Value Education and Spirituality 2 – Our values serve as protecting fences and as focusing default settings

by Chaitanya Charan dasApril 17, 2014

Seminar Podcast

Value Education and Spirituality 2 – Our values serve as protecting fences and as focusing default settings

 Values act as compass. They show us the right path, they show us the right direction and we can move along the path accordingly. If we do not have the right values, it is like not having the compass or having a compass that whose needle is misaligned, then we go along in undesirable directions and then we regret it later. So, all of us have impulses. So, we talked about values about how values enable us to choose what is actually important in contrast with what seems important. So, all of us have our infatuations, our passions, our impulses. Impulses are feelings that suddenly come upon us, that make us do things which we regret later. For example, somebody may at a sought of movement shout at somebody else, scream at somebody else, in the prominent incident of say anger. At the FIFA world cup football a famous player right in his last match it was an ideal departure sent off for him to exit from the world screen and is on the way to win the match, just towards the end of the match he lost control and he headbutted the goalkeeper and what happened, he was shown the red card and what was supposed to be glorious end to his career turned out to be a very inglorious whimper that the person was shown a red card and sent out of the game, so what happened anger. So among the Greek tradition they is a saying that “person whom the gods want to destroy that person they make him angry,” so anger is impulse that rushes upon us and it rushes upon us, it consumes us, it destroys our capacity to think clearly and do things which we regret later. So, our values are what enable us to check the force of our impulses. So, I said the values enable us to make right decisions. So what is that causes us to make wrong decisions, it is the impulses. The impulses may come from our own past bad habits, the impulses may come from external influences. If I decided that, I want to buy it because of I am become obese and I decide that okay I will not eat food that is too high in calories, I will not eat sweets, I will not eat fried items or whatever and then suddenly that sort of food is brought in front of me or I am going somewhere and I see a shop with that of kind food and then the impulse comes up, come on I want to eat it and then the impulse catches me and if I do not have the inner strength to resist the impulse, then I am dragged by the impulse and I circum to it. So, impulses can also shape our decisions. Impulses can make us do things, which we regret later. Say, if somebody who is in the risk of being obese eats a lot and then puts on so much fat that it requires weeks and weeks of workout and thing like that to bring away the fat or it does not burn away at all because the person cannot do that much amount of workout, will not have the willpower to do that. So either way, the problem is that the impulses, as I said impel us towards wrong actions, towards short-term actions. So as contrast to the compass which takes one in the right direction, the impulses are like the stormy waves which take one in an undesirable direction. So, the stormy waves or the stormy winds, which come in ocean when one is on a boat they can force the boat to go off in another direction. So, the compass may show the right way, but still just knowing the right way is not enough, even I know the right way. If I do not know the right way, then practically no way I can get to destination, but even when I know the right way it can well happen that after knowing the right way also there will be forces that push me along the long way, so my impulses are like the stormy winds and waves that push me in a direction, which is against the compass is pointing towards. So, our impulses have to be checked, they have to be regulated and actually speaking the worlds resume traditions, __wisdom_______ traditions over here to refer to systems of knowledge that have been there in various parts of the world and which have been respected widely. We can have the Chinese wisdom tradition, we can have the Indian wisdom tradition, we can have the Greko-Roman wisdom tradition, we can have the Arabian wisdom tradition. Now, these wisdom traditions have also led to certain religious. It was in the Greko-Roman setting that Christianity grew, in the Arabian setting that Islam grew. So like that there can be different religions also, but the word religion often has negative connotations. So, we focus on the wisdom traditions and if those wisdom traditions happen religious that is also fine, but in general most wisdom traditions recognize this battle within us, this battle between, what be can called as our lower self and higher self or as I said there are various traditions. There was a native American tradition in America and there they have the idea of two dogs within a person, call it the good dog and the bad dog. So, the good dog impels us to do good things. The bad dog impels us to do bad things and both these dogs are there inside us and both these dogs are barking, prompting us to pay attention. The attention that we pay to the dog is like the food that is nourishing the dog. So, the more attention we pay to a particular voice, the