Deep within, we are all searching for answers to life’s deepest questions.
We want to know why we suffer.
We want to know what the purpose of life is.
We want to know what will make us happy.
We want to know why we have certain thoughts about the world and those that inhabit it.
We want to know why things are the way they are.
I believe that it’s through philosophy that we can answer these deepest questions surrounding life. History tied in with philosophy teaches us the greatest lessons that we need in order to live the good life.
It was a few years ago when my interest in philosophy first sparked, and the first book that I picked up was the Vachanamrut. It’s not just a book, it is a scripture. After getting my copy blessed by my guru, I began diving deep within this scripture, which is believed to be the essence of all Vedic teachings, consolidated with the discourses of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This was the perfect place to start.
My obsession with philosophy continued from there… I began to read bits and pieces of various ancient, philosophical literature and scriptures. I read books from different cultures of the world, including the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, Meditations, Tao te Ching. I was hooked by the similarities in ideas and concepts from all parts of the world. They changed my perspective on reality and life. My satisfaction and peace of mind dramatically increased the more I dived deeper into philosophy.
Today I want to share with you the best life lessons I’ve picked up from all the philosophy books, from the East and the West, and also what I’ve learnt and how it has impacted me.
Lesson 1: Focus on Actions, not on Results
This lesson is shared in particular in Vedic philosophy and also Stoicism. This is one of the most impactful ideas of life. We have to learn to differentiate between that which is within our control, and that which is not. So often, we get caught up on the results, and we lose focus on our action.
About 2000 years ago, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You have power only over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” At the time, Marcus was probably the most powerful leader in the Western world.
Around 3000 years before that, in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the most powerful leader in the Eastern world, Krishna says to Arjuna, “Focus on your actions, not on the result.”
In short, we must learn to control our reactions to the uncontrollable things in life, and this gives us great inner strength. It leads perfectly onto Lesson 2.
Lesson 2: Suffering is Universal
We all live within our comfort bubbles, and this is made easier today with the exposure of cognitive biases to the online world. To give an example, if I run a quick search on Google for something I want to know about, I will always find something to conform to my existing beliefs.
This is actually the root of our discontent. We are often blinded by our own minds, that we fail to realise the universal nature of existence. This lesson is often accredited to Buddhist teachings, but it is actually rooted with Vedic scripture.
The Bhagavad Purana (8.7.44) itself states that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general.
Suffering is universal, and whether we choose to believe it or not, it is a simple truth of reality. What matters is whether we accept it and work around it, or do we sit back and complain. It’s also important to remember, that whoever you are, wherever you are, there is always someone out there worse off than you.
Lesson 3: Humility is the Highest Virtue
In this world of constant validation and feedback, we often get absorbed by our ego, and fail to realise that we are not so special. One of the key lessons shared in the Tao te Ching is that “All streams flow to the sea, because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it power.”
With the rise of social media, this practice is more important now than ever before. We go through periods where we post a photo with an amazing caption on Instagram, but then when we get less likes and comments than we expected, we get upset and start overthinking.
A humble person doesn’t mind opening up to their mistakes, having an open mind, and they are able to embrace differences. We are not better than anyone else. We are not more special than anyone else. This mindset is liberating.
For anyone looking to explore the world of philosophy, I know it can be challenging and often difficult to look at where to start. You’re also probably wondering which philosophy books I have read, so I am going to link my newsletter to this video, and you can sign up to receive a full list and regular updates of the books that I read and the key lessons I take away from them.
Thank you for still being here.
My deepest prayers.