The Danger of Information Addiction

“The teaching which is written on paper is not the true teaching. Written teaching is a kind of food for your brain. Of course, it is necessary to take some food for your brain, but it is more important to be yourself by practicing the right way of life.” – Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

As you progress along the spiritual path you become less and less excited about collecting the melodrama of the daily news; for as you delve within yourself, you want less and less to feed your mind unnecessary images and thoughts that agitate it. You simplify what you talk about, what you watch, and what you read. You find yourself drawn to new kinds of books, perhaps books written by those who speak from the quiet of meditation. They are invaluable in creating a space in which your mind can become quiet also.

We stuff our minds with trivia just to fill the emptiness we feel. When I sit in a New York subway train and watch people read the Daily News, I see how much unnecessary information they’re collecting. I once spent six months in a temple in India. I had no communication with the rest of the world. It was during an election period, and I did not know who was the new president of the United States. This was ironic, for as a psychologist one of the questions on tests I had given to mental patients was, “Who is the president of the United States?” When I returned from India, I found that in about one day of reading back issues of magazines, I caught up with the significant events of the last half-year. At the same time, I escaped being preoccupied with the personalities, events, and drama of the news. One can be a responsible citizen without allowing one’s mind to be captured by the media and their need to create news. there is a saying, “When you sweep out the temple courtyard, don’t stop to read the old newspapers.”

We act as if the human intellect were a runaway monster which must be fed continuously at all costs. I myself am becoming less of an information addict. Now I sit on the subway doing mantra or following my breath and end the trip tranquil and ready for the next moment. Meanwhile, others, immersed in collecting information to feed their minds, end the trip more tense, fragmented, and speedy than when they started.


– Ram Dass


Image by Keoni Cabral via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.

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