The Seeker’s Mind

The Seeker's Mind


Often people want to learn and be creative, but they can’t focus for long periods of time and have no creative calling. This is common in our world today because we are so distracted. A mind constantly distracted will only seek more distraction because it is used to overstimulation. A distracted mind is like the ocean waters during a hurricane. On the other hand, a tranquil mind is like a pristine lake on a bright and sunny day. A motionless lake is transparent and reflective; you can see right down into its ultimate depth.


Our attraction to entertainment is destroying our innate ability to learn and be creative. Constant entertainment pacifies our mind. As a result intelligence is undervalued in our world, and creativity is thought of as something isolated to artists. The truth is eclipsed when we overfeed our mind with entertainment and poor food, forget to exercise, and just allow our thoughts and emotions to run amok. We become desensitized to the world around us and even ourselves, as we vicariously watch the whole world implode into unconsciousness.


Becoming more conscious of our inner and outer landscape allows us to learn and create at an optimal level. However, developing expert skill and reaching peak performance also depends on having the discipline and dedication for cultivating more intelligence and creativity, which will enhance your overall life. The irony is that many people who just go through life with no discipline and allow life to push them around are often arrogant about what they “think” they know and are incapable of learning as a result. They have not been humbled by life, so they continue to fight and be jaded. We are unable to learn when we are rendered unconscious by overstimulation of body and mind.


Cultivating Intelligence


Cultivating intelligence requires us to finally admit that we don’t really know anything. This is not a desirable position to be in in our world. We always want to save face by appearing to be intelligent. We often speak about topics and current affairs that we really don’t know anything about because we are paranoid that not knowing about something opens us up for criticism. But it is highly unintelligent to speak on matters we don’t really know about. Even current affairs are issues we shouldn’t speak about. Just because the news broadcast or newspaper gives us information on certain matters doesn’t mean we actually know what’s really going on. It’s unintelligent to formulate opinions on such scarce information without diving deep into the subject.


By nourishing the little things in our life we realize that we actually don’t know much, but on the flip side we are eager to learn. As a result we are not afraid to admit that we don’t know because that is the most honest and intelligent position to be in. We learn to be truly humble and not at all worried about not knowing, and as a result we approach life as explorers rather than know-it-alls. We embrace the seeker’s mind, meaning we remain a student of life. Having a seeker’s mind cultivates intelligence, which allows us to grow psychologically. Our minds become more articulate and clear, which becomes evident in our speech and emotional conduct. If we pretend we know, we cannot learn. And if we cannot learn, we cannot grow. Learning is the fertilizer for growing our intelligence. Learning is just like nature because it is nourishing, moving, and growing—it’s alive! Learning itself grows our mind, and if we are growing, then we are fully alive.


Our habit to try to be a know-it-all cuts us off from the feeling of growing and being alive. Once we think we know something categorically we stagnate and disconnect from our mind’s natural growth. Our all-knowing habit makes us come across as an authority on certain matters, but we forget that information always changes and knowledge deepens as our mind grows. By remaining a student and continuing to learn throughout our lives, we understand more and continue to grow. Even when we think we aren’t learning, life is teaching us, as philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti explains:


“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born till the moment you die is a process of learning. Learning has no end and that is the timeless quality of learning.”


There should be no end to learning. If you are humble enough to remain a student your growth will be continual, and as a result your mind will cultivate a keen intelligence that has a deep understanding of self, others, and life. This process should continue to the day we die, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Learning nourishes this deep intelligence, making us more aware with a profound sense of understanding. Deep intelligence is something we all can have if we are willing to do the work. We are losing contact with intelligence because of the toxic habits that keep us distracted. Instead of diving headfirst into distractions, we need to go old school with simple habits that have become background noise in our modern world.


Reading as a Discipline


 Reading books is essential for learning. Books are a super fuel for cultivating intelligence. But in our modern world books have taken a backseat to the toxic habit of watching screens. We watch television and watch on our smartphones and computers. It’s a constant observation of everybody else’s lives but our own. When we watch whatever it may be, including mindlessly surfing the internet and scrolling the social media feeds, we zone out in a stupefied zombie state. As a result, watching too much stuff on screens makes us stupid.


Watching screens doesn’t require a lot of our attention. The more we partake in watching activities the less our mind can concentrate and think clearly. When people have these types of habits it is hard for them to complain about their lives. How can any of us complain if we are not making our lives conscious?


We need to take our power back. Instead of watching stuff on screens mindlessly, we need to turn to reading books, preferably physical books. Turn the act of reading into a discipline. Reading itself requires an ability to focus for extended periods of time, so a daily discipline of reading cultivates focus and concentration. As a result we have an improved ability to focus and concentrate that can be applied to anything. So buy a bookcase and fill it full of books. Not fiction books, but nonfiction books on philosophy, science, religion, art, and so on. To cultivate intelligence you need to tackle the big subjects that will give you a clearer understanding of life.


Make your reading discipline a daily ritual. When it is time for digital sunset, switch over to a physical book. I like to read at least three hours a day, usually after digital sunset, but if I’m not writing in the morning I will read then. Extended periods of reading are similar to meditation. Your mind is focused on reading, and as a result you enter a state of effortlessness, where time disappears. The added bonus of this is that at the same time you are cultivating intelligence.


The evidence that reading makes you more intelligent can be found in your expanded vocabulary. Your ever-growing vocabulary enables you to be more specific in conversations and writing, so you can articulate ideas in a way people truthfully understand. This ability is what attracts us to intelligent people, who are usually well read. Comedian and actor Bryan Callen is a voracious reader, and he inspired illusionist David Blaine to read more. As he explained to Blaine, “The difference between the people you admire and everybody else is that the former are the people who read.”


We should not neglect our ability to be more intelligent. The key is to remain a student without becoming clever. Even if you believe you know something categorically, that understanding will likely change over time and you with it. The more we cultivate intelligence, the better creators we will be.


Book excerpt from Emotional Intuition for Peak Performance by Jason Gregory © 2020 Inner Traditions.


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Digital Addiction and Smartphone-Related Youth Suicide | Book Excerpt

Digital Addiction and Smartphone-Related Youth Suicide | Book Excerpt

  To understand the widespread disease of digital addiction, we have to differentiate between behavioral and substance addictions. A substance addiction to alcohol or drugs (or any substance with psychoactive compounds) can directly change your brain chemistry, leading to a vicious dependency on a substance. Substance addiction was the only form of addiction considered until recent studies suggested otherwise. Appearing in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse was an important survey paper in 2010 that concludes, “growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions resemble substance addictions in many domains.”


  We have to, as a result of such research, reframe our understanding of addiction to include both behavioral and substance addiction. Psychologists give us a clearer representation of how addictions should be understood:


  Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide

a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.


  Yet to be clear, behavioral addictions are extremely moderate compared to strong chemical dependences people have for substances such as alcohol or drugs. Addictions to digital technology and substances are different. For example, if someone quits social media, they won’t suffer the same withdrawal symptoms as someone with a strong chemical dependency. Nevertheless, behavioral addictions are quite detrimental to your health and well-being.


  Someone with a behavioral addiction will feel helpless when checking your social media is only a tap of the screen away. It’s just too hard to resist for most people. We are like a rabbit with a carrot dangling in front of it, we just can’t resist the urge to try and get it. As I mentioned, positive reinforcement and social approval are evolutionary behaviors that are hard to kick. So, checking how many likes you got on a Facebook post is like getting a hit from a drug, however, it’s not a substance we’re addicted to but rather a behavioral pattern.


  We constantly check social media to see how we are faring in our “apparent” worth to others (most of whom you likely don’t know). We want to stay relevant and feel like we are needed by others. This seems to be a cup that is never full, it’s never capable of satisfying you completely. But we constantly post and then anxiously monitor our social media accounts awaiting likes and retweets, and sometimes they never come. As a result, social media is more about vanity metrics than anything else, as we lean into those behavioral tendencies of positive reinforcement and social approval which the social media networks are exploiting. We are addicted to this feedback loop. We are gambling every time we post, but we aren’t spending our money as we do with a slot machine, but instead our precious time and attention. The constancy of this feedback loop is dangerous for our health and sanity. It causes a lot of psychological problems that can threaten our life.


The Debt is Suicide

  Suicide rates in general have increased a lot in recent years, where an estimated one million people worldwide die by suicide every year (in the last 45 years suicide rates have increased 60%). Especially with our youth. The main cause of suicide is mental illness, very commonly depression. And it’s no surprise that rates in depression and self-harm are all up and it seems that it is hard to categorically point to one reason. But we might be a little too kind in our assessment.


  Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt believes the main culprit is social media. Haidt explained on Joe Rogan’s podcast that there is evidence of this with the exponential growth in major depressive episodes, psychological disorders, and nonfatal self-harm for young boys and girls, especially girls. The increase in rates are alarming. Haidt explains (for young people in America, Canada, and the UK) that the rates of depression and anxiety on average were fairly stable throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Haidt explains, “The percentage of kids aged 12 to 17 in America who met the criteria for having a major depressive episode… the rate for boys is around 5% and then around 2011 it starts going up and now it’s around 7%.”


  This is a substantial increase since the graph (Figure 7.1) Haidt was explaining only goes up to 2016, so 2% in five years is worrisome. But this is nothing compared to the increase with girls. Haidt explains, “The line for girls starts off higher because girls have more mood disorders, more anxiety and depression. Boys have more antisocial behavior, alcoholism, crime and violence… Girls basically make themselves miserable, boys make other people miserable.”


  He continues, “The girls’ rate is higher but it was stable from 2005 through 2010 and then right around 2011 and 2012 it starts going up, and it goes way up to the point where it goes up from about 12% to now about 20% of American teenage girls have had a major depressive episode in the last year, 1 in 5 [girls].”


Figure 7.1


  Data from Higher Education Research Institute (Figure 7.2) asked college men and women, do you have a psychological disorder (depression, etc.)? For the people who answered yes, the rates from 2010 to 2012 were low when it was millennials (Gen Y/ Generation Y): college men were on average 2-3%, while college women were about 5-6%. But then as iGen (Gen Z/Generation Z born in 1995 and after) began arriving at college in 2013, the rates began to skyrocket. From 2012 to 2016 men went from 2-3% to 6% and women went from 5-6% to a staggering 15% in a space of only four years. By 2016, college is almost all iGen’ers. This is extremely concerning considering the future of our world.


