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Grandpa says teenagers must not date || Acharya Prashant, at Mithibai College, Mumbai (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Questioner: Good afternoon, Sir! I am Hia Shah from FIGCR. My question is – according to Indian society, it is not permissible for teenagers to date. What are your thoughts about it?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Thank you for the question, please sit. Society is not one thing, right? In one sense, we are born in a society, we get raised in a society; in another sense, as adults, we not only choose our society but also build our society. That’s what discretion is all about. That’s what free will, free thought, and free choice are all about.

You are not condemned to live in one particular society that surrounds you purely by chance, or are you? There are multiple societies, and if you can’t find a suitable society, come on, build one, and be at the center of that creation.

What do we call as society? Let’s consider it, please. Probably your contact list in your phone. That’s what your society is, isn’t it? That’s a fairly approximate but correct representation; that's what you call as a society.

Now, how long exactly is that contact list, how long? How many friends do you have on Instagram or Facebook? A few thousand? You combine everything, put everything together, your contact list, your friends, your followers, anybody and everybody you know of, or even know the name or face of; that stretches to at most a few thousand people, am I right? Or do we have mega influencers here? We don’t have them, right? So a few thousand people.

What is the population of this planet? 800 crore people! Now tell me, how do you define your society, and why must it be constrained by 800, when you have 800 crore options available? Look at the kind of opportunity you are utilizing. How many are our contacts? We said 800 approximately, right? And what's the population of the planet? 800 crores! So the opportunity we are utilizing is one in a crore. Is that not a huge waste to keep everybody but one away in a crore?

You were given one crore options, but you stuck to just one of them, and that one of them even if that one is not your choice, it is chance. The people you know of, how many of them are with you by your choice, your volition? Please tell me.

Some of them you know because they happen to be your batchmate? Am I right? Some of them you know because they happened to be your schoolmates, or they happened to be residing in a nearby locality, some of them happened to be your relatives, and some of them our chance acquaintances. You happened to meet somebody in the Metro or on the bus, or in a fest, right? And just because you happen to be with that person you know, “I know him, we exchange numbers”.

Somebody just happens to be your roommate in your hostel? You don’t choose your roommate usually, do you? You are allotted rooms in the hostel. So even these 800 which are just one by one crore of the opportunity available to you are just random people, who have by chance come into your life. Mostly, there would be some choices involved but please get the drift – we cannot be 100 percent accurate, we are trying to say something. Why can’t we base our choice on freedom, why can’t we live by volition, must we live by chance or choice? As young people, please tell me.

Audience: Choice.

AP: Choice, right? And as youngsters of today, you like to be choosy, don’t you? We all like to be choosy and it’s a thing of pride to say “I am choosy”, and it must be a thing of pride to say “I am choosy”. But when it comes to the most important thing in our life, we don’t choose at all. For example, the society our friend is talking about. We don’t choose our society; we simply say, “Oh! Society is something foisted on us”. In this age of virtual reality, and empowered technology, why must you bear something that is by chance imposed on you? Please tell me!

Is it necessary? Is it necessary to say that I belong to such and such family, and such and such tradition, and such and such religion? Therefore, I have to have such and such society? Is this statement empowerment? Because I am a brahmin, so 60 percent of my friend are brahmins, and that happens, believe me! In this time and age that happens. Because I am a girl, 70 percent of my contact list is girls. Because I am a boy, 90 percent of my contact list is girls. That has always happened, that does not belong to this time and age, right? It’s another matter that 50 percent of them have blocked me, nevertheless, in my list they exist.

Must we be slaves to our gender, our location, our past, our history, our religion, our geography, and our age? Is it necessary? I am asking, is it necessary? Don’t tell me it’s not practical, just tell me, is it necessary? I don’t hear a resounding No.

Audience: No! (loudly)

AP: It’s not necessary, right? We have one life, and we deserve to live it in freedom. How many lives do you have? I have only one life, I don’t know about you. I have just one and every hour I am reminded by the world I look at, that I do not know when the last hour may ring, when the bell may start tolling. No certainty, right? Or is there some certainty?

You hear of youngsters collapsing in the gym out of cardiac arrest. The second and third covid waves were especially harsh on youngsters. Are you certain you have a lot of time? Or is this an unpleasant question? Or is this a question we should always keep in mind? Or should we just keep it aside as “No! No! Scary! Don’t think of it”? If you have one life, why must you spend it in frustration, in bondage, in a feeling of helplessness? Is it necessary? Not at all! So, pick, choose, and we have not yet come to dating, we will talk about that.

