An Interview with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Malta TV Presenter and Producer Clare Agius interviewed H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in an exclusive programme filmed in Germany in the European Centre of the Art of Living. After the interview Clare shared “I am very honoured for having been given the opportunity to interview Sri Sri. It is by far, the most prominent guest I have ever had on my show.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Inside every bad person there is a good person hiding

May 16, Bulgaria : We are in an age of technology. Technology has shrunk the globe into a village. We are in a
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
global village. I would want to see it as a Global Family. This is my dream, to see the world as a One World Family.
It is so fortunate that this world has so many diverse cultures, traditions, languages and religions. Do you know what intelligent people do? They always celebrate the differences and the diversity. And the foolish fight and create wars.
Isn’t it? What we want to do in the world is to educate people. The reason why people are so ignorant and stupid is because they have had no opportunity to expand their vision. The goal of The Art of Living is to provide such a broad vision to life; to turn every tear into a smile, anger into compassion, and hatred into unconditional love.
Let us all join hands to see such a world – a world free from violence, disease, sadness and poverty!
In anger we say, ‘I give up’. Without frustration or anger, say, ‘I give this problem up, I cannot solve it, let the Divine help me’, and know that you will always be helped. Have the confidence that you will be helped.
First, we need to dream big. When I was in school, when I was a boy – even now I am a child only – I used to tell all my friends that my family is all over the globe. They would come to my mother and ask if we had a family in London, in Germany, in France, in America, and my mother would reply, ‘No’. She would pull my ear and ask, ‘Why do you tell lies?’
My mother would say, ‘He never tells lies, but this is the one thing he keeps saying, that he has relatives and family all over the world and that he knows people from all over the world.’
I used to tell my friends, ‘What do you want? Stamps or coins or currencies? I will send it to you, don’t worry. I have everybody all over the world.’
Why I said this is that deep inside all of us, there is a spirit that connects everyone.
Every human being is born with joy, enthusiasm, love and wisdom. But as we grow up, somewhere we tend to lose it. We should not lose it. We should maintain this gift that we all have received.
Okay, if we have lost it, we should regain it. And how do you regain it? By broadening your vision, and creating a sense of belongingness with everyone around you.
This is my second visit to Bulgaria. I already see a lot of changes here. Infrastructure is coming up, the economy has become better than before; it could be even better. At the same time, I would say that you have your deep roots, thousands of years of culture and tradition. Don’t lose that. The youth should maintain their roots and broaden their vision. So, that is the reason we said that we are going to put together a big bagpipers performance today. The purpose of this is to encourage the old traditions and the culture.
I would also like to mention that some of the Bulgarian singers and dancers also visited India and we had their performances in India as well.
So, we need to bring people together. This is wisdom. A violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, sorrow-free soul, trauma-free memory and a stress-free life is the birth right of everybody. This is what The Art of Living and all its volunteers are working towards. I am so happy and I congratulate them, there are hundreds of volunteers here who are tirelessly working day and night to bring smiles on the faces of people.
So, I will give you just 5 points or 5 secrets on how to be happy.
Once a wise man drew a line and told his student to make the line shorter without touching or erasing it. How would you do it?
You have to shorten a line without touching it.
An intelligent student then drew a much longer line underneath that line. So, the line automatically became shorter. The lesson here is that if your difficulties appear to be very big, lift your eyes because you are only focused on yourself. If you lift your eyes up and look at those who are in a worse condition than you, you will suddenly feel that your burden is not as bad as you thought it was.
If you think you have some big problem, look at people who have greater problems. Suddenly, you will get the confidence that my problem is much smaller, and I can manage it.
So, the first point on how to be happy is to see the world where there are greater and bigger problems. Then, your problems will appear smaller. The moment your problems appear smaller, you will get the energy and confidence to deal with it or solve it. In simple words, serve those who are in greater need.
Second, look at your own life. In the past, you had many problems. They have all come and gone. Know that even this will go and you have the energy and power to overcome it. You will get self-confidence by understanding and looking at your own past.
