Question to Radhanath Swami: Beautiful. I’d like to ask you about the true spirit of renunciation because it’s something a lot of us don’t understand. We think of it as just giving up things but there’s a richer side of renunciation that gives one things we can’t get from the world.
Radhanath Swami Answers: True renunciation is not becoming a monk or swami, living homeless and sleeping on the floor. True renunciation can be attained by anyone—whether a millionaire, parent, student, politician, farmer or engineer. It’s not what you have or don’t have; it’s your state of consciousness. In essence, it means that true peace that comes from true renunciation arrives when we understand that nothing is mine. Whatever intelligence I have, whatever abilities I have, whatever family members I have, whatever wealth or property I have, is the sacred property of God or the Divine. I’m a caretaker. And to use what we have, not for selfish purposes, but for service to God and service to others, is the true principle of renunciation.
It’s like when a husband thinks, “This is my wife,” or a parent thinks “This is my child.” From a spiritual perspective, this is a misconception. The higher truth is: “This wife is God’s beloved daughter, entrusted in my care. And the way I serve God is by giving her respect, protection, appreciation and empowerment. This is what God wants me to give his child.”
When we have that consciousness, whatever money we have, we believe it is entrusted to us by God for the purpose of helping human society find relief and shelter and happiness, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And we use our wealth in wonderful ways because it’s the greatest joy in life for us to see what an incredible difference we can make as an instrument of God’s grace with our talents and with our wealth. I know people who are both extremely wealthy, people who are middle class and people with little material wealth. Whatever their circumstance may be, they are every bit as renounced as monks because they have that spirit. The spirit of charity on a spiritual platform. The Bhagavad Gita explains that real wisdom is when we see every living being with equal vision. When we love God, we naturally love our neighbor as our self, as the Bible also tells us.
When we recognize how precious and truly glorious we are, then we become humbled by that and recognize everyone’s true spiritual identity. And then our greatest joy is in sharing.