Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - Celebrating Life with Silence
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.
There are three ways that one can have wealth. One way is the way of inheritance, like how we acquire the wealth of our parents and ancestors, or by winning some lottery. Then we need to take care and strive to preserve and protect the wealth that we have received. Then the third aspect is to grow and multiply the wealth that we have received. For example, if there is some wealth that we do not have, we should not be dejected and say, “Oh, I have not received this wealth, what can I possibly do? I am no good”. No, that is not right. If you have not got something, then make efforts to obtain it. Do hard work to get what you want. Wealth is that which you obtain through hard work and sincere efforts.
Anything that comes to you naturally by way of inheritance or through the merits of your past actions is also wealth. But whatever you gain through hard work and self-effort is also wealth.
The fourth pillar of knowledge is Mumukshatva. It is the desire to be free.
This is present in everyone to some extent, for sure. Everybody wishes to be free at some time. Suppose you are doing some work the whole day and whole night, after sometime you feel, “Oh, I want a break”.
Just imagine what it would be like if you had no holidays at all. What would happen if there were no holidays on Saturdays and Sundays? Then everyday would be the same. What would happen? You would start feeling strangled. In the same way, in life, with any activity, company, or external thing, there could be a sense of bondage, a sense of getting strangled. Then there is an innate desire which says, “I want to be free”. What do we want to be free from? We want to be free from everything that is negative, we want to be free from desire, we want to be free from anger and so on.
Mumukshatva is the dawning of interest into the deeper aspects of life, a deep desire to be free.
What is that which we do not want to be free from? It is our peace.
No one can say, “I am peaceful, I want to be free from peace”. It is impossible to have a desire to be free from peace and from love. You do not have a desire which says, “Oh, I want to be free from love”. Love is our very existence, it is our very nature. No one wants to be free from love. No one wishes to be free from joy. Does that ever happen? No, because love, peace, joy, generosity are not something one wishes to be free from. No one can say, “I want to be free from my generosity”. Nobody can say, “I want to be free from my beautiful nature; my grand qualities”.
Does anyone ever want to be free from their good qualities? No, it is not so. If you are only acting to be good, then it may be possible that you want to be free. But what is naturally coming out of you as good qualities, you do not wish to be free from that.
No one wants freedom from their true nature, from what comes naturally to them. What is it that we desire freedom from? We seek freedom from artificial things. If we remain stuck in the artificial world the whole day, then we will get so tired. An intelligent and wise person becomes uncomfortable even if he spends a few minutes in a world of artificial display and artificial things. It simply does not happen. So we seek freedom from this artificial world, artificial smiles, superficial behavior and formalities.
Someone may say to you, “Welcome home! It is so nice to see you”, but their face does not reveal this emotion at all. Instead deep down they may be thinking, “O God, when will he leave?” All this artificial behavior is foolishness. One feels suffocated staying in the midst of an artificial world, full of artificial behaviors and displays.
What will you get by such artificial display and whom will you impress by it? What is it that you want, and what will you do by acquiring so many (material) things?
This is what Vairagya is all about. It means to have this feeling that “I have acquired so much, now what more do I need? I have enough”.
What will you get by acquiring so much wealth? What will you get by running after more and more fame and popularity? Once you have enjoyed all the comforts and joy, then what next? At some time or the other, you will feel, “Alright, I have enough. Now I want to be free”.
Holding on tightly to the keys of the house and wanting to control everything is a sign of lack of Mumukshatva, and knowledge cannot dawn in such a state
Taking a deeper interest into life is important. You must take an interest to think, “What is this life, and what happens after life? How many times have I come here and taken a dip in the world?” Mumukshatva is the dawning of interest into the deeper aspects of life, a deep desire to be free. It does not mean that you have gained liberation. No, it means dawning of that desire to be free.
Many people say that you can get liberation by leaving everything and running away. I tell you, running away is not Mumukshatva.Where will you run? Will you run away into the forest, or to the mountains? Do you think you will gain freedom that way? No, you will face a different set of problems there also.
