Renunciation (HH 271)

Renunciation has often been regarded as an important corner-stone of spiritual life. Sometimes it is regarded as an end in itself. All this has often led to the impression of a gulf between the spiritual and material existence. Today’s talk is centered around the truth behind Renunciation, its real nature and place in the Integral Yoga.

Words of the Mother

There is in books a lot of talk about renunciation—that you must renounce possessions, renounce attachments, renounce desires. But I have come to the conclusion that so long as you have to renounce anything you are not on this path; for, so long as you are not thoroughly disgusted with things as they are, and have to make an effort to reject them, you are not ready for the supramental realisation. If the constructions of the Overmind —the world which it has built and the existing order which it supports—still satisfy you, you cannot hope to partake of that realisation. Only when you find such a world disgusting, unbearable and unacceptable, are you fit for the change of consciousness. That is why I do not give any importance to the idea of renunciation. To renounce means that you are to give up what you value, that you have to discard what you think is worth keeping. What, on the contrary, you must feel is that this world is ugly, stupid, brutal and full of intolerable suffering; and once you feel in this way, all the physical, all the material consciousness which does not want it to be that, will want it to change, crying, “I will have something else—something that is true, beautiful, full of delight and knowledge and consciousness!”

…But it is not merely a matter of ameliorating the world. There are people who clamour for change of government, social reform and philanthropic work, believing that they can thereby make the world better. We want a new world, a true world, an expression of the Truth-Consciousness. And it will be, it must be—and the sooner the better! It should not, however, be just a subjective change. The whole physical life must be transformed. The material world does not want a mere change of consciousness in us. It says in effect: “You retire into bliss, become luminous, have the divine knowledge; but that does not alter me. I still remain the hell I practically am!” The true change of consciousness is one that will change the physical conditions of the world and make it an entirely new creation.

* * *

August 17, 1963

I never had much that experience of “renunciation…. To renounce something, you must be attached to it, while I always had the thirst, the need to go farther, to go higher, to progress, to do better, to know better and … instead of having a sense of renunciation, you have rather a sense of good riddance! Something you get rid of that hampers you, weighs you down, hinders your advance.

In that light, it’s very interesting.

That’s what I wrote to you the other day [“We are still all that we no longer want to be, while He is all that we want to become”]. What we call “we” in our egoistic stupidity, a stupidity of the ego, is precisely all that we no longer want to be; and it would be such a joy to throw all that away, get rid of it in order to be ready to become what we want to be.

That’s a very living experience.

* * *

August 24, 1963

I told you that the only process I’ve known, and which recurred several times in my life, is to renounce an error. Something you believe to be true – which probably was true for a time – on which you partly base your action, but which, in actuality, was only one opinion. You thought it was a truthful finding with all its logical consequences, and your action (part of your action) was based on it, so that everything proceeded from it automatically. Till suddenly an experience, a circumstance or an intuition warns you that your finding isn’t so true as it appeared to be (!) Then there is a whole period of observation and study (sometimes too it comes as a revelation, a massive proof), and then it’s not just your idea or false knowledge that needs to be changed, but also all its consequences, perhaps an entire way of acting on a particular point. At that moment, you get a sort of sensation, something that feels like a sensation of renunciation; that is to say, you have to undo a whole collection of things you had built. Sometimes it’s quite considerable, sometimes a very small thing, but the experience is the same: the movement of a force, a dissolving power, and the resistance of all that must be dissolved, all the past habit. It is the contact of the movement of dissolution with the corresponding resistance that probably translates in the ordinary human consciousness as the sense of renunciation….

