Renunciation is Sannyasa; san-nyāsa; nyāsa, means ‘setting aside’. When action is ‘set aside’, is sannyāsa. A sannyāsin is one who ‘sets aside’ everything: action, relationship, responsibilities, everything. That is called renunciation. In sacrifice, you put yourself as a kind of an oblation. In every sacrifice there is a receiver of sacrifice. A sacrifice has three elements: the sacrificer, the process of sacrifice and the receiver of the sacrifice. There is an object to whom you sacrifice. In renunciation, you simply set aside. In a sacrifice whatever you are doing, whatever you are offering, you are offering to an object, you offer it to, either to X, or Y, or Z.
Question: Is sacrifice always to something greater?
Answer: It may be not even greater. Sometimes many people sacrifice things for lower things; but there is always an offering to something. When a man becomes subject to some great passion, a desire, he does not offer himself to something very great. The object of desire may be much lower than himself. When a person becomes very greedy and wants to eat a lot, he offers himself to the food; it is much lower than himself. Or he offers himself to one who can prepare food for him, and prays to that one, “Prepare food for me.” He makes all kinds of offering to the person who prepares food for him. But there is always in a sacrifice, there is an object to whom sacrifice is done.
Sri Krishna’s answer is that, “You should sacrifice not to the gods, because they only can only satisfy your desires, and if your purpose is only to satisfy desires, alright, you can do it, but you should sacrifice yourself to the supreme Lord, because then you become His instrument and you become free.” Therefore the idea of sacrifice is a much greater idea: you offer yourself to the supreme Lord, and when action is performed even while you are acting you become free from action. In Sannyasa, you just give up all action, it is all renunciation, renounce everything.
Question: Swadharma is the identification of one’s life with action?
Answer: Swadharma is the law of action, proceeding from your Swabhava. Take for example: my own Swabhava is to proceed on the lines of knowledge. If somebody says, “Do this”, normally my Swadharma will be: I will not obey immediately. There are people who simply are told, “Do this”, they will do; there are some people you tell them, “Do this”, he will consider whether any great benefit will come out of it or not. There are others who will ask, “Is it right for me to do, wrong for me to do? And accordingly I will do.” There are some who will try to understand the whole world, and then see what the place of this action is, and see whether in that whole world, that action has a meaning, “Then I will do it.”
Depending upon your natural inclination is determined your Dharma. My basic nature is a Brahminic nature, my personal nature is a Brahminic nature; if anything is to be done, I always take time to consider whether it is part of the totality of Knowledge, in which what is the place for it: my Swadharma is to take time. It does not matter if I take time in deciding whether I should do or not. Although once it is known, then the action will be very rapid, that will be also part of Dharma. It takes time at a length.
For example India is supposed to be slow. If you are the Swadharma of India, it is a Brahminic nature. You know England is a commercial nature, Vaishya nature, but India has a Brahminic nature. See, if anything is given to India from outside, it takes a long time to understand what has come, and reacts to it very slowly, and then, undergoes a great process of churning to understand quite thoroughly what is being thrown. Once India finds it out, then it’s rapid. When western civilisation came to India, it was like that, to absorb first of all: it took a long time for India to absorb, and then suddenly it produces a ‘Sri Aurobindo’: a huge mountain of Knowledge, which combined both east and west in one embrace: that is the Swadharma of India; from outside people might think that India is very slow.
Many children also are condemned, “Oh! This child is very slow”, but you don’t understand that that child may be actually absorbing like a good Brahmin, gradually he tries to understand, and if you disturb him and give lot of work at that time, it will be a very dangerous thing. Many people pump the children, “Do this, do this, do this, do this.”, when the child is taking his own time to understand, and we are not patient enough, we do not move according to his Dharma. Swadharma is the law of development, determined in each case according to his Swabhava.
Question: Does ‘paritajaye’ also means transcending the Swadharma?
Answer: Yes, all that, everything, there is only one law: it is the Divine law that’s all.
Question: I wanted to ask about Sattwa and how much of the Divine nature intermingling in the Sattwa? She is saying that there is a movement from Tamas to Rajas, and Rajas to Sattwa. Now Sattwa is to be transcended no doubt sooner or later; but she feels that still the Divine’s will, there is still a lot of intermingling in the Sattwa level. Is there or is there not?
Answer: Oh! Yes, infiltration is constant at every level, even in Tamas, even in Rajas, even in Sattwa.
Question: Equally? Or more so in sattwa
Answer: No, it depends upon all elements put together; in each and every case it will be different.
Question: On what element does it depend? How receptive you are, or on your openness?
Answer: It depends upon, first of all, the circumstances in which you are born, the kind of body that is given to you by circumstances, the actions that you have done in the past, where you have reached in your evolution, and thirdly what is your present effort, and then how much near you are to the Divine. It all depends, there are so many factors. You cannot mathematically determine and say this is how it is, but you have to see quite a lot within yourself, and see how much is in you: what is Tamasic, what is Rajasic, what is Sattwic, what is your real Swabhava, and how much is manifested in the outside nature?