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.
Today, on this auspicious day of Mahashivaratri, there are just two things you should take away with you, which will instantly bring peace and happiness to your mind.
1. Know that ‘God is with me at all times, and He will fulfil all my needs’. God is there only to fulfil your needs.
2. With this deep faith, relax and repose in the Self.
Coming to the state of deep rest, is what Mahashivaratri is all about. Mahashivaratri brings deep rest to the mind and the spirit. The mind is always running after something, or desiring one thing or another – whether it is a spiritual or a materialistic thing. So just remember that God is there to provide you both, and relax.
You should establish that deep connection with God, and remember that ‘God belongs to me’. Have this unshakeable faith that whatever you need will surely be given to you. The moment this faith dawns from within, the mind settles and comes to a state of rest.
You get the same kind of peace and deep rest when you do kirtana (Satsang). You know, just singing bhajans (devotional songs) in a superficial way is no good. When you listen to the songs and when you sing along, you should sing with all your heart and with a deep sense of devotion and love for the Divine. You should cry out for the Divine.
When we sing whole heartedly and become one with the song, in absolutely no time you become one with God.
Lord Shiva is not outside; He is not sitting in a temple, or somewhere far away in the Himalayas; He is not at the Manasarovar Lake or at Mount Kailash. Lord Shiva is present within you, and He is present everywhere. Just know this and relax.
He is omnipresent, He is the one you see manifest everywhere you go, be it in the mountains, plants, trees, etc. He is the scene and the seer. Just remind yourself about this again and again and relax. You will see that in a short while, you will attain such a deep state of Samadhi (the ultimate non-dual state of Consciousness), and your mind will find so much happiness and peace. You blossom so totally from within, that nothing else remains. That is it.
On Mahashivaratri, this is what you need to do – just relax and repose deep in your Self.
When you listen to knowledge, it purifies your mind and the intellect. The mind drops the petty cravings and desires in which it gets entangled, and your intellect gets purified. This is why we also sing bhajans during or after the puja. And it is so beautiful and meditative that one finds it difficult to talk after such a puja.
I know that many people here have this desire in their heart that Gurudev should give some knowledge today. Isn’t it so? How many of you here wanted me to speak something? (Majority of the audience raise their hands)
You know, we depend too much on words.
Now, just as knowledge purifies the intellect, singing bhajans cleanses and elevates our feeling of devotion. When your mind and feelings, both get uplifted and blossom so totally, then you transcend everything to reach that ultimate state of your Being – which is Lord Shiva, and that is what you and I truly are. Being or reaching that state is what Mahashivaratri is all about.
There are four levels of experiencing this deep connection with the Divine. The first is calledSaamipya (nearness to the Master or the Divine). It means to feel that we are very close and very dear to the Divine.
Now when will you get this experience? Will you feel this closeness tomorrow, day after, ten days later, or a few months later? No, right now, in this very moment, just feel that you are very close to the Divine. This is what a Guru does. A Guru helps you feel that nearness, that closeness with the Divine.
The second level is Saanidhya – meaning to feel or invoke the presence of the Divine. When you meditate, you feel that presence of the Divine (within yourself). It means you become aware of the existence of the Divine, you experience the presence.
For example, we are enveloped by the air at all times but we do not always feel its presence. When you take a deep breath in, you realize the presence of the air all around you. In the same way, we are always enveloped by God but we do not feel His presence. To experience the presence of the Divine, we perform yajnas, pujas and celebrate all these different festivals.
The next is Saarupya – to see the Divine in yourself and in all forms everywhere. It means to feel that ‘the Divine is in me, and I am the Divine’. It means to realize that the Divine is present in my form, and in all the forms around me. Though formless, the Divine is present in all the forms.
The ultimate state is Saayujya – meaning to feel totally one with the Divine, merging so completely that you see no difference between yourself and the Divine. At that state there is no two (no duality), there is only One.
This only happens through deep experience. One cannot express that in words. That total oneness can only be experienced in deep silence, in the stillness of the Being, when you are totally one with the Divine.
So today, you must take the first two steps – first is Saamipya, that is feeling very close to the Divine. The second step is Saanidhya – to experience the presence of the Divine in everything everywhere.
These are the four stages of knowledge, of Samadhi and of enlightenment. So in a state of deep rest, we unite with the ultimate – that is Shiva.
