Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Is violent action ever appropriate?
Sri Sri: A conscious action taken to curb violence may appear to be violent itself. In fact it is not. However, I am not for capital punishment. I feel there is a chance to bring reformation in every body. Have compassion for the ones who do hurtful things and have no remorse. Have compassion for their lack of education and recognize that there is a victim inside the culprit.
Q: You spoke about education and how it can better the world. Where does God fit into this equation?
Sri Sri: You don’t need to fit God in anywhere because He is everywhere! Please don’t try to find a place for Him. He is omnipresent. If you think you are going to find a place for Him, He will laugh at you. God is the sum of creation. God is that energy in which we all are. We cannot escape from that energy. God is not someone who is sitting up there in Heaven who punishes you when you do something wrong. He keeps quiet when you do a mistake and then comes with a stick. This idea of God may be there in books, yet to me, God is love. And love is permeating this whole creation in every way, everyone and everything. When you relax and take your mind inwards, you take this power. That is the basis of creation.
Q: We’re living in a time with a lot of talks about scandal and fraud even among spiritual teachers. How can we distinguish real spiritual teachers from frauds?
Sri Sri: It has come into notice in India and Europe. It is so disheartening. Yet I tell you, though sometimes a train gets derailed but we do not stop traveling by train. Planes crash but we don't stop flying. There are some people that slip or go in strange directions out of temptation or intention. It is unfortunate. I would say if a spiritual or religious leader does something wrong, he should get double the punishment as anyone. Not only has he committed the crime, but he has disrespected an entire school of thought or institution. Such leaders should come out on their own. Having made a mistake they should come forward and apologize. If they cover up, they should get three times the punishment. Being on a spiritual path and covering up wrong-doing indicates a lack of faith and sense of belongingness. In such a case you are harming your own soul and spirit.
This is nothing new. In the Ramayana(an ancient Indian scripture), Ravan was a famed saint and yet it was he who abducted Sita. Even in the medical field there are doctors who steal kidneys! You would have heard of people who bring distrust in every field. Let's not become prejudiced or take an opinion about it. We should move on. I'd rather be compassionate than condemning. Ok they have made a mistake, now let them come on the right path. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. Even in the worst criminal, there’s a scar, wound and dissatisfaction. We have to heal that victim and then the culprit will disappear.
Q: How do we increase willpower?
Sri Sri: Meditation and breathing enhance the inner power. These practices get us in touch with ourselves. You know, willpower comes to you with three things.
First, when you love something then you follow through with it. The commitment is there.
Second, where there is some fear there is commitment. If someone says that if you don’t follow this diet you have to have an operation, then you will follow.
Third is greed. If someone tells you, “You do this for a month then you will get a million dollars,” I tell you, you will not miss a single day!
Either through greed or fear or love you follow your commitment. And I feel the last one is better than the other two.
Q: Can you talk about how not to see intention behind others actions?
Sri Sri: Yes. I say don’t see intention behind others’ mistakes. When somebody does something wrong often we say they intentionally did this wrong to me. So when we see from a broader perspective, every culprit is also a victim. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. They may be a victim of lack of education or lack of information, stress, narrow-mindedness. All these would cause someone to become a culprit. And we are simply looking at the culprit part of them. We don’t see that the person is also a victim.
Every child should study a little bit about different religions and cultures. If people knew just a little bit about what Jesus said, what the Upanishads say, what the Vedas say, what Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam say, there would not be a single terrorist in the world. Today’s terrorism is a result of Puritanism: i.e. when people say, “Only my religion is pure. I should keep away from other religious books or I should not be educated in those things. Only this is the way.” That type of religious indoctrination in children has given rise to Taliban sort of movements in the world. We have lost so many people to terrorism.
We have globalized Pepsi, Coke and potato chips but we have not globalized wisdom! It should be compulsory for every nation to give a multi-religious, multi-cultural education to all children. Then not one terrorist will be there in the world.
Q: Can you talk to us about realizing our purpose in life?
Sri Sri: This is something everyone has to find for themselves. What is the purpose of our life? You can ask this question but don’t take an answer from anybody. One who knows will not give you an answer and anyone who tries to give you, does not know. That’s the criteria. The very question “What’s the purpose of life?” is very precious. It means a lot to you. If this question has arisen in your mind you can give a big pat to your back because this question can remove the cobwebs from your mind, your confusion. It can remove all those unnecessary things and put you on track again and again and again. There is no single answer. It is a path on which we need to travel. “Who am I, what do I want, what is the purpose of my life?” It will move you forward in life. So give a big pat on your back, “Oh I am so lucky this question came to my mind.” What’s the purpose of life? You know, many don’t even think about this question. They simply exist. They eat, sleep, watch television and then they die.
Q: How do we deal with extreme grief and loss?
Sri Sri: Through meditation and Sudarshan Kriya, you will see how the grief gets vaporized.
Q: What is your definition of love?
Sri Sri: Love is that which cannot be defined. It can only be felt. It is that which we cannot understand.
Q: What would you say to Osama Bin Laden if you were having breakfast with him?
Sri Sri: I would bring him in a plane to America and tell him, “Look there are so many beautiful people here in America, what are you doing? ” At that moment I’m not sure exactly what I would say to him, but I am sure I would make an impact on him.
Q: Is it really possible to be stress-free in this world?
Sri Sri: I am stress-free here in this world and so are many others. It is possible. You would have been like that as a child. I tell you, you can have this. You don’t have to wait till old age. I tell you it is possible now.