This episode is a continuation of the series we are doing on Spiritual Influences in Coaching. In this episode we share:
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Debra Maldonado, Robert Maldonado
Debra Maldonado 00:01
Hello, welcome to our Soul Session today on Eastern wisdom in coaching. I'm Debra Berndt Maldonado.
Robert Maldonado 00:11
And I'm Dr. Robert Maldonado. And today we're talking about Eastern wisdom traditions, and how they've influenced our culture. And then in particular, how they had such a big impact on our work.
Debra Maldonado 00:26
Yes, absolutely. And my life. I don't know about your life, but definitely my life has changed because of this knowledge. And so I want to first off start by defining what is Eastern wisdom. When I first heard of Eastern wisdom, when I was first starting my self-help extravaganza exploration, I just heard of Buddhism, and I thought everything was Buddhists, I really didn't know a lot about the Eastern cultures. And I never heard of the Gita. So let's talk about what are the basic writings.
Robert Maldonado 01:07
Well, you mentioned Buddhism, let's talk about that. Buddhism has had a huge impact on the West, mainly because they've actively sought to educate people on what Buddhism is. So you see Buddhism centers pretty much all over the country, all over the world. And it's great. Vedanta, or another kind of an older school that originates from Eastern wisdom traditions, has not been that active, although it has had a long presence in the US.
Debra Maldonado 01:49
And actually, it's almost when you hear it, you say “Oh, I've heard that before.” But we're trying to change that, we're going to raise the awareness of this rich, rich philosophy, and actually, Buddhism arose out of Vedanta. Those Eastern traditions, the foundation, where's that original? Can we go back to how long ago—
Robert Maldonado 02:15
Let’s get on in our time machine. If we go back to India, or the Indus Valley as the scholars and anthropologists call it, it goes back a few thousand years BC or BCE, before the Common Era, which means we're going back about 4000 years. And at that time, the Indus Valley was the seat of this philosophical movement, which was starting to look inward. And the seers would report on what they were finding through their investigation of human awareness, human mind.
Debra Maldonado 03:09
So they were meditating basically?
Robert Maldonado 03:11
Yes. They would start to write these songs, they were written in song form. The Sutras, these threads of knowledge that were then passed on to others, from teacher to student, and were memorized.
Debra Maldonado 03:33
So they were verbally transferred?
Robert Maldonado 03:34
Verbally, in song form, transmitted from teacher to student throughout generations, and we don't know how far that tradition goes back. But we can only imagine it goes back probably another few thousand years, because to develop that kind of culture and that kind of knowledge takes time and it takes community and effort and all that good stuff. But anyway, we want to see these wisdom traditions in the context of they are human legacy. We respect that they come from what is now India, but really it's part of our being human. Humans were interested in what was going on in their mind, how did the mind work, why were they here?
Debra Maldonado 04:37
What happens after I die?
Robert Maldonado 04:39
All the big questions.
Debra Maldonado 04:41
Why do I dream at night?
Robert Maldonado 04:42
That philosophy always asks, or that little children always ask — Why is the sky blue? Why do I dream at night? All these things. They were already working on those questions and developing them as philosophy. We approach them as philosophy because there are religious overtones to these practices. But we're focusing more on the philosophy. Because philosophy allows us to ask questions, not just accept things because they're written down. It allows us to ask “Is this true? And how can I experience that myself?” It's a great way to experience the wisdom traditions through their philosophy. So some of the principle writings that we're talking about today, the Vedas, are ancient texts that go back to that tradition we were talking about in the Indus Valley. They go back about 1500 before the Common Era.
Debra Maldonado 05:58
So this is when they finally started writing down instead of telling to each other. And even then the only people that had access to it were the sages, the priests.
Robert Maldonado 06:11
Yeah, they had a priestly class. And it involved both men and women. And the priestly class would then kind of transmit the rituals and do the ceremonies and the information. But then the Upanishads which were written down about— or started to be written down about 800 before the Common Era, meaning about 2800 years ago, and then kept on being added to because there's like over 100 Upanishads, but basically Upanishads are considered interpretations of the Vedas. So the practitioners of the Vedas and the seers would make commentaries on the Vedas, and write these documents down, and they became their own source of knowledge and information that we still have today. So thank God, they wrote all this stuff down. Then the other major players we want to talk about, one of them is Adi Shankara, or sometimes referred to as Adi Shankara Sharia. Sharia denotes that he was a master meditator, and Shankara Sharia died very young. But in his short live, I think he died in his early 30s, he wrote these incredible teachings about the nature of the Upanishads, like now interpretations of the interpretations of the Upanishads, which clarified so much about what is consciousness, what is the mind, what is the nature of reality? And then more recently Vivekananda.
