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Renunciation, Karma Sannyas and Karma Jnana Sannyas
Michael: Karma sannyas confuses me a little since, as James mentions, as long as we are alive we are acting in some way. Perhaps it refers to the situation whereby, for example, I decide to move to Chennai to dedicate everything I’ve got to the pursuit of moksa? Put on the robes, so to speak, renouncing all worldly action in the name of moksa? Is this what renouncing action is? Or is it handing over one’s actions to Isvara, but no, because this would be more like karma jnana sannyas. Thanks for this, I haven’t found this description of doer renouncement before.
Sundari: Karma sannyas is the renunciation of gratuitous actions, it is not running off to India to join an ashram or put on robes unless that is truly your svadharma. If it is not, you are simply reinforcing the doer/ego – the one convinced it must “do” something to get enlightened or to make it “more spiritual,” a tenacious myth in the spiritual world.
Both powers, renunciation and action, exist in everyone. Individuals constantly act and they constantly let go of things they no longer value or desire. The only issue is the nature of that which is to be renounced. If an individual wants freedom, which Vedanta defines as freedom from dependence on objects for happiness, renunciation becomes a problem because individuals value things that conflict with the desire for freedom. What is more important to you is what matters – do you desire freedom from bondage more than the temporary fulfilment of your desire? True renunciation is the renunciation of the doer who wants a particular result.
Renunciation is not denial. It is the understanding that nothing is gained by indulging a vasana or an action contrary to dharma, so one makes a different choice every time the desire to act arises, by sublimating the it with the karma yoga attitude.
Karma yoga is common-sense attitude we take towards action and its results, based on the fact that we can choose to act, but we cannot choose the result of our actions. Actions performed with this understanding do not produce anxiety, a common component of most desire-based actions.
Karma sannyas is when we relinquish the notion of doership, we forego gratuitous actions and undertake only the actions that are not contrary to dharma, that support our sadhana –and most importantly, we act knowing we are not the doer and not in control of the results. It is not that we stop action because we cannot or that we stop acting for a particular result. We act with gratitude, consecrating our actions to the Field, which always takes care of the needs of the Total before our own little needs. We trust that Isvara is always giving us what we need and taking care of us.
Karma jnana sannyas is when we have fully negated the notion of doership. It is moksa, essentially. When we live this way, doing becomes effortless because it is known to us that Isvara is the only doer.
Let Isvara “do” your life. It is so much easier than going up against Isvara!
~ Much love, Sundari