Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So continuing with our theme which is “a compass for life.” So we had started in the very beginning just by examining the current situation, and I had quoted one of the top environmental scientists in the world, who talked about all the environmental problems and the degradation of species and everything, and he said how he, in earlier times, had thought that 15 or 20 years of good science would solve the problems, and he learned and came to discover that’s not true. He said, because the main problems are not those issues, the main problems are greediness, selfishness and apathy. And he said these are not scientific problems or problems for the science community, so these are like spiritual problems, and scientists are not equipped to make those kind of changes.
So in the talks that we’ve been doing, and we’re trying to do just like a little bite-sized things, because it’s a really big subject but it points to the absolute importance of people having a very clear compass in their life, what’s driving us. And we examined how many of our ideas and desires and everything are shaped by others. They’re not coming from us. They’re planted in us: advertising, social media, trends in society (which are all artificially created, they’re not spontaneous), and the ramifications of ourselves not being strong as individuals, having a very clear pathway, and just getting sucked into the vortex of where society is going.
So last week we looked at, or just touched on, the subject actually of how restraint is actually closely connected with happiness. And we’ll deal with that a little bit today. But in that conversation I did mention a huge study that’s originated in New Zealand, The Dunedin Longitudinal Study which is like one of the biggest studies in the world on human nature. And as part of it they supported the findings of what was called the marshmallow test, and it established that children at a very young age that had the traits of not being able to show restraint generally did poorer in life, whereas those that did show more restraint…and the test was: “This is one marshmallow, and I’m going to go out of the room and just leave it here. If you want you can eat it, but if you can hold out for a while till I come back I’ll give you two.” And of course…
So as a result of raising that I actually got a few things from different people, saying that that study has actually been debunked. So first of all I just want to state that the place that I’m coming from is the ancient Vedic teachings, which I understand to be really rock solid, and they definitely support this idea big time. And so, as part of letting me know that that was debunked I got three links to exactly the same source. So in case it was troubling other people I will just talk about it. One person that reached out to me said that this new test that was done, it refutes the supposed results of the marshmallow test as linking delayed gratification with future success—thought this was interesting.
Well I looked at the article rather closely, and the title that was written by the reporter, or the writer, was “Why rich kids are so good at the marshmallow test: affluence not willpower seems to be what’s behind some of the kids capacity to delay gratification.” Of course there’s the word seems in there: “seems to be.” Nothing definitive about it. And they wrote that—the writer wrote that this new study cast the whole concept that was being put forward into doubt, and speaking about this new study it said,
“Ultimately the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes, instead it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background, not the ability to delay gratification.” And that’s what’s behind kids’ long-term success.
So I took a look at other articles that the writer had written, and in that particular publication the three other articles all had a very strong leaning towards topics dealing with underprivileged children. So immediately I’m suspecting, okay, well maybe there’s a little bit of bias in presentation, the way it’s been presented. But looking at the study itself that supposedly debunked it, of course, brings up another two studies that analyze that study and say they got it wrong, and they got it wrong for a number of reasons. One was they completely changed the parameters for testing. It wasn’t a replication. It was meant to be a replication of the earlier marshmallow test, and done with a bigger testing group to produce a more accurate outcome. And of course it was true they used more people, but they cut back the time from 15 minutes that the kid would have to wait to seven, less than half the amount of time. Of course that’s huge. When you’re a kid you’ve got to wait five minutes for something it’s like it’s almost an impossibility. But apart from that the two studies that critique the data that would have been produced said that—they actually critiqued the “regression models for overcoming the variables inextricably tied to a child’s ability to delay gratification” meaning they picked and chose amongst their target group who they were going to include, and they put factors in there to offset certain things like economic considerations and everything. So it’s sort of like, well it didn’t really do what it said it was meant to do.
This, and I’ll just point out, the Dunedin Longitudinal Study is absolutely incredible. It began in 1974 with all the children that were born in Dunedin. I don’t think people born in Dunedin have a massive amount of privilege. It’s a pretty regular kiwi city, and a vast majority of people that would be considered middle or lower class, in terms of the economic place their parents occupy. And what was so far out about this test, it’s been going on for 47 years now or 46 years, and of the thousand people that entered it 96% are still in the test, and every single year they bring them back to Dunedin to interview, to do medical checkups, to do all kinds of different tests on them, and this has been going on every single year. 25% of the people live outside of New Zealand now. 45% of the people have moved out of Dunedin. So it’s a massive undertaking. They’ve produced over a thousand five hundred scientific papers on this study. And the study has been responsible for some amazing genetic and behavioral science in the world, and has shaped a lot of things, and there’s lots of universities and researchers that are affiliated and tied to it.
So, sorry, if that was a bit of a long explanation but when somebody shares with me something, a banner, a headline from a newspaper I’m usually going to be a little bit sceptical and think that things need a little bit more digging. Unfortunately, like what we talked about with the second talk, “your truth,” “my truth,” “the truth,” this propensity for people to be really strongly influenced by personal preferences, and personal likes and dislikes, and for that to really shape their perception of even what’s true. Whereas I think that these people, this group, has done a brilliant job in being incredibly scientific and incredibly open about it. So fundamentally they support the idea that delaying gratification actually is tied to personality traits, not exclusively but largely.
