(Petra Friganovic: Supermodel from Croatia)
Q: Gurudev, I have one question for you. I am very much aware that there is this enormous spiritual and practical power in women. But I am also aware that this power is very much hidden from us. How can the modern woman awaken this power in her?
Sri Sri: First of all, let us understand that spirituality is not something that is out there, that is going to come into you. We are all made up of matter and spirit.
Our body is made up of carbohydrate, protein, amino acids, etc. Our spirit is made up of compassion, care, commitment, love and distortions of it, like anger. All these qualities. Nurturing the human values, the qualities in you, is spirituality. It is seeing life from a broader perspective, i.e., 'I am not just flesh and bones, but I am scintillating energy. I am a fountain of love. I am feelings. I am intelligence. I am thoughts'.
This identification with our consciousness is what spirituality is.
It doesn't take a long time for you to invoke the spirituality inside you. You simply have to see your life from a bigger perspective.
Look at this planet, it is huge; unfathomable. From billions of years it has been in existence. And what’s our life of 70-80 years in comparison to this? See your life from the context of space and time and you will see how tiny your life is. At the same time, go deep into it. Go deep into meditation and you will find, 'Wow, there is so much energy. I am this beautiful energy. My thought has power, my emotions have power, and I am a part of everybody!'. This feeling that you are part of the entire living species is what exactly spirituality is. That connectedness with the entire universe brings you enormous strength.
(Marina Spadafora: fashion designer from Italy)
Q: Being a mother of three, I always ask myself, what is the best approach to teach my son to respect women, and to respect girls. So my question for you is, what is the best way for a mother to teach her boy that he always has to respect women, take care of them, protect them and treat them the best way possible. So when this boy will grow up, he will be a good man and we would not have as much violence as we have in today’s society”.
Sri Sri: Well, I’m not so qualified to answer this question, because I have no experience in that field (marriage and parenthood). But I have a suggestion.
In my observation, I found a mother can influence a child only to some extent. Especially when the kid becomes rebellious, the mother cannot influence the kid. But a good aunt can do it.
So, if you want to be a good mother, you have to be a good aunt to the friends of your kids.
You know, the friends of your kids will listen to you much more than your own children.
In India, we have a saying. In the mango season, when you want to pluck the mangoes, don't throw stones directly at the mango, but throw it at the branch, and the mango will fall.
If you throw stones at the mango, you won’t get the mango, you will only get the juice.
So, to catch the mango, you have to get it indirectly.
In the same way, if you want to influence your kids, you should influence his or her friends circle. If the friends circle is influenced, your kid will automatically get the lesson.
So you cannot just worry about your kid, you will have to worry about all the other kids in the society. Then you will get somewhere. And many people have been successful in doing it.
(Asha Bhosle: Playback Singer from India)
Q: Gurudev, children today are so much into phones, ipads and computers. And not only children but adults as well. So much so that they cannot remember a phone number if their phone is taken away. They are so dependent. Everything is in the phone, if the phone fails then they also fail.
If children don't move forward and do anything new, if they don’t study hard, then what is the use of these iPhones and iPads? Nobody will write songs, nobody will sing them, nobody will write books, then how will life go on like this? I am very worried about the kids.
Sri Sri: Yes Ashaji, you are right! People have forgotten how to count.
I want to tell you something interesting. A few people were staying here, and we gave them a combination lock for their room. They would always forget the combination, and would ask to be given some easy combination! What is so difficult about a combination lock?
When we don't allow our brain to function, when we don’t allow creativity to blossom, then it will rust! You are right, it has begun to rust due to modern gadgets.
Yes, these gadgets are necessary, you also have it, but there should be something written, there should be some creativity; this should definitely be done.
From time to time, we should, for one or two days, decide that we will not watch TV. One week should be No TV week. One week you tell kids, this week you will not watch any TV. At least they will start reflecting upon something. Otherwise they are simply bombarding information and impressions into their little brains, and they are unable to use it in other ways. It is a cause of concern.
Most of the Attention Deficiency Syndrome among teenagers is a result of the mother and father being busy and putting the kid in front of the television. If the little 3-4 year baby sits and watches the television for 3 hours then what will happen? Our brain needs some rest. Some relaxation, only then creativity can happen.