Third, and most important, do some breathing exercise and relaxation.
Fourth, you know, in anger we say, ‘I give up’. Without frustration or anger, say, ‘I give this problem up, I cannot solve it, let the Divine help me’, and know that you will always be helped. Have the confidence that you will be helped; a power in the universe is going to help you.
The fifth one – what do you think is the fifth one? I leave it to you. You think about the fifth one. I can go on up to 25 or 30 points, but I would like you to come up with it. We are always looking for solutions from someone else. We forget that if we turn our mind inward, we can get some ideas, some solutions. This is the fifth one – Spontaneity! Be spontaneous. Spontaneity will come when you take a few minutes to go deep within yourself. There is nothing great in smiling when everything is normal, and when everything is going the way you want. But if you awaken the valor inside of you, and say, ‘Come what may, I am going to keep smiling’, you will notice tremendous energy just rises from within you. And the problems are like nothing; they just come and disappear.
I would also like to mention that our volunteers have done such good work in all the prisons in Bulgaria. After doing the course, the whole lives of hundreds and hundreds of people who are in prisons have changed. That is so nice!
This is what intelligence is. Intelligence is bringing out the good even from within one who is a criminal. Within the worst criminal there is something nice inside; there are some good qualities. We need to bring those out. That needs intelligence. To condemn somebody does not need much intelligence, but bringing out compassion from those who have been condemned needs some work; and I really congratulate all our volunteers and teachers who have, without any selfish motives, gone to the prisons with just one wish – to bring back human values in their lives.
The foolish people try to paint everybody as demons and ‘bad’, even for pious persons. People say everybody is bad. The whole world is bad. That is so unfortunate; it is not good company. Last week, when I was in Canada, a couple came to me; they were all in tears. Their teenage son had committed suicide. In the suicide note, he had written that the whole world is bad; it is not worth living. Good people have got no place on this planet. All evil and bad people have taken the reins.
How much pain that youth must have experienced, because everyone tells you how everyone else is so bad. That is not good company. Even inside a bad person, there is a good person hiding that has to come up. When the goodness comes up, the negativity automatically disappears.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar : Being useful is the purpose of your life

May 9, Montreal Canada : Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
In life there are two situations: One is when you are comfortable and happy. Another situation is when you are upset and unhappy.
So what is needed to maintain this comfort and happiness is a willingness to do service.
When we are happy then we don’t serve. Usually the mind doesn’t go in the direction. When you are happy you just want to enjoy and don’t think about care, share or service at that time, and that is when it is very much needed. When you are happy and you do service then happiness will remain.
What we need to ask for is the willingness to do seva when we are happy, and the ability to let go and turn inward when we are unhappy. We need to ask for this, ’Give me the strength to let go and turn inward when I am unhappy.’
And learning to let go of the world when we are still here, in it, enjoying it, is wisdom.
Once an elderly lady in one satsang asked a question, ‘Why did God make this world so miserable?’
The answer was, ‘Yes, he has made it like that for you. Even when it is so miserable you don’t let go of it and turn towards God. Otherwise you will never turn inward.’
The purpose of life is not to be miserable and not make others miserable. If you make this one thing clear in the mind then what is the purpose will automatically come. Do maximum good to maximum number of people.
Q: Dear Guruji, what is the meaning of the Shiva Linga?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Lingam means an identification, a symbol through which you can identify what the truth is, what the reality is. What is not visible but yet can be identified by one thing that is Lingam. When a baby is born, how do you know whether the baby is a male or female? Only through one part of the body can you identify whether this baby is a boy or a girl. Otherwise babies look alike until a certain age. But one part tells you what the future is. And that is the reason the genital is also called Lingam.
Linga means gender. Streelinga means feminine gender and Pulinga means masculine gender. Gender means that by which you identify that which is not yet fully expressed. This is literal meaning of Lingam.
