"From early childhood we are told to be good. The concept of "good" and how it so deeply affects us is the theme of this discussion and although it seems to be an obvious topic, it turns out to be surprisingly liberating!" 24. Nov. 2007
Today I wane to talk about something which has been very, I would say relevant throughout history. Something which has been one of the predominating factors in the evolution of mankind, and which is something obvious, yet at the same time important. And I would call this subject, I would entitle it, ‘Being good’. Now ‘being good’ it’s a very common fraise, its something that every parent tells his child, or her child, it’s something that we expect from each other its something that as far as we are concerned is a fundamental principle of behavior in society. And even though this is an obvious thing, I want to discuss it in terms of the being part, and in terms of religion, and in terms of the way in which religion manifests in this modern society, and the way it had manifested historically. And as usual, I’m going to contrast this with spirituality. This independent entity, this independent existence that is spiritual. Our essential spirituality, which is existing independently of all of the constructions that we make in this world, or this realm that we reside within.
Now ‘being good’ this is an important thing, its not a thing which is insignificant. For example when you are a child and again most of the things that impact us very seriously in this life come from our childhood. So when you are child, and your parents expect of you things, they expect of you first and foremost that you be good. That means that you act in a good way, that you act in a way which is pleasing to them, because that definition of what is good and similarly the contrary to that what is bad, is given to us by our parents. That is given to them by their parents, or their religion, or their society, or whatever. Our original and most significant understandings of goodness come from the external world. Now we when we are born have our own understanding of what is good, we know what is good for us, we know what feels good. And I don’t just means what feels good bodily, I mean what feels good emotionally, what makes us feel that things are right.
And this changes as our body changes. As the body changes our conception of what feels good and feels right transforms. I’m not talking about what gives pleasure, I’m not talking about sensuality, I’m not talking about what tastes good. I’m talking about that our archetypical type of understanding of being good. That would be most specifically characterized when your parents would say now be a good boy or be a good girl, or I supposed when they would say that’s very bad. Now that good and bad we know this conceptions transform over time. This conceptions are developed and they also will change according to the circumstances you are in. Let us speak about this from the religious point of view. What actually makes me good? Do I become good when I am fulfilling the expectations of others? Now although we’re talking about a very common sense obvious subject, that question transformed the whole thing. In other words what is it that makes me good? Do I become good when I fulfill the expectations of others? Or is it that, what has actually happened is that this other people think that I am good, because I have fulfilled the expectations of what is good that they have received from others?
So ultimately who has decided what is that good? If you look at morality, ethics, what is acceptable behavior, what is unacceptable behavior, you will see that this has changed from the time before there was the Judeo-Christian tradition, to the present time. If you look before the Judeo-Christian tradition, you will see, I mean at least in the Western side of things, or Middle Eastern side of things, people had a very different conception of being good. It may not have been as important for them, to take care of others, to be kind to others. There were slaves, and the way of dealing with slaves was as if they were property, one simply took care of ones property. One didn’t really care weather or not the slave was happy, or the slave was somehow fulfilled. Just like you change the oil in your car and you give it gas, you feed the slave and take of the basic needs of it, it, - we don’t say him or her we say it, - and in such a way that it will work well for you, and that was good. ‘Being good’ was very much - of course we’re talking about the aristocracy or there are those who had the positions or funds to do this, so their conception of what was good was to maintain the slave.
There were many kinds of injustices, cruelties that in modern society we would not even be able to comprehend. Nowadays we have so many restrictions on sexuality, in those days things were just so wildly different, wildly open, without this restrictions. Now people would say this is uncivilized, because this conceptions of goodness, conceptions of morality, conceptions of ethics, things which should be done, things which should not be done, were different. It is not that they didn’t exist, there were definite societies, definite structures, everything was defined, there were even laws, there was enforcing of law. Its just that in those days it was different than it is in this days. And the main different you could see, even from legal systems or other systems, was this transformation of the ethical systems, of the moral systems that took place when the bible came, the then commandments, the new testament of Christ, where Christ was giving other kinds of principles which were transforming this ideals. But even more importantly the way this became interpreted by Constantine, by the Romans, when the Romans embraced Christianity and the mixture of their legal system and Roman understanding mixed with the Christian ideal. And this whole understanding of what is good became intricately entwined with the religious systems definition of it.