Figure 7.2


  But there is another alarming and more extreme statistic that Haidt produced on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The statistics for young people deliberately harming themselves, which can be failed attempts at suicide, are deeply concerning. For boys and young men there is no real change in rates of non-fatal self-harm (as depicted in the graph in Figure 7.3). For all age groups the line is fairly steady.


Figure 7.3


Figure 7.4


  As for girls and young women admitted into hospital for deliberately harming themselves, there are some extremely concerning statistics (as depicted in the graph in Figure 7.4). Rates for millennial women aged 20-24 is up 17% from 2009 to 2015, which is alarming in itself. But the problems become really extreme with iGen’ers. We see a 62% increase of nonfatal self-harm with teenage girls aged 15-19. 62% from 2009 to 2015 is madness! Not to mention a statistic that shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, and that is the young age group of 10-14-year-old girls. Since 2009 there has been an increase of 189%. This is just not normal to have girls in their pre-teens harming themselves. Both boys and girls have never had this level of depression and anxiety in recorded history. Young people should never have a level of anxiety and stress equal or greater than an adult. So why is this? Why are our young people suffering so much?


  The only new phenomenon in this timeframe, from 2009- 2012, was the widespread use of social media as an application in smartphones. What else could these statistics be pointing to? Social media and the smartphone are the main culprits. And both are specifically affecting the wonderful women of the future (also men as well to a lesser degree). Haidt explains why girls specifically would suffer more from social media:


First look at the nature of aggression within the sexes. Boys’ bullying is physical. Boys are physically dominating and then the risk is that they’re going to get punched. So, you give everybody [boys] an iPhone, what do they do with it? Games and porn. They [boys] don’t use it to hurt each other… Girls are actually as aggressive as boys. There’s research from the eighties and nineties on this, if you include relational aggression girls don’t bully each other by threatening to punch each other in the face, girls bully each other by damaging the other girl’s social relationships, spreading rumors, spreading lies, spreading a doctored photograph, saying bad things, excluding them. It’s relational aggression. And so, it’s always been really hard to be a middle school student. It’s always been harder to be a middle school girl than a middle school boy. So, beginning around 2010 and 2011 we throw in this brand-new thing into the mix, “OK, girls, here’s this beautiful thing in your hand and here’s all these programs where you can damage anyone’s social relationships any time of the day or night with deniability from an anonymous account. Go at it girls!…” The nature of girls’ bullying is hyper charged by social media and smartphones.


  Couple this with impossible beauty standards and the anxiety of being left out (which girls are extremely sensitive to), and you have a toxic recipe for psychological problems. This is all the result of behavioral addiction. And we have to be honest, there should be no reason why young people especially should be depressed, suffer from anxiety, or god forbid commit suicide. For this to happen there has to be something fundamentally wrong with society, and there is.


  Our world hypnotically makes us believe that we should be “someone special” at all costs. Society itself is infected with the behaviors of positive reinforcement and social approval. As a result, our world promotes the idea of fame as a goal we should all chase. Television influenced this belief because the more eyeballs on you, the greater attention you attract and thus you have accomplished the goal of social approval. Your worth is apparently highly valuable. Social media has intensified this belief in fame at all costs. The “fame game” is the game being played on social media and we are gambling with our life.


  We can all play social media lottery. But if you don’t win (meaning getting a lot of likes and attention) you’re a failure. This is not really true, but this is what the world would have you believe and social media promotes this illusion through vanity metrics. The way social media is designed influences people to seek fame as if it is important. Newsflash, fame is definitely not important and it shouldn’t even be valued. You are perfectly fine just the way you are without any need for social validation. You need to push back on that tendency or face the dire consequences. And it’s not only young girls who suffer from this, it’s all of us.


Book excerpt from Spiritual Freedom in the Digital Age by Jason Gregory © 2022 O Books.


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Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh: The Buddha of the Modern World

Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh: The Buddha of the Modern World

  I knew this day was coming, but I never wanted it to come. For the sheer selfish reason that a world with Thich Nhat Hanh in it is a lot better than one without him in it. In 2014, when I heard the news of his brain hemorrhage, I was deeply saddened and I couldn’t digest the thought of his eventual passing at that time. But when I heard the news of Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing, I was sad, but then my sadness quickly transformed into joy. My joy stemmed from having the opportunity to live in a world where a Buddha like Thay (an affectionate name for Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning master) lived and for what he has left behind for humanity.


  When the great Advaita Vedanta sage of the 20th century, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was dying, one disciple was grief stricken with the idea of his passing. But Bhagavan said, “Where can I go?” This sentiment is the crux of nondual philosophy. There is no birth or death, but instead, as Thay taught, birth and death are just a revolving doorway of beginning-less time. Just like Bhagavan, considering Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism are both nondual philosophies, Thay addressed his inevitable death in his book At Home in the World:


  This body of mine will disintegrate, but my actions will continue me… If you think I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me. When you look at my friends, you see my continuation. When you see someone walking with mindfulness and compassion, you know he is my continuation. I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.


  Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for the cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There’s no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death.


  I will continue, always.


  This nondual knowledge of the intrinsic oneness of the world Thay lived by until his last breath. Zen Buddhism is built on such knowledge and this informed Nhat Hanh’s steadfast practice of mindfulness, inspiring millions around the world to engage themselves in meditation. What could be more important than meditation in a world that constantly divides itself into artificial camps of opposition? With his help, the hypnosis of separation was revealed as nothing more than a dream to those who actively engage in mindfulness and remain in the ever-present eternal moment that is the heart of Zen. However, Zen is much more than mindfulness and remaining in the here and now.


  Thay was a prolific author, writing more than 100 books, which have been translated into 35 languages. As an author myself, I know writing over 100 books is something not many individuals could achieve. This was the unspoken genius of Nhat Hanh. The teachings of Zen just flowed through him, bringing more peace to the world with every word written. His books range from simple teachings on mindfulness to scholarly works on Zen practice and the deeper wisdom of the tradition. One of my personal favorites is a lesser-known book called Silence. This book helped my own practice and reinforced the importance of silence in a world full of noise. Thay really taught me the art of peace in a world completely distracted from the nature of reality.


  Many of us find ourselves in the same predicament as Shakespeare’s Hamlet; we live in a world devoid of moral values but we still have personal integrity, and it is up to us to never lose those principles. Thay is the perfect embodiment of Hamlet. All that he had to deal with in his life, from being exiled by his home country of Vietnam to the ongoing injustice that plagues the soul of humanity, Thay remained peaceful with a smile on his face. The confused and often violent world did not infect his soul. He continued to be a beacon of light in a world that easily succumbs to darkness. The great news is he will remain a beacon of light for humanity, even though his body has died.


  A core teaching shared by all schools of Buddhism is Pratītyasamutpāda, commonly translated as dependent origination or dependent arising. Pratītyasamutpāda is the understanding that nothing spontaneously exists all on its own. Everything in the phenomenal world, including both physical and mental, has many contributing factors and conditions of causation. The basic principle, then, is that all things arise in dependence upon other things, which is an interdependent co-arising or inter-being, a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh. This should bring great warmth to our hearts because in the interconnectivity of life, we all live on through the hearts and minds of those we leave behind. Though, in reality, we haven’t really gone anywhere; only the body has returned to the Earth. The soul continues on and is woven into the fabric of life.


  Thay, then, is still here. His body died, but his presence remains. You can feel it in the movement of the clouds, the falling leaves on a beautiful autumn day, a smiling face, and so on. I can feel his presence here. Can you? This is why my sadness quickly turned to joy and I could never have had that realization or understanding without the life and teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.


  I remember when Thay was explaining his love for Buddhism. It is not a complex story, but rather a very simple one. He was walking one day and saw an image of the Buddha, his face so serene and joyful. Thay had never seen a face like that; no one he knew exhibited this calmness. With that one encounter with the Buddha, his life was set on its natural course. Peace can flower in our hearts in many ways; it only took that one look from the Buddha to move Thay.


  Laying his eyes on the Buddha only once transformed Thich Nhat Hanh, transforming him into a modern day Buddhaghosa, meaning “voice of the Buddha.” But being the voice of the Buddha is not enough when referring to Thay, he was a real living Buddha, and our world will forever be a better place for gracing our lives with his love. But this is not a goodbye, rather, it is an acknowledgment that you are still here in our hearts, inspiring humanity towards the peace and equanimity that is all of our destinies. If he could speak to us now, I’m sure he would use similar words from his book No Fear, No Death to convey his passing from the phenomenal world:


  This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies all manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginning less time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source. Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.

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Political Correctness is Unnatural

Political Correctness is Unnatural


  We are developing an over-the-top political correctness in the world which we all know deep down is not natural. It has a certain stench about it. The stench of political correctness infects our mind, producing individuals who have disconnected from their intrinsic nature and beauty. These individuals we all know too well. They are the over-the-top social justice warriors and righteous people in general, who brandish their own personal agendas on the world. They will lynch anybody’s character for the slightest error in their eyes with zero forgiveness. This ignorant PC attitude has given rise to cancel culture online, which is undoubtably the dumbest way to behave. How you can apparently cancel someone is absurd and also impossible (unless these immature people actually want people to die). That our hate is so fervent that we would want to cancel someone (whatever that means) is an example of what a world would look like with no forgiveness or empathy (not to mention intelligence) for our brothers and sisters of the world. A stinky culture plagued by political correctness is under the misguided belief that there is a specific way that everybody should live their life and an artificial language (political correctness) of maintaining this way of life.


  This is the attitude of the Alt-Left extreme liberals and their woke ideology is considered the “right” way of life. This has gotten to the point that it has become a religion and if you’re not on board then you’re in their crosshairs. If we are not politically correct then “they” will savage you. To counter such a savage attack, it is in our best interest to be vegan, use gender neutral pronouns, believe in equality of outcome, ride a bicycle or drive a Tesla, and learn to hunt in packs as they do (again, my sarcasm is noted). I’m not saying that any of those views are wrong because they are all subjective opinions and viewpoints. But what is wrong is to impose your own personal beliefs and agendas on anyone else as if your view of the world is the truth. Our bible-thumping habits obviously die hard. If we don’t fall in line with this politically correct attitude then we will be condemned, humiliated, and ostracized. This is the world a tasteless culture produces. This is a politically correct hell. And hell is when we divorce from our intrinsic nature and instead employ a robotic behavior.


