Preguntas & Respuestas con Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: For a beginner like me, how do I understand what self is?
Sri Sri: Everything in the world changes. Our experiences change, our understanding changes, our intellect changes, we think differently at different times, thoughts are changing, and also our emotions keep changing. How do you know that everything is changing? There must be something that is not changing. Without the existence of something that is not changing you cannot even know things are changing. So you infer. E.g. when there is a smoke you say, ‘there must be fire’. You just see the smoke and you infer that there must be fire somewhere. Similarly, you cannot directly experience that which is not changing, then how do you do it? Through inference.
The ancient people said there are three ways of knowing - Pratyaksha, Anumana, Agama. There are three proofs, one is Pratyaksha - you see direct. Second is anumana - you infer, e.g. you see the smoke and you know there must be fire, right! So when you see that everything is changing, and you know that you can experience change only through something that is not changing, through some reference point, then you infer -‘There is something that is not changing in us and that is called ‘SELF’, your soul, your spirit, whatever you call it’!
So we went from body to finer - Body, Breath, Mind, Intellect, Memory and then ego. Finer than all this, is the ‘SELF’. What the ‘SELF’ is? Finding that out is called spirituality… is meditation! And what this ‘SELF’ is made up of? It is…!
Q: You told us about experiencing the self, when was your first real experience on experiencing the SELF? We would love to know.
Sri Sri: When was my first experience on that? I don’t know!It was there in the childhood, then I grew up and then it became clearer later on. I don’t know but may be when I was seventeen or eighteen.
Q: Why do natural calamities occur only in specific areas?
Sri Sri: Why natural calamities occur only in specific areas, I have no idea! You have to ask mother earth but one thing I tell you we are misusing this planet so much. Every day we are putting so many dynamites under this earth and blasting it. Why will it not shake? Mining has become such a business, five to six companies around the world are doing mining and mining and mining… depleting this earth more than it can recuperate itself.
Q: Sometimes we feel disconnected with you how to overcome that?
Sri Sri: Sometimes only na! So you got disconnected and then you feel the connection again, it will happen.
Q: Should one never get angry?
Sri Sri: Don’t think you should all be without anger all the time. You should use anger as a tool when it is necessary. I tried to do it but I was not too successful. Often sometimes I try to show anger but it doesn’t work because very soon I start laughing and everybody else will start laughing along, also people don’t believe me getting angry. But sometimes anger is good. You know, especially in a world when there is corruption, when there is injustice and when there are all sorts of people who do all sorts of wrong things, who take advantage of you in all situations, it is necessary that you raise your eyebrows or sometime show anger, it would be good. But see that you show anger and it doesn’t affect you or get into your heart and make you upset.
Look, that doesn’t happen in a day and that is where all these practices can be of help. Yeah, I’m not saying be like a vegetable all the time or like a mentally retarded person, smiling or not getting upset at all, you should get angry when things don’t go well, right! But don’t ever let that anger ferment in your mind and turn into hatred. It could be momentary.
You know what is a healthy anger? When you draw a line on the surface of water, how long does it stay for? Only that much time anger should stay, then it is healthy anger. If your anger stays only for that much time and when you have a control over it then it is healthy and you are okay. You can get angry but anger should not get you. What happens usually, anger comes and gets you, and then we are in trouble. Knowledge and wisdom is the reverse of it. Got it! You can use the knife but the knife doesn’t use you.
Q: What if one of our levels of existence has been affected by shock or something, like memory, is it necessary to transcend and reach the self or how does that impact?
Sri Sri: >Meditation! Just exactly what you are doing - yoga, pranayama, meditation, it heals everything. See, we have given so much shock to our body, used it and misused it that it needs this kind of attention. Similarly, we have used and misused our breath, our mind and our intellect that our whole system has been in Topsy turvy, in turmoil and all this gets stored in the memory but remember they all can be easily handled through the practice of meditation. Once you go to the SELF, it heals the memory also. Once you are aware what you are worried about, a shock or an experience, you find you are so much bigger than any experience, and see, in the world how many millions of people are there and how many experiences they all have. Do you see what I am saying?
See what is happening now in Pakistan, flood, how people are traumatized. What happened in India in Leh Ladakh! Suddenly a cloud burst and everything is gone, people’s homes are gone, and see how the terrorists or the Taliban, and these other groups are terrorizing people. If you see the Time magazine’s cover page, it’s so horrifying. In Afghanistan, women, their noses are being cut by Taliban. With all these experiences in the world, people are still living alive. What are we worried about, we are worried about our little unpleasant experience. See, life has both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Everybody gets a little unpleasant experience, but when you open your eyes, you see our unpleasant experience is nothing, it is minuscule when compared to the other things. So your problem is almost nothing when you look at the big problems in the world, yeah!
Q: Can you please talk in a little detail about these levels of existence you have talked about?
Sri Sri: Mind, intellect, memory and ego are four functions of the mind or mind has these four aspects.
So what is mind? Are you listening? If your eyes are open and your ears are of course open, sound anyways goes into your ears but if your mind is elsewhere, can you listen to me? No! Isn’t it? So this mind is that through which you perceive, you feel, correct! That, which goes out through the five senses and experiences, is mind.
