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.
In our World Cultural Festival, there were many challenges, many things seemed impossible. One was the seven acre stage that had to seat 8,500 artists. All the artists had to sit at different levels, else nobody would be able to see them. And then 36,000 artists were to perform a dance on it. We had to have this 60 feet high and seven acre large stage, and the venue was a river bed. It was the only place from where commuting was easy; train stations were close-by, and many roads led to the venue. When we decided to build a stage there, I put a lot of conditions to it, I was totally against doing anything that could harm the environment. We used no cement and no bricks because we couldn’t go deep (given that we were on a river bed). I told them that the stage should just be on scaffolding. Everyone thought it was impossible. When the stage came up, some environmentalists got so nervous. They thought it would disturb the environment because we were building a stadium-like structure. And when the architects and engineers came, they said that this was so dangerous, and that nobody can stand on this stage. But the stage withstood a lot; we had 40,000 people on a floating stage! When the stage was removed after a month, there was still grass underneath it.
When the Prime Minister’s security team came, they said that they can’t let the Prime Minister go on the stage as it had too many people on it. Security guidelines do not permit more than eight to ten people. Also, the stage had no foundation. So, eight hours before the event, we built a separate stage for the Prime Minister.
There was also a high terror threat, so the security teams were screening almost every corner, since 15 terrorists had entered Delhi. I am saying all this now (laughter). One of our teachers who was issuing passes said that five people came in plain clothes saying that they needed 50 passes. They said, "We are from the Intelligence Agency. We need 50 all-access passes". Since teachers and volunteers are meditators, something stuck this teacher and he called the Intelligence Bureau and asked them if they had asked for passes, as some people had come to collect them. They responded saying, "No, we have not sent anybody from the Intelligence Agency". By that time, the five people who had come ran away. They fled the moment they realized we were talking to the Intelligence Agency. They were some communists who wanted to sabotage the event.
Every volunteer was so enthusiastic, there was not an iota of distress or lack of conviction. On the first day, it rained a little bit, On the second day, it became very slushy and some of the buses got stuck at the venue. Our whole organizing committee came to me and said, "Gurudev, shall we shift the venue to a smaller place, which can hold about 15,000 people?" We had all the religious dignitaries coming, and there was a weather forecast for thunder storm and 96% probability of rain, which is very high! They said, "Gurudev, it will become a mess, there could be a short-circuit; what do we do?" I heard them out. Usually, whatever the committee says, I agree with them, I don’t put my foot down. This was one occasion when I heard them and said, "No, I am going to go there only, whether it is a thunder storm or hurricane, I am going to go and sit there! If you want to come, you come!" Finally what happened? All the clouds withered away. We had a great time. And on the third day, the weather was perfect.
The program was watched by 1.8 billion people live on the internet, which means, one-third of the humanity on this planet watched it. What is the one message that we brought to this big population? We are one family! Our languages, dance, culture, eating habits, may be different, but we are part of one great world family. This is the purpose of any celebration - to bring everyone together, to unite the hearts and minds of people. This can also be the mission of our life - to unite everyone’s heart and mind. Our job is to bring everyone together because it is in our nature. We are not doing a great act or a favor to anybody, it is in our nature. If we have just this one conviction in us, then backbiting will disappear from our life.
For good or bad, fortunately or unfortunately, backbiting is one thing that has entered the human psyche, through our education or lack of it. It may be a strand of ego, or ignorance, or insecurity. This person talks bad about that person, that person talks bad about this person or about another person. We keep these things going in an ignorant society. In an enlightened society or a happy society, you tell other person of the mistakes they are making knowing that they are part of you. I am not saying that you have to be all goody-goody in a world that is not all good. If you have terrible pain and yet you say, "I am fine, everything is fine!"that is not correct. If there is pain, you say that you have pain. You have to be authentic, at the same time, you should have no bitterness.