Recognizing that there are problems in life and having that deep desire to be free is what brings us halfway through the journey of life. Then our mind does not get stuck in small trivial matters.
I tell you, once the daughter-in-law arrives in the house, every mother-in-law or father-in-law should decide to walk towards Mukti (freedom). Do not hold on tightly to the keys of the house then. Do not interfere much in the matters of the house, like by asking, “What is being cooked for dinner today?"
See, you have had your fill and enjoyed cooking what you liked for all these years. Now let the daughter-in-law also enjoy and feel comfortable. Holding on tightly to the keys of the house and wanting to control everything is a sign of lack of Mumukshatva, and knowledge cannot dawn in such a state.
Today, there is this Generation Gap because of lack of Mumukshatva. In the family today, the father is 75 years old but he still wants to control and make every decision. The son is already nearing 50 years of age and still cannot take any decisions. His brain is frustrated and locked up because of this. What is the use? An 85-year old man cannot perceive things as sharply anymore, yet he wants to rule everything. He cannot understand that three generations are working in his own company. I tell you, there is so much suffering happening in the Corporate World, and in business families – because of a lack of wisdom.
3. Titiksha:Titiksha means forbearance. It means the ability to endure even that which is not of your liking. Now, it is not possible that every time you will have everything go as per your way and liking, isn’t it? You must have seen some children who are so sensitive and pampered, if sometimes, even one thing does not go as per their wish, they create so much noise and fuss about it. They will behave as if there is a complete breakdown of everything. It is because they have been raised in this way, they have not had the experience of Titiksha.
Are you able to accept something even if it not as per your liking or choice? Do you have acceptance? Does everything in the world go as per your wish every time? Has it ever happened in anyone’s life? No, it has never happened.
Yes, if what you desire for, happens more often than what you do not wish for, then that is a different thing altogether. That is the quality of a Sidhha (a perfected wise person). Such a person remains happy come what may. If you tend to lose your calm and presence of mind when some things do not happen as per your expectations, then that shows a lack of Titiksha.
Are you able to forbear opposite and conflicting situations in life? Suppose someone is very unpleasant to you, if you lack Titiksha then it rattles your mind and throws you off balance. WithTitiksha you can move on and keep the balance.
If you sow a seed today and keep digging the earth again and again to see if it has sprouted and grown, what will you ever get? You will not get anything. Once you have sown the seed and watered it, then be patient for a while. Having Titiksha means to be patient, to have forbearance. To maintain a balance and be able to bear everything when opposite situations arise in life – that is a sign of having Titiksha. Titiksha does not mean inaction.
Just look inside and reflect on yourself – are you able to forbear opposite and conflicting situations in life? Suppose someone is very unpleasant to you. If you lack Titiksha then it rattles your mind and throws you off balance. With Titiksha you can move on and keep the balance.
4. Shraddha: What does Shraddha mean? It means to like and adore something which you do not know about, yet you feel there is something wonderful about it, and have that deep interest to know more about it.
You do not need to have faith on what you already know. When there is something that you do not know about, yet you feel a sense of connectivity to that unknown – that is Shraddha.The willingness to know, or loving the unknown is called Shraddha. You see a few people doing a ritual, and they have a strong belief in the ritual and that something is happening through the ritual, and in their life because of it. Now, you do not know what exactly they are doing, but you have this feeling of faith and you think “Okay, I accept this”.
Without Shraddha, nothing can move in life. Your doctor tells you to take a certain medicine by which you will get well. You take the medicine because you have faith in the doctor. If you do not have faith in the doctor, you will never even touch the medicine. So, our life runs on faith.
The city’s electricity board has faith in you and gives you electricity, having the faith that you will pay the bill at the end of the month. If they do not keep faith in you, why would they care to supply you with electricity? Putting a foot forward before you get the fruit of the action is called Shraddha. For example, you are unwell and have not yet recovered your health. But you take a step forward and take the medicine because you have faith in the doctor, in the medicine given to you and you have faith in God. This mindset or inner power that helps you move forward in life is called Shraddha. Whether it is in the material or the spiritual world, you cannot take even one step forward without Shraddha.
