Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Why is there poverty and suffering in this world?
Sri Sri: It is there so that your hearts can become open and you can do some good service to uplift others. Then you realize how truly fortunate you are.
It is there so that you can do something to express your love and care for others. Suppose there is no poverty and misery anywhere, then how can you even express your compassion and magnanimity? This is what you should think about.
Q: How can we end crime against Women, particularly in metropolitan cities of India?
(Mary Kom: World Boxing Champion from India (Recipient of the Padmabhushan))
Sri Sri: How did you catch my thought? I was also thinking the same thing, how can we help women in the metropolitan cities of India.
As I said, first of all we need to create more support groups and women watch.
We have taken up one thing now, i.e., conducting happiness surveys. In this survey, volunteers go door to door and find out the main cause of problems in each home. Why people are not happy? If families are not happy, if communities are not happy, then violence increases in the society. That kind of social interaction, perhaps, will help.
Stringent laws and courts are needed to punish the guilty, but that happens only after a crime has happened. Before that we need to create a big wave of awareness campaigns to stop crime against women.
As I already mentioned, intoxicants are one of the main reasons. People who are addicts create problems in society. And addiction is because they are not happy. A happy person doesn’t go in for addiction. Addiction is because they are not happy inside.
We need to bring that sense of comfort and care in the hearts of people, for the people around them.
I think we can think about a million such plans of how we can change our society, and how we can bring more togetherness, because we had this in this country, not too long ago.
When we were kids, we grew up with ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. If someone gets aggressive in the classroom, everyone would look at him, 'Hey, you have lost it. You better get back to yourself'. This was the idea.
Today if you are aggressive, you are a hero. Those days, if you were compassionate, then you were a hero, then you would be appreciated.
So, the ego or pride getting attached to violence and aggression is one of the causes of violence in society. And I would say, these violent movies our kids see, in this country and elsewhere in the world, also desensitizes them against crime.
If you are shooting in your videogames every day, you are shooting the ships, you are shooting the planes and you are shooting people, then taking a real gun and shooting doesn’t hurt them; it doesn’t even register as a crime in the mind. They become so thick skinned.
That is why I would say, all these violent games should be done away with. How many of you agree with me on this? Violent games that the kids play should be done away with. They should be given more sensitivity towards life, towards animals, and towards people. Education and awareness can play a big role.
Stringent laws on the political level are required. But also communities working together, and not just putting all the load on the government, will make a big difference.
Q: Gurudev, why do we cry when we have to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness from someone?
Sri Sri: See, you become so peaceful when you forgive someone, or when you ask for forgiveness yourself. No matter which way you choose, just be at peace and be happy.
When we forgive someone, we feel happy, and when we ask forgiveness from someone, we instantly feel light from within, as if a heavy load is lifted off our heart. So why should you delay in doing such a good thing? Whether you have to forgive or ask for forgiveness, you should do it as soon as possible.
Q: Gurudev, there is so much inflation happening today. Many people do not have food to eat or run their own homes. How can one live in such difficult times? What can we do for the poor and downtrodden today?
Sri Sri: Yes, it is true that inflation is very high nowadays. India is on fire. It is getting torn because of the widespread corruption, injustice and bad governance. India is struggling in all spheres.
We all need to rise against this together, and do something for the country. It is not necessary that you do a lot, or too many things. Every one of you should do a little bit for the country, in whatever way possible. Do not sit idle and think, 'Oh, what can I do in such a poor situation?'
Every person can do something to overcome this situation. If vegetable prices are rising, then make a small vegetable garden in your own homes. Plant some herbs, plant tomatoes, coriander, etc. At least do something. You can do so much with just a little piece of land. Everyone’s house will have a little space for a garden like this, isn’t it? But just see! We are not doing anything at all to change the situation or overcome it. Then we end up saying, 'We can’t do anything to stop the prices from rising'.
Five to ten people can come together and start a small garden and grow vegetables.
When I was on a tour of Sri Lanka, I had gone to a camp of the Tamil refugees. You would be surprised to see the condition in which they were living. They were all living in tents. And they started growing fruits and vegetables around and nearby their tents.
Someone had planted banana trees, someone else had planted pumpkins, and someone else had planted tomatoes and potato plants. And all this was in a refugee camp. I was really surprised to see all this. I thought to myself, 'They are very strong people'.
They were living like this in the times of battle and strife. In fact, where there was stagnant water or mud, these people had started using it as natural fertilizer for growing plants. This was very surprising. It shows that we all can definitely do something good in every situation. We are not helpless – this is the kind of firm determination we all should have.
I tell you, when refugees of a battle can do such a thing, why can’t normal people do the same also? We all can do it, and we all should do whatever we can without thinking too much.
Q: Is there progress without prayers?
