Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, in the world there are many paths to enlightenment. Please tell me the definitive way to be free.
Sri Sri: That's what I am doing, I think! I thought I am just telling you the definite way to be free! What is bothering you now?
Read this book 'An Intimate Note To A Sincere Seeker'. When you feel bothered, when the negative emotions take over, then you feel stifled and uncomfortable. How to handle the negative emotions? There are six of them, excessive lust, greed, jealousy, anger, arrogance and attachment or delusion. The mind is entangled, it is not giving you any joy but you cannot get away from it because getting away from it becomes even more painful, this is called delusion. We call it moha in sanskrit. It means an attachment, like something stuck in the throat. You can neither spit it nor swallow it. Such a situation is called moha.
There are a number of ways to handle these negative emotions. If you can handle these emotions, that's it. Then you are free! And pranayama, meditation is one of those ways.
Q: Gurudev, how to cultivate shraddha (faith)? The mind is fickle and wants proof before it believes.
Sri Sri: The moment you understand that your mind is fickle then you’re getting out of it. You can’t have a fickle mind for too long, some interval has to come. That brings wisdom.
‘I am being fickle minded’, with that very awareness you become more stable.
Q: Gurudev, what is stronger, mind, body or soul? How can I use these three in a good way?
Sri Sri: The soul has its own strength, the mind has its own strength and the body has its own position. Everything has its own strength. Keep the three balanced in their own respect.
Just today, there was a youth who hadn't eaten since morning and was sitting here, thinking that Gurudev is meeting so many people, he's so busy, I will not eat till I meet him. How will it work if you do this? You shouldn't do this.
You should take care of the body the way it has to be taken care of. Do exercise and eat on time.
We are busy with something or the other, I always say this – you should eat on time. Otherwise it is an extra burden for me, I will have to take care of this also – whether you have eaten on time or not. Don't do this, be self sufficient. Eat on time and then engage in your work. Eating on time, exercising on time, doing sadhana on time – keeping the body healthy – this is essential.
For the strengthening of the mind, there is knowledge. Listen to knowledge again and again.
Being engrossed in our day-to-day duties and work, meeting people, etc., gives rise to many thoughts in the mind. The mind is troubled. Cravings, aversions, envy, greed, temptations – many different things bog the mind down. So keeping the mind clear every single day is important – the way you brush your teeth once or twice every day, you take a bath every day, in the same way, every day we must read or listen to some knowledge. Then the mind and intellect stays pure.
You keep blaming the mind; why don't you remember of death? You are going to die one day! Just by the thought of death, the disorders of the mind go away. The minute you realize that life is momentary, the mind becomes happy. Life is fleeting, we will live for a few days and bear whatever difficulties there are. And whatever good work is there to be done, we will do that and go.
We have not come here to sit idle. We have come in this world to do something, and we will do it! This feeling should arise.
If we keep ourselves busy in doing something or the other, then also the worries of the mind reduce.
Okay, then how do we strengthen the soul? The soul is already strong! And with this confidence that God is mine, the strength of the soul increases. Whatever will happen will be good for me – this kind of strong determination is necessary.
Things will be good for me always. If something is not working today, then something better is in store; that is why it is not happening now – this surety should be in our mind.
And then this place (the ashram) is always there, you come whenever you feel like. Whenever you are sad come here and engage in service.
Daas kabhi udaas nahi hote (one who serves is never unhappy). When the strength increases within you, when the petrol is filled in your tank, then you can drive your car in the world! When it begins to empty then come back here!
The body is a vehicle after all, isn't it? The body has been called a ratha (chariot) in all the shastras (scriptures). The mind is the sarathi (charioteer), and the soul is the passenger.
Q: Gurudev, with so many negative influences from the world outside, how can I give the right values to my children and skillfully introduce them to spirituality?
Sri Sri: I think you should keep this question in your mind, and keep bringing it up again and again.
What I would say is, you should engage your children to do some service activity, so that they are not always thinking about themselves. Send them to camps where they do some service activity.
