Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Can you please talk in a little detail about these levels of existence you have talked about?
Sri Sri: Mind, intellect, memory and ego are four functions of the mind or mind has these four aspects.
So what is mind? Are you listening? If your eyes are open and your ears are of course open, sound anyways goes into your ears but if your mind is elsewhere, can you listen to me? No! Isn’t it? So this mind is that through which you perceive, you feel, correct! That, which goes out through the five senses and experiences, is mind.
Okay! so if you experience through mind then what is intellect? As you experience you say, ‘oh, this is good, this is not good, I want this, I don’t want that’. You know intellect is the judging or discriminating aspect. As I am speaking now, your mind is saying, ‘well, I don’t like it’ or ‘I believe it’ or ‘I don’t believe it’, you are going into a dialogue, this is intellect; and then memory, that which stores all this information. So sometimes you feel, when you experience something, ‘oh! I have experienced this before’. When you enjoy apple pie, not for the first time, you say ‘oh I have enjoyed this before, I had this pie before’. So memory is recognizing the experiences and storing it in the memory and then ego.
Ego is – ‘I am something, I am intelligent, I am stupid, I like this, I don’t like that, I am rich, I am very poor, I am ugly or I am beautiful, I am something, I am’, that is ego. When you understand all this then you feel is this the thing? No! After understanding ego also, there is something left, what is this? That is the self.
Catch more in the next post..
Q: Why do natural calamities occur only in specific areas?
Sri Sri: Why natural calamities occur only in specific areas, I have no idea! You have to ask mother earth but one thing I tell you we are misusing this planet so much. Every day we are putting so many dynamites under this earth and blasting it. Why will it not shake? Mining has become such a business, five to six companies around the world are doing mining and mining and mining… depleting this earth more than it can recuperate itself.
Q: Some schools of thought disapprove the existence of the Self or the cosmic consciousness. What do you say about this?
Sri Sri: You cannot say self does not exist. Anybody who claims self doesn’t exist, how did he know that? Who knows it? Who is saying it? Huh?! If I say I don’t believe in anything, at least I must believe in these words of mine. I can only say, ‘I don’t believe in anything except these words that I am saying’. You know the most foolish statement on the planet could be someone saying, ‘I don’t believe in anything’. At least the person who is saying this should believe in himself!Do you see what am I saying? Are you getting it?
If I say I don’t trust anything then I must also say that I don’t trust the words that I am saying to you right now. This sentence - ‘I don’t trust anything’ is false because you at least trust the sentence you are saying, otherwise why would you even say that sentence? So, nobody can authentically say that he/she doesn’t trust anything. If he says, either he is crazy or he is enlightened! (Bubbles of laughter) The words that we say, ‘everything is changing’ are very relative. All that you see, you touch or you feel comes under the purview of the five senses. That is why we say everything is changing, but there is something that doesn’t change. If, once, we have a foot in that something that doesn’t change, nothing can shake you! That is awakening! What is Awakening? something in me that doesn’t change, I don’t change. Just a glimpse of this spirit or the being within you, and there will be no fear at all in life.
Everything is in abundance, mind becomes calm, stable, creative, intelligent, intuitive, and all these abilities just spring up from within, and that is what happens when you just sit, meditate and let go of everything. Let go.And even if for a few seconds the mind becomes still and it is in touch with that non-changing you; DONE! Then the purpose of life is done!
So every human body-mind complex is like a wave in the ocean, then you realize that this whole universe is all life everywhere. Our bodies are like shells floating in the ocean. Ocean of life is holding so many bodies. So life is not just in the body but body is in the life.
If it is too much and you don’t get it now, just put it somewhere in the back of the mind, someday you will understand, okay! It could be just a concept, that’s why what we do with anything that’s a concept? We put it in the back burner, in the back shelf; we just go with our experience. See, with our experience, we mature more and more and more… yeah! Good!
Q: Shouldn’t diversity within companies involve more than discussing the percentage of women at the top?
Sri Sri: “In many places, the first discrepancy and discrimination one sees is gender-based. Gender is the most visible; the most obvious today. So, gender and religion, followed by nationality or cultural differences, these all should be sidelined.
However, I am not saying that you have to force yourself to find a person who is from a particular category, when they may not be as talented. That is also wrong. Talent must come first, and diversity should be secondary. In the name of diversity, we bring in people who are not capable or qualified to do the job. The business suffers as a result. So the diversity value should not come as a rule imposed on someone but it should come from within oneself. It should come from the transformation of our outlook rather than an imposition of a rule or government regulations”.
Q: Should one never get angry?
Sri Sri: Don’t think you should all be without anger all the time. You should use anger as a tool when it is necessary. I tried to do it but I was not too successful. Often sometimes I try to show anger but it doesn’t work because very soon I start laughing and everybody else will start laughing along, also people don’t believe me getting angry. But sometimes anger is good. You know, especially in a world when there is corruption, when there is injustice and when there are all sorts of people who do all sorts of wrong things, who take advantage of you in all situations, it is necessary that you raise your eyebrows or sometime show anger, it would be good. But see that you show anger and it doesn’t affect you or get into your heart and make you upset.
Look, that doesn’t happen in a day and that is where all these practices can be of help. Yeah, I’m not saying be like a vegetable all the time or like a mentally retarded person, smiling or not getting upset at all, you should get angry when things don’t go well, right! But don’t ever let that anger ferment in your mind and turn into hatred. It could be momentary.
