Monday, July 16, 2012
Truth is contradictory
July 02, 2012
Boone, North Carolina
Q: Dear Guruji, do you really like being a Guru? And do you read all our botherations or do you have helpers?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are helpers (smiles mischievously). Do you feel free of your botherations? How many of you feel free from your botherations? (Many raise hands in the audience).
Look at that!
Knowing the Self is not sitting and simply analyzing it. If you know you are not your thoughts, you are not your emotions, they all come and go; our body is changing all the time, this is not me, but there is something else, what is that? Who am I? – This inquiry itself is good enough to lead you into a state of stillness.
Q: What do you think of politics? Do you think people should get involved in politics?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: What is politics? Caring for people, isn’t it? Politics means one who stands up for the people, one who cares for people. People who are caring should be in politics. Not the ones who are selfish, but the ones who care, yes!
Unfortunately, of late, that is not the case with many. People come to politics just to enjoy some power, not to empower people, not to serve people. So it is good if you have an intention to serve the society, and if that is your cup of tea, then you should do it. But if you are a businessman and your tendency is to do business, you should not get into politics. It is the same with a philosopher or a doctor. See your aptitude.
If you have a big vision for the people, the country, or the world, then I would encourage you to get into politics. Especially the younger generation should get involved in politics.
Q: Guruji, a mistake was done in my past and I regret it. But I am reminded of that mistake by other people in every possible situation, even those who are unrelated. Sometimes I feel miserable and wonder if leaving this world is the only solution for me. Please help.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Absolutely not. Never do that. We are all here with you, I am with you, and everybody here is with you. Never mind. Whatever has been your past, believe in your innocence in the present.
Mistakes happen because of ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of awareness; some craving or aversion due to which you committed a mistake. That is done, finished. The moment you realize a mistake, you are out of it at that moment. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. And never ever think of ending your life. Got it?
And if you find someone else also doing that, just bring them to the Part 1 course. Let them do breathing, let them meditate and you’ll see they will also get out of this tendency.
Q: Dear Guruji, what do I do when someone bothers me even when they don’t intend to do so? I can’t help being upset, even though I try not to be, I get angry for days.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Oh! Do Bhastrika. That will take you out of that mood. Sudarshan Kriya, Bhastrika – that is it. You will come out of it.
Q: Guruji, we’re told that meditation is relaxation, not concentration. So when we have thoughts during meditation, is it still relaxation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes! When you become aware of the thought, you take a deep breath in and let go, and you find that the thoughts have already passed.
Meditation is not concentration. The more you try to chase away a thought, the more it comes. The best thing to do is to give that thought a hug and you will see that the thought disappears, like a bubble.
Thoughts come like this, right? (Sri Sri holding a soap bubble gun pointed at the audience with bubbles pouring out).
See how long they stay (referring to the bubbles in the air). They just come and vanish. All our worries are also like this. Never mind if these worries come. Just look back in the past and see; haven’t you worried ten years ago? You are still alive. You were worried whether you will see 2012, and you are seeing 2012! When you see the movie that the world is going to collapse in 2012, you think, ‘Oh my God!’ It makes you so nervous. But I tell you, everything will be business as usual.
Sometimes you have to shake up and wake up, and be bubbly!
Q: Dear Guruji, why are there religions? I know that they are there to keep us sane and have something to believe in; but why do people feel so strongly that their beliefs are right and others are wrong? How do we know if any of them are right?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, people want an identity, and they hold on to religion as an identity. Once you identify with one religion, you find that those who do not belong to that religion, no longer belong to you. They are separate; they are different. And that is how strife has started happening; wars have happened in the past.
Human beings want an identity, and it is simply an identity crisis, whether it is language, religion, nationality – it is all a play of ego. One doesn’t say this religion is good because it is good, they say it is good because I belong to that religion. It is my religion, so it is better. This is where you see clearly that it is an identity crisis more than religion itself.
All religions point out to one thing – Love and brotherhood, existence of a supreme power and prayer to that power, confidence in humanness and confidence in the goodness of human beings.
