Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
Gurudev, how often do great
souls like you come to this world? How do they decide when to come back?
Sri: That is a secret!
Gurudev, could you tell us
about the Saptarishis?
Sri: The universe has a rhythm called chandas. Everything
is in a wave function; the receivers of certain wave functions are known
as Rishis.Rishi is a position; it is not
the name of a person, and there are more than a thousand Rishis. Of these,
seven are very important, and they relate to the seven chakras.
Rishis have been there in
every age; there are many stories about them. A Rishi is like the Dean, or the
Vice Chancellor of a University. They also underwent training, and then became
part of the tradition.
So, like how you say, ‘I
am an Alumni of Harvard’, or ‘I am a Stanford graduate’, similarly, there
are Gotras.Gomeans knowledge, and Gotra means,
belonging to a particular knowledge group or Rishi tradition. So, just like we
have different DNA or blood groups, we have different Gotras or
families that come from certain knowledge groups, or Rishi traditions.
What are the names of
Sri: Sapta or the seven rishis
are, Kashyapa, Athri, Vashishta, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Jamadagni and
What is the significance of
the shraadh ceremonies?
Sri: Shraadh is doing some good
deeds with faith, in the memory of those who have crossed over to the other
The tradition started as
an activity related to feeding the poor, taking care of them, and giving them
some gifts. However, any good deed done in the memory of those who have passed
away, like giving charity, or donation in their name, is all called shraadh. The
objective is to thank them, although they are not on this plane.
Ceremonies for the departed
are followed world over. In Singapore, it is like a festival, a public holiday.
Even in China, it is a very big affair.
In Singapore, the belief
is, whatever you offer to the ancestors, the same is sent back in the form of
blessings. So, whatever blessings people would want, they would make those
things in paper, and burn them.
They believed that
whatever you give away through fire, you will receive the same in the form of
blessings here. E.g., if someone wants a car, or a fridge, they make a huge
paper car or fridge, put it on the street, and burn it.
If they want a million
dollars, they burn one million dollars of fake currency.
It is a wonder how
mankind starts fooling himself or herself, and expects to receive blessings for
real currency! Anyway, this has been the traditional practice.
In India, similar things
happen. People pray to Bhagavati or Mother Divine, and offer a coconut. They
say, ‘I will offer 21 coconuts, please let me marry the right person.’ As if
Mother Divine is expecting 21 coconuts from you!
Innocent people do
something to get something. It is called mannat (wish), it
means you need to do something to get some favor.
For how long should shraadh
ceremonies be performed?
Sri: In ancient days, shraadh ceremonies were performed until the soul
was re-born. So, they would do it for 15 years, and then they knew that the
soul was re-born, so they would stop doing it.
Today, since we have lost
the ability to know whether they are still there or reborn, we keep doing it.
What is the significance of
some of these ceremonies?
Sri: In the Brahmin household, shraadhis an elaborate
ceremony. Women would prepare food from early morning, and only certain foods
are eaten. Then the pundits would come, and perform a ceremony where the Devas
(angels or gods) would be invited to bring the departed parents.
Three generations of
parents would be remembered, and some rice balls would be put out to the crows.
They would wait and watch from which direction the crows came, how they took
the food, where it went, and if they were they satisfied?
It is like a tarot card
reading; from the signs that are there, one would decipher what happened or
what is happening. It is a little complicated, sometimes too complicated. The
main thing would be about preparing elaborate food, and feeding people.
I think all this is
man-made. Maybe there is something scientific in it. We should look in to it.
There is one ceremony
called Tilla Tarpanam, offering sesame seeds with
water. I think the purpose of this ceremony is to tell people who have
gone across that if you still have any desire in your mind, just drop
it, because the desire is as small and insignificant as a sesame seed. We, your
children, are here to fulfill those desires. You drop it and move on.
In India, tilla means smallest, tarpan is to
be fulfilled, trupti means contentment.
So, tarpanam means be contented.
We tell the departed
three times, ‘Be contented!’
The message is, ‘You have
left this world. Going there, do not keep hankering. If there is any
discontent, let go. Move on. This world is enormous, huge, there is so much;
you go to the light and leave this bondage here. If there is any desire of
yours left unfulfilled, we are here to take care of it, as your children. You
These mantras are so
nice, so beautiful.
