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.
It is so interesting how conflicts just pop up in the world. If you see the mechanics, it is all coming from the head. It is the head which complicates one’s personality. It is so amazing to see how people can get into conflict, and can even want conflict to happen and thrive on conflict. The mind wants to create some scenes. Smoothness does not make the mind happy.
Gurudev, what brings satisfaction in life? Whatever I do finally does not bring great joy and contentment after a while.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The whole idea of finding satisfaction by doing something itself is not correct. Satisfaction comes from deep rest, by reposing deep within oneself. When you get established within your Self, then there is contentment. The satisfaction you think that comes by doing some work is very temporary and lasts only for a short while.
If your work is successful, then you feel the need to do more work. When you get more success, then that again drives you to work more. You do not feel like stopping after having success. On the other hand, if you face some loss or failure in what you are doing, then also you feel, “Oh, how did it fail despite my efforts? I won’t give up; I will try again and succeed”. You feel challenged to do more. So you want to work more and work harder whether you get success or failure. And in this process the search for contentment continues. You keep searching for contentment when you are constantly engaged in work, or in action. It is only in knowledge that you can find your true contentment. Fulfilment or contentment lies only in wisdom, and in deep meditation; not in any work or action as such.
Today there is a Ravana in every street and corner, which one do I set to fire? Every year during Dusshera we burn the effigies of Ravana but there does not appear to be any decrease in negativity and sin. The terrorists of today are also no less than Ravana himself. When will all this come to an end?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
If you only keep looking at the thorns, then when will you be able to see the beautiful flower?Even the thorny Babool (Acacia) tree bears flowers and they look so beautiful. Though this world is like the thorny Acacia tree, still there are a few beautiful flowers on its branches. Take your sight and attention to those beautiful flowers. Forget everyone else.
You should strive to overcome that negativity and inertia that is bringing you harm and hurting you. Even if there is dirt (here referring to negativity or ignorance) around you, still you should strive to blossom from within. Bloom like a beautiful lotus even if the pond is dirty. Do not trouble yourself too much with what the World is like. Instead focus on enhancing your good qualities and blossoming from within.
Everything you need is right there where you are right now, my dear, just take your sight and attention to this. You will be amazed at what you find. Instead of a blanket of thorns you will see a garden of beautiful fragrant flowers. Then you will not see the dirt and garbage around, instead you will see the beauty all around you. Instead of the violence you will see the serenity and beauty in the World.
Yes, it is true that there is tension and strife in the World today. But that is not all that is in the World. Just look at the children laughing, look at the flowers blooming around you. I tell you, there are many good people in this World. It was only in the Dwapara Yuga that there were 100 Kauravas (representing evil and negativity) and only five Pandavas (representing positivity and progress). Today there are only five Kauravas and 100 Pandavas – this is the Kaliyuga. If you only go searching for flaws and negativity, then that is all you are going to see.
Stop blaming others around you, and instead reflect on your own shortcomings first. Just think how rotten your mind has become. You should first attend to this carefully. Then you will be able to see flowers sprouting and blooming from the garbage and dirt around you (meaning that by self-introspection one will be able to find goodness even in the environment around). Do not nurture an intellect that only finds flaws and mistakes in others. Who does not have some flaws or shortcomings? If you only go on harping and focusing on the flaws and the negative, then you will also become full of that. Do you know what happens then? Then you will feel that only you are good and noble, while everyone else around you is wicked. You will be full of self-pity, and think of yourself as a poor victim of their wickedness.
Anyone who says, “People are being unjust and unfair to me”, is suffering from this very state of victim-consciousness. They want others to express sympathy and pity towards them for being a victim, and they find comfort in this. This becomes a way of attracting attention. This is a very low and poor mentality. Do you think that only you are good and all others are bad? If you think that everyone around you is egoistic, I tell you, you should first reflect on yourself about this, because only ego can recognize ego.
If you call someone as egoistic or arrogant, then what are you, my dear? Look within yourself, look at yourself in a mirror. Your language, conduct, behaviour, etc., everything would show that you are ten times more egoistic that what you suppose others to be.One who suffers from egotism or is full of arrogance is the one who goes around calling others egoistic and arrogant. They are able to recognize the ego and arrogance of others. I tell you, just be simple and natural. If someone else is being arrogant, then they will suffer the results of it. What have you got to do with it? Whenever we regard someone else as arrogant, then our own behaviour towards them becomes very incorrect and wicked. This is very natural. When someone behaves arrogantly with you, then you also tend to behave in the same way. So then it is you who will appear as the arrogant one. You will see this example everywhere. How many of you here have observed this? (Many in the audience raise hands in agreement).
