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(The organizers began the event, overlooking the lighting of the lamp*.)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: In all the greetings, we have forgotten to light this lamp! You know, this is exactly what happens in life. We do all the preparations, but forget to light the main lamp inside us.
(The Master of Ceremonies turns to apologize.)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: No No, you did the perfect thing! You’ve set the pace for me to speak tonight! This is what my job is – To guide everyone where to light the lamp. Let me do my job!
(Sri Sri lights the lamp)
What can you see? In which direction is the flame pointing? (Lowering the lamp, he indicates the flame still goes up). The flame of life should also be the same, rising upwards, whatever be the circumstances. Time may shake life here and there, but the flame has to rise upwards. Time has twists and turns, but even during the twists and turns, the enthusiasm and energy should always go up like the flame of a candle. That is what is unique about our knowledge. The light of knowledge uplifts the flame of life.
You know, this flame is new every moment. New particles are lit every moment. This is what science also tells us, ‘Everything is changing and undergoing transformation’. What we thought as true yesterday is not present today. Till today, people used to think that antibiotics are very useful, but what does the latest research show?
Science and spirituality are complementary to each other. ‘What is this?’ is science. ‘Who am I’ is spirituality. Is there any conflict between these two? Absolutely no conflict! You know, in the East, there was never a conflict between science and spirituality. Never, you know why? Because the paradigm of science coincided with the paradigm of spirituality. What is the paradigm of science? Logic - logical and reasonable understanding of the reality.
In Darshana shastra, the first darshana is nyaya darshana. Nyaya darshana is logical reasoning. Understanding whether the means of knowledge are correct or not. Science says, “Let me experience it first, reason it out and then I’ll believe”.
You know, the whole criterion in the Occident is different. The philosophy of the occident is - you have faith, you believe and someday in the future, you will experience the truth. Firstly, you believe that there is God and then one day in the future you will realize it. This is in total contradiction with the parameters of science. Because science demands experience before one can believe. That’s why science and religion or spirituality were at loggerheads in Europe all through the history. Whereas, the paradigm was the same here in India.
A boy goes to the Master and enquires about God, “Tell me what is God?” The Guru says, “Anam brahme divyajaana - Food is Brahman. Food is God”. And the boy goes and reflects on that, studies and reasons it out. Through reason, he finds that there is something more than food. Then he comes back to the Master and again enquires, “Tell me what is God?” And he was sent again with the words ‘pranam brahme divyajaana – Prana (life force)* is God’.
And then he goes and studies all about the prana, and then come back after a while. “Tell me what is God?” He doesn’t say, “Oh, you said a lie or you didn’t give me a complete answer”. He never said that because we wanted to evolve step by step, through his own experience to go to the Ultimate Experience. He again asks his Master, “Tell me again, what is God?” The father says, “Mano brahme divyajaana – the Mind is Brahman”. Then he goes on contemplating on the mind, understands all about the mind and finds that is not all. There is something more than the mind. So, he comes back. Now he was told, “Vigyanna brahme divyajaana – wisdom is God”. After contemplating and researching on that, he comes back, and finally he was given the Ultimate Knowledge, “Anandam brahme divyajaana - Bliss is Brahman, Bliss is God”, and then he doesn’t return.
Because there is nothing beyond bliss, Satcchidanand. Sat - truth, chit – the consciousness and anand - the bliss. These are the three qualities or characteristics of the reality, ultimate reality or Brahman.It is a step-by-step experiential understanding, just like the science. So, science and spirituality were never at loggerheads in the Orient all through history. In fact, they talked about tatva gyanam, the science of elements. You have to first understand the principle. Before going to atma, you have to know the five elements of creation. What are the tatvas? Prithvi, ap, tej, vayu, aur akash - earth, water, fire, air and ether. Then comes the mind, buddhi (intellect), memory, ego, and the Maha Tattva (Self).
You know, Mahatma Gandhi is called Mahatma. We say that saints are called ‘Mahatma’. What is the meaning of the term Mahatma? The one who have understood the Supreme Element is a Mahatama. And how grand is the Supreme Element? Maha tatva is 1/100th of the ego. And what is ego? It is said you take one string of hair and split it vertically into 100, and then take that and spilt it further into 100, then take it further, and then 1/10 of that is anu. And 1/100 of it is parmaanu. And 1/100 of parmaanu is mind. And 1/100 of that is the Maha tattva. So, it is going from the matter to the spirit, from the gross to the subtle. How powerful it is!
