Sense of Duty and Detachment in Everyday Life

Renunciation and Career (Duty) are seen as two ends of a spectrum. Indian Wisdom has pointed to the fact that they need not be so. There is work involved in renunciation and also renunciation involved in duty.

Consider the following words. Sanyasi. Yogi.

Do these bring a colourless image in our minds about people who lead very boring lives?


(Image Credit: Moosa Khan)

Who is a Sanyasi?

So, we may ask who really is a Sanyasi? The image of the monk in the himalayas in India or one who has left home, family and work in search of God is usually interpreted as a Sanyasi. However, Shastras in India do not really paint such a picture. Even a person living in supreme riches with all comforts of material life can also be a Sanyasi. The only criterion is not to attach the actions performed towards expecting results in the way we want.

Look at certain examples. A student who works hard in order to be a topper in class, and not to appreciate and understand the subject matter, is actually attached to the glory of a rank rather than the learning offered. A publication or a brand that works towards an award, by tweaking its offering in particular ways to please a jury, rather than sticking to its own nature is again looking at a certain result. This result focussed action is not the best kind of action.

On the other hand, we also find people who have faced certain failure giving up on their potential. Instead of coming back with more preparation and wisdom, they retire into a “Sanyasa” wherein all hope is lost and religion is stitched onto themselves as a protection against the world. This is wrong too.

Bhagavad Gita says that Those who perform prescribed duties without desiring the results of their action are actual sanyasis and yogis. Those who cease to do their duties (yajnas) are not sanyasis and those who abandon all bodily activities are not yogis (Chapter 6, Sloka 1).

A Yogi is not necessarily a super flexible acrobat!

In the West, Yogi is a person who is an expert in Yoga, the exercise routine. In fact the exercise is only one part of Yoga, which is called “Hatha Yoga”. Yoga really means “union”. There are several ways of union with the truth and duty is one of them.

We have heard about terms Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga, the way of duty and the way of knowledge. These are not in fact watertight compartments. A being cannot perform duty without knowledge and also she/he cannot reach knowledge without action. One who understand that Knowledge and Action are intermingled with one another really becomes a “Yogi”.

Sanyasa or Renunciation is actually a search for knowledge – call it Self Knowledge or God. Action is what the world runs by, in the form of technology, business, education, politics, economics and what not. Why should knowledge be sought by forgetting other routes? Even Christ has said “All roads lead to God”. So why should the wisdom that is obtained from performing duty of choice not lead to “God”?

We feel it is necessary for man to understand sense of duty and sense of renunciation in everyday life. This will actually make work and life a lot more enjoyable and meaningful in many ways. Indian Wisdom is a great place to look out for such insights.

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