In this episode, The Bearded Mystic Podcast discusses whether it is best to scroll through social media posts for spiritual practice or should we spend time reading spiritual texts of any tradition. Is it important to understand the whole context instead of misinterpreting a captivating quote on social media?
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of The Bearded Mystic Podcast and I'm your host, Rahul N Singh. Thank you for joining today and for taking out the time to listen to this episode. Today, we're going to be talking about whether we should be reading spiritual texts, or should we be following social media posts, which may contain some lines from a spiritual text. Or they have memes, which emphasize spirituality, whether those are valuable. Or should we go back to reading spiritual texts? And this is something we're going to explore today. There's no hard right or wrong answer. It's all about my perspective on this. And also you can share with me what you think about this, whether you think social media plays a good part in enhancing spiritual understanding, or do you think we need to balance both spiritual texts reading, and also looking at social media? Or should we think with a more critical eye and actually focus more on the spiritual texts. And then occasionally just look at social media posts, but to verify if those quotes are true. There's quite a few things to unpack today, but we might not go through most of this, but I think it's definitely something we need to think about. With social media posts, the great thing is, is that they're bite size information. There's something you can consume. It's something that is soluble. It's something that you can think about a little bit, but with the added aspect of scrolling, I wonder how much of it we actually really do think about. If you do come across a quote, is it something you look at for a second and think, oh yeah, this is really great. I really liked what it said here. And then when it comes to the next second, you're scrolling again, looking for the next hit of spiritual wisdom, which will hopefully enlighten us, but doesn't end up enlightening us because we can't think about it for longer than a second. The positive in it being short and bite-sized is that you can take time to think about it. The problem with it being short and bite size is that yes, you may not lay importance to it. So basically an ad on social media may have your attention more than an actual spiritual post or a spiritual quote that you come across. Now, is that information easy to retain? I believe it isn't, I believe that this information isn't something that we think about for longer than it should be. We may save it. We may think about it. I do the same thing. I look at some posts. I go through them, I think 'oh yeah, that's great.' And then I forget about it. It's important in the moment, but in the future do I think about it? No. There's been a few times when I've gone back to look at something because I wanted to revise my understanding of it and understand it more deeply. But it is rare. Now the other issue is information overload. We may look at information. We may see these posts and we see something like: live in the present moment. Be here and now! And we think, oh, wow. Yeah, this is amazing. And then next second we're thinking about the next dopamine hit and we've not even processed that we're after that dopamine hit. We've not processed that we're looking for the next hit of wisdom. We see so much information. How are we going to retain that? Our senses are constantly being in overdrive. It's hard for our brain. I'm only going by my own experience, it's hard for it to retain information. However, now I have changed my relationship with social media a little bit. I took some time away from it. I took a big break from it, I think for a good couple of months and I re evaluated what I thought was the best thing for me and for my social media use. The first thing was to make sure that whenever I read something, I'm reading it properly and digesting it before I moved to the next post. Some posts are, they are what they are, you know mindless crap, but you just have to cope with that. That's part of being in social media and sometimes to keep the social circle you have, you have to just keep those in your feed. Just remember, even though it's in your social media feed, you don't have to eat all of the information that's on there. You can choose what is going to take your time. I can normally tell within the second, if I want to keep looking at something or if I want to just scroll up or scroll down, whatever it is. Now I take that time to read a post and actually I like the ones with a lot more information on. A lot of people may look at things that just have a few words or it's picture or they have a long caption. I like the ones that have a long caption as well as a lot of information on the post. The reason for that is one that is looking for your attention. I always feel that it's not looking to grab your eyeballs straight away. It's looking to invite you in. Now, this is more important because when we see something that only has a few words or something that wants to grab our attention, I normally think that those ones are, they're trying to sell something, they're trying to sell an idea, sell a concept, sell a product. A lot of influencers do that. That are on Instagram or TikTok or any social media platform, but the ones that really want to engage, they look for longer form and it's pretty obvious that longer form now linked to, they want to genuinely educate you. Obviously someone can write a long caption or a long post, but have they thought about what they'd been writing and does it really reflect their behavior? And that's the great thing about social media is that you can kind of now tell who is just lying through their teeth. They may say one thing on social media, but you kind of feel that there might be inauthentic and you can grasp that now. We can tell who we want to keep engaged with and who we don't want to be engaged with. You may not unfollow someone or unfriend someone or unsubscribed to something. You may keep it there with the respect that things may improve. Social media posts, they have their value. I think they're very important. Some of them link to better information and they look to educate us. If you're after spiritual development, then you want to go for the longer form and