I never had the feeling I had to renounce things but I felt as if I had to exert a pressure on them to dissolve them. Whereas now, the farther I go, the more imperceptible the pressure becomes, it’s immediate: as soon as the Force that comes to dissolve a collection of things manifests, there’s no resistance, everything gets dissolved…

That idea of renunciation can occur only in an egocentric consciousness. Naturally, people (those whom I call quite unevolved) are attached to things – when they have something, they don’t want to let go of it! That seems so childish to me! … For them, if they are obliged to give it up, it hurts! Because they identify with the things they hold on to. But that’s childish. The real process behind is … the amount of resistance in the things that developed on a certain basis of knowledge – a knowledge at a given time, no longer a knowledge at another time – a partial knowledge, not fleeting but impermanent. There is a whole collection of things built on that knowledge, and they resist the Force that says, “No! It’s not true, (laughing) your basis is no longer true, away with it!” But then, “Oh, it hurts!” – that’s what people feel as renunciation.

* * *

So the method of renunciation may be tried, but it’s a method for someone who wants to cut himself off from others. And can there be an integrality in that case? … It doesn’t seem possible to me.

Announcing publicly what you intend to do helps considerably. It may give rise to objections, contempt, conflicts, but that’s largely made up for by the public “expectation,” if we may say so: by what others expect from you. That was certainly the reason for those robes: to let people know. Obviously, you may incur the contempt and ill will of some people, but there are all those who feel, “I mustn’t touch this, I mustn’t have anything to do with it, it’s not my concern.”

I don’t know why, it has always seemed to me to be showing off – it may not be that, and in certain cases it isn’t, but still it’s a way of telling people, “Ah! Here is what I am.” And as I said, it may help, but there are drawbacks.

It’s still childish.

All those things are methods, stages on the way, but … true freedom is being free from everything – including from all methods.


It’s a restriction, a narrowing, while the True Thing is a blossoming, a widening, an identification with everything.

When you reduce and reduce and reduce yourself, you don’t feel you’re losing yourself, it takes away the fear of losing yourself – you become something solid and compact. But the method of widening – maximum widening – there, you must … you mustn’t be afraid of losing yourself.

It’s far more difficult.


Words of Sri Aurobindo

“Sannyasa [renunciation of worldly life] has a formal garb and outer tokens; therefore men think they can easily recognise it; but the freedom of a Janaka does not proclaim itself and it wears the garb of the world; to its presence even Narada was blinded.”

* * *

For the sadhaka of an integral Yoga none of these reasons  are valid. With weakness and selfishness, however spiritual in their guise or trend, he can have no dealings; a divine strength and courage and a divine compassion and helpfulness are the very stuff of that which he would be, they are that very nature of the Divine which he would take upon himself as a robe of spiritual light and beauty. The revolvings of the great wheel bring to him no sense of terror or giddiness; he rises above it in his soul and knows from above their divine law and their divine purpose. The difficulty of harmonising the divine life with human living, of being in God and yet living in man is the very difficulty that he is set here to solve and not to shun. He has learned that the joy, the peace and the deliverance are an imperfect crown and no real possession if they do not form a state secure in itself, inalienable to the soul, not dependent on aloofness and inaction but firm in the storm and the race and the battle, unsullied whether by the joy of the world or by its suffering. The ecstasy of the divine embrace will not abandon him because he obeys the impulse of divine love for God in humanity; or if it seems to draw back from him for a while, he knows by experience that it is to try and test him still farther so that some imperfection in his own way of meeting it may fall away from him. Personal salvation he does not seek except as a necessity for the human fulfilment and because he who is himself in bonds cannot easily free others,— though to God nothing is impossible; for a heaven of personal joys he has no hankerings even as a hell of personal sufferings has for him no terrors. If there is an opposition between the spiritual life and that of the world, it is that gulf which he is here to bridge, that opposition which he is here to change into a harmony. If the world is ruled by the flesh and the devil, all the more reason that the children of Immortality should be here to conquer it for God and the Spirit. If life is an insanity, then there are so many million souls to whom there must be brought the light of divine reason; if a dream, yet is it real within itself to so many dreamers who must be brought either to dream nobler dreams or to awaken; or if a lie, then the truth has to be given to the deluded. Nor, if it be said that only by the luminous example of escape from the world can we help the world, shall we accept that dogma, since the contrary example of great Avataras is there to show that not only by rejecting the life of the world as it is can we help, but also and more by accepting and uplifting it. And if it is a play of the All-Existence, then we may well consent to play out our part in it with grace and courage, well take delight in the game along with our divine Playmate.

