A life free of incompleteness and inferiority || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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

Question: Sir, we have learned that we should not have ego, as it is conditioning. Ego arises because I feel incomplete within. But to fill this incompleteness is what I want in life. It gives me satisfaction in life. So, shouldn’t we be egoistic?

Speaker: What exactly is the logic? That we should be egoistic so that we continue feeling incomplete? Is that the argument?

Questioner: No sir. If ego is giving us completeness, shouldn’t we have an ego?

Speaker: It’s like saying that disease is giving me health. Is ego giving you completeness? Or is ego itself a continuous feeling of being unwell, of being incomplete and lacking and small and unworthy? How can a feeling of unworthiness give you worthiness? How can a feeling of incompleteness give you completeness?

Listener 2: Sir, knowing that we are incomplete, we can go to completeness.

Speaker: Yes. And all of us want completeness. How will you go to the completeness?

Listener 2: By knowing the area where we are incomplete and then trying to do something about it.

Speaker: So, I know I am incomplete, there is some kind of a hollow here (pointing towards the heart). And I will try to fill it up, that’s how I will move towards completeness. That’s how the thought is going, right? Do you see that happening? You are hungry today, all of you, to get this, to get that, right? Aren’t you? Five years back or ten years back, were you any less hungry, or anymore hungry?

Listener 3: Only the things that we were chasing changed.

Speaker: So, do you see this incompleteness being taken care of? Do you see it reducing in any way?

Listener 3: Just the things got replaced.

Speaker: And there is enough stuff to keep the replacement cycle on throughout your life. Will the stuff ever get exhausted? Will you ever become hopeless? Do you see people coming to a point where they say, “No more replacements! I have come to know that this incompleteness is chronic, it cannot be healed”. Have you ever seen anybody coming to this full stop? Does that happen, usually? Or does this cycle keep going and going and going and going?

We will come to the fundamental question of what this incompleteness is and how to move towards completeness. If this incompleteness had any actual substance, were it real, then we could have said that “We want to do something about it”, that, some real effort is required to fill the hollow. But let us see. Let’s go into the real nature of this incompleteness. Did you always have it? Were you born crying, “I am incomplete?”

Listener 1: No Sir. As we started seeing the world we started becoming unsatisfied.

Speaker: This is an acquired sense of incompleteness, a learned sense of being diseased. I have been trained to feel that I am incomplete. And right now the premise on which you are basing your argument is – the incompleteness is real. What if it is not real at all? A healthy child can be made to believe that he is sick, that he is suffering from a deep illness, and that he should work very hard to treat himself.

Let’s say he is told that he has cancer of the bone marrow. And the child is innocent. He simply believes. And he has to believe because everybody is telling him the same thing. Whichever direction he looks, whichever voice he hears to, is telling him the same thing that, “You are sick”. The child simply starts taking treatment to cure himself. And what kind of treatment – chemotherapy? You know what chemotherapy is? It kills you. It’s basically a poison. In killing the cancer cells, it also kills everything that lives within you. So even if you survive, you emerge very thin, very frail. Your entire system suffers a lot. So you start taking chemotherapy without even enquiring whether you really suffer from malignancy.

Have we bothered to see whether this incompleteness has any substance? Or have we just punished ourselves? How does it feel to keep on thinking that there is something wrong about me? How does it feel? Good?

Listener 1: Sir, it really feels good because we are trying to get better.

Speaker: Son, your ‘trying to get better’ is the second step. Fundamentally how are you feeling?

Listener 3: Dissatisfied.

Speaker: Dissatisfied. You are feeling like the dirt of the world. Say, you are running to drink water and you are running very, very fast. What does that indicate? You are very thirsty. And the faster you are running the more you are suffering in thirst. Are you not? Now, if you say, “Sir, if I was not thirsty, why would I run?” What kind of argument is that? It’s like saying as you said in the beginning that, “Sir, if I didn’t have the disease, how will I get healthy?” Is disease a prerequisite to be healthy? I am asking a question to you. Is disease a prerequisite or precondition to get healthy? What you are saying is, “Health is an alien thing and disease is a given – we are diseased and health is somewhere out there. Health is an alien thing that needs to be acquired. And disease is our very nature; it’s so close to our heart.”

