This will be a popular post. Everyone’s favorite topic.
One way Buddhism does not align well with modern society is that Buddhists want to let go of everything. In practicing Buddhism, you attain nothing. You let go.
“Renunciation” is more active than letting go. You can start by letting go, which you do sort of inherently with meditation practice. After you let go enough, you begin to find everything slightly dissatisfying, at which point, the only solution is to renounce everything because aversion is just another form of clinging and renunciation is just a strong form of non attachment.
The Buddha said you need to start your practice with a commitment to the five precepts, don’t harm any living being, don’t lie, don’t steal, refrain from irresponsible sexual activity, and avoid intoxicants. Some are easier than others. But just start practicing and you will find that they grow on you. You just lose the urge to consume whatever intoxicant most appeals to you and some of them may even lose their effects on you. You will lose the impulse to engage in irresponsible sexual activity.
So renunciation, when you get there, is not as bad as it sounds. You will see that the fleeting pleasure you get from your intoxicants and your irresponsible sex always leave you unsatisfied and are thus perpetually disappointing. This is the key insight the Buddha offered. Since they are always disappointing at best, and sometimes lead to problems, better just to give up on the whole project.
So keep meditating and get ready to renounce.
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