Don’t let lifestyle get in the way of living

“You are your watch!” So says a billboard. It implies that our watch makes a statement about who we are, what our status is and what our economic bracket is.

Such infatuation with externals characterizes our culture, which almost compels us to equate lifestyle with living. By constantly bombarding us with ads, billboards and commercials, our culture sucks much of our mental energy into dreaming about improving our lifestyle. Indeed, lifestyle becomes the purpose and essence of our living. This obsession with lifestyle deprives us of the simple and real joys of living at even the material level, what to speak of the spiritual level. It doesn’t leave us the time, the peace or the patience to form meaningful relationships with the persons around us – leave alone the person within us, Krishna.

Gita wisdom frees our living from being so lifestyle-driven. The Bhagavad-gita (13.12) indicates that understanding the eternality of spiritual knowledge (adhyatma-jnana nityatvam) characterizes those in knowledge. With Gita wisdom, we understand that the difference between lifestyle and living largely parallels the difference between the material and the spiritual.

Most of what today’s culture calls lifestyle keeps us riveted to the material level. There, we get at best a tiny bit of unfulfilling pleasure and at worst a lot of unbearable misery. Real living, on the other hand, happens only at the spiritual level. The soul alone is alive and is the source of all the activity associated with living. At the spiritual level alone can we form meaningful relationships with Krishna and with all living beings as his children – and thereby relish lasting and fulfilling happiness.

When we give the spiritual its due priority in our lives, then lifestyle can no longer come in the way of living.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13 Text 12

“Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance.”

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