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Chapter Ten

In India I once met a wealthy man who boasted of being a true renunciate. “I have willed all my property,” he told me proudly, “to my children. Personally, I own nothing. I am free!”

Yet his self-definition exuded wealth and the pride that accompanies wealth. His “renunciation” was a pure sham (if a sham may be called “pure”). He was still surrounded by the trappings of wealth. He lived in his own large mansion, had many servants, and drove everywhere in an expensive car. I had no doubt that he could easily have reclaimed everything he’d handed over to others. As nearly as I could tell, all he’d renounced was the civic duty to pay taxes!

For those who would renounce truly, firm truthfulness is a necessity: especially self-truthfulness. It is a tendency of human nature to seek constant self-justification. A person will say, “Well, it’s true I cheat a little when playing bridge — but I did put twenty dollars in the collection plate last Sunday at church!” Or, “I certainly have my faults, as everyone does, but I’m not guilty of that particular one!” Or, “… but I only did that to help him (or her).” Or “… that wasn’t really wrong of me, because everybody does it.”

One might protest, “Yes, I know I smoke a little now and then, but at least I don’t drink!” And another might say, “Yes, it’s true I take a little sip now and then, but at least I don’t smoke!”

If people are accused of wrong behavior, they usually try to justify it. A car thief will say, “That will teach people not to leave their cars unlocked!” A person who enjoys slandering others will protest, “I’m really only trying to help everyone to be better.” Someone who practices fraud will say, “Well, everyone does something. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and anyone who doesn’t think first for himself will get eaten up.”

One day, someone came into my home to do some work, and tracked heavy mud onto the living room carpet. When I protested, he replied, “That’s only mud from my boots!” — as if to say, “What do you have against Mother Nature?”

The renunciate should be especially careful not to justify his mistakes. He may, out of moral weakness, succumb to a temptation. If he does so, he should never pretend to himself, or to anyone else, that his indulgence was in some way not wrong. It was wrong, simply and completely. Only by utter self-honesty can one hope eventually to come out of delusion.

When Jesus Christ passed through Samaria and met the woman by the well, he recognized her, Yogananda said, as a fallen disciple from past incarnations, and wanted to test her readiness to be re-accepted. He therefore said to her, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” To that, she answered, “I have no husband.” He replied, “Thou hast well said, I have no husband, for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” (John 4:16–18) Only after she’d spoken the truth did he consent to take her on as a disciple once again.

This is not to say that you should blurt out your defects openly before the world. Be circumspect. Those who are themselves steeped in delusion will attack you like a pack of hungry wolves. Keep your own counsel. Never try, however, to persuade anyone that your wrong desires are anything but delusions.

I faulted those two yogis (whom I mentioned above) for what looked to me like a deficiency of truthfulness. I don’t know all the facts, and don’t pretend to judge those men. But certainly, if they made a promise on which they didn’t deliver, they were being untruthful. And it is probably on the basis of that untruth, more even than on those actions, that karmic law will judge them, if in fact it does.

The main purpose of renunciation is to gain the ability to separate truth from error, and thereby to see delusion for what it is: a lie — not pure, certainly, but (once you’ve seen through it) quite simple!

Be truthful, therefore, even in minor matters. If, for example, you’ve told someone, “I’ll buy a newspaper and read that news,” be sure you obtain a newspaper at least somehow, and read that article.

If you tell someone, “I’ll be there without fail,” be very sure you don’t fail.

Many years ago, in Los Angeles, I went to an Indian friend to borrow a dhoti (an Indian garment for men) for the performance of a play I’d written. A friend of his was there, another Indian. As I was leaving he said, “I will definitely be there.” He hadn’t asked me where the performance would be. He didn’t ask me when. He didn’t ask me what it would be about. I knew he wouldn’t be there, and of course he wasn’t. Why, then, did he tell me he’d “definitely” come?

There is a lamentable tendency in many countries of the East to tell people what a person thinks they want to hear. In Japan, I once asked a salesman if I could buy something for shipment to America. Anxious not to disappoint me, he started affirmatively to nod his head, then stopped and softly muttered, “No.”

This tendency is, to my mind, a weakness. In India, some years after Mahatma Gandhi’s bold example of truthfulness, I encountered many who tried to follow it by spouting insulting truths. Gandhi never did that! He always showed respect for others’ realities. What we should speak is the helpful, kindly truth. If a person is stupid, will it help him to tell him so? Of course not! Offer a truth respectfully, and with kindly concern for the person’s ability to accept it usefully.

With oneself, however, one should be — if not ruthlessly honest, at least impartially so. (Isn’t it interesting, how many people consider truthfulness and honesty to be, virtually, synonyms? It’s as though they understood that untruthfulness is truly, in some way, dishonest — as though cheating others of what was rightly theirs.)

By strict truthfulness you will align yourself with the Reality behind manifested existence. The completely truthful person develops — so Patanjali declared — the power to bring into manifestation his mere word.

This, by the way, is another reason why you should always tell the truth: Anything you say may — unexpectedly and perhaps undesirably — manifest as reality. Even if your spiritual power is still only slight, you may inadvertently hit a calm moment in the swirl of what Yogananda called “the thwarting crosscurrents of ego,” and find your lightest statements become outwardly a reality.


Chapter 11: The Sex Issue Revisited

Autobiography of a Yogi

A Renunciate Order for the New Age

Nayaswami Kriyananda

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