Someone sent me a meme, it was a picture of the top of Mt. Everest with the caption “Every dead body on Mount Everest was once a highly motivated person. So….maybe calm down!”
We live in an age that demands “BIG reactions” to almost everything. Where being ‘highly motivated’ is meant to be a good quality. But we don’t often deeply consider “Motivated by what?” and “To do what?”
We discuss the quality of dispassion, defined as to “not be influenced by strong feelings, or not affected by personal or emotional involvement.”
Some verses I quote in the talk:
The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities. – Bhagavad-gītā 14.7
O chief of the Bharatas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor develop. – Bhagavad-gītā 14.12
…. Works done in the mode of passion result in distress, – Bhagavad-gītā 14.16
…. from the mode of passion, grief develops; – Bhagavad-gītā 14.17
That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion. – Bhagavad-gītā 18.38
One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace? – Bhagavad-gītā 2.66
A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires — that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still — can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires. – Bhagavad-gītā 2.70
A person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego — he alone can attain real peace. – Bhagavad-gītā 2.71
Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is a yogi and is happy in this world. – Bhagavad-gītā 5.23
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
I saw a really funny thing that somebody sent me. I mean it’s both serious and tragic in a way, but also quite funny. It was a picture of Mt Everest, kind of quite up close, and there was a caption underneath it. There was like, wind blowing and snow sweeping over; and the caption on it said, “Every dead body on Mt Everest was once a highly motivated person, so… maybe calm down.” That’s like wow! That’s actually a very sobering message. And it was sort of the inspiration for tonight’s talk, along with, of course, what we’ve been discussing the last couple of weeks, and particularly last week, the thing about the comments, Leave A Comment Below.
We’re going to speak about “dispassion.” It’s a really interesting word. It really is something that a lot of people in the world now can barely, probably, relate to. And yet it used to be considered such a noble characteristic. When a person was said to be dispassionate, it means they weren’t easily moved, or didn’t react to emotions that they may experience.
This has—we’ve covered this idea often, when we speak about mindfulness. We live in this era now, where sort of like–we live in an age that demands big reactions, big actions and big reactions, like everything is over the top. Of course, social media, and everybody being driven to be performative, to say and do things on video, in the hope that they will receive some acknowledgement or adulation. And of course, the competition is extraordinary. And as we live in this time, as we mentioned last week, where social media is taking everyone, and what it’s all focused on: getting people to become addicted, and performative, and outraged. This was like—this is the business model for keeping people’s attention. And so people become trained, in the number of hits they’re getting, the number of views, the number of likes. If they become more outrageous then it’s like you get more hits. And there are people that are just like making videos on finance even, and stuff, and the front slate will always be someone with their eyes wide open, and like screaming, and looking really terrified, or crazy, or really angry.
And it’s kind of like, wow, this has become what’s expected. We’ve been very conditioned, and it’s like we’re pushing everything to these outer limits. The X Games, extreme sport, and then the way people respond to things with the over enthusiasm, the exaggerated, “Wow!” and just like, “I was the best ever!” Everything has to be extreme. Everything has to be bigger than life.
And it’s not good for people’s mental health. It’s not good for their well-being. It’s not good for people in terms of relationships, even. I mean everything has become so extreme. It’s like plain vanilla doesn’t have any appeal anymore. Everybody wants even—nobody wants a plain vanilla relationship, that’s just sort of like secure and happy and whatever. Everybody wants something that’s sort of like extreme, otherwise it’s just like, totally boring.
It’s not good when we feel that we have to be always in—what’s that—what are those energy drinks? There’s Red Bull, and what’s the other one? Extreme or something, huh? Monster. it’s like you know, AHHH! Everything has to be like supercharged, massive amounts of caffeine, and people just like going off.
And there is a mistaken idea that this is a higher form of happiness. And it’s absolutely not true. That by pushing things into these extremes, it’s sort of like people don’t recognize and realize what it is that they’re doing to themself, to their relationships, and to the world in which they live.
