Today is the auspicious day of Shravana Purnima (the full Moon day in the auspicious month of Shravana as per the Hindu calendar). Usually it is said that it is the brother who protects and looks after his sister. Today we are celebrating a very special and unique tradition through the festival of Rakshabandhan, in which it is the sister who (takes the vow and) protects her brother! Women of our country are often called weak and powerless. So it is worth wondering how a woman who is considered as weak and fragile can protect a man and give him moral strength and support.
There is a growing misconception since the ages that women are weak and powerless. It is not so at all. Women possess a very unique power within themselves – the Sankalpa-Shakti (the power of will and determination). So a woman too can protect and give support to a man using her strong will power and inner strength. In India, we have never regarded women as weak or inferior in any way at all. How can a woman be weak? A woman has so much (inner) strength and power that she can stop the mighty Sun also! You all must have heard the story of Satyavan and his wife Savitri. She was so devoted to her husband that she fought the very Lord of Death from taking her husband away and brought him back to life. Similarly, you must have also heard the inspiring story of Devi Anusuya.
So, women possess the power of feelings and emotions, and have great inner strength within them. This is the greatest strength that one can have. If one loses one’s inner strength then outward physical strength is of no use. To be physically strong, one has to be strong from within first (referring to strong will power and courage). Inner strength here means both – the power of the intellect and also the strength of inner will and emotions. A woman possesses the unique and beautiful combination of both of these. So on the day of Rakshabandhan, it is the ladies who take a vow to protect the men (by tying a sacred thread on the wrist of the brother).
Questions & Answers
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Gurudev, a lot of our international family members are asking, why have they tied you up with threads?
Sri Sri: Yes, that is what I was saying. Most of these Rakhis (a sacred thread or band tied by the sister on the right wrist of her brother as a mark of love and assurance that he will protect her at all times) are made in China. These days, all our festivals are so much connected to China. All Ganesh idols are made in China. Lord Krishna has immigrated to China, He is coming from there. So does the Rakhi.
Rakhi is a festival where the women tie a sacred band to their brothers. You know, just like how you have friendship day, and you tie a friendship band to your friend? In the same way this is a protection band that ladies, especially the sisters tie to the brothers and wishing protection and safety for him at all times.
So they do this with an intention to protect. The intention is very strong. You know, the power of intention, the power of wish has a very unique place. And that is what signifies this festival of Rakshabandhan. So it’s a festival for brothers and sisters. And they exchange sweets and tie band and wish protection. So there are many well-wishers here, which is why there are so many knots and bands on my wrist also.
Gurudev, though customs and symbols are different among religions, the core values are the same. Then why is there feverishness to convert people to another religion? And also if they do convert, why should we be feverish about it, if the core values are same?
Sri Sri: Yes; the core values are the same, but customs and traditions are different. A change of demography and beliefs happens from place to place, country to country. If the conversion is only religious, it is a different issue. Unfortunately, it is political also. Religious conversions are happening not just for the cause of religion, or saving somebody, but there is a sinister design behind it of wanting some sort political dominance or power. This is not good at all for survival of different civilizations or cultures on the planet. All the wars are fought today in the name of religion or religious sects, resulting in extremism. The extremists say – ‘Everyone should be like me! Everyone should follow the same religion as I’. Their whole idea is to see that nothing else exists other than their school of thought. This is dangerous for the world. For the world is diverse. And it is our responsibility to protect the diversity.
It is like what the multinational companies do nowadays. Sometimes they come and they burn all other seeds (meaning the existing local or indigenous craft and trade unique to a country and culture). They only want their own seeds (referring to products or traditions) to flourish and go on. For example the Monsanto type of companies. So if this happens, then only one seed will exist. They cannot tolerate the diversity. And this is because of their own ulterior motives.
This beautiful earth has so many diverse schools of thought, so many beautiful philosophies, ways of life, various ways of worship and wonderful cultures. These need to be protected. Whenever a person converts, he disregards one religion and goes to another. He cannot convert to another religion without denigrating or degrading his own religion. And this is what is not good. We should not denigrate. If you are denigrating your own religion, then you have not learnt about it in deep, it shows you have not known about it. That is why we say we must resist this sort of proselytization (conversion). Such people or parties convert people by giving them different sorts of allurement, such as offering them seats in the good schools, or giving them food, money, job, or motorbikes etc. and then trying to convert them. Do you know how much suffering and problems it creates within a family? We really have no idea. So, suddenly the children of the family don’t want to participate in the traditional festivals the parents have been following and doing for a long time. They don’t mix with their own relatives. They want everything to be different. These issues come up and they create such disharmony within a family as well in the societies and communities.
