‘When you help others or care for someone with wisdom, then you are playing the role of a Guru to them’

 Montreal Center, Canada, April 21:
(continued from the previous post)

Q: How did you know you were a Guru? Did you have a Guru? Sometimes I wonder if I’m a Guru, maybe just for myself. What would you say to that?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You can’t be a surgeon for yourself. You may be a surgeon but you can’t be your own surgeon, right? So your mother is your first Guru. A mother teaches you. Of course, a Guru is one who is unconditional in his attitude and approach towards you. You should play a role of a Guru unconditionally. You help others or care for someone with wisdom. Then you are playing the role of a Guru to them too.
If you help somebody with an attitude of ‘I want nothing, I just want your progress’ then you’re a Guru to them. Yet don’t demand them to accept you as Guru. No, a real Guru does not demand anything, not even gratitude from somebody.

Q: I hear The Art of Living is involved in fighting corruption in India? What can we do here in North America to fight corruption in our society?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That you should think about. How should you tackle the situation? Corruption is at three levels. One is among people. People often accept corruption as a way of life. Second the bureaucracy; and third, the politicians. There are good people in every strata of life. And there are not so good people. We should bring them to The Art of Living course and teach them the breathing techniques. They'll become better.

Q: Dearest Guruji, Can you tell us more about what is going to happen in 2012?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Business as usual. Only people will become more spiritual.

Q: How do we use this time to expedite our spiritual growth?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just exactly what you are doing now.

Q: There seems to be many wars and regional violence happening in the world. What can we do to reduce the violence in the world?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The root cause of violence is stress and anger. And the only way I know to reduce stress and anger is through meditation, pranyama, Sudarshan Kriya. This is the only way. You can do something with ayurveda, can change the diet… you can do those things, yet they are all secondary.

Q: Guruji, why is singing an important part of the courses? What’s the spiritual significance of singing?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know, knowledge and logic, and music are formed in two different parts of our brain and they’re both essential. That brings a balance in the system. Music is essential.
The Art of Living
© The Art of Living Foundation

Love combined with commitment is devotion

Montreal Center, Canada, April 21:

Q:  When a loved one dies, are they reincarnated? Will we know them again? In the case of a parent, are we still connected to them?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: All possible...It's possible to know them if they incarnate now and you can feel that? Haven't you felt that you go somewhere and suddenly you feel someone is very close to somebody? Your gut feeling comes. It's all possible. You know, we’re all connected in some time or another. In the past, we've all been connected. Now we are connected. Whether we acknowledge or not, we are all connected.

Q: What is happiness?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you say, I want nothing: that is happiness. When you are happy and are asked: 'Do you want anything?' you say ‘No, I want nothing.’

Q:  Dear Guruji I doubt myself a lot, I doubt my skills, abilities and decisions. How do you deal with self-doubt?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: How does one deal with self-doubt? Understand doubt: doubt is always about something that is good. Someone tells you ‘I love you’, you ask them ‘Really?’, and they say ‘I hate you’, you never ask ‘Really?’ So, a doubt is always about something good. You doubt your abilities; you never doubt your weaknesses. You doubt happiness, you never doubt misery. Isn’t it? Nobody doubts their depression. ‘But well, I’m not sure if I’m happy or not, well I'm not sure'. So when you understand that the doubt is always about something that’s positive, your mind shifts to a level, a different level altogether.
Doubt is simply low prana. If you do more pranayams you will see that you have come about that.

Q: Dearest Guruji, What is a devotee? What does a devotee do? How does one become a devotee?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Now don’t try hard to become a devotee. Love combined with commitment is devotion. Love with wisdom is devotion.
Love without wisdom can turn into negativities: Love today, hate tomorrow. Love today, jealousy tomorrow. Love today, possessiveness tomorrow.
Love combined with wisdom is bliss, and that is devotion. Devotion is a strong bond, a sense of belongingness. Everybody is born with it. It’s just like becoming a child again.

Q: Guruji, I am blessed to be here with you as I am now healing from breast cancer diagnosed last fall. Can you tell me and us how to learn from illness? With Love and gratitude.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, you don’t have to learn anything from illness. Just move on. It’s part of life. The body undergoes some illnesses. It could be many reasons. It could be due to karma, to past impressions, to the genes in the family. It could be due to violating laws of nature, eating too much when you should not eat, and it could be due to all this technology that we are having around which causes so much radiation. So it doesn’t pay us sitting and analyzing what I should learn from this.

