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Spirituality and Meditation

12th Jul 201619m58s

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  • Hi everybody. In this video I wanna talk about spirituality. Now when we watch debates between religious people and non-religious people on YouTube or on TV, often we get the same dynamic. Usually you have somebody representing religion who's either a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or some of the religion which has similar characteristics, i.e. a belief in God, a belief in an afterlife, a belief in heaven and hell and on the other side you usually have an atheist. And so the debates we see usually are between these two groups of people. One group of people who absolutely believe in the validity of supernatural claims and another group of people who believe that all these supernatural claims are complete nonsense and that everything that is out there can be explained purely through science. I know that there are agnostics in some cases, so agnostic is somebody who is an atheist but is willing to accept, given evidence that there exists a God. And to be honest, most atheists will probably agree with that. If there's evidence for something, you can believe in it. Now, people who watch these debates, people, you know, which is most of us who are watching these debates. If somebody asks us, what is spirituality? What are we gonna say? Most of us would probably say, well, spirituality would means a belief in the supernatural. A belief in a deity, God, a belief in the afterlife, a belief in heaven, hell. And if somebody says they're spiritual, that's what we assume, a lot of us assume that that means, but is that all spirituality is. So I wanna talk today in this video about some different interpretations of spirituality and different ways of looking at what spirituality is. And the first thing I wanna do is start by suggesting that the only thing we know for certain in this life is that we exist. You think about everything you know about yourself and about the world around you. Your name, where you're from, what other people think of you, what color the sky is. The thing about all of these points of knowledge you have in your head is because you've been able to rely on this knowledge repeatedly without it changing, you can believe that it's true. And you believe that so fiercely that you take these things as fact. That sky is blue, space is black. I mean there's no light in space, right? Except the light coming from stars, or your name is such and such or you are from such and such country. But, if you had to guess whether this was 100% verifiably accurate, you wouldn't be able to say it is. If somebody asked you, can you say with absolute certainty that you ate the food you thought you ate yesterday? You'd have to admit that you can't say that with absolute certainty. You could be in the matrix right now. You could be living in a computer simulation. Your name, is it really your name? Did someone put a microchip in your head that's making you say that name making you think that that's your name? You don't know is sounds ridiculous, right? And the chances are, this isn't what's happening. You are who you think you are, but the truth is that everything you believe has a probability assigned to it. You can't say for certain that something is true. You can only say that I think the probability of this being true is so high, it might as well be fact, it might as well be certain. The only thing you can say for certain though is that you exist. You know you exist because you're thinking and you're asking questions and you're wondering and you're experiencing reality around you. Whether you exist as computer simulation, whether you exist as a human being, who knows, but you know you exist. So everything else in your life is a probability, which brings us to beliefs. Religion, most religions are about believing in something. You're believing something and particularly you're believing in something that's beyond the ordinary, the supernatural. Now, we've just established that even the things you take as fact, as granted are actually just probabilities. You have no certainty about those things apart from the fact that you exist. Now, think about a religious belief. I believe in God, right? You say, I believe in God. Well, there's no evidence to suggest that God exists and what you've essentially done is you're voluntarily assigning a probability to that belief in God. Now, I know that some people have had out-of-this-world experiences, religious experiences that have absolutely convinced them that God is real. The problem there is you still have the same probability thing cropping up. You had some kind of experience and you decided to interpret that as meaning that God is real, but you don't know for sure if that's what that experience means. You've just decided that that's what it means for you. Because maybe that's the only explanation you could think of. So people would say, Oh, I had this experience once and that convinced me that God is real, this is all true. Well, you know, maybe you had a special experience, maybe it was out of this world, but that doesn't mean that the explanation for that experience is God. But you would rather go with that because it's a convenience explanation for