Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: What’s the fastest and easiest way to avoid stress and depression?
Sri Sri: Inside every culprit there is a victim crying out for help. We need to heal the victim. We all have to try to do some work in this society. You know, we can create a violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory and sorrow-free soul. This should be our mission.
Q: In your books, most of the examples come from the Hindu tradition of the Gita, not so much from the Koran and the Bible? Have you read the Koran, the Bible or any other religious books other than of your own religious tradition?
Sri Sri: I am not a theologian. I speak from my experience. One of the scriptures that I usually quote from is of course the Gita. I also quote from the Bible. I am not averse to any religious scripture in the world. What I am averse to is fanaticism of any sort. You need to study every religion or scripture before you can come and talk about it. So, since I have not studied all of the disciplines like Bible and Quran, I must spend at least four to five years studying each before speaking about them. Yet the essence of all these scriptures are spiritual values which I think I can very easily find in my life. I can easily speak on the essence of the Bible. That is why I say unless you become like a child, you can’t get so far. This is true because every child has that freedom. The child inside you is alive. You are still that innocence. That is spirituality. It is when you meditate, when there is unity among diversity and oneness with the whole universe.
Q: Dearest Guruji, today, I learnt courage from you. I often thought that you were a scary and angry person. But I found so much peace in you. I am afraid what if I lose you.
Sri Sri: You can’t lose me, and I can’t lose you!Our mind projects our feelings on others. This is what happens most of the times. Sometimes people ask me if I am angry at them. They say that I didn’t smile at them or talk to them in crowd, and comprehend that I am angry at them. But why would I be angry at them? There are so many people in crowd. I smile at some, and pass a bigger smile to them who have a long face so that they also smile. But smiling at some doesn’t mean I am angry at others. Many times we project our own emotions on others, especially when we love someone. If you are angry or upset at others, you think that others are angry and upset at you. Here knowledge of the self is so important so that you can have a balanced perception. With the knowledge, you know what is happening inside you, and you know what is happening inside of others. That clarity of perception, observation and expression can only come through meditation.
Q: Is it ever possible to be free from desires?
Sri Sri: Yes. Otherwise you could never sleep. If the desire haunts your head, you can’t sleep. You let go of the desire so you can sleep. At different times, different needs arise in your body and mind. So, you do not sit here and worry about what you are going to have for tomorrow’s dinner. You know that you have come here for a different purpose. An intention is different from the desire. An example of intention would be the thought that you want to go to New York, and you sit in the car and you drive. You go through Philadelphia and New Jersey. You take the turnpike or I-95 North until you get to New York. This is an intention. Desire is when you sit in the car and say, “I am going to New York, I am going to New York, I want to go to New York, I want to go to New York.” Continuously chanting like this may lead you ending up in the mental hospital. You won’t end up in New York. This is the difference with a sankalpa (an intention). An intention with attention and it will manifest. If the intention becomes a desire, it only brings grief whether it’s fulfilled or unfulfilled.
You know, in the 1960’s and 70’s we had the Hippie Movement. It was created out of abundance rather than lack. All of these people had everything in abundance. People who go to drug abuse or who are indulging in alcoholism are lacking in spiritual education or knowledge. They are seeking an experiential validation of their spirit. That is what leads to depression. There are large populations suffering from depression in the world today. According to statistics it will rise to as much as 50 percent in the coming decade, half the population will be depressed. We need to change this and Prozaic is not the solution. The solution is meditation and yoga.
Q: How do you let go of someone you love?
Sri Sri: You must know that love is your nature. Love doesn’t mean possessiveness. Love is not “Oh I love you so much, don’t go anywhere. Sit next to me all the time.” That is not love.
Q: I am a restless soul. I always want to take up the next thing, whether it be new job, new country, new place, new things. I don’t know what is it that I am searching for? Do you have any suggestions for me?
Sri Sri: Your soul is restless! How do you know? Have you found your soul? (Jokingly) Your restlessness is because you want more. You want more joy, more and more. It is like Bulimia. You eat food but you are not satisfied. You take it out, and then you eat more food. Relax. You have to find peace. You need to hurry up till you are not on the spiritual path. Like you have to hurry up before catching the flight. But once you are on the plane, there is no fun if you run inside the plane with your baggage on your head! You are not going to reach any faster. Once you are on the path, you simply have to relax. It is also said in Bhagwad Geeta that ‘A yogi who is beginner has to work to earn karma’. But then you have to learn to relax. The more you relax, the faster you reach. If you take more time to relax, it takes long to reach. I know what are you searching for – your inner self - the source of all wealth, happiness and joy. And that is deep within you. Especially, when you meditate in a group of regular meditators, it has a different effect. Have you noticed that it had a different effect when you meditate today in the group, in this presence? (Affirmative yes from the audience). So it is much better to meditate in a group. You progress faster when you meditate with meditators. Then you realize that you have gained an ability to smile through and through, nothing really bothers you or touches you, nature loves you, and reverberates with you. I was having a discussion with one of the great scientists of the time. He was telling me about string theory. Every animal brings a particular type of energy, rythm or vibration on the planet Earth. Even if one animal is missing, the unverse will collapse. Suppose, if all the house flies gets extinguished from the planet, human beings will also dissappear. So, all the species of animals and birds are important for sustaining the universe. Ancient vedic people knew this. In ancient Indian methodologies, they have put different Gods and Goddesses on different animals. It is said that these angels or Gods/Goddesses ride on those animals, and come to the planet Earth. Mother Divine energy comes on lion. These are opposite values, but they bring in that type of energy to the ground. It is not that Mother Divine has to sit on lion and travel. But it means that cosmic consciousness brings that energy down to the planet Earth through that particular animal. Like crows are connected with ancestors and planet Saturn. Mars is connected with sheeps and goats. Each planet is connected with a particular animal, and each God/Goddess is connected with a particular energy. God/Goddess is nothing but a particular energy that descend to the Earth through that particular animal.
