Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wisdom and Regret

Now is the time were we notice the gradual but clear change in seasons, as the winter snow melts into lush green grass, we began to reflect on the wonder of life and enjoy the splendor of spring, the fresh flowers, bright warm sun, the cool breezes and so on. It then become inevitable that we also reflect on our lives and the decisions we have made and are currently considering. In essence, we come to a crossroads of our lives, a time where we either consciously or subconsciously, determine who we want to be and who we are. Sometimes they are the same but hopefully they are not because the moment you determine that you don't need to change you have either deluded yourself or reached a state of enlightenment. If its the latter then you're set but if its the former and trust me, 99.999999% of the time it is the former, you will end up worse than you are.

Thinking of the past necessarily forces us into thinking of what we've done and the choices we've made. As such, we are confronted with the idea of regret. If we had the choice to re-make our past choices, would we make the same choice or knowing what we know now make another choice? There are two trains of thought, one train of thought says that the choice I made has essentially made me the person I am today and to not make that choice would fundamentally alter who I am. The second train of thought says that the knowledge we have now, if given the chance, should instruct us to make another decision the better or even the right decision. It is the idea that if confronted with the exact same situation again, would you learn from that prior decision and make another choice or would we ignore that situation and fall into the same trap again?

Although I do think there is some merit in the idea that we are now what we are because of what we have done but that idea implies that we couldn't be where we are now if we took other choices. Wisdom, they say comes with age and experience, is the one thing that we must gather from any experience or choice we make. That wisdom in most cases dictates that we should have done things differently, to ignore that wisdom would in essence make that experience or choice pointless. Wisdom also requires that we ascertain whether it was the choice itself that was bad or the merely the outcome. If it was the outcome that was bad then maybe that choice should be made again but if you determine that the choice itself was bad then that choice should be reconsidered and if need be dismissed. Living a life without regrets means taking the choice on the right choice and then learning from that choice. I, myself, have a few regrets in life meaning that if given the chance and given what I know now, I would make a different choice. A majority of the choices I would do the same way because I think it was the outcome that was bad not the choice itself. One of the main goals in life is to acquire wisdom, apply it to live a good and happy life and pass it on. It is with that in mind we need to approach making decisions and when confronted with similar if not the exact situations from our past that we need to apply that wisdom and act.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Peace of Mind and Emotions

I recently found one of my childhood and still favorite albums of all time, The Bhagavad Gita as song by K.J. Yesudas. As I kid, I used to think this recording was the actually recording of the Gita and that Yesudas's voice was the voice of Krishna. Ya, I'm an idiot but whatever. You can listen to it here: Yesudas Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2. I was just listening to it again and decided to reflect on two of the passages which I think are very pertinent and penetrating:

nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham

indriyāṇāḿ hi caratāḿ
yan mano 'nuvidhīyate
tad asya harati prajñāḿ
vāyur nāvam ivāmbhasi

Gita, Chapter 2, verse 66-67

the meaning is this:

For one without a controlled mind there can be no discerning intelligence
Nor also can they have meditation
Without the ability to meditate (on oneself) there is no peace
Without peace where can there be happiness?

The mind which follows the wandering senses
carries away one's discrimination
like the wind which carries
away the boat on the waters

A person whose mind is erratic, clouded and pulled in different directions without being reigned in or controlled will not be able to gain the discerning intelligence and insight that is needed. If they can't gain discerning intelligence then how can they reflect or meditate to get peace and peace is the foundation for happiness. In our lives we find that many times our mind is torn and clouded by numerous experiences, thoughts and interactions. All these things weigh us down and keep us from seeing the world as clearly as possible but even more they keep us from seeing ourselves. Our decisions in the world are based on how we view ourselves, do we have the peace of mind to know who or what we are. When we are confused to our own identity and our own inherent being we find that our actions and thoughts reflect that. Our emotions will rage in various directions as if beyond our control much like a boat is carried away in whatever direction the wind blows.

Krishna's advice is one of keen psychological and mental impact, the individual who tries to control their mind and their senses will be able to make decisions that are much more clear, they will be able to develop wisdom which leads to peace which provides happiness. The analogy of the boat is highly descriptive because a boat which is manned and controlled can weather the storm and use the wind to navigate the waters but one which is without proper equipment, crew and leadership will be lost at sea. Another key underlying point to all this that, many times when we do things we do them because we've lost control and the discerning intelligence to make the right or good choice. We all get caught up in the sway of our minds and emotions. When it happens to me, I always think of these verses and take a step back and analyze my current situation and thought processes. I find by doing that and reflecting on it all, I develop a certain peace about my mindset and can then make a more conducive and informed decision. Krishna isn't saying that we must suppress our emotions but control them, there is a vital difference. To suppress something requires that we ignore them and hold them down, which creates a pressure cooker situation, at some point all those emotions will explode out. Controlling something is absolutely fruitful because it allows to harness and guide those emotions to better and more stable decisions. A dam that only holds back the water will inevitably break but a dam that directs the waters and controls its flow will not break. Learning to control our emotions and thoughts will lead to peace of mind and that will lead to happiness.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I've been struggling with the issue of certainty for the past few years. How can I rationally believe in anything if there is no real certainty? How can I trust my own thoughts, feelings or ideas? How can I believe in a God and so on. We live in a very uncertain world, nothing is an absolute certainty. Quantum physics teaches us that all existence waivers on the verge of probability at the sub-atomic level, which would lead to the larger truth that all things are entirely based on probability. Let me correct myself, only change and death are a certainty. The nature of existence is change, we all experience it. In the world we live in, we see everything change all the time. Friends, family, locations, ideas, relationships, principles, emotions and all change, they fluctuate. Physically speaking, we are different every second, cells die and cells are born. At no two points are we the exactly the same. Our emotional and mental states are the also different at every second.

Absolute certainty doesn't exist for human beings because absolute knowledge is unattainable. We can on the other hand have relative certainty within any given framework. I can be relatively certain of my own existence because to doubt it would be to reassert it, it is Renee Descartes argument of I think therefore I am. Our minds can only comprehend so much and we fundamentally cannot know all various viewpoints of any truth. We maybe able to observe any event from an "objective" view point but we can't fully know the various subjective viewpoints of any of the parties involved. There is a saying that there are two sides to every story but in fact there are many sides if not infinite sides to any story. Right and wrong isn't necessarily absolutely black and white, but its a dependent on the situation, time and place, in other words its also uncertain until one in such a situation. Certainty doesn't exist in the world, we have to create it and know it from whatever information or knowledge is available at hand. There are only a few things in this world I'm certain about and we all need to search within ourselves and find that certain thing or things and use that as your guiding light.