Chapter 18: Non-Attachment is not Aversion, Question 2



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Question 2


The yoga of non-attachment is foundational, and it is the third point of the triangle, the basic point of life from which arise the two other points of the triangle.

The two other points are: first, action through inaction; and second, inaction through action. One can be called sannyas -- inaction, and the other can be called action without desire for results.

Desireless action means action through inaction. If you do something without any motive, without a sense of compulsion to do it and without desire for successful results, it is desireless action. If what you do is undone or it does not bear fruits and you accept it without regret or pain, it is desireless action.

I would like to go into this question in depth. Desireless action is sannyas if the sannyasin has a sense of involvement and responsibility even in inaction, when he is not doing a thing.

It will be a little difficult to understand: a sense of involvement in inaction, when one is not doing a thing. For example, there is a sannyasin who does nothing to earn his living. So he comes to your house for alms and you share with him your food, which you have stolen from somewhere. If he is a true sannyasin he will say that he is party to theft; he is a thief too. If he is a pseudo sannyasin, he will say that he has nothing to do with the theft of the food, he is not concerned with what you do or don't do. But an honest sannyasin will admit that although he did not steal food directly yet he is responsible for your action of theft.

But suppose he does not even beg, he does nothing -- what is his position in regard to action? I think if there is a true sannyasin on this earth and if a war is going on in Vietnam -- as it is in fact happen ing, where people are being mercilessly slaughtered -- he will share the responsibility for the Vietnam War. Although he is thousands of miles away, he actually has nothing to do with what is going on in Vietnam, still he will take the responsibility on himself.

A sannyasin, a true sannyasin is aware that wherever there is consciousness embodied on this wide earth, he is inextricably linked with it. It cannot be without him, he is present everywhere. And there fore he is responsible for everything -- good or evil -- that happens anywhere.

For example, I am now in this village as a visitor, and a Hindu-Muslim riot breaks out here. I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim; I am a sannyasin. So where do I stand in relation to the riot? If I am really a sannyasin I will say, and say truly that, "I am responsible for it; I must have done something to engender it. Maybe I have done nothing to cause it. I am only a silent spectator, yet I cannot run away from the responsibility."

A sannyasin is one who, not doing a thing, knows that he is party to whatever is happening around the earth just because he is a part of the universal life. He has to be utterly responsible for all that mankind does or does not do. He is also aware that whatever he does or does not do -- even his inaction -- is going to be of great consequence.

If Hindus and Muslims were fighting some where and I silently escaped from the scene of the riot, I cannot say that I had nothing to do with it. I could have done something to avert the riot, but I did not. My abstention from action in this case was action enough, and I should hold myself responsible for not averting the bloodshed.

What is generally taken to be sannyas is not real sannyas, it is simple aversion. The sannyas of Krishna's concept is a much different and more difficult affair. Krishna's sannyas is exactly the state of a non-attached person. He lives with this awareness, that he is fully responsible for his inaction -- which is action through inaction -- just because he exists as a part of cosmic consciousness. He knows that ultimately all consciousness is united and one.

You have seen waves in the ocean; they seem to be constantly moving towards the shore. But you will be surprised to know they never move to the shore; they are virtually stationary. You will say it is unbelievable; you have seen with your own eyes how they travel a mile-long distance to come to the shores. You might have even played with waves that come rolling over the ocean.

But those who know the ocean will say that no wave moves; it only appears to be moving. The fact is that one wave gives rise to another and another and the process goes on ad infinitum. It is not that a wave rising at a mile's distance from the shore moves toward the shore, really it dies as soon as it rises, but it gives rise to another wave which in its turn gives rise to another. What really happens is that when a wave rises it depresses the water on either side, which causes another wave to rise. Thus one wave causes thousands of waves to rise. They don't move even a millimeter, but they appear to be moving because they are so contiguous and continuous.

Now suppose a child is drowned in a wave near the seashore, can you hold a distant wave responsible for his drowning? It will deny responsibility on the grounds that it never moved to the shore; there was a mile's distance between the wave and the drowned child. But Krishna thinks that if the distant wave is a sannyasin, it will own the responsibility for the child's death, because it is an integral part of the ocean. Whether the distant wave visited the shore or not, it is as much responsible as the wave that drowned the child. The ocean is one and indivisible.

