The extraordinary rise of suicide and depression amongst young people under 25 years old over the past ten years is shocking and sad. Some reports say that 1 in 8 young people in developed countries have suffered from significant depression in the past year. The need for resilience is undeniable.
What is needed is a more grounded worldview, and the acceptance that life is challenging and unpredictable. Trying to cancel misfortune and difficulty with wishful thinking is not a winning strategy. Instead of trying to erase misfortune and unwanted change, learning how to deal with it is of great importance.
We all need a realistic view of life. Life is tough but that doesn’t have to mean it’s depressing.
But the ultimate foundation of resilience is a spiritual perspective which is founded on the knowledge that I am an eternal spiritual being residing within a temporary material body. Identifying with the body as being the self can only bring unhappiness, but discovering my true identity and nature is just the opposite.
I gave a few quotes from the Bhagavad-gita to contemplate upon:
Bg. 2.23 – The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
Bg. 2.24 – This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.
Bg. 2.25 – It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, last weekend we were in Waihi and then Mount Maunganui, and, in Waihi, I was asked to speak a little bit about resilience. It’s really sad, one of the things that’s happened there in the wider community in the last two, three years, the number of young people that have committed suicide and the amount of people, young people especially, struggling with depression. And so of course, the topic of being—building resilience is really relevant, and so I just wanted to share a little bit of that, just for a few minutes tonight.
We see in, at least in the developed world, but it’s also happening in the less developed world, that in the last 10 years there’s been a monumental rise in suicide, particularly amongst people 25 down, down to really early teenage years, and in the last 10 years that’s risen 60 percent. That is not cool. And depression has risen from between 72 percent to 100 percent, I mean doubled! In much of the developed world the report is that amongst younger people that one in eight have suffered quite severe depression in the last year. And it’s just like, What’s going on? And why are we in this state? And what can be done about it?
So I thought I’ll just go to the dictionary definition of resilience first, since people talk about the need for building resilience. And actually, in the 1700s it was a technical term. And what it was, it was the “capability of a strained body or vessel to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.” So it was a scientific term. And today the most common definition or usage is the ability to recover, or “to recover from, or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
And of course, these are the two really important words, misfortune and change. You cannot, by any kind of manipulation or wishful thinking, get rid of misfortune and change. This is part of the experience of life, and how you deal with it is what’s important.
So we have a lot of ideas floating around in the world today where people, through social engineering, if that’s the right term, are endeavouring to eliminate misfortune and change. And so, you have this term, “helicopter parents,” or “helicopter” mum and dad, where they’re always hovering over their children, making it so they don’t experience—they don’t fall over—they don’t have any bad experience, and they think they’re doing them a favour.
And it’s extended all the way into the world, where in a lot of places now they’re talking about eliminating all forms of competitive sport, because somebody’s got to win and somebody’s going to lose, so let’s just get rid of competitive sport. When you show up for a race or a marathon, let’s not have a winner. Let’s everybody get a medal. [Laughs] This is the idea of how to deal with it.
And of course, all that does is increase people’s lack of resilience. You make people weaker rather than stronger by doing that. You cannot manipulate the whole world and eliminate all forms of misfortune, change or difficulty.
So the idea of trying to eliminate everything, we see it from the beginning of the last century in the failed experiment with communism, where they had this fantastic idea—I mean it’s a wonderful idea, absolutely wonderful, but trying to create it and implement it was an impossibility. And Marx, with his famous statement, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” so the idea that everybody would work cooperatively, and the janitor in the factory would put in as much effort as the manager, and they would both receive the same payment. And of course, that ended up in a catastrophe, where people had to line up for everything. You go to the shop on the Monday, and you’re looking for something, buy something to eat, the only thing they’re selling is cabbage, nothing else just cabbage. You go along on Tuesday, and maybe they’ve got potato. And you go along on Wednesday, and maybe there’s a tomato there or squash or something. And it was just like—so everybody was perpetually in lines, and you would buy anything that came your way so you could barter it with each other for the things that you didn’t have. It was a system that produced all kinds of unfortunate outcomes because it was synthetic. It was an artificial manipulation.
So, if we try to erase misfortune and change and unhappiness from people’s life you’re not going to succeed. And what is more important, is to actually apply what the definition of resilience is, which has to do with how you learn to deal with it.
Social media, of course, is not helping, and the messaging that you get that everybody can be a star—You know these sayings, like, “You can be anything that you want to be”? No, you can’t.
