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How to remain committed to one’s decisions || BITS Pilani (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Questioner (Q): I want to talk about being committed to our decisions. Let’s say, for example, I decide that I will stop eating junk food from today, or rather minimize my consumption of junk food. But what happens is that I stick to it for a month or forty-five days, and then I go back to my earlier pattern of eating whatever I want. And this happens with my other decisions also. For example, even if I decide to attend all the lectures from today onwards, after a week or two weeks I will start skipping lectures. So, how can I become more conscious or more aware and take ownership of my decisions?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Why do you want to attend lectures?

Q: So that I will get the required information to do well in my classes. So that I will learn enough to do well in my exams.

AP: Make up your mind.

Q: I want to attend classes because that is what everyone says.

AP: “Because that is what everyone says.” That is the way you are born, you know. The entire population of this Earth—that is the way we are born. Two people say, “That is what everyone says.” Why do you want to attend lectures? Is there an attendance requirement?

Q: No.

AP: Zero?

Q: Yeah.

AP: What is the usual attendance in classrooms?

Q: Let’s say, if there are a hundred students, in good classes there would be around sixty students. And if the professor is not liked by the students, there would be around fifteen to twenty students.

AP: Or is it so that fifteen to twenty is anyway the upper limit, irrespective of how good the professor is?

Q: No, in some classes sixty percent of the students are attending.

AP: Then you guys are a special lot!

Q: That is, including the lab classes and all.

AP: Where anyway if you don’t go you flunk, right? So, you have to go. I am talking of lectures because that is what you started off with.

Q: My question was not just about attendance. It is about all the decisions that I think would make my life better. For example, in the entire year of 2021, I have been trying to go to the gym. I go for three to four weeks, and…

AP: Why do you want to go to the gym?

Q: Because of multiple things. One, I feel better when I go to the gym, I feel more energetic and all; second, it is good for my health in the long term, right?

AP: And you still don’t go to the gym, right?

Q: Yeah.

AP: So, there is something that pleases you more than being energetic.

Q: Yeah, being lazy.

AP: That’s what!

Q: So, how do I overcome that?

AP: There has to be something bigger than laziness, because laziness is contained in the body itself. What do you mean by lazy? Define laziness.

Q: Laziness is basically, like, I don’t want to waste my energy, I will just be sitting down here or playing games, etc.

AP: Son, ‘laziness’ is an unnecessary pejorative. You are imposing morality on Prakriti (physical nature) and calling it laziness. There is nothing called as laziness. In physical nature, there is the tendency towards work minimization, and it is a very logical thing—try to get the maximum output from the minimum work possible. Now, you are looking at it from moral lenses and calling it laziness. If you have an idea that something is giving you more output with lesser work, you will do it. That option will be chosen. In the moral vocabulary, you can call that as laziness, but you will choose that option because you are perceiving good output from your action or the lack of it. The output is pleasure; the activity is remaining lying down on your bed. And that is the net gain from it: “I will keep lying down on my bed, I will gain pleasure.”

So, there is a thing within you that calculates the ratio: “How much pleasure did I get, and how much energy and effort did I have to invest?” And if that ratio is greater than the ratio of the energy, health, or whatever you get from the gym divided by the energy you put in the gym, something within you will always choose lying down on the bed, irrespective of whether you call it laziness or whatever.

Effort minimization is required in Prakriti , physical nature. It is a prerequisite for our physical survival. Every species, if you look at all the animals and other people, what are they doing? If they start expanding energy left, right, and center, they will die because energy comes from food, and food requires a lot of effort in the jungle. So, Prakriti has trained our bodies to be effort-efficient. That effort-efficiency, in the moral glossary, is called laziness. It is just effort-efficiency. Don’t call lazy people lazy; they are just effort-efficient.

Now, it looks sorted at this point, but it is not. Why? Because the output that you have calculated from your classes, or gym, or anything that is worthwhile has been grossly underestimated, and that is why the ratio is not favorable. There is a particular pleasure that you get from sleeping, and that is undisputed. “I am sleeping and I am spending very little energy.” So, the ratio is very high because the denominator is very low. The denominator is the effort you are putting in. The effort that you are putting in is so small that the output is very big. Now, you go to the gym and the effort you put in is large; therefore, the numerator has to be correspondingly very large if you are to exceed the ratio that you get in sleeping.

Unfortunately, for you, the benefits that you see from attending classes, or going to gym, or reading, or all the great activities, have not been properly calculated. Only when you will properly and insightfully know the benefits that you get, your decision will change. The moment that appreciation changes, that ratio changes, automatically the inner desire will change. But if you try to change your decision while keeping the ratios adverse, you will find that you are again and again slipping back. Sleeping will always be more attractive than working if the ratio has not been properly calculated.

There has to be a reason why someone expends their energy. Think about it. A lion expends all his energy—now, what happens to him? He is tired. If he is tired, two problems arise: one, he must immediately go for food, he must immediately hunt; second, if he is tired, then his ability to hunt decreases. Therefore, in Prakriti there is a strong urge towards conserving energy. If you don’t understand that urge, you will just keep addressing it as laziness and such things. It won’t help.

