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.
How much importance should we give to Vastushastra?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, Vastushastra is definitely a science in itself. This science was conceived and developed in the ancient ages, and it is a part of the Vedas. But as of today, it is not available or accessible to us completely. It was written down on palm leaves and stored in the ancient universities and libraries but a lot of those documents (palm leaves) have been destroyed by termites and rats. A major part of this knowledge is therefore no longer fully available to us. This is why nowadays you find that someone or the other develops and markets his own ‘brand’ or concepts about Vastushastra.
Just remember one thing: no matter what may be the doshas (problems) one may be facing because of improper Vastu construction, the highest power above it all is grace, and it can be remedied by chanting Om Namaha Shivaya. All problems and negativity drop off by chanting this mantra.
Some basics of Vastu are quite self-explanatory. For example, since the Sun rises in the East, so one should keep the main entrance of the house facing the East so that the rays of the rising sun enter the house. So, one can have the main entrance door of the house in the East or in the West. One should not have the main entrance of the house facing the South. The reason behind this is that in the earlier days, the cremation grounds were always located in the South direction. In the South of every town or city, there was a huge cremation ground where dead bodies were burnt. So to prevent the air that blew from that direction from coming into the house, the main entrances were never kept facing the South. Nowadays it is not so. In some cities today, if the cremation grounds are located in the East or in the North, then you cannot have the main entrance of the house facing those directions. If you take Russia’s example, then for Russia the Sun is in the South direction, so in that country you will find that the homes there have the main entrance facing the South so that more and more light comes into the house. So there is a separate Vastu for homes in Russia.
The Mount Kailash is present towards India’s North-east. People considered it as very pure and holy and associated a deity known as Ishana with that direction. It is similar to how it is for the Muslims and the direction of Mecca. Across the world, Muslims face the direction of Mecca and offer their daily prayers. The Muslims in India face the West when they read the Namaaz (reading of the Holy Quran), while the Muslims in Jordan, Lebanon etc., face East because for them, Mecca is in that direction. In Vastushastrastrong emphasis has been given to the Sun and its direction. Going by this understanding, the Vastu being followed for Australia or South America will be totally different owing to the difference in the direction of the Sun as seen there. So these rules and theories in Vastushastra have been formulated keeping these aspects in mind.
Another thing to note is that the Vastu of a public place is very different from the Vastuof a temple, a shop, or an Ashram, etc. This is how Vastushastra has been conceptualized, but we have very limited knowledge and texts available to us about this science. Many documents and scripts relating to Vastushastra were either destroyed or burnt in the libraries of Nalanda University, or during the times of Aurangzeb. It is said that during Emperor Aurangzeb’s time thousands and thousands of manuscripts and books were burnt in the open, and the fires kept burning for six months. Whatever books remained were destroyed by termites and rats. In those days the scholars andpundits were not very generous at heart when it came to spreading knowledge. They would restrict teaching the knowledge of these sciences to their disciples and children in their ancestral line only, so that the knowledge remained secret and limited to these families only. Due to this narrow-minded approach, not everyone could gain access to this body of knowledge or share it with others.
Vastu is just one of the many sciences. Just see how the same thing has happened for Yoga as well. Some 40-50 years ago, Yoga was not taught to everyone. In those days if you wanted to learn Yoga, you would have to go to a special teacher or a Yoga expert. Yoga was not something everyone practiced routinely in their homes in those days. Even Pranayama was not taught in those days. There are so many elders sitting here who are more than 50 years old. Tell me, was it ever taught so commonly and publicly in those days? In those days people belonging to a specific caste or background only were taught Yoga. The teachers would not open the doors of Yoga to just anyone.
We have lost so much precious knowledge because of being so rigid and conventional in our ways in India. Only a few people were instructed about one or two Pranayama and breathing techniques at the time of Upanayanam (sacred thread-wearing ceremony) by a special pundit who was called to conduct the ceremony and rituals, and that was it. No one was taught anything after that. It was even worse for the ladies because they were never taught Pranayama or Yoga. It was thought of as a taboo for the ladies. Have the elders ever seen any lady doing Pranayama in those days? It was almost impossible for a lady to learn this. It is when we started the Art of Living Foundation, we opened the doors of Yoga and knowledge to everyone, and by doing so we broke away from these rigid and obsolete norms that were followed earlier. For the first time in many years, we raised our support for women also being equally capable of learning and practicing Yoga and Pranayama techniques. So the Art of Living Foundation took up this unique opportunity of making this knowledge accessible to the women as well. Yes, a few Yoga teachers used to teach these techniques in those days too, but to a very small extent. It was just a handful few. So this was a major reason why this knowledge remained limited to a few people only. But one need not worry too much about this. Why? It is because once we go deeper into meditation, then whatever comes to us during meditation has everything that we need for our progress.
