- Softbound; 254 pages; 13.3 x 21 (centimeters); 5.25 x 8.25 (inches)
- Publisher: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust; First issue: 1992
- Suggested Audience: Introductory
Renunciation Through Wisdom is a collection of essays originally published in Bengali by Srila Prabhupada in India during the 1940s and later translated by his disciples into English.
In it he expands on themes found in the Bhagavad-gita; why people are averse to God, the ultimate causes of suffering, and how the world's troubles are extraordinarily fleeting—when seen from the standpoint of eternity.
Students of Srila Prabhupada will recognize the same commonsense writing style in Renunciation Through Wisdom as in his later, well-known works such as Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita As It Is, as well as his expertise at distilling the essence of India's ancient Vedic wisdom into powerful, convincing, practical, and easily readable directives.
Chapter 1: Knowledge of the Supreme
Chapter 2: The Science of Devotion
Chapter 3: Topics of Spiritual Science
Chapter 4: The Deluded Thinkers
Chapter 5: The Highest Use of Intelligence
The Godless Demons
The grossly materialistic demons are so completely bereft of spiritual knowledge that although at every moment they perceive the transience of the material body, all their activities center on the body. They are unable to understand that the soul within the body is the permanent and essential substance and that the body is mutable and temporary. Becoming first enamoured of then deluded by vivartavada (the theory of evolution), they conclude that the entire cosmic body also lacks a Soul. Since the fallacious theory they apply to their own physical existence leads them to reject any research into the existence of a soul residing within the body, they fail to perceive the presence of the Supersoul within the gigantic body of the cosmic manifestation. They falsely conclude that the body is everything, that there is nothing beyond it; similarly, they think that the material creation, which is the universal body, is factually governed only by the laws of nature. Any discussion on this subject is invariably put to premature death by their insistence that nature is the be—all and end—all. The more intelligent among them carry this discussion a little further and postulate that impersonalism is the quintessence of everything. But far beyond this realm of manifest and unmanifest material nature is the transcendental and eternal state. The atheists, however, are characteristically unable to believe in its existence.
In this way, with their perverted minds bereft of far-sightedness, demoniac men perform activities that bring only misery to the people. And as a result of many such unwanted activities, the atom bomb was discovered. The endless plans these demoniac men chalk out can never bode well for humanity. In the past, Ravana attempted to build a stairway to heaven, claiming this was for humanity’s benefit. Actually, he was trying to cheat the Supreme Lord, Ramachandra. But he was unsuccessful. History repeats itself, for now we find that Ravana’s descendants are attempting to cheat the Lord in the name of planning to benefit society. The thing to take note of is that no demon will compliment other demons’ plans. Every demon will declare that since his plan is the most wonderful, all others must vote for him. Then an opponent will say that in actuality his plan is the best and hence he should rightfully be given all the votes. In this age of votes, the fighting over who is to actually get the votes has untimely broken all the stairways to heaven. If one calmly considers the facts, one will easily conclude that all these plans manufactured by the perverted brains of the demons, with their myopic vision, can never bring peace in the world. Of course, in one matter all the demons readily agree, and that is to surreptitiously enjoy Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and eternal consort of the Supreme Lord, without the knowledge of the Lord Himself.
Every demon is vainly proud, thinking no one is more intelligent and esteemed than himself. Therefore the overpowering desires that urge him on to perform various activities are, according to him, ultimately beneficial for human society. In the end, of course, it is inevitably revealed that all his aspirations were illusory and unrealistic. Yet despite this revelation, the demons continue to influence the populace through manipulations and lies.
There are no limits to the imagination of these unclean and deluded demons. They pose as self-styled leaders and endlessly worry about the welfare of society. They worry, for example, about where to lodge the people who come to purchase in the marketplace. What they actually think about is how to make foolproof arrangements to secure their own long-lasting enjoyment, along with their children’s, their grandchildren’s, and their great-grandchildren’s enjoyment, up to the final dissolution of the world. But when they experience suffering instead of pleasure, the demons revert to violence against their fellow men to accumulate wealth. Their material desires are insatiable, and so even billions of dollars cannot appease them. Whoever is expert in illegally amassing huge fortunes becomes the top dog. The demons are full of hate, greed, anger, lust, etc., and they are tireless in their efforts to illicitly amass great wealth merely to gratify their sensual urges. On the other hand, their competitors are no less expert in cheating them of their black wealth. How can such ruthless competition aimed at stealing one another’s illegally-earned money bring about peace and prosperity? Hence the demons can never help the person who laments, “In the dispensation of providence, man cannot have any rest.”
The demon is always ruminating on how to increase their bank balance: “Today the stocks have gone up, and so also have my profits. Tomorrow, if these other commodities become dearer, my bank balance will further increase. And so my future looks bright and prosperous.” The demon continues to think, but now on a slightly different subject: “One of my enemies has already been destroyed, and another one is soon to meet his end. This puts me in a more secure position. So now that I have become adept at eliminating my enemies, I am God Almighty. Why must one look in search of God? Hundreds of ‘Gods’ are floating right before your eyes.” Such thoughts and actions make the demons more and more atheistic, and thus they refuse to hear the transcendental message of God. They proudly declare, “Who is God? Why, I am God! When I can illegally manipulate funds and become so wealthy that I can enjoy everything in this world, then I am indeed Almighty God. I am strong and happy and accomplished. Those who are weaklings, without money and means, must respect me as God. What is the use of crying after any other God?”
