Action and Renunciation


The phrase “sab moh maya hai” (roughly, “everything is moha and maya”), which we used to comfort one another when things didn’t go as planned during my undergraduate years in India, means that everything is moha and maya. It is odd that when things go our way, rather than when they don’t, we are more receptive to the concepts of detachment and renunciation. When we have little to give up, renunciation is simple; nevertheless, when we must give up our most beloved possessions, renunciation becomes challenging. Few people consider renunciation and separation during prosperous times. When everything is going smoothly, we merely take in life’s pleasures.

A Tug Of War

We find these intellectual concepts highly alluring when things don’t go our way. Sometimes we try to cover up our shortcomings and failings when we don’t succeed in achieving our goals in life by clinging to these lofty philosophical ideals of detachment and renunciation. Nevertheless, the reality is that despite having desires, we are not prepared to work hard enough to fulfil them. We might appear to reject the world of things and turn towards a spiritual existence. Yet, we simply disguised our worldly goals under the guise of “spirituality,” so they no longer exist.

We may appear calm at this time and may have persuaded ourselves and the outer world that we are separate. We might also feel good about ourselves if we believe that our renunciation has advanced us significantly on the spiritual path. But in truth, our emotions are still ablaze with longing. In such circumstances, our concepts of detachment and renunciation are not only harmful but also hazardous because they pose a significant barrier to our development and way of life.

Now we discover that we occasionally become agitated by the underlying wants. In response, we look for methods of avoiding them. We might engage in other “spiritual” activities to take our minds off the present situation. But, because these tasks are not to our liking, we don’t truly enjoy doing them. On the other hand, we have already given up the duties we actually intended to do and have excused this act of giving up as “detachment” and “renunciation”. Although these second-choice “spiritual” pursuits satisfy us to some extent, our hearts will always yearn for what we truly want.

This causes a tug-of-war within us that can ultimately have negative effects. We might strive to stifle our passions, but doing so would only result in self-destruction. Instead, we can develop an unhumane workaholic behaviour in the second-choice “spiritual” jobs, which would cause a variety of psychological and societal issues. As a result, we risk engaging in the most immoral behaviour and drastically degrading both our own and those around us in our quest for “renunciation” and holiness.

But aren’t states of renunciation and detachment ones that we should all strive for? Yes, they are, is the response. The issues at hand are when and how. It’s silly and harmful to try to separate ourselves from our many desires. This is not how it operates. Renunciation cannot be made instantly. It’s not a game for kids. One must be qualified to renounce. The difficult and drawn-out process of self-purification leads to renunciation. Thus, in order to truly release ourselves from samsara, we must first purify our heart and intellect.

By carrying out our duties well, we can purify ourselves in a number of ways. It is our responsibility to carefully select and carry out our acts since we all have internal cravings that will stir our minds and force us to take all kinds of behaviours. In other words, our wants will undoubtedly lead us to take a variety of activities, but we have the ability to select the optimal course of action and execute it. If we do this, our deeds will eventually purify our mind and heart, setting the path for renunciation, which finally results in liberation.

Taking action to find your way

What actions should we take, and how should we do them, is the current question. It is crucial that we first select the appropriate activities since, in the absence of doing so, it will be challenging for us to carry them out correctly. The best activities depend on the individual. They depend on the person’s innate motivations, capacities, and environment in which they live. For instance, some individuals could feel a great need to compete with others and assert that they are incredibly fit and ready to improve both their physical and mental skills. Sports would then be the best activity for them because it would allow them to challenge others.

In sports, a person’s desire to influence a contest’s outcome may be partially satisfied. Yet, sports will also educate kids along the way that they cannot always be in control and that there are people who are more skilled than they are. This will help you comprehend their aim and the associated practical constraints if it’s taken in the proper spirit. One can only overcome a desire once they are aware of it and its practical constraints.

Intense urges are like high-pressure steam chambers; if you try to ignore them or suppress them, an explosion will result. The pressure inside the chamber can be reduced and made bearable by creating a vent through which a gentle trickle of steam is carefully allowed to pass. In this case, sports are the vent, and practising sports in the appropriate attitude is the cautious management of the vent. The vent may be in the arts, sciences, public service, etc., depending on the individual’s preferences. We now examine what transpires if cautious management is unsuccessful.

Our activities can result in more desires and more bondage if they are not done properly. For instance, if we choose athletics, we might develop a fierce rivalry with other athletes on a personal level. Such rivalries have the potential to lead us astray and get us into serious problems. Even if we are successful in harming them, we may have acquired ten other, more powerful desires along the road, such as making sure that we are surrounded by only “Yes-men” who never tell us the truth. All of this sets off a domino effect that pulls us further down the samsara well. Even if we don’t go so far as to harm others, we might harbor deep-seated animosities toward them in our minds, and this too will eventually give rise to a strong wish to harm others. As a result, rather than overcoming a wish, we have given rise to numerous new ones.


So how do we go about doing things correctly? If we pay careful attention, we discover that when we believe we have control over the outcomes of our actions, they actually result in more bondage. Such reasoning results from erroneous action-motivation. We become more focused on the results of our activities if we engage in them as a way to satisfy our desires rather than as a way to purify our hearts and minds. And all the problems that follow are a direct result of this.

Therefore, we ought to carry out our tasks with both eyes on the job at hand rather than just one on the end result. We ought to approach our work with an eagerness to learn. If it goes our way, that’s great. If it doesn’t go our way, we gain fresh knowledge. Whatever happens, our experience is improved, and this is what counts. When an action is carried out with this mentality, we eventually gain understanding of the very essence of the action. We can also see how our wish drove us to take this action. Now that the action resembles hastamalaka (or feels as natural in your hand as a gooseberry), the wish has been satisfied.

Detachment from this desire at this juncture is all but natural. At this time, are we allowed to say, “Yeh moh maya hai”, indicating that moha and maya are present. We need to fulfill all of our goals in this manner, one at a time. Once we have achieved that, we are able to see through Samsara’s very essence. Sannyas is all but natural at this time. We are only qualified to make this statement now, not earlier.

Hi, I’m Garima and I write about life experiences. I have several books available on Amazon. Check them out today! Any purchases or KDP reads will be greatly appreciated. If you like my books, do leave a review. Here’s my author page on Amazon –


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