Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Q: Gurudev, How can we alleviate the negative consequences of materialism in each of our lives, and how can we teach that in our free societies?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
As I said, consumerism is a problem. It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong to exploit people and the planet. That is what is happening.
In many places, people are trying to become rich while undermining the environment, undermining the laws of the nation. This is where the problem arises.
Corporate Social Responsibility is something that every Corporate should undertake. Do something for those around you; for society.
Now in India they have made it a law that every company must invest at least 3% of their profit in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). That sense of giving back to society has now been made a law.
Creation of wealth should always go hand in hand with its distribution also. You create and you give. Not keep it all for yourself. That’s where the problem arises.

Q: Gurudev, You have told me that compassion and morality must be a precursor to an effective economic system, but you’re also saying that an effective economic system is important for compassion. Is it true that compassion and free enterprise are intertwined and one must build on the other?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, whether capitalism, communism, socialism or secularism, no ism will work without humanism. The heart of humanism is compassion, and it is essential. Without that nothing can work. Everything will be lame. And we’ve found this throughout the world. There are ample examples. Whenever the human values are found missing, all these isms remain in books as success but really not on the ground.

Q: Gurudev, Is your philosophy of compassion compatible with free enterprise and capitalism?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Definitely. Capitalism without compassion will not lead to a just society. Only a rich person can be compassionate. A poor man’s compassion has no value.

Q: Gurudev, We have been talking for 5 years now about the value of work. Can you tell me your views about the value of work aside from its monetary advantages?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Hard work keeps you out of trouble. If you don’t do anything then your mind runs too fast and goes where you don’t want it to go. Work is essential to keep yourself busy, to keep yourself sane and creative as well.
There are certain ethics in work also. Making money is not bad, but if it is done through unethical means, it is not going to give you a good night’s sleep. That’s for sure.

Q: Gurudev, You have said that there are two ways of looking at life. One is, 'I’ll be happy if I achieve this certain objective'. The other is by saying, 'I am happy, come what may'. Which is the better of the two?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Obviously the latter in which you find happiness within yourself. You see that your happiness is unconditional.
One is a taker and the other is a giver.
As children when we took things we were happy. But as grandparents, we feel happy when we give. This is a mature joy.
Like the grandmother at home, when she makes different dishes and serves everybody, she feels a sense of happiness.
So, there is a joy in giving which is much more mature than the joy in taking, or in grabbing. Somewhere we need to graduate from taking to giving.
Finding that we are the source of happiness, and come what may I’ll be happy and I’ll spread happiness around me, is what I call as wisdom.

Q: Gurudev, Could you talk to me about your own problems? What are your problems?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, my biggest problem is that I am a dreamer. Knowing very well that there is violence, there are problems in the world, I still dream of a violence-free society; a violence free world. And I know it will take its own time, but I can’t give up my dream. This is my big problem. I hold on to it.
If you read newspapers and watch television, it looks or appears like we are so far away from this dream, but yet I see the same dream: to see the world united in love and peace. I dream of a violence-free and stress-free society.

Q: Gurudev, Please say something about spiritual materialism.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I am hearing a new word today. Well, don’t divide life: this is spiritual or this is materialistic. Take a holistic view of life. There is also food in a temple. In that sense both material and spiritual aspects are there. Music is both a form of entertainment and spirituality. We even put ornate clothes on our deities. Ancient people never separated the spiritual and material. They enjoyed putting precious jewels in temples.
In South India, in Madurai, kings gave away most of their precious jewels to the temples. Everything co-existed. In the same way, you can treat work as worship. It is sacred. Spirituality has entered our material life. Action is sacred. Lord Krishna says, “Janma karma samay divya”. All actions are divine. Lord Krishna himself was very much of the material world except for his discourse to Arjuna. All he did was materialistic. He ruled the country, advised as a minister, and so on. Life should not be compartmentalized. Materialism and spirituality are not opposed to each other.
However, money earned through unethical means is never spiritual. It will pinch your heart. The spirit is awake in you. It is your natural instinct. If you have a plate full of food and someone comes to you, you will not be able to eat it alone. It is such a natural part of your life that you cannot renounce one for the other. Every spiritual person has to do charity. You want to be compassionate, but how can you be when you have nothing to give away. Charity cannot happen with an empty bowl.
Narayana is the pinnacle of spiritual life and Laxmi is the symbol of wealth. Both Narayana and Laxmi go together. Saraswati sat on a rock. The knowledge that you have gained will always be with you. Laxmi sits on a lotus which floats on water. You will never believe what happens in the share market. Wealth is unsteady just as a lotus floating on water. These are the eternal symbols that convey truth. Grasp what is needed. This is very important.

