“Vaanprast” in Sanskrit means going to the forest
Or, in other words, giving up worldly life
To retreat into a natural, strife-free environment
To spend the last few years of life in contemplation and tapas!
But, then, this is considered Dharma only
If one has done one’s duties in this world
Duties towards parents, towards wife and children, duties towards other kith and kin
For, otherwise, it can be an act of ‘escapism’!
And, I know, duties don’t just end with ‘irrigating the lawns’
One has to share the collective duty of ‘irrigating the pastures’ as well!
I mean, our duty doesn’t end with bringing prosperity, security, peace and contentment to our family
For, family, in its broadest sense,, has a different connotation!
The whole world is my family, your family, everyone’s family
The world with its geographical divisions, racial divisions, communal divisions
And, worst of all, divisions due to ignorance, ego, greed for power and fame
Divisions due to the “Frankinsteins” of superstitions, fear, irrational approach!
So, even if one has completed ones’ duties towards one’s kith and kin
One can’t take “Vaanprast” i.e. retire from active life
For, there is a lot to be done; many to be cared for
Many to be fed ; many to be clothed!
The battle of Dharmakshetra is yet to be won
On one side are in array the wielders of Dharma or human values
On the other side are fanaticism, terrorism, bigotism, jingoism and nihilism
The first and foremost to be fought against and won over, in the array of enemy lines!
Once these are subdued, come exploitation, corruption, opportunism, chauvinism , sanctimony
Once these are also trounced, the rest can be defeated, surely, in due time!
As, it’s from the roots of some trees that strength and succor are gained by its parasites
Once the roots are destroyed, the above can’t survive for long!
I am not talking about ‘cutting the trees as Nature has gifted us with
I am talking about the trees of negative elements
The leaves of which are ‘the pests of society’
And the victims of which are the situations that the world, and, or country, have to confront, now!
The victims are victims of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstition, fear
These victims are victims of psunamis, floods, bomb blasts
They are victims of child labor, oppression, opportunism
They are victims of cold war, or, war and bloodshed!
Be it war and bloodshed between two border countries
Be it communal riots within the country
Be it riots that are due to dispute between border states
Be it for language, for water, for power, for exploitation of the ignorant, the gullible, the weak, the foolish!
These victims are all arrayed on the other side
With their stalwarts, their spokesmen, their Senapatis
And, along with them, are also the victims
of AIDS, of rapes, of addiction (drugs/alcohol), of Depression, of bird flu, of Dengue Fever!
The more Science has advanced, the greater have become the challenges
For, the number of diseases has increased manifold
The worst are those that are spread by unawareness from man to man
And that are due to lack of a sense of belonging!
When one has such demonical enemies to fight
Demonical – as they are not God’s plan or Nature’s plan
Not the Divine plan of Creation, Destruction and further Creation!
Just like the tree that sheds its leaves in autumn
And gets new leaves, buds, flowers and fruits in Spring!
These enemies are those monsters which have been created by man himself
Which are becoming more and more powerful day by day
That by the time all of us ( not just a few, but, each one of us) realize that we need to kill these monsters, it may be too late!
But, better late than never! So, ‘Vaanprast’ is a long way to go!
By the way, even in the woods, there is no peace, nowadays!
Man is intervening in the plans of Nature
And man-made disasters can occur in forests as well!
But, when one contemplates on ‘Vaanprast’ in an infinite sense
The ‘van’ or the forest is in the mind, renunciation is not an action
It’s a happening, in the mind!
When one does everything, keeps living in this world
But, with a difference!
Yes, with the difference that one is not attached in mind
Not at all attached to one’s life, one’s pleasures, one’s pains
Not at all attached to one’s ego, one’s egoless state
And least of all attached to one’s successes, one’s failures, one’s strengths, one’s weaknesses!
One, as the Observer or Saakshi, has already achieved “Vaanprast”
One doesn’t need to go anywhere’ for ,all that is, is within oneself!
There is battle within; a “Dharmakshetra”; let it last as long as it does
The enlightened one is not the oppressed, is not the oppressor
He is not the victim; he is not the prey; not is he the predator
He lives, he wakes up, he goes to bed, he does his duties in this world
He laughs, he complains, he feels sad, he is happy, he prays, he fights!
But, with a difference, sans mind, sans reaction, sans judgement, sans the desperation to run away!
“Vaanprast” in this kaliyuga is the greatest of miracles
That can happen to any human being, any Seeker
For, in the midst of this Maya-world, he has to live it as he lives a reality!
So, think before you decide to take up “Vaanprast!”