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.
From what I understand, the spiritual path is about dropping one's ego. Yet what I've observed is, as a Guru you seem to do a lot of pumping up of people's ego; especially certain people. Please talk about this apparent irony.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There are two ways:
1. Tell someone, 'You are useless, you are dirty, you are good for nothing'.
This is what people think and that is how they blame, scold and abuse another. People think, 'This is the way to put down their ego', but most of the time it doesn't work.
2. Tell some, 'Look, you are beautiful, you are good, you are great. There is greatness in you'. You have to invoke the greatness in a person, and that happens through praising. Praising is a divine quality. Don't think praising is only boosting someone's ego. Praising is bringing up the good qualities of a person.
When you are on the path of meditation, when you go deep, what happens is your words gain so much power, and if you tell someone, 'You are a dirty goose', they really become one because your words have power. If you say, 'You are so generous', they become generous.
I remember, long time ago, a family used to visit me in India. Whenever that man would come I would say, ' Oh, you are so generous, so very generous'.
One day, his wife gathered the courage and asked me, 'Gurudev, why do you call my husband generous? He is such a very stingy guy. This has created a doubt in my mind. I keep thinking that maybe Gurudev doesn't know that my husband is not generous. He doesn't even buy two ice-cream to my kids, h will buy one and ask them to share it'. She narrated many incidences of how stingy her husband is when he can afford to spend.
She said, 'He doesn't spend on himself nor on the family. What for he is earning money I have no idea'.
I told her, 'I know, that's why I'm telling him this all the time, that he is very generous'. If you tell somebody, 'You are hopeless', they become hopeless. If you just keep saying, 'You are a nice person, you are generous', then the generosity in them comes up, and it did happen. Big Change did happen to him.
Dearest Gurudev, could you please talk about Manu and his role in all our scriptures.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Manu was one of the initial kings, like Adam and Eve.
I don't know at what time period he was, but he has written the rules and regulations for society at that time.
Manu has written many good things, but one of the reasons why he has been bitterly criticized is because he has said that women are not fit to be independent.
He said that what a woman is young her father takes care, when she is middle aged, the husband takes care of her and when she is old, the son takes care of her. So she is not fit to be independent. She has to be dependent all her life.
This one line, 'Na sthree swathanthram arhati', which means that a woman is not fit for independence because somebody has to take care of her, is not the right thing. I don't agree with that. Maybe, at that time, in society, that was the way things are.
He never said that don't give women freedom, he just said that she is not fit to enjoy freedom.
Woman are called the fairer sex, or the weaker sex in every language, isn't it? So, one doesn't have to agree with everything one says. Manu has said some good things, just take that and don't latch onto this one thing that he said that women are not capable of handling freedom. That is not valid on today's society.
Dear Gurudev, what do you think of channeling?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Stay away from it! I think you shouldn't get involved in channeling. You are on a path which is much higher and far superior than the channeling.
Channeling is when some spirit comes into your body or somebody's body and says something, and it is never 100% true. There could be some truth in it, that will give you a little idea of what is going to happen in couple of months, or a couple of years, or what happened in the past. They can give you a little insight, but you should not be dependent on such things.
Often, people who channel, they channel the lower spirits. It's almost like the Plan-Chit(Ouija board). People call John F Kennedy to come and answer their questions. These things are not good for your own energy. I have seen people who do these things and their energy gets so drained. People who do crystal gazing and all these techniques are ill most of the time. How many of you have noticed this? So it is not advisable to take the help of these people.
Once in a while if you want to do it, you can do it, maybe just for fun, but don't take it too serious. And you should not do channeling. I won't agree! I think you know that people can get stuck in the channeling. That's a very unpleasant place to be in, if you are stuck with the departed. Then you won't find liberation. Such instances have happened.
I want to tell you one incident. A young lady from France had come to India. She was a very good seeker, she did her spiritual practices every day and she was very bright. She went to a person who did channeling and as the person was channeling he said, 'I see someone with a white dress behind you protecting you, so I cannot predict anything for you'. So she thought, 'Okay, this must be because I am an Art of Living teacher, which is why this person is unable to tell me anything'. So she just dropped Art of Living and she went into channeling. She got married, and had two kids. Her husband was a drug addict and so she too got into drugs and I tell you, her whole life became a big mess, and she became so miserable. There was nobody to feed her, or to take care of her. Then some of the Art of Living people went helped her out of that. After five to six years she came to the German Ashram (Art of Living European International Center, Bad Antogast, Germany) and I looked at her and my God she was completely in a mess.
When channeling many of the lower spirits can try to detract you from your path of joy, wisdom and knowledge. So it is best to keep them at an arm's length.
Sometimes, when you go to someone who does channeling, they may say, 'Oh, I see some big saint coming'. But, only if the person is completely hollow and empty then they can become a channel for a pure life, but often people are not. They say all these thing during channeling for money, or for maybe for some other motive.
So, as I said, you don't need to be afraid of it but at the same time, no point in getting into this spirit world.
Dear Gurudev, how can I devote more time to my spiritual growth when I am financially struggling?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You don't have to devote more time, whatever little time you devote is good enough. Once or twice a year, a few days for an Advance Meditation Course is good enough. You don't have to go for one course after another for the whole year. If you do two or three courses a year that is enough. Taking out five days every six months is not much. And every day just continue with you regular practices.
What is important is to be regular. You should have this determination, that I will not eat food unless I do my pranayama and my meditation. So, even if you meditate for a few minutes and listen to some knowledge in morning, afternoon, or evening, all this will uplift you, and that is good enough. Being in touch with knowledge is very essential. You know, while you are driving, listen to some knowledge. Or just before going to bed, listen to some knowledge and go to bed. If you do these things, it uplifts your spirit.
Dear Gurudev, why do I go on and off in my sadhana (spiritual practice)? I hear that other people do this as well
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Well, it's natural. When there are fruits in the tree you enjoy the fruits and you forget to water the roots. And then when the tree starts drying out then you water it again. This is how we do. Once, twice or three times you go through this cycle and then you become intelligent, then you make it part of your life. Once it is part of your life then you will feel so uncomfortable if you don't do your practice even for one day. Even for one day if you are not in knowledge, it throws you off, you feel as if you're missing something, or there is a lack of something.
So, you need to make these good practices part of your life, like brushing your teeth. One day you don't brush your teeth, do you feel comfortable? You feel so awful, isn't it?Just like dental hygiene, this is mental hygiene!