Gurudev, how often do great souls like you come to this world? How do they decide when to come back?
Sri Sri: That is a secret!
Gurudev, could you tell us about the Saptarishis?
Sri Sri: The universe has a rhythm called chandas. Everything is in a wave function; the receivers of certain wave functions are known as Rishis.Rishi is a position; it is not the name of a person, and there are more than a thousand Rishis. Of these, seven are very important, and they relate to the seven chakras.
Rishis have been there in every age; there are many stories about them. A Rishi is like the Dean, or the Vice Chancellor of a University. They also underwent training, and then became part of the tradition.
So, like how you say, ‘I am an Alumni of Harvard’, or ‘I am a Stanford graduate’, similarly, there are Gotras.Go means knowledge, and Gotra means, belonging to a particular knowledge group or Rishi tradition. So, just like we have different DNA or blood groups, we have different Gotras or families that come from certain knowledge groups, or Rishi traditions.
What are the names of the Saptarishis?
Sri Sri: Sapta or the seven rishis are, Kashyapa, Athri, Vashishta, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Jamadagni and Vishwamitra.
What is the significance of the shraadh ceremonies?
Sri Sri: Shraadh is doing some good deeds with faith, in the memory of those who have crossed over to the other side.
The tradition started as an activity related to feeding the poor, taking care of them, and giving them some gifts. However, any good deed done in the memory of those who have passed away, like giving charity, or donation in their name, is all called shraadh.
The objective is to thank them, although they are not on this plane.
Ceremonies for the departed are followed world over. In Singapore, it is like a festival, a public holiday. Even in China, it is a very big affair.
In Singapore, the belief is, whatever you offer to the ancestors, the same is sent back in the form of blessings. So, whatever blessings people would want, they would make those things in paper, and burn them.
They believed that whatever you give away through fire, you will receive the same in the form of blessings here. E.g., if someone wants a car, or a fridge, they make a huge paper car or fridge, put it on the street, and burn it.
If they want a million dollars, they burn one million dollars of fake currency.
It is a wonder how mankind starts fooling himself or herself, and expects to receive blessings for real currency! Anyway, this has been the traditional practice.
In India, similar things happen. People pray to Bhagavati or Mother Divine, and offer a coconut. They say, ‘I will offer 21 coconuts, please let me marry the right person.’ As if Mother Divine is expecting 21 coconuts from you!
Innocent people do something to get something. It is called mannat (wish), it means you need to do something to get some favor.
For how long should shraadh ceremonies be performed?
Sri Sri: In ancient days, shraadh ceremonies were performed until the soul was re-born. So, they would do it for 15 years, and then they knew that the soul was re-born, so they would stop doing it.
Today, since we have lost the ability to know whether they are still there or reborn, we keep doing it.
What is the significance of some of these ceremonies?
Sri Sri: In the Brahmin household, shraadhis an elaborate ceremony.
Women would prepare food from early morning, and only certain foods are eaten. Then the pundits would come, and perform a ceremony where the Devas (angels or gods) would be invited to bring the departed parents.
Three generations of parents would be remembered, and some rice balls would be put out to the crows. They would wait and watch from which direction the crows came, how they took the food, where it went, and if they were they satisfied?
It is like a tarot card reading; from the signs that are there, one would decipher what happened or what is happening. It is a little complicated, sometimes too complicated. The main thing would be about preparing elaborate food, and feeding people.
I think all this is man-made. Maybe there is something scientific in it. We should look in to it.
There is one ceremony called Tilla Tarpanam, offering sesame seeds with water.
I think the purpose of this ceremony is to tell people who have gone across that if you still have any desire in your mind, just drop it, because the desire is as small and insignificant as a sesame seed. We, your children, are here to fulfill those desires. You drop it and move on.
In India, tilla means smallest, tarpan is to be fulfilled, trupti means contentment. So, tarpanam means be contented.
We tell the departed three times, ‘Be contented!’
The message is, ‘You have left this world. Going there, do not keep hankering. If there is any discontent, let go. Move on. This world is enormous, huge, there is so much; you go to the light and leave this bondage here. If there is any desire of yours left unfulfilled, we are here to take care of it, as your children. You be content.’
