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The false promise of pleasure || IIT Kharagpur (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
106 reads

Questioner (Q): I find myself in a vicious cycle of wanting more and more pleasure all the time. How can I get out of it?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Get some real pleasure. Real pleasure has a quality to it, and when you have that quality then your hunger for quantity diminishes. If you keep looking for more and more pleasure, chances are you are not getting pleasure anywhere. Had you been getting it somewhere, you would have stopped at that point, right? Because you don’t get it anywhere, that is why you want it everywhere.

So, look for the right place where real pleasure can be had. For that you will have to first of all test whether all these places that promise pleasure to you are of any avail. They promise, they attract, they also extract a lot, but do they really deliver? And maintain the faith that the real thing is not inaccessible. You are born to achieve the real thing and you can get it, but not if you remain attracted to, engaged with all the little and false stuff. Then the little things will keep you forever away from the real deal.

Q: The reason I asked this question is that society promotes this mentality which says, for example, “Crack that exam and you will get pleasure after that, you will live in pleasure after that.” Someone might be aspiring to crack the UPSC, and he is taught that after he cracks it he will have cars and servants and all the possible pleasures available to himself. The thing is that when we are focusing on our work based on this promise, we don’t develop any plan on how to proceed after the initial achievement. We might succeed and still find ourselves lost afterwards. We don’t know what to do after the initial achievement.

AP: People who write the JEE thinking that after the JEE there would only be an unmitigated pleasure, or people who write the UPSC thinking that once you get your rank and are allotted a cadre, all you will have is power, pelf, privilege, servants, and all the things that you talked of—mostly these people anyway don’t get to enter the IITs or the civil services. With this kind of motivation success is anyway hard to come by. Even if you do get success hoping for these things, very soon you will discover that these things are nowhere on offer. You are just being made a fool of by making you salivate after them.

Just clearing the JEE is no guarantee even of material success. The last time I checked, a fair number of students—in fact a fair proportion of students—were remaining unplaced even from the IITs. The scenario might have changed now, I have not been keeping an eye since the last few years, but over a long period of time this was the story. From every IIT, a fair number of students were not able to secure even the basic placements. And the bulk of the jobs that you get from the IITs are pretty ordinary; except for maybe two percent or five percent or eight percent of the students, the job applicants, others get fairly ordinary kind of jobs, translating into fairly ordinary pleasures. The same is the case with civil services as well. You can dream of the huge bungalow and such things only if you have had no peek, not even a sneak peek into the insides of how the bureaucracy works and how the bureaucrats live.

So, one way to get rid of these imaginary pleasures is by checking their reality. Why not speak to your seniors? Why not speak to the alumni, let’s say, who passed out ten years back? Why not do a reality check?

Q: At that time we didn’t have any seniors around us, so that is why we believed what people told us about those places.

AP: How is it so difficult, son? You are living in the information age. Even social media is good enough to tell you the reality.

Q: Sir, even the coaching teachers tell these kinds of things to us.

AP: They will tell what they have to; they have their own self-interests to cater. But what prevents you from doing a basic search on the web or approaching a few people and straightaway talking to them? You want to get into something for the rest of your life without even concretely knowing what lies in store for you?

Q: This was just from the perspective of the student. But what if we take an example of a person who has a car that is enough to provide him the required safety and transportation, but he wants more and more cars to just show off and get some pleasure out of it? What is your opinion on this?

AP: About what? Cars?

Q: No, what should be done to get rid of that mentality?

AP: There has to be a purpose in life, nothing else. I too have loved cars since my childhood. But there is something else that I have loved more than cars, that is all.

We all have these bodily, social, mental likes and dislikes. That is the way our bodies are; that is the way the personality is. It will have certain leanings, it will have certain dislikes, so all these are there. But they fade in the light of something far more important. I have a mission to run. Now, I may have personal preferences in this and that, but there has to be a pecking order, a hierarchy, right? You know that something else is more important, so the first right over all resources, your time, your life belongs to that really important thing. Cars can wait.

Q: During my JEE preparation time, I used to study for twelve to fourteen hours a day. But now the situation is totally different, and even eight hours of study feels too much to me. I don’t want this to happen, but this is a situation I am unable to change. Could you please suggest some ways to overcome it?

AP: You see, I cannot tell you how to study for ten hours or twelve hours because, frankly, I didn’t ever do that, slogging for ten hours or something. So, I cannot tell you how to do that. But what I can tell you is that if you have the right reason for a thing, then you don’t count the hours you put into that thing.

Have the right reason. Have the right reason, and then you will stop counting hours, whether it is towards your studies or something else. And as a young man it is incumbent on you, it is necessary for you to have the right reasons in life, to have the right purpose in life. And it is something very, very personal; it is not a crowd thing. You cannot say, “Nobody is doing such a thing, so why should I do it?”

You have your own life to live. Figure out something worth giving your time to, and then time will meet its right utilization. And if something is getting utilized rightly, why do you want to limit the utilization? Then any number of hours can go into it.

Q: What are the changes that you want today’s youth to bring about in our society for its betterment? Ours is a developing country and we are lagging behind in so many things. What are the changes you would suggest? What do you think is the root cause for our country lagging behind? What is your advice for the youth in this matter?

AP: I would want that they remember that they are young human beings. The youths should remember that they are young, young human beings, not young animals. That is all.

Q: What kind of changes should we bring about? What are the things that are affecting our society negatively the most?

AP: I am requesting wannabe animals to remember that they are human beings. That is the change I want to see. And there is a lot that goes with being called a human being. It is a huge responsibility and a huge privilege. So, you are not just young. Any species can be young—you can have a young monkey, you can have a young donkey. You are not just young; you are a young human being. See what that means.

Q: Does that mean that we have a responsibility towards society?

AP: First of all, figure out whose society? A society of monkeys?

Q: The society of human beings.

AP: First of all comes the human being, the society comes much later, and society will be taken care of. First of all, you discover what it means to be human as opposed to being an animal.

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