So moving on to tonight: this idea of regulation and freedom, from the Vedic perspective. The Vedic perspective was that there was an absolute need for people to exercise or to regulate their desires, their activities, their thinking. Regulate doesn’t mean to stop, or to forcibly control. It means to direct and to determine how far people are going to go with things, fundamentally.
And of course, that’s all tied to what is now considered in psychiatry as being (What’s the term? Oh my gods, forgot it. Old age. Sorry about that) consequential thinking, where people actually consider before acting whether this is really in my interest. And this is tied into what we do, like I was talking about, in prisons and stuff, and teaching mindfulness and meditation, to understand that my choices and my actions determine what my life is going to be like.
If my life is pretty crappy I have to put my hand up and take some responsibility for how I am processing things, how I am dealing with things. And of course, that all points to the need, from a very young age, for children to be taught restraint and consequential thinking. And I mean, it socializes people, and it steers us away from these problems that Gus Seth pointed to: selfishness, greediness and apathy, which he says are responsible for what’s wrecking the planet.
So the idea of, and I’ll just reinforce the point for people that haven’t heard me talk about it before, and I always use Russell Brand as my go-to here, cool dude talking about his battle with addiction, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, copious amounts of sex on demand, and in spite of all the massive amounts of pleasurable stimulation how you can still feel utterly suicidal, that there is a big difference between experiencing sensual stimulation and pleasurable experience of the body and mind, and actually being happy. They’re in fact not connected.
And we have been taught by society and by much of the people that are controlling everybody’s minds these days that we should just not have any hang-ups or guilt. We should be unrestrained in our quest to fulfill our desires. And that was a product of something that we mentioned that had been studied in a BBC documentary, The Century Of The Self, where what people had learned over the last 100 years is that fulfilling my desires is the prime necessity of life, and people will do that over and above the concept of greater good, of service and compassion. And so here we are in this state.
So in the Vedas they really teach that if you can regulate the senses and the mind, and exercise some control over it, what you will experience is actual freedom. Freedom from what? Most people think, “Oh freedom means freedom to make choices to do whatever I want.” No that’s not freedom, because with your choices come consequences, social, relationship-wise, karma, the laws of karma, as you sow so shall reap. So you may be free to choose whatever you want to do, but that doesn’t mean you’re free of the consequences. Whereas they define freedom in the Vedas as being actually the master of your life.
When you are the master of your mind, when you are the master of your emotions, when you are the master of your decision making, and things are done consciously and carefully and in a very considerate way, then you will actually experience what it is to not be victimized by social media, by unlimited desires, by the hankering of the mind.
I mean look at the state of things: greater levels of depression and suicide now than there have ever been, which says we’re not living the right way. We’re not doing things the right way.
So I’ll just read, and there’s a verse, a couple of verses from the Bhagavad-gita:
“A person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control their senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Supreme”
And they refer to them, these principles as regulative principles of freedom, that they actually free you from being victimized by one’s own mind desires and social influences. And then they put forward this idea, which is, again, completely contrary to all the messaging. (All the messaging is now, whatever you want to do, you just hang on to that Nike byline: “Just do it!” Act and you’ll become happy. That’s the subtle messaging.) But one was actually really encouraged in the yoga system to not just follow any and all desires.
One should consider, if I follow this is it really going to—is it in my best interest, will I become happier, will I become a better person by doing this? And so it says that”
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled and is always still, such a person alone can achieve peace, and not the person who strives to constantly satisfy such desires.”
I mean this is radical, these ideas, and if we are going to actually be able to have an impact on this planet in which we live, alternate energy is not going to do it. Our consumption, and what we value, and what we think is important, and what we think is the purpose of life, that’s what’s going to have to change. Having the same consciousness and the same selfishness and self-centeredness but just fueling with alternative energy—I mean really, you think that’s going to make the difference? No! No way.
So, in developing a compass for life—I mean I really think that every single one of us should try to find perhaps four, five or six principles that we really strive to cultivate as being what I am going to try and live up to, what I’m going to incorporate in my life; because we are always making conscious decisions. You’re not acting subconsciously when you’re influenced by an advertiser or a friend or social media. It’s not unconscious. You’re making a conscious decision, “I’m going with this.” You are not aware, perhaps, that you are making a conscious decision, but you are. If we make a conscious decision to adopt really good guiding principles in life…it’s absolutely essential for our well-being, for our happiness, for the effect that we will have on others, and how we will interact with others.
So in the Bhagavad-gita it gives like a long list. This was for the yogi, and it’s kind of like Whoa! And I’m just going to read them out just so you can sort of hear what was being promoted, and perhaps consider could I benefit from one or two or three or four of these.
So the first one is fearlessness. Whoa! How do you come to that state. You have to be such a strong individual that in the face of enormous social pressure you can actually stand your ground and be fearless.
“The purification of one’s existence…
I mean this was a conscious undertaking. How do I actually purify my existence and what does that mean?
“…the cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity…
Charity is really significant, and it’s tied to our personal happiness in a big way.