Debra Maldonado 08:10
Robert Maldonado 08:11
Yes, who actually came to the US and opened up a few centers, one in California, one in New York.
Debra Maldonado 08:17
In the late 1800s. Pretty recently.
Robert Maldonado 08:20
Yes, turn of the century. Can you imagine a Swami, complete with the robes and the turban and everything, walking around New York, turn of the century, 1900, teaching some of these things. Now, this is an interesting fact that Tesla got to meet him at the Chicago World's Fair. Tesla would actually go and listen to his lectures on the nature of consciousness. And some believe that's where Tesla got some of these brainstorms, through hearing this new knowledge of what is the mind and what is consciousness. Anyway, so we also wanted to mention a couple of other books, because the books that I mentioned are the philosophical writings, but from India, there is this epic literature, these epic books, epic stories that are still with us. One of the oldest one is the Ramayana. It's the story of Rama, he’s is considered an incarnation of Vishnu, just like Krishna, but he was much older, or came before Krishna and the writing itself, the book goes back to the fifth century before the Common Era, so about 500 years before Christ. And if you haven't read the Ramayana, I encourage you to read it. It is one of the most fascinating mythologies on the planet. Very rich, very ancient, gives you a good sense of what the mind of the people living in ancient India was about, the kind of stories they would tell, the way they see the world or saw the world. It begins with this image. The writer invites us to think about nature and all its beauty. And then he says “You see this termite hill, almost like a mound of dirt. But as you get closer, you see that it has eyes. And it's actually somebody that has been meditating for so long that the insects have built up across the earth around him now.” That's the beginning of the Ramayana. And then it takes you into Rama story and the adventure of Rama and his quest. Another book is the Mahabharata. There was a movie, Peter— I can't remember his name now, anyway. But the book is considered, or is in fact, the biggest, longest poem ever written by humans. It's a poetical mythological history of humanity, going back to the ancient kings of India. And in the middle of it, or one of the chapters, is the Bhagavad Gita.
Debra Maldonado 12:09
And a lot of people have heard of the Gita.
Robert Maldonado 12:10
Yes. The Gita, very few know, is actually just one section of the Mahabharata. And the Mahabharata is the story of these cousins who are fighting for the kingdom. And it comes down to this battle that they're going to have between the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Pandavas are Krishna’s nephews, actually they're all related. Both cousins are related to Krishna. But when it comes down to choosing the Pandavas choose Krishna as their advisor, although he's not taking part in the battle, he volunteers to drive the chariot of Arjuna. And then as those of you that have read the Gita, you know it begins with that scene of Arjuna and Krishna driving the chariot to the center of the battle, or before it begins — the two armies are standing opposed to each other, ready to begin the fight. But Arjuna loses his will to fight and Krishna instructing him on why he should fight and how he should fight begins the whole narrative of the Gita.
Debra Maldonado 13:54
For me, to bring it down to earth and how we can relate to it, is really this battle. How do you fight a battle that can't be won? That's the question they asked. Because in the Gita, no matter who wins, it's not good or bad. And if you think about life, no matter what you do, no matter what you create in this world, you're going to die in the end. The ending is the same for everybody, at different times. It's kind of a harsh lesson. But if you know you're going to die one day, why even play the battle of life? Why do we play this game of life? And in this book, it really gives you guidance to how you approach life, with all its difficulties, with all these conflicts in a way that you're not suffering all the time, because life has so much in that. Can I tell my story with the Gita? When I first started my business as an entrepreneur, before Rob and I joined forces that was just me trying to figure things out. And those of you who are entrepreneurs, or ever started anything new, you know that there's just so many battles to overcome, because you're really stepping into something new. And there's these peaks and valleys of excitement and fear, and good things happen and bad things happen. At the time, I think we had met already, but you were still doing your dissertation, I was trying to get my book published. And I was going to all these conferences and networking and trying to get in the media and all these things. And I carried this book around with me, the Gita. And as you can see, I still have the tabs from all the times I would open it up, I'd be like “I need this right now.” Anytime I was stressed I would read these passages, and they would bring me to an immediate state of remembering what is the real reality. Because we tend to, as human beings, see it so externalized, and think that the battle or life is only what we can see with our senses. And it brings us back inside to the indestructible, undamageable part of us. And that is how we live our life is to know that there's this other part. We'll talk about this later. But I really love the Gita. And actually this translation is really great. I can't say his name, but he really breaks down each chapter, and then he has his own interpretation of it. He had just passed away, so he's a modern version of the Gita. And so it's really how you can apply it in your everyday life. Another fun fact about the Gita is, if you notice, a lot of the knowledge is used in a lot of different popular culture and one of the movies that — it wasn't a great movie, but it was based and written by the Gita — The Legend of Bagger Vance, it came out in the 80s, Steven Pressfield. He's the screenwriter and he said “I wanted to write a book on the Gita because what kind of game can you never win.” And it's golf actually. So he tied it together. And of course, the book is much better than the movie obviously. But it's so interesting how this old story has impacted even us in the modern time. And so if you understand the lessons it can change your life. It really can. It really got me from losing my mind when I first started my business and helped me stay on track with my mind and how to work with it with all the ups and downs of life.
