On Advaita Vedanta: Know your passion and direct it rightly
The following excerpt is from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
द्रव्यार्थमन्नवस्त्रार्थं यः प्रतिष्ठार्थमेव वा ।
संन्यसेदुभयभ्रष्टः स मुक्तिं नाप्तिमर्हति ॥
dravyārthamannavastrārthaṃ yaḥ pratiṣṭhārthameva vā
saṃnyasedubhayabhraṣṭaḥ sa muktiṃ nāptimarhati
A wise man should embrace renunciation only when there has risen in his mind dispassion for all the worldly things; otherwise he is fallen.
~ Maitreya Upanishad, Chapter 2, Verse 20
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, I am afraid that I do not know this total dispassion. My dispassion is partial and situation-dependent. This stubborn attraction towards the world makes me feel I am not worthy of being your student. At the same time, the meaninglessness of everything makes me run back to you. It is as you have said: can’t go away, can’t directly come close. What exactly does it mean to be fallen if one embraces renunciation without dispassion for all worldly things?
Acharya Prashant (AP): It is simple. Dispassion and renunciation are not really two separate happenings; they are quite one. When the self is no more keen to cling to the various objects of its world, those objects then fall off, or you could say that then the self falls off from those objects.
The quality of no more being attracted, attached and clingy is called dispassion. Dispassion expresses that quality in a negative sense. Dispassion says not attached, not finding value. And renunciation states the same thing in an affirmative sense: renunciation says dropped, given up.
When you use the word ‘renunciation’, it feels as if you have done something to those objects or with those objects. You say, “I have renounced such and such thing,” as if an action has been done with respect to that thing. But the fact is that renunciation is actually a non-action. Renunciation is actually an exercise in negation, not doing.