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Chapter Three: Miseries Of Mundane Existence

Ignorance is the Cause of Misery

Things seen yesterday are again present today. Ornaments worn with exultation yesterday are again donned by you. And yet, even intelligent persons do not get disgusted with them and are not ashamed of enjoying them again and again.

Like ignorant children that taste again and again sweetmeats which impart sweetness for the time being, you are also afflicted, ignorant of the true path. Days, nights, weeks, fortnights, months, years and yugas cycle again and again, and nothing new crops up. Wealth which only makes a host of thoughts whirl in the brain will not confer bliss on you. This wealth which the mind so much covets and which is so very ephemeral in its nature is utterly worthless like a flower-bud in a creeper growing in a well encircled by a serpent.

Nobody Comes and Goes

The Prana! Life which is like a drop of rain water dripping from the end of a leaf turned overhead flits out of the body at unseasonable times. This life is ephemeral like the autumnal clouds or an wickless lamp or ocean waves. Life and death are but two acts in the drama. Really nobody comes and goes.

The lives of those who have freed themselves from rebirth are the noblest. There is nothing so baneful as the life which is perishable in its nature and fleeting in the bestowal of pleasure.

Fire of Desires

The fire of desires has quite scalded you. In the present state even a full bath in a pool of ambrosia will not cool you down. It is these ever-waxing desires that bring on pains of rebirths, the heaviest and the most excruciating of all pains. This body which is composed of muscles, intestines, urine and fecal matter and is subject to various changes, being at one time fat and at another time lean, enters into this mundane existence simply to undergo pains. What beauty is then to be enjoyed in this body which is composed of flesh, bone and blood, which has the tendency to rot, which is of the same nature in the rich and in the poor, and which is subject to growth and decay?

Three Fevers

There are scorpion stings on one side. Serpents are on the other side. Flies, fleas, bugs, mosquitoes, thorns and other insects trouble you from one corner. The sun scorches you in summer. Cold stings you in winter. Influenza, plague, appendicitis, pyorrhea, smallpox are all ready to devour you. Then there are the three fevers, Adhyatmika, Adhidaivika and Adhibhautika. Fear, delusion, grief, sorrow and misery kill you every moment.

Desire, anger, hatred, jealousy, worry, anxieties and cares torment you every second. Deaths of persons whom you loved so dearly give you severe shocks. Yet you will never renounce the momentary pleasures of the senses of this unreal mundane existence. Such is the depth of sensual enjoyments. You will speak through egoism, “O, I am a powerful man. I am very intelligent. I can do any thing. There is no God.” You will twist your waxed mustache and when the scorpion stings you sharply, you will cry out bitterly: “O Narayana, Narayana, Narayana, help me. Relieve me of this horrible pain.”

If the hair becomes gray, you invent various dyes to blacken it. You invent monkey gland grafting for rejuvenation. If the teeth are fallen out, you put on a new artificial dental set. You will never leave the “will-to-live-and-enjoy.” Miserable wreck that you are! Hopeless specimen!

Think deeply. Cogitate. Reflect. Have constant satsang. Do selfless service of country and humanity. Develop the four means of salvation. Study the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga-Vashishtha and Viveka-Chudamani of Sri Sankara. Clear your doubts by approaching learned sannyasins. Have recourse to sravana, manana and nididhyasana. Remove the veil of ignorance and rest in your own swarupa–the Satchitananda state. “The Self must be seen, heard, thought upon and deeply pondered” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: 4:5).

Shun honor, respect, degrees, name, fame, power, position and titles. They are absolutely worthless. They will not give you eternal satisfaction. They will only intensify your vanity. They are all intoxicants of the mind. They will bring misery and mental disturbance. That is the reason why Raja Bhartrihari, Raja Gopichand and Lord Buddha deserted their kingdoms, riches, honor, etc. They treated them as trifles.

Uncertainty of Life

Only your actions, good and bad, will follow you after death. And God will judge you according to your deeds.

