Detachment is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience emotions or that we withdraw from the world; it’s quite the opposite. We’ll talk about what detachment really means and how to cultivate that quality. BG 5.19-5.21
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Abbreviations used in these notes: BG for Bhagavad Gita
BG 5.19 – Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.
BG 5.20 – A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is unbewildered, and who knows the science of God is already situated in transcendence.
BG 5.21 – Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.
- Brahman – 1) the individual soul; 2) the impersonal, all-pervading energy of God
- Brahmin- (also brahmana) Member of the priesthood
- Mayavada – Doctrine of teacher Shankara (8th century), also called Advaita-Vedanta, which asserts that all forms are temporary and when ego disappears the soul loses its individuality and merges into Brahman
- Samatava – Equipoised or equanimous
Joshua: We’ve chosen three verses from the fifth chapter to discuss. Why don’t we read the verses first? OK. Let’s start with that. If you’ll open your Gitas to Chapter Five, we’ll do Verses 19, 20, and 21.
The traditional way of starting a reading from sacred texts is a recitation of an invocation. The invocation goes like this:
I’ll say it one time and you have to repeat after me: Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
We do this three times. So now I say it again. Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevya. Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevya.
One reason for an invocation before a class is kind of like the chanting of the Om mantra before a yoga session. It’s a way of creating some aesthetic distance from the everyday material world and creating a kind of atmosphere for a different kind of discussion, a different kind of mood. Verse 19 of the Fifth Chapter. The Sanskrit goes like this:
ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo
yeṣāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ
nirdoṣaṁ hi samaṁ brahma
tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ
iha – in this life; eva – certainly; taiḥ – by them; jitaḥ – conquered; sargaḥ – birth and death; yeṣām – whose; sāmye – in equanimity; samah as in samadhi, a state of equanimity toward all things; sthitam – situated; manaḥ – mind; That’s a word you should know by now. Manah as in mantra. Manas-traya – liberation from the agitations of the mind through recitation of sacred sound; nirdoṣam – flawless; hi – certainly; samam – in equanimity; brahma – like the Supreme. (This is not Brahma, the demigod. This is Brahman, as in Brahman the all-pervading energy of creation.) tasmāt – therefore; brahmaṇi – in the Supreme; te – they; sthitāḥ – are situated.
Translation: Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.
So here is the purport, or commentary, by Prabhupada, “Equanimity of mind, as mentioned above, is the sign of self-realization. Those who have actually attained to such a stage should be considered to have conquered material conditions, specifically birth and death. As long as one identifies with this body, he is considered a conditioned soul, but as soon as he is elevated to the stage of equanimity through realization of self, he is liberated from conditional life. In other words, he is no longer subject to take birth in the material world but can enter into the spiritual sky after his death. The Lord is flawless because He is without attraction or hatred. Similarly, when a living entity is without attraction or hatred, he also becomes flawless and eligible to enter into the spiritual sky. Such persons are to be considered already liberated, and their symptoms are described below.”
We’re going to go through the next two verses, so I won’t pause to do a lot of commentary here, but just keep in mind where we are.
Context is everything. We’re on a battlefield. And here’s Krishna trying to encourage Arjuna who’s had doubts—self-doubts, because he’s identified with the physicality of the battle instead of the spiritual principle behind this righteous combat. He sees family and elders of the society and is calculating, materially, that if I become party to the slaying of these people, however criminal they may be, “I am implicated in those actions,” and not only those actions from the perspective of “What will my karmic position be for killing?” but also, “I don’t want to.” These are family. He sees his own military teacher, their Dronacarya. His grandfather Bhisma. These are all people he has great love and admiration for. He doesn’t want to do it. So the first thing here that’s happening is Krishna (at this part of their discussion, this is about a third of the way into their talk) is exalting this quality of not seeing materially. It’s not allowing yourself to be torn one way or the other. But from that equitable position, seeing what’s going on below the surface.
na prahṛṣyet priyaṁ prāpya
nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam
brahma-vid brahmaṇi sthitaḥ
A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant, nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is unbewildered, and who knows the science of God, is already situated in transcendence. This is kind of saying, in other words, the same thing that he’s just said in the previous verse.
