Renunciation and Spiritual
Swami Yatiswarananda (1889-1966),
a former Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math
and Ramakrishna Mission, was a well-known spiritual
figure in the Neo-Vedanta Movement. He did several
years of pioneering work in spreading Vedanta
in Europe and U.S.A. His Meditation and Spiritual
Life has been acclaimed as a spiritual classic.
This article is based upon the notes of his
class-talks on Vedantasara of Sadananda which
were taken down at Wisbadan, Germany, during
Describing the ways of the
worldly minded, the Lord says:
O Partha, no set determination
is formed in the minds of those that are deeply
attached to pleasure and power, and whose discrimination
is stolen away by the flowery words of the unwise,
who are full of desires and look upon heaven
as their highest goal, and who, taking pleasure
in the panegyric words of the Vedas, declare
that there is nothing else. Their flowery words
are exuberant with various specific rites as
the means to pleasure and power and are the
causes of new births as the result of their
works performed with desire.
And he further advises Arjuna
to go beyond the gunas:
The Vedas deal with the three
gunas. Be thou free, O Arjuna, from the triad
of the Gunas, free from the pairs of opposites,
ever-balanced, free from the thought of getting
and keeping, and established in the self.
One should feel that this material
existence is the source of endless pain and
misery, and that there can never be any lasting
happiness in the world. We must be tired of
animal existence, of being swayed by the cravings
and desires of our senses and our mind. One
should cultivate a feeling of disgust towards
all worldly pleasure and enjoyment. No person
who is bound by pleasure and pain, can reach
the goal. So for a person who is not prepared
to get rid of the pairs of opposites, there
is no place in spiritual life.
We can never make ourselves
fit and prepared for the higher spiritual culture
so long as we yearn for bodily pleasures.
In his Inspired Talks, Swami
Do not wait to have a harp
and rest by degrees; why not take a harp and
begin here? Why wait for heaven. Make it here!
In heaven there is no marrying or giving in
marriage; why not begin at once and have none
here? The yellow robe of the Sannyasin is the
sign of the free. Give up the beggar's dress
of the world; wear the flag of freedom, the
Without perfect purity--physical
and mental--nothing can be achieved in spiritual
life. This is the teaching of the Great Ones,
the Christs, the Buddhas, the Ramakrishnas of
Spiritual Life is for the
We must be able to stand the
destructive aspect of truth. First, truth burns
many things in us: false attachments, false
hopes, all worldly desires and all worldly loves.
And all these have to be destroyed, if we want
to clean our reflectors.
If you are really prepared
to follow the spiritual path unconditionally,
then you have to get rid of all such dreams,
the gross dreams and the subtle ones. And this
means tremendous courage, tremendous heroism,
tremendous bravery and undauntedness. By those
who are weak, who have got weak nerves, truth
cannot be realised. And seeing that the dream
as a dream is going to break anyhow, why not
go and break it consciously, purposefully and
manfully? Every dream is going to break sooner
or later, why create new dreams? Why not stop
It is very important to be
able to stand the destructive aspect of Truth.
It must first of all burn away all our false
hopes, false identifications, false pet ideas,
all our false worldly aspirations, all our small,
petty, greedy loves. Then only will Truth reveal
Itself, not before. But very often we want to
dream our miserable, petty, little dreams of
love and greed and power--we want to hug them
to our heart's content and cling to them as
long as we possibly can, till they are torn
away from us.
As I said, if you are really
prepared to follow the spiritual life, you must
do away with all dreams, gross dreams, subtle
dreams. There must be merciless scrubbing and
cleaning and readjustment. A new outlook must
be created, sacrificing old notions and pet
ideas, prejudices etc. Tremendous and uncompromising
boldness is necessary. Those who are bold and
strong and purposeful alone can attain to the
Truth. Not others. In Vedanta there is no place
for the weakling, the worms groveling in the
dust, the sinners who go on crying, 'Oh, I am
a sinner, I am a sinner', and then continue
to sin, to wallow in the mire, and wail and
Truth is not to be attained
by the weak. If purity is ours by birthright,
why not manifest purity? If love is ours by
birthright, why not manifest love? If bliss
is ours by birthright, why not manifest bliss?
If freedom is ours by birthright, why go on
being slaves to our senses, to our body, mind,
ego? Break the dream mercilessly! Learn to stand
on your own feet.
Swami Vivekananda says in a
...Be bold and face
The Truth! Be one with It!
Let visions cease,
Or, if you cannot, dream but
Which are Eternal Love and
This is the ideal, and the
ideal must some day be made real. It must not
be allowed to remain an ideal. Mere theories
and elevating thoughts won't do. The sine qua
non of all spiritual life is unerring set determination,
come what may. He who is not prepared to pay
the price, had better not go in for it at all.
Nothing can be had without paying the price.
In the human being, anything that is not spiritual
is to be eliminated, steadily, mercilessly,
patiently. The human personality is to be mercilessly
analyzed. Renunciation is the central theme--physical
and mental renunciation. Renunciation of wealth
and greed, renunciation of lust, renunciation
of the ego.
