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.
(Below is a continuation of the post Peace Begins With Me)
The Ganesh festival just concluded yesterday. People often ask, 'Why do they first worship the idol of Lord Ganesha and then immerse it in water?'
You know, there was a brilliant idea the Rishis (wise sages) had behind keeping this custom. They said that pooja simply means that whatever God does for us, we do the same for Him as a token of love and gratitude. It is like a way to play with the divine, just the way the divine plays with us. So this divine play is called pooja. This is why we ‘play’ with the idol of Lord Ganesha (by offering worship) and after some time, the clay idol is immersed in the water. This entire process is a way of expressing to the divine, 'O Lord! You who are present as the very soul dwelling within me, I pray to you to just manifest in the form of this idol for some time so that I may play with you, just as you lovingly play with me. I wish to celebrate with you'.
After the worship is over, we ask the divine to return once again deep within our hearts. And we then immerse the idol in water.
Today there is a need for spiritual education. Spiritual education is that which connects everybody together. There have been so many saints in time, and they have all had the same opinion – that everything is one.
You will be surprised if you listen to the description that Shri Adi Shankaracharya Ji has given about Lord Ganesha. He sings, 'Ajam nirvikalpam nirakaram ekam'.
It means, Lord Ganesha is Nirakara (without form). So here Adi Shankaracharya Ji says, 'O Lord Ganesha! You are the eternal, formless divinity manifest everywhere'.
You will find the same description about the divine in the beginning verses of the Holy Quran. The unfortunate part is that we know so little about our own religion and scriptures.
No religion in the world preaches that you should hurt or injure another being. Then why is all this happening today? It is because religious education has not been imparted in a proper way to everyone. Today there is a need for spiritual education. Spiritual education is that which connects everybody together. There have been so many saints in time, and they have all had the same opinion – that everything is one.
So the leaders in Iraq asked three things from us.
The first thing they wanted is Indian Spirituality, because they see it as a very unique way of connecting and bringing everyone together in love and harmony.
The second thing that they asked for was help in the field of education. They said that the youth studying in the IIT’s in India are very intelligent and sharp. Please help our youth also get such good technical education by getting trained in IIT.
The third thing that they said was that they would want Indian teams to come to Iraq and extract oil from their oil wells. A lot of westerners are already doing this since a long time, but now we would want Indians to also come and benefit from the oil resources of our country.
I tell you, if all the countries make even 0.1% of the expenditure that they make in the field of defense towards spreading peace and harmony, the entire world can change. No one prefers hatred. But many times unknowingly it happens, or it happens due to fear and insecurity of others.
If we want World peace today, we have to start with ourselves first. Once you behold the divine light within you, I tell you, you will not find anyone a stranger. You will feel as if everyone belongs to you.
There is one thing I would want to share with you all. Before coming here today, the only other Islamic university where I have given a talk at, is at the University in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2012. Thousands of youth had gathered there that day. I remember that they had made preparations for that event with such enthusiasm.
There also I was asked why we worship so many different Gods and Goddesses in India. I gave them a simple example to explain this. See, from the same wheat flour, you make Halwa (an Indian sweet preparation), Puuris (a fried Indian flatbread) and Samosa (an Indian savoury snack). Is it not so? Similarly you use the same dough to make Pizza also, and for noodles also. Why do we do this? It is because we like a variety of foods.
In the same way, we in India always believe that God is one. But we dress the one divinity in different costumes! (Laughter) So we dress the divine in different attire and give every form a different name.
There are 1008 different names of the divine in Hinduism, and they have attached a form to every name. This is what it is.
The audience there appreciated this understanding. Some people said, 'Gurudev, you have explained it so nicely. Until now could not understand why Indians worship so many Gods and Goddesses when God is one'. So if we want World peace today, we have to start with ourselves first. Once you behold the divine light within you, I tell you, you will not find anyone a stranger. You will feel as if everyone belongs to you. Every person in the world belongs to us. But this realization can dawn once we become aware of our own light within that no one can extinguish.
The aim of pranayama and meditation is only this, to make you aware and realize the divine light within.
How to cope with the generation gap and the problems that it brings? How do we cope with the differences we have with our elders?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See that has to be done very skillfully. You must explain and keep your stand before them, but you must also be respectful and listen to what they have to say as well.
Remember this – our elders always have love and our best interests at heart. That is why they advise you from time to time. It is possible they may still be following the old ways and old patterns of their generation, or they may not know the new ways fully well. But their intention is always our well-being. It is just that their way of explaining things to us may be different from what we expect. A little give-and-take can help in simply resolving this with ease.
Initially I always see the best in people but as time passes, I begin to see the worst of them when I get to know them closely. My feelings about them change. Why does this happen and how do I handle this situation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, the opposite of this fact is also true. Many times you do not get off to a good start with someone else, but as time passes and you keep your patience, you start liking them. So both things are true.
This kind of cycle comes in everyone’s life. You meet someone and like them initially, then after sometime you start disliking them, and again after sometime, you start liking them once again. Just ask your mother and father about this (Laughter). They got married very happily but soon they had small fights and difference of opinion about things.
What is the secret of a peaceful and successful life?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
That is what I have been telling you all this while. Accept the people and situations as they are. And always be in the present moment. Do not keep thinking of what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.
What is the role of religion in promoting peace and global harmony? Is it an asset or an obstacle?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
For the intelligent ones, religion is an asset. But for the foolish ones, it is an obstacle. There are some unique specialties in every religion which can help uplift our life and can help us blossom in life. But if we are foolish, then we make the same qualities a cause for differences and problems among people. So it all depends on us. There is nothing wrong in any religion of the world. It depends on the understanding of the one who follows and practices it. You can use a knife to chop vegetables, slice butter and also to hurt yourself. It is like that.