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Dealing with toxic partners || Acharya Prashant, Vedant Mahotsav at IISc Bangalore (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
22 min
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Questioner (Q): I have been listening to your videos for a week and I can see a lot of difference in my personal life. And I was fortunate enough to live in Bangalore and was able to come here. I’ve been facing problems in my personal life for the last 10 years, usually with my marital life. My wife is very aggressive, and because of that I have developed some psychological problems. So, I’m not staying with her. I want to tell her that I can’t tolerate all this, what is happening in our life, but I’m not able to tell her for the last 10 years. Some hidden fear which I’m not able to solve. So, I just wanted your guidance.

In my personal life, it is more like I don’t like confrontation in general. And I’m kind of a submissive person, actually. So, fear is there for so many years. Right from childhood. After watching your videos, I can see a lot of differences actually.

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, it is very well known that one major cause of all kinds of mental problems is the institution of marriage. The extent to which this institution contributes to neurosis is unmatched by any other cause. Why are people afraid to move on, in spite of having all kinds of humiliating and bitter experiences? For exactly the same reason most people feel compelled to get hitched.

Why are people afraid to step out of even abusive marriages? The reason is exactly the same as for those who feel compelled to get into marriages. That is the pressure to conform. That is the pressure to belong to the crowd. The fear to not to be labeled abnormal. The urge to not miss out on something that has been glamorized as extremely important and central.

Here in India, what are 90-95% of our movies about? Man, and a woman getting together in some way or the other. So, that’s what it is. Obviously, there is the biological urge embedded in the body itself. But much more than that, it is the social norm that, first of all, pushes us into this institution of marriage. And then compels us to stay there even if that institution is sapping the very life out of us.

See, don’t we wear what Bollywood does, or Tollywood, or whatever? Depending on your taste, we are in the south right now, so. We speak the way they do. We even raise our kids the way they teach us to do. They tell us how to handle our maternity. They tell us how to be good parents.

They are our teachers, mentors, guides, philosophers, de facto Gods. Do we see how much is our life dictated by the forces of entertainment? We spend a lot of time on avenues of entertainment that we are bound to fully absorb the values they are giving us.

If you read the Gita, there is no man-woman angle. So, that kind of center, that feeling, that very issue, will not even be activated in your mind. Will it be? Some other more important issue will take dominance. What is the right action? When to indulge in a war and went to retreat? How to pick the right battle to fight? Who exactly am I? What is my relationship with the world.

If you spend time with the Gita, these are the issues that will get activated within you. You’ll feel involved with these issues. Whereas, if you watch a movie, what is the issue that will gain importance in your mind? How do I get my man? How do I get my woman?

Even if you go to the Ramayana , what you find is that a noble and honorable man is prepared to give up on marital, conjugal pleasure for the sake of a higher ideal. Now, this kind of a higher thing you will never find in the avenues that supply you your values. And all the time we are with entertainers, and so much of our entertainment is simply related to sex. If you think of 10 jokes that make you laugh, seven, or eight, or nine would be sex related. Directly or indirectly.

So, right from the age of six or eight, we become deeply indoctrinated. We are forcefully made to believe that the purpose of life is to chase a man or a woman. And the highest possible ideal is to spend time or life with some nice and right person. That is what you also call as settling down.

Now, that ideal is ingrained in our minds from a very very early age. And it refuses to leave us even after we turn 80 or 90. What is life for? No, life is not for a noble cause. Life is not for Liberation. Life is not for knowledge. Life is not for exploration. Life is so that you can have somebody’s hand in your hand. Life is for romance.

Life is when you have that right and perfect person with you, next to you. That’s when life is right. It becomes impossible for us to even imagine a life that is not welded to somebody else’s. What else is wedding? Welding, no? That’s why so much fire is there.

It sounds scary, if you imagine, if I tell you, you have to spend your life without being hitched to some percent of the other gender. Most of us will start feeling scared. I can understand the situation of those who are already welded, but even those who are fortunate enough to not yet have been welded, even they will start feeling scared. “Oh my god, what a scary vision. All alone. What will happen to me?”

