In the psychological history of India, there was once a time of much power. When a race shines in its full genius, when a race manifests itself in its full grandeur and to its fullest being, then it is strong and its statements are very powerful. When a race is in its youth, fresh and growing and rising towards the peak; when it is the sunrise hour in the life of a race, then nothing is denied, everything is accepted. In such a time there is so much capability in the soul of that race that even if it accepts poison, it is transformed into nectar. No matter who or what it embraces – even if it is a thorn – it is transformed into a flower. Whatever path it puts its feet on becomes golden.
But races also have weak moments. For the last twenty or twenty-five centuries India has been living a very weak and helpless time, a borrowed existence. It is as if the sun has set and only memories of the sunrise linger; as if darkness has descended everywhere and a deep dejection has possessed the heart. Even to take one step feels frightening; there is a fear to move on any new path. To go on treading only in the old rut seems safe, comfortable, convenient. There is no courage about new thinking, new ideas, new flights. In such a weak moment one becomes afraid even of drinking nectar: “Who knows? – maybe it is poison? The unknown, the unfamiliar…who knows if I will survive it or die from it?” One’s spirit starts shrinking away from everything; a contraction sets in. There is fear of everything, so you drop everything, you escape from everything. In this escaping and dropping, the soul shrinks.
What is commonly known as renunciation is of two kinds. One is a renunciation of the strong and the powerful: through their own experience, they renounce all that they feel to be worthless. The other is a renunciation of the weak: they renounce whatsoever they feel to be stronger than themselves.
Try to understand this rightly. When the powerful renounce, they let go of things that they feel to be worthless, of no value. The weak also renounce, but they renounce whatsoever they feel to be more powerful than themselves. Wherever there is strength, power, the weak man is afraid. The powerful also renounce the senses, but not because they are afraid of them. Their renunciation is because they have opened the doors for deeper experiences. They have attained insight and they become capable of closing their outer eyes. They have opened the door to inner experience so they have no more need to depend on the outer senses.
Weak people also have renounced their senses, but because of fear. They have closed their eyes because of the fear that their souls will be polluted if they see any beauty. They are afraid that their self-control will disappear if they touch; that their minds will waver if they hear a sweet voice with their ears. The weak people have renounced their senses and the strong people have also renounced – but the strong renounce because whenever something higher is reached, the lower is no longer needed.
This sage was speaking at a time when the genius of this country was alive, awake, healthy, vibrant. Then, the sage could courageously say, “Strengthen my senses.” Try to understand this, because it means that one’s soul is so powerful that there is simply no reason to be afraid of the senses. One feels capable of making use of them, of becoming their master, of using them as a means and not letting them become the goal.