Preguntas & Respuestas con Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, if there is one consciousness ruling, then why are some things said to be good, and some are bad?
Sri Sri: See, good and bad are always relative. There is nothing in the absolute.
If you go in space, there is no east, west, north or south. East, west, north, south are there when you are on earth. It is relative.
If you ask me whether vitamins are good or bad, I would say, in limitation they are good, but in excess they are bad.
Is milk good for you? Yes it is good, provided you drink only as much as is required. But if you drink twice as much, then the same milk is bad for you. Similarly, poison can save life if you are sick, and the same poison can take away your life if you are not sick and you drink it.
Q: Gurudev, they say visualizing one’s wish makes it come true. Does visualization mean not being in the present?
Sri Sri: Visualizing is like taking a Sankalpa (resolution). But there is a difference between taking a Sankalpa (resolution) and making an effort to visualize.
Effortful visualization is not good. The difference is like this. I want to go to Jaipur, this is a thought you got. Now you don’t sit and get a whole map of Jaipur and all the buildings; you don't close your eyes and make an effort to imagine the pink city, pink buildings; this is no good. This is visualization.
The thought that I want to go to Jaipur, is good, you can go. But if you sit and start visualizing the roads and the buildings of Jaipur, and everything, sooner or later you will end up with a migraine. So this wrong concept of visualization should be done away with.
Many people in the world read these books, where in some people say to visualize you being in that position (in which you want to be). You visualize being a chief minister, and taking the problems of people and all that. Hundreds and thousands of people do it and they get depressed.
Sankalpa (Resolution) is having a wish, a desire. It is not even you who can take it, but it just arises in you. When it arises, you give it away to the Divine saying, 'Dear God, if this is good for me, you give me. Otherwise, anything better than this, I accept'.
That is what you say and offer it to God, to the divinity, to the universe.
If you don’t believe in God, does not matter. Offer it to the universe. I offer this thought to the universe. If there is anything better, let it happen, and you forget about it and be normal.
Q: Gurudev, if the combination of all three, i.e., Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge) and Durga (the goddess of power and strength) was not possible, and if you had to choose only one, then which of the three forms should a woman choose in today’s day and age.
Sri Sri: Listen, the Indian mythology gave all the power to women. All the important ministries were assigned to womenfolk. The ministry of finance, defense and education were given to women. So a woman plays all these three roles.
With kids, she is playing the role of teacher. Sometimes with husband, she can play the role of Durga; or with neighbor, if the situation demands, a woman can become a defense minister. Of course, she holds the key to the wealth of the family.
You know, in ancient India, they used to have what is called Stree dhan. Every woman was given a certain amount and they would not touch that amount. That was the savings. She can hand it over to her daughter, or do whatever she wants to do with it. That was the ancient system here.
There are matriarchal families even today in India. Two states in India - one is in the North east, one is Kerala, when a boy gets married he goes and lives in the girl’s house. It is not the other way around. He goes and lives with his wife, and the woman inherits all the property, the boys don’t.
Q: The media always latches on to the negative stories. How can we make a good story sensational?
Sri Sri: This is one thing you should not do; generalize. You should not eternalize and generalize everything. You should not say that the media always, or every media does that. It is not the case.
Here is one example. Annika Dopping from Sweden has made some very enlightening documentary films. She made a documentary to help elderly people who get depressed (after the age of 50 people feel depressed thinking nobody wants them) called ‘Aging Gracefully’. It is such a nice documentary film to uplift the elderly people.
She also made another very positive film on Three Wise Men, where she interviewed Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and me. She put some brilliant questions that pulled out the best from everybody. The show ran for almost a whole year by public demand.
There are many such shows that have come through Indians also, that inspired people and uplifted their spirit. So, as I said, we should not generalize.
Now, I do agree that there is sensational journalism that brings in negativity only. After a while, people know what it is. They watch it for some time and then shut it down.
What people like to hear more is about astrology, because they are anxious to know what is going to happen to them.
You should think about how you can bring about creative, sensational, positive news. You do it. I think there are several channels here in Karnataka, which say, ‘Is this also possible?’ This is the headline.