When children start sharing and caring for people from a very small age, they become very aware when they grow older. They don’t become so self centered and always think, ‘What about me!’ Instead they will think, ‘What can I do? How can I contribute, how can I make this world a better place?’
This sort of spirit in a child will always keep them in the right path. If you make them too selfish, all the time thinking only about themselves, they will not even care for their parents.
There is a story about a dacoit who turned into a saint.
Once a dacoit met a saint. The dacoit came and the saint looked at him and asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ The dacoit had killed many people.
The saint told the dacoit, 'Do you have any idea who much sin you have acquired?'
Then dacoit thought about it and said, ‘Yes, I have sinned a lot.’
The saint asked, ‘Why are you doing it?’
He said, 'For the sake of my family. I have to support my family and so I’m stealing and killing people'.
The saint said, ‘I have a question for you to go and ask your family, will you do it?’
He said, ‘Okay, I can consider that'.
The saint said, ‘Go and ask your family if they will share your sins? They are sharing your wealth, but will they share your sins?’
So the dacoit went and asked his father, ‘Father, I have committed so much sin to run this household, will you share my sins?’
The father looked down and said, ‘No’.
Then he went and asked his wife, ‘Will you share my sin?'
She said, ‘No. I will only share your wealth, I can’t share your sins. You have to bear your own cross’.
So it suddenly dawned on him, everyone wants comfort from me but nobody wants to take my burden. So he went back to the saint and the saint smiled at him and said, ‘The world is only concerned about what you can do for them, they don’t want to share your sins, or your problems’.
Then he realized, and at that moment he transformed to be a very good person, a good saint and a good poet. The whole transformation happened from that moment on.
He had loved his wife so much, and she said, 'No, I am only concerned about your position, your money and your growth. I don’t want to take your burden.’
Without much words she conveyed that she was not willing to share his sins. That struck him! Ah, all these years I was blind! I didn’t sit and think for myself. Now is the time I have to look within. What is the purpose of this life? Where am I going? What will happen?
It is said, when someone dies, some people mourn for a day. They say, ‘Oh, he was a nice guy’. Some others mourn for a few days. The wives and children will mourn for a week, ten days or a month, and then that is it! Everybody is back to doing their own work. They take care of their life, their things, and you are nowhere in their picture! Gone!
It applies to the women also. A woman spends her whole life for her family. Day and night she lives for the kids, for the elders, for the family, and then what? Nothing! You are left all alone. Under the ground, or on the pyre and everyone disappears.
So the hard truth of life is that all this is changing and our life will be finished in another 20 years. Nobody will be here. We’d all be gone!
What goes with us is the impressions that are in our mind. What goes with us is the anger, or the frustration, or the happiness, or the peace, or the love and care that we keep in our heart. Only that goes with you and that is what we come back with to life again.
So attend to yourself, attend to your mind. Save your mind from all these unwanted impressions and keep it fresh and alive.
Kabirdas (Indian poet) says, ‘I came to this world with a spotless cloth, and I’m going back with a spotless cloth. I lived here spotlessly.’
The purpose of all this singing and meditating is to fill the mind with positivity which stays with us forever. That is why the practices are called Sadhana. Dhana means wealth, sadhana means true wealth that goes with you wherever you go.
The positive vibrations are the real true wealth that you acquire in your life. Doing good service and meditation, all this is complementary.
Q: Dear Gurudev, If Shiva is not a person and only a tattva (principle), then how are there so many shakti peeths (seat of energy) which are formed from the parts of Sati’s body?
Sri Sri: Shakti peeth means a seat of energy.
How many of you felt that as soon as you came into the ashram, or even before coming to the ashram, the whole energy changed? (Many in the audience raise their hands)
Shakti peeth (seat of energy) is the place where people have meditated for a long time and found energy there. When you meditate and sing that energy gets stored in that place. When you’re in a positive state of mind, not only you, even the pillars, and the trees and stones absorb the positive vibrations. That is how these shakti peethsare formed. Shakti peeth is where there is energy.