What is the significance of
the last rite ceremonies?
Sri: The last rites also have a purpose, they are very nice. A mantra
is said in the ear of the corpse, because the soul is still there for some
time, it has not gone. They are told, ‘Look, this body is going back to its
original elements. You are not that. You are light. Move on.’
It is the son or the
daughter who says it. Today, this ceremony has become male dominated.
There is a belief in India
that you have to have a son in order to be liberated, because even after you
die, it is the son who will say these mantras, give you knowledge and liberate
you. Without the son, there is no liberation! However, this is not true! In the
olden days, girls also had these rights.
The Art of Living is
fighting against female feticide. We are working with UNICEF and United Nations
Family Fund for gender equality. The Hindu scriptures speak about gender
equality, but somewhere in the middle Ages, this changed.
If you go to Bali, an
ancient Hindu culture, you will find female priests there. (Bali’s Hindu
culture is much older than India)
In India, this practice
disappeared. Females are not allowed to become priests.
Isn’t it nice, to say to
those who have passed across, ‘Be satisfied! Be content! Be happy there!’ I
thought it is a fantastic message, even if you say it mentally.
Mental action is for
people with a little higher intelligence.
People with little lesser
intelligence want some action to be done. You don’t need to bring a flower for
someone who is intelligent. However, an unintelligent person wants to do
something that is action oriented.
Those who do not have a
high level of intellectual maturity, they cannot survive without action.
Therefore, in the action also, they made it so meaningful.
Take a few sesame seeds,
pour some water from your hand, and remember the departed. That’s all. This is shraadh,
Later on, the priests and
pundits thought, ‘Anyways people are making offerings, why not put one or two
rupee coins along? So, when they put the coins, the pundits take them.
The coins are not
mentioned anywhere! Only sesame seeds! You do it with this feeling that, ‘Be
satisfied! Drop all the cravings; if you still have any desires, leave it to
Why is India the favorite
destination for enlightened masters? Is there some secret in the land?
Sri: Well, it is not that only India had masters. No!
The word California comes
from a Rishi called Kapila Rishi. He was the previous
incarnation of Lord Krishna. He was born in California, and lived there for a
long time. The place was called Kapilaranya. It is said in the scriptures that
Kapilaranya is a 12 hours difference from India.
Nova Scotia (in Canada)
is also a Sanskrit name. Navas kosha, means it is at 9 hours
difference from India. Onekosha is a one hour distance. Navas
Kosha means 9 hours difference, and it is exactly 9 hours.
Guruvdev, you mentioned
Sanskrit as the source for these names. What are the other names that come from
Sri: Do you know all the months’ names are in Sanskrit?
Until a few centuries ago,
the New Year always began in March, when the Sun moves to the first point of
Aries. However, King George of London decided to celebrate January 1 as the New
Year. Although he announced it as the New Year, people would not follow it.
They continued celebrating March end - April 1, as New Year day. So, to stop
people from celebrating New Year on April 1, he called it April fool’s day.
Now, let us see the
meanings of the months.
Fagun means the fag
end, last; hence, Feb is the last month. March means to start new, and go ahead
(the first month of the New Year). August is shashta, the sixth
sky; Sapt means seven, Sapt ambar, September means seventh sky.
October is ashta, eighth sky. November, Nav (nine) ambar, means
ninth sky. December, Dash (ten) ambar, means tenth sky, or tenth
January is the eleventh
month, and February is the twelfth month. This is how the calendar was in the
very beginning. The Indian, Iranian, Afghani, and Egyptian calendars, all
correspond to this system. Even the Chinese New Year starts towards the end of
February, beginning of March.
The dates, days and
months, were all designed according to the Solar or Lunar calendar. In the
Solar calendar, like the English calendar, there is a leap day. And in the
Lunar calendar, there is an extra month, a leap month, that comes every 4
This year has a leap
month, and so, the Solar and Lunar calendars have come so close.
This year, when the moon
moves in to the first point of Aries, April 10, is the Lunar New Year. When the
sun moves in to the first point of Aries, April 13, is the Solar New Year.