Now when you look at religion what really are we looking at? If you look at every single religion from a very generic point of view, you don’t care weather Mohammed was the prophet, or Christ was the prophet, or son of god, or whatever it is that that particular religion believed, or whether or not the gods name was Krishna, or Yahweh, or Allah, whatever. You just put aside all of those differences of name, and you look generically simply at the principles upon which the religion is based. You will see that every single religion practically without exception, I don’t know all religions, have the same kind of generic structure to them. There is god or gods, there is things that god or gods like, there are things that god or gods don’t like, there is the living being, the living being has responsibility to god. One of the most important responsibilities is to be good.
How are you good? You follow a moral life, you have an ethical life, things like don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t have sex with your neighbors wife, or husband. There are this very basic principles. In certain traditions they add cleanliness, or kindness, compassion, forgiveness, you will find this in all traditions. I mean people may say what they like nowadays about those who are followers of Mohammed, but their religious tradition has every bid the same kind of morality, ethic, kindness, compassion, as the Christian tradition. We find that the problems are not amongst this basic principles they are amongst details. Details about how you can live, what you can do, details about who god is.
Which particular name we call god.
Everybody understands we are servants of god in some form or another, that we are small god is great. This is very common. But the point I’m talking about today is this ‘Being good’. Now is it so that you become good when you act in a way which has been defined as good by religion. Lets say a very evil person, I’m not going to by the way give a definitive answer here, this is just a topic for thought, a topic for understanding, to deepen our own understanding of what we are and how we feel about ourselves. And I’m not trying to push this discussion in any particular way. But lets say you got a very evil person, lets say you got a person who insight is really not very good, yet they could be very honest. Lets say honesty is considered to be a call which is good, and lets say this very evil person could say in all honesty I enjoy killing. Now they’re honest that’s good. After all even in the age of Kali that we’re supposed to be living in, the last pillar is truthfulness.
So when I say truthfully I like to kill, is that good? Does that define me as good? Well everyone would say no! lets say the same evil person likes to be very clean. Its funny to speak about that, because in India some people say, that demons whoever they are, whatever that means, I’m just talking about the way they talk about. Demons in this age take birth as Brahmanas. Now that becomes quite complex, because the Brahmana is clean and they are clean, they are learned, they are truthful. Now here we have this people who look and act like Brahmanas on the very basic platform, yet they supposed to be demons. Now we would not call them good. In this particular definition - when we say we I’m talking about those in this particular mentality of understanding I’m just trying to amplify this topic - they would be called demons because they have an agenda. Their agenda, their underlined motive is to take birth in religion to undermine and destroy it from within. Now isn’t that interesting? And the reason it is ostensibly because they hate Krishna, or god. Ostensibly its seemingly so that the reason they do it, because they hate Krishna, or god.
Now lets go back to being good. You could follow all of this principles which make ninety to ninety five per cent of every religion, and still be a demon. I mean after all if you look at the ways in which certain persons during the time of the Mahabharata war acted. Now Duryodhana for example, the king at that time, was not at all a demon, but practically people would think of him that way. But he was a good king, he followed all kinds of principles of the Ksatriyas, but he was envious of the Pandavas, took a way their kingdom by cheating. So he cheated, and we condemn him for that. And he was killed because he cased Draupadi to have this problem with her sari in public.
Actually when you boil it down, we judge others as good or not good, according to the way they make us feel, about how they do things, or what it is that they do. Now that is really a psychologically interesting point, because how we feel about ourselves, has never been really considered as important. Just take from how we are born, and how we are raised as small children, our parents never really considered about how we felt about ourselves, about how we felt about our goodness, being good. Being good is real easy as a baby, you don’t know anything else, all you know is this is, I feel good that I’m good now. Now I feel bad so I cry to make some change to feel good. So long as parents are simply supplying me that what I need, as in breast milk or whatever, all is well. The problems comes when they don’t consider anymore how I feel about being good, they start impressing upon me the expectation of what is good. So from the very beginning of life it has been firmly established in our own lives, as it has been firmly established in society since time immemorial, as it is firmly established in stone in religion, that the ‘being good’ means you fulfill other peoples feelings of how you should be. And religion is just another one of those kind of impositions.
