean it, something happened through me. I did not mean to hurt you, but an incident or event happened that gave you an idea that I hurt you’.
Now if you really intended to hurt somebody, then it means you have a deep hurt inside you. Even then, you are worthy of being excused, and you have to excuse the other person as well.
-If someone has hurt you intentionally, you should know that they are sick. What should be your attitude towards someone who is sick? You should be compassionate towards them.
-If someone has not intended to hurt you, it is an unintentional act, then it is your own mistake. You can only blame your own perception, and not them.
They are not culprits, it is you who has to ask them for forgiveness, ‘Please forgive me because I mistook you. I thought you intentionally hurt me.’ Then the friendship grows.
-If someone has scolded you or used harsh words that have hurt you, and they have done it with a very good intention, then you can only thank them.
This is because you have only grown stronger by their act. (No parent has raised their children without giving them a piece of their mind, isn’t it? Yet, do you feel, Oh, they have hurt me? They may have used hurtful words, but it has been for our own good.)
-If a friend has insulted you, knowingly, you can only thank them.
This is because they have had the courage to give you their piece of mind, what you needed, otherwise why would they do it? Why would anyone want to hurt you at their own cost? Nobody wants to risk their friendship.
What should your attitude be? ‘Thank you! You did something good to me, it has made me strong.’
It is all in your hands, how you view things; what type of intention you put out there, that will come back to you. If you think that everyone is hurting me, then your own intentions will create similar situations again and again.
When you wake up and see, 'There is none other than the One, and the One comes to me in many forms. It is all for my growth, for my well-being, for my happiness'.
This is because the Universe is so loving, and compassionate towards you. If we can keep this wisdom in our heart, nobody can hurt you.
In India, there is a proverb, ‘If God is happy with you, He gives you a lot, and if He is very happy with you, then He gives you a slap also.’
This is because every time God gives you a slap, He turns you away from the material world towards Himself; He wants to draw you to Himself. Drop everything and look at Him. That is why He gives you the slap because He is too compassionate and too happy with you.
Everything is an opportunity in life. If you are happy and comfortable, it is an opportunity for you to recognize the truth and share it. If misery comes your way, make use of that as an opportunity to turn inwards, and become very strong from within, and recognize the truth, the reality of the Universe, i.e., everything is changing, every relation is fleeting.
All this leads to that one reality, that everything is nothing.
Buddha said, ‘Everything is nothing’, and Adi Shankaracharya said, ‘Everything is one thing’. In one thing, there is love, joy, and in nothing, there is peace.
So the first step is, everything is nothing, then there is peace, and to top it, everything is one thing, that brings love, joy and celebration; that is Vedanta.
Q: Why do masters sometimes ignore disciples? Can a Guru ever forsake or get fed up with a disciple?
Sri Sri: If you think you are very important, then you will be ignored. Got it? There is no question of forsaking. Does air forsake you? Does the sun forsake you?
There is nothing called forsaking. If anyone feels like that, it is all in the mind.
It is very strange but true, even if there is nothing to worry and complain about, the mind will create something to worry and complain about.
The nature of the mind is such that if you have nothing to be miserable about, you will think about something that happened ten days ago, or ten years ago with somebody, and think that there is injustice. Then you get into a sense of victim consciousness. You need to watch out for this!
Two things are detrimental on the spiritual path:
1. Culprit consciousness
In the past, religion pushed you into feeling like a culprit. It made you think that you are a sinner, you must repent. This sense of being a sinner pushes you down, away from spirituality. It rattles your mind and brings such a sense of guilt deep within you.
Unfortunately, many people lived their lives in guilt and died with this feeling. That guilt consciousness never allowed them to come out of the small mind. People lived without realizing that oneness with the Divinity, that innermost peace and joy.
Jesus said, ‘I and my father are one’ (implying oneness with the Divine). He never said that you repent, you are a sinner. In fact, Jesus stood against it if someone said that anyone was a sinner. Later on, religious people used guilt as it was very convenient to enroll others.
2. Victim consciousness
‘Oh, I am victimized! I am right and you owe me an explanation. If nothing, at least an explanation!’ The mind rattles on being a victim.
Victim consciousness is on the other end of guilt or culprit consciousness. It is another big issue that the human race has fallen prey to.
Both, victim consciousness and guilt consciousness are detrimental on the spiritual path, they make you miserable. Whenever you think you are a victim, you cannot have proper rest. Then you keep crying or getting angry at others.
