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Renunciation: The Finer Points of Detachment Part 1


 Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajatyante kalevaram, 

Taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 8.6) 


Meaning: Whatever one remembers while leaving the body at the time of death, O son of Kunti, one attains that state, being always absorbed in such contemplation. 


One might think that he will think about good things or Krishna while dying only. What is the need to do bhajan all his life? But the truth is that one remembers at the time of death what he has always contemplated in his life. The most prevalent samskara engulfs the mind at the time of death. If a person is attached to any person, object, title, sensual pleasure, etc., he will think about the same before his death.  


“Anta-kāle cha mām eva smaran muktvā kalevaram, 
Yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ yāti nāstyatra sanśhayaḥ.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 8.5) 

Meaning: Those who leave the body while remembering Me at the moment of death will come to Me. There is certainly no doubt about this. 


To remember Krishna at the time of death, the sadhak has to engage in bhajan in such a way so that his spiritual samskaras become more prevalent than his materialistic samskaras and his mind becomes detached from all worldly relations and topics. To enable this, he needs to contemplate Krishna at every moment during his lifetime. 


Tasmāt sarveṣhu kāleṣhu mām anusmara yudhya cha, 
Mayyarpita-mano-buddhir mām evaiṣhyasyasanśhayam.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 8.7) 


Meaning: Therefore, always remember Me and also do your duty of fighting the war. With mind and intellect surrendered to Me, you will definitely attain Me; of this, there is no doubt. 


Which war Krishna is talking about? Here, Krishna is not only talking about the physical Mahabharat war between Kauravas and Pandavas, but there is another deeper meaning of this verse. Kauravas represent Adharma (everything which is not Dharma). Pandavas represent Dharma (the duty of a person according to the instructions of the scriptures). The highest Dharma of every Jivatma is to engage in devotion of God. The war represents the struggle between the materialistic inclinations of a Jivatma and his efforts to engage in devotion to Krishna. Hence, Krishna is telling Arjuna (representative of a sadhak) to contemplate Him while constantly fighting with his materialistic inclinations to progress in his Bhakti path. 


The time which has gone by will never come back. Whatever we did in the past cannot be changed. And the future is unclear. The sadhak must not wait for favourable conditions that might arrive in future to do bhajan. In fact, favourable conditions are only an imagination of the sadhak. The favourable conditions never arrive. Maya continuously tries to stop the sadhak from progressing in Bhakti path. Some kind of misfortune, disease or distress always bothers the sadhak while doing bhajan. Maya Devi always bothers the sadhak and never lets him do bhajan peacefully by the will of Krishna. [She has been given freedom by Krishna to pull the Jivatma into her domain, that is, the illusory world. Only those who completely surrender to Krishna are able to be free from Maya.]  


She knows the weaknesses of a sadhak and creates such obstacles for the sadhak so that he is unable to do bhajan properly. Therefore, the sadhak must continuously fight with Maya and put painstaking efforts into doing bhajan. He must not let a single moment go without Harinaam and contemplation of Krishna. There is no guarantee of any future favourable conditions; no one knows whether the future will bring even more misfortunes, or the body might be engulfed in diseases. That is why the best time to start doing bhajan is the present time. Who could have thought that a pandemic like that caused by Coronavirus (2020) would completely dishevel the daily life and economic situation of the whole world? Many people had many plans for the future, but everything got destroyed by a virus. Isn’t it utter foolishness to sit in peace and miss the present opportunity while waiting for better times in the future? 


Start from this very moment. Start contemplating Krishna at all times and fight with the distracting worldly thoughts. Due to materialistic samskaras of innumerable lifetimes, worldly thoughts will come to the mind again and again. The sadhak has to pull his mind back from all kinds of worldly thoughts repetitively and force it into contemplation of Krishna. This fight will always go on in a sadhak’s life. While eating, lying down, standing, walking or doing any work, simply chant Harinaam and try to contemplate Krishna always. Even while doing mentally engaging work, the sadhak must do the work with the mentality of a servant of God (as explained in Renunciation: From Attachment to Detachment). 


