True Renunciation--How To Practice It
By HANUMANPRASAD PODDAR
It is true that total renunciation of contact with the other sex and wealth is very difficult. Yet the scriptures lay much emphasis on their renunciation simply because people will establish contacts with them within the barest limits of necessity only when "total renunciation" is enjoined. Of course, their mental renunciation is absolutely essential.
In external renunciation, man should learn to look upon the woman as a manifestation of the Universal Mother and to bow before her as such. Woman should likewise learn to look at a member of the other sex as if he were her father, brother, or son. Similarly, effort should be made to earn through legitimate means only as much money as is barely necessary to maintain a family on a simple scale. Attempts should never be made to earn money by recourse to unfair means, fraud or falsehood, or by depriving others of their legitimate dues and turning one's back on God, for the sake of mere gratification of the senses and comfort of the body.
There is no doubt that in God's creation sex and wealth both have their uses, they also satisfy some need; but they should be utilized as a help toward spirituality. Nor should it be imagined that illegal possession of another's wealth is not so bad as illicit connection with another's wife. just as a man who is a slave to his lower passions is worse than a beast, and is degraded to the position of a demon, even so the greedy man who lets loose his sensuality and love of luxury turns into a veritable monster. To spend lavishly for enjoyment and personal comfort means an illegitimate and dishonest use of God's property, which should be utilized in the service of the poor and afflicted.
Care should, however be taken that this aid to the unfortunate does not lead to the growth of pride. What we should feel on such occasions is that through God's inspiration, service is being rendered to God Himself through His own things. It should be remembered in this connection that we are to renounce only enjoyments and attachments to objects of enjoyment, and not disinterested love, or the spirit of service. True love and service are possible only when one has acquired the spirit of renunciation. It is such service which goes by the name of service to God.
There is one thing more which has to be renounced before God Realization can be attained--it is the desire for fame or popularity which appears in the mind in the following form: "Let me be popular by any means; let me rise in the esteem of others; I may be obscure today, but let my name adorn the pages of history."
More subtle than this is the desire which disguises itself by saying, "I am not so particular about my own name, let the names of my family, nation or country be preserved in history (surely such a desire is better than the desire for personal glory, inasmuch as it involves some amount of sacrifce)--even if I have to part with my wife, children, wealth, honor and even my life." It is extremely difficult to renounce the desire for such glory and fame. But so long as this is not renounced, the biggest rite, the noblest acts of sacrifice, the highest discipline and the most austere penance are easily thrown away for love of fame.
Man often sacrifices the work of a whole lifetime at the altar of this goddess. Before starting any work he will only consider whether it will bring him renown or not; he has therefore necessarily to abstain from activities which, though conducive to spiritual good, are likely to bring him into disrepute. Such a seeker of popularity will ultimately take recourse to hypocrisy and thus fall from the path of spiritual discipline. He will gradually cease to remember God. Soon the Lord will be dethroned from his heart and the deceitful, though beautifully decorated, image of the goddess of Fame will be installed therein, and his precious life will be wasted in her service.
All these hindrances to spiritual growth have their root in ignorance, which is helped and strengthened by the weaknesses already mentioned, viz., egotism, sense of possession, desire and attachment, all of which are born of ignorance. To shake them off through personal effort is very difficult. But everything is possible through the grace of God. This grace of God, though enclosing in its motherly embrace all alike, is realized only by those who are endowed with faith and devotion.
Through His grace we may cast aside the veil of ignorance and see that He is the only Verity. Then the heart will no longer feel attracted toward sex or gold or fame, for it will realize that they are perishable, unsubstantial and full of sorrow. A peculiar joy and peace will then be felt in renouncing them. Only that renunciation which brings joy and peace is true renunciation. -Kalyana-K-alpataru.
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