Meaning of ‘Uttama Tyaga Dharma – Supreme Renunciation’, quotes from Jain scriptures, its interpretation with real-life instances.
– Muni Sri Kamkumarnandi Maharaj
‘Renunciation of all possessions is Ahimsa; and appropriation of all possessions is Himsa’
The word ‘tyag’ is derived from the root ‘tyaj’ by the addition of the suffix ‘gham‘. The word renunciation means to cast aside, to give up, to get rid of, to discard and to leave.
Some wise men have said: ‘In this world it is not what we take up but what we give up, that makes us rich.’
Renunciation has been assigned a great significance in the path of salvation propounded by the omniscient Lord Jinendra. Therefore, for householders renunciation implies charities; and for the ascetics it signifies the vow of ‘Pratigraha’ i.e., abstention from greed of worldly possessions and the virtue of freedom from attachments. One who cherishes the feeling of renunciation without letting one’s energies lie dormant, paves the way to attainment of ‘Tirthankar Prakriti’ i.e., the state of final liberation or salvation. “Vyutsarjanam vyutsrgstyaga” means renunciation. To acknowledge the non-self as different from self and then to become non-attached to all worldly objects or to discard the non-self is renunciation.
Vrishtrbina kuto maigha, kav sasyam bijvartam
Jivanam ch bina tyagat, sukhmupadyate kuta
i.e., How can rainfall be possible without clouds? How can corn grow without sowing seeds? Likewise, how can the living beings attain bliss without renunciation?
Every living creature is aspirant for happiness. This happiness is an outcome of renunciation. When a thing is fully and whole-heartedly given in charity to others, it is called renunciation. If someone desires a return in exchange for a thing donated or wants to get it back after once giving it to others as charity; or donates something to others after getting his name inscribed on it, it is not called renunciation. Only that can be called as giving, which is given to the poor. All other giving is of the nature of barter.
Renunciation lends greatness to a man. Lord Bahubali followed the path of renunciation and attained his cherished goal. He conquered the kingdom of the sovereign king Bharat and returned it to him thereafter without a hitch. How great was the feeling of renunciation in his outlook on life! He was the noble soul, who laid down the foundation of this grand Indian tradition of returning a kingdom after once conquering it; which has become an immortal heritage of Indian culture to the coming generations. Lord Ram also won over Lanka after defeating Ravan, and then he renounced it by crowning Vibhishan the king of Lanka. In the modern age also we see that our worthy Prime Minister of India, Late Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri won the war against Pakistan but soon after returned the vast territory of Pakistan conquered by our jawans. Likewise, in Bangla-Pakistan war, Bangladesh triumphed as a result of the open support and huge military aid of India; but Shrimati Indira Gandhi handed over Bangladesh to her people. First, to conquer and then to return the conquered land to her people has been the noble tradition of this land; for we are the staunch followers of the religion of renunciation. Rightly has it been said; “A generous mind never enjoys its possessions so much as when others are made partakers of them.”
We can conquer the world through love, friendship and a spirit of renunciation. We cannot subdue the free spirit of nation merely by the force of arms. The military strength or power of weapons may give temporary defeat to an enemy nation but cannot vanquish her free spirit or win heart of people except with love and affection as the Holy Buddha did by preaching Buddhism in Shri Lanka, Burma and Japan. In the book ‘Early History of Vaishali’ an eminent historian of Europe has written that Lord Mahavira was born in a Kshatrya clan, whose people were always at war with one another fighting with swords. Lord Mahavira preached to them – ‘Do not tease and torture even the smallest creature like an ant; rather give love and protection to it’. In the modern age one man is bent upon torturing and killing another man, instead of giving him fraternal love and affection. Should we call him humane? All of us have to develop the outlook of Lord Mahavira. Renunciation is a must to become great like Mahavira. In ‘Baras Anupekha’ Acharya Kundkund Swami has defined the supreme virtue of renunciation as below:
Nrichaigatiam bhavi, moh cheunr sachdvaishu
Jo tas havai chayago idi bhanridam jinrvarimdaihim
Lord Jinendra has stated, “A living being. who discarding attachment to things, non-self maintains an indifferent outlook for physical body and worldly pleasures, is endowed with the virtue of renunciation.” A man cannot obtain peace and happiness by accumulating material things like wealth and property, nor do these things enhance his prestige; rather their renunciation adds to his prestige and honor, and he achieves peace and happiness.