A right kind of sannyasin takes responsibility for everything that happens anywhere in this wide world, even though he has no direct hand in any of it. This is a very difficult role to play. Not to be a doer when one is doing something is not that difficult, although this and the other thing are two sides of the same coin. We have lost sight of this side of sannyas, which has as much involvement in inaction. To do without being a doer, and to be a doer when one is not doing a thing are two sides of the coin of sannyas.

But unfortunately we have a very limited concept of sannyas: to us a sannyasin is one who leaves the world and shuts himself up in a mountain cave or a monastery and ceases to have any relation with the world. Such a sannyasin says now he is not at all responsible for what happens in the world. But this is a very sectarian and mistaken view of sannyas. This world is like waves rising on the surface of the ocean where no wave can say that it is not responsible for what happens to the rest of the waves.

Life is very complex, it is vast and deep. It is like an ocean of consciousness which is constantly creating waves. If I say a word here and now, do you think it will die soon after it is uttered? No, I may not be here tomorrow, but this single word uttered by me will continue to affect the world till the end of time. And if I don't say a word, if I remain silent, then my silence too will continue to affect the world endlessly. Who will be responsible for it when I am gone?

Perhaps the wave that gave rise to the wave which drowned the child in the ocean is no more in existence, and we will not hold it responsible for the child's death. But Krishna will definitely hold that wave responsible; he will never let it go blameless. Krishna will say that both our being and non-being have a hand in creating this great web of life on earth, and in no way can we escape involvement and responsibility. In fact, every wave is a member of every other wave and is responsible for every other wave.

So know well that a true sannyasin is one who is as much responsible for his non-doing as one who is responsible for his doing. Even in his inaction he is aware that he is doing. And he is not at all a sannyasin who says he is not responsible for what others do.

There are hundreds of thousands of sannyasins in India, never has there been any dearth of sadhus and sannyasins2 monks and mendicants in this country. And this country has suffered political slavery for hundreds of years. Now these renunciates from the world can say, "We have nothing to do with the politics and political slavery of India; we own no responsibility for her social and political degradation." Their argument seems to be plausible, but it is erroneous.

And I say this attitude of theirs definitely had a hand in India's downfall and long political slavery. They cannot run away from this responsibility. At least an authentic sannyasin will never run away from responsibility. He is not only responsible for himself, but also for all others. He shares in the vices and virtues of the meanest of us all. because we are not separate, we are not islands, we are one indivisible continent where everybody is a member of everybody else.

So one can remain a doer even when one does not do a thing. And it is very significant.

If I can remain a doer in non-doing. I will attain to non-attachment Now there is no difference between my action and that of others; I cannot escape responsibility. If I abstain from stealing, it will not make a difference, because theft will continue in the rest of the world. And even if I steal it is not going to make a difference. If I am responsible for everything that happens anywhere in this wide world, if all vice and virtue, hate and love, war and peace, are mine, then there is no sense in owning this and disowning that.

If all hands are mine, then what difference does it make if I disown the two hands that hang on the sides of my body? If all eyes are mine, then it makes no difference if I am personally blinded. And if all homes are my homes, then there is no sense in my running away from the one that is called mine.

Sannyas affirms that every one is inseparably involved in this vast world of action and we cannot run away from it. Therefore it is good to know, and know on our own, that we do even when we don't do anything, we are responsible even for our inaction.

The other side of the coin, according to Krishna, is to know I am not doing even when I am doing something Ordinarily this side seems simple, but knowing the side of our total involvement in the whole pattern of action, you cannot say it is that simple. It is really difficult. Someone says glibly that he can do things as if he is acting, but it is easier said than done. The truth is that even professional actors often forget they are actors; they become doers. They become so involved in acting that they think they are the very roles they are expected to play. They become so conditioned by long acting that they forget altogether their reality, they begin to identify themselves with their roles. They become what they are long accustomed to act.

This identification of an actor with his role, which is a kind of delusion, needs to be understood carefully. When even an actor is deluded into believing that he is the person whose part he is playing, how can the very person whose role is being played by the actor believe that he is acting a role. When someone playing the role of Rama in Ramaleela -- Rama's play -- sheds real tears when his wife Sita is stolen, it is difficult to think that the real Rama would not shed real tears. When even spectators in a drama begin to weep, it is quite possible the actor cries really. For the time being he forgets that he is only playing Rama's role. So when actors become victims of deluded identification it is really difficult for us in real life to conduct ourselves as if we are actors on the stage.