Q: (A member of the audience asked a question which was inaudible)
Sri Sri: See, acceptance means what? What do you want to accept? Something that is beautiful, do you say, 'I accept, this is so beautiful?'
Acceptance has meaning when you cannot accept something. What is that you cannot accept? Imperfections. You find something is imperfect and you don't want to accept it.
Suppose someone sitting next to you is acting in a way which you cannot accept. They may be sneezing, or they may be doing some weird thing. Suppose someone sitting next to you is burping and you are meditating. You say, 'My god, I want to meditate. I have not come here to hear this guy's burping!'
Now you want perfection but the guy sitting next to you is producing noise from all over his body, and he is creating disturbance for you. At that time, when you create a space in your mind and say, 'Okay, that is what he is. Let's do something, after meditation let me ask him, maybe he wants some triphala churna, his stomach is not okay. Or something is wrong with his body, too much vaata. Or he is having too many potatoes'.
So, if you can help him to get over his unpleasant state or imperfection, you do it. Otherwise you create a space for imperfection. That brings you patience. That is what is acceptance.
Acceptance simply means creating a little space for imperfection.
Create a little space for imperfection in life, that gives you a lot of strength. That increases your patience. It helps you not to lose your temper for nothing.
Every time anyone gets angry, it is only because they don't accept something.
Now, I am not saying you should always accept everything.
When there is injustice done, I would say no, you should stand up for injustice. But after accepting, after recognizing there is injustice, then you fight for it.
Now, about ego. If you find there is ego, let it be. Don't try to smash your ego, or destroy your ego. Why do you want to do it? Let the ego be there. But keep it in its place. Don't show it off to everybody. Then you get beaten. Do you see what I'm saying?
Ego means creating a barrier between you and the other. The antidote to that is being natural and being friendly. Just being natural, that is the antidote.
If you think your ego is bothering you, it is easy to get over it, do you know how? Just act like a fool for one day, or as a crazy person for a day. One day you behave like a crazy man. And let everybody clap and laugh. When they laugh at you, and if you feel comfortable with that, next day you will feel at home. Feeling at home and feeling natural is the only antidote for something that bothers you about yourself.
Q: Gurudev, due to some hurt I’ve been abusing and cursing God. I’ve always been a Divine loving person and I am not liking this behavior of mine. How can I overcome this?
Sri Sri: Never mind. If you curse the Divine it is not going to react to you. Don’t worry, it’s the safest! Otherwise if you get angry with somebody, they will take revenge on you.
This is the beauty of astrology. Astrology tells you that you are suffering because this planet is in this position. How can you get angry with a planet? So your mind, your anger, your frustration, and the cause of you unhappiness is given a bigger cosmic dimension.
The cosmic dimension gives the much needed calmness and that strength which you need to face a tough situation. What you really need in a tough situation is inner strength and inner calmness. That inner strength comes to you with this understanding.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I got introduced to Nadi astrology. Is there any accuracy to this? If so, why couldn’t we predict the tsunami and other natural disasters. Is there any benefit of getting Nadi astrology done?
Sri Sri: People have predicted all that. I myself had predicted that there will be a big flood in the Ganges, and so this year don’t venture into any adventures! Many people didn’t go. This is there.
Clairvoyant visions are there, and nadi is one of them from the ancient times, written by the Rishis. 95% or so is correct, and there could be some possibility of change.
Human life is dynamic. If you have done good things and there is positive karma accumulated in your life, things can become better. The base line can be predicted.
You must take all predictions and astrology with a little margin. Why a margin? Because life is dynamic. The Divine can bestow you with some blessings and things may change. Your consciousness has the ability to change things.
Suppose your astrologer says that you might have an accident, you don’t need to have an accident. It’s a probability. You can overcome it. Don’t worry about bad predictions. You can overcome it. It’s just a caution.
Like when there’s a traffic jam, on the radio it says, don’t go on this highway there is a traffic jam. By the time you reach, it can clear also, isn't it? So you should see it that way.
