Gurudev, when the six layers of our existence become transparent, then we are able to perceive the seventh layer, the self. Could you please talk about how to make the intellect transparent?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Let us understand what the intellect is. Consciousness functions largely in four different modes, similar to the different modes or functions in a cell phone. The four different modes in the consciousness are:
1. The Mind - The Mode of Perception: Now you are looking at me, I am looking at you. It is the mind through which the eyes perceive, and the mind through which the ears hear. It is the mind through which the nose smells, if there is a good fragrance around; but if your mind is elsewhere, you would not even notice the fragrance. So, this faculty through which we smell, taste, hear, see, touch, is the mind.
2. The Intellect – The Mode of Analysis: Once you perceive, then the mind goes on judging, whether this is good, not good. The understanding of the fragrance; the understanding of the site; the understanding of the sound falling on your ears. This is the intellect. The intellect categorizes, analyses things; saying this is right or wrong, or I like this and I don’t like that. In order to analyze things, the intellect needs a third layer, called the memory.
3. The Memory - The Mode of Storage: The intellect is in between the memory and the mind. The mind and the memory together make the intellect function. If there is no memory, the intellect cannot function. The basis of the intellect is memory and perception. The memory captures some deep impressions, that is the limitation of the memory. It captures the pleasant memories, and the unpleasant memories (the unwanted, deep impressions called trauma); all of these are stored in the memory.
4. The Ego – The Sense of Identification: Beyond the memory, the consciousness identifies with something, that is ego.
Then is the Self - it is beyond the four different functions. It is the reference point of all changes. If you say that everything is changing, you do notice that everything is changing, right? Your body is changing, your thoughts are changing; thoughts form part of the mind. Your concepts are changing, that is the intellect. The memory is changing, there are certain things you remember, and certain things you don’t remember. All this is changing. If you say that all this is changing, there must be something that doesn’t change; this is the logic.
How do you know something is changing? This is because there is something that is not changing. Now you don’t know what this something is! But there is something, some vague thing that is there, and you can feel the changes because of its presence.
If you look at your own picture, when you were 10 years old, you can’t say it is me, now. Your body is not the same, but what makes you say that it is you? Every cell in your body changes in one year. The lining in your stomach changes every five days. Your blood changes every 24 hours. Your skin changes in one month. Scientists say that every cell in your body changes in one year. So, when everything is changing, how do you say that it is you, the same person who was 10 years ago or 15 years ago? Yes, there is something that is not changing. By the changes you infer that there is something that is not changing.
What is this something? Lord Buddha wanted to know this. He meditated and meditated, and he found that there is nothing! It is empty. He said, ‘I searched and searched and searched for the Self, but I could not find it. There is nothing.’ He said, ‘Shunya (zero); everything is empty. There is only emptiness; I could not find anything’.
Adi Shankaracharya, from the Vedic tradition, came after Lord Buddha. (Lord Buddha did not have a teacher. He had a very tough journey of finding himself. This was not the case with Adi Shankaracharya; he had a teacher, a mentor.) When Adi Shankaracharya met Lord Buddha, he said, ‘Yes, I understand, this is all temporary, everything is changing'. He asked Lord Buddha, ‘You said you could not find the Self, but who could not find the Self? There must be someone who was searching. Who was searching? Who could not find? That is the Self!’ With this one logic, Adi Shankaracharya turned around and brought the Vedic culture back into India. Otherwise, at one time, the whole of India was Buddhist.
The main flaw in Buddhism was the principle that everything is empty. There is sorrow, there is emptiness in everything. This was the main focus of Buddhism. The Vedic principle is that everything is full; this is all consciousness. What we perceive as empty, is all bliss.
Adi Shankaracharya said that the one who could not find (the Self), the one who is searching for it, that one is Sat Chit Anand. It has three characteristics: Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. It is Truth; nobody can say that I don’t exist. Even if someone says that they don’t exist, then how are they saying that they don’t exist? It needs someone to say it, that means they do exist; are you getting it? It requires a very sharp intelligence; the intellect of Shankaracharya is unparalleled.
Today, scientists are amazed to see that what they are saying now in Quantum Mechanics is the same as what was said in the ancient times, in the Vedas. What do the Vedas say? The whole world is made up of One thing. There is only One substance from which everything is made up of, and that is consciousness; that is Sat, Chit Ananda; it is bliss. So he said that the whole world is bliss.
Now, how did the transition happen? Adi Shankaracharya did not say, 'This is bad, this is wrong, this is foolish', no, never. He respected Buddha. He said it was a necessary step, but not the final step. Buddha’s step was necessary to move your attention from that temporary, from the ephemeral to something that is permanent. Adi Shankaracharya said, ‘Yes, we agree that everything is nothing, but nothing is also everything.’ This is how the spiritual revolution happened.