There lived a very wealthy householder in a city; but he was greedy by nature. He neither took nice food nor put on nice clothes, nor gave money in charity for religious deeds and other noble causes. His chief aim in life was to accumulate money by saving every penny day and night. What to say of seeing his face, people disliked even to hear his name in the morning. The scriptures say, “namatikripanrsya cha“, i.e., the name of a miser is not worth speaking. Such people are condemned and disdained wherever they go. After all who can show respect to such selfish men? In the modern times we daily come across so many affluent persons, who hesitate to donate even a penny for religious functions and for a good cause, but are forced to pay huge amount of money as taxes. They are aversive to give donation to every category of charity-seekers viz. superb, medium and lower type. On the contrary such people try to win false prestige and glory by arranging garden parties in honor of high government officers, and feeding the gentry on the eve of wedding receptions. But this greedy rich person was a perfect devil. What to speak of giving donation to social institutions, he did not give even a tip of twenty-five paisa to a peon. If sometimes a hungry beggar knocked at his door asking for food, he would shut the door in his face and make a pretext of sickness but never offered him food. The Tamil scholar Ka Naa Subramanyam rightly says:
“The fullness of the life of the house-holder is achieved when he feeds those, who come hungry to him. Indeed he, that shares his food with the hungry, will never go hungry at any time. Those who fast in penance endure hunger; to do away with hunger in others is better than fasting in penance.”
Therefore, both the king and the masses showed no veneration to this greedy rich man. Still he was a God- fearing man and had high faith in prayer and worship. Turning the beads and chanting verses from the ‘Ramayan’, he would walk in heavy rainfall or pitch darkness even to a distant place to listen to the holy sermons of sages and priests. But the temple priest who delivered the holy sermons never extended him any welcome, and would not give him a seat of honor close by him. He used to get a back seat in a corner on the temple mat; because all knew that he would not offer even a single penny to the learned priest as gift.
But God knows how one-day good sense prevailed on him. When all the blemishes of his soul were washed away by the shower of religious hymns. What good effect of the pious deeds of his previous births prompted him? At the end of the sermon when all the devotees had made their offerings to the holy priest, the rich miser took out a bundle wrapped in a piece of dirty cloth from under his armpit and offered several dazzling silver coins to the priest as gift. The whole gathering and the priest himself were taken aback by his action. Voices poured from all directions that no one knows when the almighty may bring a change in outlook and a staunch miser may become extremely generous. When the miser began to return to his former seat devoid of all sense of vanity and with bowed head, the priest holding him by the hand gave him an honorable seat on the costly carpet. No sooner did the rich man take his seat, than he spoke, “O Holy Priest! Money enjoys a great value and wins prestige in the world. Till yesterday I was a neglected person and you gave me a lower seat at a distance; but why all this honor and welcome today?” On hearing these words of praise for riches, the priest spoke, “O Seth! You are mistaken. Even yesterday you were rich, but did not enjoy social prestige. This reverence is for renunciation, not for riches.” “Dhanam tygain shobhatay“. Riches win glory by renouncing them. None can win fame and prestige by accumulating money like a honeybee, which collects honey in the beehive. Only when we utilize money like a bee, which collects honey in the beehive. Only when we utilize money for personal uplift or social well being by donating it to social and religious institutions like schools, hospitals, Dharamshalas and temples, that it wins us name, fame and glory. Riches, which are not utilized for noble cause, are worthless like dust. A rich man always lives in tension. Fear of thieves, robbers and income tax raids, haunts his mind forever. Riches come to a man by good luck and sincere, earnest labor and if used judiciously for a right cause, they bring him mental peace and happiness. Squandering money on trifles e.g., sensuous pleasures or vices like gambling, drinking and prostitution is the misappropriation of riches and it is a heinous crime as well as a sin.
