Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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 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 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: Does the cycle of life and death never end?
Sri Sri: The whole world is like that. It’s all spherical: everything moves in cycles. You have to come back, but you have a choice. If you are born out of compulsion then it's the same old story again and again. But if you get liberated, then you have the choice and the will to be born when you want. When you come back liberated, it is joyful.
Q: Is it true that some places have negative and positive vibes? I have experienced that our group working in our suburb doesn’t get the success it does outside. What should we do to increase the sattva of a place?
Sri Sri: Keep working, keep doing. Everywhere it is possible to make a change. It’s just a matter of time.
Q: Why is there a need for meditation in our modern society?
Sri Sri: What is the need of meditation in today’s society, in today’s life as such. You know if you look at the benefits that meditation brings into our life, you feel it is all the more relevant, all the more needed. In ancient times, meditation was used for enlightenment, to find the self. Also meditation is a way to get rid of misery, to overcome misery, to overcome problems. Meditation has been the way to improve one’s abilities; three things!
Today keeping aside enlightenment you see, with all the social ills of today, the stress, the tension calls for one to meditate. The more responsibility you have in your life the more is the need for meditation. If you have nothing to do, you may not need meditation. The busier you are, the less time you have, the more work you have, more desires and ambitions you have, the more you need to be meditating because meditation not only relieves you of stress and strain, it enhances your abilities to face the challenges. Meditation brings better health to us; meditation is food for the soul; it is an energizer for the mind; it is a life line for the body.
It keeps your body in shape, helps your nervous system, helps your mind, your alertness, improves you perception and helps you to express yourself properly, what more do you want, everything has come!
So the benefits of meditation are many. Basically you can say if you want to be happy you need to meditate. If you want to be happy and healthy you got to be meditating.
Q: What shall we do to always be happy, because as I know your concept is to relax and attain happiness by that?
Sri Sri: What to do to always be happy? First, drop the feverishness to hold onto ALWAYS and you will find yourself happy. And then, if some moments of unpleasantness creep into life, accept that also.
Q: I have been introduced to two concepts which I find confusing. A: I am not the doer. Or B: I should take responsibility for little things even when I have little control. What's up?
Sri Sri: Life is a balance between these two things. Taking responsibility and letting go. It's both. That's a fine balance. For the present and future take responsibility, for the past know that it has to happen that way and move on. So often we do the reverse. We think that the past was free will and regret and we think the future is all destiny and we don’t do anything about it. But you know, what the wise one does? They regard future as free will, past as destiny and they are happy in the present. So you don’t regret about the past and you know what you want to do in the future and you are on it.
Q: Is there a masculine and feminine side to everything? Then why do we categorize things as male or female?
Sri Sri: Yes! There is a neutral gender also. There are 3 genders. Some things fall under the neutral gender too. In fact, there is a whole scripture on the gender of stones as well as trees. The Shilpa Shastra or Book on Sculptures elaborates on this. Hawaiians also say that different stones have different genders! They can identify those. But it doesn’t matter. The Self, or the Spirit is beyond gender.
Q: How did you know you were a Guru? Did you have a Guru? Sometimes I wonder if I’m a Guru, maybe just for myself. What would you say to that?
Sri Sri: You can’t be a surgeon for yourself. You may be a surgeon but you can’t be your own surgeon, right? So your mother is your first Guru. A mother teaches you. Of course, a Guru is one who is unconditional in his attitude and approach towards you. You should play the role of a Guru unconditionally. You help others or care for someone with wisdom. Then you are playing the role of a Guru to them too.
If you help somebody with an attitude of ‘I want nothing, I just want your progress’ then you’re a Guru to them. Yet don’t demand them to accept you as Guru. No, a real Guru does not demand anything, not even gratitude from somebody.
Q: There seems to be many wars and regional violence happening in the world. What can we do to reduce the violence in the world?
Sri Sri: The root cause of violence is stress and anger. And the only way I know to reduce stress and anger is through meditation, pranyama, Sudarshan Kriya. This is the only way. You can do something with ayurveda, can change the diet… you can do those things, yet they are all secondary.
Q: Please discuss the value of the Vedic tradition of masters who have preserved this meditation for thousands of years in its purity.
Sri Sri: Yeah, for thousands of years people have passed on the technique of meditation one by one. Usually people would say they would give this technique to someone who qualifies and who is capable, then they will make the best use of it. You know they would wait for a right student to come to impart meditation and they would test the student several times before they would even take them as a disciple. Masters would not take everybody as a disciple, if one doesn’t qualify, they would not even teach them anything. I took a completely different stance. If they qualify, well and good, else just teach them and whatever progress they make, let them make. So I just opened the flood gates and said, “Let’s give it to everyone” and we will see and make those capable if they raise to that level, okay! That is the difference between this age and those in the past. In the past it used to be very tough.