Some channels have come up with such things; people glue themselves and watch these wonders of the world! Like how in a particular temple, a monkey does a certain job that amazes everyone. The channel shows the strange behavior of certain animals, and certain wonders, miracles that happen in the world. Such things are really capturing people’s attention.
Here, we have a Devi who speaks; the stone says yes and no. You must have also seen the Nadi leaves, the ancient palm leaves. You give your thumb print, and they select the leaf that pertains to you. Over 5,000 years ago, people have written about you, your name and everything about you today. This is nothing short of a miracle.
Today, people are turning more towards humor, away from all these crime stories. That is what I think. I don’t know, I do not see much, I don’t get time to see. Anyways, I think the times are changing now.
Q: Gurudev, when the six layers of our existence become transparent, then we are able to perceive the seventh layer, the self. Could you please talk about how to make the intellect transparent?
Sri Sri: Let us understand what the intellect is.
Consciousness functions largely in four different modes, similar to the different modes or functions in a cell phone. The four different modes in the consciousness are:
1. The Mind - The Mode of Perception: Now you are looking at me, I am looking at you. It is the mind through which the eyes perceive, and the mind through which the ears hear. It is the mind through which the nose smells, if there is a good fragrance around; but if your mind is elsewhere, you would not even notice the fragrance.
So, this faculty through which we smell, taste, hear, see, touch, is the mind.
2. The Intellect – The Mode of Analysis: Once you perceive, then the mind goes on judging, whether this is good, not good. The understanding of the fragrance; the understanding of the site; the understanding of the sound falling on your ears. This is the intellect. The intellect categorizes, analyses things; saying this is right or wrong, or I like this and I don’t like that.
In order to analyze things, the intellect needs a third layer, called the memory.
3. The Memory - The Mode of Storage: The intellect is in between the memory and the mind. The mind and the memory together make the intellect function. If there is no memory, the intellect cannot function. The basis of the intellect is memory and perception.
The memory captures some deep impressions, that is the limitation of the memory. It captures the pleasant memories, and the unpleasant memories (the unwanted, deep impressions called trauma); all of these are stored in the memory.
4. The Ego – The Sense of Identification: Beyond the memory, the consciousness identifies with something, that is ego.
Then is the Self - it is beyond the four different functions. It is the reference point of all changes. If you say that everything is changing, you do notice that everything is changing, right? Your body is changing, your thoughts are changing; thoughts form part of the mind. Your concepts are changing, that is the intellect. The memory is changing, there are certain things you remember, and certain things you don’t remember. All this is changing. If you say that all this is changing, there must be something that doesn’t change; this is the logic.
How do you know something is changing? This is because there is something that is not changing. Now you don’t know what this something is! But there is something, some vague thing that is there, and you can feel the changes because of its presence.
If you look at your own picture, when you were 10 years old, you can’t say it is me, now. Your body is not the same, but what makes you say that it is you?
Every cell in your body changes in one year. The lining in your stomach changes every five days. Your blood changes every 24 hours. Your skin changes in one month. Scientists say that every cell in your body changes in one year. So, when everything is changing, how do you say that it is you, the same person who was 10 years ago or 15 years ago? Yes, there is something that is not changing. By the changes you infer that there is something that is not changing.
What is this something? Lord Buddha wanted to know this. He meditated and meditated, and he found that there is nothing! It is empty.
He said, ‘I searched and searched and searched for the Self, but I could not find it. There is nothing.’
He said, ‘Shunya (zero); everything is empty. There is only emptiness; I could not find anything’.
Adi Shankaracharya, from the Vedic tradition, came after Lord Buddha.
(Lord Buddha did not have a teacher. He had a very tough journey of finding himself. This was not the case with Adi Shankaracharya; he had a teacher, a mentor.)
When Adi Shankaracharya met Lord Buddha, he said, ‘Yes, I understand, this is all temporary, everything is changing'.
He asked Lord Buddha, ‘You said you could not find the Self, but who could not find the Self? There must be someone who was searching. Who was searching? Who could not find? That is the Self!’