Gurudev, even after death, a man in the form of a soul keeps on looking for a body. Why there is so much attachment to the body?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is because the body is the instrument of carrying out one’s Dharma (one’s duties or karma). It is said, ‘Sharira madhyam Dharma-khalu sadhanam’. It means that if one has to carry out one’s duties or one’s karma, it can only be done through the means of the physical body. Those who are Asariri – meaning without the physical body - cannot do it.
That is the reason even the Demigods (Devtas) have to take a human form to carry out their Dharma for attaining liberation.
Gurudev, there is a five faced (Panchamukhi) Ganapati idol in the temple of Gurukul. What is the meaning of Panchamukhi?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
We have five senses in our body: the sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, and there are five elements in the creation: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. There are five senses and five elements, so in this way there are five facets to God. So that form of Divinity which is capable of removing any obstacle in these five is called Panchamukhi Ganapati.
Everything in this creation is made up of the grouping (Gana) of these five elements. For example, the Water element has many diverse forms, like milk, curd, etc.
In the same way, the Air element is not of one kind alone. You can see that there are so many different gases like carbon-dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen, etc. So this group (Gana) of different gases collectively constitutes the Air element.
Similarly, different types of fluids (a group or Gana) collectively make the Water element. Water has one group, Air has one group, and in the same way the Earth element has a group of different metals and minerals within it, such as gold, silver, copper, stones, and soil etc.
The Space element too has its own group within it, like the inner space, and outer space, etc.
Lord Ganapati (another name for Lord Ganesha) is the lord of all these Ganas or groups. And since there are five principal groups, that is why this particular form is called thePanchamukhi Ganapati.
The main essence here is that God, who is Nirguna (one who transcends or is without attributes) and Nirakaar (the formless all-pervading Divinity) is worshipped by representing Him in this form by chanting sacred mantras.
Gurudev, does a person receive the Guru’s love as per his paatrata (capacity to receive Grace or blessings)? Or is it that the more deserving or capable ones reach you faster?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There is nothing like it. You have already come to me. Those who have not reached are waiting for you to bring them here.
Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita it is written that, 'Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja . Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah'.Does the definition of Dharma (here meaning one’s religion) become different before a Guru?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Yes, having said all that He had to, at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, 'Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja, Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah' (V 18.66)
Drop your religion or any other belief you have, and take total surrender in me. O Arjuna. I shall liberate you of all your sins and sufferings.
Dharma is like soap. But just because you have washed you clothes with an expensive soap worth 100 Rupees, you will not say that ‘Oh, I am going to keep the soap on my clothes because it is such an expensive soap’. You have to wash it off.
There comes a stage when one moves above such attachments and entanglements in life (here referring to religion), and becomes a Sharanagati; surrendering totally to the Lord, with this deep feeling of devotion that 'O Lord! I am yours and yours alone'. This is what has been explained in this verse.
Lord Krishna had to say this to Arjuna, otherwise, no matter what knowledge He gave to Arjuna, he would just get stuck with it and not let go.
If Lord Krishna would advise Arjuna by saying, ‘Do it this way’, then he would simply follow and do only that much. So that Arjuna does not get stuck, in the end, Lord Krishna said to him, ‘Drop every religion or belief and simply come take refuge in Me. You cannot liberate yourself from your sins. I shall free you from all your sins and sufferings, so simply come to Me’.
Suppose you commit a wrong deed and you go on repenting saying, ‘Oh! I have committed such a wrong deed. How can I be free from it? What do I do?’ You cannot liberate yourself from your sins by making efforts. This is why Lord Krishna says, ‘I am ready to bear all your sins and sufferings, so just drop everything and come and take refuge in Me’.
Gurudev, you have talked about Solah Kalas (referring to the sixteen extraordinary abilities or Divine qualities). Which are these and what is their importance?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The word Kala usually refers to the extent by which the moon waxes (or wanes) in one day. So by this understanding, the Moon possesses 16 different Kalas (different phases of the Moon). You can observe this from one Amavasya (No-moon day) to the nextPurnima (Full moon day).
So if you count the number of days from one Amavasya to the next Purnima, it turns out to be 16. And the transition from No-Moon to the Full Moon also symbolizes moving from Zero (nothingness) to Fullness.
On the no-moon day you don’t see the moon at all, and on the full moon day you see the complete moon. This does not mean that the Moon is not there on the day ofAmavasya. No, it is still there. So by this understanding, these are called the Solah Kalas. On the day of solar eclipse, for example, the Moon is there but it cannot be seen, that’s all.
So the word Kala is a unit of measure of one’s power, or by what degree one has blossomed or progressed. So, someone may be like a half-moon, someone else may have reached to three quarters of the moon and so on. This was a means of measurement in the ancient days.
