The most precious thing in the world

Now I am going to ask you a very serious question:
Do you really greet a person or treat it as a formality?

See, on a day to day basis, we greet people, we exchange pleasantries. It is all on a very formal level. Isn’t it so?

When someone brings a glass of water, we say, ‘Thank you so much.’
That ‘so much’ has no meaning.
If you are in the Sahara desert, and you are really very thirsty and someone brings you a glass of water and you say, ‘Thank you so much’, it is authentic.
So, in life, when we deal only on a superficial level all the time and when we lack the depth, then life feels very dry and meaningless.
We must to shift to another level, of authenticity, sincerity, and a genuine connection from heart to heart. That is what I call spirituality.
Spirituality is when you relate from the authenticity of your existence.
As children we were all doing that.

Do you remember when you were a baby, the whole planet, the whole universe was so alive. The moon was talking, the trees were talking and the animals were talking. There was a natural conversation between you and the entire universe. Do you remember?
Have you seen the children in cartoons? Even trees talk to them. It is a different world.

Now the question is, can we still maintain that innocence and at the same time reach the height of intelligence? 
I say, ‘Yes, we can. 
Intelligence and innocence together is the most precious thing in the world.
There are people who are intelligent and crooked, and it is easy to be innocent and ignorant. But what is really preferred is the education that can bring intelligence yet maintain the innocence.

So, now that we are at home and feeling absolutely informal, what topic do you want me to speak on tonight?

(Audience: Love; Birth; Forgiveness; Relationship; Decisions; God; Corruption and peace; Compassion; Anger; Fear; Capitalism; Hope; Patience. )

You want me to talk on patience? I will do it next year. And then…

Tell me, does it really matter on what topic we speak on tonight?
You know, we convey more through our presence than our words. Isn’t that so?
Does it really matter what we speak?

The world is all just vibrations.
If you talk to your physicist, he will say the whole universe is nothing but a wave function. Each one of us are nothing but waves.
If you are in touch with your centre, the waves are positive. If you are not in touch with your centre and have gotten caught up, then your waves become negative.

Peace, love, compassion, all these are our true waves; our real waves without distortion. They are the positive vibrations that come from us.
When you get angry, upset, negative, what do you do? You need to change that into positive. But nobody has taught us how to do this, neither at home nor at school. Isn’t it so? Grandmother must have told us, ‘Go to the corner and count ten’, that is it. Counting ten or hundred does not help these days.

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Meditation is not serious, seriously!

“You’re not serious about this, are you?” The look, tone and expression on Divya’s face conveyed a singular message: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Frustrated at not having a single moment to relax, Divya expected sympathy and understanding – not some outrageous solution about going on an inner journey to the source of peace and joy within.

“I want joy outside, all around me, not somewhere inside!”

Well, if it’s not inside, it’s not going to come outside, is it?

“So how do you get in there? What do you have to do? Sit straight, close your eyes, not move an inch and look serious? Are you sure that is how you find this joy inside?”

We don’t know about the ‘serious’ part, but yes, this is a good place to start.

Who doesn’t need a break, after all? And if that break were to leave you rejuvenated and fresh as a daisy, you would want to keep taking it again and again, isn’t it? Well then, make a start – take a break, meditate!

Meditation is for the young, surprisingly

Time to burst a common meditation myth which goes something like this: meditation is only meant for old people who have a lot of free time at hand and who have “seen-it-all, done-it-all”. The fact is: meditation is a simple and natural practice meant for people of all age groups, starting from as early as eight- or nine-year-olds.

Anu Parekh, the mother of a twelve-year-old, shares ecstatically about how her son’s personality changed after meditation. “My son used to be so restless that it was impossible to take him out anywhere. He would never sit still at one place. Since he has started meditating, he’s become calm and quiet. There are no more complaints from his school either!”

So that settles the ‘age excuse’. And now for the most common complaint of all times – where’s the time? Meditation is just going to take you 20 minutes and you don’t need to always go by fixed timings.

Although it’s a good idea to meditate twice a day, morning and evening, if you can’t – do it at any other time of the day, as convenient. You are sure to find a quiet corner somewhere for a few minutes.

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Devotion – A thirst never quenched

Q: After a lot of struggle I found you as my Master. In my next birth, I don’t want to get lost and then get picked up by a Master. Is there a way out?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There is a lot to worry about right now. Why are you postponing things for the next lifetime? Right now, here, you have a chance. Become free, become happy and serve, yes!
We will see about the next life later.