Q: Gurudev, Would you speak about the importance of silence. How do we practice it?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
(Maintains a few moments of silence) That’s it! Take a moment, observe your breath, calm your mind, and relax your body. You find such peace and so much love within you.
We are all born with this gift of love and peace. Somehow we forget to look within, which is of utmost importance. A few moments to introspection is very necessary.
Either eyes open or closed, being in the moment, now, and relaxing suddenly connects you to yourself.

Q: Gurudev, Your Holiness, what is the secret to happiness?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
By being yourself and finding that inner reservoir of peace that we have all been gifted with. Just be yourself!

Q: Gurudev, Who are the people who have been the most influential in your life to make you who you are today, and who have helped you build your philosophy?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is very difficult to say. If I just take a few names I won’t be doing justice. But it starts from my mother.
When you are in the moment, when your mind is here right now, then you’re able to draw inspiration from everyone around you. Anytime, anywhere, people can inspire you. It is an internal phenomenon.
So I find that inspiration is opening that source of energy within you, and anyone can become a catalyst for that. A child in the street can inspire you, a carpenter can inspire you, a gardener can inspire you. You only need to have that willingness to take the inspiration.

Gurudev, I have been a follower of the Radhaswami tradition for a very long time. In my desire to meet you, I attended the Happiness program and learnt the Sudarshan Kriya. Now I feel guilty that I am not doing something wrong. Can I follow two different spiritual traditions together?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
There is no need to feel guilty at all. See, you started following a particular spiritual tradition sincerely and did a lot of good service there, as a result of that you got the gift of coming to this tradition. But once you are practicing the meditation practices of this tradition (of The Art of Living), I would suggest you to not mix up them up with what you were doing earlier.
Do not try to change or mix the techniques taught here with some other ones you have learnt before. Follow the techniques and the approaches taught here as you have learnt it. You are also receiving the knowledge from that spiritual tradition, so continue to do so and honour it.
All knowledge is one – the knowledge of the Self. It is just expressed in different ways by different people and spiritual traditions.
If you really look at it, there is no conflict between any spiritual traditions. It is just a trap of the mind, so you need not worry about this and take it too much to heart. Honour everyone and every tradition, but follow one spiritual tradition with all sincerity.

Gurudev, in one of the meditations you say, 'The nose is hollow and empty, the throat is hollow and empty'. When everything already is hollow and empty, then what is the use of taking our attention there during meditation? Should we not meditate upon God instead?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
To get there, at least make yourself hollow and empty first. First you must become hollow and empty like a flute. Then you will see that the harmony of the Divine will flow through you.
This is why in the great tradition of our Masters, it is said, 'Neti Neti' (not this, not this). It means, 'It (Divinity) is not this, and it is not that also'. So in this way, they went on negating and rejecting every limited understanding of God, until they finally realized that everything is One Consciousness, and there is nothing beyond it.
God is not a person or some limited form, He is the Supreme power behind everything in this creation. God is the melodious harmony playing through this entire Creation. But to be able to recognize and listen to His music, you first need to become hollow and empty (meaning to drop one’s limited concepts, small desires and understanding).
This is why it is necessary to experience and become aware of that emptiness first. Only then will you be able to experience the totality of the Divine.

Q: Gurudev, Your Holiness, do you believe in evil?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I don’t believe in evil but I know that evil is the shadow of lack of goodness. It is an absence of goodness, absence of love, and absence of light.
In India we believe in six types of evil: Pride, Greed, Arrogance, Jealousy, Anger and Lust. Any of these distortions of love, or lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom can destroy one’s life.

Q: Gurudev, When it comes to terrorism and the threats that are given to people who are trying to live in peace, what’s your view on military intervention?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I think military intervention should be the last option. Before that there should be enough diplomatic interaction. Trust building, communication building efforts should be made.
I would say that track II diplomacy (non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between private citizens or groups of individuals) should be engaged much more vigorously than it has been in the past. Business men can make a good bridge between different communities. They can play a very big role. They should put in their efforts, and then if nothing succeeds, the last option should be the military one.

