Isn’t this bhajan so wonderful (referring to a verse by Basavanna, a 12th century philosopher from Karnataka)? It says that the body, mind and possessions belong to the Divine. Where is the need for worry? The sign of a devotee is one who doesn’t worry about anything. There will be good and bad times in life but you must keep yourself balanced.
If there are tears in the eyes due to devotional peaks, the mind gets purified. Knowledge purifies the intellect. Charity purifies wealth. Yoga and Ayurveda purify the body. Seva (service) purifies karma and meditation purifies the soul.
To purify the intellect, listen to knowledge. What is knowledge? It is the awareness that everything is temporary and I am the witness to everything that is happening. Let my mind merge with the Self. Mind is the wave; the Self is the ocean. We need to constantly direct our mind inward. Then you will see that all worries disappear and the mind becomes empty.
Reflect on ‘Who am I?’ The chaos of daily life will always be there but there is something beyond all this, a witness to all that is happening. Reflect on this again and again. Do this for half a minute, as soon as you wake up and before you sleep, not all the time. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ Tell yourself, ‘I do not need anything from this world.’
As you progress, you will feel that you are not from this world at all. You will feel you have come here to some village but your native is somewhere else. You will experience that your home is somewhere else and you are here just for a tour. Then you will realize who you are.
Isn’t your mind the one that gives you all the problems? With knowledge, the mind gets purified and in a purified mind, Divinity is reflected.
Charity purifies wealth. Spend one to three percent of your income for the society. Those who can afford it can spend more. If not, they can spend whatever is possible.
Q: How do we overcome the six enemies of the mind (Arishadvarga – Desire, Anger, Greed, Attachment, Pride, and Jealousy)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If you have nothing to do then lust bothers you. If you are busy for the entire day, these thoughts will not come up in your mind. You will come back tired and go to sleep. When you have a big goal in your life, small desires will not trouble you. If thoughts of greed or possessing more and more bother you, be greedy for the highest. And what is the highest? The Divine.
Be angry against injustice. Be angry with big matters and not small ones. Be proud that the Divine belongs to you. Be jealous about seva. If someone is doing seva, do more seva than him. If someone is good-natured and generous, be more good-natured and generous than him. Above all, do pranayama. With pranayama, all these impurities go away. Pranayama is the biggest of all penance.
Q: Guruji, hatred can be removed from the world by love, but how is it practically possible to love a person whom you hate?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First don’t try to love them. Accept them first. Why do you hate them? You hate them because they do something very bad, right? You hate the action of a person, that’s why you hate the person. You hate somebody because he is a thief or a liar or a cheat. Lying and cheating are all actions of a person. You should know that a person is larger than his action. Action is just a projection of the roof; it is not the entire home. If you compare a person to a home, action is only balcony. The home is much bigger. Don’t think the balcony is the home.
You hate somebody because of his actions. Now, action can be corrected, right? So, why is he acting like that? It is because of some reasons, because every action has a reason. When you go to the reason why a negative action is happening, why somebody is doing a bad action, you will find two causes. One is ignorance, which is the main cause. Second is because they are hurt or they are victims. If they are victims or if they have pain, they only give pain. If you are blissful, you give bliss. If you have love, you give love. Whatever you have, only that you can give. If they hurt you, it means they are filled with hurt. They are either suffering or they are ignorant; nobody to teach them. When you know this, you will feel compassionate.
When a child does something wrong, do you hold him responsible? No. You will say, ‘it is only a child and he did this out of ignorance. He broke the vase or broke the glass.’ You take it with a larger heart and see it with compassion.
So, those people whom you hate, you think they are equal to you or knowledgeable. That’s why you hate them. But if you broaden your vision, you will find that they are either ignorant or they are suffering or sick. How can you hate someone who is sick or ignorant? What do you do normally? You’ll be compassionate. So don’t try to love them. Broaden your vision; you will be compassionate to them, And when compassion reaches its peak, it is nothing but love. You have to go by two steps. Don’t jump into the second step!
Q: Guruji, I am working as a lecturer. A few students take advantage of me as I am a teacher with visual impairment. They talk or eat in the class while I teach. How should I control them?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First of all, understand that it is not just because you are visually impaired that they are doing that. Even teachers who can see them are also getting into the same trouble! In fact, students are much softer with you. Other teachers and professors, they have an even bigger problem. They throw tomatoes on them and behave in a way which is not very civilized. As a teacher, you need to have a lot of patience and some humor. With your humor, you can turn around the situation.
