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Does corporate life dehumanize the workers? || Acharya Prashant, at IIM Bangalore (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
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Questioner (Q): I watched your recent video - “Loving your fake lifestyle.” In that video you talked about two things. One is abuse of consciousness and another was that corporates are dehumanizing the employees.

In that context I wanted to ask you, this dehumanization actually is not only happening in corporates, but I think it is something that starts with the family itself. And the second thing is the abuse of consciousness. We are aware about the gross forms of abuse of consciousness, but we don't know much about the subtle forms of abuse of consciousness. This is one part of the question.

Second part is—and this a little paradoxical—now we see that the world is moving towards destruction and climate change. Now, all the students who are studying in higher institutions, they are going to join all the corporates that are part of the problem. So how do we help these students to make them aware, that where they're going and investing their life, is actually pushing the contribution of their life towards the destruction of the planet? And at the same time you could also talk about the subtle forms of abuse of consciousness.

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, to use human thought, feelings, energy, any resources available to the human being, for any end objective other than liberation, is actually abuse of consciousness. When you are physically alive, you are said to be conscious, right? So, abuse of consciousness is simply abuse of life. To use your life for any final purpose other than liberation from various kinds of bondages, including your biological instincts and ignorance, is what is abuse of consciousness.

What is gross abuse of Consciousness? What is subtle abuse of consciousness? What is gross? What is subtle? That which the eyes can easily perceive, and the ears can easily hear, and the skin can touch, is said to be gross. Whereas, that which can only be imagined, ideated, or conceptualized is said to be subtle.

So when you are using material in the hope, that material will give you lasting fulfillment, that is gross abuse. When you are dabbling in theories and concepts and ideas, and think that ideologies of some kind—that which we call as love, that too is an ideology, because that is not real love, that is a thought, that is an idea, that is an image—so when you go about this usual business of love, that is a subtle abuse of consciousness.

And when it comes to the question regarding corporates—that students pass out and then they serve the same corporations that are directly or indirectly responsible for much of the tragedy today unfolding on this planet—well, the answer should be obvious.

Before the students sit for their placements, there has to be a sufficiently long workshop or a trimester long course that deals with the various industries, and if needed, takes up case studies pertaining to the regular employers. Why not?

Don't we take up case studies that deal with specific companies? But there we want to know how well they are doing in their marketing strategy, how their SHRM is proceeding, or what kind of cost accounting or financial management systems do they use.

We should also have case studies that take up, for example, their environmental record. Students should know, the firm that they are opting for, to what extent is it life friendly. To what extent is your employer consciousness friendly, students should know that. But that kind of case study is neither written nor taught. Whereas it should be a very important thing.

It is very possible that if you open up the entire kuṇḍalī of a very lucrative employer, the employer might have to return empty-handed from the placement cell. Or maybe I'm just being wishful. Maybe the students would still go for that company, in spite of knowing everything.

Q: Yeah, I was coming to that—the conflict of interest. My career goal versus to what extent I can actually accommodate the organization that is involved.

AP: You see, in an ideal sense, obviously you should not spend a second at an improper place. But then life is not ideal. Ideas are just thoughts. We might seek freedom from all our constraints. But our immediate fact is that we are operating within constraints. So with all your honesty—and only you can answer it fully—with all your honesty, try your best to use your constraints in a way that your constraints are loosened.

Right now, I'm speaking in constraints. My fellow professor, my friend here (pointing to the other speaker), he too is speaking in certain constraints. We started at a specific time, we'll have to end at a specific time. And there are a thousand other practical and worldly constraints at every moment wherever you are, whatever you are doing. The goal therefore, has to be to operate in a way, within your constraints, that you make your way out of the constraints.

As they say, if you are lost in a thick dark jungle, what do you do? You’ll have to move within the jungle. But you have to move within the jungle in a way that takes you out of the jungle. So jungle is there, we cannot wish it away. At the same time we cannot turn this into an alibi - “What do I do, I was born in a jungle. So all my life I just kept wandering in the jungle.” That's a poor excuse.

