Saturday, November 30, 2013

An Intimate Note to the Sincere Seeker

September 27, 2013

Bangalore, India

Below is a transcript of what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said at the Bangalore Literary Festival. The festival was designed to bring the focus onto the literary heritage of the city and to transform Bangalore into the hub of Indian Literature. The event honoured the creative spirit of the city while providing a common platform for interaction between the finest literary brains in the world of literature; both within and outside India.
It is nice to be here with you in this literary festival.

Literature and spirituality have a long relationship. If spirituality is alive today on this planet, it is because of literature. Most of the literature that is prevalent, read and practiced, at least in this country, has some spiritual connection.
Again, what is spirituality? Is it something out there, or is it something practical? I would say that anything that uplifts the spirit is spirituality. In the sense that, every literature that uplifts you, brings a smile on your face, gives you that much needed relaxation, or some confidence when things are crumbling, or some faith when all is shaken and lacking, I would call it spirituality.
In fact, I would say that all poems come from that space which I call spiritual. It all comes from an inner (spiritual) plane, or the intuitive awareness.

The book, An Intimate Note to the Sincere Seeker, is an outcome of dialogues that I would have with a group of youth, every Wednesday, for seven years. We would ask each other some questions, discuss some topics, churn an intellectual debate, and with whatever came up, we would make a knowledge sheet from it.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Vade vade jayate tattvabodhah’, every debate brings forth an understanding of principles. When we debate on our experiences, something very beautiful comes out of it. So, debate is definitely a part of literature, and spirituality.

A deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the sign of a spiritual experience.

In the Art of Living, we take the help of the breath (since the breath and mind are closely linked) to bring that much needed relaxation for the body and mind. This is helpful for people who face the writer’s block. So if you are a writer, when you sit to write, do some breathing exercises and relax. You will see that suddenly the Gyana Nadi, as it is called in Yogic Science, (i.e., a particular channel of energy), opens up. Then you are able to write, and the writer’s block just vanishes.
So, spirituality is very useful for writers to be innovative, intuitive and creative.
A few minutes of deep silence can enhance our ability to express ourselves much better.

Can you observe what is happening to you right now? Can you read in between the words? Can you feel something is settling down in the mind?

The rat race that is happening with our thoughts, when it slows down, something wonderful starts happening within ourselves.

Writers usually prefer to be with nature. Do you know what really happens when you are with nature; be it at the seaside, or the mountainside, or in the garden? Something slows down within. That is when your entropy goes down, and creativity comes up.

This is exactly how the writer’s block opens up for many people when they go on a retreat, or go to some quiet place.
When you sit and write something early in the morning, you feel much better because of the atmosphere or the ambience that is around you. We can create this ambience wherever we are, and at our own will, we don’t have to be somewhere. We can calm this mind just by attending to our breath.

When I started writing in 1972, I was 16 years old. One of my very close friend’s fathers, was a very famous writer called Gopal Krishna Adiga, and many times, we would just sit and chat with him. We were surrounded by people of eminence who inspired us to do something.; I would tell them that after reading their books or poems, I couldn’t write anything because whatever I felt, it was already written!

So, for young and budding writers, I would suggest that you don’t read many big books. Instead; you go and watch some paintings.
Painters should not go and see other’s paintings. I would suggest that they read books, so they can paint well.
Sometimes you feel someone has written so well that you can’t write better than them. Whatever it is that you want to say, has already been said and done. This is exactly the feeling I got when I used to read some of the works of Krishna, Adiga's, or Dr. D.V. Gundappa’s Mankuthimmana Kagga. They have written about things that many of us have experienced.

Literature plays such an important role in instilling common sense in people. It can also create prejudice and wrong notions, and it can also make someone’s mind very narrow. We have seen what has happened in China and many other parts of the world. It is all through literature that a set of ideology was imposed, and a large population has suffered; millions of people have died by adhering to those parts.
Chhattisgarh, a place I am to visit today, is an area afflicted by Naxalite activities. It also has its own literature. The Naxalites believe so strongly in it that they quote Napoleon, and say, ‘Violence is the way!’

