Philosophy becomes a subject matter of interest when we end up asking two very important questions to ourselves. (1) What is life (or more specifically my life) all about? and (2) How should I live?
Once we start our careers, earn some money and gather some property (home / stuff-for-home / car / other fancy things) – we inevitably land up asking these questions. Because all through our childhood we kept imagining that getting to a place of felling “settled down” is a long way off and that’s about the only thing important in life. But as we start reaching that destination – these questions stare at us. All through our life we grow up thinking that there is somehow an ultimate purpose and that our life is meant to be used up to that end. Somehow, growing up we imagined that the ultimate purpose was to get married, have kids, get a job, have comfortable stuff for leading a socially respectable life and so on. These days most of us get to this end rather quickly – and soon a we get to the question – “Is that all there is in life?”. And lo and behold – we stare at an absolute void. That void scares us. In a desperate attempt to get rid of that void – we fill it up with even more fancy goals, ambitions, habits. However the questions and the void behind them continue to haunt us. (1) What is life (or more specifically my life) all about? and (2) How should I live? And as we being our attempt at answering these questions – we notice that the “pat” answers don’t work. Rather the “pat” answers don’t seem to address the entirety of our life experiences.
We then think – “Hey, maybe someone else also faced these questions! How about hearing the answers other people came up with for these questions?”. So we ask around. And it soon becomes pretty obvious that almost everyone around us has faced these questions. And whats more – almost everyone seems to know the answer. Over and above that, almost everyone wants to “sell” their answer and claim that their answer is it! In all fairness – for the most part everybody’s answer does seem to address some aspects of the questions; but not all of it. So – we continue inquiring into the questions.
That’s when we encounter philosophy. (Atleast that’s when I encountered it). Religious texts (Gita, Puranas..), philosophical texts (Upanishads), spiritual texts (A New Earth, Power of Now etc..), theological texts and inspiring talks from people (Jiddu Krishnamurti, Bannanjay Govindacharya for example), inspiring / though-provoking movies (the Matrix, Peaceful Warrior) – all seem to offer answers or at least an opening to look at / inquire into the questions. [Jiddu Krishnamurti is an exception here. He doesn't offer answers and in fact goes as far as saying that we should not take anyone's answer, rather we should make an honest effort and inquiring into the questions ourselves and discover our own answers to it.]
No matter which philosophy we begin with – we will find that the first one that impacts us a lot seems like the only one that can impact almost everybody. When “The Matrix” was released in the year 1999 – I was very powerfully impacted by the philosophy behind it. I was able to let go of a lot (and I mean a real lot) of baggage. I was, so to speak, “enlightened” – when I heard Neo say “there is no spoon” and got the philosophical meaning behind it. And so excited I got about it – that I really wanted everybody to watch the movie and really really get the movie and experience the phenomenal positive impact that it can offer. I was almost, like many other people I am sure, an “official evangelist” for the movie. My first conversation with any new person was – “have you watched this movie called – The Matrix?”. Pretty soon my undying fanatic excitement about the movie became obnoxious, but then that’s another story. The point I want to make is this: for everybody their current philosophy is exciting and they want everybody around them to “get” it and to that end they either evangelize it or become teachers of it. This is very normal and there is nothing great / special / unique or even worthwhile about it.
But then, as with any philosophy, the power and impact can fizzle out when we are unable to make use of it in the face of new problems / life-situations and bring about a drastic change in the quality of our lives. That’s when we either invest some intellectual effort to make the already known philosophy relevant to our new problems / situations in life or look for another philosophy and get excited about yet another idea and the cycle continues.
Sometimes exploring a new idea / philosophy can be very refreshing. I recommend that you try it out. Trying out something new doesn’t necessarily make anything you already know or believe invalid. A believer of Bhagvad Gita and its philosophy need not avoid experiencing the value of Jiddu Krishamurti teachings, and vice versa. A follower of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings need not block out Landmark Education and its teachings, and vice versa. There is value in all ideas. The key thing to remember is that an idea that works for you; may not work for someone else. It is also important to remember that what worked for someone, may work for us as well. We wont know – until we try it out. However, I think we should perhaps stop trying too hard in “selling” our ideas to someone new. It is a generous enough gesture to share with someone the impact an idea / philosophy has had on our life and just leave it at that. The other person will chose to experience it for himself out of his own interest / freedom.
It is very normal for all of us to get trapped into thinking that our current philosophy of life is the only thing that works for everybody. As long as we are in that trap, we are not making ourselves available to the value of other philosophies. While our philosophy may answer a lot of questions – it is important to know that there might be other ideas that might impact us just as much. The best thing to do would be to keep an open mind and listen to everything and make up our own philosophy of life. It is really important for us to get that for something to be “useful” the rest need not be “useless”.
For the Landmark Education fanboys – “For Landmark to be valid, spirituality need not be invalid”. For the spirituality fanboys – “For spirituality to be valid, Landmark need not be invalid”. My recommendation is – listen. See whats available in all ideas and STOP selling one idea / philosophy / individual as the only idea / philosophy / individual that will make life work. I don’t think one size will fit all. Your ideas / philosophy / guru is just as valid as mine.