Q: Gurudev, What to do with negative thoughts?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It is ok to have negative thoughts at times. When you think a negative thought should never arise, then you encourage it. Accept even the most negative thoughts that come to you. Then you find it is not even there. It is just dim energy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says that among the months of the year I am the Margashirsha month (corresponding to the period from the third week of November to the third week of December). Please explain.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
See, in our country, every month of the calendar has been associated with some event and so each month has its own importance. There is also a special month called the Purushottama Maasa (literally meaning the month of Lord Vishnu) that is considered very special and important by the devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Devotees of Lord Shiva consider Shraavan to be most important. Devotees of the Mother Divine consider the months of Chaitra and Sharad (autumn) to be important. The festival of Navaratri is celebrated in the month of Sharad. So every month has its own significance and importance.
In our country we do not have a single school of thought or tradition when it comes to spirituality. There are so many sacred Puranas and scriptures, and each scripture prescribes something different and unique for each month of the year. But the essence of it all is that one should honour Time and give it due importance. Do not waste it unnecessarily on eating and drinking, or in useless gossip.
The message is that Time is sacred. Consider time as a Prasaad (a sacred offering) from the Divine.

Gurudev, are you an Avataar of Lord Shiva or Lord Krishna? I have been asking myself this question for a long time, so please remove my confusion.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Have you read the Bhagavad Gita? I would say that first you read the Gita. It is not enough to read it once. You must read it again and again. Lord Krishna says, 'Wherever you see any divinity, that is a part of Me and Me alone'. He says that I am present everywhere, in the plants, in trees. I am the strength of the strong, I am the magnificence and glory of the radiant ones. There is nothing beyond Me in this creation'.

Q: Gurudev, Why is Lord Shiva called Bholenath?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Lord Shiva is bhola (innocent) so He is called Bholenath (meaning the innocent One). He is easily pleased, and gives a boon to anyone who asks Him with love, and then He Himself gets caught into trouble (when the seeker of the boon misuses it or uses it against the Lord Himself). He innocently gives a boon to anybody who meditates upon Him, be it a demon or a demigod. He gives them whatever they want, that is why He is known as Bholenath.
Another meaning is when you become bhola (innocent from within) then He is yourNath (Lord or Master). You must have heard the saying, 'Bhole Bhav Mile Raghurai'. It means that when you become innocent and pure from within, that very moment you become one with Divinity.

Gurudev, when death is the ultimate truth of life, then why does one take the guidance of astrology?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Are you asking this for yourself or for somebody else? If you are asking for yourself then just become aware that all of us are going to die, for sure. The important thing is that while we live, we shall be happy and have fun in all that we do.
While man is alive, he usually gets entangled in thinking, 'Oh, what will happen to me? What if there are some difficulties tomorrow? How will I be happy?'
This urges him to acquire wealth for a sense of security. The main aim of life is to be happy and comfortable with what we have, but often the path one takes brings misery instead of happiness. This is utter foolishness.
So what does an intelligent person do? An intelligent person knows for sure that God is with them, God loves them and belongs to them, so they don’t need to worry about anything. This feeling of deep faith gives them confidence. This is the secret of confidence. So they are able to do and achieve what they want.
See, if you are in the driving seat then you can turn the car in whichever direction you want, and spirituality gives you that strength to go where you want to. Hasn’t this happened for you? How many of you here have experienced that whatever you wish for starts happening? (Many in the audience raise hands in agreement).
This is the magic of being in knowledge, of having tasted the nectar of the spiritual path.
What is the use of behaving like a beggar all the time? There is a saying, 'Ram jharoke baith sabka mujra le' (Meaning: Repose in the faith of the Divine and see everything as a passing event). So when the connection with the Divine happens, no matter where you are, you can achieve and get what you wish for. Whatever blessing you give starts to manifest. Many of you have had this experience. This is the great wealth of spiritual knowledge.
We have such great knowledge with us in this country but many people are not even aware of it. People go to the temple, just break a coconut, give money to the priest to perform Aarti (act of rotating the sacred lamp before the deity) and keep wondering on how to improve their life. They come back home and get stuck again in craving and aversion, criticizing others, belittling others, and getting entangled in feelings of jealousy and greed. They spend their whole life like that.
To improve your life you should find joy in spirituality. Once you find this joy, do not run away from your family responsibilities; stay at home and attend to your family responsibilities also. Balance both so that your spiritual life as well as your family life improves.
This is such beautiful knowledge and this is what we must practice also.

Gurudev, why was this world made?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It was made for Me! (laughter) And if you ask why are there so many problems made in this world, then I would say they were made for you! (laughter again)
These problems were made so that you don’t get stuck and attached to this world. You get stuck with this world even though there are so many problems. Imagine if there are no problems, then you will never want to leave this material world! Correct?