Last week we had a discourse on the Vignana Bhairava (an ancient and sacred scripture said to elaborate various methods to meditation and Samadhi set as a dialogue between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati). I too had not read it earlier; but when I went through it, I realized that so many of the techniques mentioned in the scripture were already what we were practising in our Advanced Meditation Programs here. The kind of meditations described in the scripture was already a part of the Advanced Courses here. I said it seems as though this scripture gives a stamp of approval and correctness to the techniques we have prescribed in our Advanced Meditation Programs. The techniques prescribed in such an ancient and authentic scripture are also being practiced as a part of the Advanced Meditation Programs. The essence is the same. So when we become Antarmukhi – when our mind turns inwards to its source (Self), then whatever realization dawns upon us in such a deep state is also in complete agreement with that which is mentioned in the scriptures. There is no difference. There is a saying in India which means that whatever comes from the mouth of a realized Guru and the knowledge that is mentioned in the scriptures – both are one and the same. There is no difference. This is the real point you must understand.
What can we possibly give you as a gift on your birthday? Gurudev, you have everything already.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I need many pillars of knowledge. I want you to really live the knowledge and also work to see that more and more people come onto the path of knowledge. There are a number of things you can do, such as being a part of the recent Sri Sri University. We are developing one of the best universities in the country with a lot of emphasis on human values. So, the University should grow and be able to cater to the needs of hundreds of people. You can be a part of spreading Yoga and Ayurveda throughout the country. There are many many such seva initiatives and a number of activities you can be a part of. Or you can also be a part of improving anything here in the Ashram. You can mention your ideas and suggestions.
Gurudev, with more and more people coming into the Art of Living family, you are becoming more and more busy. Earlier you used to spend quality time with individual devotees, but now it is so rare. Please spend some personal time with us.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Listen, the quality of time I spend with you has not reduced one bit (laughter). But yes, the quantity of time spent has come down for sure. Even when I meet someone for just a minute, I meet them 100% and am totally with them. If I even see you in a group, then also I see you 100%. So you cannot complain about the quality of time. At the most you can say is that the quantity of time has reduced. That is anyways going to be insufficient for everybody, including the secretaries at my office. They often tell me, “Gurudev, you are not giving us enough time and there are so many things to do”. People say that the ones who work in the secretariat are the biggest complainers.
Gurudev, I feel like a puppet in the hands of the Divine, due to Karma, sickness, pain, old age and death. Where is my freedom?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When you have this deep realization that none of this is you – be it sickness, pain, old age or death, then that is freedom. This afternoon when we all meditated, so many people felt relieved of body aches and pains, isn’t it?
If one becomes dispassionate, then the family members think we are ignorant and neglectful. Please specify the fine line that differentiates the two, and how can we answer to the family in such situations?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You cannot go on answering everyone’s questions or responding to their opinions; or trying to correct them all the time. If you are true to yourself and you know that deep down you care a lot for them, then that is good enough. You should walk your path and be sensitive to others’ needs. You cannot please everybody all the time. Once it so happened that a man was sitting and reading a newspaper. Someone approached him and said, “Why are you sitting?” The man replied, “Oh, do you not like me sitting and reading? Okay then, I will stand and read”. After some time another person came to the man and said, “Sir, why are you standing?” The man replied, “Oh, do you not like me standing? Alright then, I will start walking”. A third person told him, “Sir, why are you walking and reading?” The man replied, “Oh, do you not like me walking? The footpath is built to walk, isn’t it! Fine, let me start running then”, and he started running. When he was running, a fourth person asked him, “Why are you running?” The man stopped and started crying. He said “Oh my God, you people do not even allow me to run!” Another person came up to him and said, “Why are you crying?” The man said, “People do not allow me to sit, stand, walk, run or cry. What do I do?” Life becomes miserable if you try to follow everyone’s instructions. Got it?
My dear Gurudev, we often commit mistakes and when we do so, you punish us. But when we do not realize that it was a mistake, what do we do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Listen, I do not punish anyone. I do no such thing at all. You simply bear the effect of what you did. That’s all. There is cause and effect. If you overeat too much food, then I will not punish you. It is you who will get a tummy ache, or you get diarrhoea or constipation. That is the effect of what you ate. Got it? I would say, learn from your mistakes and move ahead. Do not sit and keep cribbing or brooding over it. Where is the time to turn behind and cry over what is past? Look forward and march forward.