Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:


Nonduality Salon (/ \)

issue number two - October, 2000

Nonduality Salon Magazine



by Madhava Turumella

Given a chance, every one would like to attain Immortality! In deed, everyone knowingly or unknowingly very much strives for it. Every one wants to get rid of the pain, the suffering that they undergo during the day-to-day life. They wish they had this and that in order to be peaceful. To be at peace is nothing but to face the immortality. Let us question ourselves thus: “Can anyone be absolutely peaceful?” Having this question in mind, if we wander around looking at each and everyone, asking each individual the same question, we will find surprisingly that nobody thinks he is at peace! Some even answer thus: “Yes! Today since I got my wish fulfilled I am at peace, but I don’t know what is there in tomorrow!”….

We find that we live our present by bringing worries from our past and planning for our tomorrow. First of all, we should accept that there is a certain amount of uncertainty in our lives. Do we absolutely know what will happen tomorrow? Even the greatest astrologer ever lived on this earth could predict the tomorrow only with 90% accuracy. However, everyone knows that there is a tomorrow, which is waiting in store. Every one knows that he or she has to leave this earth. There is a definite tomorrow in everybody’s life called death.

In our ancient Indian epic Mahabharata there is an episode where the King Dharmaraja encounters an Yaksha. The Yaksha challenges Dharmaraja to answer a few questions in order to give back the lives of his brothers, who were killed by the Yaksha, for not being able to answer his questions. One of those questions is: “What is the greatest astonishing thing in this world?” For which Dharmaraja replies: “The greatest astonishing thing in this world is --- everybody knows that they are not going to live forever, yet! Everybody acts in this world as if they were going to live forever!”.

We all act thinking as if we were going to live forever. So
it can be inferred that there is no point in struggling so hard because we are not anyway going to be here forever! But then what shall we do? Shall we just renounce this world and run away in to woods? Shall we just leave the job, which we are doing, and run away? What shall we do! Often people give up with out much thinking. They renounce just thus without proper knowledge. Renunciation without proper understanding costs very heavy for the person who renounced thus…

Seers gave us the advise on how to act… They said, “Do what you are doing, with a different vision… Use the same hands to do the same job, but with a different mind behind it” Our entire quest into the reality of life starts when we realize that what we are experiencing is not permanent… But life doesn’t offer an easy answer!

There was this lawyer who was prosecuting the witness. The lawyer demanded, “Now, I shall ask you a few questions, you should give me a simple answer --- either YES or NO”. “That is impossible, sir I can’t answer either YES or NO without explanation!” exclaimed the witness. “Why not?” the lawyer shouted back. “Okay then first I will ask you a question and you should answer YES or NO, if you can answer to my question then I shall answer to your question” pleaded the Witness…. The lawyer looking proudly at the Jury told the witness to go ahead and ask, and the witness has asked, “Has your wife stopped beating you?”…

Life cannot answer “Yes or No” for many intricate situations we face. We become philosophical and realization is beyond intellectual understanding, yet we try to intellectually pacify our philosophical quest.

In summary, we should understand that there is a higher aspect of life, which can’t be described simply in “Yes and
No” answers manner… The only way through which one can understand the Higher reality is through giving-up. But that giving up should be intelligent, should not be in a
hurried way!

“Not by the work one undertakes; neither by the amount of followers one has, nor by the amount of wealth one possesss… Immortality can be achieved only through ‘Giving-up’” says kaivalyOpanishad. (na karMaNA naprajayA dhanEna tyAgEnaikE amRUtatvamAnaSuH).

So does that mean having a desire is wrong? No. Having a
wrong desire is wrong!

One has to give up the “unwanted desire” which is the root cause of the entire problem. A desire, which can cause good to the society, good to the family and nation; and a desire, which does not cause harm to any being in,
anyway--- is always the best. There is nothing wrong in having such a desire. But we need to give up the desire, which may cause even a wee bit of trouble to any one in the society.

One may desire his own wife, there won’t be any mental agitation behind that act, but imagine a person who is married and desiring his own friend’s wife! How much havoc he will create!

The problem of suffering arises because of the desire, which is contrary to the rules of society. There are wars that are fought simply because of one man’s desire. King Ashoka was a ferocious warrior. After he killed thousands of people in the battlefield he repented! He repented that
a small desire of conquest has brought this gory fate to those many people. And he “Gave-up”, he renounced and
became a Monk, undertook the path of Lord Buddha. But what has happened to King Ashoka is an aftermath realization. He underwent the situation and realized that having a desire is bad, but by that time thousands of innocent lives were lost, many mothers have lost their sons, many children have lost their fathers. A desire, which is contrary to the rule of society, is like an Arrow released from the bow. Once released it doesn’t care whether the person standing in front is good or bad. It only knows to pierce, and which it exactly does. But the Archer who is releasing the arrow knows where to aim. Treat the desire like an arrow, and aim it intelligently, it definitely yields good results.

Every one of us will face Ashoka’s kind of earth shaking situation in our life sometime or the other. And we try to escape; we try to seek the best possible root to escape instead of fighting.

During the crucial moment of Mahabharta war, Arjuna expressed his inner feeling that “Renunciation is better than fighting the war” (srEyO bhOktuM bhaiksha mapeehalOkE). But that is not an intelligent decision. “You have to give-up”, is the advise by the Seers from the beginning. Give-up you must, but not at the crucial stage. Arjuna should have given up the thought of fighting even before he attempted to amass great amount of armor! He even fought with Lord Shiva in order to please him to get the Pasupata. Since he decided to fight and prepared for it from the beginning, it is not prudent on his part to “give-up” just before the fighting. That knowledge has to be there before they have assembled to fight. Had Arjuna renounced without fighting, then he could have been blamed by the society as an escapist!

Give-up you must, but one has to be very intelligent on when and where to give up… If one is married, then he should not give up his wife and children, leaving them for their fate just in the pretence of quest for Immortality, then he is wrong. No one could walk away from his responsibility as long as he is breathing on this earth. One should do his work. One should act intelligently. One should be very wise in desiring. One should “give-up” that
which he must, but only at the right time. There is nothing wrong in working, it is said in EsOpanishad:

“kurvannEvEha karmANi jijeevishEt satagaM samAH EvaM tvai nAnyadhEtOsti nakarma lipyatE narE ||”

Desire to live on this earth for hundreds of years while perform your obligatory duties. There is no other world created where you can achieve immortality other than this earth. Intelligent action can never bind one to the Destiny.

Om ShantiH Om ShantiH Om ShantiH

Madhava Turumella is an active contributor on the Advaitin list.