With this one logic, Adi Shankaracharya turned around and brought the Vedic culture back into India. Otherwise, at one time, the whole of India was Buddhist.
The main flaw in Buddhism was the principle that everything is empty. There is sorrow, there is emptiness in everything. This was the main focus of Buddhism.
The Vedic principle is that everything is full; this is all consciousness. What we perceive as empty, is all bliss.
Adi Shankaracharya said that the one who could not find (the Self), the one who is searching for it, that one is Sat Chit Anand. It has three characteristics: Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.
It is Truth; nobody can say that I don’t exist. Even if someone says that they don’t exist, then how are they saying that they don’t exist? It needs someone to say it, that means they do exist; are you getting it?
It requires a very sharp intelligence; the intellect of Shankaracharya is unparalleled.
Today, scientists are amazed to see that what they are saying now in Quantum Mechanics is the same as what was said in the ancient times, in the Vedas.
What do the Vedas say? The whole world is made up of One thing. There is only One substance from which everything is made up of, and that is consciousness; that is Sat, Chit Ananda; it is bliss.
So he said that the whole world is bliss.
Now, how did the transition happen? Adi Shankaracharya did not say, 'This is bad, this is wrong, this is foolish', no, never. He respected Buddha. He said it was a necessary step, but not the final step. Buddha’s step was necessary to move your attention from that temporary, from the ephemeral to something that is permanent.
Adi Shankaracharya said, ‘Yes, we agree that everything is nothing, but nothing is also everything.’
This is how the spiritual revolution happened.
Lord Buddha never said that he was starting a new religion. He remained a Hindu monk, and he rebelled against some of the practices which people were doing at that time.
What were the people doing? They were doing only rituals, from morning till evening; they forgot the knowledge aspect.
When people had forgotten about meditation, Lord Buddha came and reminded them, ‘You have to meditate.’
He said, ‘You forgot that Lord Krishna said that you should meditate. You are not following that, you are only getting involved in doing so many rituals day and night.’
So he reversed that whole tendency.
When Adi Shankaracharya came, he established the knowledge of ancient truth. He lived like Jesus Christ, for 32 years only. He was born in Kerala, near the ocean, and he died in the Himalayas, on the mountainside. The places where he travelled to - East, West, North, South of India, became the boundary of India. He reestablished the ancient, Vedic knowledge in these places; that is the story. I think very few people in the world know about how this story of how the knowledge of Vedanta was reestablished in India.
Q: Gurudev, in the Yogasara Upanishad, you have said that thoughts arises when the mind stirs the memory. Does that mean that all thoughts are from the memory and no new thoughts arise?
Sri Sri: No, as I said earlier, perception (mind) and memory, both are responsible for the intellect to function. So, new thoughts are linked to old thoughts.
Sometimes, the intuitive thought which come need not be linked to anything, it can just come as a new thought.
Q: In my culture (in Paraguay), it is common that when a child misbehaves, parents punish them. Is it not some form of abuse or violence? What do you feel about this?
Sri Sri: Parents should, I won’t use the word punish, but discipline the children, within some limitations. It should not be in excess.
There is a difference between discipline and punishment. You can’t be violent and justify it as disciplining. At the same time, you cannot brand everything as an abuse and not discipline a child at all. Tomorrow that child will hold you responsible for not teaching it when it was young.
So, there is discipline, and one step away from discipline is punishment, and then abuse, or being violent with the child. Violence should be condemned. At no cost should anyone be violent with children because then they become so immune to that, and they become violent.
So many criminal acts in the society can be attributed to the parental violence at home. The way they treated their children
At home, when you raise children, sometimes you should raise your eyebrow (meaning to show anger) at the kids. You should discipline them. Then they become very good citizens.
Just imagine in the classroom, if the teacher just leaves the children free to do what they want, and does not discipline them; there is not even that little fear of being punished, the children will be so wild and uncontrollable! And when they grow up, they will say, why did you bring me up like this? Why didn’t you tell me what is good and what is not good when I was a child. They will ask this question.