Why are we condemning ourselves to this punishment? Why are we making this assessment upon ourselves? Do you know the ways in which we say that we are unworthy? See how we keep running after water. Do you know what water is? I am using water as metaphor. What does water indicate? What does thirst indicate? – Ambitions, goals, achievement, this entire urge to become something else. In a deep sense we all have been taught to hate ourselves. And the proof of that is you want to become something else. Have you ever seen anybody who does not want to become something? The child is so small and everybody is asking him, “What do you want to become?” He is actually being taught to hate himself. “Become something else! How can you remain like this?”

Listener 3: But the child has to go through this, as knowledge is acquired from outside.

Speaker: Yes, very good.

Listener: Is the state of incompleteness not necessary for growth and progress? Why will a person do any work at all if he is already satisfied?

Speaker: What exactly do we mean by growth and progress?

Listener 3: I mean, in general, evolving. It’s abstract.

Speaker:  It’s not so abstract. It’s actually very concrete. When you say that your neighbor is growing or progressing, what do you mean? You very well know what you mean.

Listeners: Comparing ourselves with them.

Speaker: What do you mean when you say, “A country is growing”? More skyscrapers, yes? So, it’s not at all abstract. It’s very, very material, right?

Listener 3: But Sir, there is something called emotional development as well.

Speaker: What do you mean by that?

Listener 3: As a child you do not know many of the concepts that you know as an adult. In the process of growing up, you learn to make sense of the world. So, I mean that kind of development.

Speaker: Right. So, as a child you are bound to absorb a lot of inputs that are given to you. For how long? You are very right. It’s the fate of the child to be like a sponge and keep sucking inputs that are available to it, but for how long? How long is one so helpless that he can’t make sense of what’s going on? We may have our idea on it but to me it’s not after ten or twelve years of age. Puberty is the line that I draw. Around that age, around twelve years or so, a point must come when one must start looking at the world in his own light. By that time one is no more option-less or helpless. I am not talking of a four or six or even eight year old, but a twelve year old. It’s reasonable to see that nature, physical growth, the very development of the brain apparatus has now brought him to the point where he can now understand, where he should now start giving up the crutches. And that is growth.

Listener 4: But learning has got no age.

Speaker: What do you mean by learning? Is it acquisition of knowledge?

Listener 3: No, it means that whatever you have learned, you have started seeing it with your own perspective, in your own light.

Speaker: Wonderful. But do you need to feel diseased to learn?

Listener 3: No Sir.  But if we are complete then we won’t feel that urge to learn.

Speaker: Lovely. Let’s go into this. It’s a beautiful thing to enquire – ‘Learning can happen only when you are feeling incomplete. In a feeling of fullness and health, learning cannot happen’. Does that even sound right?

Listener 3: It doesn’t, but you cannot learn a thing that you think you already know.

Speaker: Is fullness about thinking that you know already? Is that what is meant by health? Does a healthy man keep thinking that, “I already know”? Is that what completeness is about? And when you are feeling so incomplete, can you really learn? What is it to learn? To learn is to feel secure from within so that you can pay attention to what’s going on. If you are caught in your inner struggle, can you pay attention to the world and even acquire knowledge? When you are tense, can you be very productive? When you are gripped with the fear of failing, can you read a book? What happens in the examination when you start feeling nervous?

It depends upon the examination (Smiles). If it is an examination that involves a lot of learning, you might somehow scrap through it. But if it is a real examination, totally unpredictable like life? Life is an examination which is very unpredictable, where no question is ever repeated, and the questions demand fresh, creative and original answers. Then nervousness will simply kill your ability to respond. Do you see this?

The fundamental assumption that we are probably holding is that there needs to be something missing here (Pointing at the heart) in order for us to function and move forward in life, right? As they say that, “The fire should be burning! And only when there is fire burning in your heart, can you go and do something”. Can we look into it, can we challenge it?

Do you really require to feel short of something or small or deprived in order to live?

So far we have known only one engine of motivation. So, I can probably see where you are coming from, which is, “We work hard when we are afraid, we run hard when we are threatened, or when there is greed”. So, we are justified in thinking that if there is no feeling of fear or greed, then why will anybody work at all. Why will somebody study, why will somebody go to office, why would there be any movement of any kind? That’s what you are thinking. Correct?

Listener: Cause and effect.

Speaker: Yes, so the effect is the functioning of the world and the cause you are assuming to be fear and greed, right? And you are correct. That indeed is the cause. If you stand on the highway or in a shopping complex or if you go to a corporate office and you conduct a survey to see why people are working, you may actually discover that they are working principally out of greed – “We will get our salary cheques” Or out of fear – “If we don’t work we might be fired and what will then happen to my family? How will I pay my bills, and the fee of my child?”

