Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Thank you very much. Mahalo! ( A Hawaiian word meaning Thanks). It is nice to hear the same thing from a different perspective. It's so interesting how all cultures in the world have common threads. Like Ramsay spoke about the word "Eee" (in the Hawaiian language) similarly in Sanskrit each letter symbolizes a particular element. There are five elements in nature: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Then there is the mind, intellect and ego or the identity. Then comes the non-changing, unifying spirit called maha.
When we greet each other mahalo, that is a step beyond the ego and we find unification. Ma represents that which you know. Children's first word in life is ma. A child sees beyond the identity of me to a larger identity. It is interesting that there is an underlying unity in all the cultures around the world.
Life is both a secret and sacred. In ancient civilizations, anything that was sacred was considered secret. But in today's modern civilization there is shame in the secret. Secret and shame are associated with one another. In ancient civilizations, humility was associated with pride. Today, violence is associated with pride. Aggression is associated with pride. There is a big contrast.
So to know something very deep about ourselves or to understand something very close to our heart we need to be in a cordial and informal environment. You know, we often greet people but our greeting doesn't carry the vibrations. It's almost like an air hostess greeting you when you leave an aircraft with “have a nice day.” It doesn't mean anything. There is something that is beyond the words. There is something deep inside us which we use sometimes to communicate. In that instant all 53 billion cells in your body, all of them communicate in one go.
You know when someone is drowning, at that moment they are totally alive; because the whole body, every cell is so alive, because at that moment they want to live. There is something deep within us that when turned on takes us to a different dimension. At that moment observe what the quality of our breath, our mind, our heart is. If there is a fire in the building, then what happens? Something wakes up in the whole system. Correct? And similarly when we are in deep love with something, the nature, creation, the creator we are in wonder. Then there is a quality to our consciousness.
As a baby you had this quality. You lived almost sixteen or seventeen hours in that state of awe. That’s why babies laugh a lot, smile a lot. But as we grow older we get stuck in memory cycles. We learned and we got stuck, and we learned more and got stuck again. Then by the time you are in your twenties you can’t learn anything anymore. You are in state where you are far away from learning about anything.
Now the question is, is it possible for us to revert back to that state of awe, wonder and learning and still age? Anything that takes us in this direction is the spiritual path. A spiritual pattern should keep you enthusiastic, alive, happy and living moment to moment with a lot of energy.
One thing is to know that we are all connected another is to feel we are connected. Now, there is a danger in feeling we are all connected. Somewhere somebody has a problem. In the world most people have problems. There are very few people without problems. Just imagine, you will be in a constant state of botheration because every time someone is bothered you are bothered. You need skill, the skill of being compassionate yet not getting affected. For example, a doctor treats sick people all the time but doesn’t get sick himself/herself. A doctor is not supposed to. At least for that period when he is sick, he is not a doctor. He’s a patient. So a doctor has to remain a doctor and not turn into a patient.
Even here the solution is following a spiritual path. Certain practices insulate you, yet retain your sensitivity at the same time. This needs training and education. We all have ten fingers and though everyone has the ability, only a few can play the guitar. Only those few who have learned how to play the guitar or the flute or the trombone can play it.
Nature does not reveal itself until there is a certain maturity in our hearts. Until the time our mind is totally in the present moment, our vision about the future and the past gets limited. When the mind starts being in the present moment more and more it gains the ability to search through all the rough, pleasant and unpleasant impressions. This gives a certain level of equanimity and nature reveals more of its secrets. This is such a beautiful thing.
Our breath is a connecting factor to the whole creation. Breath in Sanskrit equals prana. Prana is not exactly breath but the life-force energy connected with the breath. We are all floating in an ocean of prana, an ocean of life-force. Now this changes all the time. The quality of prana changes all the time.
When our breath through the left nostril is dominant, the right brain is more active. When our breath through the right nostril is dominant, the left brain is more active. So now if your breath is going through the left then you grasp whatever intellectual discussions are going on. When it shifts to the right and the left brain starts functioning, you will rather just sit and sing or enjoy music.
Many times you may walk into a place that plays music and you notice that your breath shifts. Similarly, if you go to a meditation place or sit in a place where people have meditated you find both nostrils are functioning. Only when both nostrils are functioning equally then meditation can happen. So the ancient people studied a lot about the breath.
Putting your attention wherever you want to, you can know what is happening there. There’s a lot of knowledge in this. Every time you know more you find there is so much more to know about life. That’s why life is an unending secret, something so sacred.
Sri Sri then led the audience through sukshma yoga(a subtle form of yoga that has a very relaxing effect) for those who were tired after a long day at work . After the relaxing yoga session he led the audience through a meditation
Q: How do I tame the ego?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: For God’s sake, don’t tame it. Don’t meddle with it. Don’t do anything with it. If you find you have one, just keep it in the pocket. If you try to tame the ego then that must be the biggest ego. What the ego cannot tolerate is being ignored. The antidote for ego is to be natural. Be simple like a child. And if you find it is still bothering you, just let it be.
Q: Please elaborate on the concept of letting go. How does one let go physically, mentally and emotionally?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just take a deep breath and hold. Don’t let go. You can’t but let go. It is inevitable at some point in time you will have to let go. How to let go? Hold your fist and keep it tight. How long can you do this?
Q: Why are some people greedy and cruel? Can we change them or must we learn to accept?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Some people don’t know how beautiful they are. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. If you heal the victim, that culprit will be healed. No one is born as a violent person. One becomes violent due to lack of proper education on non-violence.
Q: What is special about this meditation practice compared to others?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It makes you ordinary and it can happen only to ordinary people. If you think you are special, this meditation cannot happen. And that is what is so special about it.
Q: Please speak on love. Also, how is discipline best exercised?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Here again you cannot force yourself to love something or not love something. Just relax and be yourself.
Discipline can only be required in three situations. You don’t need discipline when there is love. When you love something you don’t need to discipline yourself to do it, right? The second situation is when there is fear. If you fear you are going to have nervous breakdown that fear will make you do what is required. Third is greed. If someone offers you one million dollars to do something thing for one week, you would not miss one day of doing that thing. So greed, fear and love keep you in discipline.
Q: When one achieves higher levels of consciousness, what is the effect on the body and how does the use of the body change?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There’s this proverb. ‘You chop wood and carry water before enlightenment and you chop wood and carry water after enlightenment.’ Our consciousness impacts our body and our body impacts our consciousness. It is a very dear relationship.
Q: What does it take to accomplish ones destiny?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Faith, faith that you can accomplish your destiny.
Q: Do you believe our world leaders can create peaceful and loving solutions to world problems or are they economically motivated by a select group of individuals?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I think you have given the answer in the question. Both question and answer together. I find there are many good world leaders who want to do something for our society but they feel constrained. They feel helpless. Many times they cannot do what they want to do because they are trapped in a system. The system doesn’t allow them to do what they want to do. And there are others for whom their position or party matters more than the welfare of the people. Their eyes are on the next coming election, the needs of their political party, their political agenda rather than the larger interest of the people in the long term. Even if they think of the bigger issues they are unable to take action as their political agenda stands in front of them.
A ruler cannot become a reformer. Rulers do not work with reform. And those who work with reform cannot become rulers. They have different roles. Reformers and rulers should work together.
Q: Can you speak on the subject of marriage and our attachment to this idea?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I’m not so qualified to speak about marriage; I have no experience of it! It is an important institution which teaches you how to accept and move on in life, how to care for and share with another and to be shared and cared. I can give you some tips.
At the end of the talk, Sri Sri invited everyone to visit India.