Dear Gurudev, I find it difficult to get the right balance of focus on earning income to support my family and doing seva. Is there a formula to this that you recommend?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Do you know how to ride a bicycle? How do you balance? Exactly like that.
If you are doing service for the society, and you are getting drowned in it, and you are neglecting your family, something will pinch you – listen to that pinch. Similarly, if you are so drowned in your family, only my wife, my kid, my husband, my children, my parents, then also something pinches. "Oh, I didn’t even think about the world, I didn’t think about others. I am only thinking about myself! 100 percent of the money I earned I have used on myself – I have not contributed to anybody!" Then it will pinch you.
People are ready to buy expensive clothes for themselves, people are ready to spend a huge amount on their holidays, but they are not ready to give one dollar or one euro to others for a service project. At least 3 percent of what we earn, we should keep aside and donate it for charity work; to do some good work for the society. This converts 97 percent of your earnings into good money. If you want to use 100 percent on yourself – no good! If the money needs to be pure and good, it can only be 97 percent or less (laughs). You are free to use the 97 percent on yourself, but the 3–5 percent, whatever, you should keep aside and donate. This is because whatever you earn is never enough for yourself! You ask anyone, they feel, "Oh! There's shortage". Everyone finds a shortage.
When we first started our Bangalore Ashram, there were so many people coming, we had shortage of rooms, we had shortage of toilets, we had shortage of halls, but I said, "No, we have to do service projects outside the Ashram. We have to build toilets for all poor villagers outside." Our people said, "We are short for ourselves", but I said, "It will never be enough for us. You build now, but again our need will keep increasing because people will keep coming". You cannot say, "First I will do everything for us and then I will do seva for others." We have to do both. Every pillar we build here, we should build one for the poor people as well, and that was what we did. Now, everybody in all the villages around the Ashram have homes and toilets. Earlier they lived in mud huts with thatched roofs – now you will not find a single mud hut; people are all prosperous.
So it is collective growth, and that is what we must aim for. We must listen to our heart! If we listen to our heart, we will find success in every action of ours. Every action will be beneficial and benevolent for us and for everybody else as well.
Dear Gurudev, how is your relationship with other gurus?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
What a question! My relationship with every human being is very good! (Huge laughter and applause) From my side, I have no problem with anybody; if someone has some problem with me, that is their problem.
See, people who are genuine teachers, genuine social workers, genuine gurus, there is no problem; but there are people who are a blot on any field they are in – they have a problem with me and I have a problem with them.
A doctor who is not honest, I have a problem with him. A politician who is corrupt to the core, I have a problem with him. And a guru who is fake, who is not true, I have a problem with him. So, this is the problem. And for me, this is not even a problem – it is a challenge! We need to do something to bring reform in these people, and I am also thinking on it. If you have some great ideas, you give me.
Once, at one of my big programs in India, some corrupt politician came onto the stage, and I welcomed him. So the public asked me, "How can a corrupt person share the stage with you? How could you allow a corrupt man to come up onto the stage?" I told them, "If they cannot get reformed after coming close to me, where will they get reformed?" I told them, "I welcome all the corrupt people on the stage!" I am not hesitant to share the stage with them; in fact I want them to come to our Ashram, so that they can broaden their vision. Corruption begins where belongingness ends. I told them, "When they come here, they will automatically feel belongingness with everybody."
So, reform is possible when you hold hands with people whom you think are not good. They need help. So, we cannot make anyone untouchable, 'Oh, I don’t want to have anything to do with you', no! Let's do something together. That's my contention.
Dear Gurudev, how do I satisfy my loved ones that are very demanding?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Sometimes, it is okay to be little insensitive. When the demands are not justified or not logical, you do not have to feel obliged about those demands, but you don't have to get upset either. Suppose you are not a doctor and someone is coming and demanding, "Give me medicine, give me medicine!" What can you do? You will get upset? No, you will just smile and say, "Well I don’t know. I am sorry, I am not a doctor, I can't treat you." But if you are upset, it is your problem, isn’t it?
Like that, we must find the inner strength. Once you find your inner strength, nobody can take away your calmness, your serenity, your peace. And when you are centered, you are able to manage any situation. However complex they are, however demanding they are, you can manage the situation. Got it?
