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, many farmers from all over the country have gathered here at the Bangalore Ashram. A very warm welcome to you all!
If the farmers of a country are happy and prosperous, then surely the people of that country too will be happy. A country whose farmers are unhappy cannot be happy and healthy. So it is very necessary that the farmer should be happy and content, and there are two ways for this:
1. To build our inner strength and awaken our self-confidence. This makes us capable of enduring and bearing all problems that come our way
2. We must carefully plan and strategize before doing anything so that difficulties do not happen
See, there are some things which are in our hand, and some that we cannot control. So we must make efforts to improve whatever is in our hands. Whatever is beyond our control, we should simply surrender to God, pray that everything goes well, and just move ahead with self-confidence. Then you will see that all your works start getting fulfilled.
Only one who is unhealthy and unhappy will not follow the rules and regulations and commit fraudulent activities.
A person who is content from within will never think of creating trouble for someone else.
(Sri Sri to the farmer: We shall discuss a number of topics in this three day workshop. I am sure you all will greatly benefit from all this. And when you benefit and prosper, then the many hundreds and thousands of people in this country will benefit as well. So many people in our country are able to make a living and run their lives smoothly because your hard work.)
I always tell people wherever I go that before they start their meals, they should say a small mantra as a prayer, i.e., 'Annadaatha Sukhi Bhava' (May all those who contributed towards this meal be happy and prosperous).
When we were young children, my father would always tell us to chant this mantra before we began our meals. In fact, he would ask us to chant this mantra even after we had finished our meal. I never heard any other verse from him. He would always give importance to this mantra. When you chant this mantra, you actually pray for three people who help to provide food. The first is naturally the farmer who cultivates the food grains. The second person is the merchant who trades and brings these food grains to our homes. You might ask why the merchant? See, the farmer grows and harvests the crops, but if the merchant does not bring the grains to the markets, then both the farmer and the people suffer.
The people who hoard food grains and do not pay a fair price for them, or sell them at very high prices to the common people, cause the food grains to get spoiled. You know, we have a great abundance of food grains in our country, but because of poor distribution of the food grains, many people have to go hungry and at the same time the food grains also get spoiled (due to illegal hoarding).
It is because of wrong activities that the prices of tomatoes suddenly go up so high, and then once again suddenly falls down in the following months . Have you all experienced this? All those who have had this experience, raise your hands (Many in the audience raise their hands).
You all have to shoulder the burden of this loss if the merchant and tradesmen do not do their job properly, or if they are unhappy.
If the businessmen are unhappy, then too the farmer and the people at large will be unhappy and will have to suffer.
When the merchants are unhappy, they take to adulteration of food grains to make more profit.
Only someone who is unhappy, unhealthy or discontent will do something wrong. Only one who is unhealthy and unhappy will not follow the rules and regulations and commit fraudulent activities. A person who is content from within will never think of creating trouble for someone else.
So when a merchant is happy and righteously follows rules and regulations, then he will not want to exploit or cheat the farmers. Today, our farmers are being exploited. How many of you agree to this? (Many in the audience raise their hands)
You know, the sugar we grow in India is priced at Rs. 12 for a kilo, but we import sugar from foreign countries and price it at Rs. 30 for a kilo. Is our Indian sugar less sweet than the imported sugar? Why is all this happening?
Some corrupt politicians get together with some businessmen and resort to such illegal activities. So if the businessmen are unhappy, then too the farmer and the people at large will be unhappy and will have to suffer.
When the merchants are unhappy, they take to adulteration of food grains and sugar and sell it to the people to make more profits. If you buy one kilo of rice, you will find that there will be impurities and grits in the packet of around 100-200 grams. Nowadays, milk, wheat flour and ghee (clarified butter) also is adulterated. And a businessman who is engaged in doing such adulteration is surely an unhappy and discontent businessman at heart. This is why we must pray for their happiness and well-bring, so that they do not adulterate the food produce and ensures that the farmers get their rightful share of the profits from the market. A merchant should not become greedy and sell food at unfair prices to make more money. He should ensure that he sells the food grains at the same prices at which he buys from the farmers.
According to what is written in the Dharmashastras (a body of ancient Indian scriptures that lay down the rules for righteous conduct), a merchant can keep 20% of the profit for himself, but not more than that. But today, what happens is that merchants and traders selfishly reserve 50% or more of the gains for themselves and leave very little for the farmers. This is not right. Instead, if some food grains or produce sells more in the markets, then the merchant should ensure that the farmers also receive an equal share of the profits.
A merchant should not become greedy and sell food at unfair prices to make more money.
