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.
Dear Gurudev, what is the main mantra or key to happiness in life?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The key to happiness in life is to not stay stuck in 'I…Me…Mine' (meaning one’s own personal desires or material gains). Dedicate your life to some larger goal, or to the service of others around you. Then you will find that only happiness flows through your life.
The second thing you need to remember at all times is this, 'There is someone (the Divine) who loves me very dearly, and is taking care of me at all times. He cannot be without me and He is all capable of removing any lack that I have'.
Knowing this too brings such joy in one’s life.
See, when it comes to doing things in life, you cannot possibly go on doing something or the other all your life. Also, you cannot do something which is beyond your capabilities. So all your actions are limited by your capabilities and by time.
For example, a new-born child is not able to do many things by himself until he becomes 5-10 years of age. Until then he is dependent on others for many of his needs. In the same way, when we grow old and become 70-80 years of age, we find that there is very little that we can do on our own. We again become dependent on others around us.
This intermediate time in our lives is when we are capable of doing something. And in that time period too, we will still be able to do only as much as our capabilities allow us to do.
The same person cannot become a doctor and an engineer and a bureaucrat all together at once. He can only become of these three. So everyone has different capabilities, and the limitations that time places on each person are different (meaning depending on the age of a person).
Everyone has different strengths. There is a limit to our capability also. You will not be able to do something today, as well as you could do it 10 years ago when you were younger, isn’t it so?
What you are doing now, is something you will not be able to do so well, after 20 years from now. So we are dependent on both time and our capabilities.
But when we remember this – that there is a Supreme power which belongs to us so totally, which is capable of fulfilling all our needs and wishes, and which is with us at all times – then this strong faith alone can keep us happy at all times.
It does not matter what you call this Supreme power, whether you call it the Guru Shakti, or the Paramatma (supreme soul or Consciousness), or God. When you have this faith in you, then you can be happy at all times; regardless of your capabilities. Then you will not feel weak and insecure in your old age also because you know that there is someone who is all-powerful who is taking care of you and protecting you at all times. So just having this faith alone can make us so happy.
As age progresses, our strengths and capabilities diminish. This is natural.
You see many people, as they grow old they become so dejected and insecure. Their face reflects only misery and sorrow. The older they get the more miserable they become. But a devotee is not like this at all. For a devotee, the older he gets, the more joyful and happy he becomes. He smiles more and more, and is happy at all times.
A devotee thinks, 'Oh, I have seen it all. I have known and understood it all. I am happy and content from within. And God is there with me at all times to fulfil all of my needs'.
So with this deep feeling of faith, a devotee will remain happy at all times. This is something we all must remember.
Once, I had gone to South Africa and the people from an Old Age Home there came to visit me. Huge crowds of people gathered there to meet me. I felt so disappointed looking at their faces. I just kept wondering what had happened to them. They looked so miserable.
Their children had thrown them out of their own homes and put them in an Old Age home. They became so depressed thinking about their children that it showed on their faces. It looked as if they hadn’t smiled in ages.
I met our Art of Living teachers there and told them, 'Make these people attend The Happiness Program. Teach them to do sadhana and bring them on the path of knowledge'.
After a certain age, one finds it very difficult to learn something new. Why is this? It is because as we grow old, our sight and hearing start to diminish gradually.
Even if we are able to see or hear things, the mind is not able to grasp and understand what we have seen or heard. Then even if we listen to some knowledge, it remains at the external level only, it does not sink deep within. Such is the state of a person in old age.
So I told the other people, 'Just see what happens in old age. So keep your life dedicated to some greater goal and be in knowledge. Do not get caught up in attachment and desires, thinking only about your children, or your home, etc.'
One can hardly imagine what difficulties those people must have gone through in their lives. How they must have earned money to raise and educate their children, and after all that, the same children brought them to an old age home and paid some money for their parents to be looked after. Once in a year they visit their parents, or write a letter to them if they cannot come to meet them; like during Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, etc. The fate of those poor old parents is really very unfortunate.
But when we have this unshakable faith that there is a Supreme Power with me at all times which loves me dearly and belongs to me, and will never leave me; then the strength we get from such a faith makes us glow with happiness, and our face lights up with a smile that never fades. This is why Spirituality is very essential in life. It is spirituality that brings happiness, enthusiasm, intuition, self-realization and the fulfillment of all that one wishes. Gurudev, how much money should a person earn in life? Does earning more than one’s needs mean hoarding of money that is someone else’s share?
Also, what is the difference between being resourceful and self-sufficient?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, put in all your efforts and earn as much as you can. But follow certain rules. It is not right to earn money by committing crimes, or through any other wrong means.
If you do, then the result will only be misery and suffering. If you adopt wrong means to earn money, then your own conscience will prick you from within, and you will feel, 'I have stolen from someone'. It will pinch you from within.
So do not use wrong means of earning money. You should put in all your effort to earn money, making the best use of time available to you. Gurudev, what is the Atma (soul)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is the cause behind your very existence. Without it, you would not exist. The Atma is that which listens through the ears, perceives through the eyes, smells through the nose, tastes through the tongue, and which is the reason for everything that happens. Gurudev, people tend to consult Vastushastra (the ancient Indian science of space and architecture) before starting the construction of a building or a new home. What is the relevance of these practices in the times of today?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, there are many different shastras (body of science or knowledge) and not just one. Different methods and approaches are written and prescribed in different scriptures.
So it is okay to consult Vastushastra before you construct a new home. But if there is some dosha (here meaning an anomaly in the land or the type of construction), simply chant Om Namaha Shivaya. Chanting this one mantra is enough to remove any negativity and any type of problems you may face.
You know, being in devotion removes all obstacles in one’s way. By being sincere in your Seva, Sadhana and Satsang, all problems get removed, and negativity disappears.
This is why mantras like Om Namaha Shivaya and the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra are so great. They have the power to remove all your problems and any negativity that may come your way. Gurudev, how can we feel that we have become connected to you?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is very simple, just do you doubt it? Do you know why? It is because you are already aware that the connection has been established. If you did not have any connection with me, then these questions would never arise.
The fact that you asked this question means that the connection is there. That’s it! Just take it for granted that the connection is there and it is very strong. Do not get misled by silly thoughts like, 'Oh, Gurudev looked at him but not at me', or 'Gurudev smiled at her but not at me'. Do not think like this at all.
How do you experience your connection with the air, or the space around you? What is there to experience? I tell you, just relax and repose in yourself. then everything is yours.