The demons are under the impression that no one is more wealthy and popular than themselves. They think that their wealth will somehow be protected by some spirit, and in this way they are deluded. Their final destination is hell.
The few religious deeds that the demons perform are merely a show; they are meant only to flatter their false ego and bring them more recognition and respect. They perform them only for their own sense enjoyment and are invariably acts of violence. The demons engage in these rituals without following the scriptural injunctions, merely to appease their vainglory.
Strutting with false pride, strength, anger, lust, and so on, the demons become totally absorbed in bodily consciousness, thinking “This is my body. I am Indian, Bengali, and so on. He is a Muslim; he is a Hindu; he is a German.” In this way they perpetrate acts of violence on others. The Supreme Lord repeatedly puts these most abominable, wretched sinners into the most distressful conditions, constantly punishing them with His stringent laws of nature, or daivi maya. Thus taking repeated births as demons, these reprobates can never appreciate the transcendental pastimes, names, beauty, and so on, of the Supreme Lord. Gradually cultivating the impersonal knowledge of the Absolute, they are destined to suffer the worst possible life.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has become well known for its large body of Vedic literature—books on bhakti-yoga that include the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the Chaitanya-charitamrita. These three works by the movement’s founder and spiritual guide, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, are voluminous commented English translations of Sanskrit and Bengali classics. Remarkably, Srila Prabhupada wrote these and many other, smaller works in the span of twelve years, from 1966 to 1977, while traveling widely and overseeing the growth of the Krishna consciousness movement.
What many people may not know, however, is that during the years before he came to the West Srila Prabhupada wrote extensively on Krishna consciousness in his native language, Bengali. In 1976, soon after I joined the Hare Krishna movement, I discovered some of Srila Prabhupada’s early Bengali writings. They were serialized essays that had appeared in a monthly magazine he edited called Gaudiya Patrika.
One of these lengthy essays, entitled “Bhagavaner katha” (“Knowledge of the Supreme”) ran in the Gaudiya Patrika in 1948 and 1949, soon after India won its independence. I decided that it would make a wonderful booklet for Srila Prabhupada’s growing number of followers in his native Bengal. When I presented Srila Prabhupada that newly printed booklet in early 1977 in Calcutta, he was extremely pleased. He looked at me with his face shining brilliantly, and with a broad smile he said, “Thank you, thank you very much. Please keep printing my books.”
I was so encouraged that I soon collected as many of Srila Prabhupada’s Bengali writings from the Gaudiya Patrika as I could and printed them as booklets under the titles “Bhakti Katha” (The Science of Devotion), “Jnana Katha” (Topics of Spiritual Science), “Muni-ganera Mati-bhrama” (The Deluded Thinkers) and “Buddhi-yoga” (The Highest Use of Intelligence). Finally, I compiled all the booklets into a hardbound book called Vairagya Vidya, which has now been translated in English and titled Renunciation through Wisdom.
My close friend and Godbrother Sarvabhavana dasa did the translation, and he has done a very good job. In each of the original Bengali essays Srila Prabhupada’s profound spiritual wisdom shines through, and Sarvabhavana Prabhu has expertly conveyed this wisdom in his translation.
When Srila Prabhupada wrote these essays, he was a family man playing the part of an insignificant devotee in the Gaudiya Matha, the Krishna consciousness society founded by his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Yet despite the humble position Srila Prabhupada was taking at the time, his writings mark him unmistakably as a pure devotee. Anyone with an open mind and a gracious heart will see from his writings that Srila Prabhupada was a self-realized soul all along.
Like his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada strictly followed the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his presentation of Krishna consciousness. Those teachings are summarized in the phrase vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga [Cc. Madhya 6.254], which means “renunciation through the wisdom that comes from practicing devotional service.” This line from a famous verse by Srila Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, one of Lord Chaitanya’s intimate disciples, has inspired the title of the present book, Renunciation Through Wisdom.
What is this wisdom which produces renunciation? It is one of the fruits of devotional service to Krishna. When one experiences the nectar of devotional service and becomes steeped in the knowledge of the Vedic literature, one naturally becomes averse to sense gratification and attains freedom from material bondage. Lord Krishna spoke the essence of Vedic wisdom in the Bhagavad-gita. As the Gita-mahatmya, “the Glory of the Bhagavad-gita” says in this poetic analogy:
The cowherd boy Krishna milked the cow of the Upanishads [the philosophical essence of the Vedas] for the sake of the calf Arjuna, and the milk that came forth is the Bhagavad-gita. Saintly persons seriously concerned about their spiritual welfare will drink and relish that wondrous nectarean milk.
In Renunciation Through Wisdom, Srila Prabhupada has simplified the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita for our understanding. If we drink this nectar, very soon the brilliant sunshine of transcendental knowledge will dispel the darkness of ignorance caused by our unwanted material desires, and then love for Krishna will dawn in our hearts.
Transcendental knowledge is eternal; it never becomes dated or outmoded but is always relevant, in all times and places. Therefore, Renunciation Through Wisdom though written forty or more years ago in the context of modern Indian history, can enlighten anyone, in any part of the world. Actually, this wisdom is for everyone, for all time.
As Brilliant as the Sun…
The Bhagavad-gita is widely recognized as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom, but sometimes those unfamiliar with Eastern thought find it difficult to grasp. In Renunciation Through Wisdom, Srila Prabhupada has simplified the teachings of the Gita for our understanding. If we study this book and follow its instructions, the brilliant sunshine of transcendental knowledge will soon dispel the darkness of ignorance, and then love of God—the goal of all spiritual knowledge and practice—will dawn in our hearts.
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