Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Dearest Guruji, I heard about some people they are preparing themselves for living without food unlike you and me. Is this practically possible?
Sri Sri: There are some people who are living without food but you know they don’t have so much strength, they don’t do much. If you want to be like a delicate doll sitting somewhere doing nothing, you don’t need to eat much, you don’t need to eat at all. Some people have practiced it for a long time. I know one gentleman who had come here to our ashram, said since the last thirty years he has not eaten anything.
Fine, how long did it take you to practice that? He said seventeen years. Seventeen years just watching the sun, slowly, slowly reducing the food, one time comes you don’t need to eat anything; but he hasn’t accomplished or achieved anything other than doing this. So if you want to take that as your life’s mission - not to eat anything and practice that, well good! That you can do, no doubt. See for some people it has come to them naturally. Some people, nature has made their body, their system such that they don’t have to eat, when they are happy and in meditation naturally food intake goes down, but it should not be done as a practice. I am reminded of the two great beings in India who were contemporaries, one is Lord Buddha and the other is Lord Mahavira.
Lord Mahavira did not eat at all, it is said he ate once in a year or three times a year or something like that. He didn’t feel the need to eat. He was a prince just like Gautama Buddha or Buddha. As a prince he went out to find the meaning of life, to find the self. He won’t eat for a long time. Very few times he ate, when someone brought food and offered him, he ate.
So Lord Buddha also tried this experiment; he also said okay I will also not eat and find out. Buddha forced on himself not to eat and his body became so weak and he could not even sit or walk or meditate, he became so dependant. At that time a lady came and brought him some rice pudding, he ate that and he got his prana back. Then Lord Buddha declared it is useless to fast too much! He said just by fasting you don’t get enlightened.Lord Krishna has said very clearly in Bhagavad Gita; Lord Krishna has said Yoga is not for one who eats too much or for one who doesn’t eat at all. It is not for one who doesn’t do any activity or not for one who does too much activity, ‘Yuktahara Viharasya’. Similarly not for one who does not sleep at all or one who sleeps all the time.
Yoga is for one who is in moderation and takes them out of misery, out of suffering, out of sorrow. Life is all about getting out of sorrow and how we can do this? ‘Yuktahara Viharasya Yukta Cheshtasya Karmasu Yukt Swapnavabodhasya, Yogo Bhavati Dukhha’. One who has moderation in eating, one who has moderation in activity, one who has moderation in sleep and rest, for that person, Yoga brings them to enlightenment. Yoga brings them to the state where they become free from misery.
Moderation means what? Three meals a day is moderation, two meals a day is moderation, one meal a day?...Moderation? What is moderation that you have to see!
When you are hungry then you eat, eat only as much as is required, little bit. Not stuffing yourself when you are not hungry and also not stuffing too much, just gently little bit, little bit as much as is necessary, and activity is necessary along with it. So when you don’t do activity and want to be in silence one or two or three days, okay then drop those days, take only water, some juice and then sit, you know; but you don’t need to do all that, you don’t need to do all those strenuous things at all.
The ‘Art of Living’ has given you such a nice package, such a nice path that suits today’s active life, that suits our body, that suits our environment, our social cultural environment that we are in.
Q: But how to have people to get out from their anger because sometimes it is so difficult to be with them because of their anger?
Sri Sri: Yeah, how to help people come out of anger? Only through WISDOM! Knowledge, wisdom and meditation.
Q: How do we know that we are working on our life’s purpose and we are not doing somebody else’s job?
Sri Sri: Okay! How do we know we are doing our life’s job? What is that we have come here to do? See whether you are happy and making people happy around you. Are you doing whatever you can do for people around you? Are you sharing your love and gaining knowledge? Whatever knowledge you have, can you share that with people? You have to ask these questions and you know, sometimes we shouldn’t doubt ourselves too much; sometime self doubt arises – ‘Am I doing this right?’ Just be spontaneous. In every action, there is something good and there is something wrong. There is no action that is totally perfect. The field of action has some imperfection, maybe one percent or two percent. So there could be imperfection in every action.