Q: Guruji, I know two people who went to the temples near Madurai for palm leaf reading. I know them personally and they don’t do any sadhana (spiritual practices) in their lives and they are not even spiritual. They have been told that this is their last birth. Compared to them, I see myself as someone who does sadhana, but still I am struggling with so many impressions and weaknesses. Is it possible that even a person who is having his last birth can be leading a life without any sadhana?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First of all, don’t compare yourself with them, okay? Sometimes, many of these readings are not 100% perfect. They make predictions which are about 60 to 70% true. So you should always leave a margin. Sometimes to enthuse the devotees, they say, ‘This is your last life; you better do sadhana.’
There is a way to say it. The elderly people used this way to say, ‘Come on, this is your last chance. You better do your sadhana.’ In that way also it can be said. But you should not compare, okay?
Another thing is you never know when someone will start their sadhana or how much they have done in their past. So life is huge; it is eternal. The best is to look at yourself and see how much you have grown. Haven’t you grown? You have grown a lot. Watch your own growth and you feel more confident to move forward. Don’t worry you will have a last birth too. And if we have to come, we will come back again, so what? When you go with knowledge, you come back with knowledge. When you go with misery, you will come back with misery. That is the thing.
Q: Guruji, how do we deal with nervousness during exams?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Do ujjayi breath. Pranayama and ujjayi will definitely help. Or chant ‘Om Namaha Shivaya’ or ‘Jai Gurudev’, anything.
Q: Why does the whole existence exist?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: So that you could ask this question and I can answer it! (laughter).
Why should it not exist? It is very good. Just keep this question, you will find out the answer one day and then come and tell me your answer. I will tell you whether it is correct or not!
Q: In terms of speech, what is Satya (truth) and Asatya (untruth) and when we take a vow that we’ll speak only satya, what do we mean by that?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Be true to yourself, honest to yourself. That is what it is. If your conscience says I don’t want to do it, don’t do it. If it says you should do it, you should do it, got it?
If you tell a lie, your whole body loses its strength.
That is why it is said ‘Satyam Bruyat, Priyam Bruyat, Na Bruyat Satyam Apriyam, Priyam Cha Nanrutam Na Bruyat.’ – speak the truth; speak pleasant truth. Don’t speak unpleasant truth and don’t speak sweet lies. This is the ancient Sanatana Dharma. These are couplets but we don’t know who wrote these, but these are called Subhashita, means the golden words, the invaluable couplets. And there are thousands of them which have been existing from ancient times.
In school these used to be in our text books but I don’t know what happened. These days they have removed all of this from the text book. We need re-establish these once again.
Q: In temples, there are Nagadevatas (Demigods) with folded hands. How do they give blessings?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are various levels in Gods and Demigods too. All of them pray to Shiva. You would have seen Hanuman with folded hands in some temples and in some temples the hand is raised for blessing.
Q: Guruji, why is it that falling in love is so easy, but staying in love is very difficult?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Because of attachment, you cling on to it. You fall in love and then you become a policeman. An investigating agent who goes on poking into every little thing and gets bogged down by that.
When you have a larger vision, a bigger goal and enough work to do, even when you fall in love, you will carry on in love all the time.
Q: How can being with nature, which is outside, take us to our nature, which is inside? Can you please elaborate on the connection between nature and spirituality?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: This is called ‘Laya Samadhi’. If you keep observing the sky, keep looking at the sky then at some point the eyes close and all that you feel is sky outside and sky inside. You become black.
Similarly you do sun gazing, watch the sunset. You can’t watch the sun for too long, you watch it for some time. Then you close your eyes and your mind becomes still and quiet.
Q: Dear Guruji, they say Sanskrit is a language evolved out of nature. What makes it so important that all the ancient texts have been written in this language? Is it relevant now?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes. I heard last week or so that in New Zealand in one school, they adopted Sanskrit for the children and now the children are all doing very well in computer education after that. They say Sanskrit is very suitable for computer education. It causes some neuro-linguistic changes in the brain, so it is very good.
