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The stupidity of competition || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Listener: Life is a race and it is a competitive fast going generation. If you do not become a part of the race then you will lag behind and will have to face the consequences.

Speaker: What are the consequences?

Listener: Sir, if we do not compete with the rest of the students then we will not get a proper job.

Speaker: Then what will happen?

Listener: In jobs we will not get status.

Speaker: Then what will happen?

Listener: Sir, I will have dissatisfaction.

Speaker: So, ultimately you are saying that you will be dissatisfied. But you are anyway dissatisfied right now. What has competition given you so far? You are dissatisfied right now.

*(Looking at the audience)*Are you satisfied right now?

So the worst that can happen to you if you do not compete is anyway already happening. All your life you have been competing and you are still dissatisfied and you are saying that if we do not compete then this will happen and that will happen and ultimately we will be dissatisfied. You won’t be dissatisfied, you are dissatisfied. And you are dissatisfied after years of competition and competition. Dissatisfaction is what competition has given you. When competition has given you dissatisfaction, how can the same competition take away dissatisfaction?

A dissatisfied mind, a restless mind is the product of competition. How can a competitive mind ever be at peace?

You know what does it mean to compete with others? It means that I am always looking at others. I am always concerned and worried of what everybody else is doing. It doesn’t matter to me where I stand, what am I doing. What matters more is- what is everybody else doing? And when you say I am running a race, remember- a race can be run only when everyone is on the same track or adjacent tracks. Now is your track the same as her track? Is it possible? And the track we are talking of is life. When you say the race of life then the track is life. Can your track be same as her track?(pointing at another listener)

Listener: But this is a competitive era.

Speaker: Who told you that this is an era of competition and there were other eras which were not competitive? Those who had to compete, competed always. Even thousand years back. Five thousand years back people were competing. And those who do not have to compete, do not compete. Not now, not in any other point in history. Who told you that this is a special era where you have to be competitive? And I must talk about this because this is something which is firmly and deeply rooted in our minds. People come to you and say,- competition ka zamana hai- a very competitive age it is. This is not at all a specially competitive age. The mind has always been like this. People have always been competing. People have always been stupid. There is nothing special that is happening in this century. Nothing special. Brothers have been competing for the throne and killing each other. You have heard all these stories, right? People have always been competitive. Competition is a very general disease of the mind. Its not a new disease. It has always existed. Always existed! So anybody who tells you that in this age you have to compete does not know what he is talking. The diseased mind was always competing. Always!

‘My son should be more glorious than your son. My son should get the throne. So send Ram to the jungle’. Was that not competition?

‘My empire needs to be bigger than your empire’. Was this not competition?

The human mind has always been competing and always been suffering. And the ones who didn’t have to compete, didn’t compete. ‘ The temple I build should be bigger than all temples. Even my tomb must be more fantastic than other tombs. I should have more queens than anybody else. There should be more horses with me than with anybody else’.

‘More money!’

Man has always been competing. Right since the ancients. Who told you that this is a new affliction? Even animals compete. They kill each other. Two males will fight for one particular female and they will kill each other. Have you not seen that? Two dogs are fighting and competing for one bitch. What else is that? Both are writing an entrance exam. It is actually an entrance exam. Even small creatures, rabbits. They compete absolutely fiercely. In their territory they spread urine and other stuff so that no one comes inside. ‘My territory! My Female! Don’t touch her. She is my girl!’ And you are saying that this is a competitive age.

Competition is a very raw thing. It hasn’t ripened today. And anybody and everybody who does not have self-awareness is bound to be competitive. To be competitive means that ‘the world is very very significant for me. The world is more significant for me than my own self. The world matters more than I do’. To be competitive is that ‘to beat him is more important than what I am doing’.

Ask yourself: in really important matters do you still compete? You are in love. You are hugging your girlfriend. Do you say that *‘the neighbor hugs his girlfriend for two minutes, I will hug you for three minutes. I am competing. I must be number on*e’. Do you do that? ‘ He went on his first date at the age of 19, now I am 18 and a half so I must hurry up. Let me find some girl’. ‘Hello, you there? Are you ready? I have to break a record’.


But then that’s what a competitive mind is. It does not worry about its own life, its more concerned about what others are doing. ‘*Everybody is running in that race, everybody is on that track. I must also be on the same track. Without knowing what that track is. Just because everyone is doing it then let me also do it*’.

