It is supposedly the case that renunciation is not easy. According to the Tipitaka, it has taken the Buddha "many aeons of cosmic expansion and cosmic contraction" to realize. So then, that is (supposedly) untold lifetimes.
The Buddha mentions, on many occasions, an alternative path for householders who are not ready for renunciation.
""Herein, Vyagghapajja, by whatsoever activity a householder earns his living, whether by farming, by trading, by rearing cattle, by archery, by service under the king, or by any other kind of craft — at that he becomes skillful and is not lazy. He is endowed with the power of discernment as to the proper ways and means; he is able to carry out and allocate (duties)." -Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta AN 8.54
So he is saying, whatever duty or occupation you decide upon - do it well and don't be lazy.
This idea is clarified upon in other similar traditions of the same lineage.
[Background: Buddhism - that is, the ideas contained within it are not actually entirely original. Traditions have existed before it with similar ideas; and both the traditions that existed before it, and aside it, share many similar ideas.]
The Bhagavad Gita, another book from the same geographical region, and lineage, shares similar views (as with the Buddha, mentioned above).
In it, is describes two paths:
1) of knowledge
2) of action
This is the same as the Buddha describes. One, is the path through knowledge or wisdom (Paññā) to realize renunciation and emancipation. The second path, is void of complete/perfect knowledge, and is accomplished through action (like the Buddha described above) in the form of a 'duty' or 'devotion'. However, in the Gita, surprisingly, the path of action is greater (mentioned in one particular passage) or, actually, the two paths are the same (mentioned in another passage).
This path (or devotion) is described in an article I read: "taking into account the circumstances of your life and your skills and abilities, do whatever the work on hand to the best of your abilities without getting distracted and without giving in to infatuations. As Swami Vivekananda says, “By doing well the duty which is nearest to us, the duty which is in our hands now, we make ourselves stronger and improving our strength in this manner step by step, we may even reach a state in which it shall be our privilege to do the most coveted and honored duties in life and in society.”"
In the Gita, this is being described to the 'righteous' warrior Arguna, by a deity. He is not the sort of man with 'ill' qualities, such as ill-will, greed, etc. but has good qualities. He is having apprehension about taking part in an eminent war. The deity had this to say:
"Even if you consider your own duty, you should not hesitate because there is nothing better for a Kshatriya than a righteous war." (Bhagavad Gita 2.31)
"But if you don’t engage in this righteous war, forfeiting your duty and honor, you shall incur sin." (2.33)
"Moreover, the world will speak ill about you forever. For a man of honor, dishonor is worse than death." (2.34)
"The great warriors, who hold you in great estimation, will think that you withdraw from the battlefield out of fear. Your value will go down." (2.35)
"Your enemies will speak many unkind and fabricated words and insult your ability. What’s more painful than this?" (2.36)
"If you are killed on the battlefield you attain heaven, or if you are victorious in the battle you enjoy the earth. Rise therefore, O son of Kunti, and fight with determination." (2.37)
Here, the deity is encouraging the Kshatriya warrior to fulfill ones duty in life, and not disregard it, for it would be to his detriment, as opposed to a muni who has no such duty, and who has obtained the perfect knowledge of emancipation.
Some more is said on renunciation:
"A man does not attain freedom from action merely by not engaging in action; nor does he attain perfection by mere renunciation. For nobody ever remains even for an instant without performing some action; since the qualities of nature constrain everybody, not having free-will (in the matter), to some action. The deluded man who, restraining the organs of action, continues to think in his mind about objects of sense, is called a hypocrite. ... for action is better than inaction, and the support of your body, too, cannot be accomplished with inaction."
"But the man who is attached to his self only, who is contented in his self, and is pleased with his self, has nothing to do. He has no interest at all in what is done, and none whatever in what is not done, in this world; nor is any interest of his dependent on any being. Therefore always perform action, which must be performed, without attachment. For a man, performing action without attachment, attains the Supreme."
O Krishna! you praise renunciation of actions and also the pursuit (of them). Tell me determinately which one of these two is superior.
The Deity said:
Renunciation and pursuit of action are both instruments of happiness. But of the two, pursuit of action is superior to renunciation of action. He should be understood to be always an ascetic, who has no aversion and no desire. For, O you of mighty arms! he who is free from the pairs of opposites is easily released from (all) bonds. Children--not wise men--talk of sankhya and yoga as distinct. One who pursues either well obtains the fruit of both. The seat which the sânkhyas obtain is reached by the yogas also. He sees (truly), who sees the sânkhya and yoga as one. Renunciation, O you of mighty arms! is difficult to reach without devotion"
Also, below is a passage from the Bhagavad Gita which (amazingly) illustrates how identical it is to the Buddha's teaching:
"He .., whose mind is steady, who is not deluded, .. does not exult on finding anything agreeable, nor does he grieve on finding anything disagreeable. One whose self is not attached to external objects, obtains the happiness that is in (one's) self; and by means of concentration of mind, .. one obtains indestructible happiness. For the enjoyments born of contact (between senses and their objects) are, indeed, sources of misery; they have a beginning as well as an end. O son of Kuntî! a wise man feels no pleasure in them. He who even in this world, before his release from the body, is able to bear the agitations produced from desire and wrath, is a devoted man, he is a happy man. The devotee whose happiness is within (himself), whose recreation is within (himself), ..obtain .. bliss. The sages whose sins have perished, whose misgivings are destroyed, who are self-restrained, and who are intent on the welfare of all beings, obtain ..bliss. To the ascetics, who are free from desire and wrath, and whose minds are restrained, and who have knowledge of the self, .. bliss is on both sides (of death). The sage .. whose highest goal is final emancipation, from whom desire, fear, and wrath have departed, is, indeed, for ever released (from birth and death)."
Last edited by Nori
on Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:10 pm, edited 6 times in total.