We go about labelling people as arrogant. But who is really arrogant? How do you behave with someone who is arrogant and egoistic? You also become totally arrogant. So, you start behaving arrogantly because arrogance has come into your perspective. Where does humility remain anymore then?
We get entangled in useless things. We lose precious time when our mind is stuck in meaningless things and activities. You will find such characters in every family, and in every workplace. God has perhaps kept a few such people in every place to trouble and disturb others. There is a good reason behind this also. At least you will become strong from within by all this.
When you find yourself among such people, or in the midst of difficult and challenging situations, then naturally anger will arise within you, and when you calm that rising anger in you, you will become stronger. It is like an (inner) exercise. If everyone is very sweet, nice and cooperative with you, then what will happen? Whatever dirt (negativity or shortcomings) that is within you will remain as it is. But on the other hand, if you have to deal with even a few handfuls of such difficult people, then they will push all the buttons inside you and show you what flaws and shortcomings you need to overcome.
Actually, such people are in great abundance. So just think of this as a mental exercise. You will find such people in every organization and it is so difficult to even talk to them. No matter what you say, they will find it wrong. Have you ever had such experiences?
Such kinds of people are everywhere, so you need to tackle them and find your way.
Think of it as a way of cleansing your own Karma. Do not become pessimistic and lose hope because of all this. So do what you have to do and tackle them as is required.
There are four ways of dealing with any situation – Sama (Persuasion), Dama (Greed), Bheda (using secrets) and Danda (punishment). Use all four of these when required. This is called as Chaturopaya (the four ways). But before you do so, make yourself very strong from within. If you try to punish someone out of anger, then that will not work.
Gurudev, I always face a loss in business. People around me tell me that by doing more of Sadhana and Seva, I will get profits and progress in my business. I do not understand how Sadhana and Seva can help in bringing progress in my business. Please explain.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The five factors important for any task are: Kartaa (Doer), Karma (right action), Upakarana (instrument or approach), and so on. I urge you to find out the other means by yourself. I will not tell them all myself. The last factor required is Daiva (Divine grace or blessing) which we also call as luck or good fortune. Sadhana and Satsang helps increase one’s good fortune, and also burns away one’s Karma.
You should feel the freedom! (Laughter from the audience) Look at the birds, how they fly.
What is lonely? When there is nobody to bug you, nobody to ask you where did you go? What did you do? Whom did you look at? No control, no obligation, nothing! It is like being a free bird, just jump around like a bird. You want to put some music on and dance, do it!
What do you mean by lonely? Just having a partner does not take away your loneliness,mind you! There are millions of people who have partners, soul mates, who have fallen in love and married the same person, and yet they feel lonely! Many may not come out and tell you honestly, but if you ask the ideal couples, "Tell me one secret, do you ever feel lonely or anything like that?" They will say, "Yes!" The only people who don’t feel lonely are the ones who are connected with the being, with the self. One who is established in the self feels no loneliness. Only spiritual elevation can take away the loneliness, not soul mates.
Dear Gurudev, could you please tell us the significance of the Canadian Ashram, why did you choose this place? Are there any historic links?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
When I spoke on the Ashtavakara Gita in India in 1990, sometime after that I told our people that I’ll come to Canada only when we have a place of our own. I gave it to them as a challenge, because until then we had been hiring venues here and there. Everyone thought we should have a place of our own, and so our devotees went searching and Ganesh and Janice found this place. When we visited it, we found the place to be appropriate, and it is also close to Trois Rivières.
In India, a place is considered to be very sacred when three rivers meet. In fact, interestingly, the ashram in Poland is also very close to a place where three rivers meet. We somehow get such places, and that is considered to be very good. The meeting of three rivers is actually symbolic of the three energy channels (nadis ) i.e., ida, pingla, sushumna; meditation happens when they meet. And so, at a place where three rivers meet also, meditation is very good.
In this campus, we now have six lakes and three mountains. The gentleman who was building this place also didn’t know why he was creating such a campus; he even expressed to Janice saying, "I don’t know why I’m doing this!" They are a very nice couple who sold this campus to us.
