“The first duty of every soul is to release the hold that ego-consciousness has upon it. All other spiritual practices are subservient to this one supreme obligation. I address ego-transcendence, therefore, as the first, and indeed the only, challenge on the spiritual path, whether one be a renunciate, a householder, or living for God in some other way.”
— Swami Kriyananda
from Sadhu, Beware!
by Swami Kriyananda
For Ananda monks, the essence of renunciation is renouncing the ego especially, through ego-transcendence.
The old way of renunciation took an outward and negative approach — still too commonly practiced today — defining one’s degree of renunciation by what one does or doesn’t do. Outward renunciation, by itself, often results in spiritual pride and arrogance — the opposite of what a true renunciate is trying to acheive!
Swami Kriyananda, in his books Sadhu, Beware! and A Renunciate Order for the New Age, gave us a far more enlightened and positive way of renunciation: Ego-transcendence.
Renunciation is an inner battle, only reflected outside of us in the main delusions that take us away from divine awakening. The three traditional delusions are: wine, money, and sex. Swami Kriyananda pointed out another two: the desire for power, and for fame.
The first three can be avoided be joining a monastery. The latter two tempations are perhaps more subtle, because they can be found wherever groups of people gather — even in monasteries or spiritual organizations.
The vows and practices of Ananda monks are focused on transcending the ego, which helps the renunciate take on all of the five main delusions.
From Sadhu, Beware!:
How can we rise above our egos? There is so much conspiring to bind us to the ego, and to keep us focused outward through the senses, impelled by our hearts’ feelings, to relate to a world which is, in fact, quite imaginary. It seems so clearly, in our imagination, to have a reality of its own! How do we cut away, explode, or beat down into the earth the vague mists of memory which from time to time afford us brief glimpses of something we may hope ever afterward to attain: a longing for what, realistically speaking, may be forever impossible? Often it happens that we cannot even define these fleeting sensations. They enter momentarily into our awareness, swirl about like vapor for a time, then vanish even as we reach out to touch them.
All these things must be renounced if we would know truth and God. One may ask: Why? They are sweet; they fill us with yearning; they may create in us a deep nostalgia. Ah! but when at last we fulfill any one of them, we find that our anticipation has always exceeded the fulfillment. Every fulfillment, indeed, if ever we finally grasp it, turns to dust. Nothing ever gives us what we want most from life.
The first duty of every soul is to release the hold that ego-consciousness has upon it. All other spiritual practices are subservient to this one supreme obligation. I address ego-transcendence, therefore, as the first, and indeed the only, challenge on the spiritual path, whether one be a renunciate, a householder, or living for God in some other way.