Question: Sir, if something bad happens, that we think will affect our future, then why do we continue to think about it?
Acharya Prashant: What is the very definition of ‘bad’ in your world? What is the very definition of ‘bad’?
Listener 1: Something that I have never desired.
AP: Yes. So, what is the very definition of ‘bad’? Let me take a live example. As you sit here, and given that your exams are closing in, some of you might be worried about your exams. For them, ‘bad’ is that the exams, which are due in the future, may be spoilt, right? What is bad for them? That, the examinations due in the future might be spoilt.
While they are worrying about this ‘bad’ event that may happen in the future, something really bad is actually happening. What is the really bad thing that is actually happening? They are sitting over here, and worrying about the future, and they are imagining certain ‘bad’ things might happen in the future. While they are busy imagining bad things in the future, something ‘really’ bad is happening. What is that?
L2: That they are not in the present.
AP: Right. The world has given you a particular definition of ‘bad’. This definition itself is related to the future. ‘Bad’ is that which spoils your future, and ‘good’ is that which builds your future. This is a junk, useless and a very dangerous definition.
You do not look at any event as it IS. You look at events from the point of view of what they will do to you. You are so worried and insecure about yourself, and your future, that you cannot look at things right now, directly, obviously, as they are. You look at an event only in terms of the result it will have sometime from today.
So, for example, if you are sitting here, one way to listen to me is to just listen – as I am, as the words are, as this place is. The other way to be here is, to constantly keep wondering – “What will I get out of listening to this? Will this help me in my job? Will this help me get more money? Will this help me secure another degree?”
Are you getting it?
So, there is a particular quality of mind which will say, “This event is good if it gives me something in the future. And if it doesn’t give me something in the future, then this is a bad event.” And then there is another quality of mind which is simply not thinking of the future, which is so immersed in what is happening right now, that it has no space for the future. Are you getting it?
Have you ever seen how you look at anything, including me? “What will this man give us which will be useful to us one hour from now, or one day from now, or one year from now, or maybe one decade from now?” I am good only if I give you something which will help you in the future. Your very definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, is such an ignorant and dangerous definition.
Have you seen how people make friends? “What will I get out of him?” When? Not right now, obviously not right now. Sometime in the future. In fact, if you are thinking of getting something, that has to be in the future, even if it is one minute in the future, but it has to be in the future. So, you walk to somebody, thinking of getting hundred rupees from him. Kindly do not think that you will get hundred from him in the present. There is a time interval between thought and the event, right? So, you are still thinking about the future.
You see a fellow and you walk towards him expecting hundred rupees. Kindly do not think that you are going to get hundred rupees from him right now. When will you get it? In the future. Two minutes into the future, but still in the future.
There is nothing that we do in the present. The proof of that is, there is nothing that we do without an expectation of results. In the present, there are no results. Results are always in the future. And there is nothing that we can do without an expectation of results, right? So, what is ‘bad’ for us? (Prompting the listeners) Quickly!
L: Thinking about the future.
AP: According to our definition, what is bad for us? That which will not give us so-called favourable results in the future. Alright! And according to our definition, what is ‘good’ for us? That which will give us favourable results in the future.
Be it good or be it bad, we are thinking about the future. Do you know what you have just come to?
Your ‘good’ is thinking about the future, your ‘bad’ is thinking about the future. Whether you are thinking of an event as ‘good’ or as ‘bad’, you are being displaced from the present. In the present, there is nothing good, nothing bad, there are just things, there is just life and action. And there is so much that is happening. How can you ignore it and start thinking about something which is purely imaginary?
Life never leaves you in a vacuum, right? There is always something in front of you, something live, something that demands a response. How can you not respond to it and instead occupy yourself with thoughts of the future? Sometimes you think of the future as ‘good’, sometimes you think of the future as ‘bad’. But whether you think of the future as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it is actually very-very bad because in thinking of the future, you have lost the present.
Do not feel happy if the future seems bright, because if you are thinking of a bright future, then surely the present is dark. And do not be sad if the future is dark, because the present is equally dark. Why? You are thinking of the future. The future cannot be darker than the present, right? So, you need not be additionally sad. You are already quite sad.
What is a ‘bad’ event? There are no ‘bad’ events, there are just events. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ come in context of only your desires. “What will I get out of this event?” And all ‘getting’, is in the future. All results are in the future.
Whereas life and the responses that life demands, are always right now. You may have met a bad accident. You were returning from a place yesterday, and there was a bad accident. Now, what do we do? Think about what will happen two days from today?
Well, there are two cars lying toppled, and there are around twenty people, a few of whom are injured, demanding immediate attention. And because it is an accident, it is a police case, and so the police needs to be called, and the formalities need to be completed. Do we think about the future? Or are there enough challenges, and opportunities, and occasions right now for action? Tell me.
L: Right now.
AP: Or should one run away from life and climb a tree, and sitting on top of a tree start thinking about the future?
You are sitting in the middle of the rubble. A man is lying shattered, a car is lying shattered. And there is the mobile oil, the engine oil, and somebody is crying, and somebody has been hit on the head. And there are ten things to be taken care of right now. How do you have the space to call it ‘a bad event’? Who has the time to call it ‘a bad event’? But you will have enough people who will just keep saying, “O my God! Something terrible has happened to me.” In saying that something terrible has happened to you, you are losing out on time, precious moments in which something precious should have been done.
