“The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment. So doing, one must seek that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and in whom everything is abiding since time immemorial.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.3-4)
न रूपम् अस्येह तथोपलभ्यते
नान्तो न चादिर् न च सम्प्रतिष्ठा
अश्वत्थम् एनं सु-विरूढ-मूलम्
असङ्ग-शस्त्रेण दृढेन छित्त्वा
ततः पदं तत् परिमार्गितव्यं
यस्मिन् गता न निवर्तन्ति भूयः
तम् एव चाद्यं पुरुषं प्रपद्ये
यतः प्रवृत्तिः प्रसृता पुराणी
na rūpam asyeha tathopalabhyate
nānto na cādir na ca sampratiṣṭhā
aśvattham enaṁ su-virūḍha-mūlam
asaṅga-śastreṇa dṛḍhena chittvā
tataḥ padaṁ tat parimārgitavyaṁ
yasmin gatā na nivartanti bhūyaḥ
tam eva cādyaṁ puruṣaṁ prapadye
yataḥ pravṛttiḥ prasṛtā purāṇī
Friend1: I think we have discussed this before, how I was amazed when I first learned that piety and sin are essentially the same thing.
Friend2: How is that possible? Righteousness is the same as committing horrendous crimes?
Friend1: That is the reason for the awakening. You have to step back and think for a moment. More than a moment. Really contemplate the issue. The similarity is with respect to destinations.
Friend2: Explain further.
Friend1: Dharma leads to the heavenly realm, svarga. Like checking-in to an extended-stay hotel, with all the amenities you can think of. Adharma carries demotion to the hellish realm. Something like leaving a newly built luxury apartment community and moving into a rat-infested building that is more than one hundred years old.
Friend2: I like how they come up with clever names to mask the degraded condition. “Oh, come and live in this beautiful pre-war apartment.”
Friend1: Yeah, “pretty awful” is more like it. Anyway, residence in either place is not fixed. Thus you eventually end up back in the same place. That is how dharma and adharma are the same in one sense.
Friend2: Then why follow dharma at all?
Friend1: Well, it’s because dharma leads you closer to the ideal destination of liberation, the state above mundane right and wrong. Hmm. This might actually answer the question I was going to ask you today.
Friend2: What is that?
Friend1: I would think the principle extends to attachment and detachment. Bhoga and tyaga. Enjoying and renouncing. Are they not the same thing, then?
Friend2: With the equality in outcomes? Yes. They are different ends of a pendulum. One second I am enjoying pizza. The next I am swearing off of it. I pick those things which I like and avoid those I do not. The categories for each can shift. Definitely within a single lifetime, but maybe in a matter of seconds, also.
Friend1: Okay, I am glad we established that. Maybe this question is similar to something Arjuna asked in the Bhagavad-gita, but here goes. Why do we get recommendations for renunciation?
Friend2: From who? What are the recommendations?
Friend1: Goswami Tulsidas has a work entitled Vairagya Sandipani. It sings the glories of detachment. The six Gosvamis of Vrindavana were so renounced that they barely slept. Even when they did, it was outside, underneath a tree. It is obvious that the sat side, the saintly class, chooses renunciation over material enjoyment.
Friend1: And most importantly, Krishna Himself recommends detachment. He explains how the material world is something like an inverted tree. You go up and down, left and right, and can’t make sense of anything. It is better to cut down the tree altogether. The weapon of choice is asanga.
Friend2: Makes sense to me. Rather than focus on this material subject matter and that, better to find the actual root. The origin is beyond this temporary realm. Going towards the origin means never having to come back to the place of the bhoga/tyaga dichotomy.
Friend1: Okay, so if asanga is the weapon of choice, isn’t that of the same category as enjoyment? Like piety and sin, I thought attachment and detachment lead to the same outcome?
Friend2: The idea is not to follow vairagya in a sour grapes type of mood.
Friend1: What does that mean?
Friend2: Take up detachment in spirit away from the material side of life. At the same time, work with attachment to the Supreme Lord and His desires. That is ultimately what Arjuna did. He certainly cut that tree down, and he was also renounced. But we don’t find him retreating to the forest. He proceeded in a war. The intricacies are many, and they can be learned through practical experience. Stay connected to Krishna in yoga and vairagya will automatically be accounted for.
Proceeded forward did he,
But also cutting down the tree.
For Arjuna with detachment,
To bhakti will attachment.
Then piety and sin not the same,
Since higher platform to attain.
Intricacies through practice learned,
That ignorance into knowledge turned.