Sam Harris ON: The MEANING OF LIFE & Finding Wisdom Through MEDITATION | Jay Shetty

Last updated: May 31, 2023

The video is a conversation between Sam Harris and Jay Shetty about the tension between being and becoming, finding peace with impermanence, and the role of spirituality in navigating life's challenges.

The video features a conversation between Jay Shetty and Sam Harris, a best-selling author and host of a health and wellness podcast. They discuss the tension between being and becoming, and the importance of finding a mode of being at peace with impermanence. They also talk about the role of spirituality in finding fulfillment in the present moment, while still making efforts to accomplish things. Harris emphasizes the importance of meditation in achieving this state of being, and defines spirituality as an answer to the question of how to be fulfilled in the present moment. He also criticizes organized religion for its tribalism and potential for conflict.

  • Life is an unending series of problems to be solved.
  • We have to find some mode of being at peace with impermanence.
  • Spirituality focuses on the being part.
  • Finding a mode of being where you can recognize a type of fulfillment that isn't predicated on the next good thing happening.
  • The domain of becoming subsumes our ethical lives.
  • Your happiness is not predicated on getting things done.
  • Spirituality is whatever you put in the space provided.
  • Meditation is a way of breaking the spell of being lost in thought and waking up from the dream of discursivity and identification with thought.
  • Spirituality can help us navigate life's challenges by providing us with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Sam Harris ON: The MEANING OF LIFE & Finding Wisdom Through MEDITATION | Jay Shetty - YouTube

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The tension between being and becoming

  • Life is an unending series of problems to be solved.
  • We have to find some mode of being at peace with impermanence.
  • Spirituality focuses on the being part.
  • Spirituality is an answer to the question of how to be fulfilled in the present moment.
  • Finding a mode of being where you can recognize a type of fulfillment that isn't predicated on the next good thing happening.
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The healthy mode of becoming

  • The domain of becoming subsumes our ethical lives.
  • It's about what would be good to do, what is positive, and how we can make the world a better place.
  • The tension is in being at peace in the meditative sense while making great effort to accomplish things.
  • Your happiness is not predicated on getting things done.
  • You have to learn to love the process and recognize the goals themselves as valid.
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Finding peace with impermanence

  • We have to find some mode of being at peace with impermanence.
  • The contemplative life comes in to help navigate impermanence.
  • We're talking about pursuing peace and the ability to navigate between being at peace with where you are now and growing and progressing.
  • The goal is to love the process as well.
  • The contemplative life helps to find a mode of being where you can be at peace with impermanence.
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Sam Harris ON: The MEANING OF LIFE & Finding Wisdom Through MEDITATION | Jay Shetty - YouTube

Defining spirituality and religion

  • Spirituality is whatever you put in the space provided.
  • Spirituality is an answer to the question of how to be fulfilled in the present moment.
  • Religion can engender tribalism and conflict.
  • Organized religion is often criticized for its tribalism.
  • There is a need for a more universal spirituality that transcends tribalism.
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21st Century Conversation About Spirituality

  • Spirituality is a word used with scare quotes because of its unhelpful associations.
  • Human conversation, intuition, and insight are what we have to navigate reality.
  • Our ancestors have created valuable documents and methodologies, but we have to recognize that we have a common inheritance of wisdom and insight.
  • There is no reason to speak of Christian or Buddhist or Hindu spirituality because we have a common human project.
  • Spirituality is a word that still needs to be used because it names an approach to well-being that isn't predicated on usual seeking to become happy.
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The Role of Meditation in Finding Wisdom

  • Meditation is a way of breaking the spell of being lost in thought and waking up from the dream of discursivity and identification with thought.
  • Consciousness has certain qualities that are intrinsically peaceful, gratifying, and free of problems.
  • The layer of thought is what we fail to recognize and feel that every waking moment is some form of emergency that has to be responded to or reacted to.
  • Meditation is a way of paying attention in this moment so as to not suffer unnecessarily.
  • Meditation is a way of recognizing consciousness, which is the by which everything is seen and known and experienced and felt.
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The Pitfalls of Organized Religion

