I met a very old yogi (132 years, as he claimed) in Puri many years ago. He was very much a believer in total non-attachment. I asked him, “Are you saying that one shouldn’t even enjoy a beautiful sunset?”
“No,” he replied. “Everything is maya. This world in all its aspects ought to be totally spurned.” I know that’s one approach to enlightenment. But I confess the idea has no appeal to me. I’d say that beauty in a sunset is one of the many manifestations of God. I can’t imagine Him being wholly pleased by anyone’s complete rejection of His handiwork. Nor can I imagine Him spurning his own creation contemptuously. Such an approach to God seems dry, lifeless, and unattractive.
My Guru (Paramhansa Yogananda), whose birthday falls today, had a quite different approach to spiritual truth. He loved and enjoyed everything, but without attachment, and always as a manifestation of the supreme joy and beauty. It was wonderful to see his positive attitude toward everything. He could be very stern as well, in the matter of non-attachment to this world.
But I wonder whether utter rejection of beauty and delight in God’s creative manifestations isn’t itself a kind of egotism. Isn’t it a sort of judgment, in a sense, to spurn everything and anything?
I must say, I like my Guru’s approach better. He affirmed life, and said YES to it, but then gave every enjoyment back to the supreme source of all joy: Satchidanandam.
I have to admit that that old yogi must have achieved something, if only because he’d been able to live so long. But whatever he had, I didn’t feel from him the joy that inspires one to seek spiritual truths. I think that, along with the practice of “neti, neti” (not this, not that), there ought, surely, to be a companion practice: “This! This!”
God’s joy is beyond pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness, all happiness and sorrow. To find Him is to find joy, love and beauty everywhere!