Jagad Guru: Today we’re going to be discussing the question of progress. We probably won’t be able to cover both the angle of individual and social progress. We’ll just probably stick to the question of individual progress. Progress, you know, everybody’s trying to get ahead, everyone wants to get ahead. Some people feel like they’re wasting their life if they aren’t moving forward, if they aren’t getting ahead. So what we’re trying to do is question what is ahead? What is progress?
This is a very important subject because everybody’s trying so hard to move forward, it’s very important to know whether or not we are moving forward, or what forward is. That’s really the question, Okay?
So let me begin by telling a story. There was once a football player. Now his particular situation was that somehow, I don’t know the exact situation but somehow or other he got the ball, okay, he got the football and he started running full speed towards the goal and he was so happy and there was a stadium full of people all he could hear was just people screaming and yelling, okay. So he was running full speed, just, “Oh wow, I’m going to win the game” and the whole thing and he was just running and running. And finally he gets to the end zone “Oh wow,” he thought he had the goal and the whole bit, he thought he won the game for the team, you know. He thought everybody was just yelling and screaming because they were so happy that he had done this great deed, you know, and then he found out he ran the wrong way.
So, when everybody was screaming he thought they were all screaming, they were going, “Ooh great thing you’re doing here.” They were all screaming, “You’re going the wrong way!” Of course he couldn’t hear what they were actually saying.
So, this is a very good example of how people can be aiming full on in one direction and they may even really believe that they’re progressing that they’re really getting there, and they may even believe when they finally get there, “Wow, I’ve got here. I’ve got the goal. Here I am, I’ve got the goal,” but they may have run the wrong way, the direction may not have been correct in the first place. So they put all this time and effort and energy in aiming towards that particular goal but if the goal’s the wrong goal if they’re moving in the wrong direction then the whole thing is lost. There’s no value in it.
Now in all societies of the world practically that we see today--basically can be divided into socialist and capitalist-- the same goal is there. The individuals in these societies practically speaking, we’re generalizing because not everyone is included here, not everyone. Practically everyone is seeing that the goal of life is accumulation of those things which will make it possible for a person to have increased sensual pleasure, sense enjoyment. This is the goal. Sometimes it goes under the name economic development, or material prosperity, or wealth, or whatever, okay. This is basically the goal. Not just that, but included in this also is fame, or a good reputation in the community.
For example, a person not only wants the material things to be able to enjoy, he not only wants a lot of money, but he also wants prestige. He wants to be able to walk down the street, or go to a particular party, or somehow be respected, to be known by others, to be respected by others, to be considered by other people a great man, or a good man, or a strong man, or an intelligent person, or a liberated woman, or whatever. So basically, people want that which will give them sense enjoyment, and they also want relationships where people are giving them respect or worshiping them, or at least maybe being their friend, accepting them, social acceptance, acceptance by others. People accept me, therefore, I feel like I have friends, I feel like someone loves me, someone appreciates my existence. This is basically what people are striving for, this is the goal. This is the basic goal of the majority of the people of the world. It’s a really sad situation.
Sometimes, often times it’s men, when they get around 40 years old, or 50 years old, they have what’s called a mid-life crisis, because they’ve gone thorough like 50%, what they consider about half way through life, you know. And they look back on their life and they start to wonder, “Have I done everything I could have done? Have I achieved what I should have achieved by this point in my life?” And they also start to consider, what is the value of it? They start flashing on time and they start to wonder, you know, they may have spent their entire life trying to develop this position that they now have where they have sensual pleasure, where they have sense enjoyment and they also have prestige, or they have name and fame, or whatever it is, they have come to that point, where they have “succeeded” but still their life is empty, meaningless, they feel void. They feel a void, an emptiness in their life.
