Q: Is it necessary to be religious in order to be spiritual?
Sri Sri: Spirituality is the way you live, feel and relate. It is the essence of all religions. Religion with spirituality is wonderful. Religion without spirituality is disastrous!
Q: How do we eliminate terrorism for future generations?
Sri Sri: Terrorism arises when someone starts thinking that only they will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell. They think, “let me teach the others my ways so that they also can go to heaven.” Narrow-mindedness is a cause of misery. If each child is educated in a multicultural environment, tolerance is bound to develop. If the kids in Afghanistan were taught a little bit about their roots, a little a bit about Hinduism, Christianity and so on, they would not have become so intolerant. The Taliban would not have arisen. They should have some idea of the great sayings like that of Buddha, of the Upanishads. Krishna said the same thing that Jesus said. Multi-religious upbringing will bring about love and harmony in the world. Interfaith education and inter-religious exposure will bring about love and harmony. If all countries spend even less than 2% of their budget towards globalizing wisdom, every child in the world would be a more happy individual.
A young woman in India from the ’ The Art of Living’ Foundation went to the Ivory Coast to teach. Ivory Coast has very polarized Islamic and Christian communities. They live in different villages and historically have had little or no tolerance towards each other. Within a month of her being there, because of her work, communication opened up between the different religious communities. The Muslims built a school in the Christian village. The Christians built roads and toilets for the Muslims. This miracle happened in a very short span of time. If one individual could bring about this change, imagine what would happen if we all go together. If we move together, we can do something big!
Q: Do you believe that this is the time and age for large-scale global transformation of human evolution?
Sri Sri: Thirty years ago, there was so much prejudice towards spirituality and wisdom. People would want to keep it at an arm’s length and blindly believe that it is not for them. Today there is acceptance. People are willing to try and see that something benefits them and are less prejudiced. With this, more human values will surface. And don’t worry about 2012. The world will not collapse. I assure you that.
Q: How do breathing techniques and meditation benefit those with heart disease?
Sri Sri: Breathing and meditation have been found to lower cholesterol and strengthen the heart. They lower stress and control hormones by making a positive impact on the endocrine system. There have been several studies and research is still going on.
Q: What is the first thing we should do when we wake up in the morning and the last thing before we go to sleep?
Sri Sri: Look at your face in the mirror and give yourself a big smile. If you can’t smile, you can frown. You will gradually start smiling.
Q: How important is self-love? Is it necessary to love oneself before we can reach out to the rest of the world?
Sri Sri: Yes. But please don’t sit and chant “I love myself!” Do you chant “I am in Milwaukee!”? Your body, mind, consciousness are all made up of truth, love, beauty and peace. Take it for granted that you love yourself. Nobody can afford not to love oneself because you are love. That’s just an illusion if it appears that you don’t love yourself.
Q: How can we continue to love people who commit fraud or other such crimes?
Sri Sri: They are not incorrigible.There is a victim crying for help inside every culprit. You will observe in society, those who are greedy usually have no friends. The greed disappears the minute they make friends. Similarly, corruption cannot happen within the boundaries of friendliness. People who are corrupt or commit fraud are victims themselves. They are not spiritually educated. You know, we know one thing from all our programs, especially the ’Prison SMART program’, that there is a good soul crying for help and starved for love even within a criminal. Yes, we can help them.
Q: What should be the place of money in the quest for a spiritual life?
Sri Sri: The problem arises when you carry money not only in your pocket but in your head also! Also what is the use of thinking about it all the time if your pockets are empty? Money is the means and not an end in itself. Have faith that you will get whatever money you need. Put in your effort and move forward with this conviction. Also out of the money you earn, 2-3% should be spent for others. We call it dhana-shuddhi (purification of wealth).
In Sanskrit there is a word anna-shuddhi (purification of grains). It prescribes adding ghee (clarified butter) to rice. If you eat rice alone, it is not as good for your body as the sugar level in your blood suddenly increases. By adding just a little bit of clarified butter or ghee, the process of converting the starch into sugar is slowed down. So the digestion process becomes slower and you are less prone to diabetes. So we say rice gets purified when we add ghee to it. Similarly money gets purified when we contribute to those in need.
’The Art of Living’ does service in schools in villages. We have the ’Dollar a Day’ program under which we feed, provide clothing and educate a child. We have 100 such free schools for people in need. This helps release a child from forced child labor. The burden is taken away from them. These children get to be the first generation learners and the change that is brought about is really powerful. It is like teaching someone to fish rather than giving them the fish. Also if women are enrolled into empowerment programs, there are wonderful experiences. This is what is necessary - Education that is technical, scientific and spiritual at the same time.
Q: What is the mind capable of during sleep? Is it possible to transcend all states of consciousness?
Sri Sri: Yes. In the waking state, you get the best rest and nourishment through knowledge. Dreaming state is deep rest. Sleep is even deeper rest. The fourth state is the meditative state.
Q: Is there such a thing as absolute truth?
Sri Sri: Adi Shankaracharya said that the definition of truth is that which is untouched by time. It is that which stays the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So going by this definition, body and mind are not the truth. Truth is the substratum of creation. There is something at the core of our being that is not changing and that is the absolute truth. That’s why even when you become old, you don’t feel you have become old. Somewhere we know that something in us will not die at all.