What is renunciation? People have listened to this concept. Renunciation in action has been understand as renunciation of action. The concept of renunciation is totally misconstrued. The general misconception is that it means resignation and retirement from life. To go barefooted and bareheaded. Live in the seclusion of forests. This is far from the truth. Had it been so then renunciation would be of no practical use to people. And only cater to a few social recluses who shun any form of pleasure or material comfort. People ran away from concept.
Yet scriptures talks about renunciation in fact everything is renunciation. Renunciation is not severance from the world. Nor does it mean abstinence from possession and enjoyment. Nor restriction and limitation imposed upon the quantum of possession and enjoyment. Hence, you could remain amidst people and prosperity, you could acquire, possess and enjoy objects and beings without imposing any restriction or limitation and yet be a renunciate. If one is allowed to enjoy all these liberties what then does confer the status of renunciation upon an individual? You can find that out by studying your own past experiences in life.
In your childhood you were attached to playthings. You spent your time then acquiring and enjoying toys and trinkets. Now that you are grown up you no longer value them. You treat them as trifles. You are preoccupied with other attractions. Caught up with your family, name, fame, wealth, power. The childhood playthings do not hold your interest any more. They drop off. You are said to have renounced them. What determines your dispassion towards your childhood interests? What ascertains that spirit of renunciation? Carefully analyse the cause. It is not your physical parting from playthings. Not your dispossession or non-enjoyment. Nor limitation in their possession or enjoyment. You may possess them. Even join your children at times, enjoy playing with them. And yet claim to have renounced them because you do not treasure them anymore. They are not worth anything to you. You have no value for them. No longer credit them with any merit. Your interest has risen to greater heights. Thus, as you graduate to higher values of life you automatically drop your interest, value for the lower. You grow out of it. That spirit of inner abstraction or resignation is the crux of renunciation. Renunciation therefore is growth in one’s personality. Founded by knowledge established in the higher values of life. The highest value, the greatest mission in life is the discovery of supreme Self within.
Matrialist –versus- Sensualist
A person is adjudged a materialist or not by the value he confers upon material wealth regardless of the quantum he possess. When he understand material objects as trivial and trifling, as valueless and a potential impediment to spiritual growth, he is no materialist. Whereas another who carries much value for material wealth, regards it a primary aspect of life would be a materialist, whether or not he possess it. Similarly a sensualist is not adjudged by the extent of his contact with or enjoyment of sense-objects but by his mental attitude towards them. When a person places sense objects and the pleasure thereof in their proper perspective, realizes their clear limitation, considers them the harbinger of future sorrow and misery and maintains a suzerainty over them, he is no sensualists even if he were to enjoy them. Whereas the one who considers sensual pleasures as an all-important part of life, succumbs to the pleasures of the senses would be a sensualist, even if he physically abstains from them. Renunciation therefore is the measure of spirituality. The yardstick of spiritual evolution.
A spirit of renunciation in action. It is not renunciation of action.
Nobody can renounce anything. This is the problem. It is not possible to renounce anything. When you start identify with higher in life, the lower will automatically falls. Renunciation is taking up higher. Renunciation means growth. When you grow higher, the lower falls away. When we were children we were totally involved in dollies, toys. We were completely involved in the toy world. When toy so rejected? No child can be pulled out from the toy world. It is impossible. You all understand that. It is not possible. You can only introduce something finer, something more attractive to the child. Once child rides the Bi-cycle, the toys are gone. So the moment you ride the bicycle, the toy goes away. When the boy grows up and ride a motor cycle, Kawasaki, the bicycles goes away. As you pick up higher things in life, the lower things will automatically fall off.
When a flower matures into a fruit, the petals of the flower fall away. If you start plucking the petals the growth will hinder. It is not an automatic growth. Sheer ignorance destroyed our culture. You must learn the principles when you are young. Now it is too late at the age of 60 to learn the principles.