So Shiva Linga means the Divinity is not yet expressed. It is the Divine that is inexpressible actually; beyond expression; identifying that which is not yet expressed. Knowing something which is beyond with a symbol, that is what it is.
This ancient language is so powerful. Just keep a stone anywhere and it becomes a Lingam, which means, through the stone I am thinking of something which is not yet expressed.
Q: Is living a life as a celibate the middle path? How do we get to know of God’s expression in its totality without the feminine-masculine principle?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, you are made up of both, feminine and masculine. Both aspects are in you. Now, celibacy is not the only way. It is not a practice. Celibacy is something that happens, when you know that you are not the body. And the genders masculine and feminine are only to the body, it is not for the consciousness. The consciousness is beyond.
Now, when you realize this consciousness is beyond then you go beyond the gross pleasure. Otherwise we have been trying to know male and female in so many lifetimes being a cat, dog, horse, and whatever animal, and human beings as well. So if you just want to know that then keep knowing it. For how long will you want to know? At some point of time you will say, ‘Enough is enough. I want to just go inside.’ That is when the mind turns inward.
So you should not negate everything and go; but when the energy in you rises up then you want a joy that is free from feverishness and excitement. And that is what it is.
That is why it is said, a minute of Samadhi is equivalent to 1000 units of sex. How much joy you get in one unit of sex, a thousand units of sex is one Samadhi. And that one minute of Samadhi is equivalent to a billion years of rest.
So, do you want that? Then you have to go beyond these regular things. See, you have to give up something to get something.
If you want to really enjoy a nice good meal, you have to give up eating junk food all day. If you are stuffing yourself with a bag of potato chips from the morning, you can’t enjoy your lunch because you won’t have the appetite for it, right? When you are hungry, then you are able to enjoy a good meal.
Q: There are a few people in my life who I want to forgive. Many times I decide to forgive and forget, but all of a sudden I go into the past and start disliking them again. What should I do? I want to be free.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Do it right away.
They just did what they had to do, they had no choice. Don’t think of them as free individuals who could go with their choice. They were programmed like that; and the programmed chip is inside. They just work like that, poor thing. Just be compassionate for them. They were compelled to do what they did to you. That is it, finished!
Q: I am torn between spirituality and sex. I feel a sense of guilt mixing both. I am married and have a good relationship with my wife
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you are married you have that dharma; that is your duty.
So when you are married then you have to grow together with your spouse and help them to grow.
Have you read Yoga Vasistha? There is a story of Lila in it. Read Yoga Vasistha.
Celibacy is not a practice. It is something that happens when you know that you are not the body. The genders masculine and feminine are only to the body, it is not for the consciousness. The consciousness is beyond.
Q: Psychologists and mostly western thinkers say one should strive to find one’s own purpose and live it. Does each soul have a unique purpose in this life, outside of attaining enlightenment that is?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Each soul is doing some work here on this planet.
You can choose whatever work you want to do, whatever career you want to take. But there is a common thing that psychologists forget. What is that common thing?
Shared values, human values, happiness. These days they have started talking about it.
‘Are you happy?’ This is something we need to ask.
If you are not, then turn inward to find the happiness. Don’t look for it somewhere outside. Once you turned inward, everything starts opening up.
So the purpose of life is not to be miserable and not make others miserable. If you make this one thing clear in the mind then what is the purpose will automatically come.
Do maximum good to maximum number of people. Wherever you are, be the one who is wanted there.
Have you given your 100%? Are you that type of personality where people want to have you back in their team? Are you a team player? If not, then we have to tune ourselves to be team players. When we smoothen these rough edges in our life then the purpose in life becomes very clear.
Do you know why you want a purpose? It is because that brings you satisfaction.
What is the point of doing a purposeful thing? It is because it brings satisfaction. You do something which is not purposeful and it does not bring you satisfaction. So, wanting to have a purpose or no purpose is centered on attaining satisfaction.
If you attain satisfaction, every little thing you do will become very useful.
When you say, ‘I want a purpose’, you are the center of it and you are always thinking what you will gain from this. But when you are satisfied, your whole life becomes useful.