But too often they feel they can’t change, they don’t know if there’s any other goal, they don’t know what else to do. They certainly can’t change the course, I mean, they’re already set in their ways, they’re already set on their course of life that they’ve taken. They’re already stuck in that pattern, I mean, they went to twenty thousand years of college just to be able to be where they are, they’re certainly not going to waste all that. It kind of comes to that like, kind of a waste sort of thing, you know. Like they know that what they have and what they’re doing isn’t making them happy out they can’t stop and give it up, or whatever, they can’t just deny that that is it, because they’ve struggled so hard to get it. They’d rather try to convince themselves that it is it, but they just don’t appreciate it because if they were to admit, “Well maybe there’s some other goal, or there’s something else in life, then it means that they have to do a whole other, I mean it’s like they’ve moved so far in one direction already and yet they’re going to have to admit that they haven’t gotten anywhere, that it’s all been for naught, it’s all been of questionable value. They’re still at the starting point. They’d like to feel that at the fifty yard line at least, you see.
So they, they go to psychologists or psychiatrists then they say, “I feel so depressed, I just don’t know, I feel like I’ve wasted my life, I’m feeling empty.” I don’t even know if they can verbalize it this well, they may not even appreciate that, that’s the situation but they’ll go to these psychologists, psychiatrists or whoever and positive thinking courses or something and try to feel greater appreciation for what they have, you see. They say “Oh look, you see, you have a beautiful wife, you have a nice home, you have to learn to appreciate these things. You have to learn how to appreciate.”
The person is always questioning. Everyone is always questioning actually, “Am I on the right path?”, because they’re going so hard for it, but as soon as they question it, they don’t see any alternatives so they have to continue, what else is there to do? What other path is there? What other goal is there? Our whole society puts it forward that this is the goal of life.Material sense gratification, name, fame, wealth, material enjoyment, economic development. So individual progress is seen in that way. We believe that if we have more objects of sense gratification, the more progressed we are. The less objects of sense gratification we have, the less progressed we are.
If some people down the street don’t have as many objects to enjoy their senses with, if their refrigerator’s old, and our refrigerator’s new, if their TV is black and white and our TV’s in color? Or if somebody’s got a beautiful wife and your wife isn’t as beautiful. Or if some people can enjoy all kinds of fancy foods to eat, and you can’t. People think like this. From one way or the other, either you’re envious, or you’re looking down on the other people and you get to compare how progressed you are. Either you have the nice refrigerator and the other guy doesn’t, or you’ve got the bad refrigerator, or you don’t even have a refrigerator.
So one way or the other, a person is seeing like this; this is the goal, and then they compare their progress by looking at others. This is how you compare how progressed you are. You look at the next guy. But what is the rule of comparison, what is the ruler that we use? The ruler is how many things we’ve got, how much sense enjoyment we get. That’s all. This is progress. So individually we spend our whole lives going for this progress.
From the beginning a person, he’s five years old, less than that already and he’s starting on the path. Go for it, get more, get more, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, got it. Don’t take it, give me this, give me that, gimme, gradually, you know, you want this, you’ve got to go to school. “I got to go to school, I’m going to learn computers, I can count a lot more numbers with computers, do a lot more things, collect a lot more, be a bigger man, on and on, and on.” Uh, finally he’s 60 years old, seventy years old, he’s got his giant houses, he’s got his hotels, he’s got all his money, he’s got all this and that, he can be a Howard Hughes, then what? His body’s getting old, he has to leave the whole thing behind. That’s progress.
Progress is this, the materialistic concept of progress is this. You spend your whole life collecting things, getting things in your possession, owning things, and developing your reputation as a person who everyone knows and respects or whatever, making your name big so that 70 years later, or 80 years later, or less than that, you can leave it all behind. That’s progress. That’s a progressive person.
