Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, in the Puranas, it is said that Lord Vishnu’s secretaries, Jaya and Vijaya, were banished because they stopped the Rishis from meeting Lord Vishnu. Do people have to bear the karma even though they are doing the right thing?
Sri Sri: Mythology has many dimensions. The anger of a good person is also beneficial, that is what was depicted here.
When the heart is in the right place, even anger is good. For example, if a mother is angry at her child because he is pulling a wire repeatedly, then the anger of the mother is good for the child to be on the right track. I don’t think there is any child who has grown up without the scolding of its mother. Is there anybody here who can say that they did not get any scolding from their mother? It is essential, so mothers should not feel guilty. Just do not overdo it, that’s all, otherwise it loses its effectiveness.
Q: Gurudev, the enthusiasm of one person can become an irritation for another. Should we express our enthusiasm and allow it to irritate others?
Sri Sri: Enthusiasm coupled with wisdom cannot irritate others. You need to be sensitive to others feelings and demands, and you need to respect them.
Simultaneously, you cannot be oversensitive, because then you have to suppress yourself. Be somewhere on the middle path, show your enthusiasm and be a little sensitive.
If someone is mourning, you cannot be very enthusiastic in the condolence meeting. You need to have wisdom to know where to exhibit your enthusiasm.
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, Lord Krishna played the role of a Guru to Arjuna. In Lord Krishna’s life, what role did Arjuna play? What role can a disciple play in Guru’s life?
Sri Sri: There can be only two types of disciples: the easy disciple, and the tough disciple. The tough ones are hard nuts to crack. It will take a long time for the tough ones to get the point.
The easy ones are those who know, who become sensitive, and who get it. You can say, like a buffalo or a cow.
If you just shout ‘Aye!’ to a cow, it understands and moves forward. But for a buffalo, you have to take a big bamboo stick and hit it lightly to really get it to move; only then it will move. Or you have to literally come and push it with your hands.
So these are the two types of disciples. Ones who listens easily and gets it, and who is sensitive, The other doesn’t listen, and takes a long time to get the point.
Q: Gurudev, in The Bhagavad Gita, Arjun asks Krishna to describe a person established in the Self. How does such a person walk, behave, etc. Does external behavior determine if a person is enlightened or not?
Sri Sri: Not really. This question can only be answered in affirmation or negation. If you ask me, does the love in someone’s heart reflect in their appearance and their behavior, the answer is yes. At the same time, appearances can be deceptive; sometimes it may not be reflected (in their appearance or behavior). So, expression is varied, and you cannot depend on it.
Expression varies in different parts of the world. For example, the way one greets and expresses love. In France, when you greet, you give kisses in the air, two on the sides of each cheek. In New Zealand, the traditional Maori greeting is to rub the nose. (If the other person has a cold, and you greet them, then you have to share it with them.) The ancient cultures have very different ways of greeting; the way the natives greet and welcome you.
In Punjab, a state in North India, the way to greet is by giving a jhappi (a tight hug); you take a cupped palm and thump it (quite hard) on the others back. Now, this kind of greeting is not acceptable in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. In Tamil Nadu, you hold your hands together, and greet, saying Vanakkam (hello, welcome). So, cultures are very different, even in one country.
The expression of love is very different from place to place, and that should be respected.
In Japan, you bend half the body to show your respect.
In India, you bend all the way down, and touch the feet of the people you respect. Sometimes, it is a big botheration; imagine you are walking, and ten people try to catch your legs; you can trip any time! However, that is the way they show their respect.
In India, on the day of the marriage, the newlywed couple gets a very good workout, as they have bow down and do pranam (salutations) to dozens of people. By the time the wedding is over, they have sore backs because they have been bending so much; that is the tradition.
This world has so many diverse customs and traditions, and that is the beauty of our planet. We must preserve all of them. If everyone starts greeting in the same way - shaking hands, and forgets the way the Japanese do, then we would have lost something. If people forget how to do pranam (salutations) to the elders; suppose this tradition stops, then it is a loss for the world’s culture, not just one country. The world’s diversity would be lost. We must preserve the diversity, it is important.
Q: Gurudev, the Vishalakshi Mandap is so wonderful to look at. Can you please explain the significance of the word Vishalakshi.
Sri Sri: Vishala means broad, akshi means vision, so it means broad-eyed vision. I thought people can come here, sit, meditate, and broaden their vision.
Of course, it is my mother’s name also. It has a deep spiritual meaning. If you have to see Lord Vishwanath, the Lord of the Universe, then you need to have Vishalakshi, i.e., big eyes.
God is not somewhere out there, He is right here, you need to have the right vision. You can perceive the greatest in the Universe only with a big-eyed vision. The name fitted very well with the concept, isn’t it?
Q: Gurudev, what is the best and easy way to please God and be closer to Him?
Sri Sri: If a baby asks, ‘What can I do to please my mother?’ The mother is already pleased with the baby. Whatever the baby does, the mother is happy.
My dear, God is already pleased with you. Just keep your heart clean, mind focused and put your 100% in any work that you do. When you are sincere, smiling and serving, God is pleased with you. Remember 3 S – sincerity, smile and service.
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 think I am addicted to meditation. Is it bad to be addicted to something awesome like meditation?
Sri Sri: You can’t say that you are addicted to compassion, it is a wrong word to use since it is an integral part of your life. Similarly, you can’t say that I am so addicted to being clean; I am addicted to brushing my teeth. Just like brushing is dental hygiene, meditation is mental hygiene.
Yes, you should not be obsessed with it. Suppose you could not meditate for one day, do not make a big issue out of it by getting upset or angry; never mind. Once in a while, like once in two years, it is okay. You should not feel guilty about it. However, missing meditation should not become a regular thing. Missing it three times a week is not very advisable.
Q: Gurudev, when I thought I was good with the Sudarshan Kriya, you came up with Shakti Kriya. Can you tell me one technique after which I don’t need to learn anything else?
Sri Sri: Just relax, and keep that smile in your heart.
Contentment; the whole thing is to bring that deep sense of contentment, in which you do not require anything. When you realize, ‘I am all that is! Everything that is needed is there already’, then there is deep contentment. This is Samadhi. The purpose of all the techniques is to lead you to samadhi.
After a while, the mind keeps on wanting something different, something new. The mind is so tricky, it gets used to a technique. At that time, we need to bring in something different, to remind the mind again, to go to the source of energy which is deep within.