Q: Survivors of war and disaster sometimes feel guilty about being alive when so many around them have died. What message do you have for these people?
Sri Sri: Life is eternal. That’s it.
Q: Any suggestions for people who suffer from allergies?
Sri Sri: Meditation, pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya will help. Also, there are two books all should pick up - Celebrating Silence and Celebrating Love. Last time I traveled to the U.S., I came through JFK. As I was passing through security, the man behind the X-ray machine in the next row came to me and showed me the book ‘Celebrating Silence’. He asked, “Are you this person?” I looked at it and said, “Looks like that”. He asked me to sign the book. I said that usually I only sign the customs form! I gave my signature and he told me, “Someone gave me this book on my birthday last December and since then my life has changed. I’ve just read one page here and there over time and it has made such a difference”. He has not done a meditation course or anything. So, it would be good if all read it. It is not any big philosophical text but just snippets of wisdom. ‘Celebrating Silence’ and ‘Celebrating Love’. Also you can put on a meditation CD to relax. After a while, you won’t need any extra support.
You have come now, so drop all your worries here. Give me all your worries, botherations and problems. I want you to go home knowing that you are not alone. You can heal and bless other people. I tell you, it’s not only Guruji who gives blessings and healing. Everyone has this power to heal and to bless. So, anyone of you who wants to do that, you have to do a little bit more meditation, pranayama, kriya and you will have the power to bless others. There are seven billion people on the planet. So, we each must come up with this ability to bless others.
Q: How can one experience true love in a relationship?
Sri Sri: I can give you three suggestions. One is for men, one for women and one for both. Women should never step on the ego of a man. Women should always boost the ego of a man. Even if the husband is a stupid, the wife should say, “You are the most brilliant man I have ever seen.” You should always praise him. He shouldn’t have to prove himself to you at home because the world requires him to prove himself. He should find peace at home. You should say, “You are the most brilliant man I have ever seen. Just the fact that you don’t use your brain doesn’t mean that you don’t have it. You are the most brilliant.” So, praise your man all the time.
Now there is one suggestion for men. Never step on the emotions of a woman. She may complain to you about her family but you should better not join the bandwagon. She may turn it around. She may take a U-Turn and say, “How dare you say such things about my family. What do you know about my family?” So if she is complaining, you just listen. She is paying lip service. If you say something and you hurt her, it is not worth it. When she wants to go for a religious service or a meditation program or retreat, don’t stop her. And when she wants to go for shopping, just give her your credit card. This will keep peace at home.
There is a suggestion for both men and women. The key to keeping peace at home is that you stop demanding love. You normally say, “Do you really love me? You don’t love me the same way. You have changed. You are different.” Asking people to prove their love for you is such a psychological burden. Just imagine yourself in their place. Imagine if someone demands from you to prove your love for them. What would you do? You’d say, “Oh my God, how long do I have to prove my love for this person?” One day, two days, three days, four days and then you feel like enough. This is what happens. There is a book called ‘Celebrating Love’ that you can read. There are many ideas about love in the book. We don’t know how to receive love unless we know how to give love. How can we express that love? Our expression is something that we keep looking for. So, don’t demand that others express their love. Instead, you should ask, “Why do you love me so much?” Especially on a day when you disagree or they are being nasty, you can say “why do you love me so much? I don’t deserve it!” Even for someone who is angry, you say, “you love me much more than I deserve”. Their attitude would change. Love would spring up in them. If you start demanding, you are destroying love.
Q: Is homosexuality evil?
Sri Sri: I don’t think so. Eastern philosophy does not even say that it is evil because you are made up of both male and female DNA. In your DNA, you are half your mother and half your father. Both male and female aspects are in you. In some people the male is more dominant, though your physical body is female. Then you become lesbian. And if your female aspect becomes more dominant and you have a male body, these tendencies may come up at different times. So don’t label yourself as wrong or feel guilty. These tendencies come and go. Many people, who are straight, suddenly have these feelings, and then they are so shaken within themselves. Many people come and talk to me about this problem. Similarly, people who label themselves as gays or lesbians suddenly find their preferences changing. So, all this is fluid. Our tendencies and mind are fluid. I tell you, we should not blame ourselves at any cost. Self-blame is a sin. When you blame yourself, you can never settle down. When you haven’t settled down, you can never focus on anything.