Gurbani Defines Renunciation

There is a vast contrast between the spiritual positions of Yogis (Sidhas) and that of Baabaa Nanak (i.e. Gurmat). The spiritual position of Yogis or (Yogmat) is simply that physical self is of paramount importance (i.e. physical renunciation of the family, society, world; physical nature of Asanas and breath control etc.).

However, Baabaa Nanak telling them and rest of us that what’s matter in spirituality is NOT the ‘Physical’ per se, but the CONSCIENCE (the MIND) — the Conscience must remain imbued in the Creator Realization.

Thus what’s paramount in the Gurmat (Giaan-Wisdom, Upadesh or Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) is the State of the CONSCIENCE (the MIND), Not the physical location etc.

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 renunciates take a vow of Sannyaasa (called Sannyaasi or Sannyaasee), they are supposed to renounce or withdraw from external involvement in worldly life and worldly affairs — completely let go of their earthly identities.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects this physical renunciation (ਉਦਾਸੀ).

  • 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).
  • ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਗਵੀ ਕਪੜੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੈਲੇ ਵੇਸਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਘਰਿ ਬੈਠਿਆ ਜੋਗੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਉਪਦੇਸਿ ॥੬੪॥: Yoga or Union with God cannot be attained by just wearing saffron robes (like a yogi or renunciate) or by wearing dirty clothes (like a beggar). Nanak, we can attain Union with God (Yog) even while sitting in our own home (leading family life) by following the Message of the Satgur (Shabad Guru). ||64|| (sggs 1421).
  • ਜਤੀ ਸਦਾਵਹਿ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਛਡਿ ਬਹਹਿ ਘਰ ਬਾਰੁ ॥: (Some) call themselves ‘Jati’ (who think have control on their senses, continent…), and abandon their homes (seeing others doing it), but they do not know the Way of life. (sggs 469).

The Sikhi or Gurbani’s (SGGS) definition of renunciation is SHABAD BASED — Internalization of the Shabad (Message, Advice, Guide, Direction, Upadesh, spiritual Wisdom) while staying in the world.

In a nutshell, instead of renouncing the world, the Gurbani urges us to engage in it, but with a detached attitude through Internalization of the Enlightening Message of the Gur-Shabad

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਜਤ ਭਏ ਉਦਾਸੀ ॥ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੈ ਤਾਈ ਭੇਖ ਨਿਵਾਸੀ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਵਖਰ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਵਣਜਾਰੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਪਾਰੇ ॥੧੮॥ : (My) renunciation is the Internalization of the Shabad (the State of Gurmukh-hood). (My) adopted spirituality is aimed towards getting to the Message of the Shabad (i.e. mere seeing or reading of SGGS will not work). My advocated spirituality is to connect to Creator who is in Permanent Existence. Nanak, adherents of the Message within the Shabad (Gurmukh-hood) Realize the Creator. ॥18॥ (sggs 940).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਸਦ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਜਿਨ ਏਕ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥੪॥੯॥: Nanak I am forever sacrifice to one realizes the MESSAGE OF THE SHABAD pertaining to the One Creator. ॥4॥9॥ (sggs 879);

Hence, Shabad is the Essence of Sikh spirituality.

The Grace or Blessing of the Shabad is Enlightenment!

All contributors of the 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 SGGS, what is real sannyaasa or renunciation (ਤਿਆਗ)?

  • It is not wandering around wearing saffron robes or other peculiar garbs.
  • It is not the self-inflicted pain of extreme austerity and penance.
  • It is not temporary suppression of sinful actions or evil inclinations.
  • It is not the selective renouncing of things.
  • It is not just the abandonment of worldly objects, places or possessions.
  • It is not running away from the society.
  • It is not abandoning one’s family due to distress and afflictions of the world.
  • It is not torturing one’s body or denying it its natural needs.

