Update On My List of “5 Ideas” As Suggested By Swami Vivekananda

by Aranyakananda

Back in January after attending the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s birth at my temple, I came home and wrote on this blog about Swami Vivekananda’s assertion that we all should have 5 ideas by which we live our lives.

I said I would have to think about it. And I said that it would be an ongoing thing throughout my life. That my list would possibly evolve. Does that mean that I will start out with 5 things then drop some and replace them with others that are more important? Maybe. If so, so be it. The point is one should always live so simply that five main principles can guide him. We don’t know how our paths will evolve as we ourselves evolve. But we have to start somewhere.

And so after thinking about it at length and in earnest, I feel like I am ready to settle on a list of my first “5 Ideas.” Some are exceedingly general, some are egoically specific. I don’t suppose I have to reveal them to the public. But I feel like writing about it, for two reasons. First, as I have said on other posts, if I write it out on this blog, it encourages me to make it reality in my life. And second, though I don’t think that what is important to me should be important to you just because I have written it, maybe my list will give you an idea of where to start on your own list.

Mine consists, in no particular order, of:

1. Equality of all beings in Brahman: It has come to my attention that I, a quite liberal person, detest things such as racism, sexism, homophobia etc., and yet I can find myself detesting another person simply for the way they speak. Simply for the way they are wired to behave. And yet I know that they are but a drop of Brahman and every drop is of an endless variety.

And this equality includes myself. One must always remember that disrespect for, or improper care of, one’s own body is ignorance of Brahman. Brahman is not “everything else.” Brahman is “everything.”

2. Truth: Sathya Narayana is the Universal Truth. If I find it easy to lie to others, how much easier can I lie to myself if the lies one tells oneself are often the ones he really, really wants to believe? In this case it is necessary to start without and work your way within. And I don’t mean to make it sound like being truthful to oneself is the only end one should strive for only by starting with truthfulness to others. All untruth leaves a residue.

3. Accepting Advice Free From Ego: My wife is a sage. She really is. She just has a way of seeing basic truth and reason. I have noticed over the years that many of the everyday pains, misfortunes and frustrations I have experienced result after either ignoring advice from her, or thinking I know better. As Eckhart Tolle said “to be wrong is (for the ego) to die.” This unfortunate state has resulted from a self-perpetuating cycle in which her being right has caused me to not admit that she is right. Repeatedly. No matter how enlightened, most husbands stare this truth directly in the face at some point in a marriage. But it is a direct demonstration of how ego can cause pain. Her wisdom is a boon for me on my path away from ego-consciousness.

4. Avoiding Gossip: George Harrison referred to gossip as “the Devil’s Radio”. It makes one feel good about oneself. But why? So many times I have wanted to make a joke about something somebody said which was “unintelligent” or “misguided” or what have you. Like many temptations in life, often as soon as you resolve to keep it to yourself, you are already spouting off about it. Again, it makes you feel better about yourself right? Well for a half a second. After that it means nothing. This I think is tied in with seeing all as Brahman. If we can take these things that people say that we somehow find risible as part of a lesson of Brahman, it will no longer be something to gossip about.

5. No Patronizing Adharma If Not Completely Necessary: There are so many aspects of our lives which come to us by means which often are full of adharma. Our food, our clothing, our electronics, gasoline in our cars. Some of it is obvious. Some of it is well hidden. Some of it requires just a bit of research and one can know certain things to avoid in order to live with themselves with a sense of guiltlessness. But we can never know the entire path a product or service took in order to make its way into our lives. We can never avoid every single thing which was ever touched by some form of adharma.

This is not a justification for continuing to live life as I always have. I do believe in avoiding the patronization of adharma which we can see.

I qualified this category with “If Not Completely Necessary” for a few reasons. Sometimes we can inconvenience others by insisting on adhering to certain dharma, which really complicates things. I recall a time when I felt it necessary to, and did, make a heartfelt apology to my mother for asking her to make a change to a recipe she had planned during a visit because I am vegetarian. At this point one has to ask himself should you go ahead and eat something that someone took the time to cook, put effort and care into, rather than insisting on being consistent with your dharma.

Another example: I ride an accessible bus line temporarily because of an injury. Anyway, as I have written, the company is corrupt in a couple of different ways. Continuing to use their service feels like adharma, but to discontinue means to inconvenience others. So its a struggle. But I also recognize that the latter means to inconvenience people who I know, who are dear to me, whereas the former is to inconvenience people I may have never met, so ego-consciousness is popping in.

Look, this post has gotten out of control. What I am trying to say is this last “Idea” is the most complicated. The others are things that lie mainly within and can be worked on.

Anyway, this is the beginning of my path of the 5 Ideas. It is a starting point. I would encourage you to simplify life into 5 core elements which will not necessarily solve all of life’s problems, as this list surely will not do, but will help you live more peacefully and with less regret and strife.

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2 Responses to Update On My List of “5 Ideas” As Suggested By Swami Vivekananda

  1. Dhrishti says:

    Bhai, thanks for sharing these. I don’t think this post got out of control.

    #2 made me wonder. #3 made me smile, and is likely my favorite. But #5 is the one I hope sticks around for a while and is something you build on. I know a few folks on Facebook (who you’ve come into contact with as well) who are so bent on avoiding what they perceive to be adharma, that they really get things twisted in the process. The case with your vegetarianism and your mom’s recipe is a great example, although I’m sure you were far more respectful/humble in your insistence than the folks I’m referring to are in theirs. I think #5 has immense value because sometimes in our quest to pursue dharma, and avoid adharma, we end up imprinting ourselves with additional samsaras/karmas and actually do a huge disservice to others and to our own progression.

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