My goodness, look at all the decoration that has been done! I think you all get bored looking at me, so you want to look at something more. This decoration is for all of you to look at and enjoy; it is not for me, your smile is good enough for me.
Cooking is an art, presenting it is also an art, arranging flowers is an art; appreciating life is an art; appreciating the world is an art! We need to honor and respect the world with its diversity; this is the need of the hour today. If people honor diversity, there will be no violence in the world.
We must just grab any excuse to celebrate life -- celebrate life, for anything, it doesn’t matter. What happens when there is celebration? Energy levels rise and all the baggage that we carry from the past in our head drops away.
What happens when there is celebration?Energy levels rise and all the baggage that we carry from the past in our head drops away.
Celebrating is not just cutting cakes, bringing balloons, lighting fire crackers or opening champagne bottles, that is not celebration. Celebration is when your spirit wakes up from inside, it is when you are totally in the present moment, at peace and in love -- that state is what celebration really is, and what comes out of it is creativity.
In the world, a million occasions or chances come to pull your enthusiasm down. This is what happens; you talk to somebody, they try to put your enthusiasm down. You pick up the newspaper and read, there is something that puts your enthusiasm down on every page. How many of you agree with this? You switch on the television, and crime is always big news, and you wonder where is the world heading, where are we going, what is happening? When you keep reading negative news only, you can’t celebrate, your spirit goes down, and doubts come up. It is here that we need to uplift our prana, our life energy. When prana becomes higher, then depression vanishes. When it becomes even higher, you feel good and enthusiastic. And when prana is at its peak, then there is celebration.
Once, someone in Washington was going around saying that he is working for world peace. He was a single person, standing at the Washington monument with a plank that said, "I am working for world peace, join me". Hardly anyone joined him. Someone asked him, "Do you really believe you can bring peace to the world when there is so much violence happening around the world. Do you think you can influence the world?" He said, "I don’t want the world to influence me, that is why I am saying world peace! I am not bothered about whether I will be able to influence the world or not, but I don’t want the world to influence me. I stand for peace, and I want peace in the world". This is what we must bear in mind; if your enthusiasm and spirit is high, don’t let it be put down by any person, circumstance or situation. In life, ups and downs come, not every day is the same! Once you determine that nothing whatsoever can put down your enthusiasm or dampen your spirit, then you will see that’s how things will move.
For just one month, just try these two things:
1. Be determined - come what may, whatever the wife, or husband, or spouse says, I am not going to lose my smile. If he says, "You are looking too fat", I am going to give him a big, fat smile!" Your determination works!
2. Speak with conviction - Often, we try to convince people that something is good, yet it doesn’t work. We tell people that breathing exercises and meditation are good, eating healthy food is good, but they don’t do it. People know some things are bad, like smoking, drinking, worrying, still they can’t give that up! Even having known that something is good, they are unable to do it; knowing something is bad, they are unable to give up. If this is the situation, then your convincing somebody doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, isn’t it? So I would not convince anyone to do anything, it is better you don’t convince them, but your conviction works!
Singing is not only through the lips, our heart should sing, the song is of harmony. When you feel harmony within you, life becomes a song.
I want to share an incident with you. Several years ago, there was an expo in India, and The Art of Living also had a stall. There were these two gentlemen who were going around all the stalls, and they came and enquired about our program too. It was already late, around 9 pm. The person at our stall was quite tired and about to windup. He responded saying, "Look, I have no idea, I don’t know, you also don’t know. Just sign up and do it!" These two gentlemen felt that there must be something really good in this program. At all the other stalls, people spent so much time trying to convince them, and they didn’t sign up. But at our stall, they did sign-up. I am not saying that you should tell everyone that 'I don’t know anything and you don’t know anything, so let’s do it'. If a doctor gives you medicine and tells you, ‘Well, you can try this; maybe it will work, maybe not.’ Then you may also take it or not! But when the doctor says, ‘This will definitely work’, you just take it. That is the conviction. When you get that conviction, the impossible becomes possible.
