Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Gurudev, could you please elaborate on the eleven principles that Mahatma Gandhi gave to the nation.
Sri Sri: The first is Ahimsa, which is Non-violence.
Then comes Satya, which is Truth.
Then is Asteya, i.e., Non-stealing.
Then Brahmacharya or Celibacy.
Then Aparigraha, i.e., Non possession.
Then comes Sharirshrama, which is Physical Effort (labor).
Aswada, which is, not interested in taste. Mahatma Gandhi said your taste buds are responsible for your cravings. Eat the food not for taste but for living. See what is good for you and not the taste. Many times the taste is so good but the food is not good for you. Many times food is good for you but the taste is not good.
Then there is Sarvatra Bhayavarjana, i.e., fearlessness. Not to be afraid of anything.
Sarva Dharma Samantva, which is, considering people of all religions as equal. Some religions say, if you believe in our prophet, then you will go to heaven. Others say, if you believe in my religion then God will reward you. But Vedic religion says to consider everybody as equal, whatever mode or form of worship they may have.
Then there is Swadeshi, i.e., use of locally made goods. We should think global and buy local. Then he said Sparshbhavana, i.e., drop untouchability. There was so much practice of untouchability at that time. These are the eleven rules.
Q: Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says 'Anityam asukham lokam imam prapya bhajasva mam'. We can understand the anityam (temporary) aspect of this world, but why is it called as asukham (sorrowful)?
Sri Sri: That which is temporary is sorrowful. Anityam means which does not exist permanently.
See, before getting a position, a person is worried about getting the position. After he gets the position, he keeps worrying about holding on to it. And when the position is about to go away from him, then he is sorrowful.
So there is misery before getting a position and while holding the position. The fear of its loss gives you sorrow. When it is gone, then also its remembrance gives misery. That is why it is called as asukham. There is no sukha (happiness) in temporary things. Sukha is inside you.
Don’t look for happiness in that which is temporary, that which is fleeting and changing. Joy and happiness is only in that which does not change.
Q: Gurudev, what are the signs of true love? What is its form and how can we recognize it?
Sri Sri: True love is like what was between Lord Rama and Bharat. That which existed between Radha and Lord Krishna, and between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It is pure, like the love between a mother and her child, between a husband and a wife.
The love here exists due to some relationship between two people. But there is one kind of Love which is above all, and we all are the very embodiment of that love. This is what we need to know. We are made up of a substance called love.
To know this fact is called Parambhakti (supreme transcendental love or devotion). It means having a deep feeling from within ‘Nothing belongs to me. Whatever I have is yours (Divine's) and whatever is yours is mine’.
Now that does not mean that you simply take someone else’s purse and tell them that what is yours is mine (Laughter). Do not do this.
Q: How does one qualify to become a spiritual leader?
Sri Sri: Is there a way to become a spiritual guide? I don’t think so, and I don’t know. I don’t know if there is a way at all! You may ask me how I became a spiritual guide. I just know that whatever I learnt, I kept sharing with other people, that's all!
One thing I have maintained is, I am not going to speak about anything that has not come in the purview of my experience. So whatever was there, I kept sharing with people.
In the same way, each and every one of you is a spiritual teacher; consciously or unconsciously, you are teaching everyone. You are teaching by your good deeds, and you are also teaching others through your mistakes. When you make a mistake, not only do you learn from your mistake but a whole lot of people around you are learning from your mistake. So, being a spiritual teacher is unavoidable for you on this planet! You don’t have to change your dress and put on a dhoti-kurta, or a spiritual dress, or have longer hair; this is not necessary!
If you are able to smile, genuinely; if you are able to feel love for everyone, then not only you, but others will also feel the same for you. It just makes your life very rich. It opens up a door to another dimension. If you are a meditator, you know it and will agree with me as well.
Q: Gurudev, what is the cause of ignorance? How to remove it?
Sri Sri: Ignorance is dispelled by knowledge.
Now what is the cause of ignorance? It is just a vidhaan (ordinance). You might ask me, 'But why did it arise in the first place'. That is just how it is.
It is like asking, 'Why the sky is so vast?' The sky is vast, that is how it is. Or, 'Why does the sun shine?' It shines, it is like that.
Questions also have a limit (iti). Beyond a certain point there is no answer, even if you keep on asking.
Q: Gurudev, you said that love cannot be limited. Is marriage the end of love?
Sri Sri: (Laughter) Well, I don’t know that. I have never been married. If you are asking in the sense that marriage is the end of love, then that is not how it should be. But if marriage begins with love for each other, it is okay. Even if it blossoms during the course of one’s married life, that too is fine.
Q: Gurudev, spirituality has become a buzzword amongst many people. Everybody wants to say 'I meditate, I am spiritual'. What is spirituality?
Sri Sri: We are all made up of both matter and spirit, right? Our body is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals. The spirit is made up of creativity, peace, love, joy, anger and all these emotions. Spirituality is attending to the spirit; who am I? Am I this body? What are thoughts? What is the source of thoughts? What are these emotions? What is the source of these emotions?
Going to the source of thoughts and emotions, finding that still space in you, is spirituality. Then, you will find that is what everything is made up of!
If you are a Quantum Physicist, I tell you then you are a spiritualist also. You can’t separate these two! Because a quantum physicist also says the same thing, i.e., this whole universe is made up of just one thing. He understands this, and a spiritualist says it in with experience, ‘Yes, whatever I am that is what everybody is made up of. We are all one. The whole world is one organism.’
