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Our misplaced self-confidence is our central problem || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner: In the first five chapters of Śrīmadbhagavadgītā, I am seeing that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is repeatedly telling us of the state of the wise one, when I read such verses, all I see is a clear distance between the way the wise ones are and the way I live my life. How to bridge this distance?

Acharya Prashant: Your humble realization that you are not living wisely will be the bridge. Remember, why we do anything that we do. Look at any person and any activity that the person is doing. In his own eyes, the person is quite smart, quite wise, in his own frame of reference, he is doing the best thing that he can do.

Does anybody ever, on his own accord, choose a suboptimal option? Any life decision that you have to take, big or small; if you have five options, which one do you go for? The one that appears best to you, correct? So, if you look at the life of even the most wretched and most defeated person, what has he been doing? He has been making decisions that according to him are very right, great actually, wise and smart. Is that not so?

You may regret later on, but at the moment when you are taking a decision, do you ever deliberately take a wrong decision? At the instance of decision making, we go for the option that appears the best to us, correct? If you can now humbly see that you have not been deciding correctly, then it will be a great revolution in your life. Our false and misplaced self-confidence is at the root of all our troubles.

When the wise ones are put in front of us as standards, as great examples, then, if we have some sense, we are forced to confess how wrong we have been all our life, otherwise, we reserve the right to brag that, we too are somebody ‒ I did this, I did that fine, you did this, you did that. Let’s look at Buddha now. What did he do? Let’s look at some other wise man, what did he do?

One possibility is you could say, “Oh! the wise man did not really do anything. All this that we are reading or hearing about him is just folklore, exaggerated, rubbish actually.” You could easily take that route or, if you have better sense, you will say, “So much was possible to them, so much could have been possible to me. I do see that I have missed out, I do see that not only have my decisions been wrong, actually the decision-maker himself is a fool."

All the decisions are like products coming from a machine. Decisions are products, machine is the decision-maker. Why blame the products when the machine itself is defective? I am that defective machine. How will I ever take a right decision? How will I ever produce a perfect good? The moment that humility comes to you, you drop your foolish self-confidence, and then change can happen. That’s what I just called as revolution. The moment you stop supporting yourself, the moment you stop standing by your Ego, you create the opportunity for something better than the Ego to happen.

We all require the Ego to be impeached, you know, otherwise, she keeps occupying the throne. We require a no-confidence mission against the Ego. We are the ones who have raised her to the throne and we must be the ones who must draft, and pass the no-confidence motion, upset her, topple the throne, and bring her down. The throne belongs to someone else. The Ego is a fraudster, a usurper. What is Ego? Our concept of who we are, right? "I am, I am this, I am that, I am smart, I am a stud, hey! It's me." All the swagger, all this strutting around, that’s our self-concept.

Sadly, for ourselves, we allow this fake self-concept to rule our lives. The self-concept works, produces certain results and assesses those results. It’s a strange situation where the doer is the assessor, therefore the assessment is always rigged. The examinee is the examiner. The result of the examination is a forgone conclusion, right? Who is the one who acts? The Ego. Who is the one who judges the action? The Ego. So, the Ego is judging itself and the judgments are always favorable.

When you come close to a towering personality, when you read the Śrīmadbhagavadgītā, when you read the biographies of the great people, then there is such irrefutable proof that it becomes difficult for the Ego to hide its failures. Otherwise, the Ego keeps telling itself, “Man, you are doing good! Boy, you are brilliant!” But when you put the Ego next to a Buddha, then the Ego starts feeling a little uneasy, "You know, well, you know this man is some kind of an aberration. He is not normal, let’s not compare ourselves to him. We do not even know whether he existed." Keep bombarding the Ego with one proof after the other.

We do not know whether Buddha existed, but the Dhammapada does exist, right? So, somebody authored the Dhammapada , let’s call him Buddha, fine, thank you. Same with the Śrīmadbhagavadgītā. We do not know whether the historical Kṛṣṇa existed but somebody indeed did author the Śrīmadbhagavadgītā, let’s call him Kṛṣṇa. So, dear Ego, how do you feel about Kṛṣṇa? “Can you change the topic? Let’s talk of better things.”

The ego does not want to go into a Kṛṣṇa, because there, by way of comparison, it will be seen as not only small, but foolish. That’s the great thing about obtaining nearness with great ones. Their proximity is a huge insult to you, and that’s great. That insult comes as a revelation, that insult shows us what we really are. Otherwise, to repeat, in our own eyes we all remain heroes, “Oh, I am this, I am that.”

The school champion who has become such a braggart needs to be once in a while put in the ring against the national champion. That will do him some good, right? Otherwise, there is no way he is going to try to improve, “I am the best already”. The life of a real hero is such a challenge to us, do you see, was he not born the same as us? How many limbs did he have? How many eyes? How long did he live? 4000 years. What was his brain size? 38 kilograms. What was his IQ? 2000. On all levels of material existence, he was pretty similar to us, was he or was he not? Was he not vulnerable to illnesses? Was he not vulnerable to temptations, seductions?

**That fellow was every bit as much a man of flesh and blood as we are and still see how he lived and how we live. Don’t just worship him, I implore you to actively compare yourself with him. Jesus, before he becomes a helper to you, must be first of all a challenge to you, he is just 30, and see what he is saying, what he is doing. And you are on the wrong side of 40 already, what have you done all your life? You have made some money, indulged in some sorry affairs, and got tangled with three women and had five breakups, "That’s my life story". Now, put it alongside the story of Jesus and the juxtaposition will be quite humiliating. No?

Isn’t it obvious, before the Ego can die, it needs to be hurt? If you won’t even hit or hurt it, how do you expect it to die? You want to keep comforting it, pampering it, massaging it, and then you are wondering, "Why is this damn thing not dying?"

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