Indulgence in the objects of the senses is the enemy
Shankara makes the point about the world, he says, “The achievements and the gains of the world and the successes of the world are like food mixed with poison. You eat the food and it’s sweet (the word is for an Indian sweet, it’s mostly honey) – it’s a sweet, but there is poison in it. So you enjoy the sweetness but then later on the poison hits you. Now he says, quoting the verse from the Gita, that desire for an indulgence in the objects of the senses is the enemy, the constant enemy of the wise man; but it’s only the final enemy of the ignorant man. The ignorant man first thinks, “This is a friend” and he gulps down the sweet food. Later on, he knows it was an enemy. But the wise man – the man who knows rather – although eating the food, he knows it contains poison. So although it’s sweet and he tastes the sweetness of it, that sweetness is contaminated by the knowledge that he’s poisoning himself.
Well, this rather far-fetched example from India has come to life now for a large number of people who, when eating food that they like, are aware that’s it’s full of cholesterol, or whatever their particular allergy happens to be, and they’re in fact eating something that’s poisoning them – but nevertheless sometimes they go on eating it. Shri Dada says that there are symptoms of this poison – the mind goes to a low ebb. He says, if we engage our mind in property, bricks and stones, or in personal conversation, then the level of the mind ebbs low, the vitality of the mind is sapped. He says, you must make your whole life a yaja, a sacrifice, to bring about yoga. And one thinks, “Oh well, some things ought to be given up, but not everything – we have to be practical.” People are quite strong on particular points, and not so strong on other points. For instance, if one’s made quite a lot of money by working extremely hard for it, then one thinks, “Well, I’m entitled to have this, I’ve worked for this. I’ve given the world, exchange value, for this money – this has been honestly earned. But people who’ve just inherited money, well that really they ought to give up. They’ve done nothing for it and that should be given up.” Whereas the people who have inherited fame, a famous name, they feel, “No – people who have worked for fame, all that fame and all that wealth is based on egoism and consequently that very success is a reinforcement of their egoism and therefore that should be given up. For something that simply drops, as it were, from heaven without any planning or effort at all, that’s clearly a gift from heaven and as such it should be accepted.”
Well, in this way, what the other people have is clearly a candidate for being given up, whereas what we ourselves have, as one master of meditation said, “What we ourselves have somehow doesn’t seem the right candidate for renunciation”. And he says, “While we are full of desire and ambition we’re volcanoes and nothing can live in a volcano”. Now our teacher made this point – a country like New Zealand is extremely fertile. It is volcanic and was volcanic, but when the volcanoes have finally subsided, the land is extremely fertile. Our teacher said this is also a yogic truth, that people of very strong passion, when those passions are finally pacified the soil is extremely fertile for yogic inspiration. He made this point, he said, they’ve got to be pacified and the life has got to become one-pointed, and when it does it will be a very fertile field and the yogic plants will grow there.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Yoga in Troubled Times
Part 2: We are whirled by Maya
Part 3: We are controlled by our illusions
Part 4: Indulgence in the objects of the senses is the enemy
Part 5: Shankara says we are puppets
Part 6: The highest service