Shraddha is necessary to move forward especially in the direction of the unknown. If you have to keep moving around one point in life, like a bull tethered by a rope, then you do not need faith. But whether it is material or spiritual life, to take a step in the direction of the unknown, you need to have Shraddha.
If you wish to remain in your ignorance then you do not need Shraddha. When you think you know everything, then what is the need of Shraddha? If you see this from a more subtle level, suppose you really do know everything, then also you need to have faith upon all that you know. This is what you need to understand. Shraddha is having that deep faith and love towards the unknown.
Uparati means to do everything wholeheartedly, finding joy and taking total interest in it.
For example, you see a Havan happening before you and you do not know anything much about it. Yet, in your mind you have this feeling of faith that something good and beneficial will result from the Havan. This is Shraddha. When you leave your young children in the care of their teachers at school, you have this faith that the teachers will teach well and impart good values to your children. It is because you have this faith that you willingly leave your children in their care. You submit yourself to your doctor’s treatment with this faith that the doctor will surely treat you well. You have not yet received the results of the treatment, but you have still taken that first step towards it, with faith.
It is said, “Shraddhavaanam labhate jnaanam”, meaning that one who has faith will gain knowledge. People who have faith surely receive more. Along with Shraddha, if you also have a say over your senses, it is even better. If you have control over your sleep, your eating habits and all other habits, then your mind becomes very sharp. But if you stay drunk all day and night, how can you gain any knowledge? If students drink a lot, then that is the end of their educational career. Their mind becomes duller and duller due to alcohol and intoxicants.
Have you ever found an alcoholic with a very sharp mind? I do not know of any such person. If at all there is such a person, he must surely be a miracle! Their mind cannot be sharp and responsive when they are under the influence of alcohol. Even otherwise you will find dullness creeping into them. So, Shraddha is very essential.
5. Uparati: Uparati means enjoying anything that one does. It may be small things. Uparatimeans to find interest and joy in doing everything – whether big or small. It means to have a sense of enthusiasm in whatever you do. When there is a lack of Uparati then there is dejectedness, no interest and no enthusiasm. You do not like doing anything. Such a person who does not have enthusiasm cannot create or invent anything new. Uparati means to do everything wholeheartedly, finding joy and taking total interest in it.
6. Samadhana: Samadhana means contentment. That is also a gift, a true wealth. A person who is content exuberates a certain sense of joy from deep within; he exudes certain positive vibrations which everyone else would love to have.
A restless guy cannot be an inventor. You may say that this is contrary, since some scientists were very restless to make discoveries. Like Archimedes was very restless. Well, when did Archimedes find the Buoyancy principle? He did not find it when he was restless. He found it when he was relaxing in a tub of water.
Newton struggled all his life. But when he felt overwhelmed with desperation, when his brain got so tired of thinking and calculating, he sat down to rest below a tree. When he took a moment of rest, the apple fell before him and he found Gravity. When you look at every invention on this planet with a keen sense of observation, you will find that it has come when people have gotten over the restlessness, desperation and dejection. It has happened when they arrived at a point of breakdown, and relaxed. In that moment of total relaxation and contentment, creativity came to them. But we understand it the other way around. We think that contentment is in opposition with creativity. We think that we can be creative only when we are restless and agitated. This question often crosses our mind, “Oh, how can you be creative when you are content?”
I tell you, contrary to this, it is contentment and not restlessness that brings out our creativity. If agitation and restlessness were to be the cause of creativity, then countries like Afghanistan should be the most creative part of the world. There has been restlessness and discontent in Afghanistan for the past 40 years. If this were true, then Lebanon too should have been very creative. Instead we see that the city of Beirut faces problems all the time. There is so much tension and strife in Kashmir. Where do we see creativity in the midst of such restlessness and discontent? See, contentment is not lethargy. Do not confuse contentment with lethargy. Contentment is creativity. and creativity blossoms in us when there is Samadhana.
