Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: How is ignorance of God still God? If violence, stress, ignorance, hatred, etc., are also forms of God, then why do we need to move away from them towards peace? Why do we move towards some part of God, and away from some other part of God?
Sri Sri: As a human being, it is natural to do so. Suppose there is a piece of bread and a bundle of hay kept before you. If you are a cow you will move towards the hay. If you are human, you will move towards the bread. It is as natural as that. But the cow is also God, the hay is also God, the bread is also God and you are also God. It is just the way things are.
Fire moves upwards, water flows downwards, but both are God. As fire, it moves up; as water the same thing moves down. This is the nature of things.
You are made up of both Prakriti (the Divine energy and intelligence that governs the existence and functioning of the Creation) and Purusha (the Universal Self that pervades all of Creation). Now this takes us to another topic altogether. So there are certain qualities (GunasSattva, Rajas and Tamas, and you act according to these qualities.
If you have more of Tamoguna, you will move towards violence. If you have more of Sattva, you will move towards harmony. If you have more Rajoguna, you will struggle with activity; in between the other two states, so there might be a little peace and a little violence. That is just how things are.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: Gurudev, can you elaborate more about Space and the Brahman?
Sri Sri: That from which our words and the mind retrieve (their source and essence); that which the words and the mind fail to capture – that is the Brahman.
I have always explained this by comparing it to the taste of a dumb person. When a dumb person eats something, how can he express how it was? He is dumb, but he has tasted something. How can he express it? In the same way, the words and the mind cannot reach the Brahman. You can describe space to some extent, but even words fail to describe the Brahman, for it is untouched by words and beyond description.
Q: 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.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I have heard a little about reflections. How many reflections do we have, and what does that mean?
Sri Sri: When you have said a word, you have also attached a meaning to it.
Reflection is simply reflection. Whatever you see on the outside. Action is a reflection of what you are. Your thoughts, your mind, your emotions are a reflection of what you are. In some sense even your body is a reflection of what you are.
When you reflect on this truth, it becomes very clear.
We say, ‘Asangoham asangoham punah punaha’ (Unattached, unattached, am I again and again).
It means, ‘I am not this. I am not this. I am untouched and separate from all this. I am not my body, my thoughts, my emotions, and all the actions that I have done’.
Then we start becoming a witness, and distance ourselves from all that happens.
Q: What are the names of the Saptarishis?
Sri Sri: Sapta or the seven rishis are, Kashyapa, Athri, Vashishta, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Jamadagni and Vishwamitra.
Q: 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.
Q: Can you speak about how different parts of the body are connected to the subtle Devas?
Sri Sri: Each part of the body is connected to a particular Deva.
They say, ‘Prajanane Brahma tishtatu’, meaning Lord Brahma resides in the genitals (the seat of procreation in the body).
Then, it is said, ‘Padayo Vishnu tishtatu’, meaning Lord Vishnu is present in the feet.
Like that, we say, ‘Hastayo Hara tishtatu’, Hara (a form of Lord Shiva) is present in the hands. ‘Karneyo Ashvino tishtatu’, means that the twin Ashvin Kumars (Vedic gods symbolizing the rising and setting sun, associated with bringing treasures and medicines to man) are present in the two ears. The Ashvin Kumaras are gods responsible for medicinal gifts and the science of Ayurveda. They are said to have propounded the science of Ayurveda. Similarly, our eyes are connected with the Sun god.
The forehead is said to be the seat of Rudra (one of the many forms of Lord Shiva).
Lord Rama is said to be present in the naval region, the seat of Agni (here, referring to the digestive fire).
Rudra and Shiva are two forms of the same god (Shiva), but Rudra is said to be present in the forehead, while Lord Shiva resides in the heart.
So like that, each part of the human body is associated with a particular god.
Q: 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.