Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: The media always latches on to the negative stories. How can we make a good story sensational?
Sri Sri: This is one thing you should not do; generalize. You should not eternalize and generalize everything. You should not say that the media always, or every media does that. It is not the case.
Here is one example. Annika Dopping from Sweden has made some very enlightening documentary films. She made a documentary to help elderly people who get depressed (after the age of 50 people feel depressed thinking nobody wants them) called ‘Aging Gracefully’. It is such a nice documentary film to uplift the elderly people.
She also made another very positive film on Three Wise Men, where she interviewed Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and me. She put some brilliant questions that pulled out the best from everybody. The show ran for almost a whole year by public demand.
There are many such shows that have come through Indians also, that inspired people and uplifted their spirit. So, as I said, we should not generalize.
Now, I do agree that there is sensational journalism that brings in negativity only. After a while, people know what it is. They watch it for some time and then shut it down.
What people like to hear more is about astrology, because they are anxious to know what is going to happen to them.
You should think about how you can bring about creative, sensational, positive news. You do it. I think there are several channels here in Karnataka, which say, ‘Is this also possible?’ This is the headline.
Some channels have come up with such things; people glue themselves and watch these wonders of the world! Like how in a particular temple, a monkey does a certain job that amazes everyone. The channel shows the strange behavior of certain animals, and certain wonders, miracles that happen in the world. Such things are really capturing people’s attention.
Here, we have a Devi who speaks; the stone says yes and no. You must have also seen the Nadi leaves, the ancient palm leaves. You give your thumb print, and they select the leaf that pertains to you. Over 5,000 years ago, people have written about you, your name and everything about you today. This is nothing short of a miracle.
Today, people are turning more towards humor, away from all these crime stories. That is what I think. I don’t know, I do not see much, I don’t get time to see. Anyways, I think the times are changing now.
Q: Gurudev, I am not a devoted person, I have never been one. Although I feel that I am missing a huge part of the experiences because of this. How should I handle it? Will it happen sometime?
Sri Sri: What do you think is devotion? Just crying and singing, is that what you think devotion is? Or running after me? No! It is a simplest state of your awareness.
Whenever you are in the simplest state of awareness, that is what devotion is.
Just remember, when you were a child, what did you do? You looked at your own fingers, at your own hands, or at the light, at the colors. You looked at flowers in the plant, you tried to go and touch them and they were all shaking. Remember the state of innocence that you had as a child. When you feel at home, when you feel secure, safe, that is devotion.
Whenever you feel secure, safe, total comfort and ease and a sense of belongingness; a feeling that mother is at home, that is devotion.
A child feels very comfortable moving around when the mother is sitting in the car. But the moment she disappears, the child becomes very jittery. So that sense of security, or to simply say, ease.
Do you feel at ease? Do you feel trustful, non-judgmental and loved? That is devotion.
Lord Krishna first tells Arjuna, 'You are very dear to me', then Arjuna says, 'Yes, you are dear to me too'.
So God is telling you, that you are very dear to him, just listen. When you also start recognizing that God is dear to you, that is devotion.
We are definitely dear to God. When he is also dear to us, that is called devotion.
We should never doubt that he loves us. First thing is, if we doubt whether God loves us or not, whether the Guru (teacher) loves us or not, whether this world loves us or not, then devotion or love does not arise in us.
First believe that the whole world loves me and I also love this world, then you can call yourself a devotee.
Q: What should we do for the mentally retarded people? Can healing be given to them?
Sri Sri: Some remand home should be made for them. There are mentally retarded homes owned by the government. They should be kept there.
Don’t encourage the practice of giving them food on the roads. We should not make them beggars on the roads. Don’t give healing.
These people have come to receive service from you. So even after giving healing they will remain the same, and then you might start doubting the healing. You might think, 'Oh, I am giving healing to him every day and nothing is happening!' So instead of healing, do service to them .
Q: Gurudev, I come from a Christian background and feel the love for Christ reflected in your teachings. However, the Bible says that Christ is the only way.
Sri Sri: Love is the only way.
Do you know the Bible was written 70 years after Jesus Christ? There are 72 sects of Christianity, all of which have their own interpretation of the Bible (similar to how there are 32 sects of Buddhism).
If you see the ancient teachings, Lord Krishna also says the same thing, ‘This is the only way!’ This is an affirmation for people who were there at that time, to be in the present moment.
This is also the reason why Jesus said, ‘Those who came before me were thieves.’
Why did he say that? He said that because right now you are here, and you are thinking about the past; your mind has been stolen by somebody. So, he said that to bring the people to the present moment, to wake them up so that they could be - here right now.
You cannot misinterpret all these things. Jesus said, ‘I have come here not to make peace, but to put fire. To put father against son, mother against daughter.’
If you think this is what Jesus said, then no. This is all with reference to some context, with some inner meaning to it.
Jesus would never be unhappy or upset if you did something that would help in your growth; which would make you more loving, which would make you a more peaceful and a better human being.
So, if you practice yoga, meditation, and some people tell you, ‘Oh, you are betraying Jesus!’ I tell you, it is absolute nonsense. If you meditate, do yoga, and read the Upanishads, why would Jesus get upset? Not at all! In fact, Jesus spent 12 years of his life in India.
Jesus can never be against the ancient teachings, especially meditation and yoga; absolutely not. I have written a small book called Hinduism and Christianity; you should read it. I have mentioned there how many similarities exist between Hinduism and Christianity.
So, doing meditation, doing these practices is not against the teachings of Jesus Christ. If someone says it, they are saying it out of their ignorance.
Q: In my culture (in Paraguay), it is common that when a child misbehaves, parents punish them. Is it not some form of abuse or violence? What do you feel about this?