So, we never had a conflict between spirituality and science. All the Upanishads declared sambhooti and asambhooti, manifest and unmanifest. You have to take both things together and move ahead. Energy is unmanifest, matter is manifest. The whole world is a combination of both. The seen and the unseen energy, matter and energy.Tatva gyaana - knowing the principle. And then is parmatma. Parmatma or God is a field. That’s why it’s called Brahman, Brahman has no gender. We think the whole world is in a neutral gender. And the same is considered in philosophy also.
Atma or the Self has no gender. Atma is just energy, and parmatma is that which is the finest aspect of atma. So, this is spirituality and this is science.You know, it is the presence of the spirit in the womb that enables the womb to grow. It’s the presence of atma in the body that enables the body to hear, listen, operate and do all the functions. Do you think with this energy or this presence inside, you doesn’t have the power or capacity to heal you little bit here and there? Doctors here? (Doctors say yes) Yes! It does have. It does have the power to heal. In fact, most of the healing otherwise also happens in sleep. Because when you sleep, your body rejuvenates itself, heals itself a lot. You give any patient all the medicines required, but don’t let them sleep, you will see that medicines will have no impact on them. Will the doctors here agree with me on this? (Doctors say yes) How many doctors here? Yes. So, sleep has an important role in healing.
And what really happens in sleep? It is so beautifully described in the scriptures. In sleep, you are in touch with the parmatma. What is happening in sleep? The aspect in you which has no boundary is unconsciously and temporarily contacted in sleep by your spirit, your mind. Samadhi is also like sleep, it’s not sleep but it is like deep rest. Our saints also have beautifully described that, ‘Koti kalp vishram’. What is Samadhi? One minute of Samadhi gives you rest equivalent to thousands of years, that state of rest is Samadhi.
Is everybody here? Is everybody fully present here? (Laughter) Just witness. Witness even how your mind is drifting while you are listening? Observing the drifting or running nature of mind.Now we talk about waiting. You are waiting for something to happen. (Laughter) You know, if you just observe the process of waiting, meditation is happening in that moment. You are on a railway station, or in an airplane, or in an aerodrome, you wait, sit and wait. When you’re waiting, you’re putting the mind outside. When you turn your mind inside and witness the fact that you’re waiting, that waiting itself makes you realise your spirit is unbounded. Your consciousness is vast.
What next now? You know, there is an Upanishad called ‘WHAT’. Kena Upanishad. What? What? What, what, what, what (Laughter). If you only ask someone, ‘What what, what …’ suddenly the mind stops. It gives a shock or a jerk to the running mind. Because the mind is chattering all the time, this is what puts a break on it. What, when, who, where. It suddenly gives you a sort of shock treatment. It wakes you up from inside, and takes you out of this vicious cycle that the mind is caught up in, in streams of thought. What? What? What? What? What? (Laughter) you just try this. Go to anybody and ask: What, what, what, what? (Laughter), they’ll say “Nothing”! (Laughter) What comes out of their mouth is what? Nothing. If you ask children, what do you want? Normally, they’ll say, “Nothing”. Have you experienced this? You ask innocent children, what do you want? They will say, “Nothing” (Laughter), because that is what they experience. Who are you? Nothing. What are you? Nothing. There lies the secret.
So, if you read these scriptures having experienced the philosophy, it gives you a whole different meaning altogether. If you read the scriptures just like that, you would not be able to comprehend anything. How is this everything happening? What is happening to whom? Then you realize there is something; there is something like a poem in some rhythm. Yet when you go through it with experience, go deep in one word, you find the whole psychology is immersed in it. The whole mechanics of human consciousness is present in every word. That’s what I would say, “We need to study scriptures with a scientific mind, not with a poetic mind”. Often people study scriptures with an artist mind. An artistic mind is just seeing it all as a poem and praises. The scientist mind would calculate, would see what each word would mean, the impact it has, its purpose.