I told them that Napoleon didn’t ask anyone to vote for him! He went and acquired the kingdom with his strength; so we have to work on our own strength.
This sort of brain-washing or infusing of an ideology towards violence has happened on the planet. On the contrary, the same has happened with peace also; the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others are based on peace, perseverance, patience and spreading love, which is far more essential today.

Literature can lead people astray from peace, and it can also bring them peace. It can create a sense of anger and frustration, or a sense of belongingness and love. We all know this.; I am not saying it should be one or the other.

Life is very complex and it can be complete only when it has all the aspects. Any literature should have a little bit of sarcasm, skepticism, thrill, something for people to ponder on rather than give them everything on a platter.
People should come up with their own ideas. Individuality should grow in literature. It is my opinion that literature should lead people to individuality rather than mass hysteria or an idea. It should allow people to think for themselves, to come up with creativity, to come up with their own ideas, and at the same time, honor the universal human values.

To the sincere seekers, I would like to give them a note, seek the highest!

Seek life beyond what it appears to be, beyond the perception of our five senses. Look into the mystical aspect of life, which is prevalent in every one of us. You don’t have to go somewhere, you can simply see life in a bigger context.
Ask yourself, who am I? What am I doing? What do I want? What is this universe about? What is all this about? This enquiry within you makes you a seeker. Every literate person, I feel, should be a seeker. Seeking should not end.
Seeking begins in life at a very early age. A three year old child starts asking questions, and this should continue our whole life, where we want to know, where we want to see what the truth is, and what life is; to understand this complex idea called human life; to understand the minds of others, and one’s own mind!
Putting attention on these faculties that we have been bestowed with - the mind, intellect, memory, ego, and something beyond, from where thoughts come will make our life so much richer. Prejudice should be done away with. An open minded approach to any field, I feel, is real common sense.

I am a professional writer. Should I write stories for the commercial market or should I stay faithful to my own art, write what I deeply feel about, which possibly may not sell?
Sri Sri: Why do you have to choose between these two? Why don’t you do both? Write for commercial purposes, and write something that is very immortal, to go for times to come.

(Ans: But Gurudev, I have an identity. Either I hold on to my identity, or have two identities.)
You can have more than one identity. Why do you want to be stuck with one identity? You can do this and that. I feel there is no conflict.

Gurudev, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
Sri Sri: Knowledge is what is up in your head, and wisdom is what is in your life; that which has come as your experience is wisdom. Knowledge is what you have heard and acquired by reading and listening. Knowledge is like reading the menu, and wisdom is having eaten that!

Spirituality is the need of our country. The reality is that it is limited to the rich, and the ones who can afford it. What should be done so that every common person who may not financially be able afford it, gets to experience it?
Sri Sri: Spirituality has nothing to do with money; absolutely not! Poor people can benefit from spirituality as much as the rich people. In fact, we are doing programs in so many villages, nearly 40,000 villages in the country, and in slum areas. 

When poor people take to spirituality, they really take it sincerely. They get out of the habits of drinking alcohol, and drug abuse. 
We have also conducted programs in jails. So, I do not agree that spirituality is only for the elite or rich people, it is for everybody. However, if something is free, rich people don’t go towards it. If they have to pay something, then rich people go. Then they think there is something to get out of it. This is the psychology of the rich people.

Gurudev, over a period of time, there have been various emotions that have brought forth great literature, but those have been of negative emotions, like pain and longing and it does not feel apt. I feel one can go into greater levels of the positive side. How can I use both?
Sri Sri: You must remember that people are very different. We are not in a homogenous society, we are in a very heterogeneous society. Even within an individual, he is not the same throughout; his moods change, his feelings change. 

For example, when someone wants to listen to music, sometimes they listen to music that is very jarring, sometimes they listen to music that has longing or melancholy. People’s moods change; when the moods change, the type of literature they pick up at that time also changes. Personalities are different, and they enjoy different things.

