Finding the Intellect, Mastering the Self: An Evening with Gautam Jain at the Yoga Shelter

Yoga Shelter owner Eric Paskel stood at the podium and spoke before a packed studio in Grosse Pointe, Michigan:

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He was introducing the second of three nights of lectures by Gautam Jain, director of the Vedanta Cultural Foundation in New Jersey. This lecture, the Art of Self-Management, drew from the timeless texts of Vedanta philosophy, an Eastern approach to eternity, to wisdom, to building the intellect in a spiritually hunger world.

“Someone asked me earlier, ‘Did you have a good day?’,” Gautam shared with the audience. “I don’t understand this question. It was a day, like yesterday, like tomorrow. When you strengthen your intellect, emotion doesn’t drive your experiences. There is no good or bad, only experiences.” In his introduction, Paskel explained that, by the virtue of free will, “We are free to choose how we live life. But we end up in situations and say, ‘How’d I get here?’” “It’s very simple,” Gautam told the audience. “If you cannot manage yourself as a human being, you can’t manage anything around you.”

And so the night proceeded. A conversation of one to a crowd, explaining that life is comprised of experiences between an individual and the world. The quality of experiences determines the quality of one’s life. And while the scientific sector has improved mightily in the past few centuries, the general state of happiness among humans has fallen deplorably low.

“The individual has been neglected,” Gautam said. Every creature except the human being is provided with all it needs at birth. Humans have no clue what life is going to be because only the human being has choice of action. “You can destroy yourself or you can be stronger than Buddha. The first requirement — learn to make the right choices in life.” Easier said than done? Not really. Guided by the timeless texts of Swami A. Parthasarathy, Gautam speaks on behalf of Swamiji’s Vedanta Academy in this hemisphere.

The entire focus of Vedanta, and anyone who lives by it, is to strengthen the intellect and keep emotions and drama at bay. It is the founding philosophy of the Yoga Shelter chain of yoga studios, one of three national yoga companies, with studios in Michigan and California.

And while countless Americans pile up their book-learning and advanced degrees, they sink deeper into misery and confusion. That’s because, according to Vedanta, they haven’t learned how to get back to the Self. In his lecture, Gautam wove between Vedantic premises and literary quotes, largely from Shakespearean dramas that illustrate the downfall of the unperfected human being.

A message from King Lear: “Every moment of your life, you are going to make a choice — on what basis? Don’t let emotion drive you. Don’t act on what you feel but on what you ought to do.”

Intelligence is not intellect, Gautam explained. If you follow likes and dislikes, go for the instant result, you’ll lose in the end. “What is really good for you is poisonous in the beginning — the pleasure comes later. And what is pleasurable in the beginning is poison later.” “Why eat junk food? It’s pleasure in the beginning, poison in the end. We have a health care problem in this country because two-thirds of the country is obese,” Gautam said. Pleasure first, poison later.

“What is debt? It’s destroying the world and it started here in America,” he said. “Pleasure now, pay later. Debt is when your desires take over your intellect.” Pleasure first, poison in the end. And so it goes.

Message from John Milton: “The mind is its own place — it makes a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven.” The path toward monitoring one’s life and finding a way out of the morass, according to Gautam, lies with the 3 R’s: Receipt — Reaction — Response.

Receipt: Who do you associate with? What music do you listen to, what TV shows do you watch? Build a satsung, a company of truth.

Reaction: Monitor your reaction all the time! A negative emotion entertains us in the beginning — until you get into the grip of the negative and are destroyed by it. Like a game of cat and mouse.

Response: What do you send back into the world? Ensure that your actions are unselfish if you want to grow as a human being. Be of service, carry an attitude of gratitude, instill a focus of working for a higher purpose in your everyday endeavors.

Message from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every man is a divinity in disguise.”

After his hour-long talk, Gautam answered questions and closed with a piece of advice for the parents in the room: “There are two things parents must do: 1. Live your ideal life yourself. 2. Shut your mouth.”

And with that, he swept away into the next day, into another lecture and finally onto his next opportunity to enlighten people with simple, timeless messages.

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  1. Great article. I bet he was really interesting and engaging to be in the same room with!

  2. I agree, Joy; I believe that all spirituality is based upon the concept of becoming selfless, and negativity does seem to create more negativity. Excellent article.

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