The supreme virtue of renunciation is a part and parcel of religion. The two are indivisible. We cannot separate renunciation from religion and soul. One should renounce worldly possessions devotedly within one’s power, “shaktistyaga“. Trees renounce fruits and keep us alive. The mountains cast away stones and pebbles, which we use for construction works; and from which statues and idols are carved out. Renunciation is regarded as a superb type of virtue. It is helpful in the attainment of liberation or salvation i.e., it is a cause and means to liberation.
The Jain prophets endowed with a humanitarian outlook recommend that if a person ever happens to earn more than his requirements, he must give away his money in Dana (charities). The best forms of charities prescribed by religion are four:
i) Ahara Dana – giving food to the hungry and poor;
ii) Abhaya Dana – Saving the lives of living beings in danger;
iii) Aushadha or Bhaishajya Dana – distribution of medicines;
iv) Gyana or Shastra Dana – Spreading knowledge.
These charities are called the ‘Chaturvidha Dana’ – the four-fold gifts by Jain religion; and it has been enjoined on the householders that they should make special efforts to give these charities to the needy, irrespective of caste and creed. Even now, in all parts of India, the Jains have rigorously maintained the tradition by giving freely ‘Chaturvidha Dana’ – four fold gifts.
Even though one has husbanded all one’s wealth, one will be without support in the long run, if one has not given a part of his wealth in charity. Giving in charity is perhaps one of the commonest of moral advocacy’s under any religious system; the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Christian and the Islamic along with the Jains prescribe it as one of the right ways of conduct. Renunciation provides us nothing but more and more happiness. Renunciation vanquishes all vices of a man. It spreads one’s shining glory all around. Religion advocates renunciation, not indulgence in worldly allurements.
“Gyanat tyaga, tyagat shanti”
According to the above statement charities given wisely only after careful thought are called true renunciation. One gets peace only by such type of renunciation. Hence, before giving charities generously, it is most essential that a man should ponder well over the pros and cons of what he intends to give in charity and to whom he intends to give. Donations given after proper thought under no momentary emotional urge born out of a feeling of compassion aroused by an imposter saint or an idler i.e., a work shirking person who wants to extort money under some false pretext, are termed renunciation. Contribution of funds to political parties or giving alms to beggars, who misuse in drinks and intoxicants is in no way donation or charity; rather it is squandering of money. Beware, it is better not to be charitable at all than to give charity to an undeserving person.
Renunciation affords peace. It is a psychological truth. Only a large- hearted and liberal-minded person can give donation. The more a donor renounces worldly possessions, the greater is the number of ripples of happiness that rise in his heart. Therefore, it is essential for the lucky affluent persons to constantly follow the practice of giving charities forever in life. If rain, water in a river goes on accumulating and there is no outlet i.e., the river does not supply water to the fields and oceans; it will be flooded. Its water overflowing both its banks will create havoc all around resulting in the ruin of crops and vast costly properties and many innocent lives will meet untimely death. The sun has been illuminating the whole world ever since the earth came into existence by casting its innumerous dazzling rays which give both light and warmth to one and all. If the sun does not shed its luminous rays, no living creature, no vegetation and no plant will survive on earth. Likewise, if out of a feeling of selfishness a man adopts the tendency of accumulating wealth, the financial disparities in the world will go on increasing and create an economic crisis, which may result in bloodshed. Hence, such a worshipper of Mammon will be called a traitor and a bloodsucker of the poor. A well known statesman has said, “sehbhogyamidam rajyam” – the amenities of the royal treasure must be enjoyed united by all through a proper division of wealth.
