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How to be free from this rat race? || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
35 min
111 reads

Question: Acharya Ji, the results of class 10th and 12th are out. And the parents of children who have scored high marks are shouting over the roof top. Entire social media is filled with such declarations.

My first question is: What does it do to their children and other parents and children who may not have scored that well?

And the second question is: Even if as a parent, we do not do so, isn’t there a problem in the system? What should we do as a parent and the current ecosystem?

Acharya Prashant: We come to notice these things only when they present themselves in the loudest manner possible. We talk as if the problem lies in a certain event. We say that the results have been declared and the parents are now behaving in a particular way and that is the problem. Is that the problem?

Have the parents and the kids suddenly converted into believing that it is important to be ambitious, it is important to be competitive and to be a high achiever? Is this something that has suddenly happened? Or was it always there? On the other hand, I would also want to ask: Why does it really hurt when somebody shouts from the roof top, as you said? Is it not so that it can hurt only when you too wanted your kid to do equally well, whatever that means and now that your son and daughter could not be that big achiever, so it hurts when somebody else rub salts into your wounds by openly proclaiming his or her daughter’s achievement.

These are the two things we must go into.

First, is this particular kind of behavior to be seen in isolation? Are the parents demonstrative only at the time of declaration of the results? Are the kids pressurized and ambitious only with respect to the board exams? Or, is it a way of life? A way of life that is always at work, always functional, sometimes grossly, sometimes subtly, but we notice it only when it is at its loudest? Otherwise, we don’t heed. That is the first question.

The second question is: As the ward of the kid, who may not have achieved an astronomical percentage, why it is so relevant to me that somebody else is able to shout and declare that his son has figures higher than mine? Why does it bother me?

The first question: Is it happening only at the time of declaration of Board exams results? Not really. The entire way of living is achievement centric and when one has sowed, watered, nourished, this kind of a tree all his life, one must not be surprised on seeing the fruits. In every small matter of living, we worry so much about the result. Or don’t we? That’s the way the mind has been trained. That’s the way we have made ourselves to be.

When we are so particular about results even in a carom match, even in a chess game, even in a small, trivial argument in a railway coach, when we are so particular about the results even in these small situations, why do you expect that we will not be overwhelmed or depressed with results in a situation like the Board exams? Do we complain when we find that the child is feeling very good in some other exam just because he got a few extra marks that he didn’t probably deserve?

Before the Board exams, there are so many others periodic exams, half-yearlies, quarterlies, so many unit tests, class tests. Are there not? There are. And your kid comes back home after writing such exams and says,”You know what! I had not all prepared for this exam. I had prepared may be just fifty percent of this syllabus. But most of the questions came from there. So you know what! I am expecting eighty percent marks”, and you swell up. Or do you suddenly feel alarmed that something dangerous is happening? Do you feel alarmed? Do you complain? Do you take the kid by the arm and say, “Come son, sit here? We have something to talk about?” Do you say that? No, you just say, “good.” You say, “ Ant bhala to sab bhala. All is well, that ends well.”

So maybe you prepared just fifty percent of the syllabus and now that you are getting eighty percent of marks, it’s good because all that matter is – the end, the result. Does that happen or not? Did you complain that day? That day did you come and complain that my kid is becoming so particular about the results? Now why do you complain? Tell me.

You complain only because you too wanted probably to declare on social media. You complain because you find yourself left behind in the queue, in the race. You are not out of the game. You are as much a part and parcel of the game as the winner is.

Your complaint is not that the game is rotten and it stinks. Your complaint is that you are loser in the game.

Had you too been a winner, you would have never complained.

I would want to receive this kind of a question from the parent of the child who has secured ninety seven percent. They will never complain because everybody is a part of the same result centric, achievement oriented process.

You feel happy when you are in top. You feel bad when you are down in the dumps. And when you are down, then because you do not want to admit that it hurts, you say, “Oh! The game is not good. The game is unfair. Let’s call off the game.” Like petulant kids who do not want to complete the game just because they are losing. Have you seen six years old, ten years old behaving this way? If they are losing a cricket match, a soccer match, anything, they start saying, “The game is unfair. Let’s call it off. Or give me my bat, I am going back, the bat belongs to me.”

