Preguntas & Respuestas con Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: What is the significance of Yoga Vashishtha in day-to-day life? I tried reading the book but I found it very difficult to understand.
Sri Sri: You may not be able to understand Yoga Vashishtha in one go(a sacred scripture that elaborates on the Creation and the path of liberation through the enlightening dialogue between Sage Vashishtha and Lord Rama). So you must keep reading it again and again. Read whatever is convenient for you - One or two pages is also good every day. We are making CDs and audio tapes on the book, both in Hindi and in English. The English version is available. So just play those CDs and just listen to the talks.
Q: Gurudev, you have given us everything: knowledge, love, blessings, joy; everything we could possibly need. There is one thing you have not given us – which is your mobile number. When can I have it?
Sri Sri: (Laughter) Look, I do not always carry my mobile with me. But I anyway catch whatever you are thinking. You and me both have this powerful mind which invented the mobile. So we can connect directly with that. Where is the need for mobile?
Are you all on Twitter? How many of you are not on Twitter? Join me on Twitter. I keep speaking about some knowledge on that from time to time. The Twitter handle is “@SriSrispeaks”, it is the name of the Twitter account. Whenever you feel like you can write an email to me also.
Q: Gurudev, we read about ordinary people doing extraordinary service. People with less education are visionaries. With all my education and my good intent, I see I am nowhere. How can I too become a visionary?
Sri Sri: You should believe you are one already. Okay? You are a visionary. To you this question has come that you want to be one, you are already one.
Q: Gurudev, you say that ‘Sukhasya dukhasya nakopi daata’ (No one gives us pain or pleasure except our own mind). So is there no effect of our actions on others at all then?
Sri Sri: What we do affects others only to the extent that they take it (i.e. choose to accept or be affected by it). If they do not take it, then no matter what you do, it won’t affect them at all, be it good or bad. There lived a saint named Diogenes, who was enslaved by Alexander. Alexander had him tied up in chains and handcuffed. When he was being sold at the slave market, he looked so strong and confident that the person trying to sell him looked like a slave. Diogenes wasn’t looking like a slave at all. So whatever we do affects people only as much as they take it inside them.
If you swear at someone and he doesn’t listen to you at all; and instead he thinks you’re talking in another language or he thinks you’re praising him, then what effect would your words have on him? Say you are talking about something very wise, maybe you are giving knowledgeable advice but the other person is not listening to you at all and just sits like a stone, then what influence will your talk have on him? Unless the person decides to absorb what you are saying and take it inside him, he will neither be positively nor negatively affected by it.
This does not mean you should try to give people grief and misery. This saying - ‘Sukhasya dukhasya nakopi daata’ does not mean that you keep giving as much grief as you can to others. No! You must be sensitive. What you do not like for yourself, why should you do unto others? This is Dharma. So if someone swears at us, we feel sad about it. Then we too should not swear at others. And if we do not like people stealing things from us, we should also not steal from others. So whatever we don’t like being done to us, we should not do to others. This simple notion is the essence of Dharma – the knowledge of one’s duty.
Q: When I have lot of choices in my life, and I want to choose one, how can I decide which area I will become successful?
Sri Sri: I usually say, choice is yours, blessing is mine. You relax first. Don’t be too over ambitious. Relax and then chose.
Q: Gurudev, there were many saints in Maharashtra who did miracles and have brought many people into spirituality. Even today, people turn towards spirituality by looking at miracles. What can be done to let the people focus towards spirituality and not on individual gains?
Sri Sri: One has to go step by step, from one ladder (of life) to another to reach the goal of Mukti (liberation). In the beginning they come so that get some relief from the hardships of life so that they can free themselves from their pain and suffering. After this the thirst for knowledge awakens in them. It is after being soaked in knowledge that the human being starts desiring for Moksha (salvation). And all types of people come on the path. This has been going on since time immemorial; it is not something that is happening just now.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says that four types of people worship me. Some people want money and comforts, so they come out of desire for that. Some people come to me to get rid of pains and misery. Then some people come for Moksha (salvation) and then there are the Jnanis (knowledgeable ones) who also come to me. He has said this very clearly. Not only the wise, inquisitive people also come to the Lord desiring answers to their deepest questions and to quench their curiosity. All four types of people come to the refuge of the Lord.
Q: Gurudev, Buddhists say they do not believe in God. Even Lord Buddha said that we must not worship idols. Now He too was an enlightened being, so what did he mean by that?
Sri Sri: Lord Buddha never talked about God. He never really entertained any discussion on God. What He said was – the first thing is to realize that there is misery. People keep denying there is misery, many don’t even recognize it. Many a time if you talk to a sick person, he will say “I’m perfectly healthy and fine”. The more egoistic the person, the greater is the denial.
