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Have the guts to question everything || Acharya Prashant, at Mithibai College, Mumbai (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
75 reads

Questioner (Q): Sir, my question to you is, from a student's perspective, how do you think we should balance our social life with our academic life?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Have people in your social life who do not take you away from your academic life. What happens is that there is your academic life, and it is very separated from your social life. Why can't your social life become a shadow of your academic life or vice versa? What I am talking of is a "unification." There is usually a contrast, a separation. The friends that we have, when it comes to studies, are not the same ones we have when it comes to enjoyment. Am I right? One set of study buddies and another set of fun buddies. That separation is not something great. Find out a way where the two can be made one. What do you have in academic life? Something that gives knowledge to you — there are books, there are classes, there are schedules, and there are examinations, there must be some laboratories. All these things involve interactions. Do they not?

You cannot be in a lab all alone, and when you are in a classroom, obviously, you are surrounded by so many people and friends. So, why can't the academic environment itself become your social environment or, at least, drive your social environment? Why do I need to say that my social life involves the ones I care for, whereas my academic life involves the ones I am with just because of chance or helplessness?

If you can integrate these two — your academic and your social life, broadly speaking, or your professional and your personal life — you will find that you are in a blissful space. Going ahead, that is the question that will bother you: “How to balance personal with professional life?” And the answer is: There is no need to balance; there is a need to integrate.

There is a difference between balancing and unifying. When you balance two things, those two things still remain opposites of each other, contrary to each other, like the two sides of a balance. Have you seen a weighing balance? There are these two sides, and they are moving opposite to each other where one rises and the other falls. That is what you call as balance.

Balance essentially means that neither side can achieve completion. Neither side can ever be hundred per cent. There would always be a fifty-fifty nature. So, balance means incompletion both ways. This is incomplete; that is incomplete, and since both are fifty-fifty, therefore, both appear equal, balanced, neutralized. That is not good.

Life is so that you can have one hundred per cent of that which matters, not fifty per cent of this and that. Hundred per cent of that which matters. So, integrate these things. Why be one person in personal life, another one in professional life? Why choose the kind of profession that you cannot personally bear? Why does one do that? For the same reason, one chooses the wrong degree, the wrong college, or the wrong course. The same reason makes people choose the wrong jobs as well. And then they say, "Job is torture. Professional life is hell. But I return to my personal nests in the evening, in the nights, and find some solace there." And this they call as a balance. Do you see this?

"I get very tensed in the office, and then I come back, and there is my six-month-old daughter, and she is my stress buster." — Have you heard that? Do you think that's something you want to happen to you? Irrespective of how great is the time you spend with your little daughter, will that redeem the nine hours of stress you faced in the office?

You come back typically at seven or eight at night. How much time can you spend with the little one? — Two hours? Three hours? And how much time you spent in the office and that too every day? — Eight hours? Nine hours? And if you add the commute to it, then ten, twelve hours. How can two hours of stress-busting negate twelve hours of stress?

But you will say, "I have a balance, I have a balance." No, there is no balance. The same kind of beauty that you seek in your personal life, that same beauty you must seek in your professional life also. Just as you enjoy being with friends in your personal life, the same way you must choose the kind of academics you can enjoy doing. Then there will be no division. Then you will not be running from pillar to post. Then one thing will not be used as an antidote to the other. Do you know what they say in the corporate world? The usual employee looks forward to only two things. What are those two things? — Sundays and salary days. And what does he do with the salary on Sundays? He furthers his personal life. Look at the irony. You tolerate the entire week so that you can have some salary and so that you can have one free day. The entire professional life — five days, six days — is tolerated so that you can have some money and one day of freedom. And then, on one day of freedom, you spend the money on your loved ones, and then you say that there is some balance. “There is professional life which is hellish but yields money, and then there is personal life that I take care of on Sundays. Sunday is family day." Is this the kind of future you want to look forward to?

Let every day be a Sunday, and let every Sunday be a working day. How's that? The first part or the second part? "Let every day be a Sunday" sounds nice. “Let every day be a working day.” See, these two will always go together in a bunch. You can't have just one of these. If every day is to be a Sunday, then every Sunday has to be a working day. And believe me, there is no better life possible. If every day could be a working day, then surely you are enjoying your work. Otherwise, every day just can't be a working day. And when every day is a working day, every day is a Sunday. You don't need holidays. You don't need breaks. Not sounding nice, delicious? "How can every day be a working day?"

One of my teachers told me when I was your age, no, even younger, maybe in class eleven or twelve, he said, "The person who stops keeping count and track of his Sundays goes very far." The day Sundays will cease mattering to you is the day you will have come to some distance in your life. And if Sundays continue to remain very important, it means you are divided, kind of tortured within.

Q: According to you, questioning oneself increases progress or downfall?

AP: Whatever it does, irrespective of what it does, it must happen. And progress cannot happen without self-doubt. If there is no self-doubt, you will stagnate. You will say, "I am already where I need to be. What I am saying is perfect. Where I am standing is correct." And as youngsters, you must avoid that kind of confidence, rather brashness.

You must always be a little doubtful, a little skeptical, especially of yourself. Even if you feel sure about something, never say, "I have settled into a conclusion." That's not the characteristic of a free mind. If you conclude too early, and if you confide in your conclusions too strongly, you will find you are often stuck at very undesirable, very unworthy places.

So, do question yourself as much as possible. And it will cause a certain discomfort because we have trained, we have been trained to always display confidence. But when you are skeptical, then you cannot always display confidence. There will be some humility. There will be some introspection. So, it's possible that in your community, among your friends, some may say that this person is not all that confident, probably a little weak, probably a little shy. That's okay.

Not appearing confident is far, far better than appearing confident for foolish reasons. The problem today is not that youngsters don't have confidence. The problem today is that a lot of youngsters who should actually be doubtful of themselves have just too much confidence. And that confidence obviously is very shallow. So, when life strikes them, their confidence is easily shattered. And then there is depression. Then there are all kinds of neurotic behaviour and panic and whatnot.

But if you see there are a lot of advertisements these days on social media, public speaking classes, English speaking classes, personality development classes for six-year-olds, eight-year-olds, ten-year-olds, and parents are rushing to admit their wards into such courses and classes. And usually, the ads will have an eight or ten-year-old standing in a very confident pose, sometimes even in a preachy pose.

Now, you wonder what is this kid so confident about. What does he have? What does he know? But that's the ideal of this time and age — confidence, just shallow confidence. The mark of the student who's going to progress is that he would continuously be looking inwards. Those who don't look inwards, those who just keep looking outwards — this side and that side and at the world — never really grow.

So, irrespective of what happens as a result of self-inquiry, never stop questioning yourself. And if you are too concerned about the result, then take it from me that the result would be auspicious. "Auspicious." Auspicious is different from desirable. Auspicious is higher than desirable. Keep questioning yourself.

Q: Sir, that was beautiful, and I'm pretty sure most of us would have taken a lot of inspiration from that. And there's just one last question that I want to ask you personally. Everyone over here asked you a question, but for you, what is something that you want to leave behind as a legacy?

AP: As a legacy? I want myself and my words to truly disappear from everywhere. If I have succeeded, then what I have done and what I have said should not be needed anymore. If the patient has actually been cured, would he still keep the medicines? Let the medicines disappear. That would be proof of my success. That's the legacy.

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