Renunciation or Self-destruction?



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Renunciation (or renouncing) is the act of rejecting something, especially if it is something that the renunciant has previously enjoyed or endorsed.

In religion, renunciation often indicates an abandonment of pursuit of material comforts, in the interests of achieving spiritual enlightenment. It is highly practiced in Jainism. In Hinduism, the renounced order of life is sannyāsa; in Buddhism, the Pali word for “renunciation” is nekkhamma, conveying more specifically “giving up the world and leading a holy life” or “freedom from lust, craving and desires”. In Christianity, some denominations have a tradition of renunciation of the Devil.

Renunciation of citizenship is the formal process by which a person voluntarily relinquishes the status of citizen of a specific country. A person can also renounce property, as when a person submits a disclaimer of interest in property that has been left to them in a will.


From time to time, I come back to this theme of renunciation.

In the case of Siddhartha, according to the narrative, his dad had plans for him to be prince and then king or ruler, he even went out of his way to manipulate him in that direction. But Siddhartha renounced that way of life, he left status, riches, power, a wife and a young child and metaphorically pissed off into the woods. He is now referred to as Lord Buddha so you could say he is a high status being, despite his efforts to escape all the labelling of society. I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that he is a bit bemused by the fact that there is worship of him and that garden centres sell statues of him of dubious quality to be put in gardens. People maybe did not get the gist of what he was about, especially with the worship aspect.

Viewed from the angle of the career driven westerner maybe he threw his toys out of the cot and in one act of self-destruction ended what could have been an illustrious career as a statesman and king. He had everything going for him, but he messed it up on purpose. What a fool! What a failure! But, in one sense it really was an act of self-destruction, he destroyed those aspects of self to which most people cling. It means something different when looked at like this, self-destruction is a good thing in this context.

I left the “leadership” of a new-age group, I “gave” my shares of a start-up I co-founded back, I left a wife and young child and I jacked in a career at a prestigious university. These were piece meal renunciations, not one fell swoop. Maybe I am a failure! Maybe I was throwing my toys out of the cot! Or maybe I was simply destroying my self and all that I once felt was important. Who can be sure? I think it fair to speculate that this kind of thing goes against the grain, it should not happen. People ought to be career driven and slave to status and success as it is quantified by man-made metric after man-made metric.

I did not come upon the narrative of Siddhartha’s renunciation until my late thirties when I started having dreams and visions of me as a Buddhist monk. When I did read it, I recognised the thematic similarity. What I can say as a result of my own self-destruction is the things that I placed such value on before it, now have little or no hold over me. I see their impermanence. Maybe I am just a nihilistic old git, a non-competitive, lacking in ambition, has been…

One can never be sure which narrative is the best fit…I guess people pick whichever is most convenient for them…

I don’t know why but I am back with this theme, at least for a while…