So, we’re just going to examine this a little bit. It was kind of interesting, I mentioned that caption in the beginning, about all the dead bodies on Mt Everest—and there’s a lot! They were once highly motivated individuals, or highly motivated people. One should ask the question, “Motivated by what? And motivated to do what?”
We just assume that if you are highly motivated that somehow that’s really a good thing. It’s—we’ve just bought into these ideas. And it’s sort of like things that we’ve spoken of in the past, in reference to the age-old standards that existed in the Western world, because of the influence of Christianity, where you had these, what were called seven deadly sins. One of them was pride; avarice, which was the lust for money; lust itself; greed; envy; gluttony. That’s sort of like, wow—that’s sort of the world today.
And so we have to be more thoughtful and consider, okay, being highly motivated can be a good thing, but it can equally be a really bad thing. The question is, you’re motivated by what, and motivated to do what? And if we don’t consider that, if we just embrace—I mean the characteristic I mentioned: avarice, the lust for money, just wanting to accumulate and accumulate, which was considered a very destructive characteristic, very harmful for people to develop that characteristic; these days that’s considered a really great thing. A person is called highly motivated, if they’re greedy for money. Most corporations and businesses want to employ such so-called “highly motivated” [mimes air quotes] people, because they are going to generate business.
We become so driven by the motive for profit without any consideration of the impact. People hide behind corporate responsibility, and—these are things that people get involved in, to kind of stay on board with the mood of things, you know, this desire to have a better environment, a healthier planet. And so people take to this idea of social responsibility, but it’s pretty much a façade, something that people do as a minimum to maintain credibility and likability with the general public, so you can continue to exploit them for their money.
I don’t know if you recall, but about three weeks ago I spoke on the topic of how nature is not spiritual. And in that conversation that we were having, I mentioned about these three incredibly powerful forces that permeate the material world, and pretty much drive almost—not almost, all of the varieties of mentality, and all the varieties of desire, and are responsible for all the varieties of action and inaction. And they were described in the Vedas as being what they called the mode of goodness, satva guna, the mode of passion, raja guna, and the mode of ignorance, tama guna.
So the focus that we are having in the talk today is actually about the influence, and the effect, the consequences of living a life that is very much influenced by this mode of passion.
A lot of people don’t actually appreciate the amount of control that we can actually exercise over our life, our thinking, our choices. People are quite often, when they’re influenced by this mode of passion, just going for it, trying to enjoy life, engaging in all kinds of activity, creative pursuits, endeavouring to build, develop, grow money, grow talent, you know, like everybody from a big business man, to a beauty queen, to a musician that’s just working really hard to master their craft, to an Olympic athlete. All of these people are operating under the influence of the mode of passion.
And everybody’s just kind of like living moment to moment, and they don’t seem to recognize that they are not powerless, and that it’s not like stuff just shows up in my life, and I’m not responsible for it, and it could be considered good or bad, but it’s just kind of like it’s showing up. It’s sort of, these events and things that occur in my life, and I have no power to sort of change that. It’s like stuff just happens to us. What we’re not appreciating is that the laws of nature are, actually, both very rigid, and inescapable, just like the laws of gravity.
The mode of passion has very clear characteristics, and these are outlined in the Bhagavad-gita. So in the 14th chapter and the 7th verse, we have—actually all throughout the 14th chapter, we have all of these different descriptions of these modes. But speaking to the mode of passion, this verse, it states,
“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.”
So what we see here is that, when we are influenced by one of these modes, we can feel like an almost—you’re helplessly being dragged along by something; and what we’re not actually appreciating is that it was our own choices, the focuses of what we meditate upon, what we think about, what we desire, that is actually making us incredibly susceptible to the influence of the mode of passion.
