Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, taking out time for Sadhana in everyday life becomes little difficult, whereas I enjoy doing Sadhana. How to make it an easy habit?
Sri Sri: Look, is it difficult to take out time to brush your teeth? You need to take time out to go to the washroom, isn't it? You bathe everyday or not? Do you run to the office after getting up from the bed? Without having breakfast, do you go?
There is time to have tea, breakfast, and gossip. There is time to bathe for an hour, and there is time to stand in front of the mirror and comb your hair. Whoever comes home we have time to talk nonsense with them. And on top of all this, there is time for television. But for doing Sadhana, after doing which one feels so good, how come there is no time?
I know there is a lot of running around to do in life, and it feels like there is no time, but you have to create a discipline for sadhana. Make a commitment, 'If I don't do Sadhana today, I won't have breakfast. I don't have the right to eat anything until I sit for 15 minutes'.
Only 15 minutes, in the morning after waking up, sit in bed. Loosen your whole body, and realize that God is your own, God is within you. Just sit there for a few minutes.
I tell you, once in the year 1980, we went to Badrinath and Kedarnath (pilgrim spots in North India). In those days going to Badrinath and Kedarnath was very difficult. It would take three days from Rishikesh to Badrinath. We had to stop frequently and couldn't travel at night.
There were two Germans with us who we taught pranayama and meditation. When it was evening, they would ask the driver to stop the car near any pavement. And there on the road, by the pavement, they would spread their mats and sit in meditation. I was surprised seeing them. Whatever condition you are in, wherever you are, you should meditate.
During my college days, if I was travelling by train, even I would also do it (my sadhana) there itself, in the train. But I was seeing these two Germans, they were so particular about the time. As soon as it was 6 PM they would stop the car, and sit in meditation.
What I mean to say is, we should make it a habit. Morning or evening, at least one time - when you return home from work, wash your face and sit for 20 minutes. This much time we can definitely take out. Or wake up a little early in the morning. If you were not able to wake up early and got late one day, then do it after returning home in evening.
When you have decided that without doing sadhana you won't have food, then this becomes a part of your routine. Then if you miss one or two days, no problem. But don't make missing it a habit.
There's a very nice bhajan by Sant Kabirdas.
"Kaam na choda, krodh na choda, satyavachan kyu chod diya, Naam japan kyu chod diya".
(You didn't leave lust, you didn't leave anger, then why did you leave the words of truth? Why did you stop chanting his name?)
Q: Gurudev, what should a person who is physically, mentally and socially weak do to become strong in all the three areas?
Sri Sri: First of all, you should not brand yourself that you are very weak. The moment you brand yourself as weak, you find yourself even weaker. Know that you don't know yourself, you don't know your strength. You will find that you have enough strength to do what you want to do.
Q: I want to get married to a Christian guy. Is it necessary for me to get converted into Christianity?
Sri Sri: You should ask that to the guy and his family.
I think you should keep your own faith. Whatever is your own faith, stick to it. I don't think you should compromise on that. You should keep to your faith because that is healthy in many ways– psychologically, spiritually.
If you are a Hindu, it is no problem because in Hinduism we accept everybody, all the prophets. Hinduism is like the grandmother of all faiths. It never says any faith is no good, it embraces everyone. It is the oldest faith. So, if you are a Hindi, there shouldn't be a problem for you, there is no conflict.
If you are a Muslim and there is a problem, that is only social or maybe from the tradition, but even then I think you should honor your tradition.
Q: Gurudev, my problem is I doubt my convincing capabilities. I think I can't convince people, especially for this lovely Art of Living course which is so superb. What should I tell them.
Sri Sri: No need to try to convince anyone. Even I don't know how to convince people. Don't convince anybody. If you are convinced, that is good enough. If you have the conviction, that is good enough. And if you have the heart that others should also benefit in their life, there should be a smile on their face, everyone should benefit from knowledge, that very intention will carry on.
But if you are trying to convince somebody, when you want to convince somebody, you think they don't know it. Or they don't believe in it. Everyone wants to be happy. Every single human being on the planet want to be kind and loving, and be loved. They want to explore their depth. Who doesn't want happiness? Who doesn't want a clear mind? Everyone wants clarity in their mind! So, this is a need of everybody.
Who doesn't want a healthy body, tell me. Everybody wants it! Who doesn't want to feel pleasant in all situations? Or have positive vibes in them? Everybody wants it.
So when you are trying to convince somebody, you think they don't want it and so you have to convince them to want it. That's where we do a mistake.
