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Only right company can heal your loneliness || IIT Patna (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
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Questioner (Q): My question is about loneliness. There is so much technology available for social interaction these days. We can instantly connect to people from all over the world, have video meetings and such things, and then there are all the social media platforms. But in spite of having all these means of connecting with each other, we are lonelier than ever before. Why is this so?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, it is not that we become lonely. It is not as if loneliness has much to do with the ability to Zoom or to video conference. We are born lonely. It is just that in some specific moments the loneliness becomes very obvious, and only when it becomes obvious we start saying, “Oh, I am lonely.” But every single child is born lonely.

It is 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, with a small one? Even they want people to be around; even they want that 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.

And the same thing happens to us throughout our life, when we are three years old, when we are thirteen years old, when we are thirty 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 a 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’. This ‘I’ doesn’t want to be by itself; it always wants to be with something, be it travel—what is the ‘I’ with right now? 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: 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 is the way you are; that is 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 is 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. So, 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 is 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 returning to that: because we are born like that. Blame your genes. Blame the collective genes of mankind. That is the way we are born. That is 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 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 is what X wants. X says, “If I am with A, then I will increase A’s dependence on me because that is what makes me feel important. I want to keep A running after me.” The more A tells X that “Without you I feel lonely and 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 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, this 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.

The ‘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? (Brings his hands together and keeps them firmly close to each other) There is total dependence. So, avoid that.

Q: What are the parameters on choosing the Y association? How to know that something 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, as we said, 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 do 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 lifegiving 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 is very dangerous afterwards.

Q: Back in the day, when we all were just farmers without any technology, we couldn’t connect to people the way we can today. With all the technological advancements, we have more capabilities of connecting with each other than ever before, but why is loneliness still so…

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 in a party or via Zoom, loneliness is not going to decrease. It is just that when you are in a party, loneliness gets obfuscated, hidden; it does not decrease.

So, it is not that if technology is great it would reduce your loneliness. Loneliness reduces through wisdom. Loneliness is reduced when you understand. So, if you are talking of India a few hundred years back, then you will have people who meet each other, and even if they have to casually greet, they say, “Rama, Rama!” 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 would 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?

Where there is no wisdom, there is bound to be loneliness. When you do not understand the very nature of the ego and life, there is bound to be loneliness. And technology is not going to decrease it. If you think that you can virtually have forty-thousand people around you and that will make you feel less lonely, that is 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.

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