Question: What is positive thinking?
Acharya Prashant: I write something on this blackboard in a language that no one understands; and the positive thinker gets up and says, “Surely something wonderful about me has been written on the board.” The negative thinker gets up and says, “Surely, it is written that tomorrow I am going to die.”
Is it possible to determine which of these two is the bigger idiot?
It is very difficult to say!
The positive thinker is not concerned with the truth, nor is the negative thinker. Both are just speaking out what is already there in their minds, and this will keep both of them deluded.
What we commonly call as ‘positive thinking’ has no value. It is just a projection of our own thoughts upon the situation, and that does not help. It may create a make-belief, a dream-like world, but dreams do not help; reality helps!
Clear understanding of what is there – that helps!
If I do not know what is written on the board, should I think ‘positively’? Or should I just try to know, without thinking at all?
What is the point of thinking about it when I do not know it?
I must make all efforts to really understand, and that cannot happen if I keep sitting and thinking about it, because my thought is limited by my past; I cannot go beyond that. I will only think as much as I already know. Do you understand this?
Can you think beyond your knowledge? Can you think of things that are totally unknown to you? You cannot! If I ask you to think about the Spanish language, can you think?
Your thinking is limited by your knowledge – by your past, your experiences, by that which you have already gathered. Even what you call as positive is again determined by where you stand. The same happening will be very, very positive for one person and very negative for another person; won’t it be?
So, let us say that we are going to have an India-South Korea hockey match. On one hand there are Indian supporters, and on the other hand, there are Korean supporters. India scores a goal, is it positive for the Indian supporters?
Listener: Yes, Sir.
AP: Is it positive for the Korean supporters?
L1: No, Sir.
AP: So, what is positive and what is negative? Your own mind is positive and your own mind is negative. It is your own make-belief thing. Do not be trapped in positive or negative thinking. Keep both of them apart and just try to know the reality. That is the real positivity: to know the reality.
The positives of life, the real positives of life have nothing to do with thinking. They have to do with things that do not really involve thought.
L1: What are they?
AP: You are asking this question because you want to know. Right? And I have constantly been talking about knowing the reality. Knowing is one positive, if you want to call it a positive, if you want to give it a good name. Otherwise, I will just say that knowing is real and that will suffice. But for your sake, I am saying that ‘knowing is positive’.
‘Knowing’ is positive; ‘joy’ is positive; ‘freedom’ is positive; ‘love’ is positive.
And all the so called positivity has been captured in all these three-four words.
What is positive about life? ‘Knowing’ is positive. We want to know, we always want to know. Right? That is why we are inquisitive, we are curious, we question, and that is why we feel bad when someone lies to us. Because you wanted to know, but he did not help you know. He lied to you. So, ‘knowing is positive’. Knowing what? Reality!
Not being trapped in positive thinking, but ‘knowing the reality’.
Joy is positive; love is positive; freedom is positive. These are the positives. Anything that leads towards these is a positive. And anything that takes you away from these is a negative.
I could also call it real and unreal. In fact, that is a better way of talking about these. Knowing is real because you want to know the reality. Joy is real because that is what you always want to go to. Does any of you feel good in sorrow, in misery? Anybody here who feels delighted in sorrow? Anybody here who says that I have not had a good beating over the last ten days, so I am missing it?
L1: Nobody, Sir. None feels good in suffering.
Sir, is there a difference between positive thinking and hope?
AP: They are the same!
L1: And Sir, it is said that the entire world is driven by hope. Is that correct?
AP: This world as we know, it is surely driven by hope. Wonderful, that you are able to connect positive thinking with hope. You are very right. This world as we know, it is surely running on hope and that is why such is the condition of the world. That is why there is so much of misery and suffering in this world – because it is resting on hope.
Do you know what hope means? Hope means that I am suffering right now and I hope to get better tomorrow.
Hope is first of all an invalid statement: ‘I am suffering’. The more hopeful you are, clearly the more you have told yourself that you are suffering right now. If I am already enjoying, do I need hope? If I am already full and complete, do I need hope for the future? Hope is needed only because the present is miserable. Hope is needed only when you are convinced that there is something wrong with you. So, I hope to correct it, I hope to improve, I hope to achieve.
Understand where hope comes from. Hope is an escape. If I am suffering right now, it is within my powers to remove the suffering right now. Why should I think that something would happen in the future that will take care of my suffering? If I am sick today, should I take a medicine right now or should I say that something will happen after four years which will cure me? If I am sick today, should I be cured today or four years later?
AP: The sickness is today, so the cure must be today. But hope says, “No. When you will become something then you can feel good about yourself. Today you are miserable and you are bound to remain miserable till that great day comes.”
And you keep hoping that the great day will come. And what is that great day about? When you will have more money; when you will have a wonderful job; when you will have a lot of respect; when you will have a beautiful wife or husband.
