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The way you define yourself determines your choices in life || B.H.U (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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Questioner: I would like to join the army, but my family and friends are not very supportive. They say that when I could easily get a good job in Delhi or Bangalore, what is the point in risking my life as a soldier? What should I reply to them?

Acharya Prashant: You have to go to the fundamentals. When I say you have to go to the fundamentals, I am not trying to assure you that you will be able to convince those who are trying to scare you away from the life of a soldier; no argument is so absolutely persuasive that it can move even a diehard person committed to falseness. It is for your own understanding that you must know the fundamentals.

Who are you and what do you live for? That is the question to be asked. When those around you say that you can have a nice, cozy, comfortable job in Delhi or Bangalore, they are basing their argument upon a certain view of the self. They think of the self as entirely physical, as entirely bodily, and they think, therefore, that the purpose of life is physical-carnal gratification. These two things go together.

When you say that you are fundamentally just the body, then you will have to say, in the next breath, that the purpose of your life is just the gratification of the body. So far so good, but now this raises an important question: What do you get by defining yourself as the body? Do you get love? Can the body really love? Does the body know love? The body is just biological equipment. It is a machine brought to the current state by the processes of evolution. All that you call as the nectar of life relates to your consciousness, not really to your body. Equally, all that which you call your deepest suffering, again, relates to your consciousness, not to your body.

Think of the highest that you have ever attained in life. Was it really bodily? I hope the answer is no; else it would mean that you probably haven’t been living a very deep or rich life. Equally, think of the deepest suffering you have ever experienced. Was it bodily? Chances are, your answer will be no. Your joys, your elations are mental, and so is your suffering. That which you call mental does not really relate to your brain; it relates to your consciousness.

Therefore, you get nothing by defining yourself incorrectly, as merely a body out in this world to gratify itself through consumption. This definition is not only incorrect but actively harmful to you. You will find, going by this definition, that you are able to do nothing about your deep sufferings. Going by your definition of yourself as the body, you will find that you are not able to pursue any high joy, because alleviation of suffering, as well as attainment of joy, are not things that can happen in a physical way. So, you are unnecessarily condemning yourself to a wasted life by defining yourself incorrectly.

The purpose of life, therefore, has to be the sublimation of consciousness. Our consciousness is an incomplete and suffering consciousness. Our consciousness is something in bondage, that is continuously crying out for liberation, and that is the purpose of life. If that is the purpose of life, how should you choose a job or vocation for yourself? Should you choose a job based on the kind of money it offers, or the kind of place, geographical location you would be finding yourself at? Or should you consider what that job will give to you as a man of consciousness?

The way you define yourself completely changes your choices in life. Define yourself as just a body, and you will find that you are choosing one particular job. Define yourself as just a body, and you will find that you are choosing one particular place to live at. Define yourself as a body, and you will find that you are choosing one particular person to be with or marry. Realize yourself as consciousness, and you will find that your choices have totally changed.

So, you need to have a correct basis for choice. If the basis for choice is correct, then life will be correct. Otherwise, you will be leading a very false life, and that is all that you have. One opportunity to live, if you squander it, then what do we have to talk about?

So, I don’t really know why you want to be a soldier, but I can probably see why those around you want you to have a comfortable and conventional job in Delhi or Bangalore or some other metro or abroad. They want you to have all the safety and security that a job can give you—but how safe and secure can the body be? You know what your body is continuously inching towards, right? What is the point in trying to secure something that is destined to disintegrate? Isn’t it better to make the best use of that thing before it disintegrates? Tell me, please.

You have a perishable item with you. It could be a food item, or it could be some other consumable stuff. What do you want to do with it? Secure it? Probably you can secure it, but for how long? It has come with an expiry date, like all perishables. Maybe you can secure it for one more day, but then the day after that you will have to throw it away because it would have reached its expiry date. What is the point in continuously trying to secure it? Why don’t you rather make use of it?

That is the body—a perishable thing that has been given to you for three days. Don’t secure it, it will last two days. Secure it, it will last a maximum of three days. Don’t you rather want to use the body for your benefit?

Remember, you cannot say you want to use the body for your benefit if you say that you are the body. To say that you can use the body for your benefit, first of all, you will have to acknowledge a difference, a separation between you and the body. Unless you are separate from the body, how can you use the body? I can use this pen, I can use this mic, because I am not the mic. If I am the mic, how will the mic use itself?

So, to say that you can make best use of your life, you first of all have to understand that you are not the entity who lives. Who lives? The body lives. The body takes birth, the body dies; you are someone else. You are someone else, related to the body, probably contained in the body, probably welded to the body in a very inexorable way, but surely there is some difference between you and the body. You have very definite objectives, and your objective is liberation. The body has no such objective. Your ways and the ways of the body are dimensionally different. Therefore, what relationship can you have with the body? Your relationship with the body must be to put the body to the optimum use, best use, before it reaches its expiry date.

Therefore, the arguments that your dear ones are putting forward are very insubstantial. They are saying be safe, be secure, gratify yourself. Doesn’t make much sense. Instead of securing this perishable thing called body, make the best use of it. It is in this light that you must search for a job.

Now, you say you want to become a soldier. Why do you want to become a soldier? If you want to become a soldier because it somehow fascinates you, or because it is fashionable in the part you come from, or because it somehow feeds your ego and makes you feel more manly, then the basis of your choice is not really very different from that of your parents or near ones. The parents or near ones are telling you, you are just the body. You do not agree with them, and you are saying, “No, I am not the body; instead I am the subtle body, the ego, and therefore I want to be a soldier.” If that is the reason you want to be a soldier, then there is not much difference between you and those you are contesting. They are asserting that you are the gross body, and you are asserting that you are the subtle body. Not much difference.

Instead, if you want to become a soldier because you want to uphold something high, something worthy, something sublime, then it is a different matter altogether. If you want to become India’s soldier because you understand the soul of India and you think that the soul of India is worth defending, then it is auspicious that you are thinking of becoming a soldier, otherwise not.

It is not really the action that counts. One has to look at the intention; one has to look at the constitution of the actor. What makes you inclined towards the defense services? What exactly would you be defending? If you are defending just a piece of land or your own self-worth or ego, then there is not much in this choice. But if you know the great principles that India stands for, if you understand their worth, and if you realize that those principles are worth defending, that those principles are worth laying down your life for, then I would wholeheartedly recommend to you that you should definitely become a soldier.

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