voice which tells us to do good things, to do things which give instant pleasure, for example my exams are coming, I want to study, but surf on the net find out a channel where movies are there, got to youtube, just watch a movie and take a break. So, there I lose time I get distracted and I suffer in the long run by that indulgence, but still what happens is that sometimes I feel myself impelled towards doing that. So, there are both these lower voice and the higher voice or the bad dog and the good dog. So, both are their in our heart and both are barking and whichever dog we pay attention to, our attention becomes the food by which that dog grows, its bark becomes a roar and a roar becomes intolerable, irresistible and then we just do its biting more and more and pay more attention to it, we do the actions and then that particular bad dog strength becomes greater and then it becomes ever more difficult to resist its fraudings, its hooshings, its pullings. So therefor this is a battle which goes on within us and especially when we are in the middle of the battle. That means, when we are tempted to do something, which we will regret later. That the fact I will regret later does not come in our mind at that time. At that time, just urge for pleasure, the urge for instant gratification is what dominates our mind. So our values, comprise often a subconscious protection from the push of impulses. What do I mean by subconscious protection. There are certain things which based on our values we will reject as say as I am thinking. For example in most cultures, most respected cultures in the World. It is understood that violence is not always good, is generally not good. As much as possible, violence should be minimized and we can have the same idea for, say violence within the family, when they are disputes within the family. If a person is being brought up in a cultured family, the person knows that, I may become angry, I may quarrel, I may shout, but it will not hit family members. Now some people have the values brought up, others do not have those values and then they may brutalize their dependence and then family can become hell. So the point which I am making over here is if a person is brought up with certain values, then certain things are considered out of box, no matter how much I become angry I am not going to hit anyone, I do not want to hit a family member, so that is a value which is ingrid and no matter how much the impulse of anger overpowers me, that time there are certain things which we will not do. So, values are our subconscious protections, our protection mechanism, are armor from our impulses. So for example, some people are brought up with a value that we should not steal, so even if the person who is hungry the person will know I should not steal, I will work, I will do whatever it takes and I will earn money, but I will not steal. I am just giving examples, by which we can illustrate this point of the subconscious fence that protects. There are certain things, which are considered out of bounds for us, these are the things which I will not do, why, because this is not the right thing to do. Now, why that should not be done that is a different issue. For many people, it might just, we do not do these things. It is not our tradition, it is not our culture. That may not seem to be a very convincing reason for some people, what so if is not our tradition so what, I do not want to follow my tradition. Some people may think like this. That we will deal with later on, but the point which I am making here is fundamentally off subconscious protection from our impulses. So, when we have the subconscious protection, when we have certain values, certain things are out of bounds for us. So when they are out of bounds, then no matter how much our impulses push us there are things which we will not do and that is what protects us from doing things which are extremely harmful for us and extremely hurtful for others. So, now if we do not have values rather if we do not have healthy values, then practically speaking that there is no limit to what people may do under the influence of the impulses. There are many instances of people in a way of anger. Nowadays, we hear so many times in America and sometimes in India, people get show the way of anger, take up a gun and then go to school and shoot children, shoot the teachers and then by the time the whole thing is over, I have killed so many people, why did I do that and then finally I am not understanding what is happening, why did I do that and they will turn the gun and shoot themselves, this is like madness which comes up. What is the cause of this madness, it is just those people may seem to be normal at other times, but suddenly it is like a screw bolts lose the people become crazy, not just crazy in terms of foolish, but crazy in terms of maniac, crazy in terms of extremely dangerous. So, there is road rage, road rage means sometimes people are traveling in a vehicle and then it is very crowd at the road and somebody horns and this person gets angry, there is a traffic how can I go ahead, just picks up a guns shoot the person behind and this called phenomenon called road rage, just get wild because of anger. So, now what is happening over here, the impulses are driving people to such extremes. The impulses are making people so mad that they just cannot make sense of what is