Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Dear Gurudev, whose concept, design and architecture is the Visalakshi Mantap? It is like a vanilla strawberry cake and it looks yummy. It gives me so much peace just by looking at it.
Sri Sri: Yes, we used to have a thatched roof for all our programs and courses. When it rained people had to shift their seats and cushions and sit where it was not wet.
If it rained really hard then you had to wind up everything. This is what it used to be like in the old campus. Then one gentleman from Hong Kong came and said, 'Gurudev, we need to build a hall. People from all over the world are coming and you don't want them to get wet, or be uncomfortable'. Then I just drew a picture and said let's do it like this. And then they built it.
Then I said, for every pillar we build we must give a free home for the poor people around the village.
In those days we built one home for every pillar for the poor people in the surrounding villages. It (Visalakshi Mantap) is about 12 years old now, and still if you look at it, it feels so nice! The shape is soothing to the eyes, so something is there!
One gentleman came from Dubai, he said, 'I am going to do the lighting for this'.
I said, 'Fine, do it'.
Today everyone does the modern type of building with aluminum frames, glass roofs, glass panels and not this type of architecture. The masons who were doing this sort of architecture, they never had work for so many years. Because seldom people build buildings like this. So 7000 workers worked on this at different times to complete this.
It took almost two and half to three years, and it was work for them. They were very happy. They were out of work and nobody does this type of masonry. They used to do this kind of work in ancient India and temples. Nobody is building all those big temples or homes in this fashion.
Since then we have put almost all the buildings in the petal style like this, so that these masons get some employment.
It is a skill, isn't it, making what they know about this type of architecture.
Q: Gurudev, when is war justifiable?
Sri Sri: When all options of bringing peace and justice has failed, then war becomes the last option. When every negotiation fails and when (righteous) sense does not prevail; when disaster in unavoidable, then war becomes necessary to avoid a greater disaster from happening.
It also becomes necessary to keep in check those forces that can bring injustice and devastation.
Q: Gurudev, you are the witness and so are we. Then what is the difference?
Sri Sri: I do not see any difference at all. You should tell me where it is that you see the difference. I am what you are, and you are what I am. I am in you and you are in me. So I do not see any difference at all.
May be you see a difference of qualities. That is, you think that Gurudev has different qualities, and I have different qualities. We are beyond qualities and virtues. Our true nature transcends qualities and attributes.
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: 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: Gurudev, do you really know what is going on in everyone’s heart and mind? If that is the case, then what do you do when someone lies to you, or makes lame excuses despite you knowing it all?
Sri Sri: See, I give everyone a very long rope (a good amount of margin or freedom to act). So you do what you wish to do, we will see later what to do about it.
When someone lies to me, I do feel bad about it, but then such people soon improve and become better in life.
Once or twice they may lie to me, but then they soon realize their mistake and come running to me and fall at my feet saying, 'Oh Gurudev, I am so sorry that I lied to you'.
So you should realize by yourself whether what you are doing is right or wrong.
Once upon a time, there was a very old saint, he had a habit of always praising people, no matter what. People would be surprised on seeing this and would ask him, 'Why do you always praise people, even when they are no good? Why do you only speak about someone’s good qualities? Please tell them their flaws also'.
To this, the saint replied, 'Your miseries will speak out loud about your flaws and bad qualities by themselves. Why do I need to say that?'
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: 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.