In ancient times, the Kings used to support those who would sit in Samadhi. Their job was to just sit in Samadhi for a few hours every day and create those beautiful vibrations all around. They were called Purohits – those who do good things, beneficial things for the society, for the town. They would chant everyday and sit in Samadhi and create an atmosphere of vibrant positivity. But then later on people forgot all this and now it is completely gone. When can you go into such Samadhi? When you are not craving for anything; when there are no wants left, then Samadhi happens.
Q: Dearest Guruji, this precious tradition of knowledge that we are in, what is the root of it? And how long are we going to continue?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Root of it I don’t know. It is from thousands and thousands of years. It is not five, six, seven or ten thousand, no! It from thousands of years; we don’t know. Nobody knows. Maybe as old as the consciousness.
Q: If I am Brahman, if I am the eternal presence, if I am totally free from inside, if I am the pure consciousness, why is it that I am not able to know that or experience that?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Because your mind is outside. You want this, you want that, you want comfort, you want relationships, you want 101 things and your mind is in it. How will you go inside? How will you experience that? So when you are free from wanting and when you say, ‘I want nothing, I am satisfied’, then you go inward.
There are two situations when you say I want nothing. One is when you are frustrated, ’I want nothing! I give up.’ That state doesn’t work. When you say, ‘I give up, I can’t handle it anymore.’ That frustrated state will not help.
When you say, ‘Oh I am so total, complete, I want nothing.’ That state of being happy and wanting nothing can turn the mind inward. This is a catch 22 situation because when you turn inward, only then you say, ‘I want nothing.’ But unless you say, ‘I want nothing’, you can’t go inward. (Sri Sri laughs)
This you have to figure out, I don’t know how you will make it. I am giving you so many gimmicks, so many techniques, do this, do that, do that and do that, but I don’t know how you will do it. (Sri Sri laughs)
You have to get yourself in that position of being happy and saying, ‘I want nothing. I am full, I am satisfied.’ Then the mind soaks in bliss.
Q: You have said I am with you. Does that mean you know all my thoughts, actions, hopes and fears? Are you literally within me, every day, at night, at home, at my job and everywhere, all the time? If so it is comforting to know, and I better start watching my thoughts and actions.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Why do you want to know all the trade secrets? I won’t tell you all that.
Yes, sometimes you are looking and sometimes you close your eyes.
Q: Many native traditions conduct ceremonies including eating or drinking specific herbs and plants to elicit higher states of consciousness. Is there an equivalent in Vedanta? And is this practice harmful or beneficial?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, Ayurveda is a science, it definitely has many mantra aushadhis; some herbs do induce a state of calmness. But dependency on them again is bondage, so Vedanta discards it.
Ayurveda and Yoga, both definitely talk about herbs which can make you very calm and go deep, but most of these herbs, these drugs, that people use are harmful to the system. More harmful than the good that it does.
All these recreational drugs, absolutely not! It just destroys your body. It will temporarily give you a little high state that just takes you off from the mundane to a seemingly subtle feeling. But I have never tried it, never ever.
So this is what people say, but I don’t recommend it because I see people who use all this; smoke Marijuana or Afeem(Opium) and all that. Look at their face, there is no joy, no vibrancy, no radiance and they have no aura. So it never triggered any interest in me.
If you go to a Kumbh Mela, you will find a lot of sadhus who smoke Hookah, Charas, Opium, but looking at their faces it is far from anything you would call spiritual. They are completely oblivious of everything else in the world. They are in their own world. None of the signs of enlightenment you can see in them. So this is unfortunate.
Yes, in the past, this has been used only as a therapy. See, if somebody was too obsessed with sex, or somebody was too obsessed with greed, or jealousy, or some sort of delusion, then in the past they would have given them just a little bit to turn their mind off from whatever trouble they were in, but they never used it so much. The same with tantric sex as well, it was given only to someone who was obsessed with sex too much. Do you see what I am saying?
