THE PATH OF RENUNCIATION
you mentioned two paths. Which path
is better for most people, Grandma,
the path of spiritual knowledge or the
path of selfless service?
A person who has the true knowledge
of God believes that all work is done
by the energy of Mother Nature and he
or she is not the real doer of an action.
Such a person is called a Samnyasi or
renunciant and has Self-knowledge.
A KarmaYogi works without a selfish
motive for the fruits of work. KarmaYoga
prepares one to receive Self-knowledge.
(Gita 4.38, 5.06) Self-knowledge leads
to renunciation. Thus selfless service
or KarmaYoga forms the basis of renunciation
(Samnyasa). Both paths finally lead
to God. Lord Krishna considers KarmaYoga
the better of the two paths because
it is faster and easier for most people
to follow. (Gita 5.02)
the word renunciation usually mean leaving
worldly possessions and living in an
Ashram (monastery) or in a lonely place?
word Samnyasa in the strict sense means
renouncing (or giving up) all personal
motives, worldly possessions and objects.
But it also means living in society
and serving society by doing one’s
duty without any personal motive. Such
a person is called Karma-Samnyasi.
Some spiritual leaders, such
as Adi Sankaracharya, consider the path
of renouncing all worldly possessions
as the highest path and the goal of
life. He himself became a Samnyasi when
he was a young boy.
Lord Krishna says: “An
enlightened person or a Samnyasi (or
hermit, one who has given up all personal
motive) sees the Lord in all. Such a
person looks at a learned person, an
illiterate person, the rich, the poor,
an outcast, even a cow, an elephant,
or a dog with an equal eye.” (Gita
I am going to tell you the story of
a great spiritual leader, hero, guru,
Samnyasi and thinker. His name is Adi
Sankaracharya. A student of the Gita
owes him great respect and honor.
5. Adi Sankaracharya
Adi Sankaracharya (or Sankara)
is the author and promoter of non-dualistic
philosophy of Vedanta. It states
that entire universe is nothing but
God. He was born in the state of Kerala
in the year 788 A.D. By the age of eight,
he had learned all four Vedas, and by
the age of twelve, was well versed in
all Hindu scriptures. He is believed
to be Lord Shiva in human form.
He wrote many books, including
a commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads,
BrahmaSutra and many others.
The holy Bhagavad-Gita was hidden in
Mahabharata as a chapter before Sankara
brought it out to us. Sankara took the
Gita from Mahabharata, gave it chapter
headings, and wrote the first commentary
of the Gita in Sanskrit. The first English
translation of the Gita was done by
a British ruler in the 19th century.
Sankara established four main monasteries
in different corners of India: at Shringeri,
Badrinath, Dvarka, and Puri. He stopped
the spread of Buddhism over Hindu ideals,
and restored Hinduism to its past glory.
According to his non-dual philosophy,
the individual soul (Jiva) is Brahma
(God), and the world is the play of
Maya, the illusory kinetic energy of
He certainly was a Self-realized man.
But at first, he had the feeling of
duality, of high and low caste. His
faith in the absolute God (Brahma) was
not very firmly established in his heart.
One day, he was going to the
Shiva temple in the holy city of Banaras
after bathing in the holy Ganga river.
He saw an untouchable, a butcher, carrying
a load of meat. The butcher came on
his way and tried to touch Sankara's
feet in respect.
Sankara shouted angrily: “Get
out of the way! How dare you touch me?
Now I have to take a bath again.”
“Holy sir,” said
the butcher, “I have not touched
you, nor have you touched me. The pure
Self cannot be the body or the five
elements out of which the body is created.”
(There are more details in Chapter 13.)
Then Sankara saw the vision of Lord
Shiva in the butcher. Lord Shiva had
Himself come to Sankara to firmly implant
the non-dualistic philosophy in him.
Sankara was a much better person from
that day by the grace of Lord Shiva.
This story illustrates that
equality with all beings is difficult
to practice all the time. To have such
a feeling is the mark of a truly God-realized
person or a perfect Samnyasi.
Chapter 5 summary:
Lord Krishna considers the path of Selfless
service (Seva) to humanity without attachment
to its results as the best path for
most people. Both paths, the path of
Self-knowledge and the path of Seva,
lead to a happy life here on the earth
and Nirvana after death. Samnyasa does
not mean leaving worldly possessions.
It means not being attached to them.
An enlightened person sees the Lord
in all beings and treats everybody equally.