Robert Maldonado 18:05
The Gita came to me very early as well. A friend of mine brought it to me back when we were still kids, I think I wasn't even in college at that time. The Hari Krishnas were starting to do their work at around that time. And at the airport, somebody had handed him a copy of the Gita and asked for a donation or something. And he said “When they gave me the book, I thought about you.” And so he brought it to me as in “You can have it. I don't have a use for it.” And I started to read the Gita. And it really just changed my life. It changed the course of my life because it showed me this philosophical, unique way of seeing the human mind that nobody had told me about. They don't teach us this stuff at school.
Debra Maldonado 19:16
Even in traditional religion, it's based on duality. I was raised Catholic, everything's about good and bad. And then even with karma, people talk about the positive and negative karma, bad karma and good karma. And the Gita just clears all that away about what karma really is.
Robert Maldonado 19:34
So many of Western philosophers were influenced greatly by the Upanishads and the Gita. Now, the Gita is considered a distillation of all the knowledge of the Upanishads. Even in Shankara Sharia’s time. This is a quote by him. He says “From a clear knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita, all the goals of human existence become fulfilled. Bhagavad Gita is the manifest, quintessence of all the teachings of the Vedic scriptures.”
Debra Maldonado 20:17
It means the divine song, because you said they sang it first. So it's the divine song. So very powerful.
Robert Maldonado 20:27
Yes. Let's talk about what are some of the ideas that have really influenced the culture, have had a big impact on coaching. And how you see it?
Debra Maldonado 20:47
One other story is that Gandhi had the Gita, he was, of course, of Hindu tradition, but he had the Gita with him all the time when he was working on his nonviolent— what's that word? Nonviolent opposition— resistance, nonviolent resistance. So again, seeing the battle that he had to go against the British Army. The wisdom of the Gita helped him basically take down the largest power in the world at the time.
Robert Maldonado 21:31
And his story is interesting because he came to the Gita through Emerson.
Debra Maldonado 21:37
Robert Maldonado 21:38
Yes. And through Row [proper name, unclear] which were Western philosophers. So kind of full circle.
Debra Maldonado 21:47
So let's talk about some of the primary lessons in the Gita. And I think there's two main ones that I like, I find that I take away from it, and one is the idea of what is consciousness, what is mind, what is body? Because there's a lot of people that talk about mind body. And so let's see what the Vedas talk about the mind body. And there are three levels. There's the gross mind body, which is the physical world that we can touch with our senses and feel. Then there's this subtle mind body, which is that intangible, but we can sense it, because we're hearing our thoughts, we have dreams, we can visualize things. It’s what's going on in our mind, it's more subtle. And then the causal mind, which is the the root, the foundation. If we think about the ocean and having a bubble, and growing out of it, this source of everything comes as individual self. Not touched by the movement or the world. And that would be the causal mind. And so there's these three levels, and in that place is where we go into deep sleep. So when we go into deep sleep, we touch that immortal, divine part of us. And a lot of times we think that the world is so real, but it's really just a kind of a distortion. The farther dense we get, the less accurate the experiences. We in the West value the physical world, we value what we can see, even sciences, what we can measure, what we can see with our senses. But the Gita says, there's knowledge within us that's beyond the senses. And that's really one of the things that helped me understand what this world is, and the concept of Maya and this apparent reality versus the absolute reality.
