Which are the most important values which can transform this universe into a heaven?
Sri Sri: Shift in our vision. This universe is already a heaven. What blocks us from perceiving it as heaven is our own mind. The mind clings on to the past or it wants perfection. It has its own ideas of perfection. This is about the universe. But if you ask me about improving the society, I think this is a question every human being should ask himself. I think we need to have a violence-free and stress-free society. The way to such a society is Yoga, Meditation and Service. The gentleman continues - But I find 99.9 percent of people in the world are already good. But still that 0.1 percent dominates. Even if 10 percent people come together and say they don’t want violence and terrorism in society we can achieve this. How can this happen? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The voice of truth needs to be heard louder. You’re right. It is time for the revolution. It has to be loud. People should come together. People should stand up for human values. It will happen.
How can we stand together if we can’t stand for ourselves and don’t have a sense of satisfaction inside?
Sri Sri: when you have inner satisfaction then everything happens effortlessly for you. When you don’t have that, even small things become a struggle. Wisdom is about having that inner satisfaction. Wake up and see what is bothering you and why are you not satisfied? You don’t have food, you don’t have shelter, you don’t have money or you don’t have a companion? Pin point the area and then deal with it. You think when you have x amount of money or that much fame, then you will be happy. Wake up and see life from a broader perspective and you will see that this is not the truth. This is another illusion. Then you settle down. Meditation is the answer.
The mind is running all the time. We are caught up in right or wrong. But when does the mind stop?
Sri Sri: (After a pause) Got it? When you are waiting for an answer, what is waiting? The mind has already stopped. When you are astonished, the mind has stopped. When you are in laughter, or panic, or fear, or when you are in deep love, the mind has stopped. Time has stopped. There is an experience of timelessness. Have you experienced that timelessness? Just sit on the banks of the Ganges alone and watch the water flowing. Suddenly you feel it is a moment of eternity. Same way when you watch the sun rise or set, moon rising or setting or watch a child playing, a sudden spurt of energy comes from within you and the mind is already still. You don’t have to wait for this to happen sometime in the future. It is happening here and now.
If the soul is so wonderful then why has God chosen to burden the soul with the material world?
Sri Sri: Have you seen movies? There is a hero and a villain in the movie. Now what is the role of a villain? He creates some kind of entertainment. When do you feel your body is a burden to you? When you feel that your body is a suffering to the spirit. But you can’t call it a burden when it is a means to elevate the spirit. When you know the body is given to you as an instrument to elevate the spirit, would you still call it a burden? Shareer maadhyam paro dharma sadhna- This body is an instrument for dharma, all that uplifts the spirit. Don’t consider it a burden. Honor your own body. The soul comes to your body after great effort. There is a great rush. Many souls compete to get one body and one succeeds. So our body is a gift and not a burden. Gentleman asks: Is liberation from the body true liberation? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:What is burden? Desires, cravings and aversions in the mind are the burden. Your craving for something or your aversion for something makes you feel it is a burden. Losing your body doesn’t make you lose your cravings and aversions. Question continues: Why is the material world considered to be a world of misery? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:It is the mind which makes you feel it is a misery. This world is a part of the divinity. So instead of blaming the world, look inside.
What is the one quality that you need to have to love everyone alike?
Sri Sri: An ease with yourself and everybody, simplicity. When you are open from within, then you can’t but love everyone and everyone can’t but love you. Neither you have a choice nor do they. You have done this as a baby. Do you remember how you were as a baby? Being natural, simple, innocent, without any barrier and free with everybody.
When someone near to you is dying what words should we say to ease the pain?
Sri Sri: When someone near to you is leaving the body, your words would have no meaning. At those moments you just be there in silence. Those vibrations will work for them.
If I as a person can’t change myself, how do I expect others to change?
Sri Sri: Do you feel you haven't changed at all? (The person replied: I do find some changes in me). As much as you have changed, don’t you think others will also change? Nobody knows everything in the world. We all know something. In fact when you see the magnitude of knowledge, you find it can’t be completely known. But aren’t you obliged to give others whatever little you know? (Yes was the reply). That is what you have to do. The world doesn’t expect you to do service which you are not capable of. The world expects you to do what you can. If you are a doctor then people will run to you in case of an emergency. At that time, your saying no doesn’t make sense. And if you are not a doctor and are approached to do something that you can’t, you simply say – ‘I am sorry. I can’t do it.’ We do what we can and we ask pardon for what we can’t.
