is the determination to be free from not only some form of suffering,
but also from its causes. It entails the willingness to give up that
suffering and its causes. Thus, it requires great courage. It is not
just aiming to get something nice without paying a price.
Renunciation also implies belief in the fact that it is possible to
be free from that suffering and its causes. It is not just wishful
thinking. It is belief in a fact to be true (dad-pa) in all three ways.
- Clearheadedly believing it (dang-ba'i dad-pa), clears the mind
of disturbing emotions and attitudes about the object. Thus, correct
renunciation clears the mind of indecisiveness, self-pity, and
resentment about having to give up something desirable.
- Believing a fact to be true based on reason (yid-ches-pa). We need to understand how liberation from suffering and its causes is possible.
- Believing a fact with an aspiration toward it (mngon-dad-kyi dad-pa). As with the two stages of bodhichitta
(the aspiring and the involved stages), we need not merely to wish or
to be willing to give up some level of suffering and its causes, based
on belief that we are able to do so. We need actually to give them both
up, as much as we presently are able, and to involve ourselves in the
practices that will enable us eventually to gain freedom from them
Moreover, correct renunciation is not the same as short-lived all-excited renunciation (sna-thung spu-sud-kyi nges-'byung):
the enthusiastic and fanatic renunciation of everything, based on blind
faith that an external source will save us. It entails a realistic attitude about the hard work involved. We may gain inspiration from others, but we have to work hard ourselves.
Further, we need a realistic attitude about how progress occurs. Becoming free from samsara
is never a linear process, with things getting better each day. Until
we are free forever, samsara will continue to go up and down. When
viewed from the perspective of a long period of time, we can see progress, but on a day-to-day basis, our moods will continue to go up and down.
Thus, we need discipline and patience to endure the difficulties of following the Buddhist path, and armor-like joyful perseverance (go-cha'i brtson-'grus)
to press on despite the ups and downs. With clearheaded belief backing
our determination to be free, we will not become frustrated or dismayed.
In The Three Principal Aspects of the Path (Lam-gtso rnam-gsum), Tsongkhapa differentiates
- the initial scope renunciation with which we turn our primary concern from benefiting this life to benefiting future lives,
- the intermediate scope renunciation with which we turn our
primary interest from benefiting future lives to gaining liberation from
uncontrollably recurring rebirth in samsara.
The first is a level of renunciation developed in common with
non-Buddhists who aim to go to heaven. The second is exclusively
[See: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path.]
We can implement this differentiation by adding a preliminary stage, the "Dharma-Lite" version (like CocaCola Lite). Dharma-Lite renunciation is turning our primary interest from gratifying the moment to benefiting later periods in this life or later generations.
Dharma-Lite renunciation, however, is only valid as part of the Buddhist path when we view it merely as a stepping stone for reaching the two "real-thing
" Dharma levels. To reach the "real-thing" levels, we need to
understand the Buddhist teachings on rebirth correctly and believe them
to be fact, based on reason. Otherwise, how can we sincerely work to
benefit our future lives or to gain liberation from uncontrollably
With Dharma-Lite renunciation, then, we look at the everyday problems
we have in life - in our relationships, in our dealing with
difficulties, and so on. We also look at the causes and we are willing
to give up both, in order to improve the quality of this life - and not
just immediately, but also later in life. This is renunciation on a
level in common with psychotherapy.
Parallel to this level, we can have a Dharma-Lite version of putting safe direction in life (taking refuge). We put the safe direction in our lives of working to live with our neuroses so that they cause us only minimal problems. We look to those who have achieved this, in full and in part, as indicating the way.
(the graded stages of the path) presents the topic of taking safe
direction first in terms of initial scope renunciation. There, it is
based on dread
of worse rebirths and belief in the fact that the Three Gems can lead
to better rebirth. Like the Dharma-Lite versions, this level of
renunciation and safe direction is also only provisional. They are also
not the full, definitional forms.
The Dharma Gem is true stoppings of suffering and its causes, and
true pathway minds (true paths) leading to them. On the initial level,
however, the Dharma Gem is not an actual Dharma gem. The suffering we
aim to stop is only gross suffering; its cause is only unawareness of behavioral cause and effect; the stopping is only temporary; and the path is restraining from destructive behavior.
Moreover, those who have attained this so-called Dharma Gem are those
in the best states of rebirth - human and gods, not Buddhas and not
necessarily the arya sangha community of those with nonconceptual cognition of voidness.
Only on the intermediate lam-rim level do we find full, definitional
renunciation and full, definitional safe direction. True sufferings,
here, are of all three types (pain, change, and all-encompassing), true causes are unawareness of voidness, true stopping
is forever - not just temporary like going to higher plane rebirths or
meditative states - and true pathway minds are nonconceptual cognitions
Correspondingly, here, we put the definitional safe direction in our
lives and aim for the actual Dharma Gem of true stoppings and true
paths, as exist in full on the mental continuums of Buddhas and exist in
part on the mental continuums of the arya sangha.
[See: Identifying the Objects of Safe Direction (Refuge).]
On the advanced lam-rim level of a bodhichitta motivation,
renunciation aims for the freedom of all others from samsaric suffering
and its causes - not just their suffering of pain, and not just the
suffering of some beings. This wish for all others to be totally
liberated from suffering and its causes, with conviction that it is
possible, is called "compassion." Compassion is one aspect of the bodhisattva level of renunciation.
To bring about the ability to help liberate
all others, we need the other aspect of bodhisattva renunciation. We
need to renounce not only the emotional obscurations (nyon-sgrib) preventing our liberation, but also the cognitive obscurations (shes-sgrib)
preventing our omniscience. Again, this implies understanding
omniscience, the obscurations that prevent it, and firm belief that it
is possible to rid ourselves forever of those obscurations. It also
implies firm belief that it is possible for everyone to rid themselves
forever of these obscurations.
All along the Buddhist path, then, we need the willingness to give up
suffering and the causes of suffering. Thus, we need to recognize as
sources of our suffering our selfishness, laziness, attachment, anger, and so on; give them up as much as possible now; and strive as soon as possible to rid ourselves of them forever.
we need even deeper renunciation. We need to be willing to give up and
then actually let go, as much as we can, our ordinary self-images and
our identifying with them. Renunciation is indeed a deep and
far-reaching practice, from Dharma-Lite all the way to highest tantra.