by Swami Krishnananda
We want to become larger and larger wholes, to become rulers of a country, emperors of an empire, owners of the whole world or, if possible, of the whole of creation itself. Now, when we are striving for larger and larger completions of perfection, we are not actually moving from a part to the whole in a literal sense, but only in an indicative sense. Even the part which belongs to the whole is, also, a whole by itself. That is the reason why there is so much selfishness in individuals. If everyone recognised that he or she is only a part, selfishness would not work. But, there is somehow or other a wholeness felt even in the apparent whole that belongs to a larger whole. This is an impediment within us that we call egoism, selfishness. It is only the self-complacency felt by a part belonging to a whole, as if it is a whole in itself.
Why should this happen? Why is it that even a part begins to feel that it is a whole in itself? How is it that we are so vehement in our affirmation that we are completions, and we tend to become utterly selfish? The reason is that the great Whole is reverberating in every part, and it is indivisible in its nature. The indivisible character of the original Whole makes itself felt as a sort of indivisibility in the little wholes, and so each one of us feels that he is an indivisible completeness. There is a satisfaction in feeling that one is complete, and this sense of completeness arises on account of a reflection of the original Whole.
But, together with this satisfaction arising out of a blatant selfishness or egoism, there is, at the same time, a restlessness attending upon every form of selfishness or egoism. There is an audacious satisfaction in a selfish man, an arrogance which speaks in the language of satisfaction; but, at the same time, it is utterly miserable because it is an assumed, artificial wholenessa reflected wholeness, and not a final wholeness. God is the finality of wholeness, and that is why God can assert an I which does not have to undergo further transcendence to another I.
Each person in the world is struggling to maintain himself due to the love for this wholeness, which this little I is. The love that we feelany kind of love in this world, whatever it beis a love for the wholeness of experience. There are utterly selfish peoplerare, of course, are such oneswho wish not to look at anybodys face. The tiger, the lion, the beast in the jungle is generally regarded as an example of utter selfishness, where it struggles only to maintain its own body, at the cost of everybody else. Yet, there is a tendency even in the beast to outgrow its little wholeness when it lives in a brood, in a community of its own species, and shows affection to its own child. Utter selfishness is a theory; practically, it does not seem to work anywhere. Even in the beast it cannot be seen wholly, yet it is strong enough. The tyrants and dictators of the world manifest in themselves a little of the beast, which on the one side is utter weakness and on the other side is arrogance. The great impediment in the practice of yoga is the affirmation of the ego, which shows its head in various waysthoughts, feelings, words that we utter, and our deeds.
The pratyaharaor the abstraction, the withdrawal, the renunciation, the sannyasa that yoga speaks ofis a difficult thing to conceive unless we are careful in the understanding of this mysterious process. There is a detachment and an attachment going on simultaneously in the practice of yoga. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to quote a passage from Saint Kabir, who always replied: I am attaching and detaching when asked what he was doing. Kabir was a weaver who moved the shuttle back and forth, detaching it from one part and attaching it to another.
Detaching oneself from the world and attaching oneself to Godthis is very easily said but cannot be very easily understood. We are not detaching ourselves from the world and attaching ourselves to God, if by that we mean that we are severing our relationship from one existent thing and associating ourselves with another existent thing. We are not moving away from A to B when we move from the world to God. Here is the vital aspect or part of yoga which is not quantitatively measurable, but qualitatively intelligible.
The abstraction, the pratyahara, the isolation, the aloneness that is required in the practice of yoga is an inward transmutation of a conscious outlook. It is not at all a severance from existent objects. The moment the soul begins to feel an aspiration for its larger dimension, which is God, renunciation is effected automatically. The renunciation spoken of so much in religions and in yoga circles is the abandonment of the self-assertive character of the false whole, called the ego, and acquiescing in its true belonging to a larger whole, which is its higher Self.
Therefore when we move from the world to God, when we renounce the world and aspire for God, we are moving from the lower self to the higher Self, not walking horizontally from west to east or vertically from north to south. God is a higher Self within our own self, so that we are searching for our own self when we are seeking God. So, what is sannyasa? What is renunciation? It is a renunciation of the lower completeness, falsely assumed by the ego, in the interest of a higher completeness, which is the larger Self.
There are two selves, the higher and the lower, which are spoken of in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Bandhur atmatmanas tasya yenatmaivatmana jitah: Friend is the self of him who has conquered the lower self for the sake of the higher Self. Enemy is that self for whom one has subjected himself to the lower self and ignored the law of the higher Self. We are our own friends, and we are our own enemies. In renunciation, in sannyasa, we renounce our own self, and not anybody else or anything else. When we aspire for God, we are aspiring for our own Self, and not for somebody outside us. Thus, both renunciation and aspiration, vairagya and abhyasa, are concerned with our own Self where we renounce our self in one way and aspire for our Self in another way.
It is finally a Self-discovery that is the art of yoga. It is a renunciation of the self for the sake of the realisation of the Self. Very enigmatic is this mystery, of course. We are saying that we have to renounce the self for the sake of union with the Self. How is this possible? How could we renounce a thing and also attain the same thing, at the same time? The connotation changes, though the words that we use are the same.
Tyajet ekam kulasyarthe, gramasyarthe kulam tyajet, gramam janapadasyarthe, atmarthe prithvim tyajet, says the Mahabharata. For the sake of the familys welfare, one intractable individual may have to be renounced. For the welfare of a larger community, an intractable, unyielding family may have to be renounced. For the welfare of the whole of humanitythe welfare of the world, a whole country may be renounced. For the sake of the Self, the whole universe may have to be renounced: atmarthe prithvim tyajet.