Q: This dehumanization, which starts from the institution of family, where the family conditions the child saying “You only belong to these people.” Then comes the education, where he is constantly told “You have to only work for yourself.” And then, when he comes into that kind of a state, it is very difficult to even realize for that person that to what extent the conditioning has gone into him.

AP: Then the ones who have realized, must try to make it easier for the ones who have not realized, but have the potential to realize. Right? Obviously the way the child is born and brought up, it is very difficult for him to just know on his own.

We said a while back that even if you live for a thousand years, vidyā will not automatically come to you. You will have to put in dedicated effort. But then, if there are people who have begun opening their eyes, to whatever extent, it is then their responsibility to create conditions in which the child, the next child born, has it easier than they had.

So create institutions, modify our habits, the curricula. There is so much that the child goes through; Try taking care of it. There is no other way. There is no other way. Otherwise, the system is very much a closed and self-contained one. The cycle of ignorance will continue for a million years and there is nothing within the cycle that will disrupt it. Right? It can just continue like that.

You have tribesmen who have been living in a particular way, completely unchanged, since the beginning of civilization. Nothing has changed—the indigenous people. Not only have they not changed, many of them actively and very aggressively resist any external contact.

If you want to get in touch with them, you will be met with bows and arrows. That's the way of prakṛti—physical nature. The responsibility, therefore, belongs to those who have begun knowing. Those who do not know are also free of responsibility (Acharya Ji laughs).

Q 2 (speaker): Yes, if I can just add one sentence on nature and how the businesses are sort of assaulting the nature, I was wondering and I keep saying this to my students all the time—this whole idea “let us protect nature” is a western lens to the solving of the problem.

In fact, I keep telling my students, I also discuss in my courses sometimes very seriously, I think the only education we need is, nature needs absolutely no helping hand from ordinary mortals like us.

My favorite example is, in three hours in 2013, at a place called Kedarnath, the clock was owned by 150 years. Nature can take its own… I think the education that we need, which we are also trying quite seriously, is that we need to be very responsible—that paraspara bahāv… which Gītā talks about—that's the kind of thing that we need to learn.

AP: That’s quite fundamental to the whole thing. You see, we have that ego. And that ego, to address its own lack of contentment, wants to use the entire world. Everything exists so that it can be used by me. So we use all the physical nature. Right? And the feeling is of control - “I will control it,” “I will control it for my own welfare.” “I am smart. I am wise.” “I'm not doing well. I am internally bankrupt, and yet I am very smart and very wise. So I'll decide how to use the entire planet.”

But after a while it becomes very difficult to avoid seeing that I have totally destroyed the planet. So what do I do? I still operate from the point of my doership. I say, “I was the one who destroyed the planet, and now I remaining who I am, I will redress the destruction.” You are the destroyer. How will you suddenly become the savior?

It's just that the doership knows no limits. Sometimes you say that I am hacking the jungle down. Sometimes you say “Oh I am now going for reforestation.” So deforestation and then reforestation.

Sir (other speaker) is saying here that you leave the forest alone. You neither need to deforest nor reforest. You leave it alone, it will take care of itself. Your reforestation, mind these words, is probably as bad as your deforestation, or maybe even worse.

When you are such a drunkard in the internal sense, your consciousness is totally deluded. Do you even know the right meaning of help, or redressal of a grievance? Do you really know what the forest needs? A fundamental question – have you ever known what you really need? Do you know what you need in life? Then how do you know what the forest needs? But the ego and its arrogance know no limits.

So you say, “I do not know my own needs, but I know what the forest needs. So I’ll go and reforest.” Your reforestation might actually be worst than your deforestation. Why can't you just keep your hands away. Hands off! That's what is needed.

But that’s something we cannot tolerate to live with—the realization that I am a sick person, and my first duty is to take care of myself. I am not someone who should go about doing this and that in the planet, winning territories, or helping people, or this-that.

You are in no position to help anybody. Not that helping is bad, but if the surgeon himself is in a drunken state, God save the surgery. Not even God can save the surgery.

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