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 being 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 a 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.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: O Nanak! Meeting the Satigur (ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) then one learns the perfect Way to live life. (Thus following that) he is liberated while laughing, playing, dressing and eating (i.e. one remains free from worldly temptations and their corrupting influence while living in the world). (sggs 522).
  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).
  • ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥: Emancipation (ਉੱਚੀ ਆਤਮਕ ਅਵਸਥਾ) is obtained in the midst of children and spouses (i.e., in the midst of family). (sggs 661).
  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does one must remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).

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 SGGS 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.

  • ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਚਾਵਲ ਦਇਆ ਕਣਕ ਕਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤਿ ਪਾਤੀ ਧਾਨੁ ॥ ਦੂਧੁ ਕਰਮੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਘੀਉ ਕਰਿ ਐਸਾ ਮਾਂਗਉ ਦਾਨੁ ॥੩॥ : (O God) instead of rice bless me with the wealth of ‘Jat‘ (control of senses), truth and in compassion. Bless me with milk of good deeds, and ‘Ghee‘ of contentment, such is the charity which I beg. ||3|| (sggs 1329).

As we progress in spirituality (Enlightened or Gurmukh mindset), 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 (spiritually Enlightened life).

Responding to questions of Sidhas (Yogis) in ‘Sidh Gost’ Bani, Baabaa Nanak Guides them about the true renunciation:

  • ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਮੁਰਗਾਈ ਨੈ ਸਾਣੇ ॥ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੇ ॥: The way to successful spirituality is to be detached from the world WHILE LIVING IN IT; just like the detachment of the Lotus from the stagnant water and the swan from the river water. O Nanak! The Journey of spirituality (i.e. to go across Bhav Saagar) is thus transversed in detachment by keeping the Message of the Shabad within our Consciousness in order to Realize / live the Virtues of God. (sggs 938).
  • ਹਾਟੀ ਬਾਟੀ ਨੀਦ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਪਰ ਘਰਿ ਚਿਤੁ ਨ ਡੋੁਲਾਈ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਮਨੁ ਟੇਕ ਨ ਟਿਕਈ ਨਾਨਕ ਭੂਖ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਹਾਟੁ ਪਟਣੁ ਘਰੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ਸਹਜੇ ਸਚੁ ਵਾਪਾਰੋ ॥ ਖੰਡਿਤ ਨਿਦ੍ਰਾ ਅਲਪ ਅਹਾਰੰ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਤੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੋ ॥੮॥ : (TRUE RENUNCIATION) is not to lose one’s self in worldly affairs while living within the world; and to not allow the mind to wander therein. Without acquiring godly Virtues; the desire for worldly affairs does not dissipate; (TRUE RENUNCIATION) thus cannot happen. (In TRUE RENUNCIATION), the Shabad Guru Guides the mind to focus on acquiring godly Virtues and sharing godly Virtues (while staying within the world). The Essence of (a mind that is in TRUE RENUNCIATION based on the Shabad Guru’s Guidance), Nanak, is the desire for worldly affairs (or hunger for Maya) is controlled to the extent that it does not lose itself (in sleep of unawareness). ॥8॥ (sggs 639).

Hence, instead of renouncing the world, the Gurbani urges us to engage in it, but with a detached attitude through Internalization of the Gur-ShabadMessage, Advice, Guide, Direction, Upadesh, spiritual Wisdom.

  • ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵਹੁ ਜੋਗੀ ॥ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭੋਗੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ O Yogi! Practise such a Yoga. (That) living a household (family) life, become Shabad-Realized (the state of Gurmukh-Hood); 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).

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: By the Gur-Grace (Grace of the Gur-Giaan or Wisdom…) who remain connected (to their Mool, True Nature or Jot Saroop, Aatam Giaan or Wisdom…) realize (Bliss, Mukti or liberation etc.) while using 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).


  1. Thank you once again T Singh Ji !

    As Guru Arjun Dev Ji says

    Everything is within the home of the self, there is nothing beyond.

    One who searches outside is deluded by doubt.

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

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