What Do We Have to Renounce?

In yoga, and in the traditions that embrace yoga as their methodology for self-recognition and self-fulfillment, the discussion of renunciation plays a significant role.  Most of the lifestyles taught by the traditions that embrace yoga are very ascetic lifestyles.  Sannyas is conceived of as, in a way, the pinnacle of this asceticism, the ultimate renunciation.

So I want to give you my short take on renunciation.  What is it that we actually have to renounce?

I like to tell a story about going to India and going to the Ganges with my Brahmin friend. He always does a ritual there for his ancestors. In the ritual, we wade up to our belly buttons in the river. Then we do a little chant and take water in our hands and offer it to the river. That’s such a simple sweet thing for me to do because we are offering water to the river. Yet it’s silly.  First of all, offer water to a river? Second of all, it’s not our water.  It’s the river’s water.  It was never our water.  It was always the river’s water.  What that tells us is that basically, if you think about it, what do we really have to offer?


If the water in my hands belongs to the river, the water in my body does, too. Whatever minerals there are that compose this tissue belong to the earth.  It’s not mine.  When I am out of here it’s going to become earth again.

This isn’t my body.  It is a body. Even this mind is not my mind. Most of the thoughts that go on in my head are not mine.  (This may not be easy for you to grok, but trust me on it. ) Whatever stuff I have, when I go, it’s eventually going to become water and dirt. It’s nothing.

So what is it that we have to renounce? Well, actually, we do have something: our ego and the tensions that comprise it.

Our ego is just a bundle of tensions all glommed together that we call us. These tensions completely limit our understanding and the richness and the range of our self-expression. If there is one thing that is very important to renounce, in order to discover the largeness, the vastness, the sweetness, the richness of the life that is alive inside us, the only thing we have to renounce are our tensions. Of course, this is easier said than done.  It’s much easier to renounce vegetables and alcohol and meat. We can renounce all of these things, and that’s easy.  But renouncing our tensions isn’t so easy.

Renouncing tensions allows our creative energy to flow.  In the flow of that creative energy, qualities and capacity, talents and skills that are alive within us emerge. Ordinarily we never have the opportunity to be in contact with them. We are usually too busy wasting our energy, struggling with this tension and that tension, wrestling with our egos, to be in touch.   The richness that is available when we release those tensions is absolutely amazing. Renouncing tensions and allowing our creative energy to flow makes every miracle that is possible in the world happen. Every miracle that is possible in your life is awakened.

We are not here to deal with each others' faults.  We’re here to practice opening our hearts to everyone, even the people whom we think we don’t like and that we think don’t like us. We are here to take in every experience and every person, and dissolve the tensions and take the energy of that experience and learn from it.  What we can be learning is to release tension and allow ever-growing love in our life. It is that ever-growing love in our life that blesses us in every way that is possible.