12 February 2014 - QA 3

Gurudev, in The Bhagavad Gita, Arjun asks Krishna to describe a person established in the Self. How does such a person walk, behave, etc. Does external behavior determine if a person is enlightened or not?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

Not really. This question can only be answered in affirmation or negation. If you ask me, does the love in someone’s heart reflect in their appearance and their behavior, the answer is yes. At the same time, appearances can be deceptive; sometimes it may not be reflected (in their appearance or behavior). So, expression is varied, and you cannot depend on it.

Expression varies in different parts of the world. For example, the way one greets and expresses love. In France, when you greet, you give kisses in the air, two on the sides of each cheek. In New Zealand, the traditional Maori greeting is to rub the nose. (If the other person has a cold, and you greet them, then you have to share it with them.) The ancient cultures have very different ways of greeting; the way the natives greet and welcome you.
In Punjab, a state in North India, the way to greet is by giving a jhappi (a tight hug); you take a cupped palm and thump it (quite hard) on the others back. Now, this kind of greeting is not acceptable in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. In Tamil Nadu, you hold your hands together, and greet, saying Vanakkam (hello, welcome). So, cultures are very different, even in one country.

The expression of love is very different from place to place, and that should be respected.

In Japan, you bend half the body to show your respect.
In India, you bend all the way down, and touch the feet of the people you respect. Sometimes, it is a big botheration; imagine you are walking, and ten people try to catch your legs; you can trip any time! However, that is the way they show their respect.

In India, on the day of the marriage, the newlywed couple gets a very good workout, as they have bow down and do pranam (salutations) to dozens of people. By the time the wedding is over, they have sore backs because they have been bending so much; that is the tradition.

This world has so many diverse customs and traditions, and that is the beauty of our planet. We must preserve all of them. If everyone starts greeting in the same way - shaking hands, and forgets the way the Japanese do, then we would have lost something. If people forget how to do pranam (salutations) to the elders; suppose this tradition stops, then it is a loss for the world’s culture, not just one country. The world’s diversity would be lost. We must preserve the diversity, it is important.