Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Q: You talked about the body. I want to know what the connection is between the body and the five elements.
Sri Sri: Earth, water, fire, air, ether - the five elements. If any one of this element is missing, this body cannot stay or sustain. Isn’t it? Earth element - food, water element, then you need fire element or heat. Without heat, this body cannot survive. Then is air – impossible for body to exist without it, and space or ether. The five elements have been the cause or reason for the body’s existence and what happens to this body? It has come out of the five elements and will go back to the five elements, this is science.
There are five elements in the dead body also. So what is the difference between a living and a dead body? In a living body, there is life and what is this life?
When the question begins then you see oh, ‘PRANA’ - there is life force, and then you go deeper into the study of ‘PRANA’ and you see there is something more than ‘PRANA’.
What is that, that is the mind! Oh, then what is the mind? How many types of mind are there? How many functions of the mind are there? This curiosity takes you to the 'Art of Living'.
Q: I know it is bad and yet I do it. Why do I do it? And how to get rid of this?
Sri Sri: You know it is bad and you still do it. Why do you do it, are you asking me? That is ok. You should wish that circumstances would change and know that opposite values are complementary. That gives you the strength. And, know that things change.
There are only two reasons why you don’t follow knowledge or wisdom:
First: Bad habits. Old habits don’t leave you so fast.
Second: Your temptation of doing wrong gives some pleasure. For example, you know that eating too much of ice cream would increase your sugar level as your doctor has warned you, but your temptation says, 'No, I should eat that. Just one more day let me eat it.' You do it because it gives you pleasure.
It is ok, you can violate the laws as long as you are ready to take the consequences. Eating after 8 pm is not good, you know? But if you still do, then keep awake in the night, keep burping and keep suffering with indigestion! If it is ok with you, then do it.
So, only these two things stop you from following the knowledge.
Like, you know that smoking is bad for health but you still smoke. Smoking is not giving you any great pleasure but to drop it has become so difficult because it has got ingrained as a bad habit in you.
Now, habits can be overcome only through three things:One is out of greed. Say, someone tells you that you will get one million dollars if you don’t smoke for one whole month then you will say, 'Why one month, I will not smoke for 35 days. Five extra days to make sure the counting is right.' Greed can stop you from habits that you don’t like.
The other is fear. If someone says you will get these different types of cancer if you smoke, then you won’t touch it.
Third is the promise to a loved one. If you made a promise to a loved one then also you won’t do it. The love for them will will stop you from smoking.
So, I prefer the last one to the other two.
Or, in the end you will realize by yourself, 'Oh! It is painful. It is misery that I am buying by continuing with this habit.' So, one day when you realize this, then it will drop the habit itself.
Q: Dear Guruji, I like a person C and E. The problem is I do not know whom to choose. C loves me a lot where as I find it a challenge to love E. So whom should I chose?
Sri Sri: you know what I say in all these cases, choice is yours, blessing is mine!
If I make a choice for you, then anytime you will have any fight with that person , you will say, “I did not choose you. Its only because of Guruji that I married you”. Then not only you but I will also be in trouble! So, the best thing is you choose, okay and know that you will choose only the best. Whomsoever you choose will be the best for you. The other one which you have not chosen is never going to be best for you. This much I assure you.
Q: In order for people to feel better, is it a simple case of breathing, meditation and embracing intuition?
Sri Sri: “Correct!. We are not taught at school or at home how to manage negative emotions, like feeling unhappy, sad, jealous or angry. This knowledge has not been provided. But if you are taught how to manage your anger and your own emotions using your own breath, then it does a lot of good. Acquiring that knowledge is possible with the help of breathing and meditation.
I have been in Buddhist and Hindu traditions for centuries, in China, Japan and India, through breathing and meditation. But the difference between our techniques and these old techniques is that ours suit modern-day people who have less time. This technique is so handy, useful and accessible in today’s modern society”.
Q: What is the starting point for leaders?
Sri Sri: “I believe the starting point for leaders is the boardroom; the office. To create an atmosphere of celebration, you need the right attitude and you have to bring in that attitude. This may require some form of teamwork, others need to instill it. An atmosphere of celebration, of trust, cooperation and a sense of belonging, all have to come. I have no doubt that there is a willingness among people to refresh themselves, they just need to have it put in front of them in an effective, viable way. They need to be given the opportunity.