I want to understand the relation between spirituality and the material world? Does material prosperity and the spiritual world coexist?
Sri Sri: Prosperity and spirituality can coexist but greed and spirituality can’t coexist. Unethical means of earning money and spirituality simply cannot coexist. If you have a factory or a business, you can continue do that and still be very ethical. You don’t have to leave your industry, which may be giving employment to a few hundred or more people, for spirituality. There is no need of saying materialism is bad and leaving that you want to go towards spirituality. That is not at all necessary. You can continue doing your duty. This is what is expressed in one of the scriptures ‘Ashtavakra’ where Ashtavakra told king Janaka that he can be a king and be totally spiritual. King Janaka was the embodiment of the highest knowledge. There are many examples like this. What I usually say is ‘keep money in your pocket and not in your heart or head’. When the money is wrongly placed that is when the problem arises. In India, materialism and spirituality are not in conflict with each other. Lakshmi – the symbol of material prosperity is portrayed pressing the feet of Narayana - the symbol of spirituality. We always say LaxmiNarayana which refers to the combination of wealth and spirit. But it is very important to note that greed and spirituality don’t go together. Unfortunately we associate negative tendencies like greed and jealousy with materialism. Even if you have to do charity, you can’t do it with an empty bowl. How can you think of feeding ten hungry children with no money at hand? Is it not your dharma to feed them? In one of the ancient scriptures in India it is said ‘Righteousness comes from wealth. Proper governance is the basis of the economy‘. I think it is all connected. And the most important is the faith in the being, the highest self - the faith that I am going to get whatever I need and whenever I need. Then you give miracle a chance. Materialism is measuring every step too much. (Then you don’t know when the stock market is going to crash and banks are going to be bankrupt.) Don’t bank your faiths on the banks but bank your faith on the divinity and the power of your own sankalpa(positive sankalapa) and thoughts.
Guruji I work in a hospital where people are dying and I am hoping to bring this yoga there. I am facing a little difficulty in understanding what is the difference between the yoga of living and the yoga of dying?
Sri Sri: You must have heard by now, yoga has eight limbs.. I don’t know how much of pranayama and asanas(postures) you can make someone do when they are sick and dying. It may not be possible at all. Some good bhajans(uplifting music), soft and instrumental music will also help. This is called laya yoga. Some words of wisdom will help. This is gyan yoga. Your mere presence there will help. Your being there without any effort will help. When we are in the ‘doing’ consciousness, thinking what to do, we reduce our energy. When we are in the ‘being’ consciousness, suddenly the light, air and energy come in you. You can make them feel better with that presence and energy of yours. There are three things which are very important whenever you sit for meditation: 1. I want nothing for next 20 minutes or half an hour. 2. I do nothing. 3. I am nothing. Any effort is an impediment in meditation and so ‘I do nothing’. And then if you have any notions about yourself, I am rich, I am poor, I am intelligent or I am stupid, you can’t go into meditation. You cannot progress on the spiritual path. So you have to come to this – I am nothing. These are the three golden rules which I feel are very important and with which you can sink deep into meditation.
We talk about serving humanity. As a human being I have limited knowledge and based on that I believe in a cause and work for that cause. But if later, down the line, I realize the cause was not worthy, then being a person with limited knowledge haven’t I made this world a worse place than it earlier was? Can we serve the humanity before having perfect knowledge?
Sri Sri: If you wait till you get perfect knowledge, it’s not going to happen. When you do service, you gain merit and that merit helps you to go deep into yourself. So service helps you gain merit, merit takes you deep into sadhna(self-effort and practices) and sadhna makes you come up and do more service. It is all cyclically connected. So it is not going to be complete if any one aspect is missing.
How do I know that the service that I am doing is right?
Sri Sri: You ask the people whom you are serving. If someone doesn’t want to cross the road, don’t drag them on the other side (Laughter follows). Service is that which is needed by the people.