This understanding gives enormous confidence, peace and unconditional love. Everybody has a bit of spirituality in them. There is no one on this planet who is devoid of spirituality.
Q: Gurudev, what is the meaning of Upvaas (fasting)? What food should we eat during these days? In different parts, people eat different things.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When we eat too
Sri Sri: When we eat too much then we feel sleepy. We get this feeling of inertia. Upvaas means to live near (up – near, vaas – live). Live near whom? Near the Divinity. It means sitting near the Divinity. And when will you be able to sit near the Divine? When your stomach is not over filled.
Fasting is also done to give the stomach some rest.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, 'Naty-asnatas 'tu yogo ‘sti na caikantam anasnatah'.
This means, remaining hungry is also not good. It is prohibited in the scriptures. Krishna says that yoga is not for one who doesn’t eat at all, and it is also not for one who overeats. So then how should one fast? By having a fruit diet.
You can have fruits. They get digested in 20-25 minutes. So take light food which you can digest easily. Take less than what you have normally and do it only for as many days as you can do. You should listen to your body.
You are not fasting for God. Fasting is for the self, for the purification of one’s own body. If you think that you will make God happy by fasting, then you are mistaken.
Fasting is not for pleasing God but for the purification of one’s mind, body and subconscious.
Q: Gurudev, is destiny bigger than determination? For example, if someone is destined to become a manager, can he become an actor?
Sri Sri: Hold on to your dreams, one day, it will come true.
I was also a student in this same city. I thought I should go around the world and unite people of all countries as one family. People thought I was crazy! When you have some vision like that, people definitely think that you have lost it! However, if you hold onto your dream, one day it will come true.
Q: Gurudev, Sri Rama sent Devi Sita to exile just by listening to the false gossip of a washer man. Not only this, he also made her prove her purity by walking through fire. Even though he knew fully well that Sita was very pure, why did he not take her side when this happened?
Sri Sri: Now, I am not going to be Lord Rama’s lawyer today and answer for what he did back then. Whatever Lord Rama did, he surely must have known why he did that.
See, we are not supposed to follow everything that Lord Rama did. Lord Rama said so many good things, you must follow and imbibe them in your life.
Now why Lord Rama made Sita go through the test of walking through fire? I too have this question (Laughter).
He might not have known the principles of the Art of Living! (Laughter) Maybe no one told him not to become a football of other people’s opinions. Perhaps because of this, Lord Rama is considered to be Baarah Kala Sampurna (having 12 divine qualities or extraordinary attributes).
It is only Lord Krishna who is considered Solah Kala Sampurna (having the entire set of 16 divine qualities or extraordinary attributes associated with an Avatar or a Divine incarnation).
Yet Lord Rama’s life was very magnificent and his character was exemplary.
You should read the discourse between Lord Rama and Sage Vashishtha, which is now called as the Yoga Vashishtha Maharamayana. You all should read that. Through his life, Lord Rama showed all the troubles that a common man goes through in his mortal life. If you see Lord Rama’s life from this perspective, you will feel that this is truly what every person goes through in their life sometime or the other.
A common man takes others’ opinions very seriously, he thinks a lot about insult and admiration. He cares a lot about his limitations. We find this common in everyone’s lives. So this is what has been portrayed through Lord Rama’s story.
If you go deeper into the Ramayana, you will understand that Lord Rama represents the Divine light within us all, the Atma Tattva (the Soul or the all-pervading light of Consciousness).
So if you see Lord Rama as your own self, then you will see a lot of things differently. This is the message of the Adhyatma Ramayana (a version of the Ramayana narrated by Sage Veda Vyasa).
So do not see Lord Rama as only a king. Depending on what level or perspective you view Lord Rama, you will find some unique quality about him.
Once Lord Rama asked Lord Hanuman, 'How do you see me?'
Lord Hanuman replied, 'Deha-buddhaya tav-daaso'. It means, ‘If I see myself as a (physical) body (meaning to limit the intellect to the physical body), then I see myself as your servant'.
Then Lord Hanuman says further, 'Jeeva-buddhya tvam-amsha'. It means, ‘When I see myself at the level of a Jeeva (elevating the intellect to the Soul), I see myself as a part of you'.
And then Lord Hanuman says, 'Atma buddhya tvameva-cha'. It means, ‘When I see myself as the Self or Consciousness, I see that there is no difference at all between You and me. You are what I am, and I am what you are’.
So there are three different levels of perceiving Lord Rama.
In the same way, if you look at Lord Rama as a historical figure of India, then you will see that not only in India, but in other foreign countries, He is revered and worshipped as Maryada Purshottama (the Supreme and most virtuous among mortals).
If you see him through the eyes of a devotee, you will see Him as God Himself. You will find that He embodies the Divinity so totally. And if you see him as your Self, then there is no difference between you and him.
Lord Rama is not just a historical figure. Everything is made up of that one light, the Para Brahman, which we call as the Rama Tattva. (Supreme all-pervading Consciousness). Then you see your soul as Lord Rama. Then you do not see Lord Rama as just a human being, but you see him as a symbol of the Divine light which everything in creation is made of, including you and me.
So from whichever perspective you see Lord Rama, you will find something unique about him and imbibe and acquire those very qualities.