However, people have left the spiritual aspect of religion and are holding on to the outer shell, and so they are all fighting. There was one Jesus but today there are seventy two sects of Christianity. There was only one Prophet Muhammad, but today there are six different sects of Islam. Lord Buddha was only one, and today there are thirty two sects of Buddhism. And in Hinduism, countless number of sects! There are so many schools of thought that you cannot even count them.
What I would say is that we have to rise above our religious identity and recognize spirituality. Spirituality is experience. Once you have the experience of peace, tranquility, love and quietness deep within you, you will find that the same knowledge is said in all the religious scriptures.
So, I would say that you need to be like an ant. If there is a mixture of sand and sugar, do you know what the ant does? It separates the sugar and the sand, makes an anthill out of the sand and consumes the sugar. We need to do the same thing. That is discrimination; that is reasoning.
You know, often the places of faith shun reason. And those who take pride in being very reasonable, they don’t value faith. Life will be handicapped in the absence of any one of them. You need both faith and reasoning. And that is what spirituality is. Spirituality is faith and reasoning together, enriching both heart and mind.
You will find this in the World’s history – the Orient and the Occident. There are two ways of looking at it. The Occident always said, ‘First have faith, and then one day you will get an experience.’
The Orient had a different approach. It said, ‘First you have an experience, and then, if you want, you believe.’ And that is perhaps why science flourished in the Orient, because science also has the same methodology.
What does science say? ‘First you experience it and then you can believe it.’ And that is the one reason why scientists were never prosecuted in the east, in the Oriental philosophy, because the parameters were the same for both faith and science. They never got into conflict. However, in the Occident, they were always in conflict.
The more service you do, the more merit you acquire in life. The more merit comes, the more peaceful and serene you become from within.
Q: Dear Guruji, I just want to know, are there many ways to live life correctly? Are you always supposed to do the right thing or is it okay to be wrong sometimes? Are there many right ways?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Listen to your own conscience. Your conscience will say, ‘No, this is not right.’
What is not right? What you would not like others to do to you, that is not right.
If something inside pricks you, then don’t do it.
Q: Dear Guruji, Sage Ashtavakra says in his Ashtavakra Gita that we are not the doer. Yoga Vasistha says that self-control is necessary for self-realization. This seems contradictory. Can you please shed some more light on this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Truth is contradictory. Truth is multi-dimensional. It appears to be conflicting and contradicting, but is really not.
To come to this place, there could be one direction, which says, ‘Go straight and then turn left’. But if you come from another direction, it would say, ‘Go straight and then turn right’. Both are correct.
I want to tell you an incident. Do you know about Ayatollah Khomeini? He was from Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini’s close assistant once came to Bangalore. He was around 78 years old, a very elderly gentleman. This was long back, about ten to fifteen years ago. He asked me, ‘Gurudev, I have a serious question, a serious doubt. I have been asking this all my life and I couldn’t find the answer. Hope you can answer me.’
I said, ‘Yes, please tell me.’
He said, ‘How can there be many correct answers to a question? If the truth is one, then the answer can also be only one. There can be only one right answer. There cannot be two right answers. And if the right answer is only one, then so many religions have got no meaning. There can be only one right religion. In the world, there are so many religions. How can all paths be correct? If the Truth is one, and one thing is right, then there can be only one right answer to a question. Then all other scriptures, everything cannot be the correct answer to the question. There can be only one right answer.’ This was a very convincing argument.
I told him, ‘Look, to come to this place, there are many ways, and all the ways are correct. One instruction is that you just go straight. Don’t turn left or right. You will reach the place. There will be another direction which says go straight and turn right. Another direction will say go straight and turn left. All the different instructions to come to this place are correct. So, we need to think spherically.’
Suddenly, he realized that it depends on where you are.
I said, ‘In India, there is an ancient thought, which says - Let knowledge come to me from all sides. They never encouraged fanaticism. Truth is one but is perceived in many ways.’
Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti - the Truth is one, but the intelligent one expresses it in many ways.
He was very pleased. When he bent down there were tears in his eyes.
He said, ‘Thank you so much.’
Q: Dear Guruji, please tell us how you discovered Sudarshan Kriya?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It looks like I have no escape!