Purport: “The symptoms of the self-realized person are given herein. The first symptom is that he is not illusioned by the false identification of the body with his true self.” Or in Arjuna’s case, identifying the immortal beings in the bodies of his enemies on the battlefield.
“He knows perfectly well that he is not this body but is the fragmental portion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is therefore not joyful in achieving something, nor does he lament in losing anything which is related to his body.” That’s the operative phrase. We’re going to come back to this. “This steadiness of mind is called sthira-buddhi, or self-intelligence. He is therefore never bewildered by mistaking the gross body for the soul, nor does he accept the body as permanent and disregard the existence of the soul. This knowledge elevates him to the station of knowing the complete science of the Absolute Truth, namely Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.” We’re going to come back to that as well. “He thus knows his constitutional position perfectly well, without falsely trying to become one with the Supreme in all respects.”
We’ve come across this before. Prabhupada will go out of his way to make sure the reader does not fall into this trap of thinking that knowing yourself to be different from the body, knowing yourself to be pure spirit, means that you are the Supreme Spirit. That’s not the case. We are all atma, but we are not paramatma. We’re not the Supreme Spirit. “This is called Brahman realization, or self-realization as such steady consciousness is called.” This is the phrase that Prabhupada uses to describe full self-awareness, “Krishna Consciousness.”
So the last verse for our discussion today: Text 21.
vindaty ātmani yat sukham
sukham akṣayam aśnute
Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.
Purport: Sri Yamunacarya, a great devotee in Krishna Consciousness, I believe somewhere around the 17th century, if I’m not mistaken, said:
yad-avadhi mama cetaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhāmany udyataṁ rantum āsīt
tad-avadhi bata nārī-saṅgame smaryamāne
bhavati mukha-vikāraḥ suṣṭhu niṣṭhīvanaṁ ca
“Since I’ve been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl in distaste.”[chuckling] I always loved this verse. I’m so fulfilled in my transcendental realization of God, that when I think of material pleasures like sex—pft. A person in brahma-yoga, or Kṛiṣhṇa Consciousness, is so absorbed in the loving service of the Lord that he loses his taste for material sense pleasure altogether. The highest pleasure in terms of matter is sex pleasure. The whole world is moving under its spell, and a materialist cannot work at all without this motivation. But a person engaged in Kṛiṣhṇa Consciousness can work with greater vigor without sex pleasure, which he avoids. That is the test in spiritual realization. “Spiritual realization and sex pleasure go ill together.” That’s a famous phrase from Prabhupada’s commentaries on the Gita. “Spiritual realization and sex pleasure go ill together.” “A Krishna-conscious person is not attracted to any kind of sense pleasure due to his being a liberated soul.” Okay, boy, we have a lot to talk about.
First of all, how is everybody doing so far? Are we okay?
Student: We’re not in total shock.
Joshua: We’re not in total shock yet. Okay, that’s good.
From the Vedantic perspective, the perspective of the spiritual traditions of India, we accept that there is an objective verifiable truth that exists separate and apart from our perceptions of it. This is one of the grand themes in both philosophy and science. There are many schools of thought that say we’re inside the rocket ship of our lives. It’s not possible for us to judge the trajectory of where we’re going. We can’t see objectively outside our own frame of reference.
I’m looking at this clock. What am I actually perceiving? Is this something that exists on its own? Does it have substantive reality? Or is it my perception that I’m experiencing? And is that the only reality that can be ascribed to this? You’re looking at that same clock. You’re seeing something totally different. I’m seeing the time. You’re seeing the back. It’s the same thing. So which reality is the reality? Are all perceptions real? Well, that doesn’t sound right. People have false perceptions all the time.