Sri Sri: Parents should, I won’t use the word punish, but discipline the children, within some limitations. It should not be in excess.
There is a difference between discipline and punishment. You can’t be violent and justify it as disciplining. At the same time, you cannot brand everything as an abuse and not discipline a child at all. Tomorrow that child will hold you responsible for not teaching it when it was young.
So, there is discipline, and one step away from discipline is punishment, and then abuse, or being violent with the child. Violence should be condemned. At no cost should anyone be violent with children because then they become so immune to that, and they become violent.
So many criminal acts in the society can be attributed to the parental violence at home. The way they treated their children
At home, when you raise children, sometimes you should raise your eyebrow (meaning to show anger) at the kids. You should discipline them. Then they become very good citizens.
Just imagine in the classroom, if the teacher just leaves the children free to do what they want, and does not discipline them; there is not even that little fear of being punished, the children will be so wild and uncontrollable! And when they grow up, they will say, why did you bring me up like this? Why didn’t you tell me what is good and what is not good when I was a child. They will ask this question.
So, I would say, discipline them first, and as a second step, punish them if at all it is necessary; once in a way. But that’s it, stop there. Never be violent with the kids.
Q: Gurudev, if there is one consciousness ruling, then why are some things said to be good, and some are bad?
Sri Sri: See, good and bad are always relative. There is nothing in the absolute.
If you go in space, there is no east, west, north or south. East, west, north, south are there when you are on earth. It is relative.
If you ask me whether vitamins are good or bad, I would say, in limitation they are good, but in excess they are bad.
Is milk good for you? Yes it is good, provided you drink only as much as is required. But if you drink twice as much, then the same milk is bad for you. Similarly, poison can save life if you are sick, and the same poison can take away your life if you are not sick and you drink it.
Q: Gurudev, my mind wants one thing and my heart wants something else. How can I make them marry each other and want one thing?
Sri Sri: Oh, you are in confusion, pulled between the mind and the heart. There is a proverb in China; if you are confused, take a pillow and go to bed. It means everything will fall into place on its own.
Our mind wants something new, it gallops on something new. But the heart yearns for something old; ancient. We never take pride in saying, ‘This is my new friend! This is my friend from two hours ago!’ You take pride in saying, ‘This is my old friend!’
Friendship, love, takes pride in being old. Fashion, innovation, technology, ideas take pride in new. We don’t say, ‘It is an old idea!’ We take pride in new ideas.
Life is a combination of both, the new and the old. You can’t get rid of any one of these, if you do, then life will not be complete. There is no conflict either; they are never divorced, so don’t try to marry them, they are already together. All that is needed is the wisdom to know when to apply your mind and where to apply your heart.
Q: Gurudev, in the Gita, Arjun asks Krishna about sthitapragnya. Does it mean being established in knowledge?
Sri Sri: Correct, it means being stable. He described what sthitapragnya is;, the signs of sthitapragnya. It means being unwavered; whether you are poured with flooded with compliments or you are given umpteen numbers of insults; in both situations, if you keep your smile and equanimity, then you are called sthitapragnya.
Mahatma Gandhi used to listen to the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, everyday; where Krishna spoke about sthitapragnya. This was part of satsang.
When we were children, we had to learn this part of the chapter by heart; that is how one generation of children were brought up in this country.
This (second) chapter was significant because it gave the principles of how to keep the mind inward, balanced and at peace in adverse situations. There was so much emphasis on keeping that balance, whether it is an enemy or a friend, pleasant circumstances or unpleasant; not to hanker for praise or be hateful for any unpleasant comments or insults. Such ideas and concepts help manage ones mental and emotional state of mind.
Q: Gurudev, I am a web engineer. I want to ask, what is the connection between spirituality and internet technology? How can spirituality use this web?
Sri Sri: Yesterday you saw that we had a webcast of our satsang, and so many people connected to us from around the world. We had people connect from more than seventy countries.
You should definitely use the internet, write blogs, and make people aware of it. Today because of internet you can get any information. If you want to know a verse from Rig-Veda, you don’t have to go to the library and look for it. Just go to the internet and you can download it from there.
So the internet has made knowledge available at the tip of your fingers. It should be used.
We are all linked through one net from inside, that is inter-net.
Q: Gurudev, they say visualizing one’s wish makes it come true. Does visualization mean not being in the present?
Sri Sri: Visualizing is like taking a Sankalpa (resolution). But there is a difference between taking a Sankalpa (resolution) and making an effort to visualize.
Effortful visualization is not good. The difference is like this. I want to go to Jaipur, this is a thought you got. Now you don’t sit and get a whole map of Jaipur and all the buildings; you don't close your eyes and make an effort to imagine the pink city, pink buildings; this is no good. This is visualization.
The thought that I want to go to Jaipur, is good, you can go. But if you sit and start visualizing the roads and the buildings of Jaipur, and everything, sooner or later you will end up with a migraine. So this wrong concept of visualization should be done away with.
Many people in the world read these books, where in some people say to visualize you being in that position (in which you want to be). You visualize being a chief minister, and taking the problems of people and all that. Hundreds and thousands of people do it and they get depressed.
Sankalpa (Resolution) is having a wish, a desire. It is not even you who can take it, but it just arises in you. When it arises, you give it away to the Divine saying, 'Dear God, if this is good for me, you give me. Otherwise, anything better than this, I accept'.
That is what you say and offer it to God, to the divinity, to the universe.
If you don’t believe in God, does not matter. Offer it to the universe. I offer this thought to the universe. If there is anything better, let it happen, and you forget about it and be normal.