Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, it is said that parents are our first Guru. How many people who have come here respect their parents? What would you like to say about this?
Sri Sri: Yes, definitely they should respect their parents. One should respect their parents and obey them.
Q: Gurudev, which one is the best expression of being human - Dhyana (meditation) or Seva (service)?
Sri Sri: Both are needed. It is like asking, is it better to watch television or listen to it. What will I say? They both go together hand in hand. What is meant by Seva? It means that whatever little bit you can do, just do it. What you cannot do, don’t do. Did you get it?
Q: Gurudev, what is death? What happens to a man after dying? Some people say that one becomes a ghost; others say one goes to heaven or hell. What actually happens after death?
Sri Sri: There is so much time left to discover that. You will definitely get to know. First understand what this life is.
Q: Gurudev, it is said that one can get liberation by the knowledge of Panchanga. Please tell me what is this Panchanga?
Sri Sri: Panchanga refers to the motion of the planets and celestial bodies. Astrology itself is Panchanga (a tool used to determine and study the planetary positions and their effects upon an individual). Suppose you are angry at somebody, then you keep thinking, ‘Why did he do this to me?’ Now if you have knowledge of Jyotish (Vedic astrology) then you will understand that there is no fault of that man. You will think, ‘It happened because of some effects of the motion of some planets in my planetary chart. So I had to bear insult’. This is mukti (liberation).The mind which was entangled in Raga- Dwesha (cravings and aversions) with that person gets detached. Jyotish helps you understand that your time is bad; which is why even good people quarrel with you and if the time is good, even your sworn enemies help you in times of need. So when you understand this, then the Raga- Dwesha in your mind gets dissolved and mind becomes quiet.
What is Mukti? Suppose you drank a lot of water and you need to go to washroom to relieve yourself, but you are sitting in a meeting and are not able to go. When finally you go and come back, you feel relieved, as if to say, “Ah! I am finally liberated” (Laughter). Similar is the Mukti from hunger. Say you are sitting at one place continuously; like in a bus or train for 8 – 10 hours. The moment the bus halts, you stand up and stretch yourself, you say you got Mukti. The day the final exams get over, just see how the children come back home full of joy and how they put all their books aside; as if they got Mukti (from the routine of studies). So when some wedding or a party at home gets over and all the guests depart; you exclaim “Hai! Finally it’s over!” Is it not so?
Whenever you feel this “Hai!” (out of relaxation), just think of it as Mukti and when there is “Hai-tauba (chaos and confusion), think of it as bondage. When we are contented in life, that is jeevan-mukti (being liberated while stile living). It is a stage in which you feel – ‘I do not need anything more in this life. I am contented and I will serve others to the best of my capacity. This whole world is mine; all this is my reflection (of the Self) and my own nature.’ When you become so firmly established and strong in this knowledge from within, then contentment and joy dawns in you. All the complaints disappear. Everything becomes available even before the wish arises. Within no time, all the required knowledge comes to the mind. This all is called jeevan-mukti.
Q: Gurudev, you are God. Then which God do you believe in?
Sri Sri: ‘Which’ God you ask? Are there many Gods? There is only one and that is in you, in me. There are no two
Q: Gurudev, can we donate our organs after death?
Sri Sri: Yes, you can. You will not have any problems in your next life because of donating organs in this life. You will not be born as blind or crippled in your next birth. But this does not mean you will get an extra eye also (Laughter) Do not think that ‘I donated my eyes in this life, so I should have four eyes in the next!’ It will not happen that way at all.
Q: Gurudev, can you please speak about the Manusmriti (Meaning “Laws of Manu”, referring to a text that expounds the code of laws & Dharma that should govern an individual and the society)? Is it relevant today?
Sri Sri: See, Manusmriti was written by a king called Manu. He was a very wise king. A few lines in the Manusmriti which talk about how women should always be protected or a little bit about caste system (referring to the prescribed nature and professions belonging to the four social classes of Hindu society); these have been misinterpreted. I would say they might be interpolated (meaning: stretched too far). But this is not a scripture of the rishis. It is by a king, so it is like a Constitution. That is all. So the Manusmriti is not an authority for the Sanatan Dharma (Vedic name for Hindu Religion). We do not need to follow it. It is like a Constitution. Like the Indian Constitution, the people in those days also made certain rules. So at that time Manu made certain rules. But it is not a universal scripture and it is not necessary for everybody to follow. It is not applicable for everyone everywhere and for all times. It is not so at all.
But there are some very good things also mentioned in the Manusmriti. It has very good knowledge. So you should take that which is relevant today and leave the rest. Our people have been following this in our country. You should always look at all the scriptures in the world with reason, with wisdom. This is what scriptures also say. They say that you should keep the Desha (country or place) and the Kaala (time) in mind when you apply knowledge or a particular scripture. This is important. Why are there so many problems in the world today? It is because some people want to implement those scriptures today which are 2000 years old or maybe 1400 years old. But they are not applicable today at all. This is the whole problem in the Middle East. Some people want to impose those rules which are not applicable for today’s time. It had relevance at that time but they are no longer relevant.
Q: Gurudev, it is said that there are people doing penance in the cave below the Sumeru Mantapa (a place in the Ashram). Have they not got liberated as yet?
Sri Sri: Listen, there is no soul doing penance there. There is nothing like that at all.
Q: Gurudev, what is the purpose of my life? Why am I here on this planet and in the same era as you are? There has to be a purpose for this life. How will I know that?
Sri Sri: There is a very good purpose. There is so much work to do; so much Seva needs to be done. Join the Volunteer for Better India initiative (VBI). There is so much Seva being done and the nation needs you. Do your Seva, Sadhana, and Satsang. Spread the joy and the knowledge that you are listening to.
Q: Gurudev, we prepare a variety of delicacies, even then we get bored with them. But there are many animals that eat the same fodder every day but don’t get bored. Why did God have such grace on animals?
Sri Sri: They live in present and you live in your smriti (memories).