I realize how attached I am to some of my desires and dreams, such as, having a family for example. Do I have to practice detachment to make it happen? Does the spiritual path involve detachment from all of our desires?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Look, if you have too many desires that is a problem. it is too scattered. Focus on one desire at a time.
Do you really want to get married? Why didn’t you do it so far? Are you being too picky and choosy? When the time comes you don’t go ahead, and later on you think you cannot find anybody.
Once a gentleman who was in his 60’s came to me and said, ‘Gurudev, I am looking for a soul mate, but I haven't found one’.
I said, 'Wait for another 15 years, you’ll find her in heaven'.
You know, don’t be too fussy about it. Look for a good person and get married. Even if they’re not good, you can change them, make them better!
I want to tell you a story about the Shakespeare of India. Have you heard about him? His name was Kalidasa and he is called the Shakespeare of India because he wrote some of the most excellent work in Sanskrit literature.
If anyone wants to learn Sanskrit, they cannot miss Kalidasa. How he became Kalidasa is very interesting.
There was a great king, a very well known emperor of India. He had a daughter and his daughter was very beautiful. She was very intelligent, very smart and knew everything with perfection. So it was very difficult for the king to find a suitable match because she had to interview him.
See, in India, in the ancient times, women had all the power! It is the women who chose men, like Sita had her own Swayamvara. A Swayamvara is a ceremony where the woman can choose the person with whom she wants to get married.
So, the story goes, all the princes from the princely states were invited. Princes from many places flocked there because they had heard about her intelligence and her beauty. Some were very scared, as she would ask them a question and nobody could answer her questions.
So she rejected everybody, and year after year this kept happening. The king was a little worried but the prime minister was quite annoyed. She probably insulted him and the story goes that he was annoyed with her. The prime minister thought, ‘I have to teach this shrew a lesson, I have to tame her'.
So once he was passing by the forest and he saw a wood cutter who was sitting on the branch of a tree and cutting the head of the branch!. Suddenly an idea struck him and he said, ‘Hey come down!'
When he came down he said, 'You come with me'.
The woodcutter agreed and the minister asked him to be silent and only answer the questions with hand gestures. So he dressed the woodcutter up a little bit, and took him to the palace. He went to the princess and said, ‘I have brought a really brilliant guy for you’.
She said, ‘Okay, I will propose three questions to him’.
So she asked him, what is the truth of the world, he answered showing his index finger.
Then she asked, how the creation was created, and he answered by gesturing the number two with his hand.
The third question also passed in a similar fashion and she was very impressed. So she got married to him. When she got married, then she realized that he did not even know to write an alphabet. He was just a wood cutter in the forest. She felt cheated, but during those days in India, once you marry, that is it. You marry with all the five elements as a witness and then you are wedded for life.
Now she felt very cheated. She went to the temple and she cried before the Mother Divine. Then she realized how arrogant she was. She rejected so many people and caused pain to so many because she was trying to choose someone better, someone who could defeat her, but look what happened. She wanted to be defeated in a different sense, but she got defeated in another sense.
She does this and she goes into deep meditation.
It is said, at that time, the Mother Divine came and asked this man, who was sitting there completely bewildered, to stretch his tongue out. So he stretched his tongue and she wrote Om on it. With this experience he immediately started reciting a poem called Smalaya Tandegam, and from then on he was known as the Kalidasa. Kalidasa wrote the most exquisite of literature and wonderful poetry; such deep description, such intelligence, and so much pun in it. It is considered very beautiful.
So if you get somebody who is not up to your mark, I tell you, you have the ability to change them! This is the reason why I said this story. Believe in it (ability) and move on. If it doesn't happen over a few years, you have your way and they have their way.
Dear Gurudev, what is the significance of focusing on our nose?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Just above the nose is the agyachakra, the commanding center of consciousness. The center between the eyebrows is called the commanding center which brings wakefulness in your mind. So bringing your attention to the nostrils is a prelude, it helps the frontal cortex in your brain to balance and be active in a restful state.
When you have sensual or sensory experiences, the back of your head is mostly active. Also when you are not very alert, not very conscious then the back of your head is active.
When your frontal cortex is active then attention and focus are present and the quality of awareness shifts. This is an ancient technique. We have 3 dimensions, body, breath, and mind. Each of them have their own rhythm but they are all linked. This attention can synchronize all three dimensions.
Yoga Vasistha talks a lot about self-effort and you tell us to relax. I am unable to figure out what to apply when. In spirituality, when to do self-effort and when to relax?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There are two things, Pravritti and Nivritti (action and relaxation).
When you are in action, effort is needed and when you are in relaxation effortlessness is needed. They go hand in hand. But we do it the other way around. When we are relaxed, we keep thinking, wanting to act, and when we are in action we say, 'It’ll happen if God is willing'.
This is not what one should do.
When you are acting then give it your 100%, put self-effort. Once you have done that, then sit and let go. You make an effort to go to a clinic and lie down at the massage table. But once you’re on the table, then the masseur does the rest. In the same way, make an effort to come and sit for meditation, but once you sit for meditation, then no effort is required. Know that you’re being taken care of.
If you have a train to catch you need to make an effort, you cannot sit at home and keep saying that you have to catch the train. But once you are in the train, there is no point in running up and down the aisle, it is not going to take you any faster. Once you are in the train, you have to sit down and relax. So, both effort and effortlessness are required.
It is said that one should keep their ancestors happy. Once people leave from this body and go to another world, do they still feel happy or sad?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When you meditate and you are in knowledge, that knowledge can pass on to them as well.
There is a beautiful ceremony in India called Tarpan. Tarpan means fulfilling, satisfying. A son or daughter prays for their ancestors, who have passed across, to be content and fulfilled. They take sesame seeds with water and they say ‘Tripyati, Tripyati, Tripyati’. Tripyati means be content.
The ceremony means, 'You might be having small desires in the mind, they’re like the sesame seeds. Just drop them and move on, be content. We are here to fulfill your desires, don’t worry about these little things'. This is what they say.
So reading Yoga Vasishta (an ancient Indian text), and being in knowledge itself spreads the subtle light to other realms of existence. So they get fulfilled by you being happy and content, by you being in devotion, and in wisdom. That positive vibration reaches to other planes and touches them too. You don’t have to do any special thing for it.
Sometimes people feel that they are not getting the benefit of their meditation. It is because a portion of the merits of their meditation is being reaped elsewhere. Someone else is enjoying that. So, that is okay.
Some people who are non-vegetarian say that vegetarian people also kill plants to eat. I tell them that the nervous system of an animal is not comparable to the nervous system of a plant. Is there anything else that can be said?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I think you should go online to websites about why one should be vegetarian. There may be hundreds of sites on that. Just read it and tell me if you find something good in them.
This generation is so fortunate; you can get any wisdom from any corner of the world on your finger tips! In the previous generations, when we were going to school, we had to go to the library and search for that. You don’t need any libraries today.
There was no Google in those days, we had to physically search in all the catalogs, and not all the books were there in our library. The availability of knowledge was very limited 20-30 years ago. But now you are so lucky, this generation gets everything on the tips of their fingers.
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.