Don’t equate change of position with change of disposition

Many spiritual novices think that living in the world is the cause of entanglement and renouncing the world is the source of liberation. They sometimes even presume that if they just renounced the world, they would become liberated.

The Bhagavad-gita (03.04) categorically debunks such naïve equalization of renunciation with liberation. Liberation is essentially a state of disposition, wherein one’s heart is directed towards transcendental truth, ultimately Krishna, and is no longer captivated by the world’s promises of pleasure. In contrast, renunciation in the sense of joining the renounced order is nothing more than acquiring a new social position. No doubt, this social position can be favorable for cultivating a spiritual disposition. It provides a safe distance from most worldly entanglements and abundant facility for engaging in purifying spiritual practices.

The spiritually uncommitted join the renounced order to delight in its prestige and privilege – not to pursue purification.

Still, no social position can ensure a spiritual disposition, for the former is external, while the latter is internal. The external position is helpful only when it is used to purify oneself and cultivate a spiritual disposition. Otherwise, renunciation can be misappropriated as a subterfuge for evading social responsibility. Regrettably, the spiritually uncommitted join the renounced order to delight in its prestige and privilege – not to pursue purification. They even abuse the external to perpetuate the pretense of the internal, thereby reducing the renounced order to a breeding ground for hypocrisy (03.06).

For pursuing purification, the Gita consistently and conclusively recommends bhakti-yoga as the best process. Bhakti-yoga is so inclusive that it accommodates both social positions: householders and renunciates. Depending on our individual nature, background and realization, the social position most conducive for us will vary. By remembering the long-term goal of purification, we can resist the temptation to hop to another social position whenever our present position seems troublesome and instead focus on seeking Krishna’s ever-accessible shelter through diligent devotion.

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