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When it is hard to let go || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, Pranam. When you say renunciation is celebration, it is for the one who is already a king. But for us who are not really living in that reality, we are not any kings. So, sometimes the whole renunciation act seems like a punishment. Our love for renunciation is a strange thing: sometimes it is brimming with pleasure and with gratitude, and sometimes it is very weak. So, how can our renunciation still be a celebration?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Knowledge is the key. It is not the object of renunciation or the object of attachment that matters to you, rather what matters to you is the idea that you have of that object. Because we anyway do not really know. We know neither ourselves nor the object. Now let's say, there is this object in my life, and I'm very attached to it, right? What am I attached to? The idea of this object. The idea of this object, right? And the idea, obviously, I take as truth because we all need Truth. When we do not have Truth, we use ideas as the Truth, right?

So, first of all, the suffering does not lie in giving up the object, it lies in giving up the idea of the object. Let us take, for example, you are very attached to something or somebody, and then somehow you lose your memory, would you still be attached to that person? So, that attachment is not to that person because that person still exists. What is it that you have lost? You have lost the idea of that person. That same person might still be sitting next to you, but you will no more be attached to that person. You have not lost that person, but you have lost your idea of that person. And now, there is no attachment.

So firstly, understand that it is ideas that we deal in. Vedant is a destroyer of ideas. It tells you where your ideas come from, and what the reality of those ideas is. When the idea is gone, the attachment is gone. The object may still remain, but the attachment won't remain because the attachment was, in any case, never with the object, never with the object. You had a story with respect to the object, and the attachment was a part of that story. The memory-loss example might appear an extreme one. Take another example: you are very attached to a person, and somehow you come to learn that the story that you have with respect to that person is flawed, or there are things with respect to that person, in the life of that person that the person kept hidden.

Some kind of secret information gets revealed to you. You hired a private detective or something. You know, all kinds of things happen. And you come to know of something, and having known that particular something, what happens to your attachment? The attachment is gone. Is the person gone? No, the person is not gone. The person is right in front of you. Is the memory gone? No, even the memory is not gone. We are not dealing with something as extreme as the memory-loss example. Memory is there, the object is there, and the attachment is gone, why? Because the story is gone, the idea is gone.

In our usual lives, one idea is gone when it is supplanted by another idea, right? We drop a story or modify a story only when some other story makes its way and pushes itself in. Vedant does something far more deeper. It goes to the root of storytelling itself. It does not destroy one particular story. It exposes the storyteller himself. That storyteller is called the mind. The mind is a great storyteller—just keeps telling his stories. Why? Because it wants to avoid the Truth. Therefore, it must have stories. So, it keeps weaving stories.

The mind lives in narratives. Once the narratives are gone, the attachment is gone. And then renunciation is a celebration because what you have dropped is not something precious. What you have dropped is your misery itself. Nothing but the right knowledge can save you. Nothing but knowledge of the knower can save you. Therefore, knowledge makes renunciation facile. Having known something truly, dropping the false becomes so easy.

Alright, let's have an example: you are to go to Chandigarh from Delhi. You have to take a train, and you already have a confirmed ticket in first-class. You forgot. You forgot you have a first-class ticket, a first-class-confirmed ticket. So, you come to the station, and you rush to the ticket counter, and he gives you an unconfirmed ticket of the lowest class possible. Unconfirmed ticket of the lowest class possible, and clutching that ticket in your fist, you run towards the platforms, right?

And then, suddenly, somehow, somebody reveals to you that you have a confirmed first-class ticket. Now, what happens to this closed-fist (fist holding the lowest-class ticket)? What happens to this? It opens and the thing drops — this is renunciation. Having known that you already have something far more magnificent, far more lavish, far more luxurious, what will you do with this lowly ticket? This is renunciation. Therefore, I called it ‘celebration’.

Your fist has opened in celebration. You are celebrating. It's a wow. S,o the thing opens, and the measly thing drops. This is celebration. Remember, Vedant is not about getting a fresh first-class ticket. Vedant is about realizing you already have it. You already have it. You just have forgotten. That forgetfulness is called Maya . To feel that you do not have it, in spite of having it is called Maya . And to feel that this petty thing is important, in spite of it being really very unimportant is called Maya . Maya does these two things.

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