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Spiritual Aspiration and Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 3: Spiritual Renunciation

In the previous session we concluded with the observation that if time were not to be there, we would find ourselves at all times; and if space were not to be there, we would find ourselves at all places. It is on account of the peculiar characteristic of the time process dividing itself into the past, present and future that we feel that we are only at some time and not at all times. It is because of the dividing characteristic of space that we feel that we are only in some place and not in all places, we feel that the other world is really far away from this world and this world is disconnected from the other world, and we feel that people in the world are outside us and one person has no connection with another.

Space and time work a threefold havoc in a gradually systematised manner. Firstly, we are compelled to feel that everything is disconnected and nothing is connected in any manner whatsoever. Everything is different from everything else. Every person is totally dissociated from every other person. One person has nothing to do with another. Then it creates a psychological dichotomy in our personality, a very serious matter indeed, making us aspire for something which is not here and yet compelling us to stick to this life and want to never die. Our longing not to be in this world because of the imperfections of the world—our longing to be in another, better world as early as possible—keeps us psychologically disconnected from seeing meaning in this world.

At the same time, there is a contradiction in this peculiar outlook, namely, it is not true that we are willing to get totally disassociated from this world. Our inner and outer aspects clash between themselves and speak to us in two different, contradictory voices. We are well aware that the physical body in which we are encased is not going to last long. Everyone knows that life is mortal and that one day they have to pass away, yet nobody wants to pass away. How is it that we entertain two feelings at the same time, knowing well that nothing here can be permanent and yet wanting to perpetuate our existence here? “Let me live as long as possible, even for ten thousand years. There is nothing wrong with it.” But we know very well that it is not possible. How would we expect to achieve a thing which is impossible, a fact which we have accepted and are fully conscious of?

The feeling that life cannot be a limitless endurance, and a simultaneous feeling that it would be good if it is limitless, is a psychological conflict in our own selves. We are asking for that which we cannot get. What makes us ask for that which we cannot obtain in this world? Are we totally crazy, or is there some rationality behind it?

Actually, it is not craziness. It is a wonderful logic that is operating even without our actually knowing what is happening. We belong to two worlds at the same time. We are citizens of two existences. We belong to this mortal world through this world of space, time and objectivity. Well, perfectly so. That is the reason why there is a fear of passing. But, we do not always entirely, totally, belong to this circumstance of spatio-temporal mortality. There is something which defies space-time.

Here is an interesting point before us to consider. If space and time are such powerful masters over us and we are virtually involved in their fabric of operation, and we have almost become space-time itself, subjecting ourselves as slaves before space and time, we will not even be aware that there is such a thing called space and time. The consciousness of the fact that there is such a thing called space and time brings before us the illuminating factor that we are the knowers of space and time, and we ourselves are not involved in it. If we are inseparable from the space-time complex, who will be there to know that there is such a complex? Now, here is an induction, a kind of inference that we draw from our present experience that there is a chaotic mix-up of feelings and perceptions in our observation of our own selves, of human society outside, and of the great goal that we are aspiring for.

To clinch the whole matter, briefly we may say that the other world is not away from this world, the people around us in this world of humanity are not disconnected from us, and there is a meaning in our being frightened about the possibility of self-annihilation in this world of mortality, simultaneous with a longing that one day everything will be all right. Even if we sometimes feel, under the pressure of given conditions, that things in this world are very bad, almost wretched, incurable, in our heart of hearts there is something which tells us that it will not be so bad always. We will never lift a finger to do anything if everything is going to be chaotic and meaningless. We have a hope that one day things will be better: “Let all things look bad, but one day they will be better.” There is a hope in our heart of hearts that things will become all right one day or the other. We will not go to hell. Heaven has to descend on us, though it looks as if there is hell everywhere around us. The expectation of a future betterment is the voice of some eternal spark that is scintillating within ourselves, and the grief that we feel from our being sunk in this world is due to our mortal association with this perishable, brittle body.