Q: Gurudev, What is the difference between Spirituality and Astrology?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Well, spirituality is related to the Atma (soul) and astrology is related to planets. Astrology deals with observing the movements of the planets and making calculations related to the events that are yet to happen.
The science of Vastu is related to direction, to space, while astrology is related to time. But the One beyond space and time is Mahadeva (Lord Shiva). That’s why for remedying any ill-effects of Vastu or any of the astrological movement of planets, just pray to Lord Shiva. He is the Lord of all planets and He can move them to favourable positions for your benefit.
(Note: The discourse was given in Hindi. Above is a translation of the original talk.)

Gurudev, you spoke about listening to the Anaahat Naad in silence. But if I try to do that, I feel very awkward as if I have some disorder. Once when I told my doctor about this he said that I must be hearing things and that I have some mental illness.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Relax in the sound that you hear from within. We try to fight with that inner sound, we try and get rid of it. Don’t do that, instead relax with a calm mind in the sound.
For example, the people in Mumbai and Delhi who have homes near the main road, or in New York have a home by the highway hear the sound of heavy vehicles 24 hours in a day. If you go stay there for one night after having stayed in the ashram, neither will you be able to sleep nor will you be at peace, because here you have become so used to sleeping in an quiet peaceful environment. Every five minutes you hear the sharp noise of a vehicle passing by, and not just that, you feel the vibrations also, as if it passing right over your head. Since we are not used to these sounds we keep fighting with them.
In foreign countries, if you have your home near the highway or some main road, then it is very difficult to get some peace there. You lose all your serenity. If someone new goes to live in such a place, they become very uncomfortable and lose their sleep. Without sleep, your entire body becomes shaky and you feel fearful. But those who have been staying there since a long time become habituated to the noise, so they do not have a problem sleeping despite the noise. They sleep very easily, snoring away the whole time, because they have gotten used to it. The same is with the people in Mumbai. . Those who stay near the main road can hear a lot of noise in their house but since they have gotten used to it over time, they are not troubled by the noise.
Similarly a voice arises within us and we think we have some disease. We go to a psychiatrist who gives us a medicine which instead of resolving the problem creates another problem, making it worse than before. So all I am telling you, accept the subtle sound and relax in meditation.
Just imagine that you are gently soaking into the sound. Accept it lovingly and you will see that everything will change.

Q: Gurudev, I’m a teacher of a junior high school. 15 year old girls say we might die tomorrow so we have to enjoy now. So they say alcohol and sex is important. They don’t take care of themselves. What should I do?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is misplaced knowledge. When anyways you are going to die, why do you have to drink and spoil your health. When anyways you are going to die, why do you have to have sex. Relax, anyways you will die. You can talk the other way around as well.
When kids want to do what they want they will come up with any excuse, any knowledge. Anything they will use as an excuse. You have to educate them. Tell them to forget about all that, they are not going to die tomorrow. They are going to live and they don’t want you to live with sickness. Parents have to educate them.
Bring them here. It’s become difficult all over the world with children getting into sex, drugs, and alcohol. It’s a big challenge. Everyday so many mothers and fathers come and cry to me about how their children are going astray because of bad company. Maybe we should have our own schools everywhere.
As parents you must see that your kids have proper company. Invite all the friends of your kids home and talk some good sense to them. Friends of your kids will listen more to you than your own children, so become a good uncle or aunt. Tell them nice stories, play games together, get them engaged in some service activity. Parents must do all this.

Gurudev, our horoscope is based on our birth time. If the birth time is unknown, does that mean our horoscope is wrong?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
If the timing is correct, interpretation is right. You can never say that it is 100% right. There is a probability of it being 80%-90% correct. And there is always an adrushya (invisible), i.e., an unknown influence. It can happen anytime and that is what is called grace. So grace has the ability to change anything at anytime.
Shastras (scriptures) have their significance.
Like for instance, a boy was born and the father went to the astrologer to show his son's horoscope. The astrologer said that your son is very great. There will be many cars around him all the time around, and he will have the ability to stop anybody at anytime. So the parents thought that their son is going to become a big minister, or the president, and he will be surrounded by a fleet of cars but the son became a policeman. Today of course there are traffic lights which have come, but twenty years ago there were not as many traffic lights but only policemen who direct traffic.
The father came and fought with the astrologer, 'You told me that my son will be surrounded by a fleet of cars, but he has become a policeman'.
The astrologer said, 'See my prediction has come true even now. He is a traffic policeman and he is surrounded by many cars'.
Another astrologer said to someone, 'You will be hit by a bullet in your head'. But what happened one day, the person was wearing a big hat and something did come, but it hit the hat and took the hat away.
So there is a saying in Tamil, 'What came to head went off with my hat'. So a big trouble which would have come, by grace it went away in a small way. So here the scripture is also proved right, but at the same time you were in a right place at the right time.

