What is stress? When there is too much to do with too little time, or we want a lot but we don’t have enough resources, this causes stress. Also if the resources are there but our ability is not, then also we get stressed. So, how can we manage stress and live more in the moment? With certain energy you can do this. When you meditate, you can increase your ability. When you meditate, you are able to get rid of stress. Eliminate stress by bringing more energy into the body.
Now love is our very nature. You know, I can stand and talk to you for hours about love. It doesn’t mean anything. We can read love through our lives, not through books. You can listen to someone speak on love, but if you have a puppy, the puppy goes mad jumping all over you the moment you come back home. This says much more than reading books all night about love. We can read through our presence and our own lives. Here, I will come to meditation and breath. By doing breathing exercises, we can make our lives so positive. Many of us have had the experience of going to meet somebody and wanting to avoid them. Some people you meet and you just don’t feel like talking to. You feel compelled to avoid them. WIth some Others you feel like conversing. People will have the same experience of you also. Without reason they may avoid you. You want to connect to a person but your stress has created such vibes around, that people are repelled. Here again you must do a bit of pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and yoga to increase the positive vibes around you.
There are so many stories to tell. A teacher was in Botswana and some four terrorists came there. They wanted to steal everything. They were so aggressive yet the teacher looked at them with such positive vibes and said, “hey, my friend what do you want? Some money? Ok, we’ll give you money.” The calmness and serenity in them shook the terrorists. Usually, what they have seen is people panicking. Here someone was looking at them with a human eye. They just took some money and left with it. They didn’t harm anyone. And I tell you, I have so many people emailing me such stories. There are stories of robbers having a change of heart. So, in a similar manner people who are antagonistic towards us can be positively affected if we ourselves live in a space of love and free from stress. I tell you, it is not too easy. It’s challenging but we need to move in that direction. We should first extend peace and compassion to others. Nature has put compassion at the very core of every human being. Love is the central point for each one of us. Stress is only at the periphery. Negativity is only the circumference. We should dream for a world which is free of violence and hatred. Let us all believe in that first of all. Otherwise, we become paranoid. When we become fearful, we lose our strength. The times when you are afraid are when you need more strength. Yet that is when you don’t have it. It is like forgetting your wallet at home and you are in a shopping mall. Suppose you are in the shopping mall and you don’t have a credit card or any money. What do you do? You will look at everything and come back with nothing. But each one of us has this power of love. We are in no debt. There is this amazing unconditional love but we have no access. We have not had access to that somehow. It’s like having your wealth at home without having the key to the almirah (the place where you store your treasures). You have lost the key but you say “oh, I have that there.”
So, we need to wake up to the power that we are made up of, that is love. Like our body is made up of amino acids, carbohydrates and protein, our spirit is made up of love. It is love that gets distorted and becomes all other negative emotions. Why do you get angry? Because you love perfection. When you love perfection, you can’t but get angry. Why are you jealous? Because you love somebody so much that you want them all for yourself. Jealousy is another distortion of love. Greed is your love for objects. You love things more than you love people. This is called greed. If you love your own glorification, it is arrogance. You love yourself more than anybody else. So, love gets distorted and manifests in all of these negative emotions. It is wisdom which can keep love pure. Love without knowledge or wisdom is misery. Love plus wisdom is happiness. It is as simple as that.
Just a few moments every day reflect on your own life. What am I? Who am I? What do I want? Where do I want to go in my life? You may not get an answer for any of these questions but certainly the question itself is very valuable to you. We can use them to sharpen our mind a little bit and connect with our spirit.
The term for spiritual practice,sadhana, is evolved from money. “Dhana” means money and “Sa” means true wealth. That is the real currency you can use anywhere. Money is important in life but keep money where it belongs to. Do not keep it in the head or in the heart. We often misplace money. We keep it in our head while our pockets are empty. Keep money in the pocket but don’t keep thinking about money. You know, how someone becomes rich? Someone becomes rich when they do something useful for society. How did the cell phone companies become rich? They made something which everybody needs. The newspapers make something that everybody needs. So, you too should do something which is useful for everyone. Then you will become richer. If you keep thinking about yourself all the time, you will only keep thinking. That’s it. If you selflessly serve and leave your needs to society, society will take care of you. You will not experience lack even for one day. Do service without worrying about money or your own needs. Society will take care of it, or by trusting in God. It comes to the same thing. You trust in God and ask whatever you need. Those things will always be taken care of when you have confidence and deep faith. And if you do something that is useful for people, you will automatically make money. If people need milk, you supply milk. If people need groceries, you supply groceries. Work on that which is most needed in society and your needs will be met.
