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, you mentioned that the trick is to cut the connection between thought and me. What makes us feel that the thought is mine?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: In Sanskrit this is called tadatma (identification).
When you are watching a movie you are so identified with the movie that when something happens to the hero or heroine, you start crying. Doesn’t it happen?
It used to happen in villages, when the hero was being attacked by the villain, the entire audience would throw slippers and stones on the screen. Many times the owners of the theatre would have to come and announce, 'This is a movie, please don’t throw slippers and stones on screen because it will get spoilt'.
This is what identification is: the mind identifies so much with the scenery.
Same way, when you are watching a movie and if you are intelligent, you know it’s just a movie. You don’t throw stones at the television because your hero is being hurt by the villain.
In the same manner, your emotions and thoughts come and go. It is your strong association with the thoughts that puts you in a cage. Identification is that cage. Knowing that all these are just thoughts and detaching from that identification is liberation.
We all do this to some extent; everybody does it. You don’t act on every thought that you have. If you consider all thoughts as your own, you will go mad. But we consider many of our thoughts as our own. We consider ourselves to be the thought. It is only when you sit and go into meditation that you start becoming a witness and realize that these are just passing thoughts. We are able to disassociate ourselves from most of our thoughts; they just become like a passing cloud.
Of course, when such a cloud comes it also stirs some emotions. Thoughts and emotions are linked. When a bad thought comes, it stirs a bad emotion. When you are a witness the emotion also stays for a minute and then it vanishes. But if you identify with it then it stays longer. It can’t stay forever but it stays for longer, it drags the whole thing a little longer.
Gurudev, what if the person you love asks you to change your religion to get married?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: To that you should say, 'I shall follow mine, you follow yours'. There are some religions which accept everything, but there are some religions which say others are evil, and only mine is right. This is difficult.
With such religions, you have to say that you will change to the religion which is more accepting and accommodating of all forms of thoughts and worship. That is much easier.
If your religion says that everything else is bad and only mine is right, it constraints you. If your religion says that all paths are okay, this is okay and that is also okay, then you can follow that. That which has a broad mind set is always better. It has more possibilities and more harmony is there in it.
Yesterday, about five boys from the Yazidis community who are studying here in Bangalore came to see me. The plight of that community is so pathetic, and so painful. This community which was 23 million has reduced over the past 4-5 decades to only one million today. In Saddam Hussein’s time they were made to run from one place to another, they were not given full rights because they were considered to be infidels, as the Yazidis belief system is different.
So many killings are happening in the name of religion and that is a big problem.
Art of Living is working with the Yazidis. We have adopted 550 families and already 90 tons of food grains have been collected and air-lifted with the help of two helicopters provided by the American government to Mount Sinjar. 9000 people are stuck in the holy temple there. It’s so cold and they don’t have any tents, food, or water. They don’t have anything. So far The Art of Living is the only organization which is helping to get the food, but we hope other organizations will also join.
I am so proud of our volunteers and teachers who are working there in Kurdistan. The Shias are there, some Christians are there, some Yazidis are there. They (volunteers) have put up some tents and are taking care of them.
When you all have these small issues that make you so upset; small things like your mother-in-law said something, or your father-in-law said something, or your husband/wife or neighbour said something then look at this community which is on the verge of extinction: they have been asked to convert or they will be killed. Yet they are holding onto their faith and that’s why they went into the cold mountains. We must honour them, whatever their faith is.
Why should they convert? They have been made to convert forcefully. 23 million reduced to one million.
The Yazidis are a very peaceful community like the Parses and like the Jains. India is a place where we have accommodated everybody: the Jains, the Parses, the Sikhs. Everyone is part of this country, and everybody has lived peacefully. Why and how? It is because we are an example of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One World Family).
This is what all these countries should adopt; all communities, all religions should adopt. It does not matter if one is a Shia, Sunni, Protestant, Catholic, Brahmin, Dalit whatever it is, all belong to one family.
Peace conferences happen in those parts of the world where everything is peaceful. But we need to have peace conferences where there is conflict, where there is war, and that is what we have organized. I’m going to Iraq next weekend, from the 18th-21st of November. In Iraq we are having a peace conference and I hope to see people come together.
When The Art Of Living Happiness Program was taught to the Parliamentarians of Kurdistan (35 of them took the first program), there were Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Arabs, etc. People from different groups were in the course. After the course, they all said, 'This is what we need'.
You can read about their experience on our website. All their experiences are posted there. They also insisted on having a Skype call with me, so I spoke to them on Skype.
They said, 'Gurudev you must come here to our province as this knowledge is very much needed. If we had this knowledge several years back, perhaps, our history would have been different.'
I can’t but agree with them. If people had a broad mind-set then they would not have gone through what they are going through today.
If at all you have to worry, worry about the big thing, like me! I am so worried. You also worry big, for the world. Even for a fraction of a second if these bigger issues worry you, you would be able to come up instead of sinking with small little things.
Gurudev, at what stages can you solve a problem by violence? Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed? (The four ways of making someone do a task as stated in Chanakya Niti)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When nothing works then the final is Mahabharat. But only when nothing else works. Lord Krishna gave a thorough example of this: he went three times, not just once, but three times for mediation (between the Kauravs and Pandavas); he went three times!
There is a question people ask, 'If Lord Krishna knew that there is going to be a war, why did he go three times begging Duryodhan to accommodate the Pandavas. Why did he go for peace talks?'
Lord Krishna has set an example, that one should do whatever is humanly possible and not worry about the result of it.
In Bhagavad Gita it is said that your Soul itself is the friend and the enemy. Isn’t enmity an action by another? Are we ourselves the reason for the enemy?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, enmity is an emotion which arises in our mind. If another person considers us an enemy then that is their doing, not ours. It is their headache; from our side we don’t consider anybody as an enemy.
If it seems that somebody is an enemy, then act accordingly. I’m not asking you to go hug them or make them your own. If an enemy brings a gun, you also stay ready. If they come with bricks and stones, you also get ready accordingly. You also be ready to protect yourself. Use your intellect.
At the level of emotions there is no benefit in considering anybody an enemy. Never feel anybody is an enemy.
How to maintain happiness? When we receive our exams results, we go from being 100% happy to 0% happy.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:With the strength of knowledge happiness is sustained.
Sorrow will come to you. Tell me one person to whom it has not come? How much sorrow came to Jesus Christ, to Lord Rama, and to Lord Krishna. But when you have the strength of knowledge, then sorrow doesn’t touch you.
Earlier, before you started doing meditation, when a problem came, you got buried in it, isn't it? Now, once you have come into knowledge and started doing a little meditation and pranayama, even though you come down to zero you get up and move forward again. You bounce back, and that is it!.