We need “less of” in modern life

By Dr. Ganesh Mohan

The ancient Kaṭha-Upaniṣad says that the path of jñāna-yoga begins with quieting our speech and letting our thoughts subside into our awareness within. The ancient darśana-s of India all have the same foundation called nivṛtti-mārga in Sanskrit: the path of calming the mind and letting go of the disturbances of desire and dislike. That is why vairāgya and becoming a monk is an ultimate common pathway in all these traditions.

Modern life constantly pushes us in the opposite direction: do more, have more, speak more, see more, hear more, eat more, run more, push yourself, achieve and so on without end. That’s the message we give children too. This path of more engagement and activity is not wrong. But the emphasis is imbalanced. It’s too heavily weighted to one side. We also need the message that it’s okay to do less, have less, speak less, see less, hear less, eat less, run less, push ourselves less.

Here is one suggestion for “less of” on social media: you don’t need to have an opinion on everything you read there. I don’t only mean commenting on the platform; I also mean arguing over it needlessly in your mind. Choose to engage only in conversations where you can make a meaningful difference – which may not be on social media. Current social media platforms are deliberately designed to be ephemeral and superficial, flattening discussions to transient snippets lacking the context and nuance that anchor meaningful human interaction. They thrive on provoking engagement by any means, including controversy. None of this is helpful in understanding a deep subject like yoga. They can, however be, a nice place to share short notes and thoughts that people may browse, as a community service and announcement board, and I hope you find the Svastha pages useful in that light!

It is important that “less of” and “letting go” should be practiced from the right intention within. The Bhagavad Gita explains this beautifully under the heading of tyāga in Chapter 18. If we run from engagement with the world, “active avoidance” because we dislike it, that is rajas-dominated. This will not reduce our suffering within: reactive dislike binds us as surely as participation does. If we avoid engagement from laziness and confusion, we are not really making a choice. That is tamas-dominated; it is to be stuck in our patterns blindly and does not reduce suffering within either.

If we choose to do only as much as needed and let the rest go with inner clarity and calm, that is sattva-dominated, and is the way to balance and ease.

To reduce stress in modern life, ask yourself how you can implement this principle of “less of” wisely in your life.