Gurudev, receiving unconditional love from you has become such a habit that whenever I get into a relationship, I look for the same love in the other person, and none of the relationships work out for me. What do I do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Actually, I am not qualified to speak about the secret of relationships! However, I will tell you this, you may pour all your love on somebody, but you should also see how much love they can take.
When water is falling with a lot of force, you cannot stand underneath it, you will lose your head. So, you need to control the tap. If you open the tap with full force and keep an empty bottle under it, the bottle will remain empty. You have to open the tap only so much such that the bottle gets filled. Have you had this experience?
Similarly, when you love somebody unconditionally, do not express it all at once. They will run away. How many of you have had this experience?
In the Bhagavad-Gita there is a saying, ‘Samah Shatrau Cha Mitre Cha Thathaa Maanaapa-maana-yoho’. (He who is the same to foe and friend and also in honor and dishonor, who is the same in cold and heat, in pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment)
How does a yogi (spiritual seeker) deal with friends and enemies? Whether friends or enemies, the yogi puts them all in one basket and keeps an equanimous state of mind. This is because you never know when a friend will become an enemy, and when an enemy will become a very good friend. This is a fact. Our whole life works on some strange karma, some strange laws of nature. So just rely on yourself, this is what self-reliance means. And do not wish bad things for anybody.
Often, when someone hates somebody they start cursing them. Do not curse anybody, come what may. At the most, we must wish for them to have a good mind, ‘Let their intellect become alright’.
In Hindi, we say, ‘Bhagwan, inko sadbuddhi do’ (Oh God, bless them with a good intellect, or turn their mind around). This is a common prayer in India. It is a very good prayer, and also a good attitude to keep in life.
There are four kinds of attitude that are good to have in life:
1) Friendliness: Be friendly with people who are happy. If you are not friendly with happy people, you will be jealous. This is because you think that your enemy is happy, and you cannot tolerate your enemy being happy. So, shake hands with happy people. Such an attitude does a lot of good to your mind.
2) Compassion: Do not be friendly with people who are miserable, instead, have compassion for them. If you are friendly with unhappy people you will become unhappy. And if you become unhappy, you can never help them to come out of their misery. So, there is a different flavour of your relation with them.
Many people have gotten into trouble by being friendly with unhappy people; both become miserable. It is like a doctor going to a patient who is sick, and the doctor also becomes sick.
If the doctor also thinks, ‘How can I alone be healthy? Let me also share the patient’s misery’, then who will help the patient then? So, what should be the attitude with people who are miserable? Compassion, not pity.
3) Happiness: For people who are doing good work or who are successful in the world, you should feel happy as though you are doing it.
For example, someone is a good singer, singing and bringing joy to everybody, seeing him you should think, ‘I feel so happy that this person is singing so well, and making everyone happy.’
If someone is a good entertainer and he entertains everybody you should feel happy about it. If someone is a great architect and builds beautiful buildings you should feel happy about it. Whenever someone does a good job, share that happiness with them; we need to have this attitude.
4) Indifference: For people who are doing horrible things in the society, destroying themselves, we usually get angry at them. When you are angry, your mind suffers a huge loss. You lose so much energy, you lose your mood, and your enthusiasm. When energy and enthusiasm goes away from you, you become angry and are no better than the other person. You do not know what you are doing. So, what should you do in such a situation? Have a sort of indifference in your mind.
For example, there are thieves in the world, they are there, what can you do about them? First accept, be indifferent. However, this does not mean you do not take any action. Your mind is indifferent (unaffected), but you act on it.
These are the four attitudes that will help us to save our mind. This is what we need to do, save our mind at all costs.
Gurudev, what is the relevance of aagraha (persuasion), nigraha (restraint) and anugraha (blessing) in our life?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Each has its own position and significance.
Life runs on anugraha, blessings. Nigraha, which means restraint gives you joy and happiness in life. We also need aagraha or insistence sometimes.
If a mother does not insist, then children do not walk on the right path. If a father does not insist or persuade his children, then they do not get any direction in life. In this way aagraha is also important.
Similarly, if knowledgeable people do not insist on standing up against injustice, then injustice continues to spread in the society. If we do not insist on opposing ignorance, then ignorance will grow. So, it is important to insist on removing injustice and ignorance from the society.
One needs to exercise nigraha, restraint over the mind. Thousands of thoughts come to the mind. Sometimes people are troubled with the thoughts that come to their own mind. If you do not exercise restraint on the thoughts that come to the mind, then you will go insane and get admitted to a mental hospital. So restraint is very necessary. (If you start acting on every thought that comes to your mind, then you will surely get admitted in a mental hospital)
We also need to exercise restraint upon our senses.
For example, our mind urges us to eat more, although our stomach says that it is full. This happens many times.
There is a disease called Bulimia, which is prevalent in foreign countries, not as much in India. In Bulimia, one first has his meal and vomits it all out. Then again they eat and vomit it all out. This way they eat six or more times and vomit it all out. In the long run the food pipe gets completely damaged and burnt.
People who have this disease stay very disturbed from within. By doing pranayama, meditation and regular Sudarshan Kriya, many people are able to come out of this. So, Bulimia is a disease where the desire to eat is so high, but there is no contentment in the mind. This is why it is necessary to exercise restraint over the senses.
When a person does not exercise restraint over his senses, he lands up in a hospital with illness, or in jail. Exercising restraint can save oneself from both these situations.
