The insanity of humanity has us always looking for something other than what we have. The “more” factor has steadily increased throughout our history.  We build things we want, obtain them and then, create more.

Socrates, a famous philosopher, walking through a street fair one day, observing the vendors and all their wares, is quoted as saying, “Its amazing all the things man can do without”.

My teacher, Swami Parthasarathy, says, “We keep building malls that maul us”.

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To me it seems we have a constant “want” list that never ends.  No sooner we receive an item on our “want” list, we are already looking at the next item that we just have to have.

The questions we need to answer are:  Why do we want?  What are we looking for?  Why don’t we want what we have?

Let’s examine these questions further.

Our first question, is why do we want?

In order to answer such a question we have to know what want means.

It is defined as, to be without, to lack, to desire greatly, to seek or capture.  A want is something we can do without.  If we have what we need, why is there a drive for more?

All animals, except for the rat, are content when their needs are satiated.  They do not seek more. This is the law of the animal kingdom.

This is only partially true for humans.  For instance after a big meal are we interested in food?  The answer should be known unless we have a serious problem.  Once we are full, there is no thought of food, until we get hungry again.  It is a temporary piece of mind.

The same is true for the rest of our lives. We chase something and obtain it only to have temporary satisfaction until we are off to the races again for more of what we have or something new.  We want food out of a hunger.  We want everything else because of a hunger as well.

That’s why we want!  We are hungry for the knowledge of our true Self. Those that are truly full have no wants. Wants are for those who are empty.

This brings us to our next question.

What are we looking for?

We just established that we want (seek) because we are empty. This means that what we are looking for is something to fill us.

Humans have looked everywhere. We have searched all over the world. There is virtually no place we have not discovered on earth.  But all that we have discovered is not what we are looking for, because no one has found contentment in people, places or things.  We are looking for something to fill the void that we all have.

If there was no void, there would be no searching, no misery, no more wanting. Anyone that is whole or full wants nothing else.

The history of man gives us an important clue as to where to find what we are seeking.  We have looked, since the beginning of man, outside of ourselves, including those, searching for a god, who have looked above and not within.

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We know that, whatever it is we are looking for, is not outside of ourselves, or we would have found it already.  This story exemplifies this truth.

Long ago man had very special powers.  However, over the years he began to abuse those powers greatly.  One day god had a meeting with his angels to discuss taking away man’s powers.

God asked his angels to help him find a solution as to where to hide those powers.  One angel suggested he hide them deep beneath the sea.  God answered that man is smart enough to discover the bottom of the sea one day.

Another angel recommended that he hide the powers in the sky.  God replied that man, one day, would discover and explore other planets.

Yet another angel spoke about hiding them in the bowels of the earth.  Once again god thought that man would dig and drill the earth dry and discover the powers.

Finally, one angel said, “let’s hide these powers within man himself.  If he finds them there, he will be worthy of their use”.  Finally, a thinking angel, and so it was!  The place that holds what we are looking for is deep within us.

The final question is, why don’t we want what we have?

This could not be simpler to answer.  We do not want what we have because we do not have anything. All there is in this world is as meaningful as the dream is to the person who just woke up!

Think about it, all through life we keep scrapping one thing of value, for the next once we realize the worth is higher.

I remember getting a big wheel.  It was red, shiny and my eyes caught fire just staring at it.  I still remember the thrill of riding it down the street.  The speed and handling were so much better than my measly tricycle that was once the apple of my eye.

The big wheel was it and the tricycle was no longer meaningful to me.

Needless to say our whole lives are like this.  From things, to places and even to people, we constantly keep discovering there is more than what we were clinging onto and this is just in the material world.

Many will not like hearing this, but even our partners and children become meaningless, once we are exposed to the brilliance of our true identity.

By meaningless, I am not, not, not, not, not saying we do not care or love them. Nor am I saying we do not have a duty to them.  What I am saying is that they no longer are our world.

Those of us with families or partners know that we do not stop craving for more once we have them. Then, if they were the answer, the search would be over. But it is not!

Those of us that want what we have use it as a discipline to stop accumulating more in all the areas that will never fill the void.  This is a partial fix.

We must continue to search.  Our work must not cease, but we need to understand our road map is way off.  We are going the wrong way if we are looking outside ourselves. The moment we look in we feel immediate relief and our journey to an everlasting happiness begins.

The world is an illusion that tempts us to jump into her arms only to find that she will not hold us, only toss us around and spit us out.

Dive into ourselves and we will be nesting in the bosom of heaven and from there, we will see everything else is meaningless.

