Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: Can you please explain the meaning of this verse, ‘Indriyarthesu vairagyam anahankara eva ca, janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarshanam. ’
Sri Sri: Indriyartheshu vairagyam, we see so many things, such beautiful sceneries, but till when can we keep seeing? At some point, our eyes get tired and we close them. Similarly, with smell; people who work in incense factories, they cannot stand smelling any fragrances. Sometimes their nose stops functioning, they can’t make out whether the fragrance is jasmine, or chamomile, or rose. After constantly smelling fragrances, they like being in places where there are no fragrances.
Similarly, with taste, how much can you taste? Then, touch, how much will you touch? For 24 hours in a day? If people keep touching for 24 hour s a day, then both will start getting fed-up. They will feel like saying, ‘Don’t touch me, stay away!’ So even touch has a limit.
Indriyartheshu means taking the mind away from the sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. Having a feeling a dispassion towards the senses.
Anahankara eva cha, means a personality without ego. Letting go of the ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Mine’, and becoming empty. This I adds a lot of weight to us; it gets attached somewhere or the other, like ‘My house’, ‘My country’, ‘My language’, ‘My religion'.
People are ready to give up their lives for religion, why? It is not because of the religion, but because of the I. I am Hindu, I am Buddhist, I am Christian, or I am Muslim; this is the reason. When people get attached to the I, they become blind about the issue. Let go of this I and be-free. Look at everything from a free state of mind, separate from yourself, from the I, that is anahankara.
We need to realize that we are stuck in our own shoes. Take your feet out of those shoes, and try a different pair of shoes and see, there will be a whole new world before you. In India, the prophets have adopted such practices.
Don’t remain stuck in I. Don’t say, ‘My religion is bigger’. If there are shortcomings in your religion, recognize them. View all religions together, and then you will see the virtues and limitations about each religion. If you continue to be stuck in, ‘My religion’, neither will you be able to spot the shortcomings in it nor will you be able to live in peace. Nor will any magnanimity or vastness manifest within you. If magnanimity does not arise in you, and if your mindset remains closed then knowledge of the self will not dawn in you; neither will you experience devotion or any blossoming in your life.
You must have heard about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (a famous mystic of 19th-century India). He experienced different religions, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. He adopted each religion for three days and performed all the practices and rituals of that religion. That does not mean everybody should do the same thing.
When I was young, about 8-10 years old, I too went to a Church, listened to the priests and saw the practices. I also went to a Mosque and learnt the Quran from the Muslim clerics. We shared a good relationship and discussed knowledge. I have also had discussions with Buddhists, learnt their methods. We should share the joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations of the people of every region.
When I go to Europe, I live like an European. When I go to Mongolia, it feels like my own country. Similarly, when I travel to South America it feels like my own. I do not know a single syllable of their language and they do not know my language, yet there is a feeling of oneness. So, this feeling of oneness is a sign of no ego (anahankaar). It arises from no ego; ahankara is where there is a feeling of being stifled, of smallness.
Q: How to escape from emotions?
Sri Sri: There has to be firmness in between all emotions. There is no need to escape from emotions. Emotional upheavals will keep happening, but you have to become strong through them.
Q: When someone hurts us, we get into depression.
Sri Sri: How can others hurt you? Those who hurt others are foolish. Will you blame anyone who is actually foolish or is mentally ill? No, isn’t it?
So, just think that those who hurt you are either foolish or ill. If you think like this, then you will not feel hurt. Okay?
If you think that everyone should act wisely, how is it possible? Everyone has their own little mind, own desires, problems and ignorance. Just accept them.
No one can hurt us until we permit them to do so.
Q: Gurudev, you said that whatever role we are given in life, we should play that role 100% to the best of our abilities. But how can we know what our role really is?
Sri Sri: Whatever role you are in now, that’s the right one! (Laughter)
Every person plays many roles in life. Whatever role you are given in life, just play that role well. Someone is a mother, or a father, or a husband, or a wife, etc.
Be a good citizen of your society and play that role well. Whether you are a wise person, or a disciple, or a Guru; whatever role you are given, play it well and fearlessly. Do not fear to do what is required.
Q: Is unconditional love towards a married person a crime?
Sri Sri: Suppose you are the husband or wife of a person who is being loved unconditionally by somebody else, would you like it? Come on, this is not love, it is an emotional entanglement, get out of it.
Be firm and solid where you are, in yourself. Don’t try to break somebody else’s family; better you keep out, okay?
There are 7 billion people on the planet; nearly half of them are unmarried. You will find somebody better than the person whom you are entangled with.
I understand, when you are emotionally attached, nothing else comes to your head; you are in a bubble. You are in a little world of your own, thinking, sitting, talking, eating, sleeping, you think only about that person, you go crazy. This is the moment when you should remember that one day you are going to die. When you become aware of death, suddenly this moha, this illusion that you have gotten entangled into, leaves you. You should just remember about your own death. Knowledge of death sometimes makes life very intense, and very well founded. Otherwise, we live as if we are going to live here forever.
