Last week we listed some of the qualities we have been advised since ancient times to adopt in order to become more peaceful and happy.
When we begin to build a personal list of guiding principles that will serve as my life’s compass, it is helpful to examine the 3 areas of our life that will be impacted by our adoption of at least some of these qualities.
a) How do we see the world?
Generally, most see the world as a ‘resource’ to claim and be exploited for my own fleeting so-called happiness. But it was here before I ‘showed-up’ in this lifetime and it will remain when I quit this body. My laying claim to it is, in reality, stealing. Hence the Yamas which we discussed last week recommend cultivating not stealing and freedom from possessiveness.
The Vedas of this perspective:
Śrī Īśopaniṣad Mantra 1
इषवस्यमिदंसर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत्
तेन त्यक्तेन भुजिथा मा गृधः कस्य स्विद्धनम् ।।
īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam
īśa—by the Lord; āvāsyam—controlled; idam—this; sarvam—all; yat kiñca—whatever; jagatyām—within the universe; jagat—all that is animate or inanimate; tena—by Him; tyaktena—set-apart quota; bhuñjīthāḥ—you should accept; mā—do not; gṛdhaḥ—endeavor to gain; kasya svit—of anyone else; dhanam—the wealth.
Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.
Also in the Bhagavad-gita:
Abandoning all attachment to the results of one’s activities, ever satisfied and independent, the transcendental isn’t performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. Such a person of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over one’s possessions, and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, one is not affected by sinful reactions. Bg 4.20-21
b) How do we see others?
We tend to categorize others into three categories – as those who may make me happy (I like them); those who may make me unhappy (I dislike them); and those whom I don’t care about at all.
I knowingly or unknowingly exploit those I like to increase my happiness; I am in conflict with those I dislike; and I practically ignore the rest. The whole world is operating on these principles whether as individuals, as social groups, as nations, and as a species.
One of the verses we quoted last week from the Bhagavad-gita promotes the adoption of nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; gentleness; and forgiveness as qualities that counter these tendencies. Another verse from the Bhagavad-gita states:
A person is considered still further spiritually advanced when he regards honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral, mediators, the envious, friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind. – Bg 6.9
c) How do we see ourselves?
When we are blinded by the illusion that the body I am occupying is me, and that the desires within my mind are “mine”, I cannot find either peace or happiness. It is like putting a 5yr old in charge of the grocery shopping for the family,
The film-maker Adam Curtis has stated “The idea that has come to dominate our society is the belief that satisfaction of individual feelings and desires is our highest priority.” This lies at the heart of our problem and results in enormous environmental damage and the life-threatening problems arising from greed, selfishness, and apathy, as identified by the renowned environmental scientist Gus Speth.
My two options are to continue to try and fill the emptiness within by endless consumption or to seek my true happiness through self-realization.
Just three of dozens of Vedic quotes that speak to this point:
In this way the conditioned soul living within the body forgets his self-interest because he identifies himself with the body. Because the body is material, his natural tendency is to be attracted by the varieties of the material world. Thus the living entity suffers the miseries of material existence. – Bhagavat Purana 7.13.28
Whenever a person experiences, by self-realization, that both the gross and subtle bodies have nothing to do with the pure self, at that time he sees himself as well as the Highest Spiritual Truth or the Supreme Soul. – Bhagavat Purana 1.3.33
Such a liberated person is not attracted to the temporary material sense pleasures of this world, but is always absorbed in spiritual trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates upon the Supreme. – Bhagavad-gita 5.21
If we adopt such principles then the impact we will have on the world and those we encounter in our life will be to leave “lighter footprints”.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, continuing with the theme that we’ve started on, I did make a few notes which I will reference. So last week we talked about how in Vedic and yogic teaching they propose or put forward the idea that by regulating one’s life, meaning exercising control of one’s mind and actions and speech, that such regulation can be liberating. Whereas, of course, in a materialistic world the idea of imposing any form of self-control is kind of considered out of fashion and kind of weird. You should just let yourself go, and it’s all cool, whatever’s happening.
But as part of the conversation last week I did list, or provide, a couple of pretty long references, I guess, of different qualities that were advised to be cultivated if we want to truly become really happy and to experience peace. And that list was quite long. And since ancient times these directions have been offered. Pretty much all paths of spirituality and all religions actually advise that.