But, most of all, the view we have taken of the world forbids the renunciation of world-existence so long as we can be anything to God and man in their working-out of its purposes. We regard the world not as an invention of the devil or a self-delusion of the soul, but as a manifestation of the Divine, although as yet a partial because a progressive and evolutionary manifestation. Therefore for us renunciation of life cannot be the goal of life nor rejection of the world the object for which the world was created.

* * *

Again our renunciation must obviously be an inward renunciation; especially and above all, a renunciation of attachment and the craving of desire in the senses and the heart, of self-will in the thought and action and of egoism in the centre of the consciousness. For these things are the three knots by which we are bound to our lower nature and if we can renounce these utterly, there is nothing else that can bind us. Therefore attachment and desire must be utterly cast out; there is nothing in the world to which we must be attached, not wealth nor poverty, nor joy nor suffering, nor life nor death, nor greatness nor littleness, nor vice nor virtue, nor friend, nor wife, nor children, nor country, nor our work and mission, nor heaven nor earth, nor all that is within them or beyond them. And this does not mean that there is nothing at all that we shall love, nothing in which we shall take delight; for attachment is egoism in love and not love itself, desire is limitation and insecurity in a hunger for pleasure and satisfaction and not the seeking after the divine delight in things….

Not only must we give up the ordinary attitude to the world and life to which the unawakened mind clings as its natural element; but we must not remain bound in any mental construction of our own or in any intellectual thought-system or arrangement of religious dogmas or logical conclusions; we must not only cut asunder the snare of the mind and the senses, but flee also beyond the snare of the thinker, the snare of the theologian and the church-builder, the meshes of the Word and the bondage of the Idea….

But the centre of all resistance is egoism and this we must pursue into every covert and disguise and drag it out and slay it; for its disguises are endless and it will cling to every shred of possible self-concealment. Altruism and indifference are often its most effective disguises; so draped, it will riot boldly in the very face of the divine spies who are missioned to hunt it out….

The influence of the environment works often with great subtlety; we prefer and put on almost unconsciously the garb which will look best in the eye that regards us from outside and we allow a veil to drop over the eye within; we are impelled to drape ourselves in the vow of poverty, or in the garb of service, or in outward proofs of indifference and renunciation and a spotless sainthood because that is what tradition and opinion demand of us and so we can make best an impression on our environment. But all this is vanity and delusion. We may be called upon to assume these things, for that may be the uniform of our service; but equally it may not. The eye of man outside matters nothing; the eye within is all….

We must be prepared to leave behind on the path not only that which we stigmatise as evil, but that which seems to us to be good, yet is not the one good. There are things which were beneficial, helpful, which seemed perhaps at one time the one thing desirable, and yet once their work is done, once they are attained, they become obstacles and even hostile forces when we are called to advance beyond them. There are desirable states of the soul which it is dangerous to rest in after they have been mastered, because then we do not march on to the wider kingdoms of God beyond. Even divine realisations must not be clung to, if they are not the divine realisation in its utter essentiality and completeness. We must rest at nothing less than the All, nothing short of the utter transcendence. And if we can thus be free in the spirit, we shall find out all the wonder of God’s workings; we shall find that in inwardly renouncing everything we have lost nothing. “By all this abandoned thou shalt come to enjoy the All.” For everything is kept for us and restored to us but with a wonderful change and transfiguration into the All-Good and the All-Beautiful, the All-Light and the All-Delight of Him who is for ever pure and infinite and the mystery and the miracle that ceases not through the ages.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email