I conduct Life Transformation Skills seminars. These seminars provide an environment for spiritually-based personal development. During one part of the training we ask the participants what are some tangible, material things for which people strive. Typically the resulting list looks something like this: cars, computers, a big house, attractive spouse, children, job, jewelry and vacation time. Then we ask why people endeavor for such things. The resulting list includes experiences such as happiness, security, power, intimacy, fulfillment, balance, love, vitality, freedom, strength, courage, joy and affection.
There Is No Intrinsic Connection Between The Things We Strive For And Our Experience
Next, by observing the two lists we consider whether there are persons who possess a large house, a big car and a prestigious job, but who do not experience much joy, power or fulfillment in their lives. Certainly there are. And we consider whether there are persons who experience an abundance of happiness, intimacy and vitality in their lives, although they don’t have the items on the other list. Clearly, such persons exist. The conclusion is that there is no intrinsic connection between the two lists. Although they sometimes overlap, there is no inherent causal link.
With reference to the three gunas, let’s look at the lack of innate correlation between the “things” column and the “experience” column. Tamas is a mode of inertia, where our consciousness clings to a paradigm that may be called Have-Do-Be. In this paradigm we think, “If I could just have $100,000 in the bank, a nicer car, a job with paid vacation…then I could do what I want to do, and then I would be happy, satisfied, appreciated, vibrant…” “If I could just have a nicer boss, then I would be content and peaceful.” In this mindset, our experience is dependent on having. The saying, “What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?” indicates the difficulty with this attitude.
Rajas is the mode of activity, where we adhere to the framework of Do-Have-Be. In this way of thinking we consider that if I could just do what I want to do, then I’ll have what I want, and then I would be free, strong, giving and vital. Our consciousness starts from the point of activity, and experience is contingent upon that.
Sattva guna corresponds with enlightenment. Sattvic consciousness is the natural state of the authentic self. Steady in sattva we live in the paradigm of Be-Do-Have. Fixed in this way of being, experiencing strength, beauty, security, intimacy, warmth, freedom, etc., is not dependent on doing or having. I don’t need to do or have anything to experience satisfaction, aliveness, courage, clarity, etc., because these qualities are who I am, they are my essential nature. It’s not that, in a Be-Do-Have paradigm, there isn’t doing or having. Rather, our doing and having assume full potency, compared with tamasic or rajasic perspectives, because what we do and have flow naturally from our being. They are not separate endeavors. To experience joy, closeness, radiance, and all other qualities of our self is not dependent on what we do or have. In Be-Do-Have, we naturally do things that bold, enlivened, successful people do, because our nature is bold, enlivened and successful. And naturally we’ll have things that powerful, confident, and trusting people have, such as abundance, rewarding activity and fulfilling relationships.
Personal Development Entails Uncovering Qualities of Our Self
Bhagavad-gita, presenting the essence of Vedic teachings, delineates a Be-Do-Have approach to life. In that book Sri Krsna encourages Arjuna to “Be transcendental..be free from dualities…be without anxiety…and be established in the self.” The process of personal development entails uncovering qualities of our self, our being, that have been covered, and fully manifesting them in our lives.
With one coaching client with whom I was working we specifically focused on him being patient and peaceful, qualities that were missing in his life, and which he wanted to cultivate. With earnest he connected with the patience and calm that are inherent to his being. During our next coaching session he described, with surprise, that his supervisor asked him to accept a position with increased responsibility, involving training others. She particularly mentioned that she offered this because of his patience and ability to be calm in stressful situations. Being patient and peaceful naturally resulted in acting in ways that patient and peaceful act, in this instance a more rewarding career activity, and having things that patient and peaceful people have, in this example an increased income. Be-Do-Have.