Meditation is the best form of prayer

India, (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore) September 18 (eve of the nine-day festival of Navratri*)

There are two attitudes that we have to pay attention to. One is when we go inward, we say everything is Ok. Not a blade of grass moves without Divine intervention. God has kept us like this, so let it be so. Everything is Ok.

This is the attitude when you have to go inward (Nivriti).

When you have to come out and work (Pravritti), then you see perfection in even small details. Wherever you see imperfection, you have to pay attention on how you can correct it. Find out ways to improve on all the things.

So while acting, we see where we can improve and what we can change.
When we retire into meditation and say that everything is perfect, only then we can go in.

Usually when people close their eyes and go inward, they say, ‘This is not ok, that is not ok and find fault with everything’. They can neither meditate, nor be quiet. And in activity, people think that everything is fine the way it is, why do we have to do anything about it? Then, we are at a loss.

So when we are acting, we see what we can do and when we have to retire we say everything is Ok. This attitude will help you go deep in meditation.

I want nothing
I do nothing
I am nothing

These are basic principles of meditation. We have to pay attention to this thing.

So Navratri will start from tomorrow. These nine days are nine days of inner connection to the Divinity.

In these nine days, let us keep all our small, petty things, petty desires, requirements, our small small issues that bother us - all in one side and just say to Divine, 'Let thy will be done. I am yours, let thy will be done'.

With this conviction, when you move forward, doing your practices you will lack nothing. All that you need, will just come to you naturally, spontaneously.

So we move into our sadhana, our practices with a trust that we will be taken care of, we are being taken care of.

Navratri is a time when all those needs- physical, mental and spiritual, are taken care by the Divine. At the same time, help each other, help all those people who need your help. It is nine nights, it is very auspicious and it is uplifting to the spirit.

Yagyas (pujas) are done from thousands of years to bring peace, prosperity, to dissolve all the negative karmas and to uplift the human spirit. It has been practiced from a very long time.

It is best not to engage yourself in all other socializing, talking wordly things with people. Just be with yourself. If at all you speak, only speak some knowledge or bare essential things. It is better not to sit and gossip. But these few days its best to be in Divine knowledge.

Q. Once you said that by doing seva all our problems are solved. I have come here for seva, will my problems be solved?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, definitely they will be solved. For all our problems to be solved, two things are needed: one, is our effort (purushartha) and the other is Grace (krupa). God is within us. We are the embodiment of absolute consciousness (chaitanya swaroop). There is nothing separate from us. It is within us, in our form. What we do outwardly, to do pooja, is to create an atmosphere. But the purpose of all this is to be bring the vision inwards to the self.

Q. Could you please explain why we pray to Shiva, even though Shiva is called the destructor?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi ShankarShiva is not just the destructor; Shiva means the transformer, the consciousness which is advaita, which is non-dual, the one consciousness, Mahadeva. The Shiva pooja- Rudrapooja is the most ancient yagya which unites all the five elements, through chanting and using the five elements. This ceremony is done to uplift the human consciousness.

Q. What is the goal of our life?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: This is a question you should ponder on. What is it that you want? It is a very important question. Ponder on the answer - what is it that I need? Then all that is important in your life will stand and the unimportant will fall. Then what you think is important, within that (category) you prioritize again and again and again. And when you ponder on that and when nothing remains then you are the goal. Till then its good to keep doing this.

Q. I don’t know how to pray, I understand meditation but I don’t understand prayer. How does one pray?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Meditation is the finest form of prayer. Prayer is ‘Oh God give me this, give me that’ or ‘Oh, I am so thankful to you because you gave me that or this’.
But meditation is just reposing and that is the best form of prayer. Prayer happens when you are utterly helpless or when you are very grateful. There are two situations in your life. Either you are so helpless, when you have no other way. Like if you are very thirsty and you need water, you say please give me some water. Please help.

Asking for help is one form of prayer.
Thanking is another form of prayer.
And the third is just reposing, being quiet.

The third is the most supreme type of prayer.

You can be grateful for all that you have had, that is a sort of prayer. You don’t have to use particular sentences or phrases or verses for it.

The yagyas that are being done here is not just some sort of prayer. It is a technique, a procedure. You don’t need to understand what those chantings mean. The chantings, the vibrations have an impact on our whole body, mind and the environment. That is the most important thing about yagyas. It is not asking God for this thing or that. It is just chanting those shlokas. Hearing the chantings is even more beneficial. You don’t need to chant with them. Simply listening to it, itself creates the vibrations in the consciousness.

Q. Where are Shiva and Shakti?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Both Shiva and Shakti are within us. You sit as though you are sitting in an ocean of bliss, in the ocean of cosmic energy, Divine energy, Shiva energy, Shakti energy. That is what is meditation.

*Festival of nine nights in celebration of the all-pervasive Divinity in the form of Mother Divine

(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

'I am nobody' is a shift in identity'

'I am nobody' is a shift in identity'
India, (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore) September 16:

Q. What does 'I am nothing' mean ? Are we negating our own existence?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
: You know everything else can be explained but emptiness cannot be explained. You are asking me to explain the emptiness. A substance can be explained but lack of all substance cannot be explained. Similarly, 'I am nobody' is an experience. It is a shift from being somebody, from being a limited identity to unlimited identity.