These mantras are so nice, so beautiful.
What is the significance of the last rite ceremonies?
Sri Sri: The last rites also have a purpose, they are very nice.
A mantra is said in the ear of the corpse, because the soul is still there for some time, it has not gone. They are told, ‘Look, this body is going back to its original elements. You are not that. You are light. Move on.’
It is the son or the daughter who says it. Today, this ceremony has become male dominated.
There is a belief in India that you have to have a son in order to be liberated, because even after you die, it is the son who will say these mantras, give you knowledge and liberate you. Without the son, there is no liberation! However, this is not true! In the olden days, girls also had these rights.
The Art of Living is fighting against female feticide. We are working with UNICEF and United Nations Family Fund for gender equality. The Hindu scriptures speak about gender equality, but somewhere in the middle Ages, this changed.
If you go to Bali, an ancient Hindu culture, you will find female priests there. (Bali’s Hindu culture is much older than India)
In India, this practice disappeared. Females are not allowed to become priests.
Isn’t it nice, to say to those who have passed across, ‘Be satisfied! Be content! Be happy there!’ I thought it is a fantastic message, even if you say it mentally.
Mental action is for people with a little higher intelligence.
People with little lesser intelligence want some action to be done. You don’t need to bring a flower for someone who is intelligent. However, an unintelligent person wants to do something that is action oriented.
Those who do not have a high level of intellectual maturity, they cannot survive without action. Therefore, in the action also, they made it so meaningful.
Take a few sesame seeds, pour some water from your hand, and remember the departed. That’s all. This is shraadh, nothing else.
Later on, the priests and pundits thought, ‘Anyways people are making offerings, why not put one or two rupee coins along? So, when they put the coins, the pundits take them.
The coins are not mentioned anywhere! Only sesame seeds! You do it with this feeling that, ‘Be satisfied! Drop all the cravings; if you still have any desires, leave it to me.’
Why is India the favorite destination for enlightened masters? Is there some secret in the land?
Sri Sri: Well, it is not that only India had masters. No!
The word California comes from a Rishi called Kapila Rishi. He was the previous incarnation of Lord Krishna. He was born in California, and lived there for a long time. The place was called Kapilaranya. It is said in the scriptures that Kapilaranya is a 12 hours difference from India.
Nova Scotia (in Canada) is also a Sanskrit name. Navas kosha, means it is at 9 hours difference from India. One kosha is a one hour distance. Navas Kosha means 9 hours difference, and it is exactly 9 hours.
Guruvdev, you mentioned Sanskrit as the source for these names. What are the other names that come from Sanskrit?
Sri Sri: Do you know all the months’ names are in Sanskrit?
Until a few centuries ago, the New Year always began in March, when the Sun moves to the first point of Aries. However, King George of London decided to celebrate January 1 as the New Year. Although he announced it as the New Year, people would not follow it. They continued celebrating March end - April 1, as New Year day. So, to stop people from celebrating New Year on April 1, he called it April fool’s day.
Now, let us see the meanings of the months. Fagun means the fag end, last; hence, Feb is the last month. March means to start new, and go ahead (the first month of the New Year). August is shashta, the sixth month. Ambar means sky; Sapt means seven, Sapt ambar, September means seventh sky. October is ashta, eighth sky. November, Nav (nine) ambar, means ninth sky. December, Dash (ten) ambar, means tenth sky, or tenth month.
January is the eleventh month, and February is the twelfth month. This is how the calendar was in the very beginning. The Indian, Iranian, Afghani, and Egyptian calendars, all correspond to this system. Even the Chinese New Year starts towards the end of February, beginning of March.
The dates, days and months, were all designed according to the Solar or Lunar calendar.
In the Solar calendar, like the English calendar, there is a leap day. And in the Lunar calendar, there is an extra month, a leap month, that comes every 4 years.
This year has a leap month, and so, the Solar and Lunar calendars have come so close.
This year, when the moon moves in to the first point of Aries, April 10, is the Lunar New Year. When the sun moves in to the first point of Aries, April 13, is the Solar New Year.