To take life as playacting is arduous, but not impossible. If we carefully watch the way we live, if we closely observe our daily life, it will not take long to know that we are really acting. You are passing on the street and someone asks, "How are you?" and you promptly say, "I am fine," and you never think what you are saying. Next time when it happens and you say, "I am fine," pause for a moment and think carefully if you are really fine. And you will know that what you said was nothing more than acting, it was not your reality. Someone meets you in a club and you say to him, "Good morning, I am so happy to see you." Stop then and there and look back to see if you were really happy to see him. If you carefully watch your day-to-day life you will soon come to know that it is all acting.

Whenever you do something and think yourself to be a doer -- and such moments are many -- reflect inside if what you have done is real. You say to your loved one, "I love you with all my being; I cannot live without you." Look back and examine yourself: "Is it true that I cannot live without my lover?" How many people have really died for the sake of love? And you will know clearly how you act in your day-to-day life. Watch every step of your life, every single thing that you do, every word that you say, and you will realize that it is different from playacting.

I love to tell the stories of Mulla Nasruddin.

He falls in love with a king's wife. He spends a night with her and at the break of dawn he is preparing to take leave of his beloved. With great feeling he says to her, "You are the most beautiful and loving woman I have ever met; I cannot live without you." Hearing this the queen begins to shed tears of happiness. Nasruddin then turns back and says, "But I have said the same thing to many women in the past. I say I cannot live without them and I go on living. And I am going to live so that I have occasions in life to say it to other women too. And I have also spoken the same cliche to many women; 'You are the most beautiful woman on this earth."'

This shocks the queen; she is now grievously hurt and angry. Then the Mulla says, "I was just playing a joke; really I cannot live without you." And the queen is pleased once again.

This man Nasruddin knows that life is a play and nothing more, and he can go through life as an actor, treating the world as a play. But it is not that easy for his beloved to know; she has taken it very seriously.

It is not that you will miss anything if you take life as a play. The truth is that it will add to the quality of your life; it will make for its richness and excellence. Therefore Krishna says, "Yoga brings excellence to your action." In fact, when life becomes a play, all its pinpricks and hurts go, all its thorns disappear and we are left with its flowers in our hands. If life is a play, why should anyone burn himself in the hellfire of hate and anger? Then only a madman will enact anger and hate in his life; all sensible people will enact only affection and love. If you have to dream, why dream that you are a beggar? Then everyone will dream they are kings.

If I explore my doings with attention I will find that I am playing roles all along the road of life. I am acting the role of a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, a wife and a husband, a friend and a foe. You really need to observe and examine all your actions minutely and see if they are different from acting. And you will soon laugh at yourself. Maybe you are crying and watching your tears, and soon you begin to laugh inside. Maybe you are one thing on the outside and quite its opposite within. And by and by your life will turn into a play.

A Zen monk was dying. He called a few of his friends and said, "Countless people have died; I am going to die too. But I want to die in some novel manner. It is time we should change the ways of dying. Enough is enough. Please help me."

His friends laughed saying, "What are you talking about? Is dying a joke?"

The monk queried, "Have you heard that anyone died walking? That he kept walking and died?" His friends shook their heads. But an old man among them said, "I have read in some story book about a monk who has died walking. And the dying monk had observed before his death that only a saint could die in this manner."

The dying monk said, "Then it is not a novel way; someone has already used it. Can you say if someone died standing?" One of his friends said that he had heard about such a case. Then the monk said, "One dies the way one lives. It is possible someone died standing. But have you heard if someone died in the headstand posture of yoga?" His friends said laughing, "We have neither heard nor can we think that someone can die standing on his head. It is impossible."

The monk leaped at the suggestion, stood in the headstand posture and died.

Dying in this way he created a problem for the whole monastery. How to take down his dead body was the problem. People were also scared by the very sight of such a death. It was really an unheard of way, a dangerous way of dying. They were not even sure that he was really dead. They examined him in every way and found that his breathing, his pulse, his heartbeat, had stopped. Yet they could not decide how to handle his corpse. Never before had they faced such a situation, nor heard of it. This monk was known for his unconventional ways, he had been a troublemaker all his life, and the way he chose to die created the greatest trouble ever.