you. Fair enough. But let's admit it's still a probability, maybe you think it's 90% true that God exists or maybe you think it's 99% what you can't say is 100% because to say 100% requires evidence, it requires you to prove it. So you could say 99% that's good enough for me. So, most people want certainty, which is why most people think this way. It's much easier to navigate through the difficulties of life if you have certainty about what's coming, about what's what, and about what the meaning of things is. This is why religious people love to believe in God. It gives them comfort. It gives them certainty. You know, it doesn't matter what bad things happen in my life in this world because I know that when Judgment Day comes, God will make sure everything is right. That's how they think about these things and that gives people comfort. Knowing that there's or believing that there's somebody out there looking out on everything, gives people comfort and it gives them certainty and it allows them to tackle life with more confidence. The path that's more fraught with danger is the one of the atheist, for example. Or the one of somebody who doesn't have that kind of comforting belief in God. Because if there is nobody out there looking out for me, then, Oh man, what if all these bad things happening on this planet? I mean, what if there is no justice? What if it just is. So, it doesn't comfort you? Moreover, there's no certainty because if there is no grand designer of the universe, then what? We don't know what's gonna happen next, anything could happen and that's scary. But the scariest part of all of it is that you realize that the answer to most questions in life is I don't know. Because if the only thing you know for certain is that you exist then every answer you give to a question is really an uncertain answer. It's an answer which comes with probability assigned to it. So the honest answer, the most honest answer is, I don't know. There's a spiritual teacher, Byron Katie who talks about this, she says, being able to say, I don't know, to your whole life to most of questions in your life and being able to live that way is very brave. It requires a lot of courage. Because you're essentially saying, I'm not going to seek certainty in all of these things, I'm going to accept that my knowledge is limited and I'm going to be okay, I'm going to learn to be okay with that uncertainty. So this is the mind of the true seeker, the true spiritual seeker. Somebody who is humble enough to admit that they don't know all the answers and is brave enough to take that path in life and be willing to learn and find the answers. And this is markedly different from people who follow religions and particularly religions which give you a lot of rules and regulations and guidance on how to live your life. So I'm again, I'm talking about the Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam. Because if you have a lot of rules and guidance given to you straight away, then that's less thinking you have to do for yourself, right? There's less doubts about what you should do, less doubts about what you should believe the answers are there for you. And in fact, I mean I've seen videos where a debate between a Muslim, a non-Muslim, an atheist, and the Muslim person will often say, oh, if, you know, if there was a book which had all the answers to life's questions, wouldn't you want to use it? Why would you not use it? And as I've just explained, the reason you might not wanna use it is because no book can give you 100% certain answers to these questions. And if that's a perspective you already hold, it's very difficult to pick up a religious book and think, okay, I'm just gonna follow what's in this book it's gonna have all the answers for me. Because you already know that actually no one knows the answers for sure. No one can be certain about these things. The people who follow those rules, they believe that what's in those books, that those rules are 100% correct. Because they already believe, they've chosen to believe in what they perceive to be the certainty of God and everything else associated with that. But deep down, deep, deep, deep down, if they're really honest with themselves, even they would have to admit that they don't it know for certain. So then the argument can be made, well, okay, we don't know anything for certain. So why not just pick a religious path? Why not just believe in God, follow these rules because it's the second best thing you can have. If you don't have absolute certainty about what's true, you might as well pick a path that professes to get you to a better life, a happier life. Right? And do you know what? That's a fair point. You can absolutely, absolutely choose to do that. But, what if there was a way in which you can gain some certainty about the reality of nature and it didn't involve beliefs? So this is where it gets interesting. This is where we start talking about meditation and about the more eastern spiritual traditions. In the western traditions there is a tradition magic which has elements of this as well. But meditation and specifically what Buddha taught, and just to clarify, I'm not a Buddhist. But, Buddha did teach meditation and the main difference between the meditative approach to spirituality and say the devotional prayer approach