Now, you may bring back to your memories what I told you during the last two sessions about the great conflict that we have between our responsibility towards this world and our responsibility towards the other world. To which world are you going to affiliate yourself? I mentioned that there are extremes of view among people. There are those who deny this world and theoretically, conceptually, cling to another world of imagined perfection, and there are those who go the other way, completely deny the other world and assert only this world. The mistake committed by these two types of people is very obvious. The obviousness is in the fact that the two are not disconnected in such a way that you can take one segment of it and reject another segment. I also mentioned that you cannot keep your body somewhere and your soul somewhere else. It is not possible to keep your soul in a box and your body in a marketplace because they are integrally, vitally, meaningfully connected.

This meaningfulness, this immense significance of a wondrous relationship between the here and the hereafter, escaping our notice always in our daily sensory perceptions, is brought before us in a new vision altogether by the Isavasya Upanishad, to which I referred in the previous session. One aspect of the Isavasya Upanishad to which I made reference is its insistence on the blending of both this world and the other world in our integral approach to things. Now it is telling us something more than that. The whole universe is pervaded by one single Reality. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam (Isa 1). The pervasion of one meaning in all the apparent meaningless diversities of the world is the very first instruction, the initial message, the very beginning of this masterly teaching of the Upanishad known as the Isavasya. Yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat. In all this evolutionary process and flux of nature, in all this dichotomy of disparity we will find a cementing factor operating in every nook and corner, right from the split of an atom up to the solar system and the galaxies. Tena tyaktena bhuñjitha, ma gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam. There were saints and sages who held that if all the scriptures in the world were to be destroyed and only this one verse of the Isavasya Upanishad were to be left, that would suffice. The entire world gospel is concentrated in this one single verse of the Isavasya Upanishad: Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat, tena tyaktena bhuñjitha, ma gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam. Many of you must be reading this Upanishad, but it is difficult to know how much meaning has gone into your minds. There is a literal meaning, a grammatical meaning, an outward appearance of its significance, but there is also, at the same time, a mystical hidden import.

You may ask: “When it is said that all things are pervaded by one thing, what exactly is meant by that? How is this pervading of one thing by another thing to be conceived?” Now, the very idea of ‘one thing' and ‘another thing' precludes the total merger of two things. I have many a time given the example of cloth being soaked in a bucketful of water. If you soak your dhoti or sari or any cloth in a bucketful of water for some time, you will see that water permeates every fibre of the cloth. The water is immanent in the entire structure of the cloth. Everywhere in the cloth you will find water. Is it in this sense that the Ultimate Reality is present in everything in this world? There is a peculiar snag in this analogy. Whatever be the extent of the permeation of water in the fibrous structure of the cloth, the water has never become the cloth. The cloth remains outside the water always. You can wring the cloth and totally remove the water, and the permeation ceases. Can you get out of this intrusion of God into the world by wringing God out of the whole cloth and fabric of this world? That is not possible. The permeation of Isa, or the Absolute or God, in this world of nature is not like water permeating a fibrous cloth, because they are two different things. It is also not the mixing of two things such as water and milk, because water is not milk and milk is not water. They can be separated by boiling. Are the world and God so distinct that one has to be inextricably involved in the other? Is it a kind of involvement of two things?

The Isavasya Upanishad tells us that this kind of idea of permeation has to be given up. It is not something permeating another thing; it is something becoming another thing. People say that, logically, A cannot be B. A is A, and B is B. If A becomes B, either B ceases to exist or A ceases to exist. Maybe in this sense the merger of the here and the hereafter, the permeater and the permeated, would entail the consequence of one thing being totally absent in the presence of the other. An engulfing activity takes place in the process of the permeation of something by another thing, which looks like ‘something' and ‘another thing' for us because of the interference of space and time in our very thought structure. We have heard of mythological figures such as Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Shishupala, Dantavakra, Simhamukha, Shurasena, and all sorts of dual forces such as Madhu and Kaitabha, and Shumba and Nishumba. These dual forces are nothing but space and time. They are the demons before us. They will never allow us to see things properly. Even when we attempt to see things independent of the space-time involvement, we will find that the mind itself is sunk in space and time.

