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.
How do I handle racism and bullying? I am victimized. How do I handle this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
First of all get out of this victim consciousness. When you feel you are a victim, you keep looking for a culprit, and you get so upset. You will pity yourself, and one needs to get out of this.
In this world, there are good people and there are bad people as well. I would say, the bad people are also actually good people. Goodness is hidden in the bad people also. It is just veiled and covered by ignorance.
I am not saying not to fight injustice. Take a strong step to fight injustice. Also, you cannot fight injustice alone. You need to gather people and bring them together to fight injustice. If you want to fight injustice then you must. But fight it out with a deep sense of peace and confidence inside.Knowledge will give you that peace and much-needed confidence to fight injustice with an unshakeable smile. See, if you lose your temper and become angry, you become weak. It drains your energy. Anger drains your energy ten times more. Hatred drains the energy much more than anger does. Anger and hatred make you weak, and then you lose the energy to fight. To fight, you need strength and strength can only come through centeredness and inner peace. That is the whole message of the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna says, “You fight, but after finding your inner peace, after getting out of your cravings and aversions. Fight for justice”.
I am not saying that you should bow down to injustice and just take the lies in the world. No, not at all. We should never bow down to injustice, lies (falsehood), and deceit. We definitely should stand up against it, but not with anger, arrogance or with a disturbed mind. We should do so with a firm mind and steady resolution.
Why do people get into bad habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol? How can we make them realize the importance of sadhana, seva and satsang?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, people feel some lack or vacuum in their life, as if something is missing. To fill that gap, people try to forget themselves by latching on to intoxicants. You simply have to tell them that you can give them a better intoxicant, a much higher brand of intoxication (here meaning sadhana, satsang and seva).
Tell them to just come here to the Ashram and meditate. Ask them to do the Sudarshan Kriya, and to attend Satsang. The intoxication these practices give you does not come at the cost of your health, rather it improves your health, your state of mind and there are absolutely no side effects because of it. There are no hangovers due to this. Promise them this, and trick them to somehow come and attend the programs and satsang.
How can I build a happy and successful relationship with my husband so that the relationship remains constant?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
First of all, do not go after building a successful and happy relationship. Take it for granted that your relationship is already happy and successful. That is because the moment you want to build something, you start behaving unnaturally. You are not yourself. Got it? Be aware, and don’t try to build a nice relationship. In thinking or doing so, you think that there is no relationship, or you think that the relationship is not good to begin with. No, first of all, you must simply assume that you have a very good relationship.
You must assume that you have 100% understanding. Whenever you think you lack understanding, or the other person does not understand you, then also you are making the gap wider. Trying to explain this also does not work. How many of you have had this experience? Raise your hands. (Many in the audience raise their hands).
Whenever you think that the relationship is strained and that you need to start all over again to build it into a happy one, it will not work. Be natural, be kind, be loving, be good. Do not step on the ego of your husband, and do not demand from him to express his love. If you keep these few things in mind, your relationship will be fine. Do not go on questioning your spouse, “Do you really love me? You do not love me. These days you do not look at me”. Even if someone is in love with you, they wonder, “Oh my God! How can I convince this person that I love them?” You are putting a burden on their head to prove their love to you.
Just imagine yourself in their situation. How would you feel if someone doubts your love for them, and you have to make an extra effort to make them believe that you love them? Is it not a burden? How many of you think it is a burden? (Many in the audience raise their hands). My goodness! When you feel it is a burden to prove your love to others, why do you put others in a position for them to prove their love to you? You should not ask these questions at all. Do not question each other’s love, commitment and integrity. We must never question someone else’s love, commitment and integrity.
I experience some pain in the body after coming out of meditation. What can I do? Please advise.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Well, you need not worry much about this. Experiences keep changing all the time. Every time you meditate, what happens is that the structure of the brain changes. The grey matter in the brain increases when you meditate. A lot of good things happen when you meditate. The toxins in the body come out; many stresses get released. Stress can be in structural or chemical form. That is why after meditation, it is good to do a little Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing Pranayama). You should also drink plenty of water and fluids. That will also help.
What is the significance of the Birth and Death process? I do not feel anything after doing the process.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
That is alright. See, some of you would feel something or have an experience in some process, some of you may have an experience in another process. Everybody will get something somewhere. It is because your mind is so tricky, it is stuck in so many avenues and areas. In this four day Advanced Meditation Program, we know exactly where to unlock it; where to release it, and which are the areas the mind is stuck in. So that will happen eventually, you just relax and let it happen.
You do not need to judge every process or experience. You need not think, “Oh, is something happening to me or not?” You just be innocent and relax. There is a saying, “Bhole bhaav miley Raghurai”. It means that when we are in an innocent state of mind, the eternity comes in your grip. It means that innocence can capture that which is eternal. Do not go on examining all the time, thinking, “Oh, is something happening to me now or not?” Doing that examination every moment will be a hindrance to the experience. Experience will happen by simply following the procedure (meaning without much analysis or examination). After the experience, you can analyse and think about it and ask questions. I am not saying that you should not ask questions about it. You should ask questions, but do not go on examining and poking into the experience by asking questions, before the experience happens.
There is a story about Silence. Once there was a Guru who had four disciples, who were observing a period of silence. In the evening after their meditation, the four disciples were taking a nature walk; just as we do here in the Ashram.
