When our interests aren’t in your best interests …

The word ‘interests’ can refer either to the things that we find interesting or to the things that are beneficial and rewarding for us, as in “Is that in your best interest?” Using these meanings, let’s consider how we can classify the things in our life. 

Interesting but unrewarding things: We may be fascinated by gossip, social media updates and irrelevant happenings from all over the world that are now so easily accessible. We also have within us powerful drives like lust and greed that can make us inordinately obsessed with things that may go against the principles we hold sacred. Pursuing such interests can waste our time or even wreck our life. 

Uninteresting but rewarding things: Wisdom-texts can infuse our life with meaning and purpose, yet we may find such books boring. We may find burdensome many healthy habits that can make our future brighter — habits such as reading or exercising that we may even find enjoyable once we get used to them. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (18.37) cautions that though life’s refined joys taste like nectar eventually, they do taste like poison initially. That initial poison can make those things seem uninteresting, even draining.

Thankfully, these two interests — our current interests and our best interests — aren’t entirely non-intersecting sets. We need to find those things that both interest us and are in our best interests. Being interesting, those things can capture our attention, thereby helping us resist the temptation of interesting-but-unrewarding things. And being rewarding, they can give us a taste of achievement and fulfillment, a taste that can empower us to persist in uninteresting-but-rewarding things. 

One-sentence summary:

Not everything that interests us is in our best interests; not everything that is in our best interests, interests us; in the intersection of the two is the engine to a life that is both interesting and rewarding.

Think it over:

  • List three things that are both interesting and rewarding for you. 
  • How can you use an interesting-and-rewarding thing to resist an interesting-but-unrewarding thing? 
  • How can you use an interesting-and-rewarding thing to persist in an uninteresting-but-rewarding thing?

***

18.37: That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for highlighting this important distinction Prabhu Ji. One example of something that is both interesting and rewarding is associating with other devotees. Their company is socially rewarding as well as interesting and their support in understanding and actualising the teachings of the scriptures in our everyday life is rewarding in furthering our spiritual journey. We also feel less isolated in following the correct spiritual path in a world that is, sadly, mostly atheistic and materialistic.

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    • Excellent example of devotee association, especially when we can find like-minded association in the devotee community.

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