Robert Maldonado 24:02
Very powerful stuff. One of the misconceptions that we see in the West is, when we say consciousness — we were watching a film, a documentary the other day from Gaia channel or something like that. They kept saying consciousness, but really what they mean in the Western context when they say consciousness, what they're talking about is the mind, the thinking conceptual mind. They think that's consciousness. That's why in the West, neuroscientists are looking for consciousness in the brain essentially, they think the brain generates through all its interactions, all these neurons, billions of neurons communicating with each other amid some kind of self-awareness they call consciousness, but that's not what the eastern wisdom tradition says. It says consciousness is non-objective, meaning there's no objects in it. There's no constructs, no concepts in it. In the mind there are, we have ideas, we have feelings, we have behaviors in the mind. But consciousness is pure.
Debra Maldonado 25:36
It's like a blank film screen that doesn't have anything on it. And then the mind projects the colors and the movement and the shapes and the stories onto it. That would be the mind and the consciousness is just the soup that we live in, it's just pure. A lot of people talk in self-help and personal development about pure potentiality. And that's really the root of who we are. And the basic, that causal mind, is that pure potentiality. And then, as the mind comes in and covers up that pure potentiality and collapses everything into shape, name, and form, which then creates a duality of good and bad, right and wrong, happy — sad, all those things that we experience, the villain and the victim. So these stories on the movie screen, but the only truth is that blank slate. It’s not blank and empty, in a way it's empty, but not empty, it's full of everything but it's nothing at the same time, it's really that hard to explain idea.
Robert Maldonado 26:45
This is a difficult concept for us in the West that really consciousness is beyond the mind, the mind can’t go there. Because a mind is all about concepts. It's about a concept or an object. As soon as we hear in the West “There's a way to reach consciousness or to become aware of consciousness”, we're looking for an object already. We're thinking it's got to be like an idea or a state of mind or something. And that's completely the opposite of what the eastern wisdom tradition is saying. It's not an object.
Debra Maldonado 27:32
It's almost like they say, the doubt [unclear] that can be named is not the doubt. It's like this kind of— I don't know, like I said, you can't explain it. But when you understand it by understanding basically what it's not. A lot of times when people first start reading Eastern philosophy, or start understanding this idea of non-duality, it's so hard for us, especially in the West, to understand because we're so conditioned to see things in black and white and that duality, and that kind of measurement, or “I need to understand it from an intellectual standpoint” versus this knowing that I can't even explain, that “Oh, I get it.” Like, I get it but I can't explain it. And I don't even know how to explain it. But it's that knowingness. Because it's the absence of name and form, there's something else but we can't describe it. But we know it's there. It's just like light and dark. We know there's light when it's dark, there's kind of a knowing.
Robert Maldonado 28:44
That's precisely, let’s say, the problem in East-West psychology that if you tried to find evidence of the consciousness, like what is it and how can you we define it, you're already operating in a conceptual mind. And so you can not really find it. Because in the West, we think of science and evidence as something that you and I both can observe. That scientific evidence, if we have the numbers and the observations that verifies it is evidence for us as proof. Consciousness cannot be proven that way. But it can be proven individually. If you follow the steps laid out in the Gita and the Upanishads, you can see it for yourself, you can experience for yourself. So it's not saying because the mind cannot go there, you cannot experience it. It's simply saying, you cannot prove it in a scientific external way. But you can certainly experience it directly because it is who you are.
Debra Maldonado 30:02
I think the easiest way for me was when I started looking at my dreams, and I started seeing that there's this awareness that is seeing me in my waking life. And then it's telling me things in my dreaming life that I'm not really participant, almost like this other me. So I know that there's something else besides my personality that's impacting, but then also where we're at, what's the stage where all this is happening? It has to be contained in something. And I remember as a kid, we all remember looking up at the stars. And when we were kids, we were like "What it would it? Where's this place that the universe is in?" And that's really the answer that everything is consciousness. So we can only see what's inside of it, but we can't see it directly, like the fish that doesn't know it's in water, in a way.