This is the same mentality at work. “Because I could not win, hence there is something wrong with the game.” Not that you have come to see, come to realize the intrinsic falseness in the game. No, that has not happened. You are still very much a believer in the game—as much of the believer as is the one who is today shouting from the roof top. It is just that you do not see yourself as a winner right now. There is the winner, there is the loser and then there is the third mind as well. We do not know that third mind. That third mind is the one, who has opted out of the game, who has seen that this game cannot be taken seriously. The winner says that it’s a beautiful game. Why it is a beautiful game? Because I am a…

Listeners: Winner.

Acharya Prashant: As long as I am winning, I will be very appreciative of the game. I will say, “Wonderful! Let’s play a little more.” And then there is the loser who has lots of grudges against the game because he is losing. The moment the tie turns, the winner starts losing and the loser starts winning, their positions will be reversed, their statements will be swapped. Is that not so?

There is a third mind that does not win by winning and does not lose while losing. If it is winning, it is alright with winning. If it is losing, it is equally alright with losing. Do you want to talk about that mind? Is it not much more material to talk about that? Yes? You know, once— may be around a year back or something—I had gone to a shopping mall with Shubhankar (one of the listeners) here and I observed something happening.

Just as we entered the mall—and he was driving, I was in the seat next to him—the fellow who was responsible for giving the entrance slip, the parking slip, he simply didn’t bother to give. He allowed the car to pass.

Now if that happens, then after that there is a penalty. If you park your car there without having the slip then, it racks up a penalty. But anyway just as he crossed, I reminded him that we needed to take it from him and neither did he stopped and nor did he call from behind. So he reversed and we asked him from the slip, the token. And he asked him, “Why didn’t you give that slip to us? That is what you are here for? That’s your duty.” They don’t quite remember but he came up with very frenzy excuse. It was obvious that letting the car pass was a part of the plan.

Listener: He actually blamed us for not stopping.

AP: Yes. And now this fellow, was a poor fellow, just a parking attendant, may be a security guard. He was not rich—mind you, he was not rich. But he was quite adept at taping people and coming up with a false excuse in no time. All right, we park the car, we went inside the mall and we were looking for something. What was it we were looking for? We were looking for pots, earthen pots, simple earthen pots small in size.

So we go inside and it’s a fabulously decorated shop; lavish in all ways. And we reached there and we inquire about the price of a pot very small in size. And the price was in thousands, I suppose? It’s an earthen pot, a clay pot and it was very clear that here again there is an attempt to rob you. This thing in no way can cost this much. Then we went from there and probably I narrated the thing to him that do you see the same thing is at play? Whether it is a rich shop or a poor parking attendant, do you see the same mind is at play?

And he started laughing and he just sat down on the stairs. And one of the guards inside, he comes and says, “Sitting on stairs and laughing is not allowed.” We said, “All right. Yes, of course. In a place like this – obviously not.” I remarked that when you look at a man who is poor, you feel like being charitable, don’t you? You say, “Oh! He is poor. Let’s give something to him.” You do not realize that the poor one is poor just because he could not be rich. Otherwise, he has all the instincts, all the ferociousness, all the ambitions, all the guile of the rich man. He wants to be rich just as much as the rich one wants to keep his riches. Both are playing the same game. It is just as this fellow is a loser. And this loser can turn to a winner any day. You do not know about the weatherize of fate.

You never know when one may just randomly earn money. Even those who seem to have earned money today, even those who seem very rich today, owe a lot to their luck. So you never know when the same luck may shine upon the poor one as well.

Do not think that these are two separate compartments. They are all one, playing the same game. Playing the same game in which there will be a winner and for someone to be a winner, it is needed that somebody must be a loser. They are not different. Look at the fellow who is begging at the crossing. What is really the difference between him and any other immigrant who comes to Noida or Delhi for the sake of getting a better future?

The fellow who is begging at the crossing too does not belong to Delhi. He has come from somewhere else. And he is braving all the hardships just so that he can earn more. And he had never thought that he would come and beg. If today, somehow he gets a better job, he would surely take it.