The attraction for external objects ceases, but there yet remains the internal craving or sense-hankering or thirsting which is called trishna. That is why the Gita says: “The abstinent run away from what they desire but carry their desires with them: when a man enters Reality, he leaves his desires behind him” (Bhagavad Gita 2:59).

Friend! Is there any limit to the number of fathers, mothers, wives, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts you had in the countless incarnations in the past? And yet the clinging and false relationship has not gone. Discrimination has not dawned. What a great pity it is!

Are you not ashamed to repeat the same acts of eating, drinking and sleeping day by day? You are proud of your titles and honors. Have you improved your life even a bit? What lessons have you learnt from the recent Bihar and Quito earthquakes? Are you attempting to reach the Imperishable Seat wherein all desires and trishnas will be utterly annihilated? Are you endeavoring to attain the highest end of life, divine realization which confers immortality, bliss and peace?

In the recent Bihar earthquake [this was written years ago, when the earthquake took place there] a rich banker had to beg for nine rupees just to protect himself and his family from death by starvation. A pundit earned slowly twenty-five thousand rupees by selling his books. But he had to spend that money in a short time in the treatment of his chronic chest complaint. He tried all sorts of medicines, but all in vain. He had to leave the house to lead a life of a hermit.

Life is quite uncertain here. Diseases of various sorts attack the body. Yet man clings blindly to this ephemeral life! He forgets the truth. O man, seek everlasting peace and bliss in the Atma or Soul within you by purifying your mind and practicing intense meditation. This is the right royal road to extricate yourself from the pains of samsara. Be quick in taking to spiritual practices. Hairs are becoming gray. Teeth are failing. Indriyas are getting cold. Practice meditation and japa while you are young. You can do nothing in old age, when you retire from service [employment].

It is extremely difficult to have a pure and calm mind. But you must have such a mind, if you want to have progress in meditation and yoga.

Lord Buddha had viveka from his very boyhood. He was one who had been profoundly impressed from his early youth by the transient and impermanent nature of all conditions of worldly existence and by the sufferings and wretchedness in which he saw all beings immersed. Will you not become another Lord Buddha?

You have spent eight hours in sleep, and the rest of the day in idle gossiping, telling lies, deceiving others, in selfish activities, in amassing wealth. How can you expect spiritual good, how can you expect immortality and peace, if you do not spend even half an hour in the service of the Lord, in singing His Names and in divine contemplation?

On the Whole, Life is Sorrow

Lord Buddha says: “On the whole, life is sorrow.” You will find an echo of this statement in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras “All, indeed, is pain to a person of discrimination.” This is not the philosophy of the pessimists. This is wonderful optimism, as it induces deep vairagya, weans the mind from sensual pleasures and directs it towards God, the Atman, to realize eternal and infinite bliss.

“Just as a fish in its desire to eat flesh does not see the hook that lies beneath, so also man in his passionate desire to get sensual pleasure does not see the noose of death.”

How to Eradicate Sense-hankering

Trishna means an intense craving or sense-hankering. Through constant repetition of enjoyment of an object, the longing for the object becomes very keen and acute. This is trishna.

It is all easy to become a big research scholar in Oxford or Cambridge University and to get an M.A., Ph.D., degree. But it is extremely difficult to eradicate these trishnas. That is the reason why Sri Vashishtha says to Sri Rama: “You can even uproot the Himalayas. You can even drink the waters of the whole ocean. You can even swallow balls of fire. But it is difficult to destroy the trishnas. Cravings cause incessant trouble in many different ways. These cravings are the seeds of this Samsara” (Yoga-Vashishtha).

A worldly man is always drowned in sorrow. He is ever struggling to get something, some money, some power, some position and so on. He is always anxious as to whether or not he will get it. Even when he is in actual possession of the things he so passionately longed for, he is very anxious lest he should lose them. There is pain in earning money. There is more pain in taking care of it. There is still more pain if the money gets decreased. And when it is lost, just imagine for a moment the magnitude of the climax and the intensity of pain it gives a man! Therefore renounce money and rest in peace in the blissful Self.