not for the shorter form. The reason for the longer form is even though the truth can be said in seconds, maybe even less than a second, but the value is in when it's explained to you and then you grab the essence. Social media posts has it's value. It's good. It's bite size, but you have to spend time with it. You have to spend giving your attention and focus to it. Otherwise, it's not really adding anything to your life. That's my view on social media posts and its importance. I hope that's fair. If you think differently to me, let me know, you can contact me on social media and let me know what you think. Now, when it comes to spiritual texts, this is for me, the important thing, when I say spiritual texts, I mean any texts which engages you on the spiritual level, so I'm talking about scriptures. I'm talking about The Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Ashtavakra Gita, The Gospel of Thomas or the writings of Meister Eckhart, Rumi's poetry, The Guru Granth Sahib, Kabir Ji's poetry, Tukaram Ji's poetry, The Heart Sutra or Hsin Hsin Ming. Any one of those I consider it to be a spiritual text and I say spiritual texts, why I didn't say religious, there's a reason. With religious, we may just read it for recitation purposes, but spiritual texts we read for deep insight. It's not just about chanting something or just reciting it. No, I'm talking about something that makes you contemplate and makes you think deeper. It can be anything. It can be any book, . It can be a novel. All I'm talking about is that it's got to engage you to think about the higher purpose of spirituality, which is to attain or to realize that one is Brahman. That one is the Ultimate Reality and that it points towards that. That's the main thing you want to look for in this spiritual text. If it doesn't get you to have that perspective, if it still creates a duality, then you don't want to keep that. That I consider a religious text or just a book of fiction. The importance of spiritual texts are this, that it completely guides you to understand spiritual concepts so you can engage with it. For example, when we talk about Sat Chit Ananda, there's a book that will go into it, there may be a chapter on it.With karma, there's a chapter on it, so it does a deep dive. Or we look at Gyana Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita or we read Mandukya Upanishad and we contemplate upon those things. Those are the texts that we look at for deep spiritual insight and not spiritual insight in terms of just seeing it and it's 'WOW'. No, it's got to be something that takes your breath away really. When you have that moment, when you read something and you're like, whoa, I need to take a look at that again. That's what I'm talking about. It's that one thing that gives you the moment to reflect. You read a line and you're like, I need to read this again. I need to really understand it. That for me is the highest purpose of a spiritual text. If you focus on spiritual texts and that is your main source of information, that's how you get your knowledge. That's how you get your wisdom. This is a better way. If you read a spiritual text as a whole. You also understand the context fully. Now, when you read a quote, it can be kind of misguiding because it can just be showing you one perspective and someone can manipulate it to their understanding. But if you look at the text itself, the whole chapter or the whole verse, it may be completely different when you read it as a whole piece. Even though two lines in the quote that you read on social media may have an impact upon you. The greater impact is if you read the whole verse, because then you fully understand what it means, not through the lens of another, because we can cherry pick quotes, right? And by cherry picking quotes, we can prove our points, but we gotta look at something in the whole context and that's more important. That's got to be the focus. Then it's all about retaining the essence. A lot of people may read a spiritual text or even the religious text. They may be able to recite passages from the Bible, The Qu'ran, the Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads. They may be able to line by line, quote massive passages, but that's just retaining information, not the essence. Does that mean that somebody understands something? There's a popular, I don't know if I want to call the person a scholar, he can apparently quote any scripture and he's remembered all of them. What's funny is when you listen to him, it's obvious that he doesn't understand the real concepts in those texts that he's talking about. And again, he's cherry picking. Now this one person. Some of you may have guessed him on about is popular on TV. I won't say what religion he is, but he's got a whole TV channel where he likes to cherry pick things from different religions and to prove that his religion is the better religion. Now in my opinion, that person is just a parrot. They're not really an intellectual. They don't really have intelligence. They're just someone that can parrrot information. That's nice. That's good. If you want that type of thing, but if you're someone that's really after spirituality, you want someone who understands the essence. Now someone may not be able to quote the scriptures. They may not be able to quote a whole chapter of something, or they may not be able to even quote one line from a text, but if they can understand the essence of the text, they're more likely to implement it in their life. And by implementing into their life, you see that their life speaks sip, and this is more important. This has a lot more value. This has a lot more engagement. For me, when you read a spiritual text, it's all about how much you retain the essence. You may read some thing, you may spend time for an hour reading something, but it's all about what you retain afterwards. And normally you tend to think about what you read more. When you read a book, there's a different feeling to it, to when you're looking at a social media post. I think when you're reading a book, you're looking to be educated, you looking to learn. And that's the difference. I know that when I read the Upanishads, or the poetry of Rumi or poetry of Kabir ji. When I look upon those words, I know that I am thinking about in my own mind what they mean. I try to then understand what did they mean in their context? So in the context of the poem, what did these three