In those days, it was said that the life or Prana in a stone is equal to one Kala, the water element is said to have two Kalas. Fire has three Kalas, Vayu (Air element) has four, and the Space or Akash has five. Plants and trees are said to have six Kalas. Animals have seven Kalas. Human beings have eight Kalas.
If it is an extraordinary human being then he is said to have nine Kalas. It is said that Lord Parashurama (one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu) had nine Kalas. They say Lord Rama has 12 Kalas. Lord Hanuman is greater than Him in this regard and is said to have 14 Kalas. That is why he could help Lord Rama. Only a person who is stronger than us can help us.
The Devi (Mother Divine) is called Shodashakala (The One with all 16 Divine qualities or attributes). It means that she possess all divine and noble qualities, and lacks nothing.
Lord Krishna too is said to have all 16 Kalas, which is why He is called as the Solah Kala sampurna or the Purna Avataar.
To have all 16 Kalas means to possess all the 16 qualities or signs attributed to the total blossoming and manifestation of Divinity.
If you see the Devi, on one side she is so beautiful and full of love and grace, but on the other side, she is also Maa Kali (one of her more terrifying and violent manifestations).
She is graceful and serene, but at the same time she also has a terrifying and violent aspect to Her as. Goddess Durga is very terrifying and awe-inspiring, while Goddess Lakshmi is very calm and graceful.
You can see all the opposite aspects of Divinity coming together in the Devi.
The all-bestowing Goddess Lakshmi rides the harmless owl (the mount), and the vanquisher of evil and ignorance, Goddess Durga rides the fierce lion. Just imagine, where would you see both the owl, and the lion!
In the same way Lord Krishna is also said to have possessed all the Solah Kalas. Why is this so? In Lord Krishna, you see the complete and total manifestation of Divinity in every way. He is so complete.
He is the King of thieves. He does not steal small things, he steals away your very mind. That is why He is called as Chita-Chora (the beautiful One who completely captures and steals away the mind).
He is also called as Ranchhodrai (meaning the cowardly one who flees the battlefield) in Gujarat. They say that He ran away from the battlefield in the middle of the war. But on the other side He lifted up the Sudarshan Chakra (the Lord’s divine discus) to defeat Bhishma pitamaha (the grandsire of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the Mahabharata) . So He is very brave and valiant too.
So, on one side he is very brave and on the other side he is like a coward. One cannot even imagine how complete he is. He is obedient as well, but He is also the one who breaks the rules.
In the Bhagawat, it is mentioned at many places that Lord Krishna is perfect and complete in every possible aspect. That is why it is said that one should not emulate Lord Krishna (Laughter). Follow the path of Lord Rama and listen to Lord Krishna. Don’t walk in the way that Lord Krishna did. If you go and steal the clothes of a lady, you will be in big trouble (jokingly referring to one of the pastimes of the Lord where He steals the clothes of some ladies bathing in the river and hides them on a tree).
Gurudev, does the ego increases with self sufficiency?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is not necessary that the ego should increase with an increase in independence or with self- sufficiency. We should understand that in spite of being self sufficient, we are dependent on God; we are dependent on Paramatma, (referring to the Supreme Being or the all-pervading Divinity).
Gurudev, please guide us. Nowadays the use of pan parag, ghutka, tobacco etc., has increased a lot in children, grownups as well as in ladies. How can we stop this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is primarily the responsibility of the mothers. If from the beginning the mothers place restrictions on their children, then they will never resort to such wrong means.
What usually happens is that the mothers let the children go free these days. In childhood days itself, mothers and fathers should create such barriers in the minds of the children in the house. Children should be made to think that they should not even touch tobacco.
In vegetarian homes, the parents create a strict barrier in the minds of the children at the very beginning, not touch non-vegetarian food of any kind, eggs, meat or fish. When this becomes a strict habit in the minds of the children at an early age, then they never even go near non-vegetarian food.
So in the same way, parents need to enforce strict barriers in the minds of the children against chewing tobacco, smoking and drinking alcohol.
I want to ask all of you sitting here. Haven’t you all been warned against using drugs or smoking? Is it not so? How many people here have got this strict barrier at their homes by their parents against drugs and smoking? (Many raise hands in the audience).
See! So many people have been made to follow the right habits since their early days.
In childhood itself such barriers have been made for them not to touch or use such substances. Only mothers can do this and enforce these barriers on the children; otherwise bring the children here and make them attend the courses for seven to ten days. We will ensure that all their wrong habits get washed away with ‘Sohum’ (referring to the Sudarshan Kriya). And we will strengthen them by making them practice the Shakti Kriya also.
