Q: I’m firmly convinced that nothing outside myself can give lasting fulfillment, I have acquired quite a facility for playing the piano and am still improving that skill, and when I do make an improvement it’s usually after a long period of practice until the next breakthrough ad infinitum, I’m in a fulfilling relationship with my girlfriend and I have a great job at a pharmacy, I’m in good health as well, but beneath it all is this sense it will eventually change and I ask myself is this it? All my needs are met but I still feel incomplete. I have good karma and predominantly sattvic tendencies, so how will I know I’m making progress on my path? Are there certain objective milestones that I will definitely notice and be like ok I’m closer to realizing who I am? You said the mind needs to be receptive and mostly controlled but I just wish there were more specific instructions.
A (Ted): The way you will know that you are making progress on the path is that your penchant for wanting things – be they tangible objects, money, relationships, power, prestige, achievements, particular physical or psychological states of being, spiritual experiences, or whatever – will diminish.
Vedanta says that all desires fall into four basic categories. The first three are security (artha), pleasure (kama), and virtue (dharma). From the description you offer, it sounds like your life is rife with objective phenomena that fit into all three categories. Your good health and great job offer security, your facility for playing the piano and the fulfilling relationship you enjoy with your girlfriend provide pleasure, and your good karma and predominately sattvic tendencies bespeak a virtuous character. Still, you remain unfulfilled. This, according to Vedanta, is as it should be – or rather as it is – at least for the person who still believes lasting peace and happiness can be had through the acquisition and enjoyment of objects. Continue reading