Adam Curtis, the writer, and producer of the BBC documentary series – The Century of the Self said his film was “the story of 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.”
Modern society, with the aid of social media, promotes the ideas of “self-importance” over “self-sacrifice for the greater good”, and the immense importance of prioritizing my mind’s fantasies and desires.
If we are to have a conversation about what needs to change, people can sometimes get quite emotional about certain issues and lose objectivity. It is from this place that the idea of “my truth” has arisen, that you can have “your truth” and I can have “my truth”. The notion that truth is subjective and not objective is a great impediment to solving the great social, economic, and environmental challenges which face us.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
Haribol. Namaste everyone.
So we’re going to be continuing a talk that we did last time we were here, and the series that we’re dealing with it’s called My Compass For Life. What is my compass and how do I find my way? So what we discussed last time (and I don’t know if that was too long for everybody), and if you if you didn’t see it yet I really encourage people to look at it because it contains a lot of really important information, but two of the things that that we covered, one was a quotation from a leading environmental scientist, and he mentioned about how he thought in earlier times that good science can solve all the problems, and he has concluded, no that’s not the case, and he states that the top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation, and we scientists don’t know how to do that. So that was one of the key things that we focused in on.
People don’t understand that conflicts in society, injustices within society, environmental problems, all of these things are actually only symptoms. They’re not the actual problems. They are symptoms of much deeper problems. And if you don’t address the actual problems, then you just don’t deal with the actual—you’re just putting band-aids on a gushing wound.
So the focus of what I was also presenting in the last talk was, most of us are almost entirely unaware of the degree to which we, as individuals and as society as a whole, have been deeply conditioned to become more selfish and more self-centred, and of course, greedy to consume things. We are deeply affected by that. And if we don’t recognize what I’m dealing with myself in this area, then it’s going to be hard to be honest about what we need to do in order to really try to address the problems that were pointed out.
There was a guy, and I mentioned it in the last talk, his name is Adam Curtis, and he did a documentary, a four-part documentary series for the BBC quite some time back. It’s called The Century of the Self. That’s a really deep topic, about, over the last hundred years, how there had been this enormous transformation and self-focus brought upon individuals in society; and in summarizing the work that he did, he said that the documentary, “It is the story of the rise of an idea that has come to dominate our society. It is the belief that satisfaction of individual’s feelings and desires is our highest priority.” And actually, that’s not even probably shocking for most people. It’s like, “Well, what’s wrong with that?” We’ve become so deeply infected with this idea that we don’t even think it’s startling. But actually it’s this that lies at the root of much of the ills that people experience individually and as a society.
So the reality is that modern society, with the aid, of course, of social media, has—really it promotes this idea of self-importance over the idea of self-sacrifice for the greater good. And that’s not even shocking. It’s kind of like, “Well, what’s wrong with that?” again. Whereas for thousands of years human society, and when you use this term society, has existed with this idea that there is a need to make some form of self-sacrifice for the greater good, and if you don’t do it everything comes unraveled, and everything gets really—it goes downhill very quickly.
But this idea of self-importance and the idea of prioritizing, the immense importance of prioritizing the mind’s fantasies and desires, this is what my life should be for. Whatever I dream up, whatever fantasy or desire pops into my head, I need to focus all of my energy and life in fulfilling these things. And it’s based upon this false notion that if I can do that, I’ll be happy. And no, you won’t. You absolutely won’t be happy. You can fulfill all your fantasies and all your desires, it won’t make you happy. I bet you it will make you more unhappy.
So we’ve got ourselves in a little bit of a situation, and if we are going to have a conversation, an honest and truthful conversation with others and with ourself, about what needs to change, in order for my life to become better, for the society in which I live, for the world upon which I dwell to become better, then we are going to have to really rethink things, and really consider things. And in order to do that there is going to have to be some acceptance of a common understanding of what is truth.
And we have descended into this most ridiculous and childish situation now where people talk about “your truth” and “my truth.” This is like children in a playground, at least when I was a kid. This is not an adult or mature position to take, that truth is subjective, that there is no objective truth or reality. Whatever I hold to be true—and it pops up all the time.
I mean I mentioned a few weeks ago we did a talk on “Dear Friend, Sorry But You Are Not God” and I had spoken about that at a retreat recently, and it caused some people to get really upset. And when I explained to them that, yes, while it’s possible for me to experience unity or oneness with a higher transcendent reality, to think that I am the sum total of everything, that I am the sum total of all energy, of all reality, that I am God, that’s ridiculous. There is no philosophical basis to back that up. And the response of the person that I pointed that out to was, “Well that’s what you believe. That’s your truth.” Oh my God! This is crazy land. This is not—truth is not about what you believe or what I believe. Just because I believe something it doesn’t make it true, and just because you believe something it doesn’t make it true. We need to sincerely and earnestly search for what is the actual truth, and if we don’t come to some common acceptance of what is truth, then how are you going to address all of these issues?
I mean I saw, I mean don’t worry, I’m not that crazy that I watched it, the—Oprah’s interview with Megan Markle (what’s the name, whatever, I don’t know) and it’s just like—and in that interview, even somebody, a person of such influence and stature as Oprah, who’s an intelligent person, said that Megan revealed her truth to her. And it’s like, oh my God, a big-time eye roll, you’re going there too? Like we can all just have our own truth and live in our own fantasy worlds, because that’s really what’s been proposed. And it’s all part of this whole thing that has happened over the past, well it’s going now 100 years. It started about 100 years ago this huge transformation where Sigmund Freud and his ideas became the tools that we use to develop public relations and marketing and to have a mass influence and control on society.
