The joy of relinquishment

“So it is, Ananda.  Even I myself, before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, thought : ‘Renunciation is good. Seclusion is good.’  But my heart didn’t leap up at renunciation, didn’t grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace.

The thought occurred to me: ‘What is the cause, what is the reason, why my heart doesn’t leap up at renunciation, doesn’t grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace?’ Then the thought occurred to me: I haven’t seen the drawback of sensual pleasures; I haven’t pursued [that theme].  I haven’t understood the reward of renunciation; I haven’t familiarized myself with it.

That’s why my heart doesn’t leap up at renunciation, doesn’t grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace.”

– Tapussa Sutta, AN 9.41


The Buddha taught that pursuing sensual pleasure ultimately breeds attachment, fear and sorrow due to its impermanent nature.  Renunciation on the other hand gives rise to fearlessness and joy.  Renunciation (Nekkhamma in Pāli) means “giving up the world and leading a holy life”, but it also relinquishing what is not useful and unwholesome for us spiritually.  Hence, we need not shudder and recoil from renunciation, but instead consider how we can move from servitude (due to attachment) to self-mastery (freedom from desires) through adopting it in our daily lives.

Some people can renounce certain desires such as collecting material belongings simply by seeing the futility of the chase which does not result in lasting happiness; instead it gives rise to a compulsion of wanting more and more.  Some contemplate the ‘dukkha’ (dissatisfaction) inherent in the desire and how quickly the joy dissipates to be replaced by longing for what has passed or sadness in losing what they had.  Others think of the benefits of relinquishing what they don’t need because it means life will be simpler, and their minds unoccupied by yearning.

It is without doubt, that giving up unwholesome practices and habits, and simplifying our lives give us more peace.  As we reflect on our past experiences of desire for impermanent things, we can see the frustrations borne from ephemeral happiness.  With understanding and acceptance, let us experience the joy of relinquishment which sets us on the path of renunciation, ultimately culminating in Nibbāna.