Just keep moving with one faith, one knowledge, one sense of gratefulness. We are happy we are on this planet, as long as we are here, let's do good. One day, we'll all be gone. For sure, we'll all be gone.

Q: I have been introduced to two concepts which I find confusing. A: I am not the doer. Or B: I should take responsibility for little things even when I have little control. What's up?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Life is a balance between these two things. Taking responsibility and letting go. It's both. That's a fine balance. For the present and future take responsibility, for the past know that it has to happen that way and move on. So often we do the reverse. We think that the past was free will and regret and we think the future is all destiny and we don’t do anything about it.  But the wise one does you know what? The regard the future as free will, past as destiny and they are happy in the present. So you don’t regret about the past and you know what you want to do in the future and you are on it.
The Art of Living
© The Art of Living Foundation

Be Sensitive to your Environment

Today being World Mother Earth Day, let us pledge to nurture and care for the environment. 

Development is imperative, but a short-sighted approach is often the cause of great harm. Sustainable development is that which keeps in mind the long-term effects and benefits of any programme. 
Short-sighted development is a disaster. Ravaging natural resources without a long-term vision will destroy the ecology, which is the very source of life. The purpose of development should be to support and sustain life. With the bigger picture in mind, all development plans will factor in the ecology, sociology and psychology. Then the very process of development becomes a conscious endeavor to preserve the planet and its resources. The health of our planet is of utmost importance.

Environment consciousness is inbuilt in the human system. Throughout history, Nature ( prakriti) has always been adored in India; mountains, rivers, the sun, the moon, the trees have been revered. In fact, ancient cultures all over the world have exhibited a deep reverence for Nature. For them, God was not in temples or churches, but was inherent in Nature. It's only when we start moving away from Nature that we start polluting Nature. Today there is a pressing need to revive the ancient practice of honouring and conserving Nature.

Many are of the view that damage to ecology is an inevitable by-product of technological progress. But that is not necessarily so; actually, a sustainable growth is assured only if the ecology is protected. Science and technology should not be regarded as anti-environment; rather, we need to find ways of maintaining harmony in environment while progressing in science and technology. This is the biggest challenge of this century.

Just observe Nature; the five elements of Nature are opposed to each other. Water destroys fire, fire destroys air. Then there are so many species in Nature - the birds, reptiles, mammals; all these different species are hostile towards each other and yet Nature balances them out. We need to learn from Nature; how Nature digests waste material and produces something more beautiful. Similarly, it is not technology and science that pose a hazard, but the waste material generated by technological and scientific processes.

We need to find methods to consume the waste and develop non-polluting processes, such as harnessing of solar energy. A return to traditional methods such as organic and chemical-free farming will go a long way in preparing the ground for healthy development. Tradition, technology, trade and truth are the four key factors, which need to be revived time and again. Unless they are revived, the whole meaning for which they were initiated will be lost; ancient and modern methods should be synergised. Despite advances in the field of chemicals and fertilisers, the ancient Vedic technology of using cow urine and cow dung continue to be one of the best ways to cultivate crops. Several studies have shown that natural farming leads to enhanced yield.

The latest technology needn't always be the most economically viable or efficient technology. We need to look into the merits; just because something is new, it is not necessarily good and just because some thing is old, it need not be discarded.

There can be no sustainable development in a society full of stress and violence. A disease-free body, a stress-free mind, a violence-free society and a toxin-free environment are vital elements of sustainable development. If we have to keep opening more and more hospitals and prisons as society develops, it does not augur well. Access to more hospitals beds and availability of more prisons are not signs of development.

Sustainable development also means freedom from all types of crimes. Destroying the environment, cutting down trees, dumping toxic waste, using non-recyclable materials is also a crime. Environment is our first body, then comes the physical body and the mind, the mental sheath. You have to cater to all the three levels.

In reality, man's greed is the greatest pollutant. Greed stops man from sharing with others. Greed also obstructs the preservation of ecology; man is so greedy, he wants to make quick profits and achieve quick results. This greed not only pollutes the gross, physical environment but also contaminates the subtle atmosphere; it stimulates negative emotions in the subtle mind. These negative vibrations, once compounded, give rise to unrest in society. Negative feelings of hatred, anger, jealousy are the root cause of all disasters and misery in the world, whether they are economical, political or social in nature.
 People should be encouraged to treat the planet as sacred, to treat trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in nature and in people. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can't but care for nature. It is basically insensitivity that makes a person act callously towards environment. If a person is sensitive, he will nurture environment, thereby eradicating pollution.
 The Art of Living Foundation

