Question: How do I find a balance between my personal goals and dreams in life with my family’s expectations from me? How can one fulfil both without compromising on either?
Speaker: How can I find a balance between my personal goals and dreams in life with my family’s expectations from me? How can I fulfil both without compromising on either?
There is a slave, and there are two men who are fighting over the rights to own that slave. The slave is greatly interested in the fight, the slave wants to know who will win. The slave sometimes even wants to support one party over the other. There are these two men who are quarrelling, who are fighting, it’s like a tug-of-war, and the slave thinks that he is asking a very meaningful question. ‘Who should be my master? To whom should I be enslaved?’ What would you recommend to that slave?
You have asked, ‘How do I find a balance a between my personal goals and dreams with my family’s expectations from me?’ I am telling you that the two masters are trying to enslave you. What must you do? Should you choose one over the other, or rather see that whichever way I go it’s a life of slavery? So if I have any wisdom, then I must not choose any of these masters.
There is a man who is pulling your right arm, and there is another man who is pulling your left arm. How does it matter whether you go left or right? How does it matter? Whichever way you go you remain a slave. Do you think that your personal goals and desires are any bit less of slavery than meeting somebody else’s expectations? What do you mean by personal goals and personal desires? What do you mean by that?
Listener 1: Doing what I want to do, doing what I like, these are my personal desires and goals.
Speaker: Whatever you want to do, where does it come from? When you say that I want to choose between my dreams and my family’s expectations, tell me that where have your dreams come from? Did you have these dreams when you were born? Did you have these dreams when you are five years old?
Listener 1: No, Sir.
Speaker: Will you have the same dreams when you will be fifty years old?
Listener 1: I don’t know. I may have different dreams then.
Speaker: So what is the nature of these dreams?
Listener 1: To change.
Speaker: They keep changing, and obviously you are getting them from somewhere, because they are not your’s. Then what do you mean when you call them ‘my dreams’? Are they your dreams? You can see that your family is an external entity. But what you fail to see is that your dreams are equally external.
You are identified so much with the body that you must call the influences upon the physical self as your’s, otherwise you find it difficult to survive, otherwise you find it difficult to hold a sense of ‘I’, ‘my dreams’. And let’s be assured that when you are saying that I want to choose between my dreams and my family’s expectations, a lot of your dreams are actually coming from the family. So what are you avoiding? Given a different family, your dreams would have been different. So what do you mean by choosing between my dreams and my family’s expectation?
In fact, you will find it easier to get rid of family’s expectations because when you say ‘family’ you mean other physical entities: father, mother, brother, sister, and because the mind deals in the gross, in the physical, so it finds it easier to see other physical bodies as separate, as ‘others’. But when it imbibes something as its own, then the slavery is deeper.
If I say that you must follow communism then you will say this is slavery but if I indoctrinate you in communism then you will say this is my ideology and it is my dream. That the entire world should turn red. This is a deeper slavery and more difficult one to get rid of.
Can there be a life beyond ‘your’ dreams or other’s dreams? Can there be a way of living which does not include expecting from the self or living to meet others’ expectations? Can there be a life of that kind? You know, we live only two kinds of life. Either we are fulfilling our own expectations from ourselves which we call as ‘my’ dreams or we live to meet others’ expectations. There is no third way that we know. Can there be a third way? Can there be a life in which you do not expect anything from yourself?
Do you know what does it mean to expect something from yourself? What does it mean? It means that I am a slave of the past, because you cannot expect anything which is not already there in your mind in some way, which is not already fed in your mind by the events of the past, by time. ‘I am a slave of time, I am a slave of the clock.’ Can there be a way of living where you are not dependent on others and you are not dependent on your own history either? What are you left with then? Nothing that you really know of, but you are left with that which is enabling you to understand what I am saying right now?
What is it that is enabling you to understand what is being said right now? You are left with that, because that is not a product of time, that is not some dream-stuff, and that is not being borrowed from anybody. You very much have that. Is it possible to somehow live free of one’s own image? It is because only when you are an image, you expect something from that image. Is it possible to live free of that image? ‘Given that I am this, I must attain that in future.