  But this doesn’t mean the political right are right. Both political ideologies have their own flaws and extreme attitudes. Both are built on their own subjective beliefs and opinions which is the actual heart of the problem (a whole other conversation about the illusion of identity which has no place in this book). There is no one person with a universal temperament of being either liberal or conservative. We are truly a mix of both, and until we reach that level of maturity, we cannot have the adult conversation we need to have to understand each other deeply. Personally, politics gives me a headache and I’m astonished at how many people are interested in it. There is a lot more to life than to listen to a bunch of people wield their subjective opinions. I am neither left nor right. Call me ambidextrous, or better yet, call me human.


  Trying to be politically correct all the time is robotic, leading to a very mechanically geared analytical state of mind. This creates lifeless people who are more concerned about making a mistake than actually living naturally. This robotic politically correct mentality is hindering real social progress because we are developing a terrible tendency of individually policing one another with a woke version of censorship. This misinformed attitude blocks the free flow of ideas that invariably help us evolve as a species.


  My wife has been affected by this in the workplace. She feels alone in her work at times because what she is interested in conflicts with her employees. For example, she once thought about discussing the negative impact of social media with her colleagues, but she knew she would be shut down and ostracized because her colleagues defend their smartphones as if they are their children. It is an evolutionary strategy to stay quiet on certain sensitive topics so that one doesn’t incur any harm. I sympathize with my wife because I too have engaged in such discussions only to be laughed out of the room by a bunch of people hypnotized by their phones.


  As I mentioned, the big problem is that when many of us, especially those of you who are intelligent, remain silent because the politically correct crowd are monitoring your thoughts with their own ideology, then this will handicap true social progress until this whole childish game is over. We essentially become a prisoner to other so-called “progressive” crowds’ misguided beliefs. This is a form of censorship we are individually imposing on other people, which wouldn’t look out of place in Communist China.


  An extreme example of this is how the woke liberal leftist media negatively portrays Hindus in India, keep in mind the majority of people in India are Hindu. Hinduphobia is not new. Throughout history Hindus have had to deal with invasion after invasion, but they have always persisted and actually absorbed other cultures into the fabric of Indian culture, and this is a credit to their inclusive Hindu spiritual beliefs. But this inclusive Hindu nature is not highlighted by foreign news media. Usually the Western temperament is to sympathize with those who have been on the wrong end of injustice, but that is not the case for Hindus. Leftist media, especially, condemn Hindus and judge them according to their own beliefs which are foreign to Hindu thought. This leftist attitude is classically known as “intellectual imperialism.” As if it wasn’t enough that Hindus had to deal with physical imperialism, now they have to deal with the intellectual imperialists. When does it end?


  It is a real dangerous game when one culture judges another based on their own beliefs and agenda. The danger is evident and obvious in the intellectual imperialism waged against Hindus. I won’t get into the fine details of the left’s problem with Hinduism, or why the left believe Hindus are rightwingers, which is really stupid and a view based on Western political ideologies. But the crux of the problem is that Hindus in India are finally standing up for their identity and place in the world. This attitude conflicts with the leftist media because Hindu beliefs, politics, and customs are a lot different to what is deemed politically correct/moral in the West. Ashish Dhar, the co-founder of Pragyata and Upword Foundation and the Director of Operations at The Indic Collective Trust, explains in his work that it is hard to have an opinion on the Hindu tradition and the general diversity of Indian civilization if you have no real “skin in the game.”


  Foreign media have no real skin in the game in regards to the plight of Hindus over the centuries, which sadly has resulted in some Hindus feeling ashamed of their tradition. Imagine the uproar if Hindus were vocal and had opinions about the political situation in the US? But people in general in India wouldn’t do that because they have no real skin in the game and they are more worried about their day-to-day life. If we have no skin in the game then we should mind our own business. But this conflicts with politically correct ideologies because they are built on being a stickybeak [busybody]. Being a stickybeak only leads to conflict. But this politically correct mentality is being embraced around the world and is enhanced through social media.


  Actually, social media trains people subtly to police other people, even strangers. This has happened through the invention of the comment section on social media platforms. What seemed like an innocent application has turned into a tool where random people can police your thoughts. We experience this mainly through strangers, people we’ve never met, which is not natural. Being exposed to a stranger’s opinion of your thoughts, beliefs, etc., is the same as foreign media having an ill-informed opinion on the Hindu way of life. So, before you troll someone online or police a person you don’t know, think about how those actions will subtly reinforce an unnatural politically correct attitude and mentality within your mind. Social media is contributing to that (more on social media later in later chapters).


  Ask yourself this, would you pull up a stranger in the street and tell them they are wrong and their beliefs stupid? Of course, all healthy and sane people would not do that because that is not how society works. Being nice and having common courtesy for others is a crucial part of our success as a species.


  The way we behave offline should be how we behave online. If you alter your behavior online then you are likely developing a subtle psychopathy and are not a consistent individual. We already have police, so we don’t need to police each other, especially our thoughts. It is unnatural for us to speak to people offline negatively so we need to behave like that online. Being politically correct is a subtle form of intellectual imperialism we impose on each other and we didn’t evolve to monitor each other’s thoughts based on our own subjective worldview.


  Political correctness is completely unnatural. Political correctness is under the guise that perfection is attainable (or what they assume is perfection). This is bullshit! Perfection is a mirage. We all fuck-up every now and then, it’s cool, no big deal, it’s what makes us human and keeps us grounded. Fucking up is how we learn and grow; it couldn’t be otherwise.


  We are not computers. We can’t just crop and delete life to suit our idealistic goals or those of others who try and hold us hostage to their beliefs. Life runs counter to your idealistic politically correct goals. We will never eradicate mistakes and failures from our life, even though social justice warriors and righteous people are anxiously trying.


  We grow and transform from failures; this is how the natural world evolves. No matter how lofty your aims are, we can’t uproot that natural growth constitution. Politically correct people fear this because it completely disarms their ideology and reveals to them that they are not ultimately in control of their lives. They themselves are the ones in conflict with the world because they have bought into the idea of right and wrong, which are human ideals that have nothing to do with nature. Don’t get me wrong, there is a code of ethics that binds society, but there is no absolute “right” that all should adjust to. Even if there was, which culture is it part of? Which culture is right? Which political ideology is right?


  This is where social justice warriors and righteous people look stupid because they base their idealism on a Western liberal view and so they don’t even consider traditional cultures in other countries. This is hypocrisy. This is the same as self-interested tyrannical governments going around bombing small nations under the guise of peace. They both have the same attitude; they are both fearful that there are people and other nations who have a different psychology and beliefs. Their way of dealing with this is by brute force, condemnation, humiliation, and ostracization. Both the righteousness of social justice warriors and self-interested tyrannical governments are unnatural, and sadly produce a stale world full of political correctness.


  We lose our humanity when we act in this manner. Life isn’t mechanical or biased to our view; instead it is natural and when we don’t realize this then we begin to stink. In Zen Buddhism this is called “to stink of Zen.” This means we have a stench about us when we are too pious, basically too gooey and cringeworthy. In Zen they believe that having this politically correct attitude just reveals that you are truly at odds with your own humanity.


  We stagnate like motionless water when there is no life moving through it. Naturally we should accept our own humanity and what it means to sustain a human life. But we are out of sync with our own humanity when we think mechanically about life.


  Political correctness and an analytical culture are not natural to anyone, they are the result of specific training of one function of the mind that we are completely unaware of. This specific training happens the day we walk into school. Now this is not a beat up on education, but instead it is about the pitfalls of only focusing on education minus playfulness that extends into our adult life.


Book excerpt from Spiritual Freedom in the Digital Age by Jason Gregory © 2022 O Books.


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NOTE: This site directs people to Amazon and is an Amazon Associate member. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. The pages on this website may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. This goes a tiny way towards defraying the costs of maintaining this site.



An Artificial Problem in a Natural World | Book Excerpt

An Artificial Problem in a Natural World | Book Excerpt

  We currently live in a culture where we believe we should know “everything,” or at least have access to the possibility of knowing everything. Our culture also ingrains in our mind that we should be “popular” and “relevant.” This mix implies that we should be a popular version of Einstein, maybe close to Neil deGrasse Tyson, but even cooler, more popular, and smarter. Think of a hip version of Iron Man.


  Our modern culture of popularity teaches us to stick out in front of the crowd for no apparent reason at all. We should be popular even though we don’t know why. As a result, we are building a culture where we project an artificial persona into social media platforms as if this is a surefire way to popularity and being loved by the world. But this behavior exposes our psychological flaws and fears because our craving for attention is subtly an attempt to try and establish that we are worthy. We incorrectly believe we are worthless if we are not popular and respected by others. These sorts of deep-seated psychological issues that the digital world exposes are only the tip of the iceberg (I will go into these problems and many others throughout the book).


  If we are fidgety with our phones and trying to be popular to feel worthy and accepted, then isn’t this anxious use of digital devices questioning our sanity? What is wrong with just sitting still and breathing calmly while listening to the natural sounds of the world? Why don’t we understand that we are worthy no matter what and that it is actually socialization that makes us feel worthless? Oh, that’s right, we have built a culture that can’t sit still for five seconds because we are trying to always distract our mind from the brutal reality we call our lives. We are addicted to busyness and so we identify with what we do rather than who we are.


  Well, it’s time to grow up and understand ourselves more intimately and reconnect with life itself. Until that time comes, we need to realize that we live in a culture not mature enough to use technology wisely for the benefit of humanity. Well, not yet anyway.


Are We Headed in the Right Direction? Or is the Digital World a Dead End?

  Since we exhibit a level of immaturity with the use of digital technology, is it wise to go full steam ahead in that direction? If we keep falling down the rabbit hole of the digital world, who knows where we will end up and how a human being will be (if we will be human at all. More on this later in the book). If we keep pursuing this artificial life there is a trade-off. The trade-off is we will lose all contact and sensitivity to the natural world and also our own individual naturalness.


  When was the last time you went into nature and just listened to her while observing your own natural breathing? Sounds like an odd question doesn’t it. But that’s what life itself is and we are trading it off for a world that is not real. A sad fact of reality is many people find the digital world much more interesting than the real world. But when we compare man-made technology to the natural world there is no comparison, because the mystery and complexity of nature is spellbinding.


