Vedānta Series – 5

The second among sādhanacatuṣṭayaṁ or the four fold practice is dispassion. Dispassion means, absence of desire to enjoy life. Dispassion and discrimination are interdependent on each other. Unless one is able to discriminate between Reality and illusion, he cannot remain dispassionate. Tattvabodha (verse 2) explains dispassion as icchārāhityam, where icchā means desire, and rāhitya means free from, free from desire. But what is desire? This is best explained by Tirumūlar, a great Tamil sage. He has composed 3047 verses called ‘Tirumantiram’. Verse 2614 says, “You should surrender all your desires including the longing for the Lord. When you have more desires, you have more sorrows. The more you give up, the more your bliss shall be.” There cannot be a better explanation for desire than this. Desire is like a virus. It spreads from strength to strength over a period of time. Desire is not discriminative in nature, such as good desire or bad desire. Jesus said. “If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34).” Here, ‘deny himself’ is explained as ‘cease to make self the object of one’s life and actions’.

Many spiritual aspirants are not able to progress because of their inability to get rid off their desires. Thoreau once said, “Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” Spirituality is not something that can be pursued as a pastime. Once spiritual journey begins, it has to be truthfully pursued. Truthful pursuit means cultivating of morality, ethics and sensory restraints in our day to day living. This way of living is known as śīla शील and is the foundation of Buddhism. Spiritual enlightenment happens according to the degree of one’s renunciation. Liberation of the soul is not possible without total renunciation. Therefore, the degree of renunciation is important to evaluate one’s spiritual progress. If one does not become totally desire-less, traces of desires get embedded in his subconscious mind and could manifest at any time. Great sages and saints stand as examples.

For a person who has totally renounced, likes and dislikes are no meaning. When he becomes disinterested in materialistic way of living, he always remains connected with the Eternal. Discrimination is between Imperishable or Eternal and perishables or material world. By having understood discrimination well, a true aspirant knows the difference between imperishable and perishable. Because of his knowledge, he could discriminate between Real and un-real. The same knowledge helps him to understand what a desire can cause, how it gets embedded in his subconscious mind and how it could sprout.

Kaṭha Upaniṣad elucidates on dispassion. “The person who has a discriminating intellect and a controlled mind is always pure. Such a person is sure to attain his goal (realisation of the Brahman) and will not be born again. Brahman created has created sense organs with the inherent defect that they are by nature outgoing. This is why beings see things outside cannot see the Self within. Immature people run after external objects and they invariably get caught in the widespread net of death. Wise men however know where true immortality is. That is why they reject everything in this world, knowing that these things are short lived.” In Kaṭha Upaniṣad, the lord of death, Yama offers Naciketā several tempting boons, but Naciketā refused to accept anything else, except the knowledge of the Brahman. Naciketā tell Yama, “No one is satisfied with wealth. And since I have seen you, I will no doubt get wealth. We shall also live as long as you rule as Yama. Therefore, knowledge of Self alone is the boon I ask for. I do not want any other boon”

Kaṭha Upaniṣad can be read through this link. Katha Upanishad.

An aspirant with dispassion develops universal brotherhood. Everybody is same to him. But in the case of one, who has partial dispassion, the concept of universal brotherhood has not developed fully in him. He continues to have attachments and desires and continues to live with pleasures and pains. Spiritual aspirants of the present day are not able to realize the Brahman mainly because of lack of total dispassion. Partial dispassion will not lead to final liberation, though it will aid in transforming one’s mind laying foundation for a strong spiritual life in future births