What is energy-efficiency in Prakriti is laziness in morality and unconsciousness in spirituality. If you call it laziness, you are not understanding. So, simply call it unconsciousness. You are unconscious; that is why you are lazy. You do not know; that is why you are lazy.

Let’s say you are lying in a room and you are drunk—as we all are, we are born drunkards—and there is fire in the room, and it is winter—not the Goa winters, the Delhi winters. There is a nice fire in the room, you are drunk, and you are feeling, in fact, nice, pleasured. The room is burning and the fire is just getting big and big. You continue to enjoy your position; you are just lying down. You do not realize that the room is about to be burned down and that you too will be gone. The moment that realization comes, you will be like a spring—up from the bed and out towards the door. All laziness will be gone.

Those who are lazy lack not in energy but in understanding. You do not know that you need to work and that work will get you benefits, dividends, and joys; therefore, you are preferring inaction over action. Had you really known the sweetness, the ambrosia of right action, you would have chosen right action over laziness every moment. Because what is the fun in lying unconscious on the bed? Great fun lies in being awake.

Will you ever miss a date because you just overslept? And if you do that, you would curse yourself for your entire life. It is another matter that that might be the biggest blessing you ever got. But because you perceive the pleasures of the waking state as substantially big, therefore you would not miss the date due to oversleeping. Sleeping offers some pleasure; dating offers a higher pleasure. Therefore, you would not keep lying down there lazy.

It is just that in the case of dating the pleasure is very physical, very gross, very easy to see, appreciate, and calculate. In the case of right work, the joy is internal and subtle, and therefore difficult to quantitatively calculate, and so we miss out on it. Because it cannot be easily quantified, therefore we quantify it as zero; that is our inner trick. Because we cannot easily quantify it, we have a software that returns the default answer as zero. It does not accept that the answer exists, and the answer is huge. It does not say, “I am incapable of calculating it, identifying it”; instead, it says, “I have calculated it because I am a superstar, I am so knowledgeable”—as we all are, especially when we are young—and it says the answer is zero. And so we say, “What is the point of working when the return will be zero?” and therefore we keep lying lazily.

What we need is sharpness. What we need is insight. I gave you two examples, and you would have probably not missed the contrast there: I gave you the example of being enclosed in a burning room, and I gave you the example of meeting a nice girl. So, only these two things can relieve you from your laziness: either the fear of missing out on life, or a great love for something tremendously beautiful. When you have either of these two in your life, then no more laziness for you.

If you are lazy, it means you have neither fear nor love, and both are great things to have. I am talking of the right kind of fear, not your ordinary fears; the right fear, the right fear that “I have one precious life and I will just squander it.” That is the right fear to have. Or you could have great love: “I have one precious life and there is so much to realize, so much to know, and I will miss out on all of that. I want all of that.” If I say miss out, that is fear. “I want all of that. I love all of that; therefore, I want to remain awake. I don’t want to miss the sunrise; therefore, I want to stay awake. I cannot keep lying on the bed. I cannot afford to close my eyes. I have fallen in love with the dawn.”

So, that is what you are required as a young man: lots of love. You are required to have a big heart.

Q: Second part of this question is…

AP: Are you clear with the first part, first of all?

Q: Yeah, I understood. We should be motivated either by fear or love; only then will we be willing to do it on a regular basis.

AP: That is not exactly what I said, but for now, proceed.

Q: So, I have been working on an entrepreneurial project, and currently this is motivated by a vision and a passion towards the project. But my fear is that what if one day it becomes motivated by money instead of vision and passion, and we derail. So, how do we keep a check on that?

AP: What is wrong with money?

Q: If I focus on money, then the vision will be left behind.

AP: What if money is there for the vision?

Q: Yeah, then it is fine.

AP: Can you have a vision without money? What kind of vision are you talking of? So, vision and money go hand-in-hand. Otherwise, in the name of vision all you will have are dreams; they don’t require money.

Money is not a problem. Even obsession is not a problem. The problem is the wrong center. What are you obsessed with? Be obsessed with the right thing, and obsession is helpful. Want money for the right purpose, and earn trillions if you need to. Equally, a vision can be devastating if it is coming from an unconscious point. You can keep saying, “I have a great vision,” but that vision will actually be a nightmare. Lots of people have visions. Everybody is a visionary, and the Earth is a mess. That is the vision?

Money is not a problem. Nothing is a problem. An unconscious mind is the problem. If you are unconscious and you don’t have money, how is that a great state to be in? Like a drunkard with no money in the pockets lying heavily drunk in the gutter and saying, “Look at me: I am a farishta (angel), I don’t care for money! I have given up all my materialistic possessions. No money at all!” And why is there no money? Because all the money was blown up in drinking and the fellow was too lazy to earn anything. So, no money. So, how is not having money a virtue? Kindly educate me.

Q: No, I was not saying not having money…

AP: But then, that is the way you said, “What if instead of vision, I am thinking of money?”

Q: What I meant was, currently there is vision at the center.

AP: Now, that is the new word in your vocabulary, ‘center’. But it is a good word to have. Great. Well done.

Know what to keep in the center. If you keep consciousness at the center, if you keep vision at the center, then money is a great tool to have. But never keep money itself in the center.

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