I loved your tweet about spontaneity and impulsiveness. Could you also talk about righteousness and 'rightness'
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
"Often one confuses spontaneity with impulsiveness. While the former is the secret to success, the latter has only caused disasters. Spontaneity arises out of clarity, intuition & response, impulsiveness is only emotions & reactions.The way to change is meditation."
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Righteousness is associated with strong perception. When you believe in your perception, then you feel righteous. What you consider 'right' is only a perception.When you realize this, you see another dimension because the perceptions keep changing.
A particular situation can be considered right from one perception, and wrong from the other perception. This is where the conflict begins because to you something is correct and to the other person, it's not right. So it is very interesting to see that when you have an open mind, you perception changes. When your perception changes, your fixed notions change. Then you have an altogether different scenario. Every time you are angry, know that it is because of righteousness. People who feel that they are righteous, they have tremendous temper and less patience. In a mature mind, when you have become more wise; of course you are righteous, but you go beyond righteousness. When you go beyond righteousness, you see everything in a different light altogether. Ascertaining righteousness, I would say is a weakness. Being righteous is good, but when you ascertain it, I would say there is a weakness somewhere.
If I am suffering from inside, can I still stay happy and keep a smile on my face?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know life is like a 'Thali'(plate) in which you have something sweet, something salty, something pungent -- all different tastes are present. Like this, in your life you have little sadness (maybe you have lost something, or lost money), yes that pinches but if you just hold on to that pinch only, hold on to that pain only, then life cannot go on. Unless you are so well soaked in wisdom, in spirituality, you will continue to have some little grievances here and there, and if you stop smiling because of that, you will find the world to be a very depressing place. You should keep smiling, having a strong hope that whatever pain and suffering that you have inside will vanish, anyway it doesn't matter. One should have the wisdom to bear discomfort and move forward with a smile.
You have mentioned that the education is essential in order to combat terrorism. Could you please shed light on how we can educate someone who doesn't feel the need of being educated?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Skill. This is where your skilfulness comes into play. How skilfully you can manoeuvre the situation. Education is not just the technical education. When people say that education is the antidote to terrorism, I don't agree with them because when you see, the biggest terrorists on this planet are all highly educated. One of them was an engineer, the other was a doctor and even today all the terrorists that are caught are not illiterates. They are technically educated and qualified in modern standards. But what they lack is spiritual education. Here we need to be very specific. It is the spiritual education, which broadens the mind, enhances one's ability to honour and respect everybody and everyone's religion. Spiritual education gives one a very compassionate heart. That type of spiritual education is needed, and not just education.
Meditation is often called 'Turiya avastha', where wakefulness and rest exist simultaneously. If this state is so efficient, then is it possible to stay in this state for longer period of time and not just during the 20 minutes of meditation ?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, you take shower only for ten minutes, but the freshness stays with you the whole day. Meditation is like that. If not the whole day, it stays for at least half a day, till you take the shower again.
Gurudev in all these years of teaching, have you seen any difference in people from 30 years ago to now?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Oh yes! On one level, everything is changing -- people's thinking has changed from place to place and from time to time. Change is a constant thing. At another level there is one thing that is running throughout; that has not changed. A lot has changed and a lot has remained unchanged. Both exist in this world.
Gurudev could you please speak about the great Jupiter transit that is happening tomorrow.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This keeps happening every year and planets are changing all the time. You don't have to worry about all of this. Yesterday only I told you that, for a 'sadhak' everyday is a good day; every time is a good time.
(Below is the summary of the first day's discourse on the 11th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the 13th August 2016 at the Bangalore Ashram)
A deluded mind cannot come out of delusion on its own, it can happen only through grace; it needs a holding hand. Someone who is drowning in the water, cannot jump out of the water because he is drowning. If he could swim, he would have swam. Since he cannot swim, he is drowning and he needs some help.