Here is the crux of the whole matter. What is it that we are going to renounce? Are we going to get angry with the world? Is it a type of hatred that we are going to develop? Are we going to hate the world when we love God? Love and hatred are two aspects of the same attitude, so we cannot have hatred without love, or love without hatred.
The aspiration for God, the union with the great ideal of yoga, is love, no doubt, but it is not love which is the other side of hatred. We cannot love a thing unless we hate something else, because love is a concentration of consciousness by the exclusion of factors which are not connected with this concentration; so, that exclusion is hatred. But in the movement of consciousness towards the destination of yoga, there is no exclusion; there is only inclusion. Nevertheless, in all practices of yoga and forms of religion there is an insistence on excluding something.
Life in a cloister, in a monastery, a life of asceticism, sannyasa, or a life of a monk, a religious man, a spiritual recluse, implies a sort of dissociation or exclusion for the sake of a holy pursuit. Every holy man is a renounced person. But, what has he renounced? It is very easy to give a blunt answer to this question and entertain a glib notion of what renunciation is. We have, generally, a very simple and commonplace definition of dissociation, exclusion and austerity. They are things which are well known to everybody.
But the salvation of the spirit does not seem to consist of the dissociation of itself from factors with which it is, somehow or other, associated at the back. The spirit is associated with all things in one waythough, in another way, it is not so associated. The spirit is pure I, complete Self, and not an object. The factor which somehow introduces itself into the selfhood of consciousness as an object thereof is the thing that is to be renounced.
We renounce objects. We are told again and again that objects of sense have to be renounced for the sake of the pursuit of the spiritual ideal. We have to understand, first of all, what an object is, in order that we may renounce it. An object is not necessarily that which we touch with our hands or see with our eyes, but this is the general notion that we have about objects. House and property, father, mother, brothers, sisters and relations are all objects which have to be renounced in the interest of the spiritual goal. But the spirit, or the soulthe consciousness within usis bound by something which is very peculiar. It is bound by a conviction that there is something outside it. As long as this conviction continues, it cannot renounce that which it regards as existent outside it. One cannot go against ones own conviction. It is a very difficult, hard thing to do.
Let any renouncer dispassionately analyse his own mind. Is he convinced that there are things outside him, or not? To what extent is this conviction deeply rooted in his consciousness? And, if we are logically convinced and feel fully certain that things do exist outside our consciousness and, somehow, because of a religious admonition we are estranging ourselves from this object, we shall pay for it through the nose one day or the other.
Salvation is not such an easy thing. Moksha is hard to attain because, somehow or other, we get caught in a vicious circle by any amount of effort on our part, due to a subtle, small mistake that we committhough it may be little, like a sand particle sticking to the eye. Whatever be the extent of our religious and spiritual aspiration, we are somehow convinced that there are things outside us. This conviction is our bondage, and not the things themselves. Therefore, bondage is an idea.
We have heard it said that mind is the cause of bondage mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoh but do we realise why the mind alone is the cause of bondage, and not anybody else? It is because the mind is only a conviction; it is not a substance. A conscious affirmation in a particular point in space is called the mind; it may be within a body or outside a body. A conviction is bondage. A conviction is, also, freedom. So, from one conviction which is bondage, we have to release ourselves and enter into a larger conviction which shall be our freedom.
The world is mental; it is not physical. If the physical world is there, let it be there. We are not going to be concerned with it. We are not bound by it. We are bound by the fact of our conviction that it is there outside us; and, the conviction is a part of our very existence itself. As long as I am, you also are. But there is no you are for God. Here is the distinction between the I of God and the I of man or the I of anybody else.
It is like peeling off our own skin when we try to practise real renunciation or austerity in the true spiritual sense. We are releasing ourselves from entanglement in the lower affirmation or conviction that there is a reality external to the self, because if the external is really there, attachment is unavoidable. As long as there is a conviction that the external is there, love and hatred cannot be avoided. How can we avoid being conscious of the existence of a thing which we are convinced exists? An attitude towards it has to be developed. We either like it, or we do not like it, or we are indifferent towards it.
Renunciation is neither liking it, nor not liking it, nor being indifferent towards it. All the three attitudes are out of point altogether. In true spiritual renunciation we are not liking, or disliking, or being indifferent towards things. We are rising above all three attitudes of sattva, rajas and tamas. But, what attitude can there be other than like, dislike and indifference? We are involved only with these three attitudes.
To like the world is bondage. To not like the world is bondage. To be indifferent towards its existence is also bondage. So, there is a fourth type of attitude, if at all we can call it an attitude, by which our selfour consciousness, we ourselves attain to a freedom where we attain a different kind of conviction altogether in which these three attitudes get subsumed, included, melted into liquid, as it were, absorbed into its higher being, and we need not have any attitude at all.
Vairagya is not an attitude. It is an attainment which is deeply mystical, highly spiritual. That is why we are so happy when we attain this conviction. This is knowledge. When this knowledge arises, we are happy automatically, because happiness arises out of freedom from bondage.
We have tried our best to go a little deep into what the nature of bondage is, and what sort of thing it is that we are expected to renounce in spiritual life, and how we can execute this modus operandi in an inward attunement of ourselves to a thing which is our own self in a larger sense.