Renunciation is not deprivation but emancipation
The prospect of ‘renunciation’ may bring in us a cold, hard, almost scary feeling. We fear that we will have to give up something dear to us – something warm, cozy and reassuring. And further we are supposed to accept such deprivation as a virtue. No wonder that renunciation is not popular.
However, Gita wisdom introduces us to a dramatically different renunciation: devotional renunciation. The Bhagavad-gita (12.12: tyagac chantir anantaram) glorifies such renunciation by declaring its fruit to be unbreakable, unending peace.
To understand this, let’s consider the analogy of addiction. For addicts, the object of their addiction is desirable and essential. They feel that giving up their addiction is a deprivation. We know that it is actually emancipation; they will become free from their dependency on something that is both unessential and undesirable.
Often people become addicted due to some unfulfilled emotional needs. Unless they can meet those needs maturely, they won’t find sobriety palatable. But when their needs are met, then they will realize for themselves how renunciation of the addiction is emancipating.
Gita wisdom explains that we are souls and our desire to possess, control and enjoy matter is like an addiction. We do have some basic material necessities, but usually our desire for matter far exceeds those necessities. The hangover of our addiction to matter is the suffering of material existence with its threefold miseries and the cycle of birth and death.
Despite these miseries, we don’t want to renounce our material attachments. Because by loving matter and material things, we are trying to address our longing for love.
Gita wisdom offers us the path of bhakti-yoga that fulfills this longing by directing it towards Krishna. When we love Krishna and relish fulfillment thereof, we realize that renunciation is not deprivation but emancipation.
“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.”