Gurudev, as a meditator, I know that meditation has an impact on the people around me. So then is mediation the biggest Seva (Service)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Does it mean that you should just sit and meditate and don’t do any seva at all? No, I don’t accept that. You should do seva also, and meditation is also essential.
Gurudev, I have heard this couplet: 'Sadguru pura je mile, paiye rattan upaar; Mann dije Guru aapne, paiye moksh dwaar' (One who has a Sadguru receives wealth greater than the rarest gems, and one whose heart is devoted to the Sadguru finds liberation effortlessly). How can a seeker surrender himself wholeheartedly to the Sadguru? What does this couplet mean?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is what I just explained, isn’t it? I gave you the answer even before you asked me this question! (Laughter)
What does a Guru want from you? Just your heart, isn’t it? So dedicate your heart to the Guru, and be free!
Giving your heart to the Sadguru means that you feel that ‘My Guru belongs to me, and is taking care of everything’. Just have this faith.
See, the mind can get clouded with doubts and a million other thoughts. At first you doubt yourself, then you doubt the others around you, and then you doubt the whole world around you. This doubt slowly consumes your mind.
Doubt is responsible for having destroyed so many happy families. So just drop the doubt. Having total faith in the Guru means just this –‘My Guru belongs to me’, and walking confidently in life with this unshakeable faith.
Just believe that - I will get everything that I deserve, and no power can stop that from happening. The One who is giving will give me everything in abundance. Whatever is mine by merit of my karma will surely come to me.
You know, this whole life will end in the blink of an eye. Just look back and see, some 30 to 40 years have just passed by in an instant! So why be troubled about the few 20-30 years more to come? That too will pass by easily.
You will spend half of that time just sleeping. The remaining 10-15 years will be spent in eating, travelling and spending time with your family and friends. So life will come to an end in the snap of a moment. Life is running at such an amazing speed. Just wake up! Realize that you are already surrendered to the Divine.
Do not ask, ‘Oh, how should I surrender myself to the Divine?’ Just take it for granted that you are already surrendered to the Divine. That’s it.
There is no point in asking, ‘How do I surrender? How do I create or feel that belongingness with the Divine?’ There is no way to create that belongingness. You should just feel that 'I already belong to the Divine’, that is it. Finished! Do not question that even once.
I feel, we should give this lesson to all the newlyweds also. They should understand how a husband and a wife should interact and be with each other.
Do not go about policing each other. Do not ask your spouse, ‘Do you really love me?’
You should not ask such questions to your spouse, even if a doubt comes in your mind. Instead you should ask, ‘Why do you love me so much? You love me so much more that what I really deserve’. Then your love grows. Demand destroys relationships. Any demand on any one person will destroy that relationship. Got it? Do not demand. You are here on the planet only to give and contribute, not to take. When you take this step, you will see that whatever you need will simply come to you. This is the law of Nature. When you have this belief that you are here on this planet to give and to serve, you will find that you will receive ten times more of whatever you need or desire. Then whatever it is that you desire, you will get it in abundance.
You should not get stuck in small petty things like ‘I want that person’s attention’, etc. Do not settle for such small things.
If a beggar approaches you, and asks for alms, what do you usually say? ‘Please move ahead’, isn't it. You only invite that person to a party who is already prosperous and has everything. Nature also acts in the same way. Who do you invite home to dinner? You invite someone whose (heart) and stomach are full, isn’t it? So you should bear this in mind and not go running after small trivial things like a rat. It ruins your peace of mind, and you end up disturbing others around you also. In fact the entire environment gets spoiled because of that.
Just observe this, if a person comes and sits next to you, or if you sit next to someone who goes on complaining about something or the other, and finding faults in everything, do you feel like sitting with them? No! You feel like running away from them that very instant.
You would want to feel uplifted in someone’s company, isn’t it? Who in the world is bothered about how many medicines you have had, or how much your leg is hurting? Or how your neighbours are troubling you? What is the use of telling such stories to others?
See, life is a mix of everything. There are both pleasant and unpleasant times, and it goes on. Do you think that everything will happen as per your liking only?
Will everyone keep praising you all the time? No, sometimes some people may insult you as well. You have to listen to that also. What is so disappointing in that? It is nothing. Be strong and brave.
Life is like a river, and when a river flows, sometimes it is clear and pure, and sometimes some garbage, like dry leaves, twigs and branches also falls into its stream. Life is like that. Such things keep happening in life from time to time.
