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.
The term great warrior refers to someone with valor and is usually used for people who fight battles and attain victory over their enemies. However, one who sits still and follows the path of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence totally, is also referred to as a great warrior.
In the word Mahaveer, veer means warrior, and the word “warrior” comes from the Sanskrit root veera. Mahaveer (a great warrior) is a title given not only to people who fight and win but also to people who are in deep meditation.
How can someone who is non-violent and who meditates be called a great warrior?
There is turmoil in the inner world (referring to the mind) as much as there is turmoil in the outer world. There are more conflicts inside you than what you find outside in the world. When you can win over the turmoil inside, be still and keep smiling, then you are a great warrior.
The world is made up of five elements and they are all in conflict; conflict is their nature. Fire and water are never friendly; fire evaporates water and water extinguishes fire. Similarly, air can put off fire and it is only because of air that fire can exist. However, that same fire can split air too. And, Earth is affected by all the three elements: fire, water, and air.
Similarly, there is conflict world over. Inside you, the heart and mind are in a conflict. The heart is compassionate but the mind is logical and reasons everything. When the mind says, "This is the right thing to do", the heart doesn’t want to do it. When the heart wants to do something, the mind says, "This is no good". The fight between the mind and the heart—between likes and dislikes—bother you. These are storms that get created inside you that don’t let your mind be at peace.
Worry, conflict, sadness, unhappiness – all these emotions pose a great challenge for meditation to happen and do not let you be at peace. When you are peaceful and happy for a few moments, something comes up and it destroys your peace. There are a hundred and one reasons for you to be miserable, and if you’re not intelligent, your mind makes up thousand and one reasons to be unhappy. Sometimes you are unhappy because there is conflict, and sometimes you are unhappy just because you have lost your peace of mind. This continues throughout life.
How to win over Inner Conflicts?
In meditation, a million things can come up, but if you raise your head above all these conflicts and be unmindful of them, not questioning why they have come, it makes you go deep in your meditation. By thinking why these bad thoughts are coming, you are being party to the conflict, and this makes you weak. Let them come and go. Stay in the mind-frame that you have nothing to do with them. This is the strategy to win over inner conflict.
When inner conflicts arise, this strategy is there to remind you that you are much more powerful and much bigger than the conflict. Then you rise above it, flying above the clouds, piercing through them, and reaching the clear sky.
Sit still in your inner space, unmindful of any conflict, thought, or emotion. If they come, let them come and go, and when you think, "I don’t care about how I feel", then that will give you strength.
You have to stand up against inner conflict and fight it. The world doesn’t care how you feel – the world is only interested in what you have done and what you are doing. One day you may feel good and another day you may not feel so good. Feelings go up and down, but the world will only ask you, "What good have you done, and how have you contributed to the world?" When we get into this complex emotional turmoil, so much time and money is wasted. If people get over this emotional turbulence—if they don’t succumb to it and waste time—the world would be a much better place, and we can save trillions of dollars.
In any relationship, be the giver of strength. This you can do only when you are strong. And meditation will give you that much-needed strength.
As human beings, we have tremendous qualities and virtues. You don’t have to look for virtues outside – you are the source of all virtues. But in the stress of day-to-day life, these virtues get hidden.
A seed has a membrane around it that doesn’t allow the seed to sprout, but when the membrane is soaked in water and it gets the right atmosphere, the membrane loosens and the seed sprouts. That is how the seed becomes a tree. Sadhana is a way to soak the seed; Yoga is a way to manifest all the perfections that are already within you.
Virtues Get Covered Up by Three Things
Mala are impurities. If there are toxins in your body, it reflects on your mind and affects your behavior. Impurities of the body and mind are called mala.
You get a lot of negative thoughts if your bowel movements are not okay. If you have constipation, the impact of it on the mind is negativity. Anyone who says I have constipation, know for sure that they are going to have negative thoughts sooner or later, because the toxins in the body are increasing and it is going to affect the brain too. This is called Mala, or the first sheath that covers your beautiful being.
Avarna is the veil of ignorance that surrounds you through identification. There is a saying in English: As you sow, so shall you reap. You have sown the seeds. You have put the labels on yourself – I am so bad, or I am weak, or I am hopeless, or I am arrogant. Whatever label you put on yourself creates a sheath around you. Avarna is a veil that has come from many lifetimes.
When you put wrong concepts about yourself in your mind, or form wrong concepts based on what you hear from others, that causes disturbance in you, and that is called vikshepa.
Your interaction with people can create mental disturbances. Just one person, whom you are friendly with, tells you some news and that news can disturb your mind. It can throw you off normal. And later, after 1 or 2 months, you come to know from your friend that what you heard was not true. However, by that time, it has already caused so much restlessness or agitation in your mind. So vikshepa is agitation getting created in your mind by hearsay or the opinions of other people.
So these 3 things keep you shrouded and limited. Meditation and yoga can help you come out of all this, and that is when you have full enthusiasm, energy, joy, and your virtues come up to the surface.