Anugraha (blessing) brings contentment in life. If you have experienced some joy or comfort in life, it has come only through blessings. When knowledge dawns in us, we are able to recognize and become aware of the blessings in our life.
Whatever we have received, wherever we are in life today, all this has come only from blessings. This feeling provides a sense of completeness to life.
Gurudev, artists depict Lord Krishna’s Vishwaroopa as a person with so many heads and hands. What does it really mean?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Vishwaroopa means to see God in everything. Vishwa means the whole universe, and roopa here means the Universal form; seeing the whole universe as the form of one divinity is what it means, but the artist has shown it differently. Do not think about this in the way the artist has presented it, the Lord as a person with so many heads and hands, no.
Arjun simply had this experience that everybody is one. The hundreds and thousands of heads were not of one person, it is not like that. It means that there is One Consciousness, which is present in all these heads. Having that experience of oneness, feeling of oneness with the water, earth, clouds, animals and trees. That is what Vishwaroopa really is.
Gurudev, what is the meaning of Purusha (the primordial all-pervading Cosmic Man or Being)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Pur means city, so, one who lives in a city is a Purusha.
Our body is also like a city. Do you know how many bacteria and micro-organisms stay inside our body? There are around 50,000 types of bacteria present in the intestines alone. When you have diarrhoea, then there is a flood of these bacteria. When there is a rumbling inside your stomach, it is these bacteria that are shaking, as if there is an earthquake!
When you suffer from gas, then it is like the bacteria are caught in a storm. So, there is a different world altogether within you.
Similarly, in our nerves and veins also, there are so many bacteria present.
It is said that on our forehead, there are three types of mites present; mites are also a kind of bacteria. One kind resides near the eyebrows, another kind on the region just above the brows, and the third kind reside on the top region of the forehead. They are all different from each other and have their own territories.
The ones on the top region do not cross over to the lower region, the ones below do not cross over to the upper region, and the ones in the middle stay where they are. So, these mites stay confined to their territories.
In ancient India, there was a practice to applying three lines of vibhuti (sacred ash) on the forehead using the three fingers of the hand. They could just as well apply only one line, but they would actually mark three lines with space in between. Maybe they knew that there are certain types of micro-organisms present on the head in three lines.
Similarly, there are bacteria in our skin also. In our ancient Indian culture, there was no practice of shaking hands. The objective was to avoid bacteria coming into contact; instead, they would fold hands and greet each other by doing pranam.
Even today, in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, there is a tribe of people who have a unique kinds of bacteria in their body. They have been offered protection and legal isolation by the Government of India. They are not allowed to meet other people. If they meet other people, they will exchange bacteria which may cause an imbalance, so they are kept away from civilization.
Similarly, in Africa, people who live in the jungles are not allowed to come into contact with people from the cities. Their body make-up is quite different from the city people. If they come to the city, they fall ill, and if people like us go to their place, then we would fall ill. Their body type is such that they have become habitual to living in those places in the jungle.
It is a scientific fact that many microorganisms are living within our body; every day many die and new ones are born. This is why our body can also be considered to be a city (Pur). There are many electrical channels and systems in the human body. There is a nervous system that receives various signals. Every cell of the body has a telephone connection with the brain, it also exercises command over the cells, and directs them to work in a particular fashion. When the cells do not obey the command of the brain, they fall ill with disease. Our body is very extraordinary. If you take a close look at the human body, you would be very surprised. This is why the soul residing within the body is also referred to as Purusha.
Then, there is the Viraat Purusha (Giant or Huge Being). Just like there is a soul within our body, in the same way, there is a Universal Soul or Consciousness pervading the entire Creation, which is called Vishwatma.
Then, there is Parmatma (Supreme Soul or Consciousness), the collective name given to the individualized soul (atma) and Vishwatma, the Universal Soul. There is no difference between this world and Parmatma; this creation is nothing but Parmatma, and Parmatma is what the creation is; this much we should understand. And then just relax, repose in the Self.
Gurudev, what are the qualities of the kind of love that is dear to you?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Love with wisdom. Love with patience. Love in action, that is seva (service).
You cannot tell someone, ‘Oh, I love you so much, but I will not do anything for you.’
If you love someone, you have to bring it into action and that is seva. Do not think of love as just an emotion, or a very mushy-mushy thing, in which you keep on saying, ‘I love you’, so many times.
Teenagers when they fall in love with someone they will write that person’s name a 100 times, all over. That is the nature of love; saying it once is not enough, you want to say and write it so many times.
Love is not just that mushy-mushy, teenage emotion, which stays only for a short period of time. Love is our very existence. You can never be out of it. It only gets distorted here and there. When there is wisdom you will see that the distortion does not happen. Love remains in its pure form.
Gurudev, how can we know if there is a match between our individual sankalpa (resolve or desire) and Universal sankalpa?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When your desire starts getting fulfilled then you will know it.
If your wish does not get fulfilled, then it means that your wish was not in harmony with the wish of the Universe.
Gurudev, in the Guru Pooja tradition, each of the names that we chant has a certain significance; what is the significance of Rishi Parashara?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Each one of these Rishis has contributed immensely to wisdom. There is a set of verses called Parashara-Smriti in honour of Rishi Parashara. A lot of works were given by Rishi Parashara, not just one or two, but I know very little about it.
There are huge volumes of wisdom and knowledge that have been given by these great saints.
In life you will have 101 reasons to get frustrated. However it is up to you keep the enthusiasm alive without allowing the frustration to seep in. Here are some pointers to help you keep frustration at bay.