I’m glad that all these doctors and scientists are interested in spirituality. It’s inevitable that they have got to have this interest once we are on the path of discovering something. Our quest will definitely lead us to spirituality. Every human being on the planet who has a sincere quest in them, a sincere seeker, will ultimately end up being spiritual. Because that’s how the creation is. That’s how the nature is. Otherwise people put religious books with all the respect, worship those and think all is done and they are also spiritual. That is not going to work. One needs to have a scientific outlook.
Do you have any questions?
Q: If God is ultimately within, why are we taught, as children, to worship outside in temples? Why aren’t we taught to look inside and find God? If we were taught this from childhood, it would have been easier.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, this is where the chaos took place in the whole tradition. (Laughter). Earlier, the first thing that was taught to the child was to do japa, the Gayatri japa (chanting of the Gayatri mantra). When a child is 8-9 years old, he’s told to do the Gayatri japa. What happens during mantra chanting? You do it with the feeling that everything is inside your body. That’s why it is called Brahma updesh. This experience is given to the child in Gayatri mantra. Like the sun is outside and inside you, the spiritual sun is within you. So, the radiating sun indicates that there is a source of light inside you as well. Children should be taught meditation first and then some rituals. Rituals also have their significance. You can’t completely dismiss them. There is scientific depth behind them. They have some purpose. It creates an environment. It creates a feeling. This mind always relates to people outside. Right? There is space next to me. You don’t relate to space. You relate to somebody who can talk to you, see you, with whom you can converse. So people created these figures or idols to kindle the feeling. In fact, the idols designed outside of a temple are result of a complete scientific mind. You focus on each body part of the idol, and then sit with your eyes closed, to sink deep in meditation. This sets your mind free from the impressions. Then, immerse the idol as well. You keep the idol of Ganesha and perform puja and from the tenth day onwards, you go and put it in the water. That doesn’t mean you are away from Ganesha for the rest of the year. Yet it is a celebration for the mind, especially, for children to have that feeling. In the world all over, you find that people are attached to some or the other form of symbols. Sikhs are attached to the Granth Sahib, Jains are attached to Mahavir murti, and Buddhists are attached to Buddha. It is the same with Christianity. If you see a cross, immediately there is a feeling that comes towards the cross. And same for Islam also, the feelings kindle the moment you see a mosque. Doesn’t a feeling arise in you for Quran? And if you can attach your feelings with a scripture, a book, then why can't you attach feeling with the idol of Rama? (Applause). The idol itself is so beautiful that the feelings automatically flow towards it. Right? The same is true for the idol of Lord Krishna. So, all these things have a deeper meaning behind them. But if you wish to rise above all these, then you take a step towards Vedanta - Advaita gyan, knowledge of non-dual existence. From duality to non duality. Be firm in that. Otherwise, there have been so many learned scholars in the country, they could have said to remove all this. But they didn’t. Why? They knew that some people are getting benefitted from that. So, temples were not only a place for worshiping. It was a center of social and cultural activities as well. So, like this some people were definitely benefitted, and saints agreed to that. Not only supported, they also added their life force, prana in that. That is called ‘Prana pratishatha’, adding energy. Where energy was poured, people got benefited from that
Q: Master of Ceremonies: Many people have requested for a short meditation.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Exactly. That’s exactly what I’m going to do now. (laughter and clapping). Ok, let’s sit comfortably and easily. Meditation has three important golden rules. First is - you should know that you want nothing for the next 10 minutes. The second rule is ‘I will do nothing’. The third important rule, golden rule of meditation is ‘I am nothing’. If you think you are very intelligent or very stupid, you can’t meditate. If you think you are rich, no way can you meditate; if you think you’re poor, no way you can meditate. If you think you are sinful or a very holy person, then also forget about it. So, what do you think? I am nothing. ‘Akinchan, Achah and Aprayatna’. ‘I want nothing. I do nothing. I am nothing’. The only thing we will do is to chant Ohm three times. Ohm means peace and love. Ohm means purity and serenity. So we will say that with a gap, and let that vibration to settle. Meditation is the journey from sound to silence. Silence is our goal. Sound is our means.
(A short meditation follows)
* In India, events are usually begun with the lighting of a lamp. This significes an auspicious beginning.