Just like that, I sat and suddenly it happened like a poem. Have you written a poem? How many of you have written some poem at sometime? How do you write a poem? You just sit and it just flows, isn’t it?
I was teaching Yoga and meditation even earlier to Sudarshan Kriya. But then, it was not enough. There was something; I felt that something had to come. Everyone was not feeling so connected with everybody else.
I thought, ‘How it is that everyone is not so happy and loving? There should be something, some technique, some way to make people feel that.’ And then, I just kept ten days of silence, and it started happening.
The first program had thirty people. In the first course, some of our people were with me. And then, there were doctors and lawyers of the city. All of them enjoyed it very much. The next weekend, they brought in more people. For ten years, we did this only through word of mouth.
And then, in India, the staff of the American Embassy and the United Nations agencies also requested me to come and give them a program, which we did in Delhi. There were people from the British and American embassy. So by word of mouth, it went on and on, and I kept travelling. Today, we have it everywhere.
In the beginning days, it used to be a long program and I had to teach all the courses myself. Then I thought, at this pace it will take a million years to reach out to the people, and it will not be possible. So, I started asking people to become teachers. I had to multiply myself into many. We made many teachers and shortened the course a little bit, and everybody is enjoying it now.
Then, some people came and said that we need a program for the youth, after which the YES+ and the Art EXCEL programs were started.
We need to bring up creativity in kids. Creativity is Godliness. Kids either become creative or destructive. They do not walk the middle path. We need to encourage the creative impulse in kids. It is very necessary. Don’t you think so? Encourage creativity!
Mistakes happen because of ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of awareness; some craving or aversion due to which you committed a mistake. That is done, finished. The moment you realize a mistake, you are out of it at that moment. Whatever has been your past, believe in your innocence in the present.
Q: Guruji, I understand the importance of seva, but at the moment, nothing but knowing myself is important. And seva feels like a distraction to me. What to do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Does a baby want to know the mother? Does a baby want to make the mother an object of knowing? Does any baby ever ask the mother, ‘Mommy, where did you study? First tell me. Give me your introduction; show me your bio-data. Then I will love you.’
A baby is simply in love with the mother. Every animal is in love with nature. Something so magnanimous cannot be made into an object of knowing.
In the Vedantic philosophy there is an example given – a spoon cannot contain the ocean, but it can be in the ocean.
Our intellect is so small, but the Self is much bigger than the intellect. So, can the small intellect capture the depth of the Self? No!
You can be in it, and that is in silence. You can be in silence, you can know silence, but you cannot grab silence. Correct?!
So, knowing the Self is not sitting and simply analysing it. If you know you are not your thoughts, you are not your emotions, they all come and go; our body is changing all the time, this is not me, but there is something else, what is that? Who am I? – This inquiry itself is good enough to lead you into a state of stillness.
Once you are still, don’t try to make yourself as an object of knowing. It is not possible. You are the Knower, not the object of knowing.
Are you getting what I am saying? If it goes a little bit above the head, never mind. We will go through it once again sometime later. But you can just think about it – ‘I am not going to make myself an object of knowing, but I am. Whether happy or unhappy, I am. Good or bad, I am.’
And, this sense of I am, this consciousness becomes much clearer when the Prana (life force) is high. When the energy is low and you feel tired, you can’t know anything. Your mind is not clear.
When do you find the clarity in the mind? When the energy is high. When the energy is really high, this becomes so evident, so clear. ‘I am not the body, but I am the spirit. I am the glowing spirit. I am energy. I am enthusiasm. I am love.’
This experience simply dawns.
Now, don’t get attached to that experience also. Got it?
So, just do Seva. The more service you do, the more merit you acquire in life. The more merit comes, the more peaceful and serene you become from within. That is the way to go about it. Just sitting in a corner and thinking, ‘Who am I? I want to know’, is not going to happen. It has to be complemented by activity and by rest. At the same time, if you are too much into activity and not taking any rest at all, then there is an imbalance. That is not good. You should have that balance in life, of activity and rest.
