Renunciation is super-ambitious, not un-ambitious
Many people assume that renunciation symptomizes a lack of the ambition to struggle for material pleasures. Such people deride as unambitious those who renounce worldly pleasures – be it entirely by embracing monkhood or partially by restricting material enjoyment.
Gita wisdom acknowledges the existence of such kneejerk renunciates who renounce the world because of their inabilities and frustrations. But it also underscores that such superficial renunciates are at best shadows and at worst caricatures of authentic renunciates, who are among the world’s most ambitious individuals. Authentic renunciates turn away from the world not because they lack the ambition to seek its pleasures, but because they possess the acumen to see through those pleasures. They understand that all worldly pleasures are intrinsically and unavoidably temporary. Be it winning a video game or climbing Mount Everest, be it eating one’s favorite pizza or flirting with Miss or Mr. Universe, no material achievement offers happiness that lasts. Thus, the thought that motivates them to turn them away from material pleasures is not “that’s too tough,” but “that’s too tiny.”
Authentic renunciates are convinced that there is more to life than fleeting material pleasures. Their logic is sound: as all of us long for happiness round-the-clock, there must exist a happiness that satisfies round-the-clock. They complement this logical introspection with scriptural information: the Bhagavad-gita (05.21) declares that the spiritual happiness available to seekers by connecting with the divine internally is imperishable. This scriptural knowledge sparks within them the ambition to achieve that inexhaustible happiness of devotion, no matter what the price. The price is high: disconnecting oneself from anti-spiritual material pleasures through renunciation, and reconnecting oneself constantly with Krishna through loving remembrance.
The willpower to pay such a high price defines not the unambitious, but the super-ambitious.
“Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.”