Somebody has some hormonal imbalance in the body and they can’t think of anything but sex, the whole day and night, for those people they said this is all like walking on the razors edge. So a well experienced Guru would initiate them and give them just for that. Only for a short period of time, not forever but for 3 months, 6 months or 1 year, something like that, so that the things would balance in the system. This is one particular section that they used to teach; but that whole tradition is lost now.
Q: I have so often wondered when will there ever be deep and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Let us hope that it should come within our lifetime.
Recently one of our Art of Living teachers from Israel did a commendable job. She raised some funds and brought some Palestinian ladies and some Israeli ladies who really hated each other to the German Ashram. She put them there, and they couldn’t run away anywhere. She then made them interact with each other. In the beginning they were ready to kill each other, they argued, and hated each other, and then the whole thing turned around and became so positive. And this was covered as a big story in all the newspapers in Germany. Televisions covered this story and said, ‘If one lady, one teacher of The Art of Living could bring so many women from both communities together, then there is a lot of hope.’
It is a question of bringing people closer.
Q: If man has to ask for one thing in life, what should he ask for?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Why should he ask only for one thing? He should ask for as many things as he wants. When he is thirsty he should ask for water, if he is going to do bhastrika before that he should ask for tissue paper. He should ask for food when he is hungry. Why should you limit his asking to only one thing?
I tell you, this world is multitude with so many things in this world. Why would God create only one thing and leave you there? Just imagine, if there is only one vegetable that you could ask for in your life, which one would you ask for? Okra? Eat okra all your life? Or bananas? And go bananas all your life!
Why should you? Ask and it shall be given. And whenever, whatever is needed, that time you ask and move on. And when you are filled with everything, then say, ‘I want nothing, I am happy.’
The wants have to fall off. You can’t renounce them like that. You are thirsty and you say, ‘No, I don’t want water’, you can’t do that. You are thirsty then you need water at that time.
Unfortunately, there is this Jain tradition which I don’t approve of. They leave the body without having food. They fast for many days, it is almost like suicide.
So the saint lies on the bed and says, ’Water, water, water’, because it is an inner urge, and people around him say, ‘The words of the saint are true. There you will get a lot of water.’ And they don’t give him any water. So there, upstairs you will get, don’t ask for it, never mind, die without water.
He would instruct them, ‘Don’t give me water even if I shout for it.’
I tell you, it is torture.
It has become much less today but still people do that. This is very wrong I tell you. Mahaveer never said that you have to fast without water and die like this. But there is a particular tradition where they try to do this. Even among Hindus, some people torture themselves. A very small sect of people they have all these practices of torturing themselves. These are not at all approved of. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna very clearly says, ‘These people are torturing themselves, they do not know of me inside them. I am there right there sitting inside them. They don’t see me, they don’t recognize me.’
These are tamasic practices, they try to torture themselves. ‘Karsayanta sarira stharin bhuta grama acetasah mam, Caivantah sarira stham tan viddhy asura niscayan’
So there is a middle path. On one side egotistic people try to torture themselves, and on another side there are those who are so obsessed with the comfort of the body.
You are sitting; okay your legs are aching, never mind, let it ache. You won’t die with a few little aches and pains here and there. Let it ache, with that determination if you sit, you will see the pain disappears.
When you do yoga, it definitely pains. Your body stretches here and stretches there, and it pains here and there, but if you continue the pain disappears. It is the same if you go to the gym and do your exercise. Next day your body aches everywhere, isn’t it? But you don’t leave it, you just continue and then the pain disappears. You do one or two sessions and all the aches and pains go away.
So, on one side there are people who torture themselves because of their ego, on the other side there are those who are obsessed with the comfort of the body. Both are lost; they both can’t make it.
Who can? One who follows the middle path, that golden line. Is that clear?
So for meditation also, the one who fasts he will never get it, and the one who is over eating he will also never get it; nor the one who over sleeps, or those who torture themselves keeping awake all the time. Nor those who don’t do any activity and nor those who do not take out even a little time to meditate. None of the extremes will work. It has to be the middle path, middle path, middle path!