After living life at the age of retirement, you are learning how to live a Life. Renunciation cannot be practiced. It is not an cause. It is an effect. When you live at the lower level of your personality, your thoughts and desires are gross and numerous. But as you acquire spiritual knowledge, you begin to entertain higher and nobler values. You move up to the higher realms of your personality. You grow higher and higher values of understanding. Your thoughts and desires improve in quality and reduce in quantity. Consequently, you renounce the lower. Thus, through daily study and reflection on spiritual literature, you identify with the supreme self, the core of your personality. At that stage your only desire is to realize the Self. All other desires vanish. You reach the state of total renunciation. It is a growth, elevation.
Renuncation is not of action, but renunciation in action.
Action is Inevitable.
Action is insignia in action. The law of life proclaims that none can remain without performing activity. Every one is made to act helplessly according to one’s own inner temperament. Yet, if you choose to remain idle you lead yourself to destruction. Nature draws your attention to this law. Observe the stagnant pool and the running brook. Where water stagnates it turns filthy, dirty. Whereas running water is clear, pure. Learn the lesson from nature. If you are to succeed in life, be prosperous and peaceful, you must adopt the principle of running waters. Follow their line of action. The river keeps moving. Overcoming all obstacles. Ever progressing. It never stops until it reaches the ocean. So must you pursue the path of action until you reach the abode of Truth. The Bhgavad Gita highlights the gospel of Karma action. Emphasises the importance of fulfilling your obligatory functions in life.
The first spiritual lesson Swami Vivekananda gave out to his followers was:
"Go, play football!"
Value of Action
Your motto in life should be to strive, to struggle, not to succeed. Work well accomplished is the joy of life. Success or failure is immaterial. What really matters is your ability to adopt action to obligation. Your business lies in action alone, not in the reward accruing from it. Let not he anxiety for enjoying the fruit disturb the course of action.
As long as you are acting, you must first select a field of activity conducive to your vasanas. Activities which are consistent with your inherent nature are called swadharma. Whereas those which are alien to your nature are paradharma. Svadharma activity helps you to progress, evolve in life. While paradharma activity is detrimental causing you to regress, devolve. First learn, to fix the swadharma activities. Gita says you must follow swadharma activities. Swadharma activities is a tailed end aircraft. It takes you faster to your destination. Paramadharma activity is head wind. You must first of all practice the principle. Action is a must. Choose your swadharmic activities. Then you come to practice renunciation of action.
Three Types of Action
Human activities fall broadly under three categories based upon the manner in which they are performed. They are (1) Selfish action (2) Unselfish action and (3) Selfless action.
The first type of action is propelled by an individual’s egocentric desire. To satisfy his selfish motive. To gain personal profit. He toils and seats all his life for procuring more comfort and pleasure for himself and to his family. This is the lowest form of existence. Are you want to get something from the world. That is selfish action.
The next type of Unselfish action is action driven by unselfish desires. Action driven by selfish desires. Actions driven by unselfish desires. But there is a desire. The desire could be to help you. There is an element of ego I am high, you are low. Therefore, I want to pass on the knowledge of wealth to others. There is an ego to help. But that is far better than the selfish motive. Unselfish action is far superior to selfish action.
Finally, you must get into the stage of selfless action. Selfish actions are motive by selfish desires. Selfless actions are no desires. Why do you motive behind the action. Why this fellow have motive. Without any suffix and prefix, just do what you to do. All the time having motives and all your actions spoiled by it.
Look at the world. Look at the nature. Learn your lessons from the sun, moon and stars. They work tirelessly. Impersonally. The good earth yields vegetation. The rivers flow. Flowers bloom. Give out sweet fragrance. With no ego prompting them. No personal motive. No selfish desire to fulfill. From the day one the sun gives vitality, it has no motive. The cloud gives rains it has no motive. The nightingale sings it has no motives. Rose give fragrance, it has no motive. Only human beings have motives and you have seminars like Stress free life. All the world is a stage. So too, let your work be free from the taint of egoism and selfishness.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exists and their entrances” says William Shakespeare.
Just do the part and get out. But, you get attached to everything.
Way to Success
Renunciation has nothing to do with place, position or profession. It flows from knowledge which refines you. Places you on vantage ground. Puts you right on top. Renders you peaceful and blissful. Free from anguish and anxiety. Few realize the grandeur and power of renunciation. Through renunciation you gain everything. Its spirit leads your action to success.
