Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 32

Chapter 5
17. Outward Action: A Mirror of the Mind

1. Samsara[1] is something very terrible. It is often compared to an ocean. If you are in the midst of an ocean, you see water wherever you look. Same is the case with samsara. It has surrounded us from all the sides. Even if a man leaves his home and devotes himself to public service, samsara does not leave his mind. It is there even if one retires to a cave to lead a hermit’s life. He may have got only a few possessions there, but they become the centre of his attachment and samsara engulfs him there too. Just as a single currency note can hold one thousand rupees, a loin-cloth too can hold unlimited attachment. There is, therefore, no attenuation of samsara simply through reduction in the involvement in worldly business and/or reduction in one’s possessions. Whether you say 10/25 or 2/5, it means the same. We may be in the midst of our family or alone in a forest, the mind remains attached to samsara. Two yogis may go to the Himalayan caves for doing penance, but even there they may burn with envy if they happen to hear each other’s praise. The same thing happens in the realm of social service.

2. Samsara has thus engulfed us and is ever tormenting us. It does not leave us even if we decide to remain within the bounds of swadharma. Even if we curtail our activities, engagements and affairs, attachment to ‘I and mine’ remains the same. It is said that the demons could become small or big at will. Samsara too is like a demon. And a demon remains a demon, whatever be its size. You may live in a palace or in a hut, samsara is equally inescapable. Even if we limit samsara by choosing to remain within the bounds of swadharma, there would still be conflicts and you will feel, ‘Enough of it!’ Therein too you will have to deal with a whole lot of individuals and institutions and that will exasperate you; you would become disgusted. But then that is the time of trial for your mind. Detachment does not automatically result from the performance of swadharma. To curtail activities is not the same thing as getting detached.

3. How can then one attain detachment? For this, the mind must cooperate fully. Nothing can be achieved without the cooperation of the mind. Parents sometimes keep their wards in a residential school. There the boy leads a disciplined life. He wakes up early, takes exercises regularly and is generally away from bad habits. But as soon as he comes home, he abandons all the good habits. A man is not like a lump of wet clay to which you can give any form you like. He has a mind of his own, which must be receptive to assume that form. If there is no cooperation on the part of his mind, all efforts to educate him would be in vain. Cooperation of the mind is, therefore, extremely necessary irrespective of the means adopted.


References and Context

  1. Samsara, in fact, is untranslatable in English. It includes the whole of man's thiswordly life and affairs in the material world in which he is totally immersed and to which he is attached. The term has to be understood contextually.