Mahatma Gandhi believed in non-accumulation. In fact it is one of the principles of yoga. You don’t need to accumulate a lot if you are dedicated to service. We need to do something. Pick a goal and it will bring more meaning to your life. When you are working with an idea rather than money as your main goal, you will see that money will anyways come. In the 'Art of Living' we never take money factor into the plan. We just start a project and find that the money somehow comes. Whatever is needed, and when it is needed, it comes. You don’t need to have too much but you should not have any lack. Pranayama and meditation make your life such that there is no dearth of anything. You lack nothing. There is a proverb in India that says - you are aspiring for nuts but they come to you when you have lost all your teeth. What’s the point of getting nuts when you don’t even have teeth? You need to get something when you need it. Right? If you have money to buy sweets, a great air-conditioned room and wonderful home and bed, but you are an insomniac and have diabetes, then what is the point of that? So we must create that positive energy around ourselves. This cannot happen just by worrying and thinking.
Q: What is your inspiration?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are two ways of going about work. One is wanting to do something for which you can always find an inspiration. Another is since you already have something, so you want to do it as an expression of joy. It makes all the difference whether work is done as an expression of joy versus expecting some joy. So, I’m not expecting joy in doing something. Rather, I am doing everything as an expression of joy. Everything is happening spontaneously. People find it very hard to understand this. These people ask me, “What is your motivation?, What is it that you want by doing all of this?”. I say, "nothing. I want nothing". It’s a little hard to understand at that time. For instance, suppose you have seen a nice movie. So many people who saw Avatar told me, “Guruji, you must go.” By canvassing for a movie you enjoyed, you are not getting anything. You are not getting paid for canvassing for that movie. You go around telling everybody, “oh, that movie is so good, you should watch it.” What do you get by that? You just tell people because you enjoyed watching it, and you want to share that happiness with everybody. Infinite joy is what we’ve all been born with. I give joy by sharing myself with everybody. So, we need to bring this shift from the joy of receiving to the joy of giving.
Q: Are you frustrated with what has been happening on Wall Street?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Wall Street has lost the trust of people, as have the government and the church. We need to bring spirituality, the type of spirituality that Mahatma Gandhi spoke about, into politics. We need to spiritualize politics, socialize business and secularize religion. Religious leaders need to worry more about people than their institutions. They should care for people more. At the same time politicians should think about the values that leaders like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and George Washington had. This country had Lincoln. He was a great visionary. There have been leaders who have given their whole lives in service to the people rather than out of a desire to achieve something. There is the Lincoln Memorial here, but it was not Lincoln who asked for it to be built. He stood for justice, equality and truth. That is real spirituality. I consider the founders of this nation and also the founders of India, South America and South Africa as people who had zeal. They were innately spiritual in their nature. This indicates how spirituality relates to politics. The backbone of business is trust. If lost, it cannot survive too long. So businesses should practice corporate social responsibility. We should care for one another. Otherwise, when we lose love for people, when we have no friends, we think money brings us happiness. It doesn’t.
Q: If God is omniscient, why do we praise Him or pray to Him?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Your praise is not for God’s sake. It is for your sake. You praise God, and that praising uplifts your own spirit. You imbibe all those good qualities in you. It’s not that God, when praised, becomes very happy and places those boons on you. You cannot bribe God like that. We pray to God. We do it in every religion. We seem to think that by praying we are appeasing God and by not praying we are annoying God. I don’t think so. Prayer is your innate call. You want something and you pray. Meditation is even better than prayer. The culmination of prayer must be meditation. Meditation is telling God, “I am here to listen to you. What do you want to tell me? Let thy will be done". That is meditation.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are two books you can read to find an answer to this. One is 'Guru of Joy' and the other is 'Walking the Path'. I would say my inspiration is every child. I want to see everyone to be like a child. Of course, I must say my mother was a great force. She was always concerned that I had to do better. Anything I did, she would say that you had to do better. So, she was pushing me all the while.
Q: Despite so much research there’s not yet a cure for HIV. Is there any hope and what is your message to those afflicted with HIV?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Those who are living with HIV and AIDS must remember that we are all going to lose our body one way or another. Everybody is going to die. Now lift your eye above this body consciousness to know your spirit. Spirit has no disease. Spirit is beyond it. Keep your mind alive, energetic, loving and happy. People with disease die and people with no disease also die. Sometimes they die out of nowhere. Sometimes sick people live longer and many times healthy people suddenly die. All possibilities are there. So, know that you are more than the body. You are consciousness. You are light. Honor that light. Please don’t sit and brood over it. Look ahead and engage your life in educating others who are not informed about HIV. And instead of seeking solace, become a giver of solace to others.