Robert Maldonado 31:03
So we go back to these three levels of awareness. There’s the waking state, the dreaming state, and the deep sleep state. The Upanishads say, there's a fourth state. It's called the turya which is pure consciousness. And it says that state isn’t really a fourth state. But it's the foundation of the other three. In other words, it's what allows those other three states to exist. And that is the pure consciousness, that is the pure awareness at the base of our existence. And you can certainly reach that because it's always with you. It's simply that it's hiding in plain sight. Because it's covered over by the kind of the waking part of the mind where we're so absorbed in the external appearance of things that we forget to ask “Who is the one that is observing all these things?”
Debra Maldonado 32:14
We assume that we are the ego that's observing, the I, the I maker.
Robert Maldonado 32:20
Or we think, it's my body and my brain, right? That's why we think “Oh, it's in here, it's in my head.” Davis, who is a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, he tells a story of going to Tibet to study the monks while they're meditating. And he started to put the electrodes on the head. And all the monks started to laugh. And he says “Why are you laughing?” And they said “Well, because you're thinking consciousness is in the head. That's not what we do in meditation.”
Debra Maldonado 33:03
And if you think about it, there is no separation between us and everyone, we're all coming from that same arising, from that one consciousness. We've heard a lot of people say “the oneness, we're all one.” And that's what they're talking about is that we're all in the same ocean. And we're rising as little bubbles that appear separate. But we're all from the same, like the waves in the ocean. You see the wave because of its action of movement. But it doesn't mean that wave is not part of the ocean, it just feels separate. And so that's our individual lives, we rise up like a wave temporarily. And it appears that we're separate and different from all the other waves, but we're really all one ocean. And then can you imagine the impact in our life, if we had this realization, and this idea of self-realization, self-awakening about realizing how the apparent reality that we're seeing this movement is not as real as we think it is. And then our mind is actually giving it whether it's good or bad, whether it's right or wrong, should I be afraid of this or not. We're in our own conditioned way of looking at the world. That limited way of the habit of experiencing life is actually what's causing all our problems. And we think — just an example — I don't have enough money in my bank account, there's no money there. I gotta go find some money. You're going out there and you're in the illusion of “I gotta get it outside.” And you're really coming from this place. And then if you do actually work and get what you can, you're still not free because you're thinking that money is giving you security, or that relationship’s giving you security, or if I heal my body from this illness, I'll have security, and there's this kind of the deeper knowledge that if we don't see the reality as it really is, we're going to be— it's like kind of chasing something in a dream. And it's not real. And for me, when I first started getting my book deal, and I was just so excited, and my ego and my persona was like “Oh, I'm going to be a published author.” And it was such a big deal for me because since I was a little girl, I was wanting to write a book. But my ego is getting all caught up, and the Gita really helped me stop getting an inflated ego around it, because you can get so attached, and then that attachment can create a lot of suffering and create a lot more pain, the things that we're seeking all the time to relieve our pain are actually giving us more pain. And if we understand that, life can be free. It doesn't mean that we can't pursue those earthly things. Because in the eastern wisdom, they say we need the wisdom and the money and the wealth and love, all those things are some part of life, we don't want to push that away. But we want to approach it with the right knowledge, so we can really enjoy them when we have success. And when we have love in our life, we're not hanging on hoping that it doesn't go away one day. You see a lot of people that pursue wealth and love, and they have everything on the surface, but they're still not satisfied. And that's because their deeper self knows that their true happiness is to understand that you are the self, that's the whole journey of the Gita is that there's only one job to realize who you really are. Not what you're made of and the personality, what I can accomplish in my life, but more like who I really am and my eternal self.
Robert Maldonado 37:00
That is the whole purpose of the wisdom traditions — they're pointing to the journey back to the realization of your true self. The main idea there is that they emphasize that you are already that, it's not an attainment in the external sense. It's not something you're creating, it's not something you're developing in yourself. You are already in and have always been and can only be your true self. It's that you've forgotten, that’s all, that the apparent reality of the universe, the world appearance has conditioned your mind to believe otherwise, to misidentify yourself as the ego persona. And so karma is one of the key philosophical concepts that the Gita and the Upanishads bring into Western culture. And of course, in the West, we take it in and interpret it in our own way, in a material way, from the material perspective, you know. People talk about good and bad karma.
Debra Maldonado 38:26
And action-reaction, like what you put out, you get back. If you put good out, you get good back.
Robert Maldonado 38:32
And there is something to that, but that's not really the philosophical function of karma in the Gita. What it's saying is that karma is simply the activity that you take and the imprint that it leaves on your mind. So every action that you take leaves an imprint, whether it's negative or positive, I mean that's just an interpretation of the mind. But it's still an imprint.