You know the stupidity of the competitive mind? There was this fellow. He said, *‘*I will make a fool of everybody . So he goes to the market place and he says that a particular Marathon has been organized and whosoever runs the fastest for ten kilometers and reaches that point there, he will get a special reward. So, everyone starts running. He makes a fool of hundreds of people. And they are going towards that point. So, first he laughs and then he also starts running. And why does he start running? He says that ‘when everyone is running, I must also run. After all, its a competition going on’. That’s how stupid you can be in competition: When everybody is doing this, even though I know that they are being made a fool of – I myself may have made a fool of them- but when everybody is doing it, let me also do it. And let me run faster than them. Because how can I afford to be left behind? If everyone is writing the CAT, let me also write it. If everyone has a girlfriend, let me also have a girlfriend.

I was wondering. So many of you are connected to me on Facebook. So, when I need a little bit of entertainment I start surfing your profiles. And what I see is, that so many of the males would write in their status ‘committed’ and none of the girls do that. So, then I asked myself one day- If the girls are not in a relationship and all the boys are in a relationship, with whom are the boys in a relationship? With each other?

(general laughter)

But it is so necessary. Your best friend is shouting to the whole world, ‘I am in a relationship’. And that means ‘I have a girl now’, so I too must have that as my status. At least some people will be fooled that I have not been left behind. That I am also in the race. And 2-3 months later that stupid thing- ‘14th Feb’- will come. It was Saint Valentine’s Day but today it has been reduced to… So, there was a Samvaad on 14th Feb. That day the attendance was very thin. I asked them, ‘where are the others?’. They said, ‘You see that it is Valentine’s day. How can people come?’ I said, ‘Are you the only unfortunate ones? You do not have a partner?’ They said, ‘Sir, even the others do not have a partner’. I asked, ‘Then why have they not come?’. They said, ‘Sir, if they come, everyone would know that they do not have a partner’. So just to proclaim to the whole world that we have somebody and today we are celebrating with her, they won’t come here. It’s a race you see. ‘I am 22, I must have somebody’ .

Too bad! Absolutely ridiculous!

The developed world was suffering from a deluge of teenage pregnancies. It was a big issue in United States and other countries. Now they are somehow able to control it. And one of the reasons was that girls used to feel very embarrassed: ‘*My God! I am 17 and still a virgin. My younger sister is just 15 and she has had it. And I am 17, I am losing out in the race. Life is a race and you must compete*’.

Man can go absolutely foolish when competing. In fact, only foolish people compete. Its not just about teenagers or 25 year-olds. Look at people who are 45 and 85. Look at the way they live: ‘My house must be higher than your house’.

‘What? You gave just one crore in dowry? Ah, beggar! I will give 1.5 crores’. And all the happiness evaporates when the third person gives 2 crores. This 1.5 crores has gone absolutely down the drain. ‘He gave 2 crores in dowry. I have fallen in my own eyes. Somebody pick me up’.

And nations. United States and U.S.S.R together had a stock which could destroy the earth 100 times. Competing with each other. ‘You have 8000 nuclear weapons, I will have 8500′. *‘* 8500! what do you think? We can’t produce a thousand more? Next year you see, we will have 9000′. And together the amount was sufficient to destroy the earth 100 times. Now, how can you destroy the earth 100 times? One time is sufficient. But such is the madness of competition.

‘I have a long car. But I want to sell that car now. Because my neighbour’s car is longer. Every day I look at this car I feel deep suffering here. Such a small car. It now appears smaller than an auto-rickshaw. Neighbour’s car is longer’.

You have no understanding of who you are. You have no realization of what you want to do. Why must you look at others? Why must you run down the same track? Why can’t you have something individual?

And whosoever is an individual walks down his own path. So, there can be no competition. You are the only one walking down that path. How can you compete? It is my own individual path. There is nobody else here. How can there be any competition? You can compete only in a crowd. Why to be a part of the crowd? And whenever you are competing and part of the crowd, remember, your way will be cluttered. And whenever you walk a road of your own, you meet no traffic. Because you are the only one on that road. Isn’t that beautiful? ‘I am the only one walking this path’.

No competition! No traffic! No obstructions! Just Joy! And aloneness!

If you must study, study because studying is beautiful. If you want to study because you want to get more marks than your friend then you don’t know what study is and you do not know what friendship is.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

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