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, why does someone sometimes have attractions towards people of the same sex? Why is being homosexual or bisexual such a taboo?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I think it is no longer a taboo in many parts of the world now. In the past it was, and people were executed because of their sexual preferences. People simply don’t understand that each one of us is made of both mother and father. You have qualities of both in you. Of the feminine and masculine energies that you are made up of, sometimes one dominates and sometimes, the other dominates and that’s how these types of changes happen in people. Someone thinks they are straight and after fifty years or so, they suddenly discover that they have attraction towards the same sex. Then they get so perturbed and their mind goes haywire. They are simply not able to comprehend.
The other way is also true. They are gay from the very beginning but you never know, sometimes preferences change. So it is better not to label oneself for lifetime and feel bad about it. Even if you label yourself, do it happily. But don’t label someone else and accuse them because it is just a play or display of energies inside of you. And I want you to rise above identification of the body because you are genderless. Your body has a gender but your consciousness has got no gender.
Love is the nature of consciousness. That is why sometimes, irrespective of the body’s gender, consciousness gets attracted or your mental attraction goes in that direction. So it is wrong to blame oneself and blame others.
What you need to do is realize that you are scintillating light. You are not just a piece of flesh, bones and blood. You are light. When you get this understanding, then you will be free from whatever emotional turbulences you have. Serenity dawns in you and you get a better understanding of yourself.
There are so many people who discover their sexuality and get so upset or assertive that they start hating the entire society. We should get over these extreme reactive tendencies in the mind and realize that we are not just the body but scintillating, sparkling joy and consciousness.
People are understanding now that homosexuality is not a disease as it was thought some time back. Today people see that it is just a tendency. It is just the energy that plays that role. Sometimes, the male energy is dominant though you are a female and sometimes, the female energy is dominant though you are a male. All this is possible.
Dear Gurudev, we learn about yoga, breathing and other Vedic practices. What about other religions and cultures? Don’t they have anything to contribute to our spirituality?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
These practices do not subscribe to only one religion as such. Hinduism is not a religion. It is only a way of life which people have been practicing for a long time. And if you go to the root of religion, definitely there will be something one can explore. You can always find parallels. But unfortunately, most of the organized religions, later on, what remained was symbols, power and rituals, and many of them forgot the ancient practices they might have had. Prayer is in all religions, singing is in all religions. Silence and fasting and not stuffing yourself with food all the time, etc., is practiced in all religions.
I have made a small booklet on the similarities between Christianity and Hinduism just to make people come together. There are 33 practices which are common between the two.
Similarly, there are many practices common to Islam and Hinduism. If you study comparative religion, you will find many things in common and there are many differences as well. Differences are only to make it richer and we should celebrate differences. We don’t have to say everything should be the same.
People say they have started Christian yoga. I say this is piracy. They should not do such things. Just imagine, some Rishi has in the past has discovered yoga, instead if acknowledging him you turn it around and say, we do Christian yoga. Yoga is yoga. There is no Hindu yoga or Christian yoga or Muslim yoga. If you try to put a color to it, it is disrespect to the founder of that particular knowledge. It is piracy and one should not do it.
People say, we will accept all the postures but we will not say Om. Why would you not say Om? You will say apple, or other bad words but you won’t say Om which means eternal peace, purity, serenity, and unconditional love? This is all what Om indicates. It is a complete vibration; the vibration originates at the base of the spine and moves all the way to the top of the head. Why can’t you say Om? The sound makes you drop your religion? The faith in your religion is so weak that saying a syllable takes you out of your religion? That shows how weak your faith is. Om is the signature of yoga and a part of it, and we should keep it.
You cannot go to an apple store and say, 'I want your computer but I don’t want that apple symbol on it. Please remove it. That too a bitten apple, not even a full apple. I don’t want this bitten, half eaten symbol on my computer'. Will they agree?
Will you go to an iPhone store and tell them, 'Remove the iPhone, I will place I will put my phone there'. That is piracy. You can’t do such things. Acknowledge the source of knowledge.
Why bother with helping others when you can choose infinite bliss?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
If you have found bliss, you can’t but share it with everybody, and what is the point of finding it and not sharing it? What is the point of going to the bank and getting lots of money and not spending it? What is the point of earning money and not spending it?
Similarly, when you gain knowledge, you must share it. When you are happy, you don’t say, 'Leave me alone, I am very happy'. You want to make a phone call and say, 'Hey look, I saw this wonderful movie. I want to share it with you'. The nature of happiness or bliss is always to share. And if you are unable to share and you become unhappy, that is again not bliss.
Dearest Gurudev, what is spiritual pleasure seeking? I want to make sure that I am not shifting my pleasure seeking from the material world to the spiritual.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Pleasure seeking is when you are focused only on yourself. 'Beg, borrow or steal, whatever it does to others is okay but I should be comfortable', this is a pleasure seeking tendency. You don’t care for others or for discipline, or for what anyone says. Just do what gives you pleasure, unmindful of logic or reasoning and only focused on yourself, this is pleasure seeking. That will definitely put you through a lot of problem and will not elevate you.
Sometimes I feel like leaving the normal life and just staying in the ashram. What should I do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I would like you to live the normal life. I want to make the whole world into an ashram, and you want to leave the world and come to the ashram?
What does Ashram means? A place where you get some care, love, food for thought and some food for your stomach. So you can make your own homes ashrams. Invite people, give them some good knowledge and give them some food, and if you do this a lot then every home is an ashram. I want people in the ashram to go out and start centers wherever they are, make their homes as lighthouse of joy, knowledge and love.
When will you come and stay here and do? Even I don’t stay in one place. I keep travelling across the continents. So you don’t have to leave the world and come and live here, if you have some responsibilities. But you are most welcome to come and stay sometime, and do some seva. When you think you can do better things here being in the ashram and contribute better to the society and not just for your comfort, then it is okay. I don’t want the ashram to be a place for lazy people who want to renegade, run away from everything and waste their time and be a trouble for everybody else.
Ashram is the place for people who want to do a lot for the society and don’t want anything for themselves. Then here is a place where they come and rest, and then go back and do some good work in society. If you have that much dedication to do work for the world and society then yes, this is the place for you. Your needs will be taken care of.