Value Education and Spirituality 1 – What we value determines our values – and our values determine our value

by Chaitanya Charan dasApril 17, 2014

Seminar Podcast

 Value Education and Spirituality 1 – What we value determines our values – and our values determine our value

This is a course especially for university-level students and it can also be applicable for professionals, who can get a grasp of the spiritual foundations of values and how these values are manifest in the epic literature of India. So, this course will have four parts. The first part will be the spiritual foundation of values. In that, we will discuss what the values are, how these values are universal, they are cost denomination that is they are talked about in the various traditions of the world. In that sense, these values compromise a point of harmony among various religions and then we will talk about how spirituality creates a foundation for the sustained establishment of values, so the first part is values in the spiritual foundation, then we will move on to the literature of India and there we will discuss values from the Mahabharata, values from the Ramayana and values from the srimad bhagavatam, the bhagavata purana, which is widely regarded as the most important of all the puranas. So, the first part will be the spiritual foundation of values. So within this spiritual foundation of values, our first session is on the need for value education and the influence of values in our life. So, I will begin with a quote from Albert Einstein he says strive not to become a man of success, strive to become a man of value, so strive not to become a man of success, strive to become a man of value. So, Einstein is differentiating between two things, success and values. Now, does that mean that one should not strive to be successful, no rather he is stating that actually success is a outgrowth, a natural result of values. Two examples can illustrate this, values are like the root of a tree and success is the subsequent growth flowering and fructifying of the tree. First of all from the seed, the roots have to grow downwards and the root goes downwards the tree becomes strong and then when it grows upwards and it gives flowers and fruits, then the tree lasts for a long time, so everyone wants to be successful in life and that desire is natural to us, but the way to be successful is not by neglecting the fundamentals of success. The fundamentals of success are values, just as the root is essential for the sustained life growth and fructifying and flowering of the tree. Without the root, the tree cannot survive for long. Similarly without values, success that is attained even if it seems to be there for some time, it gets destroyed. It does not last for long. So, if one focuses on values, success will result, but if one focuses on success then values will not result automatically rather values will not be there and success will also not last. So other example could be a building and its foundation. Everybody is attracted by the building. How it is shaped, how it is aesthetic appeal is, how its function convenience is, but very few people notice the foundation. Actually, it is foundation that sustains the building. Similarly, success is sustained by the foundation of values, although people may not notice the values of successful people, they will see the success, they will see the wealth, their fame, their achievements, but underlying those things there are values and those values are right and sound that the success is enduring and fulfilling and the values are right and sound. There can be right values, there can be wrong values also. We will discuss that as we move forward. Success may come, but will not be enduring or fulfilling without the foundation of right values. Enduring means it would last for long. Fulfilling means even the success comes it would not satisfy the heart. It will keep on perpetually dissatisfied. So, now what exactly do we mean by values. A simple way to understand our values in pleural is to look back at its singular form value. So, value means to consider important, to consider precious, to consider as a treasure. So for example, I may say that I value my reputation. Then that means that I consider my reputation to be important and I am ready to do sacrifices. I am ready to take up trouble to preserve and enhance reputation. Somebody else may say, I value my academic source. So, it might be grades. Then that means I am going to take a trouble to make sure that the grades are good, the marks are good. So the simple meaning of the word value relates to the significance of values. So, what we value becomes our values. What we value eventually becomes our values. Values are not something mysterious, not something impractical, not something ethereal, that something which all of us have and how do we decide that by just looking at we value, to take it from very practical fundamental perspective, every morning we wake, when we wake up we can hundreds of things that we may can do, may be I can go and watch a move, I can play cricket, I can go for a swim, I can booze, I can do hundreds of things. Now among those hundreds and thousands of things that are there I chose certain things. There may be so many things which I can do, but I may choose to go to college or I may choose to do a particular job. Now why is that from my external perspective it may be oh I have to do that if I do not study, if I do not have a job, then I am starve. I definitely do not want to do that. Yes, that is a very external reason, but what it points to we value something, so we value our health, we value our financial status, we value our social standing and that is why we want to study, that is why we want to work, so what we value actually shape decides what we do, so our decisions are based on our values. Everyday when we chose to do a certain thing or chose to avoid doing a particular thing that is shaped by our values. So for example, if my exams are coming up, tomorrow