So reading again, it says, “The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings,” that when we—I mean this just sounds like the average person.The average person is just constantly overwhelmed and flooded with different kinds of desires and longings. That’s what drives people to use social media, to hang out on the internet, to watch TV, to do almost anything, are these unlimited desires and longings.
“…and because of this, one becomes bound [bound as in like tied to, tied up] to material fruitive activities.”
This means engaging in activities with an intense longing for a particular result that you desire, and think will make you completely happy.
And then in another verse, verse 12 in the same chapter,
“O chief of the Bharatas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavour develop.”
So this is the outcome. First, we engage in certain types of activities or thinking, which open us up to this influence, and as we become increasingly influenced by the mode of passion, then we manifest these characteristics of very great attachments, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavour develop. But then a couple of verses later, we have two resulting characteristics of living in the mode of passion, living in this state. It describes that:
“…works [meaning activities, not necessarily your job, but activities] done in the mode of passion result in distress…”
And it’s kind of like, okay, what exactly is the connection here? What is the connection? And in the following verse there is a portion of it that states:
“….from the mode of passion, grief develops;”
So I don’t know if you recall this. Some time back we spoke about another couple of verses in the Bhagavad-gita that talk about how people develop attachments. And it talks about, “By contemplating upon the objects of the senses, one develops attachment for them. And from that attachment comes lust.” (Lust meaning greed, an intense selfish desire to have that experience, or that object, or that person to try and enjoy.) And then it describes that from this lust comes anger.
So the understanding was that when you create these appetites, and you got the hunger, and you really want it, and you’re really focused on it, when you finally get what it is that you wanted, you will experience that it is not completely fulfilling. You had this big, exaggerated sense, “Oh, if only I could do this, if only I could have this, if only this person would love me, my life will be perfect,” and it’s just not true. And so when a person has these intense longings, and desires, and this—the really exaggerated pronouncements of how this is going to be fantastic! This is going to be great! This is going to, wow, it’s going to be absolutely amazing!
I can remember when this was my life, when I was a teenager. It was like, the life of exaggeration, of hankering and longing for all this stuff, and talking about how amazing it was going to be, how great it was going to be—“It was the best ever!”—and then looking back at events that happened and trying to make out that it was more wonderful.
I mean the epitome is New Year, of all the dumb celebrations you can have. It’s like, who says it’s a new year, by what calculation? You’ve got people all over the world that all have different New Years. It’s kind of like, yeah, so it’s an arbitrary thing, that you decide that on this particular date that we’re going—the new year begins. Okay, I can buy that; but then it’s going to be like, everybody wants to go out and celebrate, and they’re going to have the big countdown, like there’s something amazing. It’s just going to be the biggest possible, excuse me, orgasmic experience, that as soon as the clock hits 12, that everybody’s just like, “YEAH!” just screaming and throwing stuff, and kissing other people, and hugging, “YEAH!” And then after getting really wasted and out there, being stupid, and screaming, and shouting, and everything, everybody goes home. And then they want to remember it later. They’re looking at all the pictures, and, “Oh yeah, best New Year ever!” And it’s just like—it’s so fake and it’s so put on. It’s not like anybody is just spontaneously overwhelmed with ecstatic happiness just when the clock strikes 12 on a particular day.
But when we make such endeavours, we are doomed to experience the disappointment that will also be attached to that endeavour, to that desire; and that will eventually lead to even forms of depression, of not just unhappiness, but being very depressed. The other way in which a person can suffer distress, as a result of the mode of passion, is when they endeavour to acquire or get something, and they are somehow stopped from it. Then it always manifests as anger. And so it is rightly stated that the mode of passion results in distress, and it produces grief.
And there’s a particular reason for it. The ancient Vedic teachers, I mean they were so thoughtful. It was so deep the way that they examined things and looked at it. And it’s not because they wanted to be party poopers, or rain on people’s parades. They had a desire for personal, extreme happiness, and they wanted it for all other people. And so they were really, really focused on these subjects, in a very deep way. And they analysed the nature of happiness in the mode of passion, and it always has certain characteristics. One is, it is derived—the experience of happiness—is derived from contact of the senses, the bodily senses, with their objects; and it appears in the beginning to be like nectar, but later it begins to taste like poison. So I’ll read the verse:
“That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end, is said to be of the nature of passion.”