In the presence of light, you cannot have darkness. In the presence of sensual pleasures, atmic bliss cannot exist. Worldlings want both sensual pleasures and atma ananda in one and the same cup and one and the same time. This is an absolute impossibility. They do not want to renounce sensual pleasures. They do not want to develop real vairagya in their hearts of hearts. They simply talk a lot.

Though a man knows he might die at any moment, still he thinks he will live for ever. To get oneself entangled in the meshes of Maya till death is simply foolish. He who is attached to wife, husband wealth and children will not derive even an iota of benefit in the spiritual path.

A bachelor who is full of passion from head to foot imagines that he is miserable because he has no wife! A householder who is tired and exhausted of worldly life thinks wife and children are a mighty hindrance in his spiritual endeavors.

Desire for Name and Fame

One can renounce wife, husband, son, property and all else, but it is very difficult and rare to renounce name and fame. Pratishta is established name and fame. This is a great obstacle in God-Realization. This brings downfall in the end. This does not allow the aspirant to march forward in the spiritual path. He becomes a slave of respect and honor. As soon as he gets some purity and ethical progress, ignorant people flock to him and begin to pay homage and salutation. He gets puffed up with pride.

He thinks he is a great mahatma. He becomes eventually a slave of his admirers. He cannot notice his slow downfall. The moment he mixes up freely with householders, he loses what little he had gained during the eight or ten years of his intense sadhana. He cannot influence the public now. His admirers also leave him because they do not find any real solace or spiritual influence in his company.

People imagine that the mahatma has got siddhis and that they can get children through his grace, plenty of wealth and Himalayan herbs for the rooting out of diseases and the building up of radiant and healthy bodies. They always approach a sadhu with some selfish, ulterior motive or other. The aspirant through bad association loses his vairagya and viveka. Attachment and desire crop up in his mind. Therefore you should hide yourself always. Nobody should know what sort of sadhana you are doing. You should never attempt to exhibit your psychic powers or siddhis. You should be very humble. You should pass for quite an ordinary man. You should not accept rich presents from householders. You will be affected by the bad thoughts of those who offer presents. You should never think that you are superior to this man or that man. You should not treat others with contempt. You should always treat others with great respect and profound consideration. Then only respect will come by itself. You should treat respect, honor, name and fame as dung and poison and wear disrespect and dishonor as a gold necklace. Then only will you reach the goal in safety.

Why this Trouble?

Building of ashrams and making disciples bring about the downfall of aspirants. They are all stumbling blocks in the path of God-realization. The aspirant becomes another sort of householder. He develops institutional egoism. He gets attached to his ashram and disciples. He has now the same cares, worries and anxieties for running the ashram and the monthly magazine and feeding his disciples. He develops slave-mentality. Thoughts of the ashram revolve in his mind even when he is dying.

Some ashrams are nicely managed by the spiritual heads of the respective institutions while they are alive. When they pass away, the disciples who are petty-minded fight amongst themselves in open courts. You can see so many cases going on. The ashram becomes a fighting center. Ashram owners have to flatter the donors and appeal for funds very often. How can thoughts of God remain in his mind, when one has his mind fixed on accumulation of wealth and development of his ashram? Those who have started ashrams already may now say: “We are doing good to the people in various ways. We are having religious classes daily. We feed poor people. We are training religious students.”

It is quite true that an ashram run by a selfless dynamic yogi or a realized soul or a jivanmukta is a dynamic center of spirituality. It spiritually uplifts so many thousands of people. Such centers are needed in all parts of the world. Such ashrams can do immense spiritual good to the country. But such ideal ashrams with ideal spiritual heads to run them are very, very rare nowadays. Money is collected in a variety of ways. Some portion is spent for useful purposes. The rest goes to the comforts and conveniences of the founders of the ashram and their favorite disciples.

The founders of the ashram in course of time become unconsciously slaves of worship and puja. Maya works in a variety of ways. They are quite eager that people should drink their charanamrita. How can a man who has the opinion that he should be worshipped as an avatara serve the public? Hired workers in the ashram are petty-minded. They fight amongst themselves even for trifling things and disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the ashram. Where then is peace in the ashram? How can outsiders who visit the ashram to get shanti, enjoy shanti there?