Debra Maldonado 39:10
But isn't that also the feeling or the mindset around the action? It's not just pure action?
Robert Maldonado 39:17
What do you mean?
Debra Maldonado 39:18
Well, you could do something, like I'm gonna give to charity, I'm so good. You’re so attached to being appreciated, that would be different than someone who's not attached and does that same action?
Robert Maldonado 39:31
Debra Maldonado 39:32
So what would be the intent and the emotion around it?
Robert Maldonado 39:37
Yes, which is an interpretation. That's what I mean by interpretation, that it is a subjective interpretation, because you and I could take the same identical action, but our intention and our interpretation would be very different and would yield very different results.
Debra Maldonado 39:58
So for example, I’ll work all day or hard, hard, hard at what I do. But in that action of working hard, I have this feeling of lack. There's not enough and I got to work harder. And I don't know if this is gonna work and all that stuff. And then you do the same amount of work but you have the mind of “I love what I do. This is beautiful, I'm letting go of the results, I'm just taking that action because of pure desire of expression.” Then yours doesn't have karma with it, you don't have the karma of this anxiety that you're carrying with you. So I guess the easiest way is that anything you're taking action that you feel stress around, or attachment to, that's going to dictate your karma versus the action just itself.
Robert Maldonado 40:57
Krishna explains to Arjuna very clearly in the Gita the secret of action. He says, if you want to, let's say, continue to act in the world, and we cannot not act, if you notice, as long as you're alive, you will have to act, you have to make a decision, you have to take an action. So he says, the only option that we have to free ourselves from the conditioning effect of action is to drop the attachment to the results. He calls it the fruits of the action.
Debra Maldonado 41:40
So my example of you just acting because you love what you're doing, because this is what I do, and I love it, I don't know what the result is, the action itself is its own reward versus acting for a result. The fruits of your action — like, I'm going to work really hard so I can make a lot of money, or I'm going to work really hard so people like me, or I'm working really hard so my boss doesn't get mad at me. It's like you're not really enjoying it, you're taking this action, but it has all this anxiety around it. So you can see how and what in your life do you do that doesn't have an agenda to it? Do you do things that are free choice? Or do you do it out of fear?
Robert Maldonado 42:25
And psychologically, what it does when you're not attached to the result of your action, you're still taking the action, and you're putting your best effort into it but you're not doing it to get the reward at the end of the action — psychologically, what it does, it liberates the mind from any conditioning effect that the the result might have on you. Because it's not like not caring. Some of the early translations of the Gita would say you want to cultivate detachment. But detachment means that you don't care. A better translation is non-attachment.
Debra Maldonado 43:14
So you care about the results, it's not like “I'm just doing this, I don't care if I don't make any money.” You're just saying “I'm doing this because I like to do it. I would love to make money too. That is my intention. That's why I do what I love. But I'm not doing it only for that, if I don't get the money or get the results, I'm going to be heartbroken.” It's like “Oh, okay, trying this.” I think, especially entrepreneurs, that you have to do a lot of trial and error. So if you have a lot of attachment to everything you do, you'll feel this stress, you'll feel clinging on and celebrating when everything's going good. And then feeling like I don't want to talk to anyone because things are going bad. And imagine that you could just love what you're doing. And then that's actually where the abundance flows anyway. So you don't care about money, you don't care about love, you don't care about your health. It's not like a discarding of the result. But it's that it doesn't define me. That result doesn't make me better or worse. It's almost like taking the I out of the result. Does that make sense? Taking the I out. It's extra.
Robert Maldonado 44:31
In the bigger context of the teachings of the Gita Krishna explains that it is the self that is acting. It's simply that we are inserting the I, the ego, into the whole process and then misinterpreting the whole situation. And we're thinking “Oh, this is happening to me, to the ego, to the individual, mind self concept.” And therefore that false self is what creates our suffering. The whole scheme of samsara, that cycle of “I'm caught up in this behaviors, I'm compelled to act in a certain way based on my past conditioning.” The only freedom, the Gita says, is to free your mind through this process of acting without attachment to the results.