lines mean? Or in the text, what does this mean? And then look at how can I implement it in my life? Is it something that I can adapt to my life? Or is it something that's unrealistic and something that is more cultural of the time, rather than something that is relevant today? That's why I think there's more power in understanding something than remembering line by line, a book or a chapter or something. When we look at both of those things, spiritual texts, the whole book or social media posts, the main thing that we have to focus upon and the one thing I'm going to conclude with this podcast is it's really important that it's the one that allows you to retain the essence afterwards. Something that you're able to focus upon, and that brings your attention back to either yourself in terms of where you need to improve. I do that constantly. I look at something and I think about how I can implement it in my life. If I can't implement it, if I find it's logically just not possible, then I will say it's logically not possible for me at that moment. Something I read five years ago and something I read today, like I read the Upanishads more or less every two years, I will at least look back at them and each time I look at it differently because one that I may have gained more experience, two I've gone through different experiences and three, I may have developed more intellectually, which allows more room for intelligence. In spirituality and there's going to be a podcast about this. For me, knowledge is the highest pursuit in spirituality. Wisdom is the highest pursuit. Things like devotion - bhakti, or karma - selfless service or dhyana - meditation. These are all tools that help you to gain knowledge, that opens a room for knowledge. Without knowledge, there's no way you're going to advance further. For example, we may listen to something that says that there is only Brahman, now devotion and meditation and selfless service may help us to understand those concepts. But until we hear and think and do vichar - inquiry into 'there is only Brahman', only then are we ready for knowledge or wisdom. The most important thing is what is getting you to the highest purpose. For some of you, it may be social media posts. For me, it's spiritual texts. When I spend time, I use a Kindle because I have like a thousand books, probably more now, I wouldn't be able to keep a thousand books in my home. The great thing about having a Kindle is it's all downloadable and you're saving the environment in terms of cutting down trees. The important thing is for me is that when I read something, I've got to think about it. I've got to contemplate upon it and I've gotta allow myself to advance spiritually. That's the main focus. We've got to think about what is getting us closer to understanding that Brahman, this Ultimate Reality is the only thing that's real and that everything else is just in appearance, is just transactional reality. It has a relevance to our body and mind, but we ultimately know that this is all transient and it's something that we have to transcend eventually. While we transcend it, we still have to be involved in it. That's the whole crux of spiritual practice is finding that way in which we can both understand the transient and transcend the transient, yet remain involved and yet detached with life, with the transactional reality that we live in. Because we still have a family, we still have our work. We still have to live in the world and engage with the world. It's our choice how we choose to engage with it. Spiritual practice is what helps our response to engaging with the world. Nobody should be thinking that because you've gained the understanding of Brahman, or the Formless, or God, just because you've gained that understanding doesn't mean that you disassociate yourself with the world. No. If you think that everything is Brahman, everything is the Ultimate Reality. Then you would also know that this appearance that we see, this transactional reality is all in front of Brahman. Therefore you will not discredit it. This has been my understanding from the spiritual texts. You see social media posts will not be able to tell me about this. But spiritual texts does allow me to think about those things. You have to make that choice what's right for you and how are you looking at things more mindfully? How are things engaging with you, where you can meditate upon them? For example, if I read in the text that you need to be an ascetic, I can't do that. I have a wife, I have a job. I have a family, an extended family. I have friends. Now I can't leave the world. I may not have to leave the world, but I can become detached from the world and still have a healthy relationship with the world. And that's something I've got think about. By thinking about it, I can find a solution that works for me. That is intelligence. That is wisdom. That's what we get when we read spiritual texts is because they open our mind to understanding new things. And on top of that at the same time, when you read a spiritual text, it's connecting you to Brahman, it's connecting you to the ultimate reality. Taking the transactional reality away from the ego and more towards Brahman. That's also the journey that goes on. That's why I find spiritual texts to be more effective in my opinion. It may not be the same thing for everybody. So I respect that but let me know what do you find is more engaging when you read the whole scripture? When you sit down with the text for 30 minutes, an hour every day or every couple of days, or once a week. Or is what you look at social media more engaging for you and something that you do vichar upon, that you inquire upon, that you think about? Let me know what's best for you. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Bearded Mystic Podcast, please do remember to follow or subscribe to this channel and do leave a review for this podcast. I'd really appreciate knowing what you think. If you would like to support this podcast, you can do so on Patreon. You can support the show. The link is in the description below, in the show notes below. Please do take a look at that. There is extra content on there for you to look at, so do sign up. You can follow me on social media and I will leave the links below to each of those accounts. I do share small clips on there that you can share with friends and family. 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