Q: Dear Guruji, why do I cry in satsangs and in some of The Art of Living Courses? 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Why do you cry? I think you should laugh, isn’t it? Smile!
There is a shloka (verse) in the Upanishad which says, ’Bidhyanti hridaya granthi, Chidyanthe sarva samshayaha. Ksheenatechaasya karmani, Yasmin driste paraavare.’ – (Mandukya Upanishad
When you see the Beloved, the knots in your heart open and tears come. All doubts and questions vanish from the mind, and all bad karmas vanish
. This is what has been said in the Upanishads.
So you don’t know why you are crying, it is because some knot in the heart is getting loosened up; getting opened – this is one thing. And there is s nothing wrong, when the heart blossoms tears come and emotions well up. Gratitude and love are also associated with tears, not only misery. These are called sweet tears.
It is said in the Bhakti Sutras – The angels long for those drops of tears that come out of love. So you are very fortunate to have such tears.
Now if some of you are not getting tears, don’t think that, ‘Oh! I am not fortunate, I can’t cry.’ No, nothing like that! Only if you get tears you are evolved – nothing like that. It is just the makeup of some people. For some there is more emotion, a wider experience of hollow and empty in the mind. Some feel more waves of emotions taking over.
These are different experiences. And at different times people get these different experiences. Not everybody needs to get those.
And that is not a particular sign of any higher evolution. It is one of the signs, but not the only sign.

Q: Guruji, can you please talk about Ahimsa (non-violence)? Also, how can a vegetarian answer a non-vegetarian when he say, ’You vegetarians also kill plants and plants feel pain and scream too!’
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, ask those non-vegetarians, if they have a puppy at home would they put the puppy on the dining table? No, they won’t! Nobody will.
See, our human physiology is made to consume a vegetarian diet. There are a number of research works on this. You go onto Google and search, ‘Why should I be vegetarian?’ You will get a number of different answers on this. You will find all the answers in Google.

Ahimsa is the intention.
The state of mind in which you go and destroy something is Hinsaa (violence or killing).
Ahimsa is when the mind is totally non-violent, it does not want to destroy or kill anything. That is Ahimsa.
There was a Rishi (wise sage) called Kanad. He would not cut the crops; he would go and pick up the seeds from the field. So Kanad Maharishi also said that one needs to understand the substances. Padaarth Gyananad Mokshaha – if you can understand the substances by which the world is made, you feel the liberation.
With plants you are only plucking the fruits, you are plucking the vegetables. Lesser harm is what is appreciated.

Q: Dear Guruji, why is the Vishalakshi Mantap designed like a lotus flower? Is it because you like the lotus flower? What is the meaning of Vishalakshi and Sumeru? 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is nice, isn’t it? (Laughter).
You can come up with a hundred different reasons. We just decided to do something like this, and it looks nice, that is it!
If I had it shaped like a hibiscus, you would have asked me the same question! Why hibiscus? So there is no need to justify why this flower and that flower. I don’t want to make any other flower get upset or angry. (Laughter).
Vishal means broad, Akshi means eyes; so it means broad vision. So, when everybody goes in there, their vision gets broadened and they start seeing things in a bigger way. Isn’t it? (Audience respond with clapping).
That is what meditation does – broadens your vision and deepens your roots.

Q: Guruji, I used to experience a lot of devotion, but it seems to have diminished with time. After listening to your talks on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, I realized that it is not my nature. Could you please tell me how I can feel the same devotion again? 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Devotion is always there, but sometimes the clouds come in. Faith goes down and up with time. But if it goes down don’t think that it is going to be down there forever. It will go up again.
This is the nature of the mind because the mind goes up and down, and it projects love and faith as if to be going up and down. And it is related to Prana (life force energy). If the Prana is high, then faith is high. If the Prana is low, then the mind will say, ‘Oh, what is this? Am I at the right place? Am I doing the right thing?’ A million doubts come to the mind.
So, when you are anchored to the centre core of your being, when you are so well anchored to the knowledge, only then that stability comes. That is why the saints in the past have prayed, ‘Dear Lord, give me Achal Shraddha; unshakable faith.’
So many saints have sung and have asked for Achal Shraddha, Atoot Bhakti (uninterrupted devotion), unbroken love.
This is all that we can ask for because even that is a gift! When you have love and devotion see what a transformation happens in life. And when they breakdown, see what happens – a sort of inertia sets in. A feeling of hopelessness comes and life appears to be meaningless. It looks like every door is shut and everywhere one finds darkness. It is called asThe Dark Night of the Soul in the Christian tradition. The soul has to pass through such a dark night.
But I would say it doesn’t have to pass through it if you are a Yogi (a seeker on the spiritual path).
In the Yoga Sutras, I have spoken about the Nine Obstacles on the Path of Yoga. And how you can overcome them?
Ekatattva abhyaasa – when you are adhering to one principle then you are able to sail through these obstacles; or what are appearing to be obstacles.

