15th December, 2015. Gurgaon.
One hears so much about renunciation in our movement and many times as grihasthas (householders) we become confused as to what is actual renunciation for us and how can we practically apply it in our daily life. I searched on this topic and found some gems which I am sharing below.
We should be aware that as long as we remain attached to material enjoyment we will not be able to remain properly fixed in the process of bhakti yoga. As householders our goal should be progressive renunciation of material enjoyment and not the dry renunciation from family life as practiced by jnanis or yogis, that is not our path. It was Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, a great disciple of Lord Caitanya, who said that Caitanya Mahaprabhu descended to teach detachment from whatever does not foster devotional service to Krishna.
What exactly is renunciation?
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said:
One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.
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 yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification. (BG 6.1-2)
According to above definition, a renunciant is not simply someone who gives up external duties. A renunciant is one who gives up all personal, selfish interests, while at the same time working for Krishna’s interest.
Although these verses from the Bhagavad Gita appear to address renunciation by the yogi, they also apply to the a devotee. The yogi and the bhakta both practice renunciation, but in different ways. Both renounce sense gratification, and both restrain the senses. The yogi, however, does this by sitting down in a solitary place, controlling his breath, and refraining from all activity. The devotee, Srila Prabhupada explains, has a different method: “A person in Krishna consciousness has no opportunity to engage his senses in anything which is not for the purpose of Krishna.” In other words, a devotee is always renounced because he always engages in devotional activity.
If we are serious about going back to Godhead in this lifetime, then we must seriously apply the principles of renunciation and devotion. We have a certain amount of “business” to accomplish in the human form of life, and heading the list is the business of becoming detached from material desires. If we don’t become detached in this life, we will have to return in another life to continue. Prabhupada writes, “We should be determined to finish our duties in executing devotional service in this life. We should not wait for another life to finish our job.”
Devotional renunciation is easy and pleasant. All we have to do is refrain from sinful activity and, rather than avoiding activity, engage ourselves in acts of devotion. Our lives will become so filled with Krishna consciousness that we will have little time to worry about becoming attracted to the material world. Srila Prabhupada writes, “The more the activities of the material world are performed in Krishna consciousness, or for Vishnu only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualised by complete absorption.… Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality. Krishna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory consciousness into Brahman, or the Supreme.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.24, purport)
Srila Rupa Gosvami taught yukta-vairagya,the principle of using even material things in Krishna’s service. He explains in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu that yukta-vairagya is superior to its opposite, phalgu-vairagya, or artificial renunciation.
The Sanskrita word, phalgu, is also used to describe an underground river. What appears to be only a dry riverbed sometimes disguises that under the earth a river continues to flow. This is called phalgu. Srila Rupa Gosvami compares renunciation that neglects to use everything in Krishna’s service to such a river. Although the artificial renunciant appears to be detached from material activities and worldly things, internally a strong desire for these things still flows. That is why this form of renunciation is considered incomplete.
By practicing yukta-vairagya, we accept the body as material but not as the ultimate source of corruption. We concentrate on the soul, but we also take care of the body. After all, the body is a useful vehicle for carrying us from one Krishna conscious activity to another. Yukta-vairagya, or renunciation in Krishna consciousness, entails satisfying the needs of the senses simply and offering everything to Krishna. In this lies real happiness.
I am now copying a collection of purports taken out by HG Srimati Mataji in one of her books, to get a taste of mood of our param Guru Srila Prabhupada and Lord Himself, when He came as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, on the topic on renunciation for householders.
As for detachment from children, wife and home, it is not meant that one should have no feeling for these. They are natural objects of affection. But when they are not favorable to spiritual progress, then one should not be attached to them. The best process for making the home pleasant is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one is in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he can make his home very happy, because this process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is very easy. One need only chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Kṛṣṇa, have some discussion on books like Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship. These four things will make one happy. One should train the members of his family in this way. The family members can sit down morning and evening and chant together Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. If one can mold his family life in this way to develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following these four principles, then there is no need to change from family life to renounced life. ( BG 13.8-12p)
The brāhmaṇa begged Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, “My dear Lord, kindly show me favor and let me go with You. I can no longer tolerate the waves of misery caused by materialistic life.”
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, “Don’t speak like that again. Better to remain at home and chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa always. (CC Madhya 7.126 -27)
It is not advisable in this Age of Kali to leave one’s family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacārīs and gṛhasthas. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised the brāhmaṇa not to be too eager to give up family life. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master. This is the instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept sannyāsa. In the next verse Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advises everyone to become an ideal householder by offenselessly chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and teaching the same principle to everyone he meets. (CC Madya 7.127 p)
“Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as they are given in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.”
This is the sublime mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many people come and inquire whether they have to give up family life to join the Society, but that is not our mission. One can remain comfortably in his residence. We simply request everyone to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. If one is a little literate and can read Bhagavad-gītā As It Is and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that is so much the better. (cc Madhya 7.128+p)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu further advised the brāhmaṇa Kūrma, “If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed, if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or, rather, you will never lose My company.”
This is an opportunity for everyone. If one simply follows the instructions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, under the guidance of His representative, and chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, teaching everyone as far as possible the same principle, the contamination of the materialistic way of life will not even touch him. It does not matter whether one lives in a holy place like Vṛndāvana, Navadvīpa or Jagannātha Purī or in the midst of European cities, where the materialistic way of life is very prominent. If a devotee follows the instructions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vṛndāvana and Navadvīpa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. ( cc Madhya 7.129+P)
So we learnt that the as householders we should
- Focus more on devotional service rather than on renunciation. ( more focus on positive, less on negative)
- Real renunciation means renunciation from material sense gratification.
- We should try to use everything we have (wealth, family, etc.) in the service of Lord.
Finally, by sincerely following the process given by Mahaprabhu, and the instructions of our acharayas, we must pray daily for their mercy, aspire and then take practical steps to make our present life successful by trying our best to finish all our ‘business’ in this very lifetime only, family life is not an impediment.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.