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What is a worthy goal? || (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
72 reads

Questioner: Acharya Ji, it is a question about selfless goals. I have not understood ‘goals’ yet. The freedom fighters, social workers, humanitarians are all working tirelessly to achieve something. What’s my responsibility towards country, people, and religion? For example, our culture and tradition need to be preserved. Is it not good to have a goal beyond one’s selfish desires?

Acharya Prashant: The only genuine goal is the one that fulfills your life. Obviously, when you are talking about having goals, you are talking about having goals as a person. You are born; you are living; you take yourself to be a person. And you are talking about the goals of that person. Essentially, you are asking – What is worth doing? Essentially, you are asking — What is worth taking as a goal?

The goal of work has to be aligned, obviously, with the goal of life. You cannot say that in the end, you want to reach north, but right now you are traveling south. If the goal of life - just an example, please get the drift - If the goal of life is to reach the north, then the goal of every month, every day, every hour has to travel to the north direction.

So, the goal of work, the goal of all small periods of time has to be aligned with the overall goal and purpose of life. Do you get this much?

What you are doing this month must be in the direction of what you need to do all your life. If you want to come to Rishikesh from Delhi, you cannot justify how you are moving towards Jaipur; it’s almost the opposite direction. So, the goal of life has to be first of all known. If you know the goal of life, then you can talk about long-term, medium-term, short-term goals also. If you know that you have to reach Rishikesh from Delhi, then you can talk of reaching Meerut or Muzaffarnagar or Roorkee; short-term, medium-term, long-term.

First of all, you must know what the ultimate goal is.

First of all, you must know that you are coming to the Ganga from Delhi. Life is nothing but this – A movement to the Ganga from Gurgaon. You are born in bondage. We are trying to see what the ultimate goal of life must be.

So, we are trying to see into the condition of the living creature. If I want to ask “What must be the goal of life?’, I must begin with seeing the condition of the living being. If I can see what is the condition of the living being, then I will be in a position to talk about the goal of life. And what is the condition of the living being? He is born in bondage and he continues in bondage. Are we one till this point, all of us?

So, the living being is born in bondage, then continues in bondage. And through, what he calls as his life journey, he only picks up more and more bondage. That’s the condition of the jīva , the living being. So, what must be the goal of life then?

The goal of life is liberation. There is no other reason why you are born. You are born so that you disappear totally. You are born so that you are freed from recurrent births.

You are born into suffering, and you want to totally lapse out of the suffering. That is the goal of life, nothing else.

Are we one till this point? The goal of life is to not end as that which began the journey. You started your life journey with wails and tears. The goal of life is that when you go, you should go with a smile. Devesh here loves to sing:

कबीरा जब हम पैदा हुए, जग हँसे, हम रोये । Kabira jub hum paida hue, jag hanse, hum roye.

You started your life journey with wails. And when you wailed, the world laughed – “Haha, Devesh is born”. I don’t know what he did when he was born. Must have been something different!

(Pauses to hear the reply).

For the benefit of everybody’s knowledge, Devesh just declared that he got slammed on the butts just after he was born.

So, that’s how the journey begins with slaps on the butts. Now, you know how the journey should end? You got slapped on your ass when you were born.

Save your ass—That’s spirituality in the common language. When you die, you must have known that the purpose of life is fulfilled. You are no more carrying the same tendencies, the same sufferings, the same attachments, the same illusions that you were born with.

ऐसी करनी कर चलो, हम हँसे, जग रोये ॥ Aisi karni kar chalo, hum hanse, jag roye.

Now, forge the part about the world crying; it has many aspects to it. I have spoken on it elsewhere. But focus on the part that says ' hum hanse ' (we laughed). The first line said 'hum roye' * (We cried); the second line says ' * hum hanse '(We laughed). That’s the goal. That’s the goal.

With every passing breath, with every passing day, with every passing year, you should be getting actually better and better. And by betterment, I do not mean accumulation of wealth or knowledge or stuff. You should really be getting better as you advance in years. You should be getting better, deeply richer, and more beautiful. So that when you die, it’s not called death, it is called ascension. So that when you die, it is not called mṛtyú , but Bráhmáleenta . We use that word very casually, don’t we? Anybody dies, and we say “Now he is Bráhmáleen * ”. No, he is not * Bráhmáleen ; just his body has decayed. He is still roaming around; he is not Bráhmáleen at all.