  You have direct access to the most sophisticated technology in the known universe, and I don’t mean your smartphone. I’m talking about the human organism. You are the most sophisticated piece of technology in the known universe and most of us sadly don’t know anything about it. But, on the other hand, we can teach someone to turn on the television and channel surf. Sadly, we hardly know anything about our body and mind. We’re so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the world that we’ve forgotten we even have a body and mind. We forget about consciousness itself. We are like fish who aren’t aware of the water.


  We invest so much time and effort in everything else but ourselves. And I don’t mean investing in your business, home, career, social media presence, and so on. I mean invest in your actual life, your health and sanity. How can we have a healthy and sane world if we don’t invest in health and sanity on an individual level? It’s not possible.


  We strive for favorable circumstances externally, but often neglect our inner world. We don’t consider how the digital world is affecting our mind. Having a sense of equanimity and harmony in our life is sadly not our concern in the digital age. We have built a world on comparison and competition, and those competitive juices are being directed into the digital world.


  Our natural survival instincts are alerting us to keep up with everyone else by taking advantage of the digital revolution. We better invest our time and energy into our projected self-image of who we think we should be on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts or people will know our lives are truly empty and boring (my sarcasm is noted). We spend so much time and energy trying to keep up with everyone else on social media that we totally forget about the real social aspect of life.


  We lock our eyes onto our digital screens every waking moment. We clutch our smartphone to the very last minute as we lay down in bed and fire off that last tweet as if it couldn’t wait until tomorrow. We’ll wait for a bus and instead of making eye contact with someone else, we stare blankly into our glowing screens. Life is going by and you don’t even know it. All you know is what the Facebook feed tells you to believe, as we vicariously live other people’s digital lives.


  These sorts of habits, such as scrolling the Twitter feed and seeing what is happening in people’s lives on Facebook, are causing a lot of problems psychologically (I will discuss this at length throughout the book). This is where most of our time and energy is directed. But is it intelligent to invest all our time and energy into the digital world? Are we headed in the wrong direction? One thing is for sure, we are headed in an unnatural direction and it doesn’t matter how lofty our goals are, because nature will always have the last word. So, I’m going to be unpopular and suggest we do a complete 180 degree turn and begin to head in the opposite direction.


Return to Your Nature

  We have to reconsider where our time and energy are allocated if we are to complete this U-turn in thinking and way of life. We need to be honest with ourselves. Do you spend more time looking at a screen and anxiously anticipating screen time than you do anything else each day? We have to admit that, yes, we do spend most of our day staring into screens or anxiously anticipating screen time, and this wasted time compounds day after day, year after year.


  We are not allocating our energy in the right places. Mindlessly living in the digital world has taken most of our time away, leaving no energy for nature or our own creativity and productivity. Maintaining our social media presence is the main energy drain. More time is spent on social media than our creativity, face-to-face communication, and time in nature. We have replaced the spontaneous beauty of life itself for digital upkeep. Our world is becoming less vibrant and alive as a result.


  We have to continue traveling in the opposite direction if we wish to reclaim our mind and bring sanity back into the world. We have to drastically reduce our time spent in the digital world and reconnect with life as it truly is.


  This book will explain how the digital world is destroying our mind and wasting our precious time. But, most importantly, it will explain a way out of this mess so you can reclaim who you truly are. Who you truly are brings value to the world. But, on the other hand, having a cool and spiffy social media presence is not intrinsically valuable. We’re just trying to keep up with the Joneses.


  Our intrinsic nature is what brings value to the world and that has nothing to do with being distracted by digital technology. What you have deep down within you is what benefits the world and your own life. It is the potential we all have, but sadly squander a lot of the time because of life’s distractions (ahem, social media).


  We have to stop being distracted to realize the magnitude of the problem. We have to reclaim our time from digital distractions and focus on resurrecting our innate naturalness. If we don’t we run the risk of becoming robotic, meaning our thinking will become more mechanical than natural. This machinelike thinking has already begun in earnest, as our world is geared more towards analytical thinking which fuels rationality over and above everything else. This is a huge mistake. This machinelike thinking is against our spontaneous nature, which is what makes us human. Natural spontaneity is at the core of a human being. In Taoism they refer to this intrinsic naturalness in Chinese as ziran, which means spontaneously of itself. Nature and all of her children are spontaneously of itself. A machine, on the other hand, is not spontaneous or natural in any way. But, amazingly, we are starting to mimic a machine in our way of thinking and behavior (a super rationalist would obviously deny this since it exposes their unnatural behavior).


  As a result, we are losing touch with natural spontaneity because socialization makes us compute and calculate everything as if nature is some sort of machine. Nature is not a machine and neither are we because, just in case you forgot, we are nature too. Yet we have constructed a society that is mechanically geared, where self-interest and digital devices destroy our naturalness. In turn, we destroy the environment to sustain our self-interested habits which include using digital technology to pacify our mind. Isn’t it ironic that the more unnatural we become the less we care about the environment? We are intrinsically linked to nature and once one aspect of nature is acting cancerously it affects the whole ever so slowly. We have sold the spontaneous experience of life in favor of a life where we think we have control of our destiny. For those of you who have lived a while, you would know that the spontaneity of life has a way of throwing your best-laid plans out the window. As a result, you have to learn to adapt and grow from unexpected circumstances.


  But in the digital age we don’t believe we have to adapt to life because we have access to all information at our fingertips which seemingly allows us to navigate the obstacles of life. And you might be able to navigate through some obstacles, but life will continue to happen beyond your control or perception of how life should be. You can’t just “crop and delete” life’s spontaneous experience.


  Since our world has become more rational, we think that we can analyze life to its nth degree and so we can control it for our benefit. But in reality, this will never be true. And yet, this is why the digital world is so appealing, because we can control our experience in that world. We can control the information we want to absorb, where we want to travel (web surf). We can even avoid trolls with the click of a block button. Seems like a utopia, but it’s not.


  The digital world is also appealing because we can momentarily escape life’s brutality. And yes, life can be brutal sometimes, but by diving into your phone those things you have to face won’t magically disappear. The digital world acts the same as any addiction: when life is tough, we lean on a substance to try and escape life or escape, most commonly, ourselves. As with any addiction, we begin to become dissociated with ourselves and the world around us. So, the addiction we have to our phones and other digital devices is the beginning of our dissociation with our own naturalness and the environment. Hence, we only care about the next time we can mindlessly be in the digital world. Everything else is just a waiting period to be there. As a result, an addict loses their naturalness because all of their energy is spent in unconsciously suppressing their nature.


  Fidgeting with our smartphones, or any other digital device, only enhances our unnaturalness which leads to chronic stress and anxiety. Digital devices ramp up our stress and anxiety, and most of us don’t even know we live in this unnatural state of mind most of the day. Sadly, most of us don’t know what an equanimous mind feels like. The digital world only aggravates stress and anxiety which ultimately destroy our nature if we live in that state of mind more often than not. Digital technology can only enhance unnaturalness in us because it is not natural. It is not natural to us.


  Digital technology is not like using the physical design of a violin to train our body to the point that the beauty of Bach can emanate from the instrument. But instead, the digital world has nothing to do with the nature of your body because it is a world that keeps you locked in the mind. As a result, we disconnect from our body and reside in our own private sanctuary in our mind.


  This disembodied state leads not only to an unhealthy and insane individual, but also an unhealthy and insane world. Our naturalness depends on mind-body holism (I will explain this at length in Chapter 5). Our mind and body are embodied, not separate. The digital world is trying to pull us out of our bodies (nature), where we just dwell in the illusion of our mind. We need to return to our nature before it’s too late. If we don’t take seriously what this book explains, then we can’t complain about the insane world that awaits us.


  Book excerpt from Spiritual Freedom in the Digital Age by Jason Gregory © 2022 O Books.


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NOTE: This site directs people to Amazon and is an Amazon Associate member. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. The pages on this website may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. This goes a tiny way towards defraying the costs of maintaining this site.



Why the World is Always in Conflict

Why the World is Always in Conflict

  There is so much hatred in the world. So many people banding together based on group identification. Our fear of one another is so heightened that we lack the awareness to listen to one another and ultimately understand one another. Our personal view of life, based on our own beliefs and agendas, is the only perspective of life. Our personal narrative is the narrative. But it has always been this way. Our hatred and fear towards each other are nothing new. It’s an old game that we are all duped into playing. And the game is based on a lie, a lack of understanding about who we truly are and what the world really is.


  The truth is our perception of the world is clouded and unable to see the world as it truly is. Division and conflict are the result of a world literally going blind to the truth. The fabric of society is built on the foundation that separation is true. But is separation really true? Or is separation the heart of a tired old game that is the root cause of all the problems in the world? If our mentality of separation is true, then why does it only cause conflict? These are the questions that we need to be asking. This is the adult conversation we need to have.


  To explore these questions deeper we need to understand what fuels division and group identification. And that which fuels both is personal identity. An inquiry into the nature of identity is not new though. It is the core philosophy of the three main spiritual traditions of the East, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. It was also the focus of such philosophers as Jiddu Krishnamurti who dedicated his life to understanding the human condition similar to the quest of the Buddha. This Eastern view of exploring the validity of the individual is in stark contrast to the focus on individualism in the West which has slowly but surely become the focus of the entire world. But have we traveled in the wrong direction?


  This is such a vast topic that needs an entire volume to explore. But I will focus on a few specific areas that will illustrate how the problems in the world are not an external problem, but rather an inherent problem in the human condition that has never been dealt with outside of those curious souls interested in Eastern philosophical thinking.


Our Identity is Limited

  To consider that identity is the cause of all the world’s problems, we must first understand that knowledge itself, the knowledge we all think we possess, is limited. Knowledge is limited because we are all perceiving the world subjectively, influenced from birth by our culture, religion, race, gender, nation, family, etc. Each group is training us on an individual level to identify with the group as if it defines who you truly are, which are in the end superficial identifications. The group wants you to see as they see and think as they think. Identifying with a group doesn’t allow the possibility of you knowing who you truly are because you’re a bundle of external conditioning based on group beliefs. This conditioning trains us to perceive the world with certain biases which eclipses how the world truly is. Thinking itself, as a result, becomes divisive because our thinking cuts the world up to suit our conditioned identity.


  Conflict can only ensue from such limited views. The limitation of knowledge creates conflict, not because we’ve identified with a group, that is only the effect, but instead because the cause of conflict is our tendency to seek security. But our perspective of security is warped and the seed of all conflict in the world. When will we learn this lesson? This wisdom has been with us for thousands of years, but we feel more comfortable in the “apparent” security we’ve built for ourselves individually, which gives us an illusory feeling of security within group mentality. But ironically this is far from security and actually is the cause of conflict. How much violence, hatred, and bloodshed will it take for us to understand that superficial boundaries don’t exist, never have and never will.