In India, in the ancient days, there was a concept of navarasa, nine moods. A literature is said to be complete when it has all the nine moods; anger, valor, a sort of desperation, sadness. All these different moods attract people at different times. Some people like humor a lot. Some others would not like to read humor all the time, but they would like to read, as you said, literature that touches your heart, or makes you cry, or makes you a little more emotional. You need to cater to all sections of society, and genuinely, what you feel at that time, you must express it. 

You can’t force yourself to be humorous; you can’t force yourself to write a love story, or a love song. If it is not coming from within, then your efforts, I think, may not be as fruitful, as they should be.

If appreciating a work of art or literature is emotional, i.e., it moves a person, then isn’t it more emotional than cerebral?
Sri Sri: Literature cannot be emotional only. If it is only mushy-mushy, then people will not like to read it. Reading is an intellectual job, it can’t be too dry, like reading a technical book, then it will be very boring. Literature should be a combination of a little bit of emotions and a little bit of intellectual sharpness; like modern poetry, which has an intellectual angle. It stimulates your intellect, and kindles and sparks the much needed emotion. I think all successful literature has both these aspects.

Sir, I have read many times that desire is the root cause of evil. I tried to conquer my desires, but I don’t know what to do next!
Sri Sri: This is another desire! To conquer desire is another desire, right?

Sir, I have very few desires, but what next, in the path of spirituality?
Sri Sri: : In the path of spirituality, what is next is contentment. When you have contentment, you are not burning with some small desire. If at all you have a desire, you have a very big desire, like, I want everyone to be happy, I want the whole world to be peaceful. These are the desires you should have! 

Small desires should become bigger desires, and bigger desires don’t bring you tension. Only small things bring you tension.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Naalpe sukham asti yo vai bhumaa tat sukham’. 

The mind always goes for something that is bigger; some bigger joy, bigger bliss. It is its nature, you cannot avoid it. The mind wants to have something bigger, and spirituality gives you that bigger joy, bigger happiness. 
There is one kind of happiness that you get by taking; as children we all have it. However, a grown up person has happiness in giving; like a mother at home. She enjoys cooking for everybody, but when she is all by herself she doesn’t make five or ten different varieties of food and eat. She never does that. She will have a cup of tea or coffee and munch something. So there is the joy in giving. Authors and literary giants have this joy that I gave something to society, I wrote something. There is a joy in it; go for that.

Gurudev, spirituality has become a buzzword amongst many people. Everybody wants to say 'I meditate, I am spiritual'. What is spirituality?
Sri Sri: We are all made up of both matter and spirit, right? Our body is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals. The spirit is made up of creativity, peace, love, joy, anger and all these emotions. Spirituality is attending to the spirit; who am I? Am I this body? What are thoughts? What is the source of thoughts? What are these emotions? What is the source of these emotions?
Going to the source of thoughts and emotions, finding that still space in you, is spirituality. Then, you will find that is what everything is made up of!
If you are a Quantum Physicist, I tell you then you are a spiritualist also. You can’t separate these two! Because a quantum physicist also says the same thing, i.e., this whole universe is made up of just one thing. He understands this, and a spiritualist says it in with experience, ‘Yes, whatever I am that is what everybody is made up of. We are all one. The whole world is one organism.’ 

This understanding gives enormous confidence, peace and unconditional love. Everybody has a bit of spirituality in them. There is no one on this planet who is devoid of spirituality.

How does one qualify to become a spiritual leader?
Sri Sri: Is there a way to become a spiritual guide? I don’t think so, and I don’t know. I don’t know if there is a way at all! You may ask me how I became a spiritual guide. I just know that whatever I learnt, I kept sharing with other people, that's all! 

One thing I have maintained is, I am not going to speak about anything that has not come in the purview of my experience. So whatever was there, I kept sharing with people.

In the same way, each and every one of you is a spiritual teacher; consciously or unconsciously, you are teaching everyone. You are teaching by your good deeds, and you are also teaching others through your mistakes. When you make a mistake, not only do you learn from your mistake but a whole lot of people around you are learning from your mistake. So, being a spiritual teacher is unavoidable for you on this planet! You don’t have to change your dress and put on a dhoti-kurta, or a spiritual dress, or have longer hair; this is not necessary! If you are able to smile, genuinely; if you are able to feel love for everyone, then not only you, but others will also feel the same for you. It just makes your life very rich. It opens up a door to another dimension. If you are a meditator, you know it and will agree with me as well.