I feel you shouldn't convince anybody, you should just live the knowledge, smile and serve. And say what you feel like saying. If you want to tell something to others around you, don't be shy in speaking your heart out. Speak out, and that's it.
Q: Jai Gurudev. After coming to the Ashram I just feel like running behind you. I don't even feel like doing any seva the way I do in my hometown. What should I do?
Sri Sri: By the way, I'm not running anywhere! (Laughs) I'm very stable, you better be stable. I don't run after anything, it is better you also don't run after anything; just be! Know that whatever you have to get, you will get it. This is a place to just settle in the depth of yourself, and be content, and then do whatever seva there is. You must do seva. A physical activity is essential for everybody.
Q: Dear Gurudev, whenever we ask our teachers about Karma (doership), they reply, 'Gurudev says that it is a complicated play'. We want to know more about this complicated play.
Sri Sri: Karma is very complex.
There are so many types of Karma, there is individual karma, family karma, society karma, karma of the nation, karma of time.
Then there are karmas which are Sanchita, i.e., karma which have been accumulated; and Prarabdha karma, which are already giving fruits. Then there is Aagami karma, which is going to come in the future.
So it's very complex, almost like how food gets digested. When you take food in the mouth, first the saliva digests the food, a lot of the starch in the food is digested by the saliva. Then it goes to the stomach, and the stomach juices digests it further. Then it passes through the duodenum, and the pancreas.
You know, if you look into the mechanics of how a piece of banana gets digested, it is a huge factory! It is a huge factory to make a piece of banana, or apple to a drop of blood. And that's what our body does effortlessly.
Similarly karma is enormous. That is why Krishna says in the Bhagvad Gita, 'Gahana karmano gatih'. It means, unfathomable are the ways of karma. So the best thing is, don't sit and worry about karma, just do what is in front of you, and be spontaneous.
Clear head, pure heart and spontaneity in action, this is the sutra (rule) we must follow. We must have a clean heart, a clear mind and spontaneity in our action, and this will take care of all the karmas.
Bad karmas will go away when you do meditation, when you become hollow and empty. When you meditate, when your intentions are clear, then many of the bad karmas get dissolved. So, this is what it is. Knowledge, awareness, seva, satsang, sadhana – all these help in dissolving bad karmas.
Q: Gurudev, when I do meditation in the ashram it is effortless but when I go home it is not the same. Is there any way I can cultivate the same aura at home?
Sri Sri: Yes you can, in a particular place at home, or in a particular room. That is why people used to have a pooja (prayer) room in their home. In a corner, the north-east corner they would devote for the pooja room. Like that you can place any one corner in your room, and regularly sit there. Put one carpet or asana (mat) and sit there and meditate. You can do that.
Q: : Gurudev, being a bhakt (devotee), I only love to do bhakti (devotion). Am I escaping from my responsibilities? Are there any responsibilities of a bhakt?
Sri Sri: Oh, yes. Bhakti doesn't means irresponsibility, bhakti means total responsibility.
You cannot say, 'Oh, I love plants but I don't want to do anything about it. I love people but I don't want to do anything for people', no. When you love something you will do. If you love plants, you are bound to take action. If someone is cutting a tree, you will go and stop it, and you will plant more trees. That is a sign of your love for trees.
If you love people, you will do something for people. If there is a problem, you cannot say that you only love people, you won't do anything about it. It is not correct, sounds very absurd, right? When there is love, there is spontaneity in action.
Q: Gurudev, when we put our focus on others, we get weak. Like when Yudhistira (character from Indian epic Mahabharata) put his focus on the Pandavas (Yudhistira's brothers) he got weak, but Krishna told him to be centered. Does this mean we should not be sensitive to others?
Sri Sri: You must know the difference between being sensitive to others and getting caught up in the emotions of others. These are two different things.
You can easily get caught up in someone else's emotion, and lose your centeredness. Then your perception gets dull, your judgments become hazy or erroneous. And you don't get that clarity.
Like a father or mother, they know their kid is crying and then they know that the kid will stop crying. And they attend to its need. They don't get emotionally involved, 'Oh the baby is crying so I will also start crying'.
Just imagine, every day a newborn baby cries, now if the mother also cries with the baby the whole time, what will happen! Disaster! The baby cries almost every hour or every two hours, just imagine the mother crying every hour or two!
You have to be sensitive. It doesn't mean that the mother is insensitive to the baby crying. The mother is all the more sensitive, but she doesn't get carried away by the emotion of the baby. When someone is crying, you also start crying, that is getting totally sucked into someone else' emotion. The mother is sensitive, yet she is not sucked into the emotion of the baby. In the same way, that is what Yoga does. It keeps you centered, yet sensitive and sensible.
