Renunciation is in fact denial of the self and the denial of that is the one which will be of use. As all things in this world can be used or abused, so the principle of renunciation can be used and abused. If renunciation, as a principle, was a good thing, then there seems to be no purpose at the back of the whole creation. The creation might well not have been manifested if renunciation were the principle. Therefore renunciation in itself is neither virtue nor sin. It becomes a virtue or a sin according to the use we make of it.

          When one considers it from the metaphysical point of view one finds that this principle is used as a stair to rise above all things. It is the nature of life in the world that all things we become attracted to, in time become not only ties, but burdens. If we consider life we see it is an eternal journey. The more one is loaded with burdens on one's shoulders, the more the journey becomes heavy. Think how the soul, whose constant desire is to go forward, is daily retained by the ties - continually more burdened. One can see two things:  1. As the soul goes on, it feels as if its feet were chains. 2. At every step that the soul goes forward it is more attracted; it becomes more difficult to go forward.

          Therefore all the thinkers and wise who have come to the realization of life have taken renunciation as a remedy. The picture that the sage makes is like the fable of the dog and a piece of bread. The dog carrying a loaf in its mouth came to a pool, saw the bread in the water, thought that the shadow was another dog; howled, barked, and lost his own bread. The more we see our errors in life, our petty desires, the more we find we are not far from the fable of the dog. Think of the national catastrophes of recent times! How these material things of the world, ever changing and not everlasting, have been pulled at and fought for. This shows that man, blinded by material life, disregards the secret hidden things behind life.

          When we come to reason out what one must renounce and in what way one must practise renunciation, there is a lesson to be learned. Because no virtue is a virtue if it is forced upon one incapable of it, a person upon whom a virtue is forced, who is forced to renounce, cannot make the right renunciation. No virtue that gives pain is a virtue. If it gives pain, how can it be a virtue? It is called virtue because it gives happiness. That which takes away happiness is never a virtue.

          Therefore renunciation is rightly practised by those who understand renunciation and are capable of practising it. For instance, there is a person who has only one loaf of bread. He is travelling in the train, finds somebody hungry, in need of bread. He himself is hungry also, and he has only one piece of bread. If he thinks it is his dharma to give it and starve, and is unhappy about it, he would have done better not to give it, because it has no virtue. If he has done it once, surely he will not do it again next time, because he has suffered by it, as the virtue brought him unhappiness. This virtue will never develop in his character. That person alone is capable of renunciation who finds a greater satisfaction in seeing another with his piece of bread.

The person whose heart if full of happiness after the action, that person alone must make a renunciation. This shows that renunciation is not a thing that can be learned or taught. It comes by itself as the soul develops, when the soul begins to see the true value of all things. All that is valuable to others, a seer soul begins to see otherwise. This shows that all things that we see as precious or not precious, their value is according to the way we look at them. For one person, the renunciation of a penny is too much, for another, that of all he has is nothing.

          It depends on how we look at things. All things one renounces in life one rises above. Man is a slave of all the things he has not renounced, of things that he has renounced he becomes king. This whole world can become a kingdom in his hand if a person has renounced it. But renunciation depends upon the evolution of the soul. One who has not evolved spiritually cannot well renounce. For the grownup persons little toys so valuable to children, are nothing. It is easy for them to renounce this. So it is for those who develop spiritually - all things are easy to renounce.

          Now we come to the question: how can one progress in this path of renunciation? By becoming able to discriminate between two things, which is the better. A person with the character of the dog in the fable cannot renounce. He loves both things. Life is such that when there are two things before our view, it is demanded of us to lose one of them. It depends upon man's discrimination what to renounce and for what, whether to renounce Heaven for the world, or the world for Heaven, wealth for honour, or honour for wealth, whether to renounce things momentarily precious for everlasting things or everlasting things for things momentarily precious. The nature of life is such that it always shows two things.

          Many times it is a great puzzle to choose between two things. Very often one thing is at hand and the other further from reach. It is a puzzle to renounce the one or how to get to the other. Very often man lacks willpower to renounce. It does not require only discrimination between two things, but also willpower to do what we think to do. It is not an easy thing for a man to do in life as he wishes to do. Think how difficult is life! When we ourselves cannot listen to ourselves, how difficult then for others to listen!

          Many times one cannot renounce because one's own self cannot listen to one. Renunciation can be learned naturally. One must first train one's sense of discrimination, to discriminate between what is more valuable and what is less valuable. That one can learn by testing it as the gold is tested by the imitation gold. That which lasts for a little time and then turns black is imitation; that which always keeps its colour is real. This shows the value of things can be realized by their constancy. You might ask, "should we not recognize the value of things by their beauty?" Yes. True, we must recognize by beauty, but we must recognize beauty by its lasting.

          Think of the difference of price of the flower and of the diamond. The flower with all its fineness, beauty of colour, and fragrance, falls short in comparison to the diamond. The only reason is that the beauty of the flower will fade next day, and that of the diamond will last. This shows a natural tendency. We need not learn it, we are always seeking for beauty, also for that which is lasting. Friendship that does not last, however beautiful, what value is it? Position, honour that does not last, what value? Although man is like the child, running after all that attracts and is always changing, still his soul seeks constancy.

          Therefore in learning the lesson of renunciation one can only study one's own nature, what the innermost being is yearning for, to try and follow one's own innermost being. Wisdom comes by this process of renunciation. Wisdom and renunciation both go together - by renunciation man becomes wiser, by being wise, capable of renunciation. The whole trouble in the lives of people in their house, in nation, and everywhere is always the trouble of man's incapacity of renunciation. If civilization can be explained in other words, it is only a developed sense of renunciation which manifests itself in consideration for each other. Every aspect of courtesy, politeness, shows renunciation. When a person offers his seat to another or something that is good, it is renunciation.

          Civilization in its real sense is renunciation. The highest and greatest goal that every soul has to reach is God. As everything wants renunciation, that highest goal wants the highest renunciation, although a forced renunciation, even for God, is not proper, not legitimate. Proper renunciation one can see by those who are capable of doing it. There is a story in the Bible of Abraham sacrificing his son. Man today is likely to laugh at some of the ancient stories, reasoning according to his own point of view. But think, how many fathers and mothers have given their children as a sacrifice in this war, for one's nation, one's people, or honour. This shows that no sacrifice can be too great a sacrifice for one's ideal. There is only the difference of ideal, whether it is a material or spiritual ideal, whether for earthly gain or spiritual gain, whether for man or God.

          As long as renunciation is practised for spiritual progress, so long it is the right way. As soon as renunciation has become a principle, renunciation is abused. Man, in fact, must be the master of life. He must use renunciation, not go under in renunciation. So it is with all virtues. When virtues control man's life, they become idols. It is not idols we must worship; it is the ideal we must worship in the idol.