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.
I am a doctor, what can I do for the world, and whom can I help?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There is a lot you can do. You can do research. A doctor’s words carry a lot of importance for people, like the gospel truth. You should tell people, “Come on, sit and meditate for some time”. You can encourage people towards a stress-free state of mind and a stress-free life. You can give them talks on how to prevent diseases. I want neurologists to talk more about meditation and also give tips to people on what type of food they should eat and how they can maintain the nervous system better so as to not get into neurological illnesses.
I want liver specialists to tell people how to keep the liver healthy. We would like doctors to hold camps in rural areas. You can write some simple books or make simple handy pamphlets or leaflets describing how one can maintain healthy function of the kidney, heart and the liver. All these are very vital internal organs but people do not know how to maintain them, and how to detoxify them. People do not know what to eat, how to eat and when to eat.
Doctors should raise their voice against unethical practices in Medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. So many malpractices are happening in the pharmaceutical industry today. You must raise your voice against them.
Till about June last year (2015), the World was made to believe that butter is very bad for heart patients. Two years ago, a Vaidya from Mumbai (a doctor proficient in Ayurveda and other holistic healing therapies) had come to meet me in the Ashram. He was an elderly saint from Rishikesh and was having heart problems. The doctors he had consulted told him to not take butter or any fats in his diet at all. Allopathy had prescribed him not to take any fats. But when he consulted an Ayurvedic doctor, they told him, “Dear Sir, you should have butter and Ghee (clarified butter)”.
The allopathic doctor on the other hand would have a sarcastic smile on hearing this, thinking to himself, “This man does not know anything”.
Last year they discovered that butter has Vitamin-K and it does not do any harm to heart patients. Then this discovery also appeared on the cover page of the TIME magazine, that Butter is actually good for you. Research today has shown a completely different picture about Cholesterol. There has been so much hype and drama about Cholesterol. Today the doctors say that Cholesterol is actually good and there is nothing wrong with it. There is a whole different theory that has come up around this.
So, we should not think that Medical Science is the final and ultimate truth. It is a continually evolving and growing science. No doubt, you need to respect and follow it, but this is why today, Holistic Medicine is gaining importance and has found a strong voice everywhere.
Here, Dr. Nisha from our Ashram knew so many people diagnosed with Cancer to whom many hospitals had said that they cannot treat them and there was no way. They came here and underwent many processed, and many people have become healthier. With the regular practice of pranayama, meditation, Yoga, proper food and mind-set, and through Ayurveda, they have got very good results. We have to take towards holistic medicine.
So as doctors you can all do so many good things. You can recommend holistic medicine to people and also educate them about it. If you see, food habits, especially in North India is very bad. In the North, people mostly consume potato, tomato and brinjal very often. The nutritional value in the food consumed there is almost zero. The endurance power of the body amongst our youth is so low. It is only about 20% endurance. There is no energy among our youth; which is why we are so backward in sports.
At a time when China can win 50 medals, we become happy and jubilant if we even get one medal in any sporting event. Getting a bronze medal in the Olympics too is a big thing for us. Why is this so? We have not taken proper care of the health of our youth.
Just inspect and see how much starch do you eat? When you consume rice, potato, etc., it is all starch. Other nutritional vegetables are not being promoted very well. As doctors you should educate people about this. Tell them to have more of okra, green beans, and more of green leafy vegetables.
Where was tomato used in our ancient and traditional cooking? Today in every house you see people using tomato, potato, brinjals and onions in cooking. That’s it. There is very little nutritional value in these four vegetables. Yet we find that predominantly people eat more of these instead of other vegetables. And for these vegetables also, people usually boil them and then eat them after throwing away the water used for boiling these vegetables. By throwing away the water, they also throw away all the nutrients and minerals extracted in the water. As doctors you will really need to inform and educate people about all this. Tell them what they should eat and drink and how they should do so. This is why we suggested establishing a Meditating Doctors Association.
Many times we partnered with AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in New Delhi to organize such informative programs and sessions. Last time, 600 research papers on Sudarshan Kriya were presented in the last conference. It was one of the most widely written about topics.
Dear Gurudev, I am an allopathic doctor. When I learnt about Ayurveda, I feel my science is not complete. Yet I also cannot invest time to learn five years of Ayurveda. How can I make my medical practice more holistic with Ayurveda? How can I integrate Ayurveda?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, Ayurveda doctors ask the same question about Allopathy (laughter). I know that many queries and requests of this kind have come up and we shall discuss it with the Ministry of AYUSH, and see if it is possible to design a short course in phases for addressing this – whether by correspondence or in residential mode, and spanning between six months to a year in duration. We will have to think about a proper format for it, since you do know about anatomy already, and you know about diseases.
Here you need to know and learn more about Nadi Pariksha or Pulse Diagnosis. We will do a Pulse Diagnosis course for you. It can be an additional source of knowledge for you about Ayurveda. But to learn more about Ayurveda we will think about it and ask the Ministry of AYUSH about it.
Be happy and content!
We should think about two main goals for ourselves in life:
#1. What is it that you want to achieve in life.
#2. What do you wish to give or contribute to society before you leave this planet.
Both these goals should go hand in hand in life. See, you can have a goal for yourself, and you can also change it after sometime, if you like. But you should also think about what you would like to do for the world, and how would you like the world to be; how would you like society to be? Have that goal also in mind. This is Puja. Pray for three things in life: Purity in the heart; clarity in the mind and sincerity in action.
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.