(Arpine Galfayan: Human rights activist from Armenia)
Q: Dear Gurudev, in almost all religious institutions and practices, women are not allowed to represent the word of god. Even if women are not considered something evil or secondary, still women cannot be priests and conduct poojas. So the question is, do you consider this to be an unfair practice? Do you see the need of changing it, and if so, how?
Sri Sri: You know, I am a rebel in this field. I say women have equal right as men, and here (in the Ashram), we say women can all do poojas. Women can participate in all rituals, and be priests as well. You have the right, you can do it.
Nowhere, at least in the scriptures, what I have learnt or whatever little I know, is there any discrimination on the basis of gender. So, women should come forward and take up their rightful place. Don’t ask someone to give it to you.
(Tanika Gray: News Editor at CNN)
Q: With the media reporting crime and negativity around the world, what do you think is their responsibility towards this violence that is happening? What do you think we should be doing differently?
Sri Sri: I think the media has two important roles to play. One is to place the facts in front of the people as they are. At the same time create hope in people for the future.
You know, the present scenario can be very depressing. The media has to take responsibility not to create more depression in society. They have to give people hope.
Suppose there is a riot, or a crisis, or a war, in that situation also there is hope; there are good people on the planet who are doing some very good work, this must be highlighted. Otherwise when you open the newspaper, all you see is bad news, which is depressing. The people feel that there is no hope in life because the world is so bad.
The citizen of this world will not label society as bad or hopeless. This can happen only when they are bombarded with negative news all the time. So, media will have to balance this out. Create hope, at the same time keep the reality in front of people.
(Dr. Preetha Reddy: Operation Head of Apollo group of hospitals, India)
Q: Gurudev, we have been feeling of late that media, more maybe the electronic media and the print media have not been as responsible as they should be for the greater good.
It is right that we have to communicate the truth the way it is, but if the truth is sacrificed for just eye ball time because someone has invested into the media company, I am not sure that they are doing good for the nation.
What is your advice to make media more responsible to work for the greater good, for the betterment of mankind, for the betterment of the environment, so that the world is a better place to live in.
Terrorism is reported a lot and that is fine, but people are dying more of health reasons and that is not reported. So I feel your advice and blessings on this matter is very important.
Sri Sri: Yes Preetha, you are right. We are stuck in a sort of virtual world. We are not coming into the real world.
Many kids make friends on facebook, twitter and social media, and in reality, people meeting each other and talking is much lesser now. This needs to change, we need to have more human interaction, not just in the virtual but in the real world. That is necessary.
I won’t put all the blame on media, no. Media has a role to play but the NGOs, the public sector, the government, the faith based organizations, all these different pillars of democracy have to work in unison. Only then can a society be healthy.
So for the health of the society, we need doctors to do padayatras. Take a day or two in a month from your busy schedules, go to villages and do free medical health checkup camps.
Of course, Apollo (hospital) is also doing this. And recently in Tamilnadu, we had 500,000 youth singing bharatiya (Indian) songs, after which they all took a pledge towards girl education.
This effort brought people together to sing and to interact with each other.
Youngsters singing patriotic songs, or songs of wisdom inspires them to do something good in the society. It makes all the difference. So such mega cultural activities can also be a way to bring awareness in people. If people take up these sort of activities in society, in smaller groups in their localities, I think we can bring a big transformation.
(Honorable Zara Bin Sulaiman from Oman)
Q: Women in Oman have power and good energy. Still in some parts of Oman people do not allow women to come ahead. How can women, despite this obstacle, come ahead and become more prosperous?
Sri Sri: I think women should talk amongst each other and come up with a solution on how to empower and educate women.
First is education, and then have dialogue with the people who oppose the freedom of women.
I know sometimes it feels like it is next to impossible, but I still feel that we should keep the dialogue going.
There are a lot of people who would appreciate some women leaders taking the first step. As you carry on, I am sure, many others would come along and help you with it.
I am not fully aware of the ground reality there, but I can only hope that the women's group there grows bigger, and starts taking power.
Again, with religious education, I would say that our children should get a broad based education. Every child should know a little bit about all the different religions of the world, so that they don’t grow up thinking, 'Only my religion is supreme, only I have the key to heaven'.
They must respect other faiths as well. They must respect women, they must respect differences.
We need to celebrate the differences on this planet during the short span of time what we call life. Don’t you think so?