Q: Is homosexuality evil?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I don’t think so. Eastern philosophy does not even say that it is evil because you are made up of both male and female DNA. In your DNA, you are half your mother and half your father. Both male and female aspects are in you. In some people the male is more dominant, though your physical body is female. Then you become lesbian. And if your female aspect becomes more dominant and you have a male body, these tendencies may come up at different times. So don’t label yourself as wrong or feel guilty. These tendencies come and go. Many people, who are straight, suddenly have these feelings, and then they are so shaken within themselves. Many people come and talk to me about this problem. Similarly, people who label themselves as gays or lesbians suddenly find their preferences changing. So, all this is fluid. Our tendencies and mind are fluid. I tell you, we should not blame ourselves at any cost. Self-blame is a sin. When you blame yourself, you can never settle down. When you haven’t settled down, you can never focus on anything.
Q: How do you let go of someone you love?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You must know that love is your nature. Love doesn’t mean possessiveness. Love is not “Oh I love you so much, don’t go anywhere. Sit next to me all the time.” That is not love.
Q: What brings about the misuse of power?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Misuse of power is immaturity. Someone who is not mature misuses power. Such power do not stay long because it’s not power at all. It is only an illusion of power.
Q: The Vedas say that God is one and true scholars call Him by many names. Today religions have moved away from this truth of inter-religious harmony. What can we do as individuals to bring that harmony back?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: To bring harmony between the religions, we must uplift everyone to a spiritual level. Spirituality is the common thread. There was only one Jesus, but how many sects of Christianity are there? Seventy-two. There was only one Prophet Muhammed and how many schools of Islam are there? Five. There was only one Lord Buddha and how many types of Buddhism are there? Thirty-two. There was one Lord Mahadeva. How many sects of Jainism are there? Four. So many different schools of thought. Yet the six far Eastern religions had no conflict at all. There was never a conflict between Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism or Shintoism in the world. They always co-existed in harmony. The thing is, Middle Eastern religions have had conflict throughout history. Judaism, Christianity and Islam always had conflict. I was told of a particular incident in Japan. When President Nixon visited Japan for a conference, on one side of him was a Buddhist monk and on the other was a Shinto priest. He asked the Shinto priest, “what is the percentage of Shintoism in Japan?” The Shinto priest replied – 80 percent. He then turned to the Buddhist monk thinking there would be 20% Buddhists in Japan. He asked, “What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan?”. The monk said 80 percent. President Nixon was so confused. He asked how it was possible. Both priests said that it was possible. You know, that type of harmony existed between religions in the Far East because nobody tried to convert anybody. Religious conversion was not an agenda. Uplifting human consciousness was the main goal. Giving the knowledge was the main goal. It was not about saying, ‘my way is the only way and follow it and go to Heaven, otherwise you will go to Hell’. People, who think that only they have the key to Heaven, create such Hell for everyone else. So, a grounded understanding of religious philosophy is essential. If every child knows little bit about all the philosophies of the world, nobody will grow up to be a terrorist. You know, Einstein said that the best book he ever read was the Gita. He said that it has contributed so much to his understanding of the world and about life. Einstein has read it several times.
The Matrix movie was based on Hindu scripture, Yoga Vashista. The main point was about the whole theme of consciousness. It is an excellent book describing the relationship between mind, consciousness and the universe around us.
Q: What does it mean to live completely in the present moment?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Drop the wanting of this answer because the question is already in the past.
Q: How can one experience true love in a relationship?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I can give you three suggestions. One is for men, one for women and one for both. Women should never step on the ego of a man. Women should always boost the ego of a man. Even if the husband is a stupid, the wife should say, “You are the most brilliant man I have ever seen.” You should always praise him. He shouldn’t have to prove himself to you at home because the world requires him to prove himself. He should find peace at home. You should say, “You are the most brilliant man I have ever seen. Just the fact that you don’t use your brain doesn’t mean that you don’t have it. You are the most brilliant.” So, praise your man all the time.
Now there is one suggestion for men. Never step on the emotions of a woman. She may complain to you about her family but you should better not join the bandwagon. She may turn it around. She may take a U-Turn and say, “How dare you say such things about my family. What do you know about my family?” So if she is complaining, you just listen. She is paying lip service. If you say something and you hurt her, it is not worth it. When she wants to go for a religious service or a meditation program or retreat, don’t stop her. And when she wants to go for shopping, just give her your credit card. This will keep peace at home.
