Restraint and renunciation are routes to detachment – bhakti is the fuel
While traveling, we need to know the routes to travel by as well as the fuel to travel with. If we know just the route with all the landmarks on it, but don’t have the fuel to travel, then we stay stuck.
A similar dynamic applies to our spiritual journey too. The routes we travel by are restraint and renunciation. Just as landmarks on the routes indicate how far we have travelled, our capacities for restraint and renunciation reflect how far we have traveled in our spiritual journey. Restraint involves regulating our interaction with entangling sense objects. Renunciation goes further – it involves giving up interaction with such sense objects.
Restraint and renunciation involve physical actions that create and maintain a distance between sense objects and us. Detachment, in contrast, involves lack of emotional investment in sense objects – the detached don’t see sense objects as sources of pleasure. Given that these terms can be confusing, the Bhagavad-gita’s concluding chapter begins (18.01) with a question that seeks to clarify them.
Devotion acts as the fuel for our spiritual journey. Saying no to things, especially things that seem enjoyable, can be quite draining. That is, moving along the routes of restraint and renunciation can be draining. Where can we get the energy to keep moving?
The practice of bhakti-yoga helps make our mind attracted to Krishna (12.09), even attached to him (07.01). The more we become attracted to him, the more we want our thoughts to stay with him and the more we naturally turn away from things that take our thoughts away from him. This attraction to Krishna, and the concomitant desire to focus on him, is our fuel on the spiritual journey – it propels us towards the supreme spiritual happiness, making our journey less demanding and more fulfilling.
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