Sometimes time calls for activity. When there is an emergency, or if there is some urgent work, you do it. But then later on, take time to be quiet and be relaxed. Take time to relax.
It is good that you have this intense urge to know yourself. You should congratulate yourself. That is good, but don’t be in a hurry. Take your time.
Q: Did you choose us to be here or is it just a coincidence? Why are there not more people like us here benefiting from this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Do you see the hall is full; we can’t take any more here. Never mind whether I chose you or you chose me, we are all here. We are all enjoying and having a good time. The way to keep this joy, this high energy, happiness is to spread it out to everybody. You know, we can’t keep the happiness to ourselves. We need to share it in the world. That is the way happiness grows.
Q: Guruji, what do I have to do to become cool and chill like you?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are. Just look into the mirror. You are cool and chill.
Q: How should I handle my extremely strong-headed and angry teenager? He does not believe in God even after doing the Art EXCEL and the YES course. He does not seem to change.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I know you are in a hurry to make them change. Have patience. You know, there is an old proverb which says that when a son or a daughter is in the teens, you have to be with them like a friend, not like an authoritative parent. Be with them as a friend and influence them and have patience.
It is impossible that they have not changed after having done the YES course. Art EXCEL must have been a long time ago. It is not for teens. If your children are in their teenage, put them through the YES course. They will do the Sudarshan Kriya and other processes and it will help them.
All religions point out to one thing – Love and brotherhood, existence of a supreme power and prayer to that power, confidence in humanness and confidence in the goodness of human beings. However, people have left the spiritual aspect of religion and are holding on to the outer shell, and so they are all fighting.
Q: What do you think about dating websites? Is it a good way to find someone special?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, you know, I only speak based on my experience. I don’t know about this. In this field, I am an alien! You ask someone around you.
This is like going into a grocery shop and asking for gas.
You go to a garment shop and ask for a suitcase, it doesn’t make much sense.
There are people who have been to many dating websites, ask them. And don’t go to those who are successful, go to those who are unsuccessful because they have tried it many times, they will tell you what you should not do. So, take the advice from those who have been searching for many days.
You know, I heard about a lady conducting a seminar called, ‘How to make love work’, and she was divorced seven times! Someone thought it is ridiculous that a person who could not make her own marriage work seven times is giving a seminar. I said, ‘No, she is the most qualified, because she knows all the pitfalls and how many times she failed.’ So she can warn you about what you should not do. Isn’t it Mikey? (Referring to Michael Fischman)
Mikey thought it was hilarious, but I had a different logic to support that lady. See what logic can do! It can support anybody, and can take you from anywhere to anywhere.
This was way back in the late 80’s, when I first came to California and we had a course.
There were about fifteen people in the course. Half of them were travelling with me, and many were new. Then some people told me, ‘Guruji, there are too many seminars here in California. There is no point. Nobody is going to do The Art of Living Course and the Sudarshan Kriya. You better focus where people have the interest. Here, many things happen, like the How to make love work workshop, and all those sort of things.’
I just listened. I heard them but I did what I wanted to do. I went back again.
Next time, there were a little more people for the course, about twenty five people. They said, ‘See, why you are wasting your time and money?’
Those days we had very little resources to travel. They said, ‘It is already so saturated with all sorts of seminars.’
And I went again next time. Today, we have a lot of centers in California. Many people are getting benefit out of this.
Q: Dear Guruji, can you please comment on religious extremism? Why are people drawn to these narrow and dogmatic positions? How should we discuss with them, if at all?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Lack of spirituality, lack of experience. That is why we need to encourage broad thinking and reasoning.
In the Bhagavad Gita, after giving all the verses, in the end Lord Krishna says, ‘Now you reason out all what I have said. Take it only if it appeals to you.’
He never said, I am saying, so you just take it and do it. No. If this appeals to your reasoning, then you absorb it.
So, when reason is clouded, fanaticism happens. When reason is dismissed, fanatics are born. So, intellectual stimulation is essential, and at the same time an experiential understanding of the knowledge, of the wisdom also is needed. Broad mindedness is essential. That is why kids should be brought up with a multi-cultural, multi-religious education. In lack of that, they will become fanatics.