The gentleman continued to ask what if someone wants drugs. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Then that is not service in the first place. Don’t call it service if someone wants to kill someone else. You have certain basic human values. Anything that destroys human life is not a service. Don’t regret about the past however it has been. You have learnt the lesson. Just accept it and move on, learning from it. Gentleman continued to asked that should one act on the best judgment one can make at present. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Your consciousness will tell you that it is wrong and you should not do it.
Can you throw some light on Bhakti Yoga?
Sri Sri: If you sit in the Ganga aarti in the evening, you will find everybody singing so beautifully and a wave of devotion. Bhakti yoga is seeing the Divine as mine and oneself as belonging to the Divine, and all that exists belongs to the Divine.
Guruji we have heard the terms spirituality and enlightenment so often. There are very abstract definitions of the terms. Would you please throw some light on these?
Sri Sri: (Jokingly) You want me to add more confusion to the words and give you one more definition! If I have a choice I would take away all the definitions and leave you in confusion because from that confusion something flowers up in you. My understanding is not going to help you. It has to come from within you. When you wake up and see, you will be surprised. I would like you to experience that WOW. Don’t make it a concept. If you don’t know what enlightenment is, thank God and say ‘ I don’t know what enlightenment is. Let me wait for it.’ It is the concepts that keep us away from experiencing the reality. That’s what I feel.
I would like to know about your views on this wonderful time on the planet when service is accelerated and technology is connecting the world, when we have the opportunity to make this world a one world family, when teachings from the teachers like you are spreading all over the planet and we have a chance to evolve spiritually. At the same time planet is facing dangers that the old ecological and political structures are not sustainable anymore. We are coming to a choice point where we are ending one paradigm and accelerating in a spiritual paradigm. Also so many souls are incarnated at this time. And wonderful events are happening like this to accelerate that. Would you please speak on that?
Sri Sri: I think I have said it all. All the lines between different disciplines are blurred now. I remember when I was in school there was a thick line of difference between physics and chemistry, and they were thought not to be connected. Today, whether it is astrophysics, physics, knowledge about the spirit or information technology, all have come together. Environment and spirituality are not two different things. Perhaps the ancient people of this country knew this. They worship the trees, mountains, rivers etc in nature. And it is true for all native civilizations in the world. They honored nature. They took care that they care for nature and progress and development was aligned with the sustainable conditions on planet Earth. The most needed thing today is – Globalizing wisdom. There are two types of calamities – one is natural calamities like earthquakes. And second is man - made calamities. Man - made calamities can be overcome by wisdom and a Cultural Revolution, and by spreading this knowledge of a one world family. We are anyway one. There is no two. Natural calamities can be overcome by caring for the planet, planting more trees, preserving water, by spiritual energy and with the thought that you are one with the vishavatma(Universal soul). An intention or thought that you are one with vishatma and a little attention manifests itself.
I was thinking since I was a small child that what the original sin is? I never got a satisfactory answer as it couldn’t be about the apple. I wanted to know if you could explain from your perspective what is it all about or is it all a lie?
Sri Sri: I am not a theologian in the first place and so I haven’t studied the original sin concept. So I cannot comment much on that. All I can say is that from Indian perspective sin is that which brings misery to many and merit is that which brings love, happiness and joy to many. Sin is something that could be washed out. It is not your nature. If sin is your very nature, you can never get rid of it. Like if mud is your skin, you cannot get rid of it. But if it is on your skin you can take a dip and it will get washed away. If the flaw is inside the diamond, it can’t be corrected. But if slush is on the diamond, it just needs a little water to be poured on and it gets clean. Here in India we consider sin as a superimposition. There are three things in the yoga- malah, avarna and vikshepa. Malah is impurities in the body, vikshepa is impurity on the mind , restlessness and disturbances in the mind and avarana is the sheath which covers the spirit, which is the ego -identification with one little thing. And the purpose of yoga is to clean the three sheaths of impurity. Yoga loosens up all the three sheaths of impurities. And then the true spirit which is part of the divinity shines through. So I don’t consider sin is your nature but sin is that which you have acquired due to ignorance. And with the light of knowledge it just disappears.