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.
We have heard of people talking about celibacy as one of the requirements for spiritual progress. Please throw some light on that.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Celibacy helps to conserve energy. Spirituality is about uplifting the energy and pleasure deplete energy and leads you to inertia. This not only applies to celibacy but to the five senses also. When we overdo it, how exhausted one becomes. For example food - if you take little food you feel energetic and you can meditate, but if you eat too much, you do not feel energetic. You feel dull and feel like lying down. You feel a sort of inertia has overtaken you.
Similarly, sex can lead you to heavy inertia. Spirituality is against inertia of any sort, whether through food, or watching two movies consecutively, or TV.
Watching anything for too long can cause inertia in the brain. One never gets that bubbling enthusiasm of energy from over-indulging the senses. So, eating, touching, seeing or smelling, any of these done excessively can cause inertia and that is not congenial for spiritual advancement.
If you ask me, as a couple, if you should never have sex at all to move forward in the spiritual path, I'd say that is not the case. It is not a hindrance when it is in moderation. In excess, it is a disaster. Suppression is also not needed. If you have that feeling and you are trying to suppress it, it is not natural and can create the same inertia. As spiritual growth happens, celibacy is a spontaneous thing because you are already in a state of peace and you need not rub yourself against another body to get some experience. There is a natural outburst of energy inside of you and celibacy has happened. If you ask me personally, it is not something you practise with force, it is something that comes to you naturally and it happens to you. Either through age because as you progress in age, sex does not attract you as much as when you were a teenager. Or past life samskaras (impressions); if you have been a yogi in the past, it does not create the urge or taste in you. Or the third thing is, if you are moderating your intake of food, you are not indulgent, then also you can have a say over it.
Lust has created humungous problems in the world and many crimes have happened or are happening today because of uncontrolled lust. It has spoilt relationships between people also. One of the reasons for bitterness in the world is the lack of control over oneself. With lack of spirituality, what happens? The intense joy or pleasure one experiences with your partner can turn bitter and cause much more heartbreak if there is no wisdom. This is what is happening all over, isn’t it? Someone has given you intense pleasure and if you have no wisdom, you will find them to be the cause of intense misery also. If you feel miserable, do not look at the cause, point at the one who has given you physical pleasure.
So, it is the wisdom that takes you away from misery. Observing at the sensations within you, whether pain or pleasure brings a different view altogether about the entire phenomenon.
Please tell us about Jesus and your connection to him.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Jesus is love and we are all love. Everyone is made up of love but many don’t realise it. I know it and that is all. In fact, if you have studied the Upanishads and read what Jesus has said, they are many strikingly similar things. It is a fact that Jesus spent 12 years in South India studying ancient Vedic knowledge. And so, when he was doubted by the doubting Thomas, Jesus said, “You go see for yourself.” So Jesus (though it is not in the recorded Bible anywhere) said to him many times to go to India and see for himself, from where he got his wisdom.
Thomas travelled to India, landed in Kochi and he started a communion. They are called Marthoma, they wear saffron robes but are different from the Roman Catholics. He started his teachings there, and from there he travelled to Mylapore in Chennai where he stayed for several years, studied the Upanishads and meditated there and even died there. Even today you have a church there where he is buried.
I want you to remember that what you know as the Bible was not written by Jesus at all. It was written 70 years after Jesus passed away. If I tell you something now and you write it down seventy years later, just imagine how many changes could have happened to it. When the Dead Sea scrolls were found, they found many teaching of Jesus on breath, food, meditation, etc. But those were not taken by the Church because those days the idea of the Church was to open more centers and to gain power and to rule the continent. To rule the continent you need to have different laws, just spirituality will not help there. You have to be worldly-wise. You have to make laws which are not right also. And that is how there are many interpolations of the Bible. The Protestants rose against this as they found that this was not correct and there was lot of corruption, and the rest is history.
There are seventy two sects of Christianity of which each one claim to be authentic. I am so surprised to hear that Protestants will never enter the Catholic Church and the Catholics will never go to Protestant churches. The Protestants will not go to the Seventh-Day Adventist churches, nor even marry among themselves. The amount of strict division among the sects of Christianity is appalling. It shows how much ignorance has entered in this field in religion. Don’t you see this? So, you need to make a distinction between Christianity and Jesus, and go into his principles when he says "Know that I and my Father are one"; "The kingdom of heaven is within you"; "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Just take the philosophy, the example of living love, expressing love, committing to do service - then it is altogether a different story. But if you want to see Jesus through the Church, then there are many questions that would come up.
I have nothing against the Church, I just want to bring it to your notice that the Church was against science, it was against rationality. It did not follow the principle of non-violence, turning the other cheek which Jesus has always stood for. We know about the Spanish inquisition, about what happened in Goa. How many hundreds and thousands were killed and forcefully converted. There are such events in many parts of the world. Fortunately today, the Church has woken up to all the past mistakes and has reformed itself. The Church now welcomes inter-faith dialogues and multi-faith celebrations. They have accepted that there are many ways to one truth which is a big step. I congratulate them for that. The fanaticism is much less and in many places it has been removed. But still there are some sects like Born Again Christians and Southern Baptist who are still very fanatic. I was shocked to see the way they tried to convert innocent people in India. When the children are travelling in the bus, the driver will stop the bus and then ask the children to chant their own Gods' names. As they chant, the driver will try to start the bus and the bus will not start. He will then say, “Now chant the name of Jesus, pray to Jesus", and when they do it, he will start the bus. This makes the villagers to believe that Jesus is the only true God and the other Gods are false. This type of brain washing is being done by some of the Evangelical groups.
A couple came to me when I was in Shillong and they were literally crying saying that their children were taken away by the Church. They said that the children think that the parents are devil worshippers, and so they cannot participate in the festivals as it is devilish. The parents are from a very respectable family and they were crying and telling me, “Gurudev, you know we celebrate Diwali and we are joined by all our family and friends since long".
Just imagine if your own children get brain washed and say that celebrating Diwali is a devilish thing to do, what will happen to you? This type of indoctrination, this type of fanaticism is wrong understanding.
Do you know, they would ask the people to bring the pictures of all the Gods and Goddesses, put them on the floor and walk on it. So, these poor villagers, they do this because they are given some money. The next day they feel so guilty to go into a temple because they stepped on the picture of Buddha, or Krishna, or Ram and denounced it all. They find themselves in a spot that even if they want to go, they feel afraid to go because they did a wrong act. These are wrong things people do in the name of Christianity, in the name of Jesus.
Similarly, people are doing so much wrong in the name of Islam. Islam itself means peace, but because they are brainwashed they think that when they kill people who do not believe in Allah, they will be rewarded with heaven. Just imagine! These people think that others have no right to live on Allah’s planet because they do not accept him, and so they are evil people. Look at the world from their eyes- they feel they are doing the right thing. If you are a faithful person of that religion and you are getting brainwashed like this, what would happen? What is happening? It is not one or two people here and there who is doing this mis-interpretation, the whole world is burning from this menace. So, that’s why I say, we have to move away from the fanaticism of religion and move towards spirituality which unites everyone. Takes the good things from everybody and then meditate, become hollow and empty.
I hear a lot of gurus. Is it the same knowledge, just in different ways?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
No, they are all different paths. It is better to be in one path otherwise you will get confused. Respect everybody but do not read too much of everything, because one will say something and the other will say something else. Their roots are the same but their methodologies are different.
If you are not satisfied, ask the Guru and the Guru will guide you to go on another path. If they have not given you any experience at all, there is no point in holding on to them. But you should have faith and give enough time for that.