Gurudev, is destiny bigger than determination? For example, if someone is destined to become a manager, can he become an actor?
Sri Sri: Hold on to your dreams, one day, it will come true. 

I was also a student in this same city. I thought I should go around the world and unite people of all countries as one family. People thought I was crazy! When you have some vision like that, people definitely think that you have lost it! However, if you hold onto your dream, one day it will come true.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Way To Forgive

November 12, 2013

Bangalore, India

Gurudev, is there any limit to forgiving or asking for forgiveness? Is there any governing principle for this?
Sri Sri: Forgiving someone shows one’s compassion. Asking for forgiveness shows that you recognize your mistakes, and that you resolve not to repeat them in the future. Now to say, 'Only if he/she asks me for forgiveness will I forgive them', this is of a lower form of forgiveness. The highest form of forgiveness is to realize that the other committed a mistake out to ignorance, and having a sense of compassion for them. Forgiving others with a sense of compassion is the best for of forgiveness. 
Cultivating this sense of forgiveness in oneself is a mark of being noble in character.

Gurudev, how can we control fear?
Sri Sri: Fear is what you feel when you think you have no support. When you feel separate, you feel fear. 
There is a beautiful saying in Sanskrit, 'Dvitiyadvayi bhayam bhavati'. Fear happens when there are two (meaning when there is no feeling of belongingness). We simply need to recognize our origin, our source and get connected to our higher Self. Then fear simply vanishes. It only needs this recognition that, ‘The Divine loves me very dearly; the Infinity is with me and all of Nature is a part of me. There is someone to care for me’. 
Just these thoughts and positive affirmations are enough to make that fear run away.

Gurudev, in yesterday’s meditation you said that almost everything is irrelevant. Can you please explain this further?
Sri Sri: That is in meditation. When you go into meditation, you should consider everything irrelevant. Only then can you become quiet. But do not think this when doing some activity. During activity, everything is relevant.

Gurudev, why was the Kumudvathi river chosen to be revived? How many villages benefitted from this?
Sri Sri: See, we have to begin somewhere. So we chose one river and started work. There are so many rivers that have dried up, and we are taking up the relief work gradually. For example in Maharashtra, we took up relief work for the river Dharani and five other rivers. In Karnataka, we chose three rivers to start work with, of which the river Kumudvathi was one of them. 
The Kumudvathi project involves 268 villages as it will provide water supply to all of them. And 60% of the water shortage that is faced by the city of Bangalore will be solved by this. This is what our scientists believe.

Gurudev, a related question. Should we do something to keep those rivers that alive from drying up?
Sri Sri: For rivers that are still flowing and have not dried up, we need to protect their water from getting polluted. There is so much work that needs to be done to fight water pollution. We all will have to join in and contribute towards this cause. 
Rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna need to be saved from pollution. This should be our aim.

Gurudev, will doing Sudarshan Kriya and regular Sadhana (spiritual practices) solve all my problems?
Sri Sri: You first do it and see. If they get solved, then that is good. 
At least you will not be at any loss by doing sadhana. It will give you the strength to face those problems and overcome them. You are only going to benefit by doing sadhana. There is no loss or harm that can come to you by doing sadhana. 
By sadhana, either your problems will ward off beforehand, or you will gain the strength to solve your problems.

Gurudev, is it necessary to eat a healthy, low fat diet?
Sri Sri: You know, there are so many theories nowadays. At first people used to say that you should eat only low-fat, or no fat diet. Now they say that our body converts anything we eat into fat if we do not eat fat at all. So they say you must eat a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet. There are so many different theories now. But the elderly Ayurveda doctors say that you should eat fat. They will often advise you to have a lot of butter! So there is a lot of confusion about what one must eat and what one must not eat. You should listen to your body, and have that which suits your body.

