When I was growing up in my teens, I was altogether confused by the concept of fashion–what is called the “mode” in most of the world. I saw the majority of kids and even adults around me carefully following the trends of the time. It never made any sense to me. I began to seriously think maybe there was a part of my brain missing. How can mindlessly waiting around to see and copy what everyone else is wearing and doing can possibly make you “cool”?
It turns out, as I only recently found out, that it was no brain malfunction on my part. It is the majority of society who’s seriously lagging behind human-level awareness.
Swami Kriyananda said it beautifully: “Popularity is the surest sign of individual inadequacy.”
I think it’s a similar phenomenon with the idea of “keeping up-to-date and on top of the world affairs and drama,” that many seem to express and live by these days.
You can notice this in some people’s social media postings, for example. They always seem to be current, active, and on top of what’s going on. If there’s Olympics going on, they become sports fans and analysts. If a graphic war photo surfaces on the media, they turn activists and post messages about the graveness of war and how we are not doing enough. Election times comes around, and they immediately become the spokesperson of this party or that party.
But certainly neither appearing to be knowledgeable on everything, nor even actually being knowledgeable on everything the world is seeing does much good. It does not make the observer and commentator special, nor really aware.
It doesn’t make one “cool”!
Quite the opposite of the intention, it often reflects that the person is indeed unaware, and part of the problem, that in their eyes, they’re raising awareness about! By focusing so much on the world drama, the Maya, as it’s called in Sanskrit, they become absorbed in it. They start to lose touch with the greater realities that are behind, and quite untouched by, all that drama. They are like objects on the waves of the ocean, passively floating up and down by the rise and ebb of the waves of Maya, the phenomenal world. This way they can never gain clarity for themselves, let alone enlighten others in anything.
That is because real progress and solutions start from the elevation of awareness. Real awareness doesn’t come from knowing or consuming facts. It can, rather, be attained by stepping back, and by the habit of deep meditation, tuning into underlying realities that are quite untouched by the seeming surface of things. When that kind of awareness is arrived at, the entire perspectives on things shift. One begins to notice, as many sages have uttered, that circumstances are always neutral. It is only in our minds that we begin to label things and situations as good or bad.
I would take a step further and say that circumstances are in fact always “perfect”, exactly how they should be at any given time, to give us what experiences we need, at the time we need them.
You see, it’s not about what’s actually happening in this dream world. The specifics are just theatrics. What is important is what we gain from them: do we use them as stepping stones to grow out of worldly-consciousness, and soar spiritually towards the light, or do we flunk out and dug ourselves deeper into delusion. These two possibilities are the only things that will matter. And they can happen equally for both situations that, in our eyes, are favorable or unfavorable.
So let us tune into sister Gyanamata’s (liberated disciple of Yogananda) prayer. “Change not my circumstances. Change me.”