Q: I am afraid that Earth is a testing and training ground. If this is so how do I know what lessons I need to learn or what skills I need to develop? I am tired. How many more lessons to go?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just forget about everything.
Who says you have to go through some exams? You don’t need to learn anything I tell you, become hollow and empty. Just drop everything before you drop dead. That’s the secret, and be happy!
There is no perfection in the world, I tell you. This world is full of imperfections, just accept it. You’ll be at peace. Did you get it?
And this body and mind belongs to the world. As a spirit you are perfect, as a body and mind complex, you are imperfect. So, if you keep examining yourself you will find imperfection in yourself, and if you keep examining the world you will find imperfection there too. And usually you move from this imperfection to that imperfection. Either you find the world is imperfect and you think you are perfect, or if you think you are imperfect, then you see everybody else is better than you and everyone is perfect, only you are imperfect and you start blaming yourself. So you get into this blame game of blaming either yourself or the world. This is the worst thing for a sadhak; stop doing that!
Offering your imperfections to the Divine say, ‘However I am I belong to you, and you are the Lord, you are the perfect one.’ So you give your imperfection to somebody.
‘Oh mother Divine, you are perfect, I offer myself to you.’
See if you are a soccer player, what do you do? A player offers his imperfections to the coach. You tell the coach that this is what you don’t know and these are your imperfection. Then coach takes over and says, ‘Okay, you don’t worry, I will tell you what to do.’
The same thing, you offer your imperfections to the Guru, ‘Guruji, however I am, my imperfections, I have offered to you’, and relax. It is the silence in you, the quietness in you which is the mother of all skills. It is the mother of perfection. Action is never the mother of perfection, action doesn’t bring in skills. What brings in skills is yoga. Do you know why you should do yoga? Why you should be quiet? Why you should meditate? That brings the perfects skills in you; it brings perfection and a better quality of enjoyment too – all these three benefits.
To enjoy this world also you need to go inward, you need yoga. Yoga brings skill in action, yoga brings out the perfection in you and yoga brings out the talents and skills in you, and also provides you better comforts and enjoyment.
Q: It is great having this silence course and learning about truth and life. When we go back to the real world all the stresses and negativity surround us again, how to tackle that?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Actually this is the real world. You have to coin this separately.
This is the real world and when you go there, that is just your visiting place. That is your transit lounge and this is your home.
Do you know what Adi Shankaracharya said in Bhaja Govindam?
He said, ’Suramandiratarumoolanivaasah, Sayyaa bhootalamajinam vaasah, Sarvaparigraha bhogatyaagah, Kasya sukham na karoti viraagah. Bhaja govindam, Bhaja govindam.’
It is so beautiful, it says – my original abode is there, my true home is there, and here, I have come to visit, just to take a little rest.
So know that this is the real stuff and this is reality. You go back to the world and definitely there is some negativity that comes. That is how it is, and you are there to bring some positivity in it! Your job is to bring some positivity in that atmosphere, don’t get lost there; that is why you keep coming back and going back.
Why we are building all these ashrams? We could have just sat in one place. Why am I traveling around the world? You know this is my 18th or 19th stop in one month’s time. This is the 12th country I am visiting. Why do I go around; everywhere? I know we need to have places like this which are lighthouses, where people can come and find their inner peace. So that is why we are making centers everywhere and having satsangs everywhere. If there are none in your area then you start one!
You know, these are gas stations; you need gas stations because everywhere people run out of gas. Then their cars become immobile. So satsang groups are gas stations, go fill up, charge yourself. You can’t cry, ‘Oh I filled up my gas here and now it is all empty, what do I do?’ It is empty because that is nature; fill it again.
At the same time, you can’t live in the gas station. Got it? That is why I say even to people who are ashramites and who are staying at one place for too long, that they have to move around. I tell them to go travel around and share their knowledge. When they start sharing they will be happier. If they are in one place all the time then they sometimes get bored. There is an age when you cannot travel, and you are satisfied and fulfilled, then it is okay.