Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, my parents are old and still have arguments and fights after being married for 50+ years. Will they ever change?
Sri Sri: Come on, they are having fun in their life, why do you want to stop it? Without arguments and fights life will be so boring; no spice. They enjoy a spicy dinner, let them have it. Why you want to make it bland? If it gets too hot, pour a little ghee; put some butter in between.
It happens, what to do?
Someone asked a gentlemen, ‘Why do you fight with your wife so much?’
He said, ‘What do you mean? I love her, so I fight with her. Who else do I fight with’, and that is correct. Sometimes it happens.
Q: It often feels and appears that yoga and Hinduism exclude women, and this makes me think that we are not yet ready for a spiritual revolution. What can you tell us about this, and the role women play? Why are mostly men around you, while women cook and clean?
Sri Sri: Listen, there is no such thing. In Yoga, Hinduism, and Vedic wisdom, they don’t exclude women at all. Men and women are given equal status.
In India, the tradition is, mother comes first and then comes father. They say, ‘Matri Devo Bhava’ (Mother is God).
Also, if you see in writing, they don’t write Mr. and Mrs. in India, it is Shreemati (Mrs.) and then Shree (Mr.).
The Hindu religion says Radhey Shyam, not Shyam and then Radhey.
The name is Sita Ram, first Sita and then Ram. Similarly, Lakshmi and then Narayan. So always women are first.
Have you seen Ardhnarishwar? Do you know the story?
There was this one sage who was averse to women. Usually many people who become recluse, run away from women. Some woman must have ditched him, or something must have happened. I don’t know. But he was so averse to women. He would not look towards women. Even toward deities. He would say, ‘Shiva, Shiva, Shiva’, only and not worship Shakti. So then Shiva appeared in front of him as half woman and half man. And that is called Ardhnarishwar.
This is to indicate, inside everyone, half of you is man and half of you is woman.
Whatever you are physically, man or woman, inside you are both, because you are made up of both, the egg and sperm. You are made up of both, mother’s and father’s DNA. Both are inside you and both are equal.
So, when Shiva appeared as half man, half woman, his prejudice against women dropped, and he attained liberation. That is the story. It is a long story but to make it short, he finally attained liberation when he dropped his prejudice against women. Now, this is the case.
Sometimes, in the Middle Ages, when India was under the influence of Islam, that is when it changed. Women priest were abolished.
If you go to Bali, in Indonesia, today there are women priests there. That is original Hinduism. But in India, after some time, in the middle ages, Islam had women in the parda (covering), and this influence had come on to India. The women were asked to stay indoors, at that time.
In the Vedic times, the women would have all rights. You would see them being priests and all that. So these are changes that have happened, and once a change happens it stays for quite long time. But do not think women are underestimated.
See, there are these nine days only for the worship of Mother Divine. And women do a lot of work for me here. We have many women teachers and male teachers. They are all in our trust. So there is nothing like that.
In fact, our president of the Canadian Ashram is a woman (Debra). For the longest time, we had women ruling in the Canadian Ashram. It is a queen’s territory, maybe.
Q: Gurudev, you said that there is life on other planets. When a soul is reborn, does it always go back to the same planet where its impressions are from, or can it get re-routed to another planet?
Sri Sri: All is possible. Re-routing is very much possible
Q: Dearest Sri Sri, I believe that we are eternal. But what does eternal mean?
Sri Sri: Listen, the Sun has been there since a long time, right? And it will continue to be there. So the Sun is eternal; Earth is eternal. Everything that surpasses time, is eternal.
Like, you are the same person yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You were the one who went to school, and you are the one who went to college. There is something in you that is continuing, but your body has changed. Body is not the same, every cell in your body is changing. Old cells go away, new cells get generated. But still there is something that is continuing inside, isn’t it?
Q: We are all on the path towards enlightenment. If we do not achieve it this lifetime, do we pick up from where we left off?
Q: I give generously to my loved ones. But often I find myself taking care of others, before taking care of myself, and then I have regret and resentment. How do I give in a healthier way?
Sri Sri: Listen, you seem to have too much free time. Why you think so much? You want to give, then give and forget about it!
There is a saying in Hindi, ‘Neki kar aur dariya mein daal’, which means, do good deeds and then drop them in the ocean. Don’t care about them.
If you think, ‘I have done, I have done’, what have you done? You cannot give anything to anyone that is not due to them. It is impossible. Even if you want to give, and it is not time for that person to take it, he will not be able to take it. So you give, and then forget about it.
Just be spontaneous, you don’t have to think too much about it.
There is no need to feel guilty when you have a need, just go buy it. That is it.
You cannot satisfy everybody’s desires all the time, but whatever you can do, you must do. Then you cannot say, ‘No, I don’t want to do.’ Then that pricks you.
If there is something that you truly need, and you cannot give others, that will not prick you. When does it prick you? When you can and you don’t do it.
Q: Dear Gurudev, how can I be grateful for a person, for all his help and care. How to say to him that I want to follow my own path, without hurting him?
Sri Sri: Do it skillfully. Now don’t ask me, what is the skill?
Remember this one verse, it is very useful, Three doors to hell.
There are three doors to hell – Lust, Greed and Anger. If greed takes over, it is going to put you in hell. That is why, chuck the greed.
The same is with anger and lust. If you are too lustful, you become so blind towards the feelings of others, that you violate their space. Lust will also pull you in hell.