Q: Guruji, in the Mahabharata, what was the significance of Lord Hanumana being present on the chariot of Arjuna?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, in those days they used some flag, like how every political party uses some flag today. The Congress party uses a flag with the ‘palm’ symbol, another party uses ‘lotus flower’ symbol. Like that in ancient days they used Hanumana because it is a sign of victory, and Krishna chose it because Krishna is always victorious in whatever he takes.
He said to Arjuna, ‘You better take Hanumana as a flag,’ so he took it. He listened.
Hanumana was a symbol of victory in the previous yuga (age) when Rama fought the war with the most prosperous kingdom of Sri Lanka. Rama fought with just a bunch of monkeys and just a few people with him, it was a very weak party. And on the other side was this strong army which was loaded with so much power and wealth.
It is said, in those days Sri Lanka was so prosperous that every rooftop was made of gold. It was the golden city. The pillars of every home were studded with precious stones. So when from India Rama went to Sri Lanka, he said, ‘The city is so amazing! But even though this is so full of gold and so rich, I prefer to go to my motherland. My motherland is better than heaven.’
So Rama went back after winning the war.
Hanuman was the symbol of victory over apparent weakness. One who appears to be weak physically but who is spiritually powerful. So the Pandavas were only five and the Kauravas were hundred. It was not an equal balance to fight in anyway. You should at least be fifty-fifty to fight. So, to give that moral, ethical and emotional strength to Arjuna, Krishna said, ‘Let’s put Hanuman as our flag. Remember, they did it. You can do it too.’
That is what Krishna always said.
Q: Guruji, is marriage a relationship or bondage? If it is a relationship, why does it feel like bondage and if it is bondage, how do we make it a relationship?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It depends on how you look at it. If you hold each other’s necks, it will feel like bondage. If you walk together, shoulder-to-shoulder with each other, it will feel like a support.
So be a support each other, be a companion and move forward. Be life partners to each other. There are so many people in this world who don’t feel lonely after getting married and share a good companionship.
If there is no belongingness, it begins to feel like bondage. That is why I say that husband and wife should have a common goal. If there is a big goal, the focus will shift to that and their relationship will be good.
Q: Guruji, sometimes peoples around us, mostly our elders, are too much bound by the castes and the boundaries made by the society and they are not able to think out of it. Even if it is good for them, they are not ready to accept it. What should we do in that situation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Slowly make them understand. Convince them. You should see how strong they are, and how much trouble you want to take. Accordingly, somewhere compromise has to be done. Either you should make them come to a compromise or if it is absolutely impossible, then you have to compromise and do some sacrifice. It has to be on both sides.
If both sides are very stiff and adamant, then there is more trouble. But if you are ready to take the trouble and hope something better will come later, then you have to go for it.
Q: Guruji, my grandson asks if Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva have parents and grandparents too. How do I answer the child?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You should answer that Vishnu is the father of Brahma because Brahma was born out of Vishnu’s navel. Vishnu shakti (energy) came from Shiva and Shiva was born out of light.
Small children will understand it only this way. Give them a tennis ball and ask them to tell you where it begins and where it ends.
Q: When we know that we are making a mistake and still we make it, what should we do? Even though we keep on doing mistakes, God is kind to us. Why?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Read these books – Celebrating Silence and Celebrating Love. I have spoken about all these things there.
Q: I am from Uttar Pradesh. There are fights related to elections everywhere. The air in the Cycle (symbol of an Indian political party) is depleted; the Elephant (symbol of an Indian political party) wants to trample us; the Hand (symbol of an Indian political party) is out to strangle us; and the Lotus (symbol of an Indian political party) is not blossoming at all. In such a situation, what should a common man like me do? Whoever I vote for, I would land up in trouble.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Even I am thinking about the same thing! Let’s get together and find out a solution for this. What should we do? We will sit together and think about it but for now, go and cast your vote. Don’t vote for the party but see the person behind the symbol, whether he is good. Go and vote for him if he doesn’t have a criminal record behind him. Don’t stay without voting. This time do it, next time we’ll figure out something (laughter). If some good people who you vote for come forward, the country will progress.
Q: Does everybody have a role to play or some purpose to do in their life? Does the consciousness decide something before it is born in each life?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Correct, you got it! Every life has a purpose. Not a blade of grass is here without a purpose.
It will open up at its right time naturally. You just keep doing your duty. Keep yourself hollow and empty. Meditate and do service and you will see everything will fall in place.
Q: Since everything changes, nothing stays the same, does our life’s purpose also change sometimes?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes. All change is possible.