The essence of renunciation is not giving up worldly things, it is giving up worldly thoughts

Some people define spiritual advancement in terms of renunciation: the more one physically renounces worldly things, the more spiritually advanced one is. 

Significantly, the Bhagavad-gita equates sannyasa, renunciation with yoga, connection (06.02). Here, connection refers to connection with spiritual reality, ultimately the supreme spiritual reality, Krishna (06.47). Gita wisdom explains that our spiritual growth is best gauged by how much we are absorbed in Krishna. Because worldly things can consume our consciousness, they can distract us from him. So, renouncing such worldly things can help us better focus on him, thereby furthering our spiritual advancement.

But renunciation can also hinder our spiritual advancement. Here’s how: 

Renouncing and presuming to be advanced: We might renounce some worldly things easily because anyway we aren’t too attached to them. And we may imagine that we are spiritually advanced, though we may not be much absorbed in Krishna. 

Renouncing that without which we can’t advance: Even if we renounce worldly things externally, we may crave them internally. Because of our external renunciation, we might believe that we are spiritually advanced, but we will be fooling ourselves if we are dwelling disproportionately on worldly objects (03.06). Instead of renouncing worldly things entirely, we may advance better by engaging measuredly with them (03.07).

Renouncing that which can help us advance: We may renounce those worldly things that we can and should use to serve Krishna and contribute constructively in the world. Such was the case of Arjuna in the Gita’s context. Being a martial guardian of society, he was meant to assist Krishna in establishing dharma. 

By thus understanding the nuanced relationship between renunciation and spiritual advancement, we can decide how renunciation can aid our journey toward Krishna. 

Think it over:

  • How can renunciation help us advance spiritually?
  • How can renunciation hinder our spiritual advancement?
  • List three things that most consume your consciousness. To avoid getting distracted by them, how can you best use renunciation or regulation.

***

06.02 What is called renunciation you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, O son of Pandu, for one can never become a yogī unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.

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