A business won’t last if it focuses only on productivity and net result. The company ultimately suffers because the creativity, the strength and the sense of belonging will ebb away. Similarly, the ‘command and control’ system-the military system-no longer works. Only inspiration and motivation are effective tools. For that, one can apply some of the ancient principle from different parts of the world in the workplace, to make the work more enjoyable.”
Q: What is the greatest value of diversity?
Sri Sri: “We no longer live in an isolated world. Our knowledge and communication are expanding, while our world is shrinking. Therefore, to survive, businesses cannot be territorial. We have no other choice than to honor diversity. It is now a necessity, not an option.
It is in our nature, and it is a sign of intelligence and evolution when we feel that all the cultures, all the civilizations, all the different schools of philosophy, all belong to us. Unfortunately, prejudice based on ignorance is the greatest impediment to embracing diversity. For example, 25 years ago when we spoke about yoga, breathing and meditation in Europe, it was regarded as an oddity over here. There was so much prejudice towards Eastern influences. But now people realize that yoga is beneficial to their health, and they are accepting it. Similarly today, there is prejudice in some Islamic countries towards yoga and meditation. All these prejudice must be eradicated.
Q: I have a very nice family, a lovely and caring husband and three lovely daughters, no financial problem, but on and off I have disturbed moods and emotions without reason! Is this problem inherited from my father as he is a major depression patient? And my grandfather committed suicide long long ago; my father hated my grandfather so much!
Sri Sri: Listen, everything changes! Every cell in your body changes in one year and when you are on the spiritual path, this is accelerated. However the past has been, you simply dump it, drop it, okay!
Yeah, people didn’t know how to handle their mind in those days, but now you know, okay!
The concept, ‘Because of my hereditary problem I am having this mood swing’ will not let your mind be free.
It can all change and it is changing. With the practice of pranayama, you must have already noticed a change. It will continue to improve. Few more advanced courses and little more meditation will also help.
Q: Shouldn’t diversity within companies involve more than discussing the percentage of women at the top?
Sri Sri: “In many places, the first discrepancy and discrimination one sees is gender-based. Gender is the most visible; the most obvious today. So, gender and religion, followed by nationality or cultural differences, these all should be sidelined.
However, I am not saying that you have to force yourself to find a person who is from a particular category, when they may not be as talented. That is also wrong. Talent must come first, and diversity should be secondary. In the name of diversity, we bring in people who are not capable or qualified to do the job. The business suffers as a result. So the diversity value should not come as a rule imposed on someone but it should come from within oneself. It should come from the transformation of our outlook rather than an imposition of a rule or government regulations”.
Q: Will the business world be organized differently in 20 to 30 years from now?
Sri Sri: “We have already stated. In the past, the business world ran on economic pressure, because people had no other means. But today, the global market is so open and the choices are many and varied. People are more aware than it was a few years ago, so now they want to move around. If not here, they will find job advancement; it has turned the business view completely upside-down. Before, it was regionally oriented because you had to do a job and availability was limited”.
Q: Is it possible for business people to integrate ethics with their daily work?
Sri Sri: “The reason why unethical things are happening in business is because there is fear within individuals and that fear needs to be addressed by these spiritual practices. Thus, when you fear less; when you want to be trustworthy; when you want to be committed and adhere to the values, you would never commit acts of wrong doing that have the potential to affect the lives of thousands and millions of people. That is why business needs to embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is not just an intellectual thing, it is something that has to come from the heart of every human being”.
“Programme such as ours are designed to facilitate that process. We host ‘business and ethics’ conferences with successful business people who have completed the corporate programme. They come to share their experience on how to be successful and ethical. This inspires other business people to follow in their footsteps. Yet, often people think that if you want to be successful, you cannot be honest, but this is not the case. It is a bubble of illusion.
However, balance is required; you cannot embrace CSR while allowing your company to sink. Equally, you can’t gain at the expense of your employees, who suffer and eventually leave the company. Both strategies rock the boat. You have to achieve perfect balance. You have to look at your gains and how much you care about the people in the company, as well as how much you dedicate to CSR”.