When you start thinking in terms of space and time, how will you conceive a thing independent of space and time? There are methods of completely absorbing ourselves from this intricate involvement, which is called yoga samadhi, which is not our subject now. A peculiar intricate something, which makes one almost giddy by the very thought of it, is the practice of yoga. In spite of the fact that it is true that your consciousness is inextricably involved in space and time, it is possible for you to be free from them. Otherwise, the aspiration for God has no meaning. The aspiration for God is an aspiration for that which is free from space and time. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. It means that the Absolute is in the relative. The relative, what is called the appearance of the world, is not segregated from the Absolute.

In the previous session I mentioned the analogy of the snake and the rope. The snake is not sitting somewhere outside the rope. You cannot take two things separately: here is the rope, and here is the snake. It is one and the same thing appearing as two, such as a mirage of water. A mirage looks like water. It is identical with itself. It is not something appearing as something else. It is one thing itself scintillating as if it is other than itself—A appearing as if it is not A—as if you are in a dream world where you begin to visualise things which are not there by projecting into a conceptualised space and time process objects which are not there, but are only concocted by the mind by a process of externalisation. In this world of movement and fluxation, God is present in all things.

Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat: There is not one point in space where this eternity is not dancing with all its glory and force. Deathless wonder is performing its Rasa dance in the midst of this brittle arena of the structural variety of this world. Eternity is in time. It gives a magical touch of transmutation to the iron of diversity. The steel metal of world perception not merely gets galvanised, but it is transmuted into the gold of eternity itself. There is a perpetual longing in us to ask for eternal existence. Human beings have only two desires: I shall be always, and I shall have everything. You do not have any other desire in the world. Even if you have millions of so-called desires, you will find they are all capable of being boiled down to this. You want everything, and you want everything for all time. That is to say, you want to overcome the spatial limitation of possession and the temporal limitation of duration. Eternity is negation of duration, and infinity is negation of spatiality. Such being the case, what does the Upanishad tell you? Be a true renouncer: tena tyaktena.

Bhuñjitha: Enjoy. Would you enjoy after renouncing a thing? Generally, when you renounce a thing, you have lost the very taste of it. The Upanishad says that the greater is the joy that will accrue to you, the more is the spirit of renunciation. What is it that you renounce in order that you may be filled with a joy that is more than what you will have by the possession of things?

Remember the few words that I uttered to you in the previous session. There is nothing that you can possess in this world. The space-time factor keeps you always segregated from every object which you seem to be possessing. Even if I hold this watch tightly, it does not become my hand. It is always outside. All the wealth of the world, all the glory, all the name and fame, everything that you call yours has a tentative appearance of being possessed, while it actually stands outside you. This is why one day you will be dispossessed of all things. You have been living in a fool's paradise throughout your life, from beginning to end. Thus, the Upanishad warns you with the message that you have to do a very specific type of renunciation for the sake of the joy of the Self, of Ishvara.

Remember once again, renunciation does not mean renouncing the pillar and the mountain and the river. They have been there even before you were born. Who are you to renounce them? The renunciation spoken of here by the Upanishad is the renunciation of the spatio-temporal externality involved in your perception of things. You desire the objects of the world because you feel that they are outside you. The fact is that they are not outside you. So what are you desiring? You try to renounce a thing because you are under the impression that something is outside and you can just kick it away. But things are intricately connected with you, inextricably related to you. Then what will you renounce? Since the illusion of space-time is the cause of the perception of the diversity of things, the renunciation of something outside is also an illusion, and the feeling of possession of property is also an illusion. You are under a twofold illusion of the possession of property and also the idea of renunciation. As property does not belong to you, you cannot renounce it. So renounce the idea of possessionship. Have no greed for the wealth of anybody: ma gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam.

When you ask for the wealth of this world, you are actually acting like a miser, wanting to have that which does not belong to you. How does anything belong to you? Is there any guarantee or document signed by the judiciary of the cosmos saying that it belongs to you? Did you bring anything when you came to this world? Are you taking anything with you when you go from this world? You have brought nothing, and you will take nothing. How is it that in the middle have you started thinking that everything
is yours?

