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.
What do you think about the takfiri movement and the extreme violence in Syria?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
First, this is an identity crisis, as I have said. People feel their identity is threatened. Second, they think only they have the key to the heaven, and all others are wrong.
I would like to share one of my experiences with you. When I was in Pakistan, I gave a talk at the University of Lahore. A youth stood up and said, ‘We believe in one God, but in India you believe in so many gods. How come? We don’t agree with that.’ I told him, 'We also believe in one God, but with many costumes. We do not have many gods, we have one God only, but He likes to change his dresses and costumes. That is the only difference'. I gave him one example, I said, 'See, from wheat you make bread, you make samosa, you make naan, you make chapatti, and you make noodles. The same wheat is also used to make muffins, croissants and all different types of German bread. Now why do we make so many types of dishes from the same wheat? It is because we love variety. The divinity who created the universe loves diversity, and we must honor diversity'. The student got so satisfied, and said, ‘You just relieved me and have taken the weight off my head.’
So this unity in diversity needs to be emphasized . This is the first step. The youth today are fed up with the material, they are looking for some higher pleasures, some heaven. The second step is for us to tell them that, ‘Love is heaven and this world has plenty of love'. I would say, if you put them in a room and give me two hours with them for three days, you will see them coming out with a smile and with flowers instead of guns.
Would you please share with us your appreciation of soul consciousness?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There is something in you that is not changing. Now, if you cannot find what is not changing in you, at least can you recognize everything in you that is changing? If you just stand in front of the mirror and look at your picture that was taken five years ago, you will find that you have changed. Your body has undergone changes, your thoughts keep changing, your emotions keep changing – you cannot hold onto the same emotion forever, so emotions keep changing, and its intensity keep changing. So everything changes, and you recognize the change because there is something that is not changing inside of you, and that is the reference point of all changes. Logging onto that is meditation. For meditation, you do not have to do something, you simply have to relax.
To me, meditation is not doing something, it is emptying yourself; emptying the vessel. When you are empty, everything becomes the same. So empty your mind for a few moments. We all take rest by sleeping but when we sleep we become unconscious for six to eight hours; we do not know where we are. But if you consciously sit, relax and clear the mind, that gives you enormous amount of energy, enthusiasm, and intuition.
Another aspect of education is an intuitive ability and inspiration. If you are educated and you are not inspired, you are good for nothing. And if you are educated and you do not have intuition, your efficiency is very low. So, Innovation, Intuition, and Inspiration – all these three 'I's are essential for an educated person. Along with this the three 'C's are also important, i.e., Context to life, Commitment and Compassion. To see a bigger context to life, just go to an aquarium and sit for half an hour, you will get the context to your life. I feel that the three 'C's and the three 'I's are absolutely important for someone to be called educated.
In difficult situations, what should we do in order to take control of our minds, or to reach a state of equilibrium. I would like to ask Gurudev for a very simple exercise we can practice to reach a state of equilibrium.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I think you have already led us to meditation. Let us first clear the misconception that meditation is concentration. How many of you think that meditation is concentration? (Many in the audience raise their hands). You will be disappointed; meditation is not concentration. To do any work, you need concentration. If you are driving and if you are not concentrating on the road, you will miss the exit. So, for doing anything you need concentration, but to do nothing, you do not need concentration. Meditation is just the opposite to concentration. Concentration is an outcome of meditation. So first of all, we do not try to stop thoughts, we do not fight with good or bad thoughts, or grab onto good thoughts; all that we do is simply keep relaxing. Our body is like the wick of a candle, our mind is like the glow all around it.
Second misconception is, we think our mind is in the body. It is the body which is inside the mind; the mind is all around us, and inside of us of course.
Third thing is, you have to take on the three important golden rules for meditation: The first rule is: (for the next 10 minutes or so that I sit for meditation) I want nothing. Can we say that? I want nothing. Afterwards there is no limit for your want, but just for the time that you sit for meditation, you have to remove that clothes of want and put it aside.
The second rule is: (for the next 10 minutes or so that I sit for meditation) I have to do nothing. I am not going to do anything - I am not going to chant something, or remember something, or focus on something, or anything like that.
The third rule is: (for the next 10 minutes or so that I sit for meditation) I am nothing. If you think ‘I am very intelligent’, you are stuck, you will not be able to meditate at all. And if you think ‘I am stupid’, then also you are stuck. So, ‘I am neither rich nor poor, nor intelligent nor stupid.’ So when you sit for meditation, remove all the labels. ‘I am young , I am old, I am wise, I am not so wise', remove all the stickers that you put on ourselves, and see that you are nothing.’
‘I do nothing, I want nothing, I am nothing.’ These are the three golden rules of meditation.
(A member of the audience asked a question which was inaudible)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
We all know these issues are very big. As you rightly said, there is not any specific reason for many types of conflict, because there is conflict between religions, within the religion, within the country; all types of conflicts are there. If you analyze, what we can see is, stress is the main cause of all these problems. Stress creates aggression and violence, or it creates depression or suicidal tendencies. And this is all because we have not been taught by anyone how to handle our mind.
Education is not just collecting information, it is learning to know who you are, and what is your capacity. It is learning to know the 7 different layers of your existence, i.e., the body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego, and Self. We are totally ignorant of these layers of existence, so we do not know how to handle rage or anger when it comes up within us. As I said, neither at home nor at school does anyone teach us how to handle our minds and our emotions, so it remains with people and either turns into depression or into aggression.
Today 40% of school teachers are depressed. When teachers are depressed, what would they communicate to the students? They transfer only depression! A happy person will communicate happiness to others, a depressed person only transfers depression. So we need to teach our kids non-aggression, i.e., how to have non-violent communication, and how to broaden their vision and have patience. This is where spirituality comes. You know, I feel that spirituality is different from religion. See, there was only one Buddha yet there are 32 sets of Buddhism. There was only one Jesus, yet there are 72 sets of Christianity. There was only one Prophet Muhammad, and there are five different sets of Islamic sects. And in Hinduism it is countless, you cannot even count, there are so many sects. So I am not touching religion at all. We should give our kids little information on religion and educate them, but mainly we need to tell them, ‘See, who are you? What is inside of you? What is happening to you?’
When a compliment is given to you, have you noticed that something in you starts expanding? And when you are given a derogative remark, when you have to face an insult, what happens? Something in you shrinks. Are you aware of this something in you that is expanding and shrinking? Just become aware and experience this. Now through breath you can become calmer and collect yourself, you can be centered. When you experience this, then you can understand the whole mechanism of mind, you will understand the whole mechanism of stress. This is what The Art of Living is promoting. We have people from all different religious backgrounds who take to The Art of Living course and they find their inner peace. Because peace of mind is connected with stress, and once the stress level is reduced, then you are peaceful.