There was a beautiful young woman in Calcutta who used to stop passers-by in front of her house and asked them, “Have you seen Shyam Babu? If you see him, please, tell him I am waiting for him.” Her husband was dead, kept alive by her love but her love had betrayed her. The passers-by laughed and played cruel tricks on her.
After a while she began clinging to young men as they were going by and saying, “You are my Shyam Babu, you have come back…” But those men drove her away and ill-treated her throwing stones at her.
Years later one of her neighbors who had known her in the past noticed her sitting all day at the foot of a sacred tree. She had aged, but her face was radiant with joy. She asked her, “Have you found your Shyam?” “Yes,” she replied with a smile, “Look, here he is…” and she pointed to her breast.
This story told by Lizelle Reymond in To Live Within, illustrates how much pain we cause ourselves when we cling to an emotion that does not serve us anymore. The story however has a happy ending. The madwoman finally renounced the thought of finding her husband and in turn she became alive. Renunciation (vairagya) in Yoga is the voluntary giving up of all emotions. This method is the exact opposite of psychoanalysis which exposes the emotions by bringing them to the daylight, reliving them over again but also amplifying them. The Eastern traditions on the other hand pay little attention to emotion. Even bakthas or devotional practitioners use their emotions to transmute them into devotion.
However before we are able to renounce an emotion we need to acknowledge it otherwise we are like the madwoman, in denial of what had happened to her. To know an emotion is also realizing that it is a karmic debt to be paid, the beginning of a process that eventually uproots it. Then also comes the realization that an emotion has a recurring pattern, it is part of an automatism which gets triggered according to conditions and circumstances. In the example of the madwoman her trigger was the sight of the young men who reminded her of her husband. So after getting to know an emotion through observation and evaluation one eventually comes to the decision of disposing of it or keeping it. Letting go requires courage, the fearlessness of facing the unknown, while hanging on to an old habit is like keeping an old friend that does not treat us well but that we tolerate because it is someone familiar.
When we have an upset stomach we stop eating or we change our diet and yet when we are emotionally in pain we do not apply the same remedy right away like analyzing how long have I been suffering, what is the root cause of my pain, what responsibility do I have in it, and then taking action like considering change or letting go.
But if you do not have time for study and introspection, may I offer you this simple recipe for quick relief of emotional pain:
1. Keep yourself free of things.
2. Hope for nothing in the future.
3. Die consciously every evening, which means be reborn every morning.
This recipe is guaranteed to work and keep you emotionally sane. It has the backing of countless wise beings. Om Tat Sat!