That’s why I say that we should honour and respect all religions. But we must also become more spiritual rather than fanatically religious.
Gurudev, can you please talk about Sanyasa (referring to the act or intention of renouncing everything)? What does it mean to be a Sanyasi (a renunciate)?
Sri Sri: Sanyasa means being totally centered. It means to feel that ‘Everyone belongs to me, and I belong to everybody. I want nothing for myself and I’m ready to give everything’.
Gurudev, I read somewhere that if a person commits the biggest of the biggest crimes, but does not feel guilty about it or regret it, his karma is not marked (meaning that the negative karma does not bind him). But if someone makes a small mistake, and instantly regrets it, his karma gets marked. Is that true?
Sri Sri: It is not just about regretting. There is something more to this. It is being aware of the non-doer spirit within you. There are 2 things within everyone. One is the doer, one is the non-doer. When your identity is completely with the non-doing aspect within you, then it doesn’t stick. For that you need to be hollow and empty.
Does the Guru choose the devotee or does the devotee choose the Guru?
Sri Sri: It doesn’t matter! As long as they choose each other! (Laughter)
In Sanskrit, it is said that there are 2 ways for this: Whether the Divine chooses you or you choose the Divine. They say it is like the monkey and the kittens. The mother monkey just roams around and it is the young ones who are watchful and follow the mother. But on the other hand the kittens don’t worry about the mother, and they don’t even look at the mother. They simply play around and it is the mother cat that takes care of the kitten, and holds the kitten by its own jaw and takes them around.
Here the cat is concerned about its kittens. There, it is the baby monkey which is concerned about the mother. The mother monkey does not watch, the baby monkey goes and clings on to the mother. So there are 2 things: One is the way of the devotee. The devotee is like the kitten, allowing God to guide. And a philosopher or a yogi is like the baby monkey which holds on to the mother, which just latches on to the Divine. So one is a Karma Yogi (here meaning to know that every action is anyway being guided by the Divine), the other is a Bhakt-yogi (here meaning to be totally immersed in the devotion to the Divine for everything). You can choose to be either one or both also at times.
Gurudev, it is said that the one who knows (the Truth) never says it and the one who speaks about it does not really know. Now that I know this, if somebody asks me whether I’m enlightened or not, what should I say? Or not say?
Sri Sri: It is easy to say ‘No’ rather than say ‘Yes’. So choose according to your time availability. Because, if a person cannot feel it without your saying yes or no, they are not going to feel it even after you say yes or no. If someone says, ‘Are the lights switched on here?’ that means they have not opened their eyes. So whether you say yes or no, it doesn’t make any difference to them. Right? If they are blind then even if you say, ‘Yes, the lights are on’, how does it matter to them? How does it make any impact on them? And if you say ‘No’ even then it doesn’t make any sense. So, in all these circumstances the golden principle is - Smile with Silence. Got it? If they can feel it, then even if you say no, they are going to feel it.
Once I was in Sweden and there was a meeting. There was a journalist in the audience who asked me ‘Are you enlightened? Don’t beat around the bush. Tell me. I want to ask you, are you enlightened?’ I just looked and smiled. I said to him, ‘I know you are very clever’. Then he said, ‘But, are you enlightened?’ It is better to say ‘No’. Then the whole conversation finishes. Why take the trouble to prove anything by saying ‘yes’? It is even more headache. And everyone who tried to prove this was in even more trouble. What is the point in saying ‘Yes’? So I said ‘No’. But then to this, the journalist said – ‘No, you are not telling me the truth. I don’t believe you’. Then you believe in yourself and believe what your heart is saying.
Gurudev, today, while changing the sacred threads (during the Upanayanam ceremony) the pundits chanted the Rishi Vandana. Could you please explain the significance of this mantra?
Sri Sri: Today we remember the Rishis - the ancient sages and seers who have kept this knowledge alive and have brought this knowledge to you. They have given the great mantras of the Vedas. So, today when people change sacred thread they recite this Mantra. What does the sacred thread represent? It means to take responsibility by thought, word and deed. To remind you that you are shouldering the responsibility, they put a thread on. It is like saying, ‘I am shouldering this responsibility’. And feeling grateful is a part of the process.
If ever a devotee has to ask something from the Divine or from the Master, what is the best thing he can ask for?
Sri Sri: Come on! Now do I also need to tell you also what you should ask? I don’t think there is any need of that. Your need is spontaneous. It just comes from within. You can’t but ask. You cannot force yourself to ask for something. Then, it will not be genuine.