It’s not like nobody knows the end of the story, that’s what’s so ridiculous about this whole thing. We all know the end of the script. You know, like most, - it’s ridiculous, it’s like, it’s almost like we’re cheating. It’s like if a person has the inside information, that “Hey, you know what? Everybody’s doing all this and you know, you can put all your effort and everything into this, trying to get all these things, then you see, fifty years later, later on, the whole thing's going to get taken, you see. So it’s just a trick, you see. So don’t fall for it.” And you go, “Oh wow I know the end, I know that without a doubt, that at the end, everything I put my whole life into, I know that at the end, the conclusion of the story is that everything I’ve collected is going to get taken away from me including my name, my reputation, the whole bit. I’m not even going to be around to enjoy any of it.” That’s the end of the story, you see, and if you know the end of the story, if a person knows the end of the story, then they can say, “Hey, I know the end of the story, I’m not going to fall for that. I’m not going to do that, because I already know the end of the story.”
If somebody came up to you and offered you a deal, okay, and this is the deal, the deal is this. You work and for one or two years, you work and you collect all this money, here’s the job, here’s the opportunities, here’s everything, okay? Better yet, I’ll make it even simpler, you know how they have those contests where the people if they win, they go into a supermarket and they can get all the things they can in a certain amount of time, they can pile up, they rush in and they get all this stuff in a certain amount of time and they rush out, okay. This is the situation, okay. You have them, you know about these yeah, okay, this is the contest everybody. You rush into the supermarket, okay, and you spend seventy years there collecting everything you can, but let’s make it more realistic, let’s say seventy minutes, okay. Collecting everything you can, that you can possibly carry, okay and you run out the door and it’ll get taken away from you, okay. But you see, we’re the inside people at the supermarket, doing the scam, we won’t tell anybody the end. We’ll just tell them the first part of the contest. That you go into the supermarket and you collect as much as you can for seventy minutes and then you’ll have it. You see, we won’t tell them that when they walk out the door, they’re going to have to leave it all behind them, that they can’t take it with them.
So the ordinary person is a fool, he doesn’t know, he hasn’t picked up on it yet, see. Everybody’s in this big contest in life, and they’re all playing this contest of collecting the goods in the supermarket and running out the door, and every single one of them doesn’t get to take it with them. If you look at your great, great grandparents, or your grandparents, or even maybe your parents, none of them got to take any of it with them. They all collected all the groceries and all the goodies and everything and the houses and everything in their supermarket baskets and it got taken away from them at the door. Death. So everything they spent their whole life collecting, which is just that, this is the contest of material life, the contest is, who can collect the most goodies before it gets taken away from you. That’s the contest. This materialistic life, that’s the contest, who can collect the most stuff before it gets taken away from them.
So one guy collects ten million things before it gets taken away from him, and one guy collects fifty things before it gets taken away from him but they both end up with zero and what’s the prize? Even the prize has to be left behind. The prize is, everybody goes, “Oh, he’s a success in life.” You see, that’s the prize. The prize is you get to be in the newspaper known as a successful person, you get to be interviewed when you go into the city, different cities. You get to have books written about you, you see, so you get to be known as a success. But that’s left behind too. You can’t take the Star Bulletin with you, you see? You can’t take the evening news with you. That’s all left behind. You can’t take the roaring crowds, “Yay, you’re a great man“. You can’t take it with you. The prize, everything has to be left behind. All the things including the prize of “Ho, ho, big man,” all of it has to be left behind. So you spend your whole life collecting everything, and then you have to leave it all. It’s ludicrous, it’s absurd, isn’t it? It’s the theatre of the absurd. And what’s really absurd about it is that everybody knows the ending, and yet we still continue to play the same stupid game, we still go along with the contest. We still get sucked in and try to be winners. Success means to win in the contest and we fall for it and death comes along, and the whole thing is left behind and we’ve not made any progress at all.
So the idea of progress is based upon what is the goal? So the materialist’s goal is without any value. It’s useless, it’s absurd. The real goal of life, can be appreciated if a person knows who he is, that he’s not material at all but is actually the eternal spirit soul and therefore a person’s goal of life must be seen in connection with his eternal identity as spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul.
Time’s getting short so we’ll continue on this discussion on what is the real goal of life and what is progress in our next talk. Thank you very much.