The perspective of the Gita is that, no, there is a reality out there. Creation is real. It’s not an illusion. That’s one very important distinction between the bhakti world, the devotional world, and the Advaita Vedanta world. The Advaita Vedanta world says that everything you’re seeing is an illusion. It doesn’t really exist. It’s a dangerous philosophy there. There’s some truth to it in the sense that the reality that we perceive is real, but it’s a temporary reality. This will not last forever. It’s already deteriorating. You leave it sit there long enough eventually it’ll just dissipate. That’s true of the body as well. The mistake that enters into that thinking—the Mayavada or the Advaita Vedantic thinking—is that therefore there is no reality to the material creation. That the material creation including our very bodies are things to transcend. The only thing you’ve got to do is get out of it.
Don’t set up shop here. Don’t invest yourself in this world to such an extent that you begin believing that this is your purpose in life.
So, that’s tragic in many ways. It’s tragic because it ignores the fact that this world exists as a gift. The universe exists as an expression of love from God as the arena in which we can rekindle our love for God. This is our battlefield of Kurukshetra here. This is what’s happening to Arjuna. He’s saying, “I just want to get away from this battlefield.”
So there is this perception, or this understanding, within the bhakti or devotional tradition, that there is a verifiable truth that reality exists separate from ourselves. But our perceptions are as varied as there are individuals. So you can’t ignore that side of it.
There’s the moment when Krishna as a boy entered the wrestling arena of the wicked King Kamsa. The background there was that Kamsa had heard, prior to Krishna’s appearance in the world, that Krishna was the son of Kamsa’s sister, Devaki. And Kamsa had heard that Devaki’s eighth child would kill him. That’s a longer story. But at one point, Krishna (who was brought up by foster parents) and his brother, Balarama, were invited by Kamsa to come to Mathura, his kingdom, to fight. The arena was filled to capacity. There’s going to be an incredible wrestling match going on. And in the Bhagavatam that describes the story, it says that every individual in that wrestling arena, when Krishna entered the arena, saw him differently. The young women present saw him as their ideal lover. The older people present saw him as a beloved child. And so on and so forth. Each person in that arena had their particular perception of Krishna going into that arena.
So what may be the perception of one person, the truth for one person, may not necessarily be the same truth for someone else. Alright, so now let’s come back with that understanding, with that context. Let’s listen again to what Krishna is describing here to Arjuna. Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.
Remember the context. Krishna is trying to encourage Arjuna to get out of his fear of engaging with the world and fight — as a spiritual propsition. The battle was political. There are no two ways about that. Today we would call them terrorists—The Kauravas. They usurped the kingdom from Arjuna and his brothers. So Arjuna had a political, moral and ethical justification for fighting this battle and bringing these evil-doers down. They were homicidal. The Kauravas had no problem killing whoever stood in their way.
The equanimity that Krishna is espousing here is one that does not negate action but which actually is an impetus to action. What’s going to get you going is a shift of perception that the conditions of my life are actually a challenge, an opportunity, A Call to Adventure to use Joseph Campbell’s term. This is my shot. This is my lottery ticket here. I have an opportunity to engage in something that may appear to be material, but which is, if entered into in the proper spirit, a completely spiritual, transcendent endeavor. This is important because the idea of detachment is very often perceived as exactly the opposite: as a withdrawal from action in the world. We talk about this practically every week. If you withdraw then you become implicated in the harm that is perpetuated by your not getting involved and correcting it. So the detachment is what? What is that detachment? If it’s not from the action itself then what is being inculcated? What is being exalted here? What would the bhakti definition of detachment be? Detached from what?
Students: From the results.
Joshua: From the results. What else?
From the possessive sense that I’m doing this for myself. The action is spiritualized by virtue of performing it without selfish intent and allowing the results to be what God wills. I think we’ve talked about the Hungarian sociologist, Csikszentmihalyi, who conducted research about what makes people happy around the world. His expectation was that—let’s say someone who is painting—that contentment would come from finishing the painting. Because then you have something to display. You have something to sell, something to be reviewed. You can build your reputation. You can earn money from it. There’s a sense of fulfillment.
But it was quite the opposite. Proficient artists, not commercial artists, but true creative artists working for art’s sake, took their satisfaction in the doing of the painting, not the finishing of the painting. Not the results, not getting people’s praise for having done a beautiful painting, but they describe (Csikszentmihalyi’s research identified seven or eight different qualities of what he called flow, or peak experience, and one of them was that time seemed to stop, and the person performing the actions felt like he or she was disappearing) that the work was doing itself.
