Preguntas & Respuestas con Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: How to keep on loving without expecting. How is it possible? In love expectations arise and if not fulfilled, it hurts.
Sri Sri: Yes, you will have to go through these gymnastics. If you have wisdom, you don’t have to go through the pain to learn. When there is lack of wisdom, you go through pain, but you will come out of it in sometime, don’t worry. This is why it is important for one to have a larger context to life. When you have a larger context, all these trivial things don’t really bother you. They are all like waves on the surface of the ocean, they rise and fall; like ripples in the lake, they rise when the wind blows, and when there is no wind, there are no ripples.
So, have a bigger context. That is atma gyaan (knowledge of the self); nothing can shake me, I am much bigger than the emotions, I am much bigger than the world around me, people around me. Their praise and their blame doesn’t matter. I am much bigger than all this!
This awareness uplifts us, then one does not drown in the ocean of emotions, and hurt.
There are four ways to look at hurt.
1. Someone who has hurt you is pained. They have scars, they are unhappy and miserable. They can only share what they have. They are hurt and they are sharing the hurt with you.
So with those people who are inflicting pain on you or hurting you, which you think they are doing purposefully, in fact it is because they do not have happiness inside them. They don’t have joy, they don’t have peace. They have pain and they are wounded so they are causing you hurt.
So, for a wounded person what is required? Compassion. So you have to be compassionate on those who hurt you, because they are hurt and wounded themselves. This is number one.
2. Those who are causing hurt to you are ignorant. They don’t have a broad vision of life. They don’t know themselves and they don’t know what they are doing. They are ignorant and arrogant. You can only feel sorry for them and hope that someday they will become intelligent. They don’t know that their actions are hurting others, and you wish for them to be more sensitive.
3. It is just karma. You had to get this hurt and if not this person then someone else would have given it to you. We must have caused some hurt to someone in the past so nature is bringing it back to us now. When you know that it's just the karma being repaid, you feel very settled. Isn’t it?
4. It is being done to make you strong. Nature is bringing this to you so that you become strong; so that you discover the strength and power within you.
Usually in the pandals (temporary shelters/structures made of fabric and bamboo poles). After putting a pole in its place they shake the pole to see whether it is strong enough or not. Hurt is just that, to see whether you are well established in yourself, whether you are in wisdom or not.
Every hurt is trying to shake you, to see whether you are strong or not. It tests your strength. It is to make you stronger.
If you think a wise person or someone intelligent is hurting you, then you should be thankful because there is some purpose in that. They want you to be strong.
If your mother is scolding you, she is not doing it with a bad intention. If your father is scolding you, you can’t say, ‘Oh my father hurt me! My mother hurt me!’
Your parents are not hurting you; they are coming from a space of care and concern for you. We must recognize that they are doing things out of their limited understanding and love for you.
There are two major things that you feel when you are hurt - lack of communication and lack of understanding. Another reason for hurt, if you want to count is being over sensitive to irrelevant or ephemeral things. Events are all ephemeral, they are all moving. Everything is changing. You don’t need to become over sensitive, ‘Oh he said this thing to me, she said this thing to me!’
In Kannada, there is a proverb that says, ‘God has not put a bone in the tongue; the tongue rolls, moves in all directions.’ Never mind what words come out of people’s mouths.
This is a big issue in the world today. The root cause of so many diseases and conflicts is that we don’t know what we should put in the mouth, and we don’t know what should come out of the mouth!
People keep stuffing all sorts of things in their mouths. In this little hole, tons and tons of food goes in, and volumes and volumes of garbage come out; this is the misery of the world.
Again, a poet in Kannada said, ‘All the fun people have in the world, is only by words!’
Jokes and comedy happens because of words, all the conflicts and hatred is also through speech. It is speech that entertains, makes you laugh, and again, it is speech that creates divisions in the society, and hatred amongst people.
All different types of wealth come to you by your speech. Speech is a real gem in the world. So all hurt is only speech. Some words come out and someone says, ‘Oh, I am hurt!’