There is a suggestion for both men and women. The key to keeping peace at home is that you stop demanding love. You normally say, “Do you really love me? You don’t love me the same way. You have changed. You are different.” Asking people to prove their love for you is such a psychological burden. Just imagine yourself in their place. Imagine if someone demands from you to prove your love for them. What would you do? You’d say, “Oh my God, how long do I have to prove my love for this person?” One day, two days, three days, four days and then you feel like enough. This is what happens. There is a book called ‘Celebrating Love’ that you can read. There are many ideas about love in the book. We don’t know how to receive love unless we know how to give love. How can we express that love? Our expression is something that we keep looking for. So, don’t demand that others express their love. Instead, you should ask, “Why do you love me so much?” Especially on a day when you disagree or they are being nasty, you can say “why do you love me so much? I don’t deserve it!” Even for someone who is angry, you say, “you love me much more than I deserve”. Their attitude would change. Love would spring up in them. If you start demanding, you are destroying love.
Q: Survivors of war and disaster sometimes feel guilty about being alive when so many around them have died. What message do you have for these people?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Life is eternal. That’s it.
Q: What’s the fastest and easiest way to avoid stress and depression?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Inside every culprit there is a victim crying out for help. We need to heal the victim. We all have to try to do some work in this society. You know, we can create a violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory and sorrow-free soul. This should be our mission.
Q: In your books, most of the examples come from the Hindu tradition of the Gita, not so much from the Koran and the Bible? Have you read the Koran, the Bible or any other religious books other than of your own religious tradition?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I am not a theologian. I speak from my experience. One of the scriptures that I usually quote from is of course the Gita. I also quote from the Bible. I am not averse to any religious scripture in the world. What I am averse to is fanaticism of any sort. You need to study every religion or scripture before you can come and talk about it. So, since I have not studied all of the disciplines like Bible and Quran, I must spend at least four to five years studying each before speaking about them. Yet the essence of all these scriptures are spiritual values which I think I can very easily find in my life. I can easily speak on the essence of the Bible. That is why I say unless you become like a child, you can’t get so far. This is true because every child has that freedom. The child inside you is alive. You are still that innocence. That is spirituality. It is when you meditate, when there is unity among diversity and oneness with the whole universe.
Q: Is it ever possible to be free from desires?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes. Otherwise you could never sleep. If the desire haunts your head, you can’t sleep. You let go of the desire so you can sleep. At different times, different needs arise in your body and mind. So, you do not sit here and worry about what you are going to have for tomorrow’s dinner. You know that you have come here for a different purpose. An intention is different from the desire. An example of intention would be the thought that you want to go to New York, and you sit in the car and you drive. You go through Philadelphia and New Jersey. You take the turnpike or I-95 North until you get to New York. This is an intention. Desire is when you sit in the car and say, “I am going to New York, I am going to New York, I want to go to New York, I want to go to New York.” Continuously chanting like this may lead you ending up in the mental hospital. You won’t end up in New York. This is the difference with a sankalpa (an intention). An intention with attention and it will manifest. If the intention becomes a desire, it only brings grief whether it’s fulfilled or unfulfilled.
You know, in the 1960’s and 70’s we had the Hippie Movement. It was created out of abundance rather than lack. All of these people had everything in abundance. People who go to drug abuse or who are indulging in alcoholism are lacking in spiritual education or knowledge. They are seeking an experiential validation of their spirit. That is what leads to depression. There are large populations suffering from depression in the world today. According to statistics it will rise to as much as 50 percent in the coming decade, half the population will be depressed. We need to change this and Prozaic is not the solution. The solution is meditation and yoga.
Q: Any suggestions for people who suffer from allergies?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Meditation, pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya will help. Also, there are two books all should pick up - Celebrating Silence and Celebrating Love. Last time I traveled to the U.S., I came through JFK. As I was passing through security, the man behind the X-ray machine in the next row came to me and showed me the book ‘Celebrating Silence’. He asked, “Are you this person?” I looked at it and said, “Looks like that”. He asked me to sign the book. I said that usually I only sign the customs form! I gave my signature and he told me, “Someone gave me this book on my birthday last December and since then my life has changed. I’ve just read one page here and there over time and it has made such a difference”. He has not done a meditation course or anything. So, it would be good if all read it. It is not any big philosophical text but just snippets of wisdom. ‘Celebrating Silence’ and ‘Celebrating Love’. Also you can put on a meditation CD to relax. After a while, you won’t need any extra support.
You have come now, so drop all your worries here. Give me all your worries, botherations and problems. I want you to go home knowing that you are not alone. You can heal and bless other people. I tell you, it’s not only Guruji who gives blessings and healing. Everyone has this power to heal and to bless. So, anyone of you who wants to do that, you have to do a little bit more meditation, pranayama, kriya and you will have the power to bless others. There are seven billion people on the planet. So, we each must come up with this ability to bless others.
“That which you cannot express is Love.
That which you cannot reject/renounce is Beauty.
That which you cannot avoid is the Truth.”
That which you cannot reject/renounce is Beauty.
That which you cannot avoid is the Truth.”
~ Sri Sri Ravishankar
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