Self-knowledge and Renunciation

Complete freedom (moksha) is contingent upon self-knowledge (atma- gyam) and renunciation (vairagya or virakti). It is imperative to be aware of one's capacities so as to embrace an appropriate role within which renunciation and freedom become imaginable. Renouncing does not mean giving up the ability to exert a certain capacity of which one is aware. Rather, it involves non-attachment to the dualities of achievement and failure; gain and loss, pleasure and pain that are likely to result from the exercise of that capacity. Any attached action or inaction breeds bondage (moha), entangles one in the cycle of Karma (birth and rebirth), and brings about sorrow (dukha).

Why does Krishna, in Gita, urge Arjuna to fight when the latter refuses to kill his kith and kin in the battle?  It is only by disciplining himself through non-attached exercise of fulfillment of his capacity, Krishna believes, Arjuna can enhance his freedom. Through non-attached action on the battlefield, Arjuna can save himself from the disgrace of being branded a coward. Krishna's position is that supreme value does not lie in the fruits of individual actions, on results such a winning or losing wars, but rather in freedom alone which is a mental state conditional upon detachment.

Freedom as understood here is not only a metaphysical concept but can actually be attained in practical terms. This implies that there is at least one path which a person can discern and travel to one's goal of complete freedom. 

The three major renunciatory paths widely acknowledged by Indian religious teachers and philosophers are: a) Karmayoga, the path of action; b) Bhaktiyoga, the path of devotion to God and c) Jyanayoga, the path of knowledge.

Karmayoga is marked by ceaseless, non-attached performance (sadhna) of a particular class of actions. Men who perform their allotted duty are superior to those who do not. The Vedas talk about the required acts (nityakarma), whose non-performance incurs demerits for a person. They relate it to the actions prescribed and proscribed by varna and circumscribed by ashrama.

Bhaktiyoga extols devotion to God sans mediation. It includes absolute faith in God, being conscious of his powers and seeking happiness in his 'ways'. It is through unbound faith in God that one comprehends the true (limited) nature of one's being ' the 'smallness' of one's actions in the vast Creation of God. With this knowledge, life's numerous polarities cease to matter, paving the way for renunciation and attainment of param brahma or true freedom.

A term used in connection with Jyanayoga is dhayan or prajna (insight). It is based on the understanding that sense perceptions are transitory. Only the soul is immortal. A person who attains this knowledge becomes completely free, for he understands that all fruits of his actions are perishable and is therefore not bound to them.

The integrative feature of all these paths is that they function to bring the freedom seeker's focus on 'something' that does not provoke his desires. They function separately in their own remarkable way to generate this focus. By carrying out one's allotted duty in a dedicated manner, one is shielded from the intrusive forces of desire. By ecstatically immersing oneself in one's God, one is able to discipline one's energy and thought, acts that cannot be a source of limitation. By turning one's attention towards the Self (through knowledge) is an act of immediate intuition; a person realizes his spontaneous capacity as opposed to habitual work while cultivating non-attachment to its fruits that distinguishes a truly free.


More by :  Sujata Ashwarya Cheema

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