I am sensitive to the fact that there is a lot of in-humanness involved in begging. I am sensitive to the fact that working in an air conditioned office is no way similar to begging under the harsh sun at a polluted crossing. But still I want to point at a fundamental similarity, at a fundamental unity between the two. And that unity is both are playing the same game. Yes, in one case the game has been decorated a lot and in the other case the game has been utterly ravished, ruined. In one case, the throw of the dice, went in somebody’s favor and in other case, the role of the dice simply didn’t favor the player. Now can there be a third one who is really out of the game—just as we talked of a third mind?

Nobody deserves to be looked at—especially sympathetically—just because he is a loser in the game. And common morality teaches us to be side with the losers, which is quite nonsensical. We are told that if somebody is poor we need to be graceful towards with him, which is quite foolish. Both of them are playing the same game. Give the slightest of chances to the loser and he will immediately turn into a winner. And the moment he turns into a winner, somebody else becomes a…?

Listeners: Loser.

AP: Loser. Now what is there to be sympathetic about? If you have compassion, then your compassion must reach out equally to both the parties. Because both the parties are one. If you see them as separate, then it means that you are identified with either the loser or the winner.

L: Does that mean that you are also in the game?

AP: Of course.

I want you to go into this. Can there be a third one? Can there be a third mind? And when we say the “third one,” obviously the third one does have money. He lives in the society and social transactions require that currency and the third one may have kids. And if the kids are here, they may be a part of the formal schooling system. And that would mean that they would write the Board exams and that means they would get a particular percentage of marks. But how does the third one live? How does the third one respond? What is the quality of that mind which is not a winner in winning and not a loser in losing? What is the quality of that mind? From where does that come?


L: Equal for both.

AP: A nd how will that happen?

When does the game start mattering too much to you?

L: When we wish for something.

AP: When you wish for something. When you pin a lot of hopes on the results, on the game. Here you are and then an event starts taking place in front of eyes. You may be a participant or not a participant in the event. Any way becoming a participant does not require much. You just have to attach yourself and you become a participant.

When does it happen that you start taking that event very seriously? Here you are and an event commences. When do you start taking that event very seriously, in terms of the outcome?

L: When you see the chances of winning.

AP: When you see the chances of winning.

So what kind of mind it is that is looking forward to win?

L: Ambitious.

AP: Yes, go closer to this.

L: A mind that wants to prove a point.

AP: Yes, and why do you want to prove a point – to yourself or the other? Why must you prove something?

L: Because the person feels he lacks.

AP: So, how is he feeling even when he is just sitting by himself even before the event has commenced? How is he feeling?

L: Pressure.

AP: An internal pressure; an internal urge—as you said— to prove.

Go closer to that mind. That is the mind that experiences hypertension, that is the mind that motivates the kids to fetch high results, that is the mind that cannot forgive itself for failing. Do you see that mind? That mind is not something theoretical, that mind is not something away from us or out from us. Do you see that mind at work in our daily lives? And if you cannot notice that mind within yourself, at least notice it when it shows up in the form of tangible events.

Have you not seen yourself swell up when your name, let’s say appears in a newspaper? You open the morning newspaper and you find your name there, a report carrying a mention of you. And it feels good. Does it not? Now what does that mean? It’s that not just the opportunity to catch yourself. You may still be a little sleepy, you have just woken up, you go and pick up the morning paper and you turn the pages and you find, “Oh! That’s me.” And suddenly your sleep is gone and you are feeling that this is the most beautiful morning ever. The bird has started chirping, the sun is brighter, there are butterflies dropping from nowhere.

“It’s really a good morning now.”

What does that mean?

That means that even when you are sleepy, even when you are ostensibly not expecting anything, still the mind was thirsty, still the mind was actually expectant. You looked as if you were absorbed in sleep or in dreams. But you were not? Deep within, your tendencies, the subconscious was still searching for success. Had it not been searching for success, it could not have been delighted when success came to it. Are you getting it? You could not have been delighted when it just suddenly seen to come.

It is always a useless thing to cry after…? What kind of milk?

L: Spilled milk.

AP: Spilled milk. But that’s what we do.

We do not notice ourselves in small matters of the day. But we cry hoarse when those small matters assume big forms. If you do not want to be hurt by big events pay attention to the small signs. It is the punishments of those who pay no heed to the small indicators that they will have to bear the pain of big hurt .

And the signs are always there because it’s one’s own mind. It’s the same mind – always at work, always at function. It has to be seen in everyday movements.

