by Paramahansa Yogananda
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
Sannyasa & Tyaga — Nonattachment
Arjuna said (to Sri Krishna):
O Hrishikesha, O Mighty-Armed, O Slayer of (the demon) Keshi! I desire to know the true meaning of sannyasa (renunciation) and also of tyaga (relinquishment), and the distinction between them.
The Blessed Lord said:
Sages call "sannyasa" the renunciation of all actions done with desire. The wise declare that "tyaga" is the renunciation of the fruits of activities.
— The Bhagavad Gita XVIII:1-2
Renunciation—the relinquishment of actions, desires, and attachments that impede soul progress—is the compendious principle characterizing the Gita message. But the Gita makes a deeper case for true renunciation as requiring an inner nonattachment above and beyond any merely physical act of material abandonment. In that explication, a subtle distinction is made between sannyasa and tyaga to define two aspects of renunciation. Sannyasa-renunciation signifies the abandonment of the desires and selfish motives that are the usual instigators of actions. Tyaga-renunciation means the relinquishment of, or nonidentification with, the inevitable fruits, or results, that accrue from all actions. (…)
It has been said in the sixth chapter, stanza 1, that he is a true sannyasi (renunciant) and a true yogi who performs dutiful good actions to help mankind and meditative actions to find God, without desiring to obtain the fruits of these righteous actions to satisfy the ego; he acts solely to please God. He is a sannyasi because he renounces the desire for the fruits of his actions, and he is also a yogi because he helps others and himself spiritually toward God-realization. It is distinctly stated that he who does not perform dutiful actions is neither a sannyasi nor a yogi. Renunciation of the fruits of all actions is followed for the singular purpose of finding God, in preference to getting entangled with worldly ambitions. Renouncing material goals and working solely to please God in order to find Him is the same as yoga, which emphasizes performing meditative actions to attain God-union. Therefore a true yogi is a sannyasi, and a true sannyasi is a yogi.
The renunciation signified by sannyasa is thus a total mental relinquishment of the fruits of good actions during their performance. If a sannyasi feeds the poor, mentally concentrating on the benefits of his actions, or if he performs meditative actions for the selfish longings of his ego for divine favors or powers, he compromises the purity of his renunciation. The acts of a true sannyasi are devoid of ego with its concentration on selfish motivation, which is the cause of reincarnation-making karma. And when the true sannyasi meditates, he thinks of the Blessed Lord alone, loving Him unconditionally, without anticipating the rewards and advantages derived from God-communion.
By dutiful and divine actions and by concentration on his innate oneness with God, with no thought for obtaining the fruits of those actions for the sake of the body-identified ego, the devotee who practices sannyasa negates the binding effects of the karmic law.
While sannyasa refers to the absence of personal expectation during the performance of activity, the other aspect of perfect renunciation, tyaga, involves nonattachment to, or non-identification with, the resulting fruits of actions once those actions have been performed. The tyagi, like the sannyasi, is a yogi, working and meditating only to please God. (pg. 1015-1017)