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Challenging the idea of detachment
November 29, 2010  |  radhanath-swami

Richard (now Radhanath Swami) had once judged Srila Prabhupada’s western disciples for carrying cameras and tape recorders, thinking it strange that sadhus are using materialistic things. But one day he was shaken by Srila Prabhupada’s exposition on what is material and what actually is spiritual. Srila Prabhupada explained that everything is potentially spiritual because it is energy of the Supreme Lord. Radhanath Swami heard Srila Prabhupada speak, “Material consciousness is to forget an object’s relationship with God. Spiritual consciousness is to see everything in relation to God and utilize everything in devotional service.” Prabhupad tapped the microphone to make his point. “Let us take this microphone, for example. If it is used to sing songs about mundane passion, it is material. If, however, it is used to sing the glories of the Lord, it is spiritual. It’s all a matter of consciousness. We want to use everything for a spiritual cause. Bhakti Yoga is the art of transforming material energy into spiritual energy through a spirit of devotion.”

Radhanath Swami writes that like an earthquake, Srila Prabhupada’s words shook his world. He writes in his autobiography:

This concept is revolutionary, I thought. It challenges the very core of my idea of detachment. I had assumed detachment meant to give up everything and live with nothing but the barest minimum to survive. When I honestly searched deep into my heart, I had to admit that in a subtle way, I was proud of the way I had been living in India and even thought it superior to the way people lived in the West. But perhaps this idea of detachment is just another product of self-deceiving ego, inducing me to feel superior to others. My reality was shaken. It was easy to think of the beautiful natural surroundings in Vrindavan and the temples to the deities as spiritual. But a microphone? I thought of how I had judged Prabhupad’s Western followers for carrying cameras and tape recorders.How foolish it was of me to look down on them, feeling that I was better because of my ascetic lifestyle. I now understand that detachment is only sacred to the degree it fosters humility, respect, and love. In a few words, Srila

Prabhupada had just crushed my illusion. My ego felt battered, and yet I was thankful.”

I once heard Radhanath Swami explain that If you find an unclaimed wallet, filled with $100 bills, you have three choices. First, keep it- after all finders’ keepers and losers ’weepers’”. The second choice is to ‘renounce’ the wallet. The two choices are compared to being the ‘enjoyer’ and ‘false renouncer’ in this world respectively; because the wallet anyway didn’t belong to you. The third action- to find the owner’s address and return it to him- is a more responsible one. Similarly a spiritualist refuses to exploit the resources of nature for selfish enjoyment. He also doesn’t artificially renounce things of this world, because the world and its resources are not his property, rather they belong to God. Instead he engages his wealth in service of God, while giving up the sense of false proprietorship and enjoyer. Thus one could be a billionaire and an emperor of the world and still be renounced, by offering his wealth for a spiritual cause. Or one could be an impoverished beggar, and still not be a renunciant if he is proud of his penny.

Renunciation has more to do with our internal mood than an external act, says Radhanath Swami. Real renunciation means renouncing the false ego. Radhanath Swami says, “The seed of all attachments is false ego, therefore essentially renunciation means detachment from the false ego; renunciation means death of the false ego.”

Radhanath Swami, quoting past saints and scriptures and blending with his own deep realizations, shares, “Renunciation doesn’t mean giving up things externally but rather it means diligently pulling out the negativities from the heart.”

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40 Comments


  1. Real renunciation means it should come from the Heart and not artificially

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  2. The statement “detachment is only sacred to the degree it fosters humility, respect, and love.” by Radhanath Swami gives such a nice understanding of what is the purpose of detachment.

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  3. “Renunciation doesn’t mean giving up things externally but rather it means diligently pulling out the negativeness from the heart.” Radhanath Swami has done exactly the same thing.

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  4. How can we renounce anything that is not ours in the first place? God has created everything, He owns everything, and so, as Radhanath Swami says, everything should be used for Him alone.

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  5. True using things of this world for God’s service is higher detachment than just leaving everything away. That is what Krsna taught Arjuna.