There are two kinds of people:
1. People who are very sensible. They are cerebral people, very sensible but they are not sensitive because they think what they know is right.
2. Those who are very sensitive, but often are not very sensible. They get carried away by emotions. They talk only through emotions.
You know, three months in a year the male elephant gets a secretion. The testosterones increase, so they get some secretion in their head. And those three months, the big elephant doesn't even listen to the mahout. He becomes a little wild, so they chain him at that time.
So a lady who came for the first time saw that the elephant had been chained, and she started saying, 'Oh this animal is being chained', and started crying.
If that animal is not chained, everybody else will have to cry because he is not in his senses in those three months, and he will do anything! Even the mahout cannot control the elephant at that time, so they put chains. And the chain is not a big thing for an elephant. It's just a few kilos; an elephant can carry tons. So it is not a big burden on it, but it looks like the elephant has a chain on its leg.
So, people who are emotional, sometimes they are not sensible. What is really needed is sensitivity along with sensibility. A perfect combination of head and heart, to say in the layman's language.
So, women already have a lot of sensitivity, they can be more sensible. And men already have a lot of sense, but they should me more sensitive. This is not a general rule, by the way. Many times it is the other way around also!
I have to put a safeguard on! (Laughter)
Q: Gurudev, the UN recognizes happiness as the basic birthright of every human being. How do we move forward to be a happier country on the occasion of 26th January (Republic day of India)?
Sri Sri: This question first has to come in every citizen of this country: How can we find happiness in our self, and how we can see that happiness increases in our society.
So, first that thought should germinate in every mind, and then action will follow soon.
We live as though we are on a conveyor belt. Things are moving, things are going, we don't even think about it. Almost a directionless, aimless life. Maybe the only aim is to make more money, by hook or by crook, that's all.
The corruption in this country should first end, it has reached its peak. I think it cannot go any higher. From top to bottom it is corrupt.
Today, I had a meeting with some of the industrialists and business people. Do you know what they told me? India has the highest deposit of coal, still we are importing coal. We have oil and natural gas here, still we are getting it from outside. And we have so much iron ore, still we are importing steel here. Also, Bauxite, we have plenty of it in our country, we are sitting on a mine of bauxite, but we are importing bauxite.
See, there is gas and oil in the middle east, and in Malaysia and Indonesia as well. We are on the belt, right in the center, but these corrupt politicians have made it so hard for people to move anything. For their personal gains, they have stalled the growth of the country, and the common man is in trouble.
When food prices around the world has dropped, it is so strange the food prices in India have gone up. All over the world the prices have come down, only in India the price of grain has increased. One day suddenly the onion prices go up, and then couple of days later it falls like the Niagara falls. And the farmer is caught in between. It is not tears he is shedding, it is blood in his eyes! And in this situation, how can we keep quiet without talking?
People say, 'Gurudev, your job is only to talk on spirituality, and to give comfort to people; don't talk about corruption and all these social issues. This will affect somebody, so don't say anything about it'.
I say, 'No, I don't think about what anybody thinks or does not think, a fact is a fact. We have to make people aware that this is injustice being done to people'.
Corruption begins where the sense of belongingness ends.
Unfortunately, in a country where Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajaji had set up such good precedence, some of the current politicians in power today have misused the trust of people and mismanaged the whole country of 1.2 billion people; made a fool of them. So we must stand up against such injustice. Don't you think so? And this is the time.
Now when the voting time has come, you should say, 'I will not vote for these corrupt people again'.
Our only fight is that nearly one-third of the parliament is occupied by the corrupt and criminal elements. In this coming Lok Sabha (Lower house of Indian Parliament) elections we should flush them out; all the corrupt and criminal elements. No more apathy.
See, all that we can do is only during election, that is when we have the power to vote.
Don't think that this is because of this particular caste or community. If they are corrupt and have a criminal record, we should keep them away from politics.
In the country, they have removed all ethics and moral lessons from the public sphere in the name of secularism, which is against what Mahatma Gandhi stood for.
Mahatma Gandhi did satsang every day. He preached moral and ethical values every day. But now, alcohol consumption has gone up three times in the country in the last few years. And that is why women are not safe.
You read in the paper everyday about assault on women, it was never the case in this country before. 5-10 years ago, have you heard about so much crime against women? And the main cause of this is alcohol.
I think it is time the country wakes up.