The founders of the Ashram should live on daily bhiksha from outside. They should lead an ideal life of absolute self-sacrifice, a life of ideal simplicity like the late Baba Kalikambliwala of Rishikesh, who carried a water-pot on his head for the ashram and himself lived on bhiksha from outside. Such people alone can do real good to the people. Founders of ashrams should never appeal for funds. It brings great discredit to the order of sannyasa itself. It is another way of respectable begging. The habit of begging destroys the subtle, sensitive nature of the intellect and those who appeal for funds frequently do not know what they are doing.

It is very difficult to get good workers for the ashram. Then why do you bother about building ashrams when you have neither money nor workers nor dynamic spiritual force? Keep quiet. Do meditation and evolve yourself quietly. Mind your own business. Reform yourself first. How can you help others when you are yourself groping in darkness, when you are yourself blind? How can a blind man lead a blind man? Both will fall into a deep abyss and break their legs.

Generally an aspirant is very enthusiastic about his sadhana in the beginning. He is full of zeal. He takes a great deal of interest. He expects to get some good results soon. When he does not get these results within the expected time he gets discouraged. He loses his interest and slackens his efforts. He gives up his sadhana entirely. He loses faith in the efficacy of sadhana itself.

Worry and Anxiety

Man always thirsts for possession of objects, wife, husband and cattle. This surely makes him selfish. Selfishness causes attachment. Wherever there is attachment, there are “I-ness” and “My-ness.” The whole misery starts here. The whole wheel of Maya begins to revolve from now. Man becomes a slave now. Strong iron chains are fastened to his hands, legs and knees. He is entangled like the spider or the silk-worm. This is his own self-created web for his own destruction.

Sit for a moment alone in a quiet room. Enquire. Cogitate. Investigate. Happiness is a mental state. It does not depend upon money or possessions. You actually see very rich people that are very miserable, while a poor clerk is very happy, and a sadhu with only a loin-cloth dancing in divine ecstasy.

Enjoyment cannot bring satisfaction of desire. On the contrary, it aggravates and intensifies desires and makes the mind more restless through sense hankering or trishna just as the pouring of ghee or oil aggravates fire. The fewer the wants, the greater the happiness. Milk gives pleasure to some and pain to some others. The fourth cup of milk brings retching or nausea. It does not give pleasure during fever. Therefore pleasure is not in the objects but it is in the imagination or inclination of the mind.

Mango is not sweet but the imagination is sweet. Woman or man is not beautiful or handsome but the imagination is beautiful or handsome. An ugly woman appears very beautiful to her husband because his imagination is beautiful. An ugly man appears very handsome to his wife because her imagination is beautiful. There is a grain of pleasure in objects, but the pain that mixed with it is of the size of a mountain.

Sensual pleasure is tantalizing. There is enchantment so long as man does not possess the objects. He exerts hard. His mind is filled with anxieties. He is under despondency because he doubts if he would get the desired object. The moment he is in possession of the object, the charm vanishes. He finds that he is in entanglement. The bachelor thinks of his marriage day and night. He thinks he is in imprisonment after the marriage is over. He is not able to satisfy the extravagant wants of his wife. He wants to run away from the house to forests. The same is true of unmarried women. The rich but the childless man thinks he will be more happy by getting a son: he worries himself day and night to get a son, goes on pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and Kashi and performs various religious ceremonies.

But when he gets a child, he feels miserable. The child suffers from epileptic fits and his money is given away to doctors. Even then there is no cure. This is Mayic jugglery. The whole world is fraught with temptation.

When you cannot get the objects, you feel miserable. The man who is addicted to drinking tea, who is in the habit of having fruit and milk after meals, feels very miserable when he cannot get tea or fruit and milk. He scolds his wife and servants without rhyme or reason out of sheer irritability. When the wife dies, the husband is drowned in sorrow, not because of the loss of his loving partner in life, but because he cannot get sexual pleasure now. The cause of pain is pleasure. The cause of death is love for sensual life. Give up all sensual pleasures, if you do not want pain. Give up sensual life, if you do not want death.