So, greed, lust and anger, if three things are not in your control, they take control over you, and you are going in hell. If they are under your control, then you are safe.
Is that clear?
In your own life, see whether these three things have overpowered you. Then it has made you miserable.
Hell means what? Misery; makes you totally unhappy. But if you have a say over them, you become powerful and it brings you more happiness.
Q: Since I joined The Art of Living, you have taken care of all my worries. My only question is, why is it that whenever I see you, my eyes are always full of tears?
Sri Sri: That is correct. That is how it is.
In one of the Upanishads, they have spoken about, what happens when you have a sight of the beloved.
When you come in touch with wisdom, your heart opens, and when the heart opens, all the doubts in the mind disappear, tears come rolling down, and all karma vanish.
'Bidhyanti hridaya granthi’, the knots in the heart gets opened.
‘Chidyanthe sarva samshayaha’, all the doubts in the mind disappear.
‘Ksheenatechaasya karmani’, all the karmas get thinned down, and they vanish.
That is the sign of wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment. When you have a glimpse of enlightenment, these all will happen.
I remember, once I was here, at the Montreal ashram, (it was not yet built then. We had just bought the land and I was staying in Florrabell) a journalist came and she wanted to interview me. As soon as she sat down with me, she said, ‘Oh my God! What is happening to me? I am forgetting everything! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’
Tears were rolling down her eyes and she said, ‘This has never happened to me before. I’m so sorry.’ She was so apologetic. She kept crying.
I said, ‘Never mind, don’t worry, this happens.’
She forgot all the questions she had wanted to ask, and this happens many times.
Q: Gurudev, please help me to figure out my calling.
Sri Sri: Why are you sitting and waiting for more calling? Don’t start searching for the Sun at noon. You are already in the right place. This is your calling!
A global phenomenon is happening, where millions of people are turning from the material mind to a spiritual level. A revolution is happening around the world.
You know, last September when I was in South America, I went to Argentina. There is a prison there where 5,200 Argentinian inmates have done the course. Same with Brazil.
When I went to Rio, in the prison there, I found a room that read, ‘The Art of Living Center.’ Inside the prison, they have put my picture, Art of Living books, and tapes. This is where people come every day, and find inner peace. When I went there, they were all sobbing. They were crying. They were saying, ‘Our lives are totally transformed.’
There are good people there.
Same in Argentina, there was not one person with dry eyes. The judges from the city, from the Supreme Court, said they wanted to come and see the big revolution that has happened. They came along with me to see, and hear the experience of the prisoners. The same prisoners who were fighting, hitting each other had changed.
It was so difficult for the jailers to keep peace in the prison. Now that has totally changed.
Now, they all wear a badge and pledge for non-violence. They say, ‘We won’t fight; we are for peace.’
There is so much work to be done. Don’t sit and wait for an imaginary calling, that one day somebody will call you from inside. Calling is loud and clear, just join in. There is so much work here. Take up any of the service projects.
Recently, I went to one of the (Art of Living) schools in India, in the remote tribal areas. The parents of the children in that school have never seen a school. The children are first generation school-goers. When I went there, they were sitting at a computer, in a remote village. It was so heartwarming to see that change.
So much work is happening. We need more hands.
Why don’t you come here, to this ashram and bring people from time to time. Make use of it. It is not only when Gurudev comes that we should come. Make a groups of 10-15 people and bring them here for a weekend. Even if they have not done the course, never mind, they can still come. We can easily accommodate 200 people.
Bring them in batches, sit, talk some wisdom, do a small guided meditation, have good food, and take them back. Tell the kitchen in advance, they will make you 4-5 items minimum. Some good food, some singing, dancing, and then take them around.
See, there are many things you can do. So many people are getting depressed, and unhappy. Just locking themselves up in their rooms and being in the virtual world, only on the internet and television. Get them out from there. Ask them to come live your life.
‘Let us create a wave of happiness’, tell them that. Bring them around. Bring such celebration into the lives of other people.
Q: Gurudev, how does a spiritually oriented scientist survive in an ego filled discipline?
Sri Sri: Happily! If you are a scientist, be happy. Just say, ‘Hey, come on! This is all just wave functions.’
If someone is getting annoyed, just say, ‘Hey! Wave function! The frequency has changed.’ That is all.
Someone is happy, different frequency. If there is jealously, ‘Oh, they have changed to third frequency.’ Someone is upset, or depressed, ‘Frequency has changed again.’ It is all just frequencies, that’s it.
Would anyone be upset about the changing frequencies? No. So see everybody as nothing but frequencies. Then nothing will touch you, okay!
Enjoy the variety, enjoy the diversity. It is not worth losing your smile for anything out there.
If someone has ego, so what? They need compassion. They are ignorant.
What do you have for people who are in ignorance? Compassion, isn’t it? If someone is in ego, you must think, ‘Poor chap, he thinks he is somebody. Sooner or later he is going to go under the ground. He doesn’t know this. He does not know that he is just a rag doll of a huge wave of energy.’
So have compassion for egoistical people.
See, when you want recognition from others, it is then that you recognize the ego, and this is the problem.
If somebody has ego, how does it bother you? You should walk happily. They should feel ashamed looking at you. Look at this man, he is so happy! Egoistical people should feel jealous seeing you being happy. It depends on you.
If you recognize the ego of others, it will get into you, and you will walk like a mouse. Walk like a lion, and be happy. Don’t frown, or roar like a lion, just smile and feel like a lion inside.