29. What is Renunciation?
The question 'What must I do?' can only be determined by the answer to the question "Who does it?"
One can read in the teachings of Sri Krsna several distinctly clear messages: you are not the doer.
There is nothing called an independent, individual doer.
You are part of the totality.
As such you are not even a part (only that can be considered a part which can part from the rest), but you are the universe.
You are not an independent selfexistence which could assert its freedom from something else.
When that integral unity with the totality is understood or realised, then action is seen to spring from that.
That is what you call God's will.
In the Bhagavad Gita there is not a single teaching 'either or'.
Krsna says: "If you cannot do this you can do that, if you cannot do that you can do this."
You may not be able instantly to realise that all action is nothing but a scintillation of the totality called God, and therefore everything in the universe called good, bad, evil or indifferent, is nothing but his job.
There is a very specific verse:
The blessed Lord said: The sages understand samnyasa to be the renunciation of desire motivated action; the wise declare the abandonment of the fruits of all action as tyaga. (18:2)
Desirable, undesirable and indifferent fortunes are known to exist in the world.
They who have not abandoned desires and cravings, are subject to these three.
One who has abandoned the idea that he is the doer is not subjected to any of these.
Arjuna said: I desire to know, O mighty-armed, the essence or truth of renunciation, O Hrsikesa, as also of abandonment, O slayer of Kesi.(18:1)
In view of the teaching so far, what on earth are you going to renounce?
What must be abandoned?
And what is samnyasa?
We are told that self-realisation is not had without becoming a samnyasi.
The great sage Yajnavalkya told his wife Maitreyi: "I can give you all my wealth but you will live as a wealthy woman lives, you will not have self-knowledge. A wealthy woman can lead a comfortable life, but not attain immortality or selfrealisation."
Remain choicelessly aware, cultivate or awaken this inner intelligence.
Abandon all action that is prompted by desire, craving.
There is a mantra in the Upanisad which Gurudev was fond of: 'Even although this atman is everywhere, it is not seen. But this atman can be seen, can be realised, can be experienced by one who has an extremely subtle, sharp intelligence.'
In this subtle, sharp intelligence, one has to see the distinction between desire or craving, and a natural urge.
So, once again we are in trouble.
We who are constantly looking for 'do's and do nots', clear cut rules and regulations, are once again thrown back on to our own resources or inner intelligence.
Is this a craving - or a nameless, formless urge?
The nameless, formless urge arises in God.
Craving is something that interferes in that.
Action is life, life is action, but something says: "I am doing this." 'I am doing this' is never complete.
It is always 'I am doing this - in order to get that.'
Is such ambition inevitably part of life?
Is it even needed for a job to be done?
If you can do it (or let this happen) without any ambition or craving, you have found samnyasa.
Do what has to be done, and keep quiet.
What comes out of it is not your problem at all.
That is a lesson that nature teaches us.
A million seeds are produced by every tree, of which only two or three perhaps grow into further trees.
Out of the million actions that are generated by you, maybe one or two may bear fruit.
The others maybe not.
Who are you to decide?
This is a fantastic lesson.
Some philosphers declare that action should be abandoned as an evil; while others (declare) that acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity should not be relinquished. (18:3)
There is a traditional teaching that all actions should be abandoned.
An egoistic action leads to a reaction that knocks the ego.
As you sow, so shall you reap.
But every seed that falls on the ground need not necessarily germinate.
You sow, nothing grows up there.
What shall you reap?
Only disappointment!
It applies only to egoistic action, where the reaction is not so much the result of what you do, but your own fear and disappointment.
The traditionalists assumed that every seed planted must somehow grow, and that you also are bound to reap.
You may not!
I do not mean to suggest that the law of action and reaction is therefore totally false; but please examine it anew.
It may be truth; it may not be.
They who accepted this doctrine said you should not do anything.
What does that mean?
Another problem.
Can you 'not do' anything at all?
How do you do nothing?
They took this doctrine to the extent that you do not even function in this world, just live like a log of wood.
"This is one point of view", Krsna says.
If you want to be like that, please try.
Acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity should not be abandoned, but should be performed; sacrifice, gift and also austerity are the purifiers of the wise. (18:5)
This is also a tradition.
One tradition is that no action should be performed, the other is that you must engage yourself in rituals - yajna, dana, tapas - from morning to night.
Tradition gets watered down.
Tradition leads to the destruction of the spirit and the careful preservation of the letter.
Tradition is so strong because everyone who feels insecure takes shelter in that tradition and wants the security of the tradition.
These traditions (which are not wrong in themselves) unfortunately become deadly carcasses.
The meaning is lost, but we go on with the tradition.
As the Bible says: 'The letter killeth the spirit.'
Yajna, dana and tapas, which constitute humanness in a human being, are said to be non-negotiable, non-renounceable.
Yajna is adoration of God; dana is charity, giving; tapas is something that burns up the veil.
Tapas could be verbal, physical, mental or psychological, but the essential quality of tapas - a factor that burns up the veil of ignorance - should not be lost sight of.
If you observe very carefully without prejudice, you will see that these three are natural to non-human creatures.
Yajna has completely lost its meaning.
It becomes just pouring something into the fire.
There is nothing good or bad there, but there is a total misunderstanding.
You must understand the doctrine of non-action from an entirely different approach.
You do not have to abandon action in order to find this non-action, but by merely reflecting on the source of action you realise "it is not 'I' who is doing it."
There, your actions happen without an actor coming up, observation takes place without an observer coming up.
You can even say: "I am sitting here," but the inner feeling is quite different.
It is not an egoistic feeling.
In the same way, yajna, dana and tapas can be performed without diluting them, without destroying the spirit.
So Krsna goes on to say:
But even these actions should be performed leaving aside attachment and the desire for rewards, O Arjuna; this is my certain and best conviction. (18:6)
Yajna, dana and tapas must be practised.
Abandoning them is the function of the terrible pleasure-loving ego, which revels in stupidity, in ignorance.
These three are meant to thin out egoism.
Egoism is the universal religion of all humanity.
It is a religion that exalts the ego and makes it God.
The abandonment of yajna, dana and tapas is egoism; the adoption of yajna, dana and tapas without understanding the spirit, is foolishism!
Sacrifice, gift and also austerity are the purifiers of the wise. (18:5)
A beautiful expression.
In the sixth chapter Krsna said: "You must practise yoga. You must meditate in other to purify yourself."
Here again he says: "Yajna, dana and tapas must be practised because they are purifiers."

The Bhagavad Gita - Introduction | EN

Swami Venkatesananda

The Song of God - Introduction - Swami Venkatesananda - enlarged 4th edition – 1984 - published by The Chiltern Yoga Trust, Cape Town, South Africa
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