A Touch of Positivity
Satsang can also help you come out of vikshepa and wrong indoctrination that gets into your head. Satsang brings positivity. Then, when someone comes and tells you this guy is a hopeless guy and you say, “Ok, so what!” You don’t get affected by that. Otherwise, if someone says this guy is a hopeless guy, you say, “Oh yes, he is a hopeless guy. I believed in this guy and I went to tea with him and gave him money…” and this way the mind goes on. So, satsang takes you out of this cycle and gives you a positive attitude.
There is a beautiful human being inside everyone. What makes one different is the stress that covers the beauty. When the stress is gone, we become our original selves. In this article, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaks on the 5 things we need to know about stress.
Too much to do, too little time, and no energy – that’s what the definition of stress is. When you want to do too much and you have neither energy nor time, you get stressed.
Secondly, remember you have faced many challenges in the past and you have overcome them all. So, have this confidence that I can handle this challenge as well.
Then you must also know that there’s nothing more important in life than life itself. If you are alive, then everything else is. If you are alive, then there is business. If you are alive, then relationships. If you are alive, then there is fame or whatever you wish for. Don’t put life at risk to get these other things. You must give more importance to life itself.
Why do you do anything that you do? It is because you want to be happy. And if you achieve something at the cost of happiness, it is worth nothing at all. You achieved what you wanted but you lost happiness, then that achievement is null and void. So you must keep this in mind.
Things happen through a different law in the Universe. You might have noticed that you had been very good to people and still there were people who suddenly became your enemies. Your friends became your enemies. And the opposite happens too: someone whom you have not done any big favor for, they help you when you really need it. So friendship or animosity happens through some special law of the Universe, and it is called karma.
When your times are good, your worst enemy behaves as a friend, and when your time is bad, then your best friend behaves like an enemy. So, understand things from a bigger dimension.
Hinduism means universalism; it is not just a sect. The president of India Dr. Radha Krishan was asked, “Who is a Hindu?”
He said, “By negating all the religions, that is, one who is not a Muslim, one who is not a Christian and so on, whoever is left is a Hindu.”
So, all those who accept everything, are Hindus. It is very difficult to define a way of life as a religion. A way of humanism is really what Hinduism is. It does not force you to follow just one scripture, one book, or one ritual per say. It simply says that the world is a family, accept knowledge from every side. Realize yourself and serve others. This is the principle.
A Way of Honoring Diversity and Freedom
When I was in America, I was talking to some people about the constitution of America. It is exactly what Hinduism is – honoring diversity, freedom of worship, liberty, and justice to all. The whole philosophy is what Hinduism is.
This universe is versatile; there are so many dimensions and so many ways to go to the one truth. That is exactly what the essence of Hinduism is.
Reviving the Self-esteem of Hinduism
Unfortunately, in this country the self-esteem of Hinduism has gone down so much. In the colonial era, they suffered a lot. So the self-esteem and prestige went down. It is only during Mahatma Gandhi’s time, or little before, when Swami Vivekananda tried to reestablish the pride of the Hindus in their culture and religion, that things are better.
Lord Macaulay, when he went to London, he wrote to Queen Elizabeth, saying, “I have travelled the length and breadth of India, and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, or a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we could ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage.”
He wrote this letter. It is a very famous talk that he gave in the British parliament. After that they systematically destroyed the Indian culture.
He said that people should think that they are no good, and they were successful in doing that. In the 40's and 50's people started thinking this way – anything from India is not good.
Now times are changing, we simply have to tell people that this country had some very good things and some bad things also, like every other country because our culture has been interpolated by things which are not good.
This lack of self-esteem needs serious attention because there is no one big authority. Hinduism is just a way of life. It has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that you cannot bring uniformity. On the other hand, the advantage is that it has a lot of scope for growth.
Religion alone is not enough – the spiritual aspect is needed to regain the self-esteem and prestige.
The nature of the mind is to waver, similar to how the nature of water is to flow. Now how do you reduce this wavering nature of the mind? It is through spiritual practices (abhyaasa) and dispassion (vairagya).
What is Dispassion?
Sometimes, when you are disturbed, you say, “I don’t want anything. Enough is enough!” This is one kind of dispassion, which you experience when you are disturbed. It is called Smashana (cemetery) Vairagya.
The second kind of dispassion is when you say with awareness, “I don’t want anything. I have had enough (contentment)! Everything in the world changes; nothing is permanent. I don’t mind if I have or don’t have something.” This is the second type of dispassion, and is called Gyana (knowledge) Vairagya.
We need to have Gyana Vairagya and not Smashana Vairagya. The mind always moves towards pleasure. If we have knowledge and dispassion, then all the pleasures will come to us. It is also said that the pleasure that comes out of Abhyaasa (spiritual practice) is the highest.
Everyone has to experience at least one of the two types of dispassion. So it is better to say, “I have had enough,” out of awareness and contentment. That is the higher kind of dispassion!
Is Dispassion a Happening?
Dispassion is not a happening; I would say dispassion is what you invoke in yourself. When you widen your awareness, when you see everything is going to disappear and death is imminent, we are all going to die and everything is changing – when this knowledge comes, then dispassion is spontaneous.