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The secret behind making a marriage work

There is a connection between Emotion, Sound and Raga (melody).
The last bhajan that was sung had the Jogiya Raga. You cannot associate this raga to Radha. If you say, ‘Shiva, Shiva’, it can be associated with the Raga of dispassion.

Once somebody was invited to a marriage reception and was requested to sing. He started to sing (in Kannada), ’Why did you leave the body and go, dear soul? Is this death justified?’ Does this song suit the occasion?
You cannot sing any song anywhere. The Emotion and Raga must match.

There is a connection between Emotion, Sound and Raga (melody).
The last bhajan that was sung had the Jogiya Raga. You cannot associate this raga to Radha. If you say, ‘Shiva, Shiva’, it can be associated with the Raga of dispassion.

Once somebody was invited to a marriage reception and was requested to sing. He started to sing (in Kannada), ’Why did you leave the body and go, dear soul? Is this death justified?’ Does this song suit the occasion?
You cannot sing any song anywhere. The Emotion and Raga must match. So, if you don’t step on the emotion of a woman, everything will be fine.

Now for both of you – Don’t ask proof of the other person’s love for you.
Don’t ask, ’Do you really love me?’ Never give the burden to someone to prove his or her love for you. Do you see what I am saying?
If you find their love for you is less, you should say, ’Why do you love me so much?’ Don’t say, ’You don’t love me’, and things like that.

Q: If someone provokes us, should we keep quiet or teach them a lesson? If we keep quiet then they consider it as a weakness, and if we teach them a lesson, they say that we have not grown spiritually. 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: To teach someone a lesson, you should be calm. If you have anger, if you are disturbed, you cannot teach someone a lesson.
At the same time, you cannot keep turning the other cheek all the time.
Teach the lesson, but with compassion. This will give you strength.
When you have understood the position of a person and why they are provoking you, you will deal with them with a calm and serene mind.

Q: How do we tackle people who constantly spread negativity around us?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First of all, know that nobody can constantly spread negativity. Second, deal with it with skill.
Third is to ignore.

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Honoring Our Ancestors

I want to know if these are these plucked from peacocks or does it fall down naturally and people pick it?
If they pluck it then don’t bring these at all. We shouldn’t encourage people to pluck from peacocks. I don’t know if this naturally falls or people pluck it.
(Audience: they pluck it Gurudev) Then you shouldn’t bring this at all. Do not buy it at all because if you keep buying it they may kill even more of the peacocks. No one should buy this.
We will put instructions everywhere that no one should buy peacock feathers because that can create greed in some people to pluck them forcefully from the peacocks.
What do you say? Agreed!
This is a new trend that has started. You should stop buying these.

Very good decision we made today!

Q: Gurudev, I want to dance with you? 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: My spirit is always dancing.

Q: Gurudev, can the Guru change the karma of a person, and when does that happen?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If a Guru alone could change the karma of a person then he would have changed the karma of everybody in one stroke.
No, you have to do some effort as well.
Guru can definitely relieve you of your sins. When you commit a sin and you realize that you made a mistake, you cannot relieve yourself of sin, but the Guru can definitely do it for you. So in that sense, yes!
At the same time, you have to do Purusharth (self-effort). You need to do some good work. And the sense of love and devotion is equally proportionate to the amount of karma that gets released.

Q: Because of my cowardly behavior I run away from all the challenges in life. How can I come out of this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First of all, know that whatever challenge is in front of you, you have the power to face it. You should recognize that. You have the power and the energy to face it. With this conviction you move forward, I am with you.

Q: Gurudev, we do certain rituals for the departed. Is there any basis for these rituals?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: These rituals are there only to show your gratitude to the departed souls. But what has happened is that the Pundits and the Purohits have made it so complicated that sometimes you don’t understand what they are saying. If they translate what they are saying in Sanskrit it gives you an idea.