If you are not paying attention to the rumbling of volcano, be prepared to be buried under the lava.

It does not just suddenly erupt. It rumbles a lot, then it roars, it gives you all the warnings. It is there, but still even when it is rumbling, even when all the signs are been presented—on the outside the mountain may be still snow covered—so if you are someone who cannot pay attention to the very obvious signs, then you can keep consoling yourself by saying, “Oh! But still there is no eruption, no smoke, no fire, no lava.” Your punishment is that you will be buried under the lava. And what is the point in asking from under your grave?

Buried in that not very comfortable grave, now you come and ask, “Where did I go wrong?’ What’s the point?

That third mind never goes anywhere. It is not third at all. It is not a particular state of mind at all. It is your very reality. It is that which remains even when you are lost amidst one and two.

Even when you are identified with being a winner or the loser, still there is something within you which can neither be a winner nor a loser. I just called it the third state. It is not the third state. It is your fundamental nature. It is your fundamental nature that gets hidden when you are obsessed with winning and losing. The fact is – deep within, you don’t bother and that’s such a relief, such a mercy. Fact is, after the greatest victory, when you go to sleep, the victory is gone and the victor is nowhere. And after the greatest loss, when you again go to sleep, you are neither the loser, nor is the game anywhere. And you like it. Don’t you?

Is there anybody who hates himself sleeping? IS there anyone who says, “No, it’s such a bad day. I cannot go to sleep.” Sleep is always relaxing; always because in sleep you are neither one nor two. That is the secret of sleep. That three is always there. Just don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t be too severe with yourself.

You have no obligation to win, lose or even participate. In your sweet will, in your innate joy, you may decide to participate, in your playfulness, you may even decide to go for a win; in your love, you may decide to lose. But none of that must matter too much with you. Your essential freedom lies in your ability to walk in at any point and also to walk away at any point.

Join the game, leave the game. Join the war, leave the war. Join the war without bothering about what can befall you, what kind of harm, what kind of wounds or what kinds of glory and victory and leave the war without wondering what the others might think of you and what are the opportunities that you are squandering?

Your freedom does not merely lie in not playing the game.

Your freedom also lies in joining the game as and when you please. And the one who is able to join the game as and when he pleases, is also the one who will be able to leave the game as and when he pleases.

Are you getting it?

He will not be averse to a sweeping victory. It may just come. “98% marks?” Yes, that may happen. Nothing evil about it. And he will not be destroyed by a crushing defeat. He takes both in his side. Unfortunately, we have a culture that teaches the kid to take the defeat in his stride but very often it misses to tell the kid that the victory too needs to be taken in the same way. That’s why for the second time I am saying that conventional morality works. It often is just a question for the ego.

Have you not seen the disproportionate emphasis that is put on motivation? There are a thousand poems that would talk about getting up every time you fall. Have you not read such poems that even if you meet a defeat, don’t stop, don’t quit, it is your nature to strive and achieve and succeed? Have you not read such poems? But against the thousands such poems, do you know of even ten that say that when you are walking with your head held high, why not just have the fun of stumbling and falling down? Each of these poems say that when you fall down, then you must immediately gather yourself and get up. But how many poems have you read that talk about the equal pleasure of falling down? So it’s a very unequal emphasis. The emphasis always on is on the loser side.

You are immediately told that if you are a loser, then don’t lose hope. “You may have lost a war but don’t lose hope. Collect yourself. You have it in you to win.” But do we have poems addressing the winners telling them that even if you have won, go and relinquish the victory; go and drop the victory? Have you read any such poems? May be there are a few but too few and far in between; Just too few. We need more such poems. We need to introduce our kids to the sheer delight to losing from a winning position.

We have songs which say, “haari baazi ko jeetna jise aata hai, sikandar vo kehlaata hai.” We need songs that say, “Jeete baazi ko haarna jisko aata hai, vo aur bada sikandar kehlaata hai.” We need that.

Do you know what it takes to drop a victory which is yours to take home? It’s right in your lap and you give it away? Do you know what a sheer act of courage that is? And it’s not been stolen from you. It’s not been grabbed away and snatched. You have willfully given it up.

If you are particular only about winning then losing will hurt so much.