Q: Gurudev, what is Kundalini Shakti? What happens when it rises during Hollow and Empty meditations?
Sri Sri: Kunda means pot, kundalini means energy in the pot. The body is like a pot. When the energy in the body rises up, it has many manifestations. All different emotions are just manifestations of one beautiful energy.
It is one energy that manifests in different regions of the body. At the bottom of the spine, it is inertia or enthusiasm. When it moves up, it is creative or procreative energy (sex drive). When it moves up, then the energy manifests as joy, generosity or greed or jealousy. As it goes up to the heart region, it manifest as love, fear or hatred. Then in the throat, the energy manifests as grief or gratefulness, and so on.
Q: Gurudev, I have heard this couplet: 'Sadguru pura je mile, paiye rattan upaar; Mann dije Guru aapne, paiye moksh dwaar' (One who has a Sadguru receives wealth greater than the rarest gems, and one whose heart is devoted to the Sadguru finds liberation effortlessly). How can a seeker surrender himself wholeheartedly to the Sadguru? What does this couplet mean?
Sri Sri: This is what I just explained, isn’t it? I gave you the answer even before you asked me this question! (Laughter)
What does a Guru want from you? Just your heart, isn’t it? So dedicate your heart to the Guru, and be free!
Giving your heart to the Sadguru means that you feel that ‘My Guru belongs to me, and is taking care of everything’. Just have this faith.
See, the mind can get clouded with doubts and a million other thoughts. At first you doubt yourself, then you doubt the others around you, and then you doubt the whole world around you. This doubt slowly consumes your mind.
Doubt is responsible for having destroyed so many happy families. So just drop the doubt. Having total faith in the Guru means just this –‘My Guru belongs to me’, and walking confidently in life with this unshakeable faith.
Just believe that - I will get everything that I deserve, and no power can stop that from happening. The One who is giving will give me everything in abundance. Whatever is mine by merit of my karma will surely come to me.
You know, this whole life will end in the blink of an eye. Just look back and see, some 30 to 40 years have just passed by in an instant! So why be troubled about the few 20-30 years more to come? That too will pass by easily.
You will spend half of that time just sleeping. The remaining 10-15 years will be spent in eating, travelling and spending time with your family and friends. So life will come to an end in the snap of a moment. Life is running at such an amazing speed. Just wake up! Realize that you are already surrendered to the Divine.
Do not ask, ‘Oh, how should I surrender myself to the Divine?’ Just take it for granted that you are already surrendered to the Divine. That’s it.
There is no point in asking, ‘How do I surrender? How do I create or feel that belongingness with the Divine?’ There is no way to create that belongingness. You should just feel that 'I already belong to the Divine’, that is it. Finished! Do not question that even once.
I feel, we should give this lesson to all the newlyweds also. They should understand how a husband and a wife should interact and be with each other.
Do not go about policing each other. Do not ask your spouse, ‘Do you really love me?’
You should not ask such questions to your spouse, even if a doubt comes in your mind. Instead you should ask, ‘Why do you love me so much? You love me so much more that what I really deserve’. Then your love grows.
Demand destroys relationships. Any demand on any one person will destroy that relationship. Got it? Do not demand.
You are here on the planet only to give and contribute, not to take. When you take this step, you will see that whatever you need will simply come to you. This is the law of Nature.
When you have this belief that you are here on this planet to give and to serve, you will find that you will receive ten times more of whatever you need or desire. Then whatever it is that you desire, you will get it in abundance.
You should not get stuck in small petty things like ‘I want that person’s attention’, etc. Do not settle for such small things.
If a beggar approaches you, and asks for alms, what do you usually say? ‘Please move ahead’, isn't it. You only invite that person to a party who is already prosperous and has everything. Nature also acts in the same way.
Who do you invite home to dinner? You invite someone whose (heart) and stomach are full, isn’t it? So you should bear this in mind and not go running after small trivial things like a rat.
It ruins your peace of mind, and you end up disturbing others around you also. In fact the entire environment gets spoiled because of that.
Just observe this, if a person comes and sits next to you, or if you sit next to someone who goes on complaining about something or the other, and finding faults in everything, do you feel like sitting with them? No! You feel like running away from them that very instant.
You would want to feel uplifted in someone’s company, isn’t it? Who in the world is bothered about how many medicines you have had, or how much your leg is hurting? Or how your neighbours are troubling you? What is the use of telling such stories to others?
