Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: I have been introduced to two concepts which I find confusing. A. I am not the doer. Or B: I should take responsibility for little things even when I have little control. What's up?
Sri Sri: Life is a balance between these two things. Taking responsibility and letting go. It's both. That's a fine balance. For the present and future take responsibility, for the past know that it has to happen that way and move on. So often we do the reverse. We think that the past was free will and regret and we think the future is all destiny and we don’t do anything about it. But the wise one does you know what? The regard the future as free will, past as destiny and they are happy in the present. So you don’t regret about the past and you know what you want to do in the future and you are on it.
Q: Why has religion been the reason for so many wars?
Sri Sri: Even I wonder about it. There are 10 major religions in the world: four from the Middle East and six from the Far East. The six religions from the Far East never had any conflicts. There was no war between these six religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism and Taoism – they all coexisted.
When President Nixon went to Japan, he had a Shinto priest on one side and a Buddhist priest on the other side. He asked the Shinto priest: What is the percentage of Shintos in Japan? The priest said: 80 percent. Then he turned to the Buddhist priest and asked him: What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan? He said: 80 percent. Nixon was perplexed as to how this was possible. Shintos go to Buddhist temples and Buddhists go to Shinto temples. Similarly, Hindus go to Sikh gurudwaras and Sikhs go to Hindu temples. The same may be said of Hindus and Buddhists in India. Similarly in China, there is no war between Taoists and Buddhists.
The four religions in the Middle East were always at war. I think they should learn how to co-exist from the other six. Judaism and Christianity are friendly. Judaism and Islam have an issue.
Q: What is Witness Consciousness? When does one reach such state?
Sri Sri: This is a state of consciousness where you realize things are not happening because of your effort, it is happening due to some law, due to some power in the creation which is making everything happen. When you have given your 100 percent, physically, intellectually… then you realize you are not doing, but things are happening.
Q: What is the difference between Karma and Destiny?
Sri Sri: The word destiny means Vidhi, this is how it is. The word Karma has several different connotations. It can mean action or latent action. The impression of an action that might give rise to another action can also be called karma.
Q: Guruji, why is the opening of the third eye associated with the destruction of desires?
Sri Sri: You know the third eye is associated with alertness and awareness. When you are alert, awake, more into knowledge then naturally the energy has moved from the lowest chakra to the highest. The lower things no more interest you. You know when you are very alert and awake the sexual energy has transformed itself into a different quality of consciousness. The sexual energy is when the back portion of our brain, our head is activated. Alertness, perception and awareness happen when the front portion of the brain is activated; the pituitary and pineal glands are getting activated. In the brain also they are on the opposite sides of each other. So it is mythologically said when the third eye opens then the gross desires simply evaporate, not that it is bad but they simply don’t make much sense anymore. That is why the intellectuals and the highly spiritual oriented practitioners always put something on the forehead, some sandal wood paste because they are focusing; doing some yoga and meditation so they put some sandal wood to cool the forehead, to cool it a little bit.
When the frontal lobe of the brain becomes more active, more alert, then thinking, intellectual work, creativity, memory they are all enhanced because all of these things are in the frontal lobe of the brain and sensory pleasures are all at the back of the brain.
Q: How can I balance peace while fighting for justice?
Sri Sri: That is the whole essence of The Bhagavat Gita. Be calm from the inside and act whenever required. You should stand up and fight if necessary; but don’t keep the fight inside yourself. Usually we fight inside and keep quiet on the outside. We should do the opposite. With meditation, it becomes easy to bring about this change. The power of satva and the power of meditation make it easy.
Today is Shri Ramanavami (Lord Rama’s Birthday). Ra means radiance, Ma means myself. Rama means ‘the light inside me’. Rama was born to Dasharath and Kousalya. Dasharath means ‘Ten Chariots’. The ten chariots symbolize the five organs of perception (the five senses) and five organs of knowledge and action (For instance: reproduction, legs, hands and so on). Kousalya means ‘skill’. Ayodhya means ‘a society in which there is no violence’. If you skillfully observe what goes on inside the body, light dawns inside you. That is meditation. You need some skill to relax the tension. Then you start expanding.
You know you are here now, yet you are not. With this realization, there is a certain lightness that comes spontaneously. Rama is when the inner light shines through. Sita the mind/intellect was robbed by the ego, Ravana. Ravana had ten heads. Ravana (ego) was one who wouldn’t listen to others. He was too much in the head. Hanuman means breath. With the help of Hanuman (the breath), Sita (the mind) was able to go back to Rama (the source).
Ramayana happened around 7,500 years ago. It had an impact on Germany and many other countries in Europe and Far East. Thousands of cities are named after Rama. Cities like Rambaugh in Germany, Rome in Italy have their roots in the word Ram. Indonesia, Bali and Japan were all influenced by Ramayana. Though Ramayana is history, it is also an eternal phenomenon happening all the time.
Q: What is your vision for The Art of Living in the coming years?
Sri Sri: I have started it. My job is done. It’s up to you now. You have a vision, so take it where you want to take it. , We are celebrating 30 years of The Art of Living in Germany. We’ll be in the same Olympic stadium that Hitler built 75 years ago. He started the war from there. From the same place where war started, we’ll spread the message of peace.
Q: When a loved one dies, are they reincarnated? Will we know them again? In the case of a parent, are we still connected to them?
Sri Sri: All possible...It's possible to know them if they incarnate now and you can feel that? Haven't you felt that you go somewhere and suddenly you feel someone is very close to somebody? Your gut feeling comes. It's all possible. You know, we’re all connected in some time or another. In the past, we've all been connected. Now we are connected. Whether we acknowledge or not, we are all connected.
Sri Sri: When you say, I want nothing: that is happiness. When you are happy and are asked: 'Do you want anything?' you say ‘No, I want nothing.’
Q: What are the qualities that the Master wants to see in an ideal devotee?
Sri Sri: None. If I name a quality, you will all try to emulate that quality. Just be your natural self. Be honest. Even if you miss a meditation one day, don’t feel guilty about it. Time is carrying you. All the good qualities you aspire for, you have them anyway. You are here and you are doing the right thing.
You can purify your body by following a proper diet. It’s good to fast for two-three days in a year. Fast on only juices. But if your system disagrees with it, don’t do it. You should listen to your body.
Mind is purified through pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya.
Intellect is purified through knowledge.
Emotions are purified through bhajans.
Actions are purified through seva.
Money is purified through charity.
You should donate at least two to three percent of your income.