In ‘The Middle Way’ by the Dalai Lama, His Holiness talks about renunciation in the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim). About renunciation he says (pp.122-123):
if we reflect carefully, we will recognise that, to develop a genuine aspiration to be free from cyclic existence, a genuine aspiration to be free from cyclic existence, a genuine aspiration for nirvana, we have to find a way to overcome attachment to the excellences or pleasures of this unenligthened existence. As long as we do not have that genuine sense of turning away from the qualities and riches of cyclic existence, the wish for liberation will never be genuine.
This gives rise to the question: what are the excellences or pleasures that you attached to in samsara? The following list springs instantly to mind:
- Body, it’s comfort and care.
- Job and career path.
- Money and financial planning.
These three things easily occupy 80% of my time, if not more. It is not so much as those three things in themselves, but rather the importance that I place on them and the priority that I give them in my life. As I increase the priority of those three things, other things in my life are de-prioritised. Based on my relationship with those three things, it directs my behaviour and allocation of time. This is the beginning of the problem.
Those three things can only bring so much happiness, so much joy and fulfilment. In reality, they will bring only a very limited happiness, joy, or fulfilment, that will only last for a very short period of time. When I am dead any physique, career achievements, or savings will be of no consequence whatsoever.
I’m not saying that I can never wash again, quit my job, and give all of my money away. I’m not saying that I need to become a nun or monk. Rather, I am saying that I need to apply the Dharma. What will be important when I am dead will be the positive actions that I have performed in this life, particularly those actions where I applied the Dharma. The Dharma is not just a matter for prayers and meditation in silenced rooms filled with a rich aromatic incense, or within the quiet hum of a nunnery or monastery. Rather, the Dharma is something that is applied to actions in every-day life. The Dharma could be applied to each of those three things:
- Body, it’s comfort and care: When my body experiences an injury, gets sick, or deteriorates as I age day by day.
- Job and career path: When I am faced with a difficult person at work, when I want to benefit a client at work.
- Money and financial planning: When I make a donation from my salary, or plan how my assets will be donated when I am dead.