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On the road, and short of fuel || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
4 min
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Questioner (Q): How to not let the ego reward itself while doing the right action?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You want a reward only when you are famished. What if the ego is already rewarded and then out of the reward, out of the completion it decides to act?

See, your car is short of fuel, really short of fuel, and you are deep into the night, and you are looking for a fuel station. How pleasurable is the ride? And you do come up on a station, maps indicate there exists such station eight kilometres ahead of you and you reach it. But what do you find? It’s closed, because it’s 2 am. So, what you have done? You have burnt whatever few drops of fuel you had in coming up to this point. How do you feel? And now you hinge your hopes on the next dot appearing on the map—there is a next station ahead of you 6 kilometres. The car is great, the road is empty, the breeze is cool. How are you feeling? Very miserable.

Because you are empty from within and you are seeking a place that will fill you up, literally. So, the ride is a misery. That’s how most people ride through life—constantly looking for a place that will fill them up. And unfortunately, such fuel stations do not exist. Some do fill you up by half a litre, one litre, so you move for a while, but then you again find the dashboard is warning you—blink, blink, blink; low fuel, low fuel, low fuel. So again, you are rushing towards the next place that offers to fill you up.

Now contrast this with someone whose tank is already full—fifty-five litres—and the scene is great, the breeze is cool and the highway is wonderful. How does he drive through life? Because he is already rewarded, because he is already full. So, it’s not necessary that the ego works for reward. It is possible to live the kind of life where you are already full and hence able to enjoy life. And if you are not already full, then you are not enjoying life. Then you are just somehow existing. All your struggle is then to exist in the psychological sense—not enjoying, just existing— because you are insecure and when you are insecure, your aim is not enjoyment but existence.

First thing is to get rid of that inner insecurity. And that inner insecurity, you will not remove through some gas station or some fuel counter. The method will be spiritual. Fill yourself up inwardly and then go wherever life takes you. You will do the right thing. Because wrong things are done only when you are hollow within. That’s the only reason wrongness happens in life. What can you do? You feel that compulsion—“I know that road is infested by robbers but that’s also the road that probably has the fuel station, so I will go that way. What can I do? I am helpless.” That’s how wrong decisions are made in life, out of a feeling of inner helplessness which is an inner vacancy. That makes you helpless, and then you go down all the wrong roads and get robbed, obviously.

So, get rid of that sense that ‘I am this and if I achieve that I will be alright.’ The method won’t be material. The next job promotion or a bigger flat or a fancy spouse will not fill your inner hollow. The method has to be spiritual. And when you are totally compact from the inside, fully loaded as that ad used to say, “Fill it, shut it, forget it!” Then you can forget all about your psychological welfare. What do you do then? Go for a ride. The weather is great.

The weather is great only when you ‘fill it, shut it and forget it.’ Otherwise, you are on the highway for the fuel. The fuel is not helping you traverse the highway, rather you are on the highway for the sake of the fuel. The fuel is no more—your resource, rather you are a resource for the sake of the fuel.

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