True Renunciation--How To Practice It


The scriptures declare, and all thoughtful persons admit, that God Realization is the ultimate goal of human existence. There are many people in this world who strive, however mildly, for the realization of this goal; but there are few blessed souls who realize it speedily.

Ignorance or infatuation is the root of them all. As soon as the veil of ignorance is lifted all these disappear of their own accord. Ignorance means want of knowledge, and by "knowledge" here is meant the knowledge of God. One who comes to know the nature of God easily surmounts all these obstacles; nay, they cease to exist for him.

But so long as ignorance persists-so long as the nature of God is not revealed to us, are we to leave off all activity and sit idle? No, we should wisely learn to direct our attachments, desires, sense of possession and egotism toward God. Our ideal should be to cultivate attachment only to God. Our sole desire should be to realize God. We should regard the Lord as our only possession, and the fact of our being humble servants of God should be the only object of our pride-for such a pride is prized by the devotees of God and brings solace to their hearts.

Thus, through the practice of changing the direction of these four impulses, they will be gradually divested of their vicious character. Then, instead of contributing to the growth of infatuation, they will prove helpful in lifting the veil of ignorance, and as this veil of ignorance is lifted the nature of God will be revealed to us; and as the nature of God is revealed the feelings mentioned above will attach themselves exclusively to God. In that state, their very names will be changed and the devotee will be happy to find them transformed into four phases of pure, incorruptible Devotion. Through that Devotion true Knowledge of God will be attained, and as soon as this Knowledge is attained the devotee will be blessed by a direct realization of God.

Pleasure Versus Bliss

We have no idea of the terrible nature of worldly enjoyments, which are inherently full of vice and evil, nor of the infinite beauty and sweetness of God, who is Consciousness and Bliss itself -of His true nature and essential character. Therefore, our minds are attracted toward worldly enjoyments rather than toward God. If we realized the supremacy and blissful nature of God and the dreadful nature of worldly enjoyments, our minds could never be drawn toward the latter.

The Lord says, "this world is transitory and devoid of happiness," or, "this life is fleeting and is an abode of misery; placed in this, devote thyself to Me alone." If we had implicit faith in the words of the Lord, and if, accordingly, the enjoyments of the world appeared to us short-lived and full of sorrow, how could we indulge in them any more? And similarly, if we had the least faith in the all-blissful nature of God how could we remain indifferent to Him any longer?

"Not to accept or use a thing is external renunciation. And to have no attachment to the thing is internal renunciation. . . . The renunciation which is vitiated by meditation and mental enjoyment of the thing renounced is not true renunciation."

But we do indulge in worldly pleasures and feel no attraction toward God. This proves that although we read a lot, hear a lot and talk a lot on these things we do not really believe in what we read, hear or speak on the subject. That is why, ignoring these teachings, we are madly running after worldly enjoyments, and just as moths attracted by the glowing flame rush into it and burn themselves to death, we, too, fall into their trap and perish.

Our minds are always engrossed in thoughts of the outside world and remain attached to the gross objects of the senses. Our minds go wherever we find, or we are told we can find, objects which gratify the senses. We seek happiness through those objects, not knowing that just as the day is followed by night, the pleasure that we derive from them is always accompanied by its counterpart-pain.

We seek happiness and shun misery, it is therefore that we have to suffer the pangs of misery. If we are really keen to avoid pain, we shall have to forego pleasure as well.

We seek not that supreme happiness which is eternal, which knows no ebb and flow and which is boundless and infinite. What we thirst for is the momentary gratification of the senses, which is illusory and not real, and which, like a flash of lightning, disappears the moment it is felt. But we ignorant creatures do not realize this; it is therefore that we are always wildly pursuing it, and emerging from one pit we engage ourselves in digging a deeper pit!

Two Dangerous Lures

Sex and gold are the two main factors contributing to sense-pleasure. Therefore the scriptures have loudly decried them as sources of evil and have repeatedly recommended their renunciation. The fact is, the outgoing senses of a man addicted to worldly pleasures are naturally attracted toward these objects which possess a peculiar glamour. The fascination is too proverbial. Nobody requires a homily in order to get addicted to them; the senses automatically drag the mind toward them. If we cast a glance across the history of the world, it will be found that sex and gold have been mainly responsible for all the great wars and the appalling destruction of life consequent thereupon.

But is it possible for man or woman to renounce them altogether? If it is, what is the form of that renunciation, and how can it be accomplished? There is no man or woman in this world who has no connection whatsoever with the other sex. This very frame of ours is a product of the combination of the male and female elements. For our nourishment we depend on our parents, or our elder brother and sister.

Similarly, even the Sannyasi, who has renounced everything, requires at least a small strip of cloth to cover himself, rags to protect his body from cold, etc., and alms, none of which can be procured without money. Under the circumstances, how can one totally abstain from association with the other sex and money?

What Is Renunciation?

The answer to this is that we should first of all understand what renunciation truly means. Not to accept or use a thing is external renunciation. And to have no attachment to the thing is internal renunciation. Suppose we renounce a thing-but in our heart of hearts we feel the need for it, its want rankles in our hearts, and we begin to nurse a secret craving for it. Under such circumstances the external renunciation of the thing is not renunciation in the true sense of the term. True renunciation -is that which kills our attachment for the thing. The renunciation which is vitiated by meditation upon and mental enjoyment of the thing renounced is not true renunciation.

There is no doubt that the practice of even external renunciation as a discipline leading to internal renunciation is much better than a life of indulgence, and is both praiseworthy and necessary. It he one to grow to the stage of internal renunciation, and the spirit of renunciation develops and becomes natural through it; but renunciation of attachment alone is true renunciation. When attachment is renounced, malice, fear, joy and sorrow, etc., are automatically eliminated.

At a later stage, even the pride of renunciation and the memory of it have to be shaken off. This is the final step; it can be achieved through recognition of the evils of worldly attachment and through the real knowledge of God.

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