Obviously we need to have some form of social arrangement, transmission of culture, transmission of the education, of how to be in a social environment. But the problem comes when we put this fraise, this stamp on it of being good. I feel this is a problematic thing. I can understand if somebody says, this is how you should act, because its for the sake of the society, its for the sake of others, its for the sake of peace, it’s a compromise you have to make in your ways of acting, to make things work for everybody. I understand that. But if it has to be labeled as this is a good citizen, or this is what is a good person, I’m not sure if I would agree with that, even if this was politically declared. Just like in some societies they make war, and people within the society fight against the war. If the government makes war and you support it, the government thinks you are good, but the people against the war think its not good and the government is not good.
So it becomes complex, it becomes problematic, if we would say that this policy doesn’t work, is kind of like when you’re speaking and use the term good, this policy is not good. Well if I feel its good, its good. If I feel that its good, its good. But if it can be shown that it doesn’t work, it is not functioning, it is counterproductive to my interest, to your interest also, it changes the way in which we qualify actions. Which we qualify ideas. I suppose a more enlightend way to rase children, would be to start speaking in terms such as: You are very good but this particular action that you have undertaken to hit your friend over the had with this shovel, is counterproductive, its against your interest because its against that child interest. That child would number one not want to play with you anymore, that child’s parents would think badly about us your parents, and that child would also retaliate aginst you later on, in somen other way or another, and in general such forms of action end up with consequences which are not at all advantages for you. In other words to show the bigger picture. This kind of a way of understanding things allows one to see very rapidly there is only one. Because my interests and your interests are connected. But if I speak in terms of this is you are good and now this is very bad, it becomes a confusing mixture of ethic and simply following law, or simpy trying to please. And if I’m just trying to please others, by acting according to their expectation, than I would need to have their aprovel, I would need to have their appreciation, which will justify my transformation, my change of action. And I may never get that, or I may get that and it may be withdrawn, and this would cause me psychological distortion.
And I shall become in a very subtle way twisted, and this shall manifest in, as rebellion. In other words to act bad, to show you who have told mne what to do and not given me the approval, that I have the power to do it, that I have the capacity to do it, and in some way I hope this makes you to feel pain, as a justification for the pain I feel that you are not approving of my transformation. In other words you could boil down an enormous amount of the, shall we call it, social, psychological and ethical disturbances, of the modern society, to be a product of improper definition of terms, to be a product of a twisting of some very fundamental principles and very fundamental wording, as in being good, into something which has a very different meaning. And if you go back to religion, and we understand basically that ninety, ninety five per cent of all religion is filled with those ideas of beeing good, in terms of how you should act, how you shouldn’t act, used to drive me crazy in the Mahabharata.
I really loved the Mahabharata, I mean the story, the history. Anyway I love history, I’m a bid of a history freak. I love the way in which history has unfolded, the way in which people have struggled and paralleled. We are paralleling their struggle in so many ways, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, to such a degree that we can understand, this errors are products of the structures that we are in, products of the way in which the human being is structured, psychologically and emotionally, and therefore socially. Anyway in the Mahabharata its a fabulous history, I mean its definitely of all the histories the best. But why it is such a huge book? Even if you would just translated it, word for word, without even a very compact translation from Sanskrit to English for instance, or to Russian, it would be a very big book. It is a big book, and why is it so big? Because a lot of it, I would say, maybe eighty percent of it - of course this is just numbers,- is filled with this moral principles: You should do like this under that, you should do like that under this. Principles for kings, principles for woman, principles for mothers, principles for Ksatryias, principles for Brahmanas, blah, blah, blah.
Basic principles for human beings. And if you were to impartially examine this, in the context of our present existence. You would see that you could probably pick out a few essential ingredients from all of this, and put it in one very small chapter. And of that, some portion of it would be relevant, to what we are living in today. And that which would be relevant, would be basic moral principles. As in: Don’t cheat, don’t steal, be honest, be merciful, be kind, and so on. Because the specific ways in which this things would manifest, in those days are extremely different from this days. I don’t need to go into the details, figure it out for yourself. Now when you take out all of that stuff from the Mahabharata, basically you have Bhagavad-gita and that’s fine just as it is. If you could take out all this other things, and you had Bhagavad-gita - Bhagavad-gita is in the Mahabharata in case you forgot - that would be fine, and you would have that book and its fine, and it stands on its own throughout time.