Actions are purified through seva (service)

Art of Living Center, Texas, USA, April 12:

Q. How can I balance peace while fighting for justice?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
That is the whole essence of The Bhagavat Gita. Be calm from the inside and act whenever required. You should stand up and fight if necessary; but don’t keep the fight inside yourself. Usually we fight inside and keep quiet on the outside. We should do the opposite. With meditation, it becomes easy to bring about this change. The power of satva and the power of meditation make it easy.
Today is Shri Ramanavami (Lord Rama’s Birthday). Ra means radiance, Ma means myself. Rama means ‘the light inside me’. Rama was born to Dasharath and Kousalya. Dasharath means ‘Ten Chariots’. The ten chariots symbolize  the five organs of perception (the five senses) and five organs of knowledge and action (For instance: reproduction, legs, hands and so on). Kousalya means ‘skill’. Ayodhya means ‘a society in which there is no violence’. If you skillfully observe what goes on inside the body, light dawns inside you. That is meditation. You need some skill to relax the tension. Then you  start expanding.
You know you are here now, yet you are not. With this realization, there is a certain lightness that comes spontaneously. Rama is when the inner light shines through. Sita the mind/intellect was robbed by the ego, Ravana. Ravana had ten heads. Ravana (ego) was one who wouldn’t listen to others. He was too much in the head. Hanuman means breath. With the help of Hanuman (the breath), Sita (the mind) was able to go back to Rama (the source).
Ramayana happened around 7,500 years ago. It had an impact on Germany and many other countries in Europe and  Far East. Thousands of cities are named after Rama. Cities like Rambaugh in Germany, Rome in Italy have their roots in the word Ram. Indonesia, Bali and Japan were all influenced by Ramayana. Though Ramayana is history, it is also an eternal phenomenon happening all the time.

Q. What are the qualities that  the Master wants to see in an ideal devotee?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
None. If I name a quality, you will all try to emulate that quality. Just be your natural self. Be honest. Even if you miss a meditation one day, don’t feel guilty about it. Time is carrying you. All the good qualities you aspire for, you have them anyway. You are here and you are doing the right thing.
You can purify your body by following a proper diet. It’s good to fast for two-three days in a year. Fast on only juices. But if your system disagrees with it, don’t do it. You should listen to your body.
Mind is purified through pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya.
Intellect is purified through knowledge.
Emotions are purified through bhajans.
Actions are purified through seva.
Money is purified through charity.
You should donate at least two to three percent of your income.

Q.  What is your vision for The Art of Living in the coming years?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
: I have started it. My job is done. It’s up to you now. You have a vision, so take it where you want to take it. , We are celebrating 30 years of The Art of Living in Germany. We’ll be in the same Olympic stadium that Hitler built 75 years ago. He started the war from there. From the same place where war started, we’ll spread the message of peace.

Q. Why has religion been the reason for so many wars?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Even I wonder about it. There are 10 major religions in the world: four from the Middle East and six from the Far East. The six religions from the Far East never had any conflicts. There was no war between these six religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism and Taoism – they all coexisted.
When President Nixon went to Japan, he had a Shinto priest on one side and a Buddhist priest on the other side. He asked the Shinto priest: What is the percentage of Shintos in Japan? The priest said: 80 percent. Then he turned to the Buddhist priest and asked him: What is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan? He said: 80 percent. Nixon was perplexed as to how this was possible. Shintos go to Buddhist temples and Buddhists go to Shinto temples. Similarly, Hindus go to Sikh gurudwaras and Sikhs go to Hindu temples. The same may be said of Hindus and Buddhists in India. Similarly in China, there is no war between Taoists and Buddhists.
The four religions in the Middle East were always at war. I think they should learn how to co-exist from the other six. Judaism and Christianity are friendly. Judaism and Islam have an issue.

Q. What is the difference between Karma and Destiny?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The word destiny means Vidhi, this is how it is. The word Karma has several different connotations. It can mean action or latent action. The impression of an action that might give rise to another action can also be called karma.
art of living TV
© The Art of Living Foundation

Management and Leadership Tips

Just imagine if in world everyone walks like this – feeling insecure, depressed, unhappy, feeling lonely! What sort of company is that? What sort of world will we be in? What kind of institute will that be? Can you make any progress? First you need to create the trust. That’s the secret of management, and that begins with you having trust. When you walk around with your mind saying ‘I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you’, the same thing reflects back to you. When we don’t like being doubted by people, why do we keep doubt in everyone around us? Are you all with me?

