About 30 students gathered in the Mathey Common Room on Friday evening for a “Dharma on the Street” event.
The event, which was part of a “Living Dharma Series” by the Princeton Hindu Satsangam, explored Hindu sacred texts and how they could help students approach the University’s social scene with integrity.
Students listened as Vineet Chander, coordinator for Hindu Life, talked about his experience as an undergraduate and used creative analogies to relate Hindu teachings to social activities.
He talked about how one must really think about what one is after in the social scene and asked students what they looked for when they went to the Street. Students responded that they were looking for things such as connection, relaxation, and a sense of community, among other things.
Chander explained that although students often think of themselves as the passive victims of their circumstances, it’s often that they themselves create their experiences.
“What we bring to the table actually has a particular role in creating that experience,” he said.
He went on to compare consciousness to filters on Instagram, noting that these filters “shade and define… who we actually are.” He said that there are generally five “filters” that color how we experience things.
The lowest filter is Annamaya, or immediate gratification. He described this mindset as pleasure-seeking and avoiding everything unpleasant. This could be analogous to drinking without limits and pacing or hooking up without concern for the consequences or others’ feelings.
The next filter is Pranamaya, or self-preservation. It is characterized by thinking more about your own feelings and how your actions might affect that. On the Street, this could mean pacing drinks or thinking about how hooking up might affect you in the future.
Under Pranamaya, “it’s still about getting what I want but now I’m going to be more strategic about it,” Chander said.
The third filter is Manomaya, or feelings and emotional intelligence. This might mean considering the inconvenience it might cause to others to care for you if you drink too much or considering the other person’s feelings before hooking up.
Next is Vijnanamaya, which is characterized by wisdom, observation, and discernment. It involves more planning and foresight. This might mean asking for friends’ help in monitoring your drinks or being more mindful of what might happen down the line.
“Vijnanamaya can often be a lot about observing and not so much about doing,” according to Chander.
The highest filter is Anandamaya, which means having contentment and empathy. In this state, happiness comes from acceptance of the outside world.
Chander explained that contentment and empathy are very interlinked at this level. “When I’m truly content, then it opens up the door to empathy.”
To conclude his talk, Chander mentioned some practical takeaways.
One suggestion was to “get in the habit of pre-deciding things.” This means thinking carefully about what you’re going to do in advance.
He also mentioned that the people you spend time with have an important impact on who you become. He emphasized the importance of being intentional in who you spend time with and making sure you have people you can be completely honest with and can trust.
After the talk, students had pizza and reflected on what they had learned.
“I think Vineet’s comments were very relatable and gave me something to think about. I think it will change how I approach social activities at Princeton,” Rik Nag ’19 said.
“It reminded me of how teachings in Hindu philosophy are flexible and versatile and can be applied to anything. I found it interesting how he didn't tell us what the one right answer is,” Niranjan Shankar ’20 added.
The event, hosted by the Princeton Hindu Satsangam, was held at 8:00 p.m. on Oct. 21 in the Mathey Common Room.