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 Ravi Shankar:
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.
Gurudev, yesterday you said that anyone who has surrendered to God cannot do anything wrong. Even Ravana (the King of Lanka in the Ramayana) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Then how did he commit such a misdeed (referring to his abducting Lord Rama’s wife Sita)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There seems to be a different Ramayana that is followed in Sri Lanka. According to that, it was Lord Rama who made a big mistake (of leaving his wife unattended in the forest during their exile).
See, this is a matter of perception. In Sri Lanka they narrate a totally different story as to why Ravana, though being a king, abducted Sita.
Ravana’s sister (Surpankha) was attracted to Lord Rama and fell in love with Him. When she approached Him, He insulted her by refusing her proposal. And not just that, Lakshmana (Lord Rama’s younger brother) also cut her nose to discourage her from making further advances. Now, would a king forgive someone who has cut his sister’s nose? No king, or human being for that matter would forgive another person who harasses and harms their own sister. Would any person tolerate this? No, because tolerating such a thing would be a crime in itself. So, Ravana abducted Sita in order to avenge his sister’s honour.
But it is also said that Ravana kept Sita very respectfully.
Also, if Ravana was such an evil person, then he would not have agreed to be the priest for the pooja that Lord Rama did in Rameshwaram. Do you all know this story?
Lord Rama wanted to do be victorious in battle against Ravana, and for that He wanted to establish a Shivalinga and worship it. Now to do this, a priest was needed, but in those days there were no priests found in Rameshwaram. So Lord Rama was in dire need of a good priest to perform the rituals.
Ravana was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and was also a Brahmin by birth. So Ravana’s brother Vibhishana (who was on Lord Rama’s side), told Lord Rama that Ravana was very well-versed in the rituals. So Lord Rama sent an invitation to Ravana to come and preside as the priest for the pooja at Rameshwaram.
Ravana accepted the invitation and came. But then he told Lord Rama that the pooja would be incomplete without his wife being present. No pooja or yagna can be performed without the wife’s presence. So he told Lord Rama, ‘Since you are a married man, both you and your wife have to sit together for the pooja, otherwise you cannot perform the pooja’.
Then Lord Rama said to him, ‘It is the duty of the priest to provide an alternative for anything that is missing. Since my wife is not with me (having been kept in captivity by Ravana at that time), please tell me what the alternative for this problem is. Can we keep a doll in her place as a substitute?’
Then Ravana said, ‘I do not believe in alternative. I would want everything to be present for the worship of Lord Shiva. So I will call your wife here for the pooja. After the pooja, please send her back to Lanka’.
So Ravana brings Sita for the pooja. After the pooja, when Lord Rama and Sita bow down to touch the feet of the priest, that is, Ravana, to take blessings, then Ravana blesses Lord Rama by saying ‘Vijayi bhavaha’ (May victory be yours!). He had no choice but to do so.
When someone touches the feet of a priest, he is left with no choice but to bless that person. So Ravana had to give that blessing to Lord Rama for which He had organized the pooja. He also blessed Sita by saying ‘Sumangali bhavaha’ (May you receive all that is best and auspicious always!) Such was Ravana’s magnanimity. After blessing both of them, Ravana took Sita back to Lanka with him.
This is a very exciting story. We always perceive Ravana as a villain, but even Ravana had many good qualities in him. This is why when Ravana was counting his last breaths and was at his death bed on the battlefield, Lord Rama told Lakshmana to go and touch the feet of Ravana and receive knowledge from him as he lay dying on the battlefield.
Lord Rama said, ‘If I go to him (Ravana) then he will leave his body and his soul will merge into Me. So before that happens, go and learn all that you can from him’.
Do you know, there is a Gita by the name Ravana? It is called Ravana Gita.
Of the five Gitas that are present, it is one of them. Just like you have the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Udhhava Gita, and Guru Gita; there is another Gita called Ravana Gita (the song of Ravana). In it, Ravana teaches many sermons to Lakshmana.
After Ravana completes his teaching, Lakshmana gives a signal to Lord Rama to come to Ravana. When Lord Rama comes to Ravana, his soul leaves his body as a bright light and merges with Lord Rama. This is a story from the Adhyatma Ramayana. I have not read it fully, I have only heard this story. But all of you should read it.
When you read it, you find that Kekayi (one of the wives of King Dashratha and a mother-like figure for Lord Rama) was actually a very noble lady. We usually think of her as a deceitful and evil woman. But it is not so at all. She was not a bad lady. She instructed Lord Rama to go into exile in the forest because He wanted to go.
So this is why it is said, ‘Sarvam Vasudevam iti’ (Everything is Vasudeva).
Both Ravana and Lord Rama are Vasudeva only (meaning both are manifestations of the One Divinity).
Gurudev, you mentioned that Lord Krishna says in the Gita, ‘I am not governed by the three gunas and neither do the three gunas reside in Me’. To understand this, you gave us the example of the clothes a person wears. But then looking at the clothes I am wearing, does it not appear that these clothes are also me?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
If you are present in the clothes that you wear, then you are also present in the cupboard, and also present in the washing machine! (Laughter)
Clothes get washed but you do not. So how can you say that you are within the clothes?
Just think and reflect on this.
When you change your clothes and keep them aside, are you still in them? Is it you who goes into the washing machine along with the clothes? This cannot be understood by logic. It is a very subtle thing and has to be experienced.
You are wearing the clothes, and the clothes belong to you, yet you are not within (restricted or governed by) your clothes. It is very clear.
So Lord Krishna has said, ‘I am present in all the gunas and they belong to Me, yet they do not reside in Me’.
It is nearly impossible to comprehend this through the intellect, but you can realize this by experience.
See, every example has a certain limitation to it. You should never stretch the example and interpret it beyond its limits. Then it loses its significance and also clouds the intellect.
Every example has a limited power to express what needs to be conveyed. We should understand it within those limits only.
An example is just a pointer towards that which is unmanifest, unknown and beyond expression. It gives a direction to your intellect for understanding. So you should limit your understanding to that. Once you grasp what is meant, just relax.
Knowledge dawns within you only in deep relaxation. You cannot grasp the subtle by making efforts.
Gurudev, how can I be free of ignorance?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When you become aware that you were ignorant, that itself means that your ignorance is gone. An ignorant person does not think of himself as ignorant at all. Just like how you realize you were asleep after you wake up, in the same way, an ignorant person realizes his own ignorance only after he comes out of it.
There is so much nectar in this knowledge. We can go on discussing it for hours together. Tonight, I am giving you all an exercise to do.
‘Sarvam Vasudevam iti’, remember that everything around you is (a form of) Vasudeva. Whatever kind of devotion one has, it has come to you by Vasudeva’s grace alone.
Gurudev, in the Ashtada Prakruti (referring to the eight materialistic forms of the Lord’s divine energies – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, Mind, Intellect, Ego), the ego has been counted among one of them, but not the Chitta (memory). Why is this so?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You can count it in then!
Different rishis have elaborated different principles and ways of understanding the various levels of existence. You can see the mind, intellect and the ego as the three extensions of memory. These are simply four different functions or behaviours of one Consciousness. Do not misunderstand these as limited to some event. They are the four different expressions of one Consciousness.
Some schools of thought count only three of these and not all four. They consider memory to be an integral part of the mind or the intellect and hence do not count it separately.
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 Ravi Shankar:
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.
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