The Bhagavad Gita expounds on renunciation (sanyasa) as a state of mind which liberates an individual from the cycle of birth and one which is attained through self-control and a steady practice. Renunciation is held to be an act of giving up or relinquishing when one no longer maintains a sense of possession towards people, objects or places.

The truism in the concept of renunciation is that one cannot write off the objects and attractions of the world that continue to impact us at all stages in lifetime — from toys in childhood to the pulls and demands in a teenager’s world and to the appeal of position, status, career, etc, in adulthood. A better understanding of the equation between these demands and one’s attitude to them is necessary to understand the state of spiritual perfection that renunciation implies, pointed out Swami Parthasarathi in a lecture.

An unattached intellect that can transcend desire is the perfect base to nurture renunciation. Attachment is a deadly virus. It is manifest as a desire for objects and a sense of ego (I and Mine) and is characteristic of the lower nature in us which has to be conquered. Renunciation implies a progressive growth towards a higher level of attainment when the lower ones (ignorance, love of worldly possessions, inertia, etc,) are automatically left behind.

The barrier of desire is the greatest challenge to man and once transcended leads to renunciation. The story of a man who accepted to play the role of a renunciate for a brief period to convince the king who was sceptical of those who claimed to have renounced everything illustrates this truth in a light manner.

The minister had promised a huge fortune to this person who played his part to perfection. The king was highly impressed and wished to confer on him royal honours in his court. But the man remained true to his role, and he rejected all offers. He thereby experienced the esteem and honour that was bestowed on him for his attitude of renunciation.

When the minister came back with the payment for his playacting, the man had chosen to remain in this state and refused to accept it.