Do you know your breath
coordinates with the movement of the sun and the moon?
This is a very beautiful
science. How your breath moves on the first day of the Lunar month, is very
different from the way it moves on the first day of the Solar month. You will
see your breath corresponds to that; right nostril (Surya or sun naadi) and
left nostril (Chandra or moon naadi), it will tell you. So, the macrocosm and
the microcosm are connected in an amazing way.
Gurdev, there is only one
sky. What is the meaning of seventh sky, eighth sky?
Sri: There is 360 degrees in the galaxy. They are divided in twelve
parts, and each one of them is a zodiac sign. This is called Rashi.
When the earth is moving,
the earth perceives the Sun to be in one of these degrees, and that becomes One
See, the stars are
constant, but the earth is moving. When the earth moves around the sun, the
earth is perceived to have moved, and it sees the Sun to be in different
position. That is called Aries. When the Earth moves again, it finds itself in
Capricorn. When the Earth moves further, it finds itself in Virgo. So, that is
what seventh sky, eighth sky, etc., is.
What are the days of the
week based on?
Sri: The days of the week are named according to each major planet in
the solar system. Each day corresponds to one of the planets. Sunday for Sun,
Monday for Moon, Tuesday for Mars, Wednesday for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter,
Friday for Venus and Saturday for Saturn.
How do the planets have an
influence on our health?
Sri: The macrocosm and microcosm have a big connection.
Each planet is aligned
with a particular grain, color, shape, bird and animal. All these are
connected; it is also connected to a particular part of the body. Even your
Do you know, every finger
is connected to a particular planet? It is an amazing science of the uniting of
the macrocosm and microcosm.
For example, the planet
Mars is connected to the liver and pitta, and pitta is
connected with channa daal (chick peas, humus). If you eat too
much chick peas, you will find your pitta increasing. So, pitta, chick peas,
Mars, they are all connected.
The sheep is also
connected to Mars; it provides heat, wool; that is how the sheep is connected.
Similarly, Saturn is connected with the crow. It is also connected to black
sesame seeds, and your teeth.
There is something called
Medical Astrology, where you can see in a chart, what type of diseases you
could get or be prone to. This could also be seen from a chart,
Unfortunately, a lot of
this knowledge is actually lost. Many of the scriptures were half eaten, since
it was all written on palm leaves; some had holes. Some were not preserved
properly. Still, some of this knowledge is available today.
Astrology is an amazing
science but astrologers have not studied it properly. I have my own
reservations about astrologers. However, I know about astrology, about how this
connection is so scientific. It is very systematic; the connections are
established very scientifically.
See, the Sun is connected
with your eyes. Similarly, Jupiter is connected to your nose. Saturn is
connected to your teeth, and cheeks are connected to Venus.
The forehead is connected
to Mercury. So, this is a very beautiful science, and you can know things
precisely. You see someone’s face and you can make a chart. However, these
sciences are lost, almost lost.
For example, nobody would
have heard of Vaastu Shastra three to four decades ago. Even
in India, people had not heard of it, but now, it has come up.
It is Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi who first brought this knowledge back. It was his idea to promote Vaastu
Shastra. Since then, it has taken off in the world. Before that, only
the temple architects and builders were proficient in it. Even onVaastu
Shastra, there are not too many books available. Moreover, the same
Vaastu Shastra cannot be used everywhere; what is applicable for India, will
vary for America or Russia.
Does chocolate block
Sri: I don’t know about chocolates. You ask some nutritionists. Too
much of anything is no good.
Anyways, what I would say
is, don’t bring me chocolates or any sweet for that matter. You smile, that is
good enough. I find so many people bringing sweets, chocolates; don’t bring all
Why waste money on all
that? You can make better use of it.
In India, I say, ‘If you
bring me sweets, I will feel that you are telling me that I am not sweet
enough. I need to become sweeter. If you bring me flowers, then I will feel
that you are telling me that I have not blossomed enough, and I need to blossom
If you want to give me
such messages, then bring me flowers, garlands and sweets. Otherwise, just
bring me your smile.
Instead of spending money
on flowers and sweets, you can use it on some good service projects.