Many times, I feel sorry for all those people who are in those countries that are war torn. They never got an opportunity to see beyond their own little religion, their own religious beliefs. They could never expand their views, because they never got an opportunity. So, they should be given an opportunity. Thanks to the IT (information technology) today, people everywhere in the world can access any information through Google, Wikipedia and all that. This was not available ten years ago, even with our generation. Most of our generation had to go to the library and search for things. You don’t need to go to the library. At the press of a button you get all the information. So, I feel that this current generation is more fortunate.
But again, in many places it is not so. Afghanistan immediately comes to my mind as I speak this. So many youth, so many kids there have no idea about the world outside. So, even if a small portion of the world remains ignorant, the world cannot be a safe place. See what one Osama Bin Laden could do to the whole world – make everyone remove their shoes at the airports!
On the other hand, he gave jobs to so many people. I remember when we used to come to the US we would have to go through a very simple security check, that is all. Sometimes even that was not there in smaller airports. You could directly go and just get into the flight. Now there are so many security checks! Billions have been spent on just security, isn’t it? This is all the gift of these fanatic extremists in the world.
And how many youths we have lost! How many young lives we have lost! It is really painful. All this is because of lack of broadminded education; multi-cultural and multi-religious education. The fanatic think only he goes to heaven and everybody else goes to hell. And he creates hell for everybody. We need to bring about a change. People of any religion can become fanatics if they don’t have spiritual experiences.
Q: What should I do when my partner refuses to admit his mistakes and repeats them over and over again, in spite of knowing that his actions are not bringing him any good results and are causing frequent fights in the house?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, sometimes we tell others that they are doing a mistake because their mistake is hurting us. When we do this they never get corrected and they never listen to your advice. But if you are telling them that what they are doing is hurting them more than anybody else, then the listening will begin. Out of compassion, if you want them to come out of their flaws, that has more chances. But keep trying, you keep telling and have patience. People don’t change overnight. They take their time to change.
We need to bring up creativity in kids. Creativity is Godliness. Kids either become creative or destructive. They do not walk the middle path. We need to encourage the creative impulse in kids. It is very necessary.
Q: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Bad things happen because of two reasons. One is past deeds, and second is current foolishness.
If you are being good and foolish, then bad things can happen to you. You can’t say, ‘I am so good but why did my finger get burnt?’ If you put your finger in the burner, it will burn.
Or, today you didn’t do any mistake but couple of days ago you got a speeding ticket, and today you have to pay for it. You drove too fast yesterday, beyond the speeding limit, and today you will have to pay for it. You have to face the consequences. So, one is past deeds.
Good people could also have done some bad things in the past – this is the first reason.
Second reason – Good people would have lacked the skill and intelligence to not get into bad things or let bad things affect them.
One is called Karma and the other is called lack of skill.
So, you need both. In life, you need freedom first and Love, second. Without freedom, there is no love also. We need inner freedom - freedom from our own emotions and feelings, not from others. Freedom, love, skill, and energy, got it?
So, when bad things happen to good people, don’t say, ’Oh you poor thing! This should not have happened to you.’ And don’t even say, ’You deserved it; that is why it happened to you!’ Or, ’You lack skill. You have been so foolish.’ No!
Don’t tell them any of that. Just be with them with a smile, and support them. See how you can help them come out of their current situation without giving them an analytical commentary about their situation.
Q: Dear Guruji, I have come to Boone Ashram many times for Seva. When I used to come for Seva, I had so much inner peace; it was like going on vacation. I enjoyed cleaning toilets and helping in the kitchen. But now, it has become a burden. My inner peace and excitement to do Seva has gone because of my spouse, who has been diagnosed with a medical problem.
I want that inner peace and excitement back to do Seva. I know that during happy times we should do Seva and in bad or sad times, we should surrender to you. But even having this knowledge is not working. Please help.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, in times of sadness you don’t have to do too much work. Just relax. Meditate. You sit here and meditate. Inner peace and solace will come. And the strength to face and to let go will also come to you, okay?
I am with you, and everyone else here is with you.