If there is somebody who is hurt in the accident, lying in front of you, what do you do? Call it ‘a bad accident’, or immediately rush to that fellow and do what needs to be done? And if you are totally immersed in doing what needs to be done, will you have the mental space to say, “Something bad has happened”? Will you have the space to say? ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are thoughts, and when you are totally devoted in action, there is no space for thoughts. What will thoughts do? Or, you could say that when you are totally devoted in action, then thoughts are just like slaves to action, you have only as many thoughts as are needed for the action, which is very little.
Real action does not demand too many thoughts, because if you are still thinking a lot, then that thinking will impede the action. If you are really acting, then thoughts will keep going down and down and down. As action becomes vigorous, thoughts get subdued. It is only with a calm mind that one can enter into right and energetic action. Who has the time and who has the space to label life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
Life is so profound, rich, so all-encompassing, and rushing at you from all sides. Every moment is full of possibilities. It is loaded with this and that. Take it. Be immersed into it. Do not stand away, and apart, and keep crying, “O something bad has happened!” And do not stand away and keep labeling, “Now this is something good.” Neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, just events. Now respond. If you have it in you to respond, then respond. And if you don’t have it in you to respond, then label, “Bad, bad, bad”, or “Good, good, good”.
Does life ever leave you free? There is always something in front of you. Is there, or is there not? Then tell me, from where do you get the time to worry, and ponder, and feel bad? From where do you steal this time?
L3: From the present.
AP: You steal time from the present, right? And that is such a theft. And because you have been an expert at stealing, you are no more mere thieves, you have become full-fledged dacoits. You steal time from the present for all kinds of nonsense, right? Somebody is suffering all the time. From where do you get the time to suffer? Where? Where are you stealing that time from?
L: The present.
AP: The present.
And it is a good way to steal time from the present. “I am thinking about the future.” And obviously you cannot think about the future without labeling the future – ‘good things’ and ‘bad things’.
“Good things are those that will preserve and protect me, that will continue my ego. Bad things are those that are likely to hurt me.” And whether it is a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing, the fact is that it is just a method of continuation of the self, it is just a method of protection of the ego.
“I am thinking about myself. Oh! No, no, no. I am very selfless. I am thinking about my family. I am very selfless.” Whose family? “My family.” You really are selfless. You are really selfless. You are thinking about your family. “No Sir. When I am thinking about the future, I am worrying about the prospects of humanity.” Ah! Humanity! Are you also worrying about all the insects that are there?
You need some excuse to run away from the present, don’t you?
In the present, I know there are challenges. And those challenges are no ordinary challenges. They demand your complete attention and complete energy. But remember, in those challenges, is also the deep joy of life. The one who runs away from life’s challenges is also running away from life’s joys. And thinking about the future is a great way of escaping from challenges.
I assure you there are enough challenges right now. I am calling them as ‘challenges’ because we are used to looking at everything in terms of good and bad, opportunity and challenge. And you find the present quite threatening. So, it’s a ‘challenge’.
There might be challenges, but rest assured, without these challenges, there can be no joy. If you are running away from challenges, you are running away from life itself. There is no Freedom in future. Whatever is valuable is always right now. Joy, Freedom, Reality – they are always here. Are you getting it?
See how clever, smart, rather, cunning and stupid you are, when you worry about the future. All of you do that, right? All of you do that. And all of you are very devoted to building you future, aren’t you? Just see how stupid that is. It is like trying to raise a tree without roots. The root is always right now – the root you want to ignore, the root you want to escape away from. And you are imagining a tree laden with lush leaves and luscious fruits – a rootless tree with ripe mangoes! The root you don’t want to look at, because that will demand action, that will demand energy, that will demand that we shun away our laziness.
There is enough to take care of right now. First take care of it. And when you feel that you have totally taken care of the present, then think of the future. Is that a fair deal? Good enough for everybody?
Listeners: Yes, Sir.
Speaker: Whatever there is, the maximum that there can be to do right now, first finish it, and then whatever time you are left with, think about the future.
Future is important – I can see that from your face. So, let’s come to this, alright? We will first see what all is waiting for us right now. We will respond to it, we will take care of it. And whatever we are responding to, is changing all the time. And then whenever we find that now life has left us totally blank, free, and in vacuum, then we can utilise our time and energy in thinking, alright? Do that, and then tell me how much could you think.
The fellow does not have two rupees and he is very worried about where he would park his next billion. He has written all the names of the banks, and he is busy researching, comparing, striking out one name, adding another name. “After I have a billion rupees, where do I bank them?” How much does he have?
L: Two rupees.
AP: Two rupees. And while he is busy planning about the banks and the parking and the accounts, those two rupees are slipping away. Grand future! But everybody is happy.
“See such a forward-looking boy.”
“Such a wise girl, she has everything sorted out. She even knows the name of the branch. Forget about the bank. And it is not a national bank that she has chosen. It’s a Swiss bank. Such a smart girl.”
If thoughts could fill stomachs, nobody would go hungry. Nobody is ever short of thinking.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Samvaad’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Prashant Tripathi: Attend to the facts and your imaginations will fall in place.
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 1: Why am I worried about the future?