Reading effectively means being open-minded and skeptical at the same time. This can be hard to do when you’re hurting and looking to books for answers.
For the sake of your health, don’t surrender your mind when you pick up a self-help or spirituality book. The gurus can be wrong. Keep a fully-functioning crap detector handy at all times.
I was thinking about this in relation to The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.
That title bothers me.
Actually, Chopra scares me.
This is true even though I enjoyed his early books about Ayurvedic medicine. They contributed something new and useful to the literature. Then Chopra got to be a celebrity, and his message changed.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success tells us that we can have anything and everything we want—without effort. In fact, this book contains a relatively early statement of the “Law of Attraction,” which convinced some spiritual seekers that God really wants them to attract a lot of money.
At this point, I pray that your crap detector is glowing bright red.
Here’s the fundamental problem: “Spirituality” and “success” belong to different universes. Anyone who equates the two is uninformed or dishonest.
“Success” means achieving goals. That’s fine. But if you believe that happiness depends on achieving your goals, then you’re talking about something different than spirituality.
“Spirituality” means unconditional fulfillment. It’s about a source of serenity that does not depend on having anything or doing anything. It’s about something that’s more stable than shifting circumstances and fortunes.
The great spiritual texts tell us that happiness is immediate. Peace is already present. Enlightenment is here, now.
This idea comes to us from both Eastern and Western sources.
In The Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says that “the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”
An old Zen saying makes essentially the same point: “If you can’t find enlightenment where you’re standing, where do you expect to go in search of it?”
And then there’s the mind-shattering Tao Te Ching, which teaches us to be wary of success—especially when it creates attachment to changing conditions and circumstances. (See this incredible translation.)
Let’s contemplate these words:*
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away
*Source: www.Taoism.net and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006.