What does it mean to be practical? || Acharya Prashant (2013)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.

Speaker: Alok is asking that what one should to be a good engineer. I will elaborate it, “What does one should do to be good at anything?”, now the question means that what does it mean to have a good life. He is wondering that whether one has to be practical or theoretical. He seems inclined towards being practical, let’s understand this.

Practical is related to practice. To practice something is to do it, ‘to practice is to do’.

Now, doing can happen out of two sources, two reasons:

The first- the force of habit, the force of conditioning from where action happens.

The second is- the force of intelligence, when you understand something then it becomes very simple to do it. Understanding and doing become parallel, concurrent, instantaneous. There remains no gap between understanding and doing.

Now, for most of us what we do throughout the day comes from the first kind of doing, which is doing out of dead conditioning, doing out of force of habits, doing but without understanding.So, a lot of actions can be visible on the surface but there is no understanding. Just like this fan (pointing to a fan) you here. You push the button and this fan will start rotating, the blades will appear to move and it will be very efficient. It will be working at a particular RPM doing whatever it is designed to do and everything will look very orderly from the outside but this fan, does it understand at all what it is doing? Does this fan understand the Faraday’s Law? Does it understand the electromagnetic motor which is placed at its heart? It is just doing without understanding, and surely when you are doing without understanding you are a slave. This slave has a master, the one who has designed it(here the fan), the one who switches it ON/OFF.

To do without understanding is to be a slave.

Look at the way we exist from morning to evening, there is so much of doing there. So much of action but is that action happening out of our understanding ?Do we understand what is happening with us every moment, just as this fan doesn’t understand what is going on in its head,do we understand what is going on in our head? If not then what is the difference between us and this fan?

This fan has a button, we too have a button. You know how to react when something is said to you. Please go back to the entire thing. The question was, ‘what is practicality?’, ‘how does one live practical life?’. How does one live life? What is meant by practicality?

What is practicality? I said practical means doing and it can come from two sources

First, doing without understanding like this fan

Second, a doing that is born out of understanding, you understand something and after understanding action happens. There is a deep, intelligent understanding which immediately translates into action.

This is really what practicality is all about; practicality does not mean certain kind of cunningness. Practicality doesn’t mean any kind of conditioning or force of habit, practicality doesn’t mean that I have been doing things the way I am conditioned to do taught to do, practicality does not mean that somebody else has told me that this is practical.

Practical means that I understand and from that understanding action results.

I am not a fan, not a machine, not a slave. Are you getting it? How can you be practical if you do not understand anything?But this world is full of people who will say that “we are very practical” but what does their being practical means?

It means there mind is full of notions of being practical, that there is manipulation, that there is certain cunningness about them and this is what they call as being practical. They are abusing the word ‘practical’ because ‘being practical’ doesn’t mean being cunning, being deceptive, being shrewd.

To be practical means being in deep touch with life. To be practical means to have an eye that looks at the mind and understands it. That is what being practical is. Practical is not the opposite of theoretical. Practical means I am alive, to be alive means that I understand.

Just eating, walking, talking, this does not mean that I am alive. These are mere actions. When these actions do not come out of intelligence, then these are dead actions. This fan moves, what is the difference between you moving and this fan moving? You are dictated by somebody else just liked Utkarsh(a listener) said that we have to be pushed to move. Even this fan is pushed to be moved, there is somebody else who pushes it to move it.

No, that is not being practical, to be pushed to move. Do you understand now what does being practical means?

Practical implies practice, practice implies action and action must be born out of intelligence. That is what being practical means. Be it life, be it engineering, when you understand then something happens in life, then new discovery happens, new things come in life. Are you getting it?

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: What does it mean to be practical? || Acharya Prashant (2013)

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