Now, if someone is trying to physically hurt you, you just be careful, equip yourself. I am not saying if someone comes to hurt you, you fall at their feet. No, you be intelligent, and protect yourself; especially ladies and girls, they should not go alone here and there.
The problem is that the consumption of alcohol has gone up three times more, and proportionately violence has also increased in the world. Men are not bad, but what makes them bad is alcohol. Don’t think that India has all bad men, and so many bad things are happening to women; it is the influence of alcohol.
The only bad act a person does is he gets drunk. When he is drunk, he is not himself, and women are not safe around drunken people. Women should take up this cause of shutting down all this alcohol business; instead women are joining hands and drinking with them!
This big thing happened for women’s protection; hardly anyone spoke about prohibiting alcohol consumption or production. In states of India where alcohol prohibition has been introduced, crime rates have come down as compared to states where there is no prohibition.
Even all the god and goddesses have weapons to protect people. Sri Ram has a dhanush (bow and arrow), Sri Krishna has a sudarshan chakra (a weapon in the form of a disc). So, don’t be too naive and move around anywhere. Especially when there are elections and holidays around, alcohol consumption goes up, people drink more, you have to be watchful in those days.
Q: Why do we have to love a form to reach the formless? Hasn’t this whole idea distorted the truth and created more misconceptions rather than helping people find their path?
Sri Sri: Emotions can only flow towards the form. You cannot have emotions towards the formless.
See, you can only communicate with me, you can’t communicate with the empty space next to me. If you say you are communicating with an empty space, then something is wrong. You can only see, touch, smell, taste, communicate and express your emotions to a form. The completion of any emotion leads you to a space that is totally formless, which is the source of all forms.
There are two beautiful words in Sanskrit, virupaksha and vishwaroopa. Virupaksha means eyes without the form; many people use this word as a name. Virupa means no form, and aksha means eyes, it means eyes without the form.
When you go a little deeper, then you see that the consciousness can see without the eyes, feel without the skin, taste without the tongue, and hear without the ears; this is Yoga Samadhi. Such things start happening in deep samadhi, just like in dreams? You dream without any of the five senses; you smell, taste, you do everything, right? So virupaksha is the consciousness that has eyes but no form.
Vishwaroopa means it is in every form. The universe itself is the form of the Divine; the Divine is in the form of trees, mountains, rivers. The whole universe is nothing but the manifestation of God; body of God. God is not sitting somewhere in heaven, away from the creation, He is the creation.
God and the creation are not different. It is just like how there is oil inside a sesame seed, similarly, in every atom of this creation, there is consciousness. It is like how the dance and the dancer cannot be separated. If you are watching a dance, it means you are watching the dancer. Can you watch a dance without the dancer? So this universe is the dance, and who is making it dance? The dancer!
What is the life in every tree, in every animal, in every human being? That is God! God is pancha bhootatmika, in the five elements. He is the Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether; He is the soul of the five elements. The Divine is present as five elements, and as consciousness. It is a wrong concept to say that God is sitting somewhere else in heaven.
Another very simple example, there is air everywhere. Even now, there is air. Without air you cannot exist. However, sometimes when you feel hot, you don’t feel the air; then when you sit near a fan that is blowing air, you can feel it. Other times, when you are feeling hot and humid, you are not feeling the air, but it is there. You can’t say that there is no air. Yet, when you sit near an air conditioner or a fan, you can feel it. That is what happens with meditation, samadhi, enlightenment.
Q: Gurudev, I am confused as to what is it that I really want. I come to the Ashram to ask for material things that I desire, but I end up asking for bliss and take it home. Bliss is good, but does that mean I won’t get material things in life?
Sri Sri: Many times you say that you want something, and then you cut your own wants, by saying, ‘No, I don’t want it!’ Your own sankalpa (an earnest wish or firm resolve) gets cut by your own vikalpas (doubts). When you really want something to happen, it will definitely happen. When you ask for blessing, it happens.
In the Mahabharata war, Lord Krishna went three times to Duryodhana to tell him, ‘Don’t fight, let us not have this war. Come for peace negotiations. Let us sit, let us agree.’
