Questioner (Q): Sir, I want to ask regarding loneliness. Today we have all the technology available to connect to each other, we can instantly connect to people even a thousand miles away using zoom, etc. Still, we have become so lonely. Why?
Acharya Prashant (AP): See, it’s not that we become lonely. It’s not as if loneliness has much to do with the ability to zoom, or to video conference. We are born lonely. It’s just that in some specific moments, the loneliness becomes very obvious. And only when it becomes obvious, we start saying, “Oh, I am lonely. Oh, I am lonely.” But every single child is born lonely. It’s not that you are born in a great mental state. The mind, as it is born, already carries a lot of deformities, and problems, and seed potential for many further deformities and problems.
Try leaving even a newborn alone, and you will see that it does not like it. Have you been with a baby, a small one? Have you seen how even they want people to be around? Even they want somebody should be touching them or at least a human face should be visible. And when such a thing does not happen, they start weeping. And when they start weeping, the mother rushes, and sometimes just by looking at the mother’s face, they feel relaxed. Because there was not much wrong. The fellow wept only because it wanted company.
Same thing happens to us throughout our life when we are 3 years old, when we are 13 years old, when we are 30 years old. Because the Ego, this “I” tendency that we are born with, is by definition lonely. It needs something or somebody to get attached to. It needs a finger to hold. It needs a name to associate itself with. Have you ever heard somebody saying just “I”? Rare, very rare. Nobody ever says “I”. We say, “I am this person. I am male. I am Hindu. I am rich. I am a scholar. I am a student. I like songs. I like to travel.”
So, something is always getting associated with the “I”. Have you noticed, this “I” doesn’t want to be by itself? It always wants to be with something. Be it travel. What is the “I” right now? Oh the “I” is traveling so you say “I am traveling. I am married. I am happy.” Even here, the “I” feels the need to associate itself with happiness.
Q: Sir again, this is the question. Why do we need the association?
AP: This question cannot be answered because that is the way you are born. The question has no answer but the question has a solution. If the question wants an answer, the answer is — that’s the way you are. That’s the way everybody is born. But if the problem is that you do not want to be lonely, then there is a solution. The answer has been given. The solution is more important and that’s what you must understand.
The solution is to see that unless you understand this “I” tendency and its ways, you will continue to be lonely all your life. And because of this loneliness, we get into a lot of nonsensical things. There is a gap, there is a void, and you want to fill it up with something. Somebody starts accumulating money. Somebody gets into one relationship after the other. Somebody keeps craving for parties. Somebody can’t sit still at home, so he’s always found mall hopping.
And we do all these things only because we are not comfortable with ourselves. Why are we not comfortable with ourselves? I am repeating — because we are born like that. Blame your genes. Blame the collective genes of mankind. That’s the way we are born. That’s the way everybody is born. If you are not like that, then you will not be born at all. If you are not lonely, you will not be born. To be born is to be lonely. So nothing beyond that.
But what is the solution? The solution is to understand this urge of the Ego. To be with someone. You want to be with someone. Now, this is where you have some control. You want to be with someone or something.
Now, there are two kinds of things or entities you can be with. The first thing is, let’s say you are this person A. And this person can be with X kind of entities or Y kind of entities. An entity is somebody or something. It can be a person, it can be a non-person. Now A can be with X or with Y. Now, the nature of X is that if A is with X, then X will increase the desperation of A to be with X. That’s what X wants.
X says, “If I am with A, then I will increase A's dependence on me because that’s what makes me feel important. I want to keep A running after me. The more A tells me that without you I feel lonely and lonely, the more X feels important.” Does X sound familiar? Most people in the world belong to the X category. Most places belong to the X category. Most activities belong to the X category. The more you are with them, the more you become dependent on their company. The moment they are not with you, you start feeling more lonely than before.
And then there is the option to be with Y entities. What is the characteristic of Y? The more you are with them, the more they reduce your dependence on them.
The more you are with them, the lesser is your tendency to feel lonely. The more you are with them, the lesser is your need to be even with them. They make you self-sufficient and independent.
This is what you must focus on. They should be the question. “What kind of people, and places, and things, and books must I choose in life?”
Do not be with someone who makes you dependent even in the name of care or love.
Do not watch a film series or a web series or a TV serial that kind of makes you addicted. “I” wants to get attached. And if the object that the “I” is choosing to get attached is such that it promotes attachment, then it is a double whammy. Then it is a loss multiplied by a loss.
You are already sticky. You already carry that stickiness within. You want to just go and stick to something or somebody. Now if you find an object which is equally sticky or rather which promotes stickiness, then what happens? There’s total dependence. So avoid that.
Q: What are the parameters to choose Y? How to know that this is Y?
AP: Your own experience is the best judge. Be vigilant. Ask yourself, “How do I feel in the company of this person? What is this person doing to me? Is this person making me self-sufficient or is this person making me more dependent?”
But this is missed. Because dependence and attachment and many unhealthy things, come in the name of love and care. Now there is nothing more valuable than love and care. Equally, there is nothing more dangerous than these words, love, and care, because they are often greatly abused.
A fellow might be doing the worst possible thing to you in the name of love or concern or friendship. And he will keep saying “But you know, this is my care towards you.” This is not care. You must apply intelligence. Is this love, is this care? When you love someone, you want them to be stronger. Or do you want them dependent and weak?
How far, and how well you have lived so far is decided by one parameter. How capable you are of healthy aloneness, how comfortable you feel without anything or anybody to even think of, that does not mean you have to become a loner. That does not mean that you have to become asocial. That merely means that you do not relate to others in a parasitic way. You relate to others in a life-giving and healthy way. You do not go and stick to someone or cling to someone, nor do you promote others clinging to you. It feels good for a while, but it’s very dangerous afterwards.
Q: Sir, my question was in the ancient time when we were farmers, as technology improved, this tendency of loneliness increased. So, why so? Because technology made it easy to connect to other people. Back then, there were limited people. They were all in a village.
AP: No, no, no. Loneliness does not decrease when you connect to a thousand other people using technology. Loneliness is a thing within. Irrespective of how many people you are connected to at a party or via zoom, loneliness is not going to decrease. It’s just that when you are in a party, loneliness gets obfuscated. Hidden. It does not decrease.
So it’s not that if technology is great, it would reduce your loneliness. Loneliness reduces through wisdom. Loneliness is reduced when you understand. So if you’re talking of India of a few hundred years back, then you will have people who meet each other, and even if they have to casually greet, they say “Ram Ram”. There was a spiritual bent. And spirituality at its core is just wisdom.
Where there is wisdom, loneliness does not find a place.
People when they wanted to entertain each other - there were no item songs really, or movies to watch, or shops to visit - people will sit in the evenings, let’s say ordinary farmers, and what would they sing? What they would sing would be mostly devotional in nature. Where is devotion today? Where is wisdom today? And where there’s no wisdom, there’s bound to be loneliness. When you do not understand the very nature of the Ego and life, there’s bound to be loneliness. And technology is not going to decrease it.
If you think that you can virtually have 40,000 people around you and that will make you feel less lonely, that’s not true.
Loneliness is a cancer within. By having people around you, your internal cancer does not get treated.
So that problem within has to be healed by a medicine that acts within. And that medicine is attention to life. A life full of understanding, contemplation, good literature, good discussions, good company, and good purpose.
Q: I got it. Thank you very much.