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.
Sometime or the other you all have had this experience that you are truly Niranjana(meaning: untouched and unblemished).
Many times it happens that you are driving down the road in your car and you see two people by the side of the road fighting between themselves, but you simply see them and pass them by. Their quarrel does not affect you in any way, you remain untouched.
In the same way, there is a celebration going on somewhere and you are passing by that place, and you simply observe it and pass it by.
What does the word Niranjana mean? It means that nothing touches or affects us. For example, when small children quarrel with you or get angry with you, it does not hurt or affect you in any way. In the same way, when a mother scolds her children, do the children really take it to heart? No, they do not. Today they listen to her scolding, but the next day they are again up to the same mischief as the previous day.
Now, when your mother scolds you, you do not take it to heart. But if your mother-in-law or father-in-law scolds you, you get so deeply hurt and offended. Do you not see a difference in your attitude between your parents and your in-laws?
So in some measure great or small, we all do know that we are Niranjana. What does it mean to be truly Niranjana? It means that regardless of the events or circumstances, we remain steady and established in the Self, that we remain happy and blissful.
Gurudev, when we see someone’s picture, we remember and miss them. Is it appropriate to do the same for God also? Is this not straying away from the essence of spirituality?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, if someone feels that way, then it is alright. In reality you do not need it becausethis entire Creation is God’s portrait. Whatever we see as manifest in this Creation is nothing but a painting crafted by God. It is His manifestation alone.
Now, why should we say no to someone who want to keep a picture of God if that makes them feel nice? Many times, by having a picture before you, you establish a connection with the Divine through your mind.
See, we all keep pictures of our family members and grandparents in our house. The moment we see it, we feel a deep connection with them and remember them dearly, 'Oh! My Grandfather', or, 'My dearest mother'. Do you not miss them and remember them fondly when you see their picture? Similarly, we also keep pictures of saints in our homes, like Guru Nanak Devji, or Lord Mahavira, or Lord Buddha. Why are there idols of Lord Buddha kept in temples? That is so that you remember him the moment you see their idol, and then you instantly become meditative simply by remembering him.
We keep pictures of Lord Krishna as an infant in our homes. Why? It is because by seeing that picture, we remember that blissful innocence of a child. But it is not that you will remember the Divine only and only if you have a picture before you, that is not the case.
You all would know that the 10-day Ganesha festival is in full swing in Maharashtra right now. In these 10 days, the entire atmosphere feels so different. There is a very different vibration (of positivity and sacredness) everywhere in the environment. One’s mind moves away from the affairs of the material world and goes towards the deeper spiritual realm. There is celebration everywhere. This is why we celebrate festivals like Holi, Diwali, Ganesh Chaturti and Navratri; so that we remember the Divinity within.
It is not that God is not present every moment of every day. He is ever present, every day. God is present in everyone, and belongs to everyone, and is all-capable. That is what God really is. So when God is present everywhere, would He not reside within you as well? Of course He dwells within you as well. And when He is said to be omnipresent, that means He is present right now too. And when He is present everywhere, and all the time, then does He not belong to you? He does, and this is what love is. When you love someone or something, you feel that they belong to you so totally. This is Devotion.
Always remember this: God is not a person, He is a power, a vibration that is manifest everywhere, and that power resides within us as well. The aim of man’s life is to have this question arise from deep within, 'Who am I? Who is God?' This is good enough. One who knows the answer to this will not tell you, and he who tells you the answer to this does not truly know (laughter).
This question does not arise in the minds of many people. Most people just continue to live life in a mechanical and superficial way, spending their time just eating, drinking and sleeping. But when one sincerely inquires about life and the secrets of life, that is when one’s (spiritual) journey truly begins.
Gurudev, why are all the famous temples of our country constructed on top of a hill or a mountain? Why have they made it so difficult to reach the temple?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, there is a scientific reason behind constructing the temple on top of a mountain. When you climb or walk such a great distance, your blood circulation greatly improves and the pace of your breath also changes. It becomes sort of like doing pranayama. When you climb the great distance to reach the temple of Vaishno Devi (a temple in Jammu and Kashmir dedicated to the Mother Divine, situated at a great height), then you feel you have done a lot of pranayama in reaching the main temple. The moment you reach the temple after walking so much, your mind instantly becomes empty and you go into a meditative state. When the mind becomes empty, then any wish or desire that you have at that time instantly manifests. This is a great secret.
When you finish doing the Sudarshan Kriya, then at the end your mind becomes so empty and at the same time, such happiness dawns from within. You feel so strong and energetic. When all this happens, then any sincere wish or desire that you have starts to manifest and come true. How many of you here have had this experience that whatever you wish for starts to happen? (Many in the audience raise their hands) See! When you do pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and meditation, then any wish in your mind immediately gets fulfilled. Isn’t it so? You never have to cry or strain yourself for getting anything. Whatever you wish for starts happening. So, do not wish for small trivial things in life. Wish for something big that will benefit everybody.
Gurudev, it is said that the meaning of Rudra is one who cries or howls. Is this correct?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, there are many meanings associated with Rudra. Yes, this is one of the many meanings of the word Rudra – meaning one who makes someone cry. See, any change makes you cry. There are many other deeper meanings to this, but we will take it up some other time.
Gurudev, we are from Chhattisgarh. While we were traveling by train to reach Bangalore, we had two tickets, of which only one was confirmed. So I had to share my berth with my friend. However there was an old lady who was sleeping on the floor because her seat too was not confirmed. What should we have done in this situation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You have already reached the Ashram, why are you still thinking about that old lady now? Just relax. Yes, you should always honour and respect women, and be considerate towards children and the elderly. Always respect your elders and senior citizens and give them consideration. This has been the custom in our country since the ages.
In the past 8-10 years this custom has started to disappear from our culture. Nowadays you will see that a young boy will keep sitting in the bus while an elderly person will stand throughout the journey. During my school days, whenever any elderly or senior person used to come, we would immediately stand up and offer them our seat with respect. This is unique to Indian culture. It is not so in the foreign culture. In foreign countries, young people remain seated in buses and trains while the elderly have to stand.
(A member of the audience asked a question which was inaudible)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Yes, there are three kinds of people in society – the good, the bad and the cunning ones. We get inspiration by seeing and knowing the good people in society. From the bad people in society we learn and understand that we can actually do good and progress far more. And from the cunning ones we take this learning that we should not act in the same ways as they do. The bad ones trouble others and are troubled themselves too. If you see their faces, you will not find any spark of enthusiasm or joy. They look so tired, depressed and unhappy. Such people who are miserable only bring misery to those around them. One does not get anything else out of them. But what can you learn from them? You should learn that they did so-and-so wrong thing and have fallen into misery, and that you should not repeat the same mistake. So, bow and offer respect to the wicked people first before you bow down to the good ones because you get to learn so much from them. They have fallen into a ditch (of misery) and having done so they are teaching you a valuable lesson of life (to not repeat the same wrong deeds).