Questioner: I am frequently confused in situations where I have to prioritize one thing over the other. For example, work versus family, work versus rest, saving money versus spending money, etc. There never seems to be a clear answer. How to keep our priorities right in every situation? Please guide.
Acharya Prashant: How can anybody prioritize anything over the other? To know whether one thing is more important than the other, you have to know whether one thing is more important for you than the other. If I am feeling cold, then the hot beverage becomes important; whereas, if it is all hot and humid and I am sweating, then I will want to sip something cold. What is good or important for me at any moment depends on my need, my requirement.
But what if I am totally out of touch with myself? What if I do not know at all what my inner condition is? Then how will I prioritize? How will I be able to make any decision at all?
That is the situation for most people. We have very little self-awareness. We rarely observe ourselves fearlessly and honestly; we rarely spend time with ourselves and ask ourselves pointed questions. Therefore, we do not know what the inner situation is like, and the inner situation definitely is not good. Inwardly, we all require healing, treatment, completion; a lot of stuff is needed in the inward sense.
So, there is a yelling demand within for something specific but we are totally deaf to that demand. Why? Because the ears are all tuned to the external world. Therefore, they are unable to hear anything of the inside. So, we do not know what we need. Therefore, when it comes to deciding between work and leisure, work and family, saving versus spending, we have no clue what to do. Then how do we decide? We decide either randomly, or we just follow the footsteps of the mob, or we let the vagaries of the situation decide for us.
Decision-making is such a problem with most people, whereas decision-making should not be needed at all. One should not be required to make a choice at all. Clarity makes the entire process of making a choice very redundant. If you know who you are and what you want, if you have that clarity, why will you need to spend time thinking about the choice to make? If you are someone who remains confused in the hour of the choice, then you should know that the confusion is not about that choice in particular; the confusion is arising due to an inner darkness.
You say you do not know how to prioritize between work and your family. But what is it that you want in life? What is your situation like? What is your inner incompleteness all about? What is the direction you must proceed in? If proceeding in that direction requires you to work and work hard, then obviously you will work. Whereas, if your chief inner angst pertains to relationships or love, then it should be clear to you that you have to rather spend time with a few related persons, at least for a certain period.
Then the question of money, “Must I spend or save?” But what do you need money for, first of all? Why must you have even one rupee if you do not need that rupee? And if you have a worthwhile purpose that requires you to have fifty crores, why must you not intensively labor to accumulate those fifty crores? Your inner requirement could be of one rupee or fifty crores—only you can know. And that inner requirement does not pertain to greed or the urge to consume.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya had an industry, a university to raise, and he went around the entire country collecting donations. He too was accumulating money. But he had a higher purpose in mind. What do you need money for? What purpose do you have in life? If you indeed do have a higher purpose in life, then by all means accumulate money. Whereas, if saving has become just a means to fend off your insecurity, you do not even know what you would do with the saved money, then saving is just a burden.
Similarly, when you spend money you get something in lieu of your money, right? You spend money to get something. What are you spending your money towards? What do you want to get? Or are you just spending money because you have money? Something that many people do—have money, blow it away. Money has come to you by the dint of your struggles and sweat, right? What are you doing with that money? Where are you spending it and why? These are the questions to be asked.
So, priorities, choices, and decisions in life—they all become clear when you are in touch with your inner self or inner mind. Then you have a great clarity as to who you are and, therefore, what you need. And then you do not waste your time and resources running after stuff that won’t be useful to you.
What is that next piece of furniture going to give you? Ask yourself. What is that new and next car going to fetch you? Ask yourself. Maybe it would give you something tremendously important; then go ahead and buy that car. But if you find that there is not much that the next piece of furniture or the next vehicle can really bring you, then there is no need to think any further. There is no need to invest yourself in this futile process of choosing.
Have clarity, and clarity begets choicelessness. It is a beautiful state to be in where you can smoothly proceed with life without having to pause, brood, and go through the painful process of choosing one thing versus rejecting the other thing.