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International Forum for Neovedantins

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Solitude: the word brings forth both hope and expectation of joy, as well as fear and awe of evil. It is a state one longs for as well as is afraid of. In the din and bustle of everyday life, in relentless pressures and demands of body and mind - from friends and relatives, job and career, comfort and wealth, name and fame - accentuated from time to time by the cries of despair, of war and catastrophe, of disasters and failures, one tries to find solace by longing to run away somewhere in solitude. There one hopes to find answers to all the ups and downs in his life and in his world. He hopes to brood on the necessity or uselessness, justification or otherwise of these problems, situations, and compulsions in his life.
It the helplessness brought about by the limitations, failure, and inadequacy of human faculties - physical, intellectual, and mental - that prompt a person to seek solitude, where he hopes to find answers to the puzzle of life. However, this is a unique puzzle or a riddle that has no easy solution for modern skeptic who has rooted out or thrown overboard the idea, the concept, of higher Self or God.
Withdrawing in solitude for any other reason than communicating with higher Self is sure to backfire. One should prepare for such a retreat while still living in the world, engaged in his work and deliberations, interacting with friends and foes. Solitude is an end of a quest that has its beginning on the stage of the world. It is the culmination of a discipline of discrimination and not the beginning of contemplation for finding solutions. The object of joy must be found when one is in the world, engaged as he or she is in life of pain and pleasure, of blows and accolades, of separation and union. Every blow - good or bad - teaches the person that he is not a mere six-foot frame that has to slavishly obey the whims of nature, world, and compulsions of life.
But where can one run away? Where shall one hide from the problems of misery, worry, suffering, death, and destruction? Is there anything outside the world? And more importantly, the breeding place, the playground and support for all evil is one's mind! It is our mind that creates joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, comfort and suffering. Be wary to blame other persons, circumstances, situation, fate, or outside forces for your misfortune. One suffers or enjoys because one identifies oneself, wrongly, with the body and mind. If this is the law, if this is the truth, then where is that solitude where body and mind do not accompany you? One will create hell or heaven wherever one goes, for the juggler mind will always be there!
Therefore, seek solitude within first; root out the cravings of senses by understanding their real nature. No forcible separation or isolation would be of any help. The world is full of both evil and good. One's mind is also one's friend and foe. Listen to the friendly advice and the judgment of virtuous fellows, mentor, or a guru (these are the projections of our friendly mind) - listen to the faculty of reason and discrimination, of intuition and sanity first and as an inevitable result of such discrimination would arise wonderful qualities of dispassion and non-attachment. The rise of these two virtues will make you fit to seek solitude, they will guide and take you to solitude; The place may be within the world - Karma Yoga, or in a far off forest retreat - Jnana Yoga.
c s shah
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