I was in a situation a few months ago. One gentleman—I know him from long time—he was married happily with his wife, both of them are very good, they are on the spiritual path. But this man fell in love with another girl and went to a temple and got married with her as well. Now, the problem came. The earlier wife was heart-broken. She said, "You left me and you went to this other girl." He said, "No, I cannot leave you and I cannot leave her either." So this man was in such trouble. Then this lady said, "I will commit suicide and you live happily with her." Then the other girl said, "If this is the case, then I will commit suicide because I have spoiled your family life. You were happily married, and I came and disturbed you." She felt guilty and said, "No, I will commit suicide. You both live happily." Now this man said, "No, I can’t leave either of you, what I will do is I will commit suicide." All three of them said "We will all commit suicide" When I got to know about this, I called all of them. If all three of them commit suicide, what will happen to us, The Art of Living? See, these people followed The Art of Living and if all of them commit suicide, it will become such a big blot on The Art of Living, which is trying to stop suicide in the world! So it was a challenge for me. I said, "Oh my God, I have to do something now! If I do not stop it, then we will have a problem. People do The Art of Living courses to come out of suicidal tendencies, and here, three people who are in The Art of Living, all of them have gone and committed suicide!" Then I settled it all (chuckles). I won't tell you how I settled it, but they are happy and that girl is also happy. Everything became alright.
Dear Gurudev, can you talk about Maya? How can we get rid of Maya?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Listen, the word “measure” in English comes from a Sanskrit root called “Maya”. Maya means that which can be measured. So, "all this is Maya", means "everything here can be measured".
Water can be measured, volume can be measured, temperature can be measured, distance can be measured, time can be measured. So everything here is time and space, both can be measured. So everything which is within time and space is all Maya, means that can be measured.
What cannot be measured? Joy cannot be measured; love cannot be measured; life cannot be measured. So that is why these are not called "Maya".
The Divine or God is bliss. Truth cannot be measured. Truth, consciousness, and bliss – this is what God is. What is God? "Sat" means Truth, "Chit" means consciousness, "Ananda" means bliss. God is Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss – these cannot be measured. And this is what you are! The nature of your spirit is bliss. Bliss cannot be measured, love cannot be measured, and that is what is "Not Maya".
You are drowned in Maya means you are drowned in small little things that are not permanent, because Maya means that which is always changing. Ever-changing events and things around you is what Maya is. And if you are drowned in the ever-changing, and you are not logged on to the non-changing, life is very unstable. Stability comes when you log on to something in you that is not changing, that remains the same, the same, the same. That is called as: getting out of Maya.
Dear Gurudev, what are your thoughts on Western therapies for trauma, depression, and anxiety? Is it contradictory or complementary to The Art of Living path?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I would say Western therapies are constantly changing and progressing. Whatever therapy the West was using several years ago, they are no longer valid today, they have discarded it all. I would always go for a holistic solution. There are some aspects that are good; for example, diagnosis is good. But for trauma relief, the ancient techniques work so much better, they are much more powerful, effective, and time-tested, and give quick results as well.
Many of the so-called "modern" techniques are also, I would say, pirated from some ancient techniques. The ancient techniques are being repackaged and shown as some new techniques – that is another issue that we face. But as far as health is concerned, we cannot be dogmatic about anything – we cannot just accept something because it is very ancient, and we cannot discard something just because it is modern, or just because it is ancient. So, we need to use our intelligence and take that middle path, with a holistic approach.
Anybody has cancer, immediately people say, "Chemotherapy!" And I have seen many people who have refused to take chemotherapy and have gone for alternate medicine, and they have gotten cured and come out of the problem. Even today, someone was telling me how he went to his oncologist, who was surprised and shocked and asked him, "What is it that you have done? Your cancer cells have reduced! You tell me what you did and I will tell all my patients also to do that." That person told him, "Yes, I will bring an Art of Living teacher here and you can learn more meditation." So, meditation and breathing has helped so many people.
Every day, I get hundreds of thank-you letters, people telling me that they have gotten out of illnesses and problems. If you go on collecting and documenting, this whole hall is not enough to pile them up. So many things are happening to people. So we should take a holistic approach, not be fanatic about anything. There's good things in the past—the ancient wisdom— and we should not have prejudice about it.
Thirty-three years ago, when The Art of Living started, many people thought it is not a normal thing to do breathing and yoga – it is for people out there. Today, you will see how the ads of large multinational companies use someone in yoga poses to portray relaxation. So, the way people see things is changing. So, you don't worry about what others think or say. Boldly, you keep talking to people and pursue the dream of wanting to bring a change in the planet. We all have to work together.
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