Q. How to be rid of jealousy while still being competitive?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
: It is better to compare yourself with your own self. How you were ten years or five years ago and what you can be yet tomorrow, compare with yourself. Second thing is you know, create a sense of belongingness with all those who are making progress.

Q. What is Kevala Kumbhaka ?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Kevala kumbhaka is when there is almost no breath and that your mind is in a very happy state. It happens without your effort.

(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

'Compassion with nothingness makes you very beautiful'

What H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said today
'Compassion with nothingness makes you very beautiful'
India, (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore), September 14:

Q. When we experience meaninglessness and a hollow and emptiness in life, does it not give rise to depression and a sense of loss?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : You know when you feel so empty and there is nothing, definitely it gives rise to depression. That is where love, devotion, dedication and a cause combined with the knowledge that everything is nothingness, has to come.
That’s why Lord Buddha said everything is nothing. Along with that he said education, sacrifice, devotion all this is a must. Compassion with nothingness makes you very beautiful.

Q. Inspite of the fact that ten thousand people became enlightened in the time of Buddha, why is it that Buddhist meditation techniques are not so popular?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Who said it is not popular? It is very popular. What Buddha said not just stayed only in India. It went far and wide to Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia, it spread all over the East. From Afghanistan to China to Bahamians Buddhas. Recently, till ten years ago the Bahamians Buddhists statues were there. So people had carved huge statues of Buddha on a mountain, it must have been very popular there.
Now today it is very popular in the West. In America so many people are appreciating Buddhism. In India, Buddhism got absorbed in Hinduism because it is the same thing. So Buddha became the ninth avatar or aspect of the same philosophy. Buddhist teaching is the same as Upanishad teaching, there is not too much difference. It’s quite popular.

Q. When you experience total desirelessness, then how do you get the desire to act?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : You know we don’t act as the mind says, we act with commitment. Because mind says one day I don’t want to go to work. If you ask people who are working in offices, nobody’s mind wants them to go to office. If everyday is a Sunday, everybody will be very happy. If it’s a holiday, all the seven days, people would happily sit at home but life doesn’t work like that. So you have to commit and your life moves with commitment. Whether you like it or not you simply work.

(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

‘This whole creation is made up of vibrations’

Q. Why do people bow down to the Divine?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : There is a tradition in this country – people bow down to show humility. However there is no point in just bowing down from the body, if your mind bows down then it is useful.

Q. People try and hamper my faith by saying that we become what we think of. So, if we worship Krishna, we will become a thief and worshipping Ganesha would make us like an elephant. How do I respond to them?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Giving knowledge to an ignorant person is a skill.
There are many forms for one Divine. Really, any Divine form is light. Form is a symbol. Lord Krishna is the blissful consciousness. According to this argument, those who worship Jesus would have to die at the cross! This is all kutarka, wrong logic - better not indulge in this.

Q. What is the meaning of the shloka- akhanda mandal akaram, vyaptam yena characharam, tad padam darshitam yena tasmai shri guruve namah?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Guru who gives us the experience of the eternally present consciousness – we bow down to that Guru.

Q. How do I become one with the Divine?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Leave the uniting in love, there is only one love- Cosmic love.

Q. Why are there bad people in this world?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Why don’t you ask a movie maker to make a movie only with the hero in it? Life is a struggle of both good and evil but only good will prevail.

Q. People say that we should worship only one God like Krishna or Ganesha so that we know who to call for when we are in trouble. If God is one then why are there so many names and forms?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: These are different names for the one Divinity. Like you wear a different dress every day. Today you are wearing black, tomorrow you will wear something else.
Even when you change your dress tomorrow, you will remain the same, right? Same way whatever names and forms, it is the same Divine.

Q. What does the mantra Bhadram Karne-bhi-h Shrnuyam Deva... mean?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: This is the first mantra to be recited before any pooja. It means, let my ears hear good things, let my eyes see good things, let us speak only good words, let our life be on the Divine path.

Q. I am so full of doubt. What should I do?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Don’t you doubt your doubting? Doubt your doubt! When there is too much confusion, then find solace in surrender. Surrender to your Guru, the Divine or your mother. You are not alone. Your life will be successful.
* refer to Sri Sri’s discourse on the Ashtavakra Geeta)
(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

'Have compassion on those who have hurt you'

India, (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore), September 12:

Q. If I am you and you are me, then when will my mind become your mind?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: All the difference is only on the gross. The subtler we go, we see there is only one consciousness.

Q. How to increase intelligence and how to be more creative?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: To increase intelligence, you need to observe some silence. Silence is the mother of all invention. Silence is the basis of intelligence. Take few moments, hours, days of silence. I wouldn’t recommend silence for more than a few days. People go into silence for months - it is useless. They shouldn’t do too much. Time to time silence will increase all our ability. Our senses will become sharp, mind becomes more alert. You become more intelligent, you are aware about what you are speaking, your intuition becomes so much better.

