Question : How to compete in a business world which is so corrupt and when the corrupt have a clear edge over all your deals?
Sri Sri: It is difficult for a single person to fight against corruption, that too for a business man. For a monk it is easy, because a monk has nothing to lose, but for a business man it is difficult and that is why you need the civil society. When the civil society gets together in a group, they can act against corruption easily. I will tell you an example. It so happened that in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, there was a road only on paper, but in reality there was no road. So 50 of our Art of Living youths got together and they went to the Mayor’s office. The first thing they did was smile at the Mayor. All of them smilingly sat in front of the Mayor and said, ‘Madam, please tell us, when will this road be made? Please give us the date. Until you tell us the date we are not going to go from here.’
The Mayor got shaken, and she said, ‘Yes it will be done’, and in twenty four hours the road got done. Similarly, in Hyderabad, some young entrepreneurs who were making a factory needed a license for their factory, and every inspector they went to were asking for bribe. Now these people said, ‘Look, we have taken a pledge that we will not give or take any bribe. You can tell us to come here fifty times and we will come, but please be sure that we will not give even one rupee of bribe.’
Looking at this conviction of the youth, they granted all the ten licenses that they needed. Everyone else in that industrial park was surprised. They said, ‘We have been trying for two years to get these licenses and we could not get it, how did these three young boys get all the licenses done?’ So once we have the conviction, we can change the system, we can make a difference. As youth, you must have this conviction in your mind, ‘I can make a change.’ If you think, ‘The world is corrupt and it is never going to change, and nothing can ever change’, then your own thought, and your own vibration will bring these kind of situations around you. So you need to come up with an idealistic dream, and then you will find things do happen. Again I am telling you, it is difficult to fight corruption alone. You have work in a group to fight against corruption.
Question: Gurudev, in the Bible Christ says, ‘I am the only way’. The Koran says that it is the only way, and the Gita also says ‘Mam ekam sharanam vraja’? Is this the reason for all religious conflicts? How can we change this?
Sri Sri: This knowledge was given to people present at that time, to help focus their mind in the present. Now if you are listening to me, I will tell you, ‘This is the truth, just be here, now!’ This is because the mind has a tendency to glorify the past, or wait for the future, and discard the present; the now.
Lord Krishna said, ‘Mam ekam sharanam vraja’, meaning, ‘Come to me alone’.
He said this to his dearest disciple Arjuna to make his mind totally be there to value the present.
Whenever this has been said (I am the only way), it has been said from the higher consciousness, not to make one a fanatic. It has been said to make one realize the truth, and the truth is only One, and so they said, ‘It is the only way’, to emphasize that (One truth). Otherwise the mind discards the present.
The same thing happened with Jesus. People at that time were only thinking about somebody in the future, or the past. That is why he said, ‘Right now, right here, I am the only way’. He said this from the ‘I am’ consciousness.
The Bible was also written 70 years after Jesus Christ left His body. Just imagine how much His words could have been interpreted; or how these same few words could have been translated at that time, is a big question mark.
When Jesus said, ‘I am the son of God’, the church interpreted it as Jesus is the only son of God.
What Jesus said was, ‘I am the son of the only Father.’
There is only one father for everybody, and He said, ‘I am the son of the only one father’. Otherwise why would He say, ‘Let us pray to our father in heaven?’
He says, ‘Our father’, which means everyone’s father. Then how can he be the only son of God? Then what about everybody else? What about other people who were born before him; are they not the children of God?
How can we all pray, ‘Our father in heaven?’ Then we should only pray, ‘Jesus’s father, you help me. You are not my father!’
This is a result of wrong interpretation. When Jesus said, ‘Our father in heaven’, he meant that He is the father of everybody.
He said, ‘The son of the only father’, but this got twisted to, ‘The only son of the father.’
Just shifting one word from here to there can make a big difference. This is the reason why, when interpreting the scriptures, one should always take into consideration when, where and how it was said, to whom it was said, and for what purpose.
Knowledge always is contextual, even though truth is timeless and universal. But there is always some context to knowledge.
Jesus once said, ‘I have come to put father against son, and mother against daughter. I have come to put fire and not make peace.’
If you take this out of context and say, ‘Look at what Jesus said’, then that would be wrong. You have to see where He said it, what he said and how He said it.
Jesus came to bring a revolution. Lord Krishna came to do the same thing, bring about a big revolution, and change the mindset of people.
Mohammad Paigambar also did the same. People were so lost in rituals that they would never go deep within and pray quietly. So He said, ‘Come on, enough of this. You are just going from one statue to another all the time. You are not closing your eyes and going within and meditating. Enough, now close your eyes and meditate!’