Debra Maldonado 45:38
And a lot of times too, as a coach or people that do healing work or service work, therapists and all that, we can get attached to our clients having good results or bad results, or praise or blame, that duality. And so it really does help with anything you do, with any kind of service, that you're not taking like “Oh, I'm so great, I'm so wise, I'm helping all these people.” Or “I'm so bad because this person is having trouble and I couldn't help them.” It's more like your I doesn't take credit or blame. It's the self acting. And it's like this idea that you trust that any person that comes into your life, whatever it transpires between you two is meant for both of you to grow. So even if it's a conflict, or a great relationship, or a heartache, or whatever it is, it's an opportunity to grow. So our true self is pushing us toward these experiences. And then the ego makes a story up about what it means and hangs on to things. So the last thing is, so how can we take this work? What would be something that we can take forward in our life? There's a lot of study and thousands and thousands of pages of books that people can read. So if someone could take one thing away from today, what would you say would be the lesson?
Robert Maldonado 47:14
In the Upanishads this question comes up in one of the scenes where the student is asking the teacher what is the one thing by knowing which all else’s known? In other words, what's the secret? What's the key? What is the one thing that if I can know this one thing, I'll know the rest of the universe, everything that is to be known. And of course, that one knowing is knowing the true nature of yourself. That's why all the wisdom that comes through the Upanishads, through the Gita, through the Ramayana, Mahabharata, it’s all designed to point us back to who are you? What is the essence of you? And that true self is what we call pure awareness, pure consciousness. That's who we really are.
Debra Maldonado 48:26
I think about my life and I think about how things didn't work out for me when I was younger, I wanted to get married in my 20s and have lots of babies and have a big family and not be a career woman. I had all these different dreams. And then, of course, I had these obstacles that didn't make that happen. And I often think, thank God, because that pain of feeling alone and feeling not loved and trying to figure out why I couldn't find the right match helped me seek the truth. And so ultimately, we think these things that we want in our life, if we get them, they're the source of our happiness. But actually, not getting what we want sometimes is leading us to even a bigger gift, which is to realize the self, so all the obstacles in your life are really there not to to hurt you, but to awaken you. If you can approach every conflict in your life as there's something here that I don't understand about myself, that’s why I'm feeling uncomfortable, that’s why I'm feeling stressed, that’s why I'm feeling sad or angry or whatever. It’s really the self saying “I'm here, come find me.” It's our true self calling us. I remember my biggest change was when I lost my engagement and my home and my job all in the same month, and everything out there external was taken away and I had to go inward. And it was really the turning point in my life, it really was that turning point. And so we're always trying to get a better life. But we can't forget that the real gift of life is to understand who we really are, why we're here, and how to have peace with all the chaos this world brings, and the beauty that this world brings.
Robert Maldonado 50:28
And one last idea from Vivekananda. Reading the Upanishads and the Gita, he came up with this idea that there’re four paths that are accessible to all of us. He called these the four yogas. The path of knowledge, which is learning through the Scriptures, understanding intellectually, but also contemplating and meditating on these higher truths. The path of karma, which is selfless action, helping others, doing social work, trying to help humanity, but with that selfless service, getting the I, the ego out of it. The path of devotion, bhakti yoga, which is really devoting yourself to the spiritual life.
Debra Maldonado 51:28
A lot of Christians have that bhakti yoga, they praise Jesus, and they're devoting themselves to that kind of “Everything I do is in Christ's name”, that kind of thing. So we see this in different religions, as well as bhakti.
Robert Maldonado 51:44
Yes. And then finally raja yoga, which is really the mastery of the mind through meditation, through that inward introspection of who am I.
Debra Maldonado 51:57
You can read about it? I think, you know, it's intellectualized spirituality, you can act and through action you learn, through love, the practice of love and devotion, or meditation, or a combination of one or all.
Robert Maldonado 52:16
Yeah, ultimately, we need all of them.
Debra Maldonado 52:19
But it's nice to see which one have you been working on? And how can I bring in more meditation, or what I'm doing a lot of. For me, sometimes I get in the heady knowledge, like the ayana yoga, and I forget, what about that devotion, bringing the energy, the emotion and all that, and then action too. You can study scriptures and read the Gita. And then you go out in the world, and you're still caught up in attachment, you're still acting the old way. You have to practice it in the physical world. So anyway, this was a great discussion. We could talk about this for hours and hours and hours. But we're thankful for the time we've had with you today. And we will see you next week for another episode with another spiritual principle. We have a couple more coming in our series. Two more left, we'll see you next week.
Robert Maldonado 53:16
Thanks for watching.
Debra Maldonado 53:17
Robert Maldonado 53:17