Gurbani Defines Renunciation

Sannyaasa‘ or ‘saṃnyaasa‘ is a Sanskrit word. In Sanskrit ‘saṃ‘ means ‘together, all’ and ‘syasa‘ means purification. Hence ‘sannyasa‘ means ‘Purification of Everything’. In some faiths it’s a vow of complete renunciation. When a renunciate take a vow of sannyaasa (called sannyaasi or sannyaasee), they are supposed to withdraw from external involvement in worldly life and thereby completely let go of their earthly identities. The Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is:

  • ਬਾਰਹ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਵਲ ਖਪਿ ਜਾਵਹਿ ਚਹੁ ਛਿਅ ਮਹਿ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ॥ : (Missing the Shabad – Naam, Hukam, Wisdom…) the yogis of twelve sects and the sannyaasee of ten sects wander about and ruined (ਖਪਦੇ ਫਿਰਦੇ). (sggs 1332).

All 35 contributors of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) have used terms that were already within the use and within the psyche of people of their time.

However, they have used these terms as examples (ਹਵਾਲਾ), but explicitly with new meanings and understanding to fit the unique and new spiritual paradigms of Sikhi or Gurmat.

Now, according to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), what is real sannyaasa or renunciation (ਤਿਆਗ)?

  • Is it wandering around wearing saffron robes or other peculiar garbs?
  • Is it the self-inflicted pain of extreme austerity and penance?
  • Is it a temporary suppression of sinful actions or evil inclinations?
  • Is it the selective renouncing of things?
  • Is it just the abandonment of worldly objects, places or possessions?
  • Does it mean running away from the society?
  • Does it mean abandoning one’s family due to distress and afflictions of the world?
  • Does it mean torturing one’s body or denying it its natural necessities?

The general assumption and idea about sannyaasa or renunciation is that one gives up what one thinks one loves or cherishes.

But the truth is that we cannot give up anything!

  • ਹੋਇ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਤਜਿ ਚਲਿਓ ਛੁਟਕੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਾਠਾ ॥੧॥: (One) becomes a renunciate (ਦੁਨੀਆ ਵਲੋਂ ਉਪਰਾਮ), abandons his home and walks out on (his) family, but (his) wandering impulses (ਭਟਕਣਾ) do not leave (him) ||1|| (sggs 1003).
  • ਪੂੰਅਰ ਤਾਪ ਗੇਰੀ ਕੇ ਬਸਤ੍ਰਾ ॥ ਅਪਦਾ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਤੇ ਨਸਤਾ ॥ ਦੇਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਦੇਸਹਿ ਧਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਚੰਡਾਲ ਨਾਲੇ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥: You worship fire (ਧੂਣੀਆਂ ਤਪਾਂਣਾਂ) and wear saffron colored robes. Smitten by calamity (distress, trouble…), you run away from your home. Leaving your country, you wander in foreign lands. (But your Mayaic mind) brings the five pariahs (i.e., Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) with it. ||4|| (sggs 1348).
  • ਜਗੁ ਪਰਬੋਧਹਿ ਮੜੀ ਬਧਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਆਸਣੁ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਕਾਹੇ ਸਚੁ ਪਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਮਮਤਾ ਮੋਹੁ ਕਾਮਣਿ ਹਿਤਕਾਰੀ ॥ ਨਾ ਅਉਧੂਤੀ ਨਾ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ॥੧॥: (O Yogi) You preach to the world, (you have become free-loader, and consequently, your) belly is getting fat. Abandoning your posture (mental steadiness, i.e., by wandering around, you have lost mind’s steadiness or ਮਨ ਦੀ ਅਡੋਲਤਾ, now) how will you find Truth? You are entangled in mine-ness, worldly attachment and love of woman (lust). You are neither a renunciate, nor a worldly man||1|| (sggs 903).
  • ਦਸ ਨਾਰੀ ਅਉਧੂਤ ਦੇਨਿ ਚਮੋੜੀਐ ॥: The ten sense organs even attach the detached renunciates (anchorites, ਤਿਆਗੀ) to sensory pleasures (sggs 522).
  • ਇਕਿ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਤਿਨ੍‍ ਕਾਮਿ ਵਿਆਪੈ ॥: Some wander around as renunciates, but they are engrossed in lust (sggs 370).
  • ਘਰ ਕੀ ਨਾਰਿ ਤਿਆਗੈ ਅੰਧਾ ॥ ਪਰ ਨਾਰੀ ਸਿਉ ਘਾਲੈ ਧੰਧਾ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਸਿੰਬਲੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਸੂਆ ਬਿਗਸਾਨਾ ॥ ਅੰਤ ਕੀ ਬਾਰ ਮੂਆ ਲਪਟਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ : The mentally blind renounces his wife, and flirt with another woman, (he is just as happy to see the another woman) as the parrot is happy to see the Simmbal tree (but the parrot gets nothing from that Simmbal tree); in the end, such a (flawed) person dies while engrossed (in Bikaar, defects, flaws, blemish, stain etc.). (sggs 1164-1165).
  • ਧੀਆ ਪੂਤ ਛੋਡਿ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਆਸਾ ਆਸ ਮਨਿ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਕਰਈਆ ॥ : (The man) who leaves his sons and daughters (wife i.e. family) and becomes a sannyaasee (he still) keeps making or conceiving many hopes in his mind. (sggs 835).
  • ਅੰਤਰੁ ਮਲਿ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੀਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਉਦਾਸੀ ॥ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਕਮਲੁ ਘਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਨ ਚੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਕਾਹੇ ਭਇਆ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ॥੧॥: (If a person) have not cleansed the filth from within, although outwardly, (he may) wear the dress of a renunciate; if he has not recognized Brahm within his heart-lotus, then why become a sannyaasee? ||1|| (sggs 525).