Peace,

EP

In Chapter 13, verses 8-12 of the Bhagavad Gita, 20 qualities of a supreme human being are listed.  One of these qualities is “Service of the Preceptor”.  Why would serving your teacher be a quality necessary to become enlightened?

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Let’s start by looking at what a Guru is.  Guru, in Sanskrit, is the same as teacher in English.  The first part of the word gu means dark and ru means light.  A Guru helps one transform his darkness (ignorance) into light (knowledge of the self).  Guru can be broken down further by saying G. U. R. U.

Ultimately, this is what any Guru worth his weight in gold tells his students. You are “you,” meaning that on a terrestrial level we are all unique.  Each individual has his own distinct nature and is driven by it throughout his life.  Only self effort can stop us from being a slave to our own personality.

However the Guru is not around to deal with the common bullshit that fills our lives (well mine is).  For those issues, we can go to 12 step meetings, therapists, friends, families and yoga classes.  The Guru is around to reveal the transcendental reality: that we are all the same.  The entire world is all The Self.  All births and deaths along with every species were born out of ignorance of The Self.

I know, now you want to know what is The Self.  You will have to come to a Yoga Shelter Teacher Training or read the Vedanta Treatise for that.  Actually, if one could find The Self that easily, I would be a millionaire.

Only one who is enlightened can share Realization with us. The Guru is completely fulfilled, totally self-sufficient, is devoid of wants and desires and has complete bliss.  This person does not want to be “served”, nor does he need to be.  We serve the Guru to save ourselves.

When we are grateful, our mind is at ease because we have or feel we have received.  Gratitude automatically manifests itself as service and when serving, we lose our self-centered mindset. Serving our teacher is the ultimate because he is giving the ultimate to us… Knowledge!  Knowledge is the only thing that can break the veil of ignorance, serving the person who has that knowledge is just plain smart.

Home is not a place where ignorance is bred, fed and served every day. Home is a place where light shines in every corner, where love is present regardless of circumstance, where it is safe to admit our insanity and where we are held in the bosom of pure consciousness.

Home is where your Guru dwells!  I surround myself with Swamiji in one form or another every day.  I stay in touch with those whom he teaches as well and whenever possible, fly to the ends of the world to be in his physical presence.

There has never been a place where I have felt so insignificant and so huge all at once. Never have I been shown such graciousness, compassion, acceptance and a good kick in the ass like I have at home with my Guru.

Hari Om,

EP

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It is common for us to want to “control” other people, places and things.  We often get caught up in a mental set where we are actively trying to control or believe we are controlling our surroundings which encompass others.

Control actually means to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate, command or rule.  Many believe that if we can control “things,” then we will be stable and have piece of mind.

Sound familiar?

The problem with this way of thinking is two-fold. First, and probably most important, it has a human being looking outside of himself to create inner harmony.

It has us fixing, fidgeting, adjusting, and manipulating all to get the results we want from others so that we feel good about ourselves.

The problem with this scenario is that the world keeps changing. People have their own individual nature, which can’t be changed, and we all have our own agendas. How, then, can we control anyone?

So much of the tension and stress humanity suffers from is due to the enormous effort in trying to control our external environment.  What a thankless and exhausting job!

Secondly, since the beginning of man, we have had countless examples of humans searching for happiness and failing, when it is based on just external factors.

We have seen kings conquer nations only to want more.  Presidents leading nations, but still riddled by the passions of their loins.  Rich men clamoring for more riches. Women and men finding their soul mates and then losing their mind when their soul mate leaves them and the family unit. The dream of having a family come true, only to realize that it brings along a ton of work and often many problems.

So trying to govern, rule or dominate to get things just right will never work. If this was the way, then those with the most power would be the most happy.

We know that is not true; just ask Tiger Woods. The world bows to his talents. He does as he pleases and has what he wants. But his wanting more may have destroyed his family.

Now that we understand that trying to control others is exhausting and fruitless, let’s move on to how to use it and on whom.

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One of the greatest wonders of life is that there are so many things outside of our control: weather, traffic, making everybody like or love us, controlling our own children, what people say to us and how they say it, the economy, and our death, to name but a few.

Now we have a part to play in some of these things, yet we can’t control it all.  But what we can control is the only thing we need to in order to have a perfect life –  and that is ourselves.

Isn’t it fascinating that there are an infinite amount of things that we can’t control?  Yet the only thing we really can control is ourselves in order to have peace and prosperity.

Viktor Frankl was a Jew living in a concentration camp during World War II.  He was a psychologist before he was taken into the camp.  He watched his friends and family brutally tortured and killed almost everyday for years.  He realized he could not control what the Nazis were doing, but he could control his response!

