Can Wisdom Be Bite-Sized?

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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.

Critical Spirituality

Today I read an article published by the Vice on Conspirituality and how the Wellness Industry has become a loudspeaker for QAnon and misinformation about Covid-19, the US election, the Covid vaccine is thriving, along with its boundless support for Trump, who is seen as the Messiah. It is worth a read and I recommend that we all take some time out to read this.

I regularly listen to a podcast called Conspirituality, where a lot of the conspiracy theories that are infiltrating the Spiritual scene is debunked with facts, evidence and reputable studies. I recommend that we listen to these podcasts to take our critical thinking to a higher level.

I have seen smart and/or spiritual people on my social media feed fall to conspiratorial thinking. It has definitely shocked me enough to write about this. For quite some time, I thought only I was seeing this from people on my social media feed. When I started seeing people fall in love with Trump, then share their ideas about 5G radiation, even Pizzagate, I was wondering how did it all get to this? This is where the Conspirituality podcast really helped me and some amazing people on Facebook openly spoke about the rise of conspirituality. It shocked them and they had to address it.

For me, spirituality has to be one that is balanced with facts based on science and personal experience. It is understanding the fine line before we end up going towards wacky thinking or fantasy. Science has been a boon, most of the time, for the upliftment of society. Science has helped us understand our place in the universe, it has helped us understand the laws of Nature. Then there is the spiritual journey, where we seek to find God or Truth through whatever means, this shouldn’t interfere with the material world. This seeking should purely be kept to spiritual development alone. Yes, it is true that our spirituality will seep through to our material life, it will shape our views and will be the foundation to how we interact with the world, however, it should never get in the way of absolute truth. For example and this may make my point more clear, my spiritual views should never interfere with the fact that the Earth is a sphere.

Even when it comes to spirituality itself, how many of look at our journey with a critical eye? How many of us are just happy to go along with whatever the crowd is saying? If the crowd repeats a quote, slogan, or a story, how many of us just repeat it without thinking of the deeper philosophies behind such stories, slogans or quotes? How many of us inquire within to see how much time do we live in the awareness of a deity or our true Self? How many of us are willing to call out our our laziness in practicing spiritual values like compassion, love, honesty, understanding etc? Until we start becoming more critical about our own spiritual progress, then the collective spirituality will always be at a loss.

If you truly want to be your best self, then you have to understand that the whole crux of spirituality is understanding that there is no-self. In fact, what we call God is something beyond self and non-self. This is difficult for me to express and people may disagree with me here. New-age movements with there emphasis for a great ‘you’, really isn’t about ascending your true self to something higher. It may help to give you self-esteem but its just giving you another layer of ego, another layer of identity and can even create a narcissistic mentality. Why do I say this? It’s because I have gone through it myself. I have experience how these self-help books only expanded my ego and it didn’t help me attain a higher degree of spirituality.

I feel that people like Tony Robbins are not great people to follow either. Many people I know have attended his events and they feel fired up in the beginning and I appreciate that he gives people confidence. But how long does that confidence last? Not long. I haven’t seen anyone who followed Tony Robbins become an equal to him, forget exceeding him.

This is also applicable to Spiritual Gurus too. If you cannot help your disciples be equal or better than you then how effective is your teaching? Many people follow popular Spiritual Gurus with their catchy clickbait titles on YouTube and not one person who has watched all their videos has achieved enlightenment. In fact, most of it is ran like multi level marketing (MLM). If you liked the video and want to go deeper in spirituality, then buy this course. You buy that course then you are told this isn’t enough, you need to do this other practice so you make that purchase, only to be told once you completed that course that there is a 7 month program that you guarantees success and you end up in a cycle that will never end until you find your bank account has gone slim or your credit cards are maxed out. Of course, it is the whole carrot and stick analogy. The main question I want to pose in this section is where are our Swami Vivekananda’s today?

We can say that maybe we aren’t being decent disciples and not committing ourselves to practice so something has to change. Either disciples understand discipline or Gurus separate the wheat from the chaff (and the wheat isn’t the highest bidder). We have to take spirituality seriously, if we are to save it from entering a territory that Great Teachers like J Krishnamurti and Alan Watts never expected.

Let me know what you think in the comments because maybe I need to add more context behind something I have written and I can dedicate a post to it. We all have to be critical to our spirituality, if we are to evolve our respective Gurus or religious/spiritual organizations.

Post 94 – Meditation and Music

Dearest friends,

Hope all are well!

Gratitude to the Formless that resides in all hearts! I wanted to write about music and meditation/prayer. Real prayer is meditation and meditation is real prayer. In sanskrit, they call it dhyana. Meditation is a very cold word to use compared to the sanskrit word. I love the word dhyana because in the sanskrit, there is a sense of union. A union between you and Existence, you and the Divine and you and God. I use God because it is a common term. We all pray to God but do we know God? Worst still, some of us have Gurus or Gods that we worship and can we say we know them? And truly knowing them is loving them, truly merging with them is the only worship.

I want to tell you a story. A Hare Krishna devotee once asked me ‘Do you know Krishna, can I meet Him?’ When he asked me, I looked into his eyes deeply and saw whether he was genuine and trust me, some people are good actors too! I replied ‘What would you do if you met Krishna? What would you say to Him?’ He looked rather confused at my question and said ‘I would like Krishna to answer my prayers.’ I laughed because now I understood what he was trying to do. I shook my head and said ‘It is better you still repeat ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Rama’ because if I let this meeting take place, you will destroy everything. Don’t ask me again until you deeply inquire within why I will not allow this meeting to take place.’ I ended it there and you must be wondering why? But before I disclose why…take a few moments to think why!

So why did I say no? First of all, he was sort of challenging Krishna. He doesn’t truly worship nor love Krishna. In your case, you may not truly worship nor love your Guru or God(s) or Goddess(-es). Plus, his challenge was weak to Krishna, he wanted Krishna to answer his prayers. Now, to you it does not look like a bad thing but it is a sin in my opinion. Now, Krishna can easily say ‘No’ and this person, because he truly has not worshipped, he has not surrendered, he has not accepted, he has not loved will pretend to be ‘heartbroken’ and will lose his ‘belief’! Remember, I have not said faith! Faith is above belief, faith is based on acceptance and knowing. Think and inquire, whether every cell of your body wants to meet the Divine, to meet the Ultimate Reality, to meet God. If this meeting takes places, enlightenment is at your feet!

Now, for those that find meditation difficult, it is essential to put some music on. It is best if it is spiritual music of course and preferably without words. Meditate with eyes closed, concentrate on each breath and take your God’s name in the outtake of the breath. So exhale and take your God’s name or Guru’s name.  Music is the union of sound and instrument. Meditation is the union between your mind and the Ultimate Reality. There is an inner world that needs to be discovered and this is your chance now!

I will keep this post short and somewhat incomplete. If you have questions, just post them underneath but better still, meditate!

Love always,

Rahul