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Physical or mental?

Renunciation is often misunderstood. It is equated with donning ochre robes and heading to the mountains as an ascetic. This physical jettisoning is certainly one form of renunciation. But it is a difficult path, and not suited to most.

If a mosquito starts buzzing around us in the comfort of our air conditioned homes, we get jittery. Simply by wearing ochre robes and going to meditate in a forest, the local mosquitoes over there will not leave you be.

Renunciation at the mind level is very difficult, but is perhaps more relevant. A person who has tamed his mind while living in the world as any of us is called a jivanmukta (i.e. liberated while living).

To some, mental renunciation may seem easier. But is it really so? For instance, it might be very hard for me to physically part with my money (say for a charity). But it is much easier for me to think mentally that I am unattached to the money in my bank account. The real test will be the day when someone needs the money I have ‘mentally’ given away. Will I physically be able to give it away as well?

This is why, ideally, both physical and mental renunciation must go together, as much as possible. As my Guru says, if we begin to give small amounts to charity today itself, then we will find that progressively we are able to share more of our wealth with the needy. The same is true of other physical needs as well. We can slowly but surely reduce our dependence on clothes, accessories, electronics and luxuries because one day we will realize these mean nothing in our quest for happiness. Might as well start small today, because nothing big comes without practice.

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