April 20, 2010
So often in our life we say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ to people without really meaning it. It's almost like air-hostess saying to you ‘have a nice day’ when you get off the plane. The air hostess greets you but does not mean it. The same words coming from someone dear to you carry different vibrations and presence. In fact we convey almost all thoughts through our presence and very little through words. A baby conveys the vibrations of love like nobody else. Your puppy at home expresses such love that no speaker can express. We are all endowed with this presence yet somewhere our presence has got muddled up. This is because we are stressed. Neither at home nor at school has anyone taught us how to cleanse our presence. If we are angry at home, we carry that angry vibration to the office. When we are upset at office that thing lingers in our system and comes back home with us. We're unable to let go and be like a child again. Now how do we get back to our source? How do we cleanse our presence? This is what meditation is all about. It's the movement from sound to silence.
Many believe meditation is concentration or a lot of effort. Meditation is not concentration. It is the opposite of concentration. If you want to drive anywhere, you need concentration. If you have to simply relax at home though, there needn’t be an effort. You don't need concentration. Meditation is deep relaxation and not concentration. So if thoughts come during meditation, we don't try to chase them. The more we chase them the more they come. If you want to get rid of a thought it won’t go easily. It will come back stronger. So we take another strategy. If bad thoughts come we give them a hug. We shake hands with them. Then they disappear. If good thoughts come we give them a hug, then they become quiet. Whatever thoughts are coming, we don't try to stop them. It's an effortless process.
There are three golden rules for meditation. The first is you say “I want nothing.” If you say “I need to drink water or change my position,” then meditation cannot happen. When you want nothing, then you also do nothing. The second golden rule is “I do nothing.” You only breathe. Do not make an effort to think “I want nothing” and “I do nothing” - Just an effortless attention. Then the last one is even more important, “I am nothing.” If you think you are very wise there is no way you can meditate. If you think you are very stupid then also meditation won’t happen. If you think you are rich, forget about it. If you think you are very poor, no way will you be able to meditate. So what are you? Nothing. “I am nothing. I want nothing. I do nothing.” After meditation you can again be something. It is your choice, but during meditation if you think you are somebody great or somebody hopeless, there is no way you can settle down to that deepest core of the being. To settle into that consciousness of which all of us are made up of, this must be our initial step for meditation. It is the journey from sound to silence.
Today we'll use the sound ‘Om’. ‘Om’ means eternal peace and unconditional love. So we will say this sound ‘Om’ three times and create the vibration of peace and love all around us. That is inner peace. When we have that inner peace, we have patience and our perception improves. Our observation and expression become better. Often we end up saying “nobody understands me.” We never say ,“I haven't expressed myself better.” Our expression improves with meditation. That's the magic of meditation.
There are people who would ask what does meditation do? It can bring about a violence-free society. Today is the 11th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Both the victim and culprit need to know how to relax their minds. Neither at home nor at school does anyone teach how to get rid of negative emotions. They rise and you are stuck with them. The ‘World Health Organization’ predicts that the second biggest killer in this next decade will be depression. Cancer will be the biggest killer followed by depression. Meditation is essential to deal with this. The Pranayama, yoga, Sudarshan Kriya and meditation can bring such a transformation.
If every child learns a bit about every religion in the world, they won't become fanatics. They won't say, “oh, only I have the truth.” They will recognize that there is truth in everything. Otherwise something would be lost. This is what I call globalizing wisdom. Nokia in Finland makes telephones but those phones are being used by people all over the world. Similarly Danish cookies are known throughout the world. Though the sitar is from India, everyone listens to it. Yet when it comes to wisdom people shrink. That is the cause of terrorism in the world today. If even a small part of this globe is left thinking that only they possess the truth, the world is in trouble. We are not going to be in a safe place. There will be suicide bombers. So we need to globalize wisdom. We need to educate every child in a broad spectrum. Every child should know a little bit about the Upanishads. You know, great love is present in the Upanishads? It is unimaginable. There are great things in the teachings of Buddha. Everyone should know a little bit about Buddha and his teachings. Everyone should know a little bit about Daoism, about what Jesus and Muhammad have said etc. One can follow ones own religion but still have a broad mindset. If you're a Jew, you continue being a Jew without it stopping you from understanding the other wisdom and philosophies in the world. This would impact our lives in some way. We've globalized potato chips and Coke, but not wisdom. We need to do that. If even a fraction of what we spend on defense goes towards educating children about non-violence and peace, the world would be a different place.