Listener 3: But there are people who work for self-satisfaction.

Speaker: Do they work ‘for‘ satisfaction or do they work because they are already contended? Learn to distinguish between these two. Do they work ‘for satisfaction’ or do they work ‘in satisfaction’? These are two very different things. 990 out of 1000 people that we have seen work because they are dissatisfied, for greed and fear as we have just said. But is it not possible that somebody works because he is already contended? Somebody works because he is already contended, is it not possible? Give it some space, consider it and ask yourself whether it has never happened to you that you have acted not to get something but because you have already gotten so much.

Most of the times, most of the people, act with the feeling that they don’t have anything. It’s like a beggar going to office. A beggar also goes to office daily. What does he do? “Oh! I am incomplete, I am nothing. So, can the world please give me something?”

Can there be another way of living? “I go to office because I feel so thrilled. No, the office doesn’t make me feel thrilled. Because I feel thrilled, so I do whatever I do. Because I am already contended, so I do whatever I do”. Can there be a possibility of living like this? “Yes, I acquire knowledge. Yes, I read books. But I read books because I already feel contended. Books can give me knowledge but the books cannot give me the base of my Being. Books cannot give me something which is so important and already preset in me. That, books cannot provide.” Is it not possible to live that way? Won’t it be good fun? Alright, let’s take examples.

We said, most of the times, most of the people work in fear or in greed. Can there be a second engine from where your energy comes? Fear and greed is our primary engine. That’s what arouses our energy. Have you seen how fast you run when a dog is chasing you? The engine fires and you run. Can there be another engine that fires? And that engine need not be of greed or fear. Can there be another engine?

Listener 3: The engine of enjoyment. Greed may be firing your engine, but to continue doing something you need to enjoy that.

Speaker: Don’t even say whether you want to continue doing it. Let me talk of the smallest period of time, say 1 minute or 30 seconds. Have we known it? Have we known functioning without wanting or without being afraid even for this long? “No greed, no fear, yet I am functioning.” Then what will be the center from where we operate? Then what will be the name of the engine? Have we known that?

Listener 1: Satisfaction.

Speaker: Does it provide satisfaction? If it is providing me satisfaction then it is greed. That’s what greed is – “Something is provided to me”. Can there be something else where you do something for no reason at all? It is not giving you anything, yet you want to do it. What could that be? I am pretty sure you know of it and I am so sure that you have lived that way even if for the briefest period of time, but you surely lived it. What might it be? You don’t want anything and you are not afraid of anything, yet you are functioning. You are functioning intelligently and you are working hard, and you are relaxed, and you very well know that you will not get anything, and you also very well know that you are not afraid of losing something, yet you are functioning and you are functioning beautifully.

Listener 1: Everybody is doing it so I am doing it.

Speaker: Now you are afraid that you don’t want to fall out of line. You want to conform. “The entire world is going this way, how can I be an outlaw?” So that is fear. We are not talking of that. It’s something else. “I don’t want anything from you, yet I am working.” Don’t you know this feeling? This is that feeling of inner completion. “I don’t want anything from you, I am already alright. Yet I am working.”

Listener 5: This happens when we love someone.

Speaker: But not love of the ordinary kind. There you want a lot. And if you don’t get it, you feel frustrated. It’s some special kind of Love.

Listener 5: Loving our parents is the one.

Speaker: Even with parents, it’s a special kind of Love because most parents and most kids never know this. There are lot of expectations and if these expectations are not fulfilled then the feeling become sour. But yes, it is possible between parents and children.

Have you seen small kids dance? Do they dance to any particular order or pattern? Two year old, three year old, just learned to walk and he is dancing. Does he dance so that you may applaud him? I am sure you all have danced that way when you were kids, before you were corrupted (Smilingly). Does he dance because he is afraid that if he doesn’t dance he will be slapped? Does he dance to earn some money? “Sir, if you are watching me dance, there is a 10 rupee ticket.”

Do you see what I am coming to? That is Love. Have you not come across situations, moments in your life when for no reason your heart is so full that even if you lose all your money it won’t affect you too much? I know these situations don’t last long. Two minutes and the world again starts dominating you. “Oh my God! My money!” But have we not experienced this, even briefly?