And this was across the board: poets, farmers, business people, artists, you name it—people who had become proficient at what they do all describe this sense of the satisfaction being in the doing of the work. That I’m at the right place, I’m doing what I should be doing, I’m capable of doing this. It’s not for my own gratification, it’s for doing something that is useful to everyone. That’s what’s being described here. Not withdrawing from action but doing it in the proper frame of consciousness. A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon achieving something unpleasant.
Anybody see Tiger Woods when he finally sank that last putt and made this spectacular comeback? You know the story of Tiger Woods?
Students: Just recently. Yeah.
Joshua: He had gone into a decline about 8–10 years ago, and this has been called one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of sports. The entire 18 holes, he was cool as a cucumber. When he finally sank that final putt, he went bananas.
I mean it was really kind of striking because here he was, you know, samatva. You know this sage of steady mind during the whole thing and then finally when he did win, he was screaming! The picture in the papers showed this guy just roaring back in ecstasy. What if he had missed that putt? Imagine how devastated he would have been. Imagine. Can you imagine how utterly opposite his emotions and feelings about himself, about the world, about life would have been. He might have become suicidal for all we know and now his career’s really over. He’s a loser. So, neither exalting achieving something pleasant or falling into the pit of despair over something unpleasant.
That’s this place where the yogis aspire to go. They aspire to achieve. In the purport, there are two points here. “He knows perfectly well that he is not this body but is the fragmental portion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” We’re not God, we’re a spark of God. “He is therefore not joyful in achieving something, nor does he lament in losing anything which is related to his body.”
Okay now let’s get into this.
If you’ve ever seen documentaries of very elevated, saintly people, holy people, great sages or yogis, for example, I recommend to you a video of the Sufi mystic, Pir Vilayat Khan. There is a video of him, I think it dates back to about the 1980s, in a mountain retreat where he knows he’s being taped but it really doesn’t matter to him. He goes into a state of samadhi and then as a gift to students and viewers he comes out of it and describes what it’s like for him. What it is he’s going through. In those moments when he’s in the samadhi his head is rolling back and forth. You could perceive this joy, this ecstasy that he’s experiencing.
When Prabhupada would be in those moments, by hearing the chanting of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, those Names for him were his beloved Lord Krishna in the form of sound. And sometimes during these kirtans of chanting he would go into these moments of ecstasy. And his head would be going back and forth with this expression on his face. It took your breath away, and we really did not know what was happening. What am I in the presence of here? And then he would catch himself, and he would kind of come back to be present with us in the room.
This state of samatva, equanimity, doesn’t mean you become a wet mop. It doesn’t mean you become an emotionless stone. In fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve achieved a point by knowing yourself to be an eternal being where you can actually be detached from the material sensations, the door is now open to you to experience the volcanically more fulfilling spiritual sensations that occur living, acting, thinking, feeling on that platform. Seeing the whole world as the Kingdom of God.
That’s something devoutly to be wished. To paraphrase Hamlet: It’s not a state without emotion, it’s not a state without highs and lows, but those highs and lows are all spiritual, they’re all transcendental. The point being that this steadiness that’s being described here, don’t think that this means somehow you become removed from reactions to things and emotions to things. Not at all. Now you have a real reason to react to things. Now you have a lens through which to channel emotion, to channel creativity, to channel the joys of life and the world in such a way that they become an impetus for love of God.
Student: I was a Buddhist for a brief period of time, and at one of our sanga meetings there was this woman and she was expressing to the group how disappointed she was in herself because she went to a family gathering and she felt joy. She felt happy being there and was disappointed with herself because she wasn’t detached enough.
Joshua: Yeah, that’s unfortunate. I think more harm has been done in the name of detachment than any other word that I can think of. Detachment does not mean indifference. It does not mean not caring. It does not mean turning away. It does not mean lack of concern or interest. It’s quite the opposite. It means concern, involvement and so on for the right reasons.
