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Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Questioner: Sir, good afternoon. My name is Rupam Shukla. Sir, I didn’t have a dream to clear CAT and go to MBA in some of the IIMs but whenever I start preparing for it, I get deviated. I cannot focus on two things at one time. And that’s what I want to ask, "How I can get over this?"

Acharya Prashant: Rupam, let’s say, you are very very thirsty and you see that there is this water bottle on this table here. Have you ever experienced real thirst, real thirst? Not that ordinary, mediocre thirst that can wait, real thirst? You are very thirsty and you dart-out from that position towards this bottle. You want water. Just as you take a few steps, somebody calls out to you, “Rupam, here’s the latest movie and its tickets, let’s talk about it.” Will you get deviated and distracted? Will you get distracted?

Q: No Sir. "

AP: And if you do get distracted, if midway, you stop and you start talking about movies and miscellaneous things, what does that mean? It was a fake thirst. You aren’t really thirsty. The one who is really thirsty, cannot stop midway. He is unstoppable. He will die but not stop.

Have you ever seen a river? A really, you know, young river, irreverent, does not bother for your commands? Is there any way to stop the river from reaching where it wants to reach? You build a dam, the river will inundate the adjoining areas.

So, even dams have to be built very carefully, so that they don’t stop the entire flow. You can only regulate it a little bit here and there. Is there a way to stop the Ganga from reaching the ocean? Is there a way? Try. If Ganga cannot be stopped, how is it so that you are so easily stopped? Forget about the Ganga, even these small, tiny-winy streams that are so seasonal in nature, even they cannot be stopped.

How is it possible that you are stopped so easily?

And is that not the story of our entire life? Not only in the context of preparation for a certain exam but the entire life. You say you want something and you move towards it and you are resolute and then? Gone. Where is the decision? Where is the resolution?

Is this happening for the first time? The new year comes and then new year resolutions. What happens to those resolutions?

Q: It stays for two to four days.

AP: Two to four days. Let’s be a little more generous, let’s say twelve to fourteen days. Gone. Tomorrow onwards I will study very hard, eight to ten hours a day and when you are resolving then it is as good as, you know, the oath that you take by keeping your hand on the Gita. You feel so confident. How will I ever break my oath? It’s a sacred thing. Then? Gone. Nothing stays... nothing stays.

Today, you feel like moving with all your energy, with all your power in one particular direction and tomorrow? How does that feel? How does that feel? Do you feel good about it? Think of all the vows you have broken, think of all your decisions that never fructified. How does it feel? Do you feel good about it?

Today you feel committed to one person. Today you feel attracted to one man or woman and that attraction feels like the juice of life. Tomorrow? Gone.

Who are you? Do I know you?

Even the phone number gets deleted and you curse Truecaller for telling you that the same person is calling again. Gone.

Have you ever seen the Ganga meeting the Arabian sea instead of the bay of Bengal? The Ganga has changed boyfriends. The new one is from Arabia. So, instead of going towards Bengal, it is now going towards Gujarat, the Arabian sea, a Dubai based boyfriend.

But in our case there is nothing that holds, there is nothing that is beyond time.

Time changes just everything, just everything. Why limit your question to an entrance exam, CAT or whatever? That’s a very small symptom. You are picking up a very insignificant excerpt from the entire story of your life. Why is it so? Why is it so that we have no center that holds and that will never fall apart?

Do we have a center in life?

Do we have something that can never be touched by time? Do we have something that situations can never change? Unless you find that Rupam, you will find that you are just a play thing in the hand of situations. Dreams and fancies of time, the vicissitudes of all that is external. They toy with you.

What do you think, you go on to do an MBA and there you will feel as if you have attained the zenith of life? You will feel that you have come to a resting point beyond which you need not bother? No, not at all.

Were this hall full of MBA students or let me say MBA pass-outs, the story would still be the same, what to do? Where to go? And wherever I want to go, I end up going somewhere else. I leave my house to go to the market and where do I end up going? To the zoo. And today I want to go to the zoo and where do I end up going? To the doctor.

Have you seen a fallen leaf? A leaf that has been dissociated from the mother, from the tree? What happens to that leaf? The winds take the leaf in whichever direction they want. Does the leaf really have anything of its own? Anything that can be remotely called as free will? The wind wants to take it north, the poor leaf has to go north. The winds want to take it south, the poor leaf has to go south. IT industry is booming, so all the seats of the IT department in all the colleges they are the first one to get filled. Then comes 2008 and the IT industry is not doing well anymore and nobody is now willing to go to the IT department.

The situation changes, the decision changes and which is alright in insignificant matters but vocation is not an insignificant matter. The calling of life is not an insignificant matter.

You want to go from here to your campus garden and you find that one of the routes is blocked. It’s alright. You take an alternate route. In small things, it’s alright to deviate as per the situation. It is alright. You want to buy some water and one brand is not available. So, what do you do? It’s alright, another brand will do. You come to this hall and you want to sit. The front row is occupied, it’s alright. You will take the fourth row. These are small things. These cannot be called compromises. This is just alright. You want to go to your hometown and tickets are not available in one particular train. So what do you do? Book tickets in another train. It is alright. The other train will reach at a different time but that does not matter greatly.

