Desires and Renunciation
Renunciation is another misunderstood concept of Vedanta. Renunciation does not mean to sacrifice everything and live like a mendicant in a secluded forest. Renunciation is a state of mind which gives peace and happiness. In Bhagavad Gita, Baghavan Krishna says to renounce the results of action than to renounce the action itself. “Perform action, O Arjuna, being steadfast in yoga, abandoning attachment and balanced in success and failure. Evenness of mind is called yoga”, Bhagavad Gita, (2, 48). Attachment towards the desire covers the power of the mind. Renunciation helps the mind to become free of attachment. Renunciation is an idea of the mind to move towards perfection. Swami Boomananda Thirtha says, “Renunciation is safeguarding the mind and intelligence from getting afflicted by the result of the action. Renunciation helps one to realize the Truth which is hidden behind success and failure. Renunciation is attained by knowledge. Senses are used to gather external knowledge and so senses are always turned outwards. Knowledge about the Self makes the senses turn inwards, and this is renunciation. Automatically the mind and senses shows displeasure towards the external objects”. In the modern world, many people concentrate on the result and they give least importance for the action. Ancient wisdom tells to concentrate on the action and the result will follow automatically.
Renunciation gives self-contentment. It is a common idea that success gives happiness and contentment. If this is true, then all the successful people must be content and happy. In our experience we notice that even successful people are not content and they are deluded at times. Their success is short lived. When they attain a success they are after another success and there is always a struggle to retain the attained success. Therefore even the successful people are not content. This implies that success alone cannot give happiness. The object we wish to attain, situation, or events are the manifestation of the Consciousness. Any manifestation is dependent on its source and it cannot give complete happiness. Inspite of whatever we attain we still have a feeling of ‘wanting more’. Any pleasure is an evolute of the Consciousness and not the derivative of the action. Therefore, contentment and pleasure are based on the Self and not on the external objects.
According to Taittriya upanisad there are three stages of pleasure. When we merely look at an object of desire we experience a pleasure. It is called priya vritti or ishta vastu darshana janya vritti. The next stage is when we attain that object of desire we experience a pleasure. It is called moda vritti or ishta vastu labham janya vritti. The next stage is when we enjoy that object after attaining it we experience a pleasure. It is called pramoda vritti or anubhava janya vritti. In these three stages of pleasure, the external objects are only a stimulation to create pleasure in us. Actually, pleasure is derived from Atma. Pleasure is a state of inner happiness. Atma is infinite and it is blissful. Mind is the expression of the Atma. However, mind experiences a glimpse of this bliss only when it experiences the pleasure stimulated by the external objects. In the pure state, mind reflects the exact nature of Atma. Due to maya (delusion), raga (attachment) and dvesha (aversion) are created in the mind. Raga and dvesha are impressions in the mind which are created by our judgment of the external objects.
Impressions of past actions from the past birth as well as the present birth are accumulated in the mind. Our present actions are based on these accumulated impressions. The impressions of raga (attachment) and dvesha (aversion) intimidate us in the present actions. However, by knowledge we can control the mind against the raga and dvesha. One need not succumb to the intimidation. Passion and aversion both can lead a person to perform sinful action. It affects a person in different stages of life. In Bhagavad Gita, Baghavan Krishna says, “Attachment and aversion for the objects of the senses abide in the senses, let none come under their sway, for they are his foes. It is desire, anger born of the quality of rajas, all-devouring, all-sinful; know this as the foe in this world. O Arjuna, wisdom is enveloped by this constant enemy of the wise in the form of desire, which is unappeasable as fire’ Bhagavad Gita, (3- 34, 37, 39).
Bhuddhi always determines according to the attained knowledge (viveka), however, the mind focuses on raga and dvesha and thinks accordingly. Bhuddhi studies a matter, understands its implication and evaluate them with deep insight. An action is an outward expression of our knowledge. When bhuddhi introspect, knowledge becomes deep. The dimension of the mind is infinite. Each thought is the expression of the mind. Along with the thought emotion also arises. If we do not follow the thought the emotion becomes weak. When a negative thought arises in the mind it should be ignored and if a positive thought arises in the mind it should be followed. In Bhagavad Gita, Baghavan Krishna says, “One should raise oneself by one’s Self alone; let not one lower oneself, for the Self alone is the friend of oneself and the Self alone is the enemy of oneself”, (6, 5). One must elevate the Self by his own intrinsic power. One should never degrade the Self in any circumstance because Self is one’s true friend. The mind of a person depends on the thoughts he encourage.
Devotion is one of the ways to erase negative thoughts. Devotion is a feeling generated by the mind mostly due to fear. When one thinks of the consequences of a negative situation, due to fear a feeling is generated towards God. However, true devotion is a feeling created towards God due to unconditional love. Only by knowledge one can attain the pure devotional thoughts. Mind is the result of the transformation of Reality. Reality is traced back by introspection. Attachment, hatred, misery, feeling, emotions are the play of the mind. To get relief from them is also another play of the mind. When mind is purified by sadhana (practice), it reflects Consciousness and these impurities are dispelled.