To wear spectacles at the age of ten, to wear ring-watch, to buy a car by borrowing money, to wear fashionable dinner-uniform and Ellwood hat, health boots, to have a French crop or bobbed hair, to smoke Three-Castles cigarettes or Navy-cut or Manila cigars, to constrict the neck with stiff collars, to walk along the beach with their wives in clasped hands, to have newspaper in their pocket, to have a trimmed or Kaiser-mustache at the middle of the upper lip, to eat meat and drink brandy, to play bridge, to gamble, to dance in ballrooms, to borrow money to go to talkies and, in short, to lead a life of dissipation–this is modern civilization! Fashion and style have made you a beggar of beggars!

Raga and Dwesha

The two currents of the mind, raga and dwesha (attraction and repulsion), really constitute the world of samsara. The mind gets intensely attached to pleasant objects through attraction because it derives pleasure. Wherever there is sensation of pleasure, the mind gets glued, as it were, to the object that gives pleasure. This is what is called attachment. This only brings bondage and pain. When either the object is withdrawn or perishes, the mind gets unspeakable pain. Attraction is the root cause of human sufferings. The mind runs from those objects which give pain. Aversion arises in the mind. For instance, nobody likes a cobra, a tiger or even a scorpion. Attraction and pleasure, repulsion and pain coexist. A worldly man or woman is a slave of these two mighty and devastating currents. They are tossed about hither and thither like a piece of straw. They smile when they get pleasures, they weeps when they gets pain. They cling to pleasant objects, they run away from objects that cause pain.

The desire for sensual enjoyment is deep rooted or ingrained in the minds of all. The rajasic mind is so framed that it cannot remain even for a single moment without thoughts of enjoyment of some kind or another. People invent various sorts of subtle enjoyments. Modern science has made marvelous contributions towards bringing forth refined ways of enjoyment. Modern civilization is only another name for sensual enjoyment. Hotels, cinemas, airplanes, radio and television intensify sensual enjoyments. Man invents new dishes, new syrups, new drinks, to satisfy his palate. Fashion in dress is making vast strides year by year. So is the case with hair-dressing. Even the man treading the path of truth wishes to find out lasting and intense sensual enjoyment by means of his yogic practices. He wants to move about in the heavenly worlds in celestial vehicles. He wants to taste the nectar of immortality underneath the kalpataru [wish-fulfilling tree] side by side with Indra and other gods. He wants to hear celestial nymphs and gandharvas singing and dancing. These are all subtle temptations. The sincere aspirant will resolutely turn his back on all these sorts of refined, subtle, intense enjoyment herein and hereafter. He will treat them all as vomited matter, as offal or as the urine of a donkey or as poison.

This world is full of difficulties and troubles. No one save a yogi or a bhakta or a Jnani is free from these worldly miseries and anxieties. Go wherever you like. It is all the same.

Kamala and Krishna had no children. They were building castles in the air one night when they were sleeping on a raised bedstead. Kamala asked Krishna: “How will you manage for the sleeping place of our son, if I get a child?” Krishna replied: “I will make room in this very wooden cot itself.” So saying he moved some inches away from his wife. She again asked: “What will you do, if I beget a second son?” Krishna answered: “I will again make room in this very cot itself.” So saying he actually moved a few inches further to the edge of the cot. Kamala again asked: “My dear husband, what will you do if I beget a third son?” The husband said: “I will give him room in this very cot.” While moving to the extreme end of the cot, he tumbled down and fractured his left leg. Krishna’s neighbor came and asked him: “What is the matter with your legs?” Krishna said: “I broke my leg on account of my false sons.” Such is the case with the people of the world also. They suffer on account of mithyaabhimana (false egoism) and mithyasambandha (false relationship).

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Chapters for How to Get Vairagya

Preface: How to Get Vairagya