There is a stern law of life concerning attachment: Attach you lose, detach you gain. None seems to be aware of it. Much less follows it. It means that if you cling on to any material form, selfishly attach to a person or object, you shall go through suffering and sorrow. Either something terrible happens to that relationship or you lose the object of your desire. Whereas, when you live a life of mental detachment, in a state of renunciation, you will find objects and beings reaching you. Swamy Rama Tirtha has proclaimed this truth to the world: "The way to gain anything is to lose it". It is an inexorable law of life. Observe it in your surroundings. Learn it from your experience. Realise this truth from personal knowledge.
There is a story depicting this striking truth of life.
The King of a state was anxious to meet a sanyyasi, a recluse who has renounced everything in life. He enquired of his minister if he could find one such person. The Minister took the king’s wish lightly and averred that there were many around. The king waited for a while. There was no response. One day he summoned the minister and gave him a week’s time to fulfill his wish. The minister then realized that the King was serious. He tried to hard to find one. But his attempts were all in vain. In utter desperation he devised a clever plan. He chose a young man to put on a act of sanyyasi in return for a large sum of money. The man readily yielded to his request. He was dressed in ochre robe with other spiritual accessories to adorn his faked religiosity. He was asked to sit under a tree in a secluded place. The stage was west. The minister announced that he had located the sanyyasi. The king and his retinue was brought to the scene. The king was inspired at the sight of the feigned sanyyasi. He prostrated at his feet. So did the queen. The king looked enquiringly at the minister. He had to prostrate too! The king offered trays of money, clothing and food. The sanyyasi would not accept any of them. The king was amazed at his spirit of renunciation. He reverentially took leave of the holy man and returned to the palace with his retinue.
The minister rushed back to the scene. He commended the young man on his great performance. And offered him the promised payment. The sannyasi refused to accept it. The minister was confused. He told him that the play was over and bade him accept the money. The young man gestured to the minister to sit-down and spoke these words of wisdom, “Dear sir, did you witness the beauty and grandeur of life in our episode? Have you not learnt a great lesson today? Do you realize I feigned an act of renunciation for a short while. The king, the queen and the entire retinue were at my feet. Just an act of abstraction, a show of renunciation showered so much wealth and reverence upon me. What then would be the power of true renunciation? Realise that sir, and take back your money.”
Renuncation is Bliss
Attachment is the primary cause of mental agitation and sorrow. When you are attached to material objects, to wealth you are riddled with worry and anxiety. Anxiety to procure more and more. And worry about preserving or losing it. A boy attached to a girl, a mother attached to her child would cause the mind to be disturbed. When you are driving your personal, expensive car on a rough and rugged road your heart throbs. Whereas the same ride in a hired car becomes enjoyable! Thus when you are detached you enjoy the world. That explains why you enjoy a tragic movie, a horror movie.
Shakeaspeare’s play Hamlet was filmed with the famous actor Sir Lawrence Oliver. It depicted a great tragedy. Every bit of it was very sad. Melancholic, yet magnificent. It drew millions of admirers. They enjoyed the movie thoroughly. Many saw it over and over again. There was a charm about it that kept everybody spell bound. Notwithstanding all that, would anyone desire to be a Prince Hamlet in the movie? Would anyone like to be involved in those tragic circumstances? Every one may enjoy the movie but none would like to get anywhere near those scenes, much less get mixed up with them. If that be so, what makes it so attractive, so enjoyable? How does a sad movie make millions happy? On a careful study you find that the enjoyment arises from one’s aloofness from the happenings on the screen. It is one’s detachment from it. Not being involved or entangled in it.
When you look upon a movie as a witness, you enjoy it. When you get directly involved in it you suffer. Some even sob. So it is with the world. Keep your mind anchored to the divine Self within and look at the world as you would see the movie. You must learn to live in your home, with your family, run your office with your associates, meet the world impersonally as a sakshi witness, without getting attached to them, entangled with their affairs. When you look at the phenomenal world thus from an impersonal angle as a sakshi, view it objectively, it lends a charm. It is beautiful. Wonderful. You enjoy every bit of it. But if you view it personally, lose your objectivity an get involved, entangled in it you suffer. Your life turns miserable. It is a universal law.
Source: Excerpts from the Book on The Eternities by A Parthasarathy.