According to what is written in the Dharmashastras, a merchant can keep 20% profit for himself, but not more than that.
The third person for whose wellbeing we pray through this mantra is the lady of the house who tirelessly cooks food for us. If she becomes unhappy, then the house will also suffer. If the lady of the house is not content and happy from within, then no one will be able to enjoy or digest the food that she cooks. If she cries tears of sorrow while cooking the food, then the man who eats the food will also have to shed tears. So it is very necessary that the lady of the house is happy and joyful. This is what we say by chanting this mantra as a prayer.
If you really look at it, the true Annadaata (the Giver of Food) is none other than God himself. And God is always happy and content. Does God ever become unhappy? No! Yet, at the level of this gross material world that we are in, we pray to God who is the ultimate nurturer, for the happiness and wellbeing of these three people who help to provide us with food. We all should chant this every day, both before and after our meals. Bless them before and after you have had your food.
India is one of those countries in the world that receives the greatest rainfall. There is so much rain here, but despite that, we are not utilizing our water resources properly. We are still dumping so many chemical wastes in our water bodies. Chemicals and artificial fertilizers that have been banned in so many countries across the world are still being used in our farms and fields. We end up wasting so much more money for these chemicals and also destroy the natural quality and health of our soil. We not only suffer a loss in terms of our money, but also in terms of our soil and natural resources. We need to have a deeper discussion on these issues.
(Sri Sri addressing the farmer: Many experts and scientists have also come to attend this workshop here at the Ashram. They will all speak with you, and you too should freely discuss and put your issues forward. Just think that you have come to your own home. You are at your spiritual abode now. This is your very own place, so be happy and enjoy your stay here.
In the mornings, practice some Yoga, Pranayama and meditation also for an hour or two. We have many teachers here who will teach you all this so that you are healthy and fit. When you all are healthy, then the country will also be healthy. When you all are healthy and happy, then the food grains that you grow in your fields will bring happiness and health to all those who consume them in the country.)
Gurudev, sometimes it becomes a burden to even remember knowledge. How can we take the knowledge we receive from manana (to ponder over again and again) to nidhidhyaasa (complete assimilation of knowledge)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Why are you increasing your burden by asking this question too? (Laughter) Just relax and be silent for a while. The goal of knowledge is to transport the mind from its limited understanding and concepts to a more expanded state of awareness. The goal of all knowledge is to make the mind agree and say 'Yes!'
As you listen to knowledge, the mind first says, 'Oh, yes! And then slowly the mind expands and becomes silent. Then you say 'It is! '
The job of the intellect is to make you say 'yes'. Once the intellect is at rest and agrees with the knowledge, then an expanded awareness dawns on you and you come to realize your true existence, that you are nothing but consciousness.
Then from that state, we expand further to realize that the Self alone is everywhere. You feel that the Self alone is all that there is.
So you move from a state of individualized consciousness, i.e., 'I am', to the expanded state of realizing that everything just is.
This is the flow of how our awareness expands with knowledge.
Gurudev, how can we keep our faith in Gods and Goddesses if we follow the knowledge of advaita?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Advaita is knowing that everything is composed of and illumined by the same light (here referring to One Divinity or One supreme Consciousness).
To worship and honor different Gods and Goddesses is similar to expressing the understanding that the one white light is composed of many lights of different colors and wavelengths. All the rays of the Sun are the same light. They all come from the same source, but when you pass a ray of light through a prism, or through a droplet of water, then it splits into rays of different colors. So think of these different colors as the different Gods and Goddesses.
You will eventually have to see the underlying unity between these two, and that is the job of the intellect (to move past the duality towards the One Divinity). That is why in our scriptures, we say, 'This is true and that is also true!'
For example, when we see all the furniture in this room, we say that it is all made of wood. Yet at the same time, a door is not a chair, and a chair is not a window, though it is all made from the same wood. This understanding is called dvaita.
So, both advaita and dvaita exist together in harmony.
Gurudev, we were discussing about Kashi (the modern day city of Varanasi, India). It is said that if someone breathes their last in Kashi, or if the ashes of their dead body is cast into the River Ganga, their soul gets liberated. How true is all this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
No, it is not like that at all. Kashi is also called as Varanasi, and it gets its name by being the meeting point of two rivers: Varuna and Asi.
Kashi is actually not outside but within us. The Ajna chakra (the sixth metaphysical centre of energy in the human body) is the meeting point of the Ida, the Pingala and theSushumna Naadis (energy channels in the human body). So one whose prana finally flows in the Sushumna Naadi is one who gets liberated (freed from the duality of the material world to unite with the divine).