Every single image that we have of ourselves is an ugly image. No, you try to create the most beautiful image that you can, but mark these words – even the most beautiful image that you create of yourself is the ugliest image that you can ever make. All our self-images are extremely ugly images, and the proof of that is that we continuously run to improve these images, that is the proof that they are extremely ugly.
Have you ever seen a man who is content with his image? A man who is content with this image will have no future. Have you ever seen a man, content with his image? No, there always exists a future, there always exists something left to achieve, and hence the image is a continuous need of improvement of the images.
We have ugly images. Whatever you can think of yourself, hence whatever you can imagine about yourself, is not even a pale shadow of that which you really are, and hence all your images are ugly. Why make an image for yourself? Others are unable to see what you are, and hence others expect you to achieve something, that is partly understandable, because by definition they are ‘others’. Right? So they do not know you well. It is kind of possible. But why do you hold expectations from yourself? Why? Why do you insist on calling yourself ugly, incomplete? Why? Nobody ever dreams to become any worse. Right? What do you always dream to become?
Listener 1: Better.
Speaker: Better. And to become better implies that right now you think yourself as?
Listener 1: Bad.
Speaker: Bad. That is a self-image, that’s how well you know yourself. ‘I am little, timid, shy, small.’ That’s where you stand, that’s why you give your dreams so much importance and that’s why this entire world is running on dreams and hopes, because its own estimation of itself is so little and so crude. Have we given ourselves a chance to feel our own immensity, or have we just blindly expected that no it is beyond me? Let’s honestly face this question.
Have you any idea how strong, vast and beautiful you probably may be? Don’t you want to give yourself even a chance? Why are you so settled in emotions? Why are you so deeply convinced of your frailty? Why have you drawn a border around yourselves? Let’s try, there is magic beyond those borders. There is magic beyond all borders. And real life is beyond the limits that you have set upon yourself. Within these limits there is only rubbish, and that rubbish you unfortunately call as ‘life’.
Real life is beyond the limits that you have imposed upon yourself. Can you see the various ways in which you limit yourself? And you have no doubt, you are so convinced that I am not anything beyond this. ‘No, I am not capable of any more love. No, my heart is only this vast. I cannot give anymore. No, if such an event happen I won’t survive it. Is that really so? Test! You are stronger than you believe.
‘What will happen if I lose that support? I will fall. You won’t. But again we have come to the question of faith. Without faith how will you ever leave yourself supportless? You can trust only the crutches you have given yourself, so you cannot get rid of those crutches, because they are crude, visible, gross and of your own making, so it’s easy to believe in them. Right? But you have no faith, you do not trust that you won’t fall down without those crutches, that you will run and you will fly without those crutches. Yes, that running and that flying will not be the same as your imagination of running and flying.
Running and flying is not about having hopes of running and flying in a particular way. God is not your imagination of god. Truth is not your image of it. So we are afraid, we are afraid, ‘Oh! Something unknown is staring at us, there is just a promise and nothing to validate that promise. How can I act upon that promise? One bird in hand is worth two in the bush. I don’t know what great immensity awaits me, but right now at least I have my two hundred rupees. I don’t know what great love awaits me, but right now at least I have my half-witted imbecile wife. One bird in hand, it is difficult to give it up. And there is no formula to generate faith, there is no process that can bring you to faith. One can only invite, at best one can exhort, but one cannot demonstrate. It is because it requires eyes to see faith, demonstration is external. Hearing all this I know that is one question that is staring at you, ‘I give up my dreams, then what?’
Listener 1: Then what?
Speaker: This ‘then what’, is still in the future. It’s not about the dreams, it’s not about nightmares either, it’s about being so much in love with it that the thought of the future simply does not arise. When you are into it, then the future simply disappears.
Have you been dreaming all this while as I have been speaking? Was the future there? In attention there is no future. So I am not asking you to get rid of future, I am inviting you to attention.
In attention there is no future.
-Excerpts from Clarity session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session at: Any and every image you make of yourself is an ugly image
Article 3: Freedom from compulsive slavery