I was having lunch with some friends and one of them told me about her granddaughter. Her granddaughter, who was three, not yet four years old, had decided that she was a princess. And so part, of course, in her mind, of being a princess means that you have to dress appropriately, and dressing appropriately meant wearing a little ballerina tutu, I think it was, and that’s all she would wear all the time because she was a princess. And it’s just like, and there’s nothing that you could sort of do: they’re living their truth and of course after so many weeks or months of this, all of a sudden one day she shows up wearing tights, and she didn’t have a little ballet dress on, and what happened? Oh, she decided she’s not a princess anymore.
I mean that’s like a snapshot of what’s going on in the world where people just are so overwhelmed with their sense of self-importance that—and my feelings. Well first thing I’d like to say is when you say, my feelings are you talking about the feelings of the actual spiritual being, or are you talking about the emotions and everything that are floating around in your mind which is actually not you?
There is a fundamental principle in yoga wisdom, yoga philosophy. You are an eternal spiritual being. The body that you are currently wearing is not you. This is something that you’re occupying. And the mind which plays such a powerful—it has such a powerful influence over your life, is also not you. And in yoga teachings your job is to become the master of yourself, that you should be the master rather than being led around by the mind. You are the one that’s meant to be controlling what your mind is doing, what you are going to spend time thinking about, what productive undertaking your life—what purpose is it actually going to serve?
If you become simply a slave of your desires and emotions that are constantly welling up in the mind I promise you a life of unhappiness, and a death that will be deeply unhappy as well. And yet this is where the big focus has been.
There is a need to have some sort of common platform to discuss how we can make ourselves better. I mean do we want to be better? Do we want to be a better version of me, or are we quite happy with things the way they are? I think most of us would like to be a better person. We would like to be happier. We would like to be healthier. We would like to be more peaceful. We would like to be more fulfilled. We would like to have a deeper sense of purpose. But if I’m going to do that then there has to be some embracing of some higher sense of truth.
So over the next two, three weeks we will be talking about some of the things that are actually necessary for people to become enlightened, to become transcendentally situated, to become actually happy. And these aren’t my ideas or my truth. This is very ancient spiritual wisdom. I think it’s incredibly sad and unfortunate that the world is in the current state that it is where desire rules, whatever desire I have that’s all important, that defines who I am, how I’m going to live, what the value in my life is, it’s all just based on desires that arise in my mind.
And I feel in the current climate people are told that you should completely identify with those desires, that’s the real you. No, it’s not. Anything that originates from the mind is not the real you. You are an extraordinary, beautiful, transcendental entity. Your spiritual heritage is limitless blissfulness, real peacefulness, extraordinary ecstatic love. That’s your spiritual heritage. All this other stuff is actually what’s making it difficult for you to experience that reality of who you truly are.
So we will begin by laying out some of the guidelines that were put forward in these ancient teachings, about how you need to live and the kind of things that you need to guide your thinking and to guide your life for there to be wonderful outcomes. And if you fall into this trap of thinking, “Oh, that’s your opinion,” or, “I prefer my opinion,” which, of course, is just something that’s floating around in my mind, and that whatever my desires are, are the whole—that’s the whole deal, that’s what I need to be following, that’s what I need to be dedicated to, then I’m sorry, that’s not going to work out very well for you.
I don’t mean to sound critical or harsh, but I become very distressed at the amount of damage that people are doing to themselves, their actual self, by buying into a lot of ideas that are that are not good for their life, not good for them.
So we’ll start on that next week. I just wanted to get some of this stuff out of the way so we understand the platform from which we will try to speak.
Can you guys relate to what I was talking about, or no? I mean we’re living in a world now where, like the the granddaughter example I used, where somebody says, “I’m a princess,” and now everybody has to fall in line and accept that person as a princess, and if you say they’re not, you’re a hater. It’s like, what the hell is going on here? No, it’s far more intelligent to guide somebody that’s childish, immature and inexperienced in this life, and say, “Oh that’s wonderful, you want to play at being princess. That’s really cool, but by the way, do you know that you actually have to be born as a child of a queen or a king to be a princess? Your mama has to be a queen. Did you know that? Or you have to marry somebody that’s a prince or a king so you can become a princess? But anyway I know you want to play, and that’s really cool, and we can have some fun. Let’s go ahead.” You need to inject something in there that’s grounded in truth and reality. If the person continues to hold to that idea as they grow up this is known as a form of mental illness.
Now you’re not even allowed to say that. That’s hating too. It’s like give me a break. Are we so unintelligent that we can’t speak truthfully, that we cannot embrace—you don’t have to be hurtful or cruel to be truthful. You can be exceedingly kind, but being—promoting falseness is not kindness. This is harmful. This is hurtful.
Anybody have a question?
So anyway, we’re not buying the whole thing, “your truth,” “my truth.” That’s not true. Everything’s become so subjective. “Oh, I’m so offended by what you say,” and then I’m meant to feel bad because you feel offended by what I said. How about, what if I say, “Well I’m really offended that you’re so offended.” Where do things go from there? Everything’s just gone crazy. We need to become far more grounded.
So of course the thing to bring sanity and clarity and enlightenment and spiritual realization is these chanting of these transcendental sounds. So I may do maha mantra also.