Lord Krishna knew that the war was going to happen, and the Gita is going to come out of it, still he went three times to make peace. Why? Because you need to keep doing what should be done at one level.
Suppose, in the Mahabharata, Duryodhana had agreed to Lord Krishna to give five villages to the Pandavas and no war was to happen, just imagine such a situation. There would have been no Gita! Even the Mahabharata script would never have come!
When someone asks, ‘Why are you doing this when you know very well that this action is not going to bring results?’ The answer is, ‘There is a bigger purpose for every action, and it is not related to the fruit of the action. What do I get from this is not the question; did I act in the situation or not is the question.’
In the hospital, doctors put all their effort to cure a patient knowing very well many times that the patient will not survive. The moment the doctor knows that the patient will not survive, will they stop caring for him? No! As long as the heart is beating, the breath is moving, the doctor takes care of the patient, even though he knows there is no use in it.
So there could a small example of the cosmic phenomenon, when things are supposed to happen the way it should happen, but we cannot say, ‘Let it happen; anyway everybody is born, everyone will die. Sick or healthy people will die anyway, so why should anybody take care of anyone? Let us keep quiet!’ This is not the right thing to do; we have to attend to it.
When the Tsunami occurred, Swami Sadyojatah and I went to Sri Lanka. Our Gulf centers had sent several shipments of clothes, and medicines, and our volunteers were also there.
There was this one Sinhalese pilot, from the army who was helping us in the South Eastern region of Sri Lanka. He made a very sad confession to me. He said that he was asked to bomb a hospital and a school, on the Tamil side where 600 children were studying. He said, ‘My heart broke when I had to do this job, and I resigned from my job.’
Then, of course, he did the Sudarshan Kriya. After he resigned from his job, he dedicated his whole life to do seva (service), to make life better for children; he helped in orphanages. That one incident, where he had no option but to follow the orders of his superiors, changed his whole life. He is a Buddhist, and he knew violence is such a sin. It was so hard on him for so many years.
When the Tsunami occurred, this man did so much seva with The Art of Living. It takes so long for someone to get out of such trauma, but with the help of knowledge, Ashtavakra Gita, Kriya and meditation, this man said, ‘For the first time I am able to smile; joy has returned in my life.’
This knowledge, this wisdom, is immensely valuable. It is immensely beautiful, and immensely powerful. It can take people out of such deep scars, guilt, hurt and misery; it can give a new light and uplift one’s spirit. It is so touching.
Earlier, the Ashtavakra Gita was not given to public. Even in India, we had only two to three sets of tapes in each center, and we used to conduct these courses only for people who were a little advanced. Then I decided that we cannot wait for people to get to that level. Whatever level they are in, wherever they are, even a few sentences can make a difference in people’s lives. It is after this that everyone was permitted to listen to The Ashtavakra Gita; we opened it up.
Ashtavakra Gita is high knowledge, it is like learning higher mathematics. You cannot do it without basic knowledge of mathematics. This was the argument that ancient people had. Quantum Physics cannot be taught in Primary School. However, lifting one from doership and seeing facts as they are, is very valuable knowledge from the Ashtavakra Gita.
Q: Gurudev, these days a lot of people are suffering from cancer. How can one curb this disease? What should the patient and his family members do to reduce the suffering?
Sri Sri: A change of life style will be helpful. When you go to bed, make sure you put off all your electronic devices, your iPhone, iPads, WiFi, put everything off when you go to sleep. It is not good to have so much of electronic vibrations all around.
Often, you eat things which are not correct. If you don’t meditate enough, then the body takes its toll. Eat proper food, at the proper time. Take TriphalaChyawanprash. Use turmeric; all these are antioxidants that should go into the body.
Q: Gurudev, can you please explain ‘Yogah Karamsu Kaushalam’ (excellence in action)? How can I apply it to my life?
Sri Sri: This very question indicates that you want to be skillful; that is it, you are already skillful. If you are wanting to be skillful, you are already skillful; just move on. If you want to learn, you are already learning. When you go to vote, you have already voted, got it? So I want to learn, means it is already half done, learning has begun.
