'Be' with Swami Venkatesananda

Vigilant watchfulness

When we realise that renunciation is spirit and not form, it does not mean that there should not be a form of renunciation. Renunciation,whether it is manifest in external form or unmanifest, is still the spirit. It is important to bear this in mind, because if sannyasa or renunciation is to be confined to people belonging to a monastic order, then moksha is also restricted. Then self-realisation or God-realization becomes restricted, the monopoly of a few. The spirit of sannyasa is available to all. It may, in they case of some be accompanied by a formal renunciation, an externally discernable form of renunciation, and in the case of some it may not be so.

The spirit of renunciation is not a matter of effort, it is not the end-product of a series of actions. Effort is invariably associated with ‘I’. Renunciation is completely and totally free of this ‘I will’- ‘I will not’ problem. Does this mean free indulgence? No. That also has to be renounced, because that also is a manifestation of the same ego. ‘I will do what I like’, ‘I will not do what I like’, or ‘I will renounce’. These are identical statements, the distinction is merely alphabetical. There is no vital spiritual difference. ‘I will’ and ‘I will not’ are totally opposed to the spirit of renunciation. When ‘I will’ and ‘I will not’ are both dropped, effort is dropped. When effort is dropped, everything is not dropped, there is no indulgence. The real spirit of renunciation is when the divine will prevails.

Here is a simple illustration. You may say, ‘I will take a shower’ or ‘I will not take a shower’. But this is the play of the ego. Whether you want to do something or you do not want to do it, or you decide to do something you do not want to do, all this causes problems.

There is another problem. It is raining heavily outside and you have no umbrella or raincoat. You dare not say, ‘I will not become wet’. Somebody else is the controller – that is what I am talking about. Here is something which is not my choice at all. It is one of choiceless renunciation. Renunciation becomes a choiceless, effortless happening, not because ‘I will’ it or ‘I will not’, but because it is willed.

Is there no effort involved at all in renunciation? There is an effort. Once again, Gurudev’s fundamental philosophy ought to be borne in mind. It is neither – nor. One extreme is to say, ‘Everything depends upon my effort, I will or I will not renounce’. Another extreme is to say, ‘ Some karma is in charge, I have nothing to do’. It is a matter of total passivity, if this is possible at all, which I am very doubtful about. Gurudev’s was the middle path again here. One has to make one effort, one single perpetual unending effort. That is vigilance.

Vigilant watchfulness, this was His word, throughout His life. To be awake, to be alert. This I have to do. This cannot be abandoned. This cannot be renounced. If this is renounced, then you are worse than a cabbage. This intense watchfulness, to be perpetually awake, or never to be spiritually slothful or asleep, that much of effort is called for. Then that itself determines what renunciation is. That watchfulness is able to observe the immediate situation, the immediate problem, and that is removed, not dropped but removed. It disappears even as darkness disappears before light. This is what we saw in Gurudev’s life.