So, I would say, discipline them first, and as a second step, punish them if at all it is necessary; once in a way. But that’s it, stop there. Never be violent with the kids.
Q: Gurudev, I come from a Christian background and feel the love for Christ reflected in your teachings. However, the Bible says that Christ is the only way.
Sri Sri: Love is the only way.
Do you know the Bible was written 70 years after Jesus Christ? There are 72 sects of Christianity, all of which have their own interpretation of the Bible (similar to how there are 32 sects of Buddhism).
If you see the ancient teachings, Lord Krishna also says the same thing, ‘This is the only way!’ This is an affirmation for people who were there at that time, to be in the present moment.
This is also the reason why Jesus said, ‘Those who came before me were thieves.’
Why did he say that? He said that because right now you are here, and you are thinking about the past; your mind has been stolen by somebody. So, he said that to bring the people to the present moment, to wake them up so that they could be - here right now.
You cannot misinterpret all these things. Jesus said, ‘I have come here not to make peace, but to put fire. To put father against son, mother against daughter.’
If you think this is what Jesus said, then no. This is all with reference to some context, with some inner meaning to it.
Jesus would never be unhappy or upset if you did something that would help in your growth; which would make you more loving, which would make you a more peaceful and a better human being.
So, if you practice yoga, meditation, and some people tell you, ‘Oh, you are betraying Jesus!’ I tell you, it is absolute nonsense. If you meditate, do yoga, and read the Upanishads, why would Jesus get upset? Not at all! In fact, Jesus spent 12 years of his life in India.
Jesus can never be against the ancient teachings, especially meditation and yoga; absolutely not. I have written a small book called Hinduism and Christianity; you should read it. I have mentioned there how many similarities exist between Hinduism and Christianity.
So, doing meditation, doing these practices is not against the teachings of Jesus Christ. If someone says it, they are saying it out of their ignorance.
Q: Gurudev, I am not a devoted person, I have never been one. Although I feel that I am missing a huge part of the experiences because of this. How should I handle it? Will it happen sometime?
Sri Sri: What do you think is devotion? Just crying and singing, is that what you think devotion is? Or running after me? No! It is a simplest state of your awareness.
Whenever you are in the simplest state of awareness, that is what devotion is.
Just remember, when you were a child, what did you do? You looked at your own fingers, at your own hands, or at the light, at the colors. You looked at flowers in the plant, you tried to go and touch them and they were all shaking. Remember the state of innocence that you had as a child. When you feel at home, when you feel secure, safe, that is devotion.
Whenever you feel secure, safe, total comfort and ease and a sense of belongingness; a feeling that mother is at home, that is devotion.
A child feels very comfortable moving around when the mother is sitting in the car. But the moment she disappears, the child becomes very jittery. So that sense of security, or to simply say, ease.
Do you feel at ease? Do you feel trustful, non-judgmental and loved? That is devotion.
Lord Krishna first tells Arjuna, 'You are very dear to me', then Arjuna says, 'Yes, you are dear to me too'.
So God is telling you, that you are very dear to him, just listen. When you also start recognizing that God is dear to you, that is devotion.
We are definitely dear to God. When he is also dear to us, that is called devotion.
We should never doubt that he loves us. First thing is, if we doubt whether God loves us or not, whether the Guru (teacher) loves us or not, whether this world loves us or not, then devotion or love does not arise in us.
First believe that the whole world loves me and I also love this world, then you can call yourself a devotee.
Q: Gurudev, you tell us to live in the moment, but you also say that we must have goals in life. Is this not contradictory? If one has to live in the moment, then why have goals in life?
Sri Sri: Life is so complex! It is not just simple. It is so complex and that is the beauty of it! That is why it is beautiful.
Our body has a form, color and shape, but our mind doesn’t have any of those. We are combination of the most obvious, and the completely abstract the mind. A combination of both. Something which is so tangible, and something which is so airy. You can’t put a finger and say, 'This is my mind'.
So, we are a combination of very complex and diverse principles of nature, that is why we are so complete. So you live in the present moment, but have a great vision for the future. You can do both. And we all possess this ability.