Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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, we can see mistake of others very easily, but keep on repeating our mistakes as we don’t see them. Many times we are not able to apply knowledge on ourselves, but we give knowledge very easily to others. Why is it so?
Sri Sri: That is a good realization. Once we recognize that we are not applying the knowledge. Once we realize it then we start turning around.
Do you know why mistakes are tempting? It is because we think we are going to get some great pleasure and joy out of it. But over a period of time, it will drop.
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: Gurudev, how does the spiritual growth of people help a country prosper? Please give an example. How can spiritually inclined people help save the country?
Sri Sri: The spiritually inclined people will have a better attitude in life. They will not have prejudice. They will work with humility, dignity, protect others' dignity, care for others, and have compassion. All these things naturally come to spiritually inclined people.
Spirituality creates sense of belongingness. When there is sense of belongingness, corruption will go down. Corruption begins where this sense of belongingness ends.
Q: Gurudev, how does a master decide, how much truth is to be revealed and how much to be concealed as the listeners may be on different stages of their spiritual growth.
Sri Sri: Real master does not make any effort at all. He has purity in heart, clarity in mind and spontaneity in action.
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: 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: 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, when I teach, I teach from the space of ‘I know’. But in reality, sometimes I don’t know. I am a seeker, how to be in the ‘I know’ and ‘I want to know’ at the same time. How to teach and remain a seeker at the same time?
Sri Sri: You know some things, at the same time, you don’t know many other things. It is as simple as that. Whatever you know, you convey with certainty, and whatever you don’t know, you simply wait in the hollow and empty space.
Life is a journey from an angry ‘I don’t know’ to a beautiful ‘I don’t know’.
Whenever someone is upset or frustrated, he says ‘I don’t know. I don’t care. Don’t ask me’. From this ugly ‘I don’t know' to a beautiful ‘I don’t know’, that is wonder. From frustration to wonder is the real journey.
As a child, we are all born with this beautiful ‘I don’t know’; wonder. Unfortunately it is moving from the beautiful space of ‘I don’t know’ to an ugly ‘I don’t know’. This should be reversed.