Q: Dear Gurudev, you have spoken about letting go. But if a person goes on making the same mistake day after day, what to do? I can let go the first time, the second time, but not the third time. So should I tell them, or teach them, or do something about it? Please help.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, you should tell them, teach them, but keep them out of your mind. Letting go does not mean keeping quiet.
You know, if someone is committing a mistake and you tell them, ‘Do not do this, because it hurts me’, then they are never going to stop. But instead if you tell them this, ‘Your making this mistake is going to hurt you’, then they will not do it.
This is the difference between a teacher and a victim.
A victim says, ‘I am a victim. You are a culprit so you better not do this wrong-doing’. A victim can never correct a culprit. But if you are a teacher, then you can.
What does a teacher do? He tells the other person, ‘Look my dear, what you are doing will hurt you. So don’t do it. I am telling you this out of love and compassion for you, so please do not make this mistake because it is going to hurt you even more’.
Then something stirs within the other person and they listen to you. They change their ways.
So just remember this, a victim can never correct a culprit. And if you wish to correct somebody or teach them a lesson, you need to have that magnanimity of a teacher. You have to have compassion, a broad vision and equanimity within you.
Three things are essential, magnanimity, equanimity, and skill. Then you can digest their mistakes with ease.
See, mistakes keep happening on this planet. You cannot stop mistakes from happening. It will continue to happen, and has been happening through the ages. When you do not want a particular person to commit a mistake because you see them as a part of you, when you see them suffering and you feel that they should come out of it because it is not good for them, then you guide them out of it. Got it?
You cannot say that there should not be any drainage, or that there should not be any dirty swamps in the world. Swamps do exist on the planet, but you do not want your friend or dear one to fall into it. So you should simply guide them away or out of it. That needs compassion.
See, how do you help someone when they have fallen in a ditch?
Just by your standing there and telling them, ‘Hey! Come out of that ditch’, is not going to help at all. You have to give them your hand, and they should trust you that you are surely going to help them out of it before they give their hand in yours.
You can pull them out of that situation only when you can catch hold of their hand. Only then can you transform people. Just by pointing someone’s mistakes to them is not going to work. You need to have that magnanimity, equanimity and that skill.
You may have the skill and magnanimity, but you also need to have equanimity.
You may have the equanimity and be able to keep your calm when someone makes a mistake, and you may also have the skill to correct them, but if you do not have the magnanimity of accepting them and uplifting them, then also it will not work. This is what has been my observation.
So you can change a culprit with the help of three things together: magnanimity, equanimity and skill.
This point may actually be good for all of you, because some of you are Art of Living teachers, and some of you are organizers in different places.
I want to share an incident with you all.
Once, there was a program conducted in Mumbai. We have a few senior teachers in Mumbai, and we have an Apex body also which was organizing the event and taking care of all the arrangements.
Now the senior teachers had been organizing such events there for many years, and the new members there did not like the way they were going about organizing things.
The senior teachers had always been in charge of such events, and these new members wanted a chance to contribute and take responsibility of the work. So the new members started to empower the others but found that the senior members were not giving them a chance to do their job properly. So they all had a meeting, and the senior teachers came together and in one voice scolded the new junior members.
Following this, all the organizers resigned. This happened just two weeks prior to the event. So I called up the senior teachers on the phone and said, ‘Look, did they take your advice by your scolding them?’
They said ‘No’.
So I said, ‘You know that they will not take your advice. So why do you give them advice? And they will never take your advice by scolding them. No doubt you poured out your heart to them. But what was the impact of doing so? Did things become more constructive or did they get worse?’
They said, ‘Yes it became worse’.
So this is what I want you to see.
For example, let us say, you are working in a company, and you get a brilliant idea. If you go to your boss and tell him that what he is doing is wrong and scold him, do you think he will listen to your idea? No, he will not listen. Then why do you do something which is not going to be productive? It consumes so much of your energy and time.
True that by pouring out your emotions you became empty. But that is not going to help in any way.
So I told the new members that the senior members were not going to listen to them since they were all accomplished people in the society. They are all big business people and they know what they are doing. Or they think they know what they are doing. And they are not going to listen to someone else even if they are wrong. They will not take it from some other person, or from the youngsters.
You know, there are different levels and barriers in the society. There is the age barrier, the status barrier, etc. If nothing else, there is the ego barrier.
So the next day, they got together and again had a meeting. Since everyone wanted me to visit Mumbai and I was going there after a gap of two years, there was such a strong yearning for this among the people, and so in the end, everything worked out well.
What I am trying to say is that, all the three, magnanimity, equanimity and skill, need to be there. This incident suddenly opened up the minds of all our senior teachers. They also agreed that it was the correct way, and that there is no point in pointing out a mistake which has already happened. People will not listen to you and they will only justify their mistakes.
So when the situation is such, what is the point in behaving this way? You should put your point forward as a positive suggestion instead of telling the other person that what he or she did was wrong. Tell them like this instead, ‘May be this way would be a better idea’.
Let me tell you another story about an astrologer.
Once an astrologer went to a king. The king showed great reverence to the astrologer, made him sit and honoured him with gifts. The king then showed his palm and the charts to astrologer. The astrologer examined everything and then said to the king, ‘O King! You will lose your entire family. Everybody is going to die before you. You will be the last to die’.
The king got very upset upon hearing this and put the astrologer in the jail.
This news shook the entire astrologers’ community. They thought, ‘We cannot tell the truth to the king. If we do so, he will simply put us in jail. What do we do?’
When someone hears some negative prediction, they don’t like it. They obviously want to hear something nice and positive instead. And so it was for the king as well.
The king then called for another astrologer to appear before him. Many tried to escape this request but one senior astrologer agreed to meet the king. So, he went before the king, and the king welcomed him in the same way with gestures and gifts. The king then showed his palm to the astrologer. The astrologer said, ‘Oh King! What a great fortune you are blessed with! You have a very good horoscope. Nobody in history has had such longevity of age as you are going to have. In fact, nobody in your dynasty has had such great longevity’.
The astrologer never said to the king that he was going to outlive everybody else in the royal family. Instead, he told the king that he was blessed with great longevity and that he had a great horoscope.
The king was so flattered upon hearing the news of his long life and good health. He told the astrologer, ‘Ask whatever gift you want from me and I shall give’.
The astrologer said, ‘Please release my poor colleague who is in the jail’.
So that skill in communication makes a huge difference.
There is a couplet in Kannada which means ‘Through words, fun and laughter happen, and it is through words that enmity can also happen’. So it is speech that creates conflict.
What is the conflict between North Korea and South Korea, and between them and America today? It is all because of the words that have been used; all because of the speech. There is no trade issue or anything else.
There is a song in Kannada which says, ‘Your speech should be so wonderful and sweet, that even Lord Shiva should simply listen and nod happily in agreement, saying ‘Oh yes, Oh yes’. So that is how lovely your speech should be.’