See, life is a mix of everything. There are both pleasant and unpleasant times, and it goes on. Do you think that everything will happen as per your liking only?
Will everyone keep praising you all the time? No, sometimes some people may insult you as well. You have to listen to that also. What is so disappointing in that? It is nothing. Be strong and brave.
Life is like a river, and when a river flows, sometimes it is clear and pure, and sometimes some garbage, like dry leaves, twigs and branches also falls into its stream. Life is like that. Such things keep happening in life from time to time.
When you spend too much time in the company of certain people, some problem or other does arise. The more limited and narrow we make our world and our life, that much more our troubles and difficulties will increase in life. So do not stay stuck in your narrow limited view of life, and the world.
Now by this I do not mean you leave your home and your responsibilities. Many people misunderstand such things. They think, ‘Gurudev has said to not get entangled in my limited world’, so they abandon their duties and responsibilities towards their families. No, this is not right.
Once I was at Paris airport and was passing through airport security. There were a lot of people seeing me off, some 200-300 people. Now this one lady came; she must have been in her late 60’s. She came to me and showed me a ring on her finger, and asked me, ‘Is this necessary?’
I just saw the ring with a stone on it and said, ‘No, it is not necessary’. And then I left for New York.
Two days later her husband called me and asked me, ‘Gurudev, why did you ask my wife to divorce me?’
I replied, ‘I would never say such a thing’. He is a 75 year old man, married for 45 years.
He said, ‘No Gurudev, you told my wife that marriage is not necessary, so she has decided to divorce me. My wife said you have given her this advice’.
Oh God! You know, people want something else but they want it to come from my mouth! And both are my devotees. So I told him, ‘No, you need not do that at all’.
We so often get caught up in small things. Instead, you should think that if someone comes and sits next to you, they should feel uplifted. You should fill their heart with joy and happiness. This is what you should do. But we end up doing the opposite.
Even at home, when a man comes back from work and is exhausted, his wife will complain and taunt him by saying, ‘You did not do this, this is not right, that is not good’, etc. So he ends up facing problems at work and also at home.
Ladies also have a similar problems. They work the entire day in the house, and if the husband comes back home in the evenings and does not share a few nice words with her, how will she feel? If he just sits reading the newspaper, or stays on the phone for business, then the wife also feels troubled. There needs to be understanding from both sides. But the main thing is, do not make demands or place conditions for things from your side.
You should have this firm resolve in your mind that whoever comes to me should only go back happier and lighter, no matter what our own condition may be like, because you know that God, or the Guru is there to fulfil all your needs and any lack that you may have, for God and the Guru are one.
You should only think of giving to whoever comes to you. This is the feeling that you should have from within. Remind yourself that ‘I have but One Master, and everyone else are my children whom I have to serve and nourish, come what may!’
See, life is so short. So be happy at all times and spread that happiness to everyone around you. That should be our aim. Then everything will come to you.
Q: Shiva is complete, then why does he get married to Parvati?
Sri Sri: This is like asking if God is complete, then why did he create this world.
A spider is complete, yet it creates a web by its own saliva, and moves within its own web. Waves rise in the ocean, then where do they go? Are they going somewhere? Why do they rise? Got it? The ocean is complete, yet it comes up with waves.
Shiva and Shakti are the same, that is why the concept of Ardhanarishwar, who is half Shiva and half Parvati. This is true in all of us; in each one, there is a mother’s DNA and a father’s DNA; a male aspect and a female aspect, and together you become complete. Physically, you may be a woman, but you have your father’s aspect inside of you.
Is it that only females are born out of females and males are born out of males? No! Inside each one of you, there is a male aspect and a female aspect.
Shiva and Shakti are one, yet they are different. Parvati means Shakti (the manifest world, i.e., air, earth, fire, water, air, mind, ego and memory), Shiva is the unmanifest. The form and the formless are married; like your mind is formless, the body is form, and they are married.
Yet, it is all just one wave function when you go to Quantum Mechanics; there is no male, no female. However, when you want to have a baby, you cannot say that it is all one Quantum Mechanics, it is different there.
When you want to eat food, Quantum Mechanics does not work there. You should know what to eat and what not to eatn correct? So, the world of differences and the world of unity co-exist, yet they are different. That is why it is said that the unmanifest Shiva tatva has no parallel, there is no two; it is complete.
