Of Confidence, Falseness and the Idea of Perfection || Acharya Prashant (2013)

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Speaker: The question is, “How do I know whether I am confident or overconfident? One is considered positive, the other is considered negative.” I ask you again. How can I declare a quantity ‘x’ to be positive or negative if I do not know that quantity. I must know something about it in order to understand it as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. Do I understand what is ‘negative’ or ‘positive’?Do I understand what this confidence thing is? You will go back to your home, most of you, after few hours. When you are with your parents, let us say with your mother, sitting in a very relaxed way, do you really require confidence to speak to her? Do you really require courage to speak to her? It’s a natural, smooth, free flow. You do not require any confidence. Right? But when you have to speak in front of an audience, when you are standing on the podium, then you require a lot of confidence. Right?

Have you ever wondered that why do you require confidence here, and not there? The reason is obvious. You require confidence only when you are afraid. The need of confidence is a sure sign of fear. A person who is acting confident is a person who is very afraid because if you are not afraid, then there is no need of confidence.

Confidence is just a cover up that you need, to tackle fear. What is better: to drop fear or to wear confidence?

Listeners(everyone):To eliminate fear.

Speaker: To eliminate fear itself. So, do not ask me that what is confidence, what is over-confidence. Every confidence is a great fear. If confidence is fear, then over-confidence is greater fear.

Do not ask how to be confident. “What do I do in order to gain more confidence?” Do not ask that.

Your query should be this: “How do I get rid of fear itself?” When fear is gone, who needs confidence. Then you are cool, comfortable and relax. Fear arises because you think you have something to lose. Fear arises because you have accumulated a lot of possessions from others and others can take it back as well, so you are afraid.That is the root cause of fear, that what I have can be taken away. And what do I have? I have my beliefs, I have my self-esteem, I have my relationships and I have few other accumulations and possessions in my life.

And because they all come from outside, so the mind is always worried that all this can go as well. Because they never came to me out of my own understanding, out of my essence. Hence the mind is always afraid. Stop collecting so much. Find that which is totally yours.When something is totally yours, you cannot lose it and then there will be no fear. When I know that this is totally and completely mine, then there will be no fear. Whereas, when you are insecure and doubtful, then there will be fear. And you will be more insecure, when all your accumulations will come to you from outside.

Now let’s understand this. Why does a person standing on podium need confidence? If you are asked to come here and speak, you will need a lot of confidence. Why do you need a lot of confidence? Right now you are safe and secure, sitting on your chair. But if you need to come over here, then it would be a trouble, for that you need confidence. And why do you need confidence? Because you have allowed even your friends to dominate you. Your self-image has become dependent on what your friends think of you.

Your friends declare you to be jovial and fun-loving, and so you think that you are jovial and fun-loving. If you stand here and start shivering and your friends declare you to be uncool and a cry-baby, then your whole image will take a dent. So you are afraid. Why have you allowed your self-image to be dictated by others? Why can’t you live in your own ‘I’? Why do you live in others ‘I’? And that is why you need confidence. There is no other reason for seeking confidence. So friends, do not seek confidence, seek freedom from fear. Once fear is gone, who needs confidence. And fear comes because the thought of losing comes. Is that clear?

‘Something can be taken away from me’- that is the only fear. “Somebody may take away something from me, I may lose something.” How can you lose something because that something has been given by somebody else? Somebody told me that I am precious so I started feeling that I am precious. Now that same somebody can also come and can tell me that you are worthless. And then I will be devastated. Why you must allow somebody to tell you that who are you? How are you? What are you?

You feel so happy when in morning somebody comes to you and tells you that you are looking quite handsome today, without even realizing that you are opening yourself to slavery. Now you have become slave of that person. Now you have allowed that person to dominate you because the same person can also say that today you are looking totally ugly and you will be shattered. The gates are open and they are always open, anybody can come in.

If this statement can come that you are handsome then this statement can also come that you are ugly. Then you will be dependent, you will be afraid. That is the reason why you are afraid even from your friends. Because they are not really your friends, you have made them your masters, otherwise you will not shiver standing on the podium.

Yesterday, I was in front of an audience and one of them asked me, “Sir, I am very afraid of results. When the results are to be declared, I become very nervous.”

So, I asked him that if you have to take that sheet and put it in the cupboard, then will you still be afraid. He said, “What do you mean, Sir?” I said, “If you would have to take that sheet and keep it somewhere and there is no need to show it to somebody then would you still be afraid? Would you be afraid if you need not to show it to your parents, friends and employer?” He said, “No Sir, then I won’t be afraid.” If you have to keep it and there is no need to tell it to anybody then there will be no question of being afraid. So, I said, “It means that you are afraid because you need to show this to some X, Y and Z.” He said, “Yes.” I then said, “Then find out what you are really afraid of. Are you afraid of the result or are you afraid of your parents and friends? It is others who always terrify us.”

You are not afraid because your communication skill is bad, you are afraid that what others will think when you will speak. Your result does not terrify you, but what really terrifies you is what others will think of you when they come to know your result because your entire self-esteem has become dependent on others. This is the life of suffering.

So, no more chasing confidence, not at all. When fear comes, try to understand that fear. Any fear is a sure sign of dependency. Understand that fear and that fear will vaporize.

Listener 1: Sir, every thought has its own existence and life. How will I be able to tell the truth until I have not applied?

