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, how does knowledge of substances lead to enlightenment? Are all physicists enlightened?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, a scientist once told me, 'Gurudev, for 40 years I have studied matter just to realize that it doesn’t exist'.
The one thing that exists in the world is waves, which appears to be matter. If you are a quantum physicist, you know this truth. And he also said, 'When I speak, people think I am preaching Buddhism or speaking of the Vedanta'.
I said, 'Yes because the Vedanta says that the whole universe is made up of just one thing. And that’s what Buddhism also says: All this is nothing'.
This is called the heart sutra, i.e., everything is nothing which is exactly what a physicist says.
We will go into all those philosophical things another time. It is very stimulating, fascinating and interesting for our intellect. But right now let's keep in mind this simple thing, that is, the motto of Art of Living is to realize that life is a celebration, and the whole world is one family.
Now how can this celebration happen? With knowledge! Without knowledge it is impossible.
What is the meaning of Naimisharanya? I heard you had gone there?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Aranya means forest. Why forest? In a forest there is no fight or violence. Can you imagine, the name for forest is where there is no conflict and there is harmony? And that is how it is. In a forest, animals prey, and once their hunger is satisfied, they won’t kill any other animal. A lion when its hunger is satisfied won’t kill any animal.
In fact, the lion does not kill at all. It’s the lioness that kills and brings the food and the lion sits and eats. The lion is the most lazy of all animals.
So these animals don’t kill each other for fun. Ran means fight or war, and Aranyameans where there is no fight or war, and where there is harmony.
In the ancient days, the sages would assemble in the forest and they would meditate in the forest and align themselves with nature. Then they would download all the knowledge and that is how Ayurveda was born. Naimisharanya is the place where Ayurveda was born. Some Ayurvedic scriptures were written in Pakistan; today's Takshashila. But original Ayurveda was downloaded inNaimisharanya. 88000 saints gathered and they all meditated and all the 18 puranas were written there.
Naimisharanya is very well known in all the scriptures, but people don’t know that the place exists and it is not a tourist place, nor does it have enough facilities. This is a big problem in India. The tourist places are managed so badly, especially pilgrim places have no proper infrastructure or sanitation and it is so neglected. I want to bring this to the notice of the Government. See how badly these things are managed. Even the Jamuna river, we are going to have a big program next week on how this river has got polluted and the Government is doing nothing about it.
Several organizations are launching big campaigns for awareness and to put pressure on the Government to stop chemicals and sewerage getting into these rivers which are considered so sacred. Hundreds and thousands of people are getting affected. Children between the age of 8-15 year olds are getting cancer because of the harmful things released in the river. We have some very action oriented plans for the coming week.
Gurudev, I am from the US and I am amazed by the devotion that Indians have. It is very inspiring. Can you please comment on how people from the west can cultivate this level of devotion?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Outer expression of devotion is very different from what one feels inside. Don’t think that the people in the west don’t have it. The west does have it.
See, people are people. We are all the same, whether east, west, north, or south, we all have the same thing inside of us. Our emotions are very similar, even though expressions may be different. And don’t think that in India it is the same everywhere. Here everyone is free, and when there is freedom from inside, there is more expression of love, devotion, and connectivity. It may not be the same when they go outside.
All cities or urban areas around the world are more or less the same today. If you go to remote villages in the west, they also have passion, connectivity, and love. Their way of expression is different. I see the same love and devotion when I go to South America as I see in India.
If you go to Brazil, Argentina, they love singing, dancing and expressing their love. I find this in Africa, in Mongolia, and in China. If you have ever been to Taiwan, you will see that there is tremendous devotion. People in Taiwan are so full of enthusiasm, energy, and love. Sometimes when I go to Taiwan and land in the night, so many people come to the airport that the authorities don’t know how to handle their joy and enthusiasm.
I feel we are all the same. Our expression and upbringing may be different. All you need to do is feel free from inside. When you feel free, you feel connected. If there is fear, doubt and some sort of reservation in the mind, that is when you step back, whether it is with the Guru or somebody else.
I often say this in India: What type of guest would you prefer in your own home, someone who feels at home and doesn’t insist on formality and behaves like one of your family? Or do you prefer someone who is very formal and minds every little thing you do or don’t do?
You will like someone who is informal. If they are hungry, you expect your guest to ask and don’t expect your guest to think you are psychic and you will provide them with whatever they are thinking they want.
When we go to someone’s house, we expect the host to be psychic and provide us with what we want. We behave very formal, but we expect our guest to be informal. This is not fair. Like you expect the guest to feel at home and part of the family so that you don’t have the extra burden to take care of them. This pressure is not there when you feel they are part of you.
Similarly, do you behave like that when you are a guest in someone’s house? Or are you very formal and expect them to ask everything of you.
Gurudev, today the documentary film based on Nirbhaya was released by BBC. Though the Indian Government tried to ban it, it has come out through various sources. The movie does project that Indian culture is backward with respect to women. What are your views on this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I don’t give much importance to these movies because many of them are the imagination of the producer or director or script writers. You will always find, some will have one point of view and others will have another point of view. People are free to express their views on this planet.
We must never restrict artists from expressing their point of view. It may be far from the truth. Knowing this you should take art as art. I would take it that way.
I know some artists have been shouting in the parliament yesterday in India. That is also another movie because many movie stars are getting into parliament. I would say, people who think this is the real story, they should remember it is just an artist’s imagination. Even documentaries are done with a view to make things a little more spicy and more thrilling or interesting.