Dear Gurudev, what is the significance of different shlokas that you sing after meditation?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It feels good, isn’t it that is the purpose. Infusing a little energy, and those seeds of wisdom uplift the consciousness because your consciousness knows this at a deeper level. Somewhere in our depth, we understand these chants, and in some unknown manner, it energizes, uplifts and soothes the spirit; doesn’t it feel that way? How many of you feel it, the moment you hear some chanting, you feel something soothing, isn’t it?
Dear Gurudev, is this real or is the worldly family that awaits me real?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
For now, this is real, and tomorrow that is real! This real helps you to deal with that real. (Applause from the audience)
And when that real appears to be very difficult, remember you had another level of reality in which you lived, and experienced. That very remembrance will give you the strength to carry on. Then, when you are totally drained, you can always come back here to recharge.
When will people around us recognize the significance of the subtle, unseen, yet powerful energy?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I think the world is waking up slowly; they have woken up quite some bit from where they were before. A few decades back, it was so hard to talk to people about the unseen, ethereal reality. But today, it seems much easier. People seem to get it. Anyways, there were always some groups of people who believed in something higher, something ethereal, and something unseen.
One of our ashramite boy’s father is a big industrialist. When he came and stayed at the ashram, he told his son, "You are so young, 24 only; this is the time for you to have a passion, an ambition, grow up to have a better life. What are you doing sitting in an ashram like a retired person?"
Do you know what that boy replied to his father? He said, "Dad, people are ambitious about something that is seen, visible, tangible; they want more money, a car, a plane, a little more in their life. Is there anyone who is ambitious about something that nobody has seen? Something unseen, higher, much bigger, where nobody has ventured? I am here because I want that something which nobody has seen, that something which is higher, bigger! Now tell me, who is more ambitious?" The boy’s father had to keep quiet.
These days people are much more open to the realm of the unseen, from where everything happens, from where energies uplift the planet, that which is the cause of all causes. Sometimes the path appears to be a little difficult, but ultimately it is the most comforting, fulfilling, soothing and satisfying. That which is very pleasant and comfortable in the beginning, and ends up as misery in the end (is not good), and that which is difficult in the beginning but ends up as being very sweet and pleasant in the end, is called tapas. Tapas means enduring, bearing the opposites, enduring through the toughness, so you come out successful, and that is long lasting!
One very big industrialist in India, who owned planes also, would come to Bangalore and speak to our ashramites, especially Vinodji. He would say, "I envy you, I'm so jealous of you people".
At that time, I think our people did not understand much because he had everything, they wondered how he was saying that I am so jealous of people in the ashram. Today, it is very obvious because he has lost everything. These things - position, fame, money, they all come and go, they don’t give you the stabilityand happiness in your life, which they appear to give at some point.
In the early days of this ashram, we had just one little cabin called Ganga Kutir or Sumeru Kutir? Andrew and a few others built that for me. It had just a little portable toilet, and a meditation hall. In those days, Andrew and some others worked day and night to build the Issa block, which was the first building in the ashram, and then slowly everything came up. Again, similar to the condition of the Indian ashram in the early days, we didn’t have proper amenities; we hardly had electricity. People had to carry water in buckets. Today, you have all the comforts, but there is a different joy when you are coming with such enthusiasm to do something in a place where there is nothing. To build it from scratch had its own charm.
In India, there was a big industrialist who offered me Rs. 25 lakhs (Rs. 2.5 million) to build the whole ashram for us; in those days that was a huge sum. I refused. I didn’t want one person to build the ashram, and put his name stating that so and so donated this big ashram to Gurudev. I said, "Let this place be built brick by brick by many people; let them all participate in building it, then there would a sense of ownership for everyone. Let them all feel that it belongs to them". So many people dug holes in the ground, planted trees, carried water; David was one of them. (David Watson was there when the Indian ashram was being built, right from the beginning when there was just a kutir on top of the hill; he can tell you many stories; he made the stone platform.)
Bit by bit, and piece by piece, like a puzzle coming together, our movement has been built all over the world. Even I was surprised when Beatrice took me to Tierra Del Fuego (Southern tip of South America), a thousand people were chanting Om Namah Shivayaand meditating there; it was the same when I went to Tromso, far North in Norway, where the sun just comes on the surface and goes away. I was surprised when we had people waiting there for us at the airport. I thought nobody knew us but I was surprised to find people there doing the Sudarshan Kriya weekly.