happening, why is it happening and what should I be doing. So, they under spell of certain impulses, they do certain things and then they themselves are horrified afterward, why did I do such a thing. So, if there are no values, then there are no fences which protect us from our impulses. To give another example for this, what values do for us. Values are like our default setting. If say I have to type a letter, I have to send email. Now, in whatever email server we are using, outlook, gmail, whatever, then there are certain default setting. This is the fond we should be using, this is the font size we want to use, this is the format we want to use, this is the color composition we want to use, this is the alignment. Now, these things are set up once and once they are set up, then next time when we are writing mail, we do not have to think about all those things. We just get on the business of writing the mail, but suppose the computer had no capacity for saving default settings, then every time I have to enter a mail, I have to write a mail, then every time I have to think. Okay, what was the fond I am going to use, what is the size, what is the format, what is the alignment; all these things, I just given four factors, but actually if you go into technicalities of computers, there are so many settings that can be varied, there are so many things that one can play along with and one may spend so much time just changing the settings that one has no time left to write the mail itself and imagine if one has to do all these every time, then the result will be that one will have the main purpose which is to write the mail, one will be not able to do that only. So like that, our values are default settings. Now, if we do not have certain default settings in our like, okay this is how I am going to act, this is what are the things which are going to do, these are the things which I will not do, then the sheer variety of options that are there do this, do this, do this, it will just drive us crazy, so these are the things I am going to do, the things which I am not going do and I am not here talking right now about what are the right things and what are the wrong things, I am simply talking of principle over here that we need some framework for making our decisions, otherwise the complexity of every decision will consume our mind and will leave us with no time, no resources, will exhaust us so much that we will not be able to do our actual work properly, so that is why our values are like our default settings, they help us to focus on the essential things and not peripheral things, so one way of understanding what values do is they act as protectors from our impulses, like fences they do not drag us beyond particular limits and secondly our values help us to focus on the essence by letting other things be set properly.   So now what the proper settings are that is the matter of discussion later, but right now the point is all of us need certain default settings to move forward in life, to focus on the essential things of life. Suppose a person does not know which language to speak. Suppose we assume that a person goes to a country and the person goes to that country, there are hundreds of languages that can be spoken, no country has 100 languages at one place, but hypothetical situation, now as soon as you go there suddenly some person starts speaking and then you cannot make sense only and now we may not know 100 languages, if I have the computer in front me, okay this word sounds like this, what does it mean, if I have to figure out everything like that, I will go crazy, talking will become nearly impossible, that is why I say have a shared language, that shared language becomes a basis for communication. If there were no shared language, then comprehensive would be extremely difficult and communication would come to a standstill, so ______ shared language, society has to have some shared value system. To the extent, people share value system to the extent they can deal intelligently and satisfactorily with each other, to the extent the value system does not match, to the extent they will not be able to comprehend why this other person is speaking like this, why this other person is doing like this, what is going on and relationship will be very unsatisfactory. So, values are essentially normally for our sanity, our stability, but also for the stability and for the utility of our relationships, for our communication with others, for our functioning in the world. So, if everybody is going to have their own value systems, then there will be no way in which there can be a common channel for communication. Certainly, people may have preferences. There is a difference between preferences and values. Preferences means that somebody may like to wear a particular kind of dress, somebody else may a particular kind of dress, that is fashion. We should not mistake fashion and/or preferences and values. Values are universal. Values are foundational. Values are enduring. Preferences and fashions, they are ephemeral, they are today, they are gone tomorrow and they are peripheral, they are not essential things. People can have different preferences, in fact because we are all individuals we can have different preferences. So, the values enable us to have a common communication channel by which can function in a responsible way. So now we move forward. Where do we