Spirituality and the Digital Age

Can spirituality navigate the speed of digital transformation?

The stories are far too common.  High-tech leadership pushing their human counterparts beyond their limits in order to keep the company ahead of the competition.  Crushing work hours, burnout, depression and suicide – the tell-tale signs that we are moving way faster than we were built to move.

I’ve also seen the other side.  Amazing gains mankind has made toward the development of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the speed in which we digest our data.  Self-driving cars, freeways made of solar panels, smart cities – the power of innovation that in the end will probably be our best hope to save our planet.  The duality in our modern existence.

But how do we find a balance between the thrill of innovation and the need for the contemplation required to keep us healthy and grounded?  One might find answers by revisiting the works of an ancient text – for example, India’s best known scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita.

“The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage”

Eknath Easwaran

Set upon an ancient battlefield, the Gita follows the dialog between Sri Krishna, the incarnate God, and his friend and disciple, Arjuna.  There is an inner conflict waging within Arjuna, just as in all of us.  Conflict over who we are, the actions we must take and the way we respond to the outcomes of those actions.  Questions not only about our values, morals and judgements, but about our very essence as human beings.

Why is this important in the age of digital?  We can be so consumed with our current technological world.  Our digital world is about EX-volution (pushing or searching outside of ourselves); it’s fast-paced, hard edged and dynamic.  We act from a mental space in order to move processes and projects forward.  We rely solely on our rational mind. We shirk emotions and solitude as being passive or weak.  We don’t address the war within, because we are fully emerged in the war outside.

Selfless service and meditation, tenets of the Gita, are in direct opposite to the lifestyle of DX.  Selfless service is taking action in one’s life for the sake of action, without reward or ties to an outcome.  We are driven by a higher calling.  Meditation unifies the consciousness, helping to separate us from our senses and sense objects (the things we desire).  Through these age old practices, our awareness of the Self is strengthened and our capacity for disconnectedness, reversed.  We suddenly find ourselves grounded in spiritualism instead of embedded in materialism.

So can spiritualism exist side-by-side with our digital future?  I believe so.  But only if we put as much emphasis on becoming spiritual aspirants as we do on becoming global entrepreneurs.

The age of digital transformation is upon us.  There is no turning back.  The question is –  can we move forward, finding a balance between technology and spiritualism, so to make better decisions on the course of this revolution?  As I said before, yes.  We must continue to explore this new frontier with all of it’s potential and wonder,  but from a place firmly rooted in our traditions.  We use the wisdom, passed on by our spiritual forefathers (like the Bhagavad Gita) as a compass to navigate the coming complex issues of our brave new world.

 

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