Q. What can I do to become the Divine’s favorite?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Smile and Serve. Smile at everybody and serve all.

Q. How to behave with people who have hurt me in the past. Even though I have forgiven them, I don’t know how to interact with them. I don’t want anyone to take away my smile.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Good. This very intention to move on will help you. Hold on to that. Then, have compassion on those who have hurt you, that they don’t have as much awareness or knowledge as you have. They never had the opportunity to learn, the way you have learnt.

Q. It is said that if someone is enlightened, his or her generations are liberated. If it is so then can one choose not to have children and devote his/her entire life to seva?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Good, no problem if you don’t choose to have children that is fine. Yet what is necessary is that you have to feel that you are the parent of the entire world, that everybody on this planet is a child and that they belong to you. At least this you can have, no one can stop you from feeling that or thinking that.

Q. No matter how sincerely I do sadhana and attend satsang, I am unable to get rid of eating non-vegetarian food. It makes me guilty, please help.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You talk to some of the YES!+* people. They will tell you all the ways. You know the main thing is to save your mind, don’t let guilt enter your mind. Just be natural.

Q. How do we know who is a true master and who is pretending to be so?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Well, I never spent time looking for one! You know, your heart tells you. There is something called as the gut feeling. Your heart tells you that you are in the right place. Second is, any teacher, any master, anybody, even you as a friend, what do you want from your friend? Do you want something from your friend, other than their own happiness?
If you expect something from your friend or your student other than their own progress and happiness then you are not a good teacher or a friend. In friendship you expect your friend to be grateful to you but a teacher does not even expect that. So want nothing from anyone other than their own happiness. In the Upanishads, it is said there are five signs of a Master. The Upanishads have said that there are five signs of being with a Master:
1. Knowledge flows
2. Sorrow diminishes
3. Joy wells up for no reason
4. Talents come up
5. Lack start disappearing, abundance dawns

Q. Is the concept of anatama (no soul) true? Modern neuroscientists are in agreement with this idea. Please tell us what the truth is.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Lord Buddha said, “I went in meditation, I searched and searched and searched for the soul, I could not find it. So there is no soul, there is no atma.” That become anatmavad. He said everything is hollow and empty. There is no soul, there is no person, no entity. It is all nothing, everything is nothing. This is what Lord Buddha propounded.
Then, after sometime Sri Adishankara came. He said Ok, is that case! You didn’t find anybody. Right? But who experienced that nothingness. Who experienced that there is no self? Who searched and found that there is no self?
Someone must have searched; someone said there is no self. That is the self. That is how using the same logic of Buddha, Sri Adishankara brought back the Vedic wisdom back into India.
And the places he travelled, today is India. From Kerela to Kashmir, from Gujrat to Orissa to Kamagya. He travelled to these areas and that became India. The Self is like the space. It is not an entity or an object. In fact, what lord Buddha said and what Adishankara said there is not much difference, only one change, a flip in thinking - Buddha says it is all nothing, Adishankara says it is all fullness, everything is full, every single inch of space is filled with knowledge and information.
He says this entire universe is consciousness and consciousness is true infinity, wisdom and information. That is why great scientists like Albert Einstein appreciated this so much. They said the Bhagwad Geeta, the Upanishads are the greatest scriptures, reading which their whole life changed. What the scientists are saying today about the black hole, dark matter, dark energy, has been said long time back.
If you listen to a quantum physics scientist and listen to Vedanta, you will feel that they are talking the same thing.

Q. My mind goes all over, even when I’m doing pooja.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is Ok. See it is not the best when the mind goes in all directions. But you have got into the habit of sitting with yourself everyday. That ways sometime you will get into meditation and an samskara (impression) is formed.
There is benefit from mantra japa. Even if you are not benefitted 100 percent but just 20 percent, that is also Ok. To settle the mind, pranayama is necessary. Do swadhaya (study of the Self) and keep reminding yourself that everything is nashwar (transitory).
What seems like a problem today will be OK, it has to be OK.
We sit for pooja, along with flowers even leaves and thorns are offered. So it means that we accept life with balance, whether there are flowers, thorns, fruits, leaves and surrender everything.

Q. Should we chant the mahamrityunjaya mantra while doing puja?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is good, there is a lot of praises for mahamrityunjaya mantra. It feels good when you say it. Sugandhim pusti wardhanam, make your body and senses healthy, such a prayer is very good.
There is gayatri mantra and mahamrityunjaya mantra which have their special mahima (highness). Chant Om Namah Shivay - it has everything. Om encompasses everything. There are different vibrations for Om Namah Shivay, Om Namho Bhagwate Vasudevaya.
That is why Om Namah Shivay has been called the maha mantra. Na (earth element), Mah (water element), Shi (fire element), and va (air element) – ya (sky element ) it includes all the elements. So the Master of these five elements is Om Namah Shivay.