Many times people are very miserable from within, but they wear a mask of cheerfulness or even act confident and dominating on the outside. They will keep pretending as if everything is fine, yet you can see the misery drip from their faces. Every part of their body reflects anger, bitterness, hatred and misery. This is what Lord Buddha has said – that there is misery. Recognize it, and then there are remedies for it. If someone says being miserable is my nature, then nobody can do anything about it, not even God Himself. So misery is not our nature, it comes because of samskaras (past life impressions) or karma. And this can be removed by other samskaras. One remedy for this is Pratyahara (one of the eight limbs of Yoga which means to exercise control or restraint over the senses and withdraw them inwards). Another remedy to this is meditation. So through meditation, pranayama, and Satsang we can be liberated from the miseries. It is then that we come to realize that our nature is happiness, bliss. Just as light dispels darkness, our Atma-shakti (the powerful soul as consciousness within) removes misery. On the path of Sadhana, all negativity and distortions such as fear, anger etc. fall away. The goal of Sadhana is get immersed in that indescribable bliss which is part of our very nature.
Lord Buddha said the same things that are said in the Upanishads. There is a verse:
Na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrta tvamanasuh |
Parena nakam nihitam guhayam vibhrajate yadyatayo visanti ||
(- Sanyasa Sukta, Maha Narayano Upanishad, 4.12)
It means: Neither through one’s actions (Karma), nor by begetting noble progeny (referred to by ‘Praja’ in the verse above), nor through wealth (Dhana) can one attain the Supreme Lord. Only through sacrifice and renunciation (Tyaga) can one attain immortality (Amruta). This is what Lord Buddha has said as well. If you read the Upanishads carefully and then read that Lord Buddha has said, you will find they are the same. There is no difference at all.
That is why Shri Adi Shankaracharya is often called Prachanna Baudha (a hidden or unproclaimed Buddha, meaning an enlightened one), because whatever he said seemed to be so similar to what is mentioned in Buddhism. So there is no difference between the Sanatana Dharma (another name for Hinduism) and Buddhism. The principles are nearly the same. I won’t say that they are exactly the same, but they are very close indeed. Buddhism advocates Shoonyavaad (the realization that “everything is nothing”; Shunya meaning Zero or nothing in Sanskrit), while Vedanta advocates Poornavaad (the central belief that “Everything is One and whole”). In Buddhism the first important step is the realization of misery, while in Vedanta they say that there is no misery. They say – ‘Wake up and see! You are full of joy (the Self as bliss)’.
So in Buddhism when misery disappears, joy is seen and in Vedanta when joy (of the Self) is realized, misery disappears automatically. So going from bottom to top and top to bottom, these are two different approaches. But the goal is the same. Even in Vedanta, it is not said that one should necessarily worship idols. It is said that worshipping the Atma-deva (referring to the Self as the Divine deity housed within the temple of the physical body) is the highest form of worship. But to begin with, one needs an environment, an atmosphere for reaching that stage of worship. This is why there is Puja. Ultimately at one point you see everything as the expansion of yourself, everything appears as a manifestation of that one Self. When one realizes that there is no difference between the world and the Self (Brahman) - which is present everywhere, in the trees, in the idols, in the earth, in water, in the blue sky; then one can worship anything and anywhere (meaning: to reach a stage where one sees everything as the manifestation of the one divine Self).
Even in the Rudra Puja, there is a rule that ‘Na Rudram Rudram Archayeti’’ which means until you become Lord Shiva yourself (realize your own true divine nature), you cannot worship the Lord. So you should first become God and then worship Him. It means to be firmly established in the Self. So it is said to worship God after becoming God, being established in your Self. Puja is just a play, it is a leela (a game), a way of expressing this deep feeling of worship.
Q: Gurudev, the Shaiva Sidhhanta (an ancient school of spirituality and scriptures that elaborate on achieving liberation through practices dedicated to Lord Shiva) says that by increasing the virility (maintaining abstinence) can lead to self-realization. We thought that being peaceful leads us to the divine. Can we attain divinity with passion too?
Sri Sri: One needs both passion and awareness, and one also needs stability and peace. Life is multi-faceted, it has both dynamism and stillness. All these are needed.
Q: I feel very good doing meditation, but I don’t understand what is this hollow and empty. Is it necessary to understand this?
Sri Sri: No, it is not necessary at all. When you have already become hollow and empty, what remains to be understood then? If you are not hollow and empty, then perhaps there is something to understand. Isn’t it? You cannot hold on to an empty thing. Whatever is happening is right. With this belief, just sit and relax. It is said – ‘Bhole bhaav miley Raghurai’ (One attains the Lord by the purity and simplicity of one’s feelings).
Q: Nowadays there is an increase of anger and rage in the children towards their parents. What can be done towards this?
Sri Sri: What to do! Just keep them busy in music, knowledge and service. If they start doing this early on in their childhood and growing years, then the anger and such tendencies will be reduced.