"Mad-anugrahaya paramam guhyam adhyatma-samjnitam. Yat tvayoktam vacas tena moho 'yam vigato mama" (11.1) "Bhavapyayau hi bhutanam srutau vistaraso maya. Tvattah kamala-patraksa mahatmyam api cavyayam" (11 .2)
Arjuna says, "I was drowning in this Samsara, in this world, deluded, and you gave me a helping hand and took me out of this. I am so grateful. Your grace has saved me. You have taught me the secrets of spirituality. I cannot thank you enough. You have told me about your qualities. How you are everywhere. How you are not just the body. You have explained to me in many ways that you are the eternal spirit"
The more knowledge you gain, the more inquisitiveness arises in you. This is the sign of a good seeker. See the dichotomy here. One is contentment; I am so thankful, grateful to you that I have come out of delusion. There is a certain contentment. Yet, there is a spirit of enquiry: "I want to see your multiple forms. I want to see you more. I want to see your divine form. You have told me about your form, but you have not shown me your divine form. I want to see that divine form".
"Manyase yadi tac chakyam maya drastum iti prabho. Yogesvara tato me tvam darsayatmanam avyayam" (11.4)
What Arjuna says in the next verse is very interesting. He says, "Only if you feel that I am fit to know, then you tell me. Show me your form if you feel that I am fit for it, if you feel that I am capable of beholding your form, only then show it to me." This indicates that spiritual knowledge has brought contentment, but has also kept the spirit of enquiry alive, and a total confidence in the teacher.
The formless is now talking and it is bridging the gap between the form and the formless. The formless is one and the forms are many hundreds and thousands in number. In this dichotomy of the one formless and the millions of forms, one needs a special angle or eye to see that, to perceive this and to comprehend.
Krishna says, "Though I am formless, I am in all the forms. My forms are not one, but many millions of them. In all shapes, in all forms, I am there. See me everywhere. This is Vishwa Roopa".
"Pasyadityan vasun rudran asvinau marutas tatha. Bahuny adrsta-purvani pasyascaryani bharata" (11.6) "Ihaika-stham jagat krtsnam pasyadya sa-caracaram. Mama dehe gudakesa yac canyad drastum icchasi" (11.7) "Na tu mam sakyase drastum anenaiva sva-caksusa. Divyam dadami te caksuh pasya me yogam aisvaram" (11.8)
He says, "Look here. Look at me. The Suns (adityas), all the Devas and all the Bhutas, everything is in me. In the Universe there are objects which are moving, objects which are stationary. Those that are conscious, those that are not conscious. So the conscious, unconscious, moving, and immovable, all these forms and shapes, everything is in me. To see this you need a special eye. You cannot see this with the normal eye. I am going to give you the eye to see this".
"Evam uktva tato rajan maha-yogesvaro harih. Darsayam asa parthaya paramam rupam aisvaram" (11.9)
Sanjay is the commentator. He is seeing from his third eye as well. Sanjay is sitting in the palace, so far away from the battlefield and he is giving commentary to the king of what he has seen. This is the narration of Sanjay, who is sitting in a palace, narrating what's happening in Kurukshetra, a few hundred kilometers away from Hastinapur.
Sanjay says, "Arjuna sees that divinity now with many forms. He is not seeing Krishna in Krishna's form. He is seeing all the forms at once".
Krishna has just become like a TV box. In the TV tube, you see everything. In the same way, the body has become transparent now. But in the body, he is seeing many forms. All the things he wanted to see, he had imagined, or he had not imagined, all those things started appearing.
"Pasyami devams tava deva dehe sarvams tatha bhuta-visesa-sanghan brahmanam isam kamalasana-stham rsims ca sarvan uragams ca divyan" (11.15)
Arjuna says, "Now I see all the divine forms in you. The Rishis are in you. All the Sages of the Universe, I see them all. And I see no beginning, no end, or no middle. Every form in the Universe is your form."