Listener 3: Sir may be because of happiness.

Speaker: Wonderful. Love, real happiness. This real happiness doesn’t have a reason and it doesn’t demand anything. Is it not possible to live life in this real happiness? Is it really important to live feeling diseased and small? And imagine the tragedy. You have just one life, right? What if it was possible to live in this real happiness and joy, and yet we are wasting life living in a useless sense of incompleteness and fear?

Listener 3: Sir, you are basically saying that happiness is the default state. Then why are we inherently attracted to the stuff that is bad for us? Why do we constantly deviate from that default state?

Speaker: You are born with the tendency to deviate. Now it depends on your surroundings. That tendency can either enlarge and fructify and dominate your entire life or that tendency can be cured and healed so that you can return to your default state. Are you getting it? You have a default state but you also have a tendency to deviate from it. There are these two ways in which one can live – either keep deviating, keep deviating and find that your time is up, or live in a way that cures your deviations, that treats your tendencies, and you return to your default state.

Every child is born with those tendencies. You see, we said let’s take the example of the dance of a child, but also remember that the seeds of fear and greed are present within every child. Children do get afraid and children are greedy and little ones can be very violent at time. Have you seen them killing insect? The way they butcher insects, have you seen? He would sit in the garden and just keep killing. A two year old! So the tendency is present. The rest depends on the environment, the education, the upbringing, that whether that tendency becomes inflated and becomes the story of your life, or whether that tendency is cured.

Listener 3: Sir, if we are born with it then what is the need to cure it? Isn’t it our nature itself?

Speaker: The only need is the need to get rid of suffering. The more that tendency dominates your life, the more you suffer. And suffering is not your nature, the proof of that is – you don’t like to suffer. Do you like to suffer? So suffering can’t be your nature. And if you keep going by your latent tendencies then you keep suffering more and more.

Unfortunately most systems that man has devised around himself do not cure these tendencies, they fan these tendencies. So, you already have it within you to feel greedy, and then there are a thousand hoardings around you that are intended to make you more and more greedy. You already have it within you to feel afraid and insecure, and there are a thousand voices around you that keep telling you that the world is bad and you must try for security. So, the combination of these two, the inherent tendencies and the social input, the combination of these two is what our constant headache is.

What do you want to do about it, if anything? You may as well say that “I don’t want to do anything about it. I am not yet suffering enough.” What to do about all this? I am asking you a very small and unimportant question. (Smilingly) The unimportant question is about your unimportant life. I am saying, “We have one life and how do you want to spend it?” Such an unimportant question!


Listener 1: Sir, is it necessary to define a path that this is how I want to live?

Speaker: Wonderful, very well said. But don’t we already have that? Have we not already done that? Have we not already defined the path? Not only a path but multiple paths? Have we not already done that? Name them?

Listener 1: Jobs, education, marriages.

Speaker: And? In every way we are living a predefined path, a pre-scripted story. It’s all predefined. It’s well known what you are going to do between 25 and 30 years of age, between 30 and 35. It’s well known approximately when you are going to retire. It’s well known in what kind of locality you are going to put up. Isn’t all this already known in advance? “Till such and such age, get educated”. And even the education has to be in very specific fields. If you are in India, the probability that you will want to take a degree in music or painting is meager. And then the day you cross 25, there are people asking you, when you are going to marry. And if you have already hit 30, there are voices advising you to start a family. “You don’t yet have a kid. Oh my God! Too bad.” Everything is scripted.

It’s well known that you are not going to settle on top of a hill. In fact one can safely draw a range of the budget of your apartment that you are obviously going to buy within the next 10 years. There are very few of you who would have zero kids, and there are very few of you who would have more than 2 kids. So, it’s well known how many kids you are going to have. Somebody else has already scripted all that. Your degree, your office, field of work, in fact horror of horrors, it is also already known what kind of partners you are going to choose. Your brain can be analyzed to more or less accurately predict who you would like as a life partner. It all depends on your conditioning. It can, so very much, be predicted from your conditioning. It can be predicted that you will like a face, a background and a personality of this kind. It’s already well-known. Now what’s there to live when everything is predefined?