Keep hoping and the more you hope, the more miserable you feel right now.
Hope arises from misery and leads to more and more misery.
Further, try to see that hope delays action. Hope helps you postpone what you can do right now. In fact hope helps you escape from the present moment itself.
“My great day will come after ten years.” So, what is important? The day that will come after ten years. This day that I am living in, right now, today, becomes unimportant.
Hope is about the future. Right? Or do you ever hope about the present moment? All hope is about the future. Hope makes future very, very important, thereby reducing the present. But when do we live? How many of you are living in the future? How many of you are living in the past? We all live in the . . .
AP: But hope just takes your attention away from the present and it takes you, carries you, to the future. So the sickness keeps festering, the wound remains untreated. Because you are hoping that it will be treated one day. It can be treated right now.
All hope is of happiness. Fundamentally, all hope is of happiness! Do you see this? Fundamentally, all hope is: “I will be happy.” I am asking you, why can’t you be happy right now? Is happiness such an elusive, impossible thing that great efforts have to be made to attain it? Ultimately, all hope is about attaining happiness, but that happiness may already be available to you. Why hope? Just take it! Why hope?
Today, you all are sitting in front of me. Should I hope to speak to you or should I just speak to you? If something is available right now, should I do it right now or should I keep hoping? When all hope is of happiness, why should it be postponed to the future? Do you want to be happy right now or do you want to reserve it for the future? How many of you want to say, “No, no sir, for the next three years we cannot allow ourselves to be happy, we can be happy only after three years, five years, or twenty five years, or in the next birth.”
But that is what hope does to you. Hope is suffering. You are very right. The world that we see runs on hope and that is why it keeps suffering. Everybody is obsessed about future. Hope! Nobody is looking at the present. Whereas life is in the present. In . . . The . . . Present . . .
But you are all the time hoping about the future. The wife may be sitting right next to you, but what is the husband doing? Planning for the future. What is he planning? “Once I will have enough money, we will go for a vacation and then we will have a loving time.” The wife is sitting right next to him; why not have a loving time right now? But no, he is busy with his laptop, planning for the future, hoping that one day he will have money and then there will be an opportunity for love. Such blind people we are. She is there, right next to you, but you can’t look at her. Both of you are suffering. She is bored, you are bored. She is dull, you are dull. She is feeling miserable, and you too are . . . but you are planning and hoping for the future.
“One great day, I will have one crore rupees in my account, and then I will go to Mars with her.” You need Mars? For love?
We can need anything!
“I will show my face only after I have a job.” Anything can happen with us. We are hopeful people, with a lot of positive thinking. We will not do it right now, we will think positively. If you are studying, what should you do? Just study, or keep thinking positively?
“One day there will be a question paper. One great day there will be a question paper, and I will crack that open!”
The book is lying there and the fellow is positively thinking. The book is there, read. Why are you thinking? Positively or negatively, what is the point? It is there, in the present moment; right now; just read! Be immersed in it. Fall in love with the book, but no, they will think positively and they will have a great poster on the wall saying: Be positive.
The book is lying there and he is looking at the poster and he is motivating himself that be positive, nothing bad can happen. It is the exam tomorrow. It will all be good. And he is listening to motivational speeches and great songs like ‘Veer tum badhe chalo . . .’ (Keep charging ahead, O, brave one . . .)
What are you motivating yourself for? The book is there right now, but you won’t do that, you won’t do that. You will be hopeful.
Perennially, we are hopeful. When you are ten years old, you are hopeful, and your parents are hopeful that after few years you will write the board exams, and you will do well; when you are fifteen, then you are hopeful that you will crack the JEE one day; when you enter your engineering, you are hopeful that you will get a job one day; when you get a job, you are hopeful that you will get a wife one day; when you get a wife, then you are hopeful that you will get a house, and then, a few kids, and then, a promotion, and then, another house, and then, the kids too have to be made engineers, and then, you will keep hoping that they will get their job, and one day, hoping, and hoping, and hoping, in middle of all your hopes, you are gone!
Why hope? Just live! Be fully present. Enjoy! You know our life is like a man who is standing outside the gate of a huge party, hoping to enter it one day. The gates are open; in fact, the gates are welcoming. But he is hoping that one day he will enter: “I am not fully qualified today.”
No qualification is needed, no condition is there. You can enter the party right now, but you will keep hoping for the future.
“When something great will happen, then I will join the party. I am not qualified right now, I am a mere insect, I do not have a job, how can I dance? I could not get into IIT, how dare I enjoy? It is not possible, so let me keep hoping, let me hope a lot.”
What are you hoping? Are you still hoping?
L1: (With a smiling face) No, Sir. We are not!
AP: (Smiles as well) Alright then.