is meditation is not about what you believe. It's not about what you believe, it's about what you experience. Just wanna repeat that. Meditation is not about what you believe, it's about what you experience. Because as we've demonstrated, your beliefs are not 100% true. You don't know if they're 100% true, you can't know. You know, that's why they're called beliefs. It's a leap of faith. You've assigned a probability to a statement and you've set the probability to be very high according to how you feel. And that's your belief. Meditation isn't concerned with your beliefs. It isn't even concerned with who you think you are. What it's concerned with is what you experience in the reality of this present moment. Your emotions, your thoughts, the sensations on your body. What you find, you know, see happening around you, and through focusing on those things and concentrating, you're able to go deeper into understanding your own mind. So why is this important? You know, why is meditation interested in your mind? Well, if you think about your life, you think about how you feel about yourself, how you feel about the world, how you feel about the future, everything. It's all determined by the contents of your mind. Why some people are very loving. Why some people have a short temper. Is it just the genes? I mean, is there evidence to suggest that this all in the genes? We know it's not all in the genes. A lot of it is to do with environment. But what do we mean by that? When we say or the environment caused these people to become this way, what it means is their environment shaped their minds, their environment shaped their minds. Well, think about when we say, Oh, I am in love. My partner loves me and it feels amazing. What do we actually mean by that? What we mean is knowing that that person loves us, makes us feel good in our own minds. So, in our mind there's a trigger and the trigger is this knowing that this person loves me or believing this person loves me. 'Cause of course you can't know for certain but you believe it. Believing this person loves me, that triggers the good feelings in my mind, the good feelings in my body, the endorphins and such and such. So, that love that we have with the other person, it's not that they're transmitting a love energy towards us. We may believe that they are, but that's not what's happening. Our mind is triggering these great feelings based on a belief we have, about how they feel about us. That we can say for certain. And most things in our life are like that. The things we want to get in life, I wanna buy that car, I wanna say a pretty girlfriend, a pretty boyfriend or whatever it is, right? We want those things because we know we'll be happy when we get those things. What do we mean by that? We mean when I get that thing, it will trigger a feeling of happiness inside me. We know that. So why do you want that thing in the first place? Because at some point as you're growing up, the seed was planted in your mind that that thing is a good thing to have. Maybe you saw other people having that thing being happy or maybe it was through advertising, whatever it is. But the point I'm trying to make is so much about what you choose to do in life, who you choose to be with and what you choose to believe. How you choose to feel is based on your mind, is based on the contents of your mind. So this is based on your beliefs, your memories, so in other words what happen to you and your imagination about how you know, however creatively you think about life, that also shapes how you experience life. So your perspective on life, your perspective on the world, pretty much shapes how you feel about it. Whether you feel happy, whether you feel sad, I mean, there's a saying, you know, every cloud has a silver lining. You know, even when things are going bad in your life, there is always a positive if you just look for it. What that really means is, change your perspective, shift your perspective, try and find the positive in the negative that's going on. And the truth is that's possible all the time for every situation. There's not a situation for which that's not possible. There's always a positive. Part of the reason of course is that, change is constant. And the one thing that's constant in this universe in this life is change, i.e. everything is always changing. That's the one thing you can be sure of. So back to meditation. So meditation is about understanding your mind and you do that through concentrating and being aware of the present moment. And what that does is it forces your mind to quieten down instead of thinking about what you're gonna be doing tomorrow, what you did yesterday, or how that person annoyed you or whatever it is you're bringing your mind to concentrate on what's happening in this present moment. And that then slowly over time you begin to understand how your mind works because you start to see thoughts come in, distracting thoughts come in. And then you start to realize, wow, this is the kind of things that I tend to think about. So, an example of this that I've experienced is prejudice. You know, prejudice that I feel against other people when I meditate and practice meditation regularly, I notice when I am being prejudiced against somebody else in my mind, like I can notice this and I realize, you know, why do