Q. What is mukti (liberation)?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you take the last breath joyfully that is mukti (liberation). Those who experience some lack and are sad while dying, they return. Be satisfied at the time of your death. The one who is immersed in knowledge, even while dying, will be free.

Q. What happens to those who die unhappy?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Can’t do anything. Be contented and live life. Don’t wait to get contented at your dying bed.

Q. How to overcome fear?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Through sadhana, Kriya , meditation.

Q. Is there a limit for tolerance?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Sky is the limit. If someone is doing injustice, don’t tolerate yet don’t react. Respond to it. Reaction is when you just do it without being aware of it. When there is injustice, plan properly and counter it with awareness. I am not telling you to tolerate if somebody does any injustice.
With skill, see how you can educate them. Tolerating means giving others sometime to improve. If their behavior is creating pain for you and you want to give them some time to improve, this is tolerance.
Then educate them with this idea that what they are doing is going to harm them so they must be educated. And then ignore because you cannot correct everyone on the planet. Some people are that way. If you go on thinking about them, then you will be spoiling your own peace of mind. So tolerate, educate, ignore and don’t react but respond.

* Yes +! is an Art of Living course, designed especially for the youth.

(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

‘Nothing else can bring you the satisfaction that seva brings’

What H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankarsaid today
‘Nothing else can bring you the satisfaction that seva brings’
India (Art of Living, International Center, Bangalore), September 11:

Q. We do everything for appreciation from people. How to get rid of the craving for appreciation from others?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : First start doubting the appreciation. Are they genuinely appreciating or trying to fish something out of you? When you doubt the appreciation then you will lose the craving for other’s appreciation.

Q. Whatever we see and experience in the past life regression process- Eternity - is it really our past lifetime or our desires or imaginations?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Yes, it could be everything, hidden desires, impressions on the mind. So take it in a light way.

Q. Why do I cry so easily? Am I so weak?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Crying out of love, joy is very good. Such tears are very precious. It is a sign of your heart opening up. If you cry because you feel hurt, then invoke the valour inside. Many times you pity yourself. On the spiritual path, self pity and self blame have no place at all. Shun these two. If you blame yourself then you cannot go towards yourself.

Q. If the goal of every soul is moksha (liberation), can one be thankful towards the parents who were responsible for bringing one back into the circle of life and death?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You have to thank your parents as they gave you an opportunity to come into this beautiful world. Moksha is possible only in this world.

Q. I detest my job which I loved so dearly once. What can I do?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Our likes and dislikes change so often! You like something and then dislike it and so on. Life should not be swayed away by likes and dislikes but well founded on commitment. You need some work to sustain your life. Any job that sustains your life, be committed to it and if you get something better, go for it.

There is nothing like job satisfaction. Every job has some drawbacks. Earn your livelihood and then do seva for satisfaction. That brings you maximum satisfaction. Nothing else can bring you the satisfaction that seva brings.

Q. I feel that prayers do not come from my heart. What to do to pray from the heart?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Nothing. Do not do anything about it, just be natural. You cannot force yourself to like anything or force love and devotion. The more effort you make, the longer it takes. Be clear about two things. First, never doubt someone’s love for you or your love for someone else. Second, don’t make an effort to love or insist that someone should love you. These are the impediments on the path of love.

Q. With regard to accepting people as they are, I find it very hard to accept the people who are insincere towards their work, especially those who report to me.

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Very good. Don’t accept them as they are. Take strict action and handle them skillfully.

People don’t change overnight, yet people do change. Nobody will remain the same as far as imperfections are concerned. Perfection remains the same. Truth is always one, lies can be many.

Q. How to decide that enough is enough? I have a child and want to go for a divorce.

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Ask yourself, have you given 100 percent. If the mind says no, you have given your 80 percent or even 95 percent, then wait till you give your 100 percent. Even better, give your 101 percent for the sake of the children. A little sacrifice for the children will take you a long way

Even after that if it does not work, then in a friendly manner tell your partner that your paths are different and it is better to part.

Q. What is the difference between idea and thought?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First you tell me their meanings and I will tell you the difference. We attach meaning to words. You got it?

Q. Please tell us more about dispassion on the spiritual path.

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Dispassion is centeredness. Dispassion is not disappointment or having a long face. It is being satisfied looking for something higher.

Q. How to balance studies, work and seva?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: How do you balance a bicycle? Exactly the same way.

Q. What is the purpose of life?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is a golden question. One who knows the answer will not tell you. Anybody who attempts to answer you, do not listen to him. This question can kindle the quest within you.

Q. What is the place of spirituality in life?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If you want to watch television what would you choose - to see or hear first? Both simultaneously. Similarly, the spiritual path brings energy, enthusiasm, creativity and calmness in your life. They are absolutely essential. That is like body and mind, both go together.

Life is a combination of ethereal and spiritual. Something not tangible and something very tangible, the body.

Q. In the present day, corporate world there is a pressure to commit fraudulent activities. How to handle these situations?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Skillfully. If your boss tells you to do fraud, avoid it skillfully. Finally, say that your consciousness does not allow you to commit fraud. If you do fraud then the boss will escape and you will be put behind bars. However hundred percent truth is also not workable, it is only an ideal.

