What does it mean to be a renunciant? Does it mean we abandon our duties as a student, a parent, or a householder on some magical quest that reveals the secrets of the universe to us? Some think so. But as one who, daily, lives this life, that surely isn’t the truth of it.

External renunciation can happen only after the internal renunciation has occurred. The tree can only start to be formed once the seed no longer needs its shell and breaks free to set its roots. What, then, do we exactly renounce and why? What are our roots? There lies the question that varies from sect to sect.

A renunciant is someone who has no desire for worldly pleasures. In 2023, then, what are worldly pleasures? Sure, I am typing this from my phone. But if I wrote it on paper (which I usually do) or used an iPad or a computer, would that alter the truth of my renunciation? Absolutely not. The internal longing, desire, and surrender to Bhagavan is what being a renunciant is about. Contextually, we renounce to a certain level within our societies. A renunciant in a rural village in India will surely be varied from that renunciant residing in Manhattan. BUT, the mindset will be shared.

God is either everything or god is nothing. If god is nothing, I am nothing. My life is nothing. My duties are nothing. That does not make sense to me. So, I feel that god is within everything. We renounce the idea of differences and the dualities of good and bad, correct and incorrect, and as ascetic renunciants, we dive deep into the truth: that we are Sub Ek, all one. Maharajji said Sub Ek, all one. The Upanishads also echo this. They say Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which translates from Sanskrit to “The World is One Family.”

We renounce the idea of separation, the need to feel different or better than, and we fully REJOICE in this theory of being one. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?? Those people we idolize, those character traits we “wish” we had- they are ALL ours. We are one family!

Baba said never throw anyone out of your heart. Ram Dass once said, to paraphrase, we can love someone’s soul yet still dislike their incarnation. This captures the essence of renunciation. Anyone can informally be a renunciant. You do not need to take special vows and live in ashrams and in caves. Worship God in ALL you see, in all you feel, in all you do. That is how we renounce differences and pursue the Divine.

I hope this note finds you well. If you are struggling, reach out. No one should have to suffer in silence.

Jai Gurudev Baba Neem Karoli

Jai Shri Ram

Shri Ganga Das ji Maharaj is a sadhu and a Sanyasi in the Ramanandi Sampradaya. He currently lives and serves at a Mandir outside of Baltimore, and also travels giving dharma talks and spiritual lectures.