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Feeling Insecure? Know this || Acharya Prashant, at Goa University (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): Good Afternoon sir, I see that the human mind, all of us, are always looking for security; some sense of security in a job, in relationships, in marriage or maybe in company and we think once we get that security, we will then lead a peaceful life. What do you think, is this chase for security correct, is it ideal or is it something like Krishnamurthy says ‘Psychologically, there is no such security above possible’?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, obviously there is no point in deliberately keeping oneself insecure. As human beings, we all definitely require a certain degree of assurance to just function properly, rather sanely. If you know that the roof on your head is not reliable, not stable, it would be very difficult to attend to this conversation. We require that security. So, that is alright to seek security in the physical sense, in the sense of knowing that the next meal is not really in doubt, that you go to the office tomorrow, it’s not very probable that you would find yourself already fired or that if you return to home in the evening you aren’t going to find your house disappeared and your relatives all absent.

So, that is alright. The thing is to know where the threshold is, where to draw the line. Absolute security is not possible in this relative dualistic world. In this world, only a certain degree of security can be had, and it is perfectly justified to seek that from the world that the world can afford you. The world obviously can afford you some degree of security, and you must arrange to have that much from the world, right? The trouble begins when we start seeking absolute from the relative.

The world exists in relatives. The trouble begins when we start seeking deep inner psychological contentment from attainment. ‘If I can have that, if I can arrange this, if I can manipulate that, if I can somehow connect this to that, then I will have that which makes life really meaningful.’ That is not going to happen. And it is the chase for that, that is keeping us always on the tenterhooks.

Because you see, what happens is, you attain something from the world and you definitely do get a bit of satisfaction. We can’t deny that, right?—Spirituality apart. Pure material attainment does get you a certain degree of satisfaction. We all experience that every day. And when we attain more in the material direction, satisfaction usually does seems to increase.

Now, at this point we tend to make a mistake. What is that mistake? We extrapolate the curve. Whereas the curve really proceeds by ‘law of diminishing return.’ We say, we had 10 units of money, let’s say, and that got us 1 unit of satisfaction. We had 20 units of money, that afforded us 2 units of satisfaction. That satisfaction, you could read synonymous with contentment, well-being, or whatever. Whatever is the word that gives you peace. So, now we extrapolate the curve, we say, ‘This means that 10 units of attainment; 10 more units will give me proportionally more satisfaction.’ No, that does not happen. The curve does not remain linear, the curve flattens, the curve attains a plateau.

But we fail to see that, we fail to see that beyond a point. Even if you keep attaining a lot, your contentment level does not increase, or increases by very little or in certain cases may even dip. Now that is where self-observation, or self-knowledge comes in. Once the curve has flattened, then to increase your contentment level, it is not material that you need. It is self-knowledge that would help. Are you getting it.

More security then is not attainable through more accumulation, or prosperity, or knowledge, or networking, or whatever. That’s not going to happen. What that tells us is that we, indeed, do need to depend on material welfare. Where? At the initial level. At the initial level, you do require certain security from all directions; economic, psychological, political, social, medical, educational. And that is definitely needed, but you cannot keep thinking that just by doing better on the same fronts; economic, social, political etc. you will be able to have more contentment, that won’t happen.

Try to visualize the shape of the curve, it goes linear in the early stages and almost horizontal later on. The tragedy is that what appears horizontal may actually start to even dip after a while. This means that more accumulation may actually lead to lesser contentment. I am speaking to a lot of young people here. You would be setting out into life and you will have crucial decisions to make, and the tradeoff between the tangible and the intangible will always be there. Where to draw the line is always a difficult question to answer. You have to keep asking yourself, ‘Have I reached a point where diminishing returns have kicked in?’ Do you understand diminishing returns?

Let’s say there is zero brightness in this room, all the lights are switched off. I won’t be able to look at you at all, right? Then someone comes in and lights a lantern. Because of that good old poor lantern, I will be able to look at you a little. Then a few of these bulbs are switched on, I will be able to get a fairly clear view of your faces. And then we have these bigger lights, and now I will able to see almost everything that’s there to see. What if we now bring in huge searchlights, will that add to the clarity of the vision? Will that?

Let’s put those lights on your side towards me, a big one on this side and one on the other, and they are throwing so much brightness on my face. Will you be able to have a clearer view of my face now? Probably yes, probably no. Let’s extend the example further. Now, instead of one of those mega lights, we have five of them on this side and five on the other side. Do you see what would happen now? What would happen? Instead of seeing me more clearly, you might find the lights are, in fact, impeding the vision. This is called diminishing returns. This applies to everything that is material. To an extent, it helps your cause, after that it stops helping and if you don’t know at which point this inflexion occurs, you will keep accumulating more and more light, thinking that more light equals more vision. It doesn’t.

So, you must know very clearly where to stop in pursuit of the tangible, the material. Go up to that point, earn up to that point, know up to that point, but beyond that, if you want to accumulate more or achieve more, then you are just wasting your time. Because more from that point onwards does not translate into more clarity or more contentment or more welfare at all. Like food, you are hungry, right? The first two morsels, they are like ambrosia, Oh, my God! What if you keep eating and eating, what happens to your satisfaction? Does it keep increasing linearly? What happens beyond a point? Not only does it drop, but you might also be actually forced to vomit. Mankind is actually standing at a point where it is vomiting due to overconsumption. Those who have known have told us, you must eat only to the point you feel 70 or 80 per cent full and then stop, right? That’s the threshold I am talking of. You must know that beyond this point, accumulating or consuming, or whatever is possible in the worldly sense, makes no sense.

Thus far have I come, thus far have I known or earned or achieved and beyond that, if I do more, then it is just foolish. Am I being clear? Too slow? Too fast? Too abstract? Or too pedestrian? (laughs)

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