You should not understand this to mean that everyone necessarily has to go to Kashi only to die and attain liberation.
Where is Kashi actually? It is the region in the middle of the eyebrows on the forehead, the region of the Ajna Chakra – which is the meeting point of Varuna (represented by the Ida Naadi) and Asi (represented by the Pingala Naadi). So if one’s prana is steadily established in this region at the time of death, then one attains liberation. This is what is truly conveyed by these sayings.
There is another meaning attached to the city of Kashi. Kashi means one that is overflowing with knowledge. In the ancient days, it was a great seat of knowledge and learning. In those days, there were scholars in every street of this great city who would go about debating and explaining the meanings of the scriptures. People would discuss knowledge and scriptures.
In those days, people did not play card games by the banks of the river Ganga as they do today. The river was not so dirty as it has become now. There was no consumption of non-vegetarian food or slaughtering of cows in the city in those days. The city of Kashi in those days was renowned for overflowing with knowledge and intellectual discourses in every nook and corner. It was said that the city was so enriched with knowledge that even a Parrot and a Mynah would discuss knowledge. So one who sits in the company of such wise and enlightened ones surely attains liberation just by listening to the knowledge.
You all have been sitting here for the past three or four days now. Are you not feeling elevated and happy? The environment here is so different. Everyone is happy, doing their meditation and are engaged in service. So places where people practice all these naturally become centers of knowledge. That is why all these things are said about Kashi.
It does not mean that people who die in other places do not get liberation. Many people who die here in Karnataka also get liberated (laughter).
Kashi has been held in great importance through the ages because it was always the centre of knowledge and intelligent people. Scholars from all over the country would come to Kashi to search and discuss knowledge in the ancient days, such was its glory. But today you will hardly find 15-20 such people who have this genuine depth and interest in knowledge. Such is the unfortunate state of the city today. I feel sad to see this.
When I was a young boy, I remember that there were so many reputed scholars there. Today there are very few genuine ones to be found.
Gurudev, we have 33,000 slaughterhouses in our country, and everyday close to one lakh cows are slaughtered for their meat and hide. Please guide us as to what can we do to save and protect the cows.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Yes, it is our sacred duty to save the cows. I too am greatly concerned about this. If we want to save and protect the heritage and culture of our country, then it is very necessary that we do everything possible to save the cows.
You should go to the villages and educate the people there to save the indigenous Indian cows. Even if they do not yield milk anymore, the cow urine can still be used in the farms and fields for cultivation of crops. In fact the farmers should be taught to concentrate the cow urine and use it as a fertilizer.
You know, one cow is enough to help fertilize one acre of land. We must ask our farmers to stop purchasing artificial chemical fertilizers. If you spend one-third of the money used for purchasing fertilizers for a cow, not only will you be able to raise and keep a cow, you will also be able to have a healthy field yielding good crops.
What is the solution for the Kashmir issue? Peace talks for the past 50 years have failed. Is war the solution? Lord Krishna also fought for truth. Has the Kashmir issue become an ego issue?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
In the recorded history of the world, the world has been peaceful for only 288 years. This is only 8% of the time! This is what the historians stay. That means conflicts have been there all through.
For the India-Pakistan issue, people to people contact is essential. That is the way to go forward. The terrorists that they trained to work against India are now working against them. They have to realize this. They have to drop these strategies and come on board and make South Asia free from poverty. They should fight against poverty, not against India. India and Pakistan should work together to eliminate poverty.
Today, if you tell the Kashmiris, 'Those of you who want to go to Pakistan can go', nobody will go. They know on that side of Kashmir people are not happy. People there are poorer than the Indian Kashmiris.
The Azad Kashmiris have not even seen beds. They don’t know what air conditioning is, or dining tables, or chairs. They are in very poor condition. When they come and see people here, they say that this is really different.
Gurudev, this gross material world appears to be real, but it is actually unreal and temporary. It also appears to be full of misery and suffering. How can an object be both true and untrue at the same time?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You have rightly said that it only appears to be real. In reality it is not.
I will give you a simple example to understand this. Look at a flowing river. Would you call it ancient or new? Try answering this question for yourself.
Now you would think, 'How can the river be both?' But then, that is how it is. The river has been in existence since ages, yet there is a constant flow of new and fresh water in it. Every moment the water is fresh. So in the same way, this world appears to be real and permanent, yet in reality it keeps changing every day. That is why it is not regarded as the truth.
What is the definition of truth? In principle, truth is called as 'Trikaalabaadhitam yad tat sat'. It means that truth is that which remains constant and unchanging through the three phases of time.