Sri Ramakrishna says: 'There
are two characteristics required for the spiritual
aspirant. One of them is freedom from guile,
the other, calmness.'
This calmness has two aspects--the
physical and the mental. The body must be calm,
the mind must be calm, the nerves must be calm.
It is only possible for us to study in a perfectly
calm atmosphere; our mind must be concentrated
and calm. Here we have been thinking good thoughts
for the last two months, and this is bound to
create an atmosphere, and we must make this
atmosphere purer and purer, and stay in this
atmosphere as much as possible. The physical
and the mental environment is to be consciously
created and purified by us all. Everybody should
try to contribute as much as possible by purifying
his whole thought-world and trying to create
harmony and calmness in himself and in the others.
Constant Practice of Concentration
If thou are not able to fix
thy mind on Me, then do thou seek to reach Me
by constant practice (abhyasa).
Constant practice of meditation
and of repeatedly withdrawing the mind from
the objects to which it wanders and trying to
fix it on one thing is necessary. There must
be constant daily practice, daily concentration,
so that the feeling colours the whole mind.
All these thoughts must be driven deep into
the subconscious in order to purify it and to
destroy the old impure impressions with which
it has been fed.
Constant reflection is necessary
so that a permanent wave is formed in your mind.
There must be permanent current flowing in one
direction, not many currents flowing at random
and wasting all the energy which has to be used
by the aspirant for a higher purpose. Every
sincere devotee should stop all channels through
which his energy is being wasted and draw up
a fixed daily routine which is to be followed
scrupulously, patiently, unerringly, day by
day. This is very important if you want to have
success in spiritual life, but very often people
don't care to do this. They go on listening
to nice talks without ever doing anything themselves.
The goal can never be reached by vicarious striving.
Struggle, struggle, struggle!
There is no other way. Let us not be cowards,
let us not be afraid of struggles and failures
and pain, but go on, steadily, patiently, unerringly,
towards the one goal of our life. And here,
very much depends upon the regularity of our
spiritual practices and daily studies and readings.
Very often we are careless
in this. We have to be more careful about our
thoughts and doings for our own benefit as well
as the benefit of others. There is too much
idle gossip, too much thinking of unnecessary
or even harmful thoughts. And all these will
have to be eliminated before we can make any
real progress towards the goal. It is essential
for us to create the right mood before sitting
for meditation. Steady regular practice in the
right mood--that is what every aspirant has
to go in for and to go on with.
Evil thoughts arise even in
the mind that has been made strong, but these
can do it no harm. Unless this world has been
effaced completely, desires and passions can
never be annihilated--I mean in their subtlest
When one realises the Atman
as dwelling in all things and finds all things
dwelling in oneself, the sage ceases to hate.
Until then the passions arise
in the mind, but if we have strengthened our
moral fibre through our practices and studies,
we are able to stand them, and they can do us
no serious harm.
Need for Purified Intellect
Reasoning and speculation
carried to their utmost limits are by themselves
unable to help any one in arriving at any satisfactory
conclusion regarding the production of the universe.
The Vedanta, perceiving their uselessness, calls
in the help of actual experience there to solve
the problem. But in order to reach the state
of experience there must be clear thinking,
intellectual studies pursued with regularity
as a firm spiritual practice and a general development
and culture of the intellectual faculty. Then
only the question of transcending it would arise,
not before. We do not want dullards in spiritual
life--mere parasites living on hazy ideas and
sentiments--least of all in the Vedantic path.
Try to develop your intellect
and intellectual faculties and to make them
as subtle as possible. There must be a harmonious
co-ordination of intellect, feeling and will--purified
intellect, purified feeling and purified will--not
the intellect, feeling and will of the ordinary
man. We should develop perfect harmony between
intellect, feeling and will. There is an absolute
necessity of having real Jnana side by side
with real Bhakti, but Bhakti must never degenerate
into mere emotionalism or sentimentalism, just
as Jnana must never become dry intellectualism
without any heart.
To the extent we are able to
make our mind subtler and subtler through continence,
through spiritual practice, through intellectual
studies, to the extent our body and mind become
purer and purer, we get a vision of Truth. Nothing
can be done without a life of ethical culture
and purity. Tapas is the one word in spiritual
instruction: renunciation, austerity, purification
of our intellect, feeling and will; and without
tapas there cannot be any progress on the spiritual
We must have fine sensitiveness.
We must develop a fine sense of proportion and
become very well-balanced. When we look at a
thing, we must learn to look through and through
it, not only to see the appearance, the mere
surface. That won't do. We must learn to go
below the surface and see the reality, and never
to take things for granted without verifying
them ourselves. Vedanta must not be made a comfortable
religion. We must make our nerves so strong
through ethical culture that we areno longer
made mere creatures of circumstances. Great
endurance is necessary. Don't be like weathercocks,
don't be slaves of your mind!