Q: Many householder sadhaks worry about the spiritual welfare of their family members. Although they persevere in their Bhakti path diligently and do not have any worldly desires, they always pray and worry about the spiritual welfare of their family members. Is this okay for those aiming for total detachment towards worldly affairs? 


A: To desire the spiritual welfare of family members is good but it cannot be called total detachment. There is some amount of Moha (attachment to illusory and temporary things) for the family members. Due to this Moha, the sadhak doesn’t worry about the spiritual welfare of his neighbor's son or anybody else but only his family members. If one is worried about only a particular person’s spiritual welfare but not others, then on deeper reflection, it can be understood that the cause is Moha towards that person. 


“Kasya ke pati-putrādya moha eva hi kāraṇam.” 

(Srimad Bhagavatam 8.16.19) 


Meaning: Who is whose husband, son, etc.? Disillusionment is the root of this misunderstanding. 


Many people come to me with their children and say, “Baba, please give blessings to my child. Please keep your hand on my son’s head (to bless him).” They do not worry about their own spiritual welfare. Every Jivatma has been born with his Prarabdha and fate. The child’s own actions and mentality towards Sadhus and spiritual life will beget him Sadhus’ blessings and spiritual welfare. All these things are already pre-determined by the results of his actions through innumerable births and the parent cannot change his fate by any means. 


Although it is good to pray for the spiritual welfare of one’s children, the sadhak must give priority to one’s own spiritual welfare. [Here, Baba is not criticizing the idea of praying for one’s child or family, but he is emphasizing on the sadhak’s priorities.] He must first pray for himself to Krishna, “O Krishna, please free me from all worldly attachments and give me shelter at your lotus feet. Please shower your causeless mercy on me and protect me. Give me unwavering Bhakti of your lotus feet.” Then after that, he can also pray for his children’s spiritual welfare. But most people don’t do that. Due to attachment, they forget about their own spiritual welfare and incessantly worry about their children or other family members. If there were no worldly attachments, they would have prayed for the spiritual welfare of the whole world and ask Krishna to give Bhakti to all Jivatmas. They would not pray for only a few particular people in their life. 


The highest welfare of a Jivatma is his spiritual welfare. The sadhak must give priority to his spiritual welfare above all else. Those who want to achieve the perfection of Bhakti in this very lifetime, they must become Self-ish (in a spiritual way). Although they must abandon all worldly desires and attachments, they must incessantly think about their spiritual welfare in the same way as a greedy and selfish person incessantly thinks about his personal gain. Self means the Atma which is a part and parcel of God. ‘Selfish’ means one who is always concerned about his spiritual welfare. They think that they belong to Krishna and Krishna belongs to them. Therefore, they do not even hesitate to leave all worldly relations behind and go to solitude in the forest. They do not have a care about whether those so-called relatives are happy or sad, in distress or luxury, alive or dead. Even great kings and monarchs have abandoned the luxury of their palaces and gone to the forest for spiritual welfare. Without this selfishness, they could never attain perfection of their spiritual path. 


What is the goal of this selfishness? They want to attain Krishna in this very lifetime. They simply cannot compromise on this. They cannot delay or postpone their bhajan and make efforts to please their family members. They do their duty (job, business, etc.) as is possible. If the family members are happy, it is good. If they are not, the sadhak does not try to please them at the cost of his bhajan. This is how the mentality of a sadhak should be. He must not compromise his bhajan with any worldly issues.  


If the family members ask why he is so selfish, he says, “Who am I to take care of the worldly issues? This world belongs to Krishna and He is the caretaker of this whole world. 


Mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ jagad avyakta-mūrtinā 
Mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni na chāhaṁ teṣhvavasthitaḥ.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 9.4) 


Meaning: This entire cosmic manifestation is pervaded by Me in My unmanifest form. All living-beings dwell in Me, but I do not dwell in them. 