As Shiva, as a male energy, (it is) consciousness; then there is female energy, i.e., the manifest universe or the body. When you talk about body and mind, then there are two things, the manifest and the unmanifest. But when you talk about atoms or wave function in Quantum Mechanics, it is all just one vibration.
When you watch television, you see an episode, but if you see it from another angle, you perceive electronic waves. On the other side, you are seeing an episode, and getting some information; they are not opposite. In fact, they are interwoven in nature.
This is a little bit scientific; if it does not go in, just relax. At some time, you may get it. If you are a Physics student or interested in Physics, then you will catch it easily.
That is why in ancient India, one had to first understand the five elements. They would say that you do not worry about atman (soul), self or God; save that for a later time. First, learn about the five elements and their special permutations.
Several years ago, a nuclear scientist had come to the Bangalore ashram. In a satsang, I spoke about the five elements. He said that nobody knew about the fifth element; scientists discovered the fifth element recently. The Greeks knew of only four elements.
I told him that he did not know of the Indian philosophy. Since ancient times, they have spoken of five elements in India. Then I told him about the three types of space; he was startled to know that. I asked him to read Yoga Vasishta; it is published by New York University Press. This knowledge has been there.
So, first they would say that one should understand the five elements and then go to the next three, i.e., mind, intellect and ego. Then, you will come to the Self, to God; before that, they would say do not even think about it!
Q: Gurudev, if our virtues and skills are not ours, they are the play of Yakshas (angels), are Yakshas a separate identity or part of us?
Sri Sri: Is there something called my own air? Do you say this is my air? The subtler you go, 'mine' does not exist. The subtler we go, there is only a field, and you share the field and the quality of the field.
It is best you keep all this knowledge, these concepts to one side. Relax in the oneness, which automatically comes in deep meditation.
Q: Gurudev, it is said that creativity is born out of silence. But many creative works also arises out of deep despair and anguish. Please explain this.
Sri Sri: Yes, that is also right. Temporarily for a moment or so, there can be anguish or despair, and creativity comes out of that. But if the despair and anguish continues, then nothing comes out of it.
If despair and anguish alone were the reason for creativity, then places like Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sudan where there is so much despair, such places would have been very creative by now. No such thing has happened though.
You should all remember one thing. Do not think of yourself as insects. You are all great, and you are connected to the Creator of the whole world. Just walk ahead in life with full enthusiasm, and with the faith that the Creator of this creation belongs to you.
Once you have this strong enthusiasm in life, I tell you, no one will ever be able to shake you in life.
You get so upset over small and trivial events in life. You start crying for trivial happenings, and become afraid for such small things. You are spoiling your own life by doing this.
Just have deep faith, and remember that the Creator of the world belongs to you.
'I will surely get whatever I need, and my life will be wonderful. There is no second choice to this at all!’ This is the kind of courage with which you must walk in life. This is the Sankalpa (firm resolve) and the prayer that you should have. Nothing else is needed in life.
Don’t behave like a beggar, always saying, ‘I want this kind of success; I want that kind of fame and money’. It is all useless. Feel that deep connection with the Divine.
At all times, remind yourself that 'I am connected with the Divine at all times. I do not know what God is, or where He is, but I have a deep and unshakeable connection with Him, and that is all I know, and that is all that matters!'
Just have total faith in this. This is like a fish which has that total and utter faith that 'I am in the water (here signifying being surrounded by the Divine)’.
You must just believe that ‘Regardless of the play of events, I have a deep connection with God’.
Now, you have never seen or understood God, but the Guru is seen, and he is available to you. This is why the Master is like the door to the Divine.
When you have this complete faith that ‘My connection to the Divine is strong and unshakeable’ then you receive so many siddhis (extraordinary abilities) in life, by way of unshakeable devotion. Then you shall get whatever it is that you desire, and whatever you wish will happen.
A plane ticket that was earlier out of your reach suddenly becomes available to you.
If you want the pouring rain to stop, it will stop. How many of you have experienced this? (Many in the audience raise their hands).
I know that there are four people who have come here who were not able to book their flight tickets a few months ago (because of no availability), but they got the tickets just a few days ago. (Sri Sri looks at the crowd for the four people who were unable to get their flight tickets). Raise your hands (the four devotees in the audience raise their hands).
Just see! They were all very tense earlier, when they had not got their tickets. But they were able to book it and have reached here safely.
So it is not a difficult thing to get what you desire.