the exams are there and today I am sitting down and a friend who is in a different stream say and whose exams come later, that person comes and says oh I have got a newly release movie’s CD, come on let us watch the movie. I will say no. I have got my exams tomorrow. What does it mean, I may like the movie, but I understand that I have to put greater stress on my studies. So, our life is filled with situations where we have to make decisions and we make decisions based on our values. So, whether these values are externally in shape impressed upon us externally foistered upon us or internally cultivated by us our values shape our decisions and eventually our decisions shape our destinations. What we decide, will determine where we will go, before my exam, I started watching the move, that decision will determine my destination that I will get a X grade on my paper, I may fail in my exam or I may underperform terribly, so our values from this practical perspective are the factors which shape our decisions. So based on what we consider important we make decisions and that whole system of thinking of perceiving of living which shapes our decisions based on understanding of what is important that is called the Value System. Now, again let us start very preliminary level, infancy. When the child is born, the child is normally crying and then the child’s only value initially is eating. Child cries, then the mother offers breast-milk and the child becomes pacified. Child plays a little bit and then goes off to sleep, so most of the time it does not do anything much more than eating and in fact it perceives most of the world through eating. The point is the baby they do not value anything much more, they understand the affection of the mother or the affection of the father, but largely they experience the world through food. So whenever they get anything new, they will put their finger in their mouth, they will get a toy they may put the toy also in their mouth and that is how they experience the world. So, now the child’s values are not much beyond eating, being caressed and are to bring a little bit here and there more. The babies cannot understand much more on that, then when the child grows up, then the child starts valuing toys and if one toy is broken, the child may go into a big tantrum, crying and kicking and whaling and screaming and demanding a new toy. Now as the child goes further then what the children, now the child may have become a teenager. What the person considers important will vary. So, what we consider important varies as we grow up that itself is an indication that our values grow, our values change as we grow up biologically; however, our biological growth is natural, it is automatic. We do not have to endeavor a lot much from that growth beyond eating and taking care of the body and living, so that happens, but regarding the growth of our values that does not happen in proportion to our biological growth. The growth of values often requires a conscious effort. So, what does it mean, it requires a conscious effort. Small children may cry at small small problems, small small frustrations, but as we grow up we may not cry. Generally, nobody likes to be called a cry-baby. So, we will not cry, but still we do face frustrations and then how we respond will be determined by our inner growth, by our values. So, some people may chose to smoke, some people may chose to drink their way into oblivion so that they can forget their problems. Some people may just turn on their internet and start browsing, one site from another trying to find something titillating, someone may just turn on the television and look at this channel and that channel and try to forget their problems. So, again our values determine our decisions. So, when I face frustration whether I start crying or whether I start smoking or whether I try to forget myself through surfing or what do I do. So, now what are healthy values or what are unhealthy values. Normally, when we think of values, we think of the healthy values, but there can be unhealthy values also. As I said our biological growth happens automatically, but our inner growth, the growth of our values is not happen automatically. All of us have certain values. As I said, simple meaning of the word values is what we value and everyone values something or the other. Somebody who is say nowadays football leagues are becoming popular in India, so although football itself is not a very big sport right now in India, but European football leagues what happens in there league it is very popular, people will read the news, people will watch the matches, people discuss, wear T-shirts based on that. So now what has happened, those have become their values and you know the match of European leagues is late in the night or is early in the morning, people may stake away or wake up early to watch that match. So here what is happening the values are driven with decisions. Now, the main point which we are trying to understand is that all of us have values because all of us make decisions and we make the decisions based on what we consider as important and what we consider as important is not always truly important and this mismatch between in what seems important and what is important that mismatch happens when we do not pay adequate attention to our values. If we do not consciously shape and cultivate our values, the culture around us, the media, the peer pressure, the social environment they are going to affect us and they are going to shape our values. So an example, today’s advertising is of extremely lucrative business. From the early part of the 20th century, before Sigmund Freud’s ideas became influential, the ideas remains whenever the advertisements were there, the advertisements focused on the functional utility of the products. If the car is being advertised, this car it is seating capacity, it has this much average, it has this this . The functional utility was focused on for selling the products, but