The Mother Divine
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Question & Answers with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Q. Gurudev, in the Bhagawad Gita Lord Krishna says, “Sarva-sankalpa parityagi”. What does it mean?

A. When you are about to go to sleep, and if you keep thinking “I have to do this, I have to do that”, then will you be able to get restful sleep? What do you do when you sleep? You keep everything aside. Only then will you be able to get sleep. There is a deeper meaning in this verse. Yoga will not happen until the mind is stuck in feverish thoughts like ‘I want this’ or ‘I have to do this’ or ‘I need to do that’.

How can you find deep rest when your mind is running behind acquiring 20 different things? Can you get any comfort in such a state? So, for some time, you need to set everything aside. This is what is meant by the term ‘Sarva-sankalpa Sanyasi’.

‘Yada hi nendriyartheshu na karmasv-anusajjate. Sarva-sankalpa-sanyasi yogarudastadochyate’ (Bhagawad Gita, 6.4)

When one reaches a stage where he desires nothing for himself, then he becomes a Yogi, a Sanyasi. Such a wise and selfless person becomes useful to everyone around him.

Whom do you really call a saint, a prophet, or an apostle? One who does not desire anything for himself, and one who only prays and works for the welfare and well-being of everyone else. Often one desires fame, or money, etc. It is desire that destroys a person and makes his vision and perspective in life very narrow and limited. So, Lord Krishna says that until and unless a person drops all this (feverishness of desire) and becomes hollow and empty, he does not find peace. Once the mind becomes hollow and empty, one experiences deep rest, and at the same time deep joy arises from within. In such a state, one realizes the light of the Divine within and all around. This is what is meant here.

Q. It is said in Yoga Vashishta that one of the four gatekeepers to liberation is satsang (the company of truth). Please elaborate.

A. Yes, one of the four gatekeepers to enlightenment is satsang, which means having the right company because it is good company that uplifts you.

How do you realize what is good company? Just sit with someone and talk to them for over 30 minutes. When you get up, observe your state of mind. Do you feel happy? Do you feel depressed? Do you feel angry, agitated or sad? That says it all!

If you sit and discuss your problem with someone, and they appear to be insignificant, then that is good company. But when you discuss your problems with someone and you come out feeling, “Oh, I thought it’s a small issue. It feels to be much bigger!” When the problems appear to be much bigger, then that is bad company. It’s not satsang.

Satsang is one in which even the big problems appear to be much smaller. Your enthusiasm is high, you feel confident, you feel happy and you want to serve people. You don’t become greedy - that is satsang. Satsang creates positive energy in you, uplifts your spirit, gives you insight and gives you courage.

Sometimes you live inside a bubble, satsang will bring you to ground reality. Suppose you are imagining something or hallucinating, satsang will make you realize the ground reality. It will bring you to a point where you realize that you are imagining, or whatever you were doing is not correct.

Q. Gurudev, what is the role of pain in personal and spiritual transformation?

A. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional; you have heard that before, right? Pain is nothing but an intense sensation. Yet, do not justify or encourage pain. Some people start justifying and encouraging pain, and that is where masochism starts. You need to stay clear of masochism, and that is why I would say that if pain comes, it has come due to some karma, that’s it, move on.

The principle of karma is such a healthy thing to save the mind. It’s such a good vaccination for the mind. When you say karma, then you are able to let go and move on, otherwise you brood over whatever has happened in the past, and you try to link things with some cause.

If you look back, whatever you thought as cause is also an effect, it is not just the cause. Every time you fix something as the cause of an effect, you have erred. You have seen that it is not true; it has not stood the test of time. No cause has stood the test of time because every cause is an effect. This is the spiritual way. When you think in this direction and go deeper into the ultimate cause, you find that there is only one thing that is the cause of the entire existence.

With this one realization, your peace can never be taken away by anybody or any incident on the planet; nothing can move you if you know the cause!

That is why there is a beautiful verse in Sanskrit: “Tasmai Nama parama karana karanaya”, Shiva, you are the cause of all causes, the grand time that is beyond time, otherwise we keep going round and round in this cycle of karma.

Yes, it can be little confusing if you don’t pay very keen attention to what I am saying. One is karma, i.e., cause and effect. Another is going beyond karma; how do you get out of the cycle of karma? Are you getting this? You have to ponder on this once more. This principle of karma is a big blessing for you to let go and move further.

Q. You have said that like the rhythm in nature, our thoughts and emotions also have a rhythm. Please explain.

A. I want you to take a look at your own emotion and the time scales. See how you felt last year at the same time? What were your feelings and thoughts during Christmas time or Diwali time? Just analyse, you will see that the pattern is happening year after year. This is what I call rhythm.

The objects differ but the pattern remains the same. Last year you were upset about something at the same time. The previous year too you were upset but for something else. So, the object of your disturbance and happiness may vary, but your experience remains the same. This is what is called a pattern.