The idea of property has, therefore, to be given up in the context of the fact that in this world one thing does not belong to another thing. Even one finger does not belong to another finger. One limb of the body does not belong to another limb of the body. All these parts belong to a total whole which is none of them, but is transcendent to them. I do not belong to you and you do not belong to me, but both of us belong to a total whole, in which context we seem to be inwardly related in a new fashion altogether. In the sense of a soul filling all things, we have an intricate, intimate, perpetual relation among ourselves. We can never be separated, one from the other. Yet, from the other side, we are totally different from one another.

Spiritual renunciation, therefore, the so-called sannyasa, the ascetic life of a religious mendicant, is not actually the renunciation of physical objects, because they do not belong to that person; it is the renunciation of the very idea of possession. If you have renounced the things of the world but the idea of possession still persists and you know that it is possible to possess a thing—you have renounced all things, you possess nothing in this world, but you know that you are in a position to possess things if it becomes practicable—this spoils the very idea of renunciation. Renunciation is not the incapacity to possess. It is not a state of helplessness. It is the realisation of the meaninglessness of the very idea of possession. So renounce the idea of possession, tyaktena, and then enjoy. What do you enjoy when you have renounced everything? You enjoy the bliss of the total perfection of the absolute Ishvara the moment this idea of possession, externality, is removed from your consciousness. The greatest renunciation is the greatest happiness.

Again, underline the meaning of renunciation. Being physically far away from objects of attraction is not renunciation. The idea of possession is the crucial point. Do you believe that it is possible for you to possess things in the world? If you believe you have not got anything but you are in a position to possess things, you have spoiled the whole case. The mind is the maker of all things. Mana eva manuṣyāṇāṁ kāraṇaṁ bandhamokṣayoḥ, bandhāya piṣyāsaktaṁ muktaṁye nirviṣayaṁ smṛtam (Amrita Bindu 2): The mind is the cause of your bondage, and it is the cause of your freedom. The mind connected with the thought of an external object is your bondage. The mind freed from the idea of there being such a thing as an object is your freedom. The more are you free from the idea of there being such a thing called possession, the more is the capacity of the Infinite to enter into you. The forces of nature will enter into your body as a gale entering into a house. Ma gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam. As the property of the world does not belong to you—it belongs to the Maker of all things—have no greed in respect of anything in this world.

Do you feel helpless and beggarly when you do not possess anything in this world? “What have I got? I have nothing. Rich people are enjoying in this world. I have not even a morsel of food to eat.” Do you feel like that? Then you are not a renunciate. You are only a miserly wretch, crying because you do not get what you would like to have.

Spirituality is not a physical activity, it is not social work, it is not political governance, it is not a give-and-take policy, it is not commerce with God, and it is not any kind of business even in the mind. Quite different from all these ideas, which are so important for you, is spirituality. It is the entry of yourself into yourself. Ātmānaṁ viddhi is the sum and substance of all teaching: Know thyself and be free. You may say, “I know myself already. I am the son of Mr. So-and-so, I am an official in the government, and I am having this kind of profession. I come from this place. This is what I know about myself.” This is a fragile understanding of yourself and a distortion of the meaning of what you really are.

Who can know one's own self? The knowledge process generally involves a difference between the knower and the known. Unless the known is outside you, what will you know? If the knower is the knowing object, there will be no knowing process. So to know one's own self seems to be a peculiar quandary: “What are you telling me? I am to know myself?” There is no process of knowing here. Unless there is an epistemological connection between the seer and the seen, the perceptional process continues and no knowledge is possible. There are doctrines of philosophy which tell us that knowledge is the outcome of the contact of the mind with an object outside. If the objects are not there and you yourself are the object, knowledge cannot be conceived. Here is the difficulty in spiritual concepts. Here you are the teacher and also the student. You can teach a student, but how will you teach yourself? Who is to teach whom?