Now the history, if you just compact it to a history, its really fascinating. But if you think about it. This principles make up the majority of religious principles. And than there are some very, very, very basic principles beyond that which are another format of principles, which is: There is the Supreme, there is the living entity, there is the relationship between the two. And all this other principles are supposedly based on that. Like how you deal with others, how you act. But basically we are talking about being connected to god. There are caviats to that though, you could only do that if you are good, if you follow the path of being good. Now we’ve got now a contradiction. In the modern society we’ve got religion defining what is good, we have parents, friends and society defining what is good. We have the politicians defining what is good, we have corporations defening what is good, we have the Earth defening what is good, by showing us what is bad ecologically. Our bodies are defining what is good, by showing us what is bad through disease, and mostly this things conflict with each other.
You’ll even see conflicts between intellectuals and religions. Where the intellectuals will say this religious principles are mythical, are things which have no relevance to modern society. Religion will counter that the intelectual has no faith, the intellectual has no belief, or that the politician is not good. This contradictions are very strong today. They have always been very strong. Its just that in history, in historical accounts, you don’t read about this things, because people were not righting about them. They were not even aware of them. In previous times, eather there was a complete dictatership, the dictater dictated what was what. The king dictated what was what. "This is good", its called a proclamation boom! this is it. Or the church did it, and if you don’t follow it, you will get burnd at the stake. If you are acting not in this good way, and doing things which are on the evil way, we will burn you at the stake. Previously they would chop your head off. You know, the dictator of a government would do it. Or in society you could be banished from society, if you didn’t act in the right way, or stoned to death, or!all this kinds of conflicts were there. But they were a kind of, shall we say, made less obvious, or less significant, due to the extreme dis-balance of power. That there were very specific powers, which capt everyone else under subordination.
But nowadays its very different, and I don’t think this difference is being respected enough, there is really no kind of a dictatorship. Even if you look in China for instants, the last remaining bastion of Communism. But China is so incredibly Capitalistic, its absurd. And things have so transformed their whole mentality, their whole way of doing things has so transformed into a Chineze flawer of this kind of like openness. We don’t find that kind of like dictatorship, which is so dominating, we’ve got all kinds of forces here. Now in such an atmosphere, where the definition of what is good, is no longer a singular definition, coming from a singular authority, and this is even true with the parents, that very rapidly kids, as soon as they have contact in the world understand, that this definition of goodnesss is flexible.
And parents themselves unless they are very religious, or very fanatical about their religion, or very fanatical against the religion, they actually don’t support this kind of like goodness idea, that this is the way you act. They support the idea of you’re driving me crazy, stop that. I supose that’s a more honest way of doing it, that the way you are acting disturbs me so be good and stop disturbing me because in this house what is good is what stops disturbing me. And we have a variety of definition of goodness. Now I don’t mean a goodness as in Satva-guna kind of thing, of this archetypical goodness. I mean what it is being good just like when something is really good amongst the community here of the black people they may say oh that’s really bad. They may say just backwords and that is very interesting, because the idea of it being good, has nothing to do with its goodness. Its simply that this person has said, I think that’s great or I think that’s cool, or I think that’s wonderful. And as a demonstration of the meaningless of the definition of it being good or bad,in that sence of goodness, or that sence of that principle of goodnesss you could just as well say uh that’s so bad and it would mean exactly the same thing. I think there are many, many things that in America especially people who are of the black color, have offered to people who are of the white color, terms like can you feel me. As in I don’t care whether you understand in the sence of intelectual understanding but can you feel the message I am giving you because it only has an importance. It only impacts if you could feel it.
So I mean there is such a wide variety nowadays, especially due to this cross cultural influence. There are so many cross cultural influences everywhere. This is what’s happening in the world today, this globalization, I mean this cross cultural influence is mixing everything. I mean even there in Russia, you know you speak - I know for me, I sit in front of thirty people, and where are you from? Oh I am from this -stan or that -stan, or I am from Georgia, or I’m from Armenia, or I’m from Azerbaijan, I’m from Ukraine, I am from Latvia, Lithuania. I mean how many people are actually native Russians. Even our band guys in North Pole, they’re living in Kazakhstan, and they are native Russians. It doesn’t matter. So the idea is very interesting how everything is mixed. You got in France, all of the people of the former French colonies, Marocco and Algeria transforming things. You got in Sweden, so many refugee kind of people taking assailment there, which have so enormously transformed the way in which people think, and the way in which people understand culturally. Because different kinds of cultural influences are transforming that usual pure cultural society of what is to be done, what is not to be done, what is good, what is right.
