April 21, 2010 Music unites us and meditation takes us very deep. It brings integrity in us. If you see the Indian Goddess of Learning (Saraswati), she sits on a rock. The rock is stable. It symbolizes that knowledge once learnt neither moves nor leaves. Whereas the Goddess of Wealth (Lakshmi) sits on a lotus flower. The rain comes and the flower sways with the flow of water. The Goddess of Learning sits on a rock. She has an instrument, a book and a rosary in her hands. The book symbolizes knowledge, the instrument symbolizes music and the rosary symbolizes meditation. These three aspects, wisdom, knowledge and music, must be brought into our life .
Q: How does the ’Art of Living’ relate to a person’s beliefs and practices?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You can have your own beliefs and practices because the ’Art of Living’ believes in diversity. One can follow one’s own religion and move on with spirituality.
Q: In trying times we find people are letting us down in government, business and religion. How do you think these leaders should be handled?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Compassion. Mahatma Gandhi created a brand of politicians who were widely respected. I say spiritualize politics, globalize wisdom and secularize religion. Everyone should know a little bit about every religion in the world. If everyone could learn a little about Buddhism, Hinduism, Sectism, Janism, Christianity, then the whole mosaic of religion would be available. That’s the only way we can understand each other and move on to spirituality. If every child knows a little bit about each religion, they would grow up with an acceptance of all religions.
Q: What is the most simple act of service that one can do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Service can be anything. The world does not expect you to do what you cannot do. Doing what you can do without expecting anything in return is service. There are two ways. Either we expect joy out of what we do or we do it with an expression of joy. This is the difference between a job and service.
Q: My heart and mind are often in conflict. Which should I follow?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Use each at different times. Do not do business with your heart. Do not do service with your mind.
Q: How do you know when to forgive someone?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When something starts to bother you too much.
Q: What’s your secret for having so much energy, such a big heart and so much compassion?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Simplicity. When you are not being yourself, you get exhausted. When you try to impress someone or expect something from someone, you become burdened.
Q: I’m very afraid of flying. The fear controls me. What can I do to control my fear?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Observe the sensation. Fear is the opposite of love, yet fear can transform into love. You can also go through and move beyond all these cycles by taking the ‘Advance Meditation Course’ .
Q: How can I cope with the anger that comes with seeing so much injustice to so many people?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Don’t just feel the anger. Take action. You don’t need to lose your balance of mind. Rather, you should respond. This is a skill. Be calm, and united in yoga. That is the message of the Bhagavad Gita.
Q: How realistic is it for a person to become enlightened in one lifetime?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You don’t have to be very special. You can have it right now in this room.
Q: How can I most effectively support the cause of the world peace?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I will leave that question with you because there are so many ideas. Be of service. These questions do not have one single answer.
Q: Can you please speak on the nature of sexuality?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Preaching what you don’t know or what you don’t believe in is not the right thing. People who have experienced deep understanding do not place judgement. With spirituality you have to go to another level of experience. Honor sex but move onto a higher place.
Q: How can one have a successful relationhip?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Now I am not an expert on relationships. I would advise one thing for men and one for women. Women should never step on the ego of a man. The whole world may call him stupid but you must always say that he’s the most intelligent person. You shouldn’t question his abilities. Tell him, “You are the most intelligent person. Just because you don’t use it, doesn’t mean you don’t have it.” If you keep calling him stupid, then he will become that. Don’t ask for proof of his love for you. Take it for granted that they love you. If someone has to prove their love for you every day, he will be exhausted! We shouldn’t express our love too much. Very often the problem is that we express our love too much. If you keep the seed hanging on the surface, you’ll never see the roots. But if you bury it deep inside, then also it doesn’t sprout. Keep the seed planted. That should be how you express your love. Keep the dignity of love.
Now one suggestion for men is to never step on the emotions of a woman. If she complains about her mother, sister, family and so on, never join the band wagon. You will see she will suddenly switch side and You will be the target! Don’t stop her If she wants to do some meditation, go to a place of worship, do some spiritual practices. If she wants to go for shopping, give her your credit card. You will have peace at home.
Q: Does one need to have a Guru or spiritual leader to seek enlightenment?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are asking a question and you want an answer. You want medicine and anyone who gives you medicine becomes a doctor. The seeker wants an answer, wants someone to tell him, to guide him. If someone says, “I’m not a patient but I need medicine,” and someone says “I’m not a doctor but I’ll give you medicine,” what do you call both? Anyone can tell you what you want to hear but a little guidance does help. Someone should be there to give you assurance. When you learn swimming and the trainer says “Go ahead”, you get that confidence to go. Someone who has such confidence can become your guide.
Q: How do you cope with taking on the burdens of people all over the world?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You must tell yourself that you are an instrument. You are a part of the universe. Let things come and go and they will be no burden to you. It is certainly possible and you also have that capability.