Yatra hi dvaitam iva bhavati, tad itara itaram paśyati, yatra tv asya sarvam ātmāivābhūt, tat kena kam paśyet; yenedam sarvaṁ vijānāti, taṁ kena vijānīyāt, vijñātāram are kena vijānīyād iti (B.U. 2.4.14), says Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad to his great consort, the blessed Maitreyi: “One can see the other, one can know the other, one can think the other, when the other is really there. When the soul itself is the object of knowledge, the knower himself is the object of knowing, who will see whom?” All things in this world are possible. The only thing that is not possible is the way in which you can know yourself. Everything is possible. You can control the stars and the heavens with your mechanism of modern industry and invention, but you cannot know yourself. You can tame a lion, you can subjugate an elephant, you can catch a cobra with your hand, but you cannot catch your mind. You cannot tame your mind. You dread yourself. You are your own fear. You are afraid of your own self. The doubt about your own self is so much that all the doubts you have about other things are inundated by this doubt about your own self.

Do you know who you are, or are you in a state of confusion about your own self? Without going very deep into the psychological meaning, think of a great man—great because he has power given to him by the electorate, the power of money, name and fame. He is alone in one place, and his bank balance is somewhere else. People who consider him as great are not near him. He is sitting alone in his room, and all his possessions are virtually separated from him at that time. Alone he stands. What does he think about himself? Where is his greatness? He is a little vegetable, finally, with a little breath flowing through a material encasement.

Your breath is your property—not your money, not your glory of name and fame, not all the mansions that you have built or all the land and property that you own. Your breath is your wealth. Let there be everything, but you cannot breathe. Let the potentate of the Earth not breathe for some time, and let us see what happens to his property. He is a little breathing creature; finally, he will realise this. A non-entity, as it were—such a thing is trying to possess things of the whole world, going to the moon and the stars, controlling nature. What control can he have? He cannot even control his breathing. He can become a corpse in one second by the disassociation of the breath, the vital force, from his body. In one second, the great elephantine genius of man lies there like a speck of dust. This is the glory of man. This is the immortality that the mortal is seeking in this world. Perpetuate not this feeling. Renounce this idea. Have no greed for things that are not yours. All things belong to that from where everything has come. I am repeating what I told you. I do not belong to you, and you do not belong to me. Neither is money mine, nor am I its slave. Not one electron can belong to another electron. They are totally different from one another, but they are infused into a pattern of cohesion by the nucleus that is central; and the nucleus is this pervading principle, Isa.

Therefore, find time to contemplate this great truth in your life. Do not say that you have no time. Do you have time to breathe? Do you have time to exist, or no time to exist? To exist, you do not require time because existence is superior to time and beyond time, and the consciousness of your existence in this pattern is actually your spiritual sadhana.

I mentioned during the first session itself that religion is the consciousness of your being in the presence of God. If this consciousness is absent, all your routine of religious practice becomes empty tinsel. All these rituals become meaningless the moment this force—the perpetual consciousness of your being in the presence of God—enters into you. You are not imagining that you are in the presence of God; you are, actually. Millions of eyes are looking at you even just now. Every atom has an eye. Walls have ears, and every leaf knows what you are saying. Every little grass on which you tread knows what you are doing. Biologists have discovered that if you think that tomorrow you have to cut this tree, the tree will know what you are thinking. It will vibrate: “Oh, this man is thinking that he will cut me.” On the other hand, if you lovingly speak to the tree, it will flourish. Nothing in this world is dead. All is living because these are the eyes of the sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ (P.S. 1). The million-headed perceiving Eternity sees all things. Even your hairs are counted, and the movement of a mouse hidden in a far-off jungle is known to the Centre of the cosmos. You cannot have any private, secret commerce between yourself and somebody else in this world. The One who has eyes everywhere will see what you think and feel in your heart. This will decide your future. What you have done in public is not what will save you. What your heart says, that will come with you.

If this conviction has gone deeply into your heart, you are a God-oriented individual just now. Honestly, I should say, you can become a Godman in one second. Only your heart should open. Your dream must cease, your eyes have to open, and you have to realise what you really are. To open your eyes and behold the daylight after a deep slumber does not take years for you to achieve. Dark, dark, abysmal is the night of sleep. How far daytime is from that condition, nobody knows, but in a split second this conviction will take you to the other world of the direct perception of daylight. This mortality, these grievances, this suffering, this idea of possession and renunciation will all vanish like hobgoblins and immediately melt like mist before the sun.

