Kaivalya, the State of Aloneness

by Jayaram V

So long as there is a limitation, deficiency or imperfection, that far one should serve the teacher. Kaivalya Upanishad, From the Selected Upanishads by Jayaram V

When the self-restrained ascetic attains the state of mental inertia then only he reaches that highest state. Wherever the mind of the self-restrained ascetic rests that alone is the highest state. Kaivalya Upanishad, From the Selected Upanishads by Jayaram V

For a spiritual person who knows the nature of pure Self, knowledge is an impediment. It prevents you from having balance and stability in your inner being. As Aurobindo stated, up to some stage in your spiritual life, knowledge is a facilitator. Then it becomes a stumbling block since you cannot get rid of it easily and achieve the deeper silence which is essential for your self-realization.

The same is true with many aspects of your life, including your body, mind, possessions, occupation, relationships, interests, goals, scriptures, your spiritual guru, and even your notions of God and religion. At some stage, you have to leave them all behind and become lonely in thought and deed to reach the highest stage of aloneness or liberation. That state of liberation is also called Kaivalyam because it is without and beyond any duality.

Our scriptures ask spiritual aspirants to live in seclusion and shun worldliness because unless an aspirant learns to lives with himself and becomes comfortable with himself, he cannot realize his true self. Aloneness (kaivalya) also means not having any associations or attachments and being free from social influences and conditioning. If you respond to events either by impulse or by habit or desire, it means you are not yet ready to be alone.

This is an important test. If you cannot live without the world, if you depend upon it for your peace, success, happiness, or achievement, you are not ready for the journey. In this regard, mental isolation is more important than physical. Your life begins with many relationships, dependencies, and attachments. Until you are free from them, the world will hold you back and influence your life and actions.

It is for the same reason that pursuing knowledge under a spiritual master is prescribed for worldly students who want to take up householder’s duties, and self-study (svadhyaya) for the spiritual aspirants who want to achieve liberation. In svadhyaya you have no guru other than yourself. God or Self (Isvara) becomes your guru, and faith becomes your support and shelter. You have to study the scriptures by yourself and acquire the knowledge by yourself.

Svadhyaya gives you an opportunity to study in silence and without distractions. With these two you not only acquire knowledge but also achieve peace and stability. You will not struggle to know or make sense of the scriptures. With an attitude of renunciation, you accept whatever knowledge that comes to you. You will also not study with any particular aim to excel in anything. You study to help your mind focus upon pleasant and liberating thoughts and engage your mind in the higher planes of knowledge and wisdom.

Spiritual people go to gurus. Then what happens? They become more involved with the world of their gurus. The join their Ashrams and live there forever. As they form a mental or spiritual bond with their gurus, they become their trusted followers, guards, and even part of their armies to defend them against external attacks. They become conditioned by their knowledge and teachings, and in the process either become mental slaves or lose their personal freedom.

It is a delusion to become attached to your spiritual master because at the level of the Self, you cannot have any relationship with anything or anyone. You cannot have that duality of preferring anything else or having anything else other than yourself. You have to be secure and contended in the confines of your own consciousness. It is the true state of freedom. If you do not prepare for it or if you are not ready for it, how can you achieve the ultimate liberation? It is like leaving a prison with cuffs on your hands or a chain to your leg.

Your infatuation with your guru may temporarily give you a relief from daily worries and help you experience temporary peace. It is but escapism, a kind of illusion that gives you the comfortable feeling that you are a spiritual person and you have a special relationship with your spiritual master. But is it different from other relationships you develop in your life that add more chains to your bondage? Does it help you achieve liberation when you are still bound to those chains?

Over dependence upon gurus or their knowledge can become a big stumbling block in the progress of their followers. If you develop a deep attachment with or dependence upon your guru, know that you have moved back in your spiritual journey rather than made progress. You have added one more layer of attachments and desires to your Self. You have become another child with a new parent, a parent of your idealism, and put another prism of delusion upon your mind and aspiration.

At some stage you have to leave your guru behind and journey alone, having collected whatever gems of wisdom he or she has gifted to you, with a feeling of gratitude. The guru takes you up to the base of mountains. From there on you have to reach the summit by yourself. You cannot go to the world of Brahman carrying your guru on your shoulders or a backpack of your karma and attachments. You have to burn it at the foot of the mount Kailas.

To go further or climb higher, you have to stop looking back, and renounce everything, your home, life, preferences, relationships, knowledge, religion, guru, path, and even God. Only then you become qualified to reach the summit and enter the doors of liberation. Aloneness does not mean you have to stop interacting with the world. It means you have to stop relating to it and remain alone even in a crowd. Hence, we have so much emphasis upon renunciation and detachment.