Marcy took me on a flight to Iqaluit (Canada). Do you know the story of Iqaluit? We were seven of us who got on a small plane to see the North Pole. Towards the end of the trip, there was a snow storm and our plane could not take off. This place has very strong wind; it seems when the wind comes, it even blows the steps of a house away. So the roofs of the houses are tied with thick steel ropes, like the ones used on suspended bridges, all the way down to the ground, to the steps. Suppose your house is at a height and you have about six to eight steps going to the house; if you don’t have the steps tied down with thick ropes, then your steps will be carried away and you would have to jump down from the house, there is so much wind.
When we went there, the airport authorities said the plane can’t take you back. We had gone for a day trip, so we had not even carried any clothes with us. Somehow, we stayed there, and the next day I insisted that we should leave now. When we left, halfway through the flight, we found out that the airport where we were supposed to land was closed. There were thick clouds, zero visibility and no fuel in the plane to go anywhere. The pilot said that we can’t land, and we can’t go anywhere because we have no fuel! And we can’t even see anything! Everybody said, "Well, this is the end!" But there was no fear! Just imagine the situation, the pilot was so nervous, he didn’t know what to do! He could not go back, he had no fuel, and there was no way to land since it was all so thick.
Marcy and Shirley and the others on the plane said, "Oh what do we do!" I said let us just chant Om Namah Shivaya anyway, if we are supposed to come down with the body, then so be it, and if not, only the body will go down, we will go up anyway! We all chanted Om Namah Shivaya; we were singing, and suddenly the pilot said, "Hey! Wait! I’ve found a hole in the thick clouds, I will take this risk". He jumped down through the thick clouds and landed when the airport was closed. The highway was full of thick snow since there was a snowstorm; there was no electricity when the plane landed.
The airport authorities came running as we landed saying, "You’re not supposed to land now, why did you land, you can’t land!"
The pilot said, "What do I do? I had no fuel, I can’t go anywhere!" And that is how we came back! When we came back there was no water, there is ice everywhere but no water. We did something, I don’t remember now. But see the beauty here; nobody was worried, nobody was complaining! Tell me, could there be any situation with more anxiety? People who are in comfortable spaces say, "I have anxiety, neurosis!" You should have had anxiety being in that situation!
I think we should put people who complain about anxiety in a plane, and say there is no fuel now! All the fear will disappear. What are we so anxious about? An interview or something? We were seven or eight of us in that plane and none of us were anxious, not a bit. I think I can speak up for everybody. They were all smiling, cracking jokes, up in the air, over 20,000 feet above!
How many of you didn’t know about this story? When was this? 2003! The story is in Marcy’s book! We had many such adventures, and that was really something adventurous. The person who was really anxious and excited was our pilot when he saw the hole through the thick clouds!
Gurudev, what is the parameter to call myself a good human being? Please guide me.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
An eye that can see beyond the obvious, ears that can give a patient hearing, an intellect that is free from prejudice, an intention to help those in need, and a heart that is strong and soft.
It is easy to find people who are very emotional, and say, "Oh, I love everybody". They are compassionate but have no strength in them, they cannot endure even a simple criticism, which is no good. Then there are those who just throw their weight around; they are very harsh and hard. They feel like there is a stone inside - that is not the quality of a good human being.
A good human being has the right combination of the head and the heart, the left and right brain is balanced.
Gurudev, how can one remain sensitive to anything, knowing that everything is unreal?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You cannot exercise sensitivity, either it is there or not. This is because sensitivity is beyond thought, it is at the level of a feeling, you cannot create sensitivity in you. When you are free from stress and are content, you automatically are sensitive. When you are miserable, you are insensitive.
Usually people think a miserable person is very sensitive. When you are miserable, you block yourself out. You may feel sensitive to others comments, but you are not sensitive to others feelings, it’s a one-way sort of sensitivity. Because your perception is totally colored, you are not sensitive to others, you feel vulnerable. But when you are centered, you are sensitive to others feelings.
Do you understand the two types of sensitivity? One is vulnerability, you feel very vulnerable when you are hurt and upset. When you are on your own trip of self-pity, you are ready to accept anything someone says. It does not mean that you are sensitive to others feelings. It is only when you are centered, content and calm that you become sensitive to others needs and requirements -- that is a different kind of sensitivity.
Gurudev, what is the role of death on one’s spiritual journey?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Every moment dying to the past! Unless you die every moment, you can’t live in the present.