So these are the six wealths: Shama, Dama, Titiksha, Uparati, Shraddha and Samadhana. Each is called a wealth because like any wealth, some of it comes easily to us in life while for some we have to make effort to acquire or preserve it. Some wealth has to be maintained otherwise it will disappear.
Q: Gurudev, what are the four pillars of Knowledge? How can they be useful for both inner and outer growth? Please explain the secret behind them.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The first pillar of knowledge is Discrimination, which is also called as Viveka in Sanskrit. Viveka means having the ability to differentiate between what is short-term and what is long-term; what is temporary and what is permanent; what is sustainable and what is perishable. One needs to know this differentiation or discrimination. The lack of this sense of discrimination causes misery.
You know, when kids in school or college get very low marks in some examination, they go and jump off the 10th or the 15th floor of a building and commit suicide. This is a lack of discrimination. Life is not based on just getting some grades, or marks. We get troubled and disturbed by small and trivial matters. For example, if a lady has had a quarrel with her mother-in-law, she goes away to her mother’s house and takes her kids along with her. Now, have there not been quarrels between her and her mother also in the past? Viveka means to understand what is permanent and what is impermanent.
Viveka is being able to identify what is changing and what is non-changing; what is short-term and what are long-term benefits in life.
All of us face small problems in life every day. Who does not face them in life? But if you consider the problem much larger than your life, then that is Aviveka (foolishness or lack of discrimination). Life is much larger than these problems. When you see your life in this perspective, then life will not appear to be a burden to you. Viveka is having this sense of discrimination between what is shashwat (eternal) and kshana-bhangur(impermanent or fleeting); what is truth and what is false (or unreal).
Our body is not permanent. It keeps changing all the time. Every cell in our body is changing all the time. Yet, there is something in us that is not changing at all. You recognize the change because of something that does not change. It is due to the non-changing aspect within you that you are able to recognize the changes. Viveka is being able to identify what is changing and what is non-changing; what is short-term and what are long-term benefits in life.
Many times you may be confused between short-term and long-term benefits, and you land up in a big mess, isn’t it so? When you are not able to differentiate between what is permanent and what is not, then you get easily troubled with trivial problems in life. Then you create problems for yourself and also make others uncomfortable around you. This tendency is Aviveka. Hence to kindle and awaken Viveka is the first pillar of knowledge.
Sometimes what appears is not what (really) IS. But we cling on to the appearance instead, and this is also lack of Viveka or discrimination. What appears is not always real. For example, you went to visit someone at their house. The lady of the house had kept some milk to boil on the stove, and hearing your arrival, she came to receive you. When she came to the door, she instantly remembered the boiling milk in the kitchen and rushed back, slamming the front door in a hurry. She rushed fearing the milk may get burnt. But you felt “Oh, what an insult! I came to visit her and she slammed the door in my face”. Now, what you felt was not true. She did not intentionally do this but you felt that she slammed the door and did not want to see you. This is a misconception or delusion in your mind. This is Aviveka.
The second pillar of knowledge is Vairagya. What does Vairagya mean? We tend to think that Vairagya means to feel “I do not want anything” (confusing Vairagya with detachment or renunciation). No, it is not so. Vairagya means to create a broader vision in life. Vairagya means to be free from feverishness in life. To experience relief and release from the feverishness of desires is Vairagya.Both Viveka and Vairagya are important.
Vairagya means to create a broader vision in life. Vairagya means to be free from feverishness in life. To experience relief and release from the feverishness of desires is Vairagya.
In life you need both, passion and dispassion. If you only have passion (desires), then you will get into depression. It is because not every passion or desire gets fulfilled right away. You need patience to pursue your passion, and this can happen only when there is dispassion also. If there is no dispassion, you cannot even sleep peacefully. To the degree you have dispassion in life, to that extent you get a sound sleep.
We acquire this tendency to possess and hold on to things very early on in life. But the sense of letting go should also come in life. Without letting go, you cannot rest. You will fall ill if you don't let go. When you sleep, drop everything and let go. You have to empty your mind before you sleep. If the mind gets stuck onto a particular thought then your sleep is ruined. This itself shows the lack of Vairagya. Having Vairagya will ensure that you get restful sound sleep; your face will have a smile and glow with happiness, and there will be enthusiasm in life. Someone who sits with a long face cannot be considered to have Vairagya.