Q: Gurudev, today is Karva Chauth (an ancient festival where a woman prays for the longevity of her spouse and his overall well-being).
Sri Sri: Yes, today is karva chauth. You have already seen the moon, go and eat now. Even if you don’t get to see the moon, not a problem, think that you have seen the moon from within yourself and go and have your meal.
We have all these customs in our country, like Bhai Duj (on this day, sisters pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives) and karva chauth. These festivals make our relationships stronger. From many years, this has been a unique practice in our country to bring purity in relationships.
For karva-chauth, the wife prays and fasts for the well-being of her husand. Earlier, she used to pray for her husband’s longevity, good health and welfare; nowadays, she also prays for stability of his mind.
We have to make the right use of each and every opportunity we get to pray to God. This is one such opportunity. When you fast all day the body is cleansed, the mind is cleansed, and you are able to pray. It is a good custom.
Whoever does this fast, should not do so without water. I do not believe in fasting without water. Along with fasting it is necessary to drink some water. When you drink water, all the toxins in the body get flushed out and the body becomes pure. So water during fasting is necessary.
If you have any physical illness like diabetes or something, then fast only with the consultation of a doctor.
Even husbands can observe fast for their wives. Some men have already started observing karva chauth. Please continue, it is not a problem, it should be observed. This is necessary from both sides, it should not be one-sided.
Q: Gurudev, if the nostrils, lungs, stomach, the whole body is hollow and empty, then why is the mind full of thoughts? What is the source of these thoughts?
Sri Sri: When the mind starts realizing it is all hollow and empty, it starts becoming hollow and empty; that is what you are doing.
Q: Gurudev, sometimes I am not able to understand the knowledge given by you. What should I do so that I can get both your love and knowledge?
Sri Sri: Whatever you find difficult to understand, it is not to be understood at all. If it is all going above your head, let it go. Take only what you can understand.
See, everyone’s capacity to gain knowledge is different, but to be in love, to be in devotion you don’t need any capability. When it comes to devotion, everyone is same and equally capable. There is no special qualification for it.
Now, when we talk about knowledge, then yes, everyone has a different capacity. Some people have a higher capacity for knowledge and some have a lesser capacity, but this does not make any difference when there is devotion and a feeling of oneness.
Don’t think that only if you are knowledgeable God become happy with you, or become fond of you. It is not like that. The purpose of knowledge is for your own joy.
To purify your intellect, you need Knowledge.
To purify your heart, you need Love.
To purify your karma, you need Seva.
All three should go together.
Q: Gurudev, when the mind gets stuck in a situation, it does not get out quickly. What does one do for that?
Sri Sri: It is okay, the mind is like that only. This is where knowledge is important. Knowledge is like holding on to a life jacket in a storm.
That is why it is called storms of emotions. The ancient people have compared emotions to an ocean; it like an ocean and you need to learn to swim across this ocean. Knowledge is the life jacket. So when you get tired of swimming, just put on the life jacket and you will make it to the shore.
Just imagine, if this knowledge is not with you and you are stuck in a problem, then what condition will you be in? What would you do?
If you had never done any meditation or pranayama, never listened to any knowledge, and you get into a situation where your mind is entangled with some girl or boy, then what would have been going on in your mind? You would have become mad, isn’t it? Be thankful that you at least have this knowledge. Knowledge is what will help you cross over safely.
For example, if somebody insults you, then the knowledge point kicks in, ‘Don’t be a football of others’ opinion’. This comes automatically. From somewhere or the other, a ray of knowledge arises within you to save you, to raise you above the event. Does it happen or not? (Many in the audience speak out in agreement.)
See how it happens for so many people.
(Devotee: Gurudev, just give blessings)
Yes, when have I not given blessings? I always give blessings, but you need to come with a bigger vessel. You come with a small cup and say, ‘Please give me two liters’. You have to make your vessels bigger so that I can give you four liters instead of two liters. You bring such a small vessel that can hold only ten milliliters, keep aside two liters.ca
Grace and blessing have their own place, without them nothing works. You will keep getting it. Along with it, we will also have to make our own efforts. We have to increase our capacity to receive.
Q: Dear Gurudev, when someone insults me, I simply accept it with a feeling of love, and I do not retaliate. Am I in some way encouraging injustice by doing this?
Sri Sri: Yes, we must never support injustice. You can forgive them once or twice. But if they do this repeatedly, then you should stand up against them and show them what they are doing is wrong and bring them to the right path.
But you should do this with cheerfulness and not because it is troubling you. One who is doing something wrong is harming himself and not anyone else. So you should try to help them understand this.
When children do something naughty, a mother slaps them once or twice. Why? Is it because the child has hit her or insulted her in any way? No. It is because the child’s bad behaviour is going to harm him, which is why the mother scolds him.
For example, a child sits in a mother’s lap but also kicks her at the same time. Does a mother ever get upset because of this? No. Instead, the mother feels happy. But if the child does something wrong, or insists on doing something wrong, like playing with a knife, then the mother hits the child so that the child does not harm himself.
This is how you should understand.