The Game of Identification

  As the human species evolved, we were naturally part of certain groups due to the nature of biological evolution. As we started to develop culture, it was a safe bet to identify with a group to ensure our individual survival, which was then eventually superimposed onto the survival of our beliefs and the beliefs we have about ourselves and the groups we feel we belong. But this tendency towards survival no longer serves a lot of the world where our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are taken care of. Yet this yearning for security is the seed of conflict and basically holds us back from seeing the total picture. It is a limited view of the world.


  The common belief is we will find security in the family, tribe, nation, race, gender, etc. So we believe security is in division. If we identify with a certain group then this will ensure our safety and propagate our limited knowledge. Do you see the inherent flaw in this common perspective? The division itself creates insecurity. Our identification with a group creates insecurity. All battles are waged based on this illusory belief that division ensures security. We’ve drawn a line in the sand, “this is who I am and what I believe.” But the division itself is limited.


  Anything that is limited must inevitably create conflict. This cuts to the heart of the individual. For example, if I say “I am an individual,” it is limited. I’m only concerned with myself, which is limited. I am only concerned about the way I see the world according to my beliefs and conditioning which are intrinsically divisional. The “me,” “I,” “my” is a divisive entity. Our yearning for security ironically creates an identity that is fundamentally insecure. Do you see the irony? All of the injustice and also the reactions to injustice in the world comes from the limited individual. One who hasn’t thought about this at all hasn’t looked at the world as a whole. One hasn’t considered oneself as the world, but instead we view ourselves as part of it, divided from other parts that conflict with our limited view.


  We’re mainly concerned about our superficial differences, no matter whether they are religious, cultural, racial, sexual, nationalistic, etc. We’re not focused on the human condition, which is the actual cause of division. A thorough understanding of the human condition is what will dissolve all illusory division and boundaries. Actually, our apparent differences are small in comparison to our intrinsic similarities which are vast. Sadly, most people cling to their superficial differences. But our superficial differences are an act of division, a way of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world as if our identity is real. According to Jiddu Krishnamurti, this act of separation is violence:


  When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.


  That act of separation is the cause of all conflict. When I say “I” I naturally create conflict you because the “I” I believe I am is limited and likewise you are also limited. Our limitations can only breed conflict because we have separated ourselves from the whole of humanity. But to truthfully understand this fact, we have to admit that we are limited as an individual. In the Eastern spiritual traditions, there is no “I” without the world because the “I” doesn’t exist. The “I” is a divisive entity that sustains its illusory existence through insecurity, causing conflict as long as it survives. We need to inquire into the nature of the identity we all believe we are. This identity is fundamentally conditioned and any form of conditioning is limited.


  The questions we need to ask are, what is beneath all of this conditioning? and What is the real essence of our being? This has nothing to do with spirituality, but rather the fundamental basis of our mind, minus the divisional accumulative identity. The Eastern spiritual traditions have been primarily focused on the nature of the mind and consciousness itself. For thousands of years their conclusion has been that the doer of actions and the thinker of thoughts is causing all the trouble in the world. The belief in “I” can only cause conflict. This “I” identity, with all of its beliefs, agendas, biases, and prejudices, is an illusion. It is an accumulative social construct only useful as a public utility. But that’s the only use it has.


  When we explore the nature of our mind, we discover that the contents of our mind are polluted with learned beliefs about a sense of self we are supposed to be and a body we are supposed to identify with as if it is permanent and everlasting. What happens when we explore these beliefs? We discover that they were all built on our insecurity and inculcated within us from other people suffering the same affliction. Real security, then, is not found in identification with division, but rather found in a sense of unity we feel within with no divisional boundaries. Actually, this state of unity is our natural state of mind that we have covered over with the illusion of separation.


The Local Awareness and Undifferentiated Consciousness

  To know yourself truthfully is a shedding process, a process of inquiry into the limited divisional falseness of identity. The more we go through this process, the more we see the world as it truly is from our true unpolluted nature of mind. Our true nature of mind is not divided, it has no opinions, agendas, beliefs, or biases. Our true nature of mind is a feeling of unity where we truly understand that separate minds don’t exist. They don’t exist because the fundamental consciousness within you is the same as in me, it is a real state of oneness. The contents of mind eclipse pure consciousness. That pure consciousness is one consciousness, our true sole identity.


  As we live and are conditioned, our awareness becomes stained and we identify with a localization of consciousness that we refer to as “I,” the limited individual. We are identified with the equipment we possess on a local awareness level. What I mean by equipment is we identify with the contents of the mind, the sense of self we have accumulated and the impermanent body. Identifying with the equipment of the localization of consciousness keeps your awareness from knowing its true source. Identifying with the localization of consciousness can only perceive a reality of duality, as its existence is built on a separation from its source and consequentially everything and everyone else in existence. But the power and influence our limited identity has over us on a local awareness level can be overturned if we can just dissolve the “I” to reidentify with the one undifferentiated consciousness.


  When the local subjective awareness merges with its own source, meaning when the subtlest form, the subtlest contraction, of the “I” thought collapses, then there is only space and you can’t locate yourself anymore. You know that in truth you are everywhere. Your local awareness was only scattered because of a wrong identification with the equipment of a limited individual. Conventionally you are still a person interacting with other persons, but what you know is you are everywhere with no sense of “I” to claim the experience. We are just like a wave that forgot it is the ocean. The wave was always the ocean. The form of the wave is at the local level, the essence of the wave being the ocean is everywhere.


  From this true state of consciousness, you see the world as it truly is because you are not limited anymore. There is no conflict from that true place because there is no such thing as opposition, no concept of separation. From that place there is no religion, race, nation, gender, or any apparent division. There is only love because hatred can only exist when we believe we are an individual separated from everything and everyone else. When there is no more identity, there is no more conflict. Conflict can only exist if we have fallen for the illusion of separation and act from our divisional perception of the world. From the undifferentiated consciousness there can only ever be unconditional love because in reality there is no “other.”


NOTE: This site directs people to Amazon and is an Amazon Associate member. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. The pages on this website may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. This goes a tiny way towards defraying the costs of maintaining this site.



Lao-tzu’s Wisdom on Artificial and Natural Desires

Lao-tzu’s Wisdom on Artificial and Natural Desires


  In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu makes a distinction between “the desires of the eye” and “the desires of the belly.” He recommends that we revert back to one over the other. In chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching Lao-tzu explains:


The five colors blind our eyes. The five notes deafen our ears. The five flavors deaden our palates. The chase and the hunt madden our hearts. Precious goods impede our activities. This is why sages are for the belly and not for the eye; And so they cast off one and take up the other.


  The word “five” as it appears in this chapter can be replaced with extravagant or fancy, because five refers to our tendency to focus on sensual pleasures rather than moderation. The sage’s advice is to go back to the desires of the belly over the desires of the eye. But what are the desires of the belly and eye that Lao-tzu mentions? First of all, what are the desires of the eye that Lao-tzu warns us against?


 The Desires of the Eye and Modern Culture

   The desires of the eye are the things that you can see far away but you don’t possess. The desires of the eye are the artificial needs created by society, which keep us chasing and hunting a life that is not ours and this in turn “maddens our hearts,” to use Lao-tzu’s words. These desires are insatiable and practically infinite. We know these desires all too well because our modern culture promotes the desires of the eye as the template of a successful life.


   Think of how important Madison Avenue and the advertising industry are supposedly to modern culture. Modern advertising creates these new artificial desires through marketing. They promote the desires of the eye and this in turn creates inauthentic people, which is why Lao-tzu believes these desires are dangerous. A growing swell of people, especially among the youth, will stop at nothing to be famous or have social success. But both fame and success are artificial needs planted in our mind. Striving after such artificial desires suppresses our true nature. As a result, we become a soundbite generation with no depth, where we always swim in the shallows. Being famous, then, becomes more important than integrity, arrogance is mistaken for humility, and marketing is more important than knowledge and wisdom.


  We only have to see what nonfiction books are bestsellers and what films are the highest grossing to realize that we’ve built an empty culture with no depth. Granted, some few worthy books and films can get moderate exposure and reach a wider audience, but this is very rare. And last but not least, wealth is mistakenly associated with success. The symbol of success, then, is wealth, which either consciously or unconsciously motivates many people to do what they do in life. This is just the nature of a shallow culture. As a result, we’ve got this new phenomenon of people striving to be entrepreneurs for the sake of being one. So, an entrepreneur then is someone who is just a motivation speaker for other people to become motivational speakers. This empty striving just to be noticed is not natural entrepreneurship. True entrepreneurship just happens naturally resulting from hard work, a brilliant idea, and perfect timing. Think of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and so on. None of these people set out to become an entrepreneur or have wealth and fame. All three acted on a brilliant idea that they believed in and now they reap the rewards.


  In a culture driven by the desires of the eye, we get in the bad habit of trying to mimic someone else’s achievements as if this is a sure-fire path to success. We are always comparing our lives to others and this breeds inauthentic people. We try to emulate other people we believe are on a pedestal. On top of this, we also try to live up to social norms which, in the end, inculcate within us a fake sincerity enacted by our role in the world and this is not who we truly are beneath our social and cultural conditioning. This is why we feel a certain stench about some people’s sincerity and their over the top attitude towards being politically correct. 


  German philosopher Martin Heidegger explained that when we are enacting a certain role with fake sincerity then we are driven by “they,” meaning the expectations of other people and culture. As a result, we are not operating from our original nature, which is our deep-down raw self, minus its egotistical conditioning. Most people never encounter this raw deep egoless nature because people are too busy trying to be somebody important and trying to acquire wealth. We are always trying to keep up with the Joneses or get ahead of them, and this attitude eclipses our true nature. As a result, we have a world that is predominately hypnotized by consumerist thinking. 


  Modern culture, and specifically advertising, sell us this idea of how our lives should be, such as the American dream, which fuels our consumerist habits. Marketing ramps up what we think we need, but in truth we don’t need any of what they’re selling. We are fooled into believing that we need the latest smartphone, car, clothes, haircut, computer, television, and whatever else is deemed trendy by advertising. We also think we need to be famous or known and respected in some sort of way, even if in truth we’ve accomplished nothing to gain such notoriety.