Sigmund Freud with his psychoanalysis, he came up with some insights about how the mind works and he said that actually our rationality that means our intelligent thinking capacity it is like a tiny boat on the vast ocean of passion, ocean of unbridled emotion. So, our decisions are shaped far more by our emotionality than by our rationality. Now, this idea was ceased upon by the advertising industry and from 1920s onwards most advertisements started focusing on making the customer freeing bird, the emotions not appealing to the intelligence, but tugging in the emotions of the potential customer. So for example, in the 1920s cigarette manufacturer’s found that their production had some level of fatuation that means all the people who could smoke were smoking, they wanted to expand their business and how to do that. So, if people who do not have the money to smoke they cannot give the money so that they will smoke, so when they expand the market, so some of them got a brain wig and they said that 50% of humanity is __________ until now and that is the women. So, at that time for the women to smoke was considered social stigma and women would not smoke normally. So, during America’s Independence Day parade, it was 1929, they made a whole planned attack, attack on the American female mind. What was the attack? They got these prominent persons from the media from prominent female icons Hollywood stars, authors and politicians and other famous female icons and they were walking in the parade and at a strategically most visible point during the parade, they were cameras all around and then all of them were paid to flip out from their pockets specially-designed cigarettes and they started to puff and this in today’s language these photos became viral and as all spread the cigarettes why are smoking? What is the idea. The cigarettes are torches of freedom. Every time you smoke, you are lightening the torch freedom. Now, this was the time when the ________ movement had gained significant momentum and the idea of freedom was immensely appealing for women, of course it is appealing to everyone, but it is appealing to women and then within just a matter few years millions of women started smoking why, we are lighting the torch of freedom. Now, what cigarette smoking is got to do with freedom. Nobody asked this question. The feverish influence that was created that was ______ up by the media portrayal of the cigarettes as torch of freedom, this influence was so infatuating that people said yes we want to free and the way to be free is to smoke. Now, at that time, the harmful effects of cigarette smoking were not known much and even if they were known they were suppressed by the tobacco companies and especially the harmful effects of smoking on women and especially pregnant women ____________ and then eventually when smoking among women reached a large proportions and they were catastrophic social consequences of that, then the eyes of public were opened up and what was touted as a torch for freedom actually was turned out to be a torch of doom. It actually led to so many social, health, generation consequences. So, the point is here that the values at one movement were that women could not smoke and then just because of the pressure of the media what happened because of the way of portrayal the values were changed and then women started smoking. So, we are now going to make a value judgment right now here what the rightness or the wrongness of smoking. We are focusing simply on the truths. The principle that which we do not shape our values consciously, someone else will shape those values subconsciously for us and the culture shapes our values most often that shaping is undesirable. So, we end up choosing things which are less important just because the medial portrays it as important and in that way we undersell ourselves, we undermine ourselves, we under utilize ourselves. So, our values if they are found properly, then they will enable to choose what is actually important instead of what is propagated as important, what seems important, that is how our values shape who we are, they decide for us what we will do, how we will act and what will be the result of our actions. So, when we talk about value education. It does not simply mean, okay this is right do this, this is wrong do not do this. No, that is not exactly value education. Value education essentially means being able to decide for ourselves what is truly important, what should I value in my life. It is not some handed-down dogma that this is right and this is wrong. No, it is our own rational intelligent well thought out choice. This is important, this is not so important. Based on such educational values, we are become equipped, empowered to make right choices and we can actually live up to the talents that we have, the abilities to have, then we make the right decisions. A student who fails to study before the exams, the student may have the talent to study and excel, but if the student because of some influence does not study, the student does not achieve as much as is desired, under performs, so our values enable us to make healthy choices. Our choices will determine our success. Einstein says strive to become a person of values, not a person of success. That means that by having the right values, we will be able to achieve lasting success. By having the right values, we will be able to make intelligent sound decisions and sound decisions are the pathways to real success. So, our values; what we value determines our goals and eventually our values determine our value. That means, what we will achieve in life, how much will be the value of what we achieve. That will be determined by our values. When we talk about value education, it is education to achieve the endeavoring and fulfilling success that we are capable of according to our talents and according to our capacities.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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