Practical Renunciation (Yukta Vairagya) – The Basics

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All practitioners of Krsna Bhakti in any of the multifarious schools descending from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu follow the guidence of Sri Rupa Goswami. He has explained exactly how renunciation (giving up of “material things”) is to be done by practicing Krsna Bhaktas (devotees). He calls this, yukta vairagya.

Vairagya is a simple term for renunciation – which is composed of verbal roots that congure an image of having no attachment or passion. In other words, vairagya basically means “giving things up.” Yukta is another simple term, but the linking of these terms together coins a very ingenious phrase. Yukta means to be “linked” – and it carries many many connotations. When something is linked, it is like a bull linked to a plough, it becomes practical, useful, valuable. And all of these are connotations of the word yukta. So Rupa Goswami, as usual – frankly, coined a brilliant phrase defining renunciation that is useful, practical and worthy of Divine Love (Krsna-bhakti).

Here are the basics of what it means:

If a thing exists which you have the ability and right to engage in the service of Sri Krsna’s senses, that thing should not be neglected or given up. To give such a thing up is called phalgu vairagya and leads to the frustrations associated with Jnana-marga and the quest for brahmajyoti impersonal liberation.

Conversely if a thing exists which you don’t have the ability or right to engage in the service of Sri krsna’s senses, you must give that thing up completely.

So we have to consider both ability and propriety before we can deem if we should embrace or avoid any person, place, thing, situation, etc. Here is an example – an iPhone. Can I use it to please Krsna’s senses? OK, you can make an argument for it. Especially for me, I am a techie, so OK, it is reasonable that it might be OK to have an iPhone or some similar computer / iPad thingie. For someone who knows nothing about how to use an iPhone, what to speak of how to engage it in pleasing Krsna… well no absolutely not. It’s a violation of yukta vairagya to go get one just so you can learn how to, maybe, etc.

Next you have to consider the propriety. Is it mine already or do I have to steal it from someone else?

This calls to mind the humorous situation of devotees stealing flowers from people’s gardens claiming its all Krsna’s anyway. Yes, you have the ability to engage the flower in Krsna’s service – but do you have the right? NO. It’s not yours. It is someone elses to engage or not engage.

Propriety also means, is it proper? Am I an old man, am I a beggar, a renunciat wearing saffron? If so maybe it is not proper to spend other person’s money – which is what you get by begging – on an expensive gaget? These are questions you have to HONESTLY ask yourself.

Here is another – a man is a husband and a father. He claims he will renounce these for the service of Krsna. There is a SERIOUS question here that this is very likely Phalgu Vairagya and thus no good whatsoever. For as a husband and a father the man has both the ability and the duty/right to engage with his household and family in a manner which is pleasant to Sri Krsna.

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