This is something very subtle to comprehend. It is a very subtle thing. You need to comprehend with full attention. The world is Divinity. The Divinity and the world are not two separate things now. It is one. There is no beginning, no end, and there.
"Aneka-bahudara-vaktra-netram pasyami tvam sarvato 'nanta-rupam nantam na madhyam na punas tavadim pasyami visvesvara visva-rupa" (11.16)
Arjuna says, "I see so many hands and so many eyes. I get so many visions. It is creating goose bumps in me. All these forms, the entire Universe is nothing but you, in you." That is why it is Vishwa Roopa -- The world is my form. And see Me in the world and see the world in Me -- then you have seen the Vishwa Roopa, you have seen the Universal Form.
When an experience of that intensity happens, it becomes hard to handle. And this is what is happening to Arjuna. Arjuna says, "I cannot look. It is too grand for me. I cannot see. I am disappearing. Something is happening. I am dissolving. I cannot see any more. It is too much to take. You are the imperishable. That which is worth knowing. If you have not known this, there is nothing else worth knowing. You are the holder of everything, that is imperishable. The space in which everything is, is imperishable. That is what you are. My Goodness! I never knew this before."
"Tvam aksaram paramam veditavyam tvam asya visvasya param nidhanam tvam avyayah sasvata-dharma-gopta sanatanas tvam puruso mato me" (11.18)
Arjuna says, "In your form, I see the formless. You are eternal. You are the Being."
The seed becomes a tree and then the tree becomes a seed. So the fulfillment of the seed is in becoming a seed again. Unless the seed becomes a tree, and tree bears fruit, the seed is not complete and the cycle is not complete. From a seed to a seed is the whole journey. It starts with one and becomes many seeds. In the same way, the human life finds its fulfillment when it realizes the vast nature of its being; when it realizes that 'I am not just the body, I am more than the body. I am not just an individual, I am much more than that'. This alone can bring fulfillment. Till this awareness comes, there is restless inside.
The way to get this fulfillment is through three things: 1. Awareness (Bodh) 2. Unity (Yog) 3. Love (Prem) These are the three ways for the seed to realize its total potential. Awareness means being aware that everything is a dream. Wake up and see the dream nature of everything. 'I am nothing', 'I don't need anything', 'I belong to everyone', 'I am everybody' - that is Bodh. Union (Yog) is that which cannot be expressed in words. It is only realized in the experience. Realizing that everything is one and I am That is Yog. Love again cannot be tied to words. It is our true form. It is not a feeling. We often think that love is a feeling, this is wrong. This is why people always get entangled in it.
Look back in your own life, do you have an experience of your own birth? Do you remember? No! At the age of two or three you suddenly started realizing some things in this world, I won't say everything. Then by the age of four years, you start realizing your identity. But if you are asked, "Were you really born?" You don't know! We were there, that we all know. It's a really abstract thing but it's really very concrete. Let me give you an example. You make a pot out of a ball of mud. When you make the pot, the space inside the pot is born. But can you say that the space was born? Can you say that space inside the pot was created? What was created? The boundary of the pot was created, but was the space created? No! Now what has value? The mud has value or the space inside the pot has the value? Nobody buys space and neither does anyone buy a ball of mud ball. What you buy is the space within the mud. That has some value.
Now, the same is with human life. It has ability to expresses the infinity. The infinity is anyways there, but it has no value. Life is also there on earth but it has not same as human life. It is human life which expresses infinity that brings total satisfaction.
How to do you express infinity which is anyways there? Through Awareness, unconditional love and union. When the small mind realizes I am united with infinity, that is called Yoga. Not just doing exercises. When the small mind realizes that 'I am no longer the small mind, I am part of the big mind '. You know in uniting also it appears that there are two things that you are trying to unite. This is a recognition that I am part of the something big. This is a step towards Aham Brahmasmi.One step before that is 'I am part of it'.
