There is an ancient saying: the first sign of intelligence is not to open your mouth! Having lost that opportunity, then you should not say anything unless you are asked a question. I would like to open the floor, and ask you to ask anything - then we will take the thread from there.
Why are there differences between religions?
Religion has three components: symbols, customs and traditions, and values. As far as values are concerned, there is no difference, because all talk about oneness. Customs and symbols are all very different; they have to be, this is what makes the world beautiful, because God doesn’t like uniforms! Nature has been created with such diversity- so many flowers, animals, people. Diversity is the language of God. In India, God can have any number of names and forms, and they all point to one Divinity.
So in one sense, there is difference, and in another sense there is unity.
Wise ones celebrate diversity, fools fight over it.
What are the three most important values?
You want to limit it to three?!
A sense of belongingness with the whole world. You have to take this stand, feel that you are part of the whole world and all are part of you.
Commitment to whatever you take up, and an integrity inside of you which says you are going to see your commitments through.
The third value is living in the present moment, not holding onto the past and getting into trouble in your own mind. Do you know how many problems we can create for others when we hold onto the past?
How does a youth handle the ups and downs of life?
I am a youth myself! Life is a mixture of everything: failure & success - they complement each other. If you fail, then you know the value of success, it is a stepping stone.
You need to move forward: ask yourself, what did I learn from the past, and then what is my vision for the future? This will keep you going. For this, you need presence of mind, and for this, you need to get rid of stress.
You are the player, not the pawn. If you are a pawn, someone else is moving you, and you have no control. You have to be the player, empower yourself, and that’s how these Art of Living programs can help you.
How do you detach yourself from the past, after learning whatever lessons it has to offer?
Lessons are an automatic phenomena, what you have experienced is the past. Living in the past means cribbing about the past. Life has much more to offer you.
What’s the role of pain and suffering in life?
Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional
I find the past very painful.
The past should be viewed as destiny. If you think you had a choice in the past, the present will be spoiled because you regret the past. Continued regret about the past creates a lot of toxins in the body, the future is not bright.
Past is destiny, done. And future is your freedom. In our teachings, we have karma and purushata - what you need to do. See the past as destiny, the future as free will, and live in the present moment. Or make the past as free will, the future as destiny, and crib in the present moment! (Audience laughs)
How to practice compassion and impartiality?
When you are unbiased in your mind, compassion simply flows. When you have belongingness with everyone, irrespective of their class, economic background, intellect, if you can connect, then compassion flows.
You could be anybody - Chinese, African - put yourself in different shoes, playing different roles, then suddenly you find that you are stuck as being somebody, and then you will see it is much more universal.
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar