Questioner (Q): You have said in your old videos that through valor and intelligence, one has to come out of addictions, such as smoking or binge watching. I am finding it very hard to come out of them. Can you help me with this?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, you have to first of all respect the facts of your addictions; they are doing you some good. Those things you are addicted to exist because you have nothing better in your life.
Understand this. No point in just cursing one’s addictions; addictions exist to fill a deep inner void. You have a need to be addicted, and that is why those things exist. Be it the TV shows or videos or drugs or the many other things one can be addicted to, they didn’t plead you to let them into your life; you went to those things. The videos don’t suddenly pounce at you from your mobile screen after midnight; you must be clicking at the application, and then scrolling through the list of videos, and then choosing one particular video, then another, and binge watching.
So, you are the one going to those things. Why are you going to those things? That is what spirituality is about—look into yourself. Why do you need to go to those things? You need to go to those things because there is a crying hollow. Unless you bring something higher into your life to fill that hollow, those videos and other things will continue to exist, irrespective of how much we beat our chest over them. Get something into your life that you know to be more important than those little things.
I refuse to believe that a young man of your intellectual caliber cannot think of something worthier to pursue. Set your mind upon something good, high, noble, and then you will find that you have no time for all the petty things that surround you and potentially attract your attention. Your attention, then, will be super focused; you know what is important, and you don’t want to look at other things.
And if sometimes mistakenly you happen to look at other things, then you realize that a lot of damage has been done and you are taught a lesson. And next time, you won’t repeat your mistake because the loss is right there in front of you—it stares you in the face, it teases you. You will not look at yourself in the mirror. You will say, “Because I wasted myself in all the nonsense for four hours or eight hours, therefore I have to suffer this loss. And the loss is a fact, I can’t deny that. And the loss is big.”
What you call as distractions are very intimately related to purposelessness. You cannot be distracted without being purposeless. Have a solid purpose in life and fall in love with it, and all these distractions will vaporize into thin air.
So, you don’t even require to be counseled. Ask yourself, what is the highest you can think of? What is the most beautiful you can think of? And why is it not worth committing yourself to? If it is indeed high and beautiful, give yourself totally to it. And then even if you have to go to, you said, Netflix, etc., you will go with a purpose. It is not some kind of heinous crime to watch videos or something, but you will remember the purpose. You will know why you are going there; you are not going there to waste precious time. Even there, the mind is remembering what the purpose is, why you are watching something: there is a lesson, there is a learning somewhere, and that is why you are watching that.
So, wisdom is not about do’s and don’ts; do all the good things—read books, read newspapers, read wisdom literature, meet good people, travel to beautiful places—and don’t do bad things—booze, drugs, sex—no, they are not to be done. This is not spirituality; this is a very superficial and jaded kind of morality.
To be spiritual is to know what your central need is and to then chase it wholeheartedly. Spirituality is thrill and adventure, and you don’t mind what your chase leads you into. It takes you to riches? You travel through riches. It takes you to poverty, penury? Then you don’t resist being a beggar, for a while at least. It takes you for a while into an existence of solitude? You don’t mind being alone. It requires you to move into public life? You accept that without resistance. None of these things are important. What is important is that you identify your purpose in life and live only for its sake. All else is trivia.
And when I am talking of purpose here, I am talking of the right purpose; I am talking of the central purpose of life. In determining the purpose, one has to be extremely mindful, attentive, deep, and honest.
Q: I find that my purpose is related to meditation. Meditation gives me immense pleasure, but it also makes me disinterested towards other activities of my life. Is this okay? Because it affects my social interactions, my family responsibilities, and even my academics as well.
AP: Ultimately, you are the judge. You have to ask yourself: Is the pleasure that you get through these videos or addictions the highest that you can get? And if you will, with conviction, say, “This is the highest pleasure possible to me in life,” I will say go ahead and drench yourself in your addictions, because what I am calling as the purpose of life is also, in another way, called as joy. In one sense, joy is not pleasure; in another sense, joy is beyond pleasure; in another sense, joy is the highest pleasure possible.
So, crudely speaking, top-class pleasure is indeed the purpose of life. But the pleasure that you are getting through your addictions, is that really top-class? Only you can answer, and I will leave it to you. How can it be top-class if it is leaving you mired in guilt? How can it be top-class if it is not giving you clarity about stuff? You don’t know how to choose between your responsibilities and your self-interest; you probably also do not know what responsibility really means.
One characteristic of joy is that it comes with clarity, and that is the difference between pleasure and joy: pleasure requires the sacrifice of clarity. You typically get pleasure only when you are in a drunken and befuddled state of mind. Otherwise, pleasure is not possible.
Look at people when they are having pleasure—are those the moments of their utmost clarity? Are those the moments of their deep wisdom? In fact, people get drunk specifically to have pleasure. That is the thing with pleasure—it cannot coexist with clarity. Joy, on the other hand, is an inseparable accomplishment of clarity. Joy and clarity are the same things.
If your pleasures are not bringing clarity to you, then there is a lot of work you still need to do. Don’t get stuck. I can only assure you from my position, that higher pleasures are indeed possible, and that it is your responsibility towards yourself: to go for those higher pleasures. When better things are possible in life, why settle for lowly ones? Makes no sense, right?
You have one life. Never settle down. Keep aiming for the higher than the highest you have known. And irrespective of how high you have come, something higher still remains and beckons; respond to its call. Lack of exposure is probably a problem; lack of spiritual education and lack of right company is probably a problem. Probably, the set of options you are making your choices from is a very limited one; probably, you have no exposure to what all is possible in life. Therefore, of the five little things that you know of, you are choosing one to get addicted to. Life is way beyond the five things that you know of.
Keep expanding your horizons. Never settle down for something small. Your nature is infinite, and that is not being said without reason. It was a call to keep reminding you that you must keep moving: charaiveti, charaiveti (keep moving, keep moving). Infinity is not a point to be ever reached.