Q: Gurudev, is there something that God cannot do? What is it?
Sri Sri: He cannot be surprised! God cannot take revenge on you; it is impossible!
Q: Gurudev, I don’t get the things I want the most. Is my want an impediment?
Sri Sri: Have patience. Three things are needed to achieve what you want.
1.Real intention - There should be a real need to have whatever it is you want. Our wants keep changing, but if it is our need, we will get it. The want has to become our need.
2.Self effort - One has to put effort for whatever you want. You can’t simply sit, and keep wishing, ‘I want this, I want that!’ Have you put your effort? Has the want become your need? Have you worked towards it? Have you put your 100%? This is necessary.
3.Time or karma - If karma is there, the time is right, you will get it! Suppose, I wish to see the moon now, on a dark night. No matter what intention I put, how can I see the moon now? I have to wait for another 15 days to see the full moon. On the new moon day, if you are wishing for the full moon, then you have to wait.
If you plant a pomegranate tree today and say, ‘No, I want the fruit now!’ Come on, you have to wait for another three years! The pomegranate tree will give you fruit only in two to three years. So, time or karma is a factor.
Q: Gurudev, how do you accept a person who is addicted to drugs, continues to hurt himself and others? How do you draw a line between his passion, valor and surrender?
Sri Sri: You have to do all that you can to get him out of it. Yukti (skill), Shakti (strength), priti (love); with love, skill and through some force, somehow, you must help him to get out of it.
The best thing is to put them in a rehabilitation home. We have one in Kolkata, and there are many other rehabilitation centers all over. Take him to such a center, make him do the Sudarshan Kriya. If he learns the kriya and pranayama, it makes a big difference. Many people have left drugs and alcohol when practicing the Sudarshan Kriya.
Q: Gurudev, my in-laws force me to wash my hands after I touch cooked rice. During my menses cycle, they don’t allow me to enter the prayer room, kitchen or touch clothes. Why do they follow these customs? Is there any scientific reason behind it?
Sri Sri: You need scientific experiments to be conducted to prove or disprove any custom. Unless an experiment is done, you can’t say whether a custom is wrong or right! For example, in traditional homes, before going to the toilet, people would tie the sacred thread around their ear; many times this looked absurd. The explanation given was that maybe the sacred thread is long, hanging down too much, tie it on the ear, so it does not get caught anywhere. However, a scientist in New York published a study which stated that the back of the ears and the ear lobes are connected to the bowels. So when the ears are squeezed, the blood pressure comes down and the bowel movement is better.
So the custom does have an impact on the system. This is why you cannot say that it is superstition; although at one level it was a superstition, on another level, there was a scientific validation to the practice.
Similarly, people thought the use of turmeric in food, and washing vessels was also a superstition. In a lot of the food preparations, they would put a Tulsi (basil) leaf on top of the food after it was cooked. Scientists in the eighties targeted turmeric for a long time, saying, ‘Oh this is just color, pigmentation; it has no big value, there is nothing sacred about turmeric, it does not add any value to the food.’
By the nineties, scientists discovered that turmeric is the best antioxidant.
The Ayurvedic Vaidyas (physicians) said that turmeric acts as a vayasthapan, i.e., a process that stops aging; but nobody believed them. MBBS doctors would say all this is nonsense. Later, scientists proved that turmeric is very good for health; it even stops cancer. So, you cannot discard any practice unless it is proven wrong.
Again, I am saying that we have to keep an open mind; maybe it is proven right at one time and disproved later on.
There was a big wave in this country that peanut oil is very bad. In South Indian homes, they would use only peanut oil and gingelly oil (sesame oil). A company that wanted to promote palm oil said coconut oil is bad; these other oils are bad; palm oil is the best oil. Suddenly everyone started using palm oil.
Now research has disproved that, and found that groundnut oil, i.e., peanut oil is very good, it is the best; they sing the glory of peanut oil. In fact, people used groundnut oil here for centuries, millennium! In Tamil Nadu, gingelly oil is called Nalla ennai, i.e., very good oil. It is supposed to do so much good to our system.
