Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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: 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: 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.
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 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: The Vedas say that God is one and true scholars call Him by many names. Today religions have moved away from this truth of inter-religious harmony. What can we do as individuals to bring that harmony back?
Sri Sri: To bring harmony between the religions, we must uplift everyone to a spiritual level. Spirituality is the common thread. There was only one Jesus, but how many sects of Christianity are there? Seventy-two. There was only one Prophet Muhammed and how many schools of Islam are there? Five. There was only one Lord Buddha and how many types of Buddhism are there? Thirty-two. There was one Lord Mahadeva. How many sects of Jainism are there? Four. So many different schools of thought. Yet the six far Eastern religions had no conflict at all. There was never a conflict between Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism or Shintoism in the world. They always co-existed in harmony. The thing is, Middle Eastern religions have had conflict throughout history. Judaism, Christianity and Islam always had conflict. I was told of a particular incident in Japan. When President Nixon visited Japan for a conference, on one side of him was a Buddhist monk and on the other was a Shinto priest. He asked the Shinto priest, “what is the percentage of Shintoism in Japan?” The Shinto priest replied – 80 percent. He then turned to the Buddhist monk thinking there would be 20% Buddhists in Japan. He asked, “What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan?”. The monk said 80 percent. President Nixon was so confused. He asked how it was possible. Both priests said that it was possible. You know, that type of harmony existed between religions in the Far East because nobody tried to convert anybody. Religious conversion was not an agenda. Uplifting human consciousness was the main goal. Giving the knowledge was the main goal. It was not about saying, ‘my way is the only way and follow it and go to Heaven, otherwise you will go to Hell’. People, who think that only they have the key to Heaven, create such Hell for everyone else. So, a grounded understanding of religious philosophy is essential. If every child knows little bit about all the philosophies of the world, nobody will grow up to be a terrorist. You know, Einstein said that the best book he ever read was the Gita. He said that it has contributed so much to his understanding of the world and about life. Einstein has read it several times.
The Matrix movie was based on Hindu scripture, Yoga Vashista. The main point was about the whole theme of consciousness. It is an excellent book describing the relationship between mind, consciousness and the universe around us.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
Sri Sri: There are two books you can read to find an answer to this. One is 'Guru of Joy' and the other is 'Walking the Path'. I would say my inspiration is every child. I want to see everyone to be like a child. Of course, I must say my mother was a great force. She was always concerned that I had to do better. Anything I did, she would say that you had to do better. So, she was pushing me all the while.
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: What brings about the misuse of power?
Sri Sri: Misuse of power is immaturity. Someone who is not mature misuses power. Such power do not stay long because it’s not power at all. It is only an illusion of power.
Q: Despite so much research there’s not yet a cure for HIV. Is there any hope and what is your message to those afflicted with HIV?
Sri Sri: Those who are living with HIV and AIDS must remember that we are all going to lose our body one way or another. Everybody is going to die. Now lift your eye above this body consciousness to know your spirit. Spirit has no disease. Spirit is beyond it. Keep your mind alive, energetic, loving and happy. People with disease die and people with no disease also die. Sometimes they die out of nowhere. Sometimes sick people live longer and many times healthy people suddenly die. All possibilities are there. So, know that you are more than the body. You are consciousness. You are light. Honor that light. Please don’t sit and brood over it. Look ahead and engage your life in educating others who are not informed about HIV. And instead of seeking solace, become a giver of solace to others.