The concept of renunciation is age-old and has been used by past masters to relinquish their attachment to fleeting desires for a higher purpose.
Aarkesh is a BTech and MTech Dual Degree holder in the field of Mechanical Engineering. He loves to travel, engage with new people and read up on subjects such as history, physics and maths. He is enthusiast about the depth of Indic knowledge systems and has a special interest in Indian Architecture and Philosophy
“If you can’t practice it, don’t cheapen the ideal. Say that you aren’t strong enough”
Swami Vivekananda said of Tyaga or renunciation. Renunciation makes you strong but as pointed out in an article here. it also needs extreme strength to practice. But then what should one to do gain this strength? And more fundamentally how can giving up on something make you stronger, when it should actually make you weaker? I'll shall try to answer these questions while also trying delve into simple some methods by which Tyaga can be practiced to gain great physical, mental and spiritual strength. We shall also delve into the political dimensions of Tyaga and how it has been and can be used to organize society.
What is Tyaga and how it makes you strong?
The title of giving the status of Mahatma (greatest amongst beings) to someone who has given up everything might be unique to the Indian civilization. Here even the mightiest of Rajas bow down to the Sadhus who have no material belongings. It is because we realize that the one who has given up all is on their way to attain supreme knowledge. Tyaga can thus be defined as renunciation of all obstacles that hinders one from attaining greater knowledge.
By renouncing something that hinders higher learning, one starts to realize the importance of letting go. This realization helps uncover hidden strength. The simplest example of this would be the process of learning to ride a bicycle. The support wheels help us balance initially, but through our visual experience we realise that these wheels aren’t essential for balance. We see others cycles without such wheels and we try to learn without their help. The moment we understand that the wheels are no longer needed, we attain a perfect sense of balance. Our resolved is strengthened by viewing others more capable which ultimately helps in renouncing the wheels.
The Mandala method
Most real life situations are much more complicated than learning to ride a bicycle. The complication arises because unlike learning to ride a bicycle, our true potential strength is hidden from us and there are few among us who we can follow. The thought that we might not be strong enough to renounce something takes shape from this ignorance and lack of precedent. It is here that the Mandala method works very well. A Mandala consists of a specified period of time (48 days, 108 days etc) for which one needs to practice renunciation of something. In this period, the person can make a judgment as to how much renouncing that thing affects his daily life and the type of effects experienced. At the end of the Mandala you learn to live without the renounced thing while also understanding how the thing was useful to you. Now you either know the futility of the object in your daily life or its appropriate utility.
To illustrate this let us take the example of television. Television like any other technology tool has its utility and use by date. Whether the utility of the technology has passed is a question for another day, but whether we can use it optimally itself is the crucial question. Either you can seek use case models and try to replicate them or you can monitor your own use by constant observation though it proabably will be slow going in the latter case. Another way of going about this task would be to not watch television for a fixed period and try to gauge if you missed out on anything and make it use more optimal in the long run. The same goes with all other things including material belongings that hinder us from going on the spiritual path.
Tyaga in Politics and Public Life
The Indian civilization, as alluded to earlier in the piece, is perhaps the only civilization that places such emphasis on Tyaga and has high respect for Tyagis. The concept of Dan in ancient socio-political structures taps into this idea. Dan (donation) is a voluntary contribution made by the wealthy to a noble cause for the upliftment of society. As Chanakya says, it is Dan and not Kar (Tax) that is more important to keep an economy afloat, because Dan can help the state sustain the basic needs of society, so that all people have access to the basic needs.
The creation of the universe and its beings as mentioned in the Purusha Sukta tells us that it was created by the Supreme taking the form of a Purusha who sacrifices himself in an eternal MahaYagnya to give us various aspects of this universe. This shows that sacrifice happens at the highest levels in Indian philosophy. Children are expected to sacrifice the comforts of their home to go to a Gurukul to gain knowledge. Young adults are expected to sacrifice their freedom to sustain society by entering Grihasthashrama while old people are expected to sacrifice the comforts of city life to try to understand the deeper meanings of life by cutting thmeselves off from society. This notion of sacrifice towards society is not only a duty, but also something whose performance elevates one and helps run society smoothly while maintaining the individualistic aspect.
Tyaga as stated in the Bhagwad Gita
Now let us look at the Adyathmic dimension of Tyaga. Shri Krishna talks about the true nature and process of Tyaga in the last chapter of the Bhagwad Gita. He says that Tyaga is not the non-doing of prescribed duty and abstinence from action but it is rather the renunciation of fruits of action. Various Advaitic texts as well as the Bhagwad Geeta say that most of the world we see is a result of us not realizing our true Self. And to see our true Self we first need to start seeing things as they are and to stop looking at our actions as a means to an end. We should focus on the process and try to experience whilst doing the right actions. The key points being – 1) Do the right actions 2) Renounce the fruit of results. As we go to higher and higher levels of realization of our true self, we will realize that we are neither the body, nor the mind; neither the ego, nor our memories. We are the Eternal Consciousness (as stated in the Nirvana Shatakam). And to come to this realization, it is prescribed that we follow a process of staged Tyaga. First giving up the fruit of actions, then giving up unnecessary action and finally giving up on the concept of this body or mind being the doer of the action. At this last state only can we realize our true self and Tyaga is the only path that can lead us there.
The methods of performing Tyaga might be many and so may be the short term objectives. But to gain true strength and progress in the Sthool (Physical/Gross) and Sookshma (Subtle) domains, Tyaga is the only process to be followed. Thus the strength one needs to start the cycle of Tyaga is given to one by the societal recognition of the Tyaga and the strength derived from the Tyaga is used to run the society and continue the chain reaction. This helps create a voluntary bond in society without compromising on individualism while helping individuals unwrap all their potential strength and contribute to the overall development of society.