I received an amazing quote which comes from an American theologian. This is a brief talk about the main point, but I will also do another talk on this which will be a more in-depth analysis of the quote from the yogic perspective.
My feelings are not God. God is God.
My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth.
My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth.
When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.
― John Piper (American New Testament scholar, Baptist theologian), Finally Alive
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, the inspiration for our short talk tonight was something that somebody sent me during the week.
Lots of mums here tonight. Big shout out to the mums. Our heroes. Really. Raising children is one of the most wonderful things that you can do as a human being. And we all learn that in the process of raising children, it’s really important that at different times and of course, gently, in different ways, they are challenged, because when they are challenged, they learn, and they become increasingly resilient and develop into really complete and highly sociable personalities. And so it’s areally important part of growth, and so it is also, spiritually.
One of the things I discovered very early on was that with my spiritual teachers, I was going to be constantly challenged. My ideas, my things that I—suppositions and conclusions I had come to may not be either correct or they may not be the best place to be. And so being challenged was very important part of actually anybody’s spiritual growth.
I have on a number of occasions referenced a BBC documentary that was done probably about 15 years ago or might be a little bit—about 15 years ago, by a documentarian, his name was Adam Curtis. And the four-part documentary, which is absolutely extraordinary, it’s called The Century Of The Self, and it tells the story of the development of a singular idea over the past hundred years. And he states that it is,
“…the rise of an idea that has come to dominate our society. It is the belief that satisfaction of individual feelings and desires is our highest priority.”
And of course, referencing the mums here, and having raised children myself, you know that if you live by that philosophy things would not go very well. One of the characteristics of being a parent is you have to put aside, quite often, your own feelings and desires, and do what is in the best interest of your children, which is the idea of doing of a greater good for everyone. And so we are at this unfortunate time in history, that is leading to massive amounts of angst and anger, where everybody wants their feelings to be foremost in everyone else’s minds. So how I feel about something, you must not only acknowledge, you must practically embrace.
And that’s sort of like it’s really destroying tolerance and the willingness to embrace the fact that different people are different, they have different perspectives. And so rather than it creating an environment of harmony, it’s becoming more disharmonious, and we see this happening everywhere.
And so the thing that was sent to me, it’s actually a little quote from a book by an American theologian, he’s meant to be a New Testament scholar and a theologian. And of course, people would ask, “So what would be the Vedic perspective, or the yogic perspective, on the statement that this person has made.”
Well, my intention is, I mean I’m just going to speak for a few more minutes here, a little later in the week I’ll try to post a more lengthy analysis of this, because it’s a really important topic, a really important subject.
So, he begins his quote with,
“My feelings are not God. God is God.”
And that’s already like, wow! For a lot of people that’s kind of quite mind-blowing. And while he is speaking from a perspective from Christianity, our practice of this deeper yoga philosophy (and when I say deeper, I mean deeper than what most people connect with yoga) teaches that, yes, there is a higher spiritual reality, there is a higher spiritual truth. It’s not you, it’s not your mind, and it’s not your feelings. And when we go down the path of, practically, as he stated in his terminology, “My feelings are not God. God is God,” and then he goes on to speak about how many times during the day his feelings will be out of sync with this higher truth, this higher reality, and the need for me to be able to seek to align my feelings with this higher spiritual truth or reality is of tremendous importance. He, in this quote, he says,
“My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives.”
So, we’ve spoken many times: the most liberating thing that you can do in your life is to cultivate the understanding that I am an eternal spiritual being temporarily residing within this body. The urges and demands of the body, the urges and demands of the mind may not actually be aligned with my deeper spiritual interests and well-being; and to cultivate that understanding is of tremendous importance and significance.
He states that,
“My feelings [can be often] …out of sync with the truth,
When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with… [this higher transcendent reality]: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.”
It’s not even possible for me to stress how critical and important this is, and how this single truth is not only so much lacking in the world now—I mean we have a situation where if you are on social media, if you use the internet, you are being encouraged and taught to become enraged and polarized and to become deeply upset by other opinions that don’t seem to jive with you. And of course, this has a terrible effect on our well-being, on our peacefulness, on our happiness; and so the need to cultivate this skill.
It’s a skill where we learn to put our feelings and emotions sometimes on hold and to step back and to truly consider what is in my best interest. My general advice, when we run mindfulness and meditation courses, is that when emotions arise, our feelings arise, whether positive or negative, it is generally a bad idea to impulsively act on those emotions and feelings. I advise that you should not make commitments, speak, make decisions, or act in highly emotional states, where feelings have taken over, that for us to become free it means that we step back from this control, these things that control us, these urges, that we take charge of our life by considering what is truly in my best interest and the best interest of others, and act on that.
Okay? That’s the little message for the night.
It’s not possible to fully appreciate how much damage, how much pain, how much unhappiness and suffering is occurring in the world because of this particular problem. The massive rates of mental illness, of addiction to pharmaceuticals, legal or illegal, the rates of suicide and depression are just skyrocketing. And one of the principal things feeding it is this particular issue, where I think my feelings and my desires are God: I must worship this, I must follow this, no matter what. And that’s a really bad idea.
So, I will chant, the mantra will be Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana. It is through this chanting process that I become connected to that which is transcendental, that which is spiritual. By engaging in this process, I immerse myself in an ocean of spiritual sound; and it will transform me. It’ll purify my heart, my mind. It will bring about increasing spiritual experience and realization.