He came up with a therapy where one becomes responsible for his/her own thoughts and actions completely free of the environment, even one like a concentration camp.  He became so empowered by being able to control his mindset that, even with the daily threat of his own life, he kept an attitude that nobody could control him except him.

How beautiful!

It is so great to be able to control ourselves in such a way that even in the worst circumstances, we can be at peace.

Why bother trying to make anyone else anything other than who they are, when we can make ourselves into a supreme being, one who has complete dominance over his/her own desires, thoughts, emotions and actions.

“Work on ourselves, we find transformation and salvation; work on others, we find friction and frustration”.

Peace,

EP

I was listening intently to Swamiji lecturing during a small gathering at a man’s home in New York.  The setting was intimate; an informal lecture, where he spoke a few words and answered some questions before sitting down to a big feast in his honor.  He started to speak about “the” road map for happiness.  He spoke briefly about the three Yogas: Karma, Bhakti and Gnana.  As always, his words were powerful.  But if one did not listen closely, they were easy to lose because of their simplicity.  I took notes feverishly.

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Swamiji spoke about dropping our selfishness.  He mentioned that what the world needs is not more social work, we are good at that, especially in America.  What we really need is more social consciousness. Then there will be no need for social work.

Somewhere in all of this, he casually threw out these words: “Everyone is grateful; gratitude is selfish; drop your gratitude and just be in Awe.”

I nearly threw up when I heard those words! I lifted my head to see the reactions of more than 50 people gathered around him. Nobody seemed to hear what I heard.

I looked to Swamiji’s students who had traveled with him from India. They, too, looked unaffected (and they had heard this before).  In my whole “spiritual” life, I have been taught to be grateful.  In one casual sentence, that was shut right down!

The lecture ended. I waited for the line of people thanking Swamiji to thin out before I approached him, desperate for answers.  Swamiji looked at me and said, “My beloved, sit, let’s talk, I know you have questions.” I told him I heard something in his words that I had never heard anyone say before – even him! – and it flipped me out.

I asked him what he meant by his gratitude statement. Like a proud parent, he immediately called over some of his students and announced, “Eric is brilliant. I travel the world speaking and nobody listens but him.”

I am never sure if Swamiji means what he says about me. But I know that even if he doesn’t, the fact that he goes out of his way to compliment me, tells me he cares. He knows that I need that from him. That is the mark of a truly great teacher: understanding his students’ needs and giving them what they need, when appropriate.

Swamiji said that gratitude is selfish. It is being thankful for what you have. I am grateful for my health, my family, my job, my students, my teachers, even grateful for others’ well-being – but really, it’s just saying YOU are thankful!

Swamiji went on to say that I/we must drop the “me, mine and I.” All gratitude does is bring everything back to “you,” even if you are thanking someone else.

I sat completely hunched over as if I had been diagnosed with cancer. This was some monumental shit that was going down.  He was dead-on! Even my attempts to count “my” blessings were selfish!

I then asked My Beloved (this is what we call each other): Where do I go from here?

With a big smile, he answered, “Awe. You need to simply be in Awe, my boy.”

He said Awe is the recognition of the Supreme, a feeling of reverence produced by something grand. It is admiration for the great mystery of Life.

He said, we don’t know where we came from. Don’t know where we’ll go. Don’t know when. We may know how our body functions but in many cases, we are not in control of it. Beyond the science, nobody can explain how an ear hears or how the eyes see.

He asked, “Who woke me up this morning? Some people never wake up. Why me? Some won’t make it through the day. Why me?”

For these reasons, and many more, he said, “Just have Awe. Just walk around and be in Awe of this great mystery called Life. Forget about gratitude; be in Awe.”

I have not told many about this conversation because he directed me not to. We agreed that it would only irritate most people because this kind of teaching is for people who already have a fairly alert intellect and understanding of the Vedanta philosophy. Well, as you can see, sometimes I am not a good student.

In order to stimulate some deep thinking, I must push some buttons. I understand that expressing gratitude is part of our culture. It is a way to convey that we care, to shift our minds from what we don’t have to what we do have.

However, shifting the mind is not getting beyond the mind.

To live where the mind is in control (emotions, likes, dislikes, worries over the past, anxiety over the future) is a dangerous neighborhood to inhabit. Focusing on possessions and relationships is just plain selfish.

Remember, the focus is not on you.  It is on how we can serve, and act without our “self” in mind.

Our freedom lies in service. We need to drop the little self and find the bigger one.

We must act without attachment, simply doing what we should, and be in Awe!

Wow, wow, wow!! This is one of my mantras.  Try it on.  It might spark that internal flame and take you beyond yourself!

Hari Om,

EP