And corporations these days are using this data to good measure. For example, insurance companies are able to figure out which customers are likely to feel most insecure. And insurance agents then target them directly. It’s well known that you are the one who is going to feel the most insecure, so the insurance agent would come knocking, “Sir, here is the policy.” He already knows that you will bite, going by what you have done in your life. If you have been doing everything that is the norm then you will also buy an insurance policy because that is the norm. So, the insurance agent knows. He will sit on his computer, he will look at the excel sheet, he will know what you have been doing your entire life and then he knows whom to target. So it’s very much scripted.

So, you sign-in to Google, and Google knows your age. Google knows your age and Google very well knows that if you are a woman who is around thirty years old, then what kind of ads must be displayed to you – ‘Baby-care ads’. You either have a baby or you are going to have a baby. So, it’s well known, even Google knows. Google has never met you, never seen your face, but Google already knows what you are doing. It’s so well-known. Is there anything private? Anything which is really individual?

Have you noticed that the advertisements that you see in your E-mail inbox are targeted advertisements? You all don’t see the same ads. Compare your ads. You won’t see the same ads your father sees because in his case it’s a different age group and a different gender. And if they get to know that you have passed out of college without having a job then the job ads would increase in frequency and decrease in salary. You are desperate now, they know you are desperate. “He has passed out of college and he doesn’t have a job, so let’s bombard him with ads!” And now you will take any salary. It’s well known.

That’s what conditioning does to you. Everything is pre-scripted, it’s like puppet show. The puppeteer already knows what to do. Everybody is enjoying except the puppets. You used that beautiful word, I am glad that you brought it into the discussion, the word ‘Love’. Only Love has the power to break all this. I am not talking of that ‘Chora Chori’(Romantic) love. You know already (Pointing to a listener), when you said ‘love’ you didn’t mean that, right?

(Listeners chuckle)

Love is pre presentThe expression of Love would always be felt with respect to objects. But that is the expression part of it and not the genesis or origin part of it. Love cannot originate upon seeing an object. It is something that is pre-present. You cannot say that, “I looked at her and then love ‘arose’ within me. Like a great fountain, it swelled”. That’s what you usually experience? And then you say, “I fell in Love”, which you actually do. That kind of a falling will not help, that is not the power that I am referring to. That kind of love even shaadi.com knows. So, they know what kind of ads to show you. Have you seen their ads? They know what you will fall in Love with. If you are an Indian, then you have a tendency to like fair faces. So, look at their ads. If you are an Indian, then you have a tendency to find x, y and z features sexy. So they know how to target you. That kind of a love I am not referring to. That is genetic conditioning.

Love does not arise due to objects. There you may have sensual attraction. That is the functioning of the same ego that you (Pointing to a listener) started the discussion with. Ego means, “I am incomplete.” And attraction means, “If I get that object, I will start feeling complete”. That is not Love. That is just ego. What we normally call as love is just ego, because that love is dependent upon the feeling that you are incomplete. “If you come to my life then there will be a great blossoming and everything will be festive.” That cannot be Love.

Give this possibility a chance, that functioning nicely, energetically, beautifully, without feeling inferior is possible. It is an insult of life to keep feeling inferior and small.

And never forget that whenever you are given a lesson in gaining superiority, what you are de-facto being told is, “You are inferior”. What does this statement imply – ‘become superior’? It implies that you are inferior. But you have great regards for people who tell you, “Go ahead! Rise! Climb! Go! Progress! Gain superiority!” You never ask them that, “Why you are insulting me so much?” You never ask them, “Am I so inferior that you must constantly tell me to grow up and progress? Am I so ugly that you are constantly telling me to make myself up and appear beautiful? Isn’t make-up an insult?” That’s how the intelligent mind functions. It looks at the obvious fact. If somebody is constantly telling you to go and brush your teeth, and again you go to her and she says, “Go, brush your teeth”, what does this obviously mean? Your breath stinks, don’t you see? And the world is constantly telling you, “Go wash your face, you are not alright”. And you take that as a compliment. “Oh, these are my well-wisher, they are telling me to wash my face”. (Listeners laughing) What is so wrong with your face, you never ask that. “What’s so wrong with my face?” And the more someone humiliates you the more regards you have for that person. Someone will come and say, “You can rise up to the stars!” Don’t you see that it means right now you are in the gutter? But you will say, “This one, this man, he is my well-wisher!”

You don’t ask, “Why do I need to rise up to the stars? What’s so wrong with me?”

They say, “You can attain this and that!” But you never ask, “And why do I need to attain?”

~ Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

View the session at: Prashant Tripathi: A life free of incompleteness and inferiority

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