Without devotion, renunciation comes painfully; with devotion, even liberation comes joyfully
“To avoid karmic bondage, renounce the world.” This widespread notion governs Arjuna’s reasoning at the start of the Bhagavad-gita. However, the Gita recommends an alternative that centers not on renunciation but on devotion.
The Gita (05.06) conveys this emphatically by deeming mere renunciation of the material as painful and deeming yogic connection with the spiritual as expeditious in granting liberation. To effectively connect with the spiritual, Gita wisdom explains that the highest spiritual reality is Krishna and that the best yoga is bhakti-yoga. Why? Because bhakti-yoga spiritualizes our natural longings, instead of suppressing them, as does renunciation.
What is undesirable is not renunciation per se, but the renunciation that obsesses over rejection
What are our natural longings?
To seek happiness; to be active, doing things; to love and be loved.
Bhakti-yoga fulfills our quest for happiness through connection with the reservoir of all happiness, Krishna. Dovetailing our tendency to act, bhakti-yoga redefines our activities as forms of devotional service. It fulfills our longing for love by linking us with the supremely lovable and loving being, Krishna. Because bhakti-yoga integrates our natural longings, it is joyfully performed, as the Gita (09.02) declares. Moreover, bhakti-yoga is not just enlivening, but also rewarding, supremely rewarding – it eventually grants the ultimate liberation.
In contrast to such holistic devotion, the renunciation that denies our natural longings is unsustainable. Its price is prohibitive and its process, painful. Of course, what is undesirable is not renunciation per se, but the renunciation that obsesses over rejection. The renunciation that removes the distractions to devotion is desirable, for it accelerates the progress of devotion.
Importantly, the propeller for this progress is not renunciation, but devotion. If we focus unduly on renunciation, we will find ourselves drained and distressed. If instead we focus on serving Krishna to the best of our capacity, then by his grace, we will gradually become enlivened and liberated.
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