There is an ancient Indian proverb that says that as much lies are allowed as there is salt in food. For example, if you want to sell your product, it may not be the best; still you can say that your product is the best. That much lies are permissible. Ancient people have said this, thousands of years back. It is fascinating how they handled the human mind.

Q. Are our sins forgiven by God or does the Sudarshan Kriya clean them off?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, all the past is washed off. Definitely if you do Sudarshan Kriya it releases all the past impressions and makes you fresh and lively.

Q. How would you describe the Art of Living organization? Is it philanthropic, spiritual or humanitarian?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: All in one. It is everything - philanthropy, social, and spiritual. We discuss knowledge, do service activities, sing together and do interfaith dialogue and feel that we are one world family.

Q. When we have a guru, is there a need for astrology?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Astrology is a science but astrologers are not so scientific.

Q. In the Bhagwad Geeta, there are two ways described for liberation. Bhakti Marg- the way of devotion and Gyan Marg- the way of knowledge. Which one is better?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: They are not two different paths. Suppose, you like rice pudding. How do you like rice pudding without knowing what is rice pudding. The knowledge of it will kindle a liking for it. Love and knowledge go hand in hand. Once you know about something, you go and buy it. Bhakti, Gyan and Karma are three legs of the same table.

Krishna tells Arjuna all those steps and finally says drop all and just relax. For you everything is done. Shama jali hai tere liye tujhko kuch nahi karna hai, the lamp is lit for you, you don’t have to do anything.

Q. If we are all God, then why do we have so many Gods and Goddesses?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The sun’s light is one, yet when it goes through a prism, seven colors come up. All gods and goddesses are part of one truth. One Supreme Self is referred to as Devi, Shiva, Ganesh, Kartikaya. Lord Krishna says rudranam shankaraschasmi, of rudras, I am Shankara. I am the moon, the sun, I am Shiva, I am the Ganges river, I am everything.

(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

‘Keep your mind peaceful’

What H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said today

‘Keep your mind peaceful’

India (Art of Living, International Center, Bangalore), September 10:

Q. If mukti (liberation) is our nature then why are we in bondage?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Who says mukti is our nature? Our nature is bliss. Love and enjoyment can put you in bondage, if it is devoid of knowledge. With knowledge, the same love, the same enjoyment leads you to the experience of liberation.

Liberation and bondage go together. If there is liberation, there will be bondage and vice-versa. Liberation is valued because of bondage. If there is no bondage, what is there to be liberated from?

Similarly we can be liberated, that is why we experience bondage. With the desire for liberation we come to know that we are in bondage. If the desire for liberation has not risen then you will not even come to know of bondage.

Q. Sometimes while doing seva I lose interest. How to avoid this and what could be the reason for this?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Live life with moderation and balance. When you try to avoid the situation, it persists. Upanishads say tat vananeeta upasita , worship the Lord as if He is a forest. A forest has everything - tiger, sheep, cow, parrot, crow, flowers and thorns.

It is always in balance. We never see imbalance in a forest. It is complete in itself, it is pure and there is place for everybody in it. Worship the Divine like He is a forest, with fullness and equanimity.

Similarly in life, there is happiness sometimes and sometimes, sorrow. When one tries to escape from a situation then it persists. Thus, there is the first principle of the Art of Living, accept people and situations as they are. This is the path of nivriti – when you have to establish within yourself. When we are established within ourselves, then our capabilities, strengths, intellect and enthusiasm to work increases.

When all this is risen, then return to pravritti (action) and work with awareness and enthusiasm. Not only with awareness or enthusiasm.

Life is a combination of pravritti and nivriti.

Q. What is jeevan mukta awastha, the state of liberation from life?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: A state where the four desires- jeeveshna, lokeshna, vitteshna and putreshna end or dissolve. That is jeevan mukta awastha. Dying while alive, experiencing that I am not there. The enjoyment and happiness in this state cannot be put in words.

Q. I wish to surrender all my powers. Help me to have a vision of the Infinite (Brahma Darshan).

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Brahma ka darhan nahi hota hai, Brahma hi toh darshan karta hai - the Infinite cannot be seen as it is the Infinite that sees. The seer is Brahma. Do not try to have a vision of it, just be at peace. Surrender the desire and be at peace.

Do that which has to be done, leave that which has to be left and be at peace. Be at peace before doing something and be at peace after doing something. Anyhow keep your mind peaceful.

Q. Can we achieve a goal within time? Please tell a way so that we may achieve a hundred percent result.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There is a sukti in Sanskrit - Kriya siddi bhavati mahta, kriya siddhi bhavati satve mahta . An act is perfected by satva. The higher the satvaguna rises in us, an act is achieved easily and without hurdles. When rajoguna and tamoguna are increased, then it takes longer to complete a work.

Thus, to increase the satva, follow a satvic diet, meditate, do satsang, pranayama and yoga. With all this, sadbuddhi (good sense) is developed.