I have that prejudice? Oh, it's because I've had that mind-passing going on for a long time. It's probably 'cause of media exposure or something else or maybe something someone said, which I then believe to but I'm able to see that. And then what I'm able to do is go beyond that prejudicial thoughts and realize that the reality is there is no need to be prejudiced, it's just the mind pattern that I have going on. So this is really powerful stuff. And this in my opinion, is where you really start to touch on spirituality because now you're beginning to learn who you truly are. Because what you realize is a lot of your thoughts are just trained mind patterns, your beliefs, your identity, who you think you are, the suffering you perceive yourself to be in. A lot of these are just trained mind patterns and indeed what Buddha, when he taught meditation, the whole purpose of it was to help people escape suffering. That was the whole point. And it wasn't let's escape suffering by, you know, living a good life and getting to heaven or let's escape suffering by not getting into hell no it was, forget heaven and hell, forget God. This life right here, right now, you know you exist, you're here, how can you escape suffering in this life? You can't control everything that happens to you. You can't control people, you can't control the world out there. All you can control is how you react to what happens, how you perceive what happens. So how do you control how you perceive what happens? Well, you have to understand who you are. You have to understand how your mind works. So you can see you need to meditate, you need to concentrate, you need to figure out who you are and go beyond the mind patterns that are dominant within you, the negative mind patterns that make you unhappy, that make you suffer and learn to see things more clearly. And this is where we go back to the, every cloud has a silver lining. When you can practice that, when you can implement that effectively in your life, then you can begin, begin to suffer a lot less. Of course, bad stuff still happens, right? Stuff you don't want still happens. Things go wrong, things break. People fight, you know, people argue, but you learn to deal with it better because you learn not to bind to all the crap that your mind generates all the time. So that's why it's really powerful. And if I, you know, I really believe that if more people practiced meditation, then I think the world would be a better place. Because, again it's not about beliefs. It's not about beliefs. In fact, it's by realizing that your beliefs are uncertain. It's about understanding how your mind works and get into something deeper. Now, if any one of you out there were familiar with Buddhism or philosophical Hinduism, I mean the deep philosophical parts of it, you'll know that there's such a thing as enlightenment, spiritual enlightenment where you meditate, meditate, meditate. You get to the point where you experience the true nature of reality, the universal consciousness, we're all one thing. Now, I don't believe in that. I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I'm saying that I'm open to it being true, but until I experience that myself, I'm not going to believe in it. However, I will practice meditation because that gives me immediate benefits. And maybe it is true, maybe if I practice, I will experience spiritual enlightenment, I don't know. But it's an interesting idea that such a thing exists that you can actually experience the nature of reality separate from beliefs. It's not something you have to choose to believe, it's something you will experience and then you will know because you've experienced it so directly. But what I'd like to see more than anything is these sorts of discussions about different kinds of spirituality in public. Instead of just having atheists and people who follow Abrahamic religion who talk about God and praying to God and heaven and hell, let's talk about meditation as well. Let's talk about other forms of spirituality, other ways of looking at things. I mean, a spiritual person doesn't necessarily have to believe in supernatural things. I mean, one of the points of meditation is, again, it's not about believing in something. It's not even about having out-of-this-world experiences. Maybe you will have that. It's about experiencing reality and then interpreting that reality as accurately as possible and really understanding who you are. But that's just one definition of spirituality. Someone could say, I'm spiritual and that means I believe there's more to life than what we can see. Not necessarily that I believe in a god, but maybe there's just something more out there and I wanna stay open-minded. I mean, isn't that a healthier approach to be open-minded about these things than say atheism, and not every atheist, but a lot of atheists who say, Oh, you know what? This stuff's all nonsense, I'm not even gonna look into it, I'm not going to bother reading it because I think science has all the answers. In actual facts I think the real answers will come in such a way that we will be able to marry what science teaches us with what deep spiritual traditions teach us. They'll both be pointing at the same thing, perhaps explaining things in different way. Maybe that's what the final answer is. I don't know.