  • Religion being dogmatically attached to a specific religion as though it were the one true way of seeing everything doesn't make any sense.
  • There is no reason to speak of Christian physics or Muslim algebra.
  • There will be no reason to speak of Christian or Buddhist or Hindu spirituality because we have a common human project.
  • Religion can be a source of conflict and violence.
  • Religion can be a source of comfort and community.
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The Common Human Project

  • We have a common human project and whatever is true of the human mind has to be talked about in a way that truly transcends culture and isn't sectarian in any usual sense.
  • Science when it's working transcends culture and isn't sectarian.
  • We have to be the best judges of what works given the needs of the moment and technological changes that could never have been foreseen by our ancestors.
  • We can use whatever works, whether it's the U.S Constitution, the Bible, or the polycanon.
  • We have a common inheritance of wisdom and insight.
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Pitfalls of Spirituality

  • Many beliefs in spirituality are imported from religion and cannot be reconciled with a scientific view of reality.
  • Superstitious and magical beliefs are not likely to be true.
  • Unconditional love and the illusory nature of the self are important spiritual claims that are supported by modern discussions of the human mind.
  • There is no place in the brain for an unchanging ego to be hiding.
  • There are many books on spirituality that are bogus or filled with wishful thinking, but there are also valid and worthy ones.
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Curating Human Conversation

  • We need to become wiser curators of the totality of human conversation and literature to find what is worthy of our credence.
  • There are passages in ancient texts that are anachronistic and not suited to a 21st century view of how we should live.
  • We perform editing on the fly and ignore passages that are not useful.
  • The Golden Rule is a fantastic heuristic for living ethically with people.
  • We do not need to believe on insufficient evidence to use the Golden Rule as a navigation tool ethically.
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The Tension Between Being and Becoming

  • There is a tension between being and becoming, between accepting the present moment and striving for self-improvement.
  • There is a danger in becoming too focused on self-improvement and losing sight of the present moment.
  • Meditation can help us find a balance between being and becoming.
  • Meditation can help us find peace with impermanence and the fact that everything is constantly changing.
  • Meditation can help us cultivate wisdom and insight into the nature of reality.
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The Role of Spirituality in Navigating Life's Challenges

  • Spirituality can help us navigate life's challenges by providing us with a sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Spirituality can help us cultivate compassion and empathy for others.
  • Spirituality can help us find a sense of connection and belonging in the world.
  • Spirituality can help us find a sense of inner peace and contentment.
  • Spirituality can help us find a way to deal with suffering and adversity.
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The Landscape of Possibility

  • We are living in a time where we can change our own genomes.
  • Technology is becoming increasingly powerful and we are engaging with the internet and information.
  • There is a lot of misinformation and it is hard to have a conversation about basic facts.
  • We are faced with the conundrum of what to do with all of this and how to solve massive coordination problems.
  • The landscape of possibility is always shifting and human conversation is a means by which to navigate this.
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Legacy Thought Structures

  • Legacy thought structures are not well suited to the new opportunities and challenges we face.
  • Being a fundamentalist Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu is not the best operating system for your mind.
  • We need to be far more eclectic, non-sectarian, and non-dogmatic.
  • We need to be open to the best evidence and the best arguments.
  • We want to be persuadable and open to better arguments and new evidence.
  • We also want to be skeptical and conservative in how we revise our map of the world.
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Peace with Impermanence

  • We need to find peace with impermanence.
  • Everything is constantly changing and we need to be able to adapt to this.
  • We need to be able to let go of things that are no longer serving us.
  • We need to be able to embrace change and uncertainty.
  • We need to be able to find joy in the present moment.
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Meditation and Wisdom

