Where Do You Draw The Line Between Vairagya And Bhakti

[Krishna's lotus feet]“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

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Friend1: Vairagya.

Friend2: Renunciation.

Friend1: Yes. It’s important.

Friend2: Do you know the meaning to the two terms that make up that word?

Friend1: I didn’t know there were two terms.

Friend2: Vai and ragya. “Without attachment.”

Friend1: Interesting. But there is raganuga bhakti, right?

Friend2: Yes. Devotion to God. Spontaneous attraction. It’s a high level of devotion.

Friend1: For us mere mortals, struggling through the material existence, renunciation is pretty important.

Friend2: Absolutely.

Friend1: There is that Bhagavad-gita verse that I always try to keep in mind.

Friend2: Which one?

Friend1: About keeping steady through the good times and the bad. Tolerating the situations, understanding that they come and go like the winter and summer seasons.

[Four seasons]Friend2: That’s a pretty profound verse. People are always complaining about the weather.

Friend1: Yeah. In the summer they have to find an air conditioned room. In the winter they have to start the car early to make sure it is warm when they step inside.

Friend2: And don’t forget that in the spring there are allergies.

Friend1: In the fall you have to rake the leaves.

Friend2: Autumn might be my favorite season. I love the evenings during that time. There’s a slight chill in the air, and the clouds in the sky look so beautiful.

Friend1: I am going somewhere with this, obviously. How much renunciation is enough?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Vairagya is detachment. The objects to which we are attached are many. Should I renounce them one by one?

Friend2: Move away from family and home, get rid of your car, don’t watch so much television. Stuff like that?

Friend1: Yeah.

Friend2: I see. Renunciation is important for sure. It’s a great tool to aid the transcendentalist in the war against maya, or illusion. There is a line, though.

Friend1: Oh. So you can go too far with your renunciation?

Friend2: Absolutely. The idea is to not be renounced for the sake of being renounced. Your false ego can grow if you keep proceeding in that direction.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: You can become proud of how renounced you are. Like you are showing off to the world that you have no possessions. While externally renounced, internally you have attachment to the attention. You are falsely proud. Krishna refers to this as being a pretender.

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

Friend1: I see. But that person is trying. Shouldn’t they get credit for that? Isn’t extreme renunciation better than no renunciation?

Friend2: Listen, this is pretty simple to understand. Renunciation for purifying the consciousness doesn’t mean that you voluntarily find painful situations, without justification. There are people with cars and there are people without them. Just because you have a car doesn’t mean you should sell it. You can live without it, for sure, but there are some practical uses for it.

Friend1: You can use it in your devotional service, bhakti.

Friend2: Exactly. The idea is to tolerate different situations in your service to the Supreme Lord. That is real renunciation. You are fine with stuff and fine without it. Be cool whatever comes your way; don’t go out of your way.

Friend1: That’s good. I like that.

Friend2: There are recommended forms of renunciation, such as the sannyasa-ashrama. That is like a template to help you in the right direction, but Shri Krishna says that real sannyasa is more about attitude than action.

“The Supreme Lord said, To give up the results of all activities is called renunciation [tyaga] by the wise. And that state is called the renounced order of life [sannyasa] by great learned men.” (Bhagavad-gita, 18.2)

[Krishna's lotus feet]If you are confused on a particular issue, just assess the effect on your devotional service. If giving up something helps you, go with it. If having something isn’t hurting you, there is no reason to renounce it unnecessarily.

In Closing:

With cause, proper justification,

Otherwise fruitless is renunciation.

Like for fame and attention to show,

To live in Himalayan cave to go.

Needed for attachment to increase,

Love of God, hold of maya release.

If confused assessment easily done,

From this path closer to Krishna to come?

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