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Purposeful life, or purposeless? || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: You advise us to have a purposeless, aimless life. But if we will not aim for anything, then how will I crack my exams? In your younger days, you too prepared for exams like MBA, IIT JEE, Civil services, etc. But now you say having aims is no good. Aren't you contradicting yourself?

Acharya Prashant: Living an aimless, purposeless life is the ultimate thing, that's the goal. However, given we are, we can't realize that goal instantaneously. If it could be done, if instantaneous liberation is possible at this moment, wonderful, have it. Go right away for it. So, purposelessness is the ultimate state beyond all states that one aspires for. But here is the contradiction. What is the state one aspires for? A state in which there is no purpose, no aim, and therefore, no aspiration. So what's your aspiration? To come to the point of freedom from aspirations. What's the desire then you must have? To reach a point where you have exceeded all desires. What is the aim you must carry? To set aims in a way that you come to the point of aimlessness.

There is a difference between ends and means. Purposelessness is the end, Purposefulness is the means. Thoughtlessness is the end, thoughtfulness is the means. Desirelessness is the end, right desire is the means. Actionlessness is the end, and right action is the means. Silenceness is the end, right words are the means. If you don't have the right word, what will take you to the Silence? Or if you are so tremendously gifted that you can, at the drop of a hat, come to absolute silence all by yourself, nothing like it.

Unfortunately, that is not possible for most people. Even to come to the silence, most people require the aid of the right word. That right word is also called the 'holy word'. To come to desirelessness, most people will be required to cultivate the right desires. To come to a point in life where there is no goal left. Most people will first need to set the right goals for themselves, and that's the difference between the right and wrong goals. Right desire and wrong desire, right word and wrong word, that's the only way you can differentiate right and wrong.

The right is that which will take you beyond itself. The right will enable you to exceed it, transcend it. The wrong will keep you confined to itself. That which you enter never to emerge out is wrong for you. The wrong is like walking into a jail. The right is like walking over a bridge. You walk into the jail only to remain confined, and you step over a bridge, very soon you have found that you crossed over—the right is that which enables you to cross over. The wrong welcomes you, and then you are trapped. Shut firmly in, the gates are closed, no freedom, no escape. So you are asking, "But you must have targeted clearing those exams that you did?"

Yes, of course, I targeted. Now you know the difference between target and untargeted. You must know what you are targeting. You must know what is it within you that wants to achieve something. Rule of thumb, that which you want to achieve for yourself would be like a jail. That which there is a larger purpose, a bigger vision involved would be like a bridge. Before you take the next step, ask yourself. What is it in front of me, a trap or bridge?

So there are quite a few exams that I might have cleared, but if you see, unfortunately, those institutions generally require you to take up a specific profession—a work of a definite kind. Work within a narrow spectrum. I think I can be satisfied that my work doesn't fall within the spectrum dictated by the institutions I have been through. I have not allowed anything that acts as a jail for me. I walked in, and I walked out.

I am thankful to those institutions, I learnt quite a few important lessons. At the same time, I have not allowed any institutions to hold me captive. I am not doing what a typical IITian does. I am not doing what a typical IIM pass-out does. Yes, I did prepare for the civil services examination, I did clear the examination. But when I found that things aren't going to suit me as they are, I resigned. So probably I use them as bridges; otherwise, it is quite possible to get used by the institutions you come from to be enslaved by the targets that you set.

One says, "This is the target that I have set now I have achieved it. How do I exceed it now? There is so much investment I have put in. How do I go beyond it now? Did I come to this point only to go beyond this point? It appears absurd." So people then, are held hostage by the targets they have achieved.

Reminds me of The Zen saying, “Once you have reached the top of the hill, keep climbing.” There is another which says that, “The climb begins after you have reached the top of the hill.”

Do not allow the summit to declare a full stop to your revolution. It doesn't matter how high the hill is. It will have a summit, and the summit is the limit of the hill. It can't offer you any height beyond its summit. Once you reach the summit, begin the next climb, begin the real climb. No point settling down on the hilltop. Maybe you can rest awhile. There is a Maggi point there, fine chill. Have some juice, collect your breath and then move on.

Charaiveti - Charaiveti (Keep moving) What IIT! What IIM! Thank you so much, you gave me so much I shall be tremendously grateful. But you are not what I am born for. There is something far higher than institutional sanction or certification that I am looking for. Mine is a very long road. Several institutions are there along the way, and they are beautiful and grand institutions. Let me be there for a while. Let me be humbly accept what they can offer me, and then Charaiveti ‒ keep moving.

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