The Bhagavadgita on the True Meaning of Renunciation


In the Bhagavadgita (5.1) Arjuna says, "On the one hand you praise renunciation of action and on other you commend the yoga of action. Please tell me clearly which of the two is better?" When you do not know the true meaning of renunciation, you will have such confusion since you cannot easily decide what you should renounce. Should you renounce actions? Should you renounce possessions?. Or should you renounce the world and live in a remote and secluded place? The most important aspect of renunciation is renunciation of desire, not the external action of doing or not doing.

When you swim in muddy waters, you cannot avoid touching the water or the mud. Some mud and some water will stick to you, however careful and restrained you are. So is the case with living in this world. You will be swamped by worldliness. You are bound to be swayed by things. Hence our scriptures teach sameness, which means you will be equal to everything and accept everything without judgment. Sameness arises from renunciation of desires and attachments.

A true ascetic does not choose or desire anything. He accepts whatever food that is offered to him. Sameness (samatvam) is the true mark of renunciation. Therefore, the Bhagavadgita suggest that you should go about your life peacefully, doing what you have been doing before, but without desire, preference, expectation and attachment. A true ascetic yogi gives up comfortable life and lives in harsh conditions not to practice renunciation but because of his attitude of renunciation.

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yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṃ sṛjāmy aham

"O Bharata, whenever there is a decline of virute
and ascendanceof evil, then I surely manifest Myself .

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