When I was a kid I had no idea what the hell it was all about. I was raised as a Christian, and it was kind of like I was told, “You’re not allowed to do all the fun stuff. That’s bad. And you got to be just like a good boy.” And that was like, oh my God, that’s so boring. And it was—that’s a pretty immature view of things.
But since ancient times people have been really encouraged to adopt such standards of living.
If we want to attempt ourselves to build a little list of principles that we are going to actually adhere to and follow in our life, in order to achieve this goal of being more peaceful and happy, that these things would serve as my life’s compass, then it’s really helpful to divide our thinking about what we should take on board into three sort of like principal areas in our life.
And the first one has to do with how we look at the world, how should we look at the world. Now we’ve been encouraged and taught that we should look at the world as a resource that we can own and exploit for our so-called fleeting and temporary happiness. That’s the purpose of this world. We should look at it that way and exploit it. And of course, that has led to the horrific situation that we currently face on so many different levels.
If I really consider it though, can I actually lay claim to this earth upon which I find myself? Because I tell you, human beings, and particularly consumer-oriented and materialistic human beings, have this frightful mentality of, just about anything goes, as long as I can stimulate my mind and senses as a result of it. It doesn’t matter how much you mine, and how much you screw up everything, and over utilize the resources and everything as long as I’m getting my sushi, as long as I’m getting my weed, as long as I’m getting my fun, as long as I’m getting my cell phone, everything is cool.
But if we actually thoughtfully examine in a more objective way the nature of this earth upon which we dwell, it was here before I showed up in this particular lifetime, and it will be here after I leave. Therefore the notion or idea that it belongs to me is actually not really intelligent at all. That flies in the face of the reality that we must consider of our own mortality, our own death, the temporary visit that we’re playing—that we’re having in this lifetime, in this place.
So if I consider that this world is really not mine, I can’t actually lay claim to it, not—I mean not by any measure can I actually lay claim to it, then I must think, well if this is not mine, is not laying claim to it and being able to do anything I want with it not a form of stealing? And now we’re kind of circling back to one of the things that we discussed last week in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he advised that two things that a person on a spiritual path must abstain from, one is stealing, taking that which does not belong to you, and one should also become free from concepts of possessiveness. And that rolls over into relationships, it rolls over into all kinds of stuff, where I think I can possess someone, or I can possess something here, knowing that one day I’m just going to die and it’s all gone. I don’t take it with me.
And so that idea, that concept, actually is spiritually quite destructive.
So in this respect I just was going to read a couple of Vedic verses, the first from one of the Upanishads, the Sri Isopanisad. The very first mantra:
īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
that this—it fundamentally states that within this jagat, jagat means the entire universe,
“…that everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by Isha, Ishwara, or the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for themselves which are set aside as one’s quota, and one should not accept other things knowing well to whom they belong.”
I mean, Wow! What an amazing guiding principle in life. That would—I mean if I take that one on board and decide to adopt that as one of the principles that are going to be part of my compass for life, this is actually really demanding. It requires that I really think about my life, my presence here, how I deal with this planet upon which I live, radically differently and in a very conscious way.
In the Bhagavad-gita, in the fourth chapter, there are two shlokas. They’re also addressing the same point:
“Abandoning all attachment to the results of one’s activities, ever satisfied and independent, the transcendentalist performs no fruitive action although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. Such a person of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled and gives up all sense of proprietorship over one’s possessions, and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working one is not affected by sinful reactions.”
So I mean this opens the whole pandora’s box on the discussion of karma and the results of karma, karmic fruit. As you sow so you shall reap. If you think that you can just arbitrarily take whatever you want and utilize it any way that you want, and there will be no consequences in your life, you are ignorant. There is no free ride. There is no free lunch. You pay for everything. And when you act unwisely, just because somebody, Facebook or Google has sent you an ad, or somebody marketing something has told you, “You need this. This is going to make your life perfect,” your reaching out and grabbing hold of that, and pulling it close to exploit it for temporary happiness will come with a cost. Costs are attached to everything.
And so there is some need, in this first category of these three things I was going to talk about, to consider, “Okay, what are going to be my guiding principles, in terms of dealing with this planet upon which I reside and the resources contained herein? What’s going to be the guiding principle?”
And I’ll just state that these verses that I read do not advocate that one strip down to their underwear and go live in a cave. No. There is a recognition that we have a role to play and a position within the world in which we live, and depending upon the nature of what we’re doing, our relationships and things, we have duties and responsibilities. And to accept a certain amount of things which are said to be set aside as my quota, to fulfill my obligations, is perfectly fine. But in doing that one should not be falsely thinking that this stuff is mine, and I can do with it whatever I want.
