67. The Social Aspect of Dealing With Liberated Beings

Human Body

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

Summary: This essay examines the social aspect of desirelessness and how in real life situation people may deal with those who conquer their desires.

The absence of desires and performing desireless actions are considered the highest virtues. What does it truly mean? What are its social and practical implications in worldly life? Almost all religions and philosophies of Indian origin acknowledge desire as the root-cause of human suffering. The teachings of the Buddha, Samkhya and Yoga are centered on it. Overcoming desires in all its forms and aspects is considered obligatory to achieve purification and liberation.

In Sanskrit the absence of desires is described as nishkama, nirapeksha, niriccha or nirkanksha with subtle variations in their meaning. It is essentially a state or condition in which one is satisfied in oneself and not driven by attraction (raga) and aversion (dvesha). Thereby, he does not engage in any willful thought or action which is motivated by desire, longing, craving, want or expectation.

From a scriptural or spiritual perspective, having no desires or overcoming desires is the mark of a true yogi, which is attained at the end of a long and difficult spiritual practice. A desireless person is truly a liberated person. He is untainted by the corruption and temptations of the mind and the world and cannot be trapped or enticed by the dualities of life. Since he attains the supreme state of Brahman, which is complete in itself he is neither diminished nor complemented by the deletion or addition of anything. He may engage in actions, which are guided by his free will rather than desires, needs and wants. Only a few ever attain that state. Hence, only a few people find an opportunity to meet them or interact with them.

However, from a purely worldly or social perspective, one can imagine how difficult it will be for ordinary people to interact with those  who are liberated from the cycle of births and deaths and free from desires and attachments. It is doubtful whether anyone can ever satisfactorily deal with such people who are not motivated by desires and expectations  and do not actively seek or pursue anything. Most likely, you will find them intimidating, boring, impassionate, indifferent, cold, disinterested, inattentive or lost somewhere, oblivious of the world around them. You may not even like them, because you cannot predict their behavior or thinking or know what to expect from them or what responses you can elicit from them when you interact with them.

It is also extremely difficult to establish rapport with people who are not guided by ordinary considerations such as need for love, friendship, approval, appreciation or belongingness. Their thinking and approach to life and the world will be very different from yours since they are not guided by wants and needs. They will also be unpredictable since they are spontaneous and act according to their free will. His actions and decisions will be as uncertain and unpredictable as God himself or as life itself.

It is much easier to deal with people whose thinking and behavior you can predict or whose motivation you can understand. You do not have the same advantage with people, who do not have any Desires or purpose, and who live spontaneously moment by moment. We are therefore, more comfortable with those whose behavior and temperament are predictable, and who are proven to be dependable. A desireless person may listen to you but there is no guarantee that he will oblige you.

The spiritually liberated beings (jivanmuktas) are aware of this problem. With their intelligence stabilized in oneness (sthithaprajna), knowing that they may be a source of disturbance and inconvenience to others, they withdraw from the world and live in seclusion. Most of them become munis, meaning the silent ones. Their silence protects them and others. They may also not accept any disciples or prefer to teach since they know that it will be difficult for others to follow them or make sense of them.

Our ancient seers and sages understood the problem. Therefore, they established a set of time-tested principles to help spiritual aspirants as well as enlightened yogis to navigate through life without disturbing others or disrupting the regular flow of life. It also established order and regularity in spiritual practice and monastic life and made liberation more relevant and useful to human conditions.

The holistic development of the mind and body and the flowering of higher consciousness which result from these well-rounded efforts and which precede liberation and self-absorption also ground the yogis in perfect equilibrium, as they develop higher virtues such as compassion, equanimity, tranquility, sameness, resolve, self-knowing, transcendence, etc. They not only help them transition into transcendental states but also give them the strength and the will to deal with the mundane world with understanding, awareness and consideration, without losing themselves or drawing themselves into its substratum.

One can see this principle in practice in almost all sanatana traditions. The Buddha preached the Eightfold Path. The Jain Thirthankaras prescribed the three jewels namely Right Beliefs, Right Knowledge and Right conduct. The classical school of Samkhya and Yoga offered rules and restraints (yama and niyama) at the forefront of transformative practice. The Bhagavadgita prescribes the predominance of sattva guna (purity), suppression of rajas and tamas, stabilizing the mind in the contemplation of God and practicing divine virtues. These efforts ensure that spiritual aspirants cultivate discernment to engage in righteous actions and avoid making mistakes, and liberated beings are not be totally lost to the humanity despite their elevated consciousness, inwardness and detachment from the world.

Although they are not bound to the morals, conditioning or compulsions of the world, they can still participate in its spiritual and moral progression as the enlightened guardians of truth and knowledge. As the Bhagavadgita emphasizes, even God who is completely free from all obligations, duties and responsibilities, engages in actions and establishes Dharma which is a set of laws and obligatory moral duties to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds, which not only humans but also gods and others are obligated to follow.

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