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Let go of the past

Looking at old people, it is hard to imagine they were once small, naughty children.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 20:06 IST

Looking at old people, it is hard to imagine they were once small, naughty children. Even our own childhood seems hazy and dreamlike. If it were not for photographs it would be difficult to recall people. Yet we seem to remember certain trivial incidents very clearly. They are deeply etched in our memory because of constant repetition and become our samskaras. Repetition or attachment to people and incidents in the past handicaps our ability to live in the present. Past incidents haunt us like a ghost: strangely, in Hindi, the word bhoot refers to both ghosts and the past.

Samskaras decide our future body. The most dominant habit is the deciding factor. Obsession with any guna (satvik, rajasik, tamasik), ensures that we take up the birth that will satisfy that particular need. One is compelled by one’s guna (quality) to take a particular form and function accordingly, “for all are made to act by the gunas born of prakriti (nature)” – Bhagvad Gita 3:5. At the same time, Sri Krishna says, “the cause of this delusion is My divine power, Maya, which is manifested by the the three gunas, which are difficult to cross over, but those who take refuge in Me do it” – Bhagvad Gita 7:14.

Swami Ranganathananda recounts an instance of a Jewish scientist, Viktor Frankil who had to undergo persecution in a Nazi prison. He detached himself from his body and became a spectator of his own torture. In his place, a weak man would have committed suicide but he became a sakshi. He listened to the abuses showered on him and decided the words were alphabets in a particular order and dismissed everything. This attitude saved him from death and he eventually wrote a book. Detachment happens with practice. When one gradually learns to be detached one is strengthened spiritually. Comparing detachment to a dry coconut, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said it is difficult to shell out the copra from a green coconut as it is attached to the coconut, but in a dry coconut, copra and shell are separate!

First Published: May 19, 2006 17:57 IST