So then the second category of, or area that we need to consider, in terms of formulating, “Okay, what are going to be my guiding principles?” is how I see and deal with others. And I should have firm principled, guiding ideas of what’s going to guide me. Is it just going to depend upon what I feel like, and what I’m thinking? Or am I going to adopt civilized and guiding principles.
So we tend to put people, other people or beings, into three kind of categories. There are those who make me happy, and I like them. There are those that displease me, and I don’t like them. And everybody else I kind of don’t care about. Right or not? I mean, if you’re really honest about your life, that that’s how you operate. You’ve got these three categories: Oh I like them. I hate them. I don’t give a shit about those other ones. They don’t mean anything to me.
So what happens is I knowingly, or unknowingly, attempt to exploit those whom I like for my happiness. That’s the driving force: what I’m getting out of it. If I’m getting something out of it then I’m really happy to deal with them very nicely. Those that I dislike, I am in conflict with, whether it’s verbally, physically, just mentally, whatever. I’m in conflict with them. And for all the others I just ignore them. They mean nothing. The stuff that’s going on in other countries and other places, other towns, down the street, my neighbours that I never talk to, I mean, who cares?
So—and of course that rolls over to species as well. We look upon human beings in one way and treat them in a certain way, and we look upon other living entities differently, and we think we can do anything with them. We can smash them. We can hurt them. We can do any—it doesn’t matter. It’s got nothing to do with me.
So one of the verses that we quoted last week, it came from the Bhagavad-gita. It promoted the adoption of these qualities: non-violence, truthfulness, I mean I hope that you can see the importance of truthfulness in relation to how we deal with others, freedom from anger, aversion to fault-finding, and compassion for all living entities, the quality of gentleness, and forgiveness.
These were some of the qualities that counter the tendencies that we have to be abusive, even of those that we like. We like them. They make me happy, therefore I’ll exploit them for my happiness. But it’ll be kind of like a give and take. You can exploit me, and I’ll exploit you. It’s mutual. Like that makes it okay? That’s just not a cool way of looking at things.
So I’ll just read another verse from the Bhagavad-gita, that deals with the subject of, okay, what are going to be these guiding principles? And they speak about somebody that is actually spiritually situated, transcendentally situated. It says:
“A person is considered still further spiritually advanced when he regards the well-wishers, the affectionate, benefactors, the neutral parties, the mediators, the envious, the friends, and the enemies, the pious, and the sinners, all with an equal mind.”
It’s like, whoa! tall order. And so I have to consider, okay, well we’ve heard about these kind of principles before, and I need to seriously consider, “Okay, what’s going to go on my list of guiding principles in my life?”
And the third area that one needs to consider is, how do I see myself? How do I see myself? And of course, the big problem for the vast majority of human beings is this false idea that the body that you have on is you, and fulfilling and satisfying all of the desires of the body and mind is somehow going to make you fulfilled. If I do this, if I live this type of life, it is impossible to find real peace, and lasting and real happiness.
I mean it’s kind of like the idea of a family who’s got one of the kids in the family, a five-year-old, and you’re going to put them in charge of grocery shopping every week. Can you imagine what’s going to be in the house? Is that going to be like a real crazy situation? What’s for dinner? Licorice logs and cereal. I mean they’re just gonna—
So when one simply relinquishes the control of their life to the desires of the body and the mind, which are not you, you are the personality within, the spiritual being, then you’re just turning over control of your life to something like a five-year-old at Countdown or Pack’n’save.
So if you recall, we mentioned that that filmmaker who had done that documentary, The Century Of The Self the BBC documentary, he had stated that, “The idea that has come to dominate our society is the belief that satisfaction of individual feelings and desires is our highest priority.” That is the message of the consumer-focused materialistic world. That is your highest priority.
And of course this then lies at the heart of all the problems that plague the world. And I mentioned Gus Speth, one of the leading environmental scientists in the world, who said that science cannot fix all of the environmental problems. Clean energy, all that stuff ain’t going to do it. The actual problems are selfishness, greed and apathy. And if we accept that has been true, then what am I going to do in terms of adopting principles that are going to set me free from these things?
And the very foundation to be able to do that has to be the cultivation, the active cultivation of the understanding that I am an eternal spiritual being. This body, this mind are not me. These are things I am meant to be using for some higher purpose, rather than being enslaved by and just following.