Where did this feeling come from? Definitely this feeling is not coming from the body. Definitely this feeling is not Prakritik or genetic. Because this kind of feeling is not found in animals. Animals do form pairs, but only for a while. And then they go their own way, till the next mating season, they are away. This kind of a welded relationship, this concept does not exist in Prakriti . So, surely it is coming from the society, not biology.

And from where in society is it coming? It is coming from our avenues of entertainment. Songs. You go to YouTube, which is the most watched YouTube channel across the world? And what do you watch there? Songs. And what are those songs necessarily about? Man and woman. Man and woman. Man and woman. Man and woman. The entire world is watching that. That particular channel is in Hindi, but even otherwise, east or west. That’s what we are constantly crooning. Where is my man? Where is my woman? Where is my man? Where is my woman?

So, that’s the reason why the day you turn twelve, you actually start looking for a partner. I’ve heard kids of age six and eight have boyfriends and girlfriends these days. That’s because this mask culture, through media, is now reaching them even earlier. They all have mobile phones. So even they are thinking that the highest thing possible in life is a boyfriend or girlfriend, and if you have that, then you have arrived. You have succeeded.

With that kind of ideal, how will you ever have the courage to walk alone? And when I say walk alone, that does not mean you cannot be in a relationship. When I say walk alone, that means being free of the compulsion to be in a relationship. These are two very different things. You can be in a relationship out of your freedom. It is an expression of your freedom that you are in a relationship, that is possible, right?

“Since I’m free, hands out of my choice, I am in a relationship.” But that’s not the case very often. Most of us are in relationships not because of freedom, but because of compulsion. And that’s the reason why we have so many husband-and-wife jokes.

Otherwise, how can there be something to joke about in that. You don’t have mother-son jokes. You don’t have brother-sister jokes. Why do you have so many husband-wife jokes? Just to mitigate the suffering a little. Just to be able to laugh at your own sorry situation a little.

Isn’t the mother-son bond an important one? Why don’t you have mother-son jokes then? Why only husband-wife jokes? Because without joking, it will be even more difficult to tolerate. This institution has ruined so many people and continues to do that on a daily basis, especially women.

Here, we have a man, stating his predicament and suffering. But this institution has been equally, if not more harsh upon women. Because they are even more scared to step out. “How is it possible for a simple, normal, average, powerless lady like me to survive all alone in this big, bad, bullying world?”

So, she’ll tolerate all kinds of nonsense, and abuse, and violence, but will stay put. And she’ll say, “Oh, you know I’m doing it for the integrity of the family, and welfare of the kids.” Same goes for men. Because now women are as nastily empowered as men used to be. So, they are as nastily exploitative as well.

Kindly, get into your own mind and ask yourself, who has taught you to put up with daily abuse and humiliation? Who declared that to be your destiny? Who is that script writer? Whose is this decree that cannot be reversed? Why must you act as if you are helpless and powerless? Why must you behave as if there is no choice? I do not know what you must do. You have been with me only since a week. I do not know the intricacies of your situation. But I can talk of a general principle. Nothing in life is irreversible, please. The only thing that you should never compromise on, never negotiate on, is the central purpose of life and that is Liberation. All else is dispensable.

Nothing is cast in stone. You are free to be. You are free to not be. And there is no God sitting upstairs to declare a mandate. Existence will not curse you if you are solo, and there is no special reward for remaining hitched.

You know, the curse that we experience in our daily life, acts both ways. One, we feel compelled to stay in rotten relationships. Second, we feel constrained from entering the right relationships. Both. And I’m not necessarily talking of giving up on one woman and being with another one. No. The right relationship might as well, with traveling. Travel that you cannot afford because the other won’t allow you to. So that relationship is not only abusive in itself but also an impediment to another right relationship.

That’s the reason why wisdom literature right at young age is so important. So that you may have higher ideals, especially girls. Both. It’s the age of empowerment. Else, the only ideal you will worship is the ideal of a couple. The happy couple, and that’s the ideal almost everybody has. Done your UG, done your PG, now what? Hehehe. Now I’ll happily settle down. Now, is this what you did all your studies for? Yes. Because it’s the highest thing.

“Didi, why did you quit your job, give up on your career?”