If you look at the world in light of this definition, then the world truly appears unreal. But that does not mean that it does not exist. It is just that it is not the same at all times and is constantly changing, yet it does exist.
In Patanjali Yoga Sutra, you have talked about the five states of the mind. You say that when the mind gets into wrong knowledge, it often thinks that it is the right. If that is the case then what is the way out to come out of this wrong knowledge?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Viparyaya (wrong understanding) is one of the modulations of the mind. It doesn’t stay too long. That’s why in Ashtanga Yoga (The Eight Limbs of Yoga) any one of the limbs will trigger the mind and say, ‘This is pramana viparyaya', meaning, it the wrong knowledge. This comes to one’s understanding.
If you have been judgmental, when you come out of being judgmental you say, ‘Oh, I have been judgmental’. Time will trigger that point in you.
There are two ways of coming out of Viparyaya:
2. An expanded consciousness, when you are able to see, ‘What I am thinking, is it correct or not?’
The whole Nyaya Shastra is built on that. It is one of the Angas (limbs) of the Upangas(yoga). You have a certain understanding, but how do you know if it is right or not? So to know whether it is correct or not, they have given a whole process for it, which is called the Nyaya Darshana.
The Nyaya Shastra is the most fascinating treatise. It is to know or identify whether the means of knowledge is correct or not. It is to identify whether the understanding that you have is a reality, or just one of the games of your mind. They have given many examples and ways to find out. Some other time we’ll discuss the Nyaya Sutras.
Gautama’s Nyaya Sutras say, 'You see the sun rising and setting, but you know that the sun neither rises nor sets. Similarly, you have a beaker of water and you put a pen into it and it appears to be bent, but in reality it is not bent'. It is a way to go beyond the perception.
Isn’t it through science that we can actually identify this wrong understanding or wrong knowledge?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Correct, that is why spirituality is a science. This is what people said thousands of years ago in the six darshanas (schools of thought).
The six darshanas are:
1. Samkhya (emphasizing on consciousness and matter)
2. Yoga (emphasizing on meditation, contemplation & liberation)
3. Nyaya (emphasizing on the sources of knowledge)
4. Vaisheshika (emphasizing on atomism)
5. Mimamsa (emphasizing on religion and ethics)
6. Vedanta (knowledge)
So, the darshanas are nothing but pure science. That’s why we say, 'Gyana vigyaana tripatma,’ knowledge and science, both are essential in life.
In India we never opposed science. We said, first know the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether), this is science, and then go to the sixth element, i.e., the mind. Nyaya is the method of knowing whether your knowing is correct or not.
Nowhere else in the world have people attended to this type of keen awareness, to see whether the knowledge one has is subjective knowledge or objective knowledge.
One is to analyze the object and then also see, who is knowing, and what is the quality of his consciousness. Is he drunk? Does he have jaundice? For a person who has jaundice everything appears yellow.
So, not just the object even the subject has been studied. This much depth and detail our ancient scriptures have. That is why they say, this is true and this is not true.
After completing the course I am very attracted to this picture. There is a Goddess and there’s Shiva on the left and Ganesha on the right. How to understand the picture?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I also liked the picture and that’s why we have put it there. It is a picture of Kashi Vishalakshi. She has the son in one hand and the husband in the other. She also has ajapa mala (rosary) and a kamandala (water pot). Kamandala is symbolic of giving boons, and the japa mala is symbolic of meditation and knowledge. It is beautiful!
I liked it too and so decided to put it in our Vishalakshi Mantap. Vishalakshi means one who has a broad vision. The one who gives such a big vision is known as Vishalakshi.
In Rudra pooja, there are a lot of layers that we worship. Do these layers exist in the same space?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Scientists say this universe is multi-dimensional. It is not a universe, it is multi-verse because it has many layers. Just like in the television there is not just one channel.
In the 1960s and 70s there was only one channel called Doordarshan. There was no other option. Today, there are hundreds of channels. Like that this universe has many layers and knowledge is humongous. There is no end to knowledge.
Do you get all the channels in the same television or different ones?
1. When we doubt ourselves
2. When we doubt the people around us, and
3. When we doubt God
We have never seen God, so there is always a doubt somewhere in our mind as to whether or not God exists.
The first thing that we need to do is to accept people as they are.
We see everyone in society with an eye of suspicion. When we do not want people to see us with suspicion or doubt, then we also should not see them in the same way.
Now by saying this I do not mean that you should blindly trust everyone around with everything. Do not just hand over your purse or wallet to some stranger, or think that it is okay even if he runs away with it. That is not what I am saying, but we should become aware of what is going on in our mind. We must pay attention to this fact.
