Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: What is the difference between Karma and Destiny?
Sri Sri: The word destiny means Vidhi, this is how it is. The word Karma has several different connotations. It can mean action or latent action. The impression of an action that might give rise to another action can also be called karma.
Q: Dear Guruji, in the Buddhist tradition it is said that there is no such thing as God, the creator where as in Christianity there is the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. I am therefore wondering what is God?
Sri Sri: Lord Buddha never said there is no God, he simply refused to speak on it because in those days there were so many traditions. The Vedic tradition was so alive and there was Jain tradition. There were so many other traditions and people knew it all by books and they could give great talks on peace and meditation but forgot the experience of meditation. So Buddha didn’t want to get into controversy like what we do, we don’t want to get into any controversy. We have a simple message to say, here is the way to become peaceful. Do this breathing and you will become peaceful.
So similarly Buddha said I am not going to speak on God but I want to speak about sorrow and there is a way to get rid of sorrow. It is possible to be free from sorrow. So his focus was very practical and very simple. He spoke on liberation, Moksha which is common to all different sects of Hinduism.
Two and half thousand years after Krishna’s time there was nobody to reform the knowledge, so Buddha came and reformed it. Then later on Buddhism also became into so many sects. Five hundred years after Buddha the whole knowledge got misinterpreted, they started making everybody a monk, the whole system started collapsing then Adi Shankara came and he reestablished the knowledge. So that is why it is said time and again whenever people start forgetting the knowledge then the nature brings on the path someone to revive the knowledge and bring people back on the path of light. So this is happening, so whatever Jesus has said that is again the same ancient truth what is said in the Vedas, the trinity, all those things Jesus has said. Love is God, is said in the Vedas, in the Upanishad, same thing Jesus said.
What is most essential is to find the harmony among all the different traditions. Traditions are one side but humanity, spirituality is most important. No Hinduism, Vedic religion, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism nothing is of any good if humanity, human values and spiritual values are missing.
Q: What is your vision for The Art of Living in the coming years?
Sri Sri: I have started it. My job is done. It’s up to you now. You have a vision, so take it where you want to take it. , We are celebrating 30 years of The Art of Living in Germany. We’ll be in the same Olympic stadium that Hitler built 75 years ago. He started the war from there. From the same place where war started, we’ll spread the message of peace.
Q: Guruji, why is the opening of the third eye associated with the destruction of desires?
Sri Sri: You know the third eye is associated with alertness and awareness. When you are alert, awake, more into knowledge then naturally the energy has moved from the lowest chakra to the highest. The lower things no more interest you. You know when you are very alert and awake the sexual energy has transformed itself into a different quality of consciousness. The sexual energy is when the back portion of our brain, our head is activated. Alertness, perception and awareness happen when the front portion of the brain is activated; the pituitary and pineal glands are getting activated. In the brain also they are on the opposite sides of each other. So it is mythologically said when the third eye opens then the gross desires simply evaporate, not that it is bad but they simply don’t make much sense anymore. That is why the intellectuals and the highly spiritual oriented practitioners always put something on the forehead, some sandal wood paste because they are focusing; doing some yoga and meditation so they put some sandal wood to cool the forehead, to cool it a little bit.
When the frontal lobe of the brain becomes more active, more alert, then thinking, intellectual work, creativity, memory they are all enhanced because all of these things are in the frontal lobe of the brain and sensory pleasures are all at the back of the brain.
Q: What is Witness Consciousness? When does one reach such state?
Sri Sri: This is a state of consciousness where you realize things are not happening because of your effort, it is happening due to some law, due to some power in the creation which is making everything happen. When you have given your 100 percent, physically, intellectually… then you realize you are not doing, but things are happening.
Q: What is the difference between intuition and wishful thinking?
Sri Sri: When the thing has already happened then you know whether it was a wishful thinking or an intuition. Time will tell you whether it was wishful thinking or intuition. There is no definite criterion to know, yes! Wishful thinking is motivated by desire where as intuition just happens.