When tasty fruits ripen on trees, they drop them on the ground below without greed or sense of possessions. How great is the debt of trees on man! Likewise, a man wins glory and dignity only when he distributes among the needy the huge wealth accumulated by him. So long as the clouds hold water, they look dark in appearance; but as soon as they start raining i.e., renounce water drop by drop, they begin to look snow white. Similarly, till a man accumulates worldly possessions his inner soul blackened with anger like passions seems a burden to him. But no sooner the same man starts giving in charity his vast wealth accumulated by fair means or foul, than his inner feels relieved of a burden; for it results in the purification of his thoughts.
The message of the founder of Jainism Lord Adinath is, “Either be an ascetic or a cultivator.” This axiom signifies both renunciation and indulgence. Only those who have amassed great fortunes can give charities. There can be no renunciation without possessions to be given up. Those indulged in collecting more and more material possessions should follow the ideal path of cultivators who grow more and more to feed themselves and their fellow beings; or those who have faith in true renunciation should follow suit to ascetics. No doubt out of these two paths latter type of renunciation is regarded better. Those who disdain worldly riches and cast them away without hitch are held in high veneration; those who are busy day and night in earning and spending lay waste their powers in accumulating articles of sensuous pleasures. Self-uplift is possible only through renunciation not through indulgence.
While defining the supreme virtue of renunciation, the great poet Reidhu writes:
Chau vi dhamangau tam ji amangau nristriye bhatriye janrhu
Patham supvitham tav gunr jutham pargyi sambalu tam munrhu
Chae avgunr ganru ji uhtyi, chae nrimal kiti pavhayi
Chae veyrith panrmeyi paye, chae bhog bhomi suh jae
Chae vihijeyi nrich ji binrye, suh veynryi bhasaipinru panrai
Abhaydanru dijeyi pehilaru, jimi nrasyi parbhav dudhyaru
Sathdanru bijyu punr kijyi, nrimal nranru jainr pavijyi
Osahu dijyi roe vinrasanru, keh vinr paichyi bahi pyasanru
Aharay dhanrridhi pavthyi, chaubihu chau ji aihu pavthau
Ahva duth viapaham chae, chau ji aihu munrhu samvaen
Duhiyeh dijyi danru kijayi manru ji gunriynraham
Deh bhaviyi abhang dansanru chintijyi manrham
1. Renunciation is a part and parcel of religion. As a rule the two are inseparable. A perfectly purified soul dedicated to the virtue of penance should practice with full devotion the supreme virtue of renunciation within his capacity. That paves the way to the attainment of a superior state of existence in the next birth.
2. A horde of vices is driven away by renunciation; it spreads the shining glory and fame of a person; consequently an enemy surrenders and falls down at his feet. One gets the bliss of happy land of Eldorado through renunciation.
3. A man devoted to renunciation should regularly give charity humbly and affectionately using auspicious words. First of all he should give ‘abhay daan’ i.e., save the lives of all living beings in danger; doing so vanquishes the miseries related to the other world.
4. Besides, one should give ‘Shastra Dana’ as well i.e., he should distribute among the people sacred books and scriptures, which impart and spread religious knowledge. He should make free distribution of medicines also which cure living beings of all bodily diseases, and destroy all physical ailments root and branch.
5. Giving food to the Hungary and the poor i.e., ‘ahar daan’ brings peace and prosperity in its return. As a rule these are four types of charities (four-fold renunciation) practiced from times immemorial. In other words putting an end to vicious thoughts practices renunciation. In short, the virtue of renunciation consists in doing all this.
6. We should give alms to the miserable and show reverence to the talented and virtuous persons. We should cherish the sole feeling of mercy and meditate in our mind for the attainment of Perfect Faith.
Hence, O Mortal Man! Practice renunciation, practice renunciation and practice renunciation throughout your life; for wise men say: “The more you covet, the more you lose; and the more you give up, the more you merit.”
Indeed, ‘To renounce all sense of possession with regard to wealth is a very difficult vow.”
To sum up, ‘Riches have wings and they flee us leaving us in the lurch.’
Therefore, it is wise to renounce riches and all other possessions voluntarily and give charities; otherwise when misfortune robs us of all our wealth and prosperity we shall be left penniless waiting and cursing our destiny.