So they conferred among themselves at length. Not even the intimate friends of the dead monk had a workable suggestion to offer. Then the oldest among them, the one who had read about someone dying while walking, said that the elder sister of the dead monk -- who was a nun -- lived in a neighboring monastery. She could be of some help to them, because she knows her brother well and whenever he made any trouble in the past she was called to discipline him.

His sister was a ninety-year-old woman living in a nearby village. When she came, she tapped her brother's dead body with her staff saying, "Can't you give up being naughty even when you are going to die? Is this the way to die? Die properly!"

Immediately the monk stood on his legs and said to his sister, "Please don't be angry; now I will die properly. It does not make any difference to me." And he lay on the ground and died.

His sister picked up her staff and left for her monastery. She did not even look back on her dead brother or his friends.

This man, who can die playfully, knows that life is a play. He can live playfully and die playfully. And he also knows what action without a motive, without being attached to its fruits is. When one turns his work into play, his whole life becomes a play. Then he can take everything, including death, as a play. But it is possible only when you know the real actor within you. You don't have to act; you are al, ready acting, and you have only to know the truth of it.

Krishna does not tell you to become an actor, or to practice acting. If you practice you will remain a doer, and you will become serious about every role. Krishna says you have only to know the reality of your life. As far as he is concerned, he knows for himself that it is nothing different from acting. And once you know it for yourself you will cease to be a doer in life. Then your life will turn into a play, and that is what sannyas is.

Krishna speaks of two kinds of action: one is action without attachment, and another is inaction with a sense of involvement in action. These are the two ways of sannyas and action, and it depends on you which way you choose for yourself. Someone can choose doing and yet remain a non-doer, and another can opt for non-doing and yet remain a doer.

These are really two types of people in the world, and you have to know your own type. As I see it, a male mind will choose doing and yet remain a non-doer, and a female mind will choose non-doing and yet remain a doer. There is a basic difference between the two minds -- male and female minds. While the male mind is active, the feminine is passive. If a woman has to do something she will do it as if she is not doing. And to the contrary a man, even when he is inactive, seems to be active and aggressive.

These are two broad divisions of the mind -- the male mind and the female mind. I call them broad divisions because not all men are aggressive nor are all women passive. There are men with feminine minds and women with male minds. Even if a woman wants to do a thing, she does it as if she is doing nothing. If she loves a man she does not express her love to him directly. She hides it in every way, she turns her love into a non-doing. A man on the other hand, will show off his love even if he is not really loving to a woman.

Remember, I am not talking about man and woman; I am talking about the male mind and the female mind. You will come across a few men who love passively, and similarly a few women who love aggressively. Krishna's division approximates this division of masculine and feminine mind.

As far as sannyas is concerned it is one and indivisible, but you can approach it in two ways. A person with a feminine mind, one who can surrender and wait, will approach sannyas by way of inaction. Non-doing will be his pattern, his way, but he will know that non-doing is his doing; he remains a doer even in his non-doing.

For example, when a woman comes to love a man she does not take the initiative. For this reason some men feel deceived, being unaware of the ways of feminine love. But the woman knows that she has set the ball of love rolling in her own way. Waiting is the way of her initiative; she waits. Feminine love is not articulate, while masculine love is. That is why a woman is hurt if the man she loves does not respond to her silent love in an articulate manner. If a man begins to love a woman without expressing his love in words, the woman will never come to like him. The woman will never really know that he loves her unless he expresses his love in an aggressive manner.

This is the dialectics of male and female love. While the woman on her part remains passive, wait, ing and expectant, she wants her lover to be aggressive and articulate in his love. Unless a man is assertive and aggressive in his love, the woman won't believe he truly loves her. That is why a quiet and peaceful man, rich in goodness but lacking in aggressiveness, fails to satisfy a woman. But a woman feels at home with even a mean man if his love is aggressive and articulate. On the other hand, a man is averse to a woman who is assertive and aggressive.

Krishna has made this division of action and inaction in accord with the two types of human mind -- the male mind and the female mind. The male mind will choose action without being a doer, and the female mind will adopt inaction and yet re, main a doer. Those are two sides of the same coin.


Next: Chapter 18: Non-Attachment is not Aversion, Question 3


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