Does the Bhagavad-gita have any relevance today? Many people may think it’s an “old book” and irrelevant for us today because we are so modern, so technologically advanced with our smartphones and social media etc., that we are so cool now, compared to people 5,000 years ago. Well sorry, but we’re not that cool and we’re not that smart!
It’s actually never been this bad! Social alienation is on the rise, suicide – especially amongst the youth – is skyrocketing, depression has reached epidemic proportions, and the frequent use of mind-altering substances (both legal and illegal) is so wide-spread, it is now considered normal. Why is everybody so unhappy?
When you look at Facebook and Instagram everyone is having a wonderful time and is so happy. But this is not true, it is all just a pretence. We are all fundamentally unhappy, to different degrees. This is like a person who is sick but refuses to acknowledge the symptoms of their condition.
If you don’t recognise that there’s something wrong, then you are not inclined to seek medical help or to take medicine. I want to pretend everything is fine even though within my heart I feel this emptiness, agitation, and loneliness.
Even though I feel that way, I don’t want to accept that there’s anything wrong with my life and my choices in life. Social media and all this technology don't help. In fact, it is a major contributor to our being “dumbed down”.
The amount of manipulation that we are subject to by social media, advertising, Google and Amazon is extraordinary and unprecedented. They gloat over the stupidity of ‘the masses’ and how easy it is to make money from us.
We are subject to incredible amounts of manipulation and yet we believe we’re so independent, intelligent and cool, thinking “I’m making my own independent decisions. I’m in charge of my life!” Through various platforms, they stimulate our desires and exploit our emptiness.
Then, based on amazing algorithms, they predict what we’re likely to be looking for and then offer us something, with the subtle promise that “this will do the trick, this will fulfil you.”
Your consciousness or the state of your mind determines the things that you consider desirable and are attracted to, the things that you are repulsed by, the type of food that you are attracted to; in short, the way in which you pursue happiness.
The Bhagavad-gita talks about two states of consciousness - spiritual consciousness and material consciousness. When a person has become absorbed in the idea that the body is ‘me’ then their whole life is going to be spent trying to find love, a home, happiness, and perfection, in relation to this temporary body and temporary world.
We have this false idea that if I can fulfil all my material desires I will be happy. We are thus seeking an eternal spiritual perfection in a world which is temporary, limited and imperfect.
You can immerse your body and mind in a hyper state of sensual stimulation. You can whip your body and mind into a frenzy with non-stop sensual stimulation - smelling, tasting, feeling, engaging in all kinds of activities, but when it’s all over, there you are, still empty, and maybe a little bit more disappointed than you were before.
It doesn’t matter what you are doing to your body and mind, it is not actually touching you, the person within the body. We need spiritual nutrition and a genuine spiritual experience. That is what we are looking for.
In order to find this, the Bhagavad-gita says we may need to change direction in our life, to make a U-turn for happiness. Rather than continuing down the road of striving to pursue fulfilment, peace and happiness by satisfying all our material desires, we may need to learn a new way of living.
We are talking about making a change in our current basic assumptions, about viewing life differently; looking for our happiness in a new and different way, by seeking real happiness and spiritual love.
A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still—can alone achieve peace and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires. – Bhagavad-gita 2.70
Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world. – Bhagavad-gita 5.23
The Bhagavad-gita is offering an amazing companionate and a compassionate spiritual vision on how to retrain yourself, how to live a different kind of life, and so experience completely different outcomes to those you may be currently experiencing.
Acharya das is a respected teacher of Vedic and yogic philosophy, meditation and kirtan, and a practitioner of the transcendental science of Bhakti Yoga. He has taught yoga wisdom to appreciative audiences for over 40 years.