get this sort of common communication channel from. As I said, there are wisdom traditions in the world and these wisdom traditions enable, they give us some guidance, they give us some values and those values are in many ways universal. So for example, we may talk about the value of tolerance. If the person does not have the capacity of tolerance, then every small provocation will cause the person to erupt and if a person erupts at every small provocation, that person will not be able to do anything substantial. If I am driving a vehicle and suddenly someone else cuts in front of me and goes off and then if I become so angry at that, suddenly my blood pressure starts increasing and pulse starts jumping up, my muscles straining on my forehead and nose is bulging out and eyes almost get a _________ attack or a heart attack, you know if I become angry at small small things like this I will not be able function in life. So, tolerance enables me to keep small things small. As it is said, do not sweat the small stuff. What are small things, keep them small, do not bother too much about them, So, tolerance is a virtue, it is a value and tolerance enables to put the small things aside, so that we can focus on the big things in life. So this way, tolerance is a value and it is something which the various religions of the world talk about. Now, we are not talking here so much about religious tolerance. We will come to religion later. We are talking here primarily about the principle of tolerance. Tolerance means there are people who act in the ways that are contrary to my expectations, that are contrary to my desires, that are contrary to my plans, what do I do at that time. So if I do not have tolerance I erupt and when I erupt I disrupt. When I disrupt my plans, I disrupt my own clarity of thought, I disrupt my own planning of how to do things and I hurt myself. So, tolerance is not there. I may become consumed by revenge fantasies, I can back at the person. When I think of getting back at the person, then revenge fantasy _______ hatred that is there all that happens within the hatred, it is like I am a holding a burning charcoal in my hand, waiting for dreaded enemy to come so that I can hurl at that person cause a burn on the body, but what is happening that person may come and I may throw it that person, but before that happens I am holding the charcoal in my hand and as long as I am holding in my hand I am going to burn myself, so what happens by the absence of tolerance is that I hurt myself more than what others may give out, what I may ever hurt others. The absence of the value of tolerance makes me vulnerable to anger to revenge fantasies, to hatred, do all sorts of negativity and this negativity in the long run is extremely destructive for me. So, we just discussed here the influence of anger. Anger can as I said deform, distort, degrade into far more terrible things as I gave example of serial killing, I gave example road rages. There are so many things domestic violences all that happens when people ______ anger, so the value of tolerance enables the person to counter that anger, so this is individual value and also social value. Individually, it enables me to stay focused on what is important for me. Socially, it makes sure I do not act in ways which will harm others. So, whenever there is anger, there is danger. The only difference between anger and danger is D. So, that D is the real discrimination. Discrimination means not caste discrimination, where lower caste. Discrimination means, here we are talking about what is the voice of my lower self, what is the voice of my higher self. As soon as I lose the discrimination, then I accept the bad dogs voice as my voice and then I act impulsively, I act destructively and I end up regretingly so if we lose the discrimination, actually danger is always there and now the danger indicates the possibility of trouble. It also indicates that the possibility that if one is careful one will not get into trouble, one can avoid the trouble. For example, it may say on the road sign, danger go slowly. So that means that here there is danger and if I go slowly and then I will get into an accident, but if I go fast I may meet with an accident, so danger when it is there, there is a possibility of trouble and there is possibility of also avoiding trouble if one acts cautiously. So for all of us, the unhealthy impulses are there within us, but we also have values. So we can discriminate, this is short term, this is long-term, this is desirable, this is undesirable, this is the voice of my lower self, this is the voice of my higher self, this is a bad dog speaking, this is a good dog speaking, then I chose. Okay, this is not what I am going to do. So if I have cultivated the value of tolerance. Tolerance means I am not going to act impulsively, I am not going to speak harshly. I am going to think and I am going to decide actions accordingly. So then, that value of tolerance enables us to discriminate, chose properly and after I chose properly, then I can act maturely, so the values protect us from our own lower side, from the bad dog within us and the more we develop the values. For example, if I develop the tolerance, then I can check the _______ anger and I can focus on my growth systematically.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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