Then Sri Sri led the audience through a meditation
Q: How can parents raise responsible children and make the experience joyful for both?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Teach them how to make one new friend each day. Don't give them all these violent video games to play with. There is an ‘Art of Living program’ for children - Art Excel '(All Round Training in Excellence). Children really enjoy the program as they learn through games. In Europe it is known as NAP, Non Aggression Program. Children who are very aggressive become happy and friendly. For parents we conduct a program called “Know Your Child.”
Q: What are those things a person needs to be committed to in order to grow as an individual?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First there should be commitment to the greater good of the society. I don't have to say that you have to be committed to your own greater good. You already are. If at all you want to take a commitment, make a commitment for the larger benefit of mankind, that one commitment is good. And that too is already there. When we are free from stress, we are naturally committed to the betterment of the society. There is still more work to be done in societies where violence is handed over from one generation to the next. They especially need education about non-violence.
Q: What are some habits that would promote success?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First you need to define success. Having a big bank balance and no sleep is not success. You may have lots of money but have diabetes, high blood pressure and all other health problems. That is not success. You may have lots of money but be filled with fear and anxiety, you may not have friends and that is not success. To me success is measured by your smile. How much of your life is filled with smiles and how much can you contribute to others? How much courage and confidence do you have in your own ability? You mustn’t be worried only about your own future. Money is needed in life but life is not all about money.
Q: What is your definition of love?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Love is that which cannot be defined. It can only be felt. It is that which we cannot understand.
Q: Why is it becoming increasingly important to save the planet earth?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Because we are increasingly exploiting the planet earth more than what it can recuperate from. As individuals we can each do something to help the planet. You can be part of some service project like planting more trees, creating awareness about not using plastic bags. You can meditate everyday and put your attention on these issues. When we have an intention and put our attention on that, it will start manifesting. We don't use the mind power that has been bestowed on us by nature. It is the greatest gift we have been given.
Q: How can senior management get the most out of their teams for maximum performance?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Art of Living Foundation teaches the APEX course in corporate environments. It has been appreciated all over including the World Bank.
Q: We’re living in a time with a lot of talks about scandal and fraud even among spiritual teachers. How can we distinguish real spiritual teachers from frauds?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is becoming increasingly big in India and there are also stories like this in Europe. It is so disheartening. Yet I tell you, though sometimes a train gets derailed but we do not stop travelling by train. Planes crash but we don't stop flying. There are some people that slip or go in strange directions out of temptation or intention. It is unfortunate. I would say if a spiritual or religious leader does something wrong, he should get double the punishment as anyone. Not only has he committed the crime, but he has disrespected an entire school of thought or institution. Such leaders should come out on their own. Having made a mistake they should come forward and apologize. If they cover up, they should get three times the punishment. Being on a spiritual path and covering up wrong-doing indicates a lack of faith and sense of belongingness. In such a case you are harming your own soul and spirit.
This is nothing new. In the Ramayana(an ancient Indian scripture), Ravan was a famed saint and yet it was he who abducted Sita. Even in the medical field there are doctors who steal kidneys! You would have heard of people who bring distrust in every field. Let's not become prejudiced or take an opinion about it. We should move on. I'd rather be compassionate than condemning. Ok they have made a mistake, now let them come on the right path. Inside every culprit there is a victim crying for help. Even in the worst criminal, there’s a scar, wound and dissatisfaction. We have to heal that victim and then the culprit will disappear.
Question: How do we deal with extreme grief and loss?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Through meditation and Sudarshan Kriya, you will see how the grief gets vaporized.
Q: Is it really possible to be stress-free in this world?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I am stress-free here in this world and so are many others. It is possible. You would have been like that as a child. I tell you, you can have this. You don’t have to wait till old age. I tell you it is possible now.
Q: Is violent action ever appropriate?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: A conscious action taken to curb violence may appear to be violent itself. In fact it is not. However, I am not for capital punishment. I feel there is a chance to bring reformation in every body. Have compassion for the ones who do hurtful things and have no remorse. Have compassion for their lack of education and recognize that there is a victim inside the culprit.