On Renunciation

The Buddha taught about three kinds of right intention. The first was skillful renunciation, which counters the intention of craving.  In today’s world, the word renunciation is a little bit loaded.  Buddhist monks and nuns are not allowed any possessions, except their robes and their begging bowls.  Some Catholic religious orders require their members to take vows of poverty. However, for lay people, this doesn’t mean you have to sell all your worldly goods and give the money to the poor, as Jesus advised the rich man.  What the Buddha was getting at was what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The Buddha once said, “If one sees that a greater happiness is found by letting go of a lesser one, the wise person will let go of the lesser happiness.” In other words, it’s not the fact that you have possessions but rather the attachment you have to them that creates the problem.  It’s the attachment you are letting go of under the concept of renunciation. Most of us need a car, and a computer, and I admit I’m pretty attached to having a place to live.  It’s when we forget to think of our possessions as bubbles on a stream that we get into trouble.  And, of course, the question of how much is enough always factors into the equation. That’s something each of us has to answer for himself or herself, but I’ll bet for most of us it’s a lot less than we think.  Just because Apple comes out with a new iPhone every year does that mean you really have to have it?