“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 4.43-44)
लक्ष्मणेमां मया सार्धं प्रशाधि त्वं वसुन्धराम्।
द्वितीयं मेऽन्तरात्मानं त्वामियं श्रीरुपस्थिता।।
सौमित्रे भुङ्क्ष्व भोगांत्स्वमिष्टान्राज्यफलानि च।
जीवितं च हि राज्यं च त्वदर्थमभिकामये।।
lakṣmaṇemāṃ mayā sārdhaṃ praśādhi tvaṃ vasundharām।
dvitīyaṃ me’ntarātmānaṃ tvāmiyaṃ śrīrupasthitā।।
saumitre bhuṅkṣva bhogāṃtsvamiṣṭānrājyaphalāni ca।
jīvitaṃ ca hi rājyaṃ ca tvadarthamabhikāmaye।।
You have this feeling deep inside that boasting isn’t the right way to go. Even if you possess an ability considered unique or superior to what is expected, it is better to keep things to yourself. Others will only become envious or feel inferior when running the inevitable comparison.
Conversations do take place, and there is only so much you can suppress in open dialogue. This means that you are bound to share certain accomplishments in renunciation with your friends and family, particularly if the subject matter turns in that direction.
1. I am not afraid of a virus
“Listen, I take this seriously. Don’t get me wrong. I am not minimizing the threat. But yes, I have been moving out and about. The government has mandated a lockdown, but I am not participating. I don’t believe they have the people’s best interests in mind. Call me a cynic, but my judgment is based on past experience.
“Another thing I will tell you is that I have informally documented every time I have gotten sick. The cold, the flu, the sniffles, body aches, fever, lingering cough – whatever it is I remember exactly when I got it. I know for certain that there were always external factors at play. Perhaps I went for a run in the evening. I started eating more healthy, and thus made my body really cold inside. Sometimes it was after strenuous travel, where I did not get enough sleep.
“What I am trying to say is that viruses are all around us, all the time. That is the mentality with which I operate. So this latest one doesn’t scare me. I probably came in contact with it already and nothing happened, as is the case with the majority of the population.”
2. I don’t watch television
“What have I been watching on television, you ask. Especially considering the circumstances in the world right now, you would expect me to be binging on my favorite television shows, movies, or classic matches in sports.
“The truth is I haven’t been watching television. We own one, but I barely turn it on. The day gets filled with work and family obligations. I am more at peace going outside and taking a walk, where I will certainly not wear a useless mask and act like sheep to the government.”
3. I don’t need a big house
“Every person I speak with who owns a home, they are always complaining about something wrong that they have to fix. Raccoons in the attic. Bunnies nesting on the side of the house. A broken water heater. A central air conditioning system that needs replacing.
“I don’t ever want such a headache. I don’t need a big house. I could live in a closet, if I had to. I value other things in life, such as experiences and the ability to travel here and there. The size of the home is not everything, and I am certainly not in a competition with others to see who has the most expensive property.”
4. I don’t care what food I eat
“Listen, I appreciate that you enjoy cooking and finding new recipes online. The shows on the food channel are interesting, sometimes, but I just don’t put much value into what I eat. Give me something simple and I will be happy. If the meal isn’t up to standard, I will not complain. I can’t really give a critique because sometimes when a dish is prepared improperly it actually tastes better. Who am I to judge?”
5. I don’t care about a kingdom
One Sanskrit word for renunciation is vairagya. This is a negation on the word for attachment. Someone who lacks attachment has vairagya, and it is a kind of opulence. Opulences, or bhaga, are desirable, and the word is important to know since it helps to explain the position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
He is Bhagavan since He possesses every bhaga simultaneously and to the fullest degree. This would naturally include vairagya. He is the most renounced, and we can try to measure that feature.
It is easier to not covet much if you have never had much to begin with. For instance, someone who grew up on a farm doesn’t really miss having a television in their apartment when moving to the city. A person who has separated from their spouse after years together in discord feels a kind of accomplishment that the celibate student would never understand.
From the pastimes of Shri Rama we see that Bhagavan has renunciation tested with the most desirable object: a kingdom. He tells Lakshmana directly that the kingdom is only desired for the benefit of the younger brothers. Lakshmana is one of those younger brothers, and Rama offers to share the kingdom with Him.
This extends to the spiritual kingdom of Vaikuntha. The devoted souls can share in the pleasure of residence in that realm. The lone qualification for entry is desire in service. If I want to live in Vaikuntha, with Shri Rama and family, I will eventually get there. Representatives like Shri Hanuman will shepherd the application process and also allow me in when the time is right.
Hanuman allowing me in,
When that destination to win.
Supreme Lord willing to share,
Place in spiritual kingdom where.
Like when imminent king becoming,
Immediately to Lakshmana coming.
And the offer to him also befalling,
This opulence of renunciation calling.