Yoga Vashishtha: Renunciation Stands for Fearlessness

Our Yoga expert, Navodita. Tells us about Yoga Vashishtha, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Yoga Vashishtha is full of words of wisdom that succinctly explain the meaning of life, its purpose, its value and possibly shows the way to a better living. It deals with death, incarnation, karma, life, birth and old age and disease. It also talks about material pleasures and the true meaning of contentment and virtuosity.

It is said here that in enjoyment there is fear of disease; in social position, fear of falling off; in wealth, the fear of (hostile) governments; in honour, the fear of humiliation; in power, the fear of enemies; in beauty, the fear of old age; in body, the fear of death. The text believed that all the things of this world pertaining to human beings are attended with fear; renunciation alone stands for fearlessness.

Then some verses from the Bhagavad Gita are discussed to explain what entails the best form of living and the best attitude to have towards life. In the Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 71 it is said, ‘vihaya kaman yah sarvan, pumams karati nihsprhah, nirmamo nirahankarah, sa santim adhigachhati’ or a person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship, and is devoid of false ego – he alone can attain real peace.

Similarly, Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 9, Verse 27, says, ‘yat karosi yat asnasi, yaj juhosi dadasi yat, yat tapasyasi kaunteya, tat kurusva mad-arpanam’ or addressing Arjuna as son of Kunti, it is said all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Lord. Thus, it is the duty of everyone to mould his life in such a way that he will not forget Supreme God under any circumstance. Everyone has to work for the maintenance of body and soul together, and God recommends herein that one should work for Him.

The above verse, of course, promotes atheism, nevertheless, it is helpful in keeping the faith even in the most adverse of circumstances. Offering to the Divine simply means doing your duty, taking actions and not wondering about the result. The result is achieved as and how the action is performed. Therefore, the sages often say actions should be performed with the best intention.

The text goes on to say – when the truth is known, all descriptions cease, and silence alone remains. It goes on to add that- first destroy the mental conditioning by renouncing cravings, and then remove from your mind even the concept of bondage and liberation. Be totally free of conditioning.

Ideas and thoughts, the text mentions, are bondage; and their coming to an end is liberation. Therefore, be free of them and do whatever has to be done spontaneously. That mind is pure in which all cravings are in a state of quiescence. Whatever that pure mind wishes, that materializes. It is, of course, easier said than done. Yet it can work wonders if practiced deeply.

Bondage is none other than the notion of an object. The notions of I and the world are but shadows, not the truth. Such notions alone create objects; these objects are neither true nor false. Therefore, abandon the notions of ‘I’ and this and remain established in the truth. The truth, here implying a sense of relativity, not absoluteness.

In another verse, it is written that it is only when the mind has become devoid of all attachment, when it is not swayed by pairs of opposites, when it is not attracted by objects, and when it is totally independent of all supports, that it is freed from the cage of delusion. Bondage is the craving for pleasure, and its abandonment is liberation.

Yet another verse in the text explains, in a dialogic form from Sage Vashishtha to Lord Rama that one should perceive themselves in the following way – I am disturbed neither by prosperity nor by adversity when they are granted to me, as I regard them with equal vision (even as I look upon both my arms as arms). Whatever I do is untainted by desire or the mud of ego-sense; thus I do not lose my head when I am powerful or go begging when I am poor; I do not let hopes and expectations touch me and even when a thing is old and worn out I look at it with fresh eyes as if it were new. I rejoice with the happy ones and share the grief of the grief-stricken, for I am the friend of all, knowing I belong to none and none belongs to me. I know that I am the world, all the activities in it and its intelligence. This is the secret of my longevity.

Thus, the words spoken above depict and generate a sense of equanimity within an individual. And it seems Lord Rama truly imbibed its meaning, as none could be more composed than him when the exile period was announced on the day he was to be annointed King. Lord Rama in Hindu philosophy epitomizes this ideal man who exists in life, one to be emulated for his innate human qualities which are nurtured from a very young age. Yoga Vashishtha, thus, is a good text to learn the ‘ideal’ virtues and qualities that can help one not only sustain a good life but live it to its fullest.

©Navodita Pande

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