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On distraction of mind || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner: Acharya Ji, I am unable to concentrate on anything. For example, I easily get distracted while studying my Maths book and get attracted to playing online games. What should I do then?

Acharya Prashant: You see, two types of things attract us. One, where the attraction is tremendous, and the attraction is so tremendous that you get totally lost in the thing that attracts you, and you are left with no space or desire to inquire further. Now something really spectacular, something really eye-catching, something really interesting is attracting you. This attraction becomes so dominant on us that we do not even want to ask what that thing is, and why it is attracting us, and whether that thing really holds any importance in our life.

What the eyes see, becomes so heavy that it totally occupies the mind and the mind is then not free at all to ask any questions. You could even say that we become dumb. We become dumb, but it is a very pleasurable dumbness, because we are, as we say, enjoying that state of being attracted. The one who is getting attracted is totally lost in the thing that is attracting him and because he is totally, completely lost, therefore nothing is left of him to make an inquiry, to ask a question.

What question? “Why is this thing attracting me and whether it is really important for me? What would this give me after the initial period of attraction? Would I be left with anything substantial?” For five minutes, or let’s say five months, there would be a lot of pleasure. But what after these five minutes? What after these five minutes and what was before these five minutes? “What really happened, that this thing became so tremendous on me?”

These are important questions but we are left with no space to ask these questions because the thing, the attractive thing, or thought totally overpowers us. It controls us. It has taken us in its arrest. Now, we are left with no capacity to ask an intelligent question. These are the first kinds of things that we come across, attractive things. Attractive things where the possibility of asking a question or inquiring is impeded.

And in contrast, there are other kinds of things that do not look attractive on the surface at all. The moment you look at them, the moment you hear of them, or the moment you think of them, no interest arises within. In fact, a disinterest may arise. You feel like saying “Oh, what’s there in it?” or you probably do not say anything and just want to ignore that object. You want to say, “You know, it’s not exciting.”

And now what happens in this case, please see. It’s a step-by-step thing. It’s a scientific thing. What happens in this case? Because you have already said that this thing does not interest me, therefore you’re left with no possibility of asking a question. The matter has been closed, so why ask a question? In the first case, why was no question asked? Because the thing appeared so attractive that you are left with no time, space, or desire to ask the question.

You didn’t ask, “What is this thing really? It appears nice and beautiful, but what is it really, and what would it give me? Am I being intelligent by getting attracted towards it? Probably I am, then I’ll allow myself to be attracted even more. But if I’m not being intelligent by moving towards this thing, why should I hurt myself?" That was the first case.

In this case, again there is no inquiry. In the second case, why is there no inquiry? Because the thing appears so unattractive that you say, “Oh come on, move on. I don’t want to look at it. Hey, it’s not exciting. I don’t like it. There’s nothing in it. It does not arouse me, so I will not ask any questions.” Here again, if you could ask, “What is in it for me?” then the picture would change.

You say that when you are with your Maths book, then you do not feel any urge or attraction. Then do something else. What is it that you must do? Ask yourself, “In the first place, why am I with the Maths book? Why am I holding it at all? Is there a reason? What is the importance of this book?” Now, if the book really has some importance, then you’ll find that you are compelled to read. And if the book has no importance, then you’ll throw away the book. Let’s see whether the book has importance.

All that you need to do is ask a sincere question. Whether it’s a Maths book or some online game that is attracting you, ask the same question, “What is in it for me? What will I really get from this? After the five or fifty minutes of interest or disinterest, what would I be left with?” Ask, “Is it so that I am being cheated? Is it so that somebody is making a fool of me and exploiting me by giving me a little dose of excitement?”

The answer would sometimes be 'yes', and it would sometimes be 'no'. We need not predict the answer. Let the answer emerge. Just as when you conduct an experiment in a science lab, the result, the observation emerges. You don’t want to predict it, and you don’t want to conclude beforehand. You want to see what is happening, don’t you? Similarly, ask this question and just see what happens.

You may find that magic is happening. Before you accept or reject something, before you get wildly drawn to something, or before you just ignore something and move on, pause for five seconds, just five seconds, and ask, “What is in it for me? What is the real importance it holds?” Do not be carried away by emotions. Do not be carried away by thoughts. Do not be carried away by impulsive conditioning. Just wait for five seconds and ask, “Is it important?”

And that’s one of the most important questions, most life-giving questions, to ask. "Is it really important?" You will find you are able to avoid a lot of trash. And you will find that you are now able to love and respect a lot of valuable things and people in life the moment you ask this. “What is this thing, or this person, or this activity bringing to me?” Would you do that?

The Maths book is not just a Maths book, it stands for something. There are benefits from reading and there are repercussions of not being with it. Dwell over them. "What is Mathematics? Why must I read it?" Maybe you will find that Mathematics is nothing. That it’s a foolish thing to read Maths. And if you find that, then feel free to throw away the Maths book.

But in case you discovered that the thing, person, activity, is indeed important, then obviously we all are honest people, and having discovered that something is precious, we’ll want to keep it. Having discovered that somebody is lovable, we would want to be with him. Having discovered that a field of study is indeed important, we would want to pursue it. Five seconds. "What is in it for me? How does it hold any importance?"

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