Until we improve ourselves, until we do not kindle happiness and love from within ourselves, how can there be peace and happiness in the society and the world at large?
The first thing that we need to do is to accept people as they are.
How many people have you met in your lives who are exactly like you? Have you met anyone like that? You have not. Yet you want that everyone should think and act like you do. You know, if you meet someone who is exactly like you, then you will not be able to tolerate them for even five minutes. The truth is that it is very difficult to tolerate someone who thinks and behaves just like you. This is the very foundation principle of The Art of Living.
Just see, there is only Jesus in the world yet do you know how many sects of Christianity are there in the world today? There are 72 sects of Christianity in the world today.
How many sects of Islam are there today? There are five well known ones – like Shias, Sunnis, Ahmediya, Sufi, etc. There was only one Lord Buddha, but there are 32 sects or traditions in Buddhism today. And you cannot even count the number of different sects and traditions in Hinduism (Laughter).
For every great saint that has been, there is a tradition and sect of his following. There are many schools of thought in Sikhism also. So as time progresses, different saints, different religious philosophies and schools of thought emerge. We must let all these diverse traditions and sects grow and develop.
When one tries to make everyone behave and think in the same way, then the outcome is what we are seeing in countries like Syria, Egypt, etc. The conditions there are very unfortunate. Just before the war broke out in Iraq, I had felt that a great calamity was going to happen.
When one tries to make everyone behave and think in the same way, then the outcome is what we are seeing in countries like Syria, Egypt, etc. The conditions there are very unfortunate.
We have a Sardarji here who had his business there. I sent two doctors along with him there to go and talk to the people there. I asked him to talk to the ministers in Saddam Hussein’s cabinet. They went and spoke to one of the ministers who happened to be the Finance minister. So we all asked him to convey to Saddam that he should refrain from the war as it would lead to misery and bloodshed.
Now, what happened thereafter is a long story. Yet unfortunately the war did take place. So we established a rehabilitation centre there, just next to the centre of the Red Cross society. During the war, the Red Cross building was bombed and all the people of the building fled. I called our people in the centre there and told them also to take shelter and leave.
Do you know what they told me? They said, 'Gurudev, if we also run away from our duty, then who will take care of the injured people here? Every day we see 700 patients here in need of medical care. We will stay here and look after the people. You love us so much and God is there to protect us at all times, so we will stay and help the people here.'
Due to the war, seven lakh women became widows. I went thrice to see the situation in Iraq. The people there had erected such huge and thick walls to divide the areas. A Shia area was separate, and a Sunni area was separate. We took a Sunni Imam (a religious leader in Islam) along with us to a village where 8000 people had fled due to the war. We spoke to the people there, and even spoke to the local leaders there with the help of a translator and tried our best to convince them to end the war. They understood and welcomed us with open arms. Slowly an environment of peace began to be created.
The Iraq government sent 50 youth to the Bangalore International Centre for training. They all had jobs and their families but they still came to get trained for the sake of upliftment of their country.
I tell you, today most of the wars are because of the American ammunition industry. They have to sell their weapons to someone else, or else all the weapon industries will shut down. They manufacture guns and bombs and sell them to both parties, and incite both sides to go for war.
India can also do that. It can incite Hindus and Muslims to go fight against each other, but it is not so. I am not talking about all the industries. I am talking about the Guns Lobby that is operating everywhere in the world. It is not limited to any one country. It is spread across everywhere. Why is this so? It is because they do not give importance to Human values. They only see money and how to make more money. This is what is happening in countries like Syria, Iran, etc. It is very sad to see all this. It is also happening in our own country in states like Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir.
We have to remember that life is very short. There isn’t enough time for love, then why do go around spreading hatred and bloodshed? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves.
See, we have to remember that life is very short. There isn’t enough time for love, then why do we go around spreading hatred and bloodshed? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves. This is what will create a new world around us, where everyone will be free to follow their own religion and be in harmony with all others. This is actually how it is in India.
You know, some people may ask, 'Why do Indians worship so many Gods and Goddesses?' This is wrong understanding. It is all one divinity, but to create that personal connection and deep oneness with it, people worship it in their own way, and that is why we have different forms and different names. Even when people are worshipping idols, they are not really worshipping the stone, rather they worship the divinity, just like how we keep pictures of our dear ones with us wherever we go.
We keep pictures of our children with us. They may not be with us but seeing that picture instantly brings that intense connection. The same is with an idol. An idol is kept simply to make that connection with the divine.