Renunciation means letting go. It is process of letting go of that which is a burden and causes unhappiness. This is the primary teaching of Vedanta. We hold on to many things, imagining that they are offer happiness. However, as we discover the true nature of things, we find that what we regarded as helpful is not really helpful and what we regarded as useful is not really useful. When we recognize this, we will not continue to hold on to it any more. Renunciation takes place in the wake of this discovery. When we ’grow out’ of a given thing, we recognize that it is not necessary. That is when we are able to let go. At that point, our necessities reduce and inner satisfaction grows.
We have certain necessities at the present moment and need many things. Of these, there are many things that we do not recognize as being irrelevant and we are, therefore, holding on to them as necessities. However, as our necessities reduce on account of inner growth, inner maturity, or inner satisfaction, we will find that more and more things seem unnecessary. In understanding the true nature of things, we discover not only that many of our requirements are not necessary, but also that when our own necessities reduce, things become less and less necessary.
In Pujya Swami Dayanandaji’s words, what we call “progress” is nothing more than the conversion of luxuries into necessities! A necessity is something we cannot do without. A luxury is nice to have and can make us happy, but is something that we can do without. However, as luxuries become available, we get used to them and they become necessities. Soon, we cannot do without them. Gradually, more and more things become ’necessities’ and we become dependent on them.
Moving in the direction of dependence is called samsara, the life of bondage, and moving in the direction of freedom is called adhyatma, the spiritual way of life. One way to live is to walk into more and more intense bondage. The other way is to progressively gain release from this bondage. As we grow in inner purity, we discover greater inner satisfaction and then, things that seem like necessities will slowly become luxuries. Growth along the spiritual path is a process of converting necessities into luxuries. When our needs reduce, we realize that we need fewer and fewer things for our satisfaction; more things then become luxuries. Renunciation is the process of converting necessities into luxuries, to the extent that, at some point, everything becomes a luxury.
Lord Krishna describes a wise person as one who is happy with himself by himself [Bhagavad Gita, 2-55]. He does not require anything for his satisfaction, and whatever he has are luxuries to him. An ordinary person needs many things for his satisfaction, but all that a wise person requires is himself. Similarly, to the extent that we discover such satisfaction within ourselves, our needs automatically drop off. The discovery of inner satisfaction results in the letting go of needs.
A life of renunciation need not necessarily be equated to the life of a sannyasi, one who has given up everything. It is possible to practice renunciation in day-to-day life, by making our lives as simple as we can. For this, firstly, we should realize that we do not really have as many needs as we assume. Secondly, we must lead a way of lift that helps us grow in inner maturity. Inner maturity leads to inner satisfaction, which renders us more and more self-sufficient. To the extent that we can initiate a process of discovering inner sufficiency, our needs win become progressively fewer. This will ensure that our lives become a process of gaining emotional maturity gr inner growth and discovering inner freedom.
Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati