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, 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.