Those who believe themselves to be doing good often cause the most problems in society. Those who try too hard to be liked and successful often end up coming across as desperate or tryhard. When people of moderate wealth try to flaunt their wealth with fancy things, they appear low-class. When people rely too much on appearances to get by in life, they become untrustworthy and transparent.
These are just a few examples of the realities of nature keeping us human beings in check. There are millions of examples like this. There’s a glitch that appears in the brain when the ego is in charge. It says, “I want X. I will do X. The world will respond favorably.” But to think the world will respond differently to our desires than anything else is silly. It’s like thinking you can change the weather through sheer force of will.
The lesson of meditation is to see through causes and go straight to effects. Why does someone want to be liked and successful? To feel peace and contentment, to feel they have ‘arrived’. So why not just cultivate that sense of arrival? Why do people want to appear wealthy? Is it not to receive the respect of others, which results in a sense of peace and contentment? So, once again— why not just cultivate that ends rather than participating in such roundabout and wasteful means?
The funny irony of spirituality is that, when we cultivate the ends of peace, contentment, compassion, self-discipline, respect, etc, we often inadvertently end up also achieving the shallow means we originally intended to use to get there.
It’s not hard to understand why this is. Those who already feel peace and contentment are a pleasure to be around. They’re a pleasure to work with. They’re honest, sometimes harshly so, and they solve problems without tip-toeing around trying to be liked or trying to be successful. When we feel peace in our hearts, we’re already successful, and everything we do shines with the lustre of diligence and awareness. As such, external indicators of success are often soon to follow.
Using external means as a way to inner-peace is a lot like protesting in the streets with picket signs to solve major social issues. It gives you the illusion that you’re participating in your own life, or in the world, but is a highly ineffective (if not doomed) form of participation. It’s a low-value way of spending one’s time. Instead of hacking at the branches, meditation allows us to get at the root. If our inner-peace can precede our external success, we have a strong foundation and can build on it indefinitely.
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