That said, the real renunciation (ਤਿਆਗ) is defined in the Gurbani as follows:

  • ਤਿਆਗਨਾ ਤਿਆਗਨੁ ਨੀਕਾ ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਤਿਆਗਨਾ ॥੩॥: (People leave home to get out of attachment to Maya, but) to give up lust, anger, greed (i.e. all Bikaar) is the best renunciation of all. ||3|| (sggs 1018).
  • ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਸਗਲ ਉਪਾਵ ਤਿਆਗੁ ॥ : O my mind! Renounce all other clever tricks. (sggs 45).
  • ਤਿਆਗਿ ਮਾਨੁ ਝੂਠੁ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥ : Renounce pride, falsehood and false ego-sense. (sggs 176).
  • ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਲਾਹਾ ਕਿਛੁ ਲੇਵਹੁ ॥: Renounce evil-mindedness and reap the spiritual profit (sggs 356).
  • ਪ੍ਰਥਮੇ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਦੁਤੀਆ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਲੋਗਾ ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਦੁਰਜਨ ਮੀਤ ਸਮਾਨੇ ॥ : (With Naam: Giaan or Wisdom…) first, I renounced my love of egotism (ਹਉਮੈ). Second, I renounced the ways of the world. Then I gave up the three qualities of Maya and understood enemy and friend as the same (friend only). (sggs 370).
  • ਪਰਹਰਿ ਲੋਭੁ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਤਿਆਗਹੁ ਸਚੁ ਗੁਰ ਬਚਨੀ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥:
    (O mind!) Forsake greed, renounce slander and lies. Walking on the Guru‘s words, one will get the everlasting (Giaan or Wisdom-) fruit. (sggs 598).
  • ਅਵਗਣ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਸਮਾਈਐ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਪੂਰਾ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Only by renouncing demerits and by walking on the Gurmat (Wisdom of the SGGS) one finds That ‘Perfect’ (Truth). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 56).

In nutshell, the true renunciation is to move from the lower taste (the consciousness of lust, anger greed, etc.) to the Higher taste — from animal nature to the Divine Nature or from the Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree lifestyle to the Gurmukh Lifestyle.