Since the oil market had to import all that Malaysian palm oil to India, some researchers made these sorts of stories. The research was funded by the company, and it created a wrong impression. So, the research conducted should be authentic, and we should keep our mind open for further research.
In the future, if another research comes up and says this is wrong, we should not hold on to it, we should be ready to embrace it.
The beauty with the ancient Ayurvedic System is that it is time tested for 5,000 years! That is why tradition cannot be overlooked. Having said that, many times tradition has been interpolated; a lot of things have been kept in the name of tradition.
For example, people say you should apply hot kheer (rice pudding) on the body of a small baby, then the child will grow well; or dangle the child upside down for a few minutes, maybe some God will be pleased or something; these are all stupid things. These practices are very remote; maybe some people follow these practices in the name of religion in some villages; it is ridiculous.
I am not saying that we should follow all that tradition is saying; simultaneously, you cannot totally discard tradition; the middle path has to be chosen.
If someone has passed away or a child is born in the house, they have sutak, i.e., they are untouchable for ten days. This would be practiced by very close relatives. They won’t celebrate anything or go to anyone’s house; no one will take or eat food from their house. What is the reason behind this?
Whenever someone dies, people are overcome with such grief that the vibration of their grief is in their homes, in their atmosphere, so they are free from all obligations, that is all. It is not that if you touch somebody, something will happen to you. It is just the vibration for ten days is like that, filled with grief.
Suppose someone has no grief! If someone was sick in the family for a long time, when they die, the family is happy. They say, ‘Okay, well he got liberated, I am happy for him and I am happy for myself.’ Then there are no negative, depressive, sad vibrations, because they are happy for them! Everybody has to go some day!
Similarly, when a child is born people are very excited, too happy; even then the vibrations are not calming. So people say at such times also one is free from all obligations. But, people stretch it to such an extent that it does not appeal to your intellect.
When the menstrual cycle happens a woman is supposed to take good rest. So, it is just to keep that barrier, to tell women not to get involved in any work, that this tradition is maintained. It is to let women just rest, sleep, relax, read, do some knitting or whatever. Otherwise, when women start working, they do too much work.
About the rice and cooked food; in the ancient days, cooked starchy food was sticky. It would usually overflow from the pot. You touched the pot and then touched anything else, everything would become sticky. If you touched the food, it would stick to your hands, so it would be better to wash your hands; this is the reason. Today you don’t touch it by hand, you use spoons.
In those days, the hygiene consciousness was so good; so when you touched starchy foods, you have to wash your hands. They would even keep fruits separately. However, someone should do research on these customs.
Even the Jews have a similar tradition; if you touch milk, then you don’t touch meat; they have certain rules.
The Japanese also have such customs; orthodox Japanese people keep separate set of cups and vessels for guests; they have a separate cupboard in which the guests’ washed vessels are kept. They don’t use the guests’ vessels and they don’t let anybody else use their vessels either. I was very surprised to see this in Japan. Even in India, some people used to follow this tradition of keeping their cups and plates separate. In Japan, this is very prevalent in the traditional family homes and in monasteries.
Many of these habits do not have a scientific background, or reason for it, then we should stop practicing them. If some practices are there, we should see if it is good, or at least do some experiment in that direction.
Q: Dear Gurudev, whenever I want to do some important work, or study, my mood comes in my way. I’m completely dependent on my mood for most of my actions. How to get rid of moods?
Sri Sri: First, the realization itself makes it half done. Now you have realized it’s the mood which sways you, that means the intellect is waking up. It says, ‘Come on, I’m not going to be so moody.’ You take that determination.
There are many situations in life where you cannot act on your mood. For example, if you’re in a plane and suddenly you feel you don’t want to continue the journey, though your mood has changed halfway you cannot get out of the plane! You got to be there. It’s not a car that you’re driving where you can turn back. Even for the car you have to find the exit where you can turn back. You can’t turn anywhere.
So, life teaches you hard lessons if you don’t respect wisdom. Know that life goes with commitment, not moods. Mood is very unstable, they come, they change. But commitment and wisdom always brings the best results.