Q. I want to quit addiction to intoxicants and have come to you with a lot of hope.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Good. You have come to the right place. If you wish to get rid of a bad habit then there are only three ways for it.

The first is your love for knowledge, the Divine or some dear one - whether parents or Guru. By promising some dear one that you will quit the habit you will be able to get rid of it. This is the best way out.

The second way is greed. If you will not consume intoxicants for six months then you will get ten million rupees or that your luck will shine and you will succeed in everything. The third is fear - if one day you do consume intoxicants, then you will suffer a loss of one million or you will have to suffer from a major ailment.

If such a greed or fear enters you, even then you will be rid of your addiction.

Along with these three ways, do yoga and pranayama. The best is that along with yoga and sadhana (spiritual practices), you take a vow that you will not indulge in addictions. Take a vow for forty days, then six months and then a year. After that, you would have come out of the habit and won’t look back at it.

Q. No matter how much I try, I end up running after the Divine. Is this devotion or lack of self respect?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, no one can take away your self-respect. Yet it is seen that devotees sometimes go so mad with love that they forget everything else! I would say fine, you have ran enough. Now sit at one place. Look within yourself. When you will look within yourself, then the Divine will run after you. Not only the Divine, but the whole world will run after you! Relax and be at peace and do as much seva as you can.

Q. How does the Divine look so lovable and beautiful?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Look within yourself, you are no less!

Jaisa drishti, waisa srithti. Jaisa nazar waisa nazaare, nazariya. As is the vision, so is the world. Only a jeweler can know a jewel. Only the one who is beautiful can recognize beauty. Only those who are lovable will recognize love not everyone. But everyone has the capacity. If everyone recognizes what is within (the love and beauty) then the whole world seems Satyam, Shivam Sundaram. In the whole world the blissful consciousness will be seen.

Q. How to maintain consistency in whatever good work one does?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: After this (inconsistency) happens sometimes, then you get the answer as well. You come to realize that this should be done and it feels good to do it.

You did something good and then left it. Leaving it gave you a pinch. Then you resumed it and then left it again. Two, three times when you feel the pinch, you understand that it (the good) should not be stopped. If we do not learn from our mistakes, we will never learn from someone telling us. Your own mistake can teach you more than listening to lectures for hours. What you learn from your mistake is permanent, the rest is just what you have heard.

So it is alright if you make a mistake, but do not keep on repeating the same mistake again and again. Then you have not learnt anything! Make new mistakes but don’t repeat the old ones. Learn from it and move on.

Q. Why is it that doing something wrong is easier than doing the right thing?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Is it? I thought to do a wrong deed, requires a lot of effort. See if you like something very much then all your energies go into that direction. Is it easy to slap someone? I don’t think so, I find it very difficult. If you think it is very easy to call someone names then it would be because of an old habit. A lot of people cannot use bad words, even if they wish to.

We have to bring a transformation within ourselves and bring in human values in our life. Make an attempt for it. Even if you try and do a good action, its result will be good. Even if someone does a wrong action very easily, its result would be very bad.

Q. If the soul is hollow and empty then how are impressions formed on it?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are no impressions on the soul. Impressions are formed on the mind which is linked with the consciousness. The consciousness covers the soul. Only that covering has the impressions.

No fragrance or smell sticks to space but only in the space within the vessel. For instance, if garlic is kept in a pot, its smell will be there even after the garlic is removed. That is because of the empty space inside the pot.

Similarly, all the impressions are formed on the gross and subtle body not on the pure consciousness. The pure consciousness is like space.

Q. Please explain how is it possible for me to give my hundred percent and yet not be feverish?

H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You forget about feverishness now and just give your hundred percent.

(From the office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation

‘Accept life in its totality and that is the way to be centred’

India (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore), September 9:

Q. If someone is not a Brahman, can he do Upnayana* and would he get social recognition?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Yes.

Q. It is said that sadhana and meditation influence the mind. Does the food also have an effect on the mind?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Yes, food has an impact on the mind. It is said jaisa ann waisa mann, as is the food, so is the mind. Food influences your mind, thoughts and behaviour.

Q. What is the origin of Om?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Om is the origin of everything else.

Q. How can I love and respect myself? And break a pattern that has been in me since I was seven years old?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Forget about it, take it for granted. And this is one such thing. If you try to love yourself, you would be in trouble. The more effort you put, the longer it takes for you to realize this. So take it for granted that everyone loves themselves for sure and you too love yourself. You are love. Love is not an act, it is a noun.

Q. Why is it so simple to be complicated?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If you think it is so simple to be complicated, it is so complicated to be simple then! Then you can easily accept that life is a mixture of both complication and simplicity. And if you don’t want to do only simple things in your life all the time and want to do something complicated as well then, you do something which is so complicated it makes you so simple.

Q. Is eating non-vegetarian food, a sin?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Eating non-vegetarian food is not satvic. So that which is not satvic does not give you happiness or does not give you knowledge and enlightenment. Further progress in the spiritual journey will be at stake by eating non-vegetarian diet.

