Renunciation is not a function of frustration – it is a fruit of realization

Some people think that those people take to renunciation who have become frustrated with material life, especially with their inability to become successful in material pursuits.

While frustration can induce a sense of renunciation, such renunciation is ephemeral and superficial. Ephemeral because it lasts only till the prospects of material enjoyment become brighter and superficial because it doesn’t reflect any substantial change in the inner attitude of conceiving worldly objects as enjoyable.

That’s why such frustration doesn’t lead to real renunciation. Still, it can act as an impetus towards the realization that is the foundation for renunciation. That realization centers on internalizing the truths that worldly pleasures are insubstantial and that we as spiritual beings are meant for higher pleasure.

When we practice yoga, especially bhakti-yoga, that practice purges our consciousness of the worldly contaminations that perpetuate the illusion that worldly things can provide lasting pleasure. And it expands and elevates our consciousness so that higher spiritual happiness doesn’t remain a mere intellectual conception but becomes a lived reality that becomes increasingly accessible with practice.

The Bhagavad-gita in its twelfth chapter lists the qualities that characterize devotion. And it includes both detachment and expertise, signifying respectively emotional distance from the material and expertise in engaging the material in the pursuit of the spiritual. Pertinently, the renunciation that arises from bhakti-yoga is not so much a matter of action but of emotion. That is, it doesn’t require giving up the world entirely, though of course it symbiotically gels with giving up anti-devotional activities that mar our spiritual sensibilities. The bhakti-sustained renunciation centers on emotional non-involvement from worldly things, thereby enabling us to avoid ignoble emotions, emotions that bring out the worst within us, and to cherish noble emotions, emotions that bring out the best within us.

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