Sadhguru, Isha Foundation
Questioner: Namaskaram, Sadhguru. I see many people who are cynical, bitter, and frustrated with life. They feel life has defeated them, and they resign. How do we avoid becoming like that, especially later on in life? And how do we help others to come out of this way of seeing everything as a problem instead of an opportunity?
Sadhguru: Being cynical, being depressed, and losing interest in what happens around them – these things largely occur because they have failed at something. And it is very easy to fail in the current social pattern. If you look at life in any economically developed country, a normal person cannot succeed– you must be quite insane to do so. This is not exactly the case yet in India, but we are going in that direction. Essentially, economy is a process of sustenance for human beings. But today, it has acquired a heavenly aura. The commercial forces have created a situation where economy is the most important thing in your life.
There was a time when, suppose there was an economic slowdown in a society or a nation, everyone would advise to save, not to spend too much. But today, governments advise to spend – get a loan and do shopping. You cannot spend what you do not have – it is as simple as that. But most modern societies do not understand this. People have six credit cards and think they can use all of them as much as they want before life catches up with them. As students, they already have a quarter million student loan. Then immediately, they must buy a car – they have a car loan. Then they have to get a house – 30-year mortgage. If you mortgage your life for 30 years, I think you lost your sense –you have no sense about life at all.
Mortgaging your life
When human beings were hunters and gatherers, they were completely free. If they made a kill on one day, the next 15 days, they ate from it and just lived – maybe beat a drum that was made out of the skin of the animal and danced around a fire, or used their hands to create something else. But food was insecure then – these wild animals are quick. Many times, they did not get a kill and everyone went hungry. So people developed agriculture. In agriculture, you have to do certain things on a particular day, not two days later. Some compulsions came with that, but it was still okay.
In India, depending upon what food grains you grew – I am not talking about cash crops – you worked hard for 50 to 100 days in a year, and the rest of the time was a series of festivals. Every village had its own festivals to which people from the surrounding villages came. Every wedding was at least five days of celebration. Work for sustenance was only 50 to 100 days in a year. Today, once you have a 30-year mortgage, it is almost 365 days. Whether you like it or not, you have to go, and not everyone is geared up for this – they will lose their mind after sometime.
Now, they also have to pay health insurance and grave insurance. When they are alive and healthy, people are paying in installments for their funeral. Unless you are going to leave in a beautiful way that will be very useful for everyone around you –why are you bothered about how your funeral will be handled when you fall dead? I understand and appreciate if you do not want to be a nuisance to someone else, but what does it matter how they will bury or burn you or feed you to the dogs? This kind of concern is going to take away your aliveness.
Another aspect is that you constantly have to do things like a machine, not out of passion. The whole society expects you to be a machine. You are not waking up in the morning because you want to make a difference in something today or because what you do is meaningful or because you want to do it –it is all about making a living. Making a living takes very little. It only becomes a problem when you want to live like someone else. If you just want to live, it is very simple – every human being is capable of this.
Making a living only becomes complicated when you want to live like someone else, when you want to have the things that your neighbor has. Today, the whole economic model on the planet is just about that, and this keeps increasing the suicide rates, the numbers of cynical, frustrated people, and the numbers of broken minds. That is because there is no ease in life –you always have to do something. If you do not go to school, if you do not go to work, something bad will happen. And you cannot suddenly change the course of your life and do something else. Everyone is trying to compel you to do the same things all through your life. Affluence is not going to bring freedom to people –it is going to tie them up in knots.
The game of comparison
Once, I was driving in an upscale area of Washington DC where many significant companies have their offices. There were around 150 to 200 men and women on the sidewalk, all well-dressed and obviously well-employed. It was lunch time, but they were not sitting in some nice place but buying hot dogs or whatever on the street. When I stopped at a traffic light, I saw no one was even talking to each other. All of them were holding something wrapped in paper and biting into it like hungry dogs. Human beings are supposed to eat with a little more aesthetics.
These are all well-to-do, largely young people who are working in some sought-after job. But this is how they eat, standing on the street side. Probably every day, their lunch is like this. If this is how you treat yourself, if this is how you treat the food that you eat and the water that you drink, if this is how you treat the air that you breathe and all life around you, how can you be well? You cannot be well.
The only thing is you drive a more expensive car than your neighbor – that is the only wellness you know. You cannot know the joy of just being alive. When you do not know the joy of being alive, the thrill of driving a better car than your neighbor will slowly wear out, and you will become frustrated. As you grow old, you will grumble at everything. You will become irritable and stupid – you will not become wise. Look at the grandfathers today – they are definitely not wise. Most of them are not an image of wisdom but of irritability, cynicism, frustration, and depression. Or they completely lost their memory and their mind because it has always been all about economy.
There was a time when as life came to an end, they always had something that someone could inherit. Not anymore. Modern life means their savings come to an end when they still have some life left in them. All their life, their whole mindset has been about how many dollars or rupees they have and what they are earning. When that is gone, naturally, they become cynical, frustrated, and depressed.
Stop feeling frustrated with life
Whether the world is going to rejig its life or not – it is time you rejig your life. The most valuable thing in your life is life itself – everything else is just accessories. Where I live, what I drive, what I wear, what I eat – these are all accessories. I am alive right now – this is the biggest joy. Whether you live like this or that is not the point – do you know the joy of being alive? If you do not know this, what is the point? What is the point of living in a palace and being miserable?
Once, many years ago, I went to the US Embassy in Chennai, and when I came out of the building, there was a young boy from Andhra Pradesh sitting on the street and bitterly crying, like something serious was lost and this was the end of life. I went up to him and asked, “What happened to you?” It turned out he had applied for a visa to the United States and it got rejected. This was the end for him. He is imprisoned in this large country called India. He cannot go to the United States. Anyway, half of those who were born and who live there are unable to bear it, but this young boy is broken-hearted because he cannot go there.
No matter what level of economic comfort you achieve, if you do not know the joy of your existence, everything else will mock you and make you more and more miserable. When you are poor, at least you have the hope that one day when you make it, everything is going to be okay. Once affluence spreads across society, you realize this is not it, and a deep sense of frustration arises.
Everything becomes fake – if you smile, it is a fake smile; if you laugh, it is a fake laugh; if you say you are “wonderful,” you do not really mean it. The whole society becomes a charm school where everyone learns to say the right things, but there is nothing right about it. This is not only about one country – this will happen to everyone. Even in this country, the affluent segments of society become like that.
If you think there is something more important in this life than you being alive right now, you are bound to end up bitter and frustrated with life. How quickly you get there is only a question of time and life situations. You must let it sink deep into you, that the biggest joy in your life is that you are alive right now. If you know this every moment of your life, if you check and see, “I’m still alive – great!” – what more do you want? There may be a little concern whether you will get dinner or not, but still – I would rather be hungry and alive than stuffed and dead. What is your choice?
Ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and a New York Times bestselling author Sadhguru has been conferred the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India in 2017, the highest annual civilian award, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service.