I’ll start with a word: Dissatisfaction. It is a word most of us try to run away from. We do not want to feel dissatisfied. Why do we not want to feel dissatisfied, but we are okay with feeling satisfied? Is life full of satisfaction with small pieces of dissatisfaction in between (like raisins on a cookie), or the other way round, wherein life is full of dissatisfaction inside which we find small moments of satisfaction. Or the extremes like, life is either just dissatisfaction or just satisfaction. These statements are pretty obvious but can be inspected a bit more (As later you will see this process of continuous inspection leads us to some uncharted territories).
These are important questions. The importance of something is of course subjective, so let’s assume them to be important for the sake of reading this text.
A possible reaction for a layperson while reading so far maybe: this guy (me, writer) is depressed about life, or some thought close to this in a similar direction. The reason why I say so, is because I would (could?) react in a similar manner. Whenever someone writes about something so-called “sad”, the knee jerk reaction is, “this person must’ve been through something difficult”. It is an important point to consider.
Another possible reaction is: Why is all this important? What is your point? Why are you making pointless statements/questions? Again, these are possible reactions, but just for the sake of reading this text, let’s assume that you may find something useful here.
Now that we’ve loaded a big pile of assumptions, I’ll come to the central point of this text.
Let’s look at some facts, most of our modern education/upbringing is orchestrated in a way that places importance on our external existence. And this has brought us tremendous success/results. Human life expectancy has drastically increased in the past 200 years, and of course, with the advent of the internet, we have started to innovate more rapidly.
Now the age-old question, have we become happier? Since this question can be cringe-inducing, let’s look at it from a different perspective.
From the human evolutionary standpoint, the modern world which we see ourselves in has been around for a minute fraction of the entire human existence (Homo Sapiens have been around for about 500,000 years).
And we have not grown any smarter, in the sense that our brain has not evolved in the past 50,000 years or so. Of course, here my assumption is that our smartness is proportional to the size of our brain.
This fact raises a question: if we assume that we have the same intellectual capacity for the past 50,000 years, why did modern science only emerge recently, i.e. in the past 2000 years, why did all this not happen any earlier? Why did we discover nuclear power now and not 30,000 years ago?
Another way to look is, what were the people before our modern age doing with their life (when they had the same intellectual capacity).
These are treacherous grounds I am entering here. You may notice that I did not use the term IQ, instead, I went ahead with something like “intellectual capacity” in order to comment quantifiably on our ancestor’s intelligence. The thing to note here is that IQ (or any other measure of intelligence) is a modern way to measure modern intelligence, so it can not be applied to them (humans thousands of years ago).
To give an example, the human species survived and evolved for millions of years all without the presence of spoken language, is that not sufficient display of intelligence? A million years is an unfathomable duration of time.
It is difficult to comment (from my uneducated perspective) what were the intellectual pursuits of our ancestors. We definitely see the beginnings of religions/cults at that time, as a way to organize and create a system of information distribution glued together by doctrines and dogmas.
What I can comment on is what people in ancient India did.
Before that let’s take a small detour to understand philosophy, to establish some common ground.
Philosophy is often misunderstood as “talking in the air” or air talk. One way I think about philosophy is that any questions/statements that cannot be answered literally or create a feeling of profoundness or create a deeper need for further inspection, can be considered as philosophical. You can obviously find better definitions in other resources, I am not a philosopher.
With our modern age, India’s philosophical history is tied very deeply with religion, even ingrained in it. In fact, it’s not just about India, most of the modern religions are deeply philosophical in essence.
Coming back to ancient India, you may already know that India was a country of sages, who were deeply revered. I do not feel hesitation in saying that these sages are what can be called philosophers in modern-day. But since they wear saffron and pray to some god, their statements/teachings are consumed very rarely by non-religious people, I will go one step further and say that these teachings are not even understood clearly by most religious people.
Which brings us to the questions, why should we even listen to these great ancient philosophers? What “knowledge” can they have which can be applied to our modern world, which is so drastically different from ancient times? How can these philosophers say something which can apply to me?
I believe these questions are completely valid, and I will talk about them later in further posts.
Next post in continuation of this: Source  - Bubbles