You know, banks give credit, I just take credit! You see a lamp is burning, it is not just the lamp but the wick and oil that burns, but the lamp takes the credit, correct? Any achievement, anything that’s wonderful is a collective effort of so many. And you will see, in the collective effort, there is one inspiration, one wave, one energy, one divinity that supports and helps the progress. That component of life is called the Spiritual component. It is the lack of spiritual component that throws one either on one side of violence, or the other side of depression and suicidal tendencies. You know!
(After a pause)

Are you all here? Listening to me? Do you notice, when you are listening, you are also having a dialogue in your mind - Yes, No, how that could be? We are made up of seven faculties within us – The Body, Breath, Mind - The faculty by which you perceive. Intellect – that which agrees and disagrees, the judging aspect within you. The memory – Which often clings on to the negative. Given 10 positive comments and one negative, your mind holds on to that one negative. Then Ego – That which makes you feel separate, and that which makes you feel motivated to do something. And then that reference point of all changes in life, something that doesn’t change – The seven layers of life. A little bit about each layer of life brings the transformation. And that’s all is ‘Art of Living’.

The leadership begins with example. People ask me if I don’t get tired for I travel so much. Haven’t slept for four nights this last fortnight. Every night I was travelling and visiting all the Tsunami hit areas. I thought, “May be I will get irritated if I haven’t slept for the fourth night”. You know, to my surprise, I didn’t. When people ask whether I don’t get tired of doing so many things, I say I don’t do anything which is not in my nature.

Living by example – the first quality of leadership, and being totally open and honest! If you did a mistake, okay, “I did a mistake’. When you try to cover one mistake, it leads to a chain of mistakes. One mistake, that leads to another mistake. That weakens your whole system, weakens your working style, your environment. So, just being straight forward, open, honest and inclusive.

Often we point out someone’s mistake. You know why, because their mistake hurts us. “What you are doing, you shouldn’t do it because it is hurting me”.  This is often we hear. When you go to correct someone’s mistake with this attitude, it never gets corrected. So, what do you need to do? What you are doing will hurt you, so you better don’t do it. Not because it is hurting me, but eventually it is going to hurt you, so you better change. That beings transformation!

I would say, we need to put attention on three C’s.  First, see your life in the context of time and space, the cosmology. How vast this creation is?  How big this Universe is and how small our life is? Billions of years have passed and billions more to come. What is my position in context with this? You are living this life with 6 billion people on this planet right now! Do you feel you belong to them all? Do you feel at home with everyone? When you have that sense of belongingness, you start with that feeling, know that you have earned the customers everywhere. In fact, they become your family, an extended family. Sense of belongingness in any set up! Very important! Whether it is a corporation, NGO, social organization, Religious organization, and a leader is to create that sense of belongingness, sense of responsibility.

More talks by Sri Sri Now on What Sri Sri Said Today
© The Art of Living Foundation

Secrets to Success

Q: Even after putting 100 percent effort, the work doesn’t get done. What does one do then?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: For success or work to get done there are five things you require. First the intention of the person who is doing, then availability of the instruments or things needed to do the work, third is the willingness or mindset to do the work. Then doing the work at the right time, there is a time to do the work, if you don’t do it at the right time then there is no use. If you sow seeds in February then there is no use, you then cannot say that I sowed the seeds but nothing has come. You have to wait till April after the rain and then you sow the seeds and yield the results. So time is a very important factor. When we came to this Ashram this whole land was barren, there was not one leaf or one tree on this land. Today see how many trees and plants are there and these trees did not come in one day, so many people have put lots of effort and after some time the trees grew. So this is how time is an important factor and then grace. Without grace of the divine there will be no success, that is why you do Seva, Sadhana, Satsang and in time you will get the fruits of all your efforts. Okay! None of your efforts will go waste that you should be assured about, if not now you will see the results later.  

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Wealth is not just having money. You can have a big balance, you can have a big estate but on your face if you are stressed and you’re so miserable, no one can call you prosperous. Prosperity is not just having a fat bank balance. Prosperity is in acknowledging the magnanimity of life, honoring life. The confidence in a person shows his richness. What is wealth suppose to do to you? Enhance confidence right but if wealth has created weakness then it is no wealth, if wealth has created sickness then it’s no wealth, if wealth has created conflicts then it is no wealth, right! So one type of wealth is wisdom, knowledge is wealth, health is wealth, confidence is wealth, valor is wealth. If you have confidence you can manage anything, you can handle any situation that is wealth.  