Similarly every word that is spoken could be imperfect. But what could be perfect is our intention, our feeling. Do you see what I am saying? You have no ill intention towards anybody, and that is done. You know, I have never uttered any insulting word from my mouth all these years. At the most the word that has come out of my tongue is ‘stupid’. When I get really angry, I raise my voice and say ‘You stupid!’, but I have never cursed anybody and that is how I am made. I can’t take credit for it because I didn’t make any effort. I didn’t go to any course or school and try to make myself not to curse people, or not to blame anybody. To yell, shout or get upset is not in my nature at all. And all these bad words simply don’t come up.
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: Can I ask you something? I was also thinking about all that has happened in Pakistan and this was the region which was also most affected by terrorism. Is there any relation how the karma is of the people’s action and the nature’s response?
Sri Sri: Yeah, at this time it is not wise to say, ‘it is because of your bad karma you are suffering’. It is not a wise thing to say, people are suffering from natural calamity. That is why they always categorize three types of calamities affecting people.
Three categories, one is Adi Bhautik means natural calamities, nature’s response brings you into misery. And then Adi Daivik - a calamity that is manmade. You can say through one’s own wrong doings. And then the third calamity that comes in life Adhyatmik, What is it called in Christianity? Something like the dark age of the soul… what is it called? (Audience - The dark night of the soul). Yeah,that is you have everything but then depression sets in. You have money, all that you could have achieved in society you have achieved but you find there is darkness and you don’t know how to go in, how to cut the darkness. Your spirit is longing, missing something but it does not know what. There is type of inner vacuum. That inner vacuum where there is no joy, everything appears completely dead and meaningless.
This is called Taap Athreya. Taap means anguish, three types of anguish. Human life is faced with three types of anguish and how it can be overcome? Through Tapas!
Tapas means endurance, knowledge, wisdom, meditation, yoga, pranayama, all this comes under Tapas, from Tapas the three Taaps can be overcome, okay!
Q: I have wasted so many years of my life. I want to do something good and to be successful now. My age is about sixty now, is it too late?
Sri Sri: No! Nothing is ever too late, no not at all, don’t worry. Don’t regret the past. Even now it’s not late. Keep smiling; be happy hmm… you are on the right track, right path, and right place. Move on! There are so many things to be done and I need so much help. So many hands I need to do this big mission, right! Bringing the whole world as one family, so we all play a very important role, let’s all do it!
Q: You told us about experiencing the self, when was your first real experience on experiencing the SELF? We would love to know.
Sri Sri: When was my first experience on that? I don’t know!It was there in the childhood, then I grew up and then it became clearer later on. I don’t know but may be when I was seventeen or eighteen.
Q: For a beginner like me, how do I understand what self is?
Sri Sri: Everything in the world changes. Our experiences change, our understanding changes, our intellect changes, we think differently at different times, thoughts are changing, and also our emotions keep changing. How do you know that everything is changing? There must be something that is not changing. Without the existence of something that is not changing you cannot even know things are changing. So you infer. E.g. when there is a smoke you say, ‘there must be fire’. You just see the smoke and you infer that there must be fire somewhere. Similarly, you cannot directly experience that which is not changing, then how do you do it? Through inference.
The ancient people said there are three ways of knowing - Pratyaksha, Anumana, Agama. There are three proofs, one is Pratyaksha - you see direct. Second is anumana - you infer, e.g. you see the smoke and you know there must be fire, right! So when you see that everything is changing, and you know that you can experience change only through something that is not changing, through some reference point, then you infer -‘There is something that is not changing in us and that is called ‘SELF’, your soul, your spirit, whatever you call it’!
So we went from body to finer - Body, Breath, Mind, Intellect, Memory and then ego. Finer than all this, is the ‘SELF’. What the ‘SELF’ is? Finding that out is called spirituality… is meditation! And what this ‘SELF’ is made up of? It is…!
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: 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.