“Why do I need to care for a job or career or advancement or exposure or experience when I already have the highest ideal possible. And what is that? Hubby and puppy. Hubby was there, and then came the puppy. Why do I need the job now? Because the highest I already have.”

This is a great problem. You must have great ideals in life. Read great books. Watch great movies. Seek the company of greats, so that you can think beyond this man-woman game. There is no problem being with a man or a woman. The problem lies in compulsiveness. The problem lies in the feeling that this is compulsory and irreversible. That’s where the problem is.

It is neither compulsory nor irreversible. You have a choice, and because you have a choice, you must know that hundreds of better options are available when it comes to having a great purpose for life. You were not born to worship some person of the opposite gender of your own age. You are 28. She is 26. And what’s your life for? “I earn a lot and keep everything at her feet. She is my Goddess.” Is this the purpose of your life?

“Didi, what are you born for?”

“I have gifted him two puppies. I bake his bread. I make his bed. I accompany him wherever he goes. He performs on the stage; I manage the backstage.” Is this what you were born for? To breed puppies remaining backstage? You have nothing better to do in life? Ask yourself. “Do I have nothing better in life to do?” One day you find some person has entered your life, your house, your bedroom. And that person becomes your entire universe. But why? What is the need?

“But you know all the songs are talking only of that, what do I do? FM 91, 93, 95, 97, 99. Only that is happening all the time. What do I do? I feel so out of place. I feel so abnormal.” It’s a huge universe. You don’t need to look at everybody. When you are here in this hall, this auditorium. Are you concerned with what is happening out there somewhere?

So, have something worth attending to. Then you’ll automatically become oblivious to all the nonsense in the world. What is happening here right now is surely not normal. No normal person would spend a weekend doing this. But is this making you suffer? Are you seriously unhappy being here? Why must you then be so bothered about what is normal?

The thing is, if you are really attentive here, you are not even thinking of what is happening elsewhere, right? That’s the way to live. Be so immersed in the right thing, that you are left with no space, no time, no attention to spare on all the general normal nonsense. Give your life to something worthwhile. Not to some average Joe or Janes.

Be very mindful of where you get your entertainment from. In the name of entertainment, we ingest a lot of poison. A lot of our entertainment is just about getting deeper into bondages. And then as you sink deeper into bondages, you find you need more and more entertainment. Because you suffer so much that entertainment becomes necessary. And learn to ask some basic questions. Do not take things as right just because they are normal. There is a difference between something being normal and something being right.

Doordarshan used to broadcast the Republic Day parade. I was a kid, and every year I used to wonder, there always is a foreign dignitary as the guest on 26th of January. And I used to wonder, that man is okay, but why are my Armed Forces saluting that woman? What has that woman done? And sometimes it would be a woman on the dias. The president of a country, and her husband would be standing next to her.

And this very obvious question would come to the child’s mind. Why are India’s forces and commanders saluting that other one? But that question does not come to most people's mind. We believe it is normal. Men and women, they are together, they are one unit. How are they one unit? How are they one unit? If they are one unit and the man is a PhD, then you start calling the woman also as a doctor. Do you do that?

But it appears so normal to us. If I were with someone, a lady, and she were to be the guest of honor on a podium, I would squarely refuse to accompany her. It’s her right and her prerogative. Who am I to share the dias with her? What have I done? What’s my qualification? How do I deserve to be up there? And that’s something very obvious.

But we take this as normal. The two are now soulmates or something, so they are two bodies in one unit. If they are one unit, let only one of them eat. (sarcastically)

This association that man is incomplete without a woman and woman is incomplete without a man, is false, false, and false. Why don’t you understand this? And for women it is even more severe. They have been told that, “You are incomplete not only just without a man, but also without kids. So, you are doubly incomplete. First of all, you require a man, and then you also require kids. Then, you are entitled to feel complete. Otherwise, you must burn in self-pity.”

Yes, we are incomplete, but that incompleteness cannot be filled by a person of the opposite gender. Our incompleteness is spiritual, and we need great purposes and great ideals in life to get rid of our incompleteness. Forming a pair, getting married, is a very cheap and obviously ineffective way of trying to feel fulfilled. It will not help. It’s a bad medicine that will only aggravate the disease.