Sri Sri: See, a prayer happens on two occasions, when you are very grateful then you thank God, 'Oh, thank God I got this, thank you so much! That is one aspect of prayer.
The second aspect of prayer, I would say is when you are helpless. When you are utterly helpless, when you cannot manage something, when things are out of your hands, then either you get frustrated or you just pray to god, 'Please see that this thing happens'.
So prayer is a very good tool to save our minds and our hearts.
People who know how to pray will not have a nervous breakdown, perhaps. I would add perhaps there. So progress comes not just by prayer, but by your dynamic action.
Q: Gurudev, why are we unable to forget the bad experiences that we have had in life? If someone has insulted us, we keep remembering the same incident again and again in life. How can we get rid of this problem?
Sri Sri: Come now, forget about it! Everyone is going to die one day. What is the use of remembering it for so long? Just know that the one who insulted you will die one day, and so will you. Where is the place for the anger or the insult?
You have forgotten that you are going to die one day, which is why you are feeling worse about it. That’s it. You know, that is why during the chanting of the Rudrabhishekam, it is said, 'Mrityor-mrityor namaamyaham'. It means, 'I repeatedly bow in reverence to Death; for it frees one from all suffering and misery'.
Then it also says, 'Kalah namaskarah'. It means, 'I bow in reverence to Time, the universal element of transformation which makes all things pass'.
So what are you so bothered about?
Q: Gurudev, did you ever get a scolding from your Amma (mother)?
Sri Sri: See now, you need a stick only for a mischievous child! (Laughter) You do not need to scold or shout at an obedient child. My mother used to get angry at times, but I never gave her too many chances to get angry with me.
Q: Gurudev, if the heart wants something but my responsibilities prevent me from striving to get that, then what should I do?
Sri Sri: You should fulfil the responsibilities in life first. You can always listen to the heart a little later and act on it. If you only listen to what your heart says, and do just that, then you will get into trouble.
Q: I am from Bahrain and I have been in The Art of Living for 8 years. Usually when I talk about The Art of Living to non Art of living members, they tell me that this is against our religion. The minute they hear the word Yoga or Meditation, immediately they relate it to religion. How do you advise me to answer these people?
Sri Sri: Unfortunately, in the world, there is no distinction between religion and spirituality. I would say, spirituality is the value system which unites people of all religions. Only education will help.
Yoga is simple exercises, it doesn’t conflict anyone’s religious beliefs. But unfortunately, many parts of the world still don’t think so. They think Yoga means it may be related to Hinduism. No doubt it has come from a way of life, from Hinduism, but it has universal benefit. Like Ayurveda, the science of herbs, it is universal.
So universal values, wherever they come from, whichever tradition or religion it comes from, we need to accept it for human betterment. If it does some good, we must accept it.
I know there is lot of prejudice about this, but I see that it is fading away.
You know, in the beginning years, thirty years ago, when I started teaching breathing exercises, I had to face a lot of prejudice, but later on people started seeing the benefit of it.
Anyway someone will object for something, even if what you say is good.
Many people used to think that men and women should not even sit in the same room and talk. But now these are all obsolete ideas. So we need to be progressive and intelligent.
Q: The question that I would like to ask on behalf of the many women of the world is: People go to Church, they know that there is a God, they know that there is a higher calling, yet they are not able to access infinity and abundance.
I believe that we have enough for all of us in the world, yet there is poverty. Where are we going wrong in our day to day teachings?”
(Criselda Kananda: Radio Jockey from South Africa)
Sri Sri: I would like to bring your attention to one point: Greed is the result of insecurity. When you feel that there is not enough love, or not enough care on the planet, you become greedy, because the only security that you can think of is money.
If you don’t know that there are people to take care of you, you think by holding on to something, or possessing more things can help you.
I tell you, it is the greed of a few people that is responsible for the poverty of many in this world. I’m sure many of you would agree with me.
Just a few greedy people and corruption can destroy nations. And this has been happening, whether it is in the African continent, or in many Asian countries here. I don’t know about Europe. In Europe there is some corruption but not to this extent, perhaps. But this corruption is the greed of few people who do not care for the population, and that is one of the main reasons for poverty.
Second reason for poverty is, laziness; like what is happening with Ethiopia. For seven years Ethiopia was under famine and they got food from all over the world. In the seventh year, even though there was abundant rainfall, nobody wanted to work!
Freebies are not a solution for prosperity; you need to empower people. Empowering the poor, instilling self confidence in them would help them out of poverty. And at the same time, we need to bring magnanimity and compassion in all those who have, so that they can go out and serve. If that was happening, the government would not have to bring a law that every company should engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity. There is a lot to work to be done. Just see, there is so much work in so many fields. But here I must say, many religious and spiritual organizations, many churches and faith based organizations around the world are doing commendable work for the poor people of the world. They are doing good work, but I would say, not enough.