You know what is a healthy anger? When you draw a line on the surface of water, how long does it stay for? Only that much time anger should stay, then it is healthy anger. If your anger stays only for that much time and when you have a control over it then it is healthy and you are okay. You can get angry but anger should not get you. What happens usually, anger comes and gets you, and then we are in trouble. Knowledge and wisdom is the reverse of it. Got it! You can use the knife but the knife doesn’t use you.
Q: What is the starting point for leaders?
Sri Sri: “I believe the starting point for leaders is the boardroom; the office. To create an atmosphere of celebration, you need the right attitude and you have to bring in that attitude. This may require some form of teamwork, others need to instill it. An atmosphere of celebration, of trust, cooperation and a sense of belonging, all have to come. I have no doubt that there is a willingness among people to refresh themselves, they just need to have it put in front of them in an effective, viable way. They need to be given the opportunity.
A business won’t last if it focuses only on productivity and net result. The company ultimately suffers because the creativity, the strength and the sense of belonging will ebb away. Similarly, the ‘command and control’ system-the military system-no longer works. Only inspiration and motivation are effective tools. For that, one can apply some of the ancient principle from different parts of the world in the workplace, to make the work more enjoyable.”
Q: Sometimes we feel disconnected with you how to overcome that?
Sri Sri: Sometimes only na! So you got disconnected and then you feel the connection again, it will happen.
Q: You talked about the body. I want to know what the connection is between the body and the five elements.
Sri Sri: Earth, water, fire, air, ether - the five elements. If any one of this element is missing, this body cannot stay or sustain. Isn’t it? Earth element - food, water element, then you need fire element or heat. Without heat, this body cannot survive. Then is air – impossible for body to exist without it, and space or ether. The five elements have been the cause or reason for the body’s existence and what happens to this body? It has come out of the five elements and will go back to the five elements, this is science.
There are five elements in the dead body also. So what is the difference between a living and a dead body? In a living body, there is life and what is this life?
When the question begins then you see oh, ‘PRANA’ - there is life force, and then you go deeper into the study of ‘PRANA’ and you see there is something more than ‘PRANA’.
What is that, that is the mind! Oh, then what is the mind? How many types of mind are there? How many functions of the mind are there? This curiosity takes you to the 'Art of Living'.
Q: I know it is bad and yet I do it. Why do I do it? And how to get rid of this?
Sri Sri: You know it is bad and you still do it. Why do you do it, are you asking me? That is ok. You should wish that circumstances would change and know that opposite values are complementary. That gives you the strength. And, know that things change.
There are only two reasons why you don’t follow knowledge or wisdom:
First: Bad habits. Old habits don’t leave you so fast.
Second: Your temptation of doing wrong gives some pleasure. For example, you know that eating too much of ice cream would increase your sugar level as your doctor has warned you, but your temptation says, 'No, I should eat that. Just one more day let me eat it.' You do it because it gives you pleasure.
It is ok, you can violate the laws as long as you are ready to take the consequences. Eating after 8 pm is not good, you know? But if you still do, then keep awake in the night, keep burping and keep suffering with indigestion! If it is ok with you, then do it.
So, only these two things stop you from following the knowledge.
Like, you know that smoking is bad for health but you still smoke. Smoking is not giving you any great pleasure but to drop it has become so difficult because it has got ingrained as a bad habit in you.
Now, habits can be overcome only through three things:One is out of greed. Say, someone tells you that you will get one million dollars if you don’t smoke for one whole month then you will say, 'Why one month, I will not smoke for 35 days. Five extra days to make sure the counting is right.' Greed can stop you from habits that you don’t like.
The other is fear. If someone says you will get these different types of cancer if you smoke, then you won’t touch it.
Third is the promise to a loved one. If you made a promise to a loved one then also you won’t do it. The love for them will will stop you from smoking.
So, I prefer the last one to the other two.
Or, in the end you will realize by yourself, 'Oh! It is painful. It is misery that I am buying by continuing with this habit.' So, one day when you realize this, then it will drop the habit itself.
Q: Basically I don’t really know how to say it, it’s a question I have been asking myself for a very long time and it might seem a bit awkward but as I look at the whole universe and see everything is interrelated, I really wonder how the human kind is really useful in the system and are we of any use while we are here?
Sri Sri: Very good question! What is the purpose of life, why are we here? And you know you should give a pat on your back. If this question has come into your life that means your intellect is mature. There are millions of people who live their whole life without even asking this question, ‘what is the purpose of life? Why am I here?’ They simply eat, drink, watch television, make love or fight, and die. They have no idea; they don’t even stop for a minute and think what life is? Who am I? What do I want? What can I do and how can I be useful? None of these questions even cross anybody’s mind; if it has come into you that mean you have begun living. Your life has started the right journey and this journey is what you call spirituality - to find out exactly what is the purpose of life. What do I want? Who am I? Before you can ask what you want, first you should know who you are. What is life? There are two important aspects to this question, one is the science and another is spirituality. You know what THIS IS through science, and through spirituality you know ‘WHAT AM I?’
‘ME’ and ‘THIS’; ‘THIS’ you understand through science, ‘ME’ you understand through spirituality.
What is this ‘I’? To know the ‘I’ first you understand ‘THIS’. What is ‘THIS’?
Oh ‘This is world’, ‘This is body', and ‘how did this body come into existence?’
It came as a baby weighing only four or five kilos. Then the baby took all the material from this earth and becomes fifty kilos. So what is in this body, how this body has come up?