Q. What is the ideal diet for armed forces personnel? Today alcohol and non-vegetarianism is prevalent almost everywhere.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No, you can avoid it. More and more people are becoming vegetarians and teetotallers in the world today. There was a time when vegetarian food was seldom available in college campuses outside India. Today, everywhere there is vegetarianism. People are turning to vegetarianism for health reasons, to avoid the risk of cancer and many other illnesses. So vegetarianism has become much more popular and it will become even more popular in the coming years.

Q. In the talk about Ganesha, you have not spoken about riddhi and siddhi. Could you please do so?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Riddi and siddhi come with the divinity. They are part of it. Even if you don’t want siddhis, they will come. Same with riddhi. Riddhi means abundance, various kinds of abundance and splendor.

Q. Are husband and wife really made for each other? How is this possible?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I am not qualified to speak on that. You should ask them(those who are married). Thats how, when they are in love with each other, they feel we are made for each other. When they get into trouble then they wonder whether their marriage is really made in heaven or is it made in hell.

Q. I am perpetually in wonder, how you perpetually look so fresh and so charming!
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Good. Keep wondering. Wonder in anyone’s eyes is a charm in itself. Children look so beautiful, you know why? Because they have a wonder in their eyes. Wonderment. So I am happy you are keeping that wonder in your eyes and making yourself much more beautiful, much more charming. Everyone should wonder about something or other. Wonder indicates liveliness. When you lose all wonder in your life, you become very inert, dull and lifeless. Sign of life is wonderment and thats why nature has created so many things to wonder about and make life wonderful!

Q. What is the meaning of the symbols on the pillars (in the Vishalakshi Mantap – the Meditation Hall in the Ashram)?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: All these symbols are from various faiths in the world. You see Om, the universal primordial sound. Underneath you see the DharmaChakra of Buddhism. Then you see on the second pillar, Cross, this is the sign of Christianity and then the Feather, which is the sigh on Native American religion. Then you see the Hand, which is the sign of Jainism. Underneath is the Turban and the Sword, which is the sign of Sikhism. Then you have the Conch and the Disk, which is a sign of Vaishnavism- a branch of Hinduism. Underneath you have, Shintoism and Taoism. Then you have Islam. Below Islam, Taoism, Ying and Yang. Then you have signs of other native religions. In the end you have Judaism and underneath is Zoroastrian fire symbol. So, almost all the faiths in the world are represented here.

Q. Even though I do regular sadhana, many times I get feverish about things. How to deal with this feverishness?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are feverish to get rid of feverishness will become a big hindrance. When you feel feverish, accept it. Your accepting feverishness itself will bring the calming effect. Otherwise, you are feverish to get rid of feverishness, will roll into a chain reaction of feverishness. Accept life in its totality and that is the way to be centred. Once you are centred, you are the source of creativity. You will be the source of happiness, joy and love.

Q. How to react in a situation where one see injustice being done to people around us or to our self?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you see injustice, you must stand up to it. And stand up with skill, don’t be foolish. You need to have the skill, power and support to stand up and that you need to garner, when you stand up to injustice

Q. In the book ‘Celebrating Silence’ you have mentioned that anuvrat can even help one get rid of attachment and entanglements. Please explain.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Anuvrat means taking up a vrat(vow), even if it is a small one. With small small vows we can move towards important Sadhana. These are steps. Taking small small steps, we receive strength in life.

Q. Even after doing the Art of Living course why do some people live in such hatred and ego? How to teach them the language of love?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Bring them to satsang again and again. Sometimes, even after having good intentions in the mind, a person tends to fall because of the company (he keeps). This is called sanghdosh. People are good and wish to walk the right path, but due to bad company, are not able to imply their good thoughts. Thus, satsang is very effective and vital. Inspire others and bring them to satsang. Just like people push others to do wrong acts, similarly for good also we sometimes need to pull people.

Q. We crave for the pleasure of the senses, personal gain and power. Do cravings drop one at a time or all together?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Sometimes cravings dissolve one at a time, sometimes all together. As soon as anurag(devotion) is born in life, everything else is dropped. When there is love and devotion you will see that all the negativity is removed on its own. When the satva is increased in life, attachments and aversions due to rajoguna, tamguna are themselves removed. For some, it happens slowly and gradually and some undergo misery and then drop it. They drop it because of misery.

Q. Are there different techniques to achieve different siddhis(perfections/powers)?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Ek hi saadhe sab sadhe, sab saadhe sab jaaye, if you follow one thing you will achieve all, but if you want everything, you won't achieve anything.

Q. The atmosphere of the Ashram is very beautiful. It is easy to practise seva, satsang and sadhana here but difficult in the outside world. Will I receive more merit by applying knowledge in the outside world?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, it is alright. I also have a habit of teaching the Gita in the Warfield. Wherever there is war in the world, Gita is taught. Yes, it is easy to apply knowledge here. You begin from here then wherever you sit you can meditate and wherever you meditate such an atmosphere(like that of the Ashram) you will be able to create on your own.

