With renunciation, life begins.

—Amelia Barr, All the Days of My Life

© Alvin Booth, Courtesy of the Yancey Richardson Gallery
© Alvin Booth, Courtesy of the Yancey Richardson Gallery

Where compassion is the wish that others not suffer, renunciation is the wish that I not suffer. What causes me to suffer? Wanting. Renunciation, then, means not so much giving up things, desires, or a way of life, but giving up desiring itself. But to do so is not so easy.

One way is to live with few wants or needs. When the pattern of wanting is not constantly stimulated by life circumstances, the mind becomes calm and clear, and in that clarity you find freedom from wanting. Such, in essence, is the monastic way: external renunciation creates an internal environment that leads to freedom.

Most of us, however, live in circumstances that constantly stimulate desire: desire for security, desire for emotional fulfillment, and desire for identity. We need an internal approach to renunciation, and for that we need to understand the nature of these desires.

Liberate this article!

This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.