Like Water and Petrol

From Conversations on the Science of Yoga Karma Yoga Book 4, Action with a Purpose

Does active involvement in the world contaminate one's spiritual life?

Swami Satyananda: Many people regard spiritual life, including yoga, as separate from day-to-day activities and life in general, but this is completely wrong. A story is narrated in Yoga Vasishtha about a king who was overwhelmed by vairagya, the sense of dispassion. He renounced his kingdom and went away to practise meditation and penance in the jungles far away from his kingdom. He left his wife, Queen Chudala, to rule the kingdom in his absence. The king did not know that Chudala was already an enlightened yogini. One day she realized that her husband was wasting his time and she decided to guide him.

She transported herself psychically to where her husband was sitting in meditation. The queen levitated in front of him and the king opened his eyes. “What are you doing here? he asked. She said, “I am here to tell you that while ruling your kingdom I have attained siddhis, and that you, while doing sadhana and meditation in the jungle, are sleeping. Thunderstruck, the king realized that his wife was telling the truth. He asked his wife to instruct him on spiritual life. She said, “Material life can never contaminate spiritual life. Money and desires cannot touch the spirit, as they are eternally different entities.

When water and petrol are mixed, they will always remain separate. Likewise, material life and spiritual life are totally different. A person who thinks that worldly life can contaminate spiritual life is misguided. It is not necessary for an aspirant to evolve only through meditation. He can correct, formulate and affect the reorientation of his inner personality while working in the world. Therefore, one should not renounce the world, but use it in order to remove one's faults and imperfections.