You may ask, “Why are you saying all this to us? Is it possible for us?” Everything is impossible in this world, but this is the only thing that is possible. You are the greatest of realities in the world. The greatest meaning is in you only, not in that which you have outside you. The most important thing in this world is yourself, not other things, because the other things are separated from you by the otherness that you have foisted upon them. The ‘otherness' is a word which I emphasised a number of times, which is the thing from which you have to be free. This so-called otherness, this intriguing characterisation that you have about things, is the devilish activity of space and time working together. When you think, when you speak, when you work, when you laugh, when you eat, when you walk, you are in the midst of space and time. The demon is pursuing you. This side is the devil, that side is the sea. You do not know which one is better for you.

Forces of God, powers of nature, are ready to be at your service. This is also what I uttered to you in the previous session. That which is always, cannot forget your existence. You may want God, but God wants you much more than you want Him.

I conclude by telling a story. There was an ascetic, a respected saint living in a small village. People used to come and prostrate themselves before him. One lady from the village came every day and prostrated herself before him, and kept a mud pot full of sweet porridge in front of him. Neither did she utter a word, nor did the saint say anything. This went on for a year. Every day she would come with a mud pot full of kheer, sweet porridge, prostrate herself before him, and then go.

After one year the saint asked the lady, “Why are you coming every day with this offering to me? What is the matter?”

Then she said, “Maharaj, I have never felt the courage to speak to you. I am a married lady. It is now twenty-five years after my marriage, and I have no progeny. This worries me very much. You can bless me with a child because I heard that you talk to God every night. If you can talk to God tonight, ask Him what He feels about me. Can I have a child or not?”

“I shall talk to God and let you know tomorrow,” the saint replied.

Next day the lady came. “What has God told you?” she asked.

“He has told me that you cannot have a child,” he said.

“All right, I shall not live anymore. This is the last day of my life. If God Himself does not want me, who will want me?” She ran with dishevelled hair and clothes along the bank of a river, crying and muttering incoherently.

There was a person looking like a crazy man, sitting with a mud-covered body, and he heard her yelling and saw her running. He called to her. “What is the matter? Why are you crying?”

She said, “I have no time to speak to you. I am going to end my life.”

“End your life! Is it so bad? Can I hear what it is?”

“I have nothing to say. God Himself does not want me. Therefore, I have no meaning in my life.”

“God does not want you? Who told you?”

“I have no time to speak to you, Maharaj. I am going.”

“Let me hear one word. What is your problem?”

“I wanted one child, and God has denied it.”

“That is all your problem? How many children do you want?” he asked.

“One,” she replied.

“You will have two,” he said.

She was intrigued. How is it possible? How is this man saying that she will have two children when God Himself has said she would not have even one? Anyhow, a good word is always solacing. If the doctor tells a patient who is in a dying condition that he is perfectly all right, the patient feels happy, though he may be on his deathbed. So she felt relieved. “After all, there is somebody who speaks a sensible word to me.” She gave up the idea of committing suicide, and went back home.

After two or three years, she came with two children to the very same saint who said that God had denied her request.

The saint recognised this lady and asked, “Who are these two boys?”

“Yours,” she said. “They are your children.”

He said, “How is it possible? God has told me categorically that you cannot have children. How is it possible that you have two? I shall quarrel with God today. He has told me a lie.”

The saint talked to God. “Great Master, you have painted my face black. You told me a lie that this lady cannot have a child. Now she has two children.”

Then God said, “My dear devotee, please listen to me. I was in a helpless condition. Actually, she was not deserving a child under the law of nature and the law of karma, so what I told is correct. You love me very much. You are my devotee, and so I could not have said anything contrary to fact. I told you the fact.”

“Now what is the matter?” asked the saint. “Why does she have two children?”

God replied, “You are a person who runs after me, but that crazy man is a person after whom I am running. So I could not deny anything when he uttered a word. You are running after me, that is quite right, but I am running after that man though he appears to be crazy.”

Is there anyone in this world after whom God is running? If you are that person, you are blessed.