The rituals had become a business. People went to worship the idols out of fear. So he said, ‘Just go within and pray.’
Nirgun nirakar parabrahma, pray to the formless, unmanifest divinity.
This is the essence of Vedanta. It says, go from the form to the formless. And how? Through meditation.
There are three upayas (ways). First is Anva upaya, through prayer and worship. Second is Shakta Upaya, through meditation. And third is Shambava Upaya, through awareness, or effortless remembrance of the Lord (smaran).
Even though Mohammad said no forms are needed, He knew that people require some symbol, and so He put the Kaaba stone. Just like a lingam, a Kaaba Stone was kept, so one can go round it, and do namaz. So a symbol is essential to make the mind become one pointed.
In Vedic times, there were no idols; the Arya Samaj engaged in havans (sacrificial fire) with mantras (chanting). But not everyone could understand this philosophy, but anyone can relate to a form, or to idols.
See, if it is any great man’s birthday, people go and put garlands on their statues. On Gandhi Jayanti, people go to the Gandhi statues, put a ladder, climb up and garland the statue. Without a picture it is impossible in the present age to pay homage to someone. A picture is needed. That is how a symbol became so essential in all religions. It is inevitable. Our Rishis knew this and so they said, ‘Okay, you can begin with idols, symbols and forms. But only for a short time, and then go and do visarjan (immerse the idols in water).’
That is the tradition, for ten days you do Ganapati Pooja and then you immerse the idol in the water.
That is why temples were built everywhere. It was not necessary to go to temples every day. Only when you feel the need for a symbol, you can go, sit there and pray.
And temples are done with Mantra Shakti, not just with idols. Prana or life force energy is induced in the place (temple), that is how temples became powerhouses. People were very intelligent in the ancient times, they understood human nature and knew the human consciousness.
Q & A: Gurudev, what is the relevance of tapasya (penance or austerities) in Kali Yuga and how should we understand it?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Tapa helps to purify all the organs of the body and rid them of impurities. The entire body gets cleansed and all the sense organs become stronger with tapa.
Tapasya is not done to please God, or to attain self realization, but it is done to make the body and mind stronger.
You must have seen that so many saints do very austere penances (tapasya), especially among the Jains. The Jain saints are able to walk bare foot for long distances. They do not feel very cold in the winters, or too hot during the summers. They develop a resistance towards extreme climatic conditions because of their tapasya. So this is one of the benefits of doing tapasya.
But you should not stretch or overdo this at all. Doing too much tapasya and troubling your own body is not advisable at all. It is wrong to do that.
There are some people who sit with four fires burning all around them, and one on top of their head and do meditation. It is called Panchagni tapasya. All this is not necessary. Torturing the body like this is wrong and should not be done. But a little bit of tapasya is necessary.
It is said, ‘Tapovai dwandva sahanam’, which means forbearing the opposites is tapasya.
Suppose you are travelling somewhere in a bus, and it is a 12 hour long journey for which you have to sit. Then that also is a sort of tapasya.
Being in a state of equanimity, and enduring whatever come, whether it is hot or cold, good or bad, praise or criticism, is tapasya.
Can you listen to an insult with the same equanimity as when you listen to compliments? That is tapasya. When someone praises you, you listen to it with a smile. When someone criticizes you, can you listen to it with the same smile and equanimity, and watch what is happening inside you? That is tapasya.
When you do not like something but are able to undergo that, then that is tapasya.
If you can like something, can you be a witness to it and not be feverish about it, then that is tapasya.
Forbearing the opposites is called tapasya, and it is essential in life.
The extent to which we follow tapasya in life, to that extent we become stronger and stable.
Q & A: Gurudev, you have often said that knowledge should be used like soap. But if it needs to be washed off then how can it be symbolic of our true nature. So does it mean that knowledge is not our true nature?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There are two types of knowledge.
One is the knowledge of the Self which is our true nature. And the other kind of knowledge is that which is used like soap.
Do you know why it is said to use knowledge as a soap? So that you do not become arrogant about having knowledge. You should not think, ‘I know so much; I know everything.’ You should not become egoistic about knowledge. So to get rid of such an ego, it is said that knowledge should be used like a soap.
This is the actual meaning.
Q & A: Dear Gurudev, what is the power of the subconscious mind and how do I utilize it?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The conscious mind is in fact only one-tenth of your subconscious mind. So the subconscious mind has a lot of power.
