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You do not need courage, you need clarity
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: I work as a software engineer. My pocket is filling but not my heart. I quit my job two years ago and volunteer for an NGO which is a spiritual foundation. But somehow there was no transformation or peace within me even after one year of volunteering. So, I went back to my job and now after one year, I feel like I want to do something meaningful again. But the past failure has left a scar in my life. Now, how do I muster the courage to try something meaningful again in my life?

Acharya Prashant: Courage is not really needed in the usual sense of the word. Usually, when you say that you need courage, you want it against a foreseen, predictable, known danger or challenge. What will you do with courage, if you do not quite know what exactly is the quality and nature of the challenge in front of you?

You might be very courageous. But how will you win, if you do not know the enemy?

Who are you going to fight? With great courage, you will fight all the wrong battles. If you lose, that is bad. If you win, that might be worse.

You probably need clarity. What is it that troubles you? What is it that you do not want to be present in your life? From where does it come? The same decision-maker, the same center of operation that chooses your usual life, if it chooses the means of salvation as well, then the chosen means of salvation will have the same quality as that of your chosen life. And the chosen life obviously is not something that you are content with. Obviously, as you said, you can muster courage and once again proceed towards some adventure, or some spiritual place, some teacher or some book, or some other kind of change in life. But who is the decision-maker? How does he know that he is doing the right thing? Had he known how to choose a spiritual place rightly, then using the same faculty of discretion, he would have already chosen a workplace rightly.

We must wonder, what makes us so confident that we will be able to figure out a path of redemption for ourselves? Isn't it the same kind of confidence with which we buy a TV set, a shirt in a shopping mall, decide on a movie for the weekend, decide on a girlfriend? We decide on all other things that involve any kind of judgment. With the same kind of decision-making process, we leap into this business of spiritual liberation as well. Will we meet success? Yes, we will, but that success will belong to the same category, same dimension, as that of all other successes we have had so far. And all the successes that we have had so far have not sufficed, have they? It's already been drilled into us, what to look for in any particular place. And the places too very well know what people are looking for in them. So there is very peculiar synchronicity. Wise men have said that, “This is what is meant by, you being a creation of the world and the world being a reflection of you.” The two are in utter harmony. It's just that the harmony is not quite a holy one.

Instead of looking for courage, or looking for the next destination to go to, won't it be far better to investigate how the decision-making process has operated so far in life? Is it prudent to venture into the next thing, using the same kind of apparatus, the same kind of driver, the same center, the same actor, and therefore presumably, meet with the same kind of results? Or would it be saner to pause and reflect and see how the conditioned cycle of life has moved? There is a challenge involved in it. It can be quite horrific, to look at oneself as one is and at the same time, there is no greater delight than discovering one's own nature. It’s just that the horror and the delight come together.

Unless one is prepared to dispassionately and truthfully look at his old, stale, and powerful patterns, is there any possibility of gaining freedom from them?

Didn't you feel like asking, "Just as the commercial organization didn't satisfy me, the spiritual organization too failed in satisfying me.” So these two places ought to have something in common. And what's common among them, figure out. The one obvious commonality is you. You chose both of them. You got attracted by both of them. You found hope in both of them. Hope that was belied. What is it within man that makes him seek hope at the wrong place? What is it that we really want and how is it that we get deluded and seek it where it is not?

So courage really isn't required to make the next decision. If you need courage, probably it is to truthfully and honestly look at what is already going on, not what would happen in the future, but that which is already happening. Getting it? And that which is already happening is hardly any different from what has happened in the past. It's an old cycle. So just as you do not need to think about the future, you probably also don't need to think too much about the past. Just watch yourself as you are right now, in your movement here, in your thoughts, in your perception. That will tell you of your relationship with your past and your approach towards the future. Start with that.

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