When you spend too much time in the company of certain people, some problem or other does arise. The more limited and narrow we make our world and our life, that much more our troubles and difficulties will increase in life. So do not stay stuck in your narrow limited view of life, and the world.
Now by this I do not mean you leave your home and your responsibilities. Many people misunderstand such things. They think, ‘Gurudev has said to not get entangled in my limited world’, so they abandon their duties and responsibilities towards their families. No, this is not right.
Once I was at Paris airport and was passing through airport security. There were a lot of people seeing me off, some 200-300 people. Now this one lady came; she must have been in her late 60’s. She came to me and showed me a ring on her finger, and asked me, ‘Is this necessary?’
I just saw the ring with a stone on it and said, ‘No, it is not necessary’. And then I left for New York.
Two days later her husband called me and asked me, ‘Gurudev, why did you ask my wife to divorce me?’
I replied, ‘I would never say such a thing’. He is a 75 year old man, married for 45 years.
He said, ‘No Gurudev, you told my wife that marriage is not necessary, so she has decided to divorce me. My wife said you have given her this advice’.
Oh God! You know, people want something else but they want it to come from my mouth! And both are my devotees. So I told him, ‘No, you need not do that at all’.
We so often get caught up in small things. Instead, you should think that if someone comes and sits next to you, they should feel uplifted. You should fill their heart with joy and happiness. This is what you should do. But we end up doing the opposite.
Even at home, when a man comes back from work and is exhausted, his wife will complain and taunt him by saying, ‘You did not do this, this is not right, that is not good’, etc. So he ends up facing problems at work and also at home.
Ladies also have a similar problems. They work the entire day in the house, and if the husband comes back home in the evenings and does not share a few nice words with her, how will she feel? If he just sits reading the newspaper, or stays on the phone for business, then the wife also feels troubled. There needs to be understanding from both sides. But the main thing is, do not make demands or place conditions for things from your side. You should have this firm resolve in your mind that whoever comes to me should only go back happier and lighter, no matter what our own condition may be like, because you know that God, or the Guru is there to fulfil all your needs and any lack that you may have, for God and the Guru are one.
You should only think of giving to whoever comes to you. This is the feeling that you should have from within. Remind yourself that ‘I have but One Master, and everyone else are my children whom I have to serve and nourish, come what may!’
See, life is so short. So be happy at all times and spread that happiness to everyone around you. That should be our aim. Then everything will come to you.
Gurudev, you have said in the Satsang that the daughter-in-law should try to win the hearts of her in-laws by serving them. Does this not apply to the son-in-laws also? Why is it that while the daughter-in-law accepts and serves her in-laws as her own, the son-in-law does not do so?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, the son-in-law only visits his in-laws (the wife’s parents or family) during the festivals like Holi or Diwali. He does not go there every day, isn't it? But the daughter-in-law is at the home of the in-laws all the time.
Had this been a question from someone from Kerala, I would have given some suggestions to the son-in-law. In Kerala, it is the son-in-law who stays back at his wife’s house with her family, and not the other way around (referring to the matriarchal system of lifestyle in Kerala).
In Kerala, the son leaves his own home and not the daughter. It is also the case in Meghalaya and Tripura.
But this is right. The son-in-law should not stay like a guest in the house. He should have that belongingness with his in-laws and live harmoniously with everyone around.
I feel that the sons-in-laws today do not behave like this. Yes, this used to happen one generation back. In some families, the son-in-law used to stay a bit aloof from his wife’s family. Nowadays I don’t think that is the case.
See, as a daughter, your mother has scolded you so many times and you have also fought with her when you were growing up, but you never felt hurt. But if your mother-in-law does just 10% of that, you feel so hurt and start burning from the inside.
Your mother and mother-in-law are of the same age and belong to the same generation. So you should see them both as equals, and take whatever they tell you in your stride.
If you had a fight with your mother one day, the next day you would quickly patch up and sit with her as if nothing had happened, isn’t it? The same thing you should follow with your mother-in-law also. This is what I say, you should win everyone over with love and service. And be happy and full of enthusiasm always. What else do you need?
Did you get what I mean?
See, you will be able to grasp all this if your mind is free and open, and if you are willing to receive. If your feelings are positive, and if you are willing to receive, then there is so much for you to take. If your mind is closed and entangled in small petty things, then even if you take ten dips in the River Ganges, nothing will come out of it.
When you become hollow and empty, then you can receive so much more.