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Question: Acharya Ji, how to lead a quality life in this materialistic world? What should we do to attain higher things, or to be at a higher level?
Acharya Prashant Ji: You see, we have a concept of ‘success’. And there are certain things entailed in the concept. A certain amount of money, a certain social prestige, a certain excellence in one’s chosen field of work. And all that comes. But it is still quite possible that all that may be there, and one is still discontented.
It is because all that which we have achieved, is within our self-defined concept of ‘success’. One has to go beyond it.
Obviously if our concept of success includes four things, and all those four things have been ticked against, and still there is dissatisfaction, it means the concept is not quite working.
One has to then go beyond it.
Then one has to aim for something higher than success. Then one has to ask, “What is it that matters more than success?”
One sees that all the success that one has tried to obtain, has been primarily for himself. You say, “My educational qualifications,” you say, “My love life,” you say, “My son,” you say, “My profession.” So success is in general defined with the ‘me’ at the center.
“I did this for myself.”
“I did this for myself, and I succeeded.”
And there are a lot of things that one does for himself and succeeds, and yet not satisfied. That hints again and again at the failure of the conceptual framework itself.
May be one needs actions that are not directed towards the fulfillment of the ‘me’.
The ‘me’ has been greatly fulfilled, the ‘me’ has been appeased a lot already. All that this little ‘me’ kept demanding has been provided to it. At least most of what has been demanded, has been served. And still the ‘me’ keeps clamouring, it is still not satisfied.
Maybe the way out is to look beyond the ‘me’. Maybe the way out is to work for a cause that does not include the ‘me’.
“I did well in my practice.”
“I did well in my love life.”
“I did well in my social interactions.”
“I did well in my studies.”
“I did well in doing whatever I wanted to do.”
May be I am mountain climber, maybe I am a deep-sea diver. Whatever I am, I am for myself. Can I be bigger and broader than that? Can I be something without being much for myself? Can my actions be directed towards others? Can service now enter my life? There is a lot of success which has been self-centered. Can I now move on to service?
Service will not probably fulfill this restless ‘I’, but service will enable you to forget this restless ‘I’.
That is ‘beyondness’ – not quite the fulfillment of the little ‘I’, but quite the forgetfulness towards the little ‘I’.
You say that you are serving a cause bigger than yourself. Or you are serving others. Therefore, there is no time nor opportunity to keep wondering whether your own demands have been met.
One is restless, one is restless, one is restless. And then one starts dedicating oneself to something bigger, something larger. And the bigger cause consumes so much time, energy, and attention, that one is left with no space to complain or wonder whether one is internally unfulfilled.
You say, “Even if I remain unfulfilled, it is a small matter. I might be happy, I might be sad, the work that I have taken up is bigger than my happiness and sadness. It does not quite matter how I am feeling.”
“I am unfulfilled. O! Probably I am, but I just forgot that.” This is beyondness.
“Am I unfulfilled? Probably I still am. But who cares? I have better things to take care of.” This is fulfillment.
When thoughts of your personal success stop mattering to you, you say, “There is something more important than my personal success,” then you have really succeeded.
Questioner: It has to be something big.
Acharya Prashant Ji: It has to be so big that you forget about your failures, your happiness, your sadness. Somebody comes and tells you, “You are sad,” and you say, “Am I sad? I just forgot that.” Somebody comes and tells you, “You have not had meals since the last thirty-six hours,” you say, “O! Am I hungry? I just forgot that.”
“I was so engrossed in something large, in something meaningful, that I totally forgot my personal appetite. It just vanished. Not that it does not exist. Now that you are reminding me that I have not had food, I see that I have not had food. Now in fact I am also feeling hungry.”
“Now that you have reminded me, I have also feeling hungry. But for the last thirty-six hours, hunger didn’t matter. I didn’t even know that I was hungry. All my attention was dedicated towards something broader, larger.”
That has to be there. And this is the only way out, especially for people who have achieved a certain level of worldly attainment.
You know, people who have no worldly attainment at all, they keep saying, “We need to prove ourselves in the world. We need job, we need money. We need to have a wife, we need to have a decent family.” And they keep insisting that this is what will fulfill them.
But then there are those who already have all those things, who already have a certain level of financial attainment, social attainment, intellectual attainment, familial attainment, and they are still not satisfied. Then the only thing that will fulfill them is forgetfulness.
Questioner: What when, we do not have expectations from others, but others have expectations from us?
Acharya Prashant Ji: When you say that others have expectations from you, the circle of ‘others’, this set of this ‘others’ is very-very limited, and is me-centric. Is it not? You do not really care about the expectations that, let us say, the entire humanity has from you.
It’s bitterly cold and a dog is outside your doorsteps. You do not wonder about the expectations that dog might be having from you. It is only the expectations of a particular four people that matter to you. Four people. And who are these four people? The ones with whom you have the bond of – ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘mine’.
If you have to cater to the expectations, then why not cater to the expectations of an entire nation, or the entire world, or the entire animal kingdom.
Entire species are vanishing everyday.
Don’t they expect you to help them?
So, answer their expectations.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: How to succeed in getting a good quality life? || Acharya Prashant (2019)
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