Gurudev, there is a constant struggle between responsibilities and my personal desires. How do I create a balance?
Sri Sri: Well, when you say that is a constant struggle, then just let it be. When anything becomes constant, you get used to it. Then it is no longer a struggle. But anything is a struggle if you are not used to it. 
If you are used to something, then you cannot be without it. Got it? So first of all, you need to take back your words that it is a constant struggle. If it is a constant struggle, then you do not even feel it is a struggle.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why A Mantra Is Kept Secret?

October 17, 2013

Bangalore, India

Gurudev, why is a mantra given as a whisper; so secretly? Does the mantra loses its power if given in open?
Sri Sri: You know what psychology says, if there is anything in your mind that is bothering you, speak it out. Bring it to the field of expression. Then you are free of it. 
We want the mantra to stay inside. We don’t want it to be in the field of expression. We want that mantra to remain in the mind and take the mind deeper. So for your mind to go deeper, you need to have a mantra which is not in the field of expression; which is secret. That is why it is given secretly. A secret stays deeper in your heart, deep in your consciousness.
So mantra is a vehicle for the mind to dwell deeper into the consciousness. That is why it needs to be given secretly. The mantra given to me may be a very open (common) mantra, but my mantra (the one given to me), I keep it a secret so that I can go deeper into meditation.
This is the idea from ancient times. It is so scientific.

There are mahamantras that everybody can chant loudly. But a personal mantra is what one has to keep secret. That is what we give you in the meditation course, i.e., the Sahaj Mantra. You keep it to yourself and don’t bring it into the field of expression. But other mantras like ‘Om Namah Shivay’, and 'Om', these can be chanted loudly. They enhance the vibrations.

Gurudev, in Gita, Lord Krishna speaks about swadharma and paradharma, whereas in Mahabharata period, there was no religion other than Sanatana Dharma. Could you please explain this?
Sri Sri: Mat and Sampradaaya (sects) are different and Dharma is different. You are confusing the two. Sampradaayameans traditions. Dharma cannot not be translated into any other language. It is the nature of the individual. If one had to translated, the closest translation is one's righteous nature. So Dharma is your innate tendencies, your inborn qualities. So when Lord Krishna says, 'Swadharme nidhanam shreyah', he is saying, be with your inborn tendencies and inborn qualities and don't just imitating others. Being natural, being in your own nature is Swadharma.

Gurudev, what is atma and paramatma and what is the relation between the two? And who are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva?
Sri Sri: It is said that in the beginning there was just energy. That one energy, that one Divine light thought, I am alone, let me multiply into many. Eko'ham bahu syam (I am one, may I be many), and it assumed the form of Para Shakti (Mother Divine). Then from that came out three energies, i.e., Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The creative impulse, the protective impulse and the transformative or destructive impulse. So three streams of energy that are called Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. That is why it is said, in the beginning there was just one Omkar (the primordial sound). And the Omkar became 'Aa', 'Uu' and 'Ma'. We think 'Aa', 'Uu' and 'Ma' together made Omkar, no! Om was the beginning, and this one impulse expanded into three different impulses or devtas (deities).
So one paramathma or one divinity multiplied into many so that this diverse creation can come into play. 
All the scientists say in the beginning there was only one amoebiasis. From one amoebiasis all the species in the universe have sprung up.

Gurudev, you have said that everything changes in this world. I want to know if knowledge also changes from time to time. We have been reading the same Bhagavad Gita for several years. Is it still relevant?
Sri Sri: Knowledge has different levels of understanding. 
At different states of consciousness knowledge reveals a different aspect (of itself). Knowledge does not change, it is there, but it gives you a higher meaning when your consciousness opens up; when your consciousness blossoms.

Gurudev, in today’s world, America is going through an economic upheaval which is affecting so many other countries. Is there some karma that affects nations as a whole as well?
Sri Sri: America took a very wrong step when it went to war with Iraq. It spent one billion dollars every day for so many years. For five to six years, America kept spending one billion dollars per day. Can you imagine, trillions of dollars were spent in this war on Iraq to find the weapon of mass destruction which was never there? So it drained itself of a lot of resources. Naturally there is a big crisis now. 
But I want to assure you, America will come out of this crisis. We don’t need to be too worried or concerned about it.