Okay! so if you experience through mind then what is intellect? As you experience you say, ‘oh, this is good, this is not good, I want this, I don’t want that’. You know intellect is the judging or discriminating aspect. As I am speaking now, your mind is saying, ‘well, I don’t like it’ or ‘I believe it’ or ‘I don’t believe it’, you are going into a dialogue, this is intellect; and then memory, that which stores all this information. So sometimes you feel, when you experience something, ‘oh! I have experienced this before’. When you enjoy apple pie, not for the first time, you say ‘oh I have enjoyed this before, I had this pie before’. So memory is recognizing the experiences and storing it in the memory and then ego.
Ego is – ‘I am something, I am intelligent, I am stupid, I like this, I don’t like that, I am rich, I am very poor, I am ugly or I am beautiful, I am something, I am’, that is ego. When you understand all this then you feel is this the thing? No! After understanding ego also, there is something left, what is this? That is the self.
Catch more in the next post..
Q: You talked about the body. I want to know what the connection is between the body and the five elements.
Sri Sri: Earth, water, fire, air, ether - the five elements. If any one of this element is missing, this body cannot stay or sustain. Isn’t it? Earth element - food, water element, then you need fire element or heat. Without heat, this body cannot survive. Then is air – impossible for body to exist without it, and space or ether. The five elements have been the cause or reason for the body’s existence and what happens to this body? It has come out of the five elements and will go back to the five elements, this is science.
There are five elements in the dead body also. So what is the difference between a living and a dead body? In a living body, there is life and what is this life?
When the question begins then you see oh, ‘PRANA’ - there is life force, and then you go deeper into the study of ‘PRANA’ and you see there is something more than ‘PRANA’.
What is that, that is the mind! Oh, then what is the mind? How many types of mind are there? How many functions of the mind are there? This curiosity takes you to the 'Art of Living'.
Q: How do we know that we are working on our life’s purpose and we are not doing somebody else’s job?
Sri Sri: Okay! How do we know we are doing our life’s job? What is that we have come here to do? See whether you are happy and making people happy around you. Are you doing whatever you can do for people around you? Are you sharing your love and gaining knowledge? Whatever knowledge you have, can you share that with people? You have to ask these questions and you know, sometimes we shouldn’t doubt ourselves too much; sometime self doubt arises – ‘Am I doing this right?’ Just be spontaneous. In every action, there is something good and there is something wrong. There is no action that is totally perfect. The field of action has some imperfection, maybe one percent or two percent. So there could be imperfection in every action.
Similarly every word that is spoken could be imperfect. But what could be perfect is our intention, our feeling. Do you see what I am saying? You have no ill intention towards anybody, and that is done. You know, I have never uttered any insulting word from my mouth all these years. At the most the word that has come out of my tongue is ‘stupid’. When I get really angry, I raise my voice and say ‘You stupid!’, but I have never cursed anybody and that is how I am made. I can’t take credit for it because I didn’t make any effort. I didn’t go to any course or school and try to make myself not to curse people, or not to blame anybody. To yell, shout or get upset is not in my nature at all. And all these bad words simply don’t come up.
Q: Some schools of thought disapprove the existence of the Self or the cosmic consciousness. What do you say about this?
Sri Sri: You cannot say self does not exist. Anybody who claims self doesn’t exist, how did he know that? Who knows it? Who is saying it? Huh?! If I say I don’t believe in anything, at least I must believe in these words of mine. I can only say, ‘I don’t believe in anything except these words that I am saying’. You know the most foolish statement on the planet could be someone saying, ‘I don’t believe in anything’. At least the person who is saying this should believe in himself!Do you see what am I saying? Are you getting it?
If I say I don’t trust anything then I must also say that I don’t trust the words that I am saying to you right now. This sentence - ‘I don’t trust anything’ is false because you at least trust the sentence you are saying, otherwise why would you even say that sentence? So, nobody can authentically say that he/she doesn’t trust anything. If he says, either he is crazy or he is enlightened! (Bubbles of laughter) The words that we say, ‘everything is changing’ are very relative. All that you see, you touch or you feel comes under the purview of the five senses. That is why we say everything is changing, but there is something that doesn’t change. If, once, we have a foot in that something that doesn’t change, nothing can shake you! That is awakening! What is Awakening? something in me that doesn’t change, I don’t change. Just a glimpse of this spirit or the being within you, and there will be no fear at all in life.
Everything is in abundance, mind becomes calm, stable, creative, intelligent, intuitive, and all these abilities just spring up from within, and that is what happens when you just sit, meditate and let go of everything. Let go.And even if for a few seconds the mind becomes still and it is in touch with that non-changing you; DONE! Then the purpose of life is done!
So every human body-mind complex is like a wave in the ocean, then you realize that this whole universe is all life everywhere. Our bodies are like shells floating in the ocean. Ocean of life is holding so many bodies. So life is not just in the body but body is in the life.
If it is too much and you don’t get it now, just put it somewhere in the back of the mind, someday you will understand, okay! It could be just a concept, that’s why what we do with anything that’s a concept? We put it in the back burner, in the back shelf; we just go with our experience. See, with our experience, we mature more and more and more… yeah! Good!