Gurudev, how to deal with growing up and becoming an adult?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Know that it is a tough time, and it will pass. Many concepts will come; every day you will find different concepts crumbling down. When these concepts keep crumbling down, you often experience vacuums. It is the vacuums that create restlessness and confusion in you. Here, meditation will help and enhance your endurance.
Gurudev, the Vedic Wisdom course started today. We have come from all over the world. Please tell us what is the principle of Vedic Wisdom?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is amazing to see how much wisdom has been there in the past. From the Vedic Wisdom program, you will get a little glimpse of the various aspects of life and tattvas,i.e., the principles and the natural laws that govern the universe. That is what you will learn.
The first initiation for this is called the Gayatri Mantra, which is a very powerful mantra. It was kept a big secret for all these years. In certain sections of society, it was given only from father to son, it was not available to general public. People were even barred from chanting it aloud. It is only in the last 10-15 years that you have started getting it on tapes, people even sing out aloud. Before that, when we were young, when I was 10, nobody would even utter it, it was kept so secretive.
I thought everyone should now get access to this beautiful chanting. The meaning of the chant is, 'Let all our intellects be inspired by the divinity deep within us. Let noble thoughts and intuitive thoughts come up in our mind and rule our intellect. Let our intellect be soaked in the transcendental consciousness.’
It is our intellect and not just mine, since it is a collective prayer and wish. Similarly, you will understand more and more during the program. Actually, if you have to study any one aspect of the Vedas, it will take 12 years, it is that vast. But in these 4 to 6 weeks, you will get a little sample of everything. I thought people would enjoy it because this Vedic wisdom does not belong to any one religion, nation alone, it is the property of the whole planet, and the whole humanity. That is how I see it. No one can say that only one particular set of people should keep it. Although in the past that has been the case, now, it is available to everybody.
(While leading everyone into meditation during the Navratri Pooja, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar elaborates on the meaning behind the Devi Stotra)
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Chetanety-Abhidiyate; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
O Mother Divine! (You are manifest) in all the beings as the very Consciousness, in you and in everyone around you
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Buddhi-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The intellect in you and in everyone is a manifestation of the Mother Divine. Honour the intellect in you. The Consciousness that is manifest in you as the intellect is none other than the Mother Divine, the Devi.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Nidra-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi Tattva expresses itself in the form of Sleep. The Sleeping state in you is a form of the Mother Divine. As sleep, She is present in every being.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Kshudha-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
As hunger, it is the Mother Divine’s energy that is present and manifest in all the beings. Recollect your hunger and recognize it as the Devi.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Chhaya-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi is present as Shadow, as a shade.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Shakti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi is present and manifest as energy within all beings.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Trishna-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi is present within all beings as thirst, as craving for anything in the World. It is the energy of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu kshanti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi is present within all beings as restlessness, as frustration.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Jaati-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
It is the Devi, the Divine Consciousness that manifests as the multitude of particular (unique) species.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Lajja-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Devi is manifest as shyness, as modesty, in all beings.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Shanti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
It is the Devi who is manifest as the peace in you and in all beings. Anytime you experience peace, it is the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Shraddha-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The faith that is deep inside you is of the form of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Kaanti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
Wherever one sees radiance, shine and brilliance; it is none other than because of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Lakshmi-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
Wherever one sees beauty, abundance and prosperity, that is the form and manifestation of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Vritti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
All the thoughts that pass through our mind are the manifestation of the Devi.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Smriti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
Memory in you is also a manifestation of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Daya-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
Recollect the compassion that has arisen in you. It is all a form of the Mother Divine. The Deviis present as Compassion in every being.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Pushti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The contentment that you have felt in your life is nothing but a form of the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Maatru-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The sense of motherliness and motherly feelings that are present in all beings are a form of the Devi, the Mother Divine.
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Bhranti-rupena samsthitha ; Namastasye Namastasye Namastasye Namo Namaha.
The Mother Divine is present as confusion and delusion in every being..
Indriyanaam-adhishthaatri Bhutanaam Cha-akhileshu Ya; Bhuteshu Satatam Tasyai Vyaapti-Devyai Namo Namah.
The basis of all the senses and the objects is the Consciousness and that is the Devi who is present in the entire Creation, on which everything is, was and will be. This entire Creation rests upon the Devi and is upheld by her divine power. The power and opulence of the Mother Divine is manifest everywhere, in all directions. Salutations and adorations to that Infinite Power, the glorious Mother Divine!