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Season 5 - Episode 1

Why Do I Exist?

10 min - Special


Our teacher Ravi Ravindra has a conversation with Alana about self-inquiry, searching, wonder, and his introduction to the Bhagavad Gita.
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Dec 15, 2019
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Welcome. I'm here with our beloved teacher Ravi Ravindra. Welcome Ravi. Thank you for being with us on Yoga Anytime. Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be here. So you celebrated your 80th birthday, they say, this past year? Yes, a few months back, yes. And now do you have any advice for fellow searchers who are navigating the battle of life? Oh my goodness. I think really, you know, the demands of the world are always very high, just survival, competition, all that. But in the midst of it all, to take at least few minutes every day, if not possible, at least every week sometime, to really just simply ask oneself in this large universe, why should I be here for a few decades? So in my case, now it has been eight decades, but most people will not live in the past 10 decades, exceptional ones maybe, but even then, it doesn't matter. In the context of the largeness of the universe and even simply the age of the universe, our few decades are nothing. So really to ask this question periodically, not out of fear, which unfortunately often happens to people, but really out of a sense of wonder. Because obviously I didn't create myself, so the universe existed for billions of years before I was here, and will happily exist. The galaxies will still turn. So not to take oneself that importantly, but on the other hand, is there a reason for my existence? What we usually call rezone that through why do I exist? So I think periodically to ask that is a very helpful thing, actually. It deepens one's self-inquiry, trying to wonder, but out of wonder, not out of fear, but also occasionally to really be struck by a sense of gratitude after all. All these large energies and forces have created me for a few decades. That's what I would say. Could you share with us an early memory of coming to the Bhagavad Gita? Actually, in a way, it's not initially from my point of view about the Bhagavad Gita, but it was about the Bhagavad Gita. My father, he was a very distinguished lawyer, and consequently he was always very busy. But he was very interested in poetry, and he knew several languages. And whenever there was any free time for him, his idea of having a nice holiday was to sit, especially in the winter, to sit in the sun and to read poetry from various languages. He knew Farsi, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, English, Sanskrit. And then if somebody happened to be nearby, he would read it aloud. Otherwise, he would just sit in there happily reading poetry. And on one occasion, another kid, I think my younger brother, but I'm not sure, maybe just a friend of mine, we were just urchins about, I think, 12 or 13 years old, if I recall. We were just walking by, and suddenly he sees us, and he says, oh, look, Ravi, there is this very interesting shloka in the Bhagavad Gita. Now, I had never heard of the Bhagavad Gita, and I wasn't particularly interested in it, but nevertheless, he read it aloud in Sanskrit, and then he translated it. And now I can even tell you, this was actually in the seventh chapter 19 shloka, but at that time I had no idea. And the shloka basically says, it's actually rather interesting in Sanskrit. Now, I can say that, you see, bahunam janmanam ante gyanavan mama prapadyate vasudeva sarvameti samahatama sadharlava. At the end of many births, so my father read the translation, at the end of many births, a wise person comes to me, Krishna says, realizing that all there is is Krishna. Such a person is a great soul, but very rare. And my father said, it was more really the feeling with which he said, that was important rather than the words, from our point of view, partly because he was so respected, he was practically like a god. But he said, much to my surprise, you know, Ravi, I can tell you the words, but I don't really know what this means. And that I wish for you that you will find a teaching or a teacher who will assist you to realize that all there is is Krishna. It's really not so many the words, but the feeling with which he said. So that became a very strong impression on me. Can I actually realize that all there is is Krishna? That it is from the Bhagavad Gita, etc.

I learnt later. That is my first memory of being struck by something in the Gita without even realizing that it is from the Gita. And then what continued to inspire your search and your wrestling with the teachings? Well, that is actually much later because I met a person who I would later on call my spiritual mother, Mrs. Welch, who was a senior person in the Gurjiv teaching. I first of all met her in November 1968, a long time ago, more than 50 years ago. She was very interested in the Indian tradition, partly because she herself had been a student of A.R. Oraj, a highly regarded editor in the English language. In fact, T.S. Eliot has made this remark that the English language has not known a better editor than A.R. Oraj. He was very highly regarded. And she was a student of his and he was very interested in the Indian tradition, partly because he was at that time this general secretary of the Theosophical Society in England. And the Theosophical Society, if you know anything about it, is really essentially, in fact, one of the masters in the society actually said to bring the Indian tradition to the Western world. So they are very interested in the Indian tradition. That's almost their project. So she asked me to, she first of all just assumed that of course I was familiar with the Bhagavad Gita. And I had to tell her that this is not the case. She was quite surprised by this. And she asked me to study the Bhagavad Gita. So because I was very respectful of her, she was a very wise woman, so I really just felt obliged to do it. I was still very hesitant. Then on one occasion in one of the gatherings of many fellow sartures, it was a week-long gathering, and she asked me to give a talk one evening on the Bhagavad Gita. Now I was really obliged to study it. And then next evening she asked me to continue. And then the third evening she asked me to continue. That really forced me to study the Bhagavad Gita. So I would say really since perhaps 1974 onwards that I really felt obliged more and more to study.

So I've been wrestling with it for many years. And then occasionally I would say to my friends or my partner, what a terrible translation, or this is not clear. And they would say, well why the hell don't you do the translation yourself? Which is easier said than done, as you can remember.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
I just love Ravi and his beautiful smile and infectious spirit! 🌟🌟🌟
Kate M
2 people like this.
Always a privilege to hear Ravi's teachings...!
Alana Mitnick
Jenny, Infectious is EXACTLY the word! 
Alana Mitnick
Kate, So true! His teachings are so clear and wholehearted. 

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