The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Questioner (Q): I have been a part of college campuses for a long time, ten years in fact. For five years I was an undergraduate at IIT Bombay, and eventually, I completed my Ph.D. at the University of California. One common theme that I have noticed among students in both of these colleges is that there is a lot of psychological fear — fear of failing, fear of not doing well enough, fear of not getting a job, etc. The conventional view is that psychological fear would decrease when material security increases, but in practice, this rarely happens. Can you shed some light on the relationship between material security on one hand, and psychological fear on the other hand?
Acharya Prashant (AP): It does not quite matter if we just look at it in a common-sensical way. Whether the stuff held by you is of the lowest kind, an intermediate kind, or of the highest kind and quality, stuff is stuff. And all stuff comes from somewhere, comes to somebody, and is always vulnerable to loss. Therefore, it is not surprising at all that even if the stuff that one has is of the highest sophistication and quality, it would still remain vulnerable to disappearance, theft, redundancy, and obsolescence. And when there is this kind of vulnerability, where is security? Therefore, be it an ordinary person holding his common goods close to his chest, or a highly learned or a qualified scholar from a premier institution, stuff is stuff. What you have is not entirely yours and you cannot quite fully depend on it; therefore there is fear.
When you said that you come from highly esteemed institutions like IIT Bombay and the other US university you did your Ph.D. from, and you still perceived fear in the air, your hypothesis probably was that if one is coming from high centers of learning, then fear is not to be expected in the minds of the people, students, scholars, and academicians. That hypothesis needs to be investigated.
You might have the highest quality of knowledge, but knowledge is knowledge. In a very fundamental sense, the knowledge that a person holds is not very different from this hand towel that I hold: it can be dropped anytime, it can betray you anytime, and it is not something that has timelessness. And where there is no…