  All of these artificial desires are built on the lie that we actually need all this rubbish. The fact of the matter is you don’t need any of it. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret that all these great motivational speakers won’t tell you, not everybody can have financial success or fame, and not all of us can have a brilliant idea. And you know what, none of it matters in the end because that’s not why all of us are here.


  We will never know why we are truly here nor our true nature if we are constantly chasing our tail, and this is Lao-tzu’s point. He recognized that we are always chasing empty desires, the desires of the eye. And keep in mind, Lao-tzu’s criticisms were aimed at Confucius’s carving and polishing ideology of self-cultivation, with its focus on artificial desires and an attempt to induce naturalness, which is completely mild compared to our modern culture.


  Just imagine if Lao-tzu could see the world now, he would surely roll in his grave. But, nevertheless, his advice and reaction would be the same: we need to turn our back on modern culture and return to the way of nature, the Tao. If we don’t turn our back on modern culture then we are living inauthentic lives because we are continuously enacting some sort of role to fit into the accepted cultural and social framework. This mentality is a disaster and something most of us aren’t aware of. Our mind is so polluted with striving that we diminish simplicity in the process. We move away from simplicity by chasing desires. Lao-tzu’s remedy for the hypnosis of the desires of the eye is to return to the natural desires of the belly. 


The Desires of the Belly and Simple Living

  The desires of the belly are our basic needs, our basic desires which are very simple. These desires of the belly are what nature gave you and they are quite modest needs. This is quite a different picture compared to the Confucians who value being cultured and, as a result, become a connoisseur. But, as Lao-tzu mentioned in chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching, having too much of anything deadens our palate. So, for example, instead of becoming a wine connoisseur, Lao-tzu would suggest that we just enjoy the wine for its own sake without becoming a wine snob.


  If you are a cultured connoisseur of life then you have moved away from your simple needs. In chapter 46 of the Tao Te Ching Lao-tzu explains that having too many desires, like a Confucian or modern individual, is a great disaster. The Tao Te Ching states:


There is no greater crime than having too many desires. There is no greater disaster than not being content. There is no greater misfortune than being covetous.


  In chapter 46, the Tao Te Ching explains that no matter what our fancy explanations are, excessive desires drive greed and in turn greed drives aggression. As a result, we end up with the world we have now with all of its conflict, tension, and inequality. So, all of this education and socialization fuel our desires and this is why Lao-tzu wants us to return to the desires of the belly. 


  If our natural needs are modest then our starting off point to become a sane and healthy individual is oriented in the wrong direction, as we are “trying” to attain it. But if we reorient our lives towards the desires of the belly, we will realize that human beings have a simple nature and are easily satisfied. We only mess with this simple nature when society creates artificial desires and, as a result, we want more than we naturally need. Human nature, then, is fundamentally good according to Lao-tzu, but not according to Confucius because he believes human nature is this ugly raw material that we need to shape and cultivate. Interestingly, both Confucius and Lao-tzu have opposing metaphors to explain their view of human nature. Confucius uses the carving and polishing metaphor, referring to the carved and polished block of wood. And, on the other hand, Lao-tzu uses the uncarved block metaphor, or unhewn wood, to explain the human being just as nature intended it.


  So Confucian self-cultivation is about taking our raw human nature and carving and polishing it to the point that we become a superior man, junzi in Chinese. Lao-tzu, on the other hand, believes human nature is good, so he doesn’t want you to carve or polish but instead stick to the uncarved block as this is your simple raw nature. Confucius believed that a human should be called a “human becoming,” while Lao-tzu believed that our common title of a “human being” is an accurate description because there is nothing for us to do or become. We already are naturally good deep down. Carving and polishing warps our human nature. In chapter 37 of the Tao Te Ching it states:


Nameless unhewn wood is but freedom from desire. Without desire and still, the world will settle itself.


  What chapter 37 means is if we can get back in touch with our original nature, the uncarved block, then having an urge for excessive desires will vanish. If we can just get back in touch with our original nature and forget about all of this carving and polishing then everything will begin to order itself because our basic needs are very simple. So, we don’t have to do anything for this to happen. Instead of embarking on Confucius’s journey of self-cultivation, we just need to return home to the uncarved block. This return home encapsulates Lao-tzu’s view that human perfection is through nonaction, wu-wei. Chapter 47 of the Tao Te Ching states:


Without going out the door, one can know the whole world. Without looking out the window, one can see the Way of Heaven. The further one goes, the less one knows. This is why the sages: Know without going abroad, Name without having to see, Perfect through nonaction (wu-wei).


  Our tendency to cultivate through action driven by learning and socialization leads to excessive desires and eclipses our true human nature. We can never be truly content when we are filled with desires and this is something skillfully explained in many Eastern spiritual traditions. All of our striving and reaching one goal after another never leads to contentment, but instead contributes to a world that suffers from anxiety, stress, and is basically insane. You surely have noticed this persistent hum of anxiety in your own life. Lao-tzu’s radical advice and solution for all of us is to Know the contentment of contentment. This is one of the greatest lines from the Tao Te Ching and it should become a daily mantra for anyone sincere on the path of liberation. Having this unwavering contentment is something not many of us experience in our lives. We can never have this contentment if we are constantly chasing artificial desires in trying to keep up with the Joneses. This deep level of contentment is also explained in Buddhism and Hinduism.


  The contentment of contentment is to be content with the simplicity of life, to be content with what you have. This contentment is the fundamental basics minus all this modern extravagance. If you experience this contentment of contentment in your life, then you won’t be drawn into the desires of the eye. Returning to the home of the uncarved block, your original pure nature, evokes this deep contentment and allows you to live a life as nature intended it. If we truly want equanimity and a sane and healthy world, then returning home to our true nature is where it all begins. So, my parting question to you is, have you tasted the contentment of contentment?



Why the East Avoid Debate and Why You Should too

Why the East Avoid Debate and Why You Should too


  Avoiding debate is a hallmark of Eastern thought, especially in countries such as Japan. This mentality is hard for a lot of Westerners to comprehend. In the West, we are encouraged to debate so that we can come to a conclusion on a matter. This Western way of thinking is incorrectly believed to be universal. Many Westerners believe the way they think is the same for everyone in the world. This way of thinking is a clumsy way of viewing the world. Both East and West cognitively evolved differently, influencing their social structures, philosophies, religions, language, and basic world view.


  In the West debate was a natural byproduct of analytical thinking and individualism. While in the East, avoiding debate was a natural byproduct of holistic thinking and collectivism. Avoiding debate in far East Asia can partly be attributed to Confucianism and Taoism, because people have a respect for their elders even when the older person might be obviously wrong or their statements unfounded. For example, we see this attitude in the scientific field, where a lot of support is often funneled to the mediocre older scientists instead of the more talented younger ones.


  But this resistance to debate is not only an ideological or social one. This resistance extends to the nature of communication and rhetoric. We know rhetoric in the West provides an underlying structure for everything from solving problems, exploring evidence, and other arguments and refutations, so we can come to a conclusion or recommendation. But this linear rhetoric model is uncommon in the East. For example, it’s usually the last thing an Easterner learns on the road to becoming a scientist. This is surely strange to Western academia, but this is how most Easterners have cognitively evolved, even though there is a growing trend in the East to become expert debaters. But is it right for Easterners to fall in line with Western thinking? Or is there something in the art of no debate that the West could learn? And yes, there are a lot the West can learn from the East about many things, including their resistance to debate.


  To learn about such mentality in the East, we need to explore why they avoid debate in the first place. Japan is usually the best example because they have stuck more to this cognitive trait than other Eastern nations. When we examine decision-making processes in Japanese board rooms and executive councils, they are designed to avoid conflict and dissonance at all costs. These sorts of meetings are often a ratification of consensus achieved by the leader of the meeting beforehand. If someone has a conflict or disagree with the decision being made, they will usually avoid the situation to keep harmony and good relationships with their co-workers. From a Western perspective, this way of going about business would be considered stupid. But it is in this Eastern attitude that the kernel of truth resides, which we can all learn from.


  The holistic view of the East is built on the foundation of relationships. This means first and foremost friendships are number one no matter what your individual opinion is. Keeping good relationships and friendships are always considered before someone emotionally wields their own personal view on a matter. Even when two people disagree in the East, they will come half way for the friendship even if they still disagree, because again, friendship first. This is why before engaging in business with a Chinese businessperson you better get your liver ready because they first want you to drink with them to see if you can be trusted and also to see if they can develop a friendship with you. And when I say drink, I mean legless drunk. It’s their skillful way of disarming your ego to see who is really behind the mask. This approach is more about friendship rather than if the business deal is good or not. Don’t get me wrong, the deal matters, but from the Eastern perspective friendship is more important moving forward.


  This friendship first mentality actually caused problems when Easterners and Westerners began doing more business together. And this comes down to the way both view contracts. For a Westerner, once a deal is done, it shouldn’t be modified. A deal is a deal. But, on the other hand, to an Easterner a deal is a tentatively agreed upon guide for the future.


  Both opposing views most notably caused conflict in the past between Japanese and Australian businesspeople over a contract for sugar. Australia refused to renegotiate the contract when the price of sugar dropped radically on the world market. The Australian view was that the Japanese were being purely self-serving and self-interested. But this was not the case. Actually, Japanese suppliers take these sorts of matters into consideration with their own customers. One example of this is the film industry in Tokyo. When it snows in Tokyo, film distributors are more likely to compensate theater owners for their drop-in audience attendance. This type of friendly compensation would be unheard of in the Western business world. So, the misunderstanding between Australia and Japan was due to a lack of understanding of both cognitive styles and cultural perspectives. Actually, if we look at this situation from a Western perspective, it is not cost-effective to have such a friendly attitude. But when viewed from an Eastern perspective their attitude strengthens the relationship between customer and supplier which makes sense in many ways.


  Though the Eastern view of not debating may seem radical, it is the best for keeping friendships and also for allowing relationships to grow rich. The Eastern view highlights the fact that individual opinion is not the be all and end all. What is more important is collective harmony minus a self-interested ego, which is a common trait among many Eastern philosophies. But this is a blind spot in the West. Actually, as we know, individual opinion is encouraged in the West. So, there is no surprise that a lot of unnecessary conflict exists in the West.


