In The World But Not of the World
A question often asked is whether one can lead a spiritual life and at the same time be a householder earning wages, engaging in business, or being part of society and so on. The answer is an emphatic yes. To be spiritual you don’t have to run away from the world. If you are creful and know what to do, you could reap the best of both worlds, God willing.
Many of you know of the simile of the lotus that grows in and derives its nourishment from water and yet doesn’t let water wet its petals. Water can’t stay on the petals of the lotus; it rolls off as droplet. That’s the kind of life that a yogi lives. He draws sustenance for his body from the material world, but stays uncorrupted or undefiled by and unattached to it.
The inimitable Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa compares a yogi to a housemaid: “The housemaid treats the house she works in as if it were her own. She keeps everything clean and in order. She refers to the children of the household as her own, calling them ‘my Radha’, ‘my Babu’ and so on. But, in her heart of hearts, she knows that nothing belongs to her.” That is the attitude of the true yogi. He lives and works in the world, lives with his family, his wife, children, friends, parents and so on, but knows through deep meditation that all this is temporary. He will have to leave all this some day. The only reality is the Self that is present everywhere and which shines in the deep recesses of his heart.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya declared to Mythreyi, his wife, “Listen, O! Mythreyi, the son is dear to the father, or the husband to the wife, not because of the son, or the father, or the husband, or the wife, but, because of the Self that is in them. Out of love for the Self which is in them one loves them, mistakenly thinking that the love is for the external form.”