  • Meditation can help us find wisdom.
  • Meditation can help us find peace with impermanence.
  • Meditation can help us be more present in the moment.
  • Meditation can help us be more open to the best evidence and the best arguments.
  • Meditation can help us be more compassionate and empathetic towards others.
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The Tension Between Being and Becoming

  • Humans are not fully aligned with human values in the collective sense.
  • Technology inherits the same manipulative tendencies and exploitative tendencies as humans.
  • Media and technology amplify negative or inherently have questionable morals and ethics.
  • The waking up part of meditation is a self-reflective contemplative idea of who am I becoming and who do I want to be.
  • The idea of purification is often not talked about but is required to let go of things that cloud our ability to be.
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Finding Peace with Impermanence

  • The mature approach to meditation practice is recognizing that consciousness as it is ordinary consciousness regardless of its current contents.
  • Consciousness is the condition in which anger and everything else is appearing.
  • There is already no ego in the middle of it.
  • All changes in the contents of consciousness are transitory.
  • When watching Netflix two weeks later, you're not going to be blissed out in the same way.
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The Role of Spirituality in Navigating Life's Challenges

  • Spirituality is a way of navigating life's challenges.
  • It's a way of finding wisdom through meditation.
  • It's a way of recognizing that consciousness is the condition in which everything is appearing.
  • It's a way of recognizing that there is already no ego in the middle of it.
  • It's a way of recognizing that all changes in the contents of consciousness are transitory.
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The Common Property of a Non-Sectarian, Non-Parochial, Non-Provincial Humanity

  • The modern wisdom tradition should be the common property of a non-sectarian, non-parochial, non-provincial humanity.
  • The waking up part of meditation is the idea that we can't create something or use something fully aligned with human values because we as humans aren't fully aligned with human values in the collective sense.
  • Humans have the ability to create something, but it will have all the imperfections that we have internally in the creator of it.
  • The idea of purification is often not talked about but is required to let go of things that cloud our ability to be.
  • The mature approach to meditation practice is recognizing that consciousness as it is ordinary consciousness regardless of its current contents.
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The Fundamentally Mysterious Condition of Experience

  • The contents of experience are temporary, but the recognition of the open condition in which everything is appearing is not.
  • There is a layer at which the condition can be described in psychological terms, but there is always an ever-present mystery to it.
  • On some level, you are a witness to everything that's appearing.
  • The witness has the structure of a self in the beginning, but as you look into it more, that structure goes away.
  • Whatever feels like "I" or "me" is yet more appearance.
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The Purification Model Makes Less and Less Sense

  • As you keep dropping back and witnessing, the purification model makes less and less sense.
  • There is nothing to purify because there is no one to whom those feelings refer.
  • Even anger is no longer anger in the moment of recognition.
  • The emotion is dissipating, and the connection to whatever thoughts were telling you why you were angry is broken.
  • There is a freedom even in the dualistic awareness of the flow of thought and emotion.
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The Freedom of Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness is a technique called mindfulness, which most people engage dualistically in the beginning.
  • Even dualistically, you can learn the difference between being lost in thought and identified with an emotion and just witnessing it.
  • There is a freedom even in the dualistic awareness of the flow of thought and emotion.
  • Anger is a classically negative thing to be stuck in and identified with and acting out of.
  • Normal people who don't know how to be mindful are the mere hostage of that process.
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The Complication of Life Born of Negative Emotions

  • Normal people are going to stay as angry as they're going to stay for as long as they're going to stay that way.
  • They're going to do all of the things that are life-deranging and reputation-harming they might do on the basis of that emotion for as long as they're going to do those things.
  • Then they're going to have all the reaction to what they did and said.
  • Dualistic mindfulness gives you a degree of freedom that most people don't have.
  • An emotion like anger or fear is useful insofar as it is a signal of something that needs to be addressed.
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Managing Negative Emotions