Dispassion is the only way to make the mind stop chattering. Just realize that everything is a dream. It will all soon come to an end. The chattering of the mind is always with regard to a subject, a topic, or with a want. Worries and wants are responsible for the chattering of the mind. Drop your worries and your wants – that is what is called vairagya.
Dispassion and Contentment
Just be contented in your mind. You must keep evaluating yourself from time to time. Ask yourself, is what I am doing benefitting others? Even if something brings pain in the short run, but is beneficial to everyone in the long run, then that is the right thing to do. This is the test.
Before doing any work, you must ask yourself, “Am I only focusing on the small things or am I thinking from a larger perspective?” This is essential.
Once, an astrologer went to visit a king. The king showed great reverence to the astrologer, made him sit down, and honored him with gifts. The king then showed his palm and the charts to astrologer. The astrologer examined everything and then said to the king, O King! You will lose your entire family. Everybody is going to die before you.
You will be the last to die.”
The king got very upset upon hearing this and put the astrologer in the jail.
When someone hears some negative prediction, they don’t like it. They obviously want to hear something nice and positive instead. And so it was for the king as well.
This news shook the entire community of astrologers. They thought, “We cannot tell the truth to the king. If we do so, he will simply put us in jail. What do we do?”
The king then called for another astrologer to appear before him. Many tried to escape this request but one senior astrologer agreed to meet the king. So, he went before the king, and the king welcomed him in the same way with gifts. The king then showed his palm to the astrologer. The astrologer said, “Oh King! What a great fortune you are blessed with! You have a very good horoscope. Nobody in history has had such longevity of age as you are going to have. In fact, nobody in your dynasty has had such great longevity.”
The astrologer never said to the king that he was going to outlive everybody else in the royal family. Instead, he told the king that he was blessed with great longevity and that he had a great horoscope.
The king was so flattered upon hearing the news of his long life and good health. He told the astrologer, “Ask for whatever gift you want from me and I shall give.”
The astrologer said, “Please release my poor colleague who is in the jail.”
Moral of the story
Skill in communication makes a huge difference. With the right communication skills, we can turn any negative situation into a positive one.
There is a couplet in Kannada which says, “It is through words that fun and laughter happen, and it is through words that enmity can also happen.” Speech creates conflict and also removes conflict. Your speech should be so wonderful and sweet, that even Lord Shiva should simply listen and nod happily in agreement saying, “Oh yes, Oh yes”. That is how lovely your speech should be.
Life always moves towards perfection. Just like how water flows down and fire goes up, the nature of life is to move towards perfection, to move towards something bigger and something higher.
Often people say that the mind is wavering, but the mind is not wavering. The mind is the wave. It is moving towards something. It is moving towards a higher joy.
If you get a little joy, you want some more joy. This is because the mind always moves towards something bigger and something higher.
Right from school days, what is it that you want? You want to get a higher grade. Which student does not want to get a higher grade? Which artist does not want to perform better? Which scientist does not want to reach the peak? Which engineer does not want to build something beautiful? So wanting perfection is in the nature of human beings. The mind wants to move towards something higher, and the way to achieve it is Yoga.
Yoga Helps You Get Out Of Misery
If you are miserable, yoga helps you get out of your misery. If you are very restless or unhappy, yoga brings you that equanimity. It first relives you from misery and then brings you equanimity.
Yoga also helps you attain skills that you do not have. The word for qualification in Sanskrit is Yogyata, which means that which has come out of yoga. It is action that brings you happiness or sorrow. And if you are skillful in action, then your action will only bring you happiness, or less misery. So with yoga, one attains
Relief from sorrow
Skill in action.
Yoga Helps You Expand Your Vision
There is a fourth step to Yoga, which is to take you to the ultimate knowledge.
Our misery is when we don't open our eyes and see the vastness of the life. Misery means short vision. Yoga is expanding your vision - taking your eyes to the higher truth. If your mind is filled with fog, then your perception of life is very foggy. If your mind is filled with anger, you will find that everybody is mocking you. You will find that everybody is against you.
You project yourself to people, situations, and the world around you. That is what you do. All the time we are projecting ourselves. Seldom are we able to see the reality the way it is. That is why Yoga is important.
Again, yoga is not just doing some exercises. Yoga has been mistaken as just asanas. It is not. It is the expansion of consciousness. It is an emotional integration, a spiritual elevation with a touch of mysticism, which gives you a glimpse of something which is beyond all imagination. It is the connection to what we are.
If you look at a baby, a baby does all the Yoga postures. But not only that, the attitude of a baby, the way it breathes, its perceptual ability or sharpness, and its ability to stay in the present moment (all the qualities of a Yogi), a baby expresses.
So, Yoga should not be limited or misunderstood as just some exercise. It is a holistic development, expression and connection of human life.
Yoga Brings You Peace
Yoga is a complete science. It unites body, mind, spirit and the universe. Yoga brings that much needed and longed for peace and ecstasy in every individual. Not only that, it also makes such a difference in one's behavioral pattern, thought pattern, and one's attitude. For a sane life these days, yoga is almost indispensable. If you want to be sane, sensitive, sensible, strong and intuitive, you have to follow Yoga.