Our modern lives and the decisions we take on a daily basis are typically driven by three major forces – DATA (D), MONEY (M) and RIGHTS (R) – which influence and move us sometimes in very subtle ways.
We search for happiness by manipulating these forces to get material sense enjoyment. Unfortunately, the happiness we experience is fleeting and disappointingly unsubstantial. Consequently, many are frustrated and angry with the status quo. And, well-being, at both individual and collective levels, has been severely compromised.
What’s amiss? Where did we go wrong?
There is an underlying assumption that if I have the right data or information; if I can maximize my wealth; and, if I can fight for and win my rights, I can be happy or experience well-being. This assumption is questionable to begin with and is proving to be faulty and even dangerous. For example, there are scientific studies that show that maximizing wealth does not lead to well-being. In fact, we are witnessing unprecedented levels of friction and conflict between two or more parties (socialists versus capitalists, theists versus atheists, liberals versus conservatives, activists versus government, oppressed versus oppressors, one religious group versus another and so on) who perceive and employ these forces differently. Furthermore, the forces themselves are often at loggerheads with each other and often give rise to inner conflict and confusion within an individual. Sometimes, data points you one way but economic considerations point you another way. Which way is beneficial?
Each one of us should become more aware of these forces and how they are influencing and even hijacking our consciousness and thus our very lives. Armed with such awareness, we must control these forces that have gained outsized importance. Inaction will lead to destruction at self and societal levels. Sadly, we are already witnessing numerous examples of such misfortune.
What’s the alternative?
It is not that the aforementioned three forces possess an inherent evilness. It is how we perceive and use them that determine whether an outcome is good or bad. Data is useful, money is valuable and rights are important – but only when they are based on certain fundamental PRINCIPLES or universal truths. These principles, which are actually encoded within each one of us and are found in wisdom or religious texts (such as the Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam) and in the writings of great saints, philosophers and thinkers must be accepted and followed by one and all. Doing so would open the door for harmony and universal brotherhood. Also, as noted by renowned educator and author, Stephen Covey, in his book Principle-centered leadership, from principles emanate truly valuable assets such as wisdom, guidance, power and security.
Following a PRINCIPLE-driven approach to life is not a question of personal preference but one of necessity. Ideally, in our educational institutions, everyone must be taught these principles (or be made aware of the knowledge within) and trained how to apply them in various life situations. Education must not be simply about training people how to process data or information in order to maximize wealth and to fight for one’s rights. Education should bring about transformation of consciousness through character development by assimilation and application of principles.
In any situation, regardless of how the DMR triad looks, the underlying principles must be upheld or protected. There is a famous Sanskrit saying found in the Indian Vedas – dharma raksati rakshitah – when one protects a principle, the principle in turn provides protection to that individual. Protection from what? Suffering due to materialistic consciousness.
Let’s take an example.
The principle of non-violence (ahimsa) is one of the fundamental principles. Following this principle promotes progressive life and avoids negative reactions. Understandably, wisdom texts and sages from time immemorial have strongly recommended strict adherence to this principle. Unfortunately, few people take it seriously. Today, animal-slaughtering, terrorist acts, whimsical wars, shootings, murders, rapes, abuses, violent acts against Mother Nature are all too common and ubiquitous and have destroyed the fabric of a peaceful and happy society. Those who don’t realize the importance of this principle often cite questionable data to support their claims or even assert that it’s their right to hurt/kill or often engage in violence for economic reasons. Seldom, they are aware of the underlying operating principle(s) and even if aware, are unwilling to follow because it’s all too convenient not to do so.
A principle-driven approach to life is the only true alternative to our current materialistic way of living that is driven by data, money and rights. It is the panacea for our modern society’s ills.
Aravind Mohanram (a.k.a Advaita Chandra das) is a disciple of Romapada Swami and Co-Founder, Yoga 24x7 (www.yoga24x7.org), a contemporary presentation of Bhagavad-Gita’s teachings. He lives in Northboro, MA, USA, with his wife and son.[ lifestyle ] [ money ]