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.

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