What a seeker on the positive path does at the beginning, the seeker on the negative path does at the end. What does an affirmative seeker do? He tries to discover his “I” in “thou”. And the other kind of seeker, seeking through negation, tries to find the “thou” in his “I”. But his task is so difficult. It is much easier to see the “I” in “thou” than to see the “thou” in “I”. And it is still more difficult to see it when it comes to the point of pure “I”, because now it is just a feeling of I-ness, which is so very fine and subtle. So the last part of the journey on the path of Buddha and Mahavira is decisive. Hence it is just possible that a seeker may give up his pursuit and retreat even before he comes to it. He has struggled all his life to save his “I” and now he is called upon to sacrifice it. It is extremely difficult.
But even this pure “I” can be dropped. It can be dropped if the seeker comes to see the “thou” included in his “I”. Therefore the last stage of the discipline of Mahavira and Buddha is called kevala jnan or “only knowing”. Kevala jnan means that when the knower is no more, when only knowing remains, unity, ultimate unity can be found. The ultimate freedom is freedom from the “I”. It is not freedom of the “I” but freedom from the “I” itself.
But one who comes after Buddha or Mahavira as his follower, comes with the wishful question, “How will I achieve moksha, freedom?” And this is his difficulty. No “I” has ever achieved freedom; freedom from “I” and “me” is what the case really is.
It is for this reason that seekers in the tradition of Mahavira easily fall prey to egoism. It is not surprising they turn into great egoists. Renunciation, austerity and asceticism, practiced for long, go to strengthen and harden their egos. In the end they get rid of everything, and yet a hard core of ego which they find extremely difficult to dissolve – you may call it a holy ego – remains with them. But it can be dissolved; it has been dropped by men like Buddha and Mahavira. And there are separate techniques to dissolve it.
On the path of Krishna this hard core of ego has to be dropped in the first instance. Is it any good to carry on with a disease you have to drop ultimately? The longer you live with it the worse and worse it will become: it will turn into a chronic and communicable disease. Therefore, where Mahavira’s kevala jnan or “only knowing” comes last, Krishna’s sakshi or “witnessing” comes first. Right from the beginning I have to know this truth, that I am not separate from the whole.
But if I am not separate, the question of renunciation becomes meaningless. What is there to renounce if I am all? I am that which is being renounced. Who will renounce whom? And where can I go if I am everything and everywhere?