Q: I can understand the truth of your knowledge. I can enjoy pooja, bhajans and all the Indian customs as well around you. But, when I am together with my friends, it is very difficult to speak about all this; especially, listening to a Master. In our country, we learn to follow our mind and not any Masters. What can you suggest to make Art of Living more acceptable?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Do you know, 30 years ago, when we first started The Art of Living then also it was very difficult. Teaching yoga means only someone who is out there, someone who is crazy, would do yoga. But today people like yoga.
I want to tell you one thing. You don’t have to talk about pooja, chanting and all that to one who does not know. Just talk about meditation, Sudarshan Kriya, Part 1 course, this is good enough. And I tell you, today people are much more open than before.
There are big programs happening around the world. The Buddhists do the Mandala Pooja, and everybody flocks to see the ritual. Buddhism has similar chanting and people love to listen to the chanting.
So, sometimes, it is our mind only that put the blocks.
In a city like New York, there are a number of classes for chanting; Sanskrit chanting. And these classes are full, there is no place available.
Our own center in New York has three to four shifts for Kriya and for meditation. Everyday there are so many people visiting.
So today, West is not West and East is not East. You will find agnostics, non-believers in the East also. And you find believers in the West also. So people are more open and their prejudices are lesser than before. If you find they have prejudices, tell them, ‘Hey, you should not be prejudiced. You should be a global citizen. You should be open to multi-culturalism and multi-cultural religious festivals; otherwise you are in the middle- ages, dark ages. You are not open-minded. Your mind is very closed. And whenever there is any good thing anywhere, you should accept that.’
You don’t need to say, ’I follow a Master’, and this and that.
I make everybody leaders. I am in the back giving you a push to go forward. A coach is essential everywhere, whether it is sports, or music, or cooking. Unless you have a coach who helps you learn how to be a good cook, you cannot get certified.
So, for yoga, for exercise, even soccer you need a good coach, isn’t it?
So similarly, for spirituality, which is very abstract, you definitely need a coach, someone who trains you.
A Master never tell you, ‘Shut your brain and don’t think’, no! He encourages you to think freely. This is what you need to know.
The Art of Living encourages Reasoning and Faith, both. Faith and Reason, they may appear to be conflicting. It has happened in the past like that. That is how the Spanish inquisition happened. In the past if the Church said something you should never question it. So, the entire revolution in Russia about Communism started because reason was shunned. But in the East that never happened. East always said, ‘Honor your reason.’
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna gives Arjuna the entire knowledge, and then finally he says, ‘You reason, if it appeals to your intellect then you accept it. Whatever I said, if your intellect does not accept it then you need not accept whatever I have said.’
Buddha said the same thing, ‘You must have Reason and Surrender as well. Have faith.’ This is what Lord Buddha said.
If you say, ‘Let me first learn swimming then I will get in to water’, a real coach will say, ‘Get into the water and I will tell you how to swim.’
So it is not one after another, yes! As you get into water you have to swim immediately. You have to learn simultaneously. That is why Reason and Faith, they both are essential in life. You can’t learn swimming in the air first and then get into the water. Then you will not learn swimming. When you get into the water only then you will learn how to swim, correct! And there is a life jacket around you. The Master is like the life jacket. He teaches you to swim and once you start swimming then you know the value of it, isn’t that so?
So, how to answer people? You need not answer every question that anybody asks. Sometimes just smile. You don’t know the value of it, but just taste it and then tell them. Someone might say, ’Oh! Why are you listening to chanting?’
‘Oh! You don’t know the value of chanting. It is so wonderful. Just do it. Just listen to it once and you will see.’
That is what we want to share. We want to share what is best with everybody; with everyone. Not that in India everything is good or everything better, no! There are many hopeless things also. But we have picked the good things and are sharing it with the world.
Similarly, every religion, every culture has something very beautiful. That we should share. Not the fanaticism and not the small mindedness.
What do you say? We take the good things from everywhere, we do it and we promote it. We see that everyone gets the benefit of those things. Isn’t it?
There are many things even in yoga that they do which are not that scientific. In Hatha Yoga, they pierce the body with a needle. They do things that are not really in the scriptures, but people have been practicing it. Now, we don’t encourage those things. And then people torture themselves in the name of meditation and yoga. So, we say no for these things because these are all not authentic!
Similarly, for rituals also, they add so many things that are not completely authentic, and are not in the scriptures. It is not even necessary but by practice people are using these things.
That is where you need the discrimination of what is right and what is not right. Take only that.