Only thing is, America should not venture for another war somewhere. 
See, dialogue is the way. Iraq has gone from bad to worse. Today Iraq is in such a bad shape. There is bomb blast every single day. People are killed every day. Is this democracy? Is this a new change that anybody would have welcomed or liked? 
These are the lessons. These are the big questions we need to look into.

America lost so many soldiers, and so many soldiers who were in the war are so traumatized. Nobody has gained from this war. World has not gained. America has not gained. Iraq has certainly not gained anything out of this war. Instead if there was a dialogue, countries like India could have played a big mediation role. Could have cleared many misunderstandings. Anyways that is a thing of the past. But learn from this past mistake. In future, know that weapons or war is not an answer for peace. In fact, the intention of war is to bring peace. But it becomes completely opposite.

Gurudev, some religious doctrines differentiate between soul and spirit. It is said that the soul is banished when the person dies and only spirit is incarnated. Reincarnation is only for humans who have ego. What is the Vedic interpretation?
Sri Sri: The Vedic idea is very close to the scientific theory of thermodynamics, i.e., energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Body goes back into the planet as the five elements. The spirit which is energy remains with the spiritual body. The spirit, then again out of the impressions that it left the body with, comes back. It finds a suitable body and comes back.
Today the question of re-birth is established beyond any doubt. Today many clinics of the world use past life regression as a therapy to heal people and bring wellness to people. So this question whether rebirth exists or not is proved beyond doubt. I tell you, it is there. I know it is there, so I tell you with authority. If you ask me, prove it. I cannot prove it to you, but I tell you it is there.

Gurudev, what is the significance of chanting the mantra 108 times? Is it better to chant a mantra 10 times with concentration than to speedily chant it 108 times?
Sri Sri: You already know this! If you can do it slowly and with concentration, it is better. Even if you do it fast, then also it is fine. At least you are doing it. Do it any way.
Now why 108 times? Because there are nine planets and twelve constellations. When nine planets revolve around the twelve constellations, it brings 108 kinds of changes. If there is anything wrong in these changes, it can be rectified with the positive energy of the mantras.

Gurudev, you say that two questions will be asked in the end, how much love we gave, and how much knowledge we took? I have always taken love and given knowledge. What will be my fate now?
Sri Sri: At least you have understood this much!
All this time you have enjoyed giving knowledge, now start taking knowledge and giving love. How much ever love you have received, give more than that to other, and you are done. The car has taken a 'U' turn then. It was going in the wrong direction, the driver realized his fault and changed the direction.

Does it mean that we stop sharing knowledge? No, there is no need to stop. Continue giving knowledge. Whatever you receive, you give that. And give that knowledge with love. Don’t give it to inflate your ego. That person needs this knowledge, share knowledge with this intention.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Question & Answers

Q: Gurudev, you have said that our ancient scholars never allowed our sacred scriptures to become limited or relevant only to one particular place or time. In that case, are these scriptures just stories told by these scholars, or are they real life events?

Sri Sri: They are all true events. But even while writing about these true events, our scholars did not allow the narratives to become specific or relevant to one place or time alone. This is the specialty of our scriptures.
It is like how someone was asked to write a poem that would hold true for all time and be relevant everywhere. If you write a poem only for a particular event or festival, such as Diwali or Holi, then you can sing that poem only during that time. You cannot sing the songs for Holi during any other festival, isn’t it? Such songs are for special times and specific occasions.
But some songs are such that they can be sung at any time. So our scriptures were written keeping in mind that they should be relevant everywhere and at all times.

Q: Gurudev, you had tweeted two days back, ‘Celebrate with the inner stillness amidst all chaos and take full responsibility. Awaken the little Krishna in deep rest, because it is time to get witty, seriously! Inculcate wisdom playfully’. Please speak about this.

Sri Sri: Yes, celebrate with the inner stillness amidst all the chaos outside. So when there is chaos outside, you find that inner stillness.
Wisdom should not be a burden on the head. It should be very natural. So you should become playful through wisdom. Got it?