I mean there’s nothing sadder than dealing with somebody that’s heavily addicted to alcohol or drugs, or is suffering from chronic depression or mental illness, to make you understand how the living being, the glorious, eternal living being can become so utterly victimized and completely destroyed, if the mind and the desires are in control. It never ends well.
It is through putting some controls there, some limitations on things that we have the opportunity to live a more noble, a more compassionate existence, a more meaningful life, and to actually be able to taste the sweetness of true happiness and experience real peace.
So if we listen to what Gus Speth had said, that what the real problems are, then we realize that we’re faced with kind of like two options in life. Either I continue to try and fill up the emptiness within my heart by endless consumption, or I seek my true happiness through self-realization. Those are the only two options. There’s no in between. You’re either going to be going one way, or you’re going to be going the other.
So out of dozens and dozens of Vedic texts that speak on the subject I thought I would just read three, and ask you to consider these, speaking on the subject.
The first is from the, what’s called the Bhagavat Purana.
“In this way the conditioned soul living within the body forgets its self-interest, because it identifies himself with the body, and because the body is material his natural tendency is to be attracted by the varieties of the material world, and thus the living entity suffers the miseries of material existence.”
In another verse:
“Whenever a person experiences, by self-realization, that both the gross and subtle bodies have nothing to do with the pure self, at that time one sees themself, as well as the highest spiritual truth, or the Supreme Soul.”
And then finally from Bhagavad-gita:
“Such a liberated person is not attracted to the temporary material sense pleasures of this world, but is always absorbed in a spiritual trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness for he concentrates upon that which is spiritual and supreme.”
So these are massive subjects, and we’re only getting a little bits and pieces of them each week, but I certainly hope that they become food for thought and consideration, and that you actually do seek what is—we refer to as yogic wisdom, true wisdom, and formulate for yourself guiding principles for your life. If you adopt such guiding principles then it is guaranteed that the impact that we will have on this world and upon others whom we meet, our impact will be to actually leave much lighter footprints and that is desirable. It’s beneficial for all others. It is beneficial for the world. But it is mostly and primarily beneficial for our true self.
Okay? We all right with that?
But you need to be in charge of your life. You need to be in control of your life. You need to be making thoughtful decisions. For too long—and over the past 100 years there’s been this process where we have utterly relinquished control of our life. We’ve turned it over to philosophies and ideas and forms of living and to whoever’s invading our brain, whoever’s invading our, not our brain, our mind, whoever is invading our mind and is hitting all the buttons and doing all the stuff. We’ve just turned over control to them, and that that needs to change.
You had a question?
Audience: A lot of us have heard and understood these ideas in the past, have probably, they kind of know this basic sort of moral compass for behaviour in life, to some degree, but we find it difficult to practice them, … such a strong thing, you know the situation but you really want…
Acd: Thank you for that.
So I promise and assure you all that if you begin this engagement, this process of taking charge of your life, you will succeed. For some it will be quicker, for others it may be longer.
But what we are speaking about is a process by which we actually uncover our true spiritual being, and our identity that we’re completely lost to. We have no idea who we truly are in the deepest sense.
And the two things that you need to do is cultivate wisdom, to hear from spiritual authority, cultivate this wisdom and apply it, think about it.
But the main thing that you need to do is engage regularly, meaning daily, in the process of meditation upon spiritual sound. Without even understanding how it works and what’s going on there will be an increasing lifting of the veil of illusion, and we will begin to see things differently and with more clarity, and we will find renewed strength and ability (it’s not coming from us, it’s considered a gift, spiritual grace) to be able to make these kind of changes. We are only asked to do the best that we can do with whatever state or condition that we’re in, with whatever we’re equipped with. But in this process of very humbly taking shelter in these spiritual sounds, that will do the work, that will make the difference, that will give us clarity, that will give us increasing strength to be able to do things.
So yes, it is difficult for many people. It is a slow process for many people, but that’s okay. Don’t worry. We’re not in a race. We’re on a journey here. And our business is to take one step each day. That’s not asking very much, every day make one more step towards this goal, and in due course of time you will develop the courage and the strength and the capacity to make these kind of changes.
Is that okay? I promise it’s true. It’s real.
Okay, so that’s it folks. Let’s chant. What shall we chant? Any suggestions? Mahamantra? Oh no, okay it sounds like you got outvoted. There are a few more…