Provoking An Identity Crisis

Perhaps the biggest question of life is this: Who am I? We think we know who we are; we all have a strong sense that there’s somebody in there. But when try to put our finger on that somebody, the self turns out to be very elusive indeed. We often simply identify with the roles we play: “I am a doctor, lawyer, teacher, plumber, etc.” “I am a husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter.” Or we identify with our […]

It’s All About Intention

Both karma in its causal sense – producing the karmic seeds that will ripen in the future – and karma in terms of our experience of its results depend on intention.  It’s not what we do or say that matters karmically, but rather what motivates what we do or say.  And it’s not really about what others do or say to us that matter when it comes to our experience of the results of karma.  It is what we suppose […]

The Goal of a Spiritual Life

“Samsara,” says the Advaita Vedantic classic known as the Ashtavakra Gita, “is the compulsion to act” (kartavya, “something to be done”). This is a very interesting understanding of the nature of our suffering. It’s the feeling that we always have to do something to fix, improve, or escape our present situation. We are driven by the “if only” syndrome: “if only” things were different or better, then we’d be happy. But it is precisely the “if only” syndrome that keeps […]

Change the World, Change You

This is the second half of the equation that began with the previous podcast: “Change You, Change the World.” Because everything exists in interdependence (and not independently), it is also true that if we change the world, we change ourselves. But how do we do this? At one level, we change ourselves when see ourselves trying to change the world – acting, speaking, and even thinking motivated by the intention of wanting to help others and promote their welfare. Karma […]

Change You, Change the World

While in Massachusetts this summer, I had the chance to speak to a group in North Reading, most of whom were friends of Jon Weir – an incredible person and the owner of Kitty’s restaurant which he opened up to the event. The talk I gave there came straight out of a section of “Be Nobody” dealing with the fact that when we change ourselves we actually do change the world. The reasoning behind this rather startling conclusion is not […]

Discontentment and the Compulsion to Act

It’s been interesting to discover how much resistance there is to thinking of contentment as the real goal of a spiritual life. This extract from a teaching I gave in Brooklyn last month makes the case that it is precisely the need – the compulsion – we feel to always have to do something to change any given situation that defines samsara or the cycle of suffering. Samsara is defined in a classic Sanskrit text, the Ashtavakra Gita, as “nothing […]

The Cult of Busyness

I thought it would be a propos to give a talk on the “cult of busyness” in New York City, the adrenaline capital of the world as part of the summer, 2014, “Be Nobody” book tour. This is an extract from that talk, given at Ava Gerber’s “Lucky Lotus” yoga center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Part of the culture of narcissism and self-centeredness we live in includes the idea that the self will improve and magnify itself through constant activity. […]

“It’s Like This Now”

This is the last excerpt from the meeting I had with Standard Charter Bank execs in Singapore, exploring the several possible meanings of their business slogan, “Here for Good.” The last connotation I discussed was “Here (and Now) for Good,” emphasizing the fact that we’re always here and now.  We’re actually never “there and then,” although in our minds we often review the past (calling up and rehashing what we call “memories”) and cast ourselves ahead into the future (fantasizing […]

Play the Cards

This podcast continues the discussion with the executives of the Standard Charter Bank in Singapore, the company slogan of which is “Here for Good.” The talk I gave to this group of multinationals centered on the possible connotations of that slogan. First off, “Here for Good” can refer to the common and universal desire to live the “good life” in the sense of a prosperous, comfortable, and pleasurable existence. This segment explores two more dimensions of what “Here for Good” […]

What We Really Want

I had the opportunity last March to speak to a group of business executives at the Standard Charter Bank in Singapore. I don’t often have the chance to address to such an audience and I really enjoyed it. They were all obviously intelligent, talented people and were very attentive and at the end asked really good questions. The talk was structured around a teasing out of the several possible meanings of SCB’s motto: “Here for good.” In this segment, I […]