Speaker: Apply what?

Listener 1: The truth.

Speaker: Let me re-phrase his question. Essentially he is asking that how do I know what is real and what is not. He is asking that how do I know what is real and what is truth and what is not.

We have to begin by asking that how do we not know the truth. How is it that so many of us remain deluded for most of the time? What is it that prevents us from seeing the truth? If that is understood, then truth is not far. What prevents us from knowing the truth, knowing the reality? What is it that covers our eyes? Why can we not know the reality? How is it that we keep living in an imaginary, illusory world without knowing what is real? What is the enemy of knowing? Because to know truth, knowing must come first. The faculty of knowing comes first. What is the enemy of knowing?

Believing is the enemy of knowing. A mind that is full of beliefs cannot know at all. Till the a centuries back, the entire humanity kept on believing that the earth is flat and that the sun goes about the earth. Now figuring-out that this is not the case was not too difficult, but man can kept on believing, kept on believing that the earth is flat. And when your mind is filled with beliefs, you cannot see the obvious and the truth is always obvious. But the enemy of truth is the mind full of beliefs.

One community believed that it is written in the scriptures that the earth is flat. Another community believed that the earth rested on the back of a giant tortoise. There were many others who had their own versions, books and fairy-tales that told them how the sun and the moon go round the earth. And when there is so much of belief, then there is no question of really knowing. This applies to our day-to-day life. The truth, the reality is there in front of us and we think that we already know. This is the worst form of ignorance. This belief that I already know, this prevents the truth from coming to us. ‘I already know’, then how can you know when you already know? These beliefs are what block truth from your direct sight. We all know what good life is. We already know what success is. Then how can we know what is truth?

But let me say this to you that it is your great responsibility towards yourself as a human being to find out the truth of life yourself, by not believing in borrowed stuff. Find out what is the meaning of success? Find out what life is. Find out what joy is. Find out what truth is. Find out what freedom is. Even at this young stage you have taken in so many beliefs. Parents, society, education, media they have filled up your mind with so many beliefs. And you have started taking those beliefs to be the truth. None of that is anyway the truth. None of those is anymore truth than a belief that the earth is flat. But you have just borrowed it and internalized it.

Do you think you already know what is a good life? Do you think that you already what is friendship? Do you think you already know what is education? You know nothing because you believe so much, because you don’t exercise your intelligence. Open your eyes, look at the world around. Look at it as if you are looking at it for the first time, freshly without the baggage, free of the prejudices. Look at it and then you will know the truth. It’s not difficult at all.

Find out the real meaning of words like ‘career’, what it means to work. What is work really? Find out the meaning of the words ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’. What that really is? You just believe that this is the way I should be, this is the meaning of ‘career’, this is the meaning of ‘profession’, so this must be the meaning. This is an insult to your intelligence. So, just take it and then internalize it. You deserve better than that, you are capable of better than that. Yes.

Listener 2: Is there anything like perfection?

Speaker: How many of you chase perfection sometime or the other? What is perfection except a thought in the mind? You have not known perfection. Right? So, there is no way to call perfection as a fact. You have only imagined perfection. Be with me. You have only imagined perfection as an ideal state and the word ‘ideal’ has an idea at its core. Idea is nothing but a thought, an imagination. So, first of all I will imagine what perfect is and then I will run after it. What is this? And then you will feel bad.

Nobody can attain that perfection because it is not real, but our mind tells us that it is real and it can be attained. How is it possible to be there at a place which does not exist, which is just imaginary? How can you go at a place which does not exist at all, which is just an idea?

Perfection is just an idea. You can’t reach there because it does not exist. And another thing is that see how all your ideas of perfection lead you to the future. Not only does the perfect state not exist except imagination, even future does not exist. All that you have is this moment, right now. The very thought of perfection carries you away in the imaginary world of fancy state. Life is right now and you are seeking perfection in the future. And why do you seek perfection? Because you think that life is less than perfect right now.

You feel unhappy, bored, uncomfortable, dissatisfied, so you ask for a perfect life. Right? And you think that perfect life is possible somewhere in future, it lies there. And that’s what your ambition is, to reach there. If you are thinking of perfection in the future because you are unhappy right now, please cure the unhappiness right now itself. If the disease exists right now, then it cannot be cured four years later. The imagination of future gives you a false promise that your unhappiness today can be cured by a perfect future sometime there. Don’t you see that you are imagining that perfect future only because you are unhappy right now? If you are unhappy right now, cure it right now. It is because you exist right now. Everything else is imaginary.

You exist in this moment; you can’t breathe in the future. Live right now. And if you are unhappy right now, take an active action. Understand right now. Cure this unhappiness right now.

See, if you are restless right now, then act right now. Understand that freedom from suffering is right now, the thought of perfection is always in the future, an imaginary thing. But that is too much work. The thought of perfection gives us pleasure. Sitting on a chair and imagining a nice future. Life is bypassing you right now, but who bothers? It’s a very convenient escape, very, very convenient escape thinking about the future. Right now I am totally in a rotten state, but then I can escape into the thoughts of future, close my eyes, think about the perfect future and become happy.

You are sick right now, treat yourself right now. An imaginary treatment will not give you anything. Are you getting it? Too much to understand and too much to work. It’s far more easy to be in future. Don’t live like that.

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

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