Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Spirituality is the need of our country. The reality is that it is limited to the rich, and the ones who can afford it. What should be done so that every common person who may not financially be able afford it, gets to experience it?
Sri Sri: Spirituality has nothing to do with money; absolutely not! Poor people can benefit from spirituality as much as the rich people. In fact, we are doing programs in so many villages, nearly 40,000 villages in the country, and in slum areas.
When poor people take to spirituality, they really take it sincerely. They get out of the habits of drinking alcohol, and drug abuse.
We have also conducted programs in jails. So, I do not agree that spirituality is only for the elite or rich people, it is for everybody. However, if something is free, rich people don’t go towards it. If they have to pay something, then rich people go. Then they think there is something to get out of it. This is the psychology of the rich people.
Q: Sir, I have very few desires, but what next, in the path of spirituality?
Sri Sri: : In the path of spirituality, what is next is contentment. When you have contentment, you are not burning with some small desire. If at all you have a desire, you have a very big desire, like, I want everyone to be happy, I want the whole world to be peaceful. These are the desires you should have!
Small desires should become bigger desires, and bigger desires don’t bring you tension. Only small things bring you tension.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Naalpe sukham asti yo vai bhumaa tat sukham’.
The mind always goes for something that is bigger; some bigger joy, bigger bliss. It is its nature, you cannot avoid it. The mind wants to have something bigger, and spirituality gives you that bigger joy, bigger happiness.
There is one kind of happiness that you get by taking; as children we all have it. However, a grown up person has happiness in giving; like a mother at home. She enjoys cooking for everybody, but when she is all by herself she doesn’t make five or ten different varieties of food and eat. She never does that. She will have a cup of tea or coffee and munch something. So there is the joy in giving. Authors and literary giants have this joy that I gave something to society, I wrote something. There is a joy in it; go for that.
Q: Gurudev, over a period of time, there have been various emotions that have brought forth great literature, but those have been of negative emotions, like pain and longing and it does not feel apt. I feel one can go into greater levels of the positive side. How can I use both?
Sri Sri: You must remember that people are very different. We are not in a homogenous society, we are in a very heterogeneous society. Even within an individual, he is not the same throughout; his moods change, his feelings change.
For example, when someone wants to listen to music, sometimes they listen to music that is very jarring, sometimes they listen to music that has longing or melancholy. People’s moods change; when the moods change, the type of literature they pick up at that time also changes. Personalities are different, and they enjoy different things.
In India, in the ancient days, there was a concept of navarasa, nine moods. A literature is said to be complete when it has all the nine moods; anger, valor, a sort of desperation, sadness. All these different moods attract people at different times. Some people like humor a lot. Some others would not like to read humor all the time, but they would like to read, as you said, literature that touches your heart, or makes you cry, or makes you a little more emotional. You need to cater to all sections of society, and genuinely, what you feel at that time, you must express it.
You can’t force yourself to be humorous; you can’t force yourself to write a love story, or a love song. If it is not coming from within, then your efforts, I think, may not be as fruitful, as they should be.
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: I am a professional writer. Should I write stories for the commercial market or should I stay faithful to my own art, write what I deeply feel about, which possibly may not sell?
Sri Sri: Why do you have to choose between these two? Why don’t you do both? Write for commercial purposes, and write something that is very immortal, to go for times to come.
(Ans: But Gurudev, I have an identity. Either I hold on to my identity, or have two identities.)
You can have more than one identity. Why do you want to be stuck with one identity? You can do this and that. I feel there is no conflict.
Q: Gurudev, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
Sri Sri: Knowledge is what is up in your head, and wisdom is what is in your life; that which has come as your experience is wisdom. Knowledge is what you have heard and acquired by reading and listening. Knowledge is like reading the menu, and wisdom is having eaten that!
Q: If appreciating a work of art or literature is emotional, i.e., it moves a person, then isn’t it more emotional than cerebral?
Sri Sri: Literature cannot be emotional only. If it is only mushy-mushy, then people will not like to read it. Reading is an intellectual job, it can’t be too dry, like reading a technical book, then it will be very boring. Literature should be a combination of a little bit of emotions and a little bit of intellectual sharpness; like modern poetry, which has an intellectual angle. It stimulates your intellect, and kindles and sparks the much needed emotion.
I think all successful literature has both these aspects.
Q: Gurudev, is there any limit to forgiving or asking for forgiveness? Is there any governing principle for this?
Sri Sri: Forgiving someone shows one’s compassion. Asking for forgiveness shows that you recognize your mistakes, and that you resolve not to repeat them in the future.
Now to say, 'Only if he/she asks me for forgiveness will I forgive them', this is of a lower form of forgiveness. The highest form of forgiveness is to realize that the other committed a mistake out to ignorance, and having a sense of compassion for them. Forgiving others with a sense of compassion is the best for of forgiveness.
Cultivating this sense of forgiveness in oneself is a mark of being noble in character.
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: Sir, I have read many times that desire is the root cause of evil. I tried to conquer my desires, but I don’t know what to do next!
Sri Sri: This is another desire! To conquer desire is another desire, right?