Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: In Celebrating Silence you say that ambition indicates lack of self-confidence. Is this so?
Sri Sri: If I say, “I have successfully lifted this bottle of water”, this indicates I was not confident that I could have done it. Being ambitious is when you are not confident of achieving something. ‘I ran ten miles. I did not think I would do it’ - Claiming success indicates your limitation. You are unaware of your huge potential. So, the attitude should be ‘I ran ten miles? I don’t realize that I can also do 100 miles’
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Is your question that people are not happy in spite of prosperity? Bring them to me. Bring them to the teachers. They will have no choice but to smile. Stress can be eliminated through stress management, dispassion and through a broader outlook to life. When you are 90 yrs old what do you want from this life? What do you want to take? What do you want to give? What impressions do you want to give to the world? What impressions do you want to take from the world? Just ponder. Just be with these few questions and the stress will leave you. Dispassion and breath uplift you. A little bit of devotion or bhakti uplifts you.
Q: Could you explain what liberation is? How do we attain it?
Sri Sri: Liberation simply means freedom. Then you can say, ‘I want nothing for myself, I’m complete.’ Liberation is when you have accepted the whole creation the way it is, you’ve accepted people the way they are. Liberation is total peace; a peace which is unshakeable. And this sort of peace dawns when there is forgiveness, compassion, naturalness. You know if you assume you’re somebody then you can’t, if you are intelligent or stupid you have no liberation. You are neither intelligent nor stupid, neither rich, nor poor – if you think – ‘Oh, I’m a very poor guy or poor lady,’ no way you can get it! I am nothing! That sense of lightness, easiness, is what liberation is. A simple taste of it everyone has got, you know when? When your exams were over! The day you finished your exams when you were a child you came back home and threw those books on the sofa and just sat, relaxed! How did it feel? G R E A T, huh? That’s all!
Q: Is it possible for all of us to get enlightened?
Sri Sri: Definitely. Anytime! The seed is there. It can sprout anytime. It can become a big tree anytime.
Q: Please can you teach me how to be connected to the faith?
Sri Sri: Trying to connect to the faith is trying to connect to the air around you. ‘I want to be connected to the air.’ My dear, you can’t be but! You are already connected. Relax. Why do you try to connect to air? Are you getting what I am saying? Doubt as much as you can. I would say, you should doubt as much as you can. A point comes when you no longer can doubt, the truth will stand up. Truth can never be destroyed by doubt. Do you understand what I am saying? Truth will stand. Doubt can cover it, delay it for some time, drag on for some time, but it can never destroy the truth. Therefore, when people have doubts, I say, ‘doubt as much as you can. One day those doubts will fall off.’ If you are lucky, it will fall off immediately the way it comes. Unlucky ones hang on to it for a little longer time. That’s all. Unlucky ones will carry the garbage on their back for some long distance. Lucky ones know that they carry garbage and throw it right there. Two steps, and they drop their garbage. Otherwise one carries on the shoulder for a long distance.
Q: Guruji, I usually compare myself with others and it does not let me enjoy the work or seva I do. I usually feel I am less than others, what should I do?
Sri Sri: I think if you have to compare you should compare with yourself: how you were yesterday, day before, two years back – that’s healthy. Compare with yourself. See you’ve moved. You will always find you are moving when you compare with yourself, okay? Comparing with others, not about your personality, but in the work, is okay. If someone has done better, then you feel inspired to do better than them. It’s okay. You don’t have to keep your eyes shut. You know if you see somebody has done better than you in business you put your target so you do better than them. This is okay to do, that’s what you should do. Comparison should inspire you, not put you down. First of all accept you don’t know who you are, you have no idea who you are. You’re not self- realized, remember this! If you have that feeling, “Oh, I’m so bad, I’m like this, I’m like…” you have no idea who you are. You have infinite potential inside you. You can do ten times better than anybody else, better than what you’re doing right now, hmm? So Comparison should only inspire you, not pull you down. If you think you know about yourself, and you feel you are weak and think you don’t have ability then it pulls you down but when you know there’s infinite potential inside you, you don’t know who you are, then the comparison will only inspire you to do better work.
Q: What is the place of thought in a free mind?
Sri Sri: Where does thought come from? It comes from a free mind or an un-free mind? Thoughts are not free. So, you have answered the question. Free your mind of thoughts for a few moments. When astonished, shocked, in deep love, samadhi, meditation or deep sleep, your mind is free from thoughts. You get energized then.
Q: The knowledge in the Vedas contains the truth and laws of nature. Is modern science also a part of this body of knowledge?
Sri Sri: Yes. Knowledge is infinite. Many scientists of modern age are the rishis (sages) of today. They explore the universe. All are to be honored, whether ancient or modern.
Today’s quantum physics discoveries are startling. There is so much similarity to Vedic knowledge. For instance, dark matter and String Theory are both present in the ancient knowledge. Dr.Hans-Peter Dürr, the physicist has told me that whenever he is giving a lecture, he feels as if he is speaking on Vedanta. The whole universe is made up of one substance, and not two. This is Vedanta. Ancient rishis and modern physicists both say the same thing.
Q: Silence, music and logic are the three essential ingredients you have spoken of. How does logic relate to knowledge or consciousness?
Sri Sri: Logic is essential. If you see an idol of Goddess Saraswati, she is sitting on solid rock. She has a book in one hand which is logic. In the others, she has rosemary beads for meditation and veena (a musical instrument). Logic, music, mauna (silence) are all essential for total development of consciousness. Knowledge is logical understanding of existence.
Q: How much should one sleep? Is it good to sleep again if you wake up at 4 AM? I would gladly do my program at that time of the day but I can’t. How do I make myself do it?
Sri Sri: You know, take good sleep. You don’t have to wake up at 4 o’clock and do practice, no. You do it when you’re complete with your sleep. Whenever you have complete sleep and you wake up, then you do it, okay? Don’t strain yourself. Our rule is what? Not to torture yourself or strain yourself, hmm? Your inner connection can only happen when you are relaxed, not if you’re tense.
Q: Please say something about spiritual materialism.
Sri Sri: I am hearing a new word today. Well, don’t divide life: this is spiritual or this is materialistic. Take a holistic view of life. There is also food in a temple. In that sense both material and spiritual aspects are there. Music is both a form of entertainment and spirituality. We even put ornate clothes on our deities. Ancient people never separated the spiritual and material. They enjoyed putting precious jewels in temples.
In South India, in Madurai, kings gave away most of their precious jewels to the temples. Everything co-existed. In the same way, you can treat work as worship. It is sacred. Spirituality has entered our material life. Action is sacred. Lord Krishna says, “Janma karma samay divya”. All actions are divine. Lord Krishna himself was very much of the material world except for his discourse to Arjuna. All he did was materialistic. He ruled the country, advised as a minister, and so on. Life should not be compartmentalized. Materialism and spirituality are not opposed to each other.
However, money earned through unethical means is never spiritual. It will pinch your heart. The spirit is awake in you. It is your natural instinct. If you have a plate full of food and someone comes to you, you will not be able to eat it alone. It is such a natural part of your life that you cannot renounce one for the other. Every spiritual person has to do charity. You want to be compassionate, but how can you be when you have nothing to give away. Charity cannot happen with an empty bowl.
Narayana is the pinnacle of spiritual life and Laxmi is the symbol of wealth. Both Narayana and Laxmi go together. Saraswati sat on a rock. The knowledge that you have gained will always be with you. Laxmi sits on a lotus which floats on water. You will never believe what happens in the share market. Wealth is unsteady just as a lotus floating on water. These are the eternal symbols that convey truth. Grasp what is needed. This is very important.