Q: Gurudev, Speak on longing. Why do I have so much longing?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Longing itself is God. When there is longing for the Divine in the heart, when longing arises in life for God, then one acquires siddhi (extraordinary abilities) in life. Without longing there can be no love, no perfection, no contentment and no playfulness in life. Hence longing is essential in life.
We keep longing for small and trivial material things, but once the longing for God arises then you become a Chakravarti (a term in ancient India used for an emperor who was a sovereign and whose chariot could go anywhere without any opposition or hindrance).

Q: Gurudev, Silence, music and logic are the three essential ingredients you have spoken of. How does logic relate to knowledge or consciousness?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Logic is essential. If you see an idol of Goddess Saraswati, she is sitting on solid rock. She has a book in one hand which is logic. In the others, she has rosemary beads for meditation and veena (a musical instrument). Logic, music, mauna (silence) are all essential for total development of consciousness. Knowledge is logical understanding of existence.

Q: Gurudev, What should be the role of an entrepreneur in taking India forward?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Entrepreneurship should grow many fold and so plan for it. Also it is important not to forget to do your CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Definitely you can be a part of the inclusive growth if you participate in CSR activities. Don't do it just because it is a law and you have to do it, but do it willingly with all your heart.
If the law says that you have to contribute 3% and that is mandatory, why don’t you put 4% or 5%. If you add that 1% more it will show your commitment towards the country.
Competition is very good but in competition there should be no bitterness. And how can you have competition yet no bitterness? With spirituality. Spirituality gives you that inner confidence and tranquility that helps you to be competitive yet not cunning or unethical in your attitude and behavior.

Q: Gurudev, You have talked about hidden meanings behind symbols in Hinduism which seem to be very illogical. Could you please talk about many crores of devtas

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Crore, Koti means types. 33 crores means 33 types of divine impulses. In our body also there are 33 types of divine impulses. In our genes also there are 33 types. A particular type makes the eye, a particular type makes the nose, and like that a particular type makes eardrums, hair, nails. Like this there are 33 rays of divinity. One light, one God, one Parmatma but there are 33 aspects. Devas are the 33 different aspects of divinity. Here crore is not referred to as a number. Divine has no form but ancient saints have said you can adore him in any form or names. All the thousand names belong to God only. This is very deep science or deep knowledge. It’s amazing. When you go more and more deep into this, then you feel wow. People who have discovered this and written this have simply stupendous knowledge. The universe is not so simple. It’s very complex. Modern physics also says that deeper and deeper there are so many different type of particles. So the diverse universe and the divinity which manages, rules and has made this diverse universe is devta. The English name David is a Sanskrit word. Dev + vid, dev means divinity, vid means to know. David means one who knows the divinity. Divinity is not somewhere up in the heaven. It is present in the world, universe, everywhere. And it has to be realized that when the mind is calm, serene and settled in our heart and when emotion and intellect merge into a serene blend in silence, then you are able to perceive the subtle reality of Universe and that is devta.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dearest Gurudev, it is possible to restore trust in a relationship after a partner cheats? How to get past a cheating partner?

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
I can tell you one thing, suppose you were in your partner’s place and you made a mistake; not willingly but unknowingly, or due to some compulsion. If your partner does not forgive you and holds it against you, how would you feel?
Get into your partners place and see. If you were the person who made that mistake, and your partner is not forgiving you, would you feel okay, or would you beg your partner to give you one more chance? This is good enough for you to take a clue.
You expect your partner to be an enlightened person. You expect him to behave in an enlightened way. This is expecting too much from your side. If they have made a mistake once or twice, you should forgive them and give them another chance. This is why spiritual knowledge and the spiritual path is so essential for someone to grow in integrity and in honesty. Without this there cannot be honesty. 
If they have made a mistake, your bigness is in forgiving them, you should not make someone feel guilty all the time. If they have done some mistake, you should say, ‘Never mind, forget it! Let us move on'. But we don't do that, instead what do we do?We walk with a finger pointed towards them, which says, ‘You did it!’ Then how can they be friendly with you?
Nobody wants to cheats anyone, it is a temptation or a craving for something more that drives a person to do unethical things. Your soul does not stop until it finds itself, until it finds the ocean of joy. Until then, it keeps going for something more, thinking, ‘I may get something here’. This is what drives a person.

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