And if being useful is the purpose of your life, then be it, and that is it. Got it? You feel very satisfied when you are being useful. This is something that people have to keep in mind, to be useful. And when you say I want to be useful, then wherever you are whatever you do, automatically you will find yourself to be very useful.
Q: Is it possible to attain self-realization even if I am stuck in a dysfunctional marriage? My spouse’s negativity and anger floods my system. Do I still have a chance?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, yes, yes, yes! Thank your spouse. You can grow very well and you can become really solid. They are negative and you are positive, in spite of whatever they accuse you of you keep smiling. You have all the chances.
Q: According to the textbooks of University of Toronto it says that a woman has to reincarnate in the body of man to attain enlightenment. The text book says that this is written in the Vedas.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Totally wrong! Immediately write to them a letter telling them this is wrong. It is not said like that anywhere in the Vedas. Let them give me a quotation. It is simply not true.
Yes, it is what is called the Smritis, but the Smritis are not the Vedas, they were written by different Kings of different times. In the ancient times, different Kings of different kingdoms wrote the rules and regulations for the society. One of those is Manu Smriti, in which he has written only one thing, that women are not fit for freedom because she needs protection by the father, and then by the husband, and later on by the son. All through her life she needs protection, so she is not fit for freedom.
But this is only in the Smritis, which means it is only a King’s opinion. Nowhere in the Vedas is it said that women cannot attain enlightenment. There are women saints! Gargi and Maitri, they are enlightened ones.
Tell them to read Yoga Vasishta. Lessons of the Vedas are in the Yoga Vasistha. It is a woman who attained enlightenment first, Chudala. And then another woman called Leela.
Leela and Chudala, these are the women who have attained enlightenment first, and then had their husbands attain through them. We should ask them to change their text.
Q: Dearest Guruji, I am not interested in spirituality or attaining enlightenment. I am only interested in you! How can I attain you?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are saying the same thing in a different manner that is all. I am spirituality and you can’t separate spirituality or enlightenment from me. That is impossible.
In the ancient texts it’s called Dravya Guna Sambandha, the relation between a substance and its quality. It is through the quality only that you identify a substance.
Sugar powder and salt powder they both look like, it is only through the taste that you know whether it is sugar or salt; through the sweetness or the saltiness.
I know many times many women in their blissful state or in their worried state put salt in the pudding. Honestly tell me, how many of you have done this before? (Many raise their hands)
It is milk pudding and it tastes very salty.
So, it is the quality in a substance that makes that substance. They are related very closely.
Q: I want to lose my mind, what do I do?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just sit here when the hollow and empty meditation is happening and the mind automatically dissolves. Your wanting to lose it is the problem. Just be! However the mind is let it be. If it is full of garbage say, ‘Okay, let it be.’
All the garbage in your head is organic compost, let it be. You’re trying to get rid of it is a biggest problem. It is a big work, so for God’s sake, don’t do such work. Mind has been given by God, let it be. This is the sutra – Let it be.
There is only one thing that is worth relying on and that is the being, the truth, the consciousness, and that is what everything is.

Q: How to deal with negative, controlling, political people? In short our bosses.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: With 3 things, skill, patience, and positivity. This should work. If this doesn’t work, then team up, this is the easiest thing most people do. Team up against somebody and very easily it can work. But success is not guaranteed there. For success, skill, patience and positivity, all these are needed. And if you ask me, prayer, that is the best.
As I said yesterday, everything is just made up of one substance. If you just have that intention, let this man change today, and when you go with that intention you will see, he will behave completely different.
See, in this world many times your friends behave like enemies, hasn’t this happened to you? Someone whom you do everything for they behave like enemies, and sometimes those whom you considered enemies they come to your rescue. This is a fact in history. Turn the pages of history and you will find that in every continent, in every country, in every village such things have been happening in the past. So, there is only one thing that is worth relying on and that is the being, the truth, the consciousness, and that is what everything is.