Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: How do the planets have an influence on our health?
Sri Sri: The macrocosm and microcosm have a big connection.
Each planet is aligned with a particular grain, color, shape, bird and animal. All these are connected; it is also connected to a particular part of the body. Even your fingers!
Do you know, every finger is connected to a particular planet? It is an amazing science of the uniting of the macrocosm and microcosm.
For example, the planet Mars is connected to the liver and pitta, and pitta is connected with channa daal (chick peas, humus). If you eat too much chick peas, you will find your pitta increasing. So, pitta, chick peas, Mars, they are all connected.
The sheep is also connected to Mars; it provides heat, wool; that is how the sheep is connected.
Similarly, Saturn is connected with the crow. It is also connected to black sesame seeds, and your teeth.
There is something called Medical Astrology, where you can see in a chart, what type of diseases you could get or be prone to. This could also be seen from a chart, astrologically.
Unfortunately, a lot of this knowledge is actually lost. Many of the scriptures were half eaten, since it was all written on palm leaves; some had holes. Some were not preserved properly. Still, some of this knowledge is available today.
Astrology is an amazing science but astrologers have not studied it properly. I have my own reservations about astrologers. However, I know about astrology, about how this connection is so scientific. It is very systematic; the connections are established very scientifically.
See, the Sun is connected with your eyes. Similarly, Jupiter is connected to your nose. Saturn is connected to your teeth, and cheeks are connected to Venus.
The forehead is connected to Mercury. So, this is a very beautiful science, and you can know things precisely. You see someone’s face and you can make a chart. However, these sciences are lost, almost lost.
For example, nobody would have heard of Vaastu Shastra three to four decades ago. Even in India, people had not heard of it, but now, it has come up.
It is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who first brought this knowledge back. It was his idea to promote Vaastu Shastra. Since then, it has taken off in the world. Before that, only the temple architects and builders were proficient in it. Even on Vaastu Shastra, there are not too many books available. Moreover, the same Vaastu Shastra cannot be used everywhere; what is applicable for India, will vary for America or Russia.
Q: What is the significance of the shraadh ceremonies?
Sri Sri: Shraadh is doing some good deeds with faith, in the memory of those who have crossed over to the other side.
The tradition started as an activity related to feeding the poor, taking care of them, and giving them some gifts. However, any good deed done in the memory of those who have passed away, like giving charity, or donation in their name, is all called shraadh.
The objective is to thank them, although they are not on this plane.
Ceremonies for the departed are followed world over. In Singapore, it is like a festival, a public holiday. Even in China, it is a very big affair.
In Singapore, the belief is, whatever you offer to the ancestors, the same is sent back in the form of blessings. So, whatever blessings people would want, they would make those things in paper, and burn them.
They believed that whatever you give away through fire, you will receive the same in the form of blessings here. E.g., if someone wants a car, or a fridge, they make a huge paper car or fridge, put it on the street, and burn it.
If they want a million dollars, they burn one million dollars of fake currency.
It is a wonder how mankind starts fooling himself or herself, and expects to receive blessings for real currency! Anyway, this has been the traditional practice.
In India, similar things happen. People pray to Bhagavati or Mother Divine, and offer a coconut. They say, ‘I will offer 21 coconuts, please let me marry the right person.’ As if Mother Divine is expecting 21 coconuts from you!
Innocent people do something to get something. It is called mannat (wish), it means you need to do something to get some favor.
Q: Guruvdev, you mentioned Sanskrit as the source for these names. What are the other names that come from Sanskrit?
Sri Sri: Do you know all the months’ names are in Sanskrit?
Until a few centuries ago, the New Year always began in March, when the Sun moves to the first point of Aries. However, King George of London decided to celebrate January 1 as the New Year. Although he announced it as the New Year, people would not follow it. They continued celebrating March end - April 1, as New Year day. So, to stop people from celebrating New Year on April 1, he called it April fool’s day.
Now, let us see the meanings of the months.
Fagun means the fag end, last; hence, Feb is the last month. March means to start new, and go ahead (the first month of the New Year). August is shashta, the sixth month.
Ambar means sky; Sapt means seven, Sapt ambar, September means seventh sky. October is ashta, eighth sky. November, Nav (nine) ambar, means ninth sky. December, Dash (ten) ambar, means tenth sky, or tenth month.