In the golden ages the king was a judge, an administrator and also a servant. He played all these roles. So, a king was very impartial. Politician, judge, administrator -- all these roles were played by the king. But when values started deteriorating, the impartiality of the king was questioned and the judiciary had to be created as a separate entity. So, a separate judiciary system was created because the quality of impartial judgment fell down, and judiciary became a separate entity and the king became separate. When values further deteriorated, the king and the administration became separate. So the politicians, bureaucracy, and judiciary -- these three roles which were played by one person in the beginning when everything was very harmonious, fell through and three different departments had to be created. This is basically a trust deficit.
Above politics is judiciary, so if judiciary is affected by corruption and clogged by bias and favoritism then that indicates the dark ages. So at any cost, in every country, in every continent, one must protect the purity of judiciary. If judiciary is in place, then people don't have to fear. Today, good people are afraid of judiciary, and those who don't follow the laws, the judiciary don't care about it. What do you call these people? Scofflaw - people who do not obey any rules or care for the rule. So when criminals are not afraid of laws but the good people are afraid of laws, then that does not indicate good days. It is of utmost importance that the judiciary of every country help the people, because when injustices happen in the society, whether through society or by government, the only recourse people have is judiciary. And if judiciary does not give justice to people, or people are afraid of judiciary, this does not indicate a healthy society.
I remember one of the chief justice of Supreme Court in India said, "God alone can help this country". Another chief justice said something similar. And another chief justice broke down and said, "I don’t know what I can do. It is not just in one country, I think everywhere this issue is cropping up where the judiciary's impartiality is coming under question". Now how can someone be impartial without a spiritual wisdom. If you’re impartial, you are a yogi and you are spiritual. If you don’t have impartiality then you cannot just take a position of a judge. So, in the ancient days, when King used to give the judgment, on top of the king was a Raj Guru. If the king makes any mistake, there was a Guru of the king who would come and tell him, "Look, your judgment is not correct. You have to do this again".
I think today we need wise people almost everywhere to advise those who are administrating the society. the lawmakers, the administrators and the judiciary -- this is the need of the hour. What do you think? How many of you feel the need of the hour? (Many in the audience raise their hands). The need of the hour is to protect the impartiality of judiciary. People go to court and they’re so afraid of going to court because it may take them so many years to get justice. There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied". And this keeps happening over and over again.
Today, in America, the issue is between people who are hopeless and people who are helpless. One community feels hopeless and another community feels helpless. It’s a swing between hopelessness and helplessness. The minority community feels hopeless, they don’t see any hope, and the majority community feels helpless, and so the division keeps expanding. Only spiritual knowledge can bridge the gap and bring people together, instill confidence and remove insecurity.
See, to be impartial one needs that ethical background. People say, "No, I want to do what I want to do, Why should I be impartial?" Why should someone be impartial? Why should one do the right thing? It is because everyone is part of you. When you see that the people of both sides (of a dispute) are part of you, you can't but be impartial. Do you see what I am saying? If you see only the people on one side as close to you, the other as alien, then you can’t give justice, you can’t be a judge. A judge is one who is impartial. And why should he be impartial? So that he delivers justice. And how can one give justice when he does not feel equally connected with both the parties? Is it possible for him or her to give justice? No! So, who can be impartial? One who is a yogi can be impartial. Someone who is centered can be impartial, because he finds everyone equal. Whether someone gives him compliments or derogatory remarks, he remains impartial.
When can you be impartial? 1. When you have nothing to gain and nothing to lose you are impartial. 2. When you feel equally connected with everyone, then you’re impartial. 3. When you think about the welfare of everybody, and are looking at the larger good, then you’re impartial. 4. When you are spiritual, you’re impartial.
Does compassion makes you impartial? Compassion is always towards the weak. Towards weaker people you feel compassion. But if the weaker one goes wrong, then your judgment will go wrong. Then you will do injustice to the stronger one.