Lord Buddha never said that he was starting a new religion. He remained a Hindu monk, and he rebelled against some of the practices which people were doing at that time. What were the people doing? They were doing only rituals, from morning till evening; they forgot the knowledge aspect. When people had forgotten about meditation, Lord Buddha came and reminded them, ‘You have to meditate.’ He said, ‘You forgot that Lord Krishna said that you should meditate. You are not following that, you are only getting involved in doing so many rituals day and night.’ So he reversed that whole tendency.
When Adi Shankaracharya came, he established the knowledge of ancient truth. He lived like Jesus Christ, for 32 years only. He was born in Kerala, near the ocean, and he died in the Himalayas, on the mountainside. The places where he travelled to - East, West, North, South of India, became the boundary of India. He reestablished the ancient, Vedic knowledge in these places; that is the story. I think very few people in the world know about how this story of how the knowledge of Vedanta was reestablished in India.
Gurudev, in the Yogasara Upanishad, you have said that thoughts arises when the mind stirs the memory. Does that mean that all thoughts are from the memory and no new thoughts arise?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
No, as I said earlier, perception (mind) and memory, both are responsible for the intellect to function. So, new thoughts are linked to old thoughts. Sometimes, the intuitive thought which come need not be linked to anything, it can just come as a new thought.
Gurudev, I come from a Christian background and feel the love for Christ reflected in your teachings. However, the Bible says that Christ is the only way.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Love is the only way.
Do you know the Bible was written 70 years after Jesus Christ? There are 72 sects of Christianity, all of which have their own interpretation of the Bible (similar to how there are 32 sects of Buddhism). If you see the ancient teachings, Lord Krishna also says the same thing, ‘This is the only way!’ This is an affirmation for people who were there at that time, to be in the present moment. This is also the reason why Jesus said, ‘Those who came before me were thieves.’ Why did he say that? He said that because right now you are here, and you are thinking about the past; your mind has been stolen by somebody. So, he said that to bring the people to the present moment, to wake them up so that they could be - here right now.
You cannot misinterpret all these things. Jesus said, ‘I have come here not to make peace, but to put fire. To put father against son, mother against daughter.’ If you think this is what Jesus said, then no. This is all with reference to some context, with some inner meaning to it. Jesus would never be unhappy or upset if you did something that would help in your growth; which would make you more loving, which would make you a more peaceful and a better human being. So, if you practice yoga, meditation, and some people tell you, ‘Oh, you are betraying Jesus!’ I tell you, it is absolute nonsense. If you meditate, do yoga, and read the Upanishads, why would Jesus get upset? Not at all! In fact, Jesus spent 12 years of his life in India.
Jesus can never be against the ancient teachings, especially meditation and yoga; absolutely not. I have written a small book called Hinduism and Christianity; you should read it. I have mentioned there how many similarities exist between Hinduism and Christianity. So, doing meditation, doing these practices is not against the teachings of Jesus Christ. If someone says it, they are saying it out of their ignorance.
The media always latches on to the negative stories. How can we make a good story sensational?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is one thing you should not do; generalize. You should not eternalize and generalize everything. You should not say that the media always, or every media does that. It is not the case.
Here is one example. Annika Dopping from Sweden has made some very enlightening documentary films. She made a documentary to help elderly people who get depressed (after the age of 50 people feel depressed thinking nobody wants them) called ‘Aging Gracefully’. It is such a nice documentary film to uplift the elderly people. She also made another very positive film on Three Wise Men, where she interviewed Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and me. She put some brilliant questions that pulled out the best from everybody. The show ran for almost a whole year by public demand. There are many such shows that have come through Indians also, that inspired people and uplifted their spirit. So, as I said, we should not generalize.
Now, I do agree that there is sensational journalism that brings in negativity only. After a while, people know what it is. They watch it for some time and then shut it down. What people like to hear more is about astrology, because they are anxious to know what is going to happen to them.
You should think about how you can bring about creative, sensational, positive news. You do it. I think there are several channels here in Karnataka, which say, ‘Is this also possible?’ This is the headline. Some channels have come up with such things; people glue themselves and watch these wonders of the world! Like how in a particular temple, a monkey does a certain job that amazes everyone. The channel shows the strange behavior of certain animals, and certain wonders, miracles that happen in the world. Such things are really capturing people’s attention.
Here, we have a Devi who speaks; the stone says yes and no. You must have also seen the Nadi leaves, the ancient palm leaves. You give your thumb print, and they select the leaf that pertains to you. Over 5,000 years ago, people have written about you, your name and everything about you today. This is nothing short of a miracle.
Today, people are turning more towards humor, away from all these crime stories. That is what I think. I don’t know, I do not see much, I don’t get time to see. Anyways, I think the times are changing now.
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.