And even if by some chance, you continue to be a winner, even when if your life is an unabated series of wins, yet for every victory that you get, you would be producing more and more losers because you have to win always against somebody. And if you are through your actions, through your life, through your ambitions, just producing more and more losers, what kind of life are you living? Remember, you live in a relationships with others. And if you are always a winner, the others are always a..

L: Loser.

AP: And what kind of a relationship will you with them then? A relationship of exploitation, violence, a very disharmonious, unequal, relationship. The husband is always the winner, the wife is always a loser. One brother is a winner, the other is a loser, you are a winner, the neighbor is in the dumps. How will you live? How? With all your victories, how will you breathe?



When you live from a point of simple, basic fulfillment which is fortunately your established nature, then victory and defeat, neither of them can mean too much.

People have called that equanimity. You can use any other name.

I repeat, equanimity is not about being indifferent to this and that. That indifference is not the essence of equanimity. That indifference is only superficial. Equanimity is fundamentally about being full in your own inner delight. And these are two different things. When you say equanimity is about being indifferent to something, it’s a very negative statement. It’s a statement in which you are dropping something. It is a statement in which you are not something. That’s the conventional definition of equanimity. Is it not? Neither victorious, nor a loser – no, equanimity is not that.

Equanimity is only superficially about not being attached to winning or losing. Deeply, fundamentally it is about being full and complete. And don’t ask how that fullness is to be attained. You can’t get it. You can’t beget it. It is there. Mercifully, it is there. And because it is there, hence it is so bizarre, so weird that in spite of being full, one acts like a beggar. Now knowing that one is full, if one acts like a beggar, then its fun.

Recently a singer from Mumbai posed as a beggar; almost as a destitute. And he went about roaming and he even got donations. He went about singing, doing—I have not read the report in detail but I guess this must have been done—and after that he is so delighted because he is playing the actor in his richness. Being rich, he has decided to play the beggar. Now you are delighted while begging and after begging. Are you not? And look at the beggar who actually takes himself to be the beggar? Is he delighted while begging? That’s the difference. Know that you are rich and and then go and beg.

But first of all know that you are awfully rich. (Smilingly) Stinking rich.

You are so rich that it is oozing out of you. And you are so rich that you are not bothered to check how much you have oozed out. Almost like Kunal (one of the listener) when he returns from Japan – so much you have.


Are you getting it?

And then you can pretend that you want more. And you can pretend in such a realistic way that even you come to believe as if that you are wanting more but deep within, you must know that all this talk of obtaining is just a pretension. You do not really need more. It’s a thin line. It’s a delicate thing. Yes? So you are not indifferent really towards winning.

Yes, when you are in the game, you play with passion. You play with passion, but somewhere you know that you don’t really need to win. Yes? You don’t really…

L: Need to win.

AP: You know my Nani (grandmother) she used to make a very delightful dish from singhadha. Its name was Katra. It was almost like cake. It was spread over a large area, over large plate, and then it was cut; and then you would get small geometrical pieces. And they were utterly tasty, so damn tasty. I wish I could have a little right now.


And then along with that…

L: My mother also bakes it.

AP: You know of this?

L: Yes.

AP: We will talk.


Now along with that, she also used to make something from milk. A thick kind of sauce, a paste and when you would have that with this (paste), you know! (Expressing the deliciousness of the mixture). But even when this was not there, this was ‘Wow!’ So you would not always have the stuff, the liquid in which to dip it and eat but it didn’t matter. Are you getting it?

Even the fundamental stuff is so good that you don’t really need anything else. But if you get something else, take it just as the icing, the topping. Is the cake any reduced if the topping not there? Are you getting it? You must know that the cake; the basic dough is always there. Now if you want, you can ornament it. You can bring this, twenty kind of sauces and chatnis, and you can decorate it and do whatever you want to do. But you don’t need to feel as if you are going hungry. You are not going hungry. You are not going even with insipid food. You have the tastiest of foods, with you, always.

In wanting more, never forget what you already have.

Can you remember this? In wanting more, never forget what you already have and what you already have is just too much; just too much to even carry it—let alone consume. Now knowing that you have so much, go ahead and want more; or go ahead and drop a little. How does it matter?

The billionaire will not swell up if he gets ten dollars more and he will not be devastated if he loses ten rupees. Yes? All your loses and victories are like winning or losing ten rupees when you are already a billionaire. It would look so bizarre. The billionaire is partying hard. Why?