Do you know why you take sesame seeds and say, ‘TarpayamiTarpayamiTaraiyami?’ It is called Tarpanam.
You take the name of the departed one and you take some sesame seeds and water and pour it onto a plate. Why do you do this? You do this to tell the departed souls, ‘Whatever desires you might be harboring in your mind, they are like sesame seeds, insignificant. They are for small things, so you just drop them. There is infinite joy and bliss in the abode of the Divine, just enjoy that. We will take care of your unfulfilled desires. You be contented, be happy.’
This is what we tell the departed souls in Tarpanam.
They do have desires; they want to see the wedding of their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, or see the great grand children getting one more daughter. These sorts of desires remain in their mind before they die so we tell them, ‘Look these desires are small, drop them. Love is the essence of life and the Divine is all love. You move on to the light which is all love.’ So, giving instruction to the departed soul is what Shraddham is.

Then you ask them for blessings, ‘I will do my part, what you can do from there is give me blessings so that my mind is on the right track and so that I do the right things in the right time. Bless me with good luck, prosperity.’

This type of Shraddham is all over the world. Even in South America they do this. On one particular day the entire city comes on the road and for their ancestors they burn effigies and many other things on the street.
They do this in China, and in Singapore as well.

Do you know what they do in Singapore? There is a particular day for ancestors. So whatever the ancestors were passionate about, they make those things in paper and burn them. If their father loved cars, they will make a nice Benz car, keep it on the street of Singapore and burn it.
Singapore is such a clean and neat city, but on that one day in the year it is so dirty because everywhere you find loads and loads of paper being burnt.
The belief in China is that when you burn some fake currency it reaches the ancestors, and they give you good luck. Sometimes I feel that this is cheating. But at the same time it is just the faith.
So, they build homes right in the middle of the street and burn it. They believe the blessing will come from the other side.
That sort of connecting to the people on the other side is what Shradha is. This is what faith is; with faith honoring people who have crossed over to the other side.

In Europe also there is an All Saints Day when people go and offer flowers in the burial grounds.
Shradha is there in almost all religions and all cultures. Here it is very meaningful in Sanskrit, but people don’t understand.
Like Pind Danam – See our body has come out of a ball of food, isn’t it? So the ritual is that they keep a ball of food, it could be whatever the departed liked. So you cook some good food in the memory of the departed and feed it to the poor people.
This is Shradha, it is to be done with a sense of gratitude, and sense of celebration while remembering the ancestors.
This much you can do, in memory of them cook some food which they liked and eat and feed a few people and enjoy.
Thank them and wish them progress in the world where they are in, and ask for their blessings so that you progress well on your journey here. That is it.

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A Beautiful India

(Sri Sri says looking towards the sky)
See, clouds are already there. It will rain well by the end of this month. If there is unrighteousness and decreased moral values in the country, nature also shows its anger. When all the corrupt people, whom we have made to sit on the top, do injustice to the country, nature also shows its anger.

The farmers of our country are committing suicide. If there is injustice to the farmers, it will result in nature showing its anger. That is why righteousness must increase in people. If the people who rule the country are not righteous, the country will be ruined, the people of the country will be ruined.

This is not something new; this has been going on since ages. In the ancient times, there used to be a Rajguru who used to catch the king’s ears if he did something wrong and cautioned him that it would harm him as well as his subjects. Nowadays, nobody listens. Farmers should not be subjected to injustice.

From today, before you eat your food, say, ‘Annadata Sukhibhava’. Let the farmers who provide us food be happy. Let the merchants who ensure that the food is transported and supplied to us be happy. Thirdly, let the women of the house, who cook and serve food to us, be happy. If these three are happy, the world will be happy.

If the women of the house are happy, there will be happiness at home. If the women of the house cook food with sadness, frustration or anger, the food does not digest properly and it affects the mind too.
If the merchants are happy, they will not cheat or adulterate food. We will get pure and clean food. Also, they will not loot and increase prices exorbitantly.
Since ages, merchants used to do a lot of social service activities, like constructing tanks, temples and Dharmashalas (Righteous schools). If the merchants are not happy and become greedy, it affects the people a lot.
Similarly, farmers must be happy. It is very important.
So, keeping all these three in mind, let us chant the mantra ‘Annadata Sukhibhava’ everyday.

Q: Gurudev, recently there has been a lot of issues with regard to power supply. How do we tackle this issue?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There was a person who had come here to explain how he could turn garbage into electricity. I have encouraged him to do this in Karnataka too. He needs a thousand kilograms of garbage of any kind, which he converts into electricity. We will see how it goes.

