RenunciationUniversity of Tulsa; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Great Hall, Westby Student Center 6 March 1974
Dear seekers, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to give a talk on renunciation. We are all seekers here, so we are not afraid of the word 'renunciation'. An ordinary, unaspiring person is usually alarmed the moment he hears the word 'renunciation'. For him, renunciation means giving up everything he loves and cherishes, whatever he claims to be his own. But as spiritual people, we know that renunciation means something else. It means giving up the things that are undivine, unreal, imperfect —- the things that are compelling us constantly to lag behind in our Godward march. Anything that is real in us, anything that is divine in us, anything that is perfect in us we will never renounce. As seekers of the Transcendental Truth, we are not afraid of renunciation precisely because we know what we are going to renounce, and what we are going to achieve by renunciation. We are going to renounce the finite in order to achieve the Infinite, Eternal and Immortal that abides within us.
What do we renounce? We renounce our ego. We renounce ego precisely because our ego is limited and blind. What else do we renounce? We renounce our doubt. We renounce doubt because doubt is slow poison which will eventually kill us. We renounce our ignorance. We renounce ignorance because ignorance binds us and makes us feel that we are forever doomed to the earth-bound consciousness. Ignorance makes us feel that we are weak and impotent, and that a life of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality is a far cry.
Renunciation cannot be achieved overnight. Nor can we get it by accident. For renunciation, we have to go deep within and pray and meditate. Also, we have to know the necessity of self-conquest. This self-conquest is nothing but our self-discovery; it is nothing short of God-realisation. Self-discovery and God-realisation are one and the same, the obverse and the reverse of the same divine, spiritual, immortal coin.
India's greatest poet, Rabindranath Tagore, once remarked that he would renounce, but not in an austere manner. There are people who want to renounce everything and embrace the life of austerity, but austerity is not real renunciation. Real renunciation says we must enjoy the freedom of liberation here amidst our multifarious activities; we must achieve liberation through the purification, illumination and transformation of our limitations, imperfections and bondage. We must lead a normal, natural life but be constantly aware of the things that must be inwardly renounced for a higher, better, more fulfilling life.
The motto of the state of Oklahoma is most significant: "Labour conquers all things." Renunciation is dedicated labour, dedicated service. When we soulfully offer our dedicated service, we conquer everything and achieve everything. What is the thing that houses everything? God's Smile. When we offer our dedicated labour to God, God's Smile dawns in our life of dedication. A sincere, dedicated worker knows that his life is like a tree. A tree works very hard to offer us flowers and fruits, to offer us shade and shelter. From its root to its topmost bough, everything a tree has is a selfless offering. From the beginning to the end, the life of a tree is sacrifice. Even when we cut off a branch of the tree, the tree continues to offer us shelter and protection with its remaining branches. Similarly, when our dedicated service is misunderstood, we shall not stop serving or offering our light. We shall go on with our dedicated service, for we know we came into the world for self-giving. A man of dedicated service gets constant and abiding satisfaction from his labour regardless of whether or not the world accepts it.
This is the prayer of a sincere, genuine server of mankind, a divine labourer:
O ignorance, I wish to be a tree of compassion.
O man, I wish to be a tree of dedicated service.
O earth, I wish to be a tree of patience.
O Heaven, I wish to be a tree of constant aspiration, climbing up high, higher, highest.
Conscious renunciation is the manifestation of peace. An ordinary person is satisfied with the kind of peace which spiritual seekers see as mere compromise. It is a compromise between husband and wife, between nation and nation, between one adversary and another. This world needs real peace, but the moment some temporary agreement, some compromise, is reached, the world thinks it has achieved peace. Real peace is something infinitely more meaningful and fruitful than this. Real peace is our heart's infinite ecstasy and our soul's eternal satisfaction.
Renunciation is the manifestation of our awakened consciousness. An awakened consciousness is the bridge between Heaven and earth. In consciousness, man becomes; in consciousness, God is. Man becomes his highest Reality, which he once upon a time was. God is His all-pervading, Transcendental and Universal Consciousness, which He eternally has been.
A man of renunciation raises the consciousness of others who are aspiring or who are about to aspire. This selfless act of his is the greatest gift that he can offer to humanity. The world is fascinated by miracles, but the greatest, the most fulfilling of all miracles, is to raise the consciousness of others. An ordinary miracle lasts for a fleeting second and, when it ends, we find ourselves in the same consciousness that we were in before. But when the true miracle takes place, our consciousness is elevated and illumined.
As the man of renunciation marches forward towards the farthest Beyond, he climbs up an evolving ladder of transforming, divinised consciousness. By his very act of self-transcendence, the man of renunciation inspires and elevates the consciousness of his brothers and sisters who want to climb up the same ladder. An ordinary person is afraid of transcendence. He feels that transcendence is something unknown and perhaps unknowable. He feels that the moment he enters into the unknown, he will be thrown into the very jaws of a devouring tiger. But for true seekers, the unknown is not a ferocious animal. The unknown is something or someone whom we have not yet seen, but whose friendship we shall one day cherish and treasure. We are not afraid of the unknown because we pray and meditate. Our prayer and meditation is like a searchlight that lets us see far ahead. If we do not use this searchlight of prayer and meditation, we will not be able to see anything ahead of us. The unaspiring person feels that the only light is where he now stands, and that one step ahead of him is all unknown darkness. But in us, as seekers, there is a constantly burning lamp which illumines our path until we see that it has become sunlit and quite safe. And what is this lamp? It is our faith—our faith in God and our faith in ourselves.
For the beginner, for the one who has just started walking along the path, renunciation is necessary and obligatory. But for an advanced seeker, renunciation is not necessary. If someone is on the verge of realisation or has made tremendous progress in the inner life, renunciation takes a different form for him. He does not actually renounce anymore, but he tries to transform. If he feels fear in the world or in himself, he does not renounce this fear, but with his inner light and wisdom he transforms it into courage. If he sees the world's doubt or his own doubt, with his inner light he transforms it into faith. When he transforms fear into courage, this courage is nothing short of divine manifestation. And when he transforms doubt into faith, this faith is the eternally sunlit path leading towards the ultimate Beyond. At this point, renunciation is the transformation of our earth-bound consciousness into the Heaven-free consciousness. Earth's pangs and privations are transformed into Heaven's boundless yet ever-increasing Delight. Ignorance is transformed into divine Wisdom, darkness into Light, imperfection into Perfection, and human bondage into Transcendental Liberation.