Suppose you are having a pyjama party and eight of you are sleeping and someone calls out your name, only you will respond. Others will continue to remain in deep sleep. Is it not so? Have you noticed this?
This indicates that even your name is ingrained in your subconscious mind. Meditation is the way to make the subconscious mind become more and more conscious.
Q & A: Dear Gurudev, how to leave the intellect and go back to innocence? By doing so, does it not become acting?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When the intellect matures, you become innocent. Also even when emotions take over, then also you will move into innocence.
Innocence is one aspect of your life and everybody has it. What comes in the way is the concepts in the intellect, such as judgements, or thinking that ‘I know it all’, or ‘I know it better’, etc. That is what blocks the intellect from maturing fully.
Meditation and pranayama help you to reverse the journey back from the intellect to your innocence.
Also, when there are people who know much more than you and you feel, ‘Oh, I know very little’, then also innocence will simply come up in you.
When you make an assessment about yourself that is wrong, then that may cause you to feel out of touch with your innocence.
Q & A: What is the best way to make you happy?
Sri Sri: You being happy and making others happy.
You don’t have to try and make me happy, I am anyway happy. But I’ll be more happy if you can help others. Not just by giving them some gifts or throwing them a party, but by giving them knowledge and making them very strong.
If you can bring people into this knowledge, that would be the best thing.
When people listen to Ashtavakra Gita, they say that their lives have been transformed. How many of you experienced this? (Many raise their hands)
When you listen to Ashtavakra Gita, your whole outlook towards life changes.
Q & A: Dear Gurudev, you spoke so beautifully about dispassion and being devoid of feverishness, but when you are around, all this knowledge goes out of the window and there is only feverishness.
But in time you will be free from that too, as the mind becomes quiet.
1.A Balance of the Heart and the Mind
Q & A: If government is corrupt, how can the nation create good governance.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The government has no personality, it is the people in the government who become corrupt. It is the people who can become incorrupt as well.
See, corruption begins where the sense of belongingness ends. Nobody can be corrupt with people whom they think belong to them. They will not take bribe from their friends and family. They take bribe only from those whom they find are outside their sense of belongingness.
So, corruption and crime, these two things have to be removed, otherwise the government cannot be effective.
Criminal elements in the government is a horrible thing.
Do you know why every party gives tickets to these criminal elements? It is because they have a vote bank. If you, the good people start making your own vote banks, you can dictate to every party, ‘If you give tickets to criminal elements, we are not going to vote for you’, then no party will dare to give tickets to corrupt people or to the criminal elements in society.
That is why I said, we should all, together, stand up for human values in society, united. Individually we all stand up for values, but we need to stand up being united.
If all good people in Cochin stand up and say, ‘We will not allow Cochin to be polluted. We stand for cleanliness in our city’, then things start changing.
I feel this is necessary.
Q & A: There are many corporations that are venturing into social responsibilities, but recently the government has introduced some policies where this is being thrust onto corporations. What do you have to say about this?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: If the government says that companies have to spend 3% of their profits on social responsibility, a good corporation would spend 4% of their profits, and not limit to the 3% as per the government’s guidelines.
It is a good thing that the government has given such a guideline. At least 2% to 3% must be given towards corporate social responsibility.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with this decision of the government. I think this one decision is very good, that every corporation should spend at least some percentage of their profit for the welfare of others.
This has been said in our Dharma Shastras as well. Anyone who gets any profit has to share a percentage of it for the welfare of society.
Q & A: Can you say something about entrepreneurship.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Entrepreneur is a projection of creativity. One aspect of creativity.
An entrepreneur has to come out of his or her comfort zone. One cannot say, ‘I want to be in my comfort zone and I want to be an entrepreneur’, that is not going to work.
Entrepreneurship always involves risks and the ability to undergo hardship.
2. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : There are no bad people
Q: What should I do if the stress factor is coming from outside. If it is something I do not control or it is beyond me. How do I transmit peace?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: That is why we need to educate people on how to handle their stress. If one person is not well in the family, does it not affec the whole family? Yes, it does affect. Similarly, if a few are mentally unwell in the society, crime increases in society.
There are people who are in prisons who say, ‘Oh, now we don’t want to be in violence’, but there are so many more outside who are causing problems to society and that is why we need to give this spiritual education to people.
We need to educate people on how to be calm, how to handle their negative emotions and how to handle their mind, because neither at home, nor at school did anyone teach us how to handle our mind.
So then there is anger, jealousy and hatred, and when you live with these emotions then you act on them. You don’t know how to get rid of it. You hold on to it and then you act from that and then you regret. This is the problem.
These practices and this knowledge here is the solution.