Spiritual growth is defined not by the possessions we give up, but by the conceptions we give up

We live in a glamor-driven world; we tend to look at things externally, making inferences about their nature by their appearance. We may carry this tendency into spiritual life too by, say, equating renunciation with spirituality. That is, if someone gives up a lot of possessions, we may consider such donation or detachment as indicators of the giver’s spiritual stature. 

While renunciation is important, the purpose of that renunciation is even more important. Put another way, more important than giving up worldly possessions is giving up worldly conceptions. The Bhagavad-gita, while outlining the transmigration of the soul from one species to another (15.07-10), states that what we carry from one body to another is our conception of life: what we think life is meant for. 

Suppose we hold on to materialistic conceptions such as: “I am a product of matter, or I am the doer, or the things of this world are sources of happiness (and those things can include non-physical things such as fame).” Then even if we give up some possessions, as long as our conceptions stay materialistic, we will continue our worldly existence. Indeed, to give up possession to gain the reputation of being renonced is not renunciation; it defeats the purpose of renunciation. 

How can we give up such conceptions? We can’t give up conceptions entirely; we can only replace incomplete or incorrect conceptions with more evolved conceptions. Just as consciousness is integral to us, conceptions are integral to consciousness. 

Gita wisdom equips us to increasingly harmonize our conceptions with reality by understanding our spiritual identity and our eternal relationship with the whole, Krishna. The more we re-conceptualize ourselves as spiritual parts of the spiritual whole meant to function in loving harmony, the more we savor and share all-round growth. 

 

Think it over:

  • What tendency may we carry from material life to spiritual life?
  • How can we give up worldly conceptions?
  • What are your driving conceptions of life? How can you change them?

 

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15.08 The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another.

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