There’s a story that comes to mind to describe the difference between, let’s say, a healthy detachment and risky, or harmful, detachment. Two renunciants, two sannyasis, are walking along the bank of a river, and they see a lovely young woman who obviously is trying to get across the river but is afraid of the water. So the somewhat more pragmatic Monk goes over, picks the young woman up in his arms, carries her across the river and deposits her on the other side. He comes back, and he and his friend continue on their way. An hour later the friend turns to him and says, “How can you do that? I mean, why did you do that? We’re monks. How can you pick up a young woman and carry her across the river?”
And the first monk says to him, “That took me two minutes. You’ve been carrying her in your mind for the last hour.” So, you can become attached to the principles of a spiritual life for completely wrong reasons, and it can be more harmful than good. So if there is detachment as a quality of spiritual life, it means also becoming detached from your own ideas of what it is to be detached.
There’s also one other thing I want to add to this then let’s just chat for a while. This Bhagavad Gita was spoken approximately 5000 years ago and these are teachings that came out of a time when spiritual practice to become a holy person meant going away, it meant leaving society. The world was still very much village-oriented. There were kingdoms, but for the most part people were not royalty. You know people lived simple, humble lives. To increase their spiritual practice, they would voluntarily go to the woods, the forest, the caves and meditate on their own. But that was 5000 years ago. That’s not today. So there is something that is called, in legal practice, changing usages over time. We talked about that with regard to the Skorzeny trial. Over the course of time the necessities shift. There was no climate change. There was no global warming 5000 years ago. That’s a current concern. There was no nuclear threat. So many things were not there.
And so the focus was on the details of spiritual practice. For example, the proper recitation of mantra. We sit here and we chant these verses from the Bhagavad Gita, and we do the best we can. The shastric brahmins[TC2] of the Vedic period, the high priests, were trained from childhood to recite these verses with perfect pronunciation. There was never a fault in the meter or rhyme scheme, the articulation of the words, the proper intonation, the rhythms and musical scores with which these verses would be recited. Because that was considered to be the expression of one’s real commitment to God and to spiritual life. These days, that’s not really the case when Prabhupada was here and he brought the chanting of Hare Krishna around the world. I was in France for many of those years.
Student: Yeah, what did that sound like?
Joshua: The chanting on beads in France was [in French accent] Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hara Rama.
It was like, “Whoa, what is that?” And I asked Prabhupada, “Is that okay?” As long as it’s sincere there can be some imperfection in the pronunciation of mantras, but what counts—what does Krishna hear? He hears the sincerity with which something is offered. What does he look for? He looks for the devotion. That’s the only thing that God wants. God has everything except this one thing and that’s our love. That’s the one thing he wants. So even if there’s some imperfection in the way it’s done, if it’s done with love, it’s perfect.
Now it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to do things in proper form to the best of our ability. That’s also a symptom of caring and affection, is that you want it to be as good as it can be. You don’t want to be cavalier about it and say, “Oh no, this is for God.” That doesn’t work very well.
There’s a story. Can I tell you a story? Durga is, among materialistic people, the go-to Goddess to worship. You want something material? Supplicate Durga. So, there was a materialistic king who had an enemy. He was having a problem with this enemy because the enemy was this mystically endowed creature. Whenever the king would shoot an arrow to kill this enemy, every drop of blood from this mystical creature that hit the ground became another mystical creature. He couldn’t attack him because he was just increasing the number of enemies.
So he prayed to Durga and said, “I need your help here. You know I’m going to lose my kingdom. Help me and I will worship you for the rest of my life.” Durga is not particularly impressed by people who worship her for selfish ends, but she’s accommodating. So, she says, “Okay, get your arrows ready.” And she manifested this huge endless tongue, and she spread the tongue over the entire battlefield and said, “Now shoot him!” So the king shot the arrow and the drops of blood hit her tongue and she absorbed the blood, drank the blood, and the king finally was able to kill his enemy.