Q: What is Witness Consciousness? When does one reach such state? 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: This is a state of consciousness where you realize things are not happening because of your effort, it is happening due to some law, due to some power in the creation which is making everything happen. When you have given your 100 percent, physically, intellectually… then you realize you are not doing, but things are happening.
art of living TV
© The Art of Living Foundation

The deeper you go in meditation your intuitive ability develops

Q: Why is there so much unhappiness in the world today?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Unhappiness is due to two things, one in lack of resources in some parts of the world; if they get water they will be happy, if they get food they will be happy. In the other part of the world it is lack of spirituality. In one place the body is starving so there is unhappiness, and in another place the soul is starving and so there is unhappiness. We at The ‘Art of Living’ have to do both jobs, provide food to the body and food to the soul and that’s what we are doing.

Q: What is the meaning of the opening of the third eye and what do I feel when I experience this happening?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: It is intuition, don’t think there is an eye opening like this and something is popping up from your head. You get a bump or a hole in your forehead, no! You know you close your eyes still you feel some light; you may see or you may feel, it can be both ways. If someone says I am going to open your third eye and this and that, just don’t go into those things. I tell you, definitely not, it is simply hoax because I have seen so many people claiming to open the third eye and nothing happens really, people get a headache, an incurable headaches many times and you get into problems. You know many such cases come to us for repair, so if someone says I want to open your third eye tell them, thank you very much, I am happy with two eyes. The deeper you go in meditation your intuitive ability develops.

Q: Guruji, why is the opening of the third eye associated with the destruction of desires?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You know the third eye is associated with alertness and awareness. When you are alert, awake, more into knowledge then naturally the energy has moved from the lowest chakra to the highest. The lower things no more interest you. You know when you are very alert and awake the sexual energy has transformed itself into a different quality of consciousness. The sexual energy is when the back portion of our brain, our head is activated. Alertness, perception and awareness happen when the front portion of the brain is activated; the pituitary and pineal glands are getting activated. In the brain also they are on the opposite sides of each other. So it is mythologically said when the third eye opens then the gross desires simply evaporate, not that it is bad but they simply don’t make much sense anymore. That is why the intellectuals and the highly spiritual oriented practitioners always put something on the forehead, some sandal wood paste because they are focusing; doing some yoga and meditation so they put some sandal wood to cool the forehead, to cool it a little bit. 
When the frontal lobe of the brain becomes more active, more alert, then thinking, intellectual work, creativity, memory they are all enhanced because all of these things are in the frontal lobe of the brain and sensory pleasures are all at the back of the brain.

Q: Dear Guruji, in the Buddhist tradition it is said that there is no such thing as God, the creator where as in Christianity there is the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. I am therefore wondering what is God?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Lord Buddha never said there is no God, he simply refused to speak on it because in those days there were so many traditions. The Vedic tradition was so alive and there was Jain tradition. There were so many other traditions and people knew it all by books and they could give great talks on peace and meditation but forgot the experience of meditation. So Buddha didn’t want to get into controversy like what we do, we don’t want to get into any controversy. We have a simple message to say, here is the way to become peaceful. Do this breathing and you will become peaceful. 
So similarly Buddha said I am not going to speak on God but I want to speak about sorrow and there is a way to get rid of sorrow. It is possible to be free from sorrow. So his focus was very practical and very simple. He spoke on liberation, Moksha which is common to all different sects of Hinduism.
Two and half thousand years after Krishna’s time there was nobody to reform the knowledge, so Buddha came and reformed it. Then later on Buddhism also became into so many sects. Five hundred years after Buddha the whole knowledge got misinterpreted, they started making everybody a monk, the whole system started collapsing then Adi Shankara came and he reestablished the knowledge. So that is why it is said time and again whenever people start forgetting the knowledge then the nature brings on the path someone to revive the knowledge and bring people back on the path of light. So this is happening, so whatever Jesus has said that is again the same ancient truth what is said in the Vedas, the trinity, all those things Jesus has said. Love is God, is said in the Vedas, in the Upanishad, same thing Jesus said.
What is most essential is to find the harmony among all the different traditions. Traditions are one side but humanity, spirituality is most important. No Hinduism, Vedic religion, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism nothing is of any good if humanity, human values and spiritual values are missing.

 Q: What is the difference between intuition and wishful thinking?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When the thing has already happened then you know whether it was a wishful thinking or an intuition. Time will tell you whether it was wishful thinking or intuition. There is no definite criterion to know, yes! Wishful thinking is motivated by desire where as intuition just happens.

art of living TV
© The Art of Living Foundation