Sarvasya chāhaṁ hṛidi sanniviṣhṭo 
mattaḥ smṛitir jñānam apohanaṁ cha, 
Vedaiśh cha sarvair aham eva vedyo 
vedānta-kṛid veda-vid eva chāham.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 15.15) 


Meaning: I am seated in the hearts of all living beings, and from Me come memory, knowledge, as well as forgetfulness. I alone am to be known by all the Vedas, am the author of the Vedant, and the knower of the meaning of the Vedas. 


Īśhvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛid-deśherjuna tiṣhṭhati, 

Bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 18.61) 


Meaning: The Supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of all living beings, O Arjun. According to their karmas, He directs the wanderings of the souls, who are seated on a machine made of material energy. 


The Jivatma is incapable of changing another Jivatma’s fate. The sadhak must never let his bhajan be interrupted because of others’ welfare, worldly or spiritual. If the sadhak is a householder, he must certainly do his duties physically. But mentally, he must be very wary of worldly attachments, budding desires and inclinations to do anything which is at odds with his spiritual welfare. 


Yajñārthāt karmaṇonyatra lokoyaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ, 
Tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 3.9) 


Meaning: Work must be done as a yajna to the Supreme Lord; all other works cause bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, for the satisfaction of God, perform your prescribed duties, without being attached to the results. 


Q: If the sadhak’s mind is already attached to worldly pleasures and relations, how should he change his mentality and become detached while living in householder life? 


A: See, on one hand, there is God who is the ultimate Truth and eternal. On the other hand, there is the material world which is illusory and temporary. God is ever-blissful and untouched by any worldly bondage while the illusory world is the abode of disappointment and bondage. Worldly pleasures and senses ensnare the Jivatma in the web of Maya and cause him to fall into the pit of misery and go round the cycle of birth and death repetitively. The path to Godhead, instead, frees the Jivatma from all miseries gradually and result in the achievement of the ever-blissful abode of God.  


The sadhak needs to discern what is good or bad for him. He must understand why he is caught in the cycle of happiness and disappointment, or birth and death. The root cause of this bondage is that he cannot discern between what causes him bondage and what frees him from it; what is poison and what is nectar. 


Suppose a person is very hungry, and someone offered him a variety of delicious foods. He is thrilled to see such good food while he is so hungry. But when he is about to eat, someone comes and tells him that all the food is poisoned. The one who offered the food wants to kill him and so, he must not eat it. At this point, even if the person is not sure whether the other person is telling the truth or not, he is afraid of dying and hence, does not eat the food.  


Similarly, once the sadhak learns that the worldly pleasures are poisonous for his spiritual welfare through the association of Sadhus, he develops a fear of being poisoned. Although he has to stay amidst worldly relations and do his duties to them, he becomes very careful about accepting worldly pleasures. Although he still has materialistic inclinations, this fear protects him from indulging in them physically and mentally. But true detachment comes only when he experiences the bitter taste of disappointment from worldly relationships. Even in the life stories of great devotees, one can see that they had to experience great disappointment before truly relinquishing all worldly attachments. 


All the worldly pleasures are poisonous. The subtle elements sound, touch, form, taste and odour in this material world are all poisonous. It is a kind of poison that first feels good when ingested and tells the mind to sleep peacefully where he must be alert and careful. This sleeping mind (ignorance towards spiritual welfare) leads to death of the self-consciousness. If the senses are dedicated to spiritual sound, touch, form, taste and odour, they get purified gradually and free him from Maya. But if the senses are attracted to and enjoy the material pleasures, know that you are getting poisoned in a sweet and slow manner. 


Yatato hyapi kaunteya puruṣhasya vipaśhchitaḥ, 
Indriyāṇi pramāthīni haranti prasabhaṁ manaḥ.” 

(Bhagavat Geeta 2.60) 


Meaning: The senses are so strong and turbulent, O son of Kunti, that they can forcibly carry away the mind even of a person endowed with discrimination who practices self-control. 


Therefore, the sadhak who wants to free himself from the web of Maya must be alert and discern properly between poison and nectar. To do that, he must try to be in the association of good devotees, listen to Hari katha and serve elevated Sadhus as much as possible. This introspection is very important for the sadhak. 


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