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  6. Arjun K Ramachandra

    “I now understand that detachment is only sacred to the degree it fosters humility, respect, and love”. This statement o Radhanath Swami touched my heart and made me understand the true internal meaning of renunciation.

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  7. Real Detachment, as Radhanath Swami explains, is to be attached ONLY to God.

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  8. this small piece goes a long way to give a true understanding of renunciation.

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  9. Amazing lesson by Radhanath Swami about how to perform Yukta Vairagya and not the Phalgu Vairagya.

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  10. Sheetal Maheshwari

    This teaches us real detachment which is often misunderstood by people in general.

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  11. very nice description.

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  12. “Renunciation means detachment from the false ego; renunciation means death of the false ego”…very profound..I never thought like this.

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  13. Bhakti yoga is about transforming material energy into spiritual energy. Potentially anything can be spiritualized based on the consciousness. Thank you for sharing this article.

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  14. Radhanath Swami Maharaj explains detachment!

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  15. Very instructive message on detachment.
    H.H.Radhanath Swami Maharaj ki jai

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  16. We should renounce the negativities.

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  17. Very wonderful and deep expression of “renounciation.
    – Bhakti Yoga is the art of transforming material energy into spiritual energy through a spirit of devotion – Thank you Radhanath Swami Maharj.

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  18. As Radhanath Swami is pointing out here, we have to be careful even while renouncing.

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  19. very nicely explained by HHRNSM about the importance of renunciation and mainly of the self ego within us, thank you Maharaj for guiding us, haribol, bhakti

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  20. a very beautiful explanation made by Swami Srila Prabhupada about the difference in material consciousness and spiritual consciousness and their purpose, very thought provoking, thanks you Guru Maharaj for this wonderful explanation, haribol, rajesh karia

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  21. Real detachment is being selfless. Real selflessness is love. False selflessness is the attempted negation of selfishness.

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  22. Very educative & inspriing article……

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  23. Renunciation is most widely accepted as giving up things externally but herein Maharaj gives us the higher understanding of renunciation – diligently pulling out the negativities from the heart.

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  24. “The seed of all attachments is false ego, therefore essentially renunciation means detachment from the false ego; renunciation means death of the false ego.” This is such a powerful statement, as it clearly defines what detachment really means. Further, Renunciation doesn’t mean giving up things externally but rather it means diligently pulling out the negativities from the heart. These two statements underlines the mood behind detachment and Renunciation. Very nice.

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  25. Manish Raikundalia

    Amazing article about what Renunciation is and what it is not.

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  26. its just nice

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  27. Radhanath Swami Maharaj is a true renouncer.

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  28. I was also amazed when I first heard this understanding of what is real detachment—-a matter of internal consciousness.

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  29. M Pandu Rangayya Shetty

    False ego, hiding our real position, part and parcel of Krishna.Here Radhanth Swami realized the real meaning of detachment and helping everyone to use everything in the service of Krishna. All glories gto Radhanath Swami.

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  30. Maharaj realisations are very beneficial to others.

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  31. Bhakti Yoga is the art of transforming material energy into spiritual energy through a spirit of devotion

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  32. Radhanath Swami is self realized and hence his words penetrate the hearts of those who read and hear him.

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  33. Radhanath Swami says everything should be used in service to Lord.

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  34. srila prabhupad’s words are really like an earthquake

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  35. Thanks maharaj for SHARING THIS

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  36. one could be a billionaire and an emperor of the world and still be renounced, by offering his wealth for a spiritual cause.

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  37. rambaboo maheshwari

    The seed of all attachments is false ego, therefore essentially renunciation means detachment from the false ego; renunciation means death of the false ego.”

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  38. Thank you for telling us what is real detachment and how we can detach ourselves from material things by getting attached to a higher taste.

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  39. Kalpana Kulkarni

    Amazing explanation of what real renunciation is!

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  40. Thanks to Radhanath Swami for this nice explaination of the concept “Detachment”

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