05.21: Renunciation is not un-ambitious, but super-ambitious
Many people feel that renunciation symptomizes a lack of ambition. They feel that those who renounce worldly pleasures – be it entirely by embracing monkhood or partially by adopting regulative principles – don’t have the ambition to go through the struggles necessary for achieving those pleasures.
People with such notions are often caught off-guard when they discover that Gita wisdom considers authentic renunciates to be the most ambitious individuals. These authentic renunciates turn away from the world not because they lack the ambition to seek its pleasures, but because they possess the acumen to see through those pleasures. They understand that all worldly pleasures are marred by a fatal flaw: they are unavoidably temporary, intrinsically short-lived. Be it winning a video game or climbing Mount Everest, be it eating one’s favorite pizza or sporting with Miss or Mr. Universe, no material achievement offers happiness that lasts. Thus, the thought that turns them away from material pleasures is not “that’s too tough,” but “that’s too tiny.”
These authentic renunciates are convinced that there must be more to life than these fleeting material pleasures. Their logic is sound: as all of us long for happiness round-the-clock, there must exist a happiness that satisfies round-the-clock. They complement this logical introspection with scriptural information: the Bhagavad-gita (5.21) declares that the spiritual happiness available to seekers by connecting with the divine internally is imperishable. This scriptural knowledge sparks within them the ambition to achieve that inexhaustible happiness of devotion, no matter what the price. The price is high: disconnecting oneself from all material pleasures through renunciation and reconnecting oneself constantly with Krishna through loving remembrance. The willingness to shell out such a high price is symptomatic of not the faint-hearted, but the firm-hearted; not the unambitious, but the super-ambitious.