There is nothing great in asking for small trivial things in life. You should ask for something big in life. Whenever you ask, ask for something big and the best for yourself (from the Divine).
There are so many people in the world who are so miserable, I tell you. Despite many people having a lot of money, there is no happiness on their faces. Despite having fame and prestige, there is no enthusiasm in their lives. So, all these (money, fame, power, etc.) are useless. If you want juice in your life, there is only way: make that strong and unshakeable bond with the Divine. Then you realize that your whole life is such a blessing, that everything in life is such a blessing. Your breath is a blessing, and your mind is also a blessing.
When you accept everything in life as a blessing, then you will have abundance in life, and then you will get what you want, even before asking for it.
How many of you have had this experience, that even before your wanting something, it has arrived at your doorstep? (Many raise hands in the audience) That’s it! This is the sign of knowledge.
The sign of being in wisdom, is having this firm belief, that before you need anything, it is already there, right at your doorstep.
There is no use of getting something after struggling for it all your life. Getting something that you wanted after praying a lot, or getting it late, or not at the right time, is no good.
If you get something the moment you ask for it, then that is good. And the best is, when you get something without even having to ask for it. It is like getting water even before the thirst for it has arisen in you. That is Siddhavastha (having the ability to manifest wishes effortlessly). This shows that you are a Sharanagati (one who has surrendered totally to the Divine). That deep feeling of faith is what you should have.
That is why Lord Krishna has said, ‘Come take total refuge in Me, and I shall liberate you from all your sins’.
If there is some misery or suffering in someone’s life, it is because of sin (wrong deeds). If there is no sin, there can be no misery or suffering.
One suffers because they have done some wrong deed sometime earlier. And there is only one way to be free of this, and that is to surrender everything to the Divine.
Just know that there is someone or some power that is there to look after you all the time. So simply surrender all your problems. Have that faith that the Divine will take care of everything.
When a small child gets himself dirty in the mud, he comes to the mother, and shows her how his hands and feet are all dirty, because he knows she will take care. Children who are one or two years old cannot take a bath themselves, so they come to the mother.
Even if they need their diaper to be changed, it is the mother who has to do it, isn’t it so? You know why the child does this? It is because the child knows that there is someone who loves it very dearly, and who will take care of it at all times.
In the same way, we too should have this deep faith that there is someone who loves us totally and will take care of everything for us. Then we can be free of all our worries and difficulties.
If you have experienced this feeling even one, you will simply walk ahead in life with your head held high, and full enthusiasm. You will walk just like a lion and not like some small insect. You will no longer cry over your problems thinking ‘Oh, I do not have this, I do not have that’. You will find that everything you desire will simply fall at your feet.
This feeling is not born out of arrogance. If you have this feeling, it means that you become so natural and blossom so totally from within. Your heart and mind have become open and full of joy, and you carry a sense of centeredness with yourself at all times.
So you should walk like a King and be the perfect servant. Be supple and sensitive, but also be strong (from within).
Often people who are very sensitive are also very weak. They get so affected by what others say. They keep weeping over what others think, or say about them. That is not how you should be. Be strong from within, and know that you can do what you want to do. You can overcome the hurdles that come in life, because you know are not alone, there is someone to take care of you. This confidence has to come from within.
Actually, it is already there. You already have that.
I would suggest you to read Yoga Vashishtha (a sacred scripture narrating the enlightening dialogue between Lord Rama and Sage Vashishtha). There are many audio recordings for it also. It is in both English and Hindi. So just sit back and listen to it. Whenever your mind is troubled because of something, just sit back and listen to Yoga Vashishtha. All your troubles will vanish in a matter of a few minutes.
That is why it is said in the Bhagavad Gita, 'Na hi jnanena sadrusham pavitram iha vidyate. Tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah kalenatmani vindati'. (4.38)
There is nothing that can purify the mind as knowledge.
Q: If the world is an illusion, are we all having the same illusion?
Sri Sri: Partially. In each one of your minds, a different world is happening. Each one of you has your own little bubble of thoughts, ideas and concepts. The way you look at the world is very different from the other person. Thus, each one of you has a world in yourself, yet all of you share something.
Q: If Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the sustainer, and Shiva is the dissolver, who is hiding and who is blessing?
Sri Sri: It is a function of the same; the five actions are of one God. All of them are blessing. It does not matter what name you call it.
God is in control of the whole world. We only wish He makes it a little more obvious, then you would feel free from your worries.