This is just like, whoa! This is totally contrary to where everybody that’s running the world wants you to be. They don’t want you to be self-controlled. They want you to be greedy. They want you to be envious of what others have and always striving to consume more. This is the ideal personality to support the consumer economic system. And the idea of the exercise of self-control is like whoa! We gotta stop that! Because if that takes root where we going to get all our money from? And this is at least what all the big tech companies would be saying.
“…the performance of sacrifice, the study of the Vedas, austerity, simplicity, non-violence, truthfulness, freedom from anger….
This was considered actually a preliminary qualification to be considered human, in the old days, to be free from anger.
“…renunciation, not to have become overly attached to things, tranquility, an aversion to fault finding, compassion for all living entities, freedom from covetousness, gentleness, modesty, steady determination, vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, and cleanliness, and freedom from envy and the passion for honour [to be honoured and respected] these transcendental qualities belong to godly people endowed with a divine nature.”
This is what they are laying out. And in the yoga system that was put forward by Patanjali under what he described as the yamas and niyamas he had a much shorter list, and it’s interesting to look at it. The yamas were considered the exercise of the control of the senses not to just be feeding sensual desire all the time; and the observance of different rules were considered the niyamas; and these were the first two parts of the ashtanga yoga process, along with asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana, then samadhi.
So he categorized all forms of non-violence as being part of the yamas. Truthfulness. To not steal. That’s like—that’s far more prevalent. It’s become so common in different ways. The freedom from possessiveness. And for a yogi, celibacy. These make up the yamas. And he says that:
“These laws are universal and must be practiced without consideration of time, place, birth, or circumstances, and together they constitute the great vow of life.”
And then he categorized the niyamas, or observances, as being internal and external:
Contentment? People don’t even know what that means now.
“…acceptance of austerity, the recitation of sacred mantras, the study of Vedic texts and complete devotion and surrender to the Supreme.”
This is what he categorized as being the principal guiding features. And you can see that with all of these things that have been mentioned they require people to be conscious about their life and to live very consciously and to be consciously making decisions, what is it that I’m going to do? And so what will result is that we will develop a much more focused idea of what is my life’s purpose. This is something a lot of people really don’t—it’s like quite vague to them. What is my purpose? What is the purpose of my life? What should be the purpose of all my endeavours? Not just a couple of them or a few of them.
If we want to taste limitless happiness and to attain full self-realization and God realization it is absolutely necessary to begin to choose at least a small handful of principles that I hold in my life. It’s like I’m holding a compass in my hand, and it’s always directing me how I’m going to navigate my way through relationships, my work, family, societal obligations, my responsibility to my own self.
So these things are absolutely critical and essential, and all of them deal with this idea of exercising restraint, not just letting your mind run wild with all its infinite desires and fears and all of the stuff that everybody has to deal with. And of course, that only becomes possible when we’re cultivating and understanding that I am an eternal spiritual being.
This world, this body, is not my home. I’m a temporary resident in this body. It’s not who I am. I’m the one inside. I’m that dude in there. I am the seer, drshta. My mind should be something that I am using and not been used by, but we are taught to just fully surrender to the mind, and any desires that show up there I should just go with them, and give full expression to them and that will be freedom. No, it’s not freedom. You become bound. You become bound to this world. You become bound by the laws of karma. You become bound to unhappiness, unfortunately. It’s just a fundamental reality.
Okay? Was that a little bit too serious? Huh? It’s okay or what? I can get heavier if you want. No. These things are always voluntary, and should be done as a result of great thoughtfulness and meditation. And I promise you spectacular outcomes.
You have more control over your life than you think. You can be born in the most crappy situation, you can face unimaginable adversity and still rise to the highest transcendental platform. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can decide how you’re going to deal with it. You can decide what choices am I going to make as a consequence? How should I react to this? How should i deal with this. That’s all within your power.
Unfortunately people spend the majority of their time complaining. Things that they complain about are often the things they have no control over. Why did they have to speak to me like that? What the hell does it matter? So what are you going to do about it? How are you going to let that affect you or not affect you? Can you have a little sympathy for them that they’re so screwed up that they have to behave in this way? Can you feel a little sorrow for them and compassion? Of course you can. You don’t have to take it seriously. I mean a little kid comes up to you and goes, “I hate you.” It’s kind of like, “Yeah, okay, sorry.” But it’s not going to affect my day. It’s not going to affect… I mean, sure… So when people have lost control of their life, and their mind, and their tongue, and their desires, and they’re just doing all this stuff don’t take it seriously. That’s silly. They’re already being silly. If you take them being silly seriously, you’re being silly also. I need to dig a little bit deeper. Okay.
Any question. And anybody wants to challenge anything I have to say please feel free. It’s cool. It’s no issue at all. I mean a challenge, I don’t mean necessarily that— if you, maybe in my lack of care I have not explained things nicely enough, carefully enough, compassionately enough, in which case I deeply apologize for my own shortcomings. Don’t take my shortcomings as a reason not to consider the message. The message is amazing, and it’s wonderful.
So anyway feel free to put your hand up, or throw anything at me if you wish. It’s fine.
So we will chant. And yeah, I’ll do the mahamantra.