Think of the pleasure we have been tutored to experience in looking at a couple's picture. Somebody posts a solo. Gets 200 likes. You get hte drift, right? The same person poses with a partner and get 800 likes. That’s the message society is always sending you. We want you to be normal. Pose with someone, and then you oblige to society. Rather, you succumb to the society.

No issues with being with someone, but not under pressure. Not as an obligation. Not as a legal or a religious liability. Legal, religious, or social. And learn to avoid people who have nothing better in life than to copulate. We have an entire section of society whose purpose in life is to ensure that people are quickly getting welded. Learn to avoid them, and if they still try to stick around, push them away. They are infectious.

Q1: Is it the right thing to do, to push them away if they are dependent on you?

If someone is infected and comes too close to you, what are you supposed to do? Embrace, hug, kiss? Either run away or push away. What do you mean by “right thing to do?”

A false morality has been implanted within. A false morality. If someone is dangerous and toxic and coming close just to infect you, are you not entitled to take care of yourself?

But the false morality says, “Oh, but that person wants me to form a pair, so that person must be a well-wisher. How do I be rude to him?” What you don’t understand is that person is not your well-wisher. That person is toxic.

Q: But then I feel sometimes, it may be my Karma of past life or maybe this life, and because of that I have to suffer.

AP: That’s the reason why instead of watching movies at age 10, you should be reading some wisdom literature and be acquainted with at least the fundamentals of Vedanta . Your suffering in this moment is not your stored Karma or something. You are suffering is your own choice.

You choose to remain the sufferer. You can opt out of the suffering. By choosing to suffer more, you are not getting any better. You’re not washing away your sins or something. But this country never really gave Vedanta the respect it deserves.

So, if I’m being discriminated against because of my caste, I should not protest or strive to be free. Why? I’m just paying for the sins of my previous births. It’s my Prarabdh or Sanchit karma .

I was born in an economically disadvantaged home. I couldn’t get proper education, so I don’t have a standing in society. I don’t earn much.

I shouldn’t strive to still surge ahead and do the best possible. I should simply bow my head down and tolerate whatever life is throwing at me. Why? Because it is just my old Karma . What right do I have to rise, rebel, and break free? What is happening to me is just justice. I am settling old accounts. Where is the question of rebellion? One cannot rebel against justice, right?

Now, when suffering is labeled as justice, then there’s no question of freedom from suffering. You can always say, “I am suffering because I did something wrong in the past. So let me suffer. That way, I’ll be getting rid of my karmic debt.” All kinds of fancy words are in circulation these days. Karmic ledger. Karmic debt. Karmic tax.All that is just…

You have the power. Nobody is born to suffer. Suffering is a choice, and if you find suffering is inevitable, at least choose the higher suffering. I have repeatedly said, many times in life, Anand or joy is nothing but the name of the higher suffering. If you have to suffer, suffer at least honorably for a higher cause for the sake of Freedom.

Why must you suffer like an animal in a yolk? Like the donkey burdened with all kinds of trash. If you have to suffer, suffer like a warrior. Fighting a great battle. There are bigger things in life than a girl or a boy. A man or a woman. A husband or a wife. These are small things, are you getting it? The man cannot be your God. The woman cannot be your Goddess. Stop this. I’m still googling within for the choicest abuse.

What nonsense is this? If you had so much fondness or dedication for anything high in life, you would have turned yourself into a de facto God. Look what you are dedicated to? Some piece of flesh whose primary qualification is that the gender it carries is opposite of what you have. Now how high or sublime is that?

Tell me what is the primary qualification of your husband or wife? Let’s be very honest about it. Suppose your wife has the same gender as you. What place does she hold now? After marriage, you discover your husband is a woman. How much of great love and devotion would remain?

So, the primary qualification is the gender. And let’s be blunt. The primary qualification is the genital organ. Now, what are you devoted to then? You are free to imagine, picturize. “This is what I have devoted my entire life to. Somebody’s genitals. How beautiful. How sublime. How aromatic.” You were born for this? Then what are you doing?

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