In other words think about it, countries culturally have also been very safe in their definitions of good, because they have a particular social culture. I am very familiar with a problem in Sweden for instance. You’ve got in Sweden this very Swedish culture, and than you add into it all of this foreigners, who are forcing everything to transform. And in Sweden, the Swedes have a negative birth rate, in other words the family of two may only have only one child, or no children. And the foreigners have a birth rate of six children or eight children. You know the Islamic peoples know, they don’t have to worry about taking over the world by force, they just keep populating the world. And soon everybody would be Muslim because they’ll be so many, just because of their families growing so big. In such an atmosphere how do you maintain a kind of nationalistic purity, which includes what is good within it? You cannot!
So you will see the whole world being transformed, with this cross-cultural colonization of diffusion, or the influences of everybody’s conceptions, of their cultural ideas of good, or whatever. So this principles which have maintained what is good historically are extremely week nowadays. Religion is not the primary definer of good anymore. Dictators are not the primary definer of good anymore. Traditions are being so washed, so diluted, that people don’t even remember their traditions. So what is defining what is good? The media? Economy? Maybe even practicality of social relationships? But ultimately does anyone of this have any value to us, who look from a spiritual point of view? We can put away this conceptions of goodness from all of this social, political, religious ideals. And don’t forget most of the religions, or lets say all of the religions, outside of this very small area of the living entity and the Supreme, and even that is very cloudy in practical manifestation.
Its very cloudy how that practically is experienced right now, in this world. Its usually put in the context of do this, do this, don’t do that, don’t do that and you will get somewhere. So this is the basic principle. I would say, from the point of view of straight out spirituality, you would have better success with going back to that very original statement, which is obviously going to be the title of this lecture of this week. Being good. Because if we examine that statement just without it being encumbered by all kinds of other complicated notions, or complicated ideas, we talk about being, if you’re just aware of your being, you never consider it, in terms of good or bad. Can you have a bad being? According to some definitions you can. According to some definitions, demons have bad beings. They are of essence evil, they are the evil essence. My god, how is that possible? If everything is spiritual, if all beings, regardless of what they are, are the same spirit energy, how can any being be of essence evil? By definition its not possible.
The only way to make such a thing possible, is to not have a spiritual essence, not have a spiritual being. There is no overriding god, there is no holistic matrix of all living entities, there is no only one of us, there is only matter, and the way in which particular beings have developed their consciousness, and therefore one could be evil purely. You cannot combine the two, you cannot have the spirit and than have an evil essence to it. In that understanding you would have to say, the evil is a product of ignorance, or shall we say improper upbringing, or trauma, or bad experiences, or having been exploited, or some kind of traumatic energy, which has twisted, or distorted, the essential spirit into something different. And you could than say, that everybody in this realm, has the same problem more or less. Yet, that being, when you are meditating on that being, you cannot think of it being bad. Because as soon as you think of your being as bad, you’re not meditating properly; you’re not connected with your essence. There is this perception, outside of yourself, looking at what you think in the mind of that perception, is wrong about you, and labeling it bad.
Lets make an example here. Lets say here, I am this being and I’m meditating, I’m relaxed very much, I’m in contact very much with my being, with my essence. If I have an idea that my being is bad, this can only be when that perception stands outside of myself and looks back. And in the mind of that perception, a judgment is being made, based on this other external definitions of good. That is condemning the soul as bad. My conclusion is, you’re not meditating properly. You have not come to contacting the essence, because were you to have actually been properly in contact with the essence, or actually in contact, you would not be a able to perceive yourself from some external point of view, because you are your being, you would be there, so to speak. You could be nowhere else, by definition, by axiomatic, fundamental truth of existence. You are there, you are, this is your being. Being cannot be bad. I am being, I cannot be bad. Yet I can choose to manifest my energies in particular ways, which will fall into some definitions somewhere, as being bad.