  • Salience cue is telling you that something just happened that's worth paying attention to.
  • Psychological health and the health of one's relationships is more the result of being able to get off to unhook from that negative emotion more and more quickly.
  • There are more impersonal and ethically necessary modes for these emotions that we don't want to get rid of.
  • Moral outrage has its place and is the basis from which we would react to grave injustice in the world.
  • The question is when does it tip over into personal psychological suffering that actually diminishes your capacity to do something useful.
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Dealing with Outrage

  • It's important to be cautious and skeptical of one's own emotional hijacking.
  • You want to know that this isn't a personal petty egocentric reaction.
  • It actually is born of what it purports to be, a compassionate engagement with the world.
  • It's not an expression of your own greed and narcissism and self-focused and divisive emotion.
  • Outrage can have the character of contraction and feel like anger.
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Continuing to Feel Negative Emotions

  • Sam Harris still feels anger, sadness, envy, and always believes he always will feel all of these things just for less and less time.
  • He doesn't think he'll ever get to zero just as you could never run a mile in zero seconds.
  • There are more to recognize about the circumstance, which gives you a degree of freedom by which to navigate.
  • There are more impersonal and ethically necessary modes for these emotions that we don't want to get rid of.
  • The question is when does it tip over into personal psychological suffering that actually diminishes your capacity to do something useful.
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Being Practical with Emotions

  • Emotional experience can stop us from being practical.
  • Being overly skeptical and overly analytical can never practically apply anything because you can constantly find flaws in pretty much most ideas in the world if you keep looking for them.
  • It's important to be cautious and skeptical of one's own emotional hijacking.
  • You want to know that this isn't a personal petty egocentric reaction.
  • It actually is born of what it purports to be, a compassionate engagement with the world.
  • Outrage can have the character of contraction and feel like anger.
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The Role of Energy in Defending Oneself

  • Energy behind defending oneself is necessary at times.
  • Pacifism is not always the wisest position ethically.
  • Violently defending oneself against an aggressor should be available.
  • Energy that would allow one to violently defend oneself should be available.
  • There are circumstances where hatred feels more apropos than others.
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The Emotional Shading of Hatred

  • There is an emotional shading when defending oneself against a wild animal.
  • Layer of hatred doesn't quite fit when defending oneself against a wild animal.
  • People should be viewed on some level as equivalent to forces of nature.
  • We don't hate hurricanes in the same way that we could hate another human being.
  • We can have a similar relationship to even the worst human beings while doing all the things we need to do to defend ourselves against them.
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Locking People in Prison

  • We can put people in prison.
  • Sam Harris is not in favor of the death penalty.
  • No one is truly at bottom responsible for being who they are.
  • Differences in life outcomes are due to differences in luck.
  • Our capacity to do good things with even our bad luck is yet more good luck.
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The Massive Role of Luck in Our Lives

  • We have an ethical imperative to acknowledge the massive role that luck plays in our lives.
  • We should want to cancel the most egregious differences in good and bad luck between people.
  • There's biological luck, circumstantial luck, and all kinds of luck.
  • Our capacity to do good things with even our bad luck is yet more good luck.
  • Something is giving you a genetic and environmental reason why you are set up to pick yourself up by your bootstraps when somebody else in a similar situation wasn't.
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The Role of Luck in Society

  • Society can suffer from immense bad luck due to lack of natural resources or perverse incentives.
  • We should engineer a tide that raises all boats and recognize the disparities in luck.
  • Asymmetries may be optimal to encourage creativity and innovation.
  • We need to spread luck around and create love for others.
  • We have a responsibility and opportunity to do so as we become wealthier.
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Understanding Outrage and Extracting Ego

  • Outrage can be differentiated from hate and can be for a greater cause.
  • It's important to understand the basis of our real outrage and not let petty personal anger trigger us.
  • It depends on the problem and situation whether we can influence it.
  • If we have a platform, we can make sense of important topics and try to accomplish something useful.
  • If there's nothing to do, it's great to have tools to let go of negative emotions, such as meditation.
  • Letting go of anxiety is useful for both public-facing and inwardly facing emotions.
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