Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Your desire to have no desire to ask questions is a desire in itself. This is a problem. Jo jaisa hai theek hai - this is sanmati. (Whatever is there, however it is, it is alright. This is called sanmati or right mindedness.) Whether or not you have a question, it’s alright. Whether you get an answer or you don’t, it’s alright. ‘Everything is alright’ is the path of nivriti. Often we say, ‘This is not ok, that is not ok’ and then we retreat in ourselves. In that state you can’t rest. Because when you find something is not ok, your whole tendency is to act towards it. And you are trying to rest while restraining from action with an attitude of action. This causes tension and lack of deep rest.
We need to have two attitudes in life - pravriti and nivriti.
It is important to go within when you are tired of working in the world. Nature has made it that way: 12-hour day and 12-hour night. At some places like in the North and South Poles, the night is of around four hours and the day is around 18 to 20 hours. But then in winters, it gets reversed and day is only of four to five hours. So nature maintains that balance. 12 hours day and 12 hours night is the law of nature. Night itself means retiring from any kind of effort. Day symbolizes pravriti and night symbolizes nivriti.
Viveka (discrimination) is to understand what pravriti is and what nivriti is. We think nivriti is getting retired from your job at the age of 60 and being on a holiday. No, the Vedas say, ‘Again and again, adopt the path of nivriti.’ To go within and rest after getting tired of doing work is nivriti.
There are two types of rest. One is inert rest that we get in sleep. It does give some rest but the mind doesn’t get complete rest. Another is conscious rest: you are resting but inside you are aware and alert, that is meditation. Resting with awareness and conscious sleep is meditation.
Meditative rest is far superior for that alone brings real rest to the system. When we want to go into meditation, then the attitude that needs to be adopted is ‘everything is ok'. There is no lack and 'I don’t want anything at this moment’. When you think ‘everything is ok’, your mind calms down and you go within.
Now when you go within, you get lot of happiness, satisfaction, joy and peace, then you have to come to the path of pravriti. So pravriti is when you find things are not ok or perfect and nivriti is when you repose in the Self and find all is well and perfect. This knowledge comes to you with spiritual practices.
The human species is designed in such a way that no one can ever be in only nivriti or only pravriti. Both will continue to coexist in life. When we come to pravriti, we find this is not ok, that is not ok and nothing is ok. Only then do we get to work. And we correct things. (Points out very minute imperfections in the surroundings) Small and little things catch your attention and you feel like correcting everything. This is pravriti. But if someone gets stuck only in this attitude then, even with eyes closed one thinks of imperfections only and can’t go into nivriti. This makes one mad and full of stress. This is called asuri vriti.
Lord Sri Krishna has said this in the Gita. A person with tamoguna tendencies doesn’t know when to follow which of the two paths. He doesn’t have discrimination in him. While working, he thinks everything is going well. This is an example of using nivriti in pravriti. He thinks corruption is also ok, it is anyway present. He doesn’t work and adopts an attitude of indifference. He thinks what does he have to do with tasks getting accomplished or not. And then he uses the concept of pravriti in nivriti. The whole night he thinks and worries. Thinking alone doesn’t accomplish any task. When you think something is not ok and do not do anything about, it disturbs your health. When both the attitudes are taken together then your tasks get accomplished skillfully, successfully and without any stress.
It is also said in the Gita that the intelligent one knows what the right attitude is for retirement, nivriti. When you want to go inward, meditate or contemplate, the attitude you need to adopt is ‘not a grain of grass moves without God’s will’. Everything is ok and perfect. Then the mind settles down and you get deep rest and sink deep into meditation. Once you get out of meditation you become sharp and alert, and detect even small imperfections. When you find imperfections, you can correct them. Your mind will pick minute things and work to bring about perfection in every small thing. The ability in the human mind to shift from ‘everything is ok’ to ‘everything is not ok’ and vice versa is a skill in itself that one has to master. And that is what spiritual practices do to you. You are able to switch off to an attitude of ‘everything is ok’ so that you get deep rest and attain meditation. And you can never be in meditation all the time because you have to switch from inaction to action. Activity and rest are two sides of the human personality and you need both for human evolution.
You are also not to think ‘nothing is ok’. In nivriti you think, ‘God is looking after everything.’ This way by not letting the mind get stuck in either of the two, you bring back the mind to its source. This is an art. The whole life you will have to walk on this. How to meditate? Even amidst difficulties, you switch off your mind. This way you will find half of your task anyway gets accomplished and whatever rest is pending can always be done with the attitude of pravriti. So both are required.
Nature has brought in such a balance. In summer, days are longer and in the winter nights are longer. So somewhere nature maintains that balance. In one place it is cold and elsewhere, it is hot. So heat and cold, day and night, all are brought in some balance in nature. And it is telling you, in so many ways, that you have to balance between activity and rest in life.
Often people worry about their next births. The good work is not given for next birth. Work needs to be finished in this life time only. Just be happy. Be happy in pravriti.