I mean look at me. According to most members of the Hare Krishna Movement, I am bad. According to most members of other Gaudiya sects - they are all sects in one way or another, - I am bad. Now I don’t feel bad, I don’t think of myself as bad, I am definitely not bad. I am very good, my being is good. I think what I’m doing, to render service, which is part of my conception of goodness that I have embraced, because of feeling my being and feeling pain of others. I wish to help alleviate that pain, I feel that is a perfect manifestation of my goodness. Yet people who are in sects, look back and say: This is bad, because it does not represent some guru here, or some Acarya there, or some Shastra, some literature, some principles. And simply because I don’t wish to be bewildered, by all of this external things, for the ninety to ninety five percent of things, which are not connected to the relationship that I have with the Supreme, I become bad. In some countries leaders of sects say: He is bad, you are forbidden to listen to him. Now this is very interesting in. In other words, this person, who wane to listen, or maybe thought of listening, or maybe who never thought of listening, is now being dictated to as that what they can do, and what they cannot do, according to the definition of what is good, and what is bad.
And we have historically, again and again, this continual kind of examples. Now I cannot proof to you, I cannot proof to members of sects, I cannot proof to my parents, I cannot proof to the president of the United States that I am good! And I really cannot proof that I’m not bad. How do you proof you’re not something? Its much harder to proof you’re not something. So I can’t proof to this people. Nothing I will say, to any sect person is going to make them change their mind. Because they have some other conception, they live in a different world. So what should I do? Should I simply just accept that, and bare my burden? Or should I stop worrying about it? Should I simply say: Who cares about other persons definitions, of what is good or bad, or what they think of me? All that really counts is what I think of me. How I feel about me. How I can manifest my being in a way which is compatible with my being, and doesn’t twist my energy and distort it. And if my energy and being, can manifest itself in terms of service, and I can actually do something of service, which other people wish to have, or beneficial for them, what’s the problem? And if I’m happy with that, that’s fine.
In other words, if I feel good about me, and I don’t mean some kind of, shall we call it self delusional goodness, where I chant the mantra "I am so good", "I am so great", I mean to say, that I feel good because my being manifests according to what it is. The love that it is, the goodness that it is, in that way which is compatible with my energy, it is of service. In whatever way I’m able to offer it as it is needed, even if I don’t offer it, that is my goodness. So when I’m being, I’m being good. And when I’m properly, or shall we say, compatible, or purely - of course that word is difficult to work with - but if I’m purely in the sense of undistorted, not twisted, not colored, if I’m purely allowing my love, to be there, and in whatever way it seems appropriate at the moment, cause me to act - with love obviously, - because its love that’s causing to act, I’m being good. Regardless of other peoples definitions, regardless of traditions, regardless of expectations, I am. That is the ultimate basis of spirituality. But that ultimate basis has been so distorted, by all of this external things, which have been pact onto this very simple, very obvious, and very axiomatic essence of what we are.
And that is the problem. And to that degree religion is responsible to it. In that degree religion should take responsibility for it and transform. Same with politics, same with economics, same with social groups and organizations, or families, or whatever. The real transformation of the whole world, is moving towards the weakening of this entity's capacity to define the self. And I think, that historical trend has been overlooked, or maybe people haven’t even seen it. But the capacity of this external entities, to define myself, is being reduced to such a degree, the whole world is forced to step back, and redefine itself in the present context. So that children will grow up in an environment, which is more conducive to their own personal development. The individual has strength, has power, has personal responsibility, and capacity, to understand what is right. To understand how to act, and create this atmosphere of goodness, that we can all live in. Therefore spirituality must rise for this to take place. In other words the individuals spirituality.
What I’m doing here, in this discussions, is my small little bid, my little part, to assist that strengthening of the self, in being good, for certain individuals who have taken advantage of this liberating understanding. Like I said in the beginning of this discussion, I’m gone be talking about a very obvious point. And I have said its obvious, yet at the same time, its totally not obvious, its very subtle. Because it is so related to the fundamental existence, of what we are, and it is so far away, from the way, we have been defined throughout historical time. So I offer this understanding, this discussion to you, as a way to think about, a way to process your own personal liberation, from exterior expectation, so that you can be good.
When a lecture is transcribed, it will be placed in this forum.
1 post • Page 1 of 1