The demoniac qualities like lust, anger, greed, etc., make the mind confused, doubt ridden and restless. To the contrary, the divine qualities enrich one’s life, lead to spiritual progress, and thus make life worthwhile. Such person is also defined in the Gurbani as follows:

  • ਸੋ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਜੋ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੇਵੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਏ ॥: He alone is a sanyaasee, who serves the Satigur (Giaan or Knowledge of Truth) and removes his self-conceit from within (sggs 1013).
  • ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿ ਆਤਮ ਗਉਣੁ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥: O Nanak! They alone are renunciates who stay connected with spiritual realm within (i.e., Mool, True Nature or Jot Saroop).  (sggs 949).
  • ਆਸ ਨਿਰਾਸੀ ਤਉ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ॥: If he is oblivious to all Mayaic desires, then consider him a sanyaasee. (sggs 356).
  • ਸੋ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਸੋ ਦਾਸੁ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਨਿਆ ॥: (If the mind keeps wandering towards Bikaar, then there is no difference between the householder or the renunciate) He is a (real) householder and a (real) renunciate who has realized ownself by becoming the Gurmukh. (sggs 1332).

Thus the Gurbani here explains to us the true value and meaning of renunciation.

Instead of abandoning things in life, we can only take up higher things in life — give up demoniac qualities (i.e. lust, anger, greed attachment, pride etc.) and replace them with Higher Qualities such as Truth, honesty, contentment, mercy, patience, Sahaj (Natural State of Being), Wisdom, humility, sweet speech etc.

As we progress in spirituality (the Gurmukh Lifestyle), one experiences or tastes something Higher in life. As the mind becomes accustomed to that Higher taste, one naturally and spontaneously gives up fascination and attachment to all that is fleeting (unreal – ਅਸੱਤ).

Consider couple of worldly examples. A person with broken legs needs the aid of crutches until he is cured. Once his legs are cured, he puts the crutches away in a closet; for the crutches are no longer important or needed. An adult does not play with the same toys he used to play with when he was an infant for he has grown out of those toys. Similarly, as the nature of the mind changes (Higher taste), it turns within.

A true sannyaasi does not identify with the form of his body or any form of multiplicity. He offers his false ego-sense and Bikaar into the fire of self-transcendence. As a result, his True Nature (Jot Saroop) within comes out shining through his Gurmukh Lifestyle:

  • ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵਹੁ ਜੋਗੀ ॥ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭੋਗੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ O Yogi! Practice such a Yoga. (That) living a household (family) life, become the Gurmukh (i.e., live life per the Wisdom of the Gurbani – ਗੁਰੁ ਦੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਜੀਵਨ ਜੀਉਂ); this is the Japa, Tapa, and Sanjam. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 970).
  • ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੪॥: Those who are attuned to the Truth, remain detached forever. Subduing their egotism, they are united with (the Truth). ||4|| (sggs 117).

In short, instead of renouncing the world, the Gurbani urges us to engage in it, but with a detached attitude and Wisdom (keen understanding, discerning intelligence…).

Thus the Gurbani never gets tired of reminding us is that the time to practice or implement (ਅਮਲ) is Here and Now (before death), while leading a family life.

  • ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨਾ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਤਿਨੀ ਵਿਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Says Nanak that by the Gur-Grace (Grace of the Gur-Giaan or Wisdom…) who remain connected realize (Bliss-ਆਤਮਕ ਆਨੰਦ) in the midst of Maya (sggs 921).
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਭੇਟਿਆ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਗਿਰਸਤ ਉਦਾਸ ॥੪॥੪॥੫॥: Says Nanak! One who embraces the Perfect Guru (Giaan-Wisdom), is approved (accepted, authenticated, verified, validated etc.) as a householder as well as a renunciate. ||4||4||5|| (sggs 496).

2 comments

  1. Aap thiag Saran Gurdev (M. 5)
    Give up your self conceit and shall be in the company of Divine.

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