Swami: Well, what do you wish to know ?
Sumant : May I know a little about you, Swamiji.
Swami : After taking to sanyas , we drop our past. While some sanyasis say that they negate or forget the past; it is not exactly correct. An act of negation always recoils back and leaves a scar on the psyche. A conscious effort made to forget an event only cements it in the sub-conscious.It is best to constantly remain in the present , though it is easier said than done. Meditation helps to curb or contain the flow of unwanted thoughts . Past fades away from memory in course of time. Nature takes care of that unless conscious effort is made to revive the past. An effort made to erase the past only tends to resurrect the past.
Sumant : is it mandatory for a sanyasi to wear ochre robes.
Swami : Dress does not make one a sanyasi. A thief wearing ochre robes does not get converted to a sanyasi nor does discarding the robes altogether, as some sects of sadhus do, make one enlightened. Dress only marks you out, to distinguish you from other professions like doctors in a hospital wearing white coat, lawyers in the court chamber wearing black coat, policeman in a police chowki wearing khaki , a soldier in his regiment wearing olive uniform. This helps in their identification and also makes it convenient for others to pay respects due to their profession though some of them may not come up to their professional standards.
Hindus believe in symbolism. A woman wearing a sindur ( red vermilion stripe on the hairline) or a mangal sutra ( gold locket) signifies her marital status to warn you not to trifle with her. A person with a shaven head means he is in the mourning and should not be approached with levity. Tilak marks ( sandal paste marks) on the forehead in different patterns suggest the religious sect one belongs to.
Wearing of ochre or saffron robes similarly means that the person has charted a different course of life in spiritual pursuit and he should be approached in a becoming manner. Traditionally sanyasis are treated with certain reverence in society though charlatans also abound.
Sumant : Does one have to necessarily give up mundane life in a spiritual quest ?
Swami : No, but it difficult for a house holder to give undivided attention to spiritual pursuit. Scriptures prescribe observance of eight yogic disciplines-yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dharna, dhyan and samadhi; which cannot be easily adhered to by a householder. Lord Buddha similarly prescribed eight fold path – right belief, right aspirations, right speech, right action, right living , right effort, right thought and right meditation. If ,however, he still manages to observe these disciplines, he will certainly rank higher than a sanyasi. In fact the Hindu trinity of gods-Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma and gods incarnate-Rama and Krishna are described as living married life. Even the revered saints of yore were said to be married and persons belonging to a particular gotra (family lineage ) claim to be descendants of a particular rishi like Atri, Agnihotri, Bharadwaj, Parashar, Vashistha etc.
Sumant : is sex an impediment to spiritual attainments ?
Swami : Both-yes and no. Sex is a very potent biological force created by Nature for continuation of the species.. Over indulgence in sex distracts from other noble pursuits. By over indulgence I mean engaging in pre-marital or extra-marital sex that creates its own complications and tension inevitably debilating the mind and body. The licentiousness in the western world is leading to break up of families and resultant divorce. The children have to suffer the consequences of an unstable or broken family. They in turn become rebellious or anti-social or suicidal. It is unfortunate that people in the traditional family oriented societies , like in India , are blindly imitating the West in this regard without realizing the sinister consequences. Our young people , in particular, are adopting the worst values of the West and not their intrinsic values like hard work, integrity, work culture, scientific inquiry and research, spirit of enterprise and adventure, recognition and rewarding of merit etc.
Hindu scriptures have, however, recognised and accepted sex as a part of life. A householder has been enjoined upon to follow dharma ( religious duties ) , artha ( economic pursuits ), kama (sex), and moksha ( liberation ) in his life span, in that order. While Maharishi Patanjali wrote a treatise on Yoga ( Yog sutra) to keep the body and mind fit and healthy; his contemporary Vatsyayan rishi described sexual posturees in his ‘KAM Sutra’ ( treatise on sex ). Khajuraho and Konark temples depict playful scenes with sexual innuendoes on their outer walls.The Hindu society has accepted these depictions down the ages , even when the society had conservative outlook. Bhartrihari’s ‘ ‘Sringar Shatak ‘ and Kalidas’s ‘ Kumar Samhava ‘have bold descriptions of sensual pleasures. Sex is not ,therefore, taboo for a householder but pre- marital and extra-marital sex definitely is- both from social and relligious point of view.
A spiritual seeker or a yogi is, however, expected to sublimate sexual energy by awakening kundalini ( coiled energy chakras ) in its upward movement through seven invisible chakras ( cycles ) located in the various parts of the body and called muladhar, swadhisthan, manipur, anahat, vishudha, ajna and shahsraar. Flow of enery upwards in the body elates and flow of energy downwards deflates.
( To be continued…)