You can read the previous part here: Chapter 4
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Earlier in the Gita, we were discussing topics such as wisdom and selfless service. These concepts seem worldly, as they are related to how to succeed and live happily in society. On the other hand, today’s topic will be renunciation.
The Gita states that between the path of renunciation and the path of selfless service, service is the better one. This is because enlightenment is very hard to achieve, and therefore many renunciates are not doing anything useful. Why? Well, many renunciates don’t do anything that helps them toward enlightenment. They are simply wasting their time, as service can be much quicker.
The Gita is not trying to say that renunciation is useless. If done correctly, with full faith, it is very useful. To some people, however, this seems unachievable. The truth couldn’t be more to the contrary. Renunciation has nothing to do with sitting under a tree with an ochre robe. There are two kinds of renunciation: material and spiritual.
To understand material renunciation better, we must delve deeper into the concepts of Buddhism. This is the religion in which there are the most monks that wear robes and meditate constantly. In Buddhism, one can simply be enlightened, or they can be a bodhisattva.
Buddhist traditions believe in leaving all material goods behind to seek enlightenment. This is what I would call “material renunciation”, and it is a bit of an extreme, albeit effective, method of seeking enlightenment.
Then, there is spiritual renunciation. This shows that you do not have to leave everything behind to renounce.
These people are not often recognized, but they are just as enlightened as a sage. Renunciation is just knowing one’s truth. What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means understanding ourselves.
Who are we? What interests us? What is our purpose in life? This is our true identity. If we find the answers to these questions, we will be enlightened. After all, enlightenment is just knowing yourself very well.
Philosophy is a great way to achieve enlightenment quickly. And not just studying philosophy, applying it is just as important. So, what are some basic kinds of philosophy which can help you achieve enlightenment quickly? (Please note that there are thousands of types of philosophy, these are simply my picks.)
Stoicism is an Ancient Roman philosophy with basic concepts that are hard to apply. There are three major teachers of Stoicism: the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, a freed slave who became a powerful minister named Epictetus, and a rich playwright and businessman Seneca the Younger (who taught the tyrant, emperor Nero). They each have major concepts: not wasting time, maintaining calm in any situation, and being prepared for hard times.
Before I talk about the other schools of thought, I’ll share a little story with you.
King Ajatashatru was the king of the prosperous state of Magadha. He was a contemporary of teachers such as the Buddha and Mahavira. As a result of this, Ajatashatru was a very spiritual person, and one day, he announced that he wished to find an answer to a question of his. The king’s question was:
“If a profession such as a craftsman bears fruit in the means of crafts, what fruit does the path of renunciation bear?” (paraphrased)
Ajatashatru visited six teachers known as the Six Heretical Teachers before going to the one that satisfied him (the Buddha). With no further ado, here are all of the philosophies that king Ajatashatru explored!
This was the doctrine of the first teacher that king Ajatashatru visited. Amoralism denies any reward or punishment for deeds and declares that if one is pure at heart, they should do good. There is no heaven, hell, dhamma, or whatever you want to call it according to amoralism.
This philosophy states that suffering is pre-determined, and so are many other things. I know this sounds stupid but just think about it. We can just change a few things in life. We couldn’t change where we were born, or how our family is, or most other things.
Materialism says to live happily because death is the end. Materialists go by the principle of carpe diem, live lavishly and happily, and seize the moment. Seizing the moment is indeed important, and what is the guarantee of a next life?
This school of thought preaches that matter, pain, thought, and the soul are separate and eternal. To attain enlightenment, one must focus on the soul. The others are unavoidable and unconquerable.
This idea states to restrain oneself. It is preventive, as it says that one should avoid any situations which could create evil. Completely giving up any form of contact with evil doesn’t allow evil to come to you.
This philosophy states to avoid any sort of judgment or conflict altogether. It says to remain unclear. A common dialogue from an agnostic philosopher is “I don’t think so. I don’t think this way or that. I don’t think not or for.”
After the six teachers, Ajatashatru went to the Shakyamuni Buddha. Buddha’s million-dollar response is listed here:
- Solitude: One can learn to take pleasure in extreme aloneness.
- Virtue: A virtuous One will see, hear, and think nothing but peace and virtue.
- Contentment in simplicity: A monk is happy with the bare necessities of life.
- Peace: Peace is ecstasy.
- Bliss: He or she will be aware of all things happening yet still be happy at all times.
- Knowledge: They will be able to discover themselves.
- Powers: These are called riddhis in Pali. There are over 15 of them, and the Buddha had mastery of all of them.
- Mind reading: Mind reading can be achieved by extreme mindfulness.
- Recollection: One’s memory will be outstanding enough to recall past lives.
- Release from samsara: They will not go through suffering or pain internally.
That sums up the fifth chapter of the Gita. Just to recap, renunciation can be internal or external, and they are both fruitful. All in all, either way is great, as long as you stick to it with your heart and soul. That’s all for now, folks!
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You can read the next part here: Chapter 6