  Western intellectuals build their whole repertoire on debate and the ability to wield their individual opinion upon everyone else. There are a multitude of news networks, current affair programs, and podcasts all engaging in debate, as each individual try to showcase their intellectual power. This is nothing more than peacock consciousness, it’s all about who stands out the most, or in other words, who has the loudest bark. It’s just plain immature if we view this mentality from an Eastern perspective. This sort of behavior is rife on social media, where people get into heated debates in the comment sections with people they’ve never met. Trolling a comments section is just plain childish, and in a lot of cases, a troll is hiding behind their computer venting all their deep-seated anger on people they’ve never met. If you are one of these keyboard assassins then you need to rethink your behavior and grow up.


  The Eastern view is a grown-up view. It’s about putting the harmony of humanity first rather than personal opinion. Yet in a world increasingly influenced by Western individualism, utilizing debate to defend your own personal beliefs is paramount over and above world harmony. But the brutal truth is, even those who support debate often can’t detach from a debate. For example, I’ve been with people who engage in a debate with someone else and then after it they will say “I hate that guy,” even though they pretended to be cool with the person when the debate had concluded. So, a subtle resentment dwells in some people after a debate and this is the conclusion the East had reached. If we can’t engage in a friendly give and take conversation then it’s better not to engage at all. Besides, when we dive deeper into the fabric of individual opinion, we discover that opinions are driven by individual conditioning and, as a result, a subtle (or not so subtle) personal agenda.


  So how can an individual opinion be best for everyone if it is self-interested? It can’t. It can never be. And someone’s personal agenda and conditioning are built on a host of factors that are often not considered when decisions are being made. The art of no debate, on the other hand, forces us to see matters from a more holistic perspective. Instead of wielding our own opinion, we can listen to the consensus and feel out what is good for social harmony rather than individual self-interest. By keeping our mind clear and our mouth shut, we can listen to what the world needs because we’ve become a selfless friend to the entire world.



The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi


  Many people have heard the name Ramana Maharshi, but surprisingly most of them don’t know who he was and why he was one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Personally, his teachings thrust me on the path of spirituality at a young age. He was one of the great sages who opened the door of Eastern wisdom for me. I hold Ramana Maharshi in the highest echelon of sages who graced the Earth. I believe he belongs in the honorable company of the Buddha, Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, Shankara, Patanjali, Bodhidharma, Nagarjuna, and Mahavira. He belongs to this ancient thread of enlightened masters.


  The teachings Ramana Maharshi expounded belong to one of the greatest teachings on the planet called Advaita Vedanta, which is one of the main schools of thought in Hinduism. But before we dive deep into these teachings and his own wisdom, how did Ramana Maharshi become a great sage?


The Life and Death of Venkataraman Iyer

  Ramana Maharshi’s birth name was Venkataraman Iyer. He was born on December 30, 1879 in the small village of Tiruchuli in the south of India. He had a normal upbringing, just like any other young Indian. Nothing in his early life was out of the ordinary. But everything changed for him at the age of sixteen. One day, he was alone in an upstairs room inside his uncle’s house in Madurai. Suddenly, he had an intense fear of death, where for the next few minutes he went through a simulated death experience. During this experience, he became aware of his true nature for the first time. He realized that his real nature is eternal, and it is unrelated to the body, mind, and personality.


  According to Vedanta, he had a realization of the Atman, the Self with a capital S, which is the undifferentiated consciousness at the core of our being. The young Venkataraman realized the Atman at the core of his being and his life was instantly transformed. And yet, you’re probably thinking that many people have had this experience. But what makes Ramana Maharshi’s experience unique, is his experience of the Self was permanent and irreversible. This claim didn’t come from the mouth of the man himself, but rather his followers. So, if you are unfamiliar with this type of knowledge you might be skeptical about existing permanently as the Self, beyond the personality. But if you’ve truly experienced the Self, you know that your life has permanently changed and, thus, your life is dedicated to the path of liberation, moksha in Sanskrit.


  There is no turning back to the mundane concerns of life when you have had a true experience of the Self. I would also like to suggest that all experiences of the Self are permanent and irreversible, but the reason we view Ramana Maharshi’s experience differently is because the sense of an individual person in him had ceased to exist, and it never reared its ugly head again. Not all of us can say that the individual person ceased to exist after realizing the Self, because most of us try to maintain our social life which requires a certain amount of personality to survive. But young Venkataraman, on the other hand, walked completely out of his life to never return. This type of renunciation is revered in India, and according to the great traditions of Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya, and Yoga, this type of worldly renunciation is necessary to establish yourself in your true nature (this sort of knowledge is explained with differing philosophy and terms in the great traditions).


  So, in 1896, at the young age of sixteen, Venkataraman Iyer walked out on his family. At the time, he never told anyone in his family about his experience. After his realization of the Self, he kept up appearances at his school and with his family for six weeks, but it was difficult for him to pretend to be this person people know as Venkataraman Iyer. He couldn’t play this game too much longer and so he pined for an environment more conducive for spiritual life. He had a deep calling to go to the holy mountain of Arunachala in the small town of Tiruvannamalai. This was not a random urge, because Arunachala is considered by Hindu’s as a manifestation of Shiva. Ramana Maharshi actually said in later years that it was the spiritual power of Arunachala which brought about his enlightenment. And I can tell you that from personally spending a lot of time at the foot of Arunachala, the mountain definitely has a certain power and also an ability to settle the mind which is indescribable.


The Birth of a Great Sage

  Once Ramana Maharshi arrived at Arunachala, he never moved more than two miles away from its base from 1896 until his death in 1950. During those years the birth of the great sage Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi came into the world. Actually, it was one of his earliest followers who renamed him Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. To understand this name, first Bhagavan means Lord or God, Sri is a title of honor in India similar to Sir in England, Ramana is a contraction of his birth name Venkataraman, and Maharshi means “great seer.”


  From 1899 to 1922, Ramana resided in many caves on the slopes of Arunachala. In his early years there, he spent most of his time in silence. It was through this intense silence that people began to gravitate around him. This silent force he emanated could bring stillness to the minds of those around him. People were naturally more peaceful and their minds were completely still in his presence. This deep silence was his original teaching and this powerful silence is a state of consciousness revered in the great Eastern traditions. In later years, Ramana was more willing to give verbal teachings for people who couldn’t feel or experience the power of his deep silence.


His Nondual Teachings

  His verbal teachings were guided by his direct knowledge that consciousness was the only reality. Brahman alone is real (Brahman in Sanskrit is the Ultimate Reality that pervades and is immanent in all existence). This means all ideas of separation are illusory. There is only one reality, Brahman. And Ramana explained this beautifully when he was asked why he says maya, illusion of separation, and reality, Brahman, are the same. It’s a fair question for any seeker considering we have the nondual reality of Brahman and the illusion of the dualistic world, maya. Ramana explained that the great Advaita Vedanta sage Shankara was criticized for his views on maya because Shankara once said:

“Brahman is real,

the universe is unreal, and

The universe is Brahman.”


  This passage might seem like a bit of a mind bender, but Ramana skillfully elucidates the depth of Shankara’s teaching. He explained that Shankara didn’t stop at the second line because the third line explains the first two lines. The third line signifies that the universe is only real if it is perceived as the nondual Brahman from the Self within us. And the universe is unreal when perceived through the dualistic conditioning of the persona, which is to view the universe apart from the Self. This profound explanation is why maya and reality are one and the same. And though this is probably contested by other schools of thought, this is the main view of Advaita Vedanta.


  But the world is still an illusion to a person with a mind accustomed to separation because you are not perceiving the world from the Self, from the Atman which is identical to Brahman. Once you abide in the Self, then and only then will you look upon the whole universe as Brahman. Only a few of his followers assimilated this deepest truth.

The Practice of Self-Enquiry

  For the thousands of visitors he had over the last twenty years of his life, most of them found his teachings hard to comprehend or follow because back in that time, just like now, people were too busy in their ordinary lives and polluted with mundane concerns. Many people assumed that his teachings can’t be realized without a long period of spiritual practice in isolation, sadhana in Sanskrit. This is correct in some sense, even though Ramana would disagree. But keep in mind that Ramana also underwent extensive sadhana for many years before he became a guru. So, to satisfy people with such concerns, he prescribed an innovative method of self-attention known commonly as self-enquiry, or vicara in Sanskrit. He recommended this method a lot, which is why it became the most distinctive element of his teachings.


  To explain self-enquiry, you have to understand that the Self is the only existing reality, there is only Brahman. This is the view of Advaita Vedanta and also Ramana Maharshi. Ramana regarded the “I”-thought as a mistaken assumption with no real existence. He explained that the “I”-thought can only appear to exist by identifying with an object. For example, I am Jason, I think this, I believe this, I am Australian, I want this, I don’t like him, and so forth and so on. So, we are unaware that when thoughts arise the “I”-thought claims ownership of them. And according to Ramana, the primary source of all these assumptions can be traced back to the “I am the body” thought. Our sense of separateness from life originates from our identification with the physical form. All subsequent wrong identifications came from the idea “I am the body.”


  Self-enquiry’s main aim is to dissolve this belief in “I am the body.” To do achieve this dissolution, we have to focus on the practice of self-enquiry Ramana taught. First, we have to accept that the “I”-thought cannot exist without an object. Second, we have to focus our attention on the subjective feeling “I” or “I am” with extreme intensity. If you can intensely do this, then you will notice that the thoughts “I am this” and “I am that” do not arise. Your “I”-thought is unable to connect with an object. The key to this practice is the ability to sustain our awareness on the “I.” If we can sustain our awareness on the “I” you will notice that it will disappear and then in its place will be a direct experience of the Self.  This is the sweet nectar of self-enquiry. And once you have a direct experience of the Self, it’s hard to be totally wrapped up in the illusion of separateness.


  For those interested in self-enquiry, Ramana would recommend a beginner to put their attention on the “I” as long as possible. As with meditation, when your mind begins to wander bring your attention back the feeling of “I.” The more you practice self-enquiry the easier it becomes to sustain your attention on the “I.” The practice will get to a point of effortless awareness because individual effort is no longer possible since the ego who makes effort has dissolved. The ego will cease to exist temporarily for most people. But Ramana would explain that eventually through repeated experiences of being the Self, we will destroy our latent tendencies and habits (vasanas in Sanskrit) which cause the “I”-thought to arise. The power of the Self will eventually destroy all vasanas permanently. This is the ultimate state which is irreversible. If you reach this permanent state as Ramana did, then you have fulfilled the method and goal of self-enquiry (and life itself), which is to abide as the Self.