January is the eleventh month, and February is the twelfth month. This is how the calendar was in the very beginning. The Indian, Iranian, Afghani, and Egyptian calendars, all correspond to this system. Even the Chinese New Year starts towards the end of February, beginning of March.
The dates, days and months, were all designed according to the Solar or Lunar calendar.
In the Solar calendar, like the English calendar, there is a leap day. And in the Lunar calendar, there is an extra month, a leap month, that comes every 4 years.
This year has a leap month, and so, the Solar and Lunar calendars have come so close.
This year, when the moon moves in to the first point of Aries, April 10, is the Lunar New Year. When the sun moves in to the first point of Aries, April 13, is the Solar New Year.
Do you know your breath coordinates with the movement of the sun and the moon?
This is a very beautiful science. How your breath moves on the first day of the Lunar month, is very different from the way it moves on the first day of the Solar month. You will see your breath corresponds to that; right nostril (Surya or sun naadi) and left nostril (Chandra or moon naadi), it will tell you. So, the macrocosm and the microcosm are connected in an amazing way.
Q: My mom keeps nagging me, what do I do?
Sri Sri: Well, that’s her job. She is just checking how strong you are, how patient you are. Mums usually help you to have more patience. Either you do that to your mum, or your mum does that to you. Either you test the patience of your mother or the mother tests your patience. You take turns actually!
Q: Dear Gurudev, even though I read knowledge, do my spiritual practices and service, still my mind sometimes gets stuck on worldly objects like smart phones, clothes, etc. Please bless me to get rid of all this.
Sri Sri: It is okay. It takes time. If you are a little bit sticky, you need a little more heat to be stirred. You know, when we make the halwa (India pudding), the sweet first sticks, but as you keep stirring it on the fire, then it doesn’t stick anymore.
Q: Dearest Gurudev, I want to spread this knowledge to many, but I’m extremely nervous when I have to talk to my friends about it. How do I overcome this?
Sri Sri: What is your fear? They may make fun of you? Okay, enjoy that, let them make fun of you, so what? If you are prepared to be made fun of, and want to be, then that will make you snap out of this hesitation that you are feeling.
Just do it once and see what happens.
Q: Dear Gurudev, I have a deep desire to come and live in the ashram for the rest of my life. I would like to commit myself to full time service in the Ashram. My wife has agreed to do the same. Please advise us.
Sri Sri: Yes, come.
Those of you want to be full time here, or in Boone, are welcome. But if you have too many needs, then it is difficult. If your needs are very simple, then ashram life is very good.
If you have simple living and high thinking, then ashram life is good. If you have high living, and simple thinking, then ashram may be difficult for you.
Q: What are the days of the week based on?
Sri Sri: The days of the week are named according to each major planet in the solar system. Each day corresponds to one of the planets. Sunday for Sun, Monday for Moon, Tuesday for Mars, Wednesday for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter, Friday for Venus and Saturday for Saturn.
Q: Gurudev, how often do great souls like you come to this world? How do they decide when to come back?
Sri Sri: That is a secret!
Q: What is the significance of some of these ceremonies?
Sri Sri: In the Brahmin household, shraadhis an elaborate ceremony.
Women would prepare food from early morning, and only certain foods are eaten. Then the pundits would come, and perform a ceremony where the Devas (angels or gods) would be invited to bring the departed parents.
Three generations of parents would be remembered, and some rice balls would be put out to the crows. They would wait and watch from which direction the crows came, how they took the food, where it went, and if they were they satisfied?
It is like a tarot card reading; from the signs that are there, one would decipher what happened or what is happening. It is a little complicated, sometimes too complicated. The main thing would be about preparing elaborate food, and feeding people.
I think all this is man-made. Maybe there is something scientific in it. We should look in to it.
There is one ceremony called Tilla Tarpanam, offering sesame seeds with water.
I think the purpose of this ceremony is to tell people who have gone across that if you still have any desire in your mind, just drop it, because the desire is as small and insignificant as a sesame seed. We, your children, are here to fulfill those desires. You drop it and move on.
In India, tilla means smallest, tarpan is to be fulfilled, trupti means contentment. So, tarpanam means be contented.
We tell the departed three times, ‘Be contented!’
The message is, ‘You have left this world. Going there, do not keep hankering. If there is any discontent, let go. Move on. This world is enormous, huge, there is so much; you go to the light and leave this bondage here. If there is any desire of yours left unfulfilled, we are here to take care of it, as your children. You be content.’
These mantras are so nice, so beautiful.