Samsara vs. Renunciation
Samsara is the world
of delusion in which we all live: the cosmic dream. It also signifies
emotional involvement with the dream. It was to such emotional involvement
that Sri Krishna referred in the advice he gave to Arjuna in the Bhagavad
Gita (paraphrased by Paramhansa Yogananda), “O Arjuna! Get away from
My ocean of suffering and misery!”
To those few discriminating
persons who long to escape from samsara, the attempt to overcome
outer attachments is an indirect way of extricating oneself from the
swamp. A technique I discovered years ago for overcoming attachments
was to build a bonfire mentally, and then cast one by one into the flames
every attachment of the heart, every like and dislike, every desire.
A woman I know told me recently,
“I tried following your advice: In my zeal to overcome attachment
to my house, I cast the house itself mentally into a fire. And what
happened? The house burned to the ground!” I answered her: “I didn’t
say to throw the house into the fire! What I said was, ‘Throw
all your attachments into it!’”
Even so, overcoming attachments
is only an indirect way to inner freedom. In this age of greater enlightenment,
it is possible (because at last comprehensible) to work directly on
the ego itself, around which all our attachments revolve. Patanjali’s
definition of yoga, “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha (Yoga is the
neutralization of the vortices of feeling),” describes the state of
true inner freedom. The ego, however, is the eye of that vortex. The
ego also rotates in itself, pirouetting constantly in its eagerness
for involvement in maya.
When the ego has been finally
dissolved in cosmic consciousness, pure feeling remains; it is no longer
focused, however, or drawn inward to a center, in the little self. One
enjoys everything, but without ego-attachment.
The old renunciate method — in
itself still valid, however — is negative. It is more uplifting nowadays
to concentrate on the positive aspects of renunciation. Burn up all
attachments — to home, for instance — but concentrate positively on
the complete absence of ego itself. Again, reduce your sense of ego
to utter unimportance, but on the other hand concentrate on the joy
of freedom in omnipresence. Be humble, but not self-abasing; instead,
see God as the true Doer of everything.
The old method of renunciation
was world-negating; the new one is samadhi-affirming. One’s
concentration, in other words, is on the joy of soul-freedom in God.
The old renunciate order
tended easily toward judgmental attitudes — of others, and (in some
ways even worse) excessive judgment of oneself. The new renunciate order
concentrates supportively on everyone’s soul-potential; it sees all
beings as striving, each in his own way, toward union with bliss. This
feeling, as it expands outward from one’s heart center, beholds that
same center of blessing everywhere, in everything, and in everyone.
Instead of rejecting error (which of course it must do also; I am not
counseling a lack of discrimination!), the new renunciate attitude affirms
God’s omnipresent bliss.
The new renunciate rises
above samsara by affirming the divine truth behind everything.
Chapter 6: Men, Women