People are always looking in the wrong place
People look for happiness in the external world and invariably fail. Find themselves ending up stressed and agitated. Their mistake is to attribute the cause of their stress to the external world. One person is convinced that the behavior of their spouse is the cause. Another believes it’s the boss at work. A third the traffic and noise in the neighborhood. The list goes on and stress remains as it is. No one even suspects that there is something wrong with the way they are relating with the world that is causing the problem. The truth is that lack of control over the mind causes stress. Not the world.
The world cannot stress you
Outside an office building a few workers are smoking. They seem to enjoy the experience. Others walking by look at them with disdain, disgust. The same cigarette causes pleasure to one, pain to another! One person is so desperate to divorce his wife he is willing to pay his lawyer double the usual fee to speed up the process. Another is equally anxious to marry the same woman. Think through these examples. The same objects and beings cause pleasure to some, pain to others. So pleasure or pain are not inherent in the world as everyone believes. It’s in your mind. As the philosopher A. Parthasarathy says: “It is not the world that distresses you but how you relate to it”
How to relate to the world
The problem in your relationship with the world is that you relate with your mind without governance of your intellect. The mind is a flow of emotion, desire, feeling. This flow has no direction or dimension and is deadly if not controlled by the intellect. Consider the example of a moth flying towards a flame and killing itself. The moth has a mind that is attracted to the flame, but does not possess an intellect to understand that it will burn itself to death. Human beings alone are endowed with the gift of intellect. Incredibly, there is no training available anywhere to develop it, so people blindly follow their minds and destroy themselves. Stress, addiction, depression and disease at the individual level; and war, terrorism, greed and corruption at the world level are the devastating consequences of humanity’s lack of intellectual development.
Universities and schools merely develop intelligence, which has nothing to do with intellect. There are highly intelligent doctors and lawyers who are alcoholics, brilliant business school graduates who have been convicted of corporate crimes. All intelligence, no intellect to govern their emotions.
What an uncontrolled mind does
The mind is peaceful and stress-free as long as the intellect has it under control, but all serious problems arise when the intellect is weak and the mind takes over the personality. Greed, addiction, attachment and fanaticism are typical examples.
There is nothing wrong with the desire to earn more money, but when you lose control over that desire it converts to greed. This has led to corruption, debt and bankruptcies that have destroyed individuals, communities, even countries. Addiction is another serious global affliction. Sense objects are meant to be enjoyed, but when the intellect loses control, you become an addict. You can enjoy drinks in moderation, but lose control and you become an alcoholic. A smartphone has its place in enabling a more productive life, but lose control and it starts controlling you. You lose your sleep, your concentration, your health.
Love is a positive emotion, lose control you become attached. You start demanding, expecting selfishly. The relationship goes sour. Divorces happen, children fight with you and ultimately leave you. The worst manifestation is fanaticism. Following one’s religion with thinking, with intellect elevates you. The same emotion becomes fanaticism when thinking ceases. Thousands of years of bloodshed, hatred, bitterness is the legacy of fanaticism that has brought humanity literally to the brink of annihilation.
How to develop the intellect
The intellect is developed just like the physical body is strengthened: through regular, repeated exercise. The exercise in this case is study, examination and reflection upon your life, its purpose and direction. Question everything, don’t blindly accept what others are doing. University and school education merely feed you with information to get you a job or vocation. To build an intellect, you have to rely on exercising your own powers of inquiry. To help you get started, you can read A. Parthasarathy’s introductory work on the subject: The Fall of the Human Intellect.
Where does this knowledge come from?
This knowledge is derived from the ancient Indian philosophy of Vedanta (Veda: Wisdom, Anta: End) which literally translates to “the Ultimate Wisdom”. Vedanta presents the eternal principles of living that enable you to attain peace of mind, concentration and efficiency in action and clarity in thinking. Above all, it leads you to the ultimate goal of Self-Realization.
If you happen to be in the NYC area, the author will speak on Control Your Mind Control Your Life on October 23 at the Community Church of NY in midtown Manhattan. More information about the event and the subject: www.vedantausa.org