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The stupidity of competition || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Questioner (Q): I think that life is a race and a competition. If you do not compete, you will lag behind and you will have to face the consequences.

Acharya Prashant (AP): What are the consequences?

Q: If we do not compete with the rest of the students, then we will not get a proper job.

AP: Then what will happen?

Q: We will not get status.

AP: Then what will happen?

Q: I will be dissatisfied.

AP: You will be dissatisfied. If you don’t compete, ultimately you will be dissatisfied, right? But you are anyway dissatisfied right now! What has competition given you so far? You are anyway dissatisfied right now. Are you satisfied right now?

So, the worst that can happen to you if you do not compete is anyway already happening.

All your life you have been competing, right? And you are still dissatisfied. And you are saying, “If we do not compete, then this will happen and that will happen, and ultimately we will be dissatisfied.” You won’t be dissatisfied. You are dissatisfied. And you are dissatisfied after years of competition and competition. Dissatisfaction is what competition has given you.

When competition has given you dissatisfaction, how can the same competition take away dissatisfaction?

A dissatisfied mind, a restless mind, is the product of competition. How can a competitive mind ever be at peace?

You know what it is to compete with others? It means that I am always looking at others. I am always worried, always concerned about what everybody else is doing. It doesn’t matter to me where I stand, what I am doing. What matters more is what everybody else is doing.

And when you say, “I am running a race,” remember, a race can be run only when everybody is in the same track or adjacent tracks. Now, is your track the same as her track? Is it possible? And the track we are talking of is life. When you say the race of life, then the track is life. Can your track be the same as her track?

Q: But this is a competitive era.

AP: Who told you that this is an era of competition and there were other eras which were not competitive? Those who had to compete competed always . Even one thousand years back, five thousand years back, people were competing. And those who do not have to compete do not compete—not now, not at any other point in history. Who told you that this is a special era where you have to be competitive? And I must talk about this because this is something very firmly, deeply rooted in our minds.

People come to you and say, “Competition ka zamana hai (This is a very competitive age)!” This is not a specially competitive age. The mind has always been like this. People have always been competing. People have always been stupid. There is nothing special that is happening in this century. Nothing special. Brothers have been competing for the throne and killing each other. You have heard all those stories, right?

People have always been competing. Competition is a very general disease of the mind. It is not a new disease, it has always existed—always existed! So, anybody who tells you that in this age you need to compete does not know what he is talking. The diseased mind was always competing. Always!

“My son should be more glorious than your son. My son should get the throne, so send Rama to the jungle.” Was this not competition?

“My empire needs to be bigger than your empire.” Was this not competition?

The human mind has always been competing and always suffering. And those who didn’t have to compete never competed.

“The temple that I build should be bigger than all other temples. Even my tomb must be more fantastic than other tombs!”

“I should have more queens than anybody else. How many queens do you have? 60? I have 600!”

“There should be more horses with me than with anybody else. More money!”

Man has always been competing, right since the ancients. Who told you that this is a new affliction? Even animals compete, they kill each other. Two males will fight, they will compete for one particular female, and they will kill each other. Have you not seen that? Two dogs going after one bitch—are the dogs not fighting and competing? What else is that? Both are writing an entrance exam; it is actually an entrance exam in the very physical sense. Even small creatures, rabbits, they compete absolutely fiercely. They will spray urine and other stuff over their territory so that no other rabbit comes there. “My territory! My female! Don’t touch her, she is my girl!” And you are saying this is a competitive age!

Competition is a very raw thing. It hasn’t ripened today, it has been continuing. And anybody and everybody who does not have self-awareness is bound to be competitive. To be competitive means that, “The world is very very significant for me. The world is more significant for me than my own self. The world matters more than I do.” To be competitive means that, “To beat him is more important than what I am doing.”

Ask yourself: in the really important matters, do you still compete? You are in love, you are hugging your girlfriend. Do you say, “The neighbor hugs his girlfriend for two minutes, I will hug you for three minutes! I am competing, I must be number one”? Do you do that? “He went on his first date at the age of 19. Now I am 18 and a half, so I must hurry up! Let me find some girl. Hello, you there! Are you ready? I have to break a record!”

(Laughter)

But then, that’s what a competitive mind is. It does not worry about its own life; it is more concerned about what others are doing. “Everybody is running that race; everybody is in that track. I must also be in the same track—without knowing what that track is. Just because everyone is doing it, so let me also do it.”

