Excerpt About Renunciation

The Root of Asceticism, Renunciation

What is your center? What is your motivation? What fires your impulse? Are you doing it to satisfy the self, or are you doing it to give away the self, to surrender the self to the truth? It is not always clear-cut. Christ does not say, “If you are really living your life for the truth, then you never watch television.” I don’t think it means that, but it gets very tricky. All spiritual traditions say in some way that the self needs to be denied, desires need to be denied, and the self should be sacrificed. This is the root of asceticism, renunciation, and various kinds of disciplines. I think the rationale behind it is that as long as we serve the self that we take ourselves to be, we are automatically engaging in a perspective that eliminates the dimension of truth. We are already operating from the purely physical dimension. In other words, we are operating from the perspective that there is a separate, individual, independent self, that has a life, and has a center, and this self does things and needs things, and needs to live and subsist and develop, and so on. And the general assumption is that it lives and subsists for itself. Christ is not saying here that the self does not exist. He says that the self should live for the truth. That’s an important distinction. He is not saying that the self should not exist. No, he said the self should follow him, live for him. That is a specific understanding, in contrast to the notion that the self should just disappear, and then there will be some kind of spiritual rebirth. Christ is actually presenting an understanding of what this means.

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