Q: Many great saints, for example Jesus, have died violent deaths. Why is it so?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Lord Krishna has said this in the Bhagavad Gita, ‘Kleśo ‘dhikataras teshām avyaktāsakta-cetasām avyaktā hi gatir dukham dehavadbhir avāpyate’ (Chapter 12 Verse 5)
If one worships only the un-manifest aspect of theBrahman (Absolute or Godhead) that brings a lot of sorrow.
If you observe, the lives of Moses, Jesus and Prophet Mohammed were full of difficulties. The lineage of Guru Nanak also faced similar difficulties. It was because they ignored Saguna Brahman (The Absolute with qualities) and worshipped only Nirguna Brahman (the supreme reality without form, quality, attribute).
It is very interesting.

That is why it has been said, ‘Avidyaya mrityam tirtha vidyaya amritam snute’ . Take both Saguna and Nirguna with you.
Vyakta (manifest) and Avyakta (un-manifest) are both needed. ‘Ishwaro Gururatmeti Murti bheda Vibhagine, Vyomavad vyapta dehaya Dakshinamurataye namah – Guru, Self-realization and God are all needed. If we take all of them along in life, we will be happy both in this world and the next.

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Significance of the Guru Discipline Tradition

Q: Sometimes I wonder, I have so many unending desires and you keep on fulfilling them. This makes me smile. How to get rid of hankering over desires Gurudev?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know your desires are getting fulfilled, that is enough. Be busy in fulfilling the desires of others, not your own desires. See, what is the significance of the Guru Discipline Tradition? It is for the Disciple to realize that desires are endless.

Like the waves of the ocean desires keep coming one after the other. That is why I must keep my desires aside and do as per the Guru desires. 
When you do this then the mind becomes hollow and empty and you start feeling a sense of lightness. Life then moves beyond joy and sorrow, and all craving and aversion automatically disappear.
This is the only way to remove cravings and aversions.

That is why it is said, ‘Na Guror Adhikam, Na Guror Adhikam, Na Guror Adhikam’ (There is nothing greater than Guru, there is nothing greater than Guru, there is nothing greater than Guru because Guru is the embodiment of all that is greatest.)

So leave everything on the Guru, and surrender to the Guru.
Fulfillment cannot be achieved through desires because if one desire is fulfilled another one comes, and if that is fulfilled another one comes. And then the mind keeps wandering between desires. Some desire or another will keep troubling your mind day and night.
Do you know, if there is anything in this world that troubles you, the topmost on the list is your own mind!
I am saying topmost because you do not see this. You feel that someone else is bothering you. You think your mother in law is troubling you, or your daughter-in-law is troubling you, or your wife or husband is troubling you. Keep all that as second on the list.
It is your own mind which is troubling you; there is no other enemy out there. Once you realize this you will understand that it is not the other, all the botherations are of the mind.

Q: In Yoga Vasistha, Lord Rama tells us that three worlds exist because of mind stuff. When the mind vanishes the worlds also vanish. What does he mean by mind stuff and how can the world exist because of the mind?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: This cannot be explained, this can only be experienced.
Till the time it becomes your experience just take the words and don’t look for an explanation.

If I say laddoo is sweet and if you ask, ‘How is laddoo sweet?’ I have no idea. I will say, ‘Just wait till you get a laddoo in your hand and put it in your mouth, then you feel it.’
In the same way when you hear the Vedantic Truth, the more explanation you seek, the more confused you become.
Vedantic words are to be heard and just allowed to sink. When it sinks in, then it comes as an experience.

If I say I am Divine, you will ask me, ‘How come you are Divine and how is it that I am Divine?’ There is no way to explain. When you go deep into meditation, you suddenly realize, ‘Ah, I am Divine.’
Just now I was meeting the Iranian group and one gentleman was telling me a story. He is making a movie, and he said that in the movie a group of 30 people go to seek God to some mystic place. So, they go and seek and finally what happens is that they see their reflection in the water and say, ‘Now I have found – I am God.’
Similar stories are there in the Pañcatantra, you seek something that you already have. But the seeking is essential because it takes you one whole round till you get to that point where you realize Anhalhak (meaning: I am the Creator), it’s an Urdu word.
The same thing has been said in Vedanta – Aham Brahmasmi (meaning: I am Brahman). So Anhalhak means Aham Brahmasmi.
But unfortunately those who said, ‘Anhalhak’, were all crucified. Their heads were cut off in the Arabic world. But in India, fortunately, that was not the case. One who said, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, they put a nice chair for him and gave him garlands. That is what happened.

But these are truths that one needs to experience deep inside. Any explanation will spoil it.

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