We have misunderstood Vairagya so often. When we see someone sitting with a sad face, we think he is a Vairagi (one who is very dispassionate). No, it is not really so. Depression is counter-productive and is a sign of lack of dispassion. Depression indicates you have zero dispassion. The sign of dispassion is not dullness. The sign of dispassion is enthusiasm. You are peaceful, energetic and happy when you have dispassion. Unfortunately we have confused dispassion with depression. The so-called dispassionate people look so depressing. They seem to be battling some mental illness. They are so untidy, they do not put on clean clothes or comb their hair; they do not trim their nails. People tend to call all these as signs of Vairagya. Cleanliness & hygiene is not at all opposed to the principle of Dispassion.
Sri Adi Shankaracharya says “Kasya sukham na karoti Viraga?”
Meaning: What happiness can dispassion not bring to you? This is a question he asks. It means there is no joy that dispassion cannot bring you.
The third pillar has six aspects which are called the Shatt-Sampatti (which means the six kinds of wealth). What are they?
1. Kshama: kshama is the first wealth. What does it mean? It means having inner peace, being happy and content from within. We have to strive for peace of mind. When your mind is not at peace then you not able to listen or understand what someone else is saying. The intellect becomes dull and lost. To sharpen the intellect, you need to first calm the mind. If the mind is disturbed and in unrest, then the intellect cannot become sharp. The mind will go on getting entangled in small trivial problems. You need to learn to keep your mind calm and steady.
Kshama means to have that inner tranquillity of the mind. The word Shanti (peace) comes from the word Kshama. This is very important. It is a wealth that you need to acquire.
Suppose you see someone breaking some rule. If you get angry and frustrated on seeing this, you are only making yourself miserable. What is the use of all this? Instead, keep the mind calm and steady, and educate the other person about it. If he or she still does not understand, what can you do about it? If they are not willing to understand and realize, then you need to ignore and move on.
Will that person improve or understand the mistake by you losing your peace of mind? You only ruin your peace of mind. Does it help you get the work done? No, it does not.You cannot improve someone else by getting angry at them.
Now, by that I do not mean that you do not get angry, or suppress your anger all the time. Sometimes when it is needed, you can show your anger. But your anger should last only for those few moments, after which you should come out of it, so that you are free and unbounded from it. By letting your emotions rise high, you inhibit your intellect from perceiving things as they actually are. Kshama means to have that inner tranquillity of the mind. Peace (of mind) comes from Kshama. The word Shanti, (peace) comes from the word Kshama. This is very important. It is a wealth that you need to acquire.
2. Dama: The second kind of wealth is Dama. Dama means having a say over your own senses.
Many times, when people travel overnight in the luxury bus or airplane to attend to some important work in the morning, there is a movie being played during the journey. Now though you want to sleep, you still browse and watch the movie.
One moment you say to yourself, “Oh! I have already seen this movie before. It’s the same rubbish. What is there to watch again?” Yet the eyes say “No, I want to watch and see what is happening”. Your eyes do not agree with you. Your intellect says one thing, but your eyes disobey and follow something else.
Bulimia is another example. After eating, your stomach says, “I am full, I cannot take any more food”. But your tongue says, “Oh! I want more”. Lack of coherence between the senses, your mind and intellect is called as (absence of) Dama.
To have Dama means to have a perfect alignment and coordination between your mind and your senses. When your senses are in your control, you will not commit any crime.
Just walk into any prison and ask one of the inmates, "Why they are here".
They will tell you, “It all went out of my control”.
What is it that went out of control? Their own senses. Even lust for that matter. All the rape cases happen in this way. It is because the mind is not in control, the senses are in control. One is in the grip of the senses.
Similarly, the disease called Bulimia or over-eating is because of lack of Dama. Extreme anger is a sign of lack of Dama; obsession of any kind is a lack of Dama. You must have heard of obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) many times – these too are related to a lack of Dama.