When Jay Shetty was 18 years old, a single decision changed the trajectory of his whole life.
A friend asked him to go with him to hear a monk speak. That was not his idea of a good time, and he had zero desire to go. He preferred to listen to lectures and speeches given by people who had achieved great things in their lives according to his standards. But, his friend persisted, so Jay decided to tag along as long as they could end the night at a local hot spot.
From the moment the Indian monk opened his mouth on stage, Jay Shetty was enamored. The monk, a man in his thirties, was intelligent, eloquent and charismatic. He talked about the principle of self-sacrifice, and as the Monk discussed leaving life at the IIT Bombay, the MIT of India, for a life of monkhood, Shetty thought the man was either crazy, or on to something.
“My whole life, I've been fascinated by people who'd gone from nothing to something, a rags to riches story,” Jay Shetty explained. “Now, for the first time, I was in the presence of someone who had deliberately done the opposite. He had given up the life the world had told him we should all want. Instead of being an embittered failure, he appeared joyous, confident, and at peace. He seemed happier than anyone I'd ever met.”
Shetty found himself longing to spend more time learning the monk’s ways and asked how he could know more. The monk invited him to attend the rest of his speaking events around the United Kingdom that week, so he did. Thus began Jay Shetty’s journey into monkhood.
Thinking Like a Monk
When you decide to learn something new or become better at something, you study someone who already possesses the skills you wish to acquire. If basketball is what you want to know, you may decide to study Michael Jordan. If you desire to understand how to perform, you may turn to Beyoncé. If you crave peace, calm and purpose, then you turn to those who do it best – monks.
“Monks can withstand temptations, refrain from criticizing, deal with pain and anxiety, quiet the ego, and build lives that brim with purpose,” he explained. “Why shouldn't we learn from the calmest, happiest, most purposeful people on earth?”
Adopting a Monk Mindset
Three principles of adapting to a monk mindset are:
- Release. Letting go and stripping yourself from external influences, creating a space for growth.
- Growth. Reshaping your life to make decisions with intent and confidence.
- Giving. Looking beyond yourself and sharing your gratitude and gifts of love with others, discovering the joy that serving others brings.
Jay Shetty describes himself as an adolescent who took a left turn and started mixing with the wrong crowd. Dabbling in drugs and drinking led to fights, and he was suspended from school three times. It was not until his school asked him to leave that he realized he needed a change.
By college, Shetty started to notice the value of hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and persistence to pursue his goals. At the time, the problem was he didn't have any goals apart from getting a good job, getting married one day, and maybe having a family.
Jay Shetty suspected there was something more profound to life, but he didn't know what it was. By the time the monk came to speak at his school, he wanted to explore new ideas. He wanted to discover a new model of living; a path that veered from the one everyone had assumed he would take. He wanted to grow as a person.
“I didn't want to know humility or compassion and empathy only as abstract concepts,” he shared. “I wanted to live them. I didn't want discipline, character, and integrity just to be things I read about. I wanted to live them.”
Jay Shetty spent the next four summer and Christmas breaks traveling and spending time with the monks. As his values shifted, he found the work he was doing in the corporate world lacked meaning and was not positively impacting anyone.
After college, Jay Shetty traded in his corporate suits for robes and joined the monks full time, gaining wisdom through their teaching of the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita.
“I was surprised and impressed to find that the monk teachings talk about forgiveness, energy, intentions, living with purpose and other topics in ways that are as resonant today, as they must have been when they were written,” Jay Shetty shared.
Learning how relevant the monks’ teachings were to the modern world, Shetty wanted to dive deeply into them to share that wisdom with the world.
“Three years after I moved to Mumbai, my teacher, Gauranga Das, told me he believed I would be of greater value and service if I left the ashram and shared what I learned with the world,” Shetty explained. “My three years as a monk were like a school of life. It was hard to become a monk and even harder to leave. The hardest part was applying the wisdom to life outside the ashram. It felt like the final exam.”
Monk vs. Monkey Mindset
The world is overwhelmed with people who are dissatisfied and preoccupied with chasing happiness. The media feeds us images and concepts about who we should be. The glorification of fame and money runs rampant everywhere we look.
None of these things can fully satisfy us. As we continue to seek more of what we crave, we end in a vicious cycle of always wanting more. Frustration, disillusion, dissatisfaction, unhappiness and exhaustion becomes the result.
“I like to draw a contrast between the monk mindset and the monkey mind,” Jay Shetty said. “Our minds can either elevate us or pull us down. Today we all struggle with overthinking, procrastination and anxiety due to indulging the monkey mind.”
As described in the Samyutta Nikaya, an ancient Buddhist scripture1, “The monkey mind switches aimlessly from thought to thought, challenge to challenge, without really solving anything,” he continued. “But we can elevate the monk mindset by digging down to the root of what we want and creating actionable steps for growth. The monk mindset lifts us out of confusion and distraction and helps us find clarity, meaning, and direction.”
“Every day, I'm finding that the monk mindset works, that ancient wisdom is still relevant today. That is why I'm sharing it.”
Learning to Breathe
Breathing is a simple yet functional tool that everyone needs to learn to use correctly. As some have pointed out, breathing is the one true constant in life. External surroundings change, people come and go, but your breath remains for life.
“When you learn to navigate and manage your breath, you can navigate any situation in life,” Shetty said.
The goal of Jay Shetty’s new book is to show readers the monk way and help them do some deep self-examination to get to the root of things. It is only through this curiosity, effort, and revelation that you will find your way to peace, calm and purpose.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “The #1 Way to Attract Calm, Peace & Stillness In Life & 3 Ways To Keep It” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.