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.
Keep asking yourself this question again and again – “Who am I?” This itself paves the way for going deeper into meditation. Just keep aside whatever you think of yourself or what you feel you are. This question cannot be answered through words. One who answers it through words does not truly know. This question is very important. So keep asking this question to yourself again and again – be it a hundred or a thousand times, over and over.
Then ask yourself, “Why am I?” I would say first you should know who you really are. Then think over why you are, and also why you are not. Think whether there is anyone for whom you are not (in existence).
You are not here to be troubled, you are not here to disturb others either. You are not here to simply eat, drink and sleep from one day to another. You are not here to gossip. So when you think deeply in this manner, you will slowly begin to understand why you are here. Start making a list of all the things you are NOT. Go on negating one (identity or label) thing after another that you are not. Then you will know why you are here, and that you are here to be useful and be of help to others around you, and for yourself as well.
When a few people get comfort and relief because of you, then the happiness and contentment that you get cannot be expressed in words at all.
Gurudev, I am beginning to lose faith in you, what do I do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
That is good. Faith is not that which can come to an end, this is the first thing.
You are trying to run away from something in your life, and you are using God or your Guru as a pretext or reason for doing so. Faith that is built in such a way surely will shake at some point of time. Every time your faith shakes, your devotion will be renewed from within once again. Truth never fails or gets shaken. True faith remains unshaken regardless of everything that happens. That which shakes is just some small belief at a very superficial level. It is your own expectations and desires which shake you.
There was a lady who had approached me sometime earlier. She had fallen in love with a man younger than her. She told me, “Gurudev, you are God, and you can do anything. Please get me married to that man”.
In this way she started questioning me. That young boy did not want to get married to her at all, and would run away at the very thought of it. I told her, “Let me ask the boy also, whether he wants to get married to you or not”.
She said, “No Gurudev, he does not want to get married to me. But you can convince him and change his mind. I know you can do anything. Please use your power to influence his mind and make him agree to marry me”.
I told her, “There is a healthy stocky guy who came to me asking me to do the same thing for you. He wants to get married to you, so he came to me and asked me to magically change your mind and convince you to marry him. He is in love with you. Now what do I do?”
When she heard this, she said, “Oh Gurudev! I will die if I marry that other guy”.
I said, “That young boy is telling the same thing about marrying you!” (Laughter)
I asked her, “Is this truly your faith in me, or is it just your greed and desire that is making you believe such a thing?”
We often mistake our intense craving for our intense faith and try to manipulate the divine to fulfill our desires and get our work done. If you have faith in God only for the sake of having your desires fulfilled, then that will simply not work.
Which is greater: God, or your desire? Just think about it. You want to use God like currency for transactions, and you want to do the same with your Guru. Faith and devotion are needed to help you rise higher in life and go deeper within yourself.
Difficulties and unpleasant times come in everyone’s life. Is there anyone who does not have problems in their life? Lord Krishna faced so many obstacles during his lifetime. Lord Rama also faced many problems in his life. Mahatma Gandhi also faced many hurdles in his life. So difficulties come and go in life. When your faith and devotion remain intact and unshaken during those turbulent times, then you do not feel the unpleasantness of those situations. Faith becomes your anchor during these difficult times and keeps you steady.
On a completely dark night, even a flickering lamp can help you find your way and keep walking forward. But if you try to extinguish that very source of light, then it is no good. People who do this then try other ways to handle difficult situations, such as drinking alcohol, etc. Faith is a great wealth and gives you strength. Just because a few small things did not go in your favor, it does not mean that you should make your faith so fragile and delicate that it breaks every now and then.
That is why I said that it is good that you feel your faith is becoming weak and failing because something you wanted did not happen. It is alright. Eventually you will put your faith into someone or something.
Gurudev, how can we make our kids spiritually strong?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Kids are naturally spiritual. Just keep them away from bad habits like smoking, drinking, and from violent activities and violent games, etc. If you do this, then they will naturally be spiritual.
Gurudev, how can I attain Moksha (salvation) and what does one get by meditation? All my friends ask me this same question many times.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Meditation makes your body stronger and brings vitality. It sharpens the intellect, and brings happiness to the mind. It helps improve and enhance your behaviour and the way you deal with the people around you. It eliminates stress. What else does one need? And apart from all these benefits, it helps you in realizing God. Meditation is the only way to realize and attain the divine.
There is a saying, “Nanya pantha vidyate ayanaya” (Verse from the Purusha Sukta, Rig Veda). It means: there is no other path to the realization of God other than meditation. Meditation alone can help one unite with God.
Gurudev, you have said that in spirituality, faith comes first and then the experience, whereas for people with a scientific temper, it is the exact opposite. This feels a bit contradictory and I did not get it. Can you please explain?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
No, I feel you got it wrong somewhere. It is the difference between the oriental and the occidental way of looking at things. In the orient, we always say that first the experience must happen, only then do you fully understand and grasp the concept. But in the occident, first you must believe and understand the concept, and then you get the experience. These are two different ways.
It is because the modus operandi is different in science and in spirituality in the occident that there are so many conflicts there. This is why when the Spanish Inquisition happened, so many scientists were killed and tortured. It was only because the modus operandi of the two differed so much.
In India, not one scientist was ever executed or prosecuted. Why so? It is because the modus operandi was the same for both religion and science. Here in India we say, 'Tattva Jnaana', which means, first understand the underlying fundamental principle. So we first understand the nature of the five elements, i.e., Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. After that we go on to understand the mind, the intellect, the memory, the ego and then finally we go towards understanding God.
Here we always say that one should experience first. You will understand this more when you read the Upanishads. The Upanishads take you step by step from one level to another. This is why science and spirituality were never in conflict in the East.