L: He earned ten bucks.

AP: He earned ten bucks and he is partying.

And it would look equally grotesque; the billionaire…

L: C rying.

AP: H as gone suicidal.


He is visiting some psychiatrist to treat his depression. Why? Lost ten rupees.

You cannot lose more than that, neither can you earn more than that. Yes?

When you will find yourself not comfortable in the market place because you are seeing large cars swizz passed you, how will it matter what is the number written on your mark sheet? How will it matter?

Will it matter then, when you will find that you are incapable of loving your kid, will it matter the grade printed on your score sheet? Will it matter then? What will you do? You will display your mark sheet to the kid? Is that what will you do? When you will find that you are distracted and lonely even in your moments of deepest intimacy, will you stare at your certificates?

Use your certificates to wipe your tears. That’s all that you can do. And your tears will wipe away your percentage, high or low. D grade or distinction, doesn’t matter.

How will those marks help you in living? Seriously? How will those extra numbers carry you through life? How? How, exactly? What are you thinking? And will you eat and be happy that you have eaten? I have been raised with the breed that is called the breed of highest achiever. People who go to IITs to IIMs; who compete really hard and sometimes I meet few of them. And what are they doing with all their accomplishments now? Weeping about their wives, crying that they have no relationship with their kids. Now go! Go and get those certificates framed in gold or platinum and then get those frames bedded with diamonds. Will it help you?

How does it help?

I am not saying that the opposite of this is true. I am not saying that you should embrace mediocrity. I am not saying that if today, you are a 98% fellow, then it is far better to be a 48% fellow. No. 98 and 48 are one. That’s all that I am saying. To be stuck at 98 is bad, to be stuck at 48 is obviously, equally bad. And there is a class of such people who have glorified 48%. They call themselves rebels. They say, “You know! Look at us. We didn’t run the rat race and that’s why we are at 48%.” You are lying. You ran and you stumbled and you fell down and you get hurt and you limped. And you didn’t even complete the race and you are trying to make a virtue out of it.

Remember the third one. Never conflate the first one with the third, neither the second one. And it is easier to mix these two up. The second and third. You look at someone who is living a life of poverty, of destitution and you feel there must be something great about this man, something virtuous. Not really! Do not look at the outcome of what he did. Look at the center from where he did.

Are you getting it?

There is no glory in being a loser, just as there is no glory in being a winner.

When you are watering the plants, you have to be a good gardener, you have to be a sensitive human being who knows plants. What will do with your physics marks then? How will it help, how much you have scored in mathematics? You are watering the plants. So enable that in your kids, which connects them to plants. Their grades and marks will not do that.

In fact, you must know that all education is I – centric, especially science. Science look at the world and totally forgets the ‘I’ because takes the ‘I’ to be important and essential and unchanging. It does not even question the I. The science takes the ego, even if an objective ego to be the highest, that is why it never turns around to look at it. The more deeply you are steeped in science—in some way, the more selfish you become because you will never question yourself. You will say, “Oh! I see the stars; so the stars have to be there.” What is the proof that the sun and the moon exist? The proof is that I see them, so they must exist. Now I will not question whether they exist. I will just find out their distance from the earth.

Science never question whether the universe really exists or not? It takes that to be the fundamental reality because it says that how can it be false when I perceive it. I am so truthful, I am such an unquestionable representative of Truth that what seems to me has to be the Truth. So I will never turn around and ask, “Does that pendulum really exists?” I will never ask that. I will go ahead and calculate the time period, the length and the relationships and such things. Have you ever heard a scientist asking this question, “Does the pendulum really exists; exist even without me?” What is the pendulum? What is this me and what is our relationship? That science will not ask. So even if you are getting very high marks, even if your mark sheets are like ornaments still it only means that you have to negotiate a deeper danger now.

You are holding the hand of your beloved. How will your marks help you know whether to kiss? How? Which textbook exactly will you refer? Yes? How will you know what is it to cry and what is it to laugh and what is it to be yourself in the middle of crying and weeping? How?

Don’t be so swelled up with all this business of achievement, of academic attainment and such things. Remember, that a good student is first of all a surrendered student. Do not just ask them to be good students. First of all, take them to surrender.

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