You know the stupidity of the competitive mind? There was this fellow. He said, “I will make a fool of everybody.” So, he goes to the marketplace and says that a particular marathon has been organized, and whosoever runs the fastest for ten kilometers and reaches that point there will get a special reward. So, everyone starts running. He makes a fool of hundreds of people. And they are going towards that, running for ten kilometers. So, first he laughs, then he also starts running. And why does he start running?

Q: To see.

AP: No, not to see. He says, “When everyone is running, I must also run. After all, it’s a competition going on!”

That’s how stupid you can be in competition. “When everybody is doing this, even though I know that they are being made a fool of—I myself have made a fool of them! But because everybody is doing this, let me also do it. And let me run faster than them, because how can I afford to be left behind? Everybody is running, let me also run. Everybody is writing the CAT, let me also write. If everyone has a girlfriend, let me also have a girlfriend.”

I was wondering… You know, so many of you are connected to me on Facebook. So, when I need a little bit of entertainment, I start surfing your profiles to see what you do there. And what I see is that so many of the males would write in their status ‘committed’ or ‘in a relationship’, this and that. And none of the girls do that. So, then, I asked myself one day: if the girls are not in a relationship and all the boys are in a relationship, with whom are they having a relationship? With each other?

(Laughter)

But it is so necessary. Your best friend is shouting to the whole world, “I am in a relationship!” and that means: I have a girl now. “So, I must also have that at least as my status. At least some people will be fooled that I have not been left behind, that I am also in the race. And two or three months later that stupid thing, ‘14th of February’ will come!”

So, there was a Samvaad (Clarity Session) on 14th of February. You know that day, right? What is that?

Q: Saint Valentine’s Day.

AP: Yes, it used to be Saint Valentine’s Day. And he was such a divine figure, but today it has been reduced to something…

So, that day the attendance in Samvaad was very thin. I asked them, “Where are the others?” They said, “You see, sir, today is Valentine’s Day. How can people come?” I said, “You alone are the unfortunate ones? You don’t have a partner?” They said, “Sir, even they don’t have a partner!” I said, “Why have they not come?” They said, “If they will come, everybody will know that they don’t have a partner.” So, just to proclaim to the whole world that “We have somebody and today we are celebrating with her” they won’t come here. It’s a race, you see. “I am 22, I must have somebody!”

Too bad! Absolutely ridiculous!

The developed world was suffering from a deluge of teenage pregnancies. It used to be a big issue in the United States and other countries. Now they are able to control it somehow. One of the primary reasons for it was that girls used to feel very embarrassed: “My God! I am 17 now and still a virgin. She is just 15—my younger sister—and she has had it. And I am 17, I am losing out in the race. Life is a race and you must compete!” Or did you train her?

(Laughter)

Man can go absolutely foolish when competing. In fact, only foolish people compete. It’s not just about teenagers or people who are 25. Look at people who are 45 and 55 and 85, look at the way they live. “My house must be higher than your house! What? You gave just one crore in dowry, only that much? Huh, beggar! I will give one point five crores!” And all the happiness evaporates when the third person gives two crores. This one point five crores has gone absolutely down the drain. “He gave two crores in dowry. I have fallen in my own eyes! Somebody pick me up!”

And nations. At one point in time, the United States and U.S.S.R. together had a nuclear stockpile which could destroy the Earth not one but ten, twenty, hundred times over. “What? You have eight thousand nuclear weapons? I will have eight thousand and five hundred!” “Huh, eight thousand and five hundred? What do you think, we can’t produce a thousand more? Next year, you see, we will have nine thousand!” And together the amount was sufficient to destroy the Earth a hundred times.

Now, how can you destroy the Earth a hundred times? One time is sufficient! But such is the madness of competition.

“I am competing! I have a long car, but I want to sell that car now because my neighbor’s car is longer. The day I look at this car—every day—I feel a deep pang of suffering here. Such a small car! It is smaller than an auto-rickshaw! Because the neighbor’s car is longer.”

You have no understanding of who you are. You have no realization of what you want to do. Why must you look at others? Why must you run down the same track? Why can’t you have something individual?

And whosoever is an individual walks down his own path, so there can be no competition. You are the only one walking down that path, how can you compete? “It is my own individual path, there is nobody else here. How can there be any competition?” You can compete only in a crowd. Why be part of a crowd?

And whenever you are competing and being a part of a crowd, remember, your way will be cluttered. And whenever you walk a road of your own, you will meet no traffic. Because you are the only one on that road, there would be no traffic. Isn’t that beautiful?

“I am the only one who is walking this path.” No competition, no traffic, no obstructions. Just joy and aloneness.

If you must study, study because studying is beautiful. If you study because you want to get more marks than your friend, then you don’t know what studying is and you do not know what friendship is.

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