Addressing Inequality of Reaction Through the Force of Indifference

Particularly in the traditional Yoga of knowledge, but certainly not limited to that path, there is a prominent methodology of bringing calm, peace and focus to the being, applying the understanding that the outer world is illusory in its objects of desire and the play of the dualities. The seeker who follows this method focuses his attention on the wide, immobile, peace-filled Brahman, the Absolute, and treats the world as a matter of indifference, something to be disregarded and abandoned in the higher quest. While the seeker still resides in the world, all events and stimuli are treated as unimportant and are either wholly disregarded, or relegated to a matter of indifference as to what they do and how they turn out. The great Yogi of the Tibetan Mahayana tradition, Milarepa, was known to be so focused on his meditation that he cared not for specific food, nor clothing as he practiced his meditation. Naga sadhus also pay no attention to where they sleep, how they are clothed or what they eat. In the Christian tradition, anchorites would historically go into the desert with no source of food, clothing or shelter to “find God”. The bodily comforts and concern for the events of the worldly life hold no attraction for such seekers–they treat these things with indifference. The story of the Buddha renouncing a life as a prince in a wealthy kingdom, giving up family, riches, power and influence to be able to carry out his spiritual quest unimpeded by any outer concerns, is legendary.

Sri Aurobindo notes regarding this method: “It puts away desire from the mind, discards the ego which attributes these dual values to things, and replaces desire by an impartial and indifferent peace and ego by the pure self which is not troubled, excited or unhinged by the impacts of the world. … This way too develops three results or powers by which it ascends to peace.”

“First, it is found that the mind is voluntarily bound by the petty joys and troubles of life and that in reality these can have no inner hold on it, if the soul simply chooses to cast off its habit of helpless determination by external and transient things. Secondly, it is found that here too a division can be made, a psychological partition between the lower or outward mind still subservient to the old habitual touches and the higher reason and will which stand back to live in the indifferent calm of the spirit. There grows on us, in other words, an inner separate calm which watches the commotion of the lower members without taking part in it or giving it any sanction. At first the higher reason and will may be often clouded, invaded, the mind carried away by the incitation of the lower members, but eventually this calm becomes inexpugnable, permanent, not to be shaken by the most violent touches…. And, finally, the outer mind too accepts by degrees this calm and indifferent serenity; it ceases to be attracted by the things that attracted it or troubled by the griefs and pains to which it had the habit of attaching an unreal importance. Thus the third power comes, an all-pervading power of wide tranquility and peace, a bliss of release from the siege of our imposed fantastic self-torturing nature, the deep undisturbed exceeding happiness of the touch of the eternal and infinite replacing by its permanence the strife and turmoil of impermanent things…. [The soul] … observes the world only as the spectator of a play or action in which it is no longer compelled to participate.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 12, The Way of Equality, pp. 684-685