Do you know your breath coordinates with the movement of the sun and the moon?
This is a very beautiful science. How your breath moves on the first day of the Lunar month, is very different from the way it moves on the first day of the Solar month. You will see your breath corresponds to that; right nostril (Surya or sun naadi) and left nostril (Chandra or moon naadi), it will tell you. So, the macrocosm and the microcosm are connected in an amazing way.
Gurdev, there is only one sky. What is the meaning of seventh sky, eighth sky?
Sri Sri: There is 360 degrees in the galaxy. They are divided in twelve parts, and each one of them is a zodiac sign. This is called Rashi.
When the earth is moving, the earth perceives the Sun to be in one of these degrees, and that becomes One Sky.
See, the stars are constant, but the earth is moving. When the earth moves around the sun, the earth is perceived to have moved, and it sees the Sun to be in different position. That is called Aries. When the Earth moves again, it finds itself in Capricorn. When the Earth moves further, it finds itself in Virgo. So, that is what seventh sky, eighth sky, etc., is.
What are the days of the week based on?
Sri Sri: The days of the week are named according to each major planet in the solar system. Each day corresponds to one of the planets. Sunday for Sun, Monday for Moon, Tuesday for Mars, Wednesday for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter, Friday for Venus and Saturday for Saturn.
How do the planets have an influence on our health?
Sri Sri: The macrocosm and microcosm have a big connection.
Each planet is aligned with a particular grain, color, shape, bird and animal. All these are connected; it is also connected to a particular part of the body. Even your fingers!
Do you know, every finger is connected to a particular planet? It is an amazing science of the uniting of the macrocosm and microcosm.
For example, the planet Mars is connected to the liver and pitta, and pitta is connected with channa daal (chick peas, humus). If you eat too much chick peas, you will find your pitta increasing. So, pitta, chick peas, Mars, they are all connected.
The sheep is also connected to Mars; it provides heat, wool; that is how the sheep is connected.
Similarly, Saturn is connected with the crow. It is also connected to black sesame seeds, and your teeth.
There is something called Medical Astrology, where you can see in a chart, what type of diseases you could get or be prone to. This could also be seen from a chart, astrologically.
Unfortunately, a lot of this knowledge is actually lost. Many of the scriptures were half eaten, since it was all written on palm leaves; some had holes. Some were not preserved properly. Still, some of this knowledge is available today.
Astrology is an amazing science but astrologers have not studied it properly. I have my own reservations about astrologers. However, I know about astrology, about how this connection is so scientific. It is very systematic; the connections are established very scientifically.
See, the Sun is connected with your eyes. Similarly, Jupiter is connected to your nose. Saturn is connected to your teeth, and cheeks are connected to Venus.
The forehead is connected to Mercury. So, this is a very beautiful science, and you can know things precisely. You see someone’s face and you can make a chart. However, these sciences are lost, almost lost.
For example, nobody would have heard of Vaastu Shastra three to four decades ago. Even in India, people had not heard of it, but now, it has come up.
It is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who first brought this knowledge back. It was his idea to promote Vaastu Shastra. Since then, it has taken off in the world. Before that, only the temple architects and builders were proficient in it. Even on Vaastu Shastra, there are not too many books available. Moreover, the same Vaastu Shastra cannot be used everywhere; what is applicable for India, will vary for America or Russia.
Does chocolate block naadis?
Sri Sri: I don’t know about chocolates. You ask some nutritionists. Too much of anything is no good.
Anyways, what I would say is, don’t bring me chocolates or any sweet for that matter. You smile, that is good enough. I find so many people bringing sweets, chocolates; don’t bring all that.
Why waste money on all that? You can make better use of it.
In India, I say, ‘If you bring me sweets, I will feel that you are telling me that I am not sweet enough. I need to become sweeter. If you bring me flowers, then I will feel that you are telling me that I have not blossomed enough, and I need to blossom some more.’
If you want to give me such messages, then bring me flowers, garlands and sweets. Otherwise, just bring me your smile.
Instead of spending money on flowers and sweets, you can use it on some good service projects.