Now, it is usually a habit to go around in groups instead of being alone during these walks. So, all four of them decided to walk together. When they came to a point, one of them said, “Wow, The weather is so pleasant, and there is such a beautiful sunset before us. The environment is so peaceful”.
Hearing this, the second disciple said, “My dear, you have broken your silence by speaking”. The third disciple saw this and remarked, “I am going to complain to Gurudev about you two for breaking your silence”.
The fourth one said “I am the only one here who is maintaining a really good silence.”
During Silence, we should not do such things. Silence is bringing the mind together. It is about collecting and steadying the mind which is scattered. When you sit idly, you will see that your mind runs off in so many directions, it is scattered everywhere. Gathering the mind and retrieving it back to the centre is silence. Silence is moving the mind away from all external actions and influences that one has due to what one may have heard, or seen, or smelt, or experienced, and focusing one’s sight and attention to the centre, to oneself.
Silence is not just about keeping quiet all the time. No, silence means that one need not read or write anything as well. Silence brings enormous strength, and when you are in silence, you should keep smiling. For many people, silence means keeping a long serious face. You do not need to do that. Give a smile to yourself. Smiling at yourself is silence.
Silence involves cutting off from all that is around us for a while; cutting off from the world we have been living in and getting back to the central point of our existence.
When you are observing silence for the first time, there will be restlessness, and all sorts of thoughts, worries and concerns may come up on the surface. Regrets may come, many plans and ideas may also pop up in the mind. You just keep them all aside. It is alright for that to happen. When it happens, you do not need to fight or struggle with it. Just agree with them all and say to yourself, “It is alright. I will look into it after coming out of silence”, and come back to the centre.
I know it is very difficult for the first time, or maybe even the second time when you are observing silence. It is because you are so used to activity all the time. As soon as you wake up, you are engaged in activity till you get so tired that you want to just fall asleep. Some people do activity even in their sleep too! That is a different issue. What I am saying is: we have not known rest properly. Silence is a way to go deep within and find the deepest rest.
You can write down all your wants, your botherations and put it in the basket during the course. Do not worry about anything that is bothering you. I tell you, it will be taken care of. That is why you need a Guru to go into Silence, to go deep into meditation and also on the path of spirituality, because you cannot go into silence properly with all your problems, botherations and other things that trouble your mind.
Your Gurudev will tell you, “You do not need to worry about your botherations. I am with you. I will handle all your problems, you simply relax, meditate and go into silence”. When you get this assurance, you feel comfortable. Then it becomes easier for you to go into silence.
In Buddhist monasteries, you must have seen the image of Lord Buddha sitting peacefully in meditation with one hand raised in Abhaya Mudra.
If you go to any temple, you will find that the idol of the deity is seated with one hand in Abhaya Mudra, which means to say “My dear, do not worry and drop all your fears. You need not struggle with your fears and worries. Drop everything here and just relax”. This is an opportunity for you to be happy and go peacefully into silence.
When you realize that everything is going to be over one day, something within you wakes up.that something in you that is the eternal peace, which nothing can shake or destroy.
We keep one more basket for you to express gratitude. On the last day of the course, many participants come forward saying, “Gurudev, we do not have any botherations or questions as such. But we do have wonderful stories to share. We feel so grateful at the end of this course. What do we do to express this?”
So I said, “Okay, we will also keep a gratitude basket in the course. Each one of you have many good things happening to you, and I know how deeply grateful you are for it. You can write your gratefulness and put that also in the basket. This is the way to go into silence".
When you spend time alone with Nature, with plants, trees and animals, you will see that you do not get too many thoughts in your mind. But when we see someone’s face, then suddenly cravings and aversions arise in us. Nature never creates or incites cravings and aversions in us. It is only people who do so. This is the time for you to be with Nature – with your own nature, and also with Mother Nature outside. Do not make signs when you see people. If it is very urgent only then you may communicate using a bit of sign language, otherwise maintain your silence.
Another thing that I want to tell you is: Just look back at everything that has happened in your life till now. Is it not like a dream? You went to school, grew up and went to college, and so on. Whatever has happened in your life till this very moment – does it not all appear to be a dream?
Whatever happened has happened and is over. It does not exist anymore. You arrived in the morning today, then had your lunch and then came to attend satsang. Just reflect on everything gone by till now. Has it all not dissolved and disappeared in the waves of time? It is all gone. After some time you will retire to your rooms, and you will come to the session tomorrow and day after, and then you will eventually return to your homes. In this way, another 10 or 20 years more will pass by. Does it not all look like a dream? Just wake up and see.
Whatever money you have earned till now will remain safe in the bank, but one day you will die and pass on. People will cremate your body and offer the ashes into the river Ganga. Or people will bury you in the ground, and after the last rites they will all return to their homes. That’s it, the story will come to an end. This is surely going to happen, there is no escaping this truth. Life is going to come to an end one day. There will be some happy days, there will be some unhappy days, but anyway life will be finished one day or another. When you realize that everything is going to be over one day, something within you wakes up. It will not be tomorrow, it has to be at this very moment, right now! You have to wake up now, this very moment, and see – that there is something in you that is the eternal peace, which nothing can shake or destroy. The deep seated contentment, joy, love – all that springs in the present moment. This is very important.
When Self-knowledge dawns, there is no worry, there is no more conflict or duality in the mind. There is no bondage of aversions or cravings anymore. Then there is only joy, and bliss in every moment, and one experiences deep love all around.
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.