Dispassion does not take joy away from you. Dispassion gives you joy that nothing else can give you. There is a verse in Shankaracharya’s composition Bhaja Govindam: Kasya sukham na karoti viragaha?, which means, “What pleasure cannot be given by dispassion?” It gives all the pleasures because you are so totally in the moment.
The so-called dispassion in the world seems so dry. People who think that they are dispassionate are melancholic. They are sad. They run away from the world and then they call this as dispassion and say that they have renounced the world. This is not renunciation. That is not dispassion. People escape out of sorrow, out of misery, out of apathy. And escapists think they are dispassionate. Dispassion is something more precious, refined and more valuable in life.
Here is a story. When Alexander the Great left for India, people had told him, “If you find sanyasis there, just catch hold of them and bring them back here. They are very precious in India.” So Alexander sent word and nobody would come forward. He then sent a message threatening them, “If you don’t come, I am going to chop your head off.”
They still did not come. He then threatened them, “I am going to take away your books, the four Vedas. I will take all you have and your scriptures.”
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The people said they would give him all the books the next evening. The pundits then called their children and made them memorize the script all night. They then took the manuscripts to Alexander and said, “You can take them, we do not need them.”
Alexander then threatened to cut off their heads. The sanyasis told him he was free to do as he pleased. Alexander could not look into their eyes and could not tolerate the power of dispassion. He had met someone for the first time, who did not care for the emperor.
When Alexander came to India, some people presented him with a plate of gold bread. He had told them he was hungry and they had told him, since he was an emperor he could not eat wheat bread. He told them he was starving and wanted bread. To which the people said: “Don’t you get bread in your country? Are you going all over and trying to conquer the world just to eat the same bread we are eating?” The statement shook Alexander’s world. It made him realize that what they were saying was the truth. He thought to himself: “What is the point of conquering the world? When all you want is happiness and peace.” Legend has it that Alexander then proclaimed: “When I die, leave my hands open. Let people know that Alexander, who thought he had taken everything, is leaving the world with nothing.”
Dispassion is the strength in you. When you are centered and calm, you can understand that everyone who has come to this world has come to give something to this world. We have nothing to take from here.