When I read this I often think of modern marriages, the majority of them, that end in a very unhappy experience. But it was like, in the beginning everybody was—when they met this person, they were so sure that this is going to be everything, “This is what I’ve been looking for. This is it. It’s going to be happily ever after. It’s so, wow, amazing. I’d do anything for this person.” And the other person is thinking that also. “Yeah, I’d do anything for this person, and I love them so much,” and everything. And then a few weeks, a few months, a few years down the road, things can become so incredibly bitter and really, really hurtful. And it’s like, that which in the beginning was—tasted like nectar and then later seems like poison, that the motivating force is this mode of passion.
The problem is that when a person operates under the influence of this mode of passion, it becomes impossible to actually experience peace. And they asked that question in the Bhagavad-gita: how is it possible for there to be happiness if there is no peace? How is that even possible?
So, striving to develop the type of consciousness, the kind of thinking, the desires, the courses of action that lead to peacefulness, it’s just like really, really important. And this is something that we actually have control of in our life. And I mentioned earlier about when we teach mindfulness—I mean one of the focuses that we have is to try and encourage people to acquire the habit of learning not to act when their minds are in a highly emotional state. Don’t say anything. Don’t act. Don’t make a decision. You need to learn how to calm way down, and in a state of calmness consider, “What’s the best course of action for me? What do I—what am I seeking? And if I act in the way I’m currently thinking, is that going to produce the outcome I want?” And mostly the answer will be, “No, it won’t produce the outcome.”
So then the question is “Okay, so what is it that I need to do to make it so that I can achieve the—this most desirable outcome? What is that course of action?” And then having considered that, and considered what is in my best interest and the other person’s best interest, formulate a plan of action to engage in that. Any time that you act in a highly emotional state, whether it’s so-called happiness or whether it’s anger, whether it’s greed, envy, lust, fear, any of these emotions, it’s never going to produce a good result.
Understanding that, we need to begin to redirect our life, to learn a new skill set, how to seek peacefulness, because it is in peacefulness that it becomes possible to find real happiness, and to live a more compassionate and kind life. But it’s really going to mean turning down the volume, not just being hungry to be a party animal, to be a mad shopper, a consumer of things, an exploiter of others. These things will not bring about this experience.
In the Bhagavad-gita there’s another verse that speaks about the need to be situated in what is described as transcendental consciousness. And when they use this word, they mean to understand the distinct difference between that which is spirit and that which is material or matter. I and you, we are eternal spiritual beings. Our bodies are not. Our bodies are the material energy. This world is the material energy. And to be in transcendental consciousness means to be operating with this awareness of my eternal spiritual nature and the eternal spiritual nature of others. So it states in this verse:
“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?”
Wow! That’s amazing, that the things that you need in your life are a controlled mind and steady intelligence—controlled meaning that you are the one in the driver’s seat. It’s not that the mind, when it’s—particularly going through all its different experiences, emotional ups and downs—that is driving, that is driving the car that’s dragging me around, but rather I am the one exercising the control and determining how I’m going to think about things, how I’m going to process things.
And the other quality it talks about: steady intelligence, that even in the most challenging situations, my intelligence remains steady. And because of that I can exercise control and direction over what—how my mind is going to deal with things, how I’m going to process things.
These two states, and this state of having transcendental consciousness, require that we do not become slaves to our minds and to the desires that can unlimitedly manifest within our mind. So in another verse it states;
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean which has ever been filled but as always still—that person alone can achieve peace, and not the person who strives to satisfy such desires.”
