Principles and Concepts

What is renunciation?

Renunciation of the world – Tyaaga – is regarded by Hinduism as one of the ways to spiritual attainment. Many devotees leave their homes and go into the jungles to practice austerity. This approach is disregarded in Sikhi, because this way or renunciation is not practical in Kalyug (This age of darkness). The mind does not find peace in physical solitude; rather, it wanders away to the missing worldly possessions and interests. As Guru Nanak explained to the monks of the Himalayas, “How will the world be served, if the pious people retire to mountain fastness and lend no helping hand in any attempt to solve the problems of the day?”

The Gurus recommended renunciation in the midst of life – Grahastmai-udas. The renunciation of evil desire and not the cessation of work or retirement, is the true way. Guru Nanak say:

ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਸਗਲ ਤਿਆਗੈ ਜਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਨਿਰਾਸਾ ॥
ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਜਿਹ ਪਰਸੈ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਤਿਹ ਘਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ॥੨॥
“Who renounces all hopes and desires and remains desireless in the world;
who is not touched by sexual desire or anger – within his heart, God dwells. ||2||”
(Ang 633)

The true Sikh is the real Sanyasi (an ascetic, a recluse). He lives desireless in the midst of worldly possessions and associations. He does his daily chores and yet keeps himself free from attachment to the world. He is neither depressed by worldly affliction nor elated by gain or attainment. Like the lotus flower, he is not affected by the level of worldly things.

True renunciation results in finding mental “detachment”. Kabeer Ji says,

ਹਾਥ ਪਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਚੀਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨੧੩॥
“Do your daily duties with hands and feet,
But concentrate on the Lord.”
(Ang 1376)

Just as a mother who is busy in her household work thinks of her child lying in a cradle, so a true devotee, apparently busy in his office may still be repeating the Name. Guru Gobind Singh explains the point in these words:

“O, my soul practice renunciation in this way,
Consider your house as a forest and yourself as an ascetic,
Let continence be your matted hair,
And communion with God your ablution.”

True renunciation results from the practical application of the Sikh way of life – a life of meditation and service to mankind.