Now coming to dating. Societies follow their respective cultures and let’s define culture. First thing, what is culture? Culture is just an accepted and traditionally transmitted way of behaving. There’s nothing more to that.

How do you identify the culture of a people or a place? You look at them, how they talk to each other, how they greet their elders, how they bless their juniors, how they eat, how they worship, how they erect their buildings, right? What is their architecture like? How their roads are like? Are they punctual? Are they soft-spoken? Are they loud? How do they behave with animals? How do they behave with men and women? How do they behave with foreigners? All that comes under cultures and equally what are their shared myths? What are the stories they believe in, and what are their self-concepts? All this is culture.

Simply put, the culture of a place is evident in the behavior of the people of that place, nothing more than that. And culture is very, very fluid. When you say, there is a society that does not approve of dating, you are referring to the culture of that society. Am I right? Does that society have a frozen culture? In the sense that, has the culture of society remained the same over the last 50 or 100 years?

Now food habits, for example, are included in the culture. Food is an important ingredient in culture. Were people eating pizza and pasta and chips, 100 years back? Were they wearing the same kind of dresses 100 years back? And I am talking of even the most conservative of societies. Even the most conservative of societies keep changing as a culture.

All cultures are fluid and culture is supposed to be fluid. Culture has to change in light of advancements in science, technology, knowledge, empowerment, and the economy. As these things change, culture also changes. Culture is supposed to change. Culture does not deserve the kind of sacred and unchangeable respect and the spot we provide for it.

In India, it’s a thing that has gained momentum in the last 10 years or so. We have started thinking of culture as sacred. Now by definition, sacred is something that cannot change. Truth is sacred because Truth is unchangeable, right? But we have started believing as if culture has to be put in a temple and defied, worship as a deity – the deity of culture, Sanskriti .

Culture is not all that important. Culture is something you are empowered to change as per the needs of the development of your consciousness. What is important is Truth. What is important is freedom. Freedom is central, culture must follow freedom. If you want to assess the quality of the culture of a place, the one question you must ask is, is the culture conducive to freedom? Because freedom is the highest goal. Socially, spiritually, and individually; in every way, the highest goal of human life is freedom.

So, a culture is good if it protects and promotes freedom and a culture deserves to be changed if it does not protect and promote freedom. Freedom is the benchmark. Freedom is the litmus test. Getting it? So, people sticking to the dictates of their culture is something you need not take very seriously.

What are young people supposed to do if they do not meet each other? What's the alternative to dating, I ask? Arrange marriage? If people don’t date, basically what you are saying is, there would be arranged marriages, right? And don’t we know of the horror of arranged marriages? I am not saying love marriages are any less horrible, but the horror of arranged relationships is special. Very, very unique! If a young man and a young woman cannot meet as a man and woman, how are they ever going to strike up a relationship? I am asking a very practical question, please tell me.

First of all, they have all the freedom to do that. Secondly, if you take away that freedom, what will happen to the most foundational of human relationships – the relationship between a man and a woman? How is that ever going to be formed? What's the answer? Papa and Mummy will do that? How dignified does it sound? Papa is dating the girl you want to marry? That’s what arranged marriage is about, right? The girl you want to marry is meeting papa. And the papa will then decide whether or not the girl can enter your house. Are you getting it?

Meet each other as free individuals – as free men and free women. Free not only of external pressure but also of internal ego. Do not meet the other as someone to be exploited. Do not meet the other as a means of entertainment. Meet the other as someone who would be helpful to you in your next steps through life and meet the other as someone you’d like to be with, in a friendly way.

Fear is something that is the target of all religions, all spirituality, and all wisdom. Freedom from fear is what spirituality ultimately wants. You should not be afraid; you should be free. So, the first thing you should be free of is the fear of society. Second thing, you should be free of the tyranny of your own ego.

Do not be mean when you date. Your lust should not be the driver when you date. You are not using the other as a means for your entertainment and enjoyment when you date, ensure that. If that is ok, then dating is something obvious, smooth, and even desirable. A boy can meet a boy, a girl can meet a girl, and a girl can meet a boy. It’s all ok, it has to happen, and the society that does not allow this is a sick society.

Equally, an individual who meets another individual for all the wrong reasons is a sick individual. Not meeting is sick if you are not meeting because you are afraid of the society. Equally, meeting is sick if you are meeting the other to exploit the other. Meet the other, date the other, but with the right intentions from the right center. All is ok. Does that somehow answer? Thank you!

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