On Sunday, Feb 23, global humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar answered questions from a global audience in a Twitter TownHall. More than 65,000 questions came from 6733 cities across 114 countries. In this two-part series, Sri Sri responds to a variety of questions covering love, religion, war, marriage, parenting and happiness.
Q: When I look around, I see only misery, hate, anger, greed and meaningless violence. How do I know there is a higher power?
A: The tendency of our mind is to magnify misery. If ten compliments are given to you and one insult is given to you, what you usually hold on is the one insult and blow it out of proportion. My dear, I would like to tell you that there are a lot of good things also happening in the society. There is a lot of service. There are a lot of good people around and if you look into the eyes of people, you will feel that there is compassion and love in most people's hearts and minds. I agree there is hate, anger and greed. This is because we have not been able to educate them in human values.
Q: I am a homosexual and comfortable with it. Some call me a criminal. My family and friends disown me. Does God still love me?
A: God has no choice. God loves everybody on earth. So, don't worry about it.
Q: Different people have different notions of spirituality. Some think it is escapism, others think it is torturing oneself. What is spirituality for you?
A: All that uplifts human spirit is spirituality. Anything that brings you peace, joy, love, comfort and motivates you to do service in society is spirituality. We are made up of both matter and spirit. Our body is made up of amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins and so on. Our spirit is made up of love, compassion, generosity, intelligence -- all these values. So spirituality is not just sitting and doing something. It is something that invokes -- that builds character in you.
Q: What is my role in transformation of Ukraine for peace and happiness and against corruption?
A: All that we can do in our capacity, we must do. In fact we should do a little bit more than what we think we can do to bring peace. Corruption is a very serious issue all over the world. I am sure if you create more awareness among people, and if you all unite together -- not through violence, not with burning buses, trucks and cars on the streets or throwing stones at people, but through a peaceful, resolute revolution, we are sure to get success. It may take some time. We need patience and perseverance to fight against corruption.
Q: Why are people into conversion? Do they have identity crisis?
A: People leave one religion and go to another religion because they have not studied their own religion properly. This is a problem. They have not understood their faith or the essence of it fully, especially in the Hindu faith because we are simply going on with the rituals that we often don't understand or study. There are not many opportunities to study the Vedas, and the scriptures on Yoga, or treatises like the Yoga Vasishta. We tend to know very little about our Vedas or Vedic heritage, especially in India. So people tend to convert. I feel that they should first study their own faith in-depth -- whichever faith they are born in. And do not denigrate the faith you are born in when you convert. Conversion is your free choice. But do not insult the faith or denigrate the faith.
Q: With such a demanding lifestyle, how can one be a better parent and give quality time to children?
A: You should never doubt your goodness because you can never be a bad parent at all. Just be yourself and if you scold your children sometime, you should know it is necessary. Parents feel so guilty even when they scold their children here and there. So I would say there is no need to do that because you need to make your children strong. It is like a vaccination for them. If your children's upbringing is so weak that they cannot tolerate an insult or harsh comment from someone, then it means you have not attended to your children. You have not given them the much-needed vaccination, that dose of discipline. Sometimes it is necessary. No parent will be a bad parent if they are relaxed and free of tension and stress. So first of all you have to relieve yourself from your tension and stress, and give quality time to children.
Q: How to get close to and help people we love who are closed down and have built barriers around them?
A: With patience and perseverance. People generally build barriers around them because they are insecure or have some prejudice. Prejudice and insecurity are two important things in society that we need to attend to and this requires that we relieve the stress in the minds of people. This we can do only with patience and perseverance.
Q: What has been the biggest risk you have ever taken in your life Sri Sri?
A: There is not one, I cannot say it is one risk, any challenging thing comes in front of me, I simply jump into it, whether it is going to Iraq for peace building at the time of war, or something else. I like to go on adventures.
Q: Did God create man or man created God?
A: Both. God created man and man created God. Isn't it funny? Man created different concepts of God, stories about God. But again, what is God. Is He somebody sitting up there who just created something and went away? No. The summum bonum of creation, if you take it that's the one thing by which everything has happened and in which everything is, may be you can call it God. So according to the Vedanta, it is 'Asti, Bhati, Preeti'. It is, it shines and it is love, and that's what the whole world is. Isn't it? And this could be one of the concepts unless until you start feeling it as an authentic reality in our life, as true as a pain in your feet if you have one.
Q: Sri Sri, is it only time that brings maturity? How does one cultivate it in life?
A: Perception, observation and expression -- these three things can bring you maturity. The way you perceive things and observe things all around you. Wisdom doesn't need time at all. You don't need to become old to become mature. You simply need observation of not just yourself, but also in the lives of all around you.
Q: With an alarming rise in the number of divorces, is marriage necessary? Doesn't it add baggage to love'?
A: Marriage is an important institution. Even to ask this question, somebody married and that's why you are here. Isn't it? I think you will see that you need some stability in life at some point of time. And marriage is a very sacred institution. We must have that. Growing in marriage is growing in responsibility, taking responsibility. And love and responsibility, they go together.
Q: You say that our nature is love but why is there so much conflict in the world?
A: That is because we have not realized we are Love. When the realization comes, this won't happen. I usually say war is the worst act of reason. There is some reason then you go in for war. Then you go beyond those reasons and find wars are futile. Nobody wins a war.
Q: You say live in the moment, but you also say have goals. Isn't it contradictory?A: Yes, truth is contradictory and multidimensional. You plan for future, but you live in the present moment. Even the planning of future happens in the present only. When you are driving your car, what do you do? You look through the windshield, you also look at the rear mirror and you also look at the side mirror. All three are essential. Isn't it? If you say, 'No, I am only going to look ahead and I am not going to look back or to the side mirror', you are going to get an accident. So while driving a car, the rear mirror is small so you should learn something from your past. From side mirror you should keep looking around also and drive ahead. So all these have to simultaneously happen. So plan for the future but at the same time be in the present moment.
Q: We have received hundreds of questions from Syria, Egypt and Middle East? Do you have any message for them?A: The violence in the Middle East is a huge humanitarian problem, and my heart pains when I see the amount of injustice and violence that is happening there. Again I would say, that let's pray for peace, and at the same time continue to explore ways of bringing peace. We should keep thinking about it. We should still keep hope that one day we will all be able to bring some peace there.
Watch Video of Sri Sri in TwitterTownHall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Uo28jPfGs
Follow Sri Sri on Twitter @SriSri
Read Knowledge sheets at http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/wisdom-knowledge-sheets
Follow Q and A with Sri Sri at http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/wisdom-knowledge-sheets