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Kevin: I have a question about renunciation.
I still don’t understand fully how to exactly renounce fears and desires practically. Can you please explain to me the process of renouncing fears and desires (in everyday life) and how to actually do it? I would be very thankful for that!
Sundari: The right question to ask is, what is fear and who renounces it? I have written an extensive satsang on this topic with this latest posting; here is a short version:
Fear is a negative desire and desire is a positive fear. Fear is rajas and tamas working together; it comes with the territory of being human. Sometimes fear is very smart and can save your life (or your sanity) in the right situations. The kind of fear that underlies most of our dealings with the world is a universal vasana and unavoidable, being the fear of non-existence, of death. It is macrocosmic, or universal, rajas (projection) and tamas (denial) and it is part of the dharma field. Fear and worry are built in for the jiva because the environment it lives in (including the body) is always changing and the jiva is not in control of the objects or the results of action. Security is the primary motivation for most jivas – the futile attempt to shore up protection from the vicissitudes of life.
Both powers, renunciation and action, exist in everyone, as do our likes and dislikes – or fears and desires, same thing. Individuals constantly act to avoid what they don’t want and to gain what they do want. And they constantly let go of things they no longer value or desire. The only issue is the nature of that which is desired and that which is to be renounced. There is nothing wrong with desire if it does not contravene dharma. And we cannot escape desire – if you are alive, you are desiring to live, to love, or if you are one of the fortunate ones (which you are), your primary desire is freedom. If an individual wants freedom, which Vedanta defines as freedom from dependence on objects, renunciation becomes a problem because individuals value things that conflict with the desire for freedom. And liberation requires a very subtle renunciation: renunciation of the renouncer, the one seeking freedom, even freedom from fear. The doer. The answer? As always, self-knowledge, meaning Vedanta. Only self-knowledge permanently removes fear because it gets to its root – ignorance.
As an inquirer or worldly person, it might be necessary to sublimate the fear vasana/samskara until self-knowledge removes the ignorance anchoring it in the microcosmic causal body. This kind of renunciation is advisable if moksa is the aim and fear is a powerfully binding vasana. But this kind of renunciation is not denial. It is the understanding that nothing is gained by indulging this vasana, so one makes a different choice every time the fear (or desire) arises, by sublimating the fear/desire with the opposite thought, with the karma yoga attitude.
However, when very deep fear samskaras arise, karma yoga does not work and therefore self-knowledge cannot disarm the trigger for the fear, which is always ignorance of course. Making your life and particularly self-inquiry work for you is all about managing your primary instrument, the mind, which means managing the gunas. All jivas are born in fear because they are born in ignorance. The ego is a fear-thought born of the belief in separation. Without self-knowledge, most people are at the mercy of deeply rooted fear samskaras. The underlying fear for all fears is fear of death, of non-existence. All egos must face this one. Death of the body/ego is inevitable, so why not die now? Die to fear and live with impunity, with the confidence that as the self you are beyond life and death. Say NO! to fear by turning around and facing death. This is the only way out of the dense, steaming and threatening jungle of samsara.
For more, read my satsang The Fear Samskara.
~ Love, Sundari