What if all the citizens of New Zealand decide they want to be the prime minister? How is that going to work out? What if you’ve got a factory or a commercial operation with 500 employees, and everyone wants to be the CEO? How is it going to work? It can’t work. It’s not a real idea that you can be anything that you want to be. You can aspire for and attain all that you can be, but that doesn’t mean everything that you want is necessarily going to be achievable. And if we go down this road with this idea that there’s some great perfection to be had, that others are always happy, and so I should be also—no. That’s not what life is like. I’m sorry it’s just not like that. That’s a fantasy.
I’m speaking from experience. I mean it was tragic. My dear brother-in-law that was so—he was such a cool guy. When he ended his life everybody’s kind of like in shock. But the thing that he really suffered from was this idea that there was great perfection in this world, and all my friends are happy, but I’m not.
I mean if you accept that idea then when you feel lonely, when you feel unfulfilled, when you feel unhappy, you’re going to think there’s something wrong with you. No, there’s nothing wrong with you. These are natural experiences in life.
And being resilient means to be able to accept that which you cannot change, to have the courage to change that which you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If you don’t have the wisdom to know the difference, if you are unwise, then you’ll have the problem that happens today with all this tremendous amount of unhappiness. So what’s absolutely essential is that people really develop a realistic view of life.
Does that mean you don’t aspire for something better? Of course not. You should aspire for something better. But we do need to be absolutely realistic, and being realistic means accepting, there’ll be others that do better than me in certain areas, and maybe other areas I can do better than others. But that’s not the point, to be better than others. The point is to find some real meaning and purpose in life, and become settled in pursuing a life of real meaning and purpose, and learning to accept things for what they are and do whatever we can to improve them.
Of course, from the spiritual perspective the ultimate foundation for resilience is to cultivate the knowledge of your actual spiritual identity. In Sanskrit this is called atma jnana. Atma jnana is knowledge of the self, knowledge of who you really are as a spiritual being. The body that you have on is not you. You cannot become fulfilled in decorating, in making it healthy, making it attractive. That can’t last. The body, it doesn’t last. It ages. It goes through change. And if you are trying to validate your worth, your lovableness, your attractiveness, just on the basis of this exterior covering, you are destined for unhappiness. I’m sorry. You are destined–maybe not now, if you’re young and healthy and everything’s working for you—that will not last, I promise.
So we need to connect to our deeper inner self. The Bhagavad-gita, in the second chapter, has a few verses upon which you can begin to build an understanding of the self. It says,
“The individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble. It can be neither burned nor dried. It is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same. It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.”
That is a wonderful statement.
You are a perfect and wonderful spiritual being. Your eternal nature is to be immersed in an experience of endless transcendental blissfulness. This is your inherent right as an eternal spiritual being. Your perfection will lie in your reconnection with the Supreme Soul, and to become immersed in a limitless ocean of ecstatic transcendental love. This is what we are all longing for.
In the Brahma Samhita, it describes in the fifth chapter, that we are bound eternally and without any end in a bond of transcendental kinship with the Supreme Soul, the Paramatma. And it is becoming aware and cultivating this connection that one will find all perfection, and will be easily be able to deal with life. So I encourage you to—this is where we need to go, and this is where resilience will be found.
Don’t try to make this world perfect. It’s not. It’s not. It’s inherent nature is that it will constantly change. Everything comes to an end. Nothing lasts, nor can it provide you the deep spiritual nourishment and happiness that you actually seek. You can have a cool time here. The world is amazing. It’s astonishing. It’s wonderful. But it cannot completely fulfill us.
So, of course, the solution lies in our becoming completely immersed in that which is spiritual. Meditation is not an activity of the mind. The mind is not spiritual. The mind is a material energy. Real meditation means to become immersed in that which is transcendental, in that which is spiritual. These wonderful spiritual sounds that we sing in kirtan, or glorification, provide us with an opportunity for us to actually immerse our innermost being, our heart of hearts, in an ocean of great transcendental wonder and love. So whether we are chanting softly and serenely, or loudly, doesn’t matter. It is becoming immersed in this wonderful transcendental sound that will bring about our transformation, our complete enlightenment. We will totally, not just connect with, but actually come to know who we truly are, and experience the greatest spiritual happiness.
So I invite you to join with us, and let’s do some of this. Thank you. [Applause]
So I will also chant the mahamantra