*The sacred thread ceremony

© The Art of Living Foundation

'When we are joyous with ourselves, then nothing from outside can seem boring to us'

What H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankarr said today:
'When we are joyous with ourselves, then nothing from outside can seem boring to us'
India (Art of Living International Center, Bangalore), September 8:
Q. Why is it difficult to get focused on things that I don’t like to do?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : If you don’t like something, then your focus is all the more on it. If you like something, then you focus on it. When you’re neutral about something, when there is no aversion, then there is no focus.
Studying the nature of mind is itself is an amazing phenomena. You will be thrilled knowing and learning more and more about your own mind. When I say mind, I don’t mean just mind. I would rather say the consciousness because the mind is one function of the consciousness. The perception is what we call the mind. The perceptible aspect of the consciousness is called mind. The judgmental aspect, the intellect.
The study of consciousness is the most difficult. And with time and maturity, everybody gets it.
Q. Can we aspire for something higher like enlightenment at the age of twenty one?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Definitely. You should aspire for enlightenment and enlightenment is unconditional happiness, unconditional love and a life in which you are in the driver’s seat. You must aspire for enlightenment. Right from when you recognize to aspire anything in life. Go to the highest first and all the good things will come along, you don’t have to make an effort for it.
When I say you don’t have to make an effort, I mean you don’t have to sit and worry about it. When you aspire for the highest, your action will be spontaneous and in the spontaneity you will see things have started falling into place.
Q. What is a self referral attitude?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Being in touch with your very center. When you worry there is a tendency to lose that focus or centredness. It is the same when you are tired or too busy. Self referral means coming back to yourself, to your center again and again. The core value within you.

Q. Are there any plus points of doing a job other than earning money
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Money and experience. That’s all and some discipline. If you have to do a job you have to discipline your life in a certain fashion.

Q. Is there a gene for knowledge, any nadi (channel for energy flow) that has to be opened for creativity?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Definitely and you all have it. And it opens whenever you listen to knowledge.

Q. How does it feel to be so Divine?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Absolutely natural.

Q. We are not supposed to marry in our own gotra (family tree). Scientifically, what does a gotra mean?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Gotra is a family tree, like you know if you marry your own siblings, or cousins, they say the genes will not develop properly, children will not develop. The family trees go back to some rishis in the past. And they say that gotra means we belong to this (a particular) family. Today what the scientists say about blood groups was known to people thousands of years ago. Yet people from the same gotra have spread. If you marry in the same gotra the children will not be too healthy. That is the main thing. It’s better to avoid.
But those were the thoughts from some thousands of years ago but now since we have gone so far away and the population has spread so much, it has become so vast. I don’t know how relevant it is. But (marriage within) gotra is better to avoid.
Q. Many times parents out of over attachment, prejudiced opinions and being football of the relatives opinions stop us from doing seva. Can we make seva our career?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes.

Q. What is beauty and how to enhance it within and around us?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: First of all you should know you have a beautiful mind. The mind is free, it is loving, beautiful, satisfied and not feverish. So when the spirit is centred or your mind is centred, that beauty shines through.

Q. Could you speak a little bit about Sanskrit and its greatness? I would like to take it as one of my Ph.d topics.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, do it. Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. Whether it is English, Russian, German or Italian, there is a lot of Sanskrit in it. Of course, Sanskrit is the base of all Indian languages.

Q. Every day, in different corners of the world, people ask you the same questions. Don’t you get bored? I am very inspired by your patience.
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : My consciousness is nitnutan (new every moment). First we get bored with ourselves and then bore others or get bored from others. When we are joyous with ourself, then nothing from outside can seem boring to us.

Q. How do we gear up for enlightenment?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Wanting it, itself is half done. The rest is a little discipline and you should know that you will get it. It will be given to you. That’s why you have the path, the guru. You will just get it. Shama jali hai tere liye, tujhko kuch nahi karna hai (The candle is lit for you, you don’t have to do anything). You don’t have to do anything just be hollow and empty from inside.

Q. I have a habit of recalling the pleasant memories of life again and again, as it gives a glimpse of the same pleasure as I felt in the past. Is it something to be cautious of, can it hinder my growth?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It’s alright, don’t make an effort to sit and go on remembering the past. I think you have too much free time. Get busy and start working. There are so many things to do in the world. Where is the time to live in the past, recollect all the past. Right? The world is new every moment. Go with it. Don’t turn back and keep looking back. Move forward.

Q. Why does everyone not aspire to serve the society, in their youth?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It must be there. There is no heart that does not get affected at the sight of misery. This we assume. At one time, everyone should desire to do seva. This we cannot say.

Q. What is the essence and secret of life?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Essence and secret! It will be whispered into your ears when you go into meditation. Do (Sudarshan) Kriya and meditation.

Q. Why is that we are unable to understand the mind- which is the most powerful thing in the world?
H.H Sri Sri Ravi ShankarHave you begun to understand it? (reply: No) then start from somewhere and then we will see whether it is fully understandable or not.
(From the Office of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

© The Art of Living Foundation