“A living being is finished as soon as there is nothing to possess. Therefore a living being cannot be, in the real sense of the term, a renouncer. A living being renounces something for gaining something more valuable. A student sacrifices his childish proclivities to gain better education. A servant gives up his job for a better job. Similarly, a devotee renounces the material world not for nothing but for something tangible in spiritual value.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.27 Purport)
“I’m sure there is some significance to spiritual life in relation to the story I am about to tell, but I can’t exactly put my finger on it. A fictional tale, originating in published literature and later forming the basis for an episode of a popular television series more than half a century ago, the basic premise is someone who loves to read but always gets interrupted. Wherever they are, they are engrossed in a particular book, but life happens to interfere.
“There might be the day job. It could be outside responsibilities. Perhaps others aren’t nearly as interested in the same subject matter. This person is out on an island, so to speak, but not necessarily upset about it.
“Well, the plot twist is some sort of disaster that happens to strike the entire population of the world. Only the booklover is left standing, by sheer luck. There are enough provisions to last a lifetime, and so after experiencing the initial depression, the survivor is pleased to have enough time, at last, to read their books.
“The story ends with the person accidentally breaking their reading glasses. Thus they are left without an option. They can’t read the books, after all. The episode is one of those think pieces. Maybe the lesson is to not be too attached to technology. Perhaps be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
“We know that renunciation is an integral component of success in spiritual life. You could say it is the beginning, the place from which to start. But are we not in a similar situation? If we give everything up, will our plans get spoiled in the end, by something unforeseen?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the renunciation is always in favor of something better. Shastra does not advise vairagya for the sake of torture. Neither is it some contest, to proudly publish as a social media post, showing just how little you need in order to survive.
The renunciation is for experiencing a higher taste. Removing illusion and finding reality. Taking away that which is unwanted, anartha, and replacing it with the most blissful, ananda. This may require a gradual progression; everything does not change overnight. But we already have a similar trajectory when sacrificing for other endeavors, such as school and career.
The concept of time enough at last does have significance in that one should not wait until every distraction and responsibility has been removed. The best thought out plans could go to waste in an instant. I may think that I will dedicate more time in old age, when I have retired, but no one can predict exactly when the end of life will arrive.
Therefore, it is better to navigate the distractions and responsibilities today. Set aside some time to chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Associate with like-minded individuals. Aim for some semblance of renunciation, starting small and hopefully increasing with the passage of time.
At some point a light bulb might go off, wherein we think along the following lines:
“I didn’t even realize it, but Bhagavan is part of everything that I do. While I would prefer to not have so many distractions throughout the day, in the time of difficulty I am totally helpless. I have no choice but to pray, to ask for assistance. It is in those moments where I feel completely free. It is difficult to explain, as there is a glaring contradiction. When I am most overwhelmed by the forces around me, through full and complete surrender I feel as if nothing can bother me. God is helping. He is the only one for me.”
For retirement to reserve,
Where consciousness to preserve.
Since nothing distracting around,
Can better focus on sound.
But plans easily destroyed,
Before ever enjoyed.
Better with some immersion today,
And increasing the Divine way.