We love to have information on the go. We want to be able to understand something as quickly as possible. We prefer to listen to a clip of a podcast or grab a summary of a book. We do all these things so we can somehow remain knowledgeable and aware of current events and most of all, remain relatable.
Who wants to go out with friends or spend time with family and not be able to talk about the latest viral clip out there or the book that transports us to another world? Or discuss that self-help book that taught us one good thing and has dramatically changed our lives. The new diet that has worked when all other diets didn’t work. That new Netflix show that we binged upon. We all want to remain relevant and when technologies and social platforms are taking us in all different directions, there is only so much time, therefore only so much capacity to learn about everything.
The same is with spirituality these days. It desires to be relevant. You can see popular gurus and wannabe gurus (mainly the self-help types) give small clips of 5-10 minutes to capture their new and existing audience and gain new adherents. They also want to gain popularity on social media platforms with reels and TikTok videos, going viral is the next best thing for the Gurus, who wish to put thousands of pages of ancient wisdom in 30 seconds clips. They most likely have a media team that works on this content and who knows how many bots may have been bought to get these gurus featured on Facebook or Instagram. Some disciples share the clips of their gurus and make them viral too. Some gurus may be completely innocent of the fact that they are now featured on a social media platform. The impossibility of sharing bite-size wisdom somehow becomes possible but with massive disadvantages.
Spirituality requires time. There is nothing instant. The only way to climb up a mountain is to use your hands and feet. If you take a helicopter and go from the bottom of a mountain to the peak, you cannot claim to have climbed the mountain. Sure, it is a shortcut and although the destination is the same, the journey is completely different. The person who climbed up the mountain can talk about the terrain, the view from each side of the mountain, the wildlife, the vegetation and the difficulties faced during different weather conditions. They can talk about the whole journey with confidence and interesting tales. But someone who uses a helicopter misses out on all of these sensory delights. Similarly, the clips we hear of these gurus is never enough. We need to engage with their longer talks or their books to understand their philosophy. We need to know about their experiences and so in turn, we are inspired to apply the teachings.
But like the person who took the helicopter, we listen to the gurus and project their achievements as our own. This is only noticed when we carefully observe our own thoughts, intentions, emotions etc. Better to look within and see what has transformed than sing the glory of a god or someone that we do not know. Just because you caught that Guru featured on Instagram that doesn’t mean you know what it is like to be a disciple of theirs. Bite-size wisdom will not work because it doesn’t provide true clarity. It doesn’t tell us of the whole journey. We get a sneak peak and that is all. But who is satisfied with a movie trailer? We rather watch the whole movie. Same with spirituality, it is better to learn and follow any methods than to just glorify a path that we haven’t taken a step in.
I understand that I may sound ‘traditional’ but I have learned more from the larger books that I have read and the longer talks that I have listened to or watched. I love Swami Sarvapriyananda of Vedanta NY’s talks. His explanation of the Upanishads and other texts probably span over several days and I have deepened my understanding of Reality! I love Yog Vasistha – a thousand page book on Hindu philosophy. Or the 500 page Vigyan Bhairav Tantra by Osho. I remind myself of the thousands of pages of poetic wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib and the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita. I am not saying smaller books and talks haven’t helped, they have. The beauty of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is both delicate and strong. The high wisdom of Tao Te Ching is on many levels unmatched. I am not saying that the length of a talk or book measures how much wisdom is contained. I am talking about the thinking, the silent pauses you take when you pause a talk, or put down the book and you begin to ponder as you grab new insights, as you infer your own experiences to the words just heard or read. A verse from the Tao Te Ching cannot be read mechanically, it has to be properly understood. It may take less than a minute to read but it may need a good 30 minutes to understand and comprehend. Trust me, 30 minutes isn’t enough but you get my point.
Wisdom may come in bite-size pieces but eventually, we need to understand things deeper. We need to transcend the potentiality of something become superficial. Once something is superficial, it can become rigid as a limiting belief and we open the gate for ego to enter and expand. Therefore, if we must utilize this bite-size wisdom phenomena that has become mainstream today, we must not lose the art of contemplation so that this wisdom can penetrate us and complete us.