Then there are weather predictions. Most of the time the weather predictions are not predicted right! (audience laughs) They say there will be a thunderstorm and you will have sunny weather at that time! Hasn’t this happened? But the meteorological departments doesn’t shut down even if they have not been accurate, they continue to predict! (audience laughs)
So many astrologers could be like that. But some are accurate. It is a science to see how the microcosm and the macrocosm are linked, and our life force is eternal. This is not the only life. You might have been born in Africa, or in Russia or China.
Life is a continuum. We keep coming back here with different languages, different appearances; but the spirit is same. The spirit is one. Jyothishi means recognizing the quality of light. Everyone is light. Knowing which type of light is each one is called jyotishi.
Q: Gurudev, Chanakya’s pain was that Hindu kings had no concept of a united nation. Their fighting allowed Alexander and the Mughals to rule India. Even today rulers are in the garb of secular politicians. How do we revive the pride of Hinduism?
Sri Sri: Actually Hinduism means universalism. It is not just any sect.
The president of India Dr. Radha Krishan was asked, 'Who is a Hindu?'
He said by negating all the religions, i.e., one who is not a Muslim, one who is not a Christian and so on, whoever is left is a Hindu.
So all those who accept everything, are Hindus. It is very difficult to define a way of life as a religion. A way of humanism is really what Hinduism is. It does not force you to follow just one scripture, one book, or one ritual per say. It simply says that the world is a family, accept knowledge from every side. Realize yourself and serve others. This is the principle.
When I was in America, I was talking to some people about, the constitution of America. It is exactly what Hinduism is, honoring diversity, freedom of worship, liberty, and justice to all; the whole philosophy is what Hinduism is.
This universe is versatile, there are so many dimensions and so many ways to go to the one truth. That is exactly what the essence of Hinduism is.
Unfortunately, in this country the self-esteem of Hinduism has gone down so much. In the colonial era, they suffered a lot. So the self-esteem and prestige went down. It is only during Mahatma Gandhi’s time, or little before, when Swami Vivekananda tried to tell people and reestablish their pride in their culture and religion.
Lord Macaulay, when he went to London, he wrote to Queen Elizabeth, saying, 'I have travelled the length and breadth of India, and I have not see one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage'.
He wrote this letter. It is a very famous talk that he gave in the British parliament. After that they systematically destroyed the Indian culture.
He said that people should think that they are no good, and that was successful. In the 40's and 50's people started thinking that way. That anything from India is not good.
But now times are changing, we simply have to tell people this country had some very good things and some bad things also, like everywhere, because our culture has been interpolated by things which are not good.
Originally, the caste system was for professional convenience. People of professions were grouped together. Later on it became hereditary, and then the rigidity increased.
Anyone who did not follow the rules of a particular community were kept out for a small period of time as untouchables, as a punishment. Like you are in chamber of commerce, and you did something bad and you were thrown out.
But untouchability was never bad so it became a big problem for the Hindu religion later on. Saints throughout the ages have worked to eradicate the untouchability, and they have been successful.
I have written a book, the heritage of Dalits. Many saints were from the untouchable community.
Coming back to this lack of self esteem, this needs serious attention because there is no one big authority. Hinduism is just a way of life. It has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that you cannot bring uniformity. On the other hand, the advantage is it has a lot of scope for growth.
Religion alone is not enough, the spiritual aspect is needed to regain the self esteem and prestige.
Q: Gurudev, you have mentioned a few days back that wonder is the basis of Yoga. Could you please tell us what is Yoga?
Sri Sri: Yoga is uniting; uniting the small mind with the big mind. Bringing harmony between body, breath and mind.
Mind and body are both there, but if the body and mind are not aligned then it is not Yoga. In Yoga you are bringing them in harmony, you are aligning them – breath, body and mind. And you feel so good after that.
You may just lift your hand unconsciously, but when you consciously move your hand, you see that there is a rhythm and there is dance to it. You see that there is a sense of well being. Similarly, when the small mind is united with the universal mind, that is called Yoga.