  There is only the Self, so everything is Brahman because Atman is Brahman. There is no duality. And the way to verify this nondual reality is to practice self-enquiry in every waking moment as Ramana did. He emphasized that it is not a meditation practice we do for a certain period of time, but rather it should be practiced irrespective of what you are doing. This might sound easier said than done, but it’s definitely a practice that can be sustained in all facets of life, from the busiest situation to the simplest. But it might be hard for you to get to the deepest levels Ramana did if you haven’t done any serious lengthy sadhana. Actually, the wisdom and practice explained by Ramana will be hard for you to grasp if you haven’t done any extensive sadhana. But if you’ve done a lot of sadhana, then this wisdom and practice have a far better chance of sticking.


  In conclusion, I could go on and on about Ramana’s teachings and his extraordinary life, but I would need an entire book, so I’ve explained only the core of his teachings that hopefully you will study and put into practice. If you can practice self-enquiry strictly, then you will begin to dissociate and distance yourself from your dualistic personality to reveal that you are not “this” or “that,” but rather you are or in Ramana’s words I am. You will verify that I am not this person but instead I am That, the Atman which is Brahman. Once this ultimate dimension is your direct experience, you will begin to emanate that silent force accessed by the great Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.



Go Beyond Everything (Turiya)

Go Beyond Everything (Turiya)


  In the great Eastern spiritual traditions there is a special importance given to going beyond everything, essentially going beyond the world and even your own mind. This is the spiritual ideal of the great sages and teachings of the East. But this ultimate goal is something that frightens most people because they are not willing to truly give up their sense of “self.” People who become interested in spirituality forget this ideal. Sadly, people often subtly use spirituality to propagate their ego rather than dissolve it. This is especially rife in the West. The individualistic mind of the West has taken the holistic philosophies and practices of the East and turned them into something geared more towards self-interest and vanity rather than the dissolution of self, humility, and simplicity. To counter such widespread cultural appropriation, we need to understand what going beyond everything means and how and why we should really be aiming for those lofty heights previously only experienced by the great sages of antiquity.


The Foundation of Consciousness


  Going beyond everything means you’ve come into resonance with the underlying witness of all life. This witness is the pure awareness at the core of our being that we cover over with worldly experiences, mundane concerns, and individual conditioning. This witness is not overly considered in Western religions, but it is the spiritual ideal of the East. The goal is to firmly re-establish yourself in this pure awareness which is untouched by all experience. So, the focus of this goal is not about the “experience,” but instead the experiencer. The pure witness (experiencer) of all internal and external movement.


  This witness resides in all experiences, no matter whether the experience is pleasurable or painful. The witness is a permanent feature of consciousness and is actually the foundation of consciousness. The surprising thing is not many people in science or Western religions focused a lot of attention on the witness and this might be an unintentional oversight considering that if you are not a deep explorer of your own consciousness then the experiencer will be overlooked in favor of the actual experience.


Undifferentiated Consciousness

  Thankfully the great Eastern spiritual traditions revealed that the pure awareness of our being is the essence of consciousness. Yet each tradition explained this a little differently. In Vedanta to remain as the Atman, the undifferentiated consciousness, the Self with a capital S, means to abide in that witness state without letting the turbulence of worldly experience shake you. In Samkhya and classical Yoga, the more you reside in pure awareness, Purusha, you will begin to separate from all the movement of energy in the universe and mind, Prakrti. You develop an actual gap, where Purusha can look upon Prakrti without being affected by its gravitational pull.


  In Buddhism we have Tathata, a word which refers to someone who has arrived at suchness or thusness. This is the Buddha mind that has recognized the utter impermanence of the world and, as a result, their sense of self has thinned away into Sunyata, the voidness of the universe where suchness is revealed. This is the Buddha’s immovable state symbolized in the Bhumisparsha mudra. And lastly, in Taoism there is the Absolute Tao that animates all life through the yin and yang energies of the universe. The great Taoist sages Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu explain how we can absorb our mind in Tao by emptying our mind and allowing life to be as it will without our individual interference. By following this process, you begin to merge with the Tao.


Unassociated Bliss

   So, the common theme among all these great traditions is we should empty our faculties and instead of pursuing experience after experience, we should abide steadfast as the pure witness, the undifferentiated consciousness. And the promise of all the traditions is that abiding in pure awareness is actually the true key to happiness. Actually, they would say it leads to unassociated bliss, Ananda in Sanskrit. We’re often going from one experience to another trying to fill this emptiness we all feel inside, but it never leads to lasting happiness. The irony is ananda is not found in experience, but rather in dissolving the one who continually chases experiences.


  When we abide as the witness more and more and are not influenced by the activity of our mind, then we are in a state of bliss from not being a “person.” This is the advanced spirituality which is part of the higher religion of the East. This sort of knowledge is what separates Eastern spirituality from Western religions. Too often these days people think there is a radical universalism existing among all religions. What we have to understand is that all religions have their place, but they are not equally efficacious. There are some similarities but they are somewhat loosely connected when we study each tradition. Eastern spirituality is far more transformative and peace bearing because the whole ethos of the Eastern traditions is based on the study of consciousness to discover the nature of mind and the universe. And they’ve done a damn good job at explaining all of that and more.

Turning Away from Worldliness

  Most importantly, they’ve given us the key to true knowledge of our nature. But this knowledge requires us to go beyond everything to experience our innate bliss. We have to turn our back on worldliness. This means we have to turn our back on worldly desires and any ambition we may have of becoming “someone.” This does not mean being apathetic because it is actually our personal agendas and individual conditioning which causes all the trouble in the world, so we seek to dissolve all that subjectivity to see the world from an objective viewpoint. Instead of indulging in the “I”-thought, we need to ask who is the experiencer of thoughts? Does the experiencer feel pain or pleasure?


  The truth is we only experience pain or pleasure in our mind when our pure awareness incorrectly identifies with the “I”-thought. We do this because most people haven’t established themselves as the witness and instead they are thrust here and there by their overactive mind. You need to abide as the witness to develop a distance between who you truly are as the witness and the never-ending activity in your mind.


  The big problem in our modern world is people are addicted to indulging in their mind activity. We can’t establish a distance because we are drowning in our own thoughts. Abiding as the pure awareness is a life raft always ready to save us from drowning. But the problem is most people are so addicted to thoughts that they believe the way to liberation is by swimming deeper in our thoughts. Even people interested in spirituality are only interested in the movement of energy in the universe rather than the foundation.


  In my years of teaching, I’ve realized many people are less interested in pure awareness and more interested in the movement of energy in the universe. I get asked to explain the feminine and masculine, the yin and yang energy of life all the time, mainly because people think that such knowledge can benefit themselves leading to fortune and abundance. But when I explain that the masculine and feminine energies exist in the psychological realm and have nothing to do with gender, people feel deflated because again this sort of knowledge is about sincere self-work and not individual self-interest and one gender being better than another. It’s all about coming in contact and understanding that witness. I usually ask those same people who is the witness of all this movement of energy including yin and yang? People say they know, but that’s only intellectual to them. It’s not a direct experience. They have not thrust themselves into an abidance in pure awareness.


  All energy, including movement, thoughts, and even the material world arise from the unstained awareness. If this is the case, then shouldn’t our focus be on this witness state rather than anything else? Though I know it is important to understand how the movement of energy operates because then we get a greater understanding of the source of all life and how to navigate effectively. But if our focus is only on energy and individual self-interest, then we will have no real awareness of the higher spiritual goal of moksha, the ultimate liberation which is facilitated through a reidentification with the Atman, the Self, rather than the Jiva, the isolated person bound to time. All experience is only experienced because of the experiencer. We need to know and understand this experiencer.


The Ultimate State of Consciousness

  Vedanta has an amazing way to explain this ever-present awareness in all experience. They explain this through four states of consciousness. Three states are common states we all experience. First, we have the waking state of consciousness which is our ordinary waking experience. Second, we have the dreaming state of consciousness which is a dreaming world where we still have a subjective experience. And third is the dreamless sleep state of consciousness, where everything coalesces into a vast nondual darkness with no subject or object. With these three common states of consciousness we experience the world. This means that waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep are all still experiential. In dreams and dreamless sleep there is still a subtle awareness there that experiences that state. For example, you still witness a dream just like you witness the waking world. The experiences are different, but the witness is the same.


  These three states are all experiential. But what facilitates an experience is the continuity of the witness. And this witness, which is transcendent and yet immanent in all experience, is the fourth state of consciousness known in Sanskrit as Turiya, which simply means the fourth. Turiya is the pure awareness/witness. Turiya is like the secret foundation of consciousness that people truly are but they have lost connection with.


  Our firm identification in Turiya is what settles the constant activity in our mind which evokes ananda, bliss. Experiences can never evoke this permanent bliss felt by the great sages. Experiences are still experience, but there is always a witness to them. Even if we have a psychedelic experience, a near death experience, or an out of body experience, there is still a witness to all of those experiences. I’m not saying these aren’t spiritual experiences, they are deep spiritual experiences. But they are still an experience nevertheless.


  Take a psychedelic experience, for example. For some people psychedelics are extremely transformative. An experience can work on a deep subconscious and psychological level, helping us in our own personal evolution, which often reveals all the stuff we need to work on that we didn’t even know about ourselves. And psychedelics have the ability to permanently heal things about ourselves as well. Some people even experience a glimpse beyond duality thrusting us straight into the universe’s true loving essence. Even though this is all wonderful and beneficial, the Turiya is still present as your pure awareness in all experiences. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying psychedelics are good and healthy for everyone, it’s just an example of how our witness of all experience is always overlooked for the actual experience.


  This might also answer why when Ram Dass gave LSD to his guru Neem Karoli Baba it didn’t affect him. Actually, Neem Karoli Baba said meditation is better. But his reaction might be the result from decades of residing in the Turiya, where unassociated bliss was his normal state. So, psychedelics can have a deep impact on your life, but because it’s an experience it doesn’t last and as a result it won’t give you that ultimate bliss that the East promises us.


  The only way to be firmly in bliss is to go beyond the world. To do this you have to settle the whirlpools of activity within your mind, where you can see right into its transparent and reflective nature. What you will find is the undifferentiated Self which is within everything and also beyond everything. But to be That you have to establish yourself firmly as the witness without the mind distracting you. Abide in Turiya and know the bliss innate within all our hearts as the one undifferentiated state of consciousness.