But will we go to the railway station and say, “Give me tickets” at the ticket window, only to reply in a very indecisive way when asked, “Where do you want to go?” When you go to the ticket counter and the fellow asks you, “Yes, which train, which ticket, where do you want to go?” Will you say wherever the train takes me? Will you say I will take whichever train comes next, in whichever direction it goes?

You know, once a man, he went to the ticket counter, he said, “I want to go to Rampur.” So, the man at the counter says, “There are many Rampurs in India. One is in UP, one is in Bengal and there is a Rampur in Maharashtra as well. Every state has a few Rampurs. To which Rampur do you want to go?” And the man says, “Wherever the ticket is the cheapest.”

Is that how we want to live? So, why did you come here? Because the ticket was cheap. Why did you choose a particular company? Because the salary was high. Is that not the same?

Is that not the same as going to a particular Rampur because the fare was the lowest? Yes? But is that not how we choose the calling of our life? Because the salary was high, because the brand was attractive.

Don’t forget that man who wanted to go to Rampur, which Rampur? Where the fare is cheapest. Which company? Wherever the salary is high. Which sector of the economy? Whichever sector is attracting the most people, whichever sector is deemed to be most glamorous. That’s how our decisions are made.

Did you decide that the IT sector must flourish? You didn’t decide. It’s a situation outside of you. But your decisions change as per the situation of the IT sector. And how do the fortunes of the IT sector swing? As per the situations in the United States and Europe.

So, the head of the federal bank in the United States, he decides what is going to be your life’s work. That’s a life story.

Rupam, when you really-really know who you are, then you really know what you must do. And then there is no question of indecision or distraction because then there are no options left. Then you start from there and rush straight to water. Nobody can stop you in between. Nobody can tempt you with honey or milk. You want water and you do not want honey and if somebody stops you midway, a honey trap, you won’t stop. You won’t stop.

You cannot be distracted then. But to not to be distracted, you require a firm understanding of who you are and hence what is right for you. You do not have that understanding.

Instead of that understanding, we base our decisions on hearsay. We base our decisions on convention, tradition and advices.

You have talked of an MBA program. Do you really know what is an MBA program? Do you really know what does it mean to spend life as a management trainee or as a manager?

If you really know, then there is no way you can be stopped, stopped either way. If you decide you don't want to go there then nobody can change your mind. If you decide, “I must be there” then too, nobody can change your mind. But we don't know. It’s fashionable to write the CAT, lakhs of people write the CA, so I too am writing the CAT.

It’s fashionable to work in an MNC, so I too must work in an MNC. Everybody goes to an office, so I too must go to an office. Everybody says that one must have a white collar job, one must wear western formals with a nice neck tie even though one is sweating below the collars, so I too must do that. Everybody says that a good life means having a nice house, a nice wife, a couple of cute kids and a car, maybe a couple of cars, so I too must have them.

Do you really understand? Do you really know why you must go in a particular direction? Why? Have you ever asked yourself why must I work in a particular sector? Have you ever asked yourself what does it mean to work? What is it to earn money? What is this entire question of livelihood? Have you considered it? Why must I marry? Have you considered this question? What is this entire business about family and this and that and kids and are these insignificant questions, really?

Tell me if these are not important to you. Is the question of work important to you or not? Then, have you bothered to go to fundamentals? Have you? Is the question of career and livelihood not important to you? It is so important, it keeps filling your mind. It is so important. Yet, have you really bothered to investigate and inquire?

We don’t do that and it’s not our fault. That’s the entire way we have been brought up and trained and educated. To not to look at anything closely, attentively, sincerely. Just go with the flow, just drift, just drift.

But this is then the result of drifting: confusion, conflict, indecision, irresolution. And that’s painful, is it not? Go back to the fundamentals. Don’t ask me why I am distracted in a particular case? Look at the entire quality of your mind. That is the ground from where all your decisions and all your confusions arise. Look at the entire quality of mind.

See, whether you actually know before deciding and you will have a very strange experience then. When you start knowing, you will see that the need to decide starts reducing.

Knowing itself decides for you.

Then you don’t need to come to a decision per say. When you are very-very thirsty, do you need to decide that you should drink water? Or has the decision already been made?

Thirst itself makes the decision. Is that not so? Is that not so?

But we need to decide. We need to decide because we are confused. Because you don’t really know.

To not to know about the constitution of Mexico is all right, pardonable. To not to know what is the depth of the Pacific Ocean too is possible.

But to not to know your own mind and your own life cannot be forgiven. There is no pardon for that. To not to know why you must work? To not to know what is money? To not to know what is love and what is marriage? To not to know these things and yet move ahead. That is something for which there can be no pardon.

And I am talking of these things because this is what fills up a young man’s mind: life, career, love, marriage, family.

How can you keep moving blindly, without seeing, without knowing? How is it possible? Don’t you feel suffocated?

So, ask yourself why I am attracted towards MBA? Why? Why?

And the more clarity you have with this question, the less will be the scope for indecision and subsequent distraction.

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