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 […]

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 […]