So time goes by, no offerings. Durga comes to the king and says, “What happened to our deal? I thought we had a deal.” And the king says, “Oh, I was going to offer you a hundred goats (because people offer goats to Durga). I’ve just been so busy since I got my kingdom back that I just haven’t been able to. Really, I’m so sorry about that. I promise you by next week you’ll have your offering.” A week goes by, no offering. Durga comes back, “What gives?” The king says, “You know, I’m back home. There are so many demands on my time. I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow I’m going offer you a goat.”
“Fine.” Tomorrow comes and goes, no goat. Durga comes back. The king says, “Jeez. Look, it’s not for lack of wanting to make good on my promise, but honestly, I can’t do it. Can I offer you a mosquito? I’ll offer you a mosquito.” Durga says, “Okay, fine, just offer me anything.” And the king says, “You know, there are mosquitoes everywhere. Just take one.”
That’s materialistic worship.
You know it’s selfish. It’s imperfect. It has no meaning. Whatever you do as an act of devotion, make it meaningful. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary, but it does have to be heartfelt.
OK. What do you think? Does that make sense?
Anybody troubled by this verse from Yamunacarya where he says, “When I think of sex I spit”? Or is that OK with you?
Student: It was disturbing. Frankly, it was disturbing. It reminded me of something that I had read about probably after Prabhupada had left his body. I guess at that time there was probably lots of confusion and turmoil in ashrams, and I think it was in California where the women were really very poorly treated, and it reminded me of that. That they would actually say, “I’m sorry I was born a woman.” I found that shocking, but it reminded me of that.
Joshua: Yeah. Prabhupada is not trying to make excuses for Yamunacarya. What he’s doing is indicating a very important point of spiritual life, which is that we cannot imagine the ecstasy of love of God. It’s so intense. I mean the descriptions of how people achieve bhava, the ecstasy of love, they’re rolling on the ground. It appears to be some kind of erotic eruption of some kind, but it’s of such a higher order is the point. That love has nothing to do with the exchange of bodily fluids and achieving constriction of the blood vessels and orgasms in the sense of bodies interacting. It’s something that takes place on the level of the soul. It has nothing to do with the functioning of the metabolic system and so on. I think Yamunacarya is stating that in blunt language. It’s not that Yamunacarya is condemning partnerships. He’s not condemning loving, affectionate relationships. That’s not what’s going on here.
He’s saying that, “When I compare what I know now with what I’ve known before, those material pleasures don’t interest me anymore.” It’s an extreme way of putting it, but that’s what he’s saying.
Student: I just want to say when I read that, before I got to the purport, I read it and I stopped and I just thought, “This is Radhanath Swami.”
Joshua: You mean the verses?
Student: Verse 21.
Joshua: Yeah, not attracted to material, always in trance, enjoying pleasure within, concentrating on the Supreme. Yeah.
Student: I was just at the weekend retreat with him, so he’s on my mind.
Joshua: I’ve pushed him on occasion to try to figure out where his weak spot is and I haven’t found one, quite honestly.
What you see is what you get. He’s the real deal, and he really just has everyone else’s well-being at heart. And that’s it. That’s his pleasure. Taking pleasure within means he gets joy helping others.
There is a selfish quality to the spiritual ecstasy. Selflessness doesn’t mean that you no longer enjoy your life.
In fact, if anything, probably the greatest fulfillment, greatest satisfaction I’ve ever known in my life is when someone comes up to me and says, “Oh Yogesvara, I heard a class you gave and it changed my life. It was so important to me and I needed to hear that at that time. So I just wanted to thank you for that.”
It’s like, “Wow!” I feel like, “Okay, I’m good for another hundred miles.” That’s such an amazing sensation when you feel like you’ve been of use to somebody else. It’s so much more than getting something for yourself materially.
That’s what’s so tragic when you look at a materialistic person—acquisitional, competitive, which really does describe a lot of the world we live in.
They’ve just never known anything better. They’ve been conditioned from childhood to believe that’s what fulfillment means. Fulfillment to them means you’ve got a productive portfolio, a fancy car, and it’s a bit of a cliché.
There are subtler ways as well.
Accumulating knowledge can be very material and very selfish—degrees and strutting your academic acumen.
So the takeaway today is: Be careful about turning complex ideas into clichés.