Ideas and desires proceed from the mind, subsist in the mind and terminate in the mind. Lord Krishna says, “Senses are superior to the object. Mind reigns above the senses, and intelligence is still superior. But the Self is still loftier (It is the real identity of man)”, Bhagavad Gita, (3, 42). Senses attract the objects. Therefore the senses are superior to the object. The mind either selects or rejects the objects. Therefore the mind is superior to the object and the senses. Intelligence can guide the mind to act accordingly. The feelings and emotions of the mind are controlled by the intelligence and so it is superior. An individual’s attitude and aim are determined by the intelligence. Intelligence directs the mind and so it is superior. Atma is the base of senses, mind and intelligence. Atma is akartritva (non-doer) and abhoktritva (non-enjoyer). No vibration or action takes place in Atma. It is omnipresent. Mind relies on its infinite power. Desire lies in the mind and not in the objects. Repeated thinking makes the desires more strong. In Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Bhagavan Krishna, no one really likes or prefers sin; still many people are performing sinful acts. What is the reason for this? Bhagavan Krishna replies, (This verse is repeated again for clarity) “It is the desire, it is the anger born of the quality of rajas, all-devouring, all-sinful; know this as foe in this world. OArjuna, wisdom is enveloped by this constant enemy of the wise in the form of desire, which is unappeasable as fire. The senses, the mind and the intellect are said to be its seat; through these it (desire) deludes the embodied by veiling his wisdom. Therefore OArjuna, controlling the senses first, do thou kill this sinful thing (desire), the destroyer of knowledge and realization”, Bhagavad Gita, (3-37, 39, 40, 41).
The three common and basic desires which are common with people are the desire for progeny, desire for wealth and desire for name and fame (recognition). There is absolutely nothing wrong in desiring for these, however if the mind becomes a slave to these desires, then it will ruin the personality. If there is a mind, then there will be definitely thoughts. The problem is not the thoughts. The problem is the thoughts affecting the personality. True renunciation of desires is the ability to balance the thoughts, that is to consider the necessary thoughts and at the same time not getting affected by them. Unnecessary thoughts are completely ignored. One must not allow the events, situations, persons or object to rule the mind and bhuddhi. The Atma must rule the mind and this is the law of the nature.
Renunciation of desires is an inner enrichment. It instills a strong, sublime, inner renunciation towards every kind of gain and loss, freeing the mind from all types of doubts and concern for success and failure. Only spiritual wisdom has the power to bring this inner freedom. When a person understands his real nature, he overcomes the attraction and repulsion of the mind. Emotional conflicts, turmoil and mental tortures are the creation of the mind. Conflict is the disparity of the mind between what it wishes to see and what it sees. Every conflict will have a solution. Only by viveka (discrimination of good and bad) it can be derived from the depth of the bhuddhi. Mind should be calm and composed to discriminate between the good and bad. In Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was in delusion and wanted to quit from the battlefield just before the battle was about to commence. He trained himself vigorously for thirteen years for this battle with all dedication and effort. Conflict of the mind was his biggest obstacle to do his duty of saving his nation from injustice rendered by his relatives. At this juncture, the right advice of Bhagavan Krishna dispelled his mental conflict and he regained the mental strength by his advice. At that juncture, mental strength is more pivotal to him than his talent to win the battle. This incredible advice to Arjuna on discrimination, right judgment and understanding of the Atma is today revered by the humanity as the “Holy Bhagavad Gita”. In fact, Bhagavad Gita is a mental science. It is not addressed to any particular religion or creed. Jawaharlal Nehru said, “During the 2,500 years since it was written, Indian humanity has gone repeatedly though the processes of change and development and decay; but it has always found something living in the Gita…. The message of the Gita is not sectarian or addressed to any particular school of thought. It is universal in its approach for everyone….’All paths lead to ME’, it says” Jawaharlal Nehru, former Indian prime minister (as quoted in the daily ‘The Hindu’, on January 30, 2015). Bhagavan Krishna’s advice brought inner renunciation in Arjuna. Bhagavan Krishna advised that renunciation does not mean shunning from activity. It is rather doing the duty without ego, working with a universal vision, and working for humanity. Renunciation is actually an expansion of the mind from being a selfish person.
Self knowledge empowers the mind and intellect from being a slave to worldly pleasures. It is not knowledge to be exclusively imparted to a sanyasi living in a secluded forest. It is common knowledge and this knowledge is imparted to any person interested in real freedom. Mind always mixes the present situation with past and future. It draws many thoughts from the past and it also imagines about the future consequences. It brings all the related past information from the memory. It does not have an option to select the likes and dislikes from the memory. The past information of the likes and dislike affect the mind. As a result, it does not concentrate on the present. If the thoughts from the memory are not given attention then they will fade away and do not appear again. Mind has a tendency to think about consequences. If such thoughts are also unattended then they will fade away. Thus one can engage in worldly activities and remain undisturbed by them. If we attend to any thought then they will appear again and again.
When a person interacts with the world, he is subject to verbal hurt, aggravation, rude treatment from others or there may be disappointments about his life. Only this ancient wisdom, Vedanta or Self knowledge makes us realize that these are all different varieties of play of the mind and makes one realize that the Atma (I) is different from the vagaries of the mind. When our mind is disturbed we also disturb others surrounding us. An aggravated mind takes revenge on others. Only by viveka, sama (sublimity of the mind), samadhana (composure), dama (control of the senses) one can rule the mind.
These ideas and concepts are derived from various Indian scriptures and the writings of eminent vedantists. One should do nididhyasana (introspection) on these ideas only then this knowledge becomes our knowledge. Introspection makes the mind to expand. Introspection is applying intelligence to understand spiritual propositions. It helps us to assimilate the spiritual truths. When the knowledge is assimilated it becomes a part of the being. When the knowledge becomes our own, we express it by thoughts, words and action. Whatever we assimilate it becomes our nature.
Ancient wisdom of spiritual science dispels the differences and vagaries of the mind and helps one to remain at peace under all odd situations. This wisdom when practiced will make the world more peaceful. Therefore, Ancient wisdom of Vedanta is absolutely needed for the modern world.