Q: How can I balance peace while fighting for justice?
Sri Sri: That is the whole essence of The Bhagavat Gita. Be calm from the inside and act whenever required. You should stand up and fight if necessary; but don’t keep the fight inside yourself. Usually we fight inside and keep quiet on the outside. We should do the opposite. With meditation, it becomes easy to bring about this change. The power of satva and the power of meditation make it easy.
Today is Shri Ramanavami (Lord Rama’s Birthday). Ra means radiance, Ma means myself. Rama means ‘the light inside me’. Rama was born to Dasharath and Kousalya. Dasharath means ‘Ten Chariots’. The ten chariots symbolize the five organs of perception (the five senses) and five organs of knowledge and action (For instance: reproduction, legs, hands and so on). Kousalya means ‘skill’. Ayodhya means ‘a society in which there is no violence’. If you skillfully observe what goes on inside the body, light dawns inside you. That is meditation. You need some skill to relax the tension. Then you start expanding.
You know you are here now, yet you are not. With this realization, there is a certain lightness that comes spontaneously. Rama is when the inner light shines through. Sita the mind/intellect was robbed by the ego, Ravana. Ravana had ten heads. Ravana (ego) was one who wouldn’t listen to others. He was too much in the head. Hanuman means breath. With the help of Hanuman (the breath), Sita (the mind) was able to go back to Rama (the source).
Ramayana happened around 7,500 years ago. It had an impact on Germany and many other countries in Europe and Far East. Thousands of cities are named after Rama. Cities like Rambaugh in Germany, Rome in Italy have their roots in the word Ram. Indonesia, Bali and Japan were all influenced by Ramayana. Though Ramayana is history, it is also an eternal phenomenon happening all the time.
Q: When a loved one dies, are they reincarnated? Will we know them again? In the case of a parent, are we still connected to them?
Sri Sri: All possible...It's possible to know them if they incarnate now and you can feel that? Haven't you felt that you go somewhere and suddenly you feel someone is very close to somebody? Your gut feeling comes. It's all possible. You know, we’re all connected in some time or another. In the past, we've all been connected. Now we are connected. Whether we acknowledge or not, we are all connected.
Q: Why has religion been the reason for so many wars?
Sri Sri: Even I wonder about it. There are 10 major religions in the world: four from the Middle East and six from the Far East. The six religions from the Far East never had any conflicts. There was no war between these six religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism and Taoism – they all coexisted.
When President Nixon went to Japan, he had a Shinto priest on one side and a Buddhist priest on the other side. He asked the Shinto priest: What is the percentage of Shintos in Japan? The priest said: 80 percent. Then he turned to the Buddhist priest and asked him: What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan? He said: 80 percent. Nixon was perplexed as to how this was possible. Shintos go to Buddhist temples and Buddhists go to Shinto temples. Similarly, Hindus go to Sikh gurudwaras and Sikhs go to Hindu temples. The same may be said of Hindus and Buddhists in India. Similarly in China, there is no war between Taoists and Buddhists.
The four religions in the Middle East were always at war. I think they should learn how to co-exist from the other six. Judaism and Christianity are friendly. Judaism and Islam have an issue.
Q: What are the qualities that the Master wants to see in an ideal devotee?
Sri Sri: None. If I name a quality, you will all try to emulate that quality. Just be your natural self. Be honest. Even if you miss a meditation one day, don’t feel guilty about it. Time is carrying you. All the good qualities you aspire for, you have them anyway. You are here and you are doing the right thing.
You can purify your body by following a proper diet. It’s good to fast for two-three days in a year. Fast on only juices. But if your system disagrees with it, don’t do it. You should listen to your body.
Mind is purified through pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya.
Intellect is purified through knowledge.
Emotions are purified through bhajans.
Actions are purified through seva.
Money is purified through charity.
You should donate at least two to three percent of your income.