Now, you decide if that is the purpose of life. And we are saying that all small purposes must be aligned with the ultimate purpose. Then you decide what your goals must be. Then you decide what your work must be. A work is worth doing if it liberates you. If it doesn’t liberate you, it is going against the overall purpose of life; and you will have only more suffering as a punishment. This is how you should choose your goals, your work. You work, both professionally, personally, in whatever sense. Whatever you are doing moment after moment, that is work.

That’s how you should look at your work – Is it liberating you? Is it challenging you? Is it breaking you down? If not, then that work is not worth doing. Work that doesn’t challenge you, change you, and destroy you is not work at all. It is merely an accumulation of more sheaths, more sheaths around your already illusioned core.

What do you mean by selfless work? Work that dissolves the self; that is the meaning of selfless work. Otherwise, there is nothing called selfless work. You have talked of people working for the cause of tradition, country… What else is mentioned? You said “There are freedom fighters, social workers, humanitarians… And our culture and tradition need to be preserved.”

All that is alright. If working for the preservation of culture and tradition helps you destroy your personal Ego, go ahead. But it is not necessary at all. There are many in the business of preserving culture, tradition and doing humanitarian and social work, who are using their work as tonics to the Ego. I am neither in favor of doing charitable work nor against it. Because it is not about the stuff that you are doing, it is about the effect that the stuff is having upon you.

You have talked of the freedom fighters. The greatest of freedom fighters, the real freedom fighters had an all-encompassing vision. Their vision definitely included the freedom of the political country, but went far beyond that. They wanted freedom for Man himself. It was not merely freedom for a political unit. Of course, freedom for the political unit is important. But one doesn’t stop at that. Man must be liberated.

Man must be liberated. And for man to be liberated, all that which challenges and subjugates man must be fought.

And therefore, they fought. They were fighting let’s say the British because the British were subjugating the essential freedom of Man. Because without the British, it would be easier for the Man to be expressed. And that is why the British Raj had to be fought.

If the British Raj is to be substituted with something that is equally oppressive, then rest assured, the freedom fighters would have fought even the successors of the British Raj. They really had nothing in particular against the British or the Europeans or the white skin. They were opposed to the oppression of Man. Go and ask a Bhagat Singh – What he doesn’t like? He will not say “I do not like chained individuals”. Go and ask a Tagore – What he wants? He will say “Where the mind is without fear”. It’s such a beautiful poem. A mind without fear – that’s what the greatest freedom fighters fought for.

Now, if you in your charitable efforts, you— in your quest for the preservation of tradition, culture, and all-else— are able to fight against the limitations of mind, against concepts, beliefs, superstitions, boundaries, then go ahead. But I must warn you.

It is very-very possible to use any so-called “noble cause” to buttress the Ego. Most people who are involved in the higher-order causes are more egoistic than even the common man.

Choose your work with care. I hope I have been able to give you some insight into what selfless work means. Selfless work means work that leads to the dissolution of the self. Because dissolution of the self is the only genuine purpose of life. If the self can be dissolved, in your particular case by running a tea stall, go and run a tea stall. If the self can be dissolved by selling vegetables, go and sell vegetables.

Figure out, in your case, what really challenges you. Figure out what is it that you need to do to fight and overcome the subjugating falseness. Figure out. And that’s how one should pick up a profession, work, and goals. It cannot be the same for everyone. Work will differ but whatever work you choose, must lead to liberation. Yes?

Ask yourself, the work that you are doing daily, is it liberating you? Or is it helpful in maintaining your diseased self? Ask. If your work liberates you, you are blessed. Very few are those who have work that liberates. And if your work just pays you and doesn’t liberate you, then treat money as poison.

And if you can have work that pays you and liberates you… (Acharya Prashant smiles), then be cautious you won’t be paid for long. You won’t want to be paid for long or paid too much.

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