High streets are intriguing places: a microcosm of modern life. It’s where people descend in their thousands, searching for something special to enrich their existence. These urban hubs are a melting pot of entertainers, campaigners, shoppers, beggars and advertisers, a marketplace for the latest commodities and ideas, a space for meeting, sharing and exploring. As a monk I spent many years travelling up and down the country, standing in town centres, speaking to random people and showing them spiritual books. It’s quite a task to stop someone in their tracks, cut through the myriad of thoughts, penetrate the bubble of their life and begin a dialogue about deeper subject matter. But truly amazing - some of my most mystical, memorable and moving experiences in life have been in bustling high streets, sharing spirituality with everyday people.
On one particular day, in minus degree temperatures, a homeless beggar sat on the sidewalk holding a ragged sign which read ‘Give me hope.’ Over the years I had become desensitised to it, although it was a harsh reality way beyond my world of comprehension. Seeing him sleeping rough, a few people threw in some coins, someone else gifted him a Costa coffee, while an occasional passer-by stopped to offer a few comforting words. All nice gestures. But, my heart said, what he really needs is hope. In that sense we are all beggars – we all need hope. Without the conviction of a brighter future what drives us to continue on in this world? Hope, faith, inspiration and vision, which give us the hunger for life, are perhaps our most precious assets – if we have those, we have everything. In that spirit I gifted him a bag of food and a spiritual book, serving the immediate but trying to address the ultimate, hoping it would uplift his outlook.
In Chapter Sixteen, Krishna explains the divine and demoniac natures, their mentalities, activities and destinies. Everything, however, stems from their philosophy – their outlook on life. Some individuals see through the eyes of divine wisdom, and that sets them on a certain trajectory. Others, however, see through tainted material vision – blurred, blinded and short-sighted. Connecting with spiritual wisdom is something that changes our outlook entirely, endowing one with the x-ray vision to see beyond the superficial.
Modern psychology tells us our outlook on life is moulded by two broad factors. Our ‘nature’ is the inbred specific mentality and psychophysical conditions we carry with us from previous lives. Everyone is wired differently because of the journey they’ve been on, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. In addition to this is ‘nurture’ - our interaction in this life. The people, places, opinions and situations we encounter throughout life, shape our outlook.
The sages explain, however, that there is a third dimension which can create a paradigm shift in our approach to life. Our condition from previous lives (nature) and interaction in this life (nurture) may well set the stage, but our connection with spiritual wisdom can be the game-changer. It helps us to step back and observe our inbred nature and lifetime of nurture. It loosens our identification with the temporary, and can awaken the innate pure consciousness which can shine beyond the subtle, material impressions we all carry. That transcendent dimension brings a deeper purpose, divine presence and irresistible empowerment that shifts our consciousness entirely.
“He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.” (Bhagavad-Gita 16.23)
16.9 – The outlook of those who deny God’s existence.
16.10 – How that outlook can have destructive effects on the world.