Renunciation Or Expansion Of Love And Affection?

The following is an excerpt from Ramanananda Swarnagiri’s Crumbs from his Table (2017; 10th edition), p. 42. It is a satsang between the writer and Sri Ramana Maharshi:

D[isciple]: I have a good mind to resign from service and remain constantly with Sri Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi]

B [Ramana]: Bhagavan is always with you, in you, and you are yourself Bhagavan. To realize this it is neither necessary to resign your job nor run away from home. Renunciation does not imply apparent divesting of costumes, family ties, home, etc., but renunciation of desires, affection and attachment. There is no need to resign your job, but resign yourself to Him, the bearer of the burden of all. One who renounces desires, etc., actually merges in the world and expands his love to the whole universe. Expansion of love and affection would be a far better term for a true devotee of God than renunciation, for one who renounces the immediate ties actually extends the bonds of affection and love to a wider world beyond the borders of caste, creed and race. A sannyasi, who apparently casts away his clothes and leaves his home[,] does not do so out of aversion to his immediate relations but because of the expansion of his love to others around him. When this expansion comes, one does not feel that one is running away from home, but drops from it like ripe fruit from a tree; till then t would be folly to leave one’s home or his job.

Does My Realization Help Others?

A wonderful, powerful excerpt from Maharshi’s Gospel: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, p. 24. Could Ramana Maharshi be more beautiful?

D[isciple]: Does my Realization help others?

M[aharshi]: Yes, and it is the best help tat you can possibly render to others. Those who have discovered great truths have done so in the still depths of the Self. But really there are no ‘others’ to be helped. For, the Realized Being sees only the Self, just as te goldsmith sees only the gold while valuing it in various jewels made of gold. When you identify yourself with te body, name and form are there. But when you transcend the body-consciousness, the ‘others’ also disappear. The Realized one does not see the world as different from Himself.

D: Would it not be better if the saint [were to] mix with others?

M: There are no ‘others’ to mix with. The Self is the only Reality.

Expounding On The Nature Of Dukkha: ‘Something Here Isn’t Right’

English Buddhist scholar Peter Harvey has written a fine paper in which he discusses “Dukkha, Non-self, and the Teaching of the Four ‘Noble Truths” (PDF here).

In but a few words, the Buddha seeks to sketch the human, or really creaturely, condition (Harvey translation and internal notes):

Now this, monks, for the spiritually ennobled, is the painful (dukkha) true reality (ariyasacca): [i] birth [i.e., being born] is painful, aging is painful, illness is painful, death is painful; [ii] sorrow, lamentation, (physical) pain, unhappiness and distress are painful; [iii] union with what is disliked is painful; separation from what is liked is painful; not to get what one wants is painful; [iv] in brief, the fi ve bundles of grasping-fuel are painful. (SN.V.421)

Harvey, p. 29

Today I’ll simply comment on i. and ii.

i. Biological Conditions

Harvey observes that the first list consisting of being birth, aging, getting ill, and dying are all “biological conditions,” all of which tend to give rise to what is painful (dukkha).

To see the veracity of the Buddha’s claim, let’s examine aging in American culture. It’s not the case that getting older, on its own, is dukkha. It’s just a phenomenon, a fact. But it is the case that getting older tends, in American culture, to engender dukkha: “I don’t want to be ugly, irrelevant, out of the game, passed by; I don’t want my youth to end; and I don’t want to accept that I’m getting closer to death.” A similar analysis applies to getting ill.

Of course, as Shankara would say, “The ‘I am the body’ idea is the source of all misery.” While we’re still on the diagnosing stage (i.e., we’re just considering what dukkha is), it’s clear in the case of biological conditions that attachment to being the body or to being in the body or to possessing the body are creating dis-ease.

ii. Life’s Vicissitudes

Harvey suggests that the “second set of features refer to physical or mental pains that arise from the vicissitudes of life” (pp. 30-31). I would say: “that tend to arise.”

The idea here is that the seemingly endless ups and downs of sentient life can give rise to dukkha. It’s not that change itself is distressing, but it is true that, for many people, change in the form of loss is and thus generates sorrow and lamentation. Or consider a second obvious case: if Jane tells herself the story about her being “change-averse,” then any change as small as her significant other’s rearranging her bedroom furniture can make her feel ill at ease.

Getting the Point

What can scarcely be overemphasized is the almost all-pervasive not-quite-right-ness embedded most people’s takes on life. This is the existential flavor of dukkha: “I can’t quite get my bearings. I can’t seem to settle down. I’m itching in my own skin. Something doesn’t feel right. Something feels off. I must always be improving something or other.” And so on. Dukkha hints at the low-level frantic restlessness that is catapulting us onward. In the arms of dukkha, we feel disturbance.