And so wow! we’ve got another radical idea. The idea that pervades modern society is that by constantly being able to fulfill the endless flow of desires that enter your mind, you’re—if you have the ability to constantly fulfill these desires, that you will become happy and satisfied. And here it’s stating, No, that is not true. You will be increasingly dissatisfied. As we talked about earlier, in the results or the characteristics of the mode of passion, that they result in distress and they result in grief, the development of grief, that if you are going to go down that road of just endlessly trying to satisfy these desires it’s just like—
I mean drug addiction, serious drug addiction is like this. You’re just constantly being bombarded. Whenever you’re not in a state of maximum—a max high, your mind and your body are just going to be plaguing you with desires for the next hit. And you really think that with that next hit I’ll be happy and satisfied but what you’re doing is pouring gasoline on a fire. The fire is hot and burning you, and instead of putting it out you’re now putting gasoline on the fire. And it just increases the addiction, increases the desire, and you’re on this downward spiral. That same principle applies to seeking fulfillment and happiness, through trying to satisfy the senses, constantly chasing things.
We are told that a person needs to become undisturbed. They need to tolerate this incessant flow of desires. And only by learning this tolerance—which is tied to this topic dispassion—when you’re not going to be inflamed just by desires, and the passions of the mind, you’re going to tolerate it. And by doing that a person can find or achieve peace, and not a person who strives to constantly satisfy these things.
I’ll just go—I’ll just read through a couple more verses. I’ve actually got tons of verses here, and they are extremely informative, because they give us a perspective that we’re often unfamiliar with, a perspective that you don’t hear in society, you don’t hear from the leadership, you don’t hear from all of the influences on social media, and the rock stars. You rarely hear anything like this.
“A person who has given up all desires for sensual gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego—he alone can attain real peace.”
I just want to add that there is not a promotion of the idea that one now has to become incredibly austere, and not—avoid all forms of sense stimulation. No, that’s not what’s been stated. A person has to learn to live in this world, not over-exaggerate the happiness that one can experience. Yes, there is such a thing as material happiness, but it’s limited in nature, it’s not completely fulfilling, and it doesn’t last forever. And so one accepts, “Okay, that was nice. Yeah that was okay. Yeah that tasted all right,” but it doesn’t become like the big focus and the driver for where you’re going in life and how you’re making decisions.
I’ll read a final verse before we end this. And it’s rather serious because it’s talking about the time of death, which is the final exam. How you have lived your life, what is important to you, what is your heart, what you really, really value, is going to have an extraordinary impact upon your experience of what is called death, the time when you come to leave the body. So it says;
“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and to check the force of desire and anger, he is a yogi and is happy in this world.”
So if you read these things carefully and are guided properly then you will understand that the practice of yoga, the leading of a spiritual life, is not a life of denial, but it is a life of seeing things with a very clear perspective; that is the nature of spiritual life.
And so a big part of that means a person will automatically become dispassionate. Dispassionate doesn’t mean that there won’t be things that trouble your mind, but what it means is when these negative kind of emotions, especially, begin to arise, that a person doesn’t become highly motivated by them. A person is able to make the judgment, “This is not in my interest, this is not in anybody else’s interest to act on this. I need to choose another route, another course of action here.” This is what it means to be dispassionate. A dispassionate person is not cold, but it means that they’re highly intelligent. Highly intelligent doesn’t mean to be good at university or whatever. It means somebody that actually has control of their life, somebody that is choosing their course, through life, how they will live it, and how they will leave it.
So it’s such an important quality to cultivate, and unfortunately we live in a time where we’re encouraged to abandon dispassion, to live a life of intensity. Everything has to be amped up, maximum intensity. But that can never produce actual happiness and